Safely back at the newly-constructed Gaijinese Starport, Naylund, Sara, and Junior walked down the exit ramp from the space ship with Ged Aero, the White Spider. They were all four relatively quiet and somberly thoughtful.
“Are you sure you have no lasting effects from dividing yourself in two?” Naylund asked.
“Naylund, old friend, don’t worry about me. I could feel his thoughts when we first separated, but each of us came to terms with our new, separated identities rather quickly. By the time we were ready to leave, not only was the planet well under control, but we were each feeling like two separate people.”
“What did it feel like to split yourself in half like that?” Junior asked.
“It hurt a lot at first. He got the right half of my brain, and I got the left. But we each grew out a fairly perfect copy of the other half, me as Ged Aero, White Spider, and him as the new Grainmaster Aero. So, we are now both very different beings, me a human descended from Earthers, and him a Cornucopean Ear of Corn, controlling all the plant life on the planet.”
“It wasn’t really a fascist thing from the start, was it, Ged-dono.”
“No, Naylund. It was more of a hive-mind as if the entire planet could think as one plant-creature. And all of it flowed through the Grainmaster’s brain.”
They found themselves confronted on the Tarmac by three Blackhawk Corsairs, Razor Conn, the leader, Shad Blackstone, his second in command, and newly uniformed Dana Cole. They looked rather grim. And Ged knew immediately without telepathy or clairvoyance that they came bearing really bad news.
“So, what’s happened now?” Ged dared to ask.
The trio of Blackhawks explained about the death of the White Duke, the preparations for rebellion against the Galtorr Imperium, as well as the battle of Coventry and the war crimes of Trav Dalgoda.
“That’s almost hard to believe,” said Naylund.
“Except it was Trav. I’m afraid I have no trouble believing that,” Ged added.
“Trav died for his sins,” reminded Dana, “And the new creature he has become… well, I’ll personally work on reforming him.”
“And what about the Tesserah thing that Trav used to destroy half of a planet?” Ged asked.
“That’s what the new White Spider of the Space Lanes will be needed for,” said Razor Conn.
“We believe the thing is counting down to the destruction of the entire universe. We don’t want that to happen.”
“Yes, I agree that it does not sound like a very good thing to allow to happen,” Ged said.
“We need you and your students to take it away and destroy it,” said Shad Blackstone.
“You are the only one we believe can actually do it,” added Razor Conn.
“Me? I have no idea what to do.”
“It’s from the prophecy, Ged,” said Naylund. “It suggests that the new White Spider will destroy the Ancient Most-Evil by burying it in the heart of the black hole.”
“What black hole?”
“The one with an Ancient construct orbiting it, Little Swirl.”
“My holy God! That’s all the way Coreward on the other side of the Imperium.”
“It will be your greatest test, Ged. It will be the quest that establishes the reign of the new White Spider of Prophecy.”
“We are going to take a good long look at what this prophecy-thing actually says. And if there is any other way to accomplish it, we are going to consider that instead.”
“We will help you plan the mission, Ged,” said Razor. “But this whole prophecy thing has foretold everything without missing a single detail. I know it’s sorta spooky stuff, but it’s also real. And time is running out for the whole universe.”
“That sounds like a good plot for a whole book,” said Sara, smiling.
“Yeah… but we better take a lot of care about which dumb nut we let write the danged thing,” said Ged.
I, Googol Marou, the author of this book, swear to you, he actually said those words. And I only resent the “dumb nut” part of the comment a little bit.
The White Spider Disciples gathered around Ged to make a final stand in defense. They set up a circle around him, ready to go down fighting to defend him.
“Explain to me what just happened?” Ged implored the telepaths.
“In the future there will be two Ged Aeros. During a combat, you will be sliced into two pieces. One piece will regenerate as you, the other, without a brain of its own, will regrow into Bres,” explained Hassan.
“He is opposed to you because he didn’t get your memories and experience. He hates you as the lucky half that got all the good things from being you,” added Sara.
“But he knows you won’t be killed here. He is merely hoping to strip you of some of us, especially Hassan. He thinks he has no chance of defeating you in the future if we all survive this battle.” Billy Iowa wiped sweat from his brow as his report took more energy out of him than the other telepaths expended. Apparently clairvoyance is harder than just telepathy.
“But is there a way to save you all?”
“There is if you can find it within yourself, Ged-sensei,” said Billy.
Within himself? What did Ged Aero have within himself? Well, he had the remains of the Grainmaster in his stomach. And, holy crud! He had gained ninja powers by eating a ninja, hadn’t he? So, the Grainmaster’s powers were…
“I’ve got the answer!” Ged morphed into the shape, body, and brain of the deceased Grainmaster. He became an ear of corn with arms and legs and two black, corn-kernel eyes.
“All right, minions! I am the new Grainmaster now. The Grainmaster reborn. I will guide you all and restore this planet to the way it is supposed to be.
He reached out and reanimated the many wilted flower people with what his mind could only perceive now as “Green Power,” and pumped it into the Throckpods as well.
The difference was, now, instead of Bres’s willpower guiding the Throckpods, it was Ged’s empowering mind. The Throckpods were now kindly helping the flower people recover and regrow themselves.
The problem seemed solved. And yet…
“Ged Aero-sensei? How will you control this flower planet and be our White Spider too?” asked Gyro.
“He has a point, Ged-sensei,” said Hassan.
“You are needed here now to control the plant-people of Cornucopea,” added Sara. “They rely on you to gather and redistribute all the photosynthesis and plant energy on the planet.”
“But we need you too,” reminded Junior Aero.
“How is it that part of me becomes Bres?” Ged asked.
“You have a portion of your torso and right leg cut off in battle, during which the headless piece falls into a chasm below you. That part turns into Bres.” Billy nodded as he said it, apparently sure of his future-facts.
“Okay, then, I can do this without creating my own enemy. At least not today.” Ged, in the corncob body of the corn-creature, split himself exactly down the middle. One Ged, the Grainmaster Aero, morphed back into a complete corn-based ruler of the planet. The other half of Ged returned to his White Spider form.
“I realize how dangerous it is to make two of myself. I have no idea what the consequences will be,” said Grainmaster Aero.
“But since I killed and ate the rightful ruler of this planet, I must not only return to my duties as the White Spider of Prophecy, but I must provide a new Grainmaster too,” said Ged the White Spider.
“Cornucopea will now become a member of the New Star League as well as an independent, non-fascist world,” said Grainmaster Aero.
“I hope you are doing the right thing, Sensei,” said Sara Smith.
Thousands of thistle-like Throckpods came thundering over the hill with thorns brandished and wild looks in their very human-looking eyes.
From the other side, a large group of vegetable people with seed-like eyes came up behind Ged and his disciples, presumably to support them in the upcoming battle.
“What do we do, Sensei?” asked Junior.”
“I need the telepaths to all try to locate the Grainmaster. He’s the key somehow. If they have a hive mind going on here, he’s the connecting point.”
The Throckpods connected first with a phalanx of violet flower-people. Violet petals were torn from the faces of the flower-men who barely made a scratch against their weedy attackers. The poor flowers were overwhelmed.
“Sensei, I detect the Grainmaster over there amongst the Throckpods!” Hassan shouted. “You can’t actually see him from here. He’s surrounded by at least a dozen of those nine-foot-tall purple-headed thistles.”
Ged could see the thistle-Throckpods he was talking about. Somehow they had to get to the Grainmaster himself.
“Shu? This may be a suicidal attack, but if I turn myself into the armored ape form, can you and Taffy throw me by telekinesis into the center of the Grainmaster’s party?”
“Sensei, what will we do if they tear you to pieces or thorn you to death?”
“I may well be harder to kill than they think. But if I am gone, Shu-kun, you will be in charge. You will flee back to Gaijin and prepare defenses there.”
Shu and Taffy looked at each other, nodded yes to each other, and then picked Ged up with their combined mind powers. As he rose through the air, Ged transformed himself into the green armored ape he had used to eat Throckpods before and save Sara from having her sap sucked out.
The two young telepaths did an excellent job of transporting Ged safely to the very spot he needed to reach. Then, when directly over the Grainmaster’s “head,” they dropped him straight down.
Ged had a moment to assess his enemy as he was dropping down through the air. The Grainmaster was shaped like a giant ear of corn with arms and legs and two black kernels of corn for eyes. He carried a giant wheat stalk as a scepter.
Ged landed on the corn-thing directly. Two Throckpods tried to stop him from attacking the Grainmaster, so he ripped them apart first before he began eating the Grainmaster whole. A rain of poisoned thorns bounced harmlessly off of Ged’s metallic hide. The corn-thing was terrified as he was munched up by metal gorilla jaws.
A shudder went through all the surrounding plants. Ged could see all the flower-warriors wilting to the ground. All the flower forces were apparently rendered completely powerless by the demise of the Grainmaster. Ged knew instantly that he had erred in the most serious manner possible, even before he realized that it was far worse because, even though the Throckpods were affected by the Grainmaster’s death too, they were not nearly so devastated as the rest of the plant people.
Ged’s students all easily used their Psion powers to part the sea of wilting Throckpods. They came to Ged’s aid.
As Ged returned to his normal face and form, he suddenly became aware of someone else he knew from before.
“I should’ve realized it was you behind everything,” Ged said.
“Of course. I came back in time specifically for this moment,” said Bres the Black Spider formerly of Gaijin.
“You are the reason these weeds have human-like eyes.”
“Yes, they are made from my DNA as well as the Grainmaster’s. I control them with my own willpower. The Grainmaster was my prisoner. Now that you have killed the him, all the regular plant people will die, leaving my Throckpods in charge of the entire world.”
“Why don’t you tell him who you really are,” challenged Hassan Parker. “He needs to know that you are not who you pretend to be.”
“My word, White Spider. You have an exceptionally powerful telepath there. I can’t seem to force him out of my mind.”
“You might as well tell him yourself. If you don’t, I will.” Hassan was livid with anger.
“Oh, no! It can’t be true!” sobbed Sara as she, too, managed to read the Black Spider’s mind.
“Yes, Ged. What they are going to tell you anyway is entirely true. I am you from the future. That’s how I know exactly how this turns out.”
“He’s not telling you the whole truth,” warned Hassan.
“Yes, he’s not the only future you there is. And he doesn’t know how it turns out for him, only that he tried to defeat you here. What happens to him next he doesn’t know,” said Billy Iowa. “But my clairvoyance tells me he is not going to get any of the things he wants because…”
But before Billy could finish, Bres changed into a bird-form and leaped into the air, flapping madly to get away from the scene.
The Throckpods were returning to full and mobile life.
The designated Throckpod lumbered into Ged Aero-sensei’s camp with a sort of thorny swagger that made the students of the White Spider rather uneasy. A flower-creature like that should’ve been more humbly worried about entering an enemy’s camp than this one was.
The Throckpod that Mai Ling introduced to Ged was a daisy-headed being with disturbingly human-looking eyes. Its petals were yellow. The center of the blossom where the eyes peered out was green.
“So, I understand that you are the spokesman for the Throckpods,” Ged said.
“No. I am all Throckpods. We are all linked by our glorious leader. We are all one.”
“You do have eyes, yes. You may have noticed that I have eyes too. Not photon-sensitive seed pods, but real eyes. A gift from our glorious master who unites us all.”
“You serve the Grainmaster, then?”
“Our glorious master gave us our true sight and our ability to know what all Throckpods know, shared knowledge throughout the hive mind.”
“But do you serve the Grainmaster?”
“We serve all of the planet. Through the Grainmaster we serve, yes.”
“We have come to ask you about the treatment of the other plant people. We have come to understand that the common plant people are bullied by the Throckpods and forced to give everything they have to the Grainmaster. We wish to discuss other, more-equitable forms of governing with the Grainmaster.”
“Listen, King Monkey, we of the Throckpod legions come specifically to destroy you. We intend to eliminate all such inferior creatures from the ecospheres of all nearby planets.”
The vicious Throckpod detached three thorns from it’s arm-branches glistening with rather obvious poisons.
Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy King each intercepted one of the thorns as it was thrown and buried the projectiles deeply into the Throckpod’s stem, near the walking-roots, thus shriveling up the flower-warrior’s only means of getting away.
“Now you have declared war on all of the plants of the sacred master. We all see through my eyes. All Throckpods now know of your treachery. I do all I can now to slay all your little monkey-kind. You will regret your treachery. The Throckpods now descend upon you!”
Of course, the Throckpod by himself had very little power to make good on his threats himself. He flung a flurry of thorns at Ged’s students and Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy threw them all right back.
Soon the Throckpod was mostly shredded, limp and swiftly turning brown on the ground.
Luigi the Onion Guy was apparently beside himself with upset and anger. “YoU iS no knOwing hoW bad YoU haS made thiNgs now!”
“We are doing our best,” Ged answered impatiently. “You don’t expect me to just stand by and let these Throckpod monsters slay my students, do you?”
“He is only warning you that the Throckpods will now seek vengeance on us all and we may all be doomed,” explained the more reasonable Carrot-man.
At that moment Gyro and Billy came crashing down from the sky on a dragonfly-looking grav bike, the two boys tumbling and losing their cowboy hats into the center of the camp.
“Are you two all right?” gasped Sara the healer.
“Nothing that you can’t fix,” said Billy, rubbing his raw, scraped knee.
“We do have a problem, though. Thousands of Throckpods are headed this way to kill us.” Gyro’s little blue face was completely serious for once.
“Yes, we will definitely have to deal with that problem now… somehow,” said Ged Aero-sensei.
Nebulons, known to many in the Imperium as “Space Smurfs” for reasons long forgotten, were the child-like blue people who inhabited deep space in their living starships. Many thought the blue skin, yellow hair, and red apple cheeks showed evidence they were not just humanoids, but human space travelers mutated by the exotic radiations of the nebulae where Earthers and other humans had first discovered them.
Gyro had the red cheeks, the blue skin, and the bright yellow hair, but he also had qualities that were extremely rare in Nebulons. For one thing he was a Psion, a being with the right brain mutation to perform powerful brain functions that seemed like magic to the ordinary space traveler.
His own special psionic ability was even rarer than the usual Psion. He could not only use telepathy, but use the power of his “inner eye” to see and alter the molecular structure and overall organization in any finite piece of matter.
In other words, he could change lead into gold with the power of his mind alone. To Gyro it was just a matter of pushing the funny little atomic balls into new configurations in the creative imaginings of his “inner eye”.
Being a Psion inside the borders of the Galactic Galtorrian Imperium, the so-called “Thousand Worlds”, was a dangerous enterprise. The Imperials were so afraid of psionic powers and what they believed they could do, that having psionic power brought an immediate death sentence.
That was the reason that when Gyro and his family, and Billy Iowa, also a Psion, had to leave the Pan Galactican Union, they had journeyed eventually to the distant world of Gaijin to find the master of Psionics, the White Spider, Ged Aero. Ged Aero-sensei had taken in both boys, given them a home, and taught them how to master the powers of the “inner eye”.
So that was the reason that Gyro now sat on the planet Cornucopea beside a huge dead bug and pondered the possibilities of escape for himself and Billy. Ged Aero-sensei and his White Spider Mutant Space Ninjas had come as explorers to the planet, and run afoul of the living plants, specifically the Throckpods, who inhabited it.
As Gyro and Billy had been heading back to base camp, they were attacked by a large group of the ugly sentient flowers and their pet gargantuan dragonfly.
Billy, being a good student of Ged-sensei’s Martial Arts training, delivered a jump-kick to the chitinous face plate of the dragonfly that put a hole in it, driving his foot right into the thing’s syrupy brain tissue. It dropped dead next to them as Throckpods moved menacingly around them in a huge circle of weed.
“We are totally cut off,” said Billy. “And I think they mean to kill us.”
“They are intelligent flowers. How can you know what they eat and don’t eat? Especially after Sara told us about how they tried to take all of her blood?” asked Billy in return. His Dakota-Sioux features scrunched up into a frown. “I am at the height of my power. Let them come! In a sacred manner I resist them until my very last breath! It is a good day to die!”
Gyro’s eyes got wider. It was a very Native American sort of thing for Billy to say, but Gyro didn’t really want to hear it.
“You give me a few minutes to think,” said Gyro, “and I will find a way out of this mess.”
Billy resolutely turned to frown at the approaching grove of ugly flowers.
Gyro looked all around, and finally settled on the dragonfly. In some ways, the huge insect already resembled an anti-grav cycle. It wouldn’t take very much manipulation to…
Gyro’s imagination started turning chitin into glass-steel. The dragonfly’s bowels were easy to shape into a small fusion-powered engine. The blood only had to be separated to get the hydrogen necessary for fuel. With a few pops and crackles and one big POOM, they had a working grav cycle.
As Throckpods started throwing thorns, and Billy swatted them out of the air with Wushu defensive strikes, Gyro revved the engine and pulled Billy onto the upholstered seat behind him.
“Time to bug out!” said Gyro with a huge blue grin. The grav cycle immediately and silently lifted into the air on anti-grav repulsor lifts. Then, with a roar, they zoomed skyward, not only out of the reach of Throckpods and thorns, but also out of reach from the devilish dragonflies that were swarming towards them from somewhere in the eastern sky.
“I guess it’s a good thing you can change stuff like that,” said Billy, holding tightly onto his Texas sombrero, “but if you had never made that stink-language translator, maybe we would’ve never got into this mess.”
“I don’t think the translator is the big problem,” said Gyro. “These flowers seem to have an agenda that doesn’t include looking pretty and smelling nice. I think they don’t like us as plant-eaters and potential invaders. After all, this is their world.”
“Okay,” said Billy. “Get us back to camp and Ged Aero-sensei, and I’m all for leaving this dirtball to the plants!”
“Yeah, um… maybe you better teach me how to fly this thing first.”
“Oh, Smurf! You made the thing.”
“Yeah, well… Hang on to your hat, then!”
They managed to fly a haphazard corkscrew pattern on their way back to camp. It was unbelievably dangerous and life-threatening. But the boys made it back safely and walked away from the crash. And Gyro had some real fun with his driving skills.
Mai Ling had swiftly learning the ninja skills that Ged Aero-sensei taught the students in his dojo. Unlike the majority of the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Babies, Mai was completely in tune with the skills of movement, attack, and defense she was learning at the dojo because her psionic mutant power was telekinesis, the ability to remotely move things with the mind.
Her mental ability complemented her ninja attack skills in that she could alter the course of projectiles in flight. If she threw a ten-pointed shuriken at someone, it would not miss.
The picture in her inner eye, the secret of psionic control, was always the flower-like shuriken rotating through the air at the target, even if it needed to make a ninety degree turn to hit the precise spot she aimed at.
Shu Kwai, Ged-sensei’s lead student, had worked with her hundreds of times, helping her to see the power to control movement of objects as part of a wondrous dance. He was also a telekinetic and could also do the dance. It was a dance that could protect others from harm, or if the need arose, destroy them.
At twelve years old, Mai was already developing into a shapely young lady.
“You can’t be ashamed of your body when you are doing the dance,” reminded Shu. “We wear hardly any clothes not because we are immodest, but because we do not wish to impede the dance in any way.”
Mai frowned at him. Shu could be such a prig at times. He stood there wearing only a white loincloth, while he himself had made the rule that no one should go un-armored on a potentially hostile planet. Except for the ninja underwear, his light orange-yellow body was functionally nude.
Boys could get away with that, especially scrawny teenage boys with practically nothing to show off anyway.
Shu and Mai were both natives to the planet Gaijin where Master Aero’s dojo was located. That meant that they were descended half from the Japanese humans of Earth, and half from the nearly-human Sylvani of deep space. Mai herself had bare feet, bare legs, and a bare midriff. She was not about to leave breasts exposed, or even her arms. She wore a computerized ring-sleeve on her left arm, which helped give gauss-magnetic acceleration to objects she threw. And the magnetic arm bands on her right arm gave her a magnetic shield she could shape and manipulate with telekinesis.
“I am not going out into this living jungle without any clothes on,” she stated firmly to Shu. “You don’t know if these strange aliens will attack. Besides, I fight better with clothes on. I’m not a pervert like you.”
At fourteen, Shu was definitely vulnerable to insults like “pervert.” He cast his eyes downward to scan the ground and blushed furiously. It was entirely possible, Mai thought, that Shu had a secret crush on her. With the red flower in her hair, she was definitely beautiful, at least, in her own eyes, and possibly those of Phoenix whom she now considered her boyfriend.
“Okay, we all better obey orders while we are on this weird planet. I was just talking about on the practice grounds.” Shu sniffed imperiously for added emphasis. That was okay. Mai accepted the fact that he outranked her.
“It’s just you being a hypocrite like usual,” sniffed Hassan Parker, the boy who had been forbidden from going naked. Shu didn’t even offer a comeback.
Cornucopia was probably the strangest planet Mai had ever visited. A vegetable starship had simply appeared in Gaijin space and announced themselves in need of help. Little Gyro the Nebulon inventor and one of Ged Aero-sensei’s favorite students had discovered that all the intelligent creatures were plants and had a special scent language unlike anything in the known galaxy.
The first alien they had been able to communicate with was a strange, onion-like creature that Gyro’s computer translator named, “Luigi the Onion-Guy.” Why the plant-man had an Italian first name was a complete mystery, but there was a clue in the fact that Gyro’s computer also dubbed the language of the Cornucopians “Stink-Talk.” Nebulons were known for weird senses of humor. And Gyro with his unusual Psionic power had programmed the thing as he rearranged its molecules with his little blue brain.
Shu Kwai helped Mai Ling put on shielding-armor and kinetic shock absorbers.
“Are you sure we can’t take any weapons?” Mai asked.
Luigi the Onion-Guy had pleaded with Ged-sensei not to kill any plants, not even the seemingly evil “Throckpods.”
“Master Aero doesn’t want us to anger or even frighten any of the regular flower-people of this planet.”
“Flower people? They look like walking thistles and weeds to me.”
“Still, Ged Aero-sensei only wants us to locate a Throckpod and convince him to come back with us so our group can study it.”
“So, it’s a spy mission.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s different.”
The jungle was different than any other jungle Mai had ever been in. Instead of trees and vines and shrubs, it was made up of salt pillars, living crystals, weedy plants, and mold. Mai’s ring sleeve indicated that large parts of it were toxic and deadly. The two young ninjas proceeded cautiously.
Each time they encountered a carrot-guy or a potato-guy or a corn-stalk-guy, they were told to take a different trail through the toxic jungle. Fortunately, Mai’s ring sleeve was programmed not only to interpret the plant people’s Stink-Talk, but could make a map of their progress as well. Otherwise, Mai and Shu would be hopelessly lost
Finally, a radish-guy with a puffy red and purple face pointed to a large stand of weeds.
“In that spot you will pinpoint a Throckpod.” The ring sleeve translated the smells and spoke the message aloud in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse. Darn that Gyro!
Shu looked at Mai and nodded. They walked over to the stand of weeds.
“One of you is a Throckpod?” asked Shu. The translator device made the word “Throckpod” smell suspiciously skunk-like.
“Who is asking?” said one of the flower-headed weeds. With nearly humanoid eyes. “You appear to be skoog monkeys.”
Skoog monkey was an insult on most planets, at least, when used to describe a humanoid. They were vicious little primates from the planet Misko Skoogalia. Human beings were much more like the little poop-throwers than any human was comfortable admitting.
“We are students of Ged Aero-sensei, the White Spider,” said Shu. “We think you may have heard of him, because other Cornucopians came to our world to seek him out.”
“We have heard of your head monkey, yes. But we do not recognize his authority.”
“All we want is for a Throckpod to come and meet with him. We wish to learn more about your planet. And about your people.”
Everything went silent and smell free. Mai wondered if they knew that the translator device in her ring sleeve would pick up and translate any smells they used to talk about the situation. Maybe, however, they used telepathy or something. Mai wished Sarah the telepath was with her at that moment.
One exceptionally large weed came over to Mai and bent down over her head. Mai realized that it was examining her red flower with little seed-like eyes.
“You have killed a seedling!” said the possible Throckpod. “You must be killed in return.”
Mai’s heart leaped. Shu was obviously surprised too. They had no weapons, but both of them could pick up and throw rocks, pebbles, and crystal shards with only a thought. Mai could propel one like a bullet with her ring sleeve.
The rest of the weeds gathered around them too.
“It’s a flower from my own world,” said Mai, lamely. How could she make these plant people understand that, not only was the flower not intelligent like them, it was an artificial hair decoration and made from silk?
“A flower is a flower,” said the Throckpod, “and a monkey is a monkey.”
“Pick up a score of pebbles and rocks, Mai,” said Shu. “It’s time we gave them the old lawnmower treatment!”
“Lawnmower?” asked the Throckpod.
“A machine for cutting grass,” said Shu. “It cuts plants down close to the roots.”
If a weed could turn pale, then these Throckpods were suddenly gray. They knew about human technology apparently, and were completely unsure of what Mai and Shu were capable of. It was at that very moment that Mai had a bright idea.
“Why do you assume the flower is dead?” asked Mai, looking into the human-like eyes of the weed standing over her.
“Because it doesn’t move.”
Mai smiled. She used her telekinetic ability to make the petals of the silk flower move. In fact, she made the delicate little thing do a spinning dance just above her brow. “This flower is alive and it is my good friend and companion.”
“Have it say so,” the Throckpod replied menacingly.
“It is a tiny flower,” said Mai, thinking quickly, “and tiny flowers on my planet have not learned to speak. Can you not see that it is alive?”
“Accept her word, brother,” said one of the other weeds. “We don’t want to risk this lawnmowing thing.”
The plant-man relented. “Very well. I will go with you to see this master monkey of yours. You will remember that Throckpods are the natural rulers of this planet, and we are to be treated as king-things.”
“King-things?” asked Mai.
“Royalty,” suggested Shu.
“Oh,” said Mai. It was Gyro’s crazy translator program again.
So, finally, Mai’s Cornucopea spy mission was ending as she trudged back to the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Baby camp. She had found and mastered a walking weed known as a Throckpod, and she left with the melancholy realization that it would be nice to have a talking flower to put in her hair, but that wish could never come true.
With Gyro driving, a rather unnerving prospect for those riding with him, the first pink Cadillacko swooped down on the planet Cornucopea out of the clouds. They were supposed to be establishing a base camp on the planet.
Besides Gyro, the Nebulon boy who gave the first Cadillacko its air bubble field and its silly Nebulonin nickname, the grav speeder held Billy Iowa, wearing his cowboy sombrero and leather moccasins, Luigi the Onion Guy, for whom they had no workable space suit, and Mai Ling, scantily dressed in form-fitting battle armor and wearing the ring-sleeve device that could amplify her telekinetic throwing arm.
The second Cadillacko carried Hassan Parker, who had to wear a full space suit instead of being nude like usual, Taffy King and Shu Kwai, all suited and combat ready.
The third grav speeder carried Ged Aero-sensei, Junior Aero, his adopted Nebulon nephew, and Sara Smith, the strongest telepath and healer of the group.
The drop zone looked like a field of flowers undulating in a high wind. But as they zoomed closer, you could see the large daisy-heads and thistle-heads were all ripping into and damaging the other plants.
“What do we do, Sensei?” Billy radioed through the comm dot on his neck.
“Clear the landing zone. Weed-killer weapons and mowers! We have to cut the weeds down to size.”
Gyro, being Gyro, nose-dived the pink-and-white Space Cadillac into the soft dirt of the field of fighting flowers. It plowed a deep furrow in a semi-circle in the middle of the large open space. Shu-Kwai landed his gray-and-white Space Cadillac much more gently beside it.
The telekinetics, Shu and Taffy King, leaped out of their vehicle with weapons that were more like chainsaws than the lawnmowers they were supposed to be. Each had two, one controlled by each hand. So, four flying blades whirled through the air, slicing and dicing, turning Throckpods into salad.
Mai-ling leaped out with a razor pistol in her hand. She fired round throwing-star-like objects in groups of five, then whipped the blades through the air sawing thorns neatly off of every violent flower-person she saw.
Hassan manned the spray-gun with the toxic weed-killer in it, spraying withering death upon Throckpods to a range of fifty feet.
Soon an army of violent flowers was reduced to smoking piles of flower-chips and salad-squares.
By the time Ged-sensei and Sara and Junior disembarked from their pink-and-white Cadillac, the battle was already over.
Luigi the Onion Guy came bouncing furiously across the field to confront Ged.
“nO! Oh, nO! You muSt nOt spILl, ChloroPhyll!” he shouted in his weird little Onion-guy accent.
“But you wanted help in driving away to evil Throckpods and their master, did you not?”
Luigi just stank out a lot of foul smells that the translator couldn’t begin to translate. It is well known that bad words are more a matter of disgustingly figurative language that does not translate well to beings who have no reference for flower emotions, flower body parts, flower behavior, or flower-based bad thoughts.
“Luigi is swearing at you, Sensei,” Gyro tried to explain while adjusting the translator’s many translation-equivalents adjustment bars.
“We need to understand him better. Can anyone read his mind?”
Sara looked at Ged with a sorrowful expression on her face. “I am beginning to sense some of the stronger emotions coming from plant-minds. He is upset because to them, all flower-life is sacred, including the Throckpods. That’s what he wants us to cure about the Throckpods. Their leader makes them render and kill other plant-life sacrilegiously.”
“Very well, then. We will set up base-camp in this cleared field and try hard to understand these flower-people better.”
“Yes, we need to study them and do some research,” said Hassan Parker. “I can get out of this space suit and start research immediately as the rest of you set up the camp.”
“I think I have seen enough of your naked body. And you really should join us in the physical labor before doing the mental work.” Shu Kwai was not making suggestions. He was issuing commands. “And while we are here, everybody wears protective body coverings. There are many unknown plant-based dangers here, and we want no one to be at risk.”
So, eight student ninjas, their ninja sensei, and one irate Onion began building a base camp.
While Ged Aero-sensei and Naylund Smith-sensei were busy flying the Super Rooster towards the planet Cornucopea, the White Spider students gathered in the recreation room with the forward view on the holoscreen.
Mai Ling and Taffy King sat together on the floor, missing their third since Jadalaqstbr hadn’t returned from her mission until after they had collectively left.
Shu Kwai, wearing his white vest and white pants stood on the starboard side of the viewing screen. Hassan Parker, nude except for the goofy red fez on his head (since he was dedicated to the goofy nudity notions of the Classical Worlds, also known as Space Nudists,) stood next to him.
Gyro Sinjarac, the blue-skinned Nebulon, and his best friend Billy Iowa both wore their cowboy hats, boots, and space-cowboy clothes sitting in the middle of the floor.
Junior Aero, blue-skinned Nebulon, and his beloved young lady friend, Sara Smith. Stood together at the back of the group holding hands.
The planet kept looming larger and larger in the viewing screen. It was amazingly green compared to similar planets where life wasn’t merely thriving, but exploding with life. Most such planets were blue from immense bodies of water.
“So, this is a dangerous planet, huh?” asked Mai Ling.
“Yes, those Throckpods were trying to rip my head off and drink my blood,” said Sara.
Taffy King shivered. “I hate the idea of plants that can move and talk… and eat you.”
“Yeah, and it will be worse for us than it was for you, Sara,” Mai Ling said.
“Oh, how so?”
“You had your boyfriend there to protect you,” she said. “Our boyfriends… Taffy’s and mine, are not along to protect us.”
“You two have boyfriends?”
“Taffy loves Rocket,” Gyro blurted out with accompanying giggles.
“But… you, Mai Ling?”
Mai Ling blushed deeply. “Yeah, um… Phoenix says of all the girls he’s met before, I’m the one he likes the most.”
Everyone laughed awkwardly, more from embarrassment than anything else. But no one argued either. They all instantly realized that Phoenix did treat Mai Ling differently. He wasn’t cruel to her.
“So, what about Billy, Gyro, Shu, and Hassan?” Junior asked. “Who are they supposed to protect.”
“Well, it’s rather obvious that Gyro and Billy are in love,” said Taffy with a cruel grin. “And Shu Kwai is more of a monk than a man. And who’s even gonna get near the naked kid?”
Shu Kwai frowned at the teasing, and Hassan looked quite sad for reasons unknown.
“Well, my clairvoyance is pinging right now with answers to all of it,” said Billy Iowa. “I see Gyro with an Earther wife and ten blue kids of varying ages. And Junior and Sara will marry and have a pair of blue twins, a boy and girl… Robert and Valerie, I think.”
“Oh, what about Phoenix and me?” squeaked Mai Ling.
“Well… you do get married… but…”
“Oh, no! What?”
“You can’t have kids of your own. You have to adopt… I think.”
“And what about Rocket and me?” Taffy asked.
“One son, Alfred Einstein Rogers. He’s such a handful you both decide never to have any more.”
“What about Shu?”
“Well, he’s going to be a great teacher, and first among all the White Spider Disciples.”
“Of course he is,” scoffed Taffy.
Suddenly Billy’s face grew pale and the look on his face was the kind of horrified you associate with seeing ghosts.
“No! Don’t say it. I don’t want to know.” Hassan folded his arms across his chest and glared at Billy.
“Do… do you already know it?”
“The curse? It isn’t really any of your business. Take your time-snooping nose out of my future. Don’t you dare tell anyone.”
“Okay. Okay… I wish I could forget it… myself.”
“I’ll take care of it for you,” Hassan said, putting his first two fingers of his right hand to Billy’s temple and pouring blueish telepathic energy into the side of Billy’s head. That, of course, left everyone so stunned about Hassan’s terrible secret that all the romance and future-children stuff was promptly forgotten.
King Killer stared out the main viewport of his Flagship, the Sherman Hemsley, looking intently at Grand Admiral Cloudstalker’s new flagship, the Giant Leaf-eater.
“It seems like such an insult for legendary pirates like Arkin Cloudstalker to be flying a dinosaur-shaped space ship. Certainly, the brains behind this new fleet coulda come up with something more respectful. It’s so silly… and green!”
“You are complaining for Cloudstalker? Or f0r yourself?” asked Wicked Wanda.
“Yeah, yeah… I’m not happy for me either. His just has to sit there like some kinda brontosaurus, and he don’t have to charge about like a bison in a stampede.”
“You didn’t have to accept a triceratops ship, you know. And that thing Cloudstalker has is a brachiosaurus. There never was such a thing as a brontosaurus. It was actually an apatosaurus.”
“So, you are now the ship’s dinosaur expert?”
“You know I’m not. I’m your fleet communications officer… and paramour.”
“Yeah, I know it.”
King glared around the bridge at all of the snickering crewmen. All seven of them on the bridge of the Hemsley.
“What? You subordinates have opinions?” He growled menacingly. Everyone ceased laughing instantly.
And then a gray and black trash dumpster materialized on the bridge of Admiral Killer’s flagship as if some gigantic material synthesizer pieced it together from random atoms there.
“What’s this on my bridge?”
“Um… a dumpster?” a timid crewman ventured.
They all heard the familiar snap-hiss of a sealed airlock opening, and then the thing morphed into a 1950s telephone booth. It was almost a familiar sight to Admiral Killer.
The character who stepped out of the time-ship Star Wars was completely unrecognizable to King.
“Yes, it’s me. I ran into some difficulties in Outpost’s near future. I had to be reborn again, as Galagoans do, but at least I get to be younger in this body.”
“Um, why are you different from the old Hooey?”
“I understand perfectly,” Wicked Wanda said. “Having been a holovid star myself, I definitely understand the need to change faces as you start a new season.”
“So glad you get it, old girl. Forgive me if I turn out to be a bit cheekier than the old me.”
“So, why is the new you even here?” demanded King.
“Ah, yes! To make sure you, Admiral King Killer, don’t give up in the coming battle of Outpost. All you have to do to win it and establish the New Star League, is do what you intended to do before you started to have second thoughts. If you just do the things you were supposed to do all along, the plan Ham Aero carries out will work and you all will be victorious.”
“Um, ah… what?”
But not even Wicked Wanda could interpret that one for him. Because when did the second thoughts he was not supposed to have actually begin? Were these old second thoughts? Were they second thoughts that happened after the present time? And what the heck were the first thoughts he actually had to do to win?
“Oh, never mind. You’ll figure it out when the time is right.”
“And if I don’t figure it out?”
“Well, I guess, then, that the universe we know dies this time… once again.” King Killer glared at this new Hooey. Yes, it really was a new Hooey. Just like the old Hooey, only dumber.
Phoenix dissipated his fire-sword and turned towards the Black Spider leaders and their fire-fighting crew. There was an ironic smile on his face.
“You may have noticed that this entire place is now on fire. We, the three of us have decimated your ranks already. And we did not come alone. We brought Jai Chang and the army of Shen Ming. Jai-sensei needed a chance to prove himself faithful to the White Spider.”
Instantly Jai Chaing swooped down from the rafters, shooting his arrows as he leapt. Fangwoman, still wearing the helmet, took the first one through the heart. Three more fell to his arrows before the other warriors took their first shots.
Reacting as quickly as he could, the Green Phantom dropped himself through a trap door in the stage floor.
“Now you must kill me. I was your sensei, and I deserve an honorable death at your hands. Let the student now become the master.” Bone Daddy lowered his head, ready for the final blow.
“What is that? Some kind of old movie reference? You may not like it, but I choose to honor you with love and forgiveness. We will take you as our guest in a lead-lined cell. We will heal you, and give you the chance to redeem yourself among the White Spiders.”
“Phoenix, no. You dishonor me.”
“I do not. You just don’t understand… yet.”
Bone Daddy slumped unconscious to the floor. Fortunately, a wraith cannot phase while unconscious.
“I have the boy Freddy,” said Jai Chang, holding the unconscious child in his arms. Of the three White Spider commandoes, he was the only one that needed attention from a healer.
Rocket, Jackie, and Alec were all roused and led safely out of the burning building. Two soldiers carried the limp form of Bone Daddy out too.
Shen Ming himself retrieved the Avenger Helmet.
“Ah, I must be careful with this thing now.”
“Am I right in thinking you are the reason the Avenger helmet turned up on Jai Chang’s head, Shen Ming-sensei?” Phoenix asked.
“What? Me, guilty? Although I am admitting that it all worked out rather nicely for our worst enemies. Fangwoman is discovering new dimensions. Bone Daddy is now our permanent guest. And Green Phantom is now in hiding, needing to recruit many new evil ninjas to his stupid way of thinking.
“And, ah, so… we have cleaned out the Black Spider Organization in Kiro pretty well.” Shen Ming’s crooked smirk told Phoenix it was all true, but he was not unhappy about it.