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AeroQuest 5… Canto 144

Canto 144 – Digging In

Outpost was abuzz with activity.  The airless world had only limited defense from attack.  The primary protection had always been the secret of its location.  As an airless world, the surface could easily be lasered or bombarded with no atmosphere to interfere with the destructive force.  Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected into the surrounding darkness.  He knew, however, that the only hope he had was in his fleet.  If they could somehow use the dinosaur-shaped starships made with Ancient technology to destroy enough of Admiral Tang’s fleet to make him feel the losses were no longer worthwhile, then maybe the ground-side installations could survive intact.

There were still very talented corsairs able to fly fighting ships.  Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout were both peerless star warriors.  But Tron had to believe that Admiral Tang had a few potent killers left to his name too.  There was every chance that the situation was hopeless and would end in a massacre.

Still, there were a few unknowns on Tron Blastarr’s side.  The crazy alien starship known as the Megadeath was the most agile killing machine that Tron had ever seen.  The goofball rock-and-roll crew that flew it for Trav Dalgoda was now very adept at handling the alien thing, and Tron had kept them to help in his mad last stand.  They were not smart enough to be scared of the upcoming battle.  He was able to send his son onward to Don’t Go Here, the planet where the newly formed New Star League gathered its forces.  So, hopefully, Artran would be safe and carry on the Blastarr name long after Tron and Maggie’s bones littered the airless sands of Outpost.  

“Boss,” said Hassan the Elf, breaking Tron’s train of thought, “I have made something that I think might be of help.”

Tron looked at the child-like Peri and the invention he was now holding up.  “A suit of armor?”

“Yes, boss.  A special kind of suit of armor.  It is made up of nanites.”

“What?  Nanites?”

“Yes, microscopic robots that share a command pulse and can reform themselves into any sort of armor that might be needed.”

Tron looked quizzically at the bluish suit of nanite armor.  “How do you make it work?” 

“Well… for instance, if you want it to form an anti-grav pack on the back, you just say, “FLIGHTPACK.”  The suit rearranged itself at Hassan’s command and an anti-gravity flight pack instantly took shape on the back side of the armor’s breastplate.

“Does it have weapons?”

“FUSIONGUN!” said the elf with a grin.  A man-portable fusion generator and discharge barrel formed on the pauldron.

“That’s really good, Elf.  That will help.  But one isn’t going to be enough to save us.”  He grinned sadly at the small Peri Space Elf originally from the planet Djinnistan.

“Oh, that’s the best part,” said the Peri.  “Nanites can replicate themselves from raw metal ore.  Since the planet is mostly metal and crystal, we can set them to making a million copies of themselves in an hour.  You have to specify the number, though.  We wouldn’t want the little buggers transforming the entire planet.”

“Amazing,” sighed Tron.  “If only I had a million commandos to fill them with.”

At that moment Maggie came trotting up to him with a handheld communicator.  “The call is for you,” she said, looking grim.  “Arkin Cloudstalker has finally found his way back to this system.  And that Lazerstone rock-guy is with him. Admiral Tang is sure to follow.”

“Yes.  Sure to follow,” said Tron automatically, still gazing at the grinning elf and his newest invention.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 143

Canto 143 – Morning Aboard the Starship Aboard the Starship

 I couldn’t help but fixate on the things Admiral Tang had bragged about knowing from the future during his villain speech in a previous episode.  Apparently, he had outwitted and killed a Time Knight at some point, and he had specifically told us that I was going to survive this adventure while poor Ham Aero was doomed to die in the upcoming battle for the planet Outpost.

I was sipping on my cup of designer coffee, my own special concoction called Isaac Newton’s Favorite Cup of Joe.  And I was staring out of the front viewport of the Leaping Shadowcat at the guards in the cavernous docking bay of Admiral Tang’s flagship, Bregohelma.  The Lupin child who served as cabin boy came out of the crews’ quarters completely naked and rubbing at his doglike eyes.  Of course, the boy’s shameless nudity didn’t bother me since Lupins are covered in wolf-fur and don’t really need clothing to cover up relentlessly white, pock-marked skin and rolls of fat the way I do.

“Professor Marou, do you think the Imperials will just execute me or toss me out into space?” Sahleck asked.

“Well, if they are frugal, they will toss you out into space.  It costs less.”

“Oh.”

The destroyed look on his puppylike face reminded me that maybe a strictly logical answer to the question wasn’t the kind of answer he needed to hear.

“But don’t go planning on dying yet.  Time is a relative dimension in space and, as such is totally malleable.”

He looked at me as if he wanted to ask another question, but didn’t really understand what I had just told him.

“You know that there are Time Knights constantly meddling with what they think happened in the past to correct the outcome to some sort of plan created in the distant future…”

“Oh, yes…” Sahleck stammered.

“And since Tang says he killed one of those Time Knights, we know for certain that somebody is out there working on solutions to the problems we are now facing.”

“So, maybe they won’t kill everybody but you?”

“Oh, you all are probably going to die.  Tang seems to know what will happen with information gleaned from the Time Knights themselves.  But nothing is ever certain.  Maybe I get killed too.”

That didn’t seem to help much.

Ham Aero wandered in drinking his own morning beverage, probably potent liquor of some sort.

“Sahleck?  You are out of uniform, boy.  You know that the job of steward aboard a starship is critical to staying alive in space.”

“Yes, Ham.  I know I am supposed to scrub floors, maintain the air quality, and do whatever the cook asks me to do, but we are almost all going to die.  So, what’s the point?”

“We are not giving up, my boy.  What we are blessed with is lots of time, and the freedom to plan without worrying about being overheard.  Tang doesn’t know it, but this ship is shielded from telepaths.  Ged had me do that back when he was first dealing with becoming a Psion.  So, we don’t have to just sit back and wait for death.  We can plan and carry out our own rescue and escape.  And I am not ready to die myself, knowing now that I am going to be a father for the first time.”

That made Sahleck smile.

“So, you have an idea about how to do it?” I asked.

“Not yet.  But we have more collective smarts than they do.  How many of their crew are rot warriors?  Skeletons with robotic life? Nearly mindless undead things?”

“Mechanoids and reanimated dead folks make up at least 75 percent of all Imperial Navy personnel.  You know this well, Ham.”

“Sure, but my point is… We have you.  You are one of the smartest living humans in the entire Orion Spur of the Milky Way.”

Now, I know, of course, when I am being flattered in order to manipulate me.  But he was not wrong.  Duke Ferrari was on board, and he carried considerable political significance, and potentially leadership ability.    And Ham’s young Nebulon wife knew a lot of secrets only formerly enslaved aliens really knew about.  Ham himself was a canny strategist and ship-board leader.  He knew how to solve the problems of living mostly in space aboard a starship.  And he was not wrong about me being smarter than practically everyone else in the universe.  (Not bragging, just an irrefutable fact.)

“Yes, you are right, Ham.  We are not helpless.  We do have an intelligence advantage over our enemies.  And we will think of some way out of this situation.”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 142

Canto 142 – Night Thoughts

It was during that eight-hour period set aside for sleep that Ged awoke in a sweat.  Dreams again!  He couldn’t quite recall what he’d been dreaming, but it gave him the uneasy feeling that it was about his brother Ham, and that it was one of those dreams a Psion sometimes has that comes true.  He was sandwiched in between two small, warm bodies.  Junior was snuggled next to him on one side, snoring softly.  Sarah was on the other side, her small body sheathed in her white body suit, looking like an angel and radiating angelic energies.

The spaceship, in the form of an Ancient Red Dragon, continued to purr with power as it flew through jump space.

Ged knew sleep was highly unlikely for him now.  Still, he didn’t turn on the lights or re-absorb the short brown fur that his Psion power generated every evening now to keep him warm.  He looked at the two sleeping children.  They had grown a lot while in his care.

Junior reminded him of Ham as much as any blood relative would have.  The blue face was totally different from the handsomer half of the Aero Brothers’ Space Safari Service, but the unruly blond hair was similar.  And Ged couldn’t help but call to mind the boy’s wistful smile, so like the smile that made his brother Ham so engaging and heroic.  With one furry hand, Ged reached over and stroked the boy’s yellow hair.  This child was precious to him.  So alien, yet now become an indispensable part of Ged’s life as a spacer.

Sarah, on the other side, was probably the most beautiful child he had ever encountered.  As he looked at her intently, he couldn’t help but think it was far more than a physical beauty.  Her father was one of a handful of so-called Forever Men in the galaxy.  He was an immortal, capable of traveling in a straight line through a thousand years.  He had gifted his daughter with more than a thousand years worth of human wisdom, culture, and literature.  What was more, she was able to draw entire libraries full of learning directly from her father’s head via telepathy.  At less than twelve years old, she was more learned than Ged would ever be.

What was he doing on this alien space craft in a bed between these two amazing children?  How could he ever hope to be worthy of caring for them and protecting them?  Worse, he was now taking them from the relative safety of the planet Gaijin, back into an Imperial Space full of war and violence, cruel pirates, and shambling hordes of rot warriors who were no more than animated skeletons with a computerized control system.  Not just these two, either.  He had a whole shipload of special children that he was now somehow responsible for.  What was he doing here?  How could a talented hunter and space traveler from Questor suddenly be a teacher and the only adult guiding these children toward a highly questionable future?  The thought made him quiver in spite of the warm fur.

Maybe being a teacher wasn’t so bad, though.  He was a natural with loving discipline.  Except for Alec Songh, all of these children adored and looked up to him.  It felt good to be addressed with respectful honorifics and awe.  It seemed he did have something to teach them. 

Shu Kwai had become a powerful telekinetic because of Ged’s success in describing for him the workings of the inner eye. 

Ged’s own perceptive powers had grown exponentially as he continued to practice changing his own shape.  He could transform now not just by taste and touch, but by scent and even by imagination.  He could almost become the creatures of his dreams by placing them at the focus of his powerful inner eye. 

Friashqazatla was gaining a lot in shape-change power from the instruction Ged gave him.  So far, he could only take a humanoid shape with canine features or a small, black wolf with a human brain and voice, but the rest would surely come with time and practice. 

Gyro, the other Nebulon boy besides Junior was learning practically everything Ged knew about starship repair and maintenance.  He could find and pull the skills directly out of Ged’s memory.  He seemed to have a really vast aptitude for anything mechanical or electronic.  He was also a god of mathematics and space-travel equations.  The need to find an astrogator was quickly becoming irrelevant. 

Even the Phoenix and Rocket Rogers were learning from him.  They had a power over fire that he did not comprehend at all.  It was a Psion power completely un-like his own.  Still, they learned to work together from Ged, in the way he had always done so naturally with his brother Ham.  He taught the two boys the hunting language of hand signs and gestures that allowed non-telepaths to speak in silence.  He taught them tracking skills and the interpreting of signs left by those who pass through a place.

But the question that bothered Ged most was, “What have I become?”  He had taken pride in being a moral man, a servant of the true God.  Now, he was the lover of two different women, one little more than a child herself.  His love had caused them both pain and trouble.  And the more he became a Psion and used his power, the more he felt degraded and sick.  He had become a monster.  And what about his brother Ham?

Still, as he lay there awake and troubled he couldn’t help but turn back to thoughts of Ham.  They had escaped from Imperial Space.  They had found paradise.  Don’t Go Here was a source of potential wealth.  He and Ham had liberated the population, revived the starport, and wove them into the great web of space.  They owned the starport and had control over who came in. 

Gaijin was even better. There he had found acceptance.  They didn’t seem to care that he was different and tainted with Psion blood.  They seemed to think it was a good thing.  He and Ham could have a good life between those two planets.  And now, it seemed, both of them were being drawn back into the dangerous realm that was the Imperium.  Looming doom seemed to be beckoning to them both.  Ged hunkered down again between the two sleeping children.  He needed to get some sleep.  Thoughts of the other children in his care, Billy Iowa, Jadalaqstbr, Mai Ling, Hassan Parker, Taffy King, and difficult Alec Songh, could be put off for the moment.  Still, thinking about the future made his stomach churn and sleep remained a stranger.

In the hold, three decks below in the belly of the Ancient dragon starship, the malevolent Tesserah continued to percolate with sickly green and purple lights.  Whatever evil thing the device was supposed to do, it was busy doing it.

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AeroQuest 5 – It Ain’t Over Yet

Overture for Part Five of AeroQuest

Well, here we are again at the start of the part of the space opera that begins a new volume, and it is the part after the last intermission where I summarize all the crazy stuff that happened in this somewhat-true-but-also-somewhat-exaggerated history of what, to you, is a history of the far future.  And I usually go over only a few main points before launching into a complicated story that you will never be able to follow because you’re not a genius like me, Googol Marou, scientist, historian, and really cool witness to a lot of these events. 

And I usually assure you that you can pick this up and read it even without having read the previous four volumes.  But, come on!  Can you really skip that much wonderfully insightful narrative and historical analysis and still truly understand the masterfully written material of this volume?  Don’t you need to at least buy the most expensive copies of all four books you can find and put them under your pillow so that story particles can irradiate your head in the night while you are asleep and make your brain mutate into super-genius levels of intelligence because the books are written so well?

Or you could just go back and read them.

Part One is called Stars and Stones.

In that first wonderfully written part, the two brothers, Ged and Ham Aero are fleeing from civilized space because, although they’ve already had a good career as space hunters, Ged’s Psion ability to change his shape has gotten him persecution from the Orion Spur Empire known as the Imperium.  As they flee, they are joined by a criminal boyhood friend, Trav Dalgoda, who is escaping from space pirates that he stole a valuable Ancient artifact from along with a kidnapped Nebulon Princess and her young son.

They escape from known space to a periphery planet called Don’t Go Here.  Here they legally lay claim to an entire planetary star system because they are the only people there with a spaceship.  But it is not an uninhabited planet.  There are millions of marooned spacers on that planet left there by the pirates that stole their spaceships.  They have developed a unique civilization there based on ancient holo-cartoons called The Flintstones

And so, the Aero Brothers liberated the planet by using Trav’s Ancient artifact to build an AI-self-aware starport whom Trav names Frieda and then commands her to design and build new starships.

Of course, the pirates who lost the artifact to Trav have to come to terms with the new power in with the Orion Spur, and so decide to start a rebellion against the Imperium and Grand Admiral Brona Tang.

But then we move into the part of the story that becomes Part Two, Planet of the White Spider.  In that part, Ged has to face the fact that a mysterious prophecy about a Psion called the White Spider seems to be directly describing him as the next chosen one to be the White Spider.

Being the White Spider of Prophecy requires Ged to move to the planet Gaijin with a previously marooned Psion Master from Don’t Go Here called Tkriashav.  Ged takes the Nebulon Princess’s son, renamed Ham Aero Junior, along with him to establish a new school for Psions. Junior has Psion skills.

Ham Aero decides to go along with Tron Blastarr, the leader of the pirates to fight for the Imperium and hopefully also stop Trav Dalgoda from destroying the entire universe for giggles.  The rebels try to conquer some new planets after taking and losing White Palm.  They gain allies and more Ancient-artifact troubles and one assassin on the trail of pirate leaders.  They settle on the idea that if they win, they will establish a new interplanetary government called the New Star League.

Ged finds allies in the leader of Gaijin, a goofy old Mandarin called Shen Ming, and an immortal from ancient Earth, Dr. Naylund Smith.  Dr. Smith’s charming young daughter Sara turns out to be a gifted Psion healer.

And then Ged must defeat the planet’s Black Spider leader in order to establish himself as the new White Spider.  This he does in a ninja-battle contest by using his shape-changing ability to turn into a dinosaur and eat the Black Spider, ironically absorbing the ninja skills as he eats his enemy.

Then Ged seriously begins putting together his Psion ninja class from the gifted but outcast children that Tkriashav finds and brings to him.

Part Three, Juggling Planets tells about the rebel pirate bands going from planet to planet, recruiting and invading worlds to add to their new planetary alliance.  Tron and Ham Aero add allies and friends to their cause, retrieve some of their captured minions, and learn certain secrets that advance their cause.

Ged and his students hone their skills and learn to work together.  The students get to know each other and form relationships.

And then Part Four happens, The Amazing Aero Brothers.  More characters come into the story.  Some characters dieSome new villains arise and are defeated.  I give you even more historical and scientific insight into what happens.  And everything gets even more complicated.

What you most need to know is that Grand Admiral Brona Tang is defeated in the Battle of Planet Coventry by a super-powerful Ancient artifact called the Tesserah.  And then Trav Dalgoda immediately uses it to commit the worst war crime in the history of the universe.  After this battle ends, Ham Aero and everyone aboard his spaceship, including yours truly, are captured and held prisoner by Grand Admiral Brona Tang.

Ged Aero defeats his worst enemy who turns out to be a sort of clone of himself from the future.  And then he is handed the evil artifact known as the Tesserah and tasked with destroying it to save the entire universe.

Now, do you have enough information to read Volume  Five, It Ain’t Over Yet?  Or do you need to do some more reading first?   

Yes, I am the utter genius who brought this story to you.

   

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