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AeroQuest 5… Canto 155

Canto 155 – The Killer Clowns of Mingo

“Let me introduce myself.  I am Smiley Creaturefeature, Imperial Harlequin of the Triumvirate now present on Mingo!”

A second Harlequin also stepped through the ruined doorway.  “And I am Sharpwhistle Crackplatter, his second in command.”

The two costumed cyborgs both switched on a feature of their armor simultaneously and immediately sent the entire hallway into chaos.  Flashing and strobing colored lights along with barely audible sonic waves warped the senses of all the Psions the cyborgs faced, and Emperor Mong even couldn’t get his pants pulled back up.

Phoenix and Rocket both ignited their fire forms, but neither was able to see through their own flames because of the constant color-changing lights.

Jackie was unable to concentrate enough to teleport. The sonic waves kept her from using her inner eye.

Shu could pick up rocks and debris, but his telekinetic senses were fooled enough by the lights that he couldn’t accurately target anything.

Ged’s senses also were overwhelmed.  But he took a moment to think, letting Smiley and Sharpwhatsit cartwheel around him and his distressed students.  He didn’t particularly care what they maybe wanted to do to Mong.

Now, the Blind Kraken of Jargoon was a creature with no sense of sight or capability of hearing.  It’s tentacles were guided by a superb heat-sensory organ that could identify shapes and locations of both hot and cool things  And the amphibious creature had no problem being completely out of the water for long periods of time.  And Ged had both hunted and eaten one more than an Earth decade ago.

“What is that blobby white thing?” Smiley said to Sharpwhatsit.

“Dunno… but it don’t look bullet-proof.”

Both Harlequins whipped out slug-throwing weapons called machine guns and filled the air with projectiles.  Ged used several of his twenty tentacles to shift his writhing students out of harm’s way while his gelatinous body absorbed and digested all the slugs that hit him.

“It seems to like that!” shouted Sharpwhatsit as he did a handspring and cast the machine gun aside.

“Lasers, then?” asked Smiley.

“Lasers, yes!” answered the other clown.

The medium-laser pistols they both pulled out fired hot laser light at Ged’s shape-changing body.  He not only absorbed the attacks, the extra heat energy he absorbed made his tentacles quicker.

The first catch was Smiley Creaturefeature’s right ankle.  The second catch was Smiley’s gun hand.  Then he poured megajoules of heat energy into Smiley’s limbs, completely melting his muscle-control circuits. He was completely immobilized though he was still alive in the way that cyborgs are alive, He was out of the battle.

“I will avenge you, Smiley,” hollered Sharpwhatsit.  He cast away the laser and pulled out a vibro-sword.  Each tentacle that Ged reached out with was immediately lopped off and rendered useless.

But the Electric Coil Monster of New Spain had once been hunted by Ged and his brother, and then dissected for the scientist that hired them.  Ged knew it inside out.

When Sharpwhistle Crackplatter’s blade embedded itself in Ged’s coil, he sent a lightning charge of electricity coursing through the surprised dancing clown.  He fell writhing to the floor, all his circuits shorting out, making him as dead as an undead cyborg can technically be.

The students, no longer incapacitated by the Harlequins, stood around Ged as he transformed back into his human form.

“I hope we don’t have to overcome any more of those things,” said Phoenix.

“You should go after the Triumvirs that have your girlfriend right now before they call up any more of those terrible monsters,” whined Mong, still sniveling.

“Lead us there,” Ged commanded.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 154

Canto 154 – Mingo Mix-It-Ups

The fight had been almost boring as the waves of rot warriors shambled forward, trying to aim their various spears, guns, and lasers, and then being disassembled by the student Psions of Ged Aero’s Dojo.  Shu Kwai had been the most destructive, able to rip out electronic controls with a mere thought.  Phoenix had also laid waste, melting the circuitry out of the Mechanoid-zombie army of Mong the Unmerciful.  The minions of Mong had melted like margarine in a microwave.  Ged had found himself in his armored cat form with nothing to actually do.

The invaders soon found themselves virtually in control of the Ruined Palace of David King.  Jackie teleported back to the Celestial Dragon and picked up Gyro.  The little Neulon whiz kid hooked up some software in an injector device he had pulled together by rearranging molecules with his mind. He then linked it to an uncrushed rot-warrior skull and pulled out a map of the complex through the skull’s control link to the building’s computer system.

“What’d you find there, Smurf?” Phoenix asked almost immediately.

“I am finding Emperor Mong in his suite surrounded by rot-warrior generals trying to destroy two guys called Triumvirs with an even bigger horde of rot warriors than we just polished off,” said Gyro, grinning at his own manipulative genius at controlling computers without relying on Junior’s special Psion power.

“What?” said Phoenix, frowning.

“He’s telling you he found the Emperor in his private living quarters focusing his attacks on somebody besides us,” said Shu Kwai with an icy superiority.

Phoenix frowned at the nearly naked boy in his white loincloth.  Ged could feel tension building again between the two.

“Okay,” said Phoenix, “so what do we do now, Ged Sensei?”

“We go pay Mong a little visit,” Ged answered, now back in human form and dressed in the jumpsuit and fedora hat he had brought with him.

“Has he detected us?” Rocket asked Gyro.

“I don’t know for sure, but maybe not.  He is in… I don’t know how to say it in Galactic English.  The kapooiac.”

“I have a feeling that means the fresher… or restroom… probably,” suggested Phoenix.

“Let’s go quickly,” ordered Shu Kwai, “so we can maintain as much surprise as possible.”

Gyro led the way through bone-littered corridors.  The whole place had the feel of an old black-and-white monster movie.  This wasn’t surprising, since the Galtorrians had based much of their culture on the TV programs they intercepted from ancient Earth in the 1950s and 1960s.  In fact, Galactic English had become the norm in the Orion Spur due to the fact that the Galtorrians worshipped the TV comedy I Love LucyThrough artificial cobwebs and gray stonework, they wound their way down into the bowels of the palace.  Finally, Gyro stopped them before a blank stone wall.

 “There is a secret door here,” he said with a sweet blue smile.

“Good,” said Phoenix.  “I’ll open it!”

A wall of flame swelled outward from Phoenix’s fingertips.  The wall of artificial stone and plasticrete melted away before them, revealing Mong on his personal throne.  It was not his throne of office, either, but rather the natural place one goes when he can no longer keep his bowels from emptying from fear.

“Eeuw!  Gross!” cried Jackie, staring at the emperor with his pants down.

Mong was cringing while staring out from under his golden skullcap with the carved dragon as its crest.  His Fu Manchu moustache was wet with tears of fear.

“Oh, great Ged Aero!  You are the one my agents have been telling me about, aren’t you?”  Mong’s voice was squeaky and timid, surprising from so sinister a caped figure, even with his pants down on his throne and toilet paper in hand.  Shu Kwai, Rocket, Phoenix, and Gyro all laughed about this man they had so recently dreaded.

“Mong, I have come for her,” said Ged.  “I want Tara Salongi back.”

“What?  I don’t have your young lady!  But you have to defend me!  Protect me from those clowns and I will gladly give her back to you!”

The pitiful evil emperor was pleading in such a sniveling, groveling manner that Ged couldn’t bear it.

“Do you have her?  Or don’t you?  All I require from you,” said Ged, “is to lead me to Tara and then flee this planet for your pitiful life.  If I don’t get her back, I will hunt you down and tear you to pieces.”

There was a large, startling crash as someone tore the fresher door on the opposite side out of the wall.

Ged’s eyes flashed with anger, an emotion that none of the students present had ever actually seen in him before.  It chilled them all to the bone.

An armored clown stepped through the hole.  He was obviously a cyborg, but far more sophisticated than any rot warrior they had yet encountered.

“So, Mong is not out of champions yet!” declared the Harlequin menacingly.

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AeroQuest 5 – Canto 153

Canto 153 – Stealth

The corridors of the Ruined Palaces were empty and still.  Much dust danced through an empty-hall ballet as the stillness of disuse filled the place.  Then, as suddenly as a star goes nova, there was a loud crack as Jadalaqstbr brought Ged Aero into the palace by teleportation.

Ged’s brown fedora fell from his head and began rolling away. 

“Are you all right, Ged-sensei?”  Jackie’s brown face showed concern even though recently Alec Songh had led her to be a bit disrespectful and defiant.

“I didn’t know teleporting left you disoriented like that,” said Ged, trapping his hat with a foot before it rolled too far.

“It doesn’t do that to me, but Alec says it bothers him.”

“We may need to be quieter in a place we have invaded.”

“Yes, sorry,” Jackie whispered.  “Are you ready for me to go back for the next one?”

“Yes.”

At the word from the master, another thunderous crack marked Jadalaqstbr’s departure.  Ged used the moment to begin his planned transformation.  He changed his head into a tiger’s head for the sensitive nose, but it was not an earth tiger.  It was the head of a large black Talosian tiger.  And Ged did not settle for the mere body of a tiger.  The cat-form he created was sheathed in armor plates much like the armored auger-creatures of the planet Nix, supple yet impenetrable.  It also had wings like the great war-eagles of Barad Allamar, large enough to carry a ton of creature mass through the air.

When Jackie cracked the air next, it was Phoenix she carried.  She set him down and immediately imploded through space again.

“Ged-dono?” asked Phoenix, hesitation in his sarcastic voice for the first time that Ged was aware of.

“Yesss, thiss iss mmmme.  New formmmm.”  The tiger’s tongue was thick and slurred in his huge mouth.

“Good trick,” said Phoenix, nodding.  “I have one to show you, too.”

Phoenix’s transformation was even more alarming than Ged’s.  Fire started around his hands, and then began to crackle around his entire form.  He seemed to become a boy of living flame.

“RRRRrrrr?” questioned Ged.

“I call it fire-form,” said Phoenix.  “I am intact under here and able to breathe normally.  I’m really just wearing fire like anyone else would wear clothes.”

Ged nodded his massive head.  It was a good trick that might serve Phoenix well.

Jackie burst onto the scene once again with Rocket Rogers in her grip.  She dropped the cowboy-hatted boy onto the floor tiles and vanished yet again.

“Wow!” said Rocket, “I’ve been missing quite a party.”

“Look into my mind, Rocket,” said Phoenix from within the flames.  “You can do this too.”

Ged had been impressed during lessons at how willingly Phoenix would teach his skills to Rocket.  The cowboy fire-starter was a quick learner, too.  Ged wasn’t entirely sure he was comfortable with Phoenix becoming a better instructor than Ged himself.  He couldn’t deny, though, that Rocket could learn more effectively from someone who shared the same skills.

Jackie disappeared yet again.

Rocket burst into flame, his cowboy hat sizzling away to cinders.

“Dang!” said Rocket.  “I goofed.  I burned up all my clothes and my best cowboy hat.”

“Did you burn yourself?” said Phoenix’s fire-form to Rocket’s fire form.

“No, I’m okay.  I get the part about a cool layer just below the flame.  I can do the temperature layers just the way you pictured it for me, but I have to learn to get the thicknesses right.”

“You learrrn fast,” remarked the Ged tiger.

“Thank you, sensei.  Phoenix is a good teacher, just like you.”

 When Jackie reappeared she carried Shu Kwai, the final member of the strike team.  He was dressed in a white leather vest, tooled with interlocking spider designs, a white loincloth, and white tabai boots.  He carried a pearlescent trident with three wickedly sharp tines.  For a boy of twelve, he looked formidable.  He had learned enough martial arts skills from Ged and from Alec Songh to be deadly, even when he didn’t enhance his blows with telekinesis.  Like Ged himself, though, this boy was dedicated to winning any battle without causing any injury or death.

“Are we ready?” asked Phoenix within his fire-form.

“We will find our way easily,” said Shu Kwai with that quiet confidence that made him so spooky.  “The mission will be no challenge.”

Ged had to wonder if the Gaijinese boy was trying to reassure himself and the others, or was simply stating what he knew to be a fact.  Ged knew one of these three boys would end up being the leader of the entire group.  He simply didn’t know which.  But the time had come for action.  Ged’s tiger nose detected the approach of rotting flesh and circuitry.  Rot warriors were headed their direction.

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AeroQuest 5… Adagio 23

Adagio 23 – The Planet Mingo

Mingo was one of those most worrisome of things, a cartoonish bad guy world full of grotesque evil dudes and shambling undead Mechanoids.  You could tell just by looking it was evil.  The skies were polluted a dark, rusty orange from industrial waste and the foul stench of death.

If you couldn’t tell its evil nature by looking at it, as Emperor Slythinus no longer could, you could also tell its rank foulness from the never-ending smell of the place, something Slythinus also couldn’t do, because he was not only blind, but also stone-cold dead.  The Mechanoid industry of recycling used flesh gave the place an air of death and decay.  The air was artificially regenerated, but no one bothered with purification.  The denizens of the planet, for the most part, loved it the way it was. The cityscape was endless, crusting over even the planet’s ample oceans.  The concrete-gray and soot-blackened features of the place were oppressive.  The most impressive sights on the planet were the well-known Ruined Palaces District, once the site of the Imperial Capitol, before the Galtorrian Jihad had removed Imperial rule back to Galtorr Prime.

The majority of the vast population of the place was now Mechanoids, the crusty re-animated remains of humans and Galtorrians remade into a deathless life-form of rotting flesh and robotic circuits.  Oh, there were human and Galtorrian people there who were living, but the effort to create deathless soldiers and an ageless workforce had emptied every graveyard and charnel pit to a point where the once-dead outnumbered the living ten to one

The ruler of the planet preferred to call himself an Emperor instead of a Duke or Prince.  Emperor Mong was a cartoonish bad guy in all the clichéd ways that cartoonish bad guys are always portrayed, only cartoonier.  I know that isn’t a real word in galactic English, but you get the idea, and after all, I am a scientist, not a poet!  Mong wore his pointy little Van Dyke beard in the fashion of Mephistopheles.  He loved helmets with fancy carved dragons on the crest and silk robes in bright colors, complete with a melodramatic cape and cowl.  He was a brooding, evil, and thoroughly stinky bad guy who only got his jollies from coming up with really elaborate and fiendish tortures for his arch-enemy Brash Gordon.  Unfortunately, the heroic Brash had long ago expired in Mong’s prison, and Mong had nobody to turn his terrifyingly terrible attention to but the whole rest of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Weren’t we lucky!

The standing orders on Mingo were that anyone who died was, by law, transformed immediately into a rot warrior.  These were the brainless Mechanoid soldiers that Mong maintained as his standing army, well, leaning-shambling-drooling army.  They were all controlled by that infamous intelligent computer known as the Master Cylinder; Mong’s most evil of numerous evil henchmen.

Now, Slythinus, when he was in actual control of the Galtorr Imperium, had greatly feared the machinations of Emperor Mong.  He knew that Mong would one day try to challenge him for Imperial rule.  Mingo, after all, was one of only four planets that had ever been the Capitol of the Thousand Worlds.  Galtorr Prime, Earth, and Regina were the other three.  It had a long tradition of rulership.  Each of the standing Ruined Palaces represented a former ruler who once held and lost power in the Imperium, and was a native of the wicked planet Mingo.  So, Slythinus had craftily set up a triumvirate of rulers in the Mingo Sector of the Imperium to divide up and dilute the power.  He had appointed Ancillus King and Karg Hardretter as co-rulers.  These two black-bearded villains had a vicious and aggressive character that easily matched Mong.

Still, Mong would win out in the end.  A famous assassin Mechanoid by the name of Ace Campfield got the better of both King and Hardretter, leaving their young sons to fill their empty thrones.  These Mong tolerated as long as they presented no real threat to his rule.  When Slythinus was himself out of power, Mong was free to do away with both Raylond King and Smoky Hardretter, a thing he hadn’t gotten around to doing since both boys were soft-natured and lacked the evil streaks that ran through both of their fathers.

So, all in all, the planet Mingo was a very, very terrible place, in a way that probably needs six more verys, though I know that that’s not a good word either, especially if you use it too much.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 152

Canto 152 – Ged on Mingo

The Ancient Red Dragon starship  popped out of jump space to find the planet Mingo bustling with activity.  The spaceways around the heavily industrialized planet were crammed with merchant ships of every kind, from gargantuan, cigar-shaped mass haulers to the smallest of independent beetle-shaped personal transports.  It wasn’t that no one noticed the dragon-shaped vessel as it arrived from the complex gravitic web of outer space; it was more a matter of everyone being too busy to care.

Three system defense boats came out to look over Ged’s Ancient spacecraft, but as they scanned it and found it was not alive, they quickly lost interest.  It had no weapons that registered on any kind of detector.  The human signatures on the routine life-scan would tell the transport police that nothing about this unusual craft suggested it was hostile in any way.

“Ged-sensei, we have arrived at the place your girlfriend is hidden,” said Billy Iowa, coming out of his clairvoyant trance.  “I see her in the palace below, the one called David King’s Hall in the Ruined Palaces District.”

“It is a shame we don’t have any computer database available on this ship,” remarked Ged.  “I suppose even if it did, it couldn’t tell us anything about Emperor Mong or his planet Mingo.”

            “We have to get down to that palace and save her,” asserted Junior, looking determined.

“Don’t get ahead of us, Smurf,” growled Alec.  “What are the Ruined Palaces?”      

            “It’s a place where the buildings have all been attacked at one time or another,” said Billy, looking with his inner eye.  “Their damage has been preserved as a part of the decor of the buildings.  David King’s Hall is one of the three biggest ones.”

            “Whoa,” said Alec, half-laughing, “why would they rebuild something and make it look like it’s still ruined?”

            “An evil sense of humor,” said Phoenix.  “It’s like something Bres might do.”

            “You put Bres down too much!” said Alec, suddenly hot.

            “No, he can’t be put far enough down, Alec,” answered Phoenix coolly.  All could see the air begin to sizzle around the Phoenix.

            “Yeah, whatever.”  Alec backed off from the subject.

            “We do have to go down there,” said Ged at last.  “We need to be prepared to use our Psion powers.  We know what rot warriors are, but we have no experience of what they can do.”

            Taffy King, who had only been looking at the back of Rocket Rogers’ neck before, spoke up.  “I grew up around them.”  Her blue snake’s eyes glowed with angry fire.  “They are like robots who don’t work right.  They lurch around and stumble into things, but when they are ordered to fight, they do it one hundred to one.  They overwhelm the opponent with bone-headed force.”

            “What are they really?” asked Sarah innocently.

            “Re-animated skeletons,” offered Rocket.  “I’ve seen them before on Bradalanth Colony.  They are bones and circuits and some patches of leathery skin.  Mechanoids with no brains.”

            “Monsters!” moaned Hassan Parker.

            “Remember, young ones,” said Ged, “they are easily defeated because they cannot think for themselves.  As long as we work together and let no one get overwhelmed by numbers, we should be able to overcome them.  I worry more about what other problems may arise as we try to get past Emperor Mong’s living minions.”

            “Geez, you sound like an old holo-cartoon show!” remarked Phoenix.

            “You disagree with something?”  Ged was suddenly a bit annoyed.

            “Oh, no.  You are right.  It just sounds so cartoonish!”

            “So, what will we do, Sensei?” asked Junior carefully, afraid of rousing more ire from Ged.

            “Sarah?  Can you help us see the distant places Billy can sense?”

            “Yes, Sensei.”  Sarah was capable of transferring images from one mind to another.

            “Jackie, if you see the place, can you teleport us there one by one?”

            The pretty, brown-skinned girl smiled at Ged for the first time in a while.  “You know I can!”

            “Well, then, that’s our way in.”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 151

Canto 151 – Harlequins

Smoky Hardretter and the synthezoid Sorcerer 27 stood over the operating table with a Mechanoid stretched out upon it.  Mechanoids, of course, are deceased humanoids that have been reanimated by robotic implants and electronic reconstruction to make of them what are basically cyborgs, except for the fact that they have not merely been enhanced while still alive, they have been dug up out of graves and zombified by the Mechanoid-making process.

“This body in life was one of the best Imperial Guardsmen we ever had.  He defended three different Triumvirs while he was alive.  He had 500 clones that also served as guardsmen.”  Smoky looked questioningly at Sorcerer after explaining the guardsman.

“This body will be perfect for our needs.  He has been put through the tissue-regeneration protocols that I set up as an automated process?”  Sorcerer grinned, something previous Sorcerers were not capable of doing.

“The nanobots are transforming the flesh now.  It seems he is growing huge muscles as we watch.”

“Oh, yes.  He will be an unbeatable warrior.  He is not only going to be more powerful and more agile than any existing Mechanoid, but he will also be unkillable.  His flesh is natural armor and quickly repairs itself when he is wounded.  He will also be nearly impossible to hit because of his agility and camouflage.”

“Camouflage?  He’s dressed in multicolored clown clothes!”

 “That’s also why he’s called a Harlequin.  He’s acrobatic enough to dodge bullets and plasma streams.  And his combat dress produces strobing and flashing colored lights that will make targeting nearly impossible when the energy dampers are working at full power.”

“So, he will be like an acrobat?  Flipping through the air to avoid being shot while firing his weapons from midair?”

“Now you’ve got the core idea,” said Sorcerer.  “He will be capable of putting on a real show of power.  And imagine how effective an entire squad of these troopers performing in unison will be.”

“I am impressed,” Smoky said.

The Mechanoid suddenly sat up.  His face mask, obscuring the skull-like corpse head underneath, was a grinning, white clown mask.

“I can’t believe I’m alive again.  What are your commands, Lord Hardretter?”

Smoky smiled contentedly.  “I think we need to run some tests.”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 150

Canto 150 – Trav Goes Hunting

The reanimated thing that had been Trav Dalgoda was still tinkering with repairing himself using what computer pieces he could acquire in Castle Orpheum’s under-water dome’s marketplaces.

“This goop percolating in the terrarium-thing is actual Trav-Dalgoda flesh being cloned?” asked Dana Cole, staring at the amorphous blob of Traviness as it wriggled with life and growth.

“That’s right, old Dana jester.  I need actual living tissue to create the new me.  But I need some other things as well that I can’t get on this planet without getting wet.”

Dana was a bit stunned.  “You just called me jester?”

“That I did.  You know me.  I always talk like that because nobody else in the universe does.”

“Am I still talking to Tyrrix?  Or is this Trav?”

“Well, now… that’s complicated.  I guess you’d have to say that I am a bit of both.  The Trav part of this brain is very good at absorbing and taking over the Ancient personality.  But that’s because the old brain and the new are so basically compatible.  Tyrrix was the trickster mind in the Crown of Stars.  And the Trav mind fits into that mind like puzzle pieces made of clay that molds to fit into the spaces where Tyrrix is basically missing parts of his old noggin.  I definitely feel as much like I’m Trav as I do Tyrrix.”

“Oh, no!”

“But you love me as Trav, don’t you?”

“Yes, but…  my gawd!”

“Yes, I can answer to that too.  I have big plans.”

“So, what did you mean about getting wet?”

“Well, Dancer is not only a water planet with no dry land at all, it is also the site of an Ancient library.   I am going to have to go out underwater and find the Ancient minds that are archived there.”

“Um… oh, no.”

“Oh, yes.  And while I am at it, I need some more robotic-synthetic parts too.”

“…And you’ll get that from the library?”

“No, I will get the parts I need from Sorcerer 13.”

“He’s here in Castle Orpheum?  This underwater city?”

“No.  He’s out there looking for the same prize I am going after.  We will intercept him.  Kill him.  And borrow his parts.”

“We?  You said we will do it?”

“Oh, yes.  You can’t survive underwater without a pressurized diving suit.  But there are plenty of those in this city.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Of course not.  That part of Trav is mostly in control of this body now.”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 149

Canto 149 – Hassan Parker’s Dilemma

Ged had gathered his best telepaths in the room within the Ancient Dragon Starship that was now designated the “Library.”  The large volume of The Book of Shan’s Prophecy, the one that belonged to Naylund Smith, had been moved into the center of the room and been given to Billy Iowa to oversee studying it with clairvoyance and telepathy.  The sinister Ancient device called the Tesserah also sat in the library, bubbling and percolating in evil greens and purples like a slowly-building pressure-cooker bomb.  Ged meant to also study it with clairvoyance and telepathy, hoping to develop some kind of control over the doomsday device’s malevolence.

“Now, who among you do we generally agree is the most powerful telepath?” Ged asked.

Billy looked at Sara.  Sara looked at Hassan.  Hassan looked at Junior.  Junior looked back at Sara.  Nobody looked at Gyro.  And Phoenix refused to look up from the floor.

“Any of us can interact with the book,” said Billy finally.

“You know that we are not really talking about the book,” said Ged.  “That… thing… that is what we need to safely probe and understand better.  We know it is telepathic.  We also know it is both evil and extremely dangerous.”

“Junior is the one that can talk to artificial minds with artificial intelligence.”  Billy looked at Junior apologetically after saying it.

“It defends itself against me too powerfully,” said Junior.  “I can’t get past the wall of pain.  It thinks in color, mostly green and black.  But that’s all I can tell you so far.”

“I tried to probe it, and it started telling me how it was going to take over my mind and make me kill others, especially those I love,” said Sara, shaking her head.

“Gyro was able to help me get past the wall of pain by manipulating the hydrogen atoms in the device,” confessed Phoenix.  “But it immediately took hold of my pyro power.  It would’ve used my fire force on everybody if Hassan hadn’t used his telepathy to yank me out of the Tesserah again.  I suppose I owe him my life.”

“Hassan is the most powerful telepath among all of us,” said Billy.

“But what if the Tesserah takes over his mind?  We would all be doomed,” said Phoenix.

“That’s my worry too,” confessed Hassan.  “It’s looking for ways to defeat us and destroy us all.”

“My clairvoyance and Phoenix’s clairvoyance have both seen the Tesserah using Hassan to slay us all,” said Billy.  “I can definitely handle the book.  I can find the answers you need there.  But I am no match for the thing.”

“Hard as it is for me to say this, I can’t handle the thing either.  I don’t even think I should be near it when it is being studied.”  Phoenix looked morosely at the floor again.

“I think we have to work together,” suggested Sara.  “Alone none of us can defeat it.  But Phoenix and Gyro together were able to briefly get in using combined powers the thing wasn’t prepared for.”

“I’m pretty sure I can be of help to whoever leads the effort,” said Junior.  “But I’m not a potential leader of the effort either.”

Hassan looked squarely at the bubbling Tesserah and then turned his gaze towards Ged.  “I think it has to be me that takes the lead.  But I will definitely need Junior, Sara, and possibly Gyro to help.  And anything Billy can find in the prophecy to help would be greatly appreciated.

Ged looked at the handsome, naked child standing there resolutely before him.

“Yes, Hassan.  I haven’t read very far in the book and understood hardly any of it, but I believe you are the one the book says can defeat the monster of ultimate destruction… or whatever the damned thing really is.”  Ged reached out and clapped the willfully nude boy on the shoulder and smiled at him.  And he also felt the boy enter his mind to verify that he was not lying as he said it.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 144 (revised)

Canto 144 – Raising the Walls

Outpost was abuzz with activity.  The airless world had only limited defense from attack, but that was swiftly changing.  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. 

But now a new technology had arisen from an unexpected source.  Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected into the surrounding darkness.  This, by itself would’ve been very little help from the orbital bombardments that Admiral Tang’s military space fleets were capable of.  But his little Peri Space-Elf friend, Hassan, had invented nanite armor that could adjust instantly into whatever weapon or defense system the wearer could command.  And he had recruited the silicon-based alien lifeform known as the Lazerstone Collective to wear this incredible morphing armor as the Lazerstone Marines.

Lazerstone then raised a million alien troops from the harmonic stones the planet Outpost was amply blessed with.  They practiced relentlessly with the new armor, when the original Lazerstone suggested they use more of the harmonic stone to raise and lower mirror-defense walls for protection against beam weapons and diamond force dissipation shields against all physical and nuclear attacks using the nanite technology to create the walls.

 It was an amazingly effective defensive weapon.  The original Lazerstone could raise and lower walls to counter the practice attacks of ace pilots Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout.  He did this with the skill and style of a master pianist playing the best of Mozart on the piano.

“I’m beginning to feel like we have a chance to win when Tang shows up,” said Tron.

“It is looking good on the defensive side, I have to admit,” said Admiral King Killer.  “But whether or not we can get the space forces coordinated and capable of fighting is another problem all together.”

“What’s the problem, King?”

“Well, we have all these dinosaur-shaped starships built with the Ancient technology that Frieda provided from the new shipyards in Don’t Go Here.  And they’re massively powerful, but the rookies flying them are practically hopeless as pilots, let alone space warriors.”

“What about the Nebulons and the Lupin corsairs?”

“They can be a bit of a hassle too.  The Space Smurfs have those living space-whale cruisers, and other space-fish-shaped crafts that are actual creatures too.  And they don’t cotton too well to the giant dinosaur-looking things they have to fly near.  The poor Nebulons have had to deal with some of their spaceships having complete panic attacks.”

“And the Lupins?”

“Effective fighters in small packs against solitary vessels, but completely chaotic when you try to get them to coordinate with other non-Lupin fleets.”

“We are old veteran star fighters, you and I, King.  We get out there in the glorious heat of battle, we can defeat any enemy that rises against us.  Just like the old days.”

“In the old days we had nothing to lose.  We fought every battle like we would be killed to the last man.  And we did get our behinds licked by the Faceless Horde before we left Pan Galactican space.”

“Yeah, well…  There was too much we just didn’t know about that enemy.  You know we killed a lot more of them than we ever thought we did.  They were just evaporating when they died.”

“Yeah, there’s that.  But this could be the final battle this time.  And we might not live to have a next one.”

“Don’t worry, my friend.  It may be the end.  But we’ll give them a fight they won’t soon regret… err, I mean, forget!”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 148

Canto 148 – Of Rocks and Men

The hills of Outpost had come alive with construction projects.  The Lazerstone collective had found enough harmonic crystals to form ten million new rock men.  They all looked like the original Lazerstone, but once separated from their original, they quickly developed personalities and intelligences uniquely their own.  Lazerstone himself explained that the content of the native Outpost crystal, various minerals and odd bits of elements, made each crystal man different from the rest, just as snowflakes are unique from each other.  The result was a vast and capable workforce who could build spaceships and defense installations in an airless environment without complaint.  They were also highly capable of manipulating the planet’s rock formations to construct what was needed for defense.

“It is unbelievable!” swore Tron, “these rock men may have saved us from Tang and his Imperial Fleet!  Arkin, I can never repay you for this.”

“I am lucky to be alive and glad to be able to help in this fight,” declared Cloudstalker. 

“You got that right!” added the head of Ace Campfield bitterly. The head of the deadly bounty hunter and skilled assassin was all that remained of the Mechanoid menace.

“Shut up, Ace,” said Cloudstalker.

Tron, Arkin, Hassan the Elf, and the head of Ace Campfield were watching the intensive creation of defense facilities from the edge of the transparent dome that covered Tron’s pirate city. 

Tron’s scarred face drew up in a sneer.  He looked at the still-living Mechanoid head. “I don’t know why you keep that thing around.” 

“He was someone to talk to on the trip here.  Besides, I may be able to learn something about the enemy from him.”

“Yeah,” growled the head, “When the stars all go out.”

“If it were me, I would drop-kick that thing out onto the surface.  He can talk to himself for a thousand years.  How do you know he’s not secretly broadcasting everything he sees or hears to Admiral Tang?”

“Well, I guess that’s why I only kept the talking part.  It’s small enough to scan completely and inside out.”

 The head fell into grim silence.

 “These rock men fit my armors perfectly,” said Hassan.  “They will be a formidable fighting force.”

Arkin looked at the Peri intently, really noticing him for the first time.  He marveled at the clever way the little child-like man had redesigned his artificial leg to operate like a Swiss Army Knife, with forty-two extra pop-out devices including a mini drink mixer for martinis.  He also noticed how charming the creature was for being a genetically manipulated freak.

“You are quite an arms designer,” Arkin said to the elf.

Hassan smiled an extra-broad smile and looked a bit sheepish as he answered, “I don’t really like weapons, you know.  The Peris believe that every story, no matter how much adventure and risk it has in it, should be about love.  All life is a page in the Great Story.  I don’t object to making things that might save someone in battle or prevent a serious injury.”

“Hmm.  I see.  I don’t know how necessary the defensive part will be to Lazerstone soldiers.  They are pretty much impervious to harm as it is,” said Arkin.

“Well, the armor allows the wearer to fly and protect against plasma bolts,” said Hassan.

Arkin nodded.  That was a very good thing for his side in the upcoming battle.  He was glad this creative little goober was on their side.  The elf was not a great warrior or anything, but he was a good little man to have on your side.  Arkin couldn’t help but feel something paternal towards this child-like little man.  He was reminded of his own son, Devon, growing up away from his father on the distant planet Arriseah.  It could easily all end very badly.  Even with the help of these crystal soldiers, Admiral Tang had the resources and strategic genius to wipe out all of these pirates.  He knew he could die here and never see his family again.  That had never stopped a good idea before, though.  He meant to see this through, no matter what the cost.  He smiled at the brooding head of the assassin, Ace Campfield.

“We are gonna win this, Tron,” said Arkin.  “I know we will.”

“I wish I could have your optimism,” Tron answered.  “Any realist will tell you, we are probably doomed.”

“We can’t fail,” said Hassan simply.  “The good guys always win.  The creator made it so.”

Arkin nodded as he looked at the elf.  It was the way he had always felt put into words.  Let Admiral Tang come soon!  He wanted to see how this would play out.

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