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Stardusters… Canto 52


Canto Fifty-Two – In the Flower Garden

Shalar was amazed at the tadpoles’ reactions to Harmony Castille when they saw she had come to rescue them.  First Davalon and Tanith had hugged her and kissed her and then obediently put on clothing as Harmony directed, so that they might cover their sinful and shameful nakedness in the sight of God and everybody.  Then Menolly and George Jetson had done exactly the same when Harmony and Shalar wandered into the Arboretum to find them.  Only Brekka whined.

“I like being naked with my friends and family,” Brekka complained.  “You haven’t made Sizzahl get dressed!”  Brekka was lounging on a large leaf of a plant that seemed almost animated, and seemed to be cradling her like a loved one.

“I can’t get dressed,” said Sizzahl.  “I no longer have any clothing in the whole complex that fits me.  My clothing was destroyed by scabbies and the soldiers Gohmurt brought with him when he slew my father.”

The Galtorrian Makkhain was looking rather perturbed when Sizzahl mentioned her father’s death again.  At least, that was what Shalar thought as she looked at his inscrutable lizard-face.

“I will use my sewing skills to make you some, child,” Harmony said.  “We don’t want to have your soul lost to Christ either.”

Sizzahl frowned.  “I feel a lot the way Brekka does, human.  I have gone without clothing long enough that it doesn’t feel natural anymore.”

“How it feels is not the point,” seethed Harmony.  “Christian souls can’t be saved if they are still in a state of unforgiven sin just as naked Adam and naked Eve were.”

“I don’t see how your silly Earther superstitions apply to me,” Sizzahl replied heatedly.

“They apply to anyone whose soul I can save through Christian love and concern.  That is how you recognize a Christian… by their love.  Race, sex, creed… or species… makes no difference.  I love everyone and want everyone to be saved in Christ.  I can beat that notion into stubborn heads if necessary.”

“I think I see now what makes a church lady such a formidable warrior on your world,” interjected Makkhain.  “You have a single-mindedness of purpose that brooks no argument.  All great leaders can bend the masses to a single, over-riding purpose.”

Harmony looked at him with doubting eyes.  Shalar knew the old church lady, turned beautiful young woman, had no idea what the Galtorrian was talking about.  Harmony didn’t realize he was, in his own lizardy way, complimenting her.

Alden and Gracie Morrell had finished dressing themselves, and Gracie offered, “I can help you with the sewing, Harmony.”

“It isn’t really necessary,” Shalar pointed out.  “Studpopper is carrying a portable material synthesizer.  We can make clothing with any fibrous material you can gather.  There are lot of things in the rubble around here that will transform into cloth.”

“You can make clothing out of rubble?” Makkhain asked, surprised.

“Of course,” said Studpopper, putting the small portable synthesizer down on the potting bench where numerous withered flowers in flower pots were arranged.

“Two bad you can’t make food.  You could save a lot of Galtorrians.”

“Oh, we can make food.  If we round up all those dead scabbies, bones and all, and the dead plants, that will give us enough organic molecules to make good food for years.”

“Lester has volunteered to make plant shoots and runners for food too,” offered Brekka.  “George and Menolly were supposed to tell you all of that.”

“Who is Lester?” asked Shalar.

“My friend the man-eating plant,” said Brekka with a huge grin.

“We will definitely be making a lot of food, Makkhain,” said Shalar.  “And we will freely share it with your people if it will help your planet.”

“It really won’t make a difference,” said Makkhain.  “The atmosphere of Galtorr Prime is degrading at an alarming rate.  Soon we won’t have any air to breathe.”

“This Bio-Dome and the five thousand other sites that my father helped set up have working air-scrubbers that will convert the carbon dioxide and poisons into carbon blocks and trees,” said Sizzahl.  “My instruments have been showing that they are winning the air war since you war-guys destroyed all the factories and energy-making facilities.  We will have a fully restored atmosphere in five years.”

“Okay,” said Makkhain, “but we can’t solve the disease problem that turns us into scabbies.”

“That one is no problem,” said Sizzahl with a shrug.  “Any Galtorrian who is still alive is immune.  All the people susceptible to the virus have already succumbed to it.  I saw that in the genes we used to make the Human/Galtorrian fusions.  We have the same gene to battle the disease that the Tellerons and Humans have, otherwise we would be scabbies already.”

The old warrior seemed somehow deeply shaken by what he had just learned, which didn’t really make sense to Shalar.  It sounded to her like the evidence proved that Galtorr Prime and its people would survive after all.

“We… we can still save the planet!” gasped the old warrior.  “I… I have made a very grave mistake!”

All the others looked at Makkhain in wonder.  All but Brekka.  Shalar noticed the little naked tadpole had cuddled up against the plant-thing called Lester and fallen asleep.


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Stardusters… Canto 51


Canto Fifty-One – On the Operations Deck of the Star Ship Bone Head

The forty-two Galtorrian soldiers stood at parade rest.  Tedhkruhz in his ghastly purple robes stood quietly watching as two more soldiers led Farbick, Starbright, Stabharh, and Bahbahr out into the operations deck in manacles.

“Ah, Bahbahr, my friend, we meet again… but for the last time,” said Tedhkruhz in an oily voice that was so oily you could lubricate six Earther car engines with the vowels alone.

“You have won…  I don’t deny it,” said a defeated Bahbahr with tears still rolling down his fat cheeks.

“Yes.  I have won.  And as the victor, it is my privilege to execute you now.”

Bahbahr hung his fat head and cried more freely.

“You know, it is my prerogative as his security chief,” said Stabharh, “to be executed before my master.”

“Oh, yes.  We will be quite happy to oblige,” said Tedhkruhz while swinging the gun around to point at Stabharh.

“Wait a minute,” said Stabharh.  “It is my prerogative.  Doesn’t that mean that I can also choose to not be executed first?”

“Well, now, maybe you have a point there, Stabharh,” said Tedhkruhz, leaking more oil out of his corrupted personality.  “What do you think men?  Do we let the security lizard make that particularly disloyal sort of choice?”

“Of course not, sir,” replied a junior officer.  “Execute him first.”

“Even though Stabharh is scrawny with far less meat on his bones?” wheedled Tedhkruhz.  “Remember, Bahbahr alone has enough bulk to feed us all for a few days before we have to kill and eat anybody else.”

“Okay, Farbick, help me out here,” said Stabharh.  “Surely there is something in all of that which you can use to start something brewing.”

Farbick was surprised.  Stabharh was throwing the figurative basketball to him now?  What did the lizard man expect him to do?  Talk the oily Grandpa Munster-lizard into killing himself?

“I, uh…”

“Surely you can point out to these warriors that Tedhkruhz once had a crew of hundreds aboard his flag ship, the Bone Head.  And then you could ask them what happened to all the rest?  Why are there only forty-four of them left?”

“Yes, what did happen to all the rest?” asked Farbick nervously.

“Some of them died in battle…” said a young warrior.

“And we ate them after they died,” said another lizard warrior.

“And we ate some of the rest because we were starving,” said a third.

“But who picked the ones to be eaten?” asked Farbick, beginning to form a plan.  “Did they volunteer?”

“Of course not,” answered another lizard-warrior.  “Tedhkruhz always selected them.”

The Senator’s dimpled smile had disappeared completely.  He grabbed a warrior’s weapon and fired a shot directly into Bahbahr’s head.  “I truly believe that that is enough thinking for one day.  You troopers do not want to tax your brains over-much.   Look at all the meat we now have.”

“Let’s cook him immediately,” said a lizard-warrior in an ugly hat that Farbick assumed must be a cook’s hat.

“Yes, let’s,” said Tedhkruhz, smiling again.  “And put the three prisoners back in the pit until the meat runs out.  No sense in letting anything spoil before we get to it.”

The lizard warriors dragged the no-longer blubbering mound of carcass that had been Bahbahr away.  He was obviously headed to the cook pots.

“That didn’t go like I thought,” said Stabharh to Farbick as the soldiers grabbed the manacles of all three prisoners.

“What were you actually thinking?” asked Farbick.  But before the small lizard-man could answer, Farbick noticed Tedhkruhz looking at him.  The Grandpa Munster grin was definitely gone.  And was that a look of fear in his eyes?  Fear as he looked at Farbick?


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Stardusters… Canto 49


Canto Forty-Nine – The Prison Pit of the Bone Head

The darkness was so complete that Farbick felt completely blind.  He could feel the warm slumbering body of Starbright cuddled up against him.  He could hear the blubbering of the deposed lizard overlord, Bahbahr.  He could also hear the whispery breathing of Stabharh somewhere quite near.

“Are you awake, Stabharh?”

“Of course.  My job has always been Bahbahr’s security.  I am not about to sleep if I am on the brink of failure.  There has to be a way out of this.”

“I wish I could believe as you do.”

“You don’t think you can overcome the present situation?”

“Of course I don’t.  The Telleron people are usually lost whenever they face a difficult situation like this.  We are inbred and sort of stupid.”

“What?  You outsmarted Bahbahr!”

“He hasn’t been outsmarted before?”

There was a long cold silence.  Then Stabharh said, “The reason Bahbahr is an overlord and one of the most powerful people on the planet is his ability to always be right and always make a profit.  The men at the top of our meritocracy are always the most capable.”

“How does he always manage to be right?”

“I enforce his will.  I remove those who see things differently.”

“And yet, he would eat you before he allowed himself to starve to death.”

“Yes.  It is my function to preserve and aid him.”

“Including dying for his benefit?”


“Are you certain he is worth that sort of obedience?”

“What do you mean?”

“It seems to me that your overlord’s greed and lack of concern for his fellow Galtorrians is what is causing your society to break down, and your planet to be destroyed.  His desire to beat his enemies has caused everything to go wrong.

“So, he has been relying on you to make him right and make him profitable.  He would be wrong and broke without you.  Has the ultimate result benefitted you, or made your life better?  Especially if he ends up eating you?”

Again things went unnaturally quiet.  The silence seemed endless to Farbick.

“Are you suggesting I should’ve done more for myself and less for Bahbahr?”

“I just think your boss should’ve cared more about his people, especially you, and less about his own comforts and desires.”

“I agree with you that your people are pointless and stupid… compared to the intelligence of the Zeta Reticulans they are babbling idiots.  But I think you have accurately described the failures of our people.  We are not stupid, but greedy.  We are not incompetent… but we are too ambitious and selfish, and we overlook potential problems to get what we want as quickly as possible.”

“Do you think Senator Tedhkruhz has the same failings as Bahbahr?”

“He rose to power by telling everyone, Bahbahr included, what they wanted to hear.  Whenever the opportunity came up for Tedhkruhz to betray some other powerful overlord or ruler, he stabbed them in the heart and destroyed them.  He thought he had beaten us before when he bombarded Gundahl, but I got Bahbahr safely away and saved him until now.”

“How loyal do you think Tedhkruhz’s men are?”

“As loyal as me.”

“Are you going to back Bahbahr all the way to the death?”  Farbick asked pointedly.

Again a long silence followed.

“Do you think Tedhkruhz’s minions might rebel against him?” Stabharh asked.

“I don’t know.  I think it would be in their own best interests.  But how could we do anything about it?”

“We need you to talk to them the way you are talking to me now.  Your ability to make sense… well… I think you are not stupid or incompetent.  I think if Tedhkruhz were smarter, he’d be deathly afraid of you.”



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Stardusters… Canto 48


Canto Forty-Eight – The Moon Gundahl

The Telleron mother ship loomed large in the sky over the moon base as Golden Wings 27 and 42 sat down upon the bombed and pitted tarmac.  The bright red space kite trailed outward from the mother ship’s top antenna, being blown by solar wind from Galtorr’s sun.

“Xiar, we are down,” said Biznap’s voice over the radio channel.

“We are down too, Commander,” Xiar replied.

“What do you want me to do now?”

“Well, you left them here with no way off, right?” Xiar asked.

“Yes.  They had weapons of their own available.  Farbick may not have succeeded in taking control with Telleron tech.  If that’s the case, then we may be fired upon when we enter.”

“Do they have any of our skortch weapons?”

“No.  I do believe Farbick would never teach them how to rebuild the ones we destroyed, even if they tortured both Starbright and himself to death.”

Xiar nodded at the comm panel.  Yes, he did believe that Farbick was capable of that kind of heroism that you saw every Saturday on Earther-television Jungle Jim movies.  He had seen it in action during the failed invasion of Earth.

“You lead an assault team, then, and my men will follow.  We’ll link up when you’ve secured the base.”  Xiar heard a low whistle of discontent from the other end after giving that command, but he didn’t care.  This risking your life thing they kept doing for no visible gains really had to stop somewhere.  And he was still the Captain, wasn’t he?  Who better to give the orders and bring up the rear?

Out the front viewing screen, Xiar saw a flood of Tellerons come boiling out of Golden Wing 27 with skortch pistols raised high.

Commander Biznap waved a weapon in Xiar’s direction.  The fool was leading from the front.  How could he be doing that?  Didn’t he care if he lived or died?  In their last invasion, more Tellerons skortched themselves than killed their supposed enemies.  Of course, that turned out to be a good thing for everybody but Corebait and Sleez.  They had all benefitted from contact with the Earther primates.  But Galtorrians were different… weren’t they?

Biznap was rushing the front doors when the doors suddenly opened and some actual Galtorrians walked out.  They were all small.  Many of them were wearing short pants.  They looked like… children.

“Captain?” said Biznap through the communicator.  “They are not offering any resistance.  In fact, they want to give us this base.”


“They say that Farbick told them if they gave the moon and this base to us, we would feed them with our material synthesizers.  They will give us this entire world to live on if we are willing to feed them.  They are all children.”

Xiar’s mind raced back to the troubles given them by Earther children… the stolen Golden Wing, the tadpole rebellion, the changes made to how Tellerons treated each other…

“Do we feed them, sir?”

“YES!  Our problem of being homeless is solved!  We can live here.  How is Farbick doing?”

Biznap took a moment to talk to these unexpected children.  He didn’t appear to react well to what he was told in answer.

“Xiar, Farbick and Starbright are gone.  These kids say that Senator Tedhkruhz came and took them, along with the two Galtorrian overlords.”

“Oh, no.”  Xiar was truly saddened by the news.  Farbick was supposed to be an inferior yellow-skinned Fmoog.  Green-skinned Tellerons were supposed to hate them for their inferior skills and buffoonery   But he liked Farbick.  Farbick was soft-spoken and as competent as any Telleron he had ever known.  And he realized for the first time that he had never admitted that to himself before.  But that would change… if only he could get Farbick back.



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Stardusters… Canto 46


Canto Forty-Six – Outside the Bio-Dome

Harmony led her troops up to the front door of the Bio-Dome.  They waited quietly for her to signal the next step.

“Shalar?  This is the only mostly-intact building in the entire area.  Do you think this could be where they went?”

“If they are still alive, this looks like the kind of shelter they might be drawn to.”

Harmony went forward to the entryway and peered in.

“Oh, my goodness!  All their clothing and equipment is piled in there.  Their weapons too.  If they are still in there, they are naked and unarmed!”

Shalar adjusted her own breath-mask to reassure herself.  “If they are not still in there… or if the air in there is the same as it is out here… then they are already dead.”

“No!  Not my children!  We will enter here and go find them!”

Suddenly the metal man with a handful of spinning blades appeared on the ledge above the door.  His hand-blades whirred menacingly.

“Men!  Catch it in a crossfire like I taught you and take it out.”

The Telleron soldiers knew better than to disobey Harmony.  Four took the left flank and two went right.  The crossing skortch beams fried the machine man, and quickly reduced it to dust and vapor.  Shalar shuddered at the realization of how ruthless and efficient Earther humans truly were.  Her semi-incompetent Telleron soldiers were displaying an unusually high amount of self-discipline and military know-how which they had learned entirely on this mission by following the old Sunday-school teacher’s battle commands.

“That was impressive,” Shalar remarked.

“Of course it was,” said Harmony.  “Now let’s get inside.”

The Telleron soldiers filed in using the precise order and the sweeping-for-enemies maneuver that Harmony had taught them on the way to the Bio-Dome.  The soldiers secured the entryway and the hall beyond while Harmony and Shalar went through the pile of belongings that had belonged to the tadpoles and the Morrells.  Shalar noted all the items on her computerized notepad.   The inventory suggested that everything the tadpoles had taken with them from the crash scene was present.

“They were all here, Harmony,” Shalar said.  “And they don’t have anything with them wherever they’ve gone.”

“We will take all this gear with us so that the young scamps won’t be gadding about naked.   Why they took everything off here is a mystery.  But in my experience with human kids, it usually involves hormones and misbehavior.  We not only have to save their little lives, but save them from sin as well.”

“Sin, Harmony?”

“Well, it’s complicated.  But running around a dying planet stark naked can’t be pleasing behavior to a loving but righteous God.”

“Oh, of course… that.”

Shalar looked down the dark hallway.  She was worried about the children.  The mystery only seemed to deepen and the peril looked increasingly worse.



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Stardusters… Canto Forty-Five


Canto Forty-Five – Aboard the Galtorrian Space Cruiser Bone Head

The lizard soldiers roughly tossed Farbick into the holding pit on top of Starbright who had been tossed down roughly before him.  The Grandpa Munster face of Senator Tedhkruhz grinned down at him from above.

“I will allow you all to see the sights of beautiful Last-Star Fortress on the southern coast of the Bone Continent before we cut you all up for meat.”  Tedhkruhz cackled with porcine, gloating laughter.  Porcine was a good Earther word for pig-like, Farbick knew, and nothing reminded him so much of a gluttonous pig as the plans he had heard from the mouth of the Lizard Lord, Senator Tedhkruhz.

Bahbahr lay up against the wall of the prison pit, sobbing quietly to himself in inconsolable misery.  Stabharh stared at Farbick with cold, lizard eyes.

“Are you planning to return to the moon when you’ve eaten us?”  Farbick asked, trying to make it seem an innocent question.

“What?  Fat Bahbahr’s stupid Gundahl Base?  Of course not.  I have already blown the poop out of it with the biggest boom-bombs my people could manufacture.  There is nothing left of it to take possession of.”

“You are going to leave it for any other warlord to take?”

“What?  You mean Emperor Rekhpahree?  That unctuous toad has no space-worthy ships left to get up here.  Once we leave it, there will be no one coming here for a very long time, probably centuries.”

Farbick looked at Starbright’s frightened eyes and winked.  She had to know that the Galtorrian War Lord was playing right into Farbick’s selfless plan.

“You all get some sleep now, you hear?” gushed Grandpa Munster, “you have a big final day ahead of you tomorrow… all four of you.”

The lid was pulled over the top of the pit with a metallic clang.  Everything went to black at the same instant that Starbright caught hold of Farbick’s arms and pulled herself into his comforting embrace.

“So,” said Stabharh’s cold voice in the pitch darkness, “you hid the lizard children so Tedhkruhz wouldn’t find them and eat them.”

“We did,” admitted Starbright.  “At least they will live.”

“Why did you do that?” asked the soldier in a grim accusatory voice.

“We thought that those children deserved a chance to survive.  They have a future.”  Farbick knew the Galtorrians didn’t understand self-sacrificing love… not the way that Harmony Castille had taught the Tellerons from her little black book of Hebrew fairy stories…  But he figured there must be a heart in that lizard-man’s body somewhere.

“You would do that for creatures of another planet who would’ve eaten you if you had not fed them with your machine?  Why wouldn’t you want to see them die along with you?”

Starbright sounded deeply hurt by that.  “If I am doomed, why would it help me in any way to see them doomed too?  Your planet is deeply troubled.  You need those children alive.  They are your future.”

“Yes,” said Stabharh bitterly, “Galtorrians’ future, not yours!”

“I think the future is not yours or mine.”  Farbick weighed his words carefully in the darkness.  “I think the future belongs to all of us.  We don’t wish your people to die any more than we would wish for our own people to die.  It is the nature of those who are alive to want to keep living.”

“Not all people, frog or lizard, can possibly survive.  Survival of the fittest is the way of the Universe.”

“Perhaps,” said Starbright softly, “but the fittest doesn’t necessarily mean only the individual when the whole race is at stake.”

The darkness grew very quiet.  Was Stabharh thinking of a reply?  Or did he lose interest and fall asleep?  Perhaps Farbick and Starbright needed rest too.

“You frog people are just like the other alien races we met…” the small warrior lizard said after a long silence.  “You always talk about peace and helping others along the pathways to the stars… but this is actually the first time I have seen an alien practice what he preaches.”



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Stardusters… Canto 43


Canto Forty-Three – On the Moon Gundahl

The massive space cruiser set itself down on the ruined tarmac of the moon base.  Only Farbick and Starbright were there to meet it.  After all, the two Galtorrian overlords were still penned inside a force-field and all the young lizard-children were still soundly sleeping off a full meal.

The cruiser was heavily armed and had cannons sticking out in all directions like spines on a sea urchin.  It had some battle damage on it, but obviously gave far worse than it had received.  In fact, Stabharh had said that this was probably the same warship that had damaged the moon base to such a degree that chunks were missing from the moon.

“Can they really be as terrible as Stabharh says?” asked Starbright.

“I suppose he would know better than I,” said Farbick.  “He says this Senator Tedhkruhz led an army across all the continents of Galtorr Prime and murdered two thirds of the population of the entire planet.”

Starbright shivered.  Farbick put a comforting arm around her shoulders.  There was definitely something to be said in favor of the Earther way of showing love through physical contact.  Tellerons had been too cold and distant from each other for too long.  Starbright leaned into the hug in response.

The entry ramp of the cruiser came down, and some of the crew appeared at the top of the ramp.  There were Galtorrian soldiers armed with slug-throwers akin to what Earthers called assault rifles.  There were also clunky metal robots that looked a lot like trash cans with a pair of legs.  Two lines of soldiers and robots formed on each side of the ramp.  Then, decked out in a purple velvet suit, the Senator himself appeared.  Farbick couldn’t help but notice that the Galtorrian Senator had a smiling face that resembled Grandpa Munster from the television show   The Munsters of the 1960’s on Earther TV.  Grandpa Munster with no hair and a smiling face covered in green scales, but definitely Grandpa Munster.

“Where is Bahbahr?” asked the Senator in a loudly-projected voice.  Farbick couldn’t tell if he was using some kind of unseen microphone device, or his voice was actually that capable of booming.  “I know that the Galtorrian criminal I seek is here somewhere!”

“What will you do with him if you have him?” asked Farbick.

“He will get what he deserves… his just deserts are to be dessert.  We will cook him and eat him.  My soldiers are hungry.”

“If we give him to you, will you give us this base and leave?”  It was worth trying.

“Of course not.  We will take and eat all of you.  You can’t really believe you can prevent that from happening, can you?”

“There are four of us.  My companion and I have captured the scoundrel and his warrior.”

“Ha!  That is rich.  Tellerons who happened to catch the big and mighty lord of merchants!  And is his warrior toothless little Stabharh?”

“He is.”  Farbick hoped the children were well enough hidden that this cruel cannibal would never find them.  He had disabled all the Telleron tech except the force field that held the two lizard-men, so there was no chance that Grandpa Munster would be able to use the devices against anyone.

“You are going to have to accept the inevitable, Mr. Telleron,” said Tedhkruhz.  “Surrender now and you won’t be subjected to pain and torture.  We will make it easier on you.”

“Will you take us away from this place?  Or will you stay here?”

“Why-ever would anyone want to stay in a place like this?  I blew chunks out of this moon before.  It’s in pieces now.  Not a very nice place to be.”

“You have a better place?”

“Well, no… but I own several other installations that are at least partially whole.  We will be able to make something work.  Some of us are destined to rule and be the lords of this planet.  I have the power to be the last one standing, and I think that is pretty great.”

Starbright and Farbick just held up their hands and surrendered.  What else could Farbick do?  At least, Biznap and the other Tellerons would find this place where they could take up residence and possibly survive as a people.


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