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Aeroquest… Canto 10

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Canto 10 – Planetfall

      Once back at the docking port on Frieda, Ged noticed that the new space ship Goofy had asked Frieda to make was gone.  His concern spiked like an EKG from a surviving victim of electrocution.

“Calm down, Ged,” soothed Ham.  “Goofy is unpredictable, but he hasn’t gotten me killed yet.”

“You know what he’s doing, don’t you?”

“What?”

Ged Aero

“He’s going after those artifacts the alien computer was talking about.”

“So?”

“Ham!  Ancient devices with unfathomable powers?  In the hands of a pyromaniac and lunatic?  Don’t you see what comes next?”

“Well,” said Ham, looking down at his spaceship controls, “I do kinda see a disaster looming, if that’s what you mean.”

“Exactly what I mean!”

Ham Aero

“Oi believes ye need to track yer shipmate down, what?” offered Sinbadh.

In minutes the Leaping Shadowcat was docked and the three teammates were aboard Frieda.  In the main control room, they found the Nebulon Princess in a red jumpsuit, her small son sitting on the floor at her feet.  She smiled beautifully at Ham as the two brothers entered the room.

“I… am… free…” she announced in halting, yet clear Galactic English.

“Ah… Good,” said Ged.  “Goofy at least started the task I set him.”

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“I… am… love…” added the Princess cryptically, moving directly toward Ham.

“Err… What?” stammered Ham.

“Oi thinks ye have an admirer, me bucko!” said Sinbadh helpfully.

The Princess reached up to touch one of Ham’s blond curls.  “Nebulonin?” she cooed.

“Wha…?  No.  Human!  Definitely Earther.  I just have yellow hair.”  Ham pinched the skin on the back of his right hand.  “See, no blue!”

“Yes, blue…” she said smiling.

“Oh, what does that mean?”  Ham blushed furiously.

“Your Nebulon slave girl has been set free by Trav,” supplied Frieda.  “She means she is grateful.  Your on-board library suggests she suffers from something called Stockholm Syndrome.  She believes she is in love with you because you were her captors, but have been nice to her.  She was apparently violated numerous times by those who held her hostage in the Imperium.”

“Erm, thank you, Frieda.” Ham said.

“Frieda,” said Ged, as if he had at that moment realized something, “Where did Trav Dalgoda go?”

“I supplied him with coordinates to find the Hammer on the surface of the planet.  He went down there to find it.”

“I knew it!” swore Ged.  “We have to beat him to the thing!  Come on, guys!  We go now!”

“Can we leave the Princess here?” asked Ham nervously as the Nebulon girl looked at him lovingly.

“Sinbadh?  Can we trust that your corsair friends won’t come back?”

“Nah.  Them buccaneers is moighty unpredictable like.”

“Everybody goes aboard the Shadowcat, then,” said Ged.

“Dang!” swore Ham as the Nebulon Princess took one hand, and her little boy took hold of the other.

 

 

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Aeroquest… Adagio 2 – Nebulons

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Adagio 2 – Nebulons

 

     I am one of the few Scientist/Historians ever to make a thorough examination of Nebulon physiology and culture. It helped that I lived with some of them for a while, even helping to raise a couple of very young ones. And unlike the cross-bred lizard-Russian-Galtorrian-Human idiots who were the superior authority and dominant race of the Galtorr Imperium, I didn’t try to belittle them as mere “Space Smurfs” and take their existence as a joke.  As a participant in the destruction of the Galtorr Imperium and the rise of the New Star League, I, Googol Marou, can speak with some authority on the subject of Nebulons.

Suffice it to say, the present shape of the Milky Way Civilization in the Orion Spur owes much to the nature of Space Smurfs.  They were critical to the Imperial defeat and the unification of the New Stars.  You will see more of that in this history, well, unless I inadvertently forget to tell you that part.  I have been known to get a bit absent-minded when my mind is on superior matters of science, or the baking of pies.  But I have to admit to my great shame, that I, like most Imperials, was prejudiced against the Nebulons at the start.  We thought them in many ways inferior because of their living technologies and small stature.  What we didn’t realize is that their neotyny, their child-like physical make-up, was evidence that they were indeed more advanced than we in an evolutionary sense.  They were also environmentally friendly, living in symbiotic peace with their living technology. Instead of exploiting worlds, as the humans and Galtorrians had done, they created new living environments.

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Now, my genetic inquiries proved that Nebulons were practically identical to Earthers.  They were capable of interbreeding with us without genetic manipulations.  That makes them more like us than a Galtorrian, even a crossbred Galtorrian/Human fusion.  They also possessed a few advantages we didn’t have.  The copper-sulfate-based pigments in their skins were originally caused by diet and exposure to nebula radiation.  It gave them immunity to radiation that was deadly to any other humanoid.  The bright yellow hair was apparently also due to exotic radiation exposure over centuries.  I formed a theory that Nebulons may have originated on Earth and evolved as they explored deep space, beyond the known stars of the Thousand Worlds.

Now, as to their culture, they center it around living organisms that function symbiotically.  Their spaceships are the Great Nebula Space Whales, those strange fish-shaped balloon-beings that apparently bred in the depths of mighty gas giant planets and migrated to the gaseous clouds of nebula space.  They are much the same size as an Imperial Dreadnaught, and can easily support 500,000 Nebulons in their oxygenated inner chambers.  They even have spaces in their heads where the Nebulon pilots can live and function, tickling nerve endings to get the space behemoths to fold space and jump light years in an instant.  Manipulating jump space is the same whether you do it with a massive photon drive, or the natural glands of a space whale.  It is a matter of using gravity to fold space at a weak point in the fabric of space, making a worm-hole to another part of space, usually no more than six parsecs distant (for those who are math-challenged, that means about nineteen and a half light years), and coming out of jump space at the end of a spider web-like trail that litters space with the cobwebs of interstellar travel.

Nebulons also make clothing of living tissue that keeps the body it surrounds at the proper temperature, and absorbs and digests all dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells.  Nebulon clothing is self-cleaning!  It also grows with the young to avoid the need for ever changing it.  I can’t wear Nebulon cloth without cringing, because I know what it really is, but I am told that if you get used to it, it is like a perfect second skin.

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Nebulons exhibit a child-like love for life, treasuring each others’ presence and having fun almost all the time.  I have come to find them truly endearing.  They rarely go to war with each other, and have to be seriously goaded into fighting by any potential enemy.  It turns out that it is a sad thing that we can’t all be more like Nebulons.  And to think we wasted all those centuries despising them for their differences!

 

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Aeroquest… Canto 3

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Canto 3 – A Game of “Bridge”

 

When Ged and Trav reached the bridge of the Leaping Shadowcat, Tron’s angry face already filled the view screen.  Next to him stood the flame-haired beauty known as Maggie the Knife with one hand protectively shielding their small son, Artran.

“So!  Ged and Ham both?  How could you both be so stupid as to take up with that worthless clown?” growled Tron in a gravelly voice.  His somewhat handsome face was marred not only by anger, but by a hideous laser scar that ran from the top of the left side of his forehead, through the eye socket of his artificial left eye, down to the left side of his lantern jaw.

“Tron,” said Ged as diplomatically as he could manage, “You know me.  You know I would never take up with a swindler and a pirate like Trav willingly.  You must also know that I have troubles of my own about now.  If you leave us in peace, I can promise Trav’s presence aboard this ship will result in banishment for him.  You will never see his face in Imperial Space again.”

“Ged, I respect you more than any other space man I know.  Your word is good, and you never lie.  I wish your worthless brother and I both had your integrity.  We’d be kings among men.  But Goofy stole a priceless treasure from us and both Slimeball Harris and Blue Death Jones just died trying to get it back.  Both of their corsairs were destroyed by that rotten space barge Goofy was flying.”

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“You’re moaning about Slimeball and Old Blue?” asked Trav in an incredulous voice.

“Well, those corsair ships were very valuable!” growled Tron.

“Oh,” replied Trav.  “Sorry.”

“What if we give you the treasure, Tron?” asked Ham.

“No!” cried Trav.  “You have to let me explain that to you in private, first!”

“Yes,” growled Tron.  “Give me the blue metal box and the Nebulon slave girl. You can keep the rest. And you can keep Goofy forever, for all I care.”

“Now, wait!” interrupted Ged.  “Slavery is just plain wrong.”

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“Yes,” said Tron, “but this one is a princess among the Space Smurfs.  She is the first daughter to the Sinjarac Warlord, whatever that means.  We’re not just talking slave here, but a potentially valuable hostage for the Imperial Space Navy.  They would pay well to get their hands on her.”

“Why a hostage?” asked Ham.

“You didn’t see the Imperial Scout Data we intercepted,” said Maggie softly in a musical voice.  “A coreward border war has erupted between a huge convoy of Nebulons in their Space-Whale Cruisers and the Galtorr Imperium.  Nobody in the Imperium seems to know why, but there is a massive migration of Space Smurfs going on just beyond the Imperial Border.”

“You can’t have the girl,” said Ged.  “I’d be happy to give you the box, though.”

“No!” protested Trav.  “You don’t know what’s in it!”

“What is in it?” Ged asked Trav.  His eyes narrowed.

Trav blushed furiously.

“You have to give us what we want.”  Tron seemed too confident.  “We have corsairs blocking every jump route back into known space.  Soon we’ll have a hundred of them here ready to board your crappy little safari ship.”

“Yes,” said Maggie prettily.  “We will take the treasure anyway and you’ll all be skinned alive with a dull knife.”

“Oh, great,” said Ged.

“Are you ready with our little surprise?” Trav asked Ham.

“It’s plotted in the nav computer,” Ham answered.

“It’s time to hit it, then.”

Ham leaped into the pilot’s seat and slammed down on the jump button.  The jump into lightspeed-plus was jarring.  Space began to fold around the ship.  The surprised faces of Tron and Maggie the Knife faded away into white static, soon replaced by a red-and-blue-shifting starfield in jump space.

“What have you done?” Ged asked Ham with shock on his face.

“You didn’t think I would start this leap of faith without at least one jump already planned and programmed?”

“Trav?” asked Ged.

“Oh, yes.  I plotted a course to a planet almost nobody has ever heard of.  It’s a place with the silly name of Don’t Go Here.”

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Nebulons

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Part of the Traveller Role-Playing Game is dealing with alien races.  So, as a game master for the Traveller Adventures back in the 1980’s, I had the opportunity to create alien races of my own.  Truthfully, the alien Telleron race that I created for the novel Catch a Falling Star already existed in my cartoons and fiction stories before I began playing the role-playing game.  The Nebulon Race, however, was invented entirely for the game.  Only later did they become a part of my fiction.

Space Cowboys3  So, what are Nebulons?  Gyro Sinjarac on the left in the picture is an example from Aeroquest of a Nebulon.  They are aliens who are human in every respect except for their blue skin.  Interestingly they can even successfully interbreed with Earther humans.  This is apparently due to either the evolution of Nebulons from Earther explorers, or, more likely, the galaxy being seeded with Earth humans and Earther DNA by the mysterious alien race known only as “the Ancients”.  What is not debatable is that Nebulons have unique skin.  The blue skin with high levels of natural copper sulfate in it has evolved as a protection from interstellar nebula radiation.  No one who has learned their language and studied their culture has ever identified a planet of origin.  Instead, the Nebulons have been a space-born race since humans first encountered them, travelling in  their symbiotic space-whale space cruisers.  They are a mysterious deep-space race of alien beings who use organic symbiotes,  in other words, living creatures, as their pervasive technology.

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Junior Aero makes an excellent example to use to explain what Nebulons are.  You can see by this picture that not only does he possess the Nebulon blue skin, but also the bright yellow hair, the red heat-transfer cheek organs, and the small stature that makes them easily satirized as “Space Smurfs” in honor of Peyo’s beloved blue comic characters.

The Nebulons as a race are often cited as evidence of the evolutionary trend of intelligent races towards neoteny, the retention of childlike features into maturity and adulthood.  Even the oldest and the most physically fit of the adult Nebulon population resemble children and young teenagers rather than Arnold-Schwarzenegger-like humans.   But believing them to be soft and weak like children is a mistake that often yields tragedy for those who contend against them, especially in battle.  The Nebulons have often fought in space wars like the 5th Unification War, both for and against the human-led Imperium.

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But the Nebulons are not automatically at odds with humanoid races in any way.  They are generally happy in demeanor and temperament,  easily befriending other races, even the snake-eyed Galtorrian humans that tend to dominate the Imperium.  They seem to be particularly fond of Pan-Galactican Space Cowboys, having helped them during the border conflicts with the mysterious race known as the Faceless Horde.

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So, there is a glop of information about an alien race from my science-fiction comedy writing that you can sort out as you like, and can probably learn from as a science fiction writer yourself.  They are probably an excellent example of what not to do when creating a science-fiction-style alien race of your own.

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Aeroquest – Canto 2

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Canto 2 – A Bit of Blue

 

The two spaceships finally locked together belly to belly in the middle of a barrel roll.  Dalgoda’s fireball was tearing itself apart from inside.  Flaming projectiles tore free on every side of it, sparking out in airless space.  Meanwhile, Tron’s Pinwheel Corsairs were bathing the two spiraling space dancers with hot laser fire.  Two of the six corsairs had a pretty decent lock on Trav’s ship and were peeling more chunks off the drive core.

“Ged!” hollered Ham, “can you get the Goofer out of his ship before it blows?”

“I can try,” said Ged, more to himself than to Ham.  His brother was busy trying to fly the ship in a carnival-ride maneuver.

Ged scrambled down the hatchway ladder to the ventral docking port.  The metal around the port doorway was already glowing red from heat.  With a moment of panicky concentration, his hands grew fire-lizard scales all over them, like gloves that appeared out of nowhere.  How did he do this thing?  Well, he had to admit to himself that as a safari leader, he’d skinned more than a few of the fire-resistant xeno-beasts in the past twenty years.  He knew the feel and look of the skin quite well.  His protected hands could spin the locking wheel of the heated door and throw it open without singeing his fingers off.

“Goofy?  You there?”

“Atta-boy, Ged-boy!  You’re a hero.”

Ged expected to see the thin, eye-patched face next, but instead he found himself looking into the beautiful blue face of a Nebulon woman.

“Who are you?” Ged asked with open mouth.

The blue-skinned young lady with the yellow hair just shrugged and eyed Ged like she didn’t understand.

“She’s part of my treasure, Ged!” called a goofy voice from somewhere behind her.  “Pull her into your ship.  Not all Nebulon slave girls speak Galactic English, you know!”

Ged pulled her into the Leaping Shadowcat.

“Here’s more,” called Trav.

An elfin blue-skinned boy with bright yellow hair was held up next to be rescued.

“Another slave?”

“He’s the son of the Nebulon Princess.”

“Your son?”

“No way!  I’m greedy, not perverted!”

Ged couldn’t argue that.  He pulled the boy in too.

“Where’d you get the cool lizard gloves, Ged?” asked Trav as he clambered through the doorway and eyed the scales with his one uncovered eye.

“I kinda made them,” Ged answered sheepishly.

“Is our boy, Ham, ready to jump out of this mess?”

“I hope so.”

“Good.”  Trav hauled a huge gravitic cargo-bag into the ship after him and slammed the portal door.  “Eeyow!” he cried as he burned holes through the fingers of his own gloves.  It was fortunate the Goof always wore those stupid white gloves.  They saved him from burning flesh off his fingers.

“Ham, you can let ‘er go!” hollered Ged into his commo dot.  The communicator was glued comfortably to his throat.

They heard a rumble as the Leaping Shadowcat released her grip on Trav Dalgoda’s nameless ball of flame and melting hull.  The rumble was followed shortly by a huge boom and jarring shockwave.

“Ged!  Get the Goofer up here.  We’ve got big problems with his corsair friends.”

Ged’s eyes widened.  “What happened that made that shock wave?”

“Goofy’s ship exploded and took out two of the trailing corsairs.”

“Jeez!” moaned Goofy, “I hope Maggie and Tron are all right.  They’re good friends of mine.”

“Do I read the situation right?” asked Ged.  “If they live, they are going to kill us?”

“Well, yes, but I still love Tron like a brother.”

Ged nodded unhappily.  He wished he lived in the same alternate universe as Trav Dalgoda.

Junior Aero

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