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Aeroquest… Scherzo 4

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Scherzo 4 – Rolling a Twenty

“So, Trav Dalgoda does it again.  Your total roll of the dice with your skill of plus eight added to it is an impossible success of twenty.  You fly the burning spaceship into a curly-patterned rendezvous with the Leaping Shadowcat.”

“That’s a load of bull-puckie, Mr. M!” said Arturo.  “He always rolls a perfect twelve on two six-sided dice!”

“You agreed that he could use his jack-of-all-trades skill to do this.”

“But it’s a plus eight!  That is just too unfair for a skill you can use to do almost anything.”

“You let me spend all my adventure points on that one skill,” Eddie said.

“He’s right you know.  And besides, if he were to fail that role, then the two ships could crash, killing your two characters as well as his.”

“And mine too!” said Amanda.  “Trav rescued Madonna from the slaver pirates of Mingo remember.”

“Yes,” said the game master, “and her little blue son too.”

“Aw, that little bugger is just an NPC that you put into the story.  I really don’t care if he dies.”

“Eeuw, cold-hearted woman!” said Eddie.

At that moment, Dr.Hooey opened the front door of the young teacher’s apartment.

“Oh, hello.  My time machine must’ve had another brain fart and brought me to the wrong time and relative dimension.”

“Wait a minute,” said Eddie, “Who the hell are you?”

“Yes, exactly, but maybe hell is a bit too strong.  My name is Dr. Hooey.  I am looking for a place to leave a baby from the distant future.”
“A baby?” Amanda gasped.

“Oh, yes.  And who are you, young lady?”
“I’m Amanda Lilliput and this is my boyfriend Arturo Castrovalva.”

“Would you like to raise a baby from the future?”

“Um… no, thank you.”

“May I ask what you people are actually doing?”

“It’s a science fiction role-playing game.  These former students of mine are all playing space-faring characters in a space adventure set in the distant future,” said the goofy-looking teacher.

“Oh, my.  That is somewhat worrisome.  Are you sure you don’t want a space baby from the future?”

“Oh, I do!” said Eddie.

“No, he really doesn’t,” said the teacher.  “Thank you anyway.”

So Dr. Hooey left and closed the door behind him.

“That was weird,” said Arturo.

“Mr. M, I need to make a new character for the game,” said Eddie.  “He will be a time traveler, and I will call him Dr. Hooey.”

 

 

 

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Aeroquest…Canto 40

 

Aeroquest banner aCanto 40 – The Thin White Duke

      Castle Orpheum was a completely enclosed and very unusual under-water city.  The Dancer Downport was on a floating platform anchored nearly a mile above the city dome.  The vast underwater dome could only be reached by commuter submarine.  It was isolated and difficult to reach, yet a critical link in the chain of interstellar commerce, as well as the shadier parts of the “package industry”.

To reach it, one normally had to surrender all personal security to the good will of the Blackhawk Corsairs.  They were as much pirates as they were protection, though.  Aero and Cloudstalker both didn’t want to risk trusting them.  So, Ham Aero had flown the Leaping Shadowcat straight into the world-wide sea on the planet Dancer.  When they located the entry base on the top of the city dome, Arkin Cloudstalker communicated his intentions directly to the Thin White Duke.  Miraculously, Castle Orpheum opened to them and allowed them in without ever consulting the Blackhawks who ruled there.  The ship was parked in the main vehicle bay where it had ample room.  The crew locked it up and headed down a lift shaft into the city itself.

“We are going to have to be careful here,” said Arkin to the crew.  “Razor Conn is a good man, but his organization is full of less than trustworthy types.”

“Didn’t this planet once belong to a Mechanoid?” asked Ham.

“Khoolbas DiQuiri, yes.  He was half computer, half lard.  The fattest Mechanoid ever re-animated.  Razor Conn took over this planet and this city from him.”

“Is he dead then?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“No, Han,” said Arkin.  “Half of this planet’s artificial systems run through his computerized brain.  If Razor had killed him, this planet would lose atmosphere and become a giant ice ball again.  He’s a prisoner, but he’s still alive somewhere here in Castle Orpheum.”

As the access port to the lift shooped open, the crew stood looking at a Chinese man in a black suit with a gangster hat and black cape.

“Greetings, gentlemen.  I am Shad Blackstone, Razor Conn’s number two man.  I’ve come to take you to the White Duke.”

Nothing more was said.  In a single file line, the group followed the mysterious caped Chinaman into the city streets.  Castle Orpheum was a detailed reconstruction of 1930’s Chicago back on the planet Earth.  Everyone dressed like Al Capone and the only vehicles allowed in the city were 1930’s-style roadsters with photon-battery engines.  Many openly carried ACR’s (advanced combat rifles) shaped like Tommy guns.  Molls and urchins roamed the streets trying to con the toughs into cutting them in on the action.  It was like an alien culture to the crew of the Shadowcat.

“What’s with this place?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“It has style,” said Blackstone mysteriously.

Most of the buildings they passed were styled as theaters, speak-easies, and pool halls.  Most, however served functions different than they appeared to, and almost all had private dwellings in the upper stories.  The dome’s sun-source and artificial lights were set on a kind of permanent twilight, making the whole place eerily like the set of a film-noire movie.

Shad Blackstone led them into a building marked as Keyser’s Old-Style Brewery.  The six guards they saw wore Blackhawk combat armor and carried plasma guns.

“No one breaks in here, do they,” said Ham.

“Are we gonna get shot at?” asked the Lupin boy, Sahleck Kim.

“No,” said Blackstone, “at least, not by us.”

The party entered a small computer room to be scanned.

“This is Fortunato Tomb,” said Blackstone, introducing the Kritiian with the four scanners.  Tomb was an insect-man from the planet Kriti 5.  He had a brown carapace and four hands.  He walked upright on his hind two legs.  In the face he looked like a huge praying mantis with multi-faceted eyes and big, sharp mandibles.

“Hold still and this will go quickly,” said Tomb with a creepy voice coming through a universal translator device he wore on his abdomen.

“Where’s your hat, bug man?” asked Trav.  “Everybody else in this place has a gangster hat.  Or maybe I should call it a Ged Aero hat?”

“I ate mine, monkey man,” said Tomb, “but I’m still hungry.  Maybe you’ll be so kind as to hand me yours?”

Tomb ran the scanners over everyone, though no one would say what he was looking for.  Trav held his gob hat in his hands the entire time.

“Gentlemen,” said Blackstone, “it is time to head into the inner sanctum of the Thin White Duke.”

A bookcase rolled away from the wall to reveal a secret staircase.  Shad Blackstone led the way up the stairs, which re-sealed after they all had passed.  The inner sanctum was styled after a public library with numerous book racks and tables that left ample room for study.  There were computers and holo-displays built into the surface of every table.  A few leather-bound paper books were open and spread about on the tables.

The Thin White Duke himself was obviously well nick-named.  He had white hair, a white suit like Mark Twain, and was rail thin in an almost emaciated way.  He also wore a white half-cape over his left shoulder.

“So, I am honored by your visit, Hannover Ferrari,” said the White Duke.

“We had no choice,” said Duke Ferrari plainly.  “You are the Sector Duke, and we can’t operate in your sector without your permission.”

“Nothing illegal, I suppose?”  The White Duke arched an eyebrow.

“Well,” said Cloudstalker, “we plan to rebel against the Galtorr Imperium.”

“I know your plan.  I dispatched agents to this planet Don’t Go Here and I have information for you about Ged Aero’s journey to a planet called Gaijin.  I would like to know what you are planning to do about the ancient relic that your Goofy Dalgoda plans to steal.”

The group was astounded by the revelation of the depth of the White Duke’s intelligence sources.  Ham Aero turned red in the face on Goofy’s behalf, but Trav himself showed no change of expression at all.

“Uh…” Arkin Cloudstalker tried to say, “we never actually… um… approved Dalgoda’s plan.”

“Don’t panic, my friends.  Razor, Shad, and I have talked it over carefully.  We want you to take the thing.  It is dangerous beyond belief and we don’t trust anyone to handle it more than Ged Aero.”

“What is this thing?” asked Ham, alarmed.

“We’ll examine it tomorrow.  For now, let’s just say that we are planning to give it to you.  In return for taking it off our hands, I will help you with your rebellion.  The planets Dancer, Regal One, and Inchon will join your alliance.  We no longer claim White Palm.  That was Nefaria’s planet, and the Count disappointed me greatly in his recent dealings.  He and his Expedition One archeologists have another ancient device buried somewhere that, if I knew where it was, I would give to you.  My agents are supposed to try to make things happen in the Imperium, especially since the Emperor went insane, but Nefaria started dealing in the darkness with things I can’t control.  I won’t have it.  My agents all answer to me.  My allies merely have to swear that they are on my side.”

“You aspire to be Emperor yourself, Duke Keyser?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“No, Han.  I expect I will be supporting YOU for the next Emperor of the Galtorr Imperium.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aeroquest… Adagio 8

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Adagio 8 – Mechanoids

At this point, it is important that you know the difference between a Metalloid and a Mechanoid.  They are not the same.  The two terms are not interchangeable.  The differences are critical to making your way through the modern galaxy. You should probably also know what a simuloid is, but I don’t want to overtax your little brains just now.  After all, there’s a better than eighty percent chance that, as you are reading this, you probably don’t have an electronically enhanced mind.

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A Metalloid is what Sorcerer 4 was.  It is an entirely artificial life form.  Syn Corporation is the most dominant manufacturer of Metalloids, but artificial intelligence and artificial emotions have made them independent of their original makers.  Many Metalloids were made not for sale by a factory, but by a parent robot who simply wanted to reproduce.  Often, Metalloid parents use pieces from their own bodies to manufacture offspring, replacing the part taken from them later on.  They almost always gift their robo-child with a piece of their own intelligence.  Hence Metalloids can be very much like humans in their make-up and mental profiles.

I apologize for my prejudice here.  Unless I forget to tell the story of the Great Robot Pie Fight, you will see why I hate robots.  They are nasty!  They are inscrutable.  I would rather not spend time with them.  Well, with the exception of the occasional Metalloid entertainment girl-robot.  I admit to kinda liking those.

Mechanoids are an entirely different story.  To be a Mechanoid, you must have first been a living being.  Dead bodies are brought back to life through a marriage of flesh and circuitry.  Minds are reloaded from computers and usually are kept as emotion-free as it is possible to do for a living mind.  Dead and decayed flesh is restored as far as it is possible to do with the primary level of technology common in the galaxy.  The Mechanoid is a true machine-man, more so than any titanium Metalloid.  Well, machine-man, machine-woman, machine-child, or machine-horse as the case may be.

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Now, I know it has been said by many observers that Mechanoid beings actually remember portions of their previous lives as a living being.  I mean to show proper respect to those who claim this, but that is a load of hoo-haw.  It is not physically possible for that to be true.  I have studied the physics of the question and know this with certainty.  The re-animated one cannot retain the electro-chemical memories of their previous life.  Death effectively removes the data from whatever is left of the brain, even if we are talking about someone intentionally turned Mechanoid while they were still enjoying a healthy life and then carefully preserved.  I would maintain that any story to the contrary is impossible, and induced by the various psychoses that Mechanoids are susceptible to.

Mechanoids are often violent and mentally unhinged.  They are more akin to ancient concepts of the un-dead than they are to the people or creatures they once were.  They live, yet their life and life-quality do not fit into the normal range of what we call life.  I imagine most, if not all Mechanoids wish for an end to their unnatural life, and like the Rot-Warriors, I examined on the planet Mingo, they actively sabotage their own chances for survival.

There are a few exceptions to every scientific rule, but my mind is closed on this issue.  If Ged Aero or Arkin Cloudstalker could neither one convince me, then I will never be convinced.  After all, they had experiences with Mechanoids that, on the surface, appeared to disprove my thesis.

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Aeroquest… Canto 39

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Canto 39 – the Wisdom of Solomon

The Palace of One Thousand Years was empty save for five people.  Ged Aero was about to teach his first official class.  With him were three students, Junior Aero, Sara Smith, and the quiet Gaijinese boy of ten known as Shu Kwai.  Junior and Sara wore only silken loin cloths.  Shu Kwai, in the Gaijinese tradition, would wear no clothing he had not earned.  His light orange skin was bare to the single sun, the Old Man.  The three students were kneeling on the practice grounds.  On a bench three hundred feet away sat Dr. Naylund Smith, watching intently.

“I may disappoint you three,” said Ged softly.  He pulled the brim of his fedora down to completely shield his eyes from the bright sun.  His ceremonial robes flapped slightly in the breeze.  It was the unconscious pose of the hunter… or perhaps the wary predator.  “I have thought a lot about what to teach you this day, but I haven’t a clue.”

Shu Kwai had not spoken a word since his parents had brought him to the palace.  Now he raised his brown eyes to Ged and looked at the master without changing his solemn expression.  “Aero-sensei, you are the White Spider.  Anything you say is destiny and probably the Word of God.”

Ged laughed softly.  “No pressure here, huh?”

Junior and Sara looked at each other and grinned.  Shu Kwai focused like a laser on Ged’s every word.  The grim boy did not smile or move a single face muscle.

“Well, here goes…  My mother back on Questor used to read from the Christian Bible to Ham and me.  We took many important lessons from it.  I know you three probably have not studied it, or even heard of it, but it was the greatest book ever written on the planet Earth.”

Sarah nodded.  The two boys showed no signs of recognition.  Ged knew he would have to have a sharp memory to carry this off.

“The secret, I think lies in wisdom and discipline.  These are two of the qualities that a wise king named Solomon used as major themes in his book of Proverbs.  In Chapter 3 he said about discipline “the discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject and do not abhor his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.”

“I find pleasure in having the three of you as my students.  I will provide not only facts for you to learn, but discipline as well.  If I correct you, it is because I know a better way and it shows evidence only of my love and respect for you.”

“Who is Jehovah?” asked Junior.

“According to the Bible my mother read, that was the name of the one God, the creator of the universe.”

“What if we believe in the Tao?” asked Shu Kwai.

“I will try to teach you better, but I will not argue with what you believe.  All I am saying, students, is that if I must offer discipline, it will be only loving reproof.”

“What will you say about wisdom?” asked Sara.

“Solomon said about wisdom… “Happy is the man who has found wisdom and the man that gets discernment, for having it is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce is better than gold itself.  It is more precious than corals and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it.”

“What wisdom will you teach us, Sensei?” asked Sara.

“I don’t know everything yet.  I am supposed to teach you about what I already know, and what I am learning about being a Psion.  You three all have the powers of a Psion?”

“Junior and I are both telepaths,” said Sara, “but he can talk to machines and computers, while I’m a healer.”

“I’m a telekinetic and a telepath,” said Shu Kwai.  “I nearly burned the house down in the night when I was dreaming.  I threw a candle across the room and made logs fly out of the burning fireplace.”

“How interesting!” said Ged with a fixed smile.  “You are all mind-readers, and I am not.  I am a morph.  I’m a shape-changer.”

“The best that ever lived, I heard,” said Shu Kwai.  “My father said no shape-changer ever changed size before as you did in the arena against the Black Spider.”

“My father says you came to save us,” said Sara.  “He said you have the discipline and the morality it takes to help us avoid becoming a monster from our Psion powers.”

“I will do what I can, but as I said, I really have no idea how to teach you.”

Naylund Smith came walking over to them clapping his hands.  “That is one of the finest lessons I have ever heard, honored Ged-dono.  Wisdom and discipline!  This whole planet needs that.  If they all had it, perhaps the plague of bandits and black spiders would end.”

“I hope I don’t let you all down.”

“You cannot,” assured Dr. Smith.  “The boy is right.  You are destiny.”

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Aeroquest… Scherzo 1

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Scherzo 1 – Who?

      In the Central Hospital of downtown Oasis City, Hassan the Elf was awakening from his ordeal.  Maggie the Knife sat by his bed with little Artran hanging out at the foot of the bed.

“He’s awake, Mommy!” announced Artran.

“So he is,” said the red-haired beauty, reaching over to brush a lock of hair out of Hassan’s eyes.  “Welcome back little one.”

In a very soft-spoken voice Hassan said, “I am one hundred and four years old.  I have had fourteen wives and seven hundred children in my time.  I may look young, but I’m not exactly a child.”

“My, my!” said Maggie in the tone of an indulgent parent.  “You are quite the little man!”

“Do I get Daddy?” Artran asked of his mother.

“Please.  Tell him the Peri is awake.”

“Right away!”  Artran tore out of the hospital room as if it were on fire.

“So tell me,” said the elf softly, “will I be kept around for my intellect, or will you do away with me now that I am crippled?”

“Ooh, how you talk!  You’ve been liberated by the Pinwheel Corsairs of Tron Blastarr.  We intend to let you decide your own fate.  Tron is planning to pay for an artificial leg for you.”

“Why would a corsair leader help a poor Peri slave?”  Hassan’s eyes were large and filled with tears.  He couldn’t believe his sudden good luck.

“We Blastarrs believe that all races and individuals have worth.  It’s what has made us so unpopular with the Galtorr Imperium.”

Scan_0005At that moment the room filled with an unnatural pinkish light.  By the wall opposite the bed a really old-style phone booth materialized out of thin air.  One creature was inside, a middle-aged human with shaggy gray hair and a large nose.  He also had bags under his eyes as if from excessive fatigue.  And he carried an umbrella under one arm.  He opened the phone booth and stepped out.

“Who are you?” asked Maggie, staring.

“Exactly!  You can call me Doctor Hooey, or just… Doctor.  I’m a Time Knight from the planet Gallagos.  This is not a phone box; it is my TimeShip, the Star Wars.  It’s really much more impressive than it looks.”

At that moment, Tron and the King of Killers arrived to greet the awakened Peri.

“What is going on here?” demanded the scar-faced boss.

“Er… I was just telling your wife, Maggie, I believe, that I am a Time Knight of Gallagos.  I come from long, long ago and far, far away to find you, Tron.”

“What?  How do you know my name?”

“I told you.  I am a Time Knight of Gallagos.  This telephone box is my TimeShip, the Star Wars.”

“No.  I mean, what are you doing here?  How do you know who I am?”

“I’m not an agent of the late Count Nefaria, if that’s what you fear.  I came here because King Ryan Beowulf of the Time Knights sent me here to find you and do the things the record books said were done in the proper timeline.  We have a pyramid to look into and some Imperial secrets to steal.”

“What is this record book you speak of?  And what PYRAMID?”

“I’m a Time Knight!  I know things that haven’t happened yet… and things that once happened that nobody else alive today knows about.  I travel through time, forwards and backwards, and I know it’s all very confusing!  It gives me a headache to think about it too.”

“What is a Time Knight?” asked Artran, staring out from behind his father’s leg.  “And why do you have those golden question marks on your old, tweedy suit?”

“Ah, you ask good questions, boy!  No wonder you become so famous if you manage to live past the age of thirteen!  A Time Knight…”  Here Dr. Hooey had to pause to take a breath as all the oxygen in his brain was used up.  “…is an adventurer and hero who travels through time, correcting anything that has gone, or might go wrong with the stream of time.”

“Wow,” said Hassan softly.  “You talk funny!”

Artran snickered.  Tron himself began to smile.

“Oh, I’m not the worst one, believe me.  Of all the Time Knights, Dr. Emmit Brown talks the fastest.  Sir H.G. Wells has a funny English accent.  Sir Emerald Man is an original Galtorrian and speaks with a snaky lisp.  No, I’m not the worst one.”

“So what is this nonsense about a pyramid?” asked Tron, sounding more exasperated than he looked.

“It’s the reason I have come.  If we don’t go and look into that pyramid, then your New Star League will never be formed.  You will never become the Grand Admiral of Outpost, and Ged Aero will never become the successor to Shan as the White Spider!”

“So, you better lead the way!” said Tron.

“You know,” said Hooey, “Master Hassan has to be there as well, along with your friend Mr. Killer.”

“Are you ready to travel, elf?” asked Tron.

“You can’t!” said Maggie.  “The boy just woke up from a coma!”

“I will do anything you ask of me,” said Hassan sincerely to Tron.  “You have helped this lowly one in a way that can never be repaid, except by never-ending service.  It is my duty.”

Tron smiled at the elf.  He was almost truly handsome when he smiled, in spite of the nasty scar through his eye.  Hassan felt blessed to have such a brave and generous man as his new lord and master.

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Aeroquest… Nocturne 3

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Nocturne 3 – At the Community Bath

      Junior Aero was relaxing in the hot bathing pool in the Palace of One Thousand Years.  The concept of community baths was definitely new to him, but he had seen so many changes in his short life that he could get used to anything quickly.  The warm salty water felt good on muscles made to ache by Ged’s intense martial arts training.  His small body was not meant for such vigorous exercise.  Still, anything that Ged taught was the word of God to Junior Aero.  He needed Ged to believe that he was to be Ged’s faithful disciple.

Across the patterned mosaic tiles of blue and white walked young Sara Smith.  She came directly towards Junior wearing nothing more than a towel around her neck and a sweet, shy smile on her face.  She was lovely with golden-peach skin and brown eyes like a doe in the forest.

“Umm… uh… I’m naked here,” warned Junior.

“I know.  I’m naked too.”

“Aren’t you supposed to bathe somewhere else when I’m here?”

“No.  I came to bathe with you because I like you and want to get to know you.”

Her open-faced charm was irresistible.  Junior was still too young for this boy-girl bathing to be too dangerous.  He decided it would do no good to protest.

“I’m curious,” said Sara, “does a blue-skinned boy have a blue penis?  Stand up and let me see?”

Junior was astonished.  “Doesn’t anything embarrass you?”

“Why should it?  I’ve been bathing in public baths all my life.  I’m used to seeing humanoid bodies with no clothes on.  Besides, I like how your body looks.  I will probably marry you when we both get older.”

Junior shrugged.  He stood up in the knee-deep water and offered his hand to Sara Smith.  She took hold and drew herself up close to him.  Together they settled down in the warm water.

“What’s he like?  Your White Spider, I mean?”

Junior looked into Sara’s huge brown eyes.  “Ged?  He is a very good man.  He and his brother rescued my mother and me from slavery.  I was born a lowly slave, and he has always treated me as a member of his family, even though I am obviously not.  I will serve him all my life.”

“He sounds wonderful,” said Sara.  “My Daddy is like that too.  He’s an Immortal, you know.  He cannot die of old age and it would take a sudden and complete destruction to kill him.  He protects this world from evil, too.  I can’t think of a better man anywhere.”

“Does he treat you well?”

“Oh, he treasures me.  I have always been the most important thing in his life, at least, since I was born.”

“Do you have a mother?”

“No.  She died when I was born.  Daddy blames himself.  He thinks the disease that keeps him alive may have caused her to die.  That’s nonsense, though.  How can something like that help one person to live and kill another?”

“That’s very sad.  I still have my mother.  She doesn’t really love me, though.  My father was one of her slave owners.  She hates me for reminding her of her life as a slave.”

“Ooh, that’s even sadder!”  Sara kissed him on the cheek as she reached around him and began soaping his back.  “How could anyone not love you?”

“I never really thought about it,” Junior said.  He reached over and put soap on Sara’s neck.  His hands caressed her shoulder.  “I was worried about survival before.  Life was hard.  Now that I don’t have to worry about how to stay alive, I have Ged and you to love me.  I really don’t think about her much anymore.”

“That makes me happy to hear,” said Sara.  “You’re a telepath, aren’t you?”

“You can sense me the same as I can sense you,” said Junior matter-of-factly.  “You know what we both are.”

“Yes.  But I’ve never had another telepath to play with.  Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you met one?”

“No.  What do you mean?”

“I want to join minds with you.”

“I’m not sure I can do that.”

“You don’t want to?”

“I don’t know how.”

“I can show you.  You put your hands on my temples as I put mine on yours.”

Both children came together at that moment as only a pair of Psions ever could.  Two bright and beautiful minds flowed together and combined.  Together they could see not only into each other’s personal minds, but they could see the future, and the past before their births, together.  They could see a time when they would be man and wife.  They could see each other’s powers, Junior’s techno-telepathy, and Sara’s healing telepathy.  They saw their time as Ged’s students together and their time as teachers, and of course, much of the dark and troubled times ahead.  Someone else looking upon them at that moment would never truly be able to see the miracle of a naked boy and a naked girl holding each other tightly, mind to mind, in the bathhouse of the Palace of One Thousand Years.

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Aeroquest… Canto 36

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Canto 36 – Aerobase Frieda

      Frieda began to enjoy lots of company both from the planet Don’t Go Here and from the Imperium beyond.  Tron Blastarr had shared Frieda’s location as an open port to all his merchant and corsair friends.  Arkin Cloudstalker’s Lady Knights were frequent visitors and one of them, Tabitha Blue Arrow, opened an inn and entertainment center at the starport.  Don’t Go Here Downport began producing merchant ships of a superior kind designed by Frieda with no input from anyone else.  The controls were so high-tech and simple that even cave children from Don’t Go Here could fly them.

Frieda found herself entirely too limited with the spaceport as her only body.  She needed a more humanoid-friendly interface, and began work on a human-shaped robot body.  She scanned Tara Salongi as her model, but improved upon the design by making the body out of gleaming, chromium-alloy high tech metal with black adamant metal for the hair.  She made the body anatomically correct and even designed for herself modest black synth-leather attire.

It was during a high-activity business day that the Monopoly Brigade came to visit.  Fez Amin docked three Brigade Corsairs at the starport with a password that Frieda would later determine came from a tortured prisoner, a captured Pinwheel Corsair.

Trouble began at the administration desk at the center of Aerobase 1.  Fez Amin and two tattooed cohorts started an argument there with the Dion girl who was working the desk for the Salongi family.

“I don’t show any of my documents to a Scaly who isn’t even a Galtorrian,” said Ox, the Monopoly Brigade Lieutenant who wore snake tattoos all over his naked chest and arms.

“Yeah,” said Fez Amin.  “How does a low-level Scaly like you get such a job?  They must really be raking the bottom of the barrel at this world.”

The girl was a brown-skinned Dion.  She was as naked and as vulnerable as the day she hatched from her egg, but you really couldn’t tell by looking at her.  She could have been wearing a dino-skin swimsuit as far as her outward appearance went.  She had no hair, as with all Dions, male and female alike.  Her shapely brown tail switched nervously back and forth as she stared at the tattooed men before her.

“All right!  What’s the problem here?” asked Bam-Bam Salongi, approaching the desk.

“No problem, Alley Oop.  We just don’t want our papers examined by a Scaly witch like this one,” growled Ox.

Mustapha Aga, the third Brigade Commander, added, “She’s been staring at our human beauty with those ugly snake eyes of hers.”  He flexed a bicep with a tattoo of a woman on it.

“Let me see your documents,” said Bam-Bam coolly.

“Look at this,” said Mustapha Aga.  He pulled out a laser pistol and shot it.  Bam-Bam was wearing a leather administrator’s suit, more protection than his old Fredsuits would’ve afforded, but the ray burned right through his chest, killing him instantly.

The Dion girl began screaming.  Ox grabbed her and put a gun to her head.  Everyone in the spaceport office froze with fear and indecision.

Tara came storming into the room, livid with the offenses against her people, and shocked with the suddenness of her father’s death.  A spear of raging hatred lanced out of her mind and turned Aga’s brain into boiled peanut butter.  The tattooed pirate fell dead in writhing agony that lingered for ten minutes.

“Well, well.  Some of the cave people have some real fight in them.”  Fez Amin folded his arms and grinned at Tara, daring her to try the same on him.

“Let Taquira go, pirate!” Tara ordered.

“Make us,” said Amin, putting a booted foot on the back of Mustapha’s corpse.  “I dare you.”

Tara didn’t waste a heartbeat with her deep probe.  Most men would’ve crumbled before her powerful mental attack, but Fez Amin radiated a powerful mental shield.  He was not a telepath, but no stronger mind could be found among non-telepaths.  She tried to probe and take control of Ox instead, but he had some sort of metal plate in his head that reflected Psion energy.

“What do I have to do to make you release the girl and go away?” asked Tara.

“I like you,” said Amin.  “You have spunk.  Take the Scaly’s place and come with us.  Your life for hers.”

“You will leave this planet alone?”

“You have my word as a gentleman bandit.”

Frieda’s robot self had arrived in the office and stood looking at Amin with expressionless silver eyes.  “Don’t do it, Tara.  You are more valuable than the Dion.  I can destroy him and his ship if I don’t have to worry about you being on board.”

“My, my!  What a testy little toaster you are,” said Amin.  “Go away and leave this between the girl and me.”

scantara2

“If I assume I’m somehow superior to the rest of my people, then I am no better than he is,” said Tara.  She looked at Frieda with a hard set to her jaw.  “Tell Ged Aero that I love him, and I will come back to him as soon as I can.”

“How can I help you now?”

“Keep this world safe for me.  Don’t let any more creeps like this in if you can stop it.  Goodbye, Frieda!”

Tara dropped her guard and let Ox take her.  Taquira the Dion girl ran to Frieda as soon as Amin let her loose.  Tabitha had also shown up to see the end of the exchange.  She ran to the body of Bam-Bam Salongi and cradled his head in her lap.  Fez smiled like the fox that just ate the fattest hen in the coup.  He and Ox backed away toward their ships with their prize.

“I can ready my corsair and go after them, Frieda,” offered Tabitha Blue Arrow.

“We cannot put Mistress Tara’s life at risk,” said Frieda.  “Trust that the girl is clever and powerful enough to find her own means of escape.  I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of either one of those two people, the Princess or the Bastard.”

Taquira, the Dion girl, cried on Frieda’s cool metal shoulder.  Frieda petted her comfortingly with a metalloid hand.

 

 

 

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