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Stardusters… Canto 61

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Canto Sixty-One – Sizzahl’s Primary Laboratory

Sizzahl awoke suddenly as a large chunk of metal crashed down from the ceiling above.  The Bio Dome shook with the shockwaves of some massive crash above the lab.

“That will be Senator Tedhkruhz,” said Makkhain calmly.  “He has come to put an end to all of us.”

“We can’t let him destroy the control systems in this building, Uncle Makk.  They can repair the planet’s atmosphere if they keep running, but we are all doomed if they don’t.”

“Maybe you didn’t understand me earlier, my love,” said Makkhain, “we have reached the point where this world is doomed.  It is the end of everything.  The Senate decided the world should end before we ever went to war.  We have reached the end times.”

Sizzahl looked at him through horror-filled eyes.  “You are not my Uncle Makk!”

“No, I haven’t really been him for some time now.  But I have enough of his genetics and enough of his real original memories to know that I love you and regret that I must kill you now.”

“What?  Why?”

Makkhain pulled out a knife and a small slug-thrower.  He smiled as he moved sinisterly towards Sizzahl.  “Because my master, Senator Tedhkruhz, commands it.  We were supposed to conduct a simple mop-up operation here.  No one knew that General Gohmurt had failed to kill all of your family and scientific minions.”

“No!  It can’t be.”  Sizzahl’s face was dripping with oozing tears.  She had never believed that she could be made to cry before that moment, but here was her fake Uncle proving her completely wrong.

“I will make your death swift and painless, little one.  I am not without feelings for you.”

Makkhain raised the slug-thrower and fired at her as Sizzahl twisted the buckle on her belt.  The bullet stopped in mid-flight and clattered harmlessly to the floor.

“Wha… what magic is this?”

“It’s Science,” said the weeping Sizzahl.

“What sort of Science?”

“The Telleron kind…  I guess I owe Mrs. Castille for forcing me to wear this uncomfortable Telleron jump suit.  It has a force field built in.”

“A force what?”

“Those frog people are at a higher tech level than we are… even higher than the Earthers are.  And they are more generous and thoughtful than we are.  They have no stake in this planet, yet they have only tried to help me save it.”

“Come closer to me, dear,” said the false Makkhain.  “Show me this magic armor you wear.”

Sizzahl turned her face away from her uncle.  Of course, if he grabbed her with his hand he might be able to kill her with the knife.  So, she turned the dial on the belt buckle further.  She shimmered for a moment and then completely disappeared from view.

“You know, Sizzahl, I can still find you.  I have legendary tracking skills.”

“The real Makkhain did,” she said as she invisibly dashed out of the lab, “but you are definitely not him.”

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 60

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Canto Sixty – The Bonehead

Light suddenly blared into the prison pit with a brightness that sledge-hammered the skull of anyone and everyone who had eyes.  From pitch dark to bright light in practically no time at all.  The optic nerves had no time to adjust, let alone the reactions of an intelligent brain.

“We are landing!” called out a Galtorrian voice that Farbick had not heard before.  “Now is the time to be free of that prison.”

“Okay,” said Farbick carefully, “does that mean you are setting us free?  Or are you just asking us to come out so you can kill and eat us?”

“We don’t trust Senator Tedhkruhz to allow us to survive for very much longer.  You were right to point out to us that we are not helping ourselves by helping him.”

“And you let me live when you could’ve killed me, Stabharh,” said the voice of the guard from before.  “We kinda owe you for that…  I do, anyway.”

“Yes, what is up with that, Stabharh?   First you betray your precious Bahbahr, and then you try to convince us to do the same with Tedhkruhz?”  It was the first voice again.

“Slahshrack, is that you?” asked Stabharh.

“Of course it is, you fool.  Who else knows you well enough to question your actions… especially the changes from your old ways?”

“It is Slahshrack,” Stabharh said to Farbick with a sudden toothy grin.  “We went to Galtorrian Centurion School together to learn to become generals.”

Slahshrack and the guard helped all three prisoners out of the hole.

“There are only two of us that will help you,” Slahshrack said directly to Stabharh.  “No one else trusts anyone else aboard the Bonehead.  Helping one another is against Tedhkruhz’s rules, and gets you turned into dinner.  Most of the Galtorrian soldiers who are left alive are not really capable of thinking for themselves.  But I am, and Goahnahd is as well.  That’s why he told me about your plans.”

“I’m very glad he did, and you came back to let us out,” said Farbick.

Slahshrack glared at the Telleron.  “We wouldn’t have believed it if Stabharh hadn’t stayed in the prison pit.  It made me believe he really had changed.  If you had just killed Goahnahd and escaped the pit I would’ve killed you as worthless minions of the Galtorrian system.”

“You don’t believe in the system any more, Slahshrack?” Stabharh asked.

“Of course I don’t.  Tedhkruhz is more conceited and ruthless and corrupt than fat old Bahbahr could ever have been.  But I couldn’t go it alone.  And now, Stabharh, with you as an ally, we can make the world our own.  Tedhkruhz has the last working space ships and the last living army on the planet.  If we slay the great dragon, then we can easily become the next great dragon.”

Suddenly the entire space craft crashed into a large, domed building.  It had finally come down to the planet.  Unfortunately, the damage and violence to the craft probably guaranteed that it would never lift off again.

“What happened?” asked Farbick.  “Why have we crashed?”

“Well…” said Slahshrack, “we kinda started this rebellion by killing the pilots.”

Farbick was beginning to feel a little queasy in the craw.  He pulled Starbright to him and folded her in his sucker-tipped arms and fingers.

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 59

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Canto Fifty-Nine – In the Nesting Quarters of Tanith and Davalon

Davalon and Tanith had learned to cuddle and hold each other in the affectionate way that Earthers like Alden and Gracie Morrell always did.  They were doing it now in the nest Sizzahl had given them.  Dav could no more imagine being apart from Tanith than he could imagine going back to the old Telleron ways of killing and recycling the protein of tadpoles who proved to be unnecessary during the long space voyages.

“Are we going to survive this adventure, Dav?”

“Yes, I think we stand a very good chance now with the adults here to save us.  Especially Mrs. Castille.  She is a very formidable warrior.”

“How did our people survive without her?”

“That’s a very good question.  I think our people have been going down the wrong path for centuries.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you ever wondered about how our fundamental survival methods actually work?”

“No.  We were not programmed in the egg to think about things like that.”

“I think that’s a mistake too, Tanith.  We need more thinkers in our species.  With the protein recycling system we used to have, you and I might not have survived.  If we hadn’t undergone such a dramatic change on Earth, our whole mission might have gone extinct by now.”

“I don’t follow, Dav.”

“Think about it.  What kind of Telleron people survived most often in our society before we adopted Earther behavior?”

“Self-promoting evil ones like Commander Sleez… and, well… stupid ones like Corebait and Studpopper and Finkerblatt… the ones who were lucky enough to never be put in a position where their life was threatened.”

“Yeah, except Corebait disintegrated himself back on Earth, and Finkerblatt tried to flush a toilet into space instead of the molecular recycle grid and was pulled out into space by his…”

“Yeah, but Studpopper proves that the lucky stupid ones do sometimes stay alive.”

“Okay.  You’re right.  But it is also the steady and quietly competent ones like Farbick… and maybe Commander Biznap that not only survive, but get critical things done and help others to survive as well as themselves.”

“So, what are you saying, Dav?”

“I think we know what we have to do, and what kind of Telleron people we need to become.”

“We need to be lucky and stupid?”

Davalon smiled as he saw how brightly Tanith was smiling at him.

“We need to be people who think and solve problems.  We need to be competent like Farbick.  We need to take the lead like Biznap.”

“You think that thinking is our job or something?”

“Exactly.  Promise me you will help me learn how to think better and more clearly.  You are smart, Tanith.  If you and I help each other, we will both get smarter.”

“And maybe we can raise up tadpoles of our own.”

Davalon smiled at her.  She was lovely cradled in his arm and close up against his chest.

“Yes.  We can make a new world where Tellerons are better than they have ever been.”

“We can evolve into a better people?”

“Yes. And with a little of the lucky that used to be only for stupid Tellerons, maybe we can be a people who live to old age and rebuild a planet.”

“You are giving me good things to dream about,” Tanith said, closing her eyes and falling softly into the realm of good dreams.

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 58

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Canto Fifty-Eight – On the Gundahl Moon

Xiar looked around at the moon base.  There was considerable damage to the buildings and the power plant was going to need to be replaced by Telleron Magna-Grav generators.  But, unlike the main planet below, the atmosphere on the small, broken moon was breathable and totally conducive to Telleron life.  His people were saved.  They could thrive here.

Biznap walked up with a young Galtorrian boy trailing in his shadow.

“Can we install an energy shield to protect us from that space craft you mentioned?”

“We can go one better,” said Biznap.  “The defensive slug-throwers are still operational here.  They have a rail gun set up here that we can electronically enhance and increase the lethal power to levels the Galtorrians cannot match.  They will not be able to drive us out.”

“The news pleases me,” Xiar said.  He nodded toward the boy.  “Who is your young friend?”

“I have appointed Jahzpuhr here the leader of the Galtorrian children on this moon.  He is helping us with repair and construction.”

“You will not try to kill and us, will you, Jahzpuhr?” Xiar asked.

“No, sir, Captain Xiar, sir.”  The boy looked very much like a scale covered human from Earth, but the tail was definitely a difference.  He was dressed in a new cadet uniform made from Telleron synthesizers.  “Your people have saved us from death.  You are feeding us.  We owe you a life-debt and will serve you to the very end.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Galtorrian children we found here are all refugees from the planetary war,” said Commander Biznap.  “They were starving to death until Farbick found them and fed them.”

“Our masters were keeping us around so they could eat us when all the food was gone,” said Jahzpuhr.  “You have given us more than we could ever have hoped for, and we are grateful.”

“Well, I am just happy you didn’t eat Farbick, or any of us.  I do need to take this base for my people, however.”

“The base is not ours, sir, Captain Xiar, sir.  It belonged to Overlord Bahbahr the merchant prince.  We will evacuate at once if you desire it.”   The boy said it with a look in his eyes that told Xiar he was really begging to stay.

“Nonsense.  You will stay here and work for us.  If you do your jobs well, we will reward you.  And you can certainly live here among us.  You are all mere children, right?  And there is to be no eating of Tellerons?”

“We will be faithful, sir, Captain Xiar, sir.”

“I like how polite you are,” Xiar replied, “and I definitely appreciate the no eating of Tellerons thing… but you don’t have to keep calling me sir, Captain Xiar, sir.  Your majesty will be fine… or your ultimate gracious highness… or maybe just Captain.  OK?”

“Yes, sir, Captain Xiar, sir.”

“Not a very quick learner, huh, Biznap?”

“No, sir, he is not.  None of the lizard children seem particularly bright.  But they do work hard and they have some skills in the construction department.   They will be useful.”

“And your Earther wife, Harmony, can teach them all that Bible nonsense, eh?  Instead of me?”

“She will appreciate more souls to save for Jeezis, or whoever it is,” said Biznap, “but she didn’t let up on me just because she had the rest of you to preach to.  She has a sincere faith, and a very large capacity for curing un-taught heathens of their heathen-ness.”

“Is there any way to track them and get them back?  Particularly Harmony and Shalar, I mean?”

“I will take a wing and go after them, but knowing Harmony, she will not slow down without finding and rescuing the lost tadpoles first.”

“That’s too bad.  I really miss Shalar.”

“And your missing tadpoles too, I suppose?”

Xiar tried to remember which ones those were that they were talking about.  “Yes, them too, I suppose.”

****

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Stardusters… Canto 57

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Canto Fifty-Seven – Sizzahl’s Primary Laboratory

Sizzahl let the Senator into her sanctum with the key she rarely ever used.

“Your father had more secrets than I knew, didn’t he?” asked Makkhain with a resigned sigh.

“Yes.  Truthfully, he didn’t trust you totally because you are always so anxious to go to war over everything.  Father believed we needed to at least try peaceful solutions.”

“That is the one thing about your father that makes him a hopeless fool.  Galtorrians are a warrior people.  We solve our problems by removing the greatest threats by force.”

“But you can’t declare war on toxic chemicals and gas, and then just kill them.  Those problems are not mortal.”

Makkhain nodded.  “I did not believe that your father could reverse the pollution problem.  I thought scientists had already doomed us, making the war unwinnable.  I took steps to undermine their efforts.  I may have made a terrible mistake.”

“What did you do?”

“I targeted your father’s installations for destruction.”

“But he didn’t tell you where the atmosphere scrubbers were located.  He didn’t trust you, so he gave you misinformation.”

“Do you know where they are?”

“Of course I do.  They are operating under my direction.”

“Will you tell me where they are now that I have found you again and vowed to protect you?”

“No.  I love you, Uncle Makk, but I don’t trust you any more than Daddy did.”

“What?  Why?”

“It is too important that we keep them optimally operating.  We cannot allow them to be interfered with in any way.  The only way I won’t keep them going is if I decide our world is not worth saving.”

“Not worth saving?  What are you talking about?”

“Galtorrians are alpha predators on this planet.  They can’t be at peace because they are dedicated to killing, maiming, and destroying.  They are vicious and without morals because it is in their genetic make-up to be that way.  Creatures like us deserve to die and make way for a better, more thoughtful race of beings.”

“That’s what the Galtorrian/Human fusions are for?”

“Of course.  I will save this world… but I intend to save it for them.”

Makkhain’s lizard eyes were glowering at Sizzahl with undisguised menace and loathing.  Was this the uncle she loved?  The only relative who had ever treated her like a worthy being, and not just some brain-blossoming freak?  Or had his adventures during the war changed him somehow?

“Well, I don’t expect you to save the world for me.  I am nearly at the end of my road no matter what.”

“What do you mean?”

“When Senator Tedhkruhz finds us… and he soon will with the tracking mechanisms implanted in my body… he will slay me once and for all, and use all the information he can torture out of you to squash your father’s legacy.  Our destruction is, after all, guaranteed.”

*****

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Stardusters… Canto Fifty-Six

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Canto Fifty-Six – The Prison Pit Again

“Guard!  Guard!” called out Starbright.  “I am very ill and I think the other two prisoners have died.  Please help me!”

“What?” the slow-witted lizard man awakened at the urgent call.  “Don’t get sick, please.  You will taint the meat!”

“Ooh!  I feel like regurgitating everything I ever ate!  Did you poison us?  Or did the Senator do this to try to cut down on the number of mouths to feed?”

“Why would he do that?  Spoiled meat isn’t good to eat.”

“Maybe he wanted you to eat us and die from the poison.  How far do you really trust him?”

“Um, maybe you’re right.  But what can I do?”

“You can get me away from the diseased bodies so I don’t get sick.  Then you could safely eat me.”

“Yes.  Eating you sounds good.”

The stupid lizard-man stupidly opened the stupid pit.  He looked in, and immediately was seized by a lizard-man hand, a small one.

“Yaargh!”  The guard fell with a thud to the floor of the pit.  “You have tricked me!”

“Yesss, young lizard… you know who I am, and you know I can kill you now and escape.”  Farbick wasn’t sure what Stabharh had in mind as he told the guard this.  If he intended to kill the guard, why was he telling him anything?

“Yes, Stabharh… I… I know who you are.  You were once the most feared general in all the corporate armies.”

“That’s right.  And I should probably just kill you.  But I wanted to offer you a chance at survival… not just saving you from me right now, but saving you when Senator Tedhkruhz wants to kill you later.”

“That is very generous of you.”

“Of course it is.  This prisoner, Farbick, has taught me that warriors can help each other and do what is best for the group rather than the individual.  Did you see me betray Bahbahr, my lord and master?”

“Yes.  I thought surely the Senator would execute you for that.”

“He didn’t because he knows he has to be careful that his crew doesn’t realize that serving him is not in their own best interest.  You know that he will kill and eat you when the time comes that he must do that to survive.”

“Yes.  Of course.”

“And it was exactly the same with me and Bahbahr.  Your Senator must make me die a horrible death so none of you lot will think of betraying him as I betrayed Bahbahr, even though it might save your lives to do so.”

“So, let me understand this… you are not going to kill me and escape?”

“That’s right.”

“You are going to let me live so I can talk to the rest of the crew?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.  Help me out of the hole.”

Stabharh took hold of the guard’s foot and hoisted him out of the pit.

“Thank you,” said the guard.  And then he slammed the pit door shut again with a resounding clang.

“Maybe…” said Farbick carefully, “just maybe… we should’ve climbed out of the hole before we tried to reason with him?”

“I have not yet quite mastered your tricky Telleron ways,” answered Stabharh.

“Yes,” said Starbright with a sigh in the pitch darkness.  “You still have some lessons to learn.”

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 55

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Canto Fifty-Five – In the Arboretum of the Bio Dome

Brekka awoke and discovered that someone had dressed her in a synthesized Telleron jump suit, the kind that Mrs. Castille always recommended for their propriety and modesty.  Brekka was not amused.

“Lester?” Brekka thought at the man-eating plant who was still cradling her, “why didn’t you eat whoever put these clothes on me?”

“This one couldn’t.  They were two young Tellerons.  They would poison me to eat them.  Besides, they are friends of yours, dear Brekka.”  The plant was only thinking at her, but she heard the voice clearly in her head.

“Davalon and Tanith?” Brekka asked.  She was seething to think the two goody-goodies had done this to please Harmony Castille, Queen of Boob-binding and Skin-smothering Tyrants.  But, of course, she realized that old lady Castille didn’t really understand about young Telleron girls and their needs.  She didn’t even understand that Telleron girls didn’t have boobs because Tellerons had no need for mammary glands.  They were amphibianoids.

“It was not the two friends you suggest.  It was the ones known to us as George Jetson and Menolly.”

“Why, those two evil pranksters!  I will get even with them for this!”

“To be fair, they were acting on the orders of the mother-plant church-lady thing… the one with the stare that could wither this one’s petals if this one gave her any trouble.”

“Well that explains that.  Why didn’t you eat her?  She’s one of those human creatures you tell me taste good.”

“This one would not dare to stir up the wrath of one with so much power in her living aura.  This one was terrified in her presence.”

“Well,” sighed Brekka, “at least that explains why Commander Biznap is so fond of her.”

“Beloved, Brekka… there is something else this one wishes to inform you of.”

“What’s that, Lester?”

“There’s something terribly wrong about Sizzahl’s uncle, Senator Makkhain.”

“Wrong?  What do you mean?”

“Well, in the final battle with the evil General Gohmurt… Sizzahl’s father was not the only Galtorrian this one ate and absorbed…”

“Go on.”

“This one also consumed General Gohmurt.  This one felt it was only fair, because this one didn’t really know at the time which one was evil and which one was good.  This one only knew this one couldn’t grow idly by and do nothing…”

“So what’s your point?”

“This one also absorbed all the memories and personality traits of (shudder) the evil Gohmurt.”

“Okay, tell me more.”

“This one was surprised to learn that someone who is self-serving and powerful could also be so brutally stupid and witless.  He contained secret information about Senator Tedhkruhz’s battle plan.  He knew, for instance, that Senator Makkhain while battling Senator Tedhkruhz and Evil Overlord Rekhpahree was…”

“Was what?”

“Killed in battle.  But also part of a secret counter-insurgency plan… involving an evil clone and cyborg programming protocols.”

“Oh, no!  I have to warn Sizzahl!”

“But, cherished Brekka, this one also knows from Sizzahl’s father that she will never believe the truth about her fake uncle unless someone makes him reveal himself.  Makkhain is the only other Galtorrian besides her father that Sizzahl has ever dared to love.”

“Ooh!  Dang you, Lester!  That problem is too hard to solve with Mickey Mouse Club music and dancing.  What am I supposed to do?”

“This one promises to help you in any way that this one can,” promised the diabolical man-eating plant.  “This one believes that the only proper solution is that you should eat evil clone Makkhain yourself, most honored and well-loved Brekka.”

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 54 (A Day Late)

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Canto Fifty-Four – Aboard the Bonehead

Farbick spent a great deal of effort in the inky darkness talking to Stabharh.  The lizard-man was now the closest thing he had to an actual ally.  Starbright didn’t count as an ally as she had become more of a lover and indispensible resource.  Stabharh told him all about Senator Tedhkruhz’s war on the Galtorrian people and how single-minded ambition had gradually chewed up and destroyed the biosphere of an entire planet.  The Senator had been absolutely remorseless and blood-thirsty, at first because it was highly profitable to the Senator’s backers, and then because it allowed him to eat up his betters and defeat the more powerful, but less ruthless leaders that stood in the way of Tedhkruhz’s rise to planetary domination.

“How do you suppose we can preserve ourselves?” Farbick asked.  “You seem to have a real knack for survival in all these war stories you have told me.”

“Well, I didn’t exaggerate… too much.  Bahbahr and I did survive, didn’t we?”

“Bahbahr is dead now,” Starbright reminded them unhelpfully.

“Yes,” said Stabharh flatly, “I never figured on out-living that fat greedy slug.  I have no plan for what to do now… though I would really rather not die if I can put it off at all.”

“I think one of the secrets to survival,” offered Farbick, “is relying on others.  Bahbahr obviously owed his survival more to you and your efforts than he did to his own superiority.”

“Yes,” added Starbright, somewhat more helpfully this time around, “and Biznap and I would both be dead already if it hadn’t been for you, Farbick.”  She gave him a loving squeeze around the middle for emphasis.  He hugged her back in the oppressive blackness.

“So, maybe,” said Stabharh, “we need to stand together and help each other instead of treating each other as enemies.”

“Yes.  I like that notion very much.”  Farbick knew that Stabharh could not see him smiling because of the pitch darkness, but for his present purposes he thought that was a very good thing.  He was not planning on turning on Stabharh, but he thought the key here was in working out ways to get others to turn on their own masters… and he was well aware that Stabharh was very unfeeling toward his former employer as he betrayed him and caused that employer’s sad fate.

“We have to convince the members of the Senator’s surviving crew to turn on him for their own good,” said Stabharh.  “They have to see that following that evil lizard-man is choosing their own eventual suffering and death.”

“Why are lizard men so determined to keep doing bad things until they die?” asked Starbright innocently, but again rather unhelpfully.

“We are mostly raised to believe that it is weakness to offer help to others.  If someone is weak, they should die… or be killed and eaten.”

“Do you still believe that?” asked Farbick carefully.

“Well, yes… but I now see that you have made the opposite choice a number of times already, Farbick… and have been quite successful because of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You could’ve killed Bahbahr and me a number of times instead of doing what you did.  You gave us a chance to live on and make better choices.  Instead of killing me when I was trapped in the force field, you kept me alive until the Senator landed and took us all as his prisoners.”

“At that point, keeping you alive long enough to offer to Senator Tedhkruhz kept him from killing us and eating us immediately.  We helped each other in the long run.”

“I think it will help us even further,” said Stabharh.  “I think I have a plan in my evil little brain that may just get us out of this terrible dark hole.  Wait a minute… thinking this hard hurts sometimes… but… YES!  I know just what to do!”

Farbick bit his lip in the darkness.  This was either going to be a good thing that helped the three of them, or a very bad thing that at least put an end to their troubles.”

                                                            *****

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Stardusters… Canto 53

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Canto Fifty-Three – The Morrells’ Assigned Sleeping Nest

Alden was bone weary as he and Gracie finally found the nest that Sizzahl had assigned to the two of them.  It was a weird little alcove made of artificial stone, with what appeared at first glance to be a huge pile of sticks and leaves in the middle of the central depression of the floor.   The bedding materials were also artificial, however, made from some sort of foamy material and quite comfortable to recline on.

“Oh, Gracie,” said Alden, “I am so relieved to be able to wear clothes again.  I really couldn’t stand being naked around the children all the time.”

“I actually liked being naked, Alden.  It made me feel nice and so very free.”

“It’s like being totally vulnerable, like someone or something could take a bite out of you at any moment.”

Gracie looked suddenly concerned.  “Do you think our poor Brekka is safe with that awful man-eating plant thing?”

“Yes, I do.  It actually seems to take care of her.  I worry more about Sizzahl being safe with this uncle of hers.  Makkhain doesn’t seem very trustworthy to me.”

“You are such an old poop sometimes.”  Gracie looked a little put out.  “He’s her uncle.  He’s family.  Surely we can trust Sizzahl in his care.”

“But what about the rest of us?  Are we safe from Makkhain?  To him, we are the invading aliens.  And it’s no secret that the Galtorrian lizard-people will gladly eat human and Telleron flesh.”

“Well… yeah.   I don’t completely trust him either.  His weird, snaky eyes are creepy.  He’s not quite as human-like as dear little Sizzahl.”

“Gracie, I kinda like Sizzahl too, but you have to remember that she has no regrets about using us for her own purposes.  As soon as she learned we were Earth humans, she wanted to use us for her little Galtorrian/Human crock-pot experiment.  She’s cooking up ten children already, made from our… I mean, my DNA.”

“But when you stop and think about it, Alden, those ten little test-tube babies are your sons and daughters… your actual flesh and blood.  Doesn’t it excite you, at least a little bit, that you are finally going to be someone’s Daddy?”

The thought actually hadn’t hit Alden quite as hard as it did at that moment.  He almost swooned as he lay down on the soft nest-bedding.  “They are half mine and half Sizzahl’s,” He said.  “And they are going to be born from glass jars!”

“Cloning vats for warm-blooded children,” said Gracie.  “And since they are your children, doesn’t that make them mine too?”

Alden knew that back on Earth, not being able to have children had practically killed Gracie.  It was the reason she had been so anxious to adopt Davalon when they found him on that country highway, alone and left behind by his space ship and his people.

“Gracie, how do we do this?  We are living on an alien world now, possibly permanently.  We are two grown-up people from Earth trapped in the bodies of children.  You can never grow up.  And if I grow up without you, I…  Well, I simply can’t do that.   So how do we raise ten children all the same age?  And not just any children, half-lizard children!”

“They’re your children, Alden.  And I will love them as my own until the day I die.”

“The day you die may never come.  And I may have to keep making myself younger every year by Telleron technology to stay even with you.  I may be alive forever too.”

Gracie smiled as she crawled on top of Alden in the middle of the Galtorrian nest.  “Love me tonight.  You haven’t loved me since we became like this.”

“Gracie, you have the body of a little girl.”

“But I am an adult, no matter how young my flesh is.  And I love you.  We have a family now.  Don’t you feel young and alive again too?  Like I do?  Love me.”

There was no arguing with Gracie.   How could he do anything but love her?

*****

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Stardusters… Canto 52

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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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