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Sfstory Log 085

Date:         Mon, 26 Aug 1996 20:49:22 -0400
From:         David Menendez (dmm264 at PSU.EDU)
Subject:      SF: Starcruiser Anonymous #4

Tels Garav stepped back and observed his handiwork.  Before him, on the wall
of the Aroruan Civic Building, stood the message "Zakavs Go Home", written
very nicely in red spray-paint.  Now, having done what they demanded, the
Aroruan People's League would let him rejoin their merry band of
revolutionaries.  Smiling, he turned around -- and saw a Blargoloid of the
Aroruan Occupation Legion standing right behind him.
    "What's this?  'Zakavs Go Home'?" the legionnaire asked.  "What, are you
_stupid_?  First off, it should be 'Zakavians'."
    Garav gulped.  "Sorry, sir!  I'll just change that right now," he said,
fumbling for his spray-can.
    "Not so fast, young man, there's another problem here."
    Garav winced, he knew what was coming.
    "I'm wondering where you think this 'home' for the Zakavians is?  Do you
think there's some planet Zakav somewhere that we all come from?"
    Garav blinked.  "Not really, it's just sort of a standard phrase."
    "Well it hardly applies in this situation, does it!" the legionnaire
shouted.  "I suggest you find some _other_ phrase to express your
dissatisfaction with the current political state of your planet!"
    "Sure!" Garav blurted.  "How about ... um ... 'Free Arorua'?"
    "That's fine.  There's some space over there you could use."
    "Thank you, sir."


                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS

                            (A Tale of Sfstory)

                                 Episode 4
                          Wherein Governor Jjana
                      Kills Two Birds with One Stone
                             Orliss's Vacation
                         Starts to Get Interesting
                               Dave Menendez


Governor Malta Jjana had been enjoying his stay on Arorua.  He had never
been that good at politics, and there pretty much weren't any here.  That
was before Captain-General Tvanir started trying to work her way into his
love life in an attempt to gain more power, of course.  It was also before
the Aroruans, despite Chancellor Elahte's predictions to the contrary,
started a second rebellion.  Granted, it numbered less than ten people at
the moment, but it was by no means a good sign.
    Already, Tvanir had sent him a request for more soldiers that she had
prepared earlier "just in case."  While even Jjana thought that was a bit
suspicious, he didn't really think Tvanir would incite a rebellion just so
she could increase the Legion.  He didn't think she was _that_ stupid.
    Sighing, he stood and walked to the window and looked out over Arorua's
capital city.  He was familiar enough with the view to pick out the
differences immediately:  the increased patrols, the revolutionary slogans
on the Civic Building, the rubble where AOL shock troops had accidentally
destroyed buildings searching for the rebels, and so forth.
    The intercom buzzed and his secretary informed him that Elahte had news
for him.  "Send him in," Jjana said, sitting down at his desk.  Elahte
walked in.  "What is it?"
    "I have some news about the rebels, Your Excellency," Elahte said.
    "Oh?  What is it?"
    "I am lead to understand that it's possible that Princess Elim may be in
some way connected to this whole, sad business."
    "How possible?"
    Elahte handed him a folder.  "I've been given these surveillance
    "Thank you."
    "Your welcome, Excellency.  And if I may, I'd like to apologise, on
behalf of my people, for this most unfortunate state--"
    "You may leave, Chancellor."
    Elahte nodded, and left.  Jjana looked through the pictures and decided
that Elahte was, as usual, pretending uncertainty to avoid getting blamed
should the data prove to be false.  He decided to pay the Princess a visit.

By the time he reached Princess Elim's quarters, he had realised that simply
walking up to Elim and telling her that she was a rebel was probably unwise.
Especially if she was armed.  Robbed by logic of his course of action, he
nonetheless proceeded to knock on the door, in the hopes that he'd come up
with something.
    "Come in," Elim called.
    Jjana opened the door and walked in, glancing around the anteroom and
noting the lack of anything immediately dangerous.  "Princess Elim," he
    "Governor Jjana," she replied.  "What brings you here?"
    "Oh, you know.  Um ... stuff."  This was not going very well.
    Jjana looked at her, managing not to panic visibly.  Suddenly,
inspiration struck.  Hard.  "Ow," he muttered.
    "Nothing.  Tell me, have you noticed that Captain-General Tvanir has
been acting rather ... oddly of late?"
    "You mean the way she keeps trying to catch your eye?"
    "Yes.  A rather transparent attempt to gain influence, really."
    "I suppose so.  What does this have to do with me?"
    "Well, I need to turn her down, but I'd rather not have to reject her
outright, as it would no doubt embarrass her immensely. Instead, if I were
to become involved with someone else, she would have to back off without
admitting that she was doing anything wrong."
    Elim looked at him.  Jjana hoped she was able to pick out his meaning.
Finally, she spoke:  "You're suggesting _we_ start dating?"
    "Not necessarily.  We just have to pretend to."  This was it.
Hopefully, she would reason that, by being close to him, she could glean
information to report to the rebellion without realising that he would have
an excuse to keep a close eye on her.
    Elim considered.  "All right," she said, "I'll do it."
    Jjana smiled.  Now he had access to the chief rebel _and_ a way to keep
Tvanir off his back, with neither suspecting a thing.  Nothing could spoil
his day now.
    "Hello, Governor," came a voice from behind him.
    Jjana turned and saw Elim's brother Boltar behind him.  "Ah, hello."
    "Say, are you up for a game of ping-pong?"
    "Well, I--"
    "Go on," Elim urged, "It'll be fun."
    Jjana sighed.  Someday, he swore, he'd remember not to tempt fate.

                                 *   *   *

The Finstar F6000-series was designed to be an inexpensive, single-family
starship destined to introduce a new income bracket to space travel and make
a lot of money for its developers.  What those developers neglected to
realise was that the target market for the F6000 was quite happy using
liners and freighters to travel, when they bothered to do so.  The only
people who really _wanted_ personal starships were rich enough to afford the
high-end models.  It looked like the F6000 was destined for failure when an
executive thought about all the smaller planets (in a political and economic
sense, of course;  most planets are around the same size).  Their rich were
right in the target market for the F6000.  This is how the Rifba family
ended up the proud owner of a small, unremarkable starship that, despite its
great cost (in Foobarhian terms), contained no trappings of luxury
    Orliss SoFah, student of Interstellar University and captain of the
Rifba family's Finstar (because the others didn't want to argue about it),
looked about the cramped cockpit, where his cousin Horlun was watching the
computer precalculate their course through overly-hyped space.  Actually,
since the computer worked at a speed far faster than the human brain --
faster than the display's refresh rate, in fact -- the data onscreen was
unreadable, not that anyone seemed to mind.  Orliss quickly scanned the area
outside the ship.  Nothing.
    Behind him, Anme Rifba entered and sat at an empty seat.  She was not
too pleased that Horlun had convinced her to borrow the ship from her
father, who, to hear her talk, had gained his wealth and power solely by
oppressing the working classes.  "Are we ready to go?" she asked.
    "Pretty much," Horlun answered.  "I'm sure we'll have a fun time at--"
    He was cut off by an unimpressive burst of light that briefly flooded
the cockpit.  When it faded, they saw a rather large (in comparison to the
Finstar, that is) vessel before them.
    Orliss was the first to speak.  "An unidentified vessel," he said.  "You
know what this means?"
    "It means we leave now?" asked Horlun.
    "No," replied Orliss.  "Only a villain would travel in an unidentified
vessel such as this.  It is my -- our! -- duty to stop whatever nefarious
schemes this vessel's crew may have."
    "It is _not_ our duty," Anme protested.  "Furthermore, we are a small,
recreational starship, while they look to be armed."
    "I guess we could hail them," Horlun suggested.
    "Right," Orliss said.  Horlun worked at the console for a few seconds,
then gestured at Orliss.  "Unidentified Starship:  please identify yourself
and your mission."
    There was a brief pause.
    ((Hello,)) came the response, ((This is the _Futility_.  We're, um,
looking for some people.))
    "The _Futility_?" Horlun asked.  "Isn't that kind of a depressing name
for a starship?"
    ((Well, probably.))
    "So who are you looking for?" Orliss asked.  "Perhaps, as space heros,
we can help."
    "We are _not_ space heros," Anme added.
    "Shut up," Orliss noted.
    ((Well, I'm not sure if we can describe the ship all that well--))
    ((I've got a picture,)) said a different voice.
    ((You took a picture?)) asked the first voice.
    ((We all did.  Remember the combat recorders?))
    ((Oh.  Them.))
    "Well," Orliss suggested, "let's link up so we can discuss without all
that electronic filtering."
    "Do they breathe our atmosphere?" Anme asked.
    Orliss sighed.  "Do you think they'd speak our language if they evolved
in a different atmosphere?"
    "Well, no, but...."

"This is the ship that took them," George Daniels said, pointing at the
picture onscreen.
    "Hmm," Orliss said, looking up from his attempt to remember the names of
everyone in this "Green Squadron".  He looked closer.  "I can just make out
the identification.... It's the Imperial Zakavian Starship _Absurd Physical
Harm_, assigned to the Zakav Eighth Fleet."
    "Ah," Rick Hydrospok, leader of the squadron, said.  "Who are they?"
    "Some new group of interstellar conquerors."
    They sat in silence for a few moments.  "I have an idea," Orliss said at
    "Heavens preserve us," Horlun muttered.
    "What?" asked Orliss.
    "_Anyway_, I've heard that the Eighth Fleet is in the Crelm system, no
doubt spreading terror and destruction.  Why don't you," he said, indicating
the Green Squadron, "go there.  We'll go straight to Planet Gloom, their
capital, in case they went there instead."
    "What makes you think they went there?" asked Roy Gaelen.
    "Nothing, really.  But it sounds like an interesting place to visit."
    "Sounds gloomy to me."
    After another brief pause, Hydrospok stood.  "Okay, shall we get
    "In a moment," Orliss said.  "I think we'll want to take two of your
people with us."
    "I'll go," Gaelen offered.
    "Hmm, we need four people to run this thing," commented Hydrospok.
"Could you take just one?"
    "I could go," a new voice suggested.
    "Really?  That's ... waaait a minute."
    The young human smiled weakly as she became the center of attention.
    "It's Megan Kadar," Gaelen said, "Who, no doubt, has come along to help
look for her sister, Jen, for whose squadron we are currently searching."
    "That was pretty stilted," commented Daniels.
        "But accurate," added Megan.
    "You _stowed_away_?" demanded Hydrospok.  "What were you thinking?
Didn't you ever read 'The Cold Equations'?"
    "Yeah," Megan said.  "I never understood why they didn't just scan the
ship for stowaways _before_ they launched."
    "Well, because ... um.  That's a good question."
    "In any case," Orliss said, eagar to get started, "this has worked out
for the best.  If you two will come with us, we can get started for Planet
     "You know," Anme said, "I don't recall ever wanting to visit Planet
    "Relax," Orliss grinned, "it's an adventure."

In the Finstar, Orliss, Horlun, Anme, Roy, and Megan sat in the cockpit and
watched the _Futility_ vanish into overly-hyped space.
    "All right," Horlun said from the pilot's seat.  "Next stop:  Planet
    Anme grumbled.  "I'm liking this vacation less and less," she said to no
one in particular.
    "Tell me, Orliss," Roy said, "do you think we'll find them at Planet
    Orliss considered that.  "Well, probably not," he admitted.  "But as a
space hero, I've got to check out the headquarters of my enemy, right?"
    "You are _not_ a hero," Anme said, flatly.  "You're still a student.  A
student _minoring_ in heroism at that."
    "Minoring in heroism, huh?" asked Megan, looking interested.  "Sounds
like an interesting school.  What's your major?"
    Orliss grinned.  "Comparative Literature."


SFSTORY:  Now With More Chocolate Taste.

(Next Issue:  Violence!)
Copyright 1996 David Menendez

Author's Note:  While writing SA #5 (and editing this one), I noticed that
many of my scenes tend to have a bunch of exposition followed by a lot of
dialogue with little or no exposition.  As it happens, I have a theory to
explain that (prior to this, most of my writing took the form of scripts
which usually set up the scene first and then have the characters talk for
a while;  I suspect I'm doing that here out of habit), but it got me
thinking about things that I might not be seeing because I'm so close to
the work.

As a result, I'm asking you, the reader, for comments.  I'm not asking for
an in-depth analysis (although, if you want to send one, it's fine by me).
Basically, I'd just like to know what parts of the writing/plotting/
characterization/etc. you think stand out or should be changed.
Suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

Thanks for your time.
-- Dave Menendez
Date:         Mon, 2 Sep 1996 16:58:12 -0400
From:         David Menendez (dmm264 at PSU.EDU)
Subject:      SF: Starcruiser Anonymous #5

News travels fast on Arorua.  This isn't because of any high-tech
information infrastructure.  This is because news worth repeating is very
rare on Arorua, so when some comes along it doesn't have a lot of
competition from other news items.
    This applies to other bits of information that aren't really news, such
as celebrity gossip.  Of course, the closest Arorua comes to celebrity is
the royal family, which tends to stay out of the public eye because of the
respect given both to their position and to their media enforcers.  Despite
that, it wasn't long before the word got out about the romance between
Princess Elim and Governor Jjana.

Captain-General Tvanir heard the news fairly early, and was stunned and
disappointed.  Her own plans been wrecked;  Jjana would never accept her
advances if he was already seeing someone else.  Worse, her immediate
superior was dating someone that, according to intelligence, was highly
placed in the rebellion.  What was he thinking?  Didn't he see what a risky
position he was putting himself in?  She smiled.  Didn't he see what an
advantage that gave her?

The Aroruan People's League was also stunned and disappointed.  Their own
leader, dating their arch-enemy.  Quickly, they moved their headquarters and
changed all their codes.  (It's easy to be quick when your forces can be
counted on two hands.)  As an afterthought, they sent Tels Garav to write a
nasty message about Elim on the Aroruan Civic Building.


                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS

                            (A Tale of Sfstory)

                                 Episode 5
                       Wherein Captain Mselt Arrives
                              at Planet Gloom
                          Lots of Guards Get Shot
                               Dave Menendez


WIth a flash of light the Imperial Zakavian Starship _Absurd Physical Harm_
dropped out of overly-hyped space and reentered realspace (although some
have commented that the later is pretty overly hyped as well).  At its helm
sat ... well ... the helmsperson, but behind her sat Captain Mselt, who was
eager to continue down to the surface of their destination:  Planet Gloom.
Captain Mselt's eagerness, it must be noted, put him firmly in the minority,
as everyone else on board was actively trying to avoid getting stuck with
shore leave.  Even the members of the Blue Squadron, who were currently
prisoners of the Empire and had never even _heard_ of Planet Gloom before,
weren't that happy about their destination, although that was probably
because of their status as prisoners more than anything else.
    "We have arrived at Planet Gloom, Captain," the helmsperson stated
    "Indeed," Mselt replied.  "Have the prisoners sent down and inform the
Emperor I have ... disturbing news for him."

They ended up taking one transport ship down to the surface.  Mselt hadn't
been too pleased about sharing a transport with his prisoners (and, to be
honest, they hadn't been all that pleased either), but, by astonishing
chance, all of the normal transport pilots had come down with some vague
illness upon arrival in the system.  Despite that, the transport went
    The landing pad they had been assigned was high in the Fortress of
Gloom, and would have provided a stunning view of the landscape, except that
the landscape in question was that of Planet Gloom.  'Stunning' is not a
word usually used to describe Planet Gloom's landscape, except when used in
a phrase like 'stunningly desolate'.  Nonetheless, when standing on the
landing pad, a person could see for quite a distance -- although it's
debatable why he or she would want to.
    Roger Vasta, leader of the Blue Squadron and currently a prisoner of the
Zakav Empire, glanced once at the view, shuddered, and turned to the three
figures before them.  Two were obviously guards, the third looked to be a
high-ranking official of some sort.  He glanced at Vtami, their guard.
    ((Prince Lotekh,)) Vtami said, quietly (which is tricky to do when your
armor amplifies your voice, but Vtami was a professional).
    Lotekh stepped forward, wearing a grin that said "I can have you killed
if you don't grovel before me."  "Captain Mselt," he greeted.  "Welcome to
Planet Gloom."
    "Your Highness," returned Mselt, "to what do I owe this honor?"
    "Not much, really," Lotekh replied.  "I just thought I'd stop by.  We
don't get that many visitors these days.  I'm afraid you may have to wait a
while for your audience, though.  My father is currently meeting with a
representative from the Sonar Men."
    "The Sonar Men?" asked Mselt.  "What kind of a name is that?"
    Lotekh shrugged in response, and then turned to Vtami.  "You," he
ordered, "will be working with Guard-Lieutenant De'alh to contain these
    ((Um, Your Highness,)) Vtami said, sounding nervous, ((I actually need
to return to the Eighth Fleet so I can finish transferring to the fighter
    Mselt shook his head.  "That wouldn't be wise, not if Rtali turns out to
be a trai--" he suddenly cut himself off.
    Lotekh stared at Mselt, his eyes lighting up.  "Traitor?" he asked.
"Rtali a traitor?  This is news for my father.  De'alh, take the prisoners
to the detention block."  He rushed off.
    "Hey!" Mselt yelled.  "It's _my_ piece of news!"  He ran after Lotekh.
    After Mselt and Lotekh had vanished into the fortress, De'alh motioned
to Vtami and they began walking, De'alh's companion walking in front, Vtami
in back, and De'alh himself by Thomas Dent.

Inside, the fortress was a festival of uninspired architecture:  walls
seemingly made out of white molded plastic, the occasional panel full of
blinking lights that didn't actually seem to signify anything, shadowy [But
not Shadowy(tm) -- Ed.] cross-corridors, and so forth.
    Thomas Dent, glanced over at Guard-Lieutenant De'alh and then looked at
his weapon.  "Say," he said, trying to strike up a conversation to pass the
time, "that's a nice gun you've got there."
    (('That's a nice gun you've got there',)) De'alh replied.
    ((Actually, it's a Kilemov Industries MultiMode S13.))
    "MultiMode, huh?  That mean there are different settings?"
    ((Yeah, it's a combination deathkill/sleep-o-stun rifle.))
    "Neat.  Laser targeting?"
    ((That too.  Actually, you can adjust the targeting laser to do damage
as well.  You just flip this lever here, and adjust this slider here.))
    "Cool.  What's this one do?"
    ((That sets the strength of the beam.))
    "I see.  And this is how you set it to deathkill?"
    ((That's it.  Now, be careful where you aim it, because....)) De'alh
trailed off and looked at his gun, which Dent was pointing at him.  The
group stopped walking.  Dent smiled.  De'alh managed, despite his full
combat armor, to look embarrassed.
    The other guard raised his weapon -- only to see that Vtami was aiming
at _him_.  ((Huh?)) he asked, confused.
    "Like he said," agreed Alex McCurry.  The others nodded agreement.
    ((Well,)) Vtami explained, ((Captain-General Rtali's pretty much been
declared an Enemy of the Empire, and, all things considered, I'd rather
serve him than Mselt _or_ the Emperor.))
    ((That's treachery!)) gasped De'alh.
    "Real quick on the uptake, there," Jen Kadar said.
    "Very well," Vasta said.  "We'll just disarm these two, and be on our
way.  Kadar, McCurry:  take their weapons."
    "Right," they said.
    That taken care of, the Blue Squadron, plus Vtami, prepared to move out,
having only forgotten one thing.
    "Wait a minute," Dixon said.  "Where are we going?"
    "Ooh!  Right," replied Vasta.  He turned to the guards, "Say, where can
we get a ship of some sort?"
    (('Where can we get a ship of some sort?')) they repeated.
    Vasta smacked his forehead.  Dent decided to take charge.  "Answer the
question," he growled, pointing his S13 at the two guards.
    ((What?)) asked De'alh.
    "Answer the question," Dent repeated.
    ((I can't hear you.  Speak up, lad.))
    Dent sighed.  "Answer the question," he repeated, this time in a normal
    ((Um ... actually, I've forgotten what--))
    "WHERE CAN WE GET A SHIP?" Dent shouted.
    ((Oh!  Um, there's a hangar just down that shadowy hallway over there,))
De'alh said, pointing.  ((I think it's the second left.))
    ((Third left,)) corrected the other guard.
    ((Yes, that's right.  Third left.))
    "Thank you," Dent said, smiling.  He fired.  De'alh and his companion
responded in the time honored tradition of those who have been shot:  they
fell over and didn't move.
    ((Uh, Dent,)) Vtami said, ((That _wasn't_ sleep-o-stun.))
    "I am aware of that."

"Father!" Lotekh said, bursting into the throne room.  "I have important
    "It's _my_ news," corrected Mselt, as he also ran in.
    "News?" asked the Emperor, speaking through a mouthful of
caramel-covered popcorn.
    "Um..." Mselt said, words failing him.  Before him sat Emperor Vakaz,
whose unattractive green-blue color, a product of his mixed heritage, didn't
so much clash with his Imperial Robes as wage all-out war.  This was a man
who commanded vast armies of destruction.  This was a man who inspired fear
in entire planets.  This was a man who had had his nanny killed when she
suggested that he not talk with his mouth full.  Mselt tried hard not to
stare, reminding himself that his life, his very career was on the line
here.  Any false move could mean disaster.  Like bursting in unannounced and
interrupting the Crown Prince.  Idly, he wondered if his will was up to
    He also noticed some guy dressed in off-white body armor, standing near
the Emperor.  No doubt one of the Sonar Men.
    "News?" repeated the Emperor.
    "Father, I have discovered--" began Lotekh.
    "_I_ have discovered," interrupted Mselt, "that Captain-General Rtali
    "Stop," Vakaz commanded, managing to convey a tone of authority through
the food in his mouth.  He turned to the armored figure, "Lord Ganush, if
you would excuse us?"
    "Of course."  Ganush turned and strode out of the room.  An aide closed
the doors.
    "Come closer, both of you," the Emperor commanded.
    Lotekh and Mselt moved closer.
    "Now then," the Emperor continued, pausing to stuff another handful of
popcorn into his mouth, "Whatsh thish about Rtali?"
    "Well, Your Majesty," Mselt began, "It all started when--"
    "Your Majesty!" the Security Chief yelled, running into the throne room.
    "What _now_?" Vakaz sighed.
    "The prisoners have escaped!" the Chief continued.  "We found two
disarmed corpses.  We think they've taken a hostage."
    "Needlewarp!" Lotekh swore, running towards a side door.  "We've got to
catch them!"  He ran out of the throne room to intercept the escapees.
    Vakaz, Mselt, and the Chief stared in the direction he went.  After a
few seconds, there was a loud thump, followed by a cry of pain.
    "He gets it from his mother's side," Vakaz said.
    "Of course," Mselt agreed.
    "Should we turn on the alarm?" the Chief asked.
    "And show weakness in front of the Sonar Men!?" Vakaz replied, sounding
shocked.  "I'd sooner put Lotekh in charge of the military."

"You know," Vasta said as they ran, "when De'alh said 'third left', I didn't
realise how _far_ that was."
    "Yeah," McCurry agreed.
    "I don't get it," Dent said from ahead, "where are the guards?"
    "Don't say that," Dixon yelled back, "you'll invoke Murphy!"
    "Dixon," Dent replied, "you put too much faith in--"
    He cut off as the shadowy corridor abruptly turned into a well lit
atrium containing some potted plants, a few tables, a row of vending
machines, and some very surprised guards.
    Vasta:  "Oops."
    McCurry:  "Hello."
    Dixon:  "Told ya so."
    Guards:  ((What's this?))
    Dent:  "Graaarh!"
    This last comment was accompanied by the sound of Dent's blaster firing
deathkill blasts at high speed, which, in fact, it was doing at the time.
    Some of the more intelligent guards who had been unable to get
reassigned to the EDIT project so as to get off the planet ducked under a
table which, they quickly discovered, did not deflect deathkill blasts.  The
barrage of energy blasts continued, puncturing furniture, potted plants,
enemy soldiers, and vending machines with ease.
    "That," Dent said when the smoke had cleared, "makes it all worth it."
    "It all what?" asked McCurry.
    "Shut up, McCurry."
    ((The horror,)) Vtami breathed.
    "What, the violence?" Dixon asked, arching an eyebrow.  "Don't worry,
hanging around Dent long enough will desensitize you.  Then you can rob
others of the precious gift of life all you want and never feel guilty."
    ((Actually, while that _is_ horrible, I was referring to the vending
machines.  Do you know how hard it is to get those repaired?))
    "Um ... very hard?" Dixon suggested.
    ((Yes.  The Guild of Vending Machine Technicians rarely sends people
down to Planet Gloom.))
    "Gee, I wonder why."

Continuing on their way, the Blue Squadron Plus One quickly made their way
to the hangar.
    ((Okay,)) Vtami said as they entered the large room.  ((There's a
fighter for me, and a transport for you.))
    "Sounds good to me," said McCurry.
    "Ah, but you're forgetting one thing," said a new voice from behind
    They stopped and turned to face this new threat.  What they saw was an
unarmed Caphanite with delusions of grandeur.
    "What would that be?" asked Vasta, looking around for a threat.
    "Me, of course," the Lotekh replied.
    "We're not so much forgetting you," Dixon said, "as ignoring you."
    "Ignore _me_?" Lotekh said, blood rushing to his face in anger.  The
resulting color combination was not very attractive.  "I'm a _prince_!" he
shouted, waving an arm about.  "I'll _harm_ you!"
    "But we're all armed, and you're not," Dixon pointed out.
    Lotekh considered that.  "Okay," he said, "I'll let you go.  _This_
time, but when we meet again...." he trailed off, trying to sound ominous.
    "What?" asked McCurry.
    "What do you mean?" Lotekh asked, flustered.
    "What'll happen when we meet again?"
    "Shut _up,_ McCurry," said Dent.
    Whatever reply McCurry had for that was cut off by the sound of a
fighter taking off.  McCurry and Dent turned to see that Vtami was gone.
    "You coming or what?" asked Kadar from the hatch of a transport.
    "Yes," Lotekh added, "go before my benevolence runs out and I'm forced
to take violent action."
    Dent looked back at the Prince, glanced at the remaining charge on the
deathkill power cell, shrugged and walked into the transport.
    The transport launched and sped off into the atmosphere, getting about
100 feet out before it got hit by one of the deathkill cannon that ringed
the Fortress of Gloom and crashed into the city.
    "Hah!" Lotekh shouted with glee.  "Ignore _me_, will you?  Take that!"


SFSTORY:  It's Everywhere You Want It to Be

(Next:  Tvanir makes her move.)
Date:         Mon, 16 Sep 1996 20:01:52 -0400
From:         David Menendez (dmm264 at PSU.EDU)
Subject:      SF: Starcruiser Anonymous #6

Chancellor Desir Elahte looked through the various reports on his desk.  The
rebels, evidently, had been at it again.  Idiots.  Elahte had some knowledge
of Arorua's past.  He knew that Arorua's primary defense in recent years had
been their very lack of defense -- no self respecting conqueror would bother
to conquer them, or, if they chose to, they'd quickly get bored and leave.
A rebellion was just the sort of thing they didn't need at the time.
    His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.  Well, technically
it was a buzzer ... um ... buzzing rather than a knock, but the effect was
the same:  Elahte knew someone wished to enter the room.  "Come in," he
    The door swung open (this had confused the Zakavian invaders, who were
used to automatic sliding doors, and there had been a brief period when a
lot of noses were injured by people unused to the low-tech nature of the
castle) and Captain-General Tvanir, leader of the Aroruan Occupation Legion,
casually walked in.  "Chancellor Elahte," she said in greeting.  She was
smiling again, which, to Elahte, always looked odd on Blargoloids as their
greenish cast made them look perpetually queasy.
    "What can I do for you?" he asked.  This failed to have its usual
effect:  she did not smirk in disgust at his subservience.  Instead, she sat
    "I need to send a message to Central Command," she replied.  Elahte
wondered what she was so happy about.  After all, Governor Jjana had
rejected her advances in favor of Princess Elim -- much to everyone's
surprise.  He had expected her to be furious.  Or at least confused.
    "Very well.  I will go and activate the sending equipment."  He stood
and walked into the next room, where he had a remote station for the
communications equipment.  She needed him to prepare the system for her as
the Zakavians were unused to the command-line interfaces used by the Aroruan
computer systems and had shown little interest in learning.
    Behind him, he thought he heard Tvanir chuckling softly to herself.
This, he thought, was not a good sign.


                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS

                            (A Tale of Sfstory)

                                 Episode 6
                        Wherein Mselt Gets Promoted
                           Vending Machines Get
                              Mentioned a Lot
                               Dave Menendez


Orliss SoFah, college student minoring in space heroism, around the quarters
shared by him, his cousin Horlun, and their companion Roy Gaelen.  He and
Horlun had retreated there to escape an argument between Roy and Horlun's
girlfriend, Anme Rifba, whose father owned the ship they were in.  Megan
Kadar had joined them, rather than be alone in the room she shared with
    They sat in an uncomfortable silence, occasionally hearing phrases like
"military-industrial complex" through the inadequate sonic shielding.  Anme,
discovering Roy's membership in a pseudomilitary organization, had accused
him of being a "mindless thug of the upper-class parasites" and he evidently
hadn't taken that very well.
    "So Megan," Orliss said in an attempt to start a conversation, "you
stowed away on the _Futility_ so you could help find your missing sister?"
She nodded.  "Pretty brave move, if you ask me."
    "Pretty _stupid_ move, if you ask me," Horlun added.
    Orliss turned to Horlun.  "There's a fine line between stupidity and
bravery," he countered.  "As the great poet Givmor Mon-ii wrote--"
    "Actually," Megan said, cutting him off, "I'm not so sure now if it was
a wise move, but at the time I was really worried about Jen and I was also
really bored on the _Anonymous_.  I mean, you can only orbit Saturn for a
while before it gets really _old_, y'know?"
    "Such devotion to your family is commendable.  I often wish _I_ had a
family I could be devoted to."
    "What about me?" Horlun asked.
    "No family?" Megan asked.
    Orliss sighed, evidently ignoring Horlun.  "Well, my mother died when I
was young and then my father turned to a life of evil, so I grew up with my
    Megan gasped.  "That's terrible," she he said, moving next to him in
    "Don't worry," he said as he put an arm around her shoulders, "we'll
find your sister.  And we will find the people who abducted her, and we will
_make them pay!_"  He stood dramatically, gesturing with his fist.
    "Orliss!" Horlun snapped, "Watch what you're doing!"  He gestured at
Megan, who was being strangled by Orliss's heroic pose.
    "Sorry," he said, letting her go.  "I got carried away."
    "No problem," she replied, rubbing her neck.
    "So, Megan," Horlun asked, "did you tell anyone at the _Anonymous_ where
you were going?"
    The look she gave Horlun suggested he was out of his mind.  "Do you
think they would have let me come if they knew?" she asked.  "I only hope
Tom isn't too worried."  They looked at her blankly.  "He's my brother," she
clarified.  They nodded in comprehension.
    "I'm sure they've figured out what happened by now," Orliss assured her.

                                 *   *   *

Deep within the _Anonymous_, Tom Kadar looked up from the circuit he was
probing and turned to his partner.  "Hey, Beth," he asked.
    "Yes, Tom?"
    "Have you seen Megan around lately?"
    "No, not really."
    "Huh.  Odd, that."

                                 *   *   *

Agent 125, elite field operative for Mysterious and Powerful Guild of
Vending Machine Technicians, glanced around the atrium, one of many in the
Fortress of Gloom.  It was, in his official opinion, a mess.  Tables
overturned and riddled with holes, shattered potted plants, dead guards
lying on the ground, except for the ones that were being carried out by
their non-dead colleagues.  He did not concern himself with them for long.
It was the vending machines that caught his attention, and that of his
repair crew.
    "Well," asked their liaison to the Imperial Government, "how long until
you can fix these?"
    Agent 125 looked at the twisted dispensers of beverages and snack foods,
and turned to his crew.  They numbered four, as all repair crews had since
the long-forgotten youth of the Guild.  One who could construct the machines
and most of their components.  One who could take them apart, occasionally
seeming to reduce them into individual vending machine molecules.  One who
could mix and match components, often from several different technologies,
in order to get a machine working.  One who made sure the repaired machine
worked in perfect order.  Agent 125, their leader, didn't do any actual work
himself.  He was there mostly to provide balance between the other four.
    Judging by the facial expressions on the crew, it would not be easy.
"It won't be easy," he told the liaison.
    "Can it be done?" the Zakavian asked.
    Agent 125 thought.  "We'll need some parts from the truck," he said at

Roger Vasta listened to the blaster fire in the distance.  It didn't seem to
be getting closer, although that didn't answer his primary question.  "If
we're over here," he asked, "what are _they_ shooting at?"
    The remaining members of the Blue Squadron shrugged in response.  They
were still a little shaken from their unexpected landing in the City of
Gloom (which surrounds the Fortress of Gloom and is the capital city of
Planet Gloom;  as noted before, the Caphanites are not known for their
nomenclature).  Only Thomas Dent seemed active, and only repeated orders
from Vasta had kept him from joining the firefight they were hearing.  As it
was, Dent merely kept running his hands over his stolen Kilemov S13
combination sleep-o-stun/deathkill blaster and muttering quietly.  The
others were giving him a wide berth.
    "Perhaps it's target practice?" suggested Alex McCurry.
    "Feh," spat Sam Dixon.  She seemed about to continue when she noticed
the sudden lack of blaster fire in the air.
    They waited, unsure what the silence meant.  Vasta scanned the area and
wished that he had some scanning equipment.
    Jen Kadar spoke up:  "I think maybe we should move on."
    "Why?" asked McCurry.  "There's no evidence they know where we are."
    "Yess," Dent agreed, "they cannot sees us, Precious, so they cannot
hurts us with their nassty gunss."  He directed this comment to his weapon,
which chose not to respond, although Dent didn't seem to notice.
    Off in the distance they heard an armored soldier yell, ((Hey, there's
one!))  The yell was followed by more blaster fire.
    Dent stood, pointing his gun in various directions, looking for targets.
    "Get _down_, Dent," Vasta ordered.  "There's no one here."
    Reluctantly, Dent did so.
    "You think they even know what we look like?" Kadar asked.
    The others shrugged in response.

Agent 125 gathered the last piece of equipment from the "truck", which was
actually a small starship, and prepared to exit when he heard someone
outside shout "There they are!" followed by the sounds of gunfire.  He
rushed outside and got hit in the shoulder by a stray deathkill blast.

Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha, leader of the Zakavian Imperial Military
Aggregate, strode confidently into the throne room deep within the Fortress
of Gloom.  Emperor Vakaz, hearing his approach, looked up from the
conversation he was having with Prince Lotekh and Captain Mselt.
    "Kvasha," he greeted, "I see you have returned."
    "Yes, I have," Kvasha replied, a bit concerned.  Vakaz wasn't one to
state the obvious.  "The EDIT has been completed and is on its way here."
    "Excellent."  Vakaz paused, looking uncertain.  "Have you, by any
chance, brought back those security personnel you temporarily assigned to
the EDIT Project?"
    "Not yet, your Majesty.  Is there a problem?"
    Vakaz sighed.  "We had a problem with some prisoners:  they've escaped."
    Kvasha blinked.  "Prisoners?  Here?  Since when?"
    "Captain Mselt found them," Vakaz said.  He gestured at Mselt, who
grinned sheepishly.  Lotekh just sort of glowered and tried to look
    Kvasha looked at Mselt.  "Well?" he asked.
    "While on a scouting mission, I discovered these 'Terrans'," Mselt said.
 "They have great technology on their side and they're fiendishly clever --
they managed to escape from Prince Lotekh himself!"  Lotekh grimaced.
"Anyway, I didn't dare return to the Eighth Fleet as I believe
Captain-General Rtali is planning to overthrow the Empire.  So I brought
them here but they managed to escape and tried to leave in a transport, but
we shot it down.  We're not sure where they are now;  several units in the
city report being in conflict with them."
    Kvasha regarded Mselt for a few moments.  "This," he declared, "is not
good.  But it's not too bad, either.  There isn't much on Planet Gloom for
them to damage, and we'll be able to monitor all outgoing ships with the
    "What if it's on the opposite side of the planet?" Lotekh interrupted.
    "--in conjunction with the remaining defense fleet," Kvasha continued.
Lotekh grinned weakly.  "I'm more concerned about Rtali.  If word gets out,
the Empire could divide along Blargoloid/Caphanite lines."
    "But _you're_ Blargoloid," Lotekh pointed out.
    "My loyalty is to the Emperor," Kvasha said icily.
    "Of course it is," Vakaz agreed.  "I am glad to hear about the EDIT,
it's nice to hear some _good_ news for a change."
    "Supreme Captain-Commander!" an aide called, bursting into the room.
"There is a priority message for you from Captain-General Tvanir!"

Finally deciding that they were about as safe moving around as if they
stayed in one place, the Blue Squadron wandered through the back streets of
the City of Gloom.
    "What's that up ahead?" Kadar asked, pointing at a public landing pad.
    "It looks like a public landing pad with a damaged ship on it," McCurry
    "What's that you say, Precious?" Dent asked his gun, "you thinks McCurry
should shut up?"
    "Quit talking to your gun, Dent," Vasta ordered.  "It's not healthy."
    "Neither are they," Kadar said, pointing at some figures laying around
the damaged ship.  "C'mon, we better go see what happened."
    "Why?" Dixon asked, but Kadar had already started heading over.  The
others followed.
    There, they found four dead bodies and one almost-dead companion.  The
almost-dead one turned to face them.  "Hello?" he croaked.
    "Er, hello," Vasta greeted.  "We're the, um, Blue Squadron."
    "I am Agent 125 of the Mysterious and Powerful Guild of Vending Machine
Technicians," the man replied.  "You probably shouldn't be wandering the
city right now.  Some crazy soldiers are shooting everyone."
    The Blue Squadron winced, except for Dent, who was looking around
rapidly and pointing his gun at anything that moved or seemed like it might
move, given half a chance.  "As it happens," Vasta said, "they're looking
for us."
    "Ah," Agent 125 said.  "In the ship you will find five spare uniforms.
Using those, you can get into the fortress, and probably get on a ship
heading elsewhere."
    "Why ... thank you," Vasta said.  "But why help us?"
    "You think I want to help the Zakavians?  They just _shot_ me, after
    "Won't they recognize us?" McCurry asked.
    "Given their luck so far, I rather doubt it," Kadar replied.

"Could you repeat that?" the Emperor asked, sounding rather peeved.
    "According to Captain-General Tvanir, Governor Jjana on Arorua is
plotting with anti-Imperial forces," Kvasha replied.
    "Anti-Imperial forces?  On _Arorua_?"
    Kvasha shrugged.  "Evidently they've got some."
    "This has not been a good day," Vakaz groaned.  "First Rtali, now
    "Don't forget the escaped Terrans," Lotekh piped up.
    "Oh yes," Vakaz said, icily, "the Terrans.  We won't forget _them_, will
    "Heh, no, I guess we won't," Lotekh said sheepishly, shifting his weight
from one foot to the other.  Beside him, Mselt began an in-depth study of
his right shoe.
    Vakaz grabbed a handful of pretzels and chewed for a while.  "Captain
Mselt," he said, finally.
    "Yes, Lord!" Mselt replied, snapping into attention.
    "Since you're so good at ferreting out traitors, I'm sending you to
Arorua.  You'll be commanding the Third Fleet -- Kvasha will deal with your
promotion to Captain-General."  Vakaz glanced at his son, and grinned.  "So
they don't suspect anything, you'll be taking Lotekh along for a state
    "Yes, your Majesty," Mselt said.  Lotekh started to say something, but
then decided against it.
    "I'll deal with final preparations, your Majesty," Kvasha said.
    "Excellent," Vakaz replied.  "You're dismissed."
    Kvasha, Mselt, and Lotekh hurried out.  Vakaz watched them go, idly
grabbing the last of his pretzels.
    He sat a few moments, considering recent events.  He hoped Lord Ganush
could come through with the Warrior-Ship A/600 -- the Sonar Men were
supposedly unmatched when it came to high-tech weaponry.  Ganush had had to
leave temporarily, explaining that he was being followed by some Hero named
Commander Buzz or something.  Absently, Vakaz reached for his pretzel bowl
and found it empty.
    "Guard!" he shouted.
    "Yes, your Majesty?" a guard asked, poking his head in the throne room.
    "Get me some more pretzels."
    The guard winced.  "I'm sorry sir, but the vending machines are broken."
    "Needlewarp," he muttered.  "Well, get someone to fix those."
    "Yes, your Majesty," the guard replied, taking that as a dismissal.

Preparing the Third Fleet for Mselt's command wasn't too difficult, as
Mselt's ship, the IZS _Absurd Physical Harm_, was capable of being a
flagship.  More difficult would be getting the various food-dispensers on
the ship up to flagship specifications.  Kvasha had almost given up hope
when he chanced by the main gates of the Fortress of Gloom and ran into a
team of vending machine technicians.  He smiled.  "How'd you boys like a job
on a ship headed to Arorua?" he asked.
    "Boys?" one of the two females repeated, raising an eyebrow.
    Their leader quieted her with a glance, and then turned to Kvasha.  "If
it means getting off this planet, we're all for it."
    This seemed to agitate a few of them, but their leader silenced them
    "Excellent," Kvasha said, "a shuttle for the flagship of the Third Fleet
will be leaving shortly.  Your job will be to upgrade the food-dispensers."
    Their leader grinned.  "No problem."  He turned to the female who had
spoken before, "Kadar, you go pick up our equipment."
    The female, evidently Kadar, shot the leader a nasty look, but turned
and went to fetch the equipment.
    Kvasha walked off towards his office, his mood considerably improved:
Lotekh was going to Arorua, the EDIT would be arriving at Planet Gloom soon,
and he had found vending machine technicians for the Third Fleet.  If only
they could locate those Terrans.

As soon as the Zakavian military commander had left, the remaining members
of the Blue Squadron turned on Vasta.  "What do you think you're doing?"
Dixon asked.  "Upgrade the food-dispensers?  Need I remind you we're not
_really_ technicians?"
    "Calm down, Dixon," Vasta said.  "We're union, or a reasonable facsimile
at least.  We can find _dozens_ of excuses not to work."
    "And how will Kadar find our equipment, huh?"
    Vasta shrugged.  "She'll manage.  We'd better get to the transport to
reserve seats."
    "And where _is_ this shuttle?" Dixon asked.
    "I've got a map," McCurry suggested.
    "You've got a map?" Vasta asked, astonished.  "Where did you get a map?"
    "In this brochure," McCurry replied, pulling it out.  "You know:  'The
Visitor's Guide to the Fortress of Gloom'."
    "Works for me."
    With McCurry's map, it didn't take long to reach the transport -- at
least, once they got McCurry to stop pointing out items of historical
interest.  At the pad, they found the pilot waiting, eager to get off the
planet.  "Hurry," he yelled as they walked onto the pad, "I'm eager to get
off this planet."
    "Right," Vasta replied.  "Just a second."
    With that the Blue Squadron entered the transport, which took off almost
immediately at a rather unsafe speed.  In the passenger compartment, they
watched the Fortress of Gloom shrink to nothingness.
    "You know," Vasta commented, "we're really lucky we didn't end up on a
transport with anyone who'd recognize us.  At least we're leaving Captain
Mselt and Prince Lotekh behind."
    "Yeah," Dixon said, "but I keep feeling like we've left something _else_
    "Hmm," Vasta said.  He looked around at the four of them, everything
seemed all--
    "Oh no," he gasped, "we forgot to wait for Kadar!"

Back at the shuttle pod, Jen Kadar watched the transport shrink to
nothingness.  "This," she said, letting the equipment she had gathered fall
to the ground, "is not good."  She was about to continue, but her words were
cut off by a sudden blow to the back of the head.  As she fell, she heard
someone say "...the Emperor will be pleased...."


"You know," the first guard commented, "you didn't have to hit her."
    "Eh," his companion replied.  "Bite me."
    "Well, if she's hurt, the Emperor won't be so pleased."
    "Hey, as long as she can repair the vending machines, right?"

Few, if any, of these questions will be answered when three subplots
converge in the Crelm system during the next episode of Starcruiser
Anonymous, coming soon to SFSTORY: The Other White Meat.
Date:         Mon, 30 Sep 1996 16:40:02 -0400
From:         David Menendez (zednenem at PSU.EDU)
Subject:      SF: Wherein Three Subplots Converge... (SA #7)

Prince Boltar of Arorua walked confidently through the lower hallways of the
Aroruan Palace, absently paddling his paddleball.  He had grown quite
skilled since the last time he had appeared in this storyline, and was able
to paddle, walk, _and_ chew gum at the same time.  The others didn't seem
too impressed by this accomplishment, being more concerned with gossip about
the Jjana/Elim romance and Tvanir's reaction, but Boltar didn't really care.
He had found something that consistently amused him, and such things were
rare on Arorua.
    Passing by the Royal Shrine, one of the many tourist stops that had been
closed down by the Zakavians in a mostly unnecessary attempt to prevent
terrorism, he noticed that the doors were ajar.  Curious, he opened the door
and looked in to find Captain-General Tvanir sitting at a bench, looking at
the relics in the front of the room.  There, the Holy Harmonica of Astola
sat on its cushion, flanked by the mysterious crystal Cube of Rubyx and the
obscure Seemingly-Useless Item.
    "Prince Boltar," Tvanir said, still looking at the relics.
    Boltar blinked in surprise.  "How'd you know it was me?" he asked.
    "Your paddleball makes a distinctive noise."
    Boltar looked at his right hand, which was still bouncing in an even
rhythm.  He stopped it and walked over to Tvanir's bench.  "So what brings
you down here?" he asked.  "Are you still upset that you couldn't seduce
Governor Jjana?"
    She gaped.  "Does _everyone_ know about that?"
    Boltar shrugged.  "I dunno."  Tvanir stood and paced angrily, stopping
in front of the Cube.
    "I thought I had recovered," she said, more to herself than to Boltar,
"and then I find out they're sending Lotekh for a state visit.  They gave
the Third Fleet to some idiot Captain, when I'm stuck here with only the
Legion.  My career is _dead_."  She punctuated that statement by gesturing
at the Cube.  In response, one face of the cube rotated ninety degrees with
an audible click.  Tvanir leaped back, startled.
    Nothing happened.
    "Does it do that often?" she asked.
    "Yeah," Boltar replied.  "No one's really sure how, or why."
    Nothing happened some more.
    "So," Boltar said, "wanna go for a sandwich or something?"
    Tvanir looked at him suspiciously.  "Is this a clever ploy?"
    "I ... don't think so," Boltar replied, a bit uncertainly.
    "Where did you have in mind?"


                           STARCRUISER ANONYMOUS
                            (A Tale of Sfstory)

                                 Episode 7
                          Wherein Three Subplots
                       Converge in the Crelm System
                               Dave Menendez


The Crelm system was once home to the mighty Yerai Empire, who were known
throughout dozens of worlds for their wisdom, their art, their government,
and their powers beyond those of mortal men.  The operative word here is
'were', however, as the Yerai died out centuries ago due to a cataclysmic
failure of their Pez Synthesis Unit, which also inflated the price of Pez to
the point where a single dispenser could catch 10,000 credits in some
markets (20,000 if the plastic head was Radar Vogel's).  Since the Pez
Holocaust, the Crelm system has dropped so far out of interstellar politics
that few students at Interstellar University can even locate it on an
unlabeled starmap.  To be fair, locating _anything_ on an unlabeled starmap
is pretty difficult, given that they're just three-dimensional arrays of
points.  The current inhabitants of Crelm IV deny having any connection to
the Yerai, Pez, Radar Vogel, Iran Contra, and this plotline.  "We're
uninvolved," they claim, "leave us alone."
    Orbiting Crelm IV, the Zakavian Eighth Fleet waited patiently,
occasionally wondering what they were waiting _for_.  Their leader,
Captain-General Rtali, had considered conquering Crelm IV to pass the time,
but decided it wasn't worth it.  Instead, he had started a shuffleboard
tournament, shuffleboard being the national sport of the Blargoloids.  He
knew, however, that the tournament would end soon, and the fleet would need
a new distraction.  If only he could get some news from the Empire, then he
would know his options.
    "Ship dropping out of overly-hyped space," the scanning officer
    Rtali glanced up, wondering how long this would distract the crew.
"Identify," he ordered.
    "It looks like a Zakavian fighter, sir."
    "We're being hailed," the communications officer added.  "The pilot
claims to have important information about Captain Mselt."
    "Very well," Rtali said, standing.  "Have the pilot brought to my

The fighter quickly flew towards the shuttle bay of the Eighth Fleet's
flagship, the IZS _Valorous Moon Yak_, leaving the space around the Eighth
Fleet empty once again, assuming you ignore the planet they were orbiting
(which, as noted above, is fairly common).  That space did not remain empty
for very long, though, as the Sub-Capital Support Interceptor _Futility_
dropped out of overly-hyped space.  The various scanning officers declared
that it matched no known ship designs, and the weapons officers recommended
immediate violence.  Even the Blargoloids get tired of shuffleboard
    On board the _Futility_, the Green Squadron (minus Roy Gaelen, who was
elsewhere) reacted almost instantly to this new threat.  "Aaah!" Stan Losar
cried.  "We're under attack!"
    "Raise shields," Rick Hydrospok ordered.  "They'll find we're not that
easy to beat."
    "Hydrospok," George Daniels observed, "they outnumber us by a
considerable margin.  How exactly do you intend to defeat them?"
    Hydrospok grinned.  "We'll use the QuiteLarge cannon.  I imagine it's
fairly destructive."
    "Except it's untested," Daniels reminded him.  "That's what Blue
Squadron was doing when they vanished, prompting our search for them."
    "Speaking of the search," Sally Winters added, "I don't see the _Absurd
Physical Harm_ anywhere in the fleet."
    "No?" Hydrospok asked.  "Well, I suppose we could just...," he paused as
he noticed something.  "Does this battle seem rather quiet, or is it just
    "They seem to be missing a lot," Losar informed him.
    "Ah.  Can we fire the cannon, then?"
    "There's a safety lock."
    "Can we bypass it?"
    "There's a code on page 224 of the manual."
    Winters nodded, grabbed their copy of the manual, and quickly turned to
page 224.  "'Oh cursed spite, that ever I was sent to make it right'," she
    "Is that the code?" Daniels asked.
    Winters frowned.  "I doubt it.  Someone seems to have replaced our copy
of the manual with the complete works of William Shakespeare."
    Hydrospok smacked his forehead.  "Losar," he mumbled, "fire something
else at them."

"What is going on?" Rtali demanded as he strode onto the bridge.  Behind him
was Guard-Lieutenant Vtami, who had been piloting the fighter.  The two had
been discussing Vtami's news, and Rtali was not in a very good mood.  He had
underestimated Captain Mselt, it seemed.  Of course, now that the Empire
knew he was a traitor, he didn't need to bother with all the secrecy.
    "We're fighting with an unknown vessel," the bridge officer replied.
    Rtali glanced at the tactical readout.  "How come we're missing so
    The weapons officer shrugged.  "We're just playing around, sir."
    Rtali sighed.  Behind him, Vtami spoke up:  ((Sir, that ship resembles
the ones the Terrans use.  We'd probably be better off talking than
fighting, given the probable power of their main cruiser.))
    "Open a channel," Rtali ordered.

On the _Futility_, Losar had just figured out how to target the guided
missiles so they wouldn't get destroyed by all the near misses when Winters
reported an incoming hail.
    "They're hailing us?" Hydrospok asked.
    "They've stopped attacking, too," Winters added.
    "Let's hear what they have to say, then."
    ((Greetings Terran vessel,)) the voice on the other end said.  ((We're
sorry about attacking you like that, we mistook you for someone else.))
    The Green Squadron shared a rather skeptical look.  "Is that so?"
Daniels asked.
    ((Indeed it is so.  So what brings you to the Crelm system?))
    "We're looking for the _Absurd Physical Harm_, which we believe abducted
some of our colleagues," Hydrospok explained.  "You wouldn't know anything
about that, would you?"
    ((As it happens, I've just learned that the ship you seek is at Planet
    "D'oh!" chorused the Green Squadron.
    ((Um, yes.  You might want to use that big ship you've got orbiting Sol
VI; the defenses around Planet Gloom are rather tight.))
    "How do you know about that?" Winters asked.
    Although it was a voice-only link, the speaker gave the impression of
blinking.  ((We have our ways.))
    "No doubt you do," Hydrospok said.  "Thanks for the advice.  _Futility_
out."  He gestured to Winters, and she cut the connection.  "All right,
people, I think we know what we have to do."
    "Go back to the _Anonymous_ and let Gaelen handle it?" Daniels
    "You've got the first part right.  Winters, plot a course for Saturn."
    "Aye, sir," Winters said, activating the appropriate controls.
    "Engage," Hydrospok said, pointing forward.
    The rest of the squadron groaned as the _Futility_ leapt back into
overly-hyped space.

Rtali watched the Terran vessel vanish with an unimpressive burst of light
and allowed himself a low chuckle.  This prompted Vtami to give him an
unreadable look (unreadable since you can't see facial expressions through
combat armor, or at least not Zakavian combat armor).  "When the Terrans run
into the defenses of Planet Gloom," he explained, "they're bound to do a lot
of damage.  Damage that will make _our_ lives easier."
    Vtami nodded.  ((So what will we call ourselves now that we're
independent, sir?))
    Rtali shrugged.  "We'll think of something."
    "My commendations for the news you've brought.  In return, how about I
transfer you to the fighter squadrons like you wanted?"
    ((Thank you, sir.))  With that, Vtami saluted, turned, and left.
    Rtali leaned back and relaxed.  He wondered how long the Terrans would
last against the Zakavian Empire.  He wondered how long his fleet could stay
undetected in the Crelm system.  He wondered how long shuffleboard would
keep his crews occupied.  At least there were several systems in the area
they could conquer fairly easily.


Find out some of that when Jen Kadar learns a trade in the next episode of
Starcruiser Anonymous.
    SFSTORY:  It's What's For Dinner.

David Menendez        (zednenem at
Sfstory Author and DNRC Member
Minister Of The Recursive Acronym MOTRAM
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