Governor Malta Jjana, ruler of Arorua by default, usually enjoyed the weekly meals with what remained of the Aroruan heads of government. The Aroruans were about as rebellious as potting soil, so the only real disturbances came from Captain-General Tvanir, who typically got irritated each time her superiors reduced her command. Of course, she realised the need for the new rulers to show a united front, so she was unable to show her irritation at the dinners. This, understandably, made her difficult to talk to. Jjana had been prepared for the worst with the newest reductions. He was not prepared for what actually happened.

Tvanir was acting nice.

Very nice.

She was actually smiling, something she hadn’t done since formation of the Aroruan Occupation Legion. She was gracious, laughed at his jokes, and kept looking at him and pretending not to.

Sometime around dessert Jjana figured out what was going on, and a chill ran up his spine, almost tripping over a vertebra he had broken in a sledding accident as a child.

Starcruiser Anonymous

(A Tale of Sfstory)

Episode 2
Wherein a College Student
Returns Home
Captain Mselt runs into
the Green Squadron

Dave Menendez

The planet Foobarh is not the most famous of planets. Few people outside its immediate sector have even heard of it—although, given the oft-mentioned vastness of space, this isn’t too surprising. It has the usual things a small, united planet has: fairly low taxes, a small space armada (estimated time of survival in a battle with the Zakav Eighth Fleet: almost three hours), and reasonably clean spaceports.

It was to one of these spaceports that our protagonist for this scene, one Horlun SoFah, was currently traveling, utilizing Foobarh’s modern mass-transit system (‘modern’ being defined as ‘in an almost constant state of disrepair’). Horlun was traveling to said spaceport in order to meet his cousin, who was enrolled at Interstellar University where he was studying, among other things, the great Koosbanian playwrights, the megapoetry of Arquilon IX, and heroism. The latter was mostly for personal interest, as it had the least chance of leading to a profitable job.

Arriving at the Lomna Fesia Memorial Spaceport, Horlun checked the arrivals board and saw that his cousin’s ship had yet to arrive. Checking his wallet, Horlun bought a magazine and walked up to the gate—or as close as security would let him approach, anyway.

Eventually, the ship arrived and its passengers disembarked. Horlun scanned the crowd, eventually identifying his cousin by his large size. “Orliss!” he called, catching his attention.

“Hi, Horlun,” Orliss replied.

“Is that all your luggage?”

“Yeah, I don’t need much for just a semester break.”

Eventually, Orliss made it over to Horlun, a task made more difficult by the religious missionaries that kept trying to get donations. Orliss, probably because of his heroism courses, repressed his urge to throttle them.

“We better hurry,” Horlun said, after they had exchanged greetings, “it takes a few hours to get to my place from here.”

Orliss blinked, “But I can see your house from here,” he said, sounding confused.

“Yeah, but so many tram lines are down, we’ve got to take a roundabout route.”

“Oh,” Orliss replied, “I guess that makes sense.”

Once again, Horlun reminded himself that Orliss was not a moron. People were always surprised to learn that Orliss attended Interstellar University. Especially those who knew that the SoFah family couldn’t possibly afford tuition. The fact was, Orliss had gotten the equivalent of a football scholarship—which always made his chosen course of studies more surprising.

They reached Horlun’s apartment without much incident. The passengers had had to get out and push at one point, but that wasn’t too much trouble.

“Well,” Horlun said as they entered his place, “here we are.”

“It’s very … dark,” Orliss commented. “It matches your clothes.”

Horlun tried to come up with a response to that, but failed to find anything that sounded intelligent, so he decided to change the subject. “So, you want to go down to the local behin place? On Rinsday they have anti-establishment ranting.”

“Uh, sure.”

Behin was discovered centuries ago by a group of Foobarhians who, possibly under the influence of alcohol, saw a bean growing on a bush and decided to grind it up, filter boiling water through the ground bean particles, and drink what came out. They discovered that the greenish-yellow liquid produced tasted very bitter, but they didn’t want to go to all that trouble for nothing so they finished their cups. Later that night, they discovered the other attribute of behin when they were all unable to sleep.

Possessed with the secret of making a bitter, yellow-green liquid that prevented sleep, the Foobarhians decided to market it, possibly as a prank. It spread like wildfire. Its discoverers became fabulously wealthy, but then, years later, they all died of old age.

Orliss followed Horlun into the behin house. The sign over the door gave it the cheerful name of “The Pit of Dissatisfaction”, which was probably not that smart a name, from an advertising standpoint, but probably didn’t deter its target audience.

Horlun was walking to meet someone. Orliss quickly moved to catch up; he didn’t want to get lost since he’d probably never find Horlun again—everyone in the place was dressed in dark clothing. He had seen funerals more colorful.

“Orliss, this is my friend Anme Rifba,” Horlun said, gesturing appropriately. “Anme, this is my cousin Orliss.”

“Hi,” Orliss said.

“Yeah,” Anme replied, before returning her attention to the night’s ranter, who was going on about the evils of assembly bill A2345-56682, which transferred funding from public television to mass-transit system repair.

Orliss sighed. It was going to be a rather dull semester break.

Captain Mselt, commander of the IZS Absurd Physical Harm, looked at his new captives and wondered at the weird coincidences of life. Like the Caphanites, these creatures looked almost exactly like his own Blargoloid race—the only real difference being coloration. From an objective standpoint, he had to say their tan/brown coloration was probably more useful than the blue coloration of the Caphanites from a camouflage standpoint, but still not as useful as the Blargoloid’s pale green color scheme. Idly, he wondered what color their blood was. Yellow?

“It seems the Generic Alien Unconsciousness Ray was a success, probably because these aliens are so similar to us,” commented his chief scientist.

“Yes,” agreed Mselt, “it also seems that space is black, probably because there isn’t that much light there.”

The scientist, sensing the sarcasm, walked off to be with the other scientists. Mselt’s second in command, Ship Commander Dfale, walked over. “Sir,” he began, “should we head back to the fleet now?”

“I don’t think so. It’s obvious we’ve been set up.”

“How so?”

“He told us to come here. He chose this system out of all the systems around. Do you honestly think Captain-General Rtali wouldn’t know about a starship that size? He sent us here to die.”

“Captain, even with that ship’s relatively immense size it would still be virtually impossible to detect at that distance—”

“It doesn’t matter. He sent us here to get rid of us. Even now he’s probably meeting with his conspirator friends plotting the downfall of the Empire. I can’t let that happen. Any race powerful enough to build a ship like that one is dangerous to the Empire, and I intend to take the news to the Emperor himself myself—with those prisoners as evidence.”

“Sir, with all due respect—”

“Later, Dfale. For now, tell the navigator to set a course for Planet Gloom.”

A shudder ran through the room. “Not… Planet Gloom!” Dfale gasped.

“Yes, Planet Gloom,” Mselt replied. “Where else would I go to find the Emperor? Arorua?”

“I’ll inform the bridge, sir.”


Back on the Anonymous, technicians anxiously awaited the weapons tests results from the Blue Squadron’s unnamed escort fighter. They waited for much longer than they had expected. Eventually, they both had to accept that something had clearly gone wrong.

“Clearly,” Tom Kadar said, “something has gone wrong.”

His partner, Beth Gaelen, looked up at him, waiting for him to continue. When it became obvious he wouldn’t, she returned her attention to her computer console.

“You seem remarkably unconcerned about this problem,” Tom commented.

“Look,” Beth said, “you know Blue Squadron. They’re probably just shooting a few more rocks than we planned for. After all, what’s going to happen? We’re alone out here in a gigantic starship. What could create problems?”

“The QuiteLarge cannon could have exploded, killing them all. It would explain our total lack of communication with them.”

“Oh come on, they probably got into an argument over the meteor/meteoroid distinction and forgot to check in.”

“Why didn’t you just have a continuous connection transmitted over our satellite network?” asked Tom’s younger sister Megan.

“Because we didn’t think of … say, what are you doing here?” answered Tom.

“‘What are you doing here?’”

“Ha. Very funny. Listen to me laugh.”

“I just wanted to see what you technician types are up to,” explained Megan. “Hi, Beth.”

“Hi,” Beth responded, not looking up from her console.

“Don’t disturb her,” Tom said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “she’s busy trying to ignore me.”

“Not true,” Beth protested, “I’m designing stuff.”

“Giant robots?” Megan asked hopefully.

“No,” Tom replied, “not giant robots. Especially not transforming giant robots. Why do you have this obsession with robots anyway?”

“They’re cool!”

“Perhaps they are,” said Beth, “but it’s not our style.”

“Oh well,” sighed Megan. “I’ll see you guys later.”

Tom waited for her to leave and mumbled something unkind about teenagers.

“Anyway,” Beth suggested, “if you’re concerned about Jen, I could ask Roy to take a look. He’s on Green Squadron, you know.”

“Of course I know that. But it’s a good idea, anyway. Odd that we both have siblings in the fighter squadrons, though.”

“That is kind of odd, now that you mention it.”

Having come up with a plan (and inadvertently informed the readers about a few details), Beth logged out and went to find Roy.

Finding Roy wasn’t as difficult as one might guess, given the spaciousness of the Anonymous. He, like the rest of the elite fighter pilots (they actually had admitted every volunteer, but they called themselves elite because it impressed the civilians), tended to spend a lot of time in the pilots’ lounge. On occasion Beth asked him what he did in the lounge, and he usually said something about the pilots trading stories to help each other improve. She almost believed him, except that every time she visited the lounge they were all watching TV.

She quickly moved over to Green Squadron’s traditional table, and got their attention.

“What’s up, Beth?” asked Squad Commander Rick Hydrospok.

“Well,” she explained, “I was wondering if your group could go and check on Blue Squadron.”

“They here?”

“No, they’re out testing weapons in space.”

“Oh. So you want us to leave the relative comfort of the Pilots’ Lounge to go flying around looking for a ship loaded with experimental, possibly dangerous weapons?”

“C’mon, Hydrospok,” commented Squadmember George Daniels, “you think they’d be out testing non-dangerous weapons?”

The others snickered a bit at that. When they had stopped, Hydrospok continued, “I’m just not sure I want to get near a ship loaded with weapons that could accidentally vaporize my fighter.”

“Besides,” Roy added, “Mystery Science Theater is almost on.”

“Well, I can see why you wouldn’t want to miss that,” Beth said. “Maybe Black Squadron could go and check.”

“Whoa,” began Daniels, “we can’t let them go out and do this.”

“Why not?” asked Hydrospok.

“They’re our arch enemies.”

“Since when?”

“Since they beat us in air hockey.”

“Oh yeah.” He turned to Beth, “All right, we’ll go out and find them for you. Green Squadron: move out!”

The others stared at him.


Daniels spoke up, “I hope you don’t intend to use that line again.”

“Whatever. To the hangar!” Hydrospok strode briskly out of the room.

The rest of Green Squadron looked at each other, sighed, and followed.

Beth stayed behind and watched Mystery Science Theater 3000.

“Dfale,” Captain Mselt said, “why haven’t we left yet? I am eager to get to Planet Gloom.”

The bridge crew shuddered. Dfale tried to remember the last time someone had claimed to be eager to reach Planet Gloom. He failed.

“Dfale?” Mselt asked again.

“We’re still too close to the planet.”


“Yes, Captain, and … hey!”


“That starship launched some fighters.”

“They’re probably looking for their missing ship. Prepare the Killdeath Blaster.”

“Yes, Captain,” replied the Weapons Officer.

“How soon until we can get out of here?”

“Very soon, sir,” replied the Navigator.

“How long is ‘soon’, navigator?” demanded Mselt.

“Actually, it’s now, sir.”

“So, by ‘soon’ you meant ‘now’? Why not just say ‘now’?”

“No, sir. Or, yes, sir. I mean, when I said ‘soon’, it wasn’t yet ‘now’.”

“Of course it wasn’t now, it was in the past.”

“Yes, sir. But back then, it was soon and not now.”

“But then it would soon be now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think I understand that.”

“Should I activate the overly-hyped drive then?” asked the Helm. (Well, actually it was the officer at the helm who asked, but … never mind.)

“I suppose we could hang around and taunt those incoming fighters,” Mselt mused.

The Green Squadron had, by this point, come into visual range.

“My God,” said Daniels, “an alien starship. A different alien starship, as distinct from the ones we use.”

“Should we attack?” asked Squadmember Stan Losar.

“Do you think we should attack an alien spacecraft with unknown capabilities for no firm reason?” asked Gaelen in response.

“I see your point.”

“Actually, Captain,” Dfale said, “taunting them might bring their mothership after us.”

“I thought you couldn’t track a ship through overly-hyped space,” said Mselt.

“Not easily, but why take risks?”

“Can we establish communications with them?” Mselt asked the Comm Officer.

“I’m not sure, sir. We don’t know what kind of communications they use.”

“We have a Generic Alien Unconsciousness Ray but we can’t communicate?”

The Comm Officer shrugged. Mselt made a mental note to read through his ship’s spec sheets again.

“Take us to Planet Gloom, then,” he said aloud.

“Hey,” observed Squadmember Sally Winters, “they’ve vanished in a rather unimpressive burst of light.”

“They must have activated a faster-than-light drive,” deduced Losar.

“I’ll bet they’ve got Blue Squadron,” Gaelen fumed.

“Calm down, Gaelen,” Hydrospok said.

“We’ve got to go after them.”

“Let’s see what Captain Harrison thinks about this first.”

What will she think?

Just how horrible is Planet Gloom?

Why is Tvanir acting so oddly?

Will Orliss’s vacation be boring? Or will he somehow become involved in one of the other plotlines?

Why else would he be in this story?

SFSTORY: Bringing in not only da noise, but da funk as well.