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 reported.

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 office.”

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 eventually.

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 me?”

“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 quoted.

“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 much?”

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 Gloom.”

“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 suggested.

“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.

Will the Green Squadron convince Captain Harrison to take the Anonymous to Planet Gloom?

Does this mean she’ll actually appear in the story?

Does this mean the Anonymous will actually appear in the story?

What about the Blue Squadron?

What about Jen Kadar?

What about that group in the as-yet-unnamed Finstar F6000?

What about Elim and Jjana?

What about Scarecrow’s brain?

How come Arorua gets a segment in every episode?

Is it related to those gifts the author keeps receiving from the Aroruan tourism board?

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.