Like all high-tech, sprawling fortresses, the Fortress of Gloom was rather monotonous on the inside. The hallways all tended to meet at right angles, the walls all looked vaguely alike, few areas were labeled, and so forth. Many people, finding themselves in such a place, would proceed to get lost rather quickly. Megan Kadar, however, had spent a lot of time playing video games such as “Wolfenstein 3D”, and was used to finding her way around repetitive, featureless complexes. With her press pass in hand (and by “in hand” we mean “clipped to her Generic Science-Fiction Character’s Jumpsuit”), she had access to most of the Fortress, and spent her time looking around. She got the occasional suspicious glance from guards, to whom she usually smiled and waved, but they rarely gave her trouble.

While wandering through the fortress, Megan considered the search for her sister and the Blue Squadron. Anme had learned that the Absurd Physical Harm had, in fact, been on Planet Gloom, and that it had brought five Terran prisoners with it. These prisoners, however, had escaped and seemingly vanished into the City of Gloom. The occasional Zakavian searching party reported fighting with them, but these all turned out to be false alarms. Orliss assured Megan that the Blue Squadron was fine, and Roy agreed, although he claimed they were probably off-planet by now. Having gotten there, no one was really sure what to do next. Orliss, to the derision of Anme and Roy, assured them that something would come up eventually, which was partially why Megan was wandering.

Abruptly, something came up. Specifically, an opened door came up. An open door into an armory, that is. Megan glanced around—no guards. She looked at the rows of unused Zakavian combat armor, the light playing off their smooth, black surfaces. “All right,” she said, grinning. This would be fun.

Starcruiser Anonymous

(A Tale Within Sfstory)

Episode 9
Wherein the Blue Squadron
Reaches Arorua

Dave Menendez

“Ow,” commented Captain-General Tvanir of the Aroruan Occupation Legion as she walked into a wall. This was not something she did frequently, mind you, but at the moment her considerable wall-avoiding skills were hampered by the blindfold she was wearing, which was preventing her from seeing the walls before she hit them.

“Careful of the walls, there,” Garav, her captor, advised.

“I would be,” Tvanir answered, “except I can’t see them.”

“Have a seat,” Garav said. “We’re there.”

She sat, and immediately regretted it since the chair was too low for her to stand up without using her hands, which were currently tied behind her. Garav removed her blindfold, and Tvanir looked around. Nothing in the room identified where they were. “So much for that,” she muttered.

“Eh?” asked a voice behind her.

“Who’s there?” Tvanir said, unable to look behind her.

“I am called Bentor,” the voice said, walking around her. “My real name, obviously, is secret.”

“If you say so,” Boltar said uncertainly. Tvanir looked at him, and noted that he was tied up as well.

“So,” Tvanir said, “are you the group working with Princess Elim?”

“We were,” Bentor replied, “until she betrayed us to Governor Jjana.”

Tvanir blinked. “But … he’s working with you, isn’t he?”

“Er … not that I know of,” Bentor said, sounding confused.

They paused for a few seconds, trying to deduce who was lying, or just confused.

“Hey, Secret,” Boltar said, “did you ever notice that ‘Bentor’ and ‘Boltar’ sound really similar?”

Tvanir sighed. This was going to be a long captivity.

With a soundless burst of light, the Zakavian Third Fleet arrived at Arorua. In its flagship, the IZS Absurd Physical Harm, Captain-General Mselt sent a message to inform Prince Lotekh of their arrival and prepared to travel down to the palace.

Elsewhere in the ship, the four members of the Blue Squadron who had managed to escape Planet Gloom, argued with a minor officer over whether they should be allowed to visit the surface. “No,” the minor officer said. “I can’t let you leave the ship until you upgrade the food dispensers to flagship specifications. It’s why you’re here in the first place.”

“Listen,” Roger Vasta, their leader, said, “philosophers have debated for centuries about why we’re here—I think it’s highly unlikely you’ve somehow stumbled across the answer.”

“That’s not what I meant!” the minor officer fumed. “Anyway, you can’t leave until you do your job! Keep arguing and I’ll tell the Captain-General!”

Vasta grimaced. Captain-General Mselt was unlikely to have forgotten that they used to be his prisoners. “Dent,” he said, gesturing to the minor officer.

“Right,” Dent said, a smile on his face. He pulled his Kilemov S13 rifle from somewhere in his borrowed uniform and blasted the minor official. Several times.

“Er, Dent,” Alex McCurry said, “those were deathkill blasts.”

“We knows that,” Dent replied, his smile taking on a disturbing aspect.

“Will you knock that off?” Samantha Dixon said, smacking him over the head.

“Stop it! You hurts us!” Dent cried.

“No need to get violent,” McCurry told Dixon.

“Feh,” Dixon spat.

“Anyway,” Vasta said, “we now need a way to get to the planet. I guess we’ll have to sneak onto Mselt’s transport.”

“What!?” Dixon demanded.

“‘Sneak onto Mselt’s transport’,” Vasta repeated.

“I heard that. I’m asking if you’ve lost your mind.”

“Not at all. We’ll go in disguise.”

“Good idea!” McCurry said.

“Of course it’s a good idea!” Vasta snapped.

Captain-General Mselt, whose position has been described earlier in this episode, relaxed as the transport touched down on the surface of Arorua. Beside him, Prince Lotekh stared out the window, unused to a landscape that was merely bland, as opposed to bleak and foreboding. Behind him sat four people that Mselt swore he should remember, except that their false noses, thick mustaches (even on the female), and black eyeglasses didn’t match anyone he recognized. Presumably they were the Vending Machine Technicians that Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha had sent.

The hatch opened and Mselt and Lotekh walked out onto the landing pad, where Governor Jjana awaited them. The four technicians hurried off into the distance, but Mselt paid them no mind. Judging by the bill they’d left him they’d done an impressive job.

“So, Governor Jjana,” Lotekh said in greeting. “I understand you’ve betrayed the Empire.”

Jjana blinked. Mselt groaned and pulled Lotekh aside. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“Careful who you’re grabbing,” Lotekh said, pulling away. “I outrank you.”

“I’m in charge of the mission,” Mselt retorted.

“On the contrary, I have the honorary rank of Captain-Commander, whereas you are merely a Captain-General. Hence, I am in charge.”

“Whatever,” Mselt said, giving up. “I’ll be in the ship.” He walked back into to the transport and sat down.

Lotekh turned back to Jjana, who was looking rather concerned. “Well?” he asked. “How do you explain your relationship with the known rebel Princess Elim of the House Ri’Tala?”

“I was trying to get information about the rebels,” Jjana replied. “I have no intention of betraying the Empire.”

“That’s not what Captain-General Tvanir said,” Lotekh countered. “She said— say, where is she?”

“‘Where is she?’“

“If you do that again,” Lotekh snarled, “I will kill you.”

Jjana sighed. “I don’t know, she and Prince Boltar vanished recently. We suspect the rebels.”

“Isn’t that convenient,” Lotekh sneered. “You associate with the rebels and suddenly your accuser disappears.”

“I didn’t know she accused me!” Jjana protested. “And I’m not associating with rebels. I only pretended to like Princess Elim so I could spy on them.”

“You what?” Princess Elim yelled, storming onto the landing platform.

“But Princess,” Jjana said, sounding flustered, “you knew it was an act.”

“You said you were trying to stop Tvanir from seducing you.”

“That’s also true. Besides, weren’t you trying to use me for information for the rebellion?”

“Well … yes,” Elim admitted. “But it didn’t work out so well since they all assumed I betrayed them.”

Jjana snapped his fingers. “So that’s why I couldn’t get any information out of you.”

“A clever plot,” Lotekh said. “But you won’t confuse me with your convoluted lies! Taste the cold steel of Lotekh!” So saying, he drew his ceremonial sword and stabbed Jjana in the side.

“Gaah!” Jjana said, giving the traditional response to being stabbed. He fell to his knees. “You idiot,” he said, clutching his side, “you can’t kill anyone with that blow, but you let your blade get so rusty, it’ll … poison me.” With that, Jjana collapsed.

“Eeek!” Elim said, giving the traditional response to seeing someone just get stabbed ineffectually and then die from rust poisoning. “You killed him!”

“Yes! I did!” Lotekh cried. “I’m the god! I’m the god!”

“You bastard!” Elim continued, following the insult with a punch to the jaw. Lotekh collapsed on top of Jjana. “For the representative of a conquering army, he was a pretty nice guy,” she said, obviously referring to Jjana, as few people would consider Lotekh a “nice guy”. She followed this statement by collapsing herself—not because it looked like fun (after all, everyone else was doing it), but because she had been shot with a sleep-o-stun ray.

The source of that ray, Captain-General Mselt, looked at the three unconscious and/or dead bodies and sighed. Actually, the ray had come from Mselt’s gun, but the distinction isn’t too important. “I hope she hurt him,” he commented to no one in particular.

The Blue Squadron, meanwhile, had changed out of their Vending Machine Technician uniforms and removed their disguises and had regrouped under a statue of an enormous penguin to try and plan their next move.

“Why would anyone build a statue of an enormous penguin?” McCurry wondered.

“We thinks maybe they likes penguin?” Dent suggested.

Dixon sighed. “Dent,” she said, “could you try to talk normally again?”

“People,” Vasta said, “we’ve got to try and plan our next move. Or do you want those accursed Zakavians to find us again?”

“Accursed Zakavians?” a new voice asked.

Dixon and McCurry managed to wrestle the gun away from Dent before he sent their visitor on a tour of the afterlife.

“Who are you?” Vasta asked.

“I am Chancellor Desir Elahte,” the elderly Aroruan told them. “Like you, I have no love for the Zakavians. I think we may be able to help each other.”

“Well,” Vasta said, “that sounds—”

“Freeze!” another new voice said.

Elahte and the Blue Squadron (which would be a good name for a band, by the way) turned and saw a small group of heavily armed Aroruans who had been hiding behind the giant penguin.

“We,” their leader said, “are the People’s League of Arorua.”

“Aroruan People’s League,” his followers corrected.


“Right,” Vasta said. He turned to Dixon, “Give Dent his gun back.”

Dixon turned to Dent. “All right,” she said, “if I give you this, will you promise to speak the Queen’s English?”

“We don’t have a Queen,” McCurry reminded her.

Dixon sighed. “Will you promise to speak Captain Harrison’s English?”

“Does he have to imitate that British accent?”

“She doesn’t have a British accent. She’s from New Jersey, like the rest of us.”

“Sorry, I was thinking of George Harrison.”

“Are you through?” the leader of the rebels asked. “We’d like to take you prisoner now.”

“Go right ahead,” Vasta told him.

How come the Blue Squadron keeps getting captured?

Is it bad karma?

Will Lotekh harm Elim for socking him in the jaw?

Will Mselt harm Lotekh for being an idiot?

Will Noltar get harmed for similar reasons?

Are Boltar and Lotekh related, by any chance?

Some questions, not necessarily those above, will be answered when Captain Harrison gets a speaking part in the next episode of Starcruiser Anonymous.

SFSTORY: Anything Less Would Be Uncivilized.