Starcruiser Anonymous

(A Tale Within Sfstory)

Episode 14
Wherein the Anonymous
Has Its First Space Battle

Dave Menendez

When you combine two independent governments into a loose confederation, there will be some redundancies. For highly-regional departments, like the police and the post office, resolving the problems is fairly easy. Things like the military, on the other hand, are more difficult to deal with. In the case of the Zakavian Empire, the two redundant military forces were the Blargoloid Unified Military Amalgam, which was powerful enough to defeat random space fleets fairly regularly, and the Caphanite Defense Armada, which was powerful enough to defeat an army of rampaging cows (specifically, they were powerful enough to repel an invasion by the Cybercows of Bhagavad II; tales of that battle are still told in the various hamburger shops that opened soon after the battle concluded).

After the creation of the Zakavian Empire, the Blargoloid forces became the Zakavian Imperial Military Aggregate—the Empire’s Heavily Armed Ambassadors of Fun and Excitement—and the CDA remained exactly the same, still protecting the systems of the old Caphanite Interstellar Alliance. To Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha, the continued existence of the CDA was constant source of irritation. The most recent irritation was the failure of Captain-Generals Mselt and Tvanir to keep order on Arorua and requesting the Alpha Ra. Commissioner Sedoc had suggested that perhaps the CDA was better suited to keeping order on the Zakavian Protectorates, which would virtually eliminate the Blargoloid presence there, as the Diplomatic Service was mostly Caphanite to begin with. While Kvasha tried to stay above the pointless Caphanite/Blargoloid infighting, he wasn’t about to let the CDA steal ground from ZIMA.

Which meant the situation on Arorua had to be resolved, fast. Which meant that, despite his mistrust of the Sonar Men, Kvasha needed to send in the giant robot Alpha Ra. After a few days of preparations, it was ready to leave, and Kvasha was hurrying to the Communications Room to see it off.

He slowed a bit when he noticed two people casually standing near the door to the “Balcony”, the private command deck above the rest of Communications Room. He recognized both of them: the female worked for the Guild of Vending Machine Technicians and was supposed to be on the Absurd Physical Harm in Arorua, and the male claimed to be a reporter for Conqueror’s Quarterly.

“You there!” he called, as he got close. They looked up, startled. The female—Kadar, he remembered—stuck a hand in her pocket. Kvasha raised a hand and the guards flanking him relaxed, or so it would appear to the unobservant. (The guards were part of a security measure implemented after a group of students blew up part of the City of Gloom as part of a protest against the general atmosphere of grim desolation that made Planet Gloom (thankfully) unique. He had warned Vakaz about having the Zakavian Institute of Technology located on Planet Gloom, but Vakaz had been busy eating at the time and missed it.)

“Good afternoon, Supreme Captain-Commander,” the reporter said, emanating enough sincerity to make anyone suspicious. “I trust you are well?”

“I see you are interviewing one of the Vending Machine Technicians?” Kvasha asked. “I wouldn’t have guessed her opinion would be needed for an interior design article.”

“Well … you’d be surprised.”

“Probably,” Kvasha agreed. “I have a confession to make, actually. Before you came here I had never heard of Conqueror’s Quarterly. I didn’t want to seem ignorant, so I had some people look for information about it.” He paused for effect, noting that Kadar was better at hiding uncertainty than the reporter. “There is no such publication by that title.”

The reporter blinked. “Would you believe we’re a small, independent publication?” he asked.

“To be honest, no.” He gestured, and one of the guards grabbed the Reporter, who began making indignant comments about his rights. Ignoring that, Kvasha turned to Kadar, whose expression was carefully neutral. “I see you aren’t on Arorua.”

She nodded. “I was on my way to the shuttle when some of your guards hit me with a blunt object. Evidently, the fleet left without me.”

“Ah, so you are also the missing Technician who was supposed to repair the Emperor’s machines. I note that they remain unrepaired.”

“A team of five is needed for that level of repair work. No one Technician has all the skills to repair a Machine. It’s for security reasons.”

Kvasha smiled. “I see. And you just happened to be hanging around a restricted area with a spy.” Another gesture, and the second guard stepped forward. Kadar tried to draw a weapon, but the second guard had been ready with the Sleep-o-Stun.

“Wow,” he commented. “She’s got one of those handguns with the blinking lights.”

“Powerful weapon,” the other agreed, “even for a spy.”

“I don’t really care,” Kvasha admitted. “Take them to that dungeon Vakaz put in.” Ignoring the reporter’s panicked threats, he strode onto the Balcony overlooking the Communications Room. A shadow moving in the corner of his eye briefly caught his attention, but nothing was there when he turned on the lights. “Stupid rats,” he mumbled. “They’re not even native here, they had to immigrate. To Planet Gloom.” He chuckled at the irony: they had left their warm, comfortable homes and braved the cold, hostile cargo decks of the star freighters, only to end up here. Of course, being rats, they probably hadn’t noticed.

The announcement that Alpha Ra was ready to enter overly-hyped space startled him out of his train of thoughts, thus ending another pointless digression. He stepped forward, to get a good view on the immense monitor. While ships leaving and arriving were not uncommon, he had had a premonition that this time something important would come up and he would need to be there.

“Leaving … now,” the Communication Room’s commander announced, as the A/600 Warrior-Ship vanished into the astoundingly uninteresting light of overly-hyped space.

Nothing happened.

“I guess I was mistaken,” Kvasha mused. “At least I caught those spies. I … hmm.” He trailed off; a thought had presented itself, and then fled for cover before he could identify it.

“…Odd,” one of the officers below commented. “We’re still reading massive overly-hyped disturbances.”

Kvasha blinked; perhaps he had spoken too soon. “What kind of disturbances?” he demanded.

The officer jumped, having been unaware of Kvasha’s presence. “Sir! It’s hard to say—almost like a fleet coming in, but more localized.”

A fleet? Was Rtali finally making his move? Kvasha knew that even the Eighth Fleet, powerful as it was, wouldn’t survive a direct assault on Planet Gloom, but it would do a lot of damage before its destruction.

On the monitor, there was the usual off-white flash followed by the emergence of what had to be the largest single starship Kvasha had ever seen. It took him only a second to remember where he had heard of an immense starship that related to recent events: this was almost certainly the ship the Terrans had come from. Worse, they probably wanted their people back, and no one knew where they were.

Behind him, he heard the balcony’s doors open. He spun around, in time to see them close again. In his confusion, it occurred to him that the walls of the Communications Room were mostly metallic; there was no wood for rats to chew through. Before he could come to the obvious conclusion, the commander of the Communications Room called up to him.

“Sir!” the commander said. “They’re attempting to establish contact.”

“So contact them,” Kvasha snapped, annoyed at having his thoughts interrupted. “And prepare the EDIT for firing, just in case.”

On the bridge of the Anonymous, Captain Harrison stared at the image of Planet Gloom displayed on the main monitor. She had never realized that a planet could look grim and forbidding from orbit, and she found that idea vaguely disturbing. Other monitors were showing the local Zakavian defense forces, including a large, vaguely familiar-looking disk which seemed to be folding into a cylindrical shape.

“You know,” Commander Gerhardt noted, “it almost looks like a burrito.”

“You’re right,” Harrison agreed. “How odd.”

“They are returning our signal, Captain,” announced Lieutenant Gordon. “I think we can do video.”

“Everyone looking good today?” Harrison asked.

The bridge crew mumbled something that might be taken as positive.

“Onscreen,” Harrison ordered.

The image of Planet Gloom shifted to a secondary monitor while the primary switched to a larger-than-life image of a nervous-looking young officer. Harrison suppressed a smile: despite her crew’s inexperience dealing with aliens (this was their first), they had managed not to stare or gawk or make bad jokes about the chasing the blues away (an obvious reference to his pale-blue skin).

“Unidentified vessel,” the officer began, “you have violated Zakavian space. Please state your identity and reasons for being here.”

“We are the starship Anonymous,” Harrison replied. “Some of our crew were abducted by one of your vessels, the Absurd Physical Harm. We were told we could find it here.” She allowed a sinister tone to creep into her voice. “We would like them returned, unharmed, immediately.”

The officer blinked. “Um… I’ll have to talk to my manager…. Just a second.” The communication paused.

“This should be interesting,” Harrison commented, smirking.

“I hope they’re safe,” Gerhardt replied.

“As do I.”

“They’re ready to resume,” Gordon announced.

“Very well.”

Once again the image of Planet Gloom was replaced, this time by an older, more confident, green-skinned man. “Anonymous,” he opened, “I am Supreme Captain-Commander Kvasha Evosta of the Zakavian Imperial Military Aggregate. I understand you are here looking for missing crew members?”

“You understand correctly,” Harrison told him. “They were captured by a starship identified as the Absurd Physical Harm.”

Kvasha nodded. “The Terrans.” He paused. “They were here, a few days ago. However, they were able to escape our custody.” He paused. “We have no confirmed sightings of them after that time.”

This was followed by a few moments of uncomfortable silence, as Captain Harrison demonstrated her Cold Stare™, to the point where all involved hoped for something to break the silence, but would do anything to avoid being that something.

“I see,” the Captain said, eventually.

This was followed by more silence, as the bridge crew and Captain-Commander Kvasha competed to show less discomfort. (Kvasha, being more experienced, won.)

“Yes,” Kvasha replied.

More silence.

“I assume you are still searching, then?”

“Several of our search parties report fighting with them, but it usually turns out they were fighting other search parties.”


“I would like my people returned, Supreme Captain-Commander Evosta.”

“Kvasha. The surname comes first.”

“My apologies.”


“Um… yes. So, um, we don’t think they’re on the planet anymore.”

A distinct lack of sound.

“We do not appreciate people abducting our crew.”

“Is that a threat?” Kvasha asked, his voice darkening.

“It is a statement of fact.”

“It would be unwise to threaten the Zakavian Empire in its capital system.”

“No threats have been made, but I make no promises for the future.”

“You threaten to threaten the Zakavian Empire? You’re just asking for trouble.”

“I think we can handle some trouble.”

“That’s good, because you’re going to get trouble.”

“Oh, yeah, lots of trouble.”

“Very well,” Kvasha said, a note of finality in his voice. “It shall be trouble.”

“For you,” Harrison added as the communication cut out.


“The burrito seems to be targeting us,” Gordon noted.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Gerhardt commented.

“Prepare the VeryLarge Cannon,” Harrison ordered. “Perhaps their attitude will improve after we smack ‘em around a bit.”

“Or maybe they’ll swear revenge, call in their space fleets, and hunt us down until we die,” added Gerhardt.

“We shall see.”

Back on Planet Gloom, unaware of the conflict playing out in orbit, Roy, Megan, Horlun, and Anme were sitting around their suite, waiting for stage one of Bob’s plan to end so they could actually do something. In short, they were bored, and, like all bored people, they were hoping for something to happen to end that boredom.

“How much longer?” Megan asked.

“Bob didn’t give us an estimate,” Horlun reminded her. “He wasn’t sure how long it would take.”

Megan sighed. They waited.

Then, they waited some more.

The door opened, and Bob strode in, looking worried. “I have bad news,” he announced.

“What?” asked Roy. “Where are the others?”

Bob sat down at the table. “While they were watching the door outside the balcony, Kvasha came by,” he explained. “He’s seen through Orliss’s Conqueror’s Quarterly story, so he had them arrested. Jen was able to warn me before he entered the balcony, so I could hide. While I was there, a very large starship arrived.” He looked at Roy and Megan. “I believe it is the Anonymous.”

Roy nodded. “They must have heard that the Blue Squadron was here. Pity they’re not here anymore—except for Jen, that is.”

“Jen’s been captured again?” Megan asked.

“Yeah,” Bob replied. “She got stunned, from what I heard.”

“Stunned?” Megan repeated, raising an eyebrow. “That’s three for three.”

“Were you able to get the data on the EDIT?” Anme asked. “That was the purpose of your mission, right?”

“Of course,” Bob replied. “And that is why I am worried about the Anonymous being here and fighting the EDIT. That would be bad.”

“How bad is ‘bad’?” Megan asked.

“Real bad,” Bob answered. “Roy, I want you to go warn the Anonymous and tell them what we’ve learned. I’ll give you a copy of the specs I ‘borrowed’.”

“Why can’t we signal them?” Roy asked.

“Two reasons,” Bob replied, “first, we have no communicators, second, any such signal would be detected.”

“And how am I supposed to get to the Anonymous?”

“Use the ship you got here in,” Bob suggested.

“I’m not familiar with the controls,” Roy objected.

“And it isn’t his ship,” Anme added. “It’s my father’s.”

“You think he’d be upset if he found out we’d taken it here?” Horlun asked.

“To be honest,” Anme replied, “I don’t care.”

Bob looked at Anme, and then at Roy. “Okay, Anme can fly the ship and take Roy to the Anonymous.”

“I am not a chauffeur,” Anme protested, “and I cannot fly it either.”

“Then Horlun can take you and Roy to the Anonymous,” Bob said.

“Which leaves you alone with Megan,” Horlun pointed out.

“Unacceptable,” Roy declared. “Megan’s too young to be here in the first place. If anyone is going back, it should be her.”

“Bite me,” Megan shot back. “Without my armor, the plan falls apart.”

“Without Horlun, Anme, and me, the plan falls apart too,” Roy replied.

“We are wasting time,” Bob reminded them. “Megan and I can free the others while you warn the Anonymous. It’s important that they survive; in case our plans fail, it is among the few ships that can face the EDIT.”

“‘Our’ plan?” Anme asked. “I don’t recall you asking for our ideas when you were planning.”

Bob gave her a level look. “Security is likely to be here any minute, to arrest you all as fake reporters. Megan can pass for Zakavian, temporarily, and I can hide in the shadows. The rest of you will be safer on the Anonymous. We have little time, you must leave now.”

“I am not pleased,” Roy announced, “but I will go.”

“Excellent. Good luck.”

“The scanner is picking up some weird energy readings from the burrito,” Gordon reported.

“What kind?” Gerhardt asked.

“I’m not sure, the scanner just says ‘some weird energy readings’.”

“Remind me to hurt whoever programmed that interface,” Gerhardt remarked.

“Boost shields on that side,” Harrison ordered.

Thus far, the great space battle hadn’t been very interesting. The Anonymous was a powerful ship, but it was also a very large ship, which meant it was a very slow ship. Fortunately, it’s defenses were such that it could adopt a turtle-like strategy: soak up damage and blast anything that comes near. The Zakavians had launched a few squadrons of fighters, which had swarmed about the Anonymous, chipping its armor, and occasionally getting in the way of a defensive cannon, which was usually fatal (for the fighter, that is). To the irritation of her own fighter crews, the Captain had decided to depend on the ship’s long-range weapons rather than on fighters, on the grounds that they did more damage and were less risky.

A bank of QuiteLarge Cannons fired, battering a Zakavian cruiser. The Zakavian warships began moving away from the Anonymous, calling in their fighters, but continuing their mostly ineffective attack.

“What are they doing?” Gerhardt wondered. “They’re easier to track further away.”

“I suspect they have a secret weapon,” Harrison guessed. “Otherwise, this battle will be pretty one-sided.”

That was when the EDIT fired, unleashing the power of several cubic kilometers of spicy Mexican food in a single burst of energy.

Roy whistled, watching the kilometer-thick beam slam into the Anonymous’s deflector shields, encasing the ship in a shimmering field as the deflector attempted to disperse the energy. As the EDIT’s blast petered out, the deflectors facing it collapsed, allowing the last dregs of destructive spice-energy to hit the hull itself, where they carved out a gash the size of a battleship. Despite that, it did little damage, as the unknown designers of the Anonymous had put all the important stuff (like, say, the bridge) closer to the center.

“Contact them,” Roy said. “They’ve got to know we’re coming.”

“Right,” Horlun replied.

They watched the Anonymous orient towards the EDIT, taking advantage of the momentum imparted by the EDIT’s spice attack. When the time was right, it fired its own main gun, unleashing a beam powerful enough to vaporize a small continent—which it did, since the EDIT had managed to dodge, somehow.

“Gack!” Kvasha shouted, spitting out his beverage. “Who put the EDIT between them and us?”

“Its captain,” one of the officers told him.

“Thank you,” Kvasha sneered. “It’s a good thing this planet’s mostly uninhabited. Now, tell them to move it somewhere where near-misses won’t kill us.”

“But the battle’s on the other side of the planet,” another officer reminded him. “We’re just watching through satellite feeds.”

“I was speaking metaphorically,” Kvasha informed him. “I don’t want Planet Gloom to get hit anymore, understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“They dodged?” Harrison demanded incredulously. “How can a ship that size dodge?”

“I don’t know,” Gerhardt told her, “but I sure hope our recharge cycle is shorter than theirs, or we’re going to have problems.”

“You’re right,” Harrison conceded. “Let’s get ready to leave, people.”

“We’re receiving a message from a small vessel,” reported Gordon, the Generic Bridge Officer™ for this episode. “They’re warning us about that burrito-thing’s power, and they say they know where the Blue Squadron is.” He turned to the Captain. “Should we let them dock?”

“I don’t see why not,” Harrison replied. “Have Green and Black squadrons meet them, in case they turn out to be spies or something.” She smiled. “Let’s see them complain about not getting any action now.”

“Should we taunt the Zakavians before we leave, so it won’t look like we’re chickening out?” Gerhardt asked.

Harrison considered that. “I can’t think of anything ominous enough, actually.”

“A pity.”

“They’ve docked,” Gordon reported.

“That was fast.”

“Small ships move quickly.”

“Then get us out of here,” Harrison ordered.

On the monitors, the images of Planet Gloom and the surrounding space dissolved into the off-white of overly-hyped space.

That’s it?

Three-hundred fifty-odd lines for that?

Will episode fifteen be any better?

Will it come out before April?

Weren’t Captain Harrison’s plans supposed to change unexpectedly this issue?

They were, but then the Author’s plans changed, unexpectedly. Watch out, there may be more unexpected things in the next, bread-toasting episode of Starcruiser Anonymous. But, then again, there may not.

SFSTORY: Can you dig it?