Tag Archive: space opera

In an irregular galaxy,

hunkered behind a sprawling nebula,

Controlling a system of stars numbering

A total difficult to count,

The relatively tireless, foolhardy officers of

Space Command voyage between worlds,

Exploring, researching, and ferreting out

Vulnerable potential colonial outposts.

These are the accounts of some of their less

Successful expeditions…

Now all of your favorite The Planet of… stories are in one convenient place, my new e-book ‘Space Command and the Planets of Doom’.

You get:

The Planet of the Miniature Mummies

The Planet of the Orange Oceans

The Planet of the Dehydrated Primates

The Planet of the Belligerent Monks

The Planet of the Dead Wombats

The Planet of the Unstoppable Vines

The Planet of the Visible Robots

The Planet of the Invisible Robots

The Planet of the Ravenous Snails

The Planet of the Telepathic Jellyfish

The Planet of the Frozen Spiders

And The Planet of the Green Monkeys.

And if you act now, we’ll throw in, at no extra charge, The Putrid Moon.

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But be careful…once you get a taste for Frozen Spiders there’s no going back.

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The Planet of the Unstoppable Vines

Commander Bertrand had grown suspicious of Dr. Straylace long before they’d landed on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  Not only was she the first female botanist Bertrand had worked with, but as a Marelkin she came from a storied, mysterious realm where the women were better known for their erotic waistdancing than for the study of deciduous trees and bracket fungi.  But now it was too late for suspicion.  He was on the plant surface, the strange ruby-red unstoppable vines, growing relentlessly toward them at an uncomfortably visible rate and threatening to suffocate all of the cuddly underground mammal life on the planet, such as mini-dogs and prairie mutts, with its vigorous, chunky tendrils.

“The vines are fast,” said Slogan, the data-rich mission android in his cold robotic voice.  After this contribution to the team’s efforts he jerkily turned to watch the spectacle of Dr. Straylace perform her obscure experiements.

Standing a short distance away on the cappuccino-brown surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines in front of an array of arcane and inexplicable botanical devices, Dr. Straylace was a paragon of rational scientific femininity.  With her flowing, walnut-colored hair and exotic, orange Marelkin eye make-up, she held a provocative allure that even the hyper-rational, inhuman Slogan could not deny.

“Slogan, what is the exact growth rate of the vines?” barked Bertrand.

There was no answer as the bronze-garbed Slogan, his inner space-android gears whirring, stared in robot-eyed fascination at Dr. Straylace.   Bertrand whipped around, his impatient nature tiring of Slogan’s glacial response pace. 

“By the eyes of the god-fish, Slogan!  Stop gawking and give me a growth estimate on these vines.”

“Your tone of voice is inappropriate,” Slogan responded, in the same emotionless tone he’d used for all five hundred years of his well-lubricated existence.  “I object to it.  As a veteran Crew Unit Ultima Mind TX Module, I request a formal apology.”  Slogan turned away from Straylace, his uncanny doughnut-shaped eyes boring into Bertrand with android annoyance. 

Straylace casually brushed a few strands of walnut hair from her face, as she looked up from her glowing diagrams of vine innards.  “Yes, Bertrand,” she said in the carefully enunciated tones of a trained botanist.  “You’ve been irascible towards Slogan since we left Space Command.  You should apologize.”

“Apologize!” Bertrand spit out the word like it was a sour green papaya he’d fished out of the crisper in the refrigerator during a moment of desperate hunger in the midst of a three-day bender.  For emphasis, he fished three stubby cigars out of his jumpsuit pocket and abruptly tossed them on the rubble-strewn surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  “Apologize to this bucket of nuts and bolts?  This clanking tin man made from recycled space capsule parts?  This emotionless device, devoid of feeling, of poetry, of love for riding under the burning Gorban sun on a wild untamed black stallion with the blood pumping through your veins in a feverish cascade of life, of untrammeled, fierce-breathing life!  Never!”

Slogan slowly blinked his artificial, but surprisingly convincing, doughnut eyes.  “You should be cautious, Commander.  I am engineered for surprising feats of agility.”  As though to prove his point, Slogan reached up with the speed of a maniacal trout and grabbed an indigenous hummingbird that had been whirring through the air in a confused blur.  Within seconds, the hummingbird was displayed on Slogan’s toaster plate, which he’d ejected with soundless efficiency from his waist, dissected into its component parts and labeled with the proper scientific terms in a clean, easily readable font.

“Very impressive!” cried Straylace.  “Can you do the same with a zinnia?”

Betrand came two steps closer to the android, his feet moving over the beige ground with the determination of an elephant mother coming to guard her young from the rampage of a starved, psychotic python.  “I’m in charge of this mission, Slogan.  And I demand that you calculate the rate of that vine growth.”

“Very well,” said Slogan.  In a blinding spurt of robotic motion, the top of Slogan’s head popped open and a gleaming black revolver appeared above it at the end of a flexible steel rod.  With a clearly audible click, the rod pulled the trigger of the weapon, sending a bullet straight into Commander Bertrand’s forehead.  Bertrand gurgled, his mouth filling up with the wild and restless blood of a third-generation space commander, and he fell forward onto a dark-chocolate-colored stone, making the unmistakable sound of the dead.  “The rate of the vine growth,” said Slogan, “is ten centimeters per minute.”

Dr. Straylace put her fingers to her mouth in distress, her exotic green Marelkin fingernail polish contrasting nicely with the crimson tones of her generously applied lipstick.  “Slogan, what have you done?  You’ve killed the Commander!  And he was the only one with the combination to the Space Capsule door.”

“Then we are trapped on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines for all eternity,” said Slogan, a new tone of near-homo-sapien-like triumph creeping into his voice.  “Giving me plenty of time to explore the new sensations you evoke in my android parts.”

“What are you saying, Slogan?  You are an unfeeling android.  You’re not even a true life form.  As a qualified botanist, I can state with expert assurance that you are unnatural, imperfect and a blot in the harmonious circle of life.”

“May the god-fish blast you to damnation for your impertinence,” said Slogan, his android voice now bearing unmistakable hints of emotion.  Once again, the robot’s dependable revolver popped out of the top of his head and his newfound android hatred erupted in a series of shots that left Dr. Straylace splayed on the ground, her botanist’s mouth twisted in a gape of stunned and irrevocable death moans.

“A pity,” said Slogan.  “She would have grown to admire me in time.”  The android amused himself by reviewing his video diary of the mission as he waited for the fast-growing vines to surround and destroy him, relentlessly turning him into a useless vine-permeated hunk of abandoned metallic rubble on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.

Ensign Farragut stepped on a chunky, beige tube-worm and emitted a slight groan of disgust as the oozy brown worm-guts seeped out onto the sandy, gray ground of The Planet of the Ravenous Snails.

Commander Fitz-Nelson barked out a harsh, dog-like laugh, the laugh of a grizzled Space Commander who’d witnessed far more grotesque and savage sights than the accidental halving of a tube-worm. “Distressed by worm innards, Farragut? Didn’t you take Dismemberment Training at the Space Academy? Evisceration Class? A Space Ensign must be ready for any degree of gore.”

“I didn’t sign up for this mission to wantonly slaughter helpless creatures,” protested Farragut. He was a slight, bespectacled Space Ensign on his first mission, an invertebrate-loving would-be zoologist who hadn’t been able to afford the tuition to pursue advanced mollusk studies. When Farragut had learned about the journey to the Planet of the Ravenous Snails, he’d immediately quit his greasy job making artisanal onion rings to put himself forward for the crew.

Fitz-Nelson confronted him with the hardened, granite-hewn face of a Commander who’d seen crew after crew succumb to wholesale space-slaughter: men chewed up in the maw of the Living Cave on the Planet of the Living Cave, diced and reorganized on the Planet of the Puzzle-Loving Iguanas and suffocated under a swollen tongue on the Planet of the Diseased Giant Sloths. “Listen to me, Farragut, and listen good. Space is a ferocious killing machine, each creature in it made to gobble, chomp or absorb through osmosis some other living organism. There’s no such thing as a helpless creature in space, you slack-willed, moist-eyed Academy-bred Fawn. If I have to put a goddamn Kill Ray in your hands…”

Farragut held up a silver-gloved hand to signal for silence.

“What was that?” the ensign asked.

“What was what?”

“I heard a rumble. Like the rumble of a Ravenous Snail slowly making its way through a field of giant rocks.”

Fitz-Nelson laughed again, the laugh a large, black, medieval, beef-loving dog might laugh if it had the uncanny power of man-like laughter. “Scared of a Ravenous Snail? Is that what you are, Farragut?” Fitz-Nelson pivoted with bravado toward the large boulders blocking their view and whipped out his streamlined Snail Detector.

“There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sense of fright,” said Farragut. “A man without fear is practically the definition of a man with a serious psychosis.”

Fitz-Nelson jerked his head back and stared wild-eyed at Farragut with the glare of a predatory bird spotting a taunting, but plump, rodent. “What did you say, Farragut?”

“I said a man without fear…”

“After that.”

“Serious psychosis.”

Fitz-Nelson’s eyes narrowed, growing as narrow as a thin strip of licorice dangling limply from the mouth of a mentally challenged boy. “Who told you about my serious psychosis?”

Farragut raised his eyebrows. “You have a serious psychosis?”

Just then, the Snail Detector buzzed with a decisive, penetrating buzz.

Fitz-Nelson glared at the detector, gave another wild-eyed look at Farragut, then, with a burst of energy possible only in a Space Commander in the grip of a serious psychosis, leapt atop the giant boulder and laughed a jagged, vigorous laugh.

“Behind this boulder, Farragut. Behind this boulder lurks the Ravenous Snail of my destiny!”

Farragut watched in horror as Fitz-Nelson bounded from the boulder down to the hidden rock field beyond. Straining his ears, he could barely make out the sizzling sound of Ravenous Snail juices dripping from a snail maw. Farragut looked back at the cylindrical Space Capsule, planted on a flat rock some hundred yards away. If he returned to the Capsule without Fitz-Nelson he would be shunned as a cowardly Space Mutineer, a rookie ensign who’d derelicted his duty. Gritting his teeth, Farragut thought back on his dreams of seeing the snails of space in person. Scanning the boulder, he detected a shadowy area, wide enough for a man with his build and thin-layered space suit to squeak through.

Farragut plunged in and was soon surrounded by ominous walls of unfriendly boulder, foreign space rock that flaunted a crass, uncaring attitude toward human intruders. He could sense the stony hostility, the intransigent, geological self-regard that would crush him like the visiting vertebrate that he was, and so it was almost with relief that he finally squeezed through to the expansive, uneven rock field.

“Snail ho!” came the booming voice of Fitz-Nelson.

Adjusting to the light, Farragut blinked and looked up. He beheld the largest Ravenous Snail he’d ever seen, stretching upward to the height of two normal men, its shell a rough and unattractive mosaic of dirty pink and midnight black. Sitting atop the shell, riding it like a long-haired, barbarian conqueror at the head of innumerable ranks of snail troops, was Fitz-Nelson, spurring the monstrous mollusk on with kicks of his black Space Boots and shouts of implacable orders.

“Drool, snail, drool! Drool on those who would question their Commander!”

The snail’s surprisingly fast and agile neck, glistening with ample slime, writhed about above the cowering Farragut and from its primitive mollusk mouth it let fall a foaming glob of alien snail drool. Farragut screamed as the acidic drool penetrated his space suit, sizzling through the thin layer to his scrawny shoulder. He collapsed, writhing in a lethal bath of snail acid.

Fizt-Nelson laughed a triumphal, scornful laugh. Surveying his new rocky kingdom from the snail’s back, he exulted in the spectacle of his sparsely populated, yet atmospherically sound, domain. He pounded the snail shell in exultation, but grew overly exuberant in his wallops. The last time he’d ridden atop a Ravenous Snail had been decades before and the Commander was unused to the moist and clammy shell. His smooth, frictionless suit wasn’t designed for snail riding and as he whooped a final victorious whoop, Fitz-Nelson leaned too far to the left and lost his balance, sliding from the snail’s back and falling to the field of sharply pointed rocks below, where he split his skull on a knife-like, serrated ledge. As the Commander lay bleeding onto the ground, the snail dipped its head to take advantage of the rare, ample meal of two bipeds as a flock of miniscule black birds flew above in a lonesome formation across the sky of the Planet of the Ravenous Snails.