(Author’s note)… The action is heating up. The invasion from another dimension is well under way. Arthur… no, not me, the me in the other dimension that is now battling yet another Arthur from even another dimension, is, as usual, making it up as he goes along… even though the fate of several, if not all the dimensions, hang in the balance. He does rather well, considering he is over 50, not in the best shape, is lazy, sarcastic, cynical, and doesn’t take anything seriously. Hey, in the earlier books in this series–> available over there in the sidebar—> he saved an alien space station from space pirates, and saved San Francisco from being vaporized…
Oh, and down at the end, I have added an early character sketch of a Keelar… the bad guys… for your enjoyment. As I wrote these novels, being careful to never plan ahead past the next sentence, just to keep in the spirit of our hero, I drew little pictures of each new alien character as I created them. This helped me keep track of how many limbs and appendages they had, among other things. I also created a voice for each one, with funny accents, so I could carry on conversations with them in my head.
The bridge of the enemy ship began to appear before Arthur’ eyes, trading places with his view of the cabin of the spy vessel. As the air shimmered and gleamed and danced, the bridge became visible for longer segments of time. Even before he had fully materialized Arthur, could see amusingly shocked expressions forming on the faces of the enemy crew. The enemy captain himself seemed to be the most surprised of all. Strangely, or perhaps not, he didn’t seem unhappy to see Arthur still alive.
Arthur felt himself return to just one point in the universe instead of two. Then he felt himself falling. Dang it, he realized, I forgot I was going to materialize a foot or two above the deck. He fell the short distance awkwardly and stumbled forward a few steps, wind milling his arms to regain his balance.
“Well that was a graceful entrance,” said the enemy captain sarcastically.
Arthur walked over to stand in front of…himself.
“You look like five pounds of crap in a one pound bag,” continued the other Arthur.
“I haven’t slept in quite a while. And I got sprayed with a fire hose,” Arthur explained. He reconsidered his previous opinion that the other Arthur looked fat. Maybe the camera really did add ten pounds. “You look pretty good,” he admitted to his other self.
“I had to go through boot camp and military training. You think you could do that at your age?” taunted Arthur’s not-quite twin. “Besides, black is supposed to be slimming.”
I always was a smart ass, considered Arthur.
“So now what are you going to do?” asked the black-clad doppelganger. “Save the whole universe by yourself?”
Man, I don’t think I like me at all, Arthur thought morosely. But he had a snappy answer. “No, I am going to save two universes. Yours and mine. And I won’t be by myself, because you are going to help me. Hell, maybe we will even save all the universes while we are at it.”
The other Arthur managed to look doubtful and just a little hopeful at the same time. “Look, I’m not going to help you. I have a wife and two daughters at the tender mercies of the Doraimee.”
This caught Arthur by surprise. “I have two daughters?” he blurted out to himself. He almost asked the other Arthur if he had any pictures of his kids he could look at, but he didn’t allow himself to be sidetracked. “So, you aren’t just the captain of this ship? When I was back on Earth preparing myself to be blown up, you said you were in command of the first wave, right?”
“Dude, you are looking at Grand Admiral Arthur Blacke of the Black Fleet, first wave,” said the grand admiral proudly.
“Oh, don’t be an ass,” said Arthur caustically. “If Fahh put you in charge, he meant it as an insult to me, not as a compliment to you.”
The grand admiral seemed to consider this for a moment. The wet, tired, and sore Arthur pressed his point further. “How far does he really trust you, Arthur? If he told you that you would have the honor of crushing us, he was lying. Look around, dude. You are just here to test our firepower and resolve. To see how many ships we fixed or scraped together. He doesn’t give a damn if any of you survive.”
“Are there any Keelar aboard this ship?” the Arthur with a haircut more appropriate for his age persisted. “I think Fahh must have sent some babysitters along, just to make sure nobody stepped out of line. Am I right?” He suddenly remembered, with a sinking feeling, the human they had seen speaking into his console station on the bug-drone’s control panel. He was about to tell Rubar to watch the bridge door, but he was too late. The door slid open, and in stormed an armed contingent of what Arthur somehow knew were the Keelar, the masters and overlords of an entire universe.
And he burst out laughing.
“Somebody could have warned me that they look like happy footballs,” he blurted. But the laughter came to an abrupt end that left Arthur coughing. As more and more of the foot-tall aliens scrambled onto the bridge, Arthur realized that on closer inspection, the Keelar didn’t look happy at all. For one thing, they were all carrying long, slender rifles which they pointed jerkily at everyone in sight. For another thing, the huge smiles they all wore were fixed permanently across their lower torsos. They weren’t smiles at all. That was merely the shape of the Keelar’s mouths. And on closer look, Arthur saw that these ghastly permanent grins were positively loaded with wicked rows of sharp teeth like the smile of a great white shark.
As the Reavers and the robot pointed their guns at the Keelar, and the Keelar pointed their guns right back at them, and everybody yelled for everybody else to throw their guns down, Arthur took the opportunity to study the feisty newcomers even more thoroughly. They were, as he had first noticed, about the right size, shape, and color to resemble an American football, a little taller, perhaps, but not by much.
They scampered rapidly about on four long legs with big, rounded knobby joints. The legs projected upwards from under the base of the body and at the first joint they angled back down to knobby round ankles and sack-like little feet. This leg setup made their movements very spider-like. Big spiders made Arthur think of Halloween, and that made him think of jack-o-lanterns. That’s what they looked like, he decided quickly, a cross between a football and a jack-o-lantern.
Adding to the spiderish appearance of the Keelar was the fact that they had multiple eyes. Six eyes, to be exact, with the central pair placed close together and centered above the gapping mouth. The extra pairs were spaced on either side the center pair. The eyes on either side of the central pair were half the size of those, and the pair further out were again half the size of the preceding ones. Arthur recalled from nature documentaries that jumping spiders had an eye arrangement very similar to that. The Keelar’s arms, which emerged from their bodies above and between the double sets of legs, were long and snaky, ending by splitting into two flat, fleshy pads in place of fingers.
These observations took only a fleeting moment. Arthur realized he needed to get this volatile situation under control before somebody let off a shot and started a gun battle in the enclosed space. By now there were about twenty of the Keelar clustered in and around the doorway. Then Arthur remembered Jon’s bomb belt was still hanging over one of his shoulders. The bomb itself was only about the size of Arthur’s hand, a neat, flat package that was now completely disarmed. But they didn’t know that. Arthur just did the first thing that came into his mind. He slipped the belt off his shoulder and tossed it into the crowd of little soldiers.
“Hey,” he shouted, “you guys recognize this?” Then he pulled the detonator switch from his pocket and held it up for all to see, placing his thumb on the little red button and holding it down. “If you shoot me,” he continued, “we all go boom together.”
As an attention getting device, a bomb can certainly be effective. The Keelar began chattering and squeaking at each other like angry squirrels. Finally one of them stepped forward. Arthur noticed that this individual was covered with what looked like little round spots of red paint.
“I am troop leader Vargah,” he proclaimed in a high, squirrely voice. “You are alive. You should not be alive.”
“Yes, my continued survival seems to disappoint quite a few people these days,” Arthur shot back crossly. “On the other hand, your continued survival would seem to rely on not pissing me off too much.” He held up the switch to let the troop leader get a good look at it. One more bluff, in the spirit of poker night.
The tiny alien with the spooky smile was no coward. “So we go boom, like you say, big trouble maker. I don’t think you want to go boom, same as me.” The pint-sized troop leader sounded pretty sure of himself.
Crap, Arthur complained silently, of all the times to have someone call my bluff. He decided to try a more direct approach. “Number One, deploy an electro-net against troop leader Vargah,” he said quietly into the little robot remote override unit.
There was a thunk, and the gossamer web of metallic strands spread out to enwrap the troop leader. Because of his small size, the web overlapped him and the weighted ends passed him by, to come in contact with three or four other Keelar. The effect was sort of like a hard-thrown bowling ball hitting the tightly packed pins at the end of the lane.
The blue discharge of sparks, which coincided with the net hitting its targets, caused an unfortunate reaction with the Keelar’s nervous systems. I am no doctor, but that is certainly how it looked to me. If so much as a single trailing fiber of the web touched a Keelar, the Keelar’s legs went into spasms, shooting out straight and locking into rigid lines. Having this happen to all four of their legs at one time caused the Keelar to shoot into the air like small, football-shaped rockets.
Since the troop leader was dragging the net along with him for his flight, the results just got more and more spectacular. Each time he came back down he would shoot more and more of his troopers into the air. Some of these flights went as high as six or seven feet in the air, which, if you bear in mind the fact that the Keelar were only a foot tall, is rather impressive. At last the electrical charge ceased, and the last of the Keelar finished their brief flights to fall back to the deck where they lay like sad, drying prunes. In the end there were only two Keelar still standing, and they chose to drop their weapons in a hurry.
“Damn, that was satisfying,” said Arthur with great conviction.
A Keelar. I will add some more alien artwork as we go. I will also try to give you more backstory, but you could just buy the first three books.