Commander Brogan Lannrat gave a determined grimace, displaying the square, well-formed teeth that had previously attracted favorable attention from more than a few highly skilled Lounge Dancers on the Planet of the Green Lagoons.Â â€œNo puffed-up pillbug is going to look down his nose at me.â€
â€œPillbugs donâ€™t have noses,â€ noted crew biologist Mecky St. John.
â€œI donâ€™t care what part of anatomy they might or might not look down from, they wonâ€™t be looking down from it at me.â€Â Lannrat stood, hands on hips, at the entrance to the Prime Bugorium, the elaborately ribbed and segmented bug government headquarters on the Planet of the Pompous Pillbugs.Â The purple-and-black granite of the planetâ€™s surface spread out in undulations behind him like series of giant, oversize, rocky ear canals.
â€œThe pomposity is something you have to accept.Â Itâ€™s a part of their DNA,â€ explained Mecky St. John.
He and Lannrat had traveled to the Bugorium gates on their Bounce Bike, Space Command emissaries on a secret mission to investigate Pillbug intentions.Â Space Command intelligence officers had picked up unsettling noises in the cyberverse about Pilbug territorial prerogatives, setting off alarm bells at Blouder Base.
â€œAfter their evolutionary triumphs over the small-giraffe, this planetâ€™s pillbugs have an attitude problem thatâ€™s insufferable,â€ Mecky explained, in that nearly insufferable, wheedling crew biologist voice of his.Â â€œTheyâ€™re the only bugs within three systems that possess the power of speech.â€
â€œFortunately I possess the power of ignoring speeches,â€ said Lannrat.Â He gave his signature commanding guffaw, which tended to intimidate anyone with a less robust sense of humor in his immediate environs.Â â€œNow letâ€™s see just how nervously these bugs quail when an authentic, full-bodied human challenges them head on.â€
Lannrat strutted toward the guard-bug standing sentry at the Bugorium entrance, his space boots stomping the granite with the full force of the militaristic chieftain that he considered himself.
The guard bug wobbled slightly on his lowest legs, a sleek, imported black helmet sheathing the upper part of his body.Â Two of his many upper-right legs twitched restlessly, sending the spear he held into wobbly gyrations.Â â€œWho approaches the Bugorioum?â€ the huge arthropod asked, in a somewhat rusty voice since it was pretty infrequent that any visitors actually approached to even try gaining entrance to the massive grey complex.
â€œHumans,â€ sneered Lannrat.Â â€œI suppose youâ€™ve heard of them?Â Although the elevated, sophisticated nature of our affairs rarely leads to an intersection of our world with yours.â€
The pillbug twirled his lance in an impressive flourish with seven or eight legs until itâ€™s glinting point was just a pillbug-leg length from Lannratâ€™s check.Â Â â€œWhat is your business at the Bugorium?â€
â€œHaha!â€Â Lannrat laughed, as though the deadly pillbug lance was little more to him than the plaything of an inconsequentially rolling, insignificant, dirt-speckled millipede.Â â€œVery entertaining!Â I salute you on your twirly skills, your dexterous thrusting.Â Itâ€™s a veritable floorshow for the visitors: Pillbugs on Ice!â€
Mecky St John trotted up, coughing into his hand with exaggerated embarrassment.Â â€œYouâ€™ll have to excuse my Commander, oh Pillbug officer.Â Heâ€™s not accustomed to dealing with the more intelligent members of the gargantuan bug community.â€
â€œDonâ€™t apologize for me, Mecky,â€ Lannrat snorted, knocking aside the pillbugâ€™s lance with a jerk of an arm.Â â€œThis bug needs to learn his proper place in the cosmos, below the great chain of human beings.â€
â€œCommander Lannrat,â€ Mecky warned, â€œI donâ€™t think itâ€™s advisable...â€
But it was already clear that Lannratâ€™s move had been inadvisable, since the guard was flailing all of his ungrounded limbs and running straight at the Commander, shaking his helmet and emitting a piercing tone that made a typical whistle seem as low-pitched as a foghorn.Â Lannrat stood his ground, and was just about to experience a full collision with the onrushing bug flesh when the pillbug halted.Â A crackle of energy had darted through his helmet and with this signal the bug had ground to a stop.
A voice boomed with authority from a helmet-implanted speaker.Â â€œGuardsman, escort the intruders to the Bugorium Auditorium.â€
â€œHaha,â€ Lannrat chortled again.Â â€œThey think weâ€™re common intruders.Â Wait until they realize theyâ€™re dealing with superior beings here.â€
â€œCommander, I donâ€™t think you understand...â€
As the guard turned to lead them into the Bugorium, Lannrat gave a light kick to his shell.Â â€œShow us the sights, bug man.â€
Just minutes later, Lannrat and St. John found themselves in the large, but clammy, ceremonial auditorium, adorned with a dozen detailed sculptures of great pillbugs of yore, most of which, to the untrained human eye, looked remarkably alike one another.
Brogan Lannrat stood in the middle of the floor, hands on hips, looking up scornfully at the stone table where a council of especially sententious-looking pillbug potentates sat in a semi-circle.Â â€œYou call this a central Bugorium?Â Ha.Â Iâ€™ve seen more ornate arthropodean chambers in my nieceâ€™s Insect Farm.â€
Mecky St. John was next to Lannrat, trying to keep a lid on his frightful quivering at the concerted pillbug power arrayed against them.Â â€œThat attitude may not be our best approach, Commander.â€
The pillbug dignitaries seemed to agree with St. John, since they proceed to make munchy, gabbling, pillbug-language sounds across the table to each other.Â Finally, the central pillbug turned to the intruders and addressed them in a heavily accented speech that sounded like a man speaking through a tiny megaphone packed with pebbles and cottage cheese.
â€œYou have brought your gangly, unfortunate people-bodies to our planet without the proper identification, visa cards or recommended two-week vacation package vouchers.Â Why should we not immediately consign you to our Sponge Prisons?â€
â€œHa,â€ reiterated Lannrat.Â â€œThe Sponge Prison hasnâ€™t been built that can hold Brogan Lannrat.Â You clearly havenâ€™t heard of my escape from the Solitary Maximum Spongiform Security facility on the Planet of the Armored Earthworms.â€Â Lannrat threw some vigorous air-punches to demonstrate how heâ€™d been able to damage his holding cellâ€™s sponge walls.
The pillbugs made more gabbling and gargling sounds that mightâ€™ve been the bug equivalent of laughter.Â â€œYour body motions are diverting,â€ allowed the head bug.Â â€œBut they do not address our question.Â Why have you come here, all unbidden, to soil our domain?â€
Lannrat gritted his perfectly even and remarkably square teeth.Â These pillbugs simply wouldnâ€™t let up on the pomposity.Â â€œListen, you puffed up, overlimbed ambulatory pebble.Â Space Command polices this galaxy and weâ€™ve picked up way too much chatter lately on your insidious moon-gobbling plans.Â As far as weâ€™re concerned, you primitive talking fossils already take up way too much galactic real estate.â€
The bug bigwig was unpleased.Â â€œYour insolence is beyond bounds, Commander.Â Bug-guards, teach these fleshy ones some manners!â€
Before the Space Command officers could take defensive maneuvers, two of the auditorium pillbug sentries instantly rolled themselves into pill form while simultaneously collapsing onto built-in, full-size floor trampolines.Â With an aggressive spin they bounced off the trampoline surfaces to the center of the chamber, both guards smacking into either side of Mecky St. John.Â St. John let out an unmanly shriek and collapsed, messy blood dripping from the collapsed sides of his head where the naturally well-armored bugs had impacted.
The bug leader waved a series of impatient legs at Lannrat.Â â€œClobber the other one!â€
But Brogan Lannrat wasnâ€™t too be bug-bombed so easily.Â The security bugs had frisked him of his Spoggle blaster upon entering the Bugorium, but Lannrat had cleverly secreted a miniature bandolier of poison Muqâ€™u darts in his upper mouth cavity.Â Using a few lighting-fast foot-and-knee movements from the martial art of Brim Pucha, Lannrat jumped in front of the dignitariesâ€™ semi-circular table, ripped the bandolier from his mouth and let fly with five expertly placed Muqâ€™u darts that lodged in the tender underbellies of the sententious pillbugs.Â The pompous monstersâ€™ many legs writhed agonizingly in a spontaneous, coordinated display of insane pain and then, one-by-one, the oversize arthropods tottered and, in a Muqâ€™u-petrified state of immobility, crashed to the chamber floor.
But the Commander was not around to see the results of his fusillade.Â By the time the first bug fell, Lannrat was long gone, hustling down the, fortunately, well-signposted halls of the Bugorium to the exit, lashing out with Brim Pucha kicks and Muqâ€™u darts whenever his perimeter was broached by a many-legged armadillidium.
Within a few sweat-packed minutes he was sitting back in his World Floater, hitting the control sequence for blast off.
â€œThis is Lannrat,â€ he signed in to the Blouder Base mission frequency.Â â€œMission aborted.Â These bugs are up to no good, no question about it.Â Iâ€™ve seen all I need to see.â€
â€œReport team status, Commander.â€
â€œSt. Johnâ€™s not here.Â He was pretty badly bashed by those bugs.Â Might even be dead.Â At least sustained some brain injuries that would be damn inconvenient to recover from. But that bug-huggerâ€™s permanently cured of his bleeding-heart bawling, leastways.â€Â Lannrat gave a rough, commanding chortle as the World Floater achieved liftoff and he zoomed away from the purple-and-black landscape of the inhospitable and doom-inducing environs of the Planet of the Pompous Pillbugs.
Be amazed by more tales of Space Command in Space Command and the Planets of Doom: http://amzn.to/atEZo9