Our curious adventurers were fleeing for their lives from a deadly beast on an alien planet covered in the blue dust of its previous victims. While they were not certain that the scream that sounded behind them moments before the fleeing was in fact the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula (or its unfortunate prey) after the horrifying description of the beast by their Chief Cultural Advisor, they weren’t going to waste what could be the final moments of their lives debating about it.
If someone were to be placed conveniently above the blue planet, say, in a spaceship, one equipped with a large viewing window, for example, they would see a very peculiar and terrifying sight. Since the rest of the crew was in fact not-so conveniently placed haphazardly upon the surface of the blue planet, in a somewhat dented spaceship, peering through a large, dusty, viewing window at the terrain in front of them and the figures of their comrades in the distance, the sight they were seeing was even more peculiar and terrifying. As the hull of the ship, though crumpled slightly, was sound proof, the crew within didn’t hear the scream that could make ones blood separate into curds as if it were a dairy product. All they saw was a collection of silver-clad dots that was their exploration team go in one moment from a cluster that seemed to be having a pleasant chat, to a flailing stampede of limbs and blue dust coming toward them. It was another few moments before the cause of their sudden flailing came into sight, heralded by the Commander’s grumbled question (“What in Flerk’s name are they doing?”) metamorphosing into a gargle of fear and profanities in several alien languages.
Meanwhile, at the site of the fleeing, Chief Cultural Advisor Daydream McDillydally was expending most of his energy in running, while using the rest to quash his academic curiosity which was irritatingly telling him to look behind him. His brain – which was usually quite logical but also housed this academic curiosity – was having a debate with itself. On the affirmative team the speaker argued that as Chief Cultural Advisor he couldn’t waste this opportunity to view a rare beast, and gain some bragging rights to use against his Hunger Games Nebula “expert” colleague. On the negative team the speaker made a very sound point of “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR HRAKING MIND!!!” which was one of the best rebuttals he had ever encountered. As it turns out the debate was decided suddenly when one of McDillydally’s mutinous feet stepped upon one of his brethren and flung him over and flat on his back in the cold, blue death-dust. Before McDillydally could even comprehend that he was no longer running but was in fact in a very vulnerable and embarrassing position, he heard a strange CLONK noise and what sounded like an angry, warbled war cry. As neither of these sounds were similar to the scream of before, his curiosity annoyingly piped up again and he propped himself up on four elbows, and hurriedly cleaned his spectacles with his other two to see what was going on.
A large, glowing white shape loomed in front of him and before he could even lash out in self-defense (or more likely, cower in a quivering ball of pathetic-ness) the shape grew an arm with a big hand attached (or more likely it already had said appendage and simply brought it forward) and grasping him by the shoulder pulled him back to his traitorous feet. The white-clad beast then inexplicably turned his back on the flustered Cultural Advisor, took up a strange defensive stance, and yelled over his shoulder at him. As he was wearing his Wireless Universal Translator (WUT) McDillydally understood the strangers shouted words, but still only comprehended some of them. The words that came to him in perfectly translated Procrasti was this: “Run you daft bugger! I’ll hold off the blighter with me bat, you get yerselves onto yer ship and tell the captain to haul out of here! Ours is parked just outta orbit – tell ‘im to fly inta our hold. The beast’ll rip your ship to smithereens but ours has a field that stops the bastard! Go!”
With the main points of the white, yelling alien ringing in his head (RUN. BEAST. SHIP. GO.) McDillydally ran faster than his feet could even envision as another loud CLONK sounded behind him. To his surprise and the surprise of his feet, he reached the rest of the team (who were oblivious to his trip and his alien rescuer) and yelled out a few choice words of the message. As these words were RUN, BEAST, SHIP, and GO there was no resistance from the others and as one they sprinted the rest of the way to the ship’s waiting landing ramp, trying desperately the ignore the screams, yells and CLONKs behind them. When they were safely inside McDillydally didn’t need to ask the Commander to take off as it was raring to go as soon as the hatch closed, but he did hasten to the control room anyway to attempt to pass on the message of his white-clothed protector. As was to be expected the Commander wanted an immediate explanation of what had occurred and was still occurring below, but knowing there was no time for long status reports McDillydally was uncharacteristically abrupt and relayed to the Commander the most important points:
1. That there was a deadly beast down there that desired to turn them all into a fine dust.
2. That the glowy white beings (now they were above the surface he could see that there was not one but about half a dozen) somehow could fight the beast and they obviously couldn’t.
3. One of the beings had said (he thought) that the Micro Reviews ship was no protection from the beast, but theirs had some kind of protective force field.
4. They had to get their ship into their hold as soon as possible or they’d be eaten horribly.
In a similar uncharacteristically decisive moment the Commander ordered the gathering crew to fire up all shields (which could barely protect the ship from a slight breeze at that point, but it reassured him a tad just saying it), scan the surrounds for a waiting ship and head for it as fast as their dented engines could go. While the flimsy shields were creating a parody of protection and the ship was trundling toward the only craft near the blue planet – a strange, but quite intimidating giant dusty red orb with white stitches encircling its grand circumference – McDillydally rubbed some of the blue dust from the viewing window still facing the planet (somewhat unsuccessfully as to do so he employed the exterior wipers which were encrusted with even more disintegrated ex-inhabitant dust), adjusted the zoom on his spectacles to its highest setting and peered down at the scene below with equal parts inconsolable terror, guilty relief and intellectual joy.
Several of the brave white beings were gathered in the same half-turned, splayed leg stance as his rescuer and were swinging their arms behind themselves and then toward the main reason for his terror, guilt and joy. The description he had given the team of the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from The Hunger Games Nebula was fairly accurate. A towering form that if it was next to their humble ship would dwarf/swallow it – check! Sickening serpentine neck that waved like a rabid python – check! A grossly cavernous mouth virtually crawling with an infestation of yellow, needle-sharp teeth glistening with a sickening silvery ooze that he didn’t want to think about too carefully – check! A collection of kicking, windmilling legs which didn’t stop flailing long enough to count but could easily equal in the hundreds – check! A mottled hide with the sickly, colourless look of a creature thought into existence (or rather the leftover excrement of thought) that had focused all energy on nightmare-ish weapons and had let any attempt at normal textures and appearance fall by the wayside? Well, that point hadn’t been relayed to him but it was so unsettling yet fascinating that he thought it deserved a check anyway.
As he teared his sextet of eyes (get your mind out of the gutter! It’s just a fancy word for six of something!) away from the beast he saw a single white-clad hero take a long run up, walking slowly at first and then gaining momentum as he neared his comrades. The crazed run up ended with a bizarre wide-legged step with a frantic overarm motion and a ball of dusty red light flew from his gloved hand, struck the blue ground with a bounce that sent dust everywhere and barreled straight into one of the beast’s blurred legs. In the next moment several of the others performed their stationary wide-legged arm-swing war dance and McDillydally saw identical dusty red orbs erupt from below their white gloves somehow connected to a long, oblong flash of light. All the orbs hit the same leg (or at least a blur that may have been around where the other blur was), the beast started to lose its balance and before its collective legs could get their bearings once more it toppled to the ground in a huge plume of blue dust. Despite being deaf to the sounds below McDillydally could tell that the white-clad energy-ball emitting warriors were performing some kind of victorious ritual complete with chants at the sight of their toppled foe, in the same way that he knew those odd CLONKS he had heard whilst on the planet had come from the red balls they somehow created, but from his vantage point it looked akin to a bunch of Boringball players carrying on after getting a Glor.
Before McDillydally could see if the beast recovered from its fall and attacked the celebrating warriors, two things happened almost simultaneously. Firstly the viewing window went dark and McDillydally realised that they were now contained inside the hull of the strange ball-shaped ship. Secondly a stunned hush went over the gathered crew who were out of ideas now that they were out of immediate danger and within the dark confines of an alien ship whose owners were absent and possible hostile. This palpable silence was broken by a loud outburst of “Right! This looks like a case for Shamrock House!” accompanied by the donning of an incredibly ugly hat and brandishing of a ridiculously large magnifying glass in one hand and a spiral notebook and pen in two of the others. The outburst, hat, magnifying glass, notebook and pen all came from one of the most useless, yet inexplicably arrogant crew members, a Mr Loafer Idleston who had adopted the name Shamrock House after their trip to the United Kingdom, Earth. The name was an homage to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes but had been mangled into nonsense after Idleston had sampled a local beverage, “whiskey” in the Kingdom’s smaller island, Ireland. Since adopting the name he had insisted on solving any strange happening that occurred, and since so far that had been limited to the case of who stole so-and-so’s protein pods out of the Food Containment Unit, the mystery of the salt in the sugar dispenser, and the scandal that was who wrote “Shamrock House is a dingbat!” across the self-proclaimed detectives ugly hat, the happenings on the Blue Planet was the most exciting case yet!
While Shamrock flitted around gathering statements from the exploration team, the Commander went on with the much more vital business of lighting their surroundings whilst pretending he was in complete control and being encased in a foreign ship was totally standard. Shamrock was just approaching McDillydally, notebook and pen poised, when there was a knock at the ships departure hatch. As one the crew froze and looked at the hatch and then at their Commander who was finding his fake look of control quite taxing to maintain. He approached the hatch with what he hoped was an air of command, and said a trifle squeakily “Whose there? Ah…I mean as Commander of this vessel I ah…demand you state your name and intentions!”. He was quite pleased with how official he sounded until the slightly muffled answer came from the other side. “It’s the guys that saved your asses, ya daft blighters! Open up so we can get ye into the craft proper and get the hell outta here!” Despite understanding only about half of what they said, the Commander gave the order to open the hatch and moments later they were face to face with six figures that by the amount of blue dust spoiling the clean white of their suits and helmets were probably the team that McDillydally had just seen toppling the Bloodthirsty Giraffe.
With a brisk “Follow us” the white-suited aliens turned and walked back through the hatch leaving the flustered Commander no choice but to lead his crew in a trail behind them. They went down into a dank holding space filled with crates and boxes, lit only by a glowing white orb held by the white figure leading the procession, then into the stark white interior of the ship. The crew looked around in awe as they followed the bare spiralling passages dotted with tall rounded doors and flashing panels, until they finally stopped at a dead-end with a huge and very shiny double door. As their white-clad leaders marched proudly into the massive room beyond, our overwhelmed crew shuffled awkwardly behind, every mouth hanging open and every neck craning to take in the sights.
The room was obviously the main control room, but it was so large and impressive it made their own control room look like a child’s cubby house. Everything was impossibly white and polished, from the clean, smooth floor, to the sparkling screens that covered almost every wall, shaped to fit the curved surfaces, to the dozen elegant, rounded white chairs. The only colour in the room came from more flashing lights that filled a large, round control panel in the centre, and a massive dusty red ball matching the ships interior which rose from the control panel on a flawless white pole. As they approached the control panel the twelve chairs swiveled toward them revealing twelve more aliens wearing spotless white uniforms, more sleek and authoritative then their blue-dusted escorts, and with two stripes of dusty red adorning wrists, waists and v-shaped collars. The seated aliens were also not wearing the white-domed helmets the others still hadn’t removed (which Commander Distraction thought was very rude and not the proper way to treat a man of his standing!) showing their round, dusty red heads complete with stitch-marks identical to the outside of the ship and the ball suspended on the pole, . Chief Cultural Advisor McDillydally had a moment of wondering whether they had modelled their ship and the ball on their own heads, or somehow vice versa before the alien sitting in the biggest and centralist chair rose and walked toward them.
If Commander Distraction hadn’t already guessed that this individual was their leader from the size of his chair and the intricate crest he wore on his uniform, he would’ve known from the way he strode with such purpose and authority, and he was instantly and irritatingly jealous. When he reached them the away team all removed their helmets, tucked them under one arm and gave their leader a short, respectful salute, making Commander Distraction even more jealous. “Captain,” The lead escort said. “We have subdued the beast but it won’t stay that way for long. No sign of survivors down there except this lot. Their craft is stowed in the hold and they’re obviously not armed. Wrong place at the wrong time by the looks of it.”
The Captain nodded once without even glancing at the bewildered Micro Reviews awkwardly gathered behind his crew members. “Right. Good job men. Lets get as far away from that damn planet while we still can eh?” the Captain said before turning toward the seated crew with a loud series of incomprehensible orders. The Micro Reviews looked at each other in confusion. What were they meant to do now? Was the Captain of these intimidating creatures going to even acknowledge their existence? Before the Commander could gather his thoughts, swallow his jealously, embarrassment and growing rage and address this too-perfect Captain, Shamrock House piped up. “Wait a minute! I think we all have a right to know what’s going on here! Who are you people? Why were you on that planet? And did you know that beast was there? We need answers!” The Commander was torn between outrage that that stupid fake detective had broken the silence when it should be him doing the liaising with these aliens, and relief that he had asked the hard questions so he didn’t have to.
Suddenly all the harsh dark eyes of the aliens were locked on Shamrock, wide with surprise. The Captain stopped his barrage of orders and walked calmly over until he loomed over the ridiculous detective and his ridiculous hat. “Are you their leader or something?” he said with disbelief. “Ah…No” said Shamrock, his bravado faltering a bit. “I’m a Detective!” (said in a way that clearly emphasised the capital D), “Detective Shamrock House, genius investigative mind!”. The Captain barely suppressed a smirk and chuckles could be heard from other members of the crew. “Well, Detective House, who is your leader then?”. Commander Distraction stepped forward, drawing himself up to full-height (even if it was a good couple of feet shorter than any of the white-clad beings) and sucking in his substantial gut. “I am. Commander Whatzat Distraction, Second Class Commander of the Micro Review Fleet, Inter-dimensional and Universal Travel Division of the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti of the Planet Procrastination”. The Micro Reviews all looked highly impressed that their Commander had stated his full title without messing up once, and the Commander felt as if he had gained a bit more height with the accomplishment. “Hmmm…I see,” said the Captain looking a smidgen impressed. “I’ve never heard of the Procrasti but that all sounded very….official. I am Captian Beamer Twelveman, Captain and Head Bowler of Team 14387.13, Planet 8 in the 13th System, Twelve Tier of the Pyramid Galaxy of Howzat. Our reasons for exploring that planet are classified and we were not aware that the Thought-Beast colloquially known as he Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula had invaded it and decimated its inhabitants, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent a bloody exploration team down there! Thought-Beasts can’t break our hull because we have a force field which interferes with their patterns so once we’ve put some distance between us it’ll be safe to release your ship. In the meantime you could remain on our vessel, our of the way of our operations, or you can go back to your ship and wait for an update. Any more questions, perhaps from your ahem…detective?”
This time the Captain didn’t even bother suppressing his smirk, and he joined in on the crew’s chuckling. Commander Distraction felt his face start to colour from green to the bright aqua of shame. He hardly understood what this Captain Twelveman had said, but he knew that it made him, his motley crew, and maybe even the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti sound small and foolish in comparison. He didn’t want to spend another second with these proud, successful, and superior beings so he gave a curt nod and decided to take the coward’s way out. “Ahem…Thank you Captain for accommodating us. If it weren’t for your men down there my exploration team, and likely my whole crew would have been nothing more than dust. We will retire to our ship and await your instructions.” And with that he strode with as much purpose and authority as his bruised pride could muster, out of the control room and back into the spiralling white corridors, his crew trailing meekly behind him. As the corridors had no corners and simply led back to the hold in one long, shining coil the crew had no trouble making their way back, and they respectfully didn’t question the Commander’s decision – not even Shamrock. He did however linger at the back and when the crew entered the hold he snuck back into the corridor and turned into the first door on the right. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he knew something was up with these people and their “classified” mission, and as the ship’s genius investigative mind it was his duty to solve the case!
The room he entered was as stark as the corridors and control room, with just a simple white chair, some dials and lights attached to a round console and a smallish rounded screen on the wall in front of him. Shamrock took out his over-sized magnifying glass and peered at all the details of the room, but he couldn’t even understand what the dials, lights and screen were let alone how they could be used to find clues. He sat at the console in the white chair (which was made for a much taller and leaner figure and not equipped for more than one set of limbs, so a bit awkward) and got out his notepad and pen to document his findings so far. To get into a more comfortable position he stood on the chair with his six feet as close together as possible and leaned several of his elbows on the console while he wrote. Unfortunately the console was so clean and slippery that two of his elbows slipped and he fell face-first onto dozens of buttons, narrowly avoided a lever to the eye and ended up with a large dial shoved in his mouth. As a result the screen suddenly came to life and started scrolling through pages and pages of text before settling on a single entry.
As the text was likely in their native tongue it looked like mindless scribblings to Shamrock so he turned a tiny dial on the side of his magnifying glass (it was good for something beyond being comically giant!) and viewed the text through its lens, neatly translated in Procrasti. To his amazement the text was some kind of Captain’s log and if he was not mistaken the date at the top (formatted according to the Council of Universal Dates for Interplanetary and Inter-dimensional Travel) was very recent. He skimmed the page skipping boring accounts of the day-to-day running of a ship until he found something that made his detective senses tingle:
“We have information from a trusted source that what we seek may be found in the Azure system 158 light years from our current location. We have set course for the nearest planet in the system immediately.” Shamrock located what he thought was a tracking pad and tentatively scrolled down to the following entry:
“After a rather harrowing warp we arrived at the first planet in the Azure system, a underdeveloped rock called Biz inhabited by a dim-witted amphibious race who call themselves the Bizii. From our limited and frustrating communications with the Bizii we have gleaned that their neighbour planet Boz has recently received a gift from an alien race which sound identical to ours. We are heading to Boz to see if their mysterious gift was in fact OWLs.” The plot thickens! Thought Shamrock triumphantly. I wonder why they would have any interest is nocturnal bird-life…I didn’t think owls were even found anywhere other than Earth… He scrolled down to the next entry:
“We met with the Bozoo, who were even more difficult to communicate with than the Bizii! Eventually we discovered that something had been lost in gossip and conjecture – the planet that had been visited by the alien race (that I am almost certain were a Team from another Tier) was not Boz but the most distant planet in the system, Byz. As all the species of this system are primitive at best and have proved useless at providing accurate information we will be exploring the other three planets in the system before reaching Byz and if the gift is more than a rumor and it is in fact OWLs, we will stop at nothing to find them and take them by force if needed.”
Shamrock furiously wrote down this last find and went to scroll to the next entry when a shadow fell across the page.
“Well, well, well what have we here?”…
An absolute cracker of a read! Set in Victorian London but in an alternative (and wonderfully steampunk) Victorian London where Vampires and Werewolves (and ghosts) are real, out in the open, and highly involved in politics and high society. I giggled most of the way through as the main characters are so proper (especially the vampires) and any impropriety is met with scandalised gasps and fanning, and the main characters have some spectacular strings of one-liners. Alexia Tarrabotti (the heroine) is an absolute hoot! Funny, spirited and certainly no simpering Victorian wallflower – I can tell that as this series goes on she will become one of my fave characters – and am so happy it is a series and not simply a one-off 😀
An action-packed second installment of this lovely children’s fantasy series where owls are the stars. This book introduced a whole host of new characters, settings and conflicts, paving the way for book 3. I loved the descriptions of the Ga’Hoole tree and the structure of the owls’ society, and I was impressed by how much factual information Kathryn Lasky weaves into her tales. I wish this series was around when I was a kid 🙂
Another fantastic Phyrne book, this time set in Sydney instead of Melbourne. Phryne has promised her assistant, Dot, that her little sojourn to the harbour city will be a quiet holiday of relaxing and watching cricket – one free of murder and danger. However when a couple of college boys beg her services to clear their friend’s name after the university’s safe is burgled she can’t resist. Throw in some new age magic, ancient Egyptian curses, blackmail, deception, prostitution, abduction and a search for Dot’s lost sister, and her holiday becomes a lot more than a few quiet afternoons of cricket!
A wonderfully imaginative children’s horror/fantasy fable which has some genuine scares and a solid moral behind it which is honest and not just a thinly veiled preach masquerading as a fun story. A good introductory course in the twisted mind of Clive Barker 🙂
Another fantastic Discworld novel – this time delving into the ancient kingdom of Djelibeybi, a place of sand, camels, Gods, and of course, pyramids. As can be expected Djelibeybi is a Discworld version of Ancient Egypt (and a neighbouring kingdom is similar to ancient Greece or Rome) which means the story is filled with hilarious situations, stories and dialogue which pokes fun at some of the more ridiculous facets of ancient civilizations. This may not be my fave Discworld book so far, but it certainly provided plenty of chuckles 🙂
Well there you go my wonderful, persevering Bookbaggers! Finally the third installment of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination! This one was tricky to keep short (which is why it isn’t….) but I hope you enjoy it anyway 🙂