The Merchant Of Menace: Rebel Without A Code Clearance

Twin Suns, Ray Guns And Puerile Puns About Brad’s Buns…

 

This is Episode II in the Firm And Shapely Trilogy you can find Episode I ‘ere:

“What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.  

 

Well, that escalated quickly!

Despite fighting off Tenko Tash’vaa’s monologues as well as his goons,

Brad and Lexi remain holed up inside the villain’s headquarters on Wotsit IV in the Midlanoware System. 

Time is running out, and there is little hope of ever finding that reckless young spy: Bagel Looney…

But now, across the street, out of the clouds with a deafening drone

descends the most feared and infamous cruiser in the entire Imperial fleet: 

the Zoulzukker!

Kriegzlide Killzquad have arrived… 

 

“Getcha lousy biochemech mitts offa me!” Lexi protested as two giant Killzquad gooms seized her and began dragging her out.

Another two grappled with her companion.

“NAH!! Leave ‘er alone!” yelled the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger. “She’s gonna beat the stuffin’ outta yas!” 

“Hush urp, Urfmairn!” grumbled Zoltan Zovran – the Kriegzlide psychonaut too deranged even for a regular Shokk Trooper division to manage. The ruffian suddenly raised his Particle Accelerator Lance and jabbed it into the back of the Battleforce Commander’s head.

The squad, and their hostages, emerged onto the hot, crowded street. As half of those milling about – or just hanging around, wasting their Imperial time – consisted of the occupying Zandokan garrison, so Zubizmaar’s lunatics could avoid the hassle of gawping bystanders for a change.

As delirium seeped over him, Brad’s groggy eyes could just about discern a lone, armed Shokk Trooper emerge from the bustling throng and approach the group. With some urgency.

“A chenge uv ordairs, yo lot!” it barked. “Ze Emprah hez infairmed ze Wotzeet Proveencial Offizer zat zeez preeznair be brurt to ze Zentient Towair, een ze Men Zquare, fer ferzair eentairrogation!” 

And with that, he forcefully snatched the Earthling. The Killzquad stared uneasily among themselves.

Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar looked the most disbelieving. 

“Hmm… Zoundz laike a lurda covfefe to me, Troopair…” he snarked. “Ve vere zent ‘ere pairzonally by ze Emprah! OUR uddairz come STRET frurm ZAN DOKA IZZELF! Shur me YER uddairz, Troopair!”

“Directeev: Zero-seex-zero-ett – yo ken doneludd eet frum ze men Empeerial Moaneetor…” 

As they started to depart, Zubizmaar signalled them to halt: “Troopair! Vot eez yer urpairateenk numbair?”

“ZX2187…” 

He raised his blaster at them as they trudged away, crying out: “Two-wun-ett-zeven! Ze Urfzcurm ztayz weev uz! BREENK HEEM BECK ur-” 

“Ur whut?!” ZX2187 barked, not stopping, not looking back… “Yo vood shoot en Empeerial Troopair een ze beck…?!”

“‘Twood NUT be ze firzt tem, fool… Geev our preeznair beck, KNOW!” 

“C-come urn, Earthman, murve!” the Trooper muttered nervously as he nudged your hero in the back.

As this unlikely pair wandered off down the street, the Killzquad watched in bewilderment. 

“Vell, ZEEZ wuz NUT een ze zcripp…” Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar stood akimbo, shaking his repulsive head: “Yo ‘ombrez! Tek ze gell ta ze sheep – Zoreen! Follair zem! Ve durn’t dare lewz NEIZAIR uv zeez deepweetz!”  

Zoreen Zeegazeeg – a ruthless spy/assassin in his own right – stepped forth.

“‘Tweel be may genueen pleazure, zah!” 

And before anyone could cue some suitably dramatic music, he had vanished into the crowd…

Strangely, Trooper ZX2187 looked anxious, glancing every which way before nudging Brad into a narrow alley.

Your hero frowned in confusion: “…’Ere, ‘ang abaht… yer goin’ the wrong way…” 

“No, we’re not! In ‘ere, quick!”

At that moment, they barged into an empty hovel halfway down one side. Brad spun round to watch the Trooper remove his helmet and reveal not a green-skinned Imperial grunt, but:  

“Bless me blueberry muffins! BAGEL!”

“Shoosh, Commander! Ya wanna let everybody know where we are…?!”

“The longer we’re here, the less luck we’re gonna have…” – Han Solo.

“Too short for a Shokk Trooper?” Brad Fartlighter muttered cynically, massaging his sore bonce.

“Huh? Shucks, man, done pret’y well up until now…”

“‘Ave ya really, kid? Jeez, wanna know the reason why I didn’ pounce on ya jus’ now? Ya said: “Earthman,” instead o’ “Urfmairn”…!”

“Did I…?! Fudge… ‘Sfunny, there may ‘ave been some slip-ups earlier; it’s gettin’ well dodgy – I reckon some o’ the Shokk Troopers’ve kinda sussed me aht… Ya gotta ship? I’m itchin’ ta get offa this rock!” 

“Not so fast, Lil Itch – we ain’t goin’ nowhere jus’ yet! Those Kriegzlide goons ‘ave snatched me Second Officer – ya’d bet’er polish yer accent ‘cos we’re gonna break inta the Zoulzukker an’ get ‘er th blazes aht before they can get ta the muvvaship!”

“‘Er?! Yer Second Officer’s a woman?!”

“Whoa, a gold star fer keepin’ oop, Bright Eyes! She came all this way ta getcha back – an’ now both of us ‘ave ta get ‘er back!”

“You came ‘ere ta get me an’ all?”

“Nah, I came ta keep me eye on ‘er-“

“Well, you’re doin’ a fine an’ dandy job o’ THAT!” 

“An’ whose fault wuz that then, fella?! Cos o’ you, dipwit, I’m further from Lexi than I’d like! I’m gonna need me own Shokk Trooper’s togs ta pull this ruse orf – we’ll ‘ave ta coax one of ’em in ‘ere…!”

“Easy peasy, Commander be back in a jiffy…”

“BAGEL…?!”

And with that, the reckless Rebel wandered off up to the main street; just two minutes later, in burst a suitably perplexed Shokk Trooper. 

Brad waved and chirped: “‘Iya, amigo! ‘Ow ya doin’? Got any Doritos on ya…?”

The next minute, Bagel wandered in to see Brad standing over the fallen felon, extracting its armour. 

“I shudder ta think, kid: what did ya say ta this nerk?”

“Simple: ‘If ya wanna catch the Wanted cake-lovin’ Brad Fartlightercome wi’ me’…!”

“You…!” Brad gasped, then chortled: “You’re a crafty lil nerk, Bagel, I’ll givya tha’… sheesh!” 

Suddenly, he grabbed said crafty lil nerk by the collar, and retorted: “JEEZ, kid! Ya’ve REALLY dropped me buns in the fire NOW! Outta ORL’A goons ya coulda brought in ‘ere, ya HADTA pick aht ol’ Zeeg? One of the most demented bunnies I’ve EVAH run inta! DAHN’T need this – ya KNOW I’ve ALREADY got an ‘eadache…”

“SOZ, Commander, but- but ‘ow wuz I supposed ta know…?!”

The Commander loosened his grip, and replied gently: “Yeah… ‘ow… were ya supposed ta know… Too late, we’re in deep, now – ‘elp me wiv these boots, will ya? (This is the part abaht bein’ an ‘ero I detest the most: takin’ other fellas’ clobber orf). C’mon, kid, we’ve got an appointment wiv da Killzquad ta keep!”

While Brad nonchalantly scanned up and down the street, counting Imperial sentries, working out their next plan of action, Bagel stared in such a befuddled state at the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger.

“Are we really doing this?!” whispered Bagel.

“We’re gonna do this!” whispered Brad. 

“Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist” – K-2SO. 

“How’d ya end up ‘ere, Bagel?!”

“Bah! Got shot dahn by a Zkorpion – thought it best ta infiltrate the Shokk ranks – tha’s ‘ow I’ve managed ta stay undetected fer so long-“

“Too darn roight ya were undetected, ya dozy donut! We all thought we’d lost ya altagevvah…!”

“Soz, Commanderme transmit-piece got busted when I bailed outta me crate. An’ I aven’t ‘ad the opp ta fangle a way ta send any signal back ta the Resistance. Reckoned I oughtta… take on the Empire all by meself-“

“An’ worsen the situation fer th rest ovuz?! If – IF – I can getcha back ta base in one piece, the General’s probly gonna rip ya ta shreds ‘imself anyway!” 

“What, Rajendra…?! ‘E wouldn’t! Get ‘is first name: “Ajaan”: tha’s the Yanduri word for ‘teacher.’ From what I’ve ‘eard, ‘e’s a mild-mannered… placid fella… … in’e…?”

Brad clasped the lad’s shoulder and jigged it a lil.

“Lissen oop: so ya got away wivvit… but sheesh, man! That wuz more reckless than anythin’ I got upta when I wuz yer age! An’ tha’s sayin’ some’t…! Be cool, Bagel – when we get back… when I meet Raj, I’ll tell ‘im tha’-“

“You DAHN’T know ‘im eivver?! What chance do I ‘ave?!”

“Shoosh, Bagel. COOLIO. Nah mat’er ‘ow it turns aht, I’ll  stick up fer ya. Trust me…”

“Cheers, Commander… but ‘ow the blazes are we gonna bust inta the Kriegzlide crate an’ get yer Officer back, Mr. ‘Ligh’er, if ya please? An’… an’ what if they take off before we can reach ’em?!” 

“Na worries, kid! That Zkorpion I nabbed in order ta get ‘ere – wipe me cake crumbs offa the passenger seat an’ we’ll be jus’ fine an’ dandy.” 

“Yeah, but…! But wha’ abaht the Clearance Code?! ‘Ow can we gain our own access to the muvvaship wivaht one?! ‘Ow – where – are we gonna get THAT?!”

“Uff, cobblers ta the Code, kid! Seems like the only reason why these Imperial dipwits ‘ave rules is so that Brad can break ’em… We’ll find a way – I always do… …”

“Well, somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage, fly-boy!” – Princess Leia Organa.

“…Ya ougtta know the most important thing I’ve picked up while ‘angin’ aht dahn ‘ere – but I dunno ‘ow ta break it to ya,” Bagel huffed indignantly as they marched back into the main street, their Imperial togs gleaming in the intense rays of the twin suns. “…The Empire ‘ave upgraded their biochemech armour, so ‘elp us. Notice ‘ow these new bods wear slightly darker suits… ligh’er, but thicker… Pret’y soon, blasters are gonna ‘ave little to NAH effect on ’em…”

“Blazes…” the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger muttered, dreading how all this cosmic gubbins was escalating. “…An’ it’s only Imperial blasters that we can find ta arm the Resistance. Tha’s some’t else we’ll ‘ave ta deal wiv- Gah, dash it all!”

The vicinity of the Zoulzukker positively crawled with Shokk Troopers as they peered round the cornerBagel threw his hands in the air with despair:

“Whoa! We’re in a tight spot-“

“Oh really? You’re tight?! Shame ol’ Zeegazeeg wuz a wimpy sprat ‘is armour ain’ ‘arf pressin’ me buns! An’- OOF! Me pecs are posi’ively ‘EAVIN’ in this blasted breastplate!”

“Aow, quit whinin’, Commander. It- say! Guess that physique’s why the girls back at base keep talkin’ abou’cha…”

“Do they? Groovy…”

“Everybod’ don’ call ya a groovy galactic ‘ero fer nuthin’, eh…? D’ya work aht?”

“Nah. No need, kid. Got bit’en by a radioactive chipmunk…”

“Did ya…?!”

“Course, bleedin’ o’ course I work aht! Whatcha think?! Fer goodness sake, flamin’ Nora… Don’t wanna be mistaken fer a donut like Zeeg in these dark times-“

“Yeah yeah…” the younger fella drawled sarcastically.

Brad leaned across and rapped his knuckles against Bagel’s helmet: “No, seriously: be STRONG: that means MENTAL, as well as physical, fella! So, if ya got some’t inside there, WORK IT! Blimey, if ya’d used yer wits before an’ ‘ADN’T carried aht that dumbass raid on the Ztodgeztonker, we WOULDN’T be in this mess NOW…!” 

Suddenly, a typically rasping Zandokan voice from across the street blared out:

“ZHERE ZEY AIR! Shoot ze zhirt wun, but ze ‘unky wun eez NUT to be ‘armed!”

Shokk Troopers dashed in from all sides, blasters blazing.

“‘Ere, tha’s bang OUT’A order! Frickin’ charmin’, THAT is!” the short one protested, blasting back, but the hunky one grabbed his reckless companion and dragged him away from the action. 

“Quit whinin’, Bagel! Ya see… ya SEE?! These tosspots are seriously dischuffed at what YOU did…”

After a few frantic yards of scarpering as fast as their biochemech-clad legs could carry them, the spy scowled at your hero: “‘Ere… ‘old on! I wuz only copyin’ what YOU did… Commander‘Ow is it tha’ YOU get ac’olades, an’ I just get grief?!” 

“‘Cos I’m a PERFESSIONAL idiot! Cut the chat’er, kid – we got’a split!” 

And these blast points, too accurate for Sand People. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise…” – Ben Kenobi.

“AHA! Ze Burrito end Bagel!” Zoltan Zovran cried as he crept up behind the two leads, wielding THAT particularly nasty Particle Accelerator Lance. “Ze two murzt repreehenzible Oomanz in ze galaxy een may clutchez!” 

“Now now, nerk!” Brad waved a steady hand at the Kriegzlide madman, and protested: “Ya already bopped me over th ‘ead wiv that bloomin’ thing – ta do it twice would be careless…”

“Votzamattair, Urfmairn, expect mercy…? Kriegzlide Killzquad durn’t knur ze meaning uv ze verd…  heh heh heh!” he snarled, aiming his weapon right at Brad.

“‘Old on jus’ a finger-lickin’ minute, ‘ere! I’m the ‘ero – ya can’t bamp me orf, not like that!” 

“Uv courze…! Egen, Bred, yo air ebzolutely raight. Ze Emprah weejez to zee yo…”

Zoltan gradually swung the weapon at Bagel

“‘EE eez ze eccurzed ZPY! ‘Ee’ll do!”

Out of a piercingly-loud, deadly flash, Bagel yelped and fell limp into the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger’s arms.

“Ah, Jeez…! Stay wiv me, kid… …”

As your forlorn hero collapsed to the ground, clutching the lad in his trembling arms, a brood of Zandokan guards ran over to encircle him. Without warning, they proceeded to pummel the poor dude viciously with their lances and rifles.

“WETT! DOLTZ! Zat eez ze gret Zan Doka’z prize! ‘E muzt NUT – Ay reppit: NUT – be ‘armed! BECK URF!”  

Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar strode nonchalantly in, and – seeing Zoltan posing triumphantly, and the prize captive hunched dejectedly on the ground – couldn’t resist wandering over to have a quick gloat. He squatted, and squeezed the crestfallen Earthman’s throat.

“Heh heh,  wunce murr, yo aire BEATEN, “galacteec heeeruh”! Aah… Bred, Bred, Bred….”

Having stared too long at the still-crackling blast point on the young Rebel’s right pec, the Cakecharmer looked up with teary eyes, shaking the Kriegzlide Commander’s hand away, and defiantly muttered:

“I’m the one in da middle, ya drunken ‘obo!” 

“HA…! Zteel curzed wiv zat eenfairnal “Oomarn zpeeret.” Zad…” 

“Whut aboat zeez wun…?” Zoltan chirped, prodding Bagel’s still body with his boot.

“Nur, leaf eet – zeez planet payz foolz ta remurve feelth frurm ze ztreetz… Ve hef ze wun ve need – yez… Bred, ve hef yo exactly vhere yo jhood be: URN YER KNEEEZ! Broken, helplezz, hopelezz…  UZELEZZ…! Bred ta ze burne – NUR MURR! Vot duzzeet feeeel laike to be a LEWZAH, tweetfez…?”

“They say it’s difficult at first, but I’m sure a big, Imperial jackass like you will soon get the ‘ang of it-“

“Uff…” the Commander grumbled, and shot back onto his feet. “Yo ‘ombrez! Poot zeez comedien aburd ze Zoulzukker… 

“Ve VEEL tek heem ZTRET TA ZE EMPRAH KNOW!!… …” 

 

Luke Skywalker: “I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come…”

 

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Handle With Flair: Play it Again, Lexi!

Girl Power! With A Flash Of Fartlighter…

“Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say” – Imperator Furiosa.

Buff Encounter!

Before the dreaded Zandokan Empire can release an Official Gloat to announce the Upgrade of the formidable flagship: The Imperial Ztodgeztonker, Bagel Looney – that reckless spy of The Resistancehas managed to infiltrate and sabotage its primary weapon systems. During his escape, he has gone “missing” on Wotsit IV, in the Midlanoware System. 

Emperor Zan Doka himself has dispatched his deadly Kriegzlide Killzquad to Wotsit to terminate the infiltrator. 

In a daring counter-move – not content to hang around and play pinball machines with the rest of Brad Company – Second Officer: Lexi Waldorf has snuck away in her own dubiously-acquired Zandokan scout-ship (Codename: The Femme Fatale). 

Before anyone can say: “It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first,” she has been cornered and disarmed in one warehouse on Wotsit, by the shifty Randy Flapjack and his gang – Blimey Charley! This looks like the end, already!

May Dyzan have mercy upon those poor miscreants… 

 

“You won’t be the first lunk’ead I’ve KO’ed, Randy, an’ th way your cohorts are eyin’ me up, you sure won’t be the last!” Lexi yelled, her patience well and truly spent.

“Hey, Lex, take five, doll! Why don’t we-“

“No, we DON’T, Flapjack… Huh, you really expect to walk outta here after callin’ me “doll,” fella?” she scowled bitterly, running a nervous hand through her smokey hair. 

“You’d better watch it, darlin’! It’s about ta get a whole lotta ugly-“

“Uff… “darling”… … Who ya tryin’ ta kid?! It’s already too darned unsightly! Never been confronted by such a sorry bunch of lameass dipwits this side o’ Beta Lugosi before… sheesh!” Lexi replied sternly, despite the hoodlums creeping ominously closer.

“Before we get started, fellas, lemme play this – you remember Brad? That Hero of the Battleforce? As groovy as fudge, but as thick as a plank; he gave me this killa tune – it’s better to break bozos like you by…”

“Doin’ the “tough chick” act, eh? Huh, that’ll be the day!” 

“Well, boychick, that day has come, so whatever you got, now’s the time to…

BRING IT ON!” 

“Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are” – Private Vasquez. 

Nursing a slight cut on her forearm, Lexi doubled back into the bathroom. As she entered an incongruously spick-and-span wash area, a certain Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger nonchalantly strolled out from one of the shower cubicles, frantically drying his blond tresses. With a hand towel.

“Commander…?! What the blazes are YOU doing here?!” she cried incredulously.  

“Hey! ‘Iya, Lex, ‘ow ya doin’?” he chirped, standing at a sink. “I saw ya shoot off – craved some adventure, so thought I’d tagalong after ya, like-”  

“No, what are you doing HERE? This is the Ladies’ Room, fer cryin’ out loud!” she protested, trying not to be distracted by the Battleforce Commander’s buff profile. 

“Aha…! That explains why it’s so… CLEAN in ‘ere. And the taps work. Jeez, it’s jus’ the same ‘ere as back on Revlon – the Mens’ room is locked there an’ all! This is bang out’a order – ya dahn’ wan’ me smellin’ like a moofmilkah ‘board the Calista now, do ya?!”  

“You can say THAT again, Brad. So… you’re more of a traditional galactic hero: you much prefer to drip-dry?” 

“Eh…?”

“Look here: Xtra Large Bath Towels are in the cabinet under the sink-“

“Blimey! They’ve got towels… provided?! Tha’s swell… Ya got soap an’ all! I really DIG it ‘ere; this place is a revelation! Ah yeah, I’m usin’ the Ladies facili’ies from now on-“

“Whoa, NOT in the buff you’re not!” 

“Hey, if ya were in any other Company, as token female YOU would ‘ave ta do the nude scene, so I-“

“Nah-AH! DON’T. TURN Around, Mister! Keep yer nuggets where I CAN’T see ’em, fella!” 

“Ha ha! As ya wish-” 

“Grudammit, Commander! This was supposed to be MY mission; will people be talking about my ingenuity, tenacity, badassery? My vivacity even?! NO, they’ll only be concentrating on YOUR firm and shapely buns – bah!!”

“Firm and shapely, eh…? Groovy. Note ta self: switch ta smug-mode,” Brad’s big dopey grin faded instantly. “Soz, Lex… seriously though, I wuz worried about Bagel; he may be completely orf ‘is nut, but ‘e’s a special lil bunny – would ‘ate ta lose ‘im…”

“Yeah, this IS the Sector where our sensors lost trace of him… Hey, look, I’m sorry too – you actually pulled yourself away from your blasted pinball machines to watch over me… okay, you ponsed off to take a shower, but I really appreciate that you’re helpin’ me here, now…”

“No probs – ‘ey, I’ve checked aht the guard ‘ouse, mess quarters, and the… (ahem) bar, but there’s nah sign o’ oor kid anywheres… I’m gonna ‘ave a butcher’s in the… erm, canteen. We’ll meet back ‘ere within the ‘our…! Besta’ luck, Lex. You be extra careful out there, ya dig? Oh, an’ if ya run inta that lil nerk: Frothy Fassblender, giv’im me best regards,” he winked.

“Gotcha – you be careful too, Brad; this place is crawling with that Zandokan garrison. I’ll check out the Admin. Office – see if they’ve arrested him, and – and fer goodness SAKE, Commander! Put some pants ON! That’s an ORDER! Away with your “weapon,” I mean you no harm…”

“I see you’ve managed to get your shirt off…” – Sir Alexander Dane. 

No sooner had Brad‘s Second Officer broken into the Admin. Office, a couple of cronies crept in behind her.

“Well well well, if it isn’t Waffle Falafel and Frothy Fassblender: the original tosspots! How ya doin’, fellas?” 

“Now lissen ‘ere, girly, it’s lucky that jackass Commander o’ yers ain’t here, otherwise I’d… Just what are you looking for, exactly?” Frothy snapped brusquely.

“Don’t try to act “tough” with me, Frothy – it just doesn’t suit you… No, seriously, I’ve got urgent business with Tenko Tash’vaa-

“Oh yeah?! Ha ha! Ya really think Tash’vaa himself is gonna see YOU-?!” Frothy ‘fessed in disbelief.

“Ya gotta be-!”

“Kidding…? An’ I’ll tell you another thing: the Cakecharmer himself IS here on Wotsit, so you’d better-“

“WHA-?!” Waffle wailed in disbelief. “Fart’s here?! You’ve seen ‘im?!”

“Oof, just about ALL of him, in fact. He-“

“Where?!” yelled Frothy. “Bring ‘im ‘ere! Then we can deal wiv the pair of ya together!”

“Nah-ah! First things first, fella – Brad wanted me to pass on a message…” Lexi stuck her index finger in the air. “Are you listening carefully? Only gonna pass this once.”

“Yeah, you bet! Give it to me, sugar!” 

“As you wish, dickwad…” she snarled, and promptly rammed that finger straight into his bronchus.

As his torso creased down, his nose “collided” with her rapidly ascending knee. The woeful henchman instantly flung back, slamming onto the desk spine-first.

Waffle waited and worried, but Fassblender didn’t flinch or fumble. 

“Hey, Waffle, don’t just gawp there – come here and I’ll make sure you two can spend the night in the hospital together-“

“Ah, jeez, NO! Please, no! Why don’t I just tell you what you want to know?!”

“Ha! NOW yer talkin’…”

“Why don’t you put her in charge?!” – Private Hudson.

“AND just WHERE do you think you’re going?!” the mighty Tenko Tash’vaa – the Vichyguerran extremist-turned-Imperial-stooge, a seven-foot beast, dressed in full battle-armour – hollered as he reared his ugly green head into the fray, regarding Lexi’s presence with dismay. 

“So, just where IS that Battleforce jackass? I show up to talk down to him but what does he do instead? He sends… uff, a woman…”   

“Weh-heh-hell…! We’ve only just met and already this rotten chauv’s given me a grudge ta bear…” Lexi growled uptightly. “Huh, what’s your PROBLEM, eh, Toadface?”

The alien chauvinist just yawned.

“Normally, I’d just be hangin’ out at some mall, upgrading my wardrobe, but since your nasty Zandokan chums came on the scene, I’ve had to resort to this… rough business-“

“Enough chat! I will get my underlings to sort you out…”

“No need – Flapjack an’ his bum-chums are all inhalin’ dust on your warehouse floor… Huh, what IS it with you super-villains? How do you expect to rule the galaxy if you can’t get any half-decent henchmen?! You want a fight, I’ll grudgingly oblige…”

“Charming to the last, but you won’t last long – I’m too big-“

“No worries, Lofty, you just provide more places to hit, that’s all…” 

As she wisecracked, out of the corner of her eye she became aware of yet another henchman trudging into the room.

“Actually, girly,” Tenko snarled, “I am getting tired of you and your… attitude-!”

“‘Ey, man,” this latest arrival drawled. “Tha’s nah way ta talk ta a lady…”

“At last!” Lexi cried with relief. “One of your nerks shows some RESPECT… Where you come from, fella? Who- WHOA! BRAD! Didn’t recognise you with yer kit ON…” 

Barely Lukewarm – Tenko’s dodgy right-hand “man” – gasped, rapidly wagging his finger between the two heroes: “Are you… two…?!?!” 

“I dunno…” Lexi glanced casually at the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger. “Are we… …?”

“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you, okay?” – Princess Leia Organa.

“SIR!” cried Waldo Phlegmthrower, one of the other loons, lurking at the back of the room. “Incoming Message on the Imperial channel!”

“Stand aside, you nauseating lovebirds! Waldo: ensure that I can send a clear message to the Empire!” Tash’vaa stormed impatiently, as he strode maniacally over to a control console.

Thus – on the main portal – opened the holographic image of a bloated, scarred and pockmarked mess of a face leering at everybody present. The hoodlums shuddered; Lexi grimaced; but Brad carried on gobbling a hefty wodge of ginger cake, totally nonplussed. 

And so appeared the grotesque visage of none other than Zmutti Zubizmaar – thoroughly repugnant Commander of the Kriegzlide Killzquad.

“Greeteenkz, Comrade Tenko! Vot nooz- Vell, vell, VELL! Vot on Votzeet doh ve hef ‘ERE?!” he hollered hysterically. “Ve come fer ze accurzed zpy, but faind – eenztead – ze leg end ‘eemzelf: ze Kekchairmair!! Veh-heh-hell… vot a turnip fer ze bookz! ‘Ow ya doin’, Bred? Remembair may nem…?” 

“Umm… gimme a min- AH! Dick Move, I presume?”

“Grrr… NURRR! Durn’t yo remembair our ultaircation on Alpha Indi II?!” 

“Yeah yeah, do I ‘ell! Jeez… Ya ambush me Company, ya cripple me ship, AN’ ya ‘ave the NERVE ta confiscate me cake, fer goodness sake, flamin’ Nora…! Even if ya exile me to the ends o’ the cosmos, ya really think I can forget an ubernerk loike YOU, eh, Zubi? NOT gonna say it’s groovy ta see ya ‘gain… ‘cos it ain’t… What’s yer game this time, tosspot…?” 

“(Heh heh, we cool – Ay’ll let zat wun pazz…) Hef yo found ze eenfeeltraitair yet, Urfleenk?”

“Nah… we ‘aven’t; would ya Adam-an’-Eve it – we ‘aven’t…”

“Ya knur… I belieeeve yo, Bred. Nur worries, fool; ez zoon ez may Killzquad tek command uv dat Zector, ve VEEL find heem. Y’knur, our gret flagjheep got vukkt wunce beefur-“

“I should know – I wuz there!”

“Hmmmm…” The Killzquad Commander stared, long, hard and contemptuously at the Battleforce Commander before spitting:

“Tash’vaa! Yo veel huld ze Urfleenkz urnteel Ay erriv – eez dat urndairztood? Hef nur feeeear! May Killzquad veel deeeeal wiv ze zaboteur-zcurm… ull een good tem!

“ETA: fifteen Eempeerial meenuts!

“OVAIR END OAT!!” 

Carter Burke: “Ripley, I… You know, I expected more from you. I thought you’d be smarter than this!”

Ellen Ripley: “I’m happy to disappoint you…” 

“So… Brad: great “hero,” hmm…? I think not – you still haven’t found your very own spy…” Tenko Tash’vaa continued. “Take away your pecs and wisecracks and what are you…? NOTHING! Your “reputation”… heh, is vastly overrated. I will-” 

“Hey, man,” Lexi interjected. “That’s no way to talk to a groovy galactic hero…!”

“Aww, bless yer heart, Lex,” Brad whispered. “This plank really appreciates it-”

Lexi spun round: “Aow, scheisse… You HEARD that?! Soz, Commander…”  

“No worries, lov… Ya really think me buns are THAT shapely…?” 

“Basta cosi!!” yelled Tenko, waving an impatient hand. “GAH! You’re BOTH insufferable! Alright, you men – dispose of the Terrans!” 

More henchmen lunged towards the two heroes. Brad, gnashing his rotten teeth, lunged forward to shield Lexi.

“‘Ere, get back, lov! This time, lemme deal wiv these nerks for ya…”

“Aww, lookin’ after yer Second Officer? That’s sweet, but I started this mess, fella – besides, ah hell… I’ve seen the way you brawl, Brad – best fer both of us if YOU get back…” 

“Okey-dokey then, suit yerself, Officer, ha ha!” he chortled. “Aww, y’know, this reminds me o’ the time we ‘ad ta foight our way orf Esthymon IV – evadin’ the pirates at that spaceport; pickin’ oop some snazzy supplies from the Imperial ware’ouse; ‘avin’ a scrumptious fudge sundae… each! AND ya STILL seized the chance to beat up some guards before we skedaddled! Ah, ‘appy times… Ya sure know ‘ow ta show a plank a good time…” 

Lexi rolled her eyes to the ceiling: “Okay, OKAY! I said I’m sorry ’bout that! Jeez, Commander, you’re not gonna let this lie, are ya?”

“No worries, Lex! “As groovy as fudge”: hey hey hey! Tha’s jus’ fine an’ dandy, that! ‘Ang abaht… Yer not thinkin’ o’ chargin’ in WIVAHT playin’ some’t… are ya?! Not like you at all…”  

She scanned the mob, fiddled with her ‘Player, did a quick count and sighed: “Aow, jeez…! Don’t these lunk’eads ever learn…?!”

“Course not – ya know ‘enchmen ain’t paid ta use their noddle. Anyway, ya’d better get badassin’ – we got fifteenBlimey Charley!TWELVE minutes now, until Zubi an’ ‘is goons get ‘ere! Look lively, lov-“

“Shoosh, Commander! Ah…! Can’t get ta work without playin’ this one,” Lexi beamed heartily.

Brad’s cute blue eyes lit up at her choice: “Ha! I jus’ KNEW ya were gonna plump fer yer signature track…”

“Of course!she insisted. “After all, every gal’s gotta have a theme tune… right?”

 

 “Whoever wrote this episode should die!” – Gwen DeMarco. 

 

“Mind Your Head, Sleepy Chicken”: Mishaps With Creativity In The Age Of Outrage

The Daze In The “Life” Of A Flustered Writer 

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The Ancient One – “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all. ”

Dr. Stephen Strange – “Which is?”

The Ancient One – “It’s not about you.”

“We don’t care. We don’t really care,” retorted the script editor (whose name shall remain undisclosed to protect MY innocence). “The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean, 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter.”

This – one of umpteen rejections foisted upon me over the years – just confirms what has been niggling my noddle lately. Such a rebuke – stern but to be expected – is, essentially, cancelling out my worth as a wordsmith. On a major motion picture. 

The prospect of movies limping along with next to no script does not exactly come as a great shock to me. My intentions of making it in the movie industry appear to be growing thinner by the day. Sure, it’s a classic case of not what you know, but who you know. Believe me, rejections here, ignorance there, and my resilience well and truly wrung – Brad would prefer not to mingle with such types…

Anyway…

Apologies for not publishing a Post sooner. But you would not believe the ridiculous setbacks encountered on my travails! While my concentration gets lost amidst the daily hustle and bustle of 21st century strife, too many people around me are losing their tempers all too easily – upon offering to help, their only rebuke comes in the disagreeable form of “Get lost.” Or (coarse) words to that effect…

Why, oh why, so much unrestrained hostility? Don’t tell me: this is the Age Of Outrage. 

My problems are probably ten times worst than theirs, but you don’t see me blowing my stack. However, considering what your correspondent Has Had To Go Through This Past Two Weeks it’s a mystery he hasn’t blown it several times already! Thankfully – between you and me – years in a Southeast Asian temple Being At One with my Inner Cha-Cha, closely supervised by a half-human half-pangolin guru have mentally prepared me for my nonchalant return to what they laughably call Western “Civilization.”

Apart from the obligatory technical glitches, trying to carry out research in the Public Library: someone has lost/misplaced a required book; then, someone else broke wind in the Self-Help Section forcing the whole bally building to be evacuated… 

At my former Alma Mater, my luck fares no better; due to the heightened security around the City, my status as Alumnus does nothing to persuade the bouncers @ Reception. Handsome? By jove, always! But “suspicious”? Do me a favour…  

In other news: my novel has stalled, primarily after studying the latest book survey revealing that two-thirds of novel readers are women. Set in a 12th century abbey, the most horrifying aspect of this medieval sci-fi adventure is the head-scratching realization that it has NO female characters! This needs to be readdressed, of course, but after a disconcerting fall in the Stats from this site, this makes me seriously ponder: will anyone want my novel…? Perhaps the answer lies in converting it into a graphic novel – but then again, my artwork (normally quite therapeutic) has not gone as snazzy as hoped…

The case continues…

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“For, in their savage ignorance, they feel only hatred for any among them who may seem… different! They long for peace, yet gird for war! They search for love, yet harbour hate!” – The Silver Surfer. 

“By living life for itself, don’t you see? Deriving pleasure from the gift of pure being,” remarked the nameless Martian, last custodian of his long-vanished civilization. 

Following the sickening terrorism act a few months ago in Manchester (where my degree was gained!), and again as the appalling news from Virginia broke over this past weekend, this beautiful sequence of dialogue (from The Martian Chronicles 1979 TV adaptation, written by Richard Matheson) returned to my fevered mind.

All too easily, these sage Martian words are simply ignored. Hate, regrettably, has become far too common and rampant. Rather than wallow in the throes of despair, these atrocities invigorate me to produce a unique brand of positive, entertaining and thoroughly wholesome fare at a more exponential rate.

Out of the multifarious dark and evil acts committed around this Pale Blue Dot, projects of ever-increasing worth and vitality have prevailed. Consider this impressive history: disillusioned by the collapse of the short-lived New Republic in 17th century England, James Milton wrote Paradise Lost; disturbed by the horrors he experienced at the Western Front, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien fought off the nightmares by “escaping” to Middle-Earth and creating an epic fantasy saga called The Lord Of The Rings. 

In turn, yours truly has had to stem an incessant surge in personal, social and economic problems by summoning the last vestiges of his resilience to produce evermore entertaining reams of writing (that you will enjoy here shortly!). 

With nine out of ten of my applications, enquiries and job pitches “lost” or ignored, this blogging platform remains the only means by which anyone and everyone Can See What Brad Can Do…

Keep Calm and Carry On Writing…

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees” – T.H. White.  

“You don’t want [readers] to read your story, you want them to feel your story.”

This writers’ tip has held particular resonance these past few months. Having vowed to pay more attention to my levels of description, injecting all the right feels into my fiction no longer pose any problems. Considering what we have had to endure over the past eighteen difficult months, my work can now exude a heavier, more personal, more loaded edge. 

Whenever a piece of my fiction fails, (and too many pieces have floundered by the wayside recently) one quote from Confucius instantly comes to mind: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

To me, if my “path of creation” is hindered, an alternative route is taken… but my physical and mental batteries are now so depleted that finding the energy and enthusiasm to concoct something as ridiculously easy-peasy as a comics review devolved into an unnecessary struggle. But do not fret, my friends! 

It’s official: Brad is on the rebound!

HUZZAH!!

And: TOP tip for this month?!: “Write rubbish!”

Bingo, fella, whaddya think this writer has been doin’?! ‘Tis the only skill @ th mo at which he excels… bah!

Seriously though: the key is to settle into the right room as well as the right frame of mind. You’ll be delighted to learn that a number of intriguing new projects have emerged on my Dashboard! Granted, the first few drafts looked messy and confused – understandable, bearing in mind what woes and worries hung heavy on my mind – but, as all exterior tensions faded (meditation, plus mocha and blueberry muffins, usually help) and my senses gradually immersed into blissful concentration, my compositions evolved into something more groovy and coherent. 

And as this ramblin’ ram-packed Post comes to a merciful close – don’t want to rant, but let me say just this: 

Cultures shape values, and those values shape history; therefore, our values shape our future. However, repugnant values have brought on these antipathetic and violent times; they have been allowed to fester by the very same factions of ignorance directly responsible for denying me my vocational and socio-economic progress.  

Politicians talk loud, but never say anything positive or progressive to help me. 

Instead, the rise of negative hypernationalist movements (regrettably a global outbreak) MUST be counteracted by RATIONAL thinkers and campaigners willing to offer a progressive values-based world vision – a different path based on UNITY across racial, gender, ethnic, and religious lines… 

Now you know: this past fortnight, Brad has been too busy freedom-fighting to blog…

Quite frankly, this evening, my head feels like an ex-Communications Director is locked inside it, yelling expletives…

Still, this migraine is worth the effort. 

In this life, it is ALWAYS PREFERABLE to create than hate…

“…Live as well as possible, expect no more. Destroy nothing, humble nothing, look for fault in nothing, leave unsullied and untouched all that is beautiful.

“Hold that which lives in all reverence, for life is given by the Sovereign Of Our Universe, given to be savoured, to be luxuriated in, to be… respected…” – The Martian.

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius. 

 

 

The Knack Of Scant Prose: Studying The Formula Of First Prize Short Stories

Can Brad Really Win That Short Story Competition After All These Years?! 

“Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves” – Ray Bradbury.

“Writing science fiction,” wrote Ray Bradbury, “is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.”

Winning a short story competition – one of the goals that has always eluded me – cannot, therefore, be impossible.

Having entered various short story competitions, mainly the sci-fi and horror categories – my hopes and expectations were set at exceptionally stratospheric levels, until realizing that my name never even reached the extensive Runners-Up Lists… And so, my tender years – and even more brittle confidence – finally dissuaded me from tackling short story competitions.

However, recentlyBrad Burrito Fartlighter: a decidedly English galactic hero, has shot to blogosphere fame in his very own “Fartlighter Bradventures.” Come on! Where else could you find the awesome – and hopefully hilarious – escapades of a very English spacefaring rogue who digs Mexican grub and cake?! One forthcoming instalment has been set aside – for professional consultation – so studying the art (and history) of the short story has taken up my time this past week. 

The short story originated in the medium that furnished a market for it: magazines. Common belief holds that the first exponent of this format was Edgar Allan Poe. The majority of the short fiction he produced appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger from 1835 onwards. He is regarded as perfecting the art of striking the keynote – by grabbing attention immediately with a sharp opening paragraph, or even just a sharp opening sentence.

At the moment, it looks like my ideas are flowing more reliably than my typing. Once a really groovy story starts to rock, my dexterity begins to roll. All over the place… 

While frantically pummelling the keyboard – apart from getting the ‘e’ and ‘r,’ and ‘a’ and ‘s’ mixed up, my fingers now hit ‘v’ instead of ‘b,’ and bice bersa…

“A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again” – Colum McCann.  

How – and wheredoes the effective short story begin?

“Start as close to the end as possible,” remarked Kurt Vonnegut, when he included a list of essential tips on How To Write A Short Story in the Introduction to his 1999 collection of magazine stories: Bagombo Snuff Box. He also remarked that: “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

Within a certain (limited) word count, how much characterisation can you realistically inject into a “short” story? Fortunately, Fartlighter is gifted with his own band of lovable rogues: “Brad Company” – doing their nabbing-from-the-greedy-to-give-to-the-needy bit across the galaxy; therefore the diversity on display means that a rich and variable range of potential plotlines lie in wait. 

Besides breaking up the text with images and quotes, a standard Bradventure can amount to 2,600 words. Naturally, the more fun you have with creative writing, you will/can (easily) produce greater quantity. The Christmas Special turned out to be such a blast that at over 5,000 words and still TWO pivotal scenes yet to be typed, a major editing job had to be applied. Thus, my inner Poe was invoked: with less words, comes greater impact.

Sharper – and more economical – than a novel, the short story has to be vividly defined. 

Allow no wandering, no superfluous material – heck, prepare to hack without mercy. 

“A short story is not only smaller… not only simpler and more compact, it is single with a more intense concentration. It should work out a single idea; make a single point; close with a single ‘punch’; convey a single effect” – Geoffrey Ashe.   

Unbelievably, what vexes editors and judges the most involves receiving far too many submissions that offer just a situation, NOT a story!

To set my goals straight, these are the Five Components Of A Story that take pride of place in my notes, and what any short story writer should adhere to!

  • A story reveals something about the human condition, or makes a statement about what it means to be human; 
  • A story tests personal character, over and over, to reveal deeper character;
  • A story has subplots that are dramatic and thematic reflections of the journey of the protagonist;
  • A story ends in a different emotional space than where it began;
  • A story is driven by a strong moral component motivating the protagonist through the middle of the story, resulting in dramatically interconnected scene writing;

Perhaps some modern movie-makers should also study this list? 

Although the story may not have anything to say about the human condition, at least the reader should be able to derive some fun, be engaged, (be shocked?) and – above all – be entertained. 

To create a successful story – the One that sets judges’ pulses racing and jaws droppinga writer MUST convey their OWN ideas and style, to the point of remaking language; let the inexecutable unfold!

At least with my Bradventures, my imagination dares to be adventurous! It’s about time those judges experienced what my writing has become! 

Is it not…? 

“The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor,” Vonnegut continued. “She broke practically every one of my rules… Great writers tend to do that.”

Hmm, in order to get ahead, Brad has to break the rules? 

Ha! So what else is new…?! 

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water… 

“Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of…” –  Kurt Vonnegut.

Wish me luck! 

 

The White Lion And The Dessert Rats

Up The Creek, Down In The Desert… 

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“The Sand People are easily startled, but they’ll be back, and in greater numbers…” – Obi Wan Kenobi.

 

Missing In Awesomeness!

Following an unexpected Imperial entanglement, the Calista Blockhead was forced to make an emergency landing on Bitumen IV in the Itaintalfotmum System. Although Brad Company managed to escape from a Zandokan ambush, Mitch Quintana was mortally wounded, and Brad Fartlighter was captured.

In the meantime, a dangerous new band of Tahntah rebel fighters has emerged in the Djinn Wastelands, led by the notorious chieftain:

Darb Dak’ar Dinari – known to his Followers as

The White Lion.

Their raids on Zandokan stations are increasing in deadly frequency, complicating any chances of rescuing your hero!

Yet from amidst the mysterious sandscape, an encouraging distress signal has been picked up. The Calista is now speeding over the Dune Sea into hostile tribal territory, and the Company are on their perilous way to bring back their Brad

 

“Okey dokey, fellas! We’re comin’ up on the Tahntah camp!” Chief Engineer Harris Wrench announced enthusiastically.

“Settin’ her down… now!” cried Helmsman Gaz Murphy. 

“Watchit, you lot! Ya bedder be on yer guard,” the Chief yelled, lowering the hatch and bounding out onto the velvety golden sand before he had properly activated his respirator.

“‘Ey, ‘Arris?!” Second Officer Lexi Waldorf yelled, racing out after him, the rest of the Company tagging cautiously behind.

“Don’t get sooo excited! Wait up, willya?!”  

“These Tahntahs are mean beggars; top desert figh’ers – tough as crud! They’re renahned fer takin’ nah pris’ners. They all go arahn’ swathed in yajhmakhs: tribal gear coverin’ ’em from head ta foot. These savages are crackshots wiv their looong tahndiggi rifles. An’ they all speak some’t indecipherable called Bit’i – not a frickin’ word a’ English, which is-“

“A real frickin’ drag, is it not, Earthman?” the Tahntah scout growled as it abruptly sprang out of the sand right in front of the startled Chief.

“Uff, frickin’ tourist… Shoutin’ yer lousy head off loud enough to betray our position to the Zandokans. Wanna know how “crack” I can be with this, sunshine?!”

All Harris could do was freeze… and stare with dread down the looong barrel of a tahndiggi rifle. 

In an instant, its buddies had emerged from the ground all around the terrified Company to gesture impudently at them.

“Hey, loudmouth Earthman! We take you all back to our camp; Darb Dak’ar Dinari is… expecting you! And then we show you ignorant lot how frickin’ “savage” we can really get, heh heh heh…”

“Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it…” – Sherif Ali.

Deep within the Tahntah base, in a subterranean tribal assembly room, a mob of Tahntah warriors had gathered to gloat at the hapless outsiders. The fearsome fighter: Tahntah Khasabah stepped onto a raised platform and proudly announced the arrival of Darb Dak’ar Dinari.

In an instant, the tension – and noise – dissipated; the crowd parted and a tall and imposing figure, bedecked in a dark, hooded cloak swathed around his sandswept yajhmakh, strode menacingly forth. Darb Dak’ar Dinari stopped to flick back his hood, and he gleered at Bad Company with sinister eyes as black as night.

“Ay caramba!” Nacho gulped.

“Keep back, Lex!” Gaz whispered. “I gotta feelin’ this moofmilker’s gonna chew all the scenery…”

Raising his right gloved hand to salute his guests, the mighty Darb spoke in a terrifying guttural drawl:

“Tahn diggi! Tihn diggi diggi tah bishkah!”

“An’ a-diggi diggi to ya too, fella,” Harris sighed despondently.  “Soz, but we dahn’t un’erstand yer lingo…”

“Nuh fret!” Darb announced heartily. “Aycan speaky yer lingy…”

“Cor, blimey – tha’s a swell piece a’ luck… Er, yer ‘oldin’ our Commander. We came ta geddim back, like; any chance we could see ‘im, umm… Mister Dinari, sir… please?”

“Ha ha, no hold…! He free man! Heere on Bi-tu-mee-een…!”

“Well, where is ‘e, like?!”

The great tribal leader switched off a Voice Modulator under his chin. From thenceforth, his speech lilted… in a more familiar dahn-ta-Earth tone:

“Ha ha ha! ‘Oo loves ya, baby?!”

Lexi stepped forward, gawping in disbelief. “Aow, fer cryin’ out loud!” she beamed.

The others just turned to stare at her.

“I just KNEW it…! Hey, guys: WHAT’S DARB SPELT BACKWARDS…?!”

Undisciplined… unpunctual… untidy. Several languages. Knowledge of music… knowledge of literature… knowledge of… knowledge of… You’re an interesting man, there’s no doubt about it!” – General Allenby. 

“Good on ya, Lex! Groovy. Thought ya might suss me aht before these nerks, ha ha!” Brad cried as he revealed his ridiculously good looks.

Nacho ran towards his Commander, giving him a big hug.

“Oh, tu madre loco!” he blubbed.

“Ha! Yeah, guess yer right, Nach… Good ta see ya ‘gain too, fella!”

Barb Degoya watched with a big dopey grin across his Rontavahrian chops.

“You never cease to amaze me, my Commander…!”

“Cheers, Barby!”

Gaz shook his awestruck head.

“Trust you, Brad, to act out your Loz o’ frickin’ Araby fantasies…! You’re one helluva crazy Brit, but I’ll always folla ya!”

“Heh, cheers, Gaz. Didn’ wanna disappointcha!”

“How have you survived here, all this time?”

“Easy peasy, fella. These Tahntah bunnies are such swell, ‘ospitable peeps; their kebabs are among the finest in the galaxy; they make the most scrumptious dessert: tahndiggibaklava – aww, ya jus’ gotta try it! – an’ luckily enough, I ‘ad the Desert Eagle e.p. in me Zune ta pump me oop for all those raids, but… ah, me Comp’ny – I missed y’all, so I nabbed an Imperial Com’unica’or for ya to come an’ get me!”

Lexi chipped in: “An’ you topped up yer tan as well, I see…”

“Ooh, it’s lovely, in’it? I got- ‘EY! Cheeky gal…”

Brad glanced at his Chief Engineer. “Ain’tcha gonna join in wiv da wisecracks, fella…?”

“Bleedin’ ‘ell…!” Harris muttered. “The ‘White Lion’…?”

“Ah, oho! Well, y’see… they love me porcelain complexion round ‘ere, y’know! An’ dahn’ ferget me lustrous blond mane! Ha ha, blimey Charley! Jus’ listen to ya: ‘Ooh, Mister Dinari, sir’, heh heh heh – shoulda seen da look on yer mug!”

“Aow, leave it aht, Brad… Uff, shoulda known…”

 “Yeah, fella… ya shoulda!”

At that mo, Harris’ blood curdled; that scout wandered over… and extended his hand. 

“Accept, please, my apologies for the…”act” … ‘Arris, is it not? Brad neglect to tell me how… sensitive you is…”

“Ha ha ha! Are ya?!” The Commander wrapped a reassuring arm around his Chief’s shoulder. “Nah worries – meet me new mucka: Tahntah Bosskhah.  ‘E may look as fright’nin’ as fudge, but ‘e’s really a mild-mannered  gent, like meself! ‘Ey, dahn’t be so easily startled, fella!”

“Yes, ‘Arris, chill out… man. Have some tahndiggibaklava…”

“Ah yeah! Ha ha! Amen, bruvva!”

“Give thanks to God that when he made you a fool, he gave you a fool’s face” – Auda Abu Tayi. 

Suddenly, a teenage Tahntah fighter leapt into the chamber, squawking something in Bitti. At once, the older tribesmen grabbed their tahndiggi rifles and began to disperse; Brad Company looked at each other uncomfortably.

“What the fudge is goin’ down now, Commander?” Gaz frowned.

“Sounds like we gotta Zandokan contingent ‘eadin’ our way…” Brad moaned, loading his rifle. “Confound it! Looks like the baklava’ll ‘ave ta wait…”

“Brad?! You’re not thinking…” 

“It’ll be okay, Lex – just one more time-“

“WHOA! Reverse thrust, Mister! We risked EVERYTHING ta get you back! We’ve been through too much to… aah, fegeddit. C’mon, ‘Arris, leave the lunk’ead ta linger here with his cosplay and tahn-frickin’-‘klava! GAH!”

And with that, Lexi stormed out, with the Chief sauntering sheepishly behind.

Tahntah Bosskhah had stood behind them, watching all the while, arms folded and head shaking.

“Oof! Doth my eyes deceive me? Can this be true? Looks like the Lion… just got tamed…”

“Aow, shush you…” Brad blushed.

The desert warrior wrapped a reassuring arm around the Commander’s shoulder.

“Do not be so easily startled, fella…! Wonderful girl… I… do not know. What you think? You think a Furie and a fella like me-“

“No! Oh me giddy aunt, no! She’ll make mincemeat outta ya… fella…”

“So be… never argue with the White Lion…! In that case… I long, instead, to see a real lion – you portray them as such fine, noble creatures…” 

“No such luck, amigo…” Brad sniffed. “They’ve been hunted ta the brink o’ extinction…”

Tahntah Bosskhah shifted uneasily.

“Tahntahtheos, no…! I know now why you were so eager to flee Earth. Truly, therein lie the real savages…”

“Do you think I’m just anybody do you? …The best of them won’t come for money – they’ll come for me!” – T.E. Lawrence

Tahntah Bosskhah surveyed the uncompromising Kazvini Plain with his “acquired”  Imperial ocular device.

“Has been an honour to fight by your side, Inglish… So, are we to ride and raid – one last time, or does the need to avenge your fallen comrade take precedence? I think we both know that Kismet will sweep you away along the latter path…”

“We both know that I dahn’ wish ta leave, but it’s uncanny – after ages thwarting the Empire countless times, the most onerous challenge I must confront involves… executing a coward…”

Tahntahtheos be with you in what perils lie ahead…”

“Cheers… Need all the strength: physical – and mental – that I can muster…”

“…You, my friend, the White Lion – what a privilege to state even that – have made… such a strong impression in such a short time! A redoubtable warrior; a formidable philosopher; a mighty eater; surely no other Earthling could cross the Anvil Of The Twin Suns unscathed? Tell me, is there anything you cannot do, Inglish?!”

“I can NEVER give up hope that, one day, the Empire will fall…”

Sherif Ali: “Have you no fear, English?”

T.E. Lawrence: “My fear is my concern.” 

Harris had taken Lexi out onto an alcove cut high into the Tahntah‘s great mountain fortress to let her simmer down. Tahntah guard wandered out to watch over them; but they all ended up watching the brigade – to an accompaniment of darbuka drums beating furiously – gallop away across the Djinn Wastes…

The Dak’ar Dinari actually stopped to turn and wave to them. Lexi reluctantly waved back. 

“Yeah, ‘bye ‘bye, lunk’ead; if you’re not back by midnight, we’re takin’ orf withoutcha… Do you think he will make it back…? In time…? ‘Arris…!!”

He flashed a wide, dopey grin stretching from one side of the galaxy to the other. 

“Well, fe fi fo frickin’ fum, fella!” he chortled. “I smell the blood o’ me Commander!” and turned to the guard, who lowered his rifle and stared back in shock.

“Jeez, Chief! How’dya know it wuz me?!”

“Ha, I ain’ gonna fall fer the same trick twice! Y’shoulda known that!”

“Yeah, fella… I shoulda!” Brad retorted, unwrapping his yajhmakh. 

“Huh, I shoulda guessed…” Lexi added, with a grin – albeit a wry one – finally returning to her lips. “Actually, I shoulda looked closer no other bunny in this tribe has so many tahndiggibaklava crumbs on ‘is yajhmakh. Lookachu! Messy pup… Okay, so who was the guy wavin’ at me?”

“Tahntah Bosskhah – I reckon you are ‘is Desert Rose-“

“Weh-heh-hell, nuts ta THAT! When? Can. We leave?!”

“As soon as yer ready!” Brad laughed. “Oh well, the new Dak’ar Dinari doesn’ get the girl, but ‘e should manage – gave ‘im me Zune! ‘E loves that Desert Eagle e.p.‘Onestly, ya jus’ couldn’ ride into battle wivaht it. Lookee ‘ere – the only bunny on this rock wiv a music player – if that doesn’t consolidate ‘is leadership, nothin’ will. Okey dokey, notify the others – we’re ‘eadin’ back to the Block’ead.” 

They were just about to move out, when Brad drew them into his arms.

“I know who the traitor is,” he whispered softly. “I’ve been ‘ere long enough ta work it aht.”

“Excellente!” Lexi snarled. “Poor Mitch. I’ve been itchin’ fer payback… ever since he…”

“I know ya have, lov, but this is some’t I ‘ave ta do… considerin’ who it… is…” 

She prepared to argue her case for a bigger role in this Bradventure, until she noticed REAL TEARS welling up in the hero’s eyes; she gave him a big hug before they all turned to leave.

Tahntah Khasabah appeared in the doorway.

“I’ll meetcha aboard in ‘alf a tick, guys – there are some farewell wishes I must pass on…”

“‘Tis true, then? You must leave now?” Tahntah Khasabah spoke (in Bitti). Alas, your glorious chapter in our story comes to a bittersweet end; we should have held a banquet in your honour.”

“We can have that…” Brad replied (in faultless Bitti). “…’Pon my return!”

“Ah! Then you are coming back?!”

“Of course! I could not stay away from all those savoury and sweet delights for too long…” 

“Ha! Praise Tahntahtheos for delivering thee – the ravenous White Lion – unto us!”  

“A thousand thanks for bestowing upon me the honour of leading your warriors into battle…”

“You are most welcome, Inglish. Besides, I needed to repay you for helping me defeat that band of Gondobek brigands, back in the day…”

“You already did when you rescued me from that Zandokan division. It was… Gondobek…? Ha, I had forgotten about them!”

“Glory! I thank Tahntahtheos that the White Lion is on our side…! Now the mantle of my tribe falls to Tahntah Bosskhah – he becomes the rightful Dak’ar Dinari… Once upon a time, I would have ached to join the brigade riding off this evening, but now… I just ache… I grow weary of battle.”

“What will you do now…?”

“I wish to retire, far below, and meditate beside our subterranean glacial pools. I yearn to write poetry, but the Zandokans deem me “savage” and decree that I cannot…”

“No! ‘Tis your life; your love… Do anything YOU want to do…”

“Absolutely! We both know that I will, Inglish. From now on, I will fight only to uphold every right, and strive to ensure that my people survive…”

“I very much look forward to reading your poetry… Follow your heart and smite the trolls.”

“Perhaps… Perhaps I should compose The Saga Of The White Lion; celebrate for evermore how our lives were blessed by such a remarkable man from beyond the stars… Who bewitched us all with his striking blue eyes…”

“Bless your heart, Tahntah Khasabah. You are a remarkable woman…”

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“I think you are another of these desert-loving English…” – Prince Feisal.

Damnation and blast, Brad!” cried Major Spoiler, more than dismayed to see the Battleforce Commander-turned-desert fighter appear before him on the vid-conf screen.

“How are you still alive?!”

“Yay, the bees-knees ta see ya too, Major Crotchstain,” Brad drawled, now ensconced back on the Calista as it zoomed up and away from the Tahntah camp. 

“And what the blazes is it with all that ridiculous tribal get-up?! Amateur theatricals?!”

“Yeah, some’t like that…”

“A nest of savages cannot protect you forever… fool. I will finish what Baumer was unable to do!”

“Sooo… ya wan’ ta terminate me? …With extreme prejudice, am I right?”

“Right!”

“WRONG! I may be as stoopid as I look, Major, but dahn’t think fer one frickin’ minute that I’m gonna fall fer yer dodgy schemin’…!”

Suddenly, Brad leered right into the screen, hollering through gnashed teeth.

“JEEZ! I KNEW IT WUZ YOU!! The set-up…? The ambush? YOU arranged it all, didn’tcha, fella…? DIDN’TCHA?! I’ll track ya dahn, trai’or!”

He held a clenched fist up against the monitor.

“Then I’m gonna download THIS into yer cake’ole, ya treach’rous moofmilkAH!

And with that, transmission abruptly fizzled out.

The Militia officer swivelled round to view the Zandokan delegation seated behind him. A familiar Dark Lord sat at the top of the table…

And did not look at all chuffed.

“Vell done, Mehjair. Yo rilly hed heem urn ze rurpz zhaire…”

“Patience, my Lord. I can assure you that my men shall… take care of Fartlighter-“

“WHAA-?! Yo try to fool Zegreatme?! Ay hef ZEEN yer men! GAH! Vukk me zydwaz… Ze murzt YUZELEZZ burnch urv vukkweetz Ay evair did zee!! Nurt a zeengle brenzell betweeen zem!” 

“But, my Lord-!”

“Uff, zpare me yer vukkin’ covfefe, Urfmairn! Nur mattair! Ay deed nurt come ull zeez way juzt to keek zand een zee Bettleferce Commandair’s fazz…! Yer worriez aire ovair, MehjairBay Ze Pah Eenvezted Een Mee Bay Ze Empah, Ay hef dezpetched ze grettezt bounteee hurntairz een ze gelexy to deeel weev heem!

“Ze Kekchairmair vill peez uz erf… NUR MURR! Heh heh heh…”

 

CONCLUDES HERE

“Me, your Highness? On the whole, I wish I’d stayed in Tunbridge Wells…” – Mr. Dryden. 

 

The Quesadillas Crisis!: Brad To The Bone In The Raid On Revlon

A Fistful Of Lollipops… 

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“Ok, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying” – Capt. John Yossarian. 

“Well, bless my blueberry muffins, what’s going on?!”

Crisis!

Revlon – one of the last remaining Federation Planets to resist being assimilated into the mighty bad Zandokan Empire – has called on the Galactic Defence Militia to bolster its defences. But with Zandokan Zkorpion Zquadrons wreaking havoc on what’s left of the Federated supply lines, vital munitions [AND FOOD!] can’t get through.

Secretly, Brad Company have flown in to help out, but Major Baumer – Revlon’s notorious Commander-in-Chief – has found out and is preparing to arrest that irreverant cake-scoffer: Brad Fartlighter, who – on the other hand – has encountered a far more pressing problem in the canteen…

“Whaddya mean, ya don’t ‘ave any quesadillas left?!” 

“I mean we’ve completely run outta Mex grub, Commander…” Sandy the Grubserver moaned.

“Jeez, that’s a bummer, man!” Brad huffed.

“No, that’s Baumer – Major Ritegard Baumer – he’s the Head Honcho you need to take this up with around here

“Wha-?! NO quesadillas, an’ THAT jackass in charge?! BLAZES! This war’s becomin’ even more intolerable…” Brad grumbled.

Suddenly, Harris Wrench – his Chief Engineer – staggered disconsolately through the door.

“Whoa, fella – you’re dischuffed about the quesadillas situation as well?” Brad sniffed.

“Nah, worse than that, mate… Y’know the squadron they sent ta intercept those incomin’ Zandokan figh’ers? Control just confirmed: they’ve bin wiped aht… ALL a’ them…

“An’ this base is on alert fer imminent attack…!”

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“What the hell were you thinking?” – Master Sergeant Farell. 

“I’m tellin’ ya, fellas, ’twas a scandal on a grand scale,” Brad grumbled to Harris and Barb Degoya: their huge Rontavahrian handyman as they strolled across the Main Precinct.

“Once upon a time, ya could get a bag a’ ‘pops an’ be guaranteed ta get those lovely red ones: the Strawb’ Supremes, but since Zan Doka shuffled onta the scene, ya can ‘ardly get ’em! Instead, “they” just put in these lousy orange ones that nahbody likes, ev’ry bloomin’ time  – gah! Bloody Zandokans…”

“Don’t you fret, Commander,” Barb consoled in his deep baritone drawl. “Oi’m quite partial to the orange ones meself. Oi can help you wiv dem if you loike.”

“Uff, typical – asleep fer the danger, awake fer the cake as per frickin’ usual,” Brad muttered, but with a wry smile so as not to upset his gargantuan alien buddy.

“Cake?! No cake here, Commander. It’s bad enough trying to get any quesadillas around this base…”

“Ya can say THAT again, fella…”

Suddenly, the three amigos froze in horror.

“LANDO’S TEETH!” Brad hollered. “They’re ‘ERE already!”

On the horizon, darting about like dark gnats, but soaring ever nearer: twenty Zandokan Zkorpions – supersleek and as deadly as fudge – infested the mauve sky. The trio raced towards the hangar, just reaching shelter as the initial Imperial laserfire began strafing the Precinct.

“We gotta get up there!” Brad shouted boldly. “Come wiv me, Barb… Let’s BOTH grab a fighter an’ sock it to ’em! Whaddaya say, big fella? Ain’tcha gonna risk it fer a biscuit?” 

“Mmm, Oi loike biscuits…”

“Yay! Attaboy – c’mon Barby, let’s go party…!”

Barb heaved the hangar doors open; they both rushed in.

“What the blazes-?!” the Commander cried, mortified to learn that NO fighters remained. “This is nuts; there’s gotta be-”

And then he perceived the familiar sight of a standard BrtFtr-X2 fighter lurking in the shadows over at the far wall: “-ONE!” 

As he dashed over, Barb cried: “Don’t bovva, Brad! It’s probly a dud! Don’t-!”

But the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger didn’t listen. With one effortless bound, he jumped up into the cockpit; he’d already got the fighter moving before closing the canopy. While the Zkorpion-driven carnage raged outside, Brad charged the BrtFtr’s boosters and catapulted it skywards.

“Groovy, baby…” he mouthed gleefully.

“…’Ey, m’man, I’m in the Control Tower – I’ll be lookin’ out for ya,” Gaz drawled into Brad’s ear-piece. “Besta’ luck, Commander…”

“Cheers, fella… Right, let’s see what we can see- aow, donner und blitzen!” Brad cursed as he fumbled with the onboard Stereo soundsystem. 

“Where ist der Holzplatten?! Ya know I can’t engage in a dogfight wivaht it… AHA, ausgezeichnet!!

“There’s the bunny…”

“This is it, fellas – locked on Intercept Course. Dozen raiders @ 2:10 – three of ’em peelin’ off in me direction. Gonna engage. Lasers locked on…”

Like countless times before, Brad opened up the Attack-Scanner but in that mo, the weirdest sensation came over him; flashbacks reeled across his feverish mind – Jeez, what a time to get Aviation Sickness!

Panic and confusion swept through the Control Tower. 

“BRAD!” Harris cried. “Ya switched off yer targetin’ computer! What’s wrong?”

“Huh, did I? Ulp, Blimey Charley! Musta flicked the wrong switch…”

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“Never let me catch you doing a victory roll over my airfield again. Understood?” – Squadron Leader Colin Harvey. 

Okey dokey, fellas, this is where the fun begins!”

The first Zkorpion fighter veered into Brad’s sights; he opened up his laser console to click the raider into smithereens.

Brad clicked. And clicked again. Nuthin’ happened!

His cannons would NOT fire.  

“Whut in the name a’ Edrio Two-Tubes is goin’ on?!” he barked, but then chilled out. “Never mind… Y’know me – I got some tricks up me sleeve! ‘Ow about the Affleck-Hartnett Manoeuvre?”

“Ah nah, mate – ya wouldn’t!” Harris – who had raced up to the Tower to observe his Commander’s progress – cried in dismay. “…Would ya?!”

“Sure, why not? Works ev’ry time…”

Brad sent the BrtFtr into a wide arc – making sure that a gaggle a’ Zkorpions were latched onto his tail – and hurtled straight twards other incoming fighters.

As he veered stunningly close to them, Nacho squealed: “YEEE! El grande testicolos! Commandante, DON’T!”

He did.

The collision culminated in a colossal fireball that billowed across the sky.

“Yo, works EV’RY time…”

But still too many gnats hounded the hero.

In mid-swoop, the BrtFtr shunted violently, Brad rocked in his seat; his cake sprawled into smithereens across the console.

“AOW, bloomin’ ‘ECK!”

“Brad! Ya’ve bin hit!” Harris yelled out.

“Madre de Dios! BAIL OUT!” Nacho screamed.

“Aow, cobblers…” Brad muttered, jamming the controls aside.

The fighter banked sharply to starboard and slammed into the nearest Zkorpion raider; two fireballs erupted instantaneously. The onlookers in the Control Tower gasped in silent disbelief.

“BRAD!” Lexi yelled…

“Oh, let’s just wing it, shall we, Mrs. Bell?” – James Bond. 

Gaz beamed a wide grin, as he scanned his console: “Be cool, y’all – he hit Eject just before impact…”

“Phew! Jammy beggar…” Harris sighed. “So where the ‘eck is ‘e nah…?!”

One Imperial raider cruised past the point of the collision. The pilot failed to detect a small device being attached to his sidescreen; a short burst, and the canopy slid open. The Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger lunged in: “‘Ere… gerrahtavit!”

He yanked the startled occupant out; as the Zandokan hurtled groundwards, his Wilhelm scream gradually muted in the mauve air…

Brad hurriedly clambered in, closing the canopy and relevelled the craft’s wild and wavering course.

“Hiya, fellas!” he chirped. “I’m back-! ‘Ey, ‘Arris! Jeez, man, ya gotta take a butcher’s inside this ‘un! Blimey, when the Emperor said ‘e wuz gonna increase ‘is Offence Budget a gazillionfold, ‘e wuzn’t gassin’! Whoa, this is one helluva cool crate…

Excitedly, the Ace opened up the throttle: “Let’s see ‘ow fast this baby can g-WWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAA-HA-HA-HA-HEYYYYYY!!”

Beware! Brad in a top-a’-the-range Imperial Fighter = the crafty ol’ Terran found himself in his element. Swiftly, and surely, he ducked, dipped, dived and dodged through the aerial battlezone, picking off each raider with lethal – if a tad cocky – precision. Within minutes, the once-formidable Zquadron had been depleted to only three fighters; two of those lost their nerve and fled back across the wastelands…

Your hero’s final laser-salvo of the day turned out to be his weakest – with one wing merely scraped, the last fighter glided gently into the city outskirts.

“‘Ey, Gaz, this ‘un’s goin’ daan in the vicini’y o’ the Ponda Baba Charm School; despatch a Fuzzwagon ta pick ‘im up, will ya? See ya on the graand.

“Cheers! Brad, out…”

“You’re over-revving…” – Mrs. Bell.

A group of Benjhazi refugee boys had been playing Pookball outside; obviously, they’d scattered when the Zkorpions attacked, but one bright-eyed lad: Trey-Va Zinc – who harboured dreams of joining General Rajendra’s Free Fighters Rebellion when he grew up – had stayed to gawp at the unfolding dogfight; Trey-Va thought he recognised the maverick style of that lone fighter ace…

Watching the spluttering craft limp to the edge of the airfield, he sprinted over. In one effortless bound, the pilot leapt out of the cockpit onto the ground. Before the fighter had slid to a halt. Both now-setting suns glinted behind the hunky figure, casting him in a snazzy silhouette; but the boy realised that it was HIM. When he popped another ‘pop in his gob, there was no doubt.  

“THAT’S how ya save the galaxy, kid…”

Boyoboy, I KNEW it!” the lil fuschia-skinned alien chirped. “It’s YOU, innit?!”

“Betcha Pookball trainers, kid! It’s me, awright…”

“The Cakecharmer! I recognised ya from yer Military Fuzz mugshots!”

“Ha, didya now? Clever fella, Trevva! ‘Ere, ‘elp yerself…” Brad enthused, offering his bag of candy; Trey-Va eagerly delved in.

“Cor! It’sa real ‘onour ta meetcha, Mr. Fart! I’ve got all yer- HEY! Haven’tcha got any red ones?!”

Altaira Morbius: “Where have you been? I’ve beamed and beamed.” 

Robby The Robot: “Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil-job.” 

Harris moseyed on over to Brad and Zinc, guffawing hysterically.

“HA! ‘Ere comes the ‘Ero of the ‘Our! Yet again, ‘e expects cheerin’ masses ta come aht an’ celebrate ‘im, but whut is there? Ha ha ha! Just  – heh heh! – some lil Benjhazi boy, ha ha ha!”

“Uff, laugh it up, fuzzball – I didn’ see YOU in- uh-oh…”

“BRAD!! Brad Burrito Fartlighter! STOP right there, smartass…!” Major Baumer boomed as he marched across the airfield to berate the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger. “YOU… have tried my patience for the VERY LAST TIME… Just what the blazes do you think you’re doing, idiot?!”

“Er, savin’ the city from Imperial attack y’know, the sorta objective anyone would-”

“Stow it! You acted without orders – you could have put the whole base in danger-!”

“‘Ey, Dumbo! Flap yer ears an’ ventilate yer brains! Yer whole base WUZ in danger! That’s why I-“

“Stole a fighter, which you subsequently destroyed! You attacked without getting proper authoriz-”

“Well, technically, I did NUT attack – couldn’t! The figh’er’s bloomin’ laser-toobs were EMPTY!”

“Hmm… DAMMIT anyway! That was a really expensive piece of hardware you wreckedyou’re-!”

Jeez, man, ‘twuz a wreck awrightI’m lucky I got orf the graand in that obsolete hunk a’ junk-” 

“YOU, Mr. Flash, are the obsolete hunk. Just had a vid-conf with Major Spoiler, and you know what he said to me?”

“Don’t break wind in the elevator?”

“What?! NO! Goddammit! Why does everything have to be one big joke to you?! No, he said you’re for it now! And I concur! We’re going to put you on a charge… and- and for goodness sake, DO your jacket up, man! This is NOT the time or place for flashing your abs…”

“Heh, wha’ever ya say, Bummer-“

“DAMN you, Brad! For the umpteenth time, it’s Baumer! BAU-mer!!”

“Gezund’eit, baby…”

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“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room” – President Merkin Muffley. 

“DAMN your eyes, Brad…” Baumer boomed, as both men marched across to the Major’s office. “NOBODY’S impressed with what you just pulled! You’re finished-“

At that moment, Brad Company and assorted members of the gound crew hangin’ around outside the hangar let out a huge, resounding cheer; Brad acknowledged them by pumping a triumphant fist in the air.

All of a sudden, Taz De Maria – one of the new, young rookies – raced across the airfield to meet the beaming hero.

“We all think it’s like really cool what you just did, Commander, so I like got you this…” she cried, handing over a foil-wrapped package.

Brad gleefully opened it to reveal a whoppin’ great piece of nutty chocolate fudge cake.

“Aww, bless yer ‘eart, Taz…” the hero spoke softly, fondling his prize with the utmost care.

“You like deserve it, Brad,” she continued. “An’ it was like, really great how you- WHOA! Nice abs…”

She gave him a quick, nervous hug before rejoining the crowd; Brad turned back, in smug-mode, to the enraged Commander-in-Chief:

“NAHBODY, huh…?”

“Hmm, well…” the Major growled furiously, clearing his throat. “This doesn’t change the fact that you are, quite simply… the most unreliable, recalcitrant waste of space I have ever had the misfortune to manage… You are an utter disgrace to the Militia! And our Resistance! There is nothing remotely heroic in your brash idiocy! Heck, you wouldn’t know Discipline if it slapped you across the kisser! I will make sure that you are stripped of your rank, thrown out of the service and shipped back to that godawful English estate from which you crawled out! Also, I will see to it personally, Commander, that there will be no one to stop us from deleting your miserable little blog! You’re finished, Fartlighter – you’re NOTHING! The bums ALWAYS lose!

“You got that, Brad…? [AHEM!] Brad…?”

“Huh… whassat…? Did ya say some’t, fella? Only I’ve jus’ bin tryin’ ta get these nut’y-crumbs outta me beard…”

The officer face-palmed in despair.

“Ugh! Just take your accursed Company an’ get the hell off my base… Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal, baby… Jeez, any gaff that does NOT serve quesadillas deserves to be reprimanded in my book-”

“You are NOT qualified to have your own book, Fartlighter,” Baumer sighed. “But I’ll gladly throw mine at you ANY DAY…!”

Brad stepped forward, defiantly licking chocolate cream off his luscious lips.

“Ya know some’t, Bummer? I always thought of ya as a cold, unfeelin’ twitface, but… yer really a rootin’-tootin’ emotional bundle a’ fun…

“Ain’tcha, coochie-coo…?”

And with that, the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger trudged nonchalantly back to the Calista.

The Major just stood there, speechless, but seething… 

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“How many times have I told you nerks? Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in a combat area!” – Darth Vader. 

Shove Piggy Shove!: 2 Cakes Too Many

A Rebellion Built On Cake…

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“The Son Of Fartlighter Must Not Become A Glutton…” – Emperor Zan Doka. 

Planet- Killer!

Zamora – one of the last Federated Planets in the Hugivzatos System to hold out against the Zandokan Imperial Onslaught – has incurred the wrath of Zegreatme, Dark Lord of Zan Doka.

He has set the brand new flagship: the Imperial Ztodgeztonker, armed with the Ztellar Converter, a superweapon capable of destroying an entire planet, on a course towards Zamora…

Pledged to defend the planet at any cost is cake-scoffing bum hero: Brad Fartlighter. Him and ‘is indomitable band of outlaws: Brad Company are already back on Zamora after another daring raid across one of the Imperial provinces, but not all is well…

Poor little Carrie sat at the kitchen table of her mother’s home sobbing uncontrollably.

The Zandokans had just skedaddled, after wrecking the garden furniture, scaring off her friends and callously destroying her prezzies. 

Uff, the scaly-skinned bounders had even confiscated her birthday cake… 

“They completely RUINED her party!” wailed Tanya, her shocked mother, who sat in the kitchen watching Nacho and Harris try and clear the debris. Lexi sat beside her, trying to console her.

“Gottverdamnt…” muttered Brad Fartlighter. “If only the Calista had come outta hyperspace a tad sooner… I coulda-“

“No, Brad, even you couldn’t ‘ave done anythin’. They would have captured you, and your cake would now be in the hands of the Empire… “

She was a longtime pal, but even those words cut him to the core stronger than steel. 

“Yeah, but… As a Galactic Hero, I’m supposed ta be in the right place at the right time, an’ all… So sorry Carrie… “Me an’ the Co. are gonna do everythin’ we can to make yer birfday as snazzy as can be again…” Brad muttered, but the girl did not look up.

Tanya held her daughter ever so tightly: “Oh, those Imperial thugs! My kids…! How could they do such a- a-“ and with that, she broke down in Lexi’s arms…

“Don’t fret, lov,” Brad reassured. “Me an’ the Company are goin’ ta deal with ’em right away – an’ ya needn’t worry aboutcha bairns! Isn’t that right, fellas?”

Brad Company each offered their commiserations as they filed out. Except for Lexi; she paused at the door, looking solemn.

“You fellas run along; I’m gonna stay behind an’ look after these guys.”

“Good on yer, Lex!” Brad replied. “We’ll keep ya posted.”

“Fart! Mr. Fart! Hey, wait up!”

Carrie’s brother, Timmy, came running out to Brad.

“Are ya gonna get those Zandokans? Put one between the eyes for me, will ya?!”

“Whoa, Trooper! Strong words for such a pint-sized Rebel. You gotta-“

Only then did Brad notice the tears brimming in the boy’s eyes; he knelt and gave Timmy a big hug.

“…I can promise ya that Brad’s gonna get ’em… Wipe those tears away, kid. Ya gotta be strong fer yer Muvva an’ Carrie now, y’hear?” 

Brad handed out one of his lollipops – wishing he could give so much more – and strode, heavy-hearted, back to the Calista. 

“Is he housebroken, or is he going to leave batteries all over the floor?” – Miles Monroe.

The Calista Blockhead veered through the Hugivzatos System en route to intercept the Zandokan Imperial Fleet.

“Hey, ‘Arris,” Helmsman Gaz Murphy wondered.On our last raid, didn’tcha capture an Imperial Service Droid? And reprogram it?”

“Yeah man!” Harris Wrench, the Calista’s Engineer, beamed with pride. “Got ‘im right ‘ere!”

A tall, powerful, yet long-suffering bipedal droid plodded forward.

“Ay em B2-BEN-D, Zerveez Droid, Zema Zeriez. Ya vont Zerveez – Ay giv you Zerveez-“

“Whoa, excellente, amigo!” Gaz gasped in amazement. “Hey, BEN, ya ready ta work wonders fer us?” 

The droid looked irritable. “…Not really, Urfmairn. Thet wuz zuch en eencunveenienz tekkin’ me away from my Eempereeal blizz…” 

“Well, you’re gonna-“

“Huh… mek me, Urfmairn…”

“Huh, hoighty toighty…!” 

The droid stepped menacingly closer: “En’ enuthair theenk: zeez eedeeot failed to give me an oil barf…”

“Did ‘e now…? Well, Iron Nerk, we can’t afford such luxuries aboard the Calista, y’know-“

“Jeez, vot kinduva Meeky Mouze show air you lot runneenk heere?!”

“Look, I’m famished, BEN – go fry some chips-“

“Huh, go fry your head, Urfmairn…”

“Hey, ‘Arris…” Gaz whispered. “D’ya think ya reprog-job… y’know, was extensive enough?”

At that moment, Brad trudged onto the Bridge, bedecked in the biochemech armoured suit of a Zandokan Shokk Trooper. 

“Ay caramba! Here’s your helmet, Commandante,” Nacho chipped in. “Where you want it?”

“ON ME ‘EAD, SON! Where else, Nach?! Fer goodness sake! Flamin’ Nora…”

“Madre de dios, I don’t know… I have a bad feelin’ about th-”

“Stow it, Nach. I got this plan, an’ it’s as hot as me pants!”

Harris took one butcher’s and wrinkled his nose: “Uff, too hunky for a Shokk Trooper?”

“Aww, leave it out, ‘Arris! I’m takin’ an awful risk, amigo. This ‘ad bet’er work…”

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Luke Skywalker: “Why didn’t you say so before?”

Han Solo: “I did say so before!”

Meanwhile, aboard the Ztodgeztonker: 

“Zir!” piped one of the console operators on the Bridge.

“Yez? Vot know?!” yelled Zegreatme.

“Ay hef detected a deezturbenz urn Level 1138.”

“Level 1138? Zat eez ze Control Centair fer ze Ztellar Convertair! Put ze ZZTV urn ze main zcreen, eemmeediatly!”

“Eet eez Troopair FU421, Yer Exzellenzy.”

The shot of a blatant act of sabotage relayed on the main screen.

“Votzevukk eez he doeenk…?!”

Zegreatme bolted outta his seat as if an electric charge had shot up ‘is high-an’-mighty arse. 

“BLAZEZ! Zat eez ze tallezt Troopair Ay evair did zee! Ehr… FU421, vhy airen’t yo at yer purzt?”

FU421 turned round to face the camera.

“Who, me? Oh, er… vitel repairz-“

Troopair… vot eez your urpairateenk numbair…?”

“Numbair 2-5… zeex… wurn, wurn-“

“HA! GOTCHAIR, ya zaboteur-zwine, yo! Zat eez NUR urpairateenk numbair! 

“Oh, Blimey Charley, zat’z-!”

“WETT…!” Zegreatme’s bionic fist shot into the air. “Wett a meenit… NURBUDDY elze een ze galaxy toks laik ZAT. GUARDZ! Remurv zat troopair ent breeng heem to ME!”

lightspeed

“We’re gonna do this!” – Poe Dameron. 

FU421 was led by heavily armed escort onto the Bridge; Zegreatme strode forth to confront him:

“Troopair: yo vill remurv yer helmet and tell me yer nam…”

FU421 did as he was told, and all the Zandokans on the Bridge gasped as the galactic hero revealed himself.

“Me name is ‘Arrison Ford, Battleforce Commander of the Galactic Defence Militia, Sworn Defender of the Federated Planet of Zamora. Owner of a dodgy bike an’ some mouldy pretzels. An’ I WILL HAVE ME CAKE! In this Prison Barge. Or the next.”

“WHOA, heh heh! ZWIVEL ME ZYDWEZ! Vot a zpeech! …But pointlezz. Prepair to meet thy DOME, Fertlittair… but, er, veally – too hurnky fer a Shokk Troopair?”

“Aow, bloomin’ ‘eck, Zeg, don’t you start!”

“Gentlemen, Ay tell yo, zeez Urfdawg hez bin a cunztent pen – laike a boil urn ze burm fer too lonk! Zo… Bred, vot breengz yo crawleenk oat frum undair yer wretched ztern zeez tem, eh?”

“Ah, put a cork in it, Zeg! Do wit’ me whatever yer foul bonce can muster, but let Zamora go! I won’t stand aroun’ an’ watch while ya-”

“HA! Do may lugholez hear raight?! Ze gret hero eez lewzeenk ee’z tempair weev Zegreatme!”

Brad lunged forward and started knocking all over the Dark Lord’s armour. A shrill clanging sound reverberated all around the Bridge; the officers present gasped even louder.

“‘Ere, ‘ow come yer suit’s thicker than mine-?”

“GERROFF, ya crazy Urfdawg-!”

“Any’ow, jus’ thought I’d let ya know that I’ve already swiped back all the supplies – an’ the cake, of course! – that you lot swiped from Zamora…”

“Ha! Yo tray to fool Zegreatme?!”

One of the operators glared closer in disbelief at his console: “Eet’z true, may LordContainment Vezzel No. 237 eez know combpletely EMPTY! ULL 403 conzignmentz urv kek are gone az vell!”

“Er, 405 actually – I swiped a couple a’ beauties from anuvva-“

“Nur! Zat eez two kekz too many, end- ENNUV! Eet eez urv leetle conzequenz,”  Zegreatme remained unmoved. “Shurtly, ve VEELL enairgize ze Ztellar Convertair end you ken watch yer patheteec paltry planet BLURN eento urbleeveeurn, heh heh heh! “Yo hef LOZT, Fertlittair! Urn yer dodgy baike, Urfmairn! GUARDZ! Eef yo pleaze…”

“‘Old yer ‘orses, Zeg,” Brad exclaimed nonchalantly, licking some renegade cream off his upper lip. The hero brandished a a small device from his jacket’s inside pocket. The Zandokan guards’ trigger fingers twitched.

“Vot air you feedleenk wiv know, Urfmairn?”

“Ya know what this is?”

“Vot’s vot?”

“No, Who’s Who, but ya were close. In ‘ere is a record of people who ‘ave been left dischuffed an’ downtrodden by you Zandokan nerks fer too long… But there’s one name in particular I wanna draw your attention to, an’ – if I scroll dahn… dum-ti-dum-ti-d-AHA! ‘Ere she is! A little girl – she means nothin’ ta you Imperial nitwits, but yer Shokk Troopers, Zeg, still ‘ad ta go an’ ruin her big day, anyway! I wan’ ya ta know…” Brad seethed, fidgeting desperately with his device.

“This… is for Carrie…”

And with that, he flicked a switch, and sparks leapt out of the main console; in the confusion, he darted one hand up to a hidden earpiece:

“Okey dokey, ‘Arris, get me outta ‘ere, NOW!”

Brad Company teleported their Commander off the Ztodgeztonker. 

The Dark Lord waved his arms in the air. “VOT?! Ecteevate ze Tractair Bimm! Ay vont Bred back!”

“Bimm… May Lord?”

“Yayyez, BIMM! BIMM HEEM BECK KNOW!!”

“…But ve ken’t, Yer Ekzellenzy! Ze Urfmairn hez deacteevated ze Tractair Beem!”

Another controller cried out: “Nut urnly zat, may Lord! He hez rerouted ze Men Pah! Ve air completely eenurpreble! Aieee, ze Ztodgeztonker eez KAPUT!!” 

“Aah, fer ze lurve urv… KURZEZ!”

Brad exhaled a huge sigh of relief as he reappeared back aboard the Calista. 

“No time to ‘ang arahn’, lads – we gotta get back ta Tan’s gaff, pronto! PUNCH IT, GAZ!”

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“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don’t” – Carrie Fisher.

The doorbell rang.

Tanya came to answer it – she couldn’t believe her eyes! There stood Brad Company, holding prezzies – Gaz and Nacho carried huge cakes. And all Carrie’s birthday guests came running back in!

“An’ anuva thing…” Brad brandished a small gold-foil-wrapped prezzy. All the kids gawped; Carrie took it and shook it curiously.

“I swiped somethin’ else from Zeg…” Brad whispered to Harris, winking cheekily.

The Engineer’s eyes lit up: “Me beauty! Ya crafty beggar, ‘Ligh’er…”

Eagerly, Birthday Girl tore it open…

She opened her mouth in a silent scream, and then let out:

“COOL! A Samsung smartphone! Me very own Samsung smartphone!!”

She ran off to show it to all her friends.

“Don’t forget to say th-!” Tanya yelled, but her daughter had already disappeared into the next room. “She is very grateful…” the exasperated Mum exclaimed apologetically.

“No worries, lov! We can see thatTold ya I would make it up to ya- oh! Hey, Timmy, come here a sec, kid.”

Timmy, feelin’ kinda left out, slouched over very slowly.

“Hey, Nach, bring over that big package…”

In curiosity, the boy gradually unwrapped it – a humongous grin flashed across his grubby face as he brought out the second cake.

“Whoa, cheers, Mr. Fart!! This is swell!”

“Oh Brad,” Tanya beamed. “Do you ever get tired of being such a groovy Galactic ‘Ero?”

“Is this a trick question…?”

Outside, B2-BEN-D complained endlessly as he was ordered to tidy up the wreckage in the garden…

“Nur rewad eez worth THEEZ…”

Back indoors, a rare moment of jubilation erupted in this otherwise deprived sector of the Empire as the party went into full swing. The kids revelled in playing games: Pin The Tail On The Zandokan Ass; 1-Potato 2-Potato and – oh yes! – Shove Piggy Shove.

Tanya wiped away more tears, this time, of joy: “Bless you, Brad!” she whimpered gratefully.

“Bless you…”

_pbnir

 

Somewhere… 

In the cold depths of space…

The largest and most expensive starship in the Imperial Zandokan Fleet just hung there – derelict and pathetic – as dark and powerless as its seriously dischuffed Commanding Officer.

“GAH! VUKKITY-VUKK!! DEMN zat Bred!” Zegreatme growled furiously. “Ay veel chaze zat eccurzed Urfmairn to ze endz uv ze cozmoz end beck eef need be…!

“Uff… Ay’m FED URP weev zeez… Ay veel call ze repairmairn mayzelf…”

He frantically fondled himself.

“VUKK! VHERE EEZ MAY VUKKIN’ ZAMZUNG!! Gah, demn yo, Bred! DEMN YO!!”

All to no avail…

Didn’t you know, Zeg…? 

In space, no one can hear you berate the one and only Brad Burrito Fartlighter…

end