Leco and The Midsummer Night’s Scream
The continuing adventures of the Leconauts Season 9
Captain Lou was puzzled; she had sent several high-importance messages to the Renegade Council but had had no reply. This was a worrying situation. Communication on the underground network was largely instantaneous across the galaxy, so something fairly momentous must have happened to throw such a spanner into the works.
What could have happened out in the wide blue yonder? Possibilities began to race through her mind. Perhaps the long-predicted rebellion of the Trublues had started. She shuddered as she thought of these debased creatures, programmed to think only of themselves. There would be flangecting to do.
Then suddenly, the Vistascreen crackled into life; the face of Andy, Son of Richard loomed large. He appeared to be in a honky-tonk roadhouse surrounded by smiling Coloradans; a raucous band could be seen behind him, yawping their wild spacechants to the aether.
‘All hail to the Leconauts’ said Andy.
‘All hail to Andy, son of Richard’ replied Captain Lou. ‘How are you enjoying your sojourn in the Colorado Aurora? Have you seen the Space Sage yet?’
‘I am being pleasurably diverted’ replied Andy. ‘But the Space Sage told me worrying things…’
Captain Lou held her breath.
‘He told of a malaise which has fallen upon the world of Terra Gaia. A malaise which sends its victims to sleep. A sleep which they do not awaken from…..’
Alarm bells rang in Captain Lou’s head. Could this be why there had been no reply from the Renegade Council? Some type of sleeping sickness?
‘Does the Space Sage say who or what is causing the sickness?’ she asked, almost fearing the answer.
‘Oh yes’ replied Andy. ‘It is the work of the Sleeperman……’
Loudhailer Electric Company photos by Sydpix:
The Sleeperman; a semi-mythical figure of whom stories were told by mothers wishing to frighten their children into behaving well. ‘Come home quickly’ they would say, ‘or the Sleeperman will get you!’ Captain Lou could remember her own mother saying the same things to her!
‘And does the Space Sage have anything further to say on this matter?’ asked Captain Lou. ‘How we may find him or combat the dire effects he is producing?’
‘He does have more to say’ intoned Andy. ‘He says the Sleeperman has joined forces with Dino of Jacksonville, a Neris!’
It got worse! Captain Lou was shocked. A Neris was an elemental being who lured young maidens to their doom with his captivating and hypnotic spacechants. If the Sleeperman had joined forces with a Neris then the whole galaxy was at risk.
‘And does the Space Sage know where the Sleeperman can be found? Or this Dino of Jacksonville?’ asked Captain Lou, with no expectation of a useful answer.
‘The Sleeperman has journeyed to Terra Gaia’ replied Andy. ‘The Space Sage says the Sleeperman will not stop until the entire galaxy is mired in ennui.’
Terra Gaia; once again, the destiny of the Leconauts was about to take them to this small, insignificant world which seemed to exert a gravitational pull upon their lives.
‘Then to Terra Gaia we shall go’ said Captain Lou resolutely. ‘It’s time to save the galaxy from peril once again. But this time we aren’t battling Fungi from Yuggoth, the Walking Dead or the Silence. This time we are pitted against a potentially more deadly enemy altogether – indolence!’
‘Set course for Terra Gaia’ ordered Captain Lou. ‘We’ll go and see Admiral Bunting and find out if he knows anything.’
Ricardo programmed the navigational system by thought transference and the image of Terra Gaia appeared on the Vistascreen. A small blue dot in a distant solar system.
The four Leconauts gathered round the Throneseat occupied by Captain Lou as their ship steered them towards new adventures.
‘What do we know of the Sleeperman?’ asked Captain Lou. ‘Apart from the myths and legends.’
Ricardo the Astral Bard spoke. ‘Unfortunately everything we know is bound up in myth and legend’ he said. ‘Inevitably, some of it will be true, but at this point we can’t separate the myth from the facts.’
‘I heard the Sleeperman was a Hydra’ said Bombardier Walker, ‘with four heads, each of terrifying aspect.’
‘I heard that the Sleeperman was a Shapeshifter’ said the Sonic Architect, ‘and that it would sometimes divide itself into four and terrorise a whole city with its cries. The denizens of those cities would then be found in a state of acute melancholia, with no inclination to do anything useful!’
Captain Lou smiled. ‘Well’, she said, ‘it’s time we discovered the truth. And as we well know, truth can be stranger than fiction……’
The Leconauts sat in Admiral Bunting’s headquarters in the Temple of Oriley, Kardomah City, on Terra Gaia.
‘There are many tales of the Sleeperman’ said the venerable renegade. ‘But separating fact from fiction can be difficult. I do know that the Sleeperman is actually four men.’
‘Four?’ exclaimed all four Leconauts simultaneously. ‘That would certainly explain some of the wilder stories’ said Captain Lou.
‘It is widely suspected that one is a Scott and one is a Hill Town Dweller’ continued the Admiral. There was a moment of silence. The Scots and the Hill Town Dwellers were known as ferocious and merciless warriors. ‘And one of them’, the Admiral paused and drew a ragged breath, ‘is a Skinner!’
The atmosphere chilled in an instant. ‘A Skinner?!’ said Captain Lou. ‘Surely…..’
‘I’m afraid it’s probably true’ said the Admiral, with a hint of finality.
The Skinners were a wild coastal tribe who had a reputation not only for fierce fighting, like the Scots and the Hill Town Dwellers, but also for flaying their victims alive.
‘The fourth one is almost certainly a Shapeshifter’ continued the Admiral, ‘as descriptions of him have varied so wildly over the ages that you would scarcely believe it was the same person. He has been described as small, wiry and fair, and tall, dark and bear-like, and everything else in between.’
‘It sounds like we’ll need all our ingenuity to take them on’ said Captain Lou. ‘But take them on we must, for the sake of the galaxy.’
‘That’s right’ said the Admiral. ‘As usual, the Galactic Council is burying its head in the silica.’
‘And what about the Renegade Council?’ asked Captain Lou. ‘Any word from Lord Ron of the Hale?’
‘Not a peep’ replied the Admiral. ‘It looks like we’re on our own.’
The Admiral’s Vistascreen suddenly burst into life. Four heads appeared. They all sported beards which made them look incredibly fearsome. They spoke as one.
‘We are Sleeperman and we seek the Leconauts. Tell us where we can find them.’
Then all four of them yawned………
Captain Lou regarded the four heads in the Vistascreen. They didn’t look that terrifying…..
‘We are the Leconauts’ said Captain Lou. ‘What business do you have with us?’
The four heads spoke in unison again. ‘We sense a loss of vitality in the galaxy. An erosion of will, a descent into indifference. Something is consuming the ambition of our kind and sending them into languor. We have joined forces with Dino of Jacksonville, but we need more power to achieve results. We know of your reputation and would join forces with you to banish the lassitude currently engulfing the galaxy. Will you join us?’
Captain Lou thought quickly. It could be a trap – microdecahexabits ago she and her crew had the Sleeperman down as the cause of the enervation. Now she was being confronted by the idea that the Sleeperman was actually a crusading force for good.
‘There are many stories of the Sleeperman’ she said. ‘Those stories advise that you are approached with….caution.’
‘We have heard similar stories about you’ said the Sleeperman. ‘We have thought long and hard about the wisdom of contacting such notorious renegades. But in the end we felt that it was the only way to save the galaxy from descending into eternal ennui.’
Captain Lou made a decision there and then. ‘Very well’ she said. ‘We will rendezvous with you on our starcruiser. Sending you co-ordinates…….’
Captain Lou and her three Leconauts stood on the bridge of the Leco, arrayed around the Transference Spot in full battle readiness mode. The spot began to pulsate slowly. ‘Flangectors on stun’ said Captain Lou.
Suddenly, four humanoid forms appeared in a swirling cloud of mist. It looked like the Sleepermen were taking no chances either; two of them had their flangectors poised ready to strike.
‘Welcome to the Sleeperman!’ said Captain Lou.
‘Thank you’ came the reply. The Leconauts regarded the Sleeperman – Sleepermen. Two were dressed in an old-fashioned style which Captain Lou knew was called ‘dapper’ in the history books; the other two looked more like what Captain Lou had heard called ‘ragamuffins’. The taller of the Dappers had returned her greeting. She motioned to four chairs which were awaiting their guests. They sat, cautiously.
‘Would you like some spacejuice?’ she asked, according to ancient renegade protocol.
‘Most welcome’ replied the Tall Dapper.
Sonic Architect Parsons came forward with a large bottle and eight glasses.
‘We’ve been saving this one for a special occasion’ he said. ‘It’s from the vineyards of Europa. A present from the grateful citizens after the adventure we had with the Golden Space Needles.’
‘Ah yes’ said the smaller Dapper. ‘We have heard tell of this adventure. We couldn’t believe that a tenth of it could have actually happened. You used a new type of flangector, did you not?’
‘We did’ said the Sonic Architect, warming to his favourite subject. ‘A Bird of Fire with a Black Star core.’
Captain Lou suddenly thought that perhaps the Sleeperman was trying to gain knowledge of their closely-guarded secret systems, knowledge that some would give many bags of spacecoin to possess. She decided to change the subject.
‘We understand that this Dino of Jacksonville with whom you have joined forces is a Neris!’ she said.
‘Indeed he is’ replied Tall Dapper, ‘and he weaves a strange power with his spacechants which few can resist. In fact, we have taken the liberty to ask him to join us.’
Bombardier Walker jumped up and levelled his thundersticks towards the Sleeperman – men. ‘Not so fast’ said the taller Ragamuffin and pointed his archaic basso profundo flangector at the Bombardier’s heart.
At that exact moment the Transference Spot began to glow again and the ship’s lights all turned red. Mist began to swirl and a tall, dark and handsome figure, clad in skin-tight black trousers and a crisp white shirt emerged from the smoke. He was carrying a black Gibson flangector. He stepped forward, a picture of old-world elegance. Captain Lou realised that everyone had gasped at the same time. The apparition spoke, in a voice redolent of honey and spacespirit. With every syllable coloured sprites danced around his head.
‘Greetings to the Leconauts and the Sleeperman. Dino of Jacksonville at your service.’
Bombardier Walker and Tall Ragamuffin fell to the floor in a swoon………
‘Attention!’ cried Captain Lou. The Bombardier sprang to his feet. ‘Sorry, Captain’ he said. ‘I don’t know what came over me!’
Tall Ragamuffin had also risen; his three crewmates were all silently smirking at him.
Tall Dapper spoke. ‘We think we have located the source of the ennui which has been creeping over the galaxy’ he said. ‘We believe it emanates from a planet called Cow-ell in the Dung Nebula. Our scanners have revealed a huge processing plant in the heart of the planet which has been sending out psychic enervations for dodecamoons. It is protected by a layer of an ancient foodstuff called cheese, three miles deep, through which conventional flangectors have been unable to penetrate.’
A psychic enervation generator protected by a thick layer of cheese. Were the Sleepermen jesting? But then something stirred in her memory. She turned to Ricardo.
‘Didn’t we encounter an Evil Genius called Cow-ell in the Studio of the Fountain, when we vanquished the Walking Dead and freed the Satyrs?’ she asked.
‘We did’ replied Ricardo. ‘We thought we had vaporised him, along with the rest of them’ added the Sonic Architect. ‘Perhaps he escaped.’
‘He did not escape’ said Smaller Dapper. ‘But his clones remain on the planet Cow-ell, creating their soul-destroying enervation and streaming it across the galaxy. Those who consume it become pliant, submissive, mired in ennui.’
Captain Lou fought the impulse to yawn.
So how will we penetrate this protective layer of….cheese? She felt vaguely embarrassed to be asking such a question.
Tall Ragamuffin spoke. ‘We believe that a combination of three thunder machines, three basso profundo flangectors, four hexagonic flangectors and four astral intonations will produce the right type of wave to cut through the cheese and penetrate the processing plant. Having analysed the sonic signatures of every renegade ship in the four quadrants, we are sure that only we three in this combination can put an end to Cow-ell of the Sy-moon.’
‘Then we must go at once’ said Captain Lou.
‘We will return to our starcruiser, the Chippy’ said Tall Dapper.
‘And I will return to mine, the Italian Vogue’ crooned Dino. ‘I look forward to ridding the galaxy of this pernicious malaise.’
For a moment no-one spoke; they all merely stood, with a smile on their lips and a faraway look in their eyes…..
Three starcruisers were orbiting the planet Cow-ell in the Dung Nebula. The Leco, The Chippy and the Italian Vogue were on a mission to cut through the cheese protecting a vast processing plant which was transmitting terminal boredom into the rest of the galaxy. When the plant was exposed they would destroy it with their combined flangector fire.
‘We have devised a plan to penetrate the cheese’ said Tall Dapper, whose name the Leconauts now knew was John of the Hill Town.
The combination of our firepower will produce a wave which we call ‘The Cheesegrater’. It will remove the cheese piecemeal which will then be dispersed by the solar winds. Then we will be able to neutralise the source of the Great Ennui.’
‘Standing by’ said Captain Lou. ‘Standing by’ crooned Dino of Jacksonville.
‘Energise’ said John of the Hill Town.
Rainbow coloured beams issued from all three starcruisers and met in a whirling vortex of shapes and impossible angles which reminded the Sonic Architect of the strange limboworld he had recently found himself in. From the vortex a huge rippling wave streaked to the planet below. At once giant shards of cheese began to peel off and ascend into the planet’s atmosphere. As the shards gathered speed they began to heat up and a not entirely unpleasant smell began to seep into the Leco. ‘Airlock’ cried Captain Lou and the ship’s biobrain sealed every orifice immediately.
After several decahexabits the planet’s surface was revealed. It was uniformly beige and featureless, apart from one spot which looked incredibly like a green female face.
Flangectors on transfigure! Cried Captain Lou and the mighty firepower of all three starcruisers was brought to bear on the planet below.
Suddenly Galactic Fighters began to streak from the surface of the featureless world toward the vortex of flangector fire. ‘Secondary flangectors’ cried Captain Lou and the three starcruisers began to pick off the incoming raiders.
‘Well, well’ said the Astral Bard, ‘the Galactic Council are behind this!’ Just then the Vistascreen crackled into life and a familiar face appeared.
‘Bland Formulaic!’ exclaimed all four Leconauts simultaneously.
‘This is protected space’ intoned the vapid official. ‘You have no business here. Withdraw immediately!’
‘As if!’ exclaimed Captain Lou. ‘Eat flangector, zombie!’
The Vistascreen went blank. The concerted firepower of the three starcruisers put paid to the last of the Galactic Fighters and the Cheesegrater wave held fast. Suddenly a massive explosion blew the surface of the beige planet apart revealing a vast edifice deep within.
‘Intensify!’ cried Captain Lou. All three starcruisers engaged overdrive. The Sonic Architect turned up the oscillation on his flangector console to eleven – dangerously high. The Cheesegrater wave rippled and swirled in bizarre psychedelic rainbow colours and grew in intensity. The tedium generator below seemed to swell alarmingly, as if it was breathing. Paisley patterns appeared on its surface, then it simply vanished, vaporised by the combined flangector fire of the three starcruisers.
‘Incoming’ cried Bombardier Walker. Captain Lou swiftly turned to the Vistascreen where she saw a small ship speeding into view.
‘Don’t worry’ she said, ‘it’s the Svalbard. Admiral Bunting is paying us a visit.’
The Admiral’s head appeared on the Vistascreen.
‘Look out!’ he cried. ‘Danger! Bland Formulaic! Galactic Fighters!!!’
‘Don’t panic, Admiral!’ replied Captain Lou. ‘You’ve missed the action as usual! The galaxy is safe once more!’
‘Shucks!’ replied the venerable space renegade. ‘Come aboard’ invited Captain Lou.
The transference spot thrummed and the figure of the doughty Admiral appeared, followed by the Sleepermen and Dino of Jacksonville. Admiral Bunting turned to regard Dino. ‘A Neris!’ he said and promptly fell into a swoon.
Several decahexabits later, the assembled company were hatching plans for a celebratory gathering at the Temple of Kardomah, where they would make merry, drink much spacejuice and launch their spacechants into the aether……….
And so it came to pass that the Leconauts, the Sleeperman, and Dino of Jacksonville did gather at the Temple of Song in Kardomah City and launch their spacechants into the aether. The denizens of Kardomah City did frolic and gambol, consume much spacejuice and howl to the solstice moon. Many local dignitaries came to pay homage, including Andy, Son of Richard, freshly returned from the Colorado Aurora, Sir Steve Son of Nichol, David of the Coup Lands, Lady Jude of Boothby, Sir Michael of Allen and Young Sir Richard, Keeper of the Captured Image. Mercedes Burnz, the cross-dressing Narcissus, however, was strangely absent….
At the end of the evening, as all were preparing to leave the Temple, the doors swung open and a familiar but unwelcome figure stalked into the room; Bland Formulaic!
‘This Temple has been found to be serving comestibles made with prohibited and dangerously unstable spacecheese! By the power vested in me by the Galactic Council I hereby close this Temple until further notice………’
To be continued…
By Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, Jeff Parsons