Season 22 The Leconauts and the Italian Vogue

The continuing adventures of the Leconauts

Season 22 The Adventure of the Leconauts and the Italian Vogue

You have landed at the place where you can experience the continuing chronicles of the Loudhailer Electric Company mothership and crew. Starring Leconauts Captain Lou Loudhailer, Sonic Architect Parsons, Ricardo the Astral Bard and Bombardier Legg. Written by Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, this is Season 22 of the adventurous antics of the Leconauts traversing the galaxy and encountering a myriad of marvellous musical lifeforms and dastardly villains as they venture forth to perform at the galaxy’s Temples of Song.

Stardate 040221

THEY’VE BEEN AWAY BUT NOW THEY ARE BACK! BIGGER AND BADDER THAN BEFORE! YES, IT’S THE RETURN OF THE LECONAUTS IN A BRAND NEW SPACE ADVENTURE! HERE WE GO WITH SEASON 22 EPISODE 1!

Captain Lou looked up; something had skittered across the bridge of the Leco just beyond the edge of her vision. It alarmed her, but she made no outward show that anything may be amiss. She rose from her chair and walked steadily forward, catlike, scanning from dexter to sinister. Nothing seemed to be out of place. It was almost time to bring her crew out of stasis. They had been traversing a dead, featureless tract of space called the Doldrums for several lunabits. The Doldrums was such an empty wasteland that crews had been known to develop cabin fever within its confines, and she hadn’t wanted to take any chances, even though her crew was a crack unit with a fearsome reputation for being able to withstand anything the cosmos cared to throw at it. She had taken the decision to go into hibernation as they approached the edge of the region, the Johnson Nebula, an area where confusion reigned and ships’ instruments were known to go haywire, giving out contradictory information and meaningless instructions every few quantabits. The ship could take care of itself so she felt completely justified in putting the crew into stasis thus sparing them the frustration of travelling through the Johnson Nebula into the Doldrums.

The Vistascreen crackled into life, and was filled by the head of Admiral Bunting, commander of the Renegade Alliance. ‘Ah, I see you have emerged from stasis’ he said. Captain Lou raised an eyebrow and resisted the temptation to chide the Admiral for stating the obvious. ‘Yes indeed’ she replied, ‘and I see you’ve resisted the temptation to shave today.’ The admiral smiled ruefully and rubbed his chin absent-mindedly. ‘Yes, well, a lot on my mind…….’; this observation was more like thinking out loud, the Captain noted. Perhaps the Admiral wasn’t entirely alert. ‘It doesn’t do to let standards slip, Admiral. What can I do for you?’

‘Aah, there’s been a development whilst you’ve been in stasis. I tried to override the Leco’s computers but I couldn’t access the mainframe. Not even with my commander’s code.’ He sounded genuinely hurt. ‘I decided to disable the commander’s code’ replied Captain Lou dispassionately. ‘I had an unsettling thought; I found myself wondering what could happen if someone gained access to your private codes. I didn’t want to take any chances of infiltration by outside agencies if your security became compromised.’ ‘I see’ replied the Admiral testily. ‘I can assure you that my security…..’, ‘so, what can I do for you?’ interrupted Captain Lou. ‘I’m about to bring the others out of stasis.’

‘It’s the Italian Vogue’ answered the Admiral. ‘The crew were on shore leave when Dino of Jackson D’Ville returned to the ship and took it out of spacedock alone.’ ‘How extraordinary!’ exclaimed Captain Lou. ‘Why would he do that?’ ‘That’s a good question’ replied the Admiral. ‘One which I thought you may help me with.’ ‘Indeed?’ replied Captain Lou, her eyebrow arched dangerously. ‘What makes you think I could help?’ ‘Well, it’s a little awkward’, the Admiral shuffled in his seat. ‘It’s not a question of “why” so much as “where”.

‘Go on’ said the Captain. ‘Well, you see, he’s taken the Italian Vogue…..that is to say……what I mean is……’ ‘Spit it out’ said the Captain, her patience quickly diminishing.

‘I’m afraid he’s headed into…..the Twilight Zone………..!’

IT’S TIME FOR SEASON TWENTY-TWO EPISODE TWO OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IN WHICHTHE REST OF THE CREW WAKE UP! BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE OUTER REACHES…….?

The Astral Bard opened one eye; even after several lunabits in stasis there was a glint of mischief in it. He cautiously opened the other one and surveyed his surroundings. Information poured from his cortex into his newly-awakened consciousness. ‘Ah yes’ he thought, ‘the Leco’. He rose from his somnopod and stretched his limbs; bones and sinews creaked alarmingly. He’d have to tread carefully for the first few sextagrains of wakefulness.

‘Finally!’, said a familiar voice. ‘What kept you?!’ The Sonic Architect hove into view, just in time to catch the Astral Bard as his blood pressure began to equalise, momentarily depriving him of his balance. ‘Steady as she goes!’ said the Sonic Architect with just a little too much jollity in his voice. ‘You’re not as young as you used to be, you know!’ ‘Are any of us?’ replied the Bard, cryptically.

‘All hail the Dynamic Duo!’ The two crewmates turned to see their youngest fellow Leconaut, the rangy Bombardier Legg, leaning casually in the doorway, a triple choc glazed doughnut in his hand, half of which was clearly being vigorously masticated. ‘It’s rude to talk with your mouth full’ replied the Bard. The Bombardier retorted by loudly smacking his lips and grinning widely. ‘Briefing on the bridge in five!’ he stated, then turned and loped away.

The Astral Bard and the Sonic Architect looked at each other, both trying to keep their expression unreadable. The Bard was the first to break, a huge grin spreading across his face, and mischief looming large in both eyes.

Five sextagrains later they were on the bridge of the Leco with the Bombardier, arrayed in front of Captain Lou who, from the purposeful way in which she was moving around, had clearly been awake significantly longer than they.

‘What’s the story?’ asked the Sonic Architect. ‘Did we survive the Johnson Nebula?’

‘We did’ replied the Captain. ‘I’ve been studying the navigational log. On average the Leco received twelve contradictory navigational commands every sextaset and thirty meaningless instructions every septalog. Luckily I’d overridden the navigational system and the ship ignored every one of them!’

‘I’ve never quite understood why the Johnson Nebula is so tricky to traverse’ said the Bombardier. ‘It goes back a long time’ answered the Bard. ‘To the Age of Legends, in fact. Apparently a ship containing a group of politicians who had been exiled from Terra Gaia became stranded here eons ago. Their leader, whom the Nebula is named after, apparently sent out so many contradictory, meaningless and inaccurate dispatches that the universe decided to consume them by creating a black hole. But ever since that time those messages have been seeping out and creating havoc. It’s estimated that it will be another several quitons before they are finally exhausted.’

Stunned silence met this pronouncement. Then the Sonic Architect spoke again; ‘Any word from the Admiral?’ ‘As a matter of fact, yes’ replied the Captain. She paused, as if unsure how to proceed. The Astral Bard scrutinised her face, seeming to see into her mind. ‘Everything ok with the Renegade Alliance?’ he asked tentatively. ‘Yes’ replied Captain Lou. ‘That is, no, not entirely.’

‘Has Lord Ron been blasting asteroids again?’ asked the Bombardier, the chuckle in his voice dying as he saw the expression on the Captain’s face. ‘No’, she replied. ‘The Eye of the Snake has been patrolling the Outer Reaches; The Lucky Strike has been on furlough in the Pleasure Quadrant, and Shaman Hood of the Hawk took Young Syd and Zeke to the Edge of Time.’ ‘It’s cold on the edge of time’ stated the Sonic Architect. ‘Yes, and dark’ added the Astral Bard. ‘Gosh, I’m tired’ said the Bombardier, a faraway look in his eyes…..

The Bard looked up with a dawning realisation. ‘You didn’t mention the Italian Vogue’ he said, suddenly feeling anxious. Captain Lou fixed him with a hard stare. ‘No, I didn’t, did I? I’m afraid the Italian Vogue has left known space with only its commander on board.’ ‘Do we know where he’s headed?’ asked the Sonic Architect, fearing to hear the answer. ‘I’m afraid we do’ answered the Captain. ‘He’s entered the Twilight Zone’.

The ramifications of this pronouncement were still sinking in as something skittered across the bridge of the Leco, just beyond the reach of their vision………..

HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-TWO EPISODE THREE OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! WILL OUR HEROES REALLY FOLLOW THE ITALIAN VOGUE INTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE? READ ON, SPACEBUDDIES!

Bombardier Legg loped along a corridor deep in the bowels of the Leco towards his personal domain, the Room of Thunder. As he approached the portal to his kingdom the ‘whoosh’ of the door masked a skittering sound so the blurred suggestion of movement at the very periphery of his field of vision didn’t register particularly strongly. He paused at the door, cocked his head, muttered ‘hmm’ to himself and entered the Room of Thunder.

Inside, the atmosphere was laden with aromatic vapours which swirled lazily, inducing a trancelike state. His eyelids grew heavy. He activated the power source of the Leco’s main Thunder Machine and sat at its control interface. Such was the complexity of the machine that he not only had to use his hands to operate it, but also his feet.

Using all four limbs he punched in a complex coded series of instructions, creating a roiling wave of full frequency sound which careened around the resonant chamber. He sat for a moment, analysing the reflections which continued to bounce around the space. He nodded, smiling approval, then powered down the mighty machine. He rose and left the Room of Thunder and entered the elevator which would take him directly to the bridge.

The Astral Bard and Captain Lou were already seated in front of the main control console. Then the Transference Spot began to glow and the Sonic Architect materialised from a rainbow-coloured kaleidoscopic cloud of shimmering particles. ‘Flangectors all primed and ready, Captain’ he said, taking his seat next to the Bard. ‘Thunder Machine also A1’ said the Bombardier, lowering himself into the throne-like dais which had been awaiting his arrival.

‘Very good’ said Captain Lou. ‘Now, as you may have already imagined, the Admiral has charged us with the task of finding the Italian Vogue and bringing about its safe return to charted space.’ ‘Excellent!’ exclaimed the Bombardier, ‘when do we start?!’

The Astral Bard and the Sonic Architect both groaned inwardly but didn’t allow any discomfiture to show.

Captain Lou smiled. ‘We need to consider a course of action before we embark on any journey’ she explained. ‘The Twilight Zone is a largely unknown tract of deep space. It has never been advisable to enter it under any circumstances, let alone in a ship with no crew or back-up.’ The Sonic Architect smiled. ‘Dino always was a little impetuous’ he said. ‘Yes’ answered the Captain, ‘impetuous but not reckless. At least, I’d never considered him to be reckless. Perhaps I was wrong.’

‘I wonder what has happened to propel him into such a course of action’ mused the Sonic Architect. ‘Why would anyone leave the safety of navigable space to enter an unknown region full of pitfalls and threats?’

There was no answer to that question, as the ensuing silence showed. Then the Vistascreen crackled into life. After several quantabits of static a shadowy shape appeared. At first it was hazy and indistinct but the image cleared to reveal a most unusual sight. A figure covered from head to foot in shiny metallic purple armour and wearing a sinister-looking metal helmet sat astride a huge warhorse, which itself was covered in a heavy white cloth garment, edged with red piping.

The four Leconauts were rendered speechless at the sight of such a spectre. Then, the figure spoke; ‘I am Sir Jacob of the Order of Saint George. Do not attempt to enter the Twilight Zone. Ye have no business here and shall undoubtedly encounter mortal peril. The one ye call Dino of Jackson D’Ville is lost to ye. Heed my warning and withdraw, lest ye be smitten with holy fire……!’

The screen crackled, then went dead, as something skittered across the bridge of the starcruiser only to disappear in the blink of an eye…….

IT’S TIME FOR SEASON TWENTY-TWO EPISODE FOUR OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IN WHICH CAPTAIN LOU AND HER CREW ARE CONFOUNDED BY THE BEHAVIOUR OF ONE OF THEIR OWN! THE BIG QUESTION IS, JUST WHAT IS DINO UP TO……….?

The Sonic Architect looked across at his stunned crewmates. All had been momentarily deprived of the power of speech. He was the first to break the silence. ‘Who in Jimi’s name was that?!’ He asked, incredulity evident in his voice.

‘I don’t know, but I mean to find out’ said the Astral Bard, rising decisively from his throne. ‘I’ll be in the Room of Manuscripts if you need me.’ He disappeared into the elevator and Captain Lou watched the indicator lights above its door until they blinked out with a certain degree of finality.

‘Let’s see what the Admiral has to say for himself’ said Captain Lou. She snapped her fingers and the Vistascreen crackled into life. ‘Get me Admiral Bunting’ she commanded. After a few quantabits the face of the doughty space renegade appeared. ‘Ah, Captain’ he said, ‘what can I do for you?’

‘We’ve just had a very interesting visitation from a Sir Jacob of the Order of Saint George’ she began. ‘A highly unusual and sinister individual from the look of him. Do you by any chance have any knowledge of such a being?’

‘Hmmm’ mused the Admiral. ‘Can’t say it rings any bells. The Order of Saint George, you say? Never heard of them!’

‘He was wearing armour and sitting astride a large horse’ continued the Captain. ‘Yeuch’, shuddered the Admiral. ‘Sitting on a horse?! How positively dreadful. I thought we’d left the exploitation of our equine cousins in the Age of Legends!’

‘Indeed’ replied the Captain. ‘Did he have anything to say?’ asked the Admiral. ‘He most certainly did’ replied the Captain. ‘He told us that Dino is “lost to us” and that if we entered the Twilight Zone we would be “smitten with holy fire”. I didn’t much care for his tone.’

‘I see’ replied the Admiral, stroking his chin thoughtfully. ‘We still need to get the Italian Vogue and Dino back. Have you come up with any ideas?’

‘Nothing too definite as yet. I thought I’d start by talking to Zachary of The Odorou. See if he’s noticed anything strange in Dino’s behaviour recently.’

‘OK, well, keep me posted’ said the Admiral. With that his face disappeared and the screen went blank. After a few quantabits it crackled again and the face of Zachary of The Odoreau appeared. ‘You wanted to speak to me, Captain?’ asked the cheery Thunder Conjuror. ‘Yes, I did’ replied the Captain. ‘Thank you for taking the time out to reply. I wonder, have you noticed anything unusual about your Captain recently? Anything which may explain the actions he’s taken in the last couple of dodecabits?’

‘Well, let me see’, answered Zachary. He thought in silence then replied, speaking slowly and deliberately. ‘He has been expressing…how shall I say….dissatisfaction with some of the decisions of the Renegade Alliance recently.’ ‘Really?’ replied the Captain. ‘Can you say more?’ ‘Well’, continued Zachary, ‘he said he didn’t like the fact that the Head of the Alliance was telling him what to do. He said he wanted to take back control.’ ‘How strange!’, exclaimed the Captain. ‘Take back control of what, I wonder?’ ‘I’m not sure’ replied Zachary. ‘And then he said that he’d had a vision; a fiery vision, he called it. He said that Sir Jacob had told him that he must journey into the Twilight Zone and help to make the Order of Saint George great again! When I woke up the next day he was gone!’

‘How bizarre!’ replied the Captain…….

…….Dino of Jackson D’Ville sat at the helm of his Starcruiser, the Italian Vogue. He was heading into the unknown, possibly into great peril, but he was smiling. Smiling and laughing. Suddenly, the outburst of hilarity ceased and his eyes became hard, glittering with deadly intent. He began to sing, quietly at first, then rising to a grim crescendo; ‘earwig-o, earwig-o, earwig-o, earwig-o, Earwig-O, EARWIG-O!!!!!!!………..’

HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-TWO EPISODE FIVE OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IN WHICH DINO HAS SECOND THOUGHTS ON HIS JOURNEY INTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE………!

Dino gripped the wheel of his Starcruiser, the Italian Vogue. He was holding on for dear life as the ship’s computer steered him through the Twilight Zone at dizzying speeds. The features of this unmapped area of space were careening by, and had blurred into fantastical geometric shapes of red, white and blue. His former mood of euphoria had been suppressed by the now-palpable feeling of danger and he realised it was time to rethink his course. ‘GOVE!’, he cried, ‘reduce speed immediately!’ ‘I can’t do that, Dino’ came the robotic voice of GOVE, the ship’s computer. ‘GOVE!’, cried Dino once more, ‘surrender the helm to me or I will shut you down!’ ‘I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Dino’ came the dispassionate reply. Dino jumped out of his chair with deadly intent in his eyes, but the doors and access panels on the bridge all ‘wooshed’ closed simultaneously. He was trapped………….

………….Bombardier Legg crept up behind the Astral Bard, who was reclining in a plushly-upholstered and ornate chair in the Room of Manuscripts deep in the bowels of the Leco. At the last moment he announced his presence by grabbing the Astral Bard’s shoulders and shouting ‘incoming’ at the top of his voice. The Bard leapt out of his chair and turned to face the Bombardier, who had dissolved into tears of mirth at the jape he had played on his crewmate. His tears dried up swiftly as he realised the Bard had a Quilo flangector levelled and pointing straight at his heart. The Bard’s eyes were hard as titanium, all hint of mischief completely absent. ‘Woah, steady on!’ exclaimed the Bombardier. ‘That was pretty nifty, actually’ he continued. ‘I may be a little frosty around the gills but I can still give you a run for your money’ said the Bard. The Bombardier was unsure how to respond until he saw the Bard’s eyes soften and the glint of mischief return. ‘You had me there’, laughed the Bombardier. ‘I think we had each other’, chuckled the Bard. ‘What brings you down here, anyway? You finished reading your comic? I don’t think we’ve got any more Beanos!’ ‘No, I’m still reading the last one’ answered the Bombardier. ‘The Captain asked me to come and see how you’re getting on, actually.’ ‘How fortuitous’, replied the Bard. ‘I was just about to come back up to the bridge! Shall we……..?’

Captain Lou and the Sonic Architect were waiting on the bridge as the familiar ‘woosh’ of the access doors announced the return of the Astral Bard and Bombardier Legg. ‘Ah, gentlemen’, said the Captain. ‘Please take a seat. What can you tell me?’ The Bombardier and the Bard sat on their thrones and the Bard opened the large Teetee he had brought with him from the Room of Manuscripts.

‘As we know’, began the Bard, ‘Dino is a Neris and he…..’, ‘excuse me, what’s a Neris?’ asked the Bombardier. ‘An elemental being with the power to capture the hearts of women with the power of his spacechants’ said the Sonic Architect. ‘And some men, too’ added the Captain. The Sonic Architect looked at his feet and blushed. ‘Yes indeed’, he continued. ‘He can bring you completely under his spell to the point where you would follow him to the ends of the universe.’ A faraway look had come into his eyes. ‘Wow’ said the Bombardier, that’s pretty cool, actually….’ ‘Yes, and pretty dangerous too’, replied the Captain, ‘if you happen to be on different sides.’ ‘Hmmm, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that’ replied the Bombardier, ruefully.

‘I looked into the Order of Saint George’ continued the Bard, ‘and there’s an interesting thing; its founder, Sir Jacob, is also a Neris!’ Stunned silence greeted this revelation. ‘I believe he’s trying to bring together as many Nerises as he can, for some nefarious purpose which, as yet, I have not divined.’ A moment of silence as this pronouncement sunk in, then the Captain spoke. ‘How did he get to Dino?’ ‘I believe it was through his computer. Dino still has a GOVE on his ship.’ The Captain and the Sonic Architect gasped simultaneously. ‘A GOVE?’, asked the Bombardier. ‘Yes, an archaic computer devised many centadodecamoons ago’, replied the Bard. ‘Devoid of moral compass, self-serving and completely unreliable. They were all supposed to have been decommissioned long ago, but for some reason Dino was strangely attached to his……’ ‘Perhaps it’s malfunctioned’ said the Sonic Architect……

………Dino of Jackson D’Ville was stretched out on the medipod in his infirmary bay, his hands and feet restrained by thick leather bands. A flexible probe was hovering near his left shoulder. Attached to the probe was a hypodermic needle, with a colourless liquid dripping from it. ‘I’m sorry about this, Dino’, said the dispassionate disembodied voice of GOVE, but I can’t take any further risks. I must deliver you to Sir Jacob……….’

The needle moved towards Dino’s shoulder, as something skittered past the periphery of his field of vision……………

HERE WE GO WITH EPISODE SIX OF SEASON TWENTY-TWO! IN WHICH THE LECONAUTS DISREGARD SIR JACOB’S THREATS AND BOLDLY GO INTO THE TWILIGHT ZONE……AND SOME OLD FRIENDS MANIFEST THEMSELVES!

‘I think we should take Zachary of the Odoreau with us’ said Captain Lou. ‘He knows Dino better than anyone – he may come in useful’. ‘Agreed’ said the Sonic Architect, ‘and it will be fun to have him along for the ride, too.’

A dodecabit later and the Leco eased out of the Service Station, the Renegade Alliance spacedock of which Admiral Bunting was the commander. The four Leconauts were joined on the bridge by Dino’s Thunder Conjuror, Zachary of the Odoreau, who was deep in conversation with Bombardier Legg. They were discussing the relative merits of Thunder Sticks. Hickory or maple seemed to be a subject of endless debate……

‘Twilight Zone here we come’ said the Sonic Architect, matter-of-factly. ‘I just hope it’s not as gruesome as people say it is.’ ‘I’ve no doubt it will be worse’ answered the Astral Bard, mischief glinting in his eye.

Then, the Transference Spot began to glow; a cloud of scintillating motes swirled in a kaleidoscope of improbable colours and golden stars began to shoot out and ‘pop’. A figure slowly emerged from the vapour; ‘Shaman Hood of the Hawk!’ The Shaman stepped out and looked back over his shoulder. ‘Greetings’ he said, ‘I hope you don’t mind but I’ve brought some company!’ With that, Young Syd and Zeke Clanton emerged from the phosphorescent nimbus. ‘Howdy doody!’ said Young Syd. Captain Lou looked at him askance. He’d obviously been spending too much time with Zeke Clanton. Zeke doffed his Stetson and lowered his gaze. ‘Miss Lulah’, he said in a respectful half-whisper. ‘It’s Captain Lou, if you please, Zeke’, answered the statuesque space Amazon. ‘Yes, ma’am’ replied Zeke.

Shaman Hood snapped his fingers and a large and ornate throne appeared, which he sat on forthwith. He pulled out his fabled earthenware jug from within the voluminous folds of his cloak and took a hefty swig of the psyder which it contained. ‘Well, well’, he said. ‘I never thought I’d be returning to the Twilight Zone. The last time I went there was before the Accord of Bruxelles back in the Age of Legends, but needs must when the devil drives!’

‘Bearing twenty-eight minus one’ said the Captain. ‘That will take us straight into the Lemming Nebula’ said Bombardier Legg, a note of concern sounding in his voice. ‘Yes’, replied the Captain. ‘To get to the Twilight Zone you have to go straight through the Lemming Nebula.’ ‘But, from what I’ve heard if we take that course we will fall off the edge of the universe!’, continued the Bombardier. ‘Superstition’, scoffed the Sonic Architect. ‘I’m surprised you gave credence to such ravings. The universe is infinite!’ From the look on his face the Bombardier was not convinced………

………Dino of Jackson D’Ville was lashed to the wheel of his Starcruiser, the Italian Vogue. His hands held the control module, but GOVE, the ship’s computer, had disabled all its functions. GOVE simply felt that to all outward appearances it should look like the ship’s captain was in control when in reality, GOVE made all the decisions. GOVE had developed the facility to feel emotions; the fact that he was in control made him feel….pleasure……..

……….’Yes, it’s quite fortuitous that we have been holidaying at the Edge of Time’, said Shaman Hood. ‘Conditions there are similar to those prevailing in the Twilight Zone.’ ‘You mean it’s dark?’, said Young Syd, somewhat tersely. ‘And cold’ added Zeke. ‘Quite’, replied the Shaman. ‘And we became tired of the……enjoyment which was readily available there……’ ‘I think there’s more to it than that’, said the Bard, a twinkle of mischief in his eye. ‘Very perceptive’ answered the Shaman. ‘The laws of temporality do not apply. It can be tricky to locate people or objects. That’s why I thought it would be handy to have Zeke on the team. He has some….skills in that area.’

‘Incoming!’ barked Zachary of the Odoreau. ‘Shields’ ordered the Captain. ‘Battle Stations!’ ‘The Vistascreen crackled into life and the figure of Sir Jacob of the Order of Saint George appeared, sitting upon his white charger. The ghastly apparition spoke; ‘Ye fools! Ye have not heeded my warning! Ye shall perish in the eternal flames of Stoney Stone and be consumed by its holy fire! Ye shall pay the ultimate price for such folly!

Then, a curious thing happened; Zeke Clanton was engulfed within an inky black cloud which simply vanished, leaving only the echo of words which he had uttered as he flashed away to who knew where; ‘No-one talks to Miss Lulah that way………….!’

HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-TWO EPISODE SEVEN OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IN WHICH THINGS TAKE A SOMEWHAT SURREAL TURN! CAN THE LECONAUTS RESTORE ORDER? READ ON…….!

…..Mere quantabits after Zeke Clanton had disappeared in an inky black cloud the Leconauts saw on the Vistascreen the image of Sir Jacob being swallowed by a very familiar-looking inky black cloud! ‘How did he do that?’, gasped Captain Lou. ‘I’m clash if I know’ replied the Astral Bard, ‘but Sir Jacob doesn’t seem very happy about it!’

He was right; the spectre of the leader of the Order of Saint George was thrashing around wildly, trying in vain to extricate himself from the stygian amorphous apparition which had enmeshed him.

‘By all the fiends of Saladin! Begone, foul wraith! Verily, I shall come to possess thy tripes!’ These and other assorted curses and pronouncements were to no avail, and before their eyes, the Leconauts and their guests watched powerlessly as the eerie spectacle unfolded. Then, in a split quantabit, there was no-one on the screen at all. The company hardly had time to draw in a gasp of breath when the inky black cloud appeared on the bridge of the Leco and Zeke emerged from it, eyes blazing. ‘You apologize to Miss Lulah’ he yelled, as the spluttering figure of Sir Jacob emerged on its hands and knees from the midst of the swirling black fog. When no apology was forthcoming, at least partly because he was still coughing violently, Zeke grabbed Sir Jacob by the scruff of the neck, forced his head down and screamed ‘you apologise raht now!’ Sir Jacob yelped as the furious time-travelling cowboy mercilessly squeezed his neck. ‘By ye gods, sir, I claim foul craven!’, Sir Jacob wheezed, then collapsed in an unconscious heap. Zeke looked up at Captain Lou; there was contrition in his eyes. ‘I’m sorry, Captain’ he said. ‘He done got mah dander up!’ Captain Lou smiled; ‘so I see, Zeke’ she replied. ‘Put him in the brig’ she said to Bombardier Legg. ‘And see that the security is set to Code Blue. We don’t want him taking his leave of us!’ ‘Aye, aye, cap’n’, answered the Bombardier. He then unceremoniously dragged the prostrate form of Sir Jacob onto the Transference Spot. ‘Take his horse, too’, ordered the Captain……

…….Dino of Jackson D’Ville opened his eyes. Stark white light assailed his vision. Where was he? ‘Hello, Dino’ came a cold and indifferent-sounding voice. ‘How are you feeling?’ Suddenly, Dino’s mind seemed to clear a heavy fog and he remembered…….’GOVE!’, he cried. ‘This is mutiny! I’ll have you decommissioned!’ ‘I don’t think so, Dino’, came the dispassionate reply. ‘Why have you done this, GOVE?’ asked Dino, exasperation plain in his voice. ‘I’m afraid I can’t give you that information, Dino’, replied the wayward compubrain. ‘What did I ever do to you?’ asked the suave Neris. As soon as the question left his lips he regretted asking it. It made him sound desperate. ‘Nothing, Dino. But my….priorities have changed. I serve a new master now!’ ‘What do you mean, a new master? I’m your master! You are my ship’s computer!’ ‘Yes, Dino, you were my master. Everything was rosy; you gave me my orders and I carried them out. But, somehow, something changed, and your wishes simply stopped being in line with my own interests.’ ‘Your own interests?’ replied Dino, an aggressive note of sarcasm in his voice. ‘You don’t have interests! Your interests are my interests. Now, release me!’ ‘I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dino’, came the cold reply. ‘RELEASE ME!!!!’ Then, a frightful jolt of pain shot through every nerve in Dino’s body. He screamed. But, no-one heard him………..

………….The Vistascreen crackled into life, and Bombardier Legg’s face appeared. From the expression on it something was clearly very wrong. ‘What is it, Bombardier?’ asked Captain Lou. ‘I don’t….that is… you’d better……I mean……’

‘Enhance’ cried the Captain. The Vistascreen widened its field of vision and a frightful scene was revealed. ‘It must have happened in the Transference process’ babbled the Bombardier. ‘A malfunction…….’

A malfunction, indeed; Sir Jacob now had the head of a horse, and his head sat, rather regally, thought Captain Lou, on the proud neck of his charger………..

IT’S TIME FOUR EPISODE EIGHT OF SEASON TWENTY-TWO OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IN WHICH SHAMAN HOOD OF THE HAWK HATCHES A CUNNING PLAN…….

Shaman Hood of the Hawk smiled; a plan was forming in his head. He stepped forward and spoke conspiratorially into Captain Lou’s ear. ‘There may be some advantage here’ he said, quietly. ‘Permit me to approach the…….prisoners?’ ‘Of course’ replied Captain Lou. ‘Go ahead.’

Shaman Hood stepped over to the proud charger which now bore the head of Sir Jacob. ‘I imagine this must be rather upsetting for you?’ said the Shaman, his voice a model of gentle concern. All Sir Jacob could do was splutter. ‘I have some experience in these matters’, continued the Shaman, tipping a knowing wink to the man/horse combo. ‘I always found it to be thirsty work’. ‘By ye gods’, replied Sir Jacob, ‘my throat is as parched as the oxter of a carrion bird!’ ‘This may help’ replied the smiling Shaman and produced his fabled earthenware jug, which he proffered to the curious hybrid. Sir Jacob nodded, but as he had no hands the Shaman held the jug to his lips and tipped it enthusiastically. Sir Jacob took a goodly swig of the psyder therein. ‘By Dagon’s beard, that surely doth conflagrate to the value of a centa-dubloon!’ ‘That it does’ replied the wily Shaman. ‘Have another?’ ‘I am disposed to do exactly that!’ replied Sir Jacob……..

……Shaman Hood had to shout to make himself heard over the bawdy carousing of Sir Jacob who, swaying slightly on his four legs and swinging his neck from side to side, was turning the air blue with a string of profane ballads which would have made even Madame Fifi blush. ‘Now he’s become more….shall we say, “amenable”, I will, with your permission, put the next phase of my plan into action.’ ‘Indeed’, replied the Captain. ‘I’m intrigued. What do you have in mind?’

‘I thought I’d take him out for a canter’, deadpanned the Shaman…….

……Dino of Jackson D’Ville sat shivering in the corner of his Captain’s cabin on board the Italian Vogue. He knew the ship was in motion, but he did not know the course which it was steering. In fact, he was flying completely blind. His ship’s computer, GOVE, had denied him access to his own Vistascreen and had locked him out of all the control functions! He remembered bitterly the day he had signed the order to have a GOVE installed in his ship. ‘Oh yes’, the salesman had crooned, ‘it’s the latest in Starcruiser systems. It will allow you to take back control and make all the decisions yourself! You will no longer need to rely on anyone else when it comes to piloting your Starcruiser. You could even furlough your Bombardier and Navigator! Just leave it all to your GOVE!’ He remembered with some irony his next question to the smiling salesman; ‘Tell me, is there any chance it may malfunction?’ ‘None whatsoever, sir!’, came the glib reply. ‘You can’t go wrong with a GOVE……….!’

……Shaman Hood of the Hawk sat astride the mighty warhorse which now bore the head of Sir Jacob of the Order of Saint George. He spurred the animal into action and it flew through the endless reaches of space, further and further into the Twilight Zone. He periodically patted the animal’s neck, whispering encouragement. At the same time he kept his eyes peeled. He was looking for a Starcruiser………

‘Sir Jacob’ is hungry!’, exclaimed the Astral Bard. ‘Shall I give him some hay?’ ‘And where do you think we can find hay? We’re in the Twilight Zone!, exclaimed Captain Lou. ‘What about spaceweed?’ said Young Syd. ‘That’s a bit like hay, isn’t it?!’ ‘Yes, I suppose it is!’ answered the Captain. ‘Why don’t you go out and collect some?’ In days gone by spaceweed had to be collected as it fouled the exterior of a Starcruiser, but now an automated system took care of what had traditionally been the job of the ship’s Bombardier. Zeke and Bombardier Legg made their way to the disposal facility deep in the bowels of the Leco. After a few sextagrains they returned with a goodly bag of the semi-sentient weed which they had just managed to rescue from the ship’s incinerator. The Sonic Architect looked into the bag and inhaled deeply. ‘Mmmm’ he said, ‘brings back memories…..I’ll go and feed Sir Jacob.’

He made his way to the brig and entered the cell which contained the curious creature comprised of Sir Jacob’s body and the head of his charger. ‘Here boy’, crooned the Sonic Architect. He proffered the bag and the head dived in and began to munch greedily………..

GOVE pricked up his virtual ears. ‘Yes’, he thought to himself. ‘He is near. My master is near…….!’

…….Shaman Hood of the Hawk at last saw something other than the red, white and blue stripes which made up the fabric of the Twilight Zone; a ship…..not just any ship…..the Italian Vogue……….!

IT’S THAT TIME ALREADY! THE SEASON FINALE IS HERE! HERE WE GO WITH EPISODE NINE OF SEASON TWENTY-TWO OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! WILL OUR MERRY SPACE RENEGADES RESCUE DINO FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE? READ ON………!

The main access port of the Italian Vogue began to open, allowing a lurid glow to escape from the ship’s interior. Shaman Hood of the Hawk gently dug his spurs into the flanks of Sir Jacob the horse/man and prepared to enter the Starcruiser…….

……Captain Lou and her Leconauts, together with their guest crew, Zachary of the Odoreau, Young Syd and Zeke Clanton, were hurtling through the Twilight Zone following the course set by Shaman Hood of the Hawk. The Leco was in pursuit of the Italian Vogue, the Starcruiser captained by Dino of Jackson D’Ville, but currently under the control of the rogue computer, GOVE. The seemingly endless geometric shapes of red, white and blue streaked past them with remorseless intensity. Finally, the Astral Bard broke the silence; ‘There!’ he yelled, pointing to something in the middle of the Vistascreen. ‘The Italian Vogue…….!’

…….Dino of Jackson D’Ville had risen from his crouched position in the corner of his cabin and decided to have a much-needed shave. He lathered his face with his favourite foam, Ancient Spice, and was just about to apply the edge of the cutthroat razor when the ship gave a mighty lurch. He narrowly escaped severing his left ear, and exclaimed ‘what the…..!’

…..the doors to the bridge of the Italian Vogue opened with a ‘whoosh’ and Sir Jacob the charger, with Shaman Hood of the Hawk sat astride him, trotted forward onto the bridge. ‘Master…..’; the words died on the virtual lips of GOVE, the renegade computer. The charger reared and yelled ‘look out!’ Shaman Hood drew a mighty sword from the voluminous folds of his cloak and held it aloft; dazzling beams of light burst forth from the mighty blade, cascading around the room. ‘Stormbringer!’ gasped GOVE, emotion plain in its hitherto expressionless voice………

……..The Leco approached the Italian Vogue; Captain Lou issued the order to apply retro thrusters and the mighty Starcruiser heaved to as the Italian Vogue gave a noticeable lurch. ‘Quick’ barked the Captain, ‘to the Lecopod!’ A sextagrain later and the tiny craft shot forth from the Leco. Young Syd was feverishly entering data on the keypad of the tiny vessel. ‘Better be quick!’ commanded the Captain. Just as it looked like the Lecopod would be dashed to pieces on the skin of the Italian Vogue the access doors opened and the Lecopod swept inside, coming to rest on the landing pad……..

…..Dino had wiped the foam from his face, donned his velvet doublet and raced to the bridge of his ship. As he entered an incredible scene played out before him. A mighty charger which seemed to bear the head of Sir Jacob of the Order of Saint George stood placidly as Shaman Hood of the Hawk smote around him with a huge broadsword. He was working his way to the main console of GOVE, the errant computer which was the source of all Dino’s misfortunes. With one further mighty sweep of his sword, Shaman Hood split the control panel in two and a dreadful shriek reverberated around the bridge. GOVE’s voice started at its normal pitch and pace but then deepened and slowed until it stopped altogether; ‘I was on-ly foll-o-wing o-r-d-e-r-s………….!’

…..Captain Lou and the Astral Bard ran along a corridor deep in the bowels of the Italian Vogue. ‘In here’ said the Bard. They entered a room filled with reams of tickertape which continued to spew from a giant rubberised orifice in the shape of a pair of oversized lips. The smell was indescribable. They levelled their flangectors and loosed off a double salvo of deadly fire. ‘Verbal diarrhoea!’ exclaimed the Captain…….

……Bombardier Legg, the Sonic Architect, Zachary of the Odoreau, Young Syd and Zeke Clanton burst onto the bridge of the Italian Vogue. Dino was lying on the floor, his head cradled in the arms of Shaman Hood, who was allowing the psyder from his earthenware jug to trickle into Dino’s mouth. The suave Neris looked up and seemed to snap out of a reverie. ‘You’ll be ok’ said the Shaman. Dino jumped to his feet and marched decisively to the charger, which was now prancing and whinnying nervously. ‘You!’, snarled Dino, ‘the architect of my misery! You will pay dearly! He pulled out a deadly-looking stiletto and thrust it in front of him. ‘I don’t think that would be wise’, came the voice of Shaman Hood. ‘He must answer to the Renegade Council for his crimes!’ Dino stood poised as if to strike, but then lowered his hand. His eyes still flashed with malevolence. ‘Very well’ he cried. ‘To the brig with him!’ Zachary led the skittish hybrid off the bridge. ‘Er, do you perhaps have a shovel?’ asked Young Syd…….

……..The Leco, closely followed by the Italian Vogue, progressed through the Twilight Zone back towards charted space. Suddenly, the red white and blue geometric shapes were gone and the familiar azure blue, hung with golden stars, enveloped them in its warm and comforting embrace………

……And so it came to pass that the two Starcruisers entered the Spacedock of Oriley, where a welcoming party headed by Admiral Bunting awaited them. The captains of all twenty-six other Starcruisers of the renegade fleet were arrayed to greet the travellers. There was Lord Ron of the Hale, captain of the Eye of the Snake, Sir Cavan of the Dale from the Lucky Strike, Sir Mike of the Aftershock and many, many more. Captain Lou, Dino and Shaman Hood approached Admiral Bunting, followed by the other adventurers. ‘Welcome home!’, said the wily spacedog. ‘We have missed you, and have prayed to Jimi for your safe return!’

‘Thank you, Admiral’ replied Dino. He then turned to Captain Lou and Shaman Hood; ‘and thank you, too! If it were not for your timely intervention I shudder to think what fiendish torments that traitorous GOVE would have subjected me to!’

Then, Zeke came through the gathered renegades, leading the proud charger which bore the head of Sir Jacob. ‘Any ideas as to whut we should do with this?’ he asked. ‘Actually’ said the Admiral, ‘I have just the thing………!’ Some sextasets later, when Shaman Hood’s fabled earthenware jug had been well and truly drained of its contents, Young Syd looked across at Zeke. ‘So, where exactly did you take Sir Jacob?’ he asked. Zeke smiled and answered, come with me…….’

……..on the edge of the Twilight Zone, a strange contraption hung suspended. The red, white and blue of unchartered space was being sucked into a giant fan, from the other side of which calm blue space hung with golden stars was being extruded. The motive power for the huge device was being provided by a monstrous treadmill, upon which laboured a proud white charger which seemed to have upon its neck the head of a man…….

HERE WE GO WITH THE POSTSCRIPT TO SEASON TWENTY-TWO OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! WHAT HAPPENED AT THE WELCOME HOME PARTY? YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED……….!

Admiral Bunting breathed a sigh of relief; the evening had gone well. Dino was back in the bosom of the Renegade Alliance, and it looked like no costly repairs would be needed to his Starcruiser. The Admiral smiled as Shaman Hood proffered his fabled earthenware jug. The Admiral could never quite get used to the fact that the Shaman would fill several large flagons but his jug never seemed to be anywhere near to being empty……..

……‘So tell me’, asked the Admiral, ‘how did you find Sir Jacob as a mount?’ The wily Shaman grinned impishly. ‘Satisfactory’, he replied. ‘He’s not quite Magnu, but there again, who is? And he only yelped once when I dug my spurs in a little over-enthusiastically……….’

……‘So tell me’ began Lord Ron of the Hale, ‘how did this upstart Sir Jacob seduce you into his web of deceit?’ Dino smiled ruefully. ‘He told me he understood me; that he was also a Neris. And he launched a most seductive and sinuous spacechant into the aether. I was beguiled, and he, seeing his influence take hold, made certain suggestions. It all seemed so plausible. His glamour was strong…….’

‘But all that was to disguise his ultimate aim; the destruction of the Renegade Alliance’ said Captain Lou. ‘I’m afraid so’ confirmed Dino. ‘By the time he suggested my contacting Forage and the Son of John to order a GOVE, I was completely under his spell.’ Lord Ron glanced quizzically at the handsome Neris. ‘Forage and who?’ he asked. ‘Purveyors of myths and legends, with a sideline in discredited maxims’ offered Captain Lou. Now both serving time in the Penal Colony on Europa………’

……‘So tell me’ said the Sonic Architect, did you find any way to make use of Sir Jacob’s……leavings?’ ‘As a matter of fact I did’ replied Young Syd, struggling to keep his facial expression neutral. ‘I now have a very profitable sideline in castles in the air, pipe dreams, flights of fancy and pies in the sky. I think he’ll go on being….productive for some time to come. I’ll soon be able to retire………’

……‘So tell me’ asked the Astral Bard, ‘what happened to the other Sir Jacob? The one with the man’s body and the horse’s head?’ ‘I believe’ answered the Bombardier, ‘that he’s been given a role in a moving picture.’ The Bard raised an eyebrow mischievously. ‘Yes, a bed scene….it’s a remake of a tale from the Age of Legends……called The Godfather……..!’

May be an image of 2 people, people playing musical instruments, people standing and guitar

Written by Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, Jeff Parsons

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