A Nearly Ready Christmas

So, I said A Nearly Norman Christmas would be posted today. It won’t. I’m a hopeless constant tinkerer, and I’m never satisfied. I’ve been working on it today. The more I read through it the more it changes, which tells me it’s not ready. I’m hoping tomorrow. The wait will be worth it. I hope. Until then read up on Norman. The Christmas special will make more sense with that background information.

Here’s a snippet of A Nearly Norman Christmas:

It was Norman Normalson’s first year on Epatrus. It was rapidly approaching the Earth month of Odysseus, which used to be the second half of December. Norman was homesick and missed his friends. To make things worse, he was about to miss Christmas. All Norman wanted for Christmas was to go back home, to Earth.

Oh my goodness. You want so much to read more. You can’t wait. Are you feeling sleepy?

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 3: Bathroom Adventures

Catch up on Norman’s Bio here.

Once FloBloLo deactivated the security system, which took him a lot less time than it took you to read his bio, the ship was easy pickings for the pirates. They went from room to room taking everything of value. There was a constant stream of goods being teleported back to the Space Ship Stuff Stealer. They hit the jackpot when they found the cargo hold.

When they couldn’t find anything else to steal, FloBloLo reactivated the security systems and two Radbots. They weren’t completely evil. They left the two to make sure the ship was piloted to its next stop, and everyone was awakened when they arrived at their destinations. They were pirates, not monsters. They didn’t want anyone to die. They just wanted to take all their stuff. They took the rest of the Radbots.

The monsters, I mean pirates ‘ported back to the Space Ship Stuff Stealer. They unclamped their clamps and set off for the next adventure in thievery. They left the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus under the control of its autopilot, Jake, to fly on its way to its predetermined destination.

That was pretty much the only thing of note to happen during the voyage. Well, there was this one thing… Never mind. You don’t want to read about how the ship passed dangerously close to the planet Splajara Prime, which was being held by the dragon people of XeXat and was almost confiscated with all passengers being taken for slaves. It was only an almost anyway. A small band of rebel Splajargóns saved them. It’s not that interesting.

When they reached the Ventayen System, home to Epatrus, Norman and Ned were brought out of stasis.

“…on this stupid trip, anyway.” Norman opened his eyes and looked around. “Are you going to freeze me or do I have to stay awake for this whole trip?” He was a still little cranky about leaving his home and moving halfway across the known universe. It didn’t help that people usually woke up grumpy from stasis. They called it stasis sickness.

Ned took the decompression much better. He sat up and looked around. “Are we here already?”

“We’ve just entered the Ventayen system,” said Captain Cornopolous.

It was part of Captain Cornopolous’s duties to greet all passengers upon their awakening from stasis. On this trip, given the unexpected dearth of bots, he also had to clean up their vomit, if they vomited. They usually vomited.

Captain Cornopolous led Ned and Norman to their shuttle. Teleporting to a planet is possible and not uncommon. Though, most Earth ships don’t have sufficiently reliable teleportation devices to send people with their luggage. It’s been done, but there have been occasions where luggage has been lost. That’s not as bad as when people get lost, but they don’t like to talk about that.

Ned, being a naturally cautious person, except in the decision to move across the universe to marry a woman he met online, chose the safer option of the shuttle. In such cases, the protocol is as follows. The people to be delivered to the planet board the shuttle. The ship’s bots preload their luggage. The shuttle leaves the ship upon entering the solar system. It flies ahead to the destination planet, drops off the occupants, and rendezvous with the ship around the planet’s orbit. This particular case went a little bit differently.

Norman and Ned were the only passengers disembarking on Epatrus. Upon landing, Norman and Ned exited the shuttle. Everything was normal so far. They went around the shuttle to the cargo hold. This is where things got weird.

“Where’s our luggage?” Norman asked.

Ned immediately hailed the ship and demanded, or the accountant equivalent, to speak to Captain Cornopolous. “May I please speak to Captain Cornopolous, please?”

“This is your captain speaking,” Captain Cornopolous said, imitating of every airplane captain ever.

“Captain, we seem to have left our luggage aboard the ship,” Ned said. “I was under the impression that the ship’s bots were going to load it.”

Captain Cornopolous said two words. “Sorry, pirates.” He then cut communications.

“What does that mean?” asked Norman.

“I think we’ve been robbed,” said Ned. “Though, I’m not sure if the ship was boarded by pirates or if the company we hired to bring us here is comprised of pirates or if he thinks we’re pirates, and our luggage is stuff we’ve stolen.”

“All our stuff was on that ship,” said Norman. “I don’t even have clean clothes to wear.”

“This could prove to be a catastrophe of the worst magnitude,” said Ned.

As they stared at the empty cargo hold, a small disc came out of a slit in the control panel. Ned picked it up and inspected it. Printed on it were the words, “We’re sorry for your inconvenience. Please accept this flight voucher. Good for one free one way trip for one passenger on any Intergalactic Space Voyages passenger voyage. Thank you for choosing Intergalactic Space Voyages for your intergalactic space voyage.”

“A one way trip for one?” Ned pondered aloud. “There are two of us.”

“Dad, I think the important thing here is that they lost all our stuff,” said Norman.

Ned’s name echoed through the spaceport in a familiar timber. Ned’s heart started racing as he looked around. His eyes settled on a yellow, blue, and purple woman with a thick black mustache wagging her tail in his direction.

The lost luggage left Ned’s mind faster than it left the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus. He ran over to Uhoria as briskly as he could, which wasn’t very swift. Ned was not a physical specimen. Nor was he accustomed to the slightly lower gravitational pull that was present on Epatrus. Third, and possibly worst of all, Ned hadn’t used his body for months. The stasis chamber has a muscle stimulator that keeps the body from atrophying, but he still hadn’t been in control of his body since he left Earth.

The scene was like something out of a YouTube video. It resembled a baby giraffe running on the moon toward a giant lizard monkey creature. YouTube has a plethora of baby giraffes on the moon and giant lizard monkey creature videos, right? When they met, Ned went in for a hug while Uhoria brought her tail around for tail wrap. The result was Uhoria slapping Ned in the face and knocking him to the ground.

Norman followed slowly behind. He approached his fallen father with the tenuous steps of someone who would rather be anywhere else in the universe. Norman was embarrassed by the spectacle his father was making, but, to be honest, even if they didn’t make a scene all eyes would still be on them. They were the only humans in the entire spaceport. They were only the sixth and seventh humans to ever pass through any spaceport on Epatrus.

When Norman could no longer avoid reaching the epicenter of the spaceport’s focus, Uhoria wrapped her tail around Norman and ruffled his hair with its tip. It was an awkward attempt to emulate the Earth custom of hugging. It went far better than the greeting she shared with Ned, but it was still an uncomfortable moment for the pair. She immediately wished she spent the time they were en route learning more about Earth and its customs instead of sleeping in a stasis chamber. At least, she didn’t call him Kiddo. That was the worst.

Uhoria brought her new family back to her home. She planned to take them on a tour of the new town in which they would be living, but they were still weary from stasis and the shuttle trip. Uhoria’s home, which was now Ned and Norman’s new home, was a lovely, two-story abode. It had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The kitchen was huge. The dining room had a retractable sunroof. There was a room for entertaining and a separate room for all Uhoria’s awards and framed photos. That mustache modeling money was good to Uhoria. Even Norman was impressed. It still wasn’t Pacifica or even Earth, but the house was a fart of a lot nicer.

The first thing Norman wanted to do, following the grand house tour, was to go to the bathroom. He hadn’t made a doodie in a few months. It was time.

He went back to the first floor to the bathroom that was his. With three bathrooms for three people, they could each have their own. Anybody who has ever had to use the bathroom closely following someone who’s recently made a particularly stinky deposit, or has had to share a bathroom with a teenager, can appreciate the desire for a personal bathroom.

Norman entered the bathroom and looked around. There was no toilet. There was no shower. There was no bathtub. There were a mirror and a sink. During the grand tour, Uhoria called it a bathroom, “despite the fact that only the most retro homes still have bathtubs.” It had to be the right room. What was he to do? He could not go back out and ask Uhoria for help in the bathroom. He was 8-years-old. He hadn’t needed help in the bathroom since he was 3. Besides, once he figured out how to close the door, he wasn’t opening it again until he finished his business. First, he had to figure out how to start.

Norman assessed his options. There was a sink. Pooping in the sink was probably a no-no, even on Epatrus. There was another thing that looked like an escape pod. That might not be a bad idea. Norman wondered how far he could get in it. Could it possibly take him back to Earth? Probably not. It was most likely in case of emergency and would only carry him down the block or, at best, a few kilometers.

There was a long enclosure that looked like a hallway or a decompression chamber. Norman wasn’t sure what its purpose could be, but it was intimidating. He imagined the possibility that it could be a portal to somewhere. Anywhere it would take him had to be better than where he was. He decided to try it.

Before entering, Norman paused briefly. The thought occurred to him that it could lead to another bathroom. That could be embarrassing. On the other hand, if it led to another bathroom and someone was in that bathroom, he might be able to learn how to poop on Epatrus. Norman would love to poop on Epatrus.

Norman cautiously entered the chamber. It only took him 12 minutes and 32 seconds to figure out how to open the door. For the door to open, it required commands for the usage of the chamber to be programmed in. Norman pressed buttons at random.

The door opened. Norman entered. The door closed behind him. Norman turned and tried to open the door again to no avail. Mechanical arms extended from the walls and seized Norman and stripped off his clothes. Don’t look. He’s naked. Yes, he does have oddly small kneecaps. Norman wiggled and squirmed, which are basically the same thing, but couldn’t break free of the metallic grasp of the clamps at the ends of the arms. The clamps released Norman, and the arms retracted.

Slots opened on the walls, and little spigots protruded. Each valve emitted a mist of warm water. When Norman was wet, soapy brushes came out of the ceiling and scrubbed him. Another pair of arms came out of the ceiling, grabbed Norman by his ankles, and flipped him upside down. While Norman was suspended from the ceiling, the brushes took another pass at the under places they missed the first time.

Norman was set back on the floor. He stood there wet and soapy waiting for the next phase. The next phase began. The spigots sprayed Norman. This time it wasn’t that nice warm mist that got him ready for the soap phase. This was a powerful rinse-off spray. It was still a pleasant temperature.

The Shliplestein Automatic Body Scrubber And Clothes Washer 4,901 ⅜ gave Norman the most rigorous washing he had ever had. Then it dried him, clothed him, and spat him out the other side. It even washed and dried his clothes.

Norman felt cleaner. He hadn’t bathed in months, either. It felt good to be clean.

He still really had to doodie, though.

Norman checked to see if there was a way he could flush the sink. He didn’t see one. Maybe there was an invisible flushing mechanism like how the door opened. He wasn’t nearly a bad enough person to doodie in the sink, walk out, and say, “I left you a nice deuce in the sink. You’re welcome.” The thought of doing so made him chuckle, though. Of course, he’d never want to use that sink again.

Norman’s reverie was interrupted by a tap on the door. “Are you all right in there, Normy?” Uhoria asked, with a little too much sweetness in her voice.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Norman. “Doing well.”

The last option was the escape pod. After his experience in The Shliplestein Automatic Body Scrubber And Clothes Washer 4,901 ⅜, Norman was not eager to enter another enclosure in this room, but his bowels were.

This door opened easily. Norman was wary about entering. The ease of access made him nervous. There was a seat. It could still be an escape pod. Norman sat. The door closed and locked. Restraints enclosed around Norman. The whole pod flipped upside down. Norman suddenly wished he had an escape pod to escape from the escape pod.

Three minutes later, Norman emerged from the Shliplestein Fecalmatic 3,817 Automatic Fecal Extractor. He was clean, refreshed, and 12 pounds lighter. It had been months, remember?

Norman had successfully taken his first shower and first doodie on Epatrus. It was also Norman’s first bathcast.

Every mirror and video screen on Epatrus could be used for video chats or video streaming. Uhoria recently used that bathroom mirror for a live streaming commercial for mustache cream. She broadcast to the known universe and forgot to cut the transmission. It didn’t matter before because she hardly ever used that bathroom. Norman didn’t know about the mirror’s transmitting capabilities or how to use the controls. Norman had a lot to learn about using the controls for things on Epatrus.

Norman emerged triumphantly, 17 minutes later. He still had trouble getting the door to open.

“Did everything go O.K.?” asked Ned. “We were getting worried about you.”

“Yeah, everything was fine,” said Norman. “I feel much better.”

“I was going to give you a tutorial on what was in there and how it all worked,” said Uhoria. “You ran in there so quickly that I didn’t get a chance.”

Maybe, if you’re ever famous, someone will write a detailed biography for you and include lots of details about your bathroom foibles. That’s why you should keep a bathroom journal.

“You keep a journal of all your bathroom experiences? What’s wrong with you?” asked someone who saw your bathroom journal.

“It’s in case I’m ever famous,” you said. “My public will want to know everything about me.”

Norman had many other growing pains to go through in adapting to his new home. None were as embarrassing or ridiculous as his bathroom experience. There was the time he walked in on Uhoria while she was changing. It was confusing. We won’t get into that, though.

Norman wasn’t nearly used to his home life before he had to start school. He enrolled at Gargamel Von Shliplestein Elementary School. He was placed in the fourth grade with the other 8-year-olds. He was immediately the worst student in school. Norman wasn’t a bad student. He just didn’t know anything. It’s more accurate to say the things he knew, and the things he was studying on Earth, didn’t translate to school on Epatrus.

Math is math. That’s a universal constant. Science is science, but it’s much more advanced on Epatrus. History and social studies were completely different. Norman knew nothing about the history of Epatrus. He knew even less about the social conditions. Where were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Earth wasn’t even mentioned. Norman didn’t have an alien species class on Earth. Suddenly, humans were an alien species. Norman was an alien species.

Being lost in the curriculum is one thing. Being lost socially is something else. On Earth, he always had Paul and Julio at the core of his circle of friends. On Epatrus, he didn’t even have anybody to ask what a Squeechian was or in what year mashed potatoes erupted from Mount Spudnik. Norman wasn’t even sure what year it was on Epatrus or how they numbered their years.

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 2: Pirates In Space

Catch up on Norman’s Bio here.

Norman started his healing process by spending more time with his friends. Norman spent a lot of time with Julio in his family’s Shliplestein 4242Pac Holodeck. Arnold and Reginald let them have all the time in it they needed. Norman even got frequent hugs from Rosie, which was goofy yelpsnig. That means good. None of it was worth losing his mother, but it helped him heal.

One evening, Norman returned home later than usual. It was Burgerfest, so he didn’t have school the next day. With a new calendar comes new holidays and seasons. Burgerfest was named after Tom Burger who discovered a way to grow vegetables on the moon. Now, every year during the month of Rama everyone sticks to a strict vegetarian diet. Fortunately, the months are really short. Rama starts with the Harvest Moon, which is toward the end of what used to be September and lasts for 16 days.

Don’t overlook these little details. You never know what’s going to be on the test.

Norman was surprised to hear voices coming from his father’s room. At first, he just assumed his dad was watching television. As he got closer to his father’s door, Norman was positive one of the voices was Ned’s. He put his ear to the door and heard what he was sure was a woman’s voice saying, “Oh Ned, you’re so sweet.” He had to be watching an old video of Victoria. He couldn’t have a woman in there with him. That was his dad. His mom was dead. It couldn’t be her in there with him. That even wasn’t her voice. As far as Norman knew, Ned hadn’t even been dating. There’s no way he would have a woman in his room at 21:18.

Humans finally got rid of that ridiculous 12-hour clock that makes no digital sense. How do you have a 12-hour clock for a 24-hour cycle? The day doesn’t start over in the middle. Why does the clock? If you need a translation to your archaic mode of telling time, subtract 12. If you can’t subtract 12 from 21, get a calculator. If you can’t get a calculator, you have serious issues because every phone, computer, and tablet has one. If you don’t have a phone, computer, or tablet, you’re probably not reading this. The answer is 9. It’s 9:18 pm.

Norman rang the doorbell. Yes, every room has a doorbell in the year 112 N.C. Knocking was outlawed when people started becoming offended by what they perceived to be a violent gesture. The issue was compounded when doors started to sue people who were knocking on them for assault and battery. They had to be removed from the edifice and sequestered during the trials. It was easier to install bells for every door. Who wouldn’t prefer to press a button than hit a door with their knuckles? Especially the metal, sliding doors they use in 112 N.C.

The voices stopped. The door slid open. Norman entered. Ned was watching TV. On the screen on his wall was the face of a multicolored alien with a thick, black mustache.

“Hi, Dad,” said Norman. “I just wanted to let you know I’m home. I had veggie burgers at Julio’s. I’m going to bed.”

“Normy, will you come in here for a minute? There’s someone I’d like for you to meet,” said Ned.

Norman stepped into the room and looked around. He didn’t see anybody. His dad had officially gone crazy. Norman was going to have to have him committed. He was going to have to go live with Julio’s family. That wouldn’t be too bad. Actually, he’d probably have to go live with Aunt Nickie. She lived all the way over in Antioch. He could still ‘port over to see his friends. That might be all right. He would have to live with his annoying cousin, Nestlé.

Nestlé was named for a Swiss food company, best known for its chocolate products. In the 20th century C.E., Humans started this bizarre convention of naming their children after things, fruits, vegetables, numbers, directions, and so on.

“Normy? Norman? Are you still with me, buddy?” asked Ned.

“Uh… Yeah,” said Norman, with a slight shake of his head.

“Norman, this is Uhoria,” said Ned, gesturing to the screen.

“Hi, Norman,” said Uhoria, from Epatrus. She continued with the extremely clichéd, “It’s so nice to meet you finally. Your dad has told me all about you.”

“Uh…,” Norman said. “Hi, I’m Norman.”

“I know,” said Uhoria. “I’m Uhoria.”

“Um… It’s nice to meet you,” said Norman.

“I can’t wait to meet you in person,” said Uhoria.

“In what now?” asked Norman, incredulously.

“I haven’t told him, yet,” said Ned.

“Nedrick Neil Normalson, how could you have not told him yet?” asked Uhoria. “What are you waiting for?”

“A good time,” said Ned.

“When would be a good time? When you’re on the ship?” asked Uhoria.

“What ship?” asked Norman. “What’s going on?”

“Great news, Normy,” said Ned. “I met somebody.”

“You haven’t even told him about me?” asked Uhoria.

“I thought this was the best way,” said Ned. “I didn’t want him to be nervous about meeting you.”

Ned and Uhoria already have way more dialogue in this brief biography of Norman than they do in all of Norman Normalson & The Normals.

“That’s great, Dad,” said Norman. He patted his dad on the elbow and moved toward the door.

“That’s not all,” said Ned, with a timbre of excitement. “We’re in love.”

“Um… That’s weird,” said Norman. “She’s an alien with a mustache.”

“She can also hear you,” said Ned.

“It’s all right, Norman,” said Uhoria. “Ned and I have already worked out all the weirdness of interspecies dating. Well, most of… a lot of the weirdness of interspecies dating. We’ve talked about it.”

“O.K.?” said Norman. “That sounds like it’s probably gross, and I don’t want to know any details.”

“There’s nothing gross about accepting what one may view as physical anomalies and loving someone for who they are inside,” said Uhoria.

“That’s beautiful, dear,” said Ned. “It’s also true, Norman.”

“Oh,” said Norman. “O.K., I’m going to bed.”

“There’s one more thing,” said Ned. “We’re moving to Epatrus, so Uhoria and I can get married and live together.”

His dad had officially gone crazy. Norman was going to have to have him committed. He was going to have to go live with Julio’s family. That wouldn’t be too bad. Actually, he’d probably have to go live with Aunt Nickie. She lived all the way over in Antioch. He could still ‘port over to see his friends. That might be all right. He would have to live with his annoying cousin, Nestlé. She was four and always ran around singing this song from the ancient times. It went, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestlé’s makes the very best… Choc’-late.” Then she would say, “That song’s about me. I make the best chocolate.”

“The only chocolate you make is poop,” Norman said once. Then he mockingly sang, “D-O-O-D-I-E-S Nestlé makes the very best… Doo-dies.” That got him in a little bit of trouble, but it was well worth it.

Norman could hear his dad’s voice, but it sounded distant. It seemed as if his dad were in the other room talking to him through a paper towel roll, even though humanity hadn’t used paper towels in generations. Ned’s voice slowly grew clearer.

“Norman? Noooooormaaaaaan,” said Ned. “Are you still with us?”

Ned was kneeling over Norman, who was lying supine on the floor.

“Dad?” Norman asked. “What happened? I had the craziest dream.”

Before Norman could recover from his shock or anger, he was boarding the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus, oddly named for an explorer most famous for getting lost.

Norman had a small amount of time to say goodbye to the only home he’d ever known. He had had friends he wasn’t sure if he’d ever see again. Julio had been his best friend longer than he could remember. Rosie was the love of his life. Fortunately, he was 7, and he would have, hopefully, much more life ahead of him in which to find love. Norman didn’t even know if there was soccer on Epatrus. For all he knew, the most popular sport on Epatrus was called eurgensplurgenflargus, which revolved around tying one’s hands and feet together and crawling around blindfolded picking zhartstinkquaf berries. He didn’t even know what zhartstinkquaf berries were or if there were any on Epatrus or anywhere else in the universe. He didn’t have much time left on Earth, and he fudge dang sure wasn’t going to spend it researching a planet to which he didn’t even want to go.

Norman wanted nothing to do with this trip and went straight to a stasis chamber on the spaceship where he was virtually frozen for the long trek to Epatrus. Even with ships that could travel at nearly the speed of light, the multi-parsec voyage to Epatrus took awhile. Most passengers and even crew members traversed the majority of such trips in stasis, which allowed them to view the months-long journey as if it were nearly instantaneous. One could only enjoy the splendor and awe of being in space for so long. Computers and Radbots did the majority of flying and maintenance while the biological beings slept.

Time passes much more slowly on Epatrus than on Earth. Uhoria chose to spend the time in stasis. That allowed her to skip being nervous as the man she loved was traversing the universe to be with her. It also assured she wouldn’t age during the intervening months. Ned was happy about her decision, as well. It gave him a feeling of solidarity with the woman in his life. It also meant that she couldn’t meet anybody else while they were in transit.

Were the months the journey took measured by Earth time or Epatrus time? Now, you’re getting way too technical on me. Yamfennian time. How about that?

Norman didn’t even realize he was asleep before he was revived. They had arrived. He lay down, closed his eyes and said, “I don’t even want to go…” He was unconscious and frozen for the rest of the trip.

The voyage was pretty uneventful, at least for those who were in stasis. The ship was boarded by space pirates from space. They probably weren’t actually from space. I’m pretty sure they would have to have originated on a planet somewhere… somewhere in space.

The pirate ship, SSSS or the 4S, short for the Space Ship Stuff Stealer, spotted the F.V.C.C., Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus, on their radar. Captain Mauve Oyster immediately recognized it as a passenger ship. Passenger ships were the third best picking when it came to loot. The best was, obviously, cargo ships. The second was cruise ships. Cruise ships usually had rich people who insisted on bringing their riches into space. I guess they wanted to show off if they met an alien. “This is my golden eye patch. It’s made of 100% pure uncut gold. I don’t even need an eye patch. I just wear it because it’s gold.” Ms. Notimpressed, of the planet Golddirt, was not impressed. Apparently, Mr. Braggington didn’t know that gold is dirt and utterly worthless on planet Golddirt.

The worst ships for loot were warships. That was mostly due to the inability of the pirates to take over such ships.

Captain Mauve Oyster ordered his crew of scoundrels, thieves, and that one nice guy who got caught up with the wrong crowd to pursue that ship. The ship was pursued. The SSSS easily caught up with the F.V.C.C. Passenger ships are not nearly as swift as pirate ships. If they were, pirates would go out of business. Pirates can’t go out of business. It’s almost impossible to get another job after pirate. Who looks at a résumé and sees pirate and says, “You’re hired.”? Nobody.

The 4S hovered above the Chris for a few Zechistenian seconds before clamping onto them. Once the ships were hooked, it was impossible for a passenger ship to break away. Cargo ships had defenses for moves like that. They could cut the clamps with lasers. Passenger ships had no such defensive or offensive capabilities. Someone somewhere decided it was best if passenger ships didn’t engage in battles. It’s probably better that way.

Encountering other ships in space was an anomaly. Encountering pirates in space was even scarcer. Pirates usually depended on getting flight plans from a spy who worked for whichever company they wanted to rob. The SSSS had a secret method for finding targets. More on that later.

Once clamped, the pirates could ‘port over to the other ship without any worries of losing their ship or the targeted ship escaping. Before the pirates even clamped on, the computer was aware of the threat.

The Chris attempted evasive maneuvers. As I mentioned previously, passenger ships aren’t equipped with many defensive capabilities. The ship was easily overtaken.

Once aboard, the pirates were inhospitably greeted by a force of Radbots. The security force was armed with stun blasters and nets. The pirates were armed with blasters that were specifically designed to disable bots. They expected to meet bots of some sort. Bots were standard security on the majority of passenger ships.

Following their effortless victory over the Radbots, Flower Blossom McLotus, the one nice guy who fell in with the wrong crowd, was free to hack into the computer.

Flower Blossom McLotus never wanted to be a pirate. He wanted to be a ballerina ninja. They have those on Mantarius, his planet of origin. They’re sneaky and graceful and potentially deadly. He only planned to use his powers for good, to stop the evil forces of evil. Sadly, however, for the Mantarian his only source of gracefulness was in his fingers.

After flunking out of The Lexi P. Lodeham School Of Dance, Martial Arts, Chicanery, and Silent But Deadly Farts, Flower Blossom McLotus, or FloBloLo for short, resigned himself to working with his hands. He became a repairman. He got a job at Tony’s. Tony was one of the best repairmen on all of Mantarius, which was fortunate because he was horrible at naming businesses.

Seriously? Tony’s? Tony’s what? That name doesn’t tell anybody what he did. Did Tony make pizzas? Did he sell antiques? Did he wrestle crabs? Did he train dancing earwigs? Was he a cobbler? No. Not that kind of cobbler. I know he wasn’t a pie. I meant the type who makes and repairs shoes.

FloBloLo’s nimble fingers made swift work of any project Tony assigned to him. He could fix anything. Toasters, microwaves, blu-ray players, watches, cars, cameras, dogs, anything. Well, he could if Mantarius had any of those things. The point is, he was good with his hands.

Repairing was so simple for FloBloLo that he got bored with it. He started taking things apart to learn more about them. He began with uncomplicated things and quickly moved on to computers and robots. It didn’t take long for FloBloLo to start building computers and robots. It was only a natural progression that led him to learn to program.

FloBloLo respectfully resigned from Tony’s and got a job with the Shliplestein Corporation. The Shliplestein Corporation coincidentally was founded and had its headquarters on Epatrus.

For years, FloBloLo designed and programmed computers and robots. He was the happiest he had ever been or would ever be.

The Shliplestein Corporation, headed by Gargamel Von Shliplestein, paid him handsomely. The money on Mantarius is very attractive. He had four girlfriends. She was actually one girlfriend with multiple personalities. They were all nice, though, so FloBloLo was happy to date them all. He had an expensive apartment on the rich side of town. Then, it was all blown away like a fart by a fart.

FloBloLo was demonstrating of one his new inventions for a high-ranking Shliplestein executive when he farted. You’re probably thinking, “So? What’s the big deal? Everybody farts.” One of the many things FloBloLo partially learned at The Lexi P. Lodeham School Of Dance, Martial Arts, Chicanery, and Silent But Deadly Farts was, yeah, silent but deadly farts. He learned the art but not how to control it fully. The executive was dead in seconds.

FloBloLo was arrested. After a short trial, he went to prison. His defense of poor flatulent training was flimsy at best. He was sentenced to four years in a maximum security prison for the crime of involuntary Mantarian slaughter by way of flatulence. He lost his job. He lost his apartment.

FloBloLo spent most of his sentence in solitary confinement. No one thought it was a good idea to allow anyone around the Mantarian who could kill with his farts. He was locked in an aroma-free cell. I can think of a few people I’d like locked in one of those, at least sometimes.

Only one of his girlfriends agreed to wait for him while he was incarcerated. One of his girlfriends started dating one of the correctional officers, which was awkward. It caused some problems for FloBloLo when the guard got jealous that one of his girlfriend’s personalities was frequently visiting FloBloLo.

The officer took advantage of every opportunity to make FloBloLo’s life difficult. He would withhold rations, fart in his food, stick his tongue out at him when no one was looking, say mean things about his mother, and restrain him to the wall and tickle his feet. FloBloLo was miserable.

Upon release, FloBloLo vowed never to fart again. He made it five hours before his stomach hurt so much he had to release his pent-up flatulence. The time he abstained from expelling his gas compounded its potency. This fart killed seven people and a potted plant.

His last remaining girlfriend refused to wait for him this time.

During his subsequent stay in prison, FloBloLo learned to control the potency of his flatulence. From then on, he only used his farts to render people unconscious. A few more plants died before he perfected it.

Following his release from prison, every time he applied for a job, Flower Blossom McLotus had to confess that he had been convicted of a felony. The potential employers always wanted details. Farting felonies were the worst. He was unemployed and homeless when Captain Mauve Oyster found him.

Legends of the Mantarian who could kill with his farts spread far and wide, as well as near and narrow. Captain Mauve Oyster immediately offered FloBloLo a position in his pirate posse where he would be paid in plundered prizes. FloBloLo hated the idea of stealing from people, but his employment options were sparse.

FloBloLo accepted the pirate’s offer. He soon found himself flying around in space for megamonths at a time. Megamonths are boring months in space that seem to last forever. During his downtime, FloBloLo did what he loves. He tinkered and learned.

FloBloLo only had enough parts to make a single, short robot. He named it RDRR. FloBloLo and RDRR were best friends, mostly because that’s how FloBloLo programmed RDRR. Still, something was missing in FloBloLo’s life. He needed to create.

FloBloLo and RDRR spent most of their time in transit at the computer. They improved all the ship’s systems and upgraded all its software. When they were out of things to do, they started making programs.

FloBloLo was FloBloLonely. See what I did there? I made a dumb pun out of his name. The other pirates were already friends and relatives. They weren’t happy about Captain Mauve Oyster inviting in another guy. They were also afraid of him since he could kill people with his farts and farts can sneak up on anyone at any time. They immediately outlawed beans aboard the SSSS.

When he and RDRR weren’t working, FloBloLo spent a lot of time on social media. He made a lot of virtual friends but didn’t like the sites. The interactions were too limited. He wanted to express more of a range of emotion than like, and, for some reason, all the sites smelled like cheese.

RDRR suggested they make a social media site. FloBloLo had the skills. RDRR had the stamina to stay up all night programming. Together, they were a stoppable force, but no one stopped them. The result was FloBloLoSo. Yes, he named it after himself, Flower Blossom McLotus Social. RDRR only received credit in the fine print. FloBloLo didn’t program sensitivity or narcissism into RDRR, so it didn’t care.

FloBloLoSo slowly became the most popular social networking site in the universe. Even the pirates of the SSSS joined and shared, except Captain Mauve Oyster. He just watched the madness.

Captain Mauve Oyster monitored his pirates as they obsessed over the social network site. He started asking Flower Blossom a lot of in-depth questions about it. He saw a plethora of people on a plethora of planets socially oversharing. They posted their every move to FloBloLoSo. Every person on the site was easily traceable.

As the owner, creator, and supreme overlord of FloBloLoSo, FloBloLo was automatically connected to every user. He had all their information. Captain Mauve Oyster convinced FloBloLo to share all their sharing with him. The pirates used their new knowledge of when people all over the universe would be away from their homes to rob a ridiculous amount of people. They also knew the schedules of every company’s cruise ships and which were carrying the most booty. Then all his pirate pals loved him, as they shouted out with glee, “Ahoy, matey.”

FloBloLo hated it. It made him feel terrible. He didn’t even want to be a pirate. He didn’t want to steal from people. Maybe, if he stuck with it a little longer, he’d have enough money to retire soon if the pirates would let him.

What does that have to do with Norman? Nothing. I got carried away with the tragic legend of Flower Blossom McLotus. The point of all that was that FloBloLo was recruited by the pirates as a computer hacker. He hacked into the Chris’s computer and disabled the security system.

You’re just jealous because your biography isn’t nearly that cool. Can you kill someone with your farts? I didn’t think so. I know of very few who can.

Introduction To Norman Normalson’s Bio

In furthering my introduction to the world of Norman Normalson & The Normals, which is called Epatrus, I decided to write a biography for Norman Normalson. I imagined it to be in the same vein as what I did with The L Squad. I planned to sit down and type out a 6-to-7-page bio. Norman’s life refused to be contained. It demanded to expand and breathe. At 9-years-old, Norman has been through more than most living beings experience in 10 years. Space travel makes a lot of things possible.

I briefly toyed with the idea of writing a full prequel book. That may still happen sometime in the magical time known as the future. It may not. The only predictable aspect of the future is that it is unpredictable. The future never comes. It’s always dancing out there teasing us with its possibilities. Every time we think we’re getting close, it dashes away. We set traps for it, but it eludes them. We say, “Hey, future, how about you do this?” The future says, “No.” What was I saying?

Norman’s bio quickly grew to more than 11,000 words. That’s almost a quarter of the whole book, Norman Normalson & The Normals. It’s more than 26 pages. That’s not a quarter of the book. There’s not as much dialogue in the bio.

I decided to ration out Norman’s bio. I’m going to release it in parts. It’s already written, so it won’t come out slowly with sections separated by months. I’ll post new parts a few days apart or as I remember.

Without any further adieu, I’ll post the first part in a couple of days or whenever I remember to do so. What? I’m working on other things. I’m writing a Norman Christmas story. I’m not sure why. It just started. That’s coming soon if I finish it before Christmas.

Norman Normalson & The Normals Synopsis

Norman Normalson is a normal nine-year-old boy. He hates to brush his teeth. He hates to take a bath. He hates school, especially math. He’s irritated by his younger half-brother who gets all the girls, can drive and has a mustache… at nine… months-old.

Norman Normalson is a normal nine-year-old boy, except for the fact that he’s an alien. He misses his hometown. He misses his friends. He misses soccer. He misses toilets. He misses Earth.

Norman Normalson’s life was flipped upside down when his mother died. His life was further flipped when his father met a new woman online. Again, when his father fell in love with the woman and decided they should move in with her on Epatrus, many parsecs away from Earth. On his new home, he’s flipped upside down every time he has to go to the bathroom.

On Earth, Norman was normal. He wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but he had friends. Norman got decent grades. He wasn’t a genius, but he wasn’t dumb. He wasn’t a great athlete, but he liked sports and was above average in most he attempted. He loved fútbol, but called it soccer, which is kind of weird. Though, it is normal for his country to think they can take the world’s most popular sport and change its name. They’re arrogant like that.

On Epatrus, he was not normal. He was the only human in his school. He was the only one without a tail. He was one of the few who didn’t have a mustache. He was nine-years-old and couldn’t fly an F.T.O. His baby brother had to fly him to school. He was not good at playing brickenspricken. He was one of the few people who didn’t like to eat Epatrus’s primary food source, gwatuchorazz cheese.

He wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but he had friends. Norman was adopted by the outcasts of Gargamel Von Shliplestein Elementary School. Even among the outcasts, Norman stood out for the simple fact that he was human. Upon his inclusion in the group, they went from being called ‘freaks’ to being dubbed Norman Normalson And The Not So Normals. Eventually, their name was sarcastically shortened to Norman Normalson And The Normals or often simply The Normals.

Norman Normalson was slowly adjusting to the alien world that was now his home. Being picked-on became normal. Being flown around by his baby brother became normal. His dad going to work wearing tights, tap shoes, sweater vests, and curly blue clown wigs became normal. He was slowly adjusting to his step-mother. His friends were actually friends, not just the only people who would hang out with him. Norman Normalson was finally accepting the new normal when everything changed.

If Norman thought his life was turned upside down by the fecal extractor, wait till his baby brother disappears in a flash of light. Wait till his friends start disappearing. Wait until he and his friends take it upon themselves to solve the mystery. Wait until the robot that’s assigned to protect him tries to kill him. Wait until his friends and mentor try to convince him of the benefits of gwatuchorazz cheese. “It’s butt cheese.”

Norman Normalson & The Normals Logline

This blog has been primarily focused on The L Squad. There’s a good reason for that. The L Squad is the first book I completed and is the most polished. The L Squad is also the book I’ve been shopping to agents. Agents haven’t been overly enthusiastic as of yet. I can only assume, it’s because they are illiterate… or I suck. There may be some other possibilities in between.

While I am far from giving up and abandoning The L Squad, I decided to give Norman and friends a shot. I’ve recently completed a fourth draft. Yes, typos can hide for the complete first three drafts or so. They are clever buggers and champions of the game You Can’t Find Me, So Please Stop Trying And Declare Me The Winner And World Champion Of You Can’t Find Me, So Please Stop Trying And Declare Me The Winner And World Champion Of… or as humans call it Hide & Seek. Humans may have a better name for that game. On some planets, it takes so long to say the name that the game never actually begins.

With that in mind, the fourth draft, not the ridiculously long name given celestially to Hide & Seek, I’ve decided to give Norman Normalson & The Normals some much-deserved recognition. I will be posting more information on Norman and his group of misfit friends. Is ‘misfit’ offensive, now? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the word ‘friend’ is offensive. Anyway, there’s a lot more Norman stuff coming. I’m starting here, as with The L Squad, with the logline. I hope I won’t look back on this later, like I did with the logline for The L Squad, and realize it’s horribly generic.

Normal Normalson hasn’t been normal since he and his father moved to Epatrus. Adapting to being an alien on an alien world got a lot harder when his half-brother disappeared into a flash of light, and nobody believes what he saw.

If you thought that was exciting, just wait till more stuff comes. We didn’t even get to the butt cheese.

L Squad Vignettes: Episode Four: Camp L Squad

I said these were coming every couple months, not every week, right? I’ve been busy working on rewriting Norman Normalson & The Normals. I’m also getting some info ready to post here about Norman and his friends The Normals. That should be up very soon, much quicker than it takes me to write a vignette. I’ve also been spending a lot of time not writing, which is horrible and counterproductive. To make up for the delay in posting, this is a really long vignette, especially compared to the others.

 L Squad Vignettes: Episode Four: Camp L Squad

“It’ll be like camping,” Abby said.

“Camping?” asked Charlie.

“Yeah, camping’s the best,” said Hitch. “Back on Nasga, we went camping all the time.”

“Do they have camping on Earth?” asked George.

“Yes,” said Charlie. “It’s called being homeless.”

Abby tapped on her wripter. “Yes. It’s even quite popular.”

“It’s just sleeping outside,” said Kip.

“Exactly,” said Charlie. “I’m royalty. We do not sleep outside on the ground.”

“It’ll be fun,” said Kip.

“Yeah, we’ll make a game of it,” said Hitch.

“Brilliant!” said Charlie. “We’ll play homeless. We’ll be adults playing homeless.”

“It’s not a game,” said Captain Grek. “This is a serious training exercise.”

Charlie continued as if Captain Grek hadn’t said a word, “Nobody wants to be homeless, but people sure like to play homeless. Then, there are the more upscale gamers who bring their trailers. They’re playing trailer park.”

As Charlie spoke, a rumble of flagitation erupted from Captain Grek’s nether regions.

“What is that, your stand-up act?” Kip asked.

“Perhaps,” Charlie said. “One never knows when a moment of levity could come in handy.”

“It will come in handy in your search for a vocation upon your dismissal from R.A.D.,” Captain Grek growled.

“Why are we the only squad that has to do this?” Charlie asked.

“Every other squad has already completed their training,” said Captain Grek. “You’re the only squad that needs more training.”

Charlie moaned, “Aww, but why?”

“Because you’re the only squad that consistently flubs every mission,” said Captain Grek. “You’re currently on track to be the L Squad.”

“But the L Squad is the lowest ranked squad,” said Hitch.

“Exactly,” said Captain Grek. “Any more questions?”

“Nope,” said Abby. “We’re off to survive in the wilderness. We’ll see you in a week.”

“There are showers out there, right?” Hitch asked.

Abby rushed over to Hitch and hustled him out the door. The others followed.

“No shower for a week? I guess this won’t be all bad,” Charlie said, on her way out.

Half an hour later, the squad was dropped off deep in the Canadian wilderness. The only gear they were allowed was a communicator, which was for use only in the event of an emergency.

“The first thing we need to do is find a shower,” said Hitch.

“I think the first thing we should do is find a place to camp,” said Abby.

“Yeah,” said Hitch. “A place with a shower.”

Kip’s unique scouting abilities found the squad a cave in the side of a hill. It was bordered on one side by a little trickle of a waterfall.

“Good find, Kip,” said Hitch.

“Thanks, Cap,” said Kip.

“It’s not very private, but it should work,” said Hitch.

“We’re way out in the wilderness,” said Charlie. “How much more privacy could you want?”

Hitch stuck his hand in the steaming water. “Holey cheese balls! That water is absolutely freezing.”

“It’s not freezing, much less absolutely freezing,” said Abby. “If it were freezing, it would be ice, not water.”

A period of mocking Abby and her incessant need to be literal ensued. There was nothing unusual about that. By now, Abby had learned they were teasing her, not agreeing with her. It didn’t change her reaction much. Genius does not necessarily beget wit. It often subdues it.

It wasn’t long before stomachs started rumbling. Kip didn’t have an issue. Kip was solar powered and absorbed all necessary nutrients from the sun. Finding food for Abby wasn’t as easy as Kip, but she was an herbivore. There was plant life everywhere. All she had to do was figure out which Earth plants were edible. A simple scan would…

“Dang it!” Abby said. “How are we supposed to find food without our equipment? If we eat the wrong thing, we could get sick or die.”

“It’s too bad Monshtah’s not here,” said Kip. “She knows about all plants. She’s been studying since we’ve been here.”

“Ah-ha!” said Charlie. “See, Captain Campadelic? I told you camping wasn’t going to be fun.”

“Camping is usually fun,” said Hitch.

“Yeah, but we usually bring supplies,” said Abby.

“And if we forget something, we can just fly back to get it,” said George.

“And there are usually showers that aren’t ice,” said Hitch, working in a little tease for Abby into his gripe.

“The sun’s setting,” said Kip. “We have about half an hour until it’s completely dark out here.”

“All right, let’s get into the cave,” said Hitch. “Who brought the camp heater?”

“No supplies, remember, Cap?” said George.

“Ohklay Buré!” Hitch swore. “Now what?”

“We have to make a fire,” said Abby.

“Who knows how to make a fire?” asked Hitch.

“We can rub sticks together,” said Abby. Her suggestion reflected off silent stares. “The friction leads to heat and sparks, which combine with oxygen and fodder to make fire.”

After a beat or two, George said, “Blaster?”

“Blaster, yeah,” said Hitch. “We can use a blaster to make heat to light something on fire.”

“Uh… We don’t have any blasters,” said George.

“Then, why’d you suggest blasters?” asked Hitch.

“It was a hypothetical,” said George.

“We don’t need hypothetical,” said Hitch. “We’re going to get hypothermia.”

“Probably not,” said Kip. “You’re all furry, and I have my shell.”

“I’m not furry,” said George.

“I was counting Herman,” said Kip. “We should be all right for tonight.”

They were. Kip’s the medical officer. Kip knows Kip’s stuff. The squad slept curled up together using their body heat to keep them all warm. George slept in the middle. Herman, his mustache, was thick and lush but not quite enough to keep him warm.

The next morning, Kip was the first one up. Kip sat on the cusp of their cave watching the animals. Kip took note of everything they ate. By the time the others started dispersing from the hairball they had made, Kip had a collection of nuts and berries ready for breakfast.

“Yay for Kip. Kip, Kip, hooray!” Kip heard in Kip’s head.

Kip was actually greeted by a series of grunts, moans, and an occasional, “Ugh… Thanks.”

“Where’s the beef?” Charlie asked as if she were in a commercial from the 1980s. She was literally inquiring about meat. Charlie was oblivious to the advertisement. She was not alive in the ’80s, nor was she one to waste her time watching old commercials on YouTube. She definitely didn’t waste her time watching other people play video games on YouTube. What is that? Why is that a thing? Humans are the strangest sentient beings in the universe if one can classify a species that watches videos of other people playing video games as sentient.

As soon as he had some food, Hitch took charge. “All right, good job on the food, Kip. George, you go with Kip to find more food. Abby and Charlie, you figure out how to start a fire.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Abby.

“I’m going to take a shower,” said Hitch.

“In the ice water?” asked Charlie.

“I can take it,” said Hitch, in his best macho voice. “Go!”

Following a brisk hike through the woods, Kip and George approached a beehive.

“I spent some time this morning watching these little creatures,” said Kip. “They’re making some kind of food in here.”

“How do you know what they’re doing in there?” asked George.

“I’ve been watching,” said Kip.

“But they’re inside,” said George. “How do you know what’s going on inside?”

“I looked into the hole through which they’re entering and exiting,” said Kip.

“What hole?” asked George.

“Look up there,” Kip pointed. “See where they’re going in and out?”

“Oh, I see it,” said George. “I can hardly see the hole from here, and you can see into it from over on the mountain?”

“Yeah,” said Kip. “I’m a Yortian, remember?”

“Yeah, but… Glaurf!” said George. After his astonishment subsided, he continued. “How do we get it out of there?”

“Inside, there are walls composed of hexagons that hold the food,” said Kip. “Just reach into the hole with your tail and grab one and pull it out.”

“You want me to steal their food?” asked George, shocked at Kip’s callousness.

“There’s a bunch in there,” said Kip. “They can spare a little.”

“Won’t they be angry?” asked George.

“They’re tiny,” said Kip. “What can they do?”

“All right,” said George.

George reached up to the hive with his tail. He slowly sneaked it into the hole. The bees started buzzing around his tail. He grabbed a honeycomb.

“Ew, it’s sticky,” said George. “Ow! It stings.”

Elsewhere, Abby and Charlie were looking for sticks.

“So, you think rubbing sticks together will make a fire?” asked Charlie.

“It works,” said Abby.

“How do you know?” asked Charlie. “Have you ever done it?”

“No, but it’s been done,” said Abby. “Do you have a better idea?”

“That is such a cliché question that always leads to shenanigans,” Charlie said, smugly.

“I’m going to take that as a ‘no,’” said Abby.

“Hey, look,” said Charlie, pointing to a small black and white quadruped with a big fluffy tail.

“Speaking of cliché,” said Abby, “that’s a clichéd distraction technique for which I am not falling.”

“That creature kind of looks like me. Hi. I’m Charlie. What’s your name? You smell interesting. What is that perfume you’re wearing?” The creature waddled away from Charlie. “Rude.” Charlie pursued. “I was merely inquiring about the aroma…” Charlie was interrupted mid-sentence when the creature lifted its tail and sprayed a large quantity of its “perfume” in Charlie’s face. “Gee whillikers on a Wednesday!” Charlie swore… maybe. “I think it farted on me.”

Meanwhile, at the camp, Hitch was preparing to shower. He made the mistake of checking the temperature of the waterfall before going in. It was colder than it was the previous day.

Hitch put his hand in and pulled his hand out. He put his foot in and pulled his foot out. He tried the opposite hand and foot with the same result. He finally decided to just go for it. He stood roughly three meters away, took a series of deep breaths, and ran into the waterfall. He didn’t stop there. He ran all the way through and out the other side.

“Holey socks! That is cold.”

While Hitch was setting a personal record for the coldest, shortest, and all around worst shower of his life, George and Kip were under attack. Kip’s decision to judge the bees by their size turned out to be a faux pas, an oopsie if you will. The angry bees’ retaliation for the stolen honeycomb didn’t stop at George’s tail. They were mad at all of George. Their anger spread to Kip for merely being another living being in the proximity of their hive.

Kip’s first instinct was to ball. George’s was to run. Half the bees swarmed Kip’s ball. The other half pursued George. They continued to pursue George when he came back to where he left Kip. In the brief time he was gone, George had acquired an additional pursuer.

The ruckus caused by George’s return was enough to make Kip open Kip’s shell. It was only a slight crack, so Kip could see what was making all the noise. Kip wasted no time in resealing the carapace.

“Run! It’s a monster,” George yelled, as he ran past Kip.

Behind George, following closely and getting closer, was the largest grizzly bear either of them had ever seen. She was also the only grizzly bear they had ever seen, which is why George referred to her as a monster instead of a bear.

As the bear ran past Kip, the bees dispersed. Even they didn’t want anything to do with the bear bearing down on George. See what I did there? Words are fun. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Kip unballed (Is that a word? No? It will be someday. I will make sure of it.) and ran the opposite direction of George and his new acquaintance. George was trying to run the opposite direction of his new acquaintance, but the bear wasn’t cooperating.

As the bear grew closer, George kept both eyes turned back toward her and forgot to watch what was coming in front of him. George tripped on a root forcing its way out of the ground. On his way down, he crashed into a low-hanging branch. He flipped over it and landed on a pile of sticks. They would have been precisely what Abby and Charlie were looking for at that moment. Of course, they wouldn’t be worth dueling with a bear. The sticks broke. The whole thing was very slapstick, literally.

The bear stopped, towering over George. She bared her teeth and flashed her claws. George tried to get up but slipped on the sticks. The more he attempted to move the more he got tangled. The bear raised her paw and swung it down on George. Her claws made a whistling sound as they tore through the air.

George dropped the honeycomb and wrapped his tail around the same branch over which he tumbled. He pulled himself out of the way. The bear’s paw and claws crashed into the pile of broken sticks. As it passed George, the tip of one claw tore a slit in George’s uniform.

The bear turned angrily toward George.

“This might be it, Herman,” George said, to his mustache.

“It’s been a good run, George,” Herman said.

Before the bear could take another swing at George, and before George could think of another slick escape, a rock hit the bear in the back of the head. Renewed anger swelled up inside the bear as she turned and started after Kip, the source of the projectile. Kip emitted a little yelp. We’ll call it the Patented Yortian Yelp since there is no yelp like it in the universe. No, it is not an app used for rating intergalactic space restaurants. You are ridiculous.

Kip widened as wide as Kip could widen before turning to run as fast as Kip could run. The bear followed. George also followed but not at the same speed or with the same vigor as the bear. George was not about to abandon the friend who just saved his life, but he didn’t want to get the bear’s attention unless it was necessary to save Kip’s life. The bees were no help at all. They returned to their hive and resumed working.

The trio didn’t run far, which was a good thing for Kip as the bear was gaining on Kip much faster than she had been gaining on George. In mid-run, Kip dropped to the ground, balled, and rolled under a pair of trees that were tied together. The bear tripped over the trees and slammed into the ground.

Kip circled back around to George. The duo put as much distance between themselves and the bear as they could. The bear was not interested in further pursuit.

“What is that thing?” asked Kip.

“A human?” George said, tentatively.

“I don’t think humans are that hairy,” said Kip.

“I’ve seen some that hairy,” said George.

“All right, but they’re not that mean,” said Kip.

“They kept us locked up in quarantine for a year,” said George. “Some think we should still be there.”

“That’s true,” said Kip. “What about the teeth and claws?”

“Those are good points,” said George.

“Aaah, where’s Charlie for that one?” asked Kip.

“She does love puns, doesn’t she?” said George.

“So, what did you do to make that hairy set of teeth and claws so angry?” asked Kip.

“I ran into it,” said George. “I was running from the little flying creatures and ran into the big hairy one.”

“Oh,” said Kip. “You’re lucky it didn’t just grab you.”

“I hit it from behind,” said George. “I think I crashed into its butt.”

“Even when you’re not flying, you still find a way to crash,” said Kip.

“I am the best pilot you know,” said George.

“You are,” Kip conceded. “You’re also the worst.”

“I’ll accept that,” said George. “Anyway, we’re lucky that was the only one after us. There were two other miniature monsters with it.”

“Those were probably its offspring,” said Kip. “I’d guess it was protecting its babies from the crazy creature who attacked its butt.”

“You stink,” said Abby, moments earlier in a different part of the forest.

“I kind of like it,” said Charlie. “It’s musky.”

“You’re weird,” said Abby.

“Um, this is my planet,” said Charlie. “Here, you’re the weird one.”

“You didn’t like it a few minutes ago when you were rolling around screaming, ‘Get it off me! Get it off me!’” said Abby.

“I’ve grown accustomed to it,” said Charlie.

“I haven’t,” said Abby, pinching her nose. “It’s almost as bad as the captain’s flagitation.”

A yelp rang out through the forest.

“What was that?” asked Charlie. “A bad review for a restaurant?”

“It’s Kip,” said Abby. “That’s a Yortian yelp. What’s a bad review for a restaurant?”

“A joke,” said Charlie.

“It’s always jokes with you,” said Abby.

“Not always,” said Charlie. “Sometimes it’s a joke, other times it could be a jape or even a jest.”

“Come on,” said Abby. “We have to find Kip.”

“It came from over here,” said Charlie, as she took off in the direction of Kip’s yelp. Abby followed. Both of them dropped everything, except the skunk smell that was now Charlie’s constant companion.

Abby and Charlie burst through the bushes and arrived on the scene just in time to be no help.

Kip balled. George put two hands over Herman, squeezed the remaining two into fists, swung his tail around, and prepared to fight.

Kip, George, what happened?” asked Abby.

George relaxed when he realized who their assailants were.

“It’s all right. It’s Abby and Charlie,” George said to Kip.

Kip peeked out of the ball. Once George’s assurance was confirmed, Kip completely retracted the carapace.

“What was that yelp?” asked Abby.

“Did you get some bad oysters?” Charlie asked.

“Huh?” asked George.

“What now?” asked Kip.

“Did you leave a bad review due to receiving oysters of low quality?” Charlie retried.

“No one gets that joke,” said Abby, “or jape or jest.”

“Or it’s not funny,” said Kip.

“Dang it!” said Charlie. “Sometimes, the audience is completely at fault when a joke falls flat.”

“Or it’s just not funny,” said George.

“What happened?” Abby asked, again.

George found a huge, hairy monster with sharp teeth and claws,” said Kip.

“Was it Captain Grek?” asked Charlie.

“No, it was way scarier,” said Kip.

“It’s fine, though,” said George, caressing Herman in a gesture that was meant to convey confidence. “We took care of it.”

“How? What happened?” Abby asked.

“How would you rate your experience with the monster?” Charlie asked, still trying to get a laugh out of her yelp/Yelp pun.

“We’ll tell you about it around the campfire,” said Kip.

“Campfire?” said Charlie.

“Oh no!” said Abby. “We dropped all the sticks we collected when we heard Kip yelp.”

“I hope you guys found food that doesn’t need to be cooked,” said Charlie.

“Food?” said George.

“Snortle vomit!” said Kip.

The group got back to the camp as the sun was dipping below the trees. Actually, the rotation of Earth was bringing the trees up in front of the sun, but that’s just science and reality instead of poetic piffle, like sunrise and sunset.

“It’s about time. I’m starving,” Hitch said. “How did everybody do? What’s that smell?”

The rest of the squad hung their heads and pointed at Charlie. Charlie raised a paw.

“I came up with a joke about Kip and restaurant reviews,” said Charlie. “Would you like to hear it? Here it goes…” Abby wrapped her hand around Charlie’s mouth.

“We found some sweet sticky stuff,” said George. He lifted his tail to under Hitch’s nose. “Here, smell.”

“Mmm. That smells good,” said Hitch. “Where is it?”

“Um…” said Kip. “We dropped it.”

“How do you drop sticky stuff?” asked Hitch.

“There was this monster…” George started.

“Fire fodder?” Hitch asked, cutting off George’s explanation.

“We found a lot of sticks to rub together,” said Charlie.

“Sticks to rub together?” asked Hitch, skeptically.

“It works,” said Abby.

“I’ll take your word for it, Abbs,” said Hitch. “Well, I guess you can show us.”

“We dropped them,” said Abby.

“You dropped them?” Hitch asked.

“Yes, when Kip left a bad review for the monster,” said Charlie, determined to find some way to make that joke work with aliens who had no idea what Yelp was in a time when World President Amazon.com’s app NumB had long since killed Yelp. The app gave users the option of rating a restaurant or experience as “Num Num” for good or “Numb” for bad. The simplicity of the choices and negation of the need to put any time, energy, or thought into an actual review made the app a big hit.

Yes, Amazon.com, a website, was elected president of the United States and eventually the world. That’s just humans being humans. The sad part is, it was a lot better than many rulers throughout the planet’s history. It actually delivered on its promises, usually in just two days.

Hitch looked around confused. “You guys are getting a ‘Numb’ for this mission. I accomplished my mission.”

“What was your mission?” asked Abby.

“I took a shower,” said Hitch.

“That was your mission for the day?” asked Abby.

“Yep, and I was very efficient about it,” said Hitch.

L Squad Vignettes: Episode Three: Serialized Cereal

“What is cereal?” asked Hitch.

“It’s a breakfast food for kids or adults who are too lazy to cook for themselves,” said Abby. “It claims to be rich in vitamins and minerals but typically contains far too much sugar and should be classified as a dessert.”

“The place with all the sand?” asked Hitch.

“No, that’s a desert,” said Abby.

“What’s the difference?” asked Hitch.

“An S,” said Abby.

“Oh,” said Hitch.

“No, S,” said Charlie.

“You don’t know the difference between dessert and desert?” asked George.

“Yeah, I just like messing with Abby,” said Hitch.

Abby folded her arms and scowled.

“Are you done with this tomfoolery?” asked Captain Grek.

“Tomfoolery’s that bloke who always says, ‘Tomfoolery!’ in that bizarre accent of his,” said Charlie.

“Look who’s talking about bizarre accents,” said Kip.

“This happens to be the accent of Her Royal Highness, the Queen,” said Charlie.

“You are going to be late to the 3G office,” said Captain Grek.

“What’s with all the Gs?” asked Kip.

“It stands for Great Globs Of Goodness,” said Captain Grek.

“That’s why we’re the ones for this mission,” said Hitch. “We’re great and good.”

“And Kip’s kind of a glob,” said Charlie.

“I’m an eyeball, pooch,” said Kip.

“Whoa!” said Charlie. “Dog is fine. Canine is even better. Pooch is not a word that can be used by one who is not of the canine persuasion.”

“I thought mutt was the bad one,” said George.

“That one’s even worse,” said Charlie. “Those are not words that are spoken except by dogs on the street.”

“What do you know about being a dog on the street?” asked George.

“Yeah, Abby adopted you from a nice suburban house,” Kip added.

“Adopted?” asked Captain Grek. “I thought you were from Niibell.”

“She is,” said Abby. “She is. They’re just busting her tail. We all give each other a good ribbing… as bonding.”

“I could go for some good ribs right now,” said Charlie.

“There’s no time for ribbing or ribs,” said Captain Grek.

“What about just the bone?” asked Charlie.

“This cereal campaign is crucial,” said Captain Grek.

“It seems like we’re selling out,” said Abby. “Are you sure we want to use our images to influence kids to eat spoonfuls of colored sugar?”

“We are promoting positive alien/human relations,” said Captain Grek. “When a kid sees your faces on his or her box of morning breakfast cereal, they’ll think you’re cool and be more accepting of us as they grow. That feeling of acceptance will, in theory, spread to their parents.”

“So, we’re just going to be selling cereal?” asked Hitch. “I think we’re overqualified for this mission.”

“You’re just about perfectly qualified,” said Captain Grek. “Besides, America has never had a female cereal mascot. If this goes well, you could each get your own cereals, and Abby and Charlie could be pioneers.”

“It could turn into serialized cereal promotion,” said Charlie, always quick with her puns.

“Cereal pioneers?” asked Abby.

“Just don’t mess this up,” said Captain Grek.

An hour, twelve minutes, and thirty-four seconds later, Hitch and his squad were standing in front of a giant bowl of cereal. In reality, it was merely cardboard and foam, but it looked like a bowl of cereal… kind of.

“This looks delicious,” said Charlie.

“It’s cardboard,” said Leslie, the advertising executive in charge of their photo shoot.

“Yeah, I like to chew on cardboard,” said Charlie.

“What kind of alien are you?” asked Leslie, the advertising executive in charge of their photo shoot.

“I am a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” said Charlie, proudly.

“Isn’t that a breed of dog?” asked Leslie, the… You know who she is. Dang it!

“She’s Niibellian,” said Abby. “She’s from Niibell. She’s just goofing around.”

“O.K.,” said Leslie. “Let’s all stop goofing around and stand in front of the bowl.”

They formed an oblong glob in front of the bowl. George and Hitch were facing the bowl. Abby was looking at the cameraman with a startled look on her face. Charlie sat off to the side and was scratching her ear with her back paw. Kip stood front and center and stared straight ahead.

Leslie calmly walked over to the discombobulated mass of aliens. She gently took George by the shoulders and pulled him around to the left side. She did the same to Hitch but brought him to the right side. She positioned Abby and Charlie in the front. She took Kip around the left side and tucked Kip behind George.

“Am I going to be in the picture back here?” Kip asked.

“Brian’s the best,” said Leslie. “You can’t hide from his camera.” When she got back to her position behind Brian, the cameraman, she whispered, “Try to get as little of that weird eyeball thing as possible.”

“You won’t even know it’s there,” Brian said.

“Everyone say, ‘cheese,’” said Leslie.

“Whoa!” said Hitch.

“What?” asked Leslie.

“Cheese is highly revered on Zechisten,” said Abby. “’Cheese’ is not something one says lightly.”

“I’ll have some cheese,” said Charlie.

“What can we say that will make it look like you’re smiling?” asked Leslie.

“Fart,” said Charlie. “I always look like I’m smiling when I fart.”

“You are always smiling when you fart,” said Abby.

“Farts are funny,” said Charlie, “and it feels so nice to release that pressure.”

“All right, everyone say, ‘fart,’” Leslie said, disgustedly.

Everyone said, “Fart,” with a bit of a giggle.

Brian started snapping pictures. Leslie checked them on a screen behind Brian. In every picture, Charlie was looking away. In typical dog fashion, she would look at the camera until Brian snapped the photo. She would look away at the last second every time.

Charlie, you’re looking away in every picture,” said Leslie.

“No, I’m not,” Charlie argued.

“Yes, you are,” said Leslie. “Please, look at the camera the whole time.”

“I am,” said Charlie.

“I have the pictures in front of me,” said Leslie. “You look away every time.”

“We’ll have to agree to disagree,” said Charlie.

“No, we won’t,” said Leslie. “I have photographic evidence.”

“Those pictures have been doctored,” said Charlie.

“They were taken less than two minutes ago,” said Leslie.

Kip peeked out from behind George and the bowl. “How do I look in the pictures? I can’t see the camera from back there, which makes me a little concerned the camera can’t see me.”

“You look fine,” said Leslie. “Get back in position.”

“May I see the proofs?” Kip asked, moving toward Leslie.

“No!” said Leslie. “Uh… Just get back in position, please.”

Kip dejectedly turned back toward the bowl. In turning, Kip inadvertently knocked over a light stand. The light hit the floor with a loud clang sound.

Charlie jumped and started barking. She ran toward the fallen light stand, then ran away from it. She ran toward it, then away from it. Leslie stomped her feet and started yelling words that couldn’t possibly appear in an ad for cereal. Charlie turned and started running around the bowl, still barking.

Charlie, treat,” said Abby.

Charlie stopped. “Treat? Yes, please.”

In her hurry to get to Abby and the promise of a treat, Charlie ran into another light stand, knocking it over. The light fell on the cardboard bowl of cereal. The bulb broke, and the cardboard caught on fire.

Less than 10 minutes later, they were back in Grekquarters.

“It was a photo shoot,” said Captain Grek. “All you had to do was stand still for five minutes.”

“Does this mean we don’t get our cereal serial?” Charlie asked.

“This is not a time for puns,” said Captain Grek, flagitatedly.

“It’s always time for puns,” said Charlie.

L Squad Vignettes: Episode 0: Introduction

I’ve been slacking on my blogging. I ran out of completed bios and pre-prepared material. Instead of writing new material I’ve been writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting The L Squad: Phase 2. Yes, I’ve rewritten it thrice. It’s at least three times better than the first draft, mathematically speaking.

I recently pulled the random idea out of my beard to write vignettes. The R.A.D. did a lot between landing on Earth and the events described in The L Squad. I’ve decided to share some of those early disastrous missions with you. Don’t tell them. They wouldn’t want these stories out there. We all have growing pains and embarrassing moments any time we try something new. Check back often, or just follow the blog, for new installments of L Squad Vignettes. I’m going to try to share a new one every week. I will fail.

Update:

I think I’ll extend vignettes to the world of Norman Normalson & The Normals and perhaps beyond. I’ve already been working on a Christmas special for Norman Normalson.

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