e're being invaded!" the general onscreen told Cap. It was obvious the general was frantic. "A new, space-living race of Octopods is coming at the universe from all sides! We need help, Cap! You and the FutureTeam are our only hope!"
Biting a fresh donut, Cap said casually, "What areas are being attacked?"
"They are getting close to Alderbaron."
"That's where the Nirc live. Those giants won't have any trouble defeating them." He took a sip of coffee. "Where else?"
"The Lysenium Cluster has spotted them coming, Cap! We've got to--"
"Those trouble-makers deserve it," Cap said, taking another bite of his donut. "Where else?"
"We -- we can't just let them sweep right in!" the general objected. "Why, in just two days they will reach Sirenia!"
Cap lifted the coffee cup to his lips, then suddenly slapped it down, eyes widening with alarm. "Sirenia?" he exclaimed. "Isn't that the civilization that makes that special flour for our donuts?"
"Well. . .well, yes it is, Cap! But there are so many --" It was obvious the general was frantic.
"Brainbox!" Cap barked. "Lay out the quickest course to Sirenia! Because of radiation, gravity, soil and who knows what else, they produce a flour no one else can duplicate -- for making donuts! Irreplaceable. We must save them." He looked at the white android. "Dota, tune the engines for the most speed we can get out of 'em. Grog, lubricate all your joints! You're going to get a chance to smash!"
The general watched in surprise, then said, "But there are more, Cap!"
"Important things first!" Cap snapped. "Back to you later." He turned off the commscreen. "Where's Lurena?" he asked.
"She went to Sirap to shop," Dota told him.
Cap slapped his forehead. "Sirap, the mall planet? She'll spend a fortune!" he said. "Get in touch with her, Dota. Tell her to get back here immediately!"
Minutes later, Dota looked up from the commscreen. "She doesn't answer, Cap. I checked with her hotel, and they haven't seen her for two days. Last night's order of donuts is still at her door."
"Omigod!" Cap said, in exasperation. "Leave it to a woman to mess everything up!" After pausing in thought, Cap said, "We should take care of the Octopods first. Then we can pick up Lurena."
"She may be in danger," Brainbox said.
"So is the best flour in the universe! It's the only one of its kind."
Brainbox replied, "So is Lurena. There is only one Lurena in our universe."
"Thank God for that!" Cap Future said. Then he sighed. "Oh well; we'd better go get her. After all, she is your great-grandaughter."
In life, Brainbox had been Professor Jamieson, Cap's much-admired and respected instructor at Space University.
"Without Lurena, it is doubtful you could have finished my super-computer box before my physical body finished wasting away."
The commscreen flicked, getting Dota's attention. In a moment, he turned to Cap. "Bad news, Cap," he said. "That was the police. They say Lurena has been kidnapped! Her captors want us to lay off fighting the Octopods."
"What? What sort of idiot would do that?"
"It's some sort of peace group, they told me. The group says they are against violence, that we should just let the Octopods take over. That way, no one will be hurt."
Cap banged his fist on a panel. "Peaceniks!" he exploded. "If everybody had that attitude --" Then he cut himself off. "Call the police back. Have them tell those peaceniks we need to know Lurena is all right. They need to let her call us."
"Yes, sir," Dota said, returning to the commscreen.
"Clever, Cap," Brainbox said. "When they let her call, I can trace it down and find out where she is."
Cap nodded. "Exactly! Then we'll rescue her and head for Sirenia. If I recall correctly, Sirap's on the way to Sirenia anyway."
"Sirap is only a light-month detour," Brainbox agreed.
Dota said, "As I am an android, I have no emotions. But I can detect concern in your actions, Cap. I could feel for you, if I only had a heart."
"Stout fellow," Cap said, absently, as he patted Dota's shoulder. He didn't see that, emotionless or not, a slight look of disappointment was on Dota's face.
When Lurena called, her voice was frantic. "They won't even feed me donuts!" she said. "Do whatever it takes to get me outta here!"
Afterward, Brainbox announced, "Tracing the call was a cinch. They only bounced it off fifteen satellites. The course is set in."
"Engines are fine-tuned," said Dota, in his 'stout fellow' way.
"Let's go!" Cap ordered.
The FutureShip soared into space. Then lights flickered inside Brainbox. "The source is moving!" he reported. "Lurena is on some kind of ship."
"No problem," Cap said. "Keep adjusting our course so we'll follow. The FutureShip will catch up with them!"
In one hour of realtime, the FutureShip was within range of the fleeing vessel. "Call 'em, Dota!" Cap Future ordered. "Tell them to release Lurena!"
In response, the other ship said, "Back off or we'll blow you out of space with our cannons!"
"Some 'peace' group you are!" Cap replied. "You don't want us after the Octopods, and you'll kill us to keep it from happening."
"Peace must be maintained at any cost!" the other ship replied. "Try to shoot us and we'll kill our hostage!"
Cap looked at Grog. "Here's your chance to smash!" he told the big robot. "Instead of blasting 'em, as they expect, we'll shoot you at their ship. Break inside and save Lurena. Their detection equipment will be tuned for torpedos, not a robot."
"It's clobberin' time!" Grog exclaimed.
"Aim Grog at their control room," Cap told Brainbox as Grog entered the torpedo tube.
In minutes, the indestructible Grog smashed through the material around the other ship's control room. The vacuum of space sucked out everything not tied down, including people. As Cap had assumed, Lurena wasn't in the control room.
"Got her, Cap!" Grog responded shortly.
The FutureShip matched airlocks with the other ship and Grog brought Lurena aboard. She was her usual gorgeous and shapely self. After smiling coyly at Cap, she headed straight for the donut supply.
"Now, Brainbox -- to the Octopods!" Cap ordered.
+ + +
here must be millions of them!" Lurena exclaimed, as she looked out the FutureShip's viewport at the oncoming Octopods. "What are we going to do?"
"Grog smash!" said the robot.
"Grog, if you smashed one Octopod a second, it would take three point eight-nine years to wipe them all out!" Brainbox proclaimed.
"Then he'd better get going!" Lurena said.
Dota spoke up from his communications center. "Cap, there's a doctor from Sirenia calling for you, a doctor named Smith. He says it is urgent." He tried, unsuccessfully, to indicate urgency in his tone.
Cap grinned eagerly. "Doc Smith!" he said. "He makes donuts in his spare time, and they are among the best." He stepped to the screen. "Doc!" he greeted his caller. "What can we do for you?"
"This is a critical time, Cap. Part of our success in producing such great flour is due to the feelings of our people. That feeling is reaching a peak, and that is the time for harvest. You must defeat this invasion, or the next crop of flour will be ruined!" He paused. "There is one thing I recently ran across," Smith continued.
"They're a horny bunch of bastards, if I got it right. In folklore, I found a tale about 'em sweeping through the universe looking for females! There are many different varieties of Octopods, but they can cross-fertilize -- when they find a female! There aren't that many females, according to legend. You've gotta stop them!"
"i'll be right on it, Doc!" Cap promised and he turned to his team. "We'll shoot into 'em with the FutureShip," Cap said. "Dota, reinforce the shields and set all weapons for continuous fire!"
Blasting like a nova, the FutureShip zoomed into the Octopods, which darted off in all directions, but not until thousands had been slaughtered. Then the FutureShip was jarred as one giant Octopod attacked, wrapping its tentacles around the hull. "Your turn, Grog!" Cap said.
The giant robot went out the airlock and, even with its great strength and invulnerability, it took a full minute for Grog to detach and destroy the Octopod.
When Grog was back inside, Cap said, "Let's back out and regroup. Brainbox, what info do you have on the Octopods?"
"Not as much as I would like," Brainbox replied. "Several explorers have run into them in outer space. On the commscreen, I'll run the videos they developed."
They gathered around the commscreen. "Many different varieties, as the doctor said," Dota commented. "They are missing a female, as I am missing emotions." With a stolidity that was almost plaintive, he finished, "But they, somewhere, can find a mate. I can never find emotions."
"Yes," Brainbox agreed, as the video continued to run.
"What's that?" Cap asked, as a large cluster of the Octopods appeared.
"Something has their attention," Brainbox said. "Let me slow it down and zoom in on it." Using his impressive computer skills, Brainbox zeroed in on the center of the writhing group. "That's a small one," he commented.
"She's flirting with them," Lurena told them.
"How can you tell?" Brainbox asked.
"Well, isn't it obvious?" Lurena asked, puzzled by Brainbox's inability to recognize what was plain to her.
"Takes one to know one," Cap said. "Look, we're nearing Sirenia. We've gotta take action. I have an idea. Gather around."
Cap explained his plan, with occasional comments from Brainbox and Lurena. Then Cap straightened and said, "Let's get to it!"
+ + +
hen they returned to the spaceport, the general who had started it all said, "Congratulations, Cap! You came through, as always. You not only saved Sirenia, you got the space Octopods to leave entirely. How did you do it?"
"Easy," Cap said. "We sent a lightspeed torpedo for them to follow away from the universe."
"But -- how did you know they would follow it?"
"Simple," Cap informed him. "They breed interchangeably, and have few femaies. My crew and I designed a hologram of a flirting female and mounted it on the torpedo.
"Now," said Cap, "where are our donuts?"COMMENT