Fishwick and Kornblend were not happy Amadorians as they reached the Supreme Palace of Amador under the poisonous yellow sky.

The bus that recently delivered Fishwick and Kornblend to the palace broke down. The Amadorian driver was busy hitting the boiler with a wrench and calling it names. Fishwick and Kornblend ignored him as they stood and stared at the palace.
Calling it a palace was a kindness, although it was certainly large enough. A big ugly rock pile, it reared up against the smoky skies. Amadorian emperors and warlords had been adding to the thing for centuries with no thought to what it looked like. The result was a lumpy, great building as ugly as any in the Galaxy. It was surrounded by a low city that had a bad reputation and was thick with smoke and machine noises. It was a strip mall Kingdom on a slum of a planet.  

Fishwick shook his great scaly head.

“I hate this planet,” Fishwick said.

“But this is our planet,” Kornblend hooted, blowing the soot out of his snout stops.

“I still hate it,” said Fishwick. “In the Amadorian Codex Verse XIII, Chapter 27, it specifically states that if you lie down with mud weasels, you’ll get up smelling like, well, mud weasels. And that’s not so good!”

“Can we get this over with?” Kornblend asked.

A very old Amadorian Palace Guard, leaning on a 6 foot long battle ax weapon, eyed them with suspicion. His scales were painted in a pattern of bile green and yellow. He looked like he’d been standing guard of the palace for a hundred years.

“What do you two bozos want?” the Palace Guard said with his jaw creaking.

“We have an appointment,” said Kornblend.

“What?” asked the Palace Guard. He was hard of hearing.

“We have an appointment,” repeated Kornblend.

“What? Speak up. Don’t whisper,” said the Palace Guard. He was apparently deaf.

“We have an appointment you old fish bag!” Kornblend bellowed. “Let us in!”

Instead, the Palace Guard leveled his weapon. Fishwick and Kornblend looked at each other and then at the old Palace Guard. The charge light on his weapon was dark and the battery was missing. Fishwick gently pushed the tip aside and then screamed into the old Palace Guard’s ear.

“Fishwick and Kornblend to see His Awfulness,” said Fishwick.

“Why didn’t you say so?” said the old Palace Guard.

He tossed the useless weapon down and waddled to the intercom. He had to hit it several times before a red light came on.

“Fishwick and Kornblend are here,” he shouted.

With a loud click, the massive doors swung open. Thrusting the old Palace Guard aside, Kornblend strode through the Palace. Fishwick followed, letting out a large sigh.

The palace interior was no better than its exterior. Fishwick and Kornblend had been here many times and were familiar with the protocol. They strode down the corridor while dragging their fat tails. At the end of the corridor, the two rustic dragons came to a door. In the manner of old partners and all soldiers, they scowled and tidied up each other’s uniforms. 

“Well, you look like crap,” said Kornblend.

“Speak for yourself, Kornface,” replied Fishwick.

“Why do you think he wants to see us?” asked Kornblend.

“Probably to give me a medal,” Fishwick growled.

“You? For what?” asked Kornblend.

“For putting up with you, you dumb iguana,” said Fishwick.

Amadorians all look a bit like dragons, but Fishwick was the taller and looked like the sneakier of the two. Kornblend’s squat brutishness marked him as the tough guy. They were dressed in shabby Amadorian fighter pilot gear with uniform badges.

Above them a robotic eye swiveled around to look at them. Tre-Pok’s voice suddenly blasted out from all sides around them and he was not amused.

“Fishwick! Kornblend! Get in here!” said Tre-Pok.

Fishwick and Kornblend stumbled into Tre-Pok’s Strategy Room and tripped over their tails, sending them into a heap on the floor. They untangled themselves and staggered to their feet.

“Get up!” screamed Tre-Pok.

“Yes, Your Awfulness,” saluted the two pilots, thumping their chests Roman-style.

Tre-Pok glared at them. He was decked out in leather, medals, and attitude! Some medals were directly attached to his scales. Some scales were covered with shiny metal plates. He examined the two pilots as if he had found them on his boot.

“I’ve got a job for you two mouth-breathers,” Tre-Pok ordered. “And I want it done right!” 

“Yesssir!” responded Kornblend and Fishwick together.

“Silence! You are using up my air!” Tre-Pok said. He stalked to his Command Console.

Fishwick and Kornblend trailed behind him as he stabbed a button on the console. A huge screen dropped from the ceiling and narrowly missed Fishwick, who yelped involuntarily.
Kornblend clamped his hands around Fishwick’s jaws in the hope that Tre-Pok hadn’t heard, but the High General and Chief Warlord of Amador was busy banging his scaly fist on a projector dome. Suddenly, the screen lit up with a picture of Earth. Tre-Pok gave a satisfied grunt.

“I want you to go to Earth,” Tre-Pok said. “I trust you remember where it is?”

He twirled around to face the two pilots who nodded vigorously. The image of Earth faded into an image of a Russian Siberian Husky named Laika that the Russians sent into space years ago. 

“Bring back this creature alive and well,” bellowed Tre-Pok.

“Alive and well…” repeated Kornblend.

Fishwick elbowed Kornblend.

“Owww,” Kornblend cried out. “How do we find him, Your Fearfulness?”

“Use the genetic sensors we provided you with, Bonehead,” replied Tre-Pok. “Do a good job!”

Tre-Pok’s angry response frightened them. He sat down in a large, creaking chair and looked at the two quaking pilots.

“If you do, there could be medals and another stripe for each of you,” promised Tre-Pok. “If you don’t, then we might have the same sort of problems here as we did with those blood-sucking plants from Veratex.”

The two scout pilots turned white. They remembered what they had heard about that dreadful bloodbath. They saluted so hard they almost broke the bones in their chests.

“Now, get out of here!” Tre-Pok screamed.

The two pilots were out through the door with a slam before Tre-Pok’s words finished ringing in the filthy air.

Tre-Pok frowned at them as they left but didn’t notice the curtains move behind him as the High Rotocaster slipped in the Strategy Room. The Supreme Spiritual Advisor to the Emperor of Amador, the High Rotocaster had been around so long that no one remembered his name – only that he had somehow survived the Veratex disaster. He was now a spooky dragon, so skinny that he looked like a skeleton. His scales were almost translucent, so that you could almost see through them, but not quite completely. His eyes were red and his voice unworldly—an equivalent of Shakespeare’s ghost in Hamlet. When the High Rotocaster cleared his throat, it sounded as if someone was eating lightbulbs.

“Sir, Ahhhhh,” said Tre-Pok with a startled jump and bow.

“This had better work,” said the High Rotocaster. He stared into the distance and was immersed deeply in his own thoughts. He would do so frequently because this caused Tre-Pok’s distress and drove him crazy.

Tre-Pok nodded, but the High Rotocaster’s attention was focused on the picture of Laika on the Command Console.

“I must find their weaknesses,” commanded High Rotocaster. “We can not afford another mistake.”

“I shall not fail the Emperor,” Tre-Pok promised. Secretly, he had his doubts