Furlitian Tales & Other Stories

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   Young Murkuria discovers that the homeworld-bound Sunpyne harbors yet another stowaway. This time, it is the Human's lost pet Maine Coon cat, which is pregnant and dying from malnutrition. Murkuria succeeds in genetically altering the Earth cat's unborn zygotes so they can thrive on Aroriel's magnesium-rich foods.

  Seven enormous kittens -- born to surrogate mother Iggie the Matissia -- bond to and communicate telepathically with Furlites of their own choosing. These exotic smart treasures which Murkuria dubs Felakoons, endear themselves to the proud Clan, proving to be far more than mere pets.

   However, as the Sunpyne and Sauri return from their first mission to the stars, anticipating awe, triumph, and glory, unexpected opposition to the new "alien" life throws the planet into strife and conflict such has not been seen in centuries. Will the Felakoons earn a place in Furlitian society, or be sterilized, and die out as a species before have barely begun to live? Some sexual content.

THE FURLITES OF ARORIEL  Book II  EARTH-BRED, MATISSIA BORN

CHAPTER TWO

Murkuria sat on the white decking of the shuttlecraft, with the Feleeshakoon lying beside her. She ignored the quiet exchanges between the team members, but took comfort in Telluris’ and Tesuris’ deep bass tones, Elara’s low alto, Vulcus’ soft baritone, and her mate’s sharp tenor. She concentrated on the printer paper laying on the cover of her electronic notebook which rested on her knee, and, leaning her body against her seat, wrote slowly. The alien alphabet formed gradually under her steady hand. Her penmanship faltered only when the shuttle lifted from the Shuttledock Deck. The seatbelt swung free, knocking against the pad.

“Stupid thing,” she mumbled. Iggie chirped in response. She tossed the belt onto the chair. Murkuria frowned at the bright white sheaf, and her utterly atrocious spelling. The odd rules of the Human’s written language befuddled her. She wrote slowly, sounding each alien word out, reciting the alien alphabet in her mind.

“Fel-fel-e-ee--sh-a, feleesha, uh, k-k-koon,” she stuttered the word out before writing it down. She scowled, trying to recall all the lessons the Human child Karl bestowed upon her mere days ago. Her scratchy writing bore little resemblance to Karl’s neat penmanship. She exhaled in frustration, finishing her signature, then read her handiwork.

We fownd yoor Feleeshakoon on owr ship. Iggee hid hur, mayd frends with hur. Shee iz beeutiful, but shee kant liv on owr foods. Shee lost hur kits. I will tri to sayv them. Thay ar in staysis. I am soo sory wee not find hur sooner. Shee needs kalsium, and has too much magneesium. I rite this in houp that yoo get hur bak and can help hur.    Even tho I wil never no if shee wil bee sayf, I put hur on mowntan top to bee fownd. Fayr wel Frends.

      Murkureea

 

Murkuria yanked out a tuft of her red-gold hair, and carefully folded it into the note. With medical tape, she secured the little wad to the underside of the Feleeshakoon’s harness. The animal looked up at her, and purred.

“You will be home soon, Pretty One,” Murkuria murmured. “I wish you could have kept your kits. I am sure your family would have loved them.”

The Feleeshakoon twittered, and her purr rumbled louder. Murkuria stroked the thick fur, noticing the greasy feel of the cat animal’s coat. Despite feasting on the remaining Dokit-like specimen, and the specimens from the ocean excursion, the Feleeshakoon’s ribs and spine still protruded from under her long hair. Compared with Iggie’s sleek, green summer coat, the poor Feleeshakoon appeared unhealthy indeed. The Feleeshakoon purred as Iggie licked behind her ear. Murkuria watched worriedly. Very attached to her friend, Iggie would not like the upcoming separation. Murkuria sighed. What of those zygotes? It saddened her that this animal must go home without her babies. She looked into the Feleeshakoon’s eyes, and gold met gold. The Feleeshakoon reowed softly, and Murkuria received an unmistakable wave of longing.

“I promise, Pretty One, I will not let your babies die. If I can, I will save them, and cherish them.”

“And what will you do with them?” The question startled Murkuria, and she nearly screamed. Controlling herself, she merely jerked her head around.

“Krufk, Elara!” Murkuria scowled, wanting to give her sister’s short white fur a tug.

“Sorry. Did not mean to scare you, but have you given any more thought to what you will do with those zygotes?”

“No, but I do know I cannot let them die. I must try to get them to develop, and give them the ability to live on our food.”

“A pretty daunting task.” Elara shook her head, her frown crinkling the dark copper spot over her left eye. “But I know you. You will try until the next octennium.”[1]

“I would,” Murkuria nodded. “One step at a time. First, I must get their mother safely back.”

“Good luck, Little Sister.” Elara smiled wanly, and turned back to Tesuris. Murkuria glanced down at the Feleeshakoon, who gazed back, trust softening those large gold eyes.

“I will do this, for you,” Murkuria whispered firmly. “Elara does not think I can, but your babies shall live.”

The Feleeshakoon reowed again, filling the shuttle with her rumbling purr. The animal’s contentment washed into Murkuria. She stroked the animal’s back, and raised her head to look out the viewport. The blue-and-white world called Earth grew larger.

“Murkuria.” Commander Telluris’ stern voice called. “I suggest you buckle in. The ride may be rough. These crafts do not possess strong artificial grav.”

“Yes, Sir.” Murkuria stood up, glancing at the Ship Second. She felt light on her feet, and knew one wrong move might send her flying across the shuttle. Telluris’ piercing cobalt gaze met hers, and a ripple passed along the long rich gold hair of his spine. Her gaze shifted to Tesuris, who sat at the Helm. Father and son, she mused, looked more alike each passing cinth. She quickly climbed into the seat beside the idle imager, poking her tail through the gap in the back. She buckled in, strapping the Feleeshakoon beside her. Iggie chittered, and clamped herself to Murkuria’s tail. Murkuria watched the planet fill the viewport. The plan seemed simple enough, but she worried. Did alien warcraft still patrol that area? The Sunpyne’s sensors detected no jets prior to the shuttle’s launch into space.

Tesuris assured everyone he conceived an excellent flight plan for this mission before they boarded the small craft. She hoped so, as failure doomed the Feleeshakoon to suffer a slow death aboard the Sunpyne. The planet’s dark side loomed huge, filling the entire screen, the northern polar ice cap dominating the view. Murkuria felt heavier in her seat, and her heart raced with apprehension.

“Tesuris knows what he is doing,” she murmured under her breath. Just as it appeared the shuttle might plow into the ice, a stomach-lurching veer brought the horizon level with the viewport. Murkuria fought the sudden nausea, diverting her eyes momentarily. The sensation passed, and she returned her gaze to the viewport. The shuttle skimmed over the terrain, and snow cover quickly gave way to conifers. No human cities slid beneath them. In minutes, the shuttle whizzed low over open ocean, then, shortly, flew over desolate, rocky coastline, heading for the mountains ahead. The familiar rugged terrain vanished under the swift craft. Murkuria watched the foliage. Muted by deep twilight, the planet’s green flora appeared black.

 Abruptly, the mountain with its cap of buildings came into view. A few windows emitted light, but the majority lay in darkness. Murkuria’s stomach tightened. Obviously, someone occupied the buildings at all times, but, with luck, nobody would notice the shuttle until she completed her task. Tesuris set down the craft gently. Murkuria stared at the alpine meadow, noticing how open the area appeared. She picked up the Feleeshakoon, and turned.

“Stay, Iggie! Stay!” The Matissia squawked a protest, but did not disobey. Murkuria moved to the hatch, and, as it slid back, she estimated the distance between her and that darkened doorway. She glanced toward the lightening horizon.

“Murkuria! Move!” Elara shoved her. “The alien sun is going to rise in minutes.”

Elara’s words broke Murkuria’s paralysis. She leaped down the short ramp, and broke into a run. The Feleeshakoon tensed in her grasp.

“Please, Pretty One! Wait!” Murkuria panted. “You will not be hurt.”

The Feleeshakoon reowed softly. Murkuria reached the steps leading to the larger building in seconds, then slowed briefly, scanning the area for aircraft or Humans. Only the wind whistled across the alpine terrain, whipping her fur. She lowered her head, and ran up to the dark doorway. She lay the Feleeshakoon beside the closed glass door. The animal stood, but Murkuria held firm. With all her anxieties fueling her command, she forced the Feleeshakoon down gently.

“Stay here, Pretty One. Please! You will be discovered, then sent to your family! If you run, you will never be found! Stay!”

The Feleeshakoon reowed a soft wail of angst, but did not bolt when Murkuria released her. Murkuria stifled her desire to scoop up the animal and whisk her back to the shuttle. Suddenly, a light illuminated the doorway. Murkuria inhaled in shock. A Human figure, silhouetted against the light, opened the door, and looked down momentarily. Murkuria involuntarily followed the male Human’s gaze. The Feleeshakoon jumped to her feet, and darted into the building. Murkuria knew the animal found safety, but fear for herself flashed through her body. Her heart pounded, and her fur bristled in every direction.

“Holy shit!” the Human shouted, his eyes meeting Murkuria’s.

“Please!” she cried. “Don’t hurt me. I’m not staying here!”

“You speak!” The Human clutched the door. “The rumors are true.”

“We mean no harm! Please, make sure the Feleeshakoon gets back to her family.” Murkuria blurted out, then whirled away from the surprised alien. She bounded down the stairs.

“Wait! What the hell is a Feleeshakoon?”

“The little cat animal that ran into your building,” Murkuria shouted over her shoulder. Tears burned Murkuria’s eyes, as she thought of leaving the Feleeshakoon behind. She vaulted from the cement, landing on the soft ground of the meadow. Ignoring the shouts of the Human, she raced to the shuttle, then sprang up the ramp, hurrying to Rosus’ arms. He embraced her hard.

“Murkuria?”

“I am fine,” she muttered, as the hatch slid shut.

“My heart near stopped when I saw that Human open the door,” Rosus murmured.

“He scared me, too.” Murkuria lifted her head from Rosus’ chest.

“They have seen us. Get us out of here,” Telluris commanded, shock trembling his deep voice. “Buckle up!”

“Yes, Sir!” Tesuris responded, manipulating the helm with swift hands. The shuttle rose, swerving away from the building. Elara manipulated the screen and fine visuals of the doorway and excited Human filled the monitor. The Human pointed, gesturing wildly. Another appeared in the doorway, holding the Feleeshakoon.

“I will keep my promise,” Murkuria whispered, settling in her seat securing the safety straps. “Your kits will live.”

Tesuris accelerated the little ship, and they shot out of the mountains, heading for the ocean, retracing their initial flight path. Elara turned in her seat, watching in concern as Murkuria buckled herself in. She knew that her sister began to bond with the cat animal the moment they discovered the creature in the cabin. Iggie loved the Feleeshakoon already, and, to Elara’s dismay, keened in distress. Nothing jarred the nerves worse than the woeful keen of a heartbroken Matissia! She heard that sound only once before, when Iggie lost her very first litter. Murkuria slouched over the Matissia, and shook quietly. Elara did not need to hear the sobs to know Murkuria wept. Elara turned back to her post.

“Chafk,” she swore softly.

“What is it?” Tesuris asked.

“Murkuria and Iggie are so upset,” Elara sighed. “I wish that silly creature had never wandered aboard. How did she do so anyway? And hide out all that time?”

“The Engineering crew was so busy outside that they may never have noticed a small animal running up the ramp, especially if she snuck in the day it rained. And if something spooked her, perhaps she darted in so quickly nobody spotted her. It did happen. Murkuria knows she did the right thing. She still has those zygotes.”

“Yes,” Elara snorted. “And that is another problem. She is going to be obsessed with those things. I hate to see her upset again.”

“It is something she is going to have to work through.” Tesuris swished his tail.

“I know, but . . . ” Elara inhaled sharply, noticing a sudden blip on her sensor screen. “Chafk!”

“What is it?” Tesuris asked.

“Alien jets!”

“Blast!” Tesuris accelerated the craft, skimming the water so close that spray spattered the viewport. “How close?”

“Looks like one -- no, three -- of those warjets. They are about ten octyles[2] behind us.”

“Let us give them the run of their lives!” Tesuris growled.

“Midshipite!” Telluris’ bass command interrupted Elara’s reply. “What are you two mumbling about, and why the extra speed?”

“Sorry, Commander!” Tesuris glanced at his father. “Three warjets have appeared on sensors.”

“Can we outrun them?”

“I can sure give it a good try,” Tesuris answered.

“Give it all you have, Son.”

“My thoughts exactly, Sir!” Tesuris glanced back. “Hang on!”

The shuttlecraft rose, gaining altitude swiftly.

“Faster, Tesuris. They are gaining,” Elara urged.

“Chafk!” Tesuris swore, lashing his tail. He put the craft into swift, jarring evasive maneuvers, but the warjets followed, closing the distance all too swiftly. “Blast them! What fast jets they have!”

He flew faster and more recklessly than ever before, ignoring the gasps and groans behind him. The little ship dove, climbed, veered, and weaved, but those warjets stuck to its tail as if tethered by a line.

“Tesuris! Shake them now!” Elara shouted. “One of them is powering up weapons!”

“Blast them all to a sucking black hole!” Tesuris swore vehemently. With talons flying over Helm control, he altered course abruptly. Ocean whitecaps filled the viewport. Tesuris glanced back. “Hang on tight. This will be a rough ride!”

Tesuris accelerated the dive. Tossing waves filled the viewport.

“Tesuris!” Telluris bellowed. ‘What are you doing?!”

“Trust me, Father -- just trust me!”

Before Telluris could retort, the shuttlecraft punched the surface of the ocean, just as something small whizzed past the port side. Tesuris switched the little ship to underwater propulsion. Machinery clicked and whirred as the craft dove. Tesuris leveled out the shuttlecraft’s wild dive, then resumed cruising underwater, heading for the polar region. Sensor readings showed the alien jets circling in a wide arc above the shuttlecraft’s entry point into the ocean.

“Great flying, Son,” Telluris broke the stunned silence.

“Chafk!” Rosus finally swore. “Trust you, indeed! I think my stomach is in my tail!”

“I could not even watch,” Murkuria spoke up. “What a way to stop my blubbering.”

“I am sorry for the wild ride,” Tesuris chuckled. “But I think that thing winging past our port side was definitely a weapon. If it had hit us . . . ?”

“We would be debris,” Telluris finished. “Good flying, Helmsman.”

“Thank you.” Tesuris resumed piloting, and guided the shuttle skillfully along the continental shelf, toward the coast. Half an octyle from shore, Tesuris switched flight modes, and the shuttle burst free of the ocean, skimming over the conifer tops, then soared over the barren tundra. Beyond, the ice cap beckoned. Once there, Tesuris turned the nose sharply up. He changed flight modes yet a third time, and, with a brief flick of a talon, pushed the accelerator lever. The ship rocketed out of the alien atmosphere. Ahead, both Starships hung against the star-spattered backdrop of deep space, gleaming in gold and silver glory under the alien sun.

“They are beautiful!” Elara exclaimed.

“You said it, Bonddaughter, you said it!” Telluris responded, pride resonating in his deep tones. “Come, Son! Let us bring this little ship home. Great job, everyone. Mission accomplished!”

Tesuris brought the shuttlecraft aboard, landing it gently on the Shuttledeck. The group sat a moment, waiting for the dock to pressurize. Elara stood, and walked over to Murkuria. She placed a hand on her sister’s red-gold shoulder.

“If you find you need help with the zygotes, do not be afraid to ask. I am sure all the Scientists, including myself, will be glad to help.”

“Thank you,” Murkuria nodded.

“Do not forget the Sauri crew. Remember, once we clear the system, and finish decontamination procedures, we will rendezvous. Cousin Oseus will be intrigued, no doubt.”

“I will consider that.” Murkuria looked up, and, to Elara’s relief, those beautiful amber eyes, so rare in her people, held no more tears. A smile creased the white mask on Murkuria’s face. When the hatch opened, Elara headed for the door. Murkuria trotted behind her, at Rosus’ side. Elara glanced backward.

 “Good sleep!” Elara said, just before turning into her cabin.”

“To you, too,” Murkuria said.

She watched Tesuris shuffle in behind Elara, and stifled the urge to laugh. She doubted she would hear any erotic acrobatics this sleep period. Tesuris looked totally wiped out. She followed Rosus into their cabin. He sprawled out on the bunk, and, before Murkuria carried Iggie to her little den, Rosus snored. She smirked, amused, and wondered how under the triple moons he fell asleep so quickly. Iggie shuffled to her cushions, sniffed them eagerly, and, with a sad whimper, curled up. She gazed at Murkuria with woebegone green eyes. Murkuria stroked her lovingly.

“I am sorry, Iggie. She could not stay with us. You must understand that. She is safe now.”

Iggie wailed softly. Murkuria sighed, and, unable to console the Matissia, left Iggie to her misery. She lay on the bunk, but sleep eluded her. A soft cheep echoed from the floor. Iggie clambered up onto the bunk, her soft trill quivering with grief. Murkuria let the distraught Matissia snuggle against her chest. As she lay staring at the ceiling, Rosus’ snoring kept her mind awake. Despite her body’s fatigue, she thought of the zygotes. Iggie lay beside her, her eyes wide. Every few moments, she cheeped, sending a clear mental image of the Feleeshakoon to Murkuria’s mind. Finally, Murkuria sat up.

“Iggie, since neither of us can sleep, perhaps we can visit the Feleeshakoon’s babies.”

Iggie chirped excitedly, and unfurled her wings. Murkuria stepped from the cot, and Iggie fluttered, landing on her back. Rosus continued to snore. Murkuria left the cabin, and hurried down the corridor. She trotted into the quiet Laboratory, detouring to Sickbay, where she paused to check on her brother. Thorius slept, his long gold fur rumpled and frazzled. He snored, sounding much like Rosus. His injured leg still hung in restraints. She smiled at him, then sauntered into the Laboratory, and sat in front of the Lab console, carefully attaching the hookups to the stasis cubicles. She booted up the system, bringing visuals of her precious specks of alien life onto the monitor. She gazed at them, thinking of the Feleeshakoon. These tiny zygotes suddenly meant more to her than anything except Iggie and Rosus. Magnifying the images, she studied their chromosomes, and sighed.

 “This will not be a common school experiment,” Murkuria said, glancing at Iggie. “I am at university level in Genetic Studies, but I feel as ignorant as a first-term student!” She keyed in a few commands and the screen split, bringing up her own, Iggie’s, and the zygotes’ DNA.

“Iggie, this will be the hardest project I have ever attempted. Their DNA has some similarity to yours, but the differences are many. Krufk! I cannot fail with this. I just cannot. There has to be a way to make this work.”

Iggie chittered, her eyes on Murkuria. Murkuria took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. She singled out one of the zygotes, and began preliminary testing, following procedures drilled into her from countless instructors, including, recently, her grandmother. The tiny spark of life did not respond to anything she did. It floated serenely, unchanging, alive, but not growing. Exasperated, she placed the zygote back into the stasis cubicle with its siblings. She frowned.

“I guess I need to do some research. The medical files on the Feleeshakoon are gone.” Murkuria scowled at the screen, searching the long listing. “I cannot believe nobody saved those files. I hope I can map some of these genes, or I will not be able to save them.”

She settled in, studying every genetics file she found. Iggie yawned and relaxed, draped over Murkuria’s back. Experience told the weary Matissia that Murkuria might be here for a very long time.

 

“Success, my friend,” Telluris said, settling into his seat beside the Command chair. “Vutz it all, wait until you see those logs. Tesuris did a grand job of flying.”

“I look forward to it,” Geupetus smiled at his Ship Second. “You look tired. Get some sleep.”

“I am tired, but,” Telluris admitted, his long gold fur undulating down his body with suppressed pride, “we had some excitement.”

“Such as?” Geupetus met his friend’s cobalt gaze.

“Being chased by warjets.”

“You shook free of them?” Geupetus raised both brows. “Those are amazing craft. I am just happy they cannot operate in outer space”

“When you see those logs, you will be surprised.”

“All right, Commander,” Geupetus chuckled. “Bring them up on screen. Show me what occurred.”

Telluris quickly did so, popping the mission logs into the slot below the main screen. The holographic imagery popped into existence in front of the main screen.  Geupetus watched, his brows crawling well up his furry forehead. He struggled to keep some of his attention on his necessary piloting. He heard Nethunia’s surprised murmurs, and exclamations around him from others posted on the Command Deck. When the screen darkened, Geupetus still gazed silently ahead, amazed.

“Great flying,” he finally said. “Excellent evasive maneuvering. He did push the envelope. We have in your son a superb Helmsman, my friend.”

“Agreed,” Telluris paused, drumming the console with the talons of his white left hand. “He flies better than Turus did.”

“Yes. He already is our Head Helmsman, and handling it well. I think a promotion is in order. Tesuris has earned it.”

“Indeed.” Telluris stood up. “I think I will join my spouse in a rest period. Good sleep to you, if you decide to ever retire.”

“Once Tesuris is rested, I do plan to do so. It will take us seven octiens to get to that Belt. Good sleep to you, too.” Geupetus watched his Ship Second trot out.

“He does deserve it.” Nethunia’s voice turned his head back around. He nodded, looking up at her serene ultramarine-blue eyes.

“Yes, he does. It will be done. Once we rendezvous, we will have a Promotion Ceremony,” he smirked. “We need a good party!”

“Good. Now, perhaps you should call Suria, and let her know how it all went?”

“Of course.” Geupetus did not touch the controls on the arm of his seat as Nethunia contacted the Sauri. The secondary screen flickered to life, revealing Suria’s jovial visage.

“Greetings, Nephew! Success?”

“Yes,” Geupetus nodded, “though Murkuria is a bit upset over having to leave the animal.”

“She will be fine. After all, she is the one who made the decision.” Suria tilted her head. “I heard she kept the animal’s aborted zygotes.”

“Yes, she did,” Geupetus scowled briefly.

“Are they alive?”

“Yes, they are. She has them in stasis, and I think she plans on trying some genetic alterations.”

“Why?” Suria’s brows shot up.

“She made some promise to the animal, and, well, you know my daughter.”

“Indeed,” Suria frowned. “Do you think it wise to allow her to do this? She is setting herself up for some serious disappointment.”

“Life is full of disappointments. She must learn those, too. Besides, she is a Genetics wizard. This will be a great challenge, sure to keep her, and probably the vast majority of our scientists, busy. Whether she succeeds or fails, I will not interfere.”

“I cannot find fault with that argument, but have you considered what to do if by some slim chance she does succeed?” Suria grimaced.

“I truly doubt she will,” Geupetus chuckled. “She is good, but . . . ”

“Agreed,” Suria laughed. “It is rather farfetched. I do look forward to our rendezvous.” Suria’s grin faded. “I have to ask. You are not contagious, are you? I mean, that virus, is it truly eradicated?”

“Yes, so do not worry. We will conduct another full decontamination prior to rendezvous. We have inoculations ready for your crew as precautionary measures.”

“Shots?” Suria raised both brows.

“Yes,” Geupetus grinned. “And oral suspensions.”

“Ugh,” Suria groaned.

“So you still hate hyponeedles?” Geupetus guffawed.

“Yes!” Suria cringed visibly, her long white fur bristling out from her well-muscled body.

“Nusierus will shuttle over with all the supplies Tellara needs. We are going to have that Gathering, one way or another. And prepare for a Promotion Celebration. Tesuris is earning his Subcommander’s band. He has proven many times now he can more than handle the vacancy left by Turus.”

“Subcommander?!!” Suria yelped. “I thought he was only a Yoeite!”

“He was, until I promoted him after our rough landing.” Geupetus grinned. “Wait until you see the last entry into Shuttle One’s logs. You will see why he has earned it.”

“I do not doubt your judgment,” Suria smiled broadly. “Until later?”

“Later, and good sleep!”

“To you, as well. Sauri out.”

The screen darkened, and Geupetus returned his attention to piloting the Starship. He saw Nethunia move to his side, out of his peripheral vision. He glanced up at her.

“You are not going to disagree, are you?”

“No.” Nethunia shook her head. “Might I suggest another reason to celebrate? The twins turn thirteen in a few days.”

“Ah, that is right!” Geupetus smiled with relief. “I suppose you can get all this planned?”

“Of course,” Nethunia said softly, a weak smile crinkling the white stripe running between her beautiful eyes.

“Something to look forward to.” Geupetus returned his attention to the main screen. Ahead, and to the far left, the small red planet gleamed under the alien star. Slowly, over the next three octiens, the planet slid to starboard. Geupetus accelerated the Sunpyne, and the Sauri kept pace. The screen shimmered into activity.

“Wishing for a race?” Suria asked from behind her Helmsman. Osus grinned.

“No more than you,” Geupetus laughed. “I just want to get out of here.”

“Agreed,” Suria chuckled. “Tesuris has time to rest before we hit that belt. By our clock, we should reach it in four octiens.”

“Yes, I know, and it is he who will navigate our trajectory around it, not I,” Geupetus laughed. “That boy landed this vessel when a fatal crash seemed inevitable. He is a better pilot than I ever was or will be.”

“I have no doubts as to your judgment on that matter,” Suria commented.

“Geupetus?” Isea interrupted the talk. “I would really like to study the outer planets. Ask my sister if she would mind?”

 Geupetus glanced at the long-range sensor screen, then at his scientists who worked eagerly, downloading data. Isea gazed at him, her short, silvering, dark-gold and white fur rippling as she moved. Her markings gleamed silvery white.

“You really wish to do this?” Geupetus eyed his mother.

“Yes, we do!” Isea’s violet-blue eyes sparkled.

“Suria?” Geupetus asked the Sauri Commander. “What do you think of taking the long way out? To study those outer planets?”

“Why do you want to do that?” Suria frowned. “I have had enough of this system. We searched around that Asteroid Belt for a long time looking for you.”

“My scientists want a chance to study the outer planets. Did you do so on the way in?”

“No. We came in near the belt, and never passed them.” Suria sighed. “If we go and study them, we will put off rendezvous by almost a full cinth. We cannot maneuver around planets hooked together. That luxury is only for straight sailing. Let us just leave when we reach the belt. What?” Suria suddenly turned away. Geupetus heard Tharus’ voice reply in muted inaudible tones. Suria returned her gaze to Geupetus, annoyance sparking in her violet eyes.

“All right, you win. It seems my spouse agrees with my sister,” Suria capitulated. “We will take the long way out. My science team wants to study those blasted outer planets, too.”

“I am not thrilled, but, it is a good opportunity to gain knowledge.”

“But this could take almost a full cinth at the distances between those gaseous pains in the tails, especially if we have to stop at each planet.”

“I know.” Geupetus glanced again at the screen, eyeing the clear views of the outer planets. His scientists murmured with excitement. “The Humans have no interplanetary capabilities, so are no longer any threat to us. I see no reason not to slow down our outward journey to do some exploration and research.”

“Thank you, Son.” Isea met his gaze, her eyes sparkling with jubilation.

“You are welcome. You are here to do a job,” Geupetus smiled. “So who am I to disallow it?”

Isea laughed as she turned back to her station.

“Glad they are so happy,” Suria grumbled.

“They are, and we should allow them to do their work, even if you and I just want to go home.”

“You are right,” Suria said with a wan smile. “Until later. Sauri out.”

Sunpyne out,” Geupetus yawned, staring at his sensor monitor. He studied the largest gas planet, with its swirling yellow and brown clouds and its monstrous red spot that spun like a giant cyclone. Three rings circling the huge planet glowed ghostly white against the inky blackness of space. The next planet sported a spectacular set of rings, rivaling his home system’s gas giants in beauty. He shifted the sensors to the other two large gaseous planets in the outer system, noting the blue color and odd rotation of the first, which lay on its side, and the blue-green color of the second. Both possessed impressive rings in their own right, but nothing to rival the second-largest gaseous planet. He looked at the last member of the system, a pair of tiny planets circling each other.

“Mother, perhaps it will be interesting, after all, to study and compare those worlds with those of our own system.”

“I cannot wait to do so,” Isea commented without turning around. Geupetus yawned, returning his attention to the job at hand. Two octiens passed, and Geupetus yawned again. The small red planet lay far behind. Four quats of travel-time ahead, glinting and sparkling like jewels and gemstones, lay the Asteroid Belt.

“Time to wake my Helmsman,” Geupetus glanced at Nethunia.

“I agree,” Nethunia said. She activated the intercom, and summoned Tesuris to the Command Deck. Tesuris appeared shortly, fur rumpled, but eyes alert. Geupetus rose from the bench, and returned to his Command Chair.

“That belt is ahead,” Geupetus stated. “We sail over, and on to the outer planets.”

“We are taking the long way out?” Tesuris sat down.

“Yes,” Geupetus answered.

“Oh,” Tesuris muttered, and worked the controls, and tilted the ship’s nose up. The Belt drew slowly closer. The two ships reached the outer top edge of the dangerous Belt after an octien of sailing. Elara joined Tesuris at the Helm. Geupetus sat back in the Command Chair, pleased with Tesuris’ calm attitude. The two starships pulled upward, sailing over the orbiting space debris. Both Helmsmen accelerated the standard drives to ninety percent capacity. The space rocks, glinting and glowing, slipped under the ship. Dust brushed the outer hull, echoing like sand on a window pane. Tesuris pulled the ship higher. The seven-octien journey over the asteroid field finally ended, and Tesuris dropped the ship back down to its original trajectory. The Belt dwindled. Ahead lay the first of the outer planets.

“Commander, it will take ten octiens at this speed to reach that red-spotted giant.” Tesuris yawned. “I need a break.”

“Good work. Then I call a true rest period, after which we will begin studying the red-spot planet.”

“Study?” Tesuris turned in his seat, both brows raised. “We are not doing just a fly-by?”

“No. A change of plans. The science teams on both ships want to study the outer planets.” Geupetus grinned. “You and I will be very busy piloting this ship for a good cinth.”

“That means an extra day at least at each planet!” Tesuris turned away with a groan.

“Oh, how exciting!” Elara interjected, her aqua eyes alight. “I will be busy as well, and will enjoy every minute of it.” She nudged her spouse. “I will time my rest periods with yours. You will not be bored.”

“Oh, I know that,” Tesuris chuckled. “I just did not think starting for home would be delayed.”

 Geupetus smirked, knowing the young Helmsman itched to engage the stardrive with his own hand. He must now wait a cinth, and pilot around every planet, moon, and ring in this system. Geupetus yawned again. The next cinth looked to be a long one.

 

Murkuria gazed at the screen, studying the intricate three-dimensional images. On the monitor, three double-helixes spun slowly in place. The similarities between the three intrigued her. Though she felt happy over their presence, the differences brought her mind to a screeching confused halt. Over the next few quats, depression ate away at her enthusiasm.

“Iggie,” she murmured, “I cannot figure out what to do. I have performed gene splicing many times, but how can I splice what I do not know? I cannot figure out how to map these Feleeshakoon genes at all!”

Iggie crooned.

“Krufk! I could guess and experiment, but I could kill them or create some nasty thing, like a monster from an old movie. I want them all to survive.”

Iggie chittered.

“I guess I must ask for help. Someone might know what to do.” Murkuria yawned, and shut down the system. She rubbed her eyes, feeling quite melancholy. “Maybe I just need to sleep.”

Reluctantly, Murkuria left the Lab, feeling very disheartened. She slipped into her cabin, crawling onto the bunk, as Iggie fluttered into the locker, uttering a soft mournful cry. Murkuria ignored the sad call, and moved slowly, trying not to disturb her lifemate, but, at the first creak, Rosus stirred. He rolled over, blinking, his emerald eyes focusing on her. She tried to dissipate her depression by gazing at his handsome short, well-groomed pale-gold fur and his impeccably clean white belly and feet.

“Murkuria?” His eyes widened. She sagged, knowing he sensed her despair.

“Hello, Rosus. Sorry to wake you.”

“No matter.” He sat up, glancing at the clock below the intercom. His brows furrowed into a worried frown. “You are just coming to bed? Where were you?”

“In the Lab.”

“Doing what?”

“Working with the Feleeshakoon’s babies.” A sob popped free of her constricted throat, echoed by another woebegone cry from Iggie. “Lortz it all to a sucking black hole! I worked for quats, studying, testing -- and nothing! What if I cannot save them?”

“You will have done your best,” Rosus said softly.

“That just is not good enough!” Murkuria cried, tears falling freely. “This is not a school project where if you fail, it hurts no one! I see the Feleeshakoon’s eyes! Rosus, I promised her! I cannot let her down!”

“She will never know.”

“But I will!” Murkuria wailed, the sobs coming freely. “I will know! And so will Iggie! She understands some of this, Rosus! You may not believe it, but she does.”

“You are taking this way too seriously. You can only do your best.”

“That is just not acceptable,” Murkuria sobbed.

“They are still alive?”

“Yes.”

“All you can do is keep trying.” Rosus wrapped his arms around her and pulled her down to the bed. “As long as they live, you have a chance.”

Murkuria sniffled, shaking her head. Rosus held her tight, wanting to banish the despair radiating so strongly from her. Why promise something she could not logically keep? The animal would never know or care if the zygotes died. Rosus sighed, deep and guttural. As long as they survived, Murkuria’s obsession with them lived on. He closed his eyes, envisioning a long dismal trip home. 


[1] An octennium is an Aroriellian millennium = 512 A. years = 870.4 E. years.

[2] Octyle is equivalent to a kilometer or a ½ mile in distance. 

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