EYES IN THE DARK, the 3rd in the Furlitian trilogy, is nearing completion after many years of work! I estimate perhaps a year's time, but until then, enjoy an excerpt from the work in progress.
Ship Commander Geupetus sat in the Command chair, eying the viewscreen, some concern rippling his long pelt down his back. He drummed his taloned fingers on the console, thinking about the ancient ship they sought.
“Geupetus! I have the Voziak located,” Telluris spoke up, his talons playing over the console. His long, dark-gold fur rippled down his body with anticipation.
Excellent work, my friend,” Geupetus commented, nodding approval at his Ship Second.
“Subcommander Tesuris, do you have confirmation?” Geupetus eyed his Head Helmsman.
“Yes, Sir,” Tesuris answered crisply, twitching the tip of his tail. Geupetus mused how much Tesuris looked like his father, noting how the passing years only increased that perception. His Ship Second and Head Helmsman’s tails twitched in unison, accentuating their strong resemblance.
Geupetus returned his thoughts to the task ahead. He leaned over, and buckled Fekluris securely in the Felakoon’s own seat, before securing his own seat belts. He tapped his intercom link.
“Attention! This is your Ship Commander. We are nearing our destination. Buckle up for the drop to standard drive.” The deck vibrated, and Geupetus frowned.
“A bit of unexpected turbulence, Sir,” Tesuris answered the Ship Commander’s unspoken question.
“Drop out of hyperdrive, Subcommander.”
“Yes, Sir,” Tesuris responded, his black talons blurs over the board. “Hyperdrive down. Standard drive operational.”
“Excellent. Midshipite Surius.” Geupetus turned to the Junior Helmsman. “Establish comlink with the Voziak.”
“Working on it, Sir,” Surius glanced back briefly, his long white fur resting smooth and silky. Geupetus marveled at the young Midshipite’s calm. The boy fostered none of the sharp intensity that always marked his greataunt Suria, his namesake.
“I have link up,” Surius announced, his tenor rising with triumph.
“Good job, Midshipite,” Geupetus said, forgetting the minor distraction. “Is their helm responding?”
“Good. Guide that sleeper ship aboard.”
“Yes, Sir.” Surius worked, and suddenly glanced back, his light green-gold eyes widening with concern. “Sir! It is fighting me! It is as if something has a hold on it. Its playing tug of war with me.”
“Get us closer, Tesuris. We do not want to lose our ancient clansfolk.”
“Yes, Sir.” The Head helmsman complied immediately, maneuvering the starship alongside the tiny vessel. The Sunpyne quivered again. Geupetus scowled.
“What in the cosmos caused that?” he asked out-loud. Nobody answered him. He peered at the viewscreen, which showed only the stars ahead, including the binary system they arrived at to study a few days ago.
“I have full control,” Surius announced, his voice jubilant with relief. Geupetus turned away from the viewport, and watched his two helmsman work, very pleased. His bondson and young cousin made a fine team.
“I have the Voziak entering the shuttlebay.”
Surius glanced at him, a smile beaming across his face.
“The vessel is docked.” Tesuris added, his talons clicking over his console.
“Good job!” Geupetus tapped his intercom button.
“Subcommander Turelis, get up to the shuttlebay, and secure the Voziak.”
“Yes, Sir!” the reply crackled over the small speaker in the arm of the Command Chair.
“Excellent work, everyone,” Geupetus complimented his crew.
“Voziak is secure, Commander,” Turelis’ deep baritone erupted on the intercom. “Shall we commence with awakening the crew?”
“No, not yet. The Stasis chambers on those old ships are quirky at best. We will do so once we achieve safe, stable orbit around this binary system.”
Geupetus relaxed back into the Sunpyne’s Command Chair, returning his gaze to the viewscreen. He activated a control, and the viewports to either side of the main screen slid open. Ahead, their destination glowed -- two bright balls circled by a swirl of gases. That feeling of facing an all important test he sensed three years ago returned in a rush. The emotion swelled, fluttering Geupetus’ stomach, and he resisted the urge to drum his talons on the seat arm. His tail twitched in spite of his attempts to keep still. Why had this anxiety grown stronger, instead of weaker? He thought once they secured the little sleeper ship, the angst would subside. Instead, as they approached the binary system for scientific study, the nervous tension grew. Why did his youngest daughter no longer feel such anxiety, the very emotion that drove her to stowaway with her brother aboard the Sunpyne on its maiden voyage? She told him years ago that pictures of this very system produced unease within her, but not since. Now Murkuria felt nothing concerning the Yarellian system, but his stomach back-flipped in queasy unease.
Geupetus inhaled deeply, and dropped his gaze to the small seat attached to his Command Chair, where his Felakoon bondmate sat regal and attentive. Fekluris stared at the viewports, fascinated by the images. Geupetus’ nervous anticipation faded as he admired the Felakoon. Fekluris’ white markings contrasted sharply with the inky black depths of a coat that rivaled any Furlite’s for thick luxuriance.
Geupetus eyed the gleaming gold band encircling the Felakoon’s upper foreleg, and smiled with pride. That band signified Scout Captain, top among Fekluris’ young species. It bore Sunpyne colors in triplicate, indicating Fekluris’ ship and rank.
For the millionth time in the seven years since the Felakoons’ unique birth, Geupetus thanked Murkuria for her persistence, and stubborn determination in working with the zygotes he reluctantly let her keep from the Human’s lost pet. He wondered if the poor cat animal ever reunited with her people and family. He hoped so. To think they risked a dangerous confrontation with the Human military in returning the cat to her planet, only to have her possibly not survive still bothered him. The little Maine Coon deserved a full happy life with her beloved people after bequeathing a gift to Furlitekind worth more than all the gold and gems in the Universe.
At seven years old, Fekluris stood tall, long, and powerfully-muscled, weighing in at over 37 octlos. Though five times the size of the animal that spawned his kind, Fekluris retained the well-muscled conformation of that small alien pet. His crowning glory, however, was not his long thick ruff, fur- tipped ears, nor his enormous immaculate tufted white polydactyl forepaws, but his long bushy black tail he waved like an expressive banner. All the Felakoons used these furry flags well in conveying emotion, even when they did not let their thoughts known.
A fine specimen of his young species, the swift quadruped’s body bore little resemblance to Geupetus’ people’s saurian build, but, internally, the Felakoons’ metabolisms burned all Aroriellian. Fekluris suddenly looked up, his posture relaxing out of the “Felakoon Commander” attitude he claimed since kittenhood. Geupetus put a hand on the high broad black skull, meeting those intelligent yellow-gold eyes.
*????* the query slid into Geupetus’ mind.
“Can I not just admire you?” Geupetus chuckled, stroking Fekluris’ broad back. “How are the kits training?”
*Silly kits* Fekluris scoffed.
*Too young. Only Izzilara and Khanluris’ Fantiluris mature enough. Rumpalara’s kits from Warluis almost, but rest? Silly fuzzbrains.*
“We had to take them along.” Geupetus reminded him. “You cannot expect the crew people to leave behind their bondmates.”
*No, must come.* Fekluris flattened his tall, expressive ears.
“Fantiluris is over a year old now, and is almost as big as his granddam. He will be large, like you and Fantia,” Geupstus commented. “Darwiluris and Abbilara are six cinths shy of a y.ear I thought they were good students.”
*Are. Most times. But my and Fellara’s and Siriluris and Khania’s kits silly. Play, play, play. No pay attention.*
“And you and your sisters were so well-behaved on our way home during the Sunpyne’s first voyage?” Geupetus guffawed.
*We silly then.* Fekluris flicked his tail, and cocked his head. *No have big Felakoon to teach us. Birth Mother try, but not like big Felakoon.*
“True.” Geupetus thumped Fekluris’ back affectionately. “Iggie could not teach you like you can your kits, but I think Murkuria, Nethunia, and I did a good enough job. Do not worry so much about the kits. We should not be getting off-ship this mission.”
*Scouts no work?* Disappointment softened Fekluris’ deep tenor mindtones.
“Probably not.” Geupetus stroked Fekluris’ head. “But you must keep alert. One never knows how a mission will go, and, believe me, it rarely goes strictly to plan. So I want silly kits to get serious training. Thank the cosmos only seven of the twelve kits born over the last year bonded to crew.”
*Silly, silly kits.* Fekluris growled. *Play, play, play. Khania’s kits very bad, very bad. *
“Too smart for their own good,” Geupetus laughed.
*My kit from Fellara, good. Listen. Warluris kits from Rumpalara smart but silly. Abbilara balbbermind! Siriluris’ kits from Khania naughty. Khanluris’ kit from Izzilara smart, strong. *
“I am glad I cannot hear Abbilara’s chatter, but Fantiluris is maturing beautifully” Geupetus teased, mirth cracking his deep bass voice. “It still amazes me that female Felakoons allow more than one mating partner.”
*Yes. Females choose but not five like True Mother* Fekluris flattened his ears briefly. *Murkuria say that good. Gen-genetic di-vers-ity*
“She is right. But, I do want those kits under some discipline. We are approaching that binary system fast. We will not need silly kits romping underfoot as we work.”
*Fekluris make kits behave. Fekluris Captain! Kits no make trouble.*
“Good. But do not let Fantiluris hear you call him a silly kit.” Geupetus nodded approval. He heard a chuckle to his right, and turned to his Ship Second, who lounged in his seat. Izzilara perched on her chair. Geupetus met Telluris’ jovial cobalt gaze.
“What is so funny?”
“Izzilara here insists all kits silly, but her son is not.” Telluris stroked her cream-colored back. She glanced at Fekluris, ultramarine blue eyes shining from a brown mask. She twitched her bushy brown tail. “She says he good kit.”
“ Kits will be kits,” Geupetus laughed softly, meeting Izzilara’s brilliant blue orbs. “You do not recall how exasperated Vulcus and Treya were with him when he was Feklara’s and Kailuris’ age?”
“He loved getting into the medical tools.” Telluris guffawed, and Izzilara flattened her ears.
*Kits silly. Play, play.* Fekluris growled, his mindvoice low and firm. *Must learn now. NO play all time.*
“Kailuris is very naughty, but smart. He wants to explore.” Telluris relayed his Felakoon’s words.
“I have to admit Fantuluris was not near as bad as any of Khania’s brood,” Geupetus said.
“I know, Sweet One, but even he must pay attention.” Telluris answered his felakoon Fekluris is not only his sire, but Superior Officer. All kits must learn this.”
Fekluris’ eyes lost that hard angry glitter.
*Izzilara say she help train kits, but Khanluris do much better* Fekluris purred approval. Satisfied, Izzilara purred. Geupetus shook his head with amusement.
“All the kits love Khanluris.”
“Thorius and Halia have a gem of a Felakoon. He has such patience with kits, and shows no favoritism to his son, unlike Izzilara,” Telluris chuckled. “He did not get that from his dam.”
“Fantia, for all her smarts, has no patience with kits.”
Geupetus glanced at the science station, noticing the absence of Elara and Fantia, who most likely took a lunch break. Isea and Ara worked, their low tones excited. Behind them their Felakoons, Khania and Rumpalara, watched attentively. Geupetus grinned at his Ship Second.
“So, it seems the trouble-makers prefer romping in Engineering.”
“Chafk!” Telluris laughed harshly. “That bunch Khania gave us is a group of meddling little terrors. Commander Orios banished them from Engineering.”
“All little Sirolara’s fault! She is a true engineer’s bondmate, but far too young to understand that taking things apart is not always necessary.”
“Shervus and Sathria have their hands full with her. And it explains why Siroluris loves tinkering with our Head Physicin’s medical tools.” Telluris looked down at Izzilara. “I am glad that they are all aboard though, and very happy that it proves the Felakoon breeding rate is reaching normal for Aroriellian life. I was worried for a while.”
“As was I,” Geupetus agreed. “Tell me, how is my son’s bondpartner faring in Engineering?”
“Quite well,” Telluris nodded vigorously. “Halia is a definite prodigy, and Thorius is as proud as a Sorsa stallion in rut. She is only eleven, but not much younger than your twins were when they pulled that stowaway stunt.”
“True, and thanks to that, the Space Flight Education Program is accepting children from the first and second terms now. Halia excelled on the aptitude tests.” Geupetus absently stroked Fekluris’ back. “I will never forget the joy in her eyes when I handed her the official papers.”
“You never told those children you asked for Halia as a pre-Cadet?” Telluris raised a brow.
“No,” Geupetus chuckled again. “The joy in both faces that night was worth it. Chafk -- don’t let Thorius hear you call him a child!”
“I will not.” Telluris shook his head. “At nineteen, he really is not. How did Governor Hellara take the news of Halia’s acceptance into our crew?”
“Quite well.” Geupetus flicked his tail. “It is amazing how bonding to Mandilara changed that woman.”
*Hellara Good One. We knew.* Fekluris piped up, his mindtone smug.
“Yes, Fekluris, yes. You were right.” Geupetus thumped Fekluris’ back, and glanced Izzilara, who blinked her vivid blue eyes at him.
“I hoped the kits would settle down, all of them, by now. They are twelve cinths old-- not tiny kits just bonded.” Telluris frowned.
“Still babies,” Geupetus replied. “It may be many cinths before they settle out of kittish ways. Abbilara and Darwiluris are eighteen cinths old, and Fantiluris is over twenty-four cinths. They will technically be kits until their third birthday.”
Telluris uttered a soft groan. Geupetus raised his eyes back to the screen and viewports. Excitement colored the voices of the two scientists on deck. He imagined the rest of the science team in the lab reacted just as enthusiastically.
The two-star system blazed bright, its skirt of glowing gases swirling in brilliant colors. Geupetus’ stomach twisted with angst. He sat back in the Command Chair, trying to relax, feeling foolish over his worry at a star system’s appearance. After the Sunpyne’s last near-disastrous voyage, he harbored no desire whatsoever to meet new alien life. He looked forward to a routine study mission. He gazed at the binary system, and his stomach knotted with apprehension. The ribbon of gas and dust undulated, twisting and swirling around the two stars like some nightmarish legless creature. Geupetus frowned, noticing the plume flowed in a distinct direction. Alarm flashed through him, and his first thought was ‘blackhole’!
“Tesuris . . .”
The ship pitched suddenly, cutting off Geupetus’ order. The ship gyrated.
“More turbulence, Sir,” Tesuris answered.
“Subcommander Isea,” Geupetus turned to his mother.
“What under the triple moons is causing this turbulence? Not a blackhole, I hope.”
“Chafk!” Isea swore. “No, a wormhole! Opening just appeared to port of the star system.”
“Tesuris, get us out of here! Now!” Geupetus barked out the order.
“I am trying,” Tesuris replied. “I cannot break free, and do not dare engage the hyperdrive!”
“Just get us free!” Geupetus punched his com. “ATTENTION! All personnel! If you have not already done so, buckle up immediately! This is not a precaution or a drill! Strap in NOW!”
The ship bucked. Oaths and startled cries echoed on deck. The ship pitched sharply, then rocked as if grabbed by a giant hand.
“It has us!” Isea cried out. “We are going in!”
“Helmsman! Full reverse!” Geupetus snapped.
“It is not working!” Tesuris retorted through clenched teeth. “It is dragging us in!”
The starship pitched, yawed, dropped, and rose with furious intensity. The viewports snapped shut automatically at the threat. Geupetus gritted his teeth against nausea, as the ride mimicked the wild gyrations of waterships on triple-tide storm-tossed seas, only worse. Sudden retching drew his attention, and Geupetus looked down in time to see Fekluris violently expel his lunch.
*Sorry* The Felakoon flattened his ears, eyes woebegone. *Sick, sick.*
“I know,” Geupetus reassured him, before raising his gaze to meet Telluris’ cobalt eyes. “How is our structural integrity?”
“Holding strong,” Telluris glanced at his console readouts, ignoring the gagging from his Izzilara. “This is worse than any sea voyage I ever experienced.”
“I usually never get motion sick, but . . .” Geupetus paused, fighting another wave of nausea. He bounced in the Command seat. He glanced across the deck at his spouse, who manned the communications board.
“I am all right.” Nethunia briefly turned calm ultramarine eyes to him. “All departments report no injuries.”
“I wonder if the safeguards in the Lavatory worked,” Telluris muttered. “Or we may have Bathing Pool water all over the place.”
“If not, we will know soon,” Geupetus said curtly, forcing down the contents of his beleaguered stomach. He tried focusing on the viewscreen, but the pulsating undulating ribbon of matter brought him to the brink of control. His esophagus burned with the effort of arresting his stomach’s intention. He refused to lose lunch in front of his crew. He gulped, swallowing convulsively.
“Geupetus!” Nethunia called out. “Orios says Halia and Thorius are not strapped in.”
“Blast! They were in the Lavatory. I hope they heard the order and found somewhere to strap in.”
Fekluris suddenly jerked alert, eyes dilated.
Izzilara and Rumpalara wailed.
*Abbilara stuck in pool!* Fekluris strained against his belts, clawing at the clasps with his polydactyl paw. The Felakoon’s dexterous toes slipped off the metal from his frantic motions. Telluris unbuckled himself. With a deft hand, Geupetus unstrapped Fekluris, not wishing to waste time reminding the upset Felakoon to use that thumblike sixth toe of his to unlatch himself.
“Go! Find out what is going on.” Geupetus raised his voice. “Nethunia, call Engineering.”
“Done,” Nethunia replied. Geupetus watched his Ship Second and Fekluris stagger off the Command Deck. Izzilara wailed again. Rumpalara joined her, eyes wide, and Fekluris glanced back, his gold rank band flashing as he moved.
*Fekluris show. Izzilara, Rumpalara, STAY!*
Izzilara stopped trying to undo her belt, meeting Geupetus’ purple gaze. Rumpalara disobeyed and dashed off the deck, reowing in distress.
*Izzalara very scared. Rumpalara too.* Izzilara’s kittish high voice wailed. Geupetus stroked her broad head. *She go to her kit.*
“I know, Little One,” Geupetus murmured, surprised that she bespoke him. “We must wait.”
Geupetus sat, every muscle tense, his mind focused on any word from Fekluris. The Command Deck faded, and the voices dropped to a murmur in the back of his mind. If little Abbilara died, . . .his thoughts hiccupped. Another sharp lurch of his ship brought Geupetus out of his thoughts. He watched the viewscreen, clenching his jaw, grasping the sides of his Command Chair. As the ship plunged ahead into the kaleidoscopic spinning maelstrom, Geupetus fervently hoped the ship passed safely through this wormhole.
In Memory of David Ayscue, my friend and mentor. (1953-2010)
Thanks for everything. You are missed!
This review of my THE FURLITES OF ARORIEL series is from my
mentor, friend, editor, and Literary Agent, David Ayscue, who passed away Sept of 2010. Thanks for everything, David. You are missed!
Author-Marie J. S. Phillips
The author describes these books as “an alien family saga.” These tales are suitable for science fiction readers who enjoy reading stories from the alien point of view. This book fits the niche that includes Robert Sawyer’s FAR-SEER, Lisanne Norman’s SHOLAN ALLIANCE series, and David Brin’s Trilogy which included INFINITY’S SHORE. Her books are not exactly like any of the above, but probably most like Robert Sawyer’s FAR-SEER, and its sequels. In his books, human involvement with the Quintaglios is zero, whereas the characters in ON MATISSIA WINGS have some contact with humanity. This brief contact forever changes the Furlitian people in more ways than they ever imagined possible.
Human bias generally assumes most sentient civilized alien life must be humanoid or primate-based, which may not be the reality at all. With a twist on an old theme, the author stresses in subtle ways through Furlitian culture, how real freedom and personal responsibility can help any society produce good people, without any strict taboos, religious fanaticism, and overbearing governments. I have also compared it to E. R. Eddings, though this author’s books are far more science fiction than fantasy – once you accept the premise, of course, of a world where primates never evolved, and where furred dinosaurs became the dominant species … who now have a space program … which leads them to … our world.
The illustrations -- a mix of freehand artwork, real photos, and computer-generated graphics -- include detailed hand drawings of her characters. In ON MATISSIA WINGS, the six plates, plus the cover are integral to the book. Who knows better what a Furlite looks like than their creator?
The sequel, EARTH-BRED; MATISSIA-BORN, is, perhaps, an even better story.
There is a third book in this series, EYES IN THE DARK which is as yet unfinished. The world is fully realized; the depth of characterization is … epic, wondrous, and, frankly, I think this author is a great storyteller.
Reminiscent in some respects of Military SF, in the tradition of Heinlein and Asimov, told from the point of view of the aliens -- they are PEOPLE, with their own culture, and … they are better people than we are.
Remarkable books, deserving of publication, I think, or I would not have done all that I have done to help this author realize her dream of seeing her own trilogy for sale in bookstores everywhere.