Kiraling – Part 29 (Chapter 240-247)
Written by anonxyzus :: [Saturday, 19 November 2022 09:39] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 19 November 2022 10:35]
Kiraling – Part 29 (Chapter 240-247)
I was in a cave. There were walls around me that didn’t reach up to the cave ceiling that looked like bulkheads from the Golden Cathunk. The floor was sand and there were devices on the floor that looked like space heaters. Xara was with me. Only Xara. And I was puking and shitting.
There were no IVs. In between bouts of nausea and diarrhea Xara gave me sips of water. The air smelled faintly of rotten eggs. Sulfur, or sulfides. A sulfur compound of some kind. It didn’t help my nausea. Xara kept me in an area until I’d saturated the sand, and then someone, a crew member of the Golden Cathunk, would come in and shovel it into a bucket and take it away, then return with buckets of sand that they laid down, while I was fouling another sandy area a few feet away.
I could taste the sulfur in the water she gave me. And it made me think back to my childhood, when we’d visit friends who had a house at Ocean Shores on the Washington coast, before they were connected to the municipal water system. Their water came from a well, and the ground water had sulfides in it.
I asked Xara where we were. She said we were on a moon of a large planet and there had been a battle and the Golden Cathunk had been damaged. Trying to talk to her was too hard. It took too much effort to get the words out, or I’d get a few out and then would start puking again. So she opened the connection and we communicated that way. Except I was feeling so rotten I had trouble thinking.
“Where are Kara and Sharon?”
“Mom is out patrolling for Arions. Sharon is hunting for something you can eat.”
“I don’t want to eat.”
“I know, darling, but sooner or later you will have to.”
“What about the Xanadusian food?”
“That may run out before we can leave here.”
“Where is here?”
“About three wormholes away from the one that leads to Terra.”
“I’m going to be sick again.”
I puked and shit. Then I puked and shit. Then I puked and shit some more.
“How long have we been here?”
“About a month. We kept you in stasis for as long as we could, but the power for it is failing, so we brought you out.”
“And there are Arions nearby?”
“No, we haven’t seen any for a while, but we have to be vigilant.”
It took me three weeks to recover to the point where I was able to keep food down and control my bowels. Xara said I lost 30 pounds in that time. I was feeling very weak, and she was working on building me back up.
So here’s what happened: Coming out of a wormhole the Golden Cathunk found itself in the middle of a large Arion fleet. The Arions ordered the Cathunk to surrender and prepare to be boarded. At that point, every P1 and several lower caste Velorians left the ship to defend it, and the Arions opened fire.
So that would have been Xara, Sharon, Kara, the P1’s who were part of the committee that interviewed me for my award, and even a senator, a Matra, who had first learned to fly on Xanadu. I talked to him later. He said he would have felt ashamed if he didn’t help defend the ship. Kara said he would have been killed if she hadn’t moved him away from the GAR fire.
The Cathunk was taking hits, but the Velorians, led by Kara, were hitting the Arions hard, and then, the three Cadet Combat Wings who had been on Xanadu, and were traversing the same wormhole the Cathunk had come out of, emerged and saw what was going on and immediately went on the offensive.
The battle could have gone either way, were it not for a Velorian super weapon that the Arions didn’t know about: Xara. The Velorians were surprised too. Xara had told me that the effort she put into passing her Protector Tests caused her to evolve or become stronger. And she had shared this information with her mother, Sharon, and the Velorians who ran the test. But even Xara herself didn’t know how powerful she had become.
Kara told me that Xara was ramming Capital ships of the Arion fleet and flying right through them, from bow to stern, along the length. Normal tactics would be to attack broadside. But she attacked head on and went all the way through. And then a large battleship engaged her with its main GAR banks, and she fought back with her heat vision. And melted it. She melted a fucking battleship. By herself. Kara said that was unheard of.
The Velorians think they destroyed the entire fleet but couldn’t be sure. Some reported seeing Arion ships escape through the wormhole. So they had to get the Cathunk out of there before the Arions sent reinforcements, but it was badly damaged. There was a system nearby that had a large gas giant with a moon that could support Terran life. That would be me.
The Velorians didn’t get out of the battle unscathed. Several of the Cadets were badly injured, but not maimed, and over time they healed. But several others, including Mar’ni, were killed. Su-Ta told me that three Arion ships maneuvered away from the Protectors and attacked the Cathunk. Mar’ni put herself between the Cathunk and the ships and took the combined fire of at least ten heavy GARs. It was more than she could handle, and she was killed. But she gave the other Protectors time to attack those ships. Mar’ni saved my life. A 19 year old, a child really, died saving my life. I looked for her, I thought maybe she was with Dixon and Johnson. She isn’t. They say they haven’t seen her.
I asked if any prisoners had been taken. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and right before a ship is about to be destroyed the captain orders all hands to abandon ship and head for the escape pods or lifeboats. In real space battles, once the airtight bulkheads are compromised, there isn’t a lot of time to get to a lifeboat or escape pod.
There were a number of troop transports that had Arion Betas, and a few Primes, on board. Some of those, the Velorians disabled their engines and then pushed them into the wormhole where they eventually spiraled into the blackhole. On the ships that were destroyed, in space, but didn’t get pushed into the wormhole, the Betas all died but the Primes survived. Velorians and Primes do not take each other prisoner. Kara told me that Xara personally executed over a dozen Primes. With extreme prejudice. Xara said she would talk to me about it but needed time first. I can respect that, so I’m giving her the time.
The crew of the Cathunk and Xara, Kara and Sharon shepherded the Cathunk to the moon while the Cadet Wings and the other P1s went through the remains of the Arion fleet, destroying anything that the Arions would be able to salvage and use.
Once the Cathunk was in orbit around the moon, the crew went to work building a habitat that could support me, and that could be used as a base of operations. They found a cave system that extended well underground. They started taking the Cathunk apart, salvaging whatever would be useful on the surface, or under the surface, and jury-rigged a power supply that could support the stasis chamber. Apparently, the power for the stasis chamber is quite complex. It isn’t something you can put a couple of AAA batteries in and power it. I was brought out of stasis when the power supply showed signs of imminent failure.
Anything on the Cathunk that wasn’t salvaged was left on the ship and was destroyed when the Cathunk was pushed into the gas giant the moon I was on is orbiting.
The Cathunk carried food for its Velorian crew and passengers, and food for Terrans, but not as much because there was only one Terran on board and I was supposed to be in stasis for most of the trip. We had the Xanadusian food, but that wouldn’t last long enough, so Sharon took it on herself to find edible food on the surface of the moon.
Lucky for me, the moon supports life. And there is food I can eat. Insects and a few fruits. The insects don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen on earth, but they are edible. And I’ve eaten insects before, in training and during deployments. The fruit is pretty good, but too much and I get diarrhea, and I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.
The crew of the Cathunk and the other lower caste Velorians stayed on the moon. The Cadet Wings stayed to provide security in case the Arions returned. Su-Ta and the other P1s left to report what had happened and arrange a rescue ship. Traversing a wormhole is something that requires training, and Bravas and Matras are not trained for it. They also don’t have the power, the acceleration, that P1s have, it would be dangerous for them to try to go through a wormhole, even with training.
Jon, who had been brought aboard the Cathunk in gold and restraints, somehow got loose during the battle and disappeared. No one knows what happened to him.
There is a major disconnect here in the way Velor is approaching this conflict with the Arions. They accidentally bumped into a large Arion force, with space battleships and troop transports. They achieved a total victory, thanks to the presence of three Protector Combat Wings that arrived on the scene just in time, and Xara. Great victory, right? Yay for the good guys, right?
Well, holy fucking shit. Why were the Arions there, at the entrance to that wormhole? Where were they going with such a large force? You’d think that somewhere in the remains of the fleet the Velorians would be able to find the answer to those questions, right?
Wrong. Because it never occurred to the Velorians to ask those questions. They destroyed everything in the Arion fleet that was useable. They went to great pains to do so, yet they never stopped to ask themselves if there was any intelligence, actionable or otherwise, that could have been had. And interrogate captured Primes? Hell no, that would only delay their execution.
Xara is young. Sharon, up until she was captured by the Arions, was a non-combatant. The Cadet Combat Wings were young and inexperienced. The senator and the P1s from Velor were all bureaucrats. The Guardians, who were with us, were effectively MPs. But Kara and the two Protectors who were part of the ships complement should have known better, and I told them so.
I asked them why they didn’t look for intelligence and they didn’t have an answer for me. It didn’t even occur to them until I started asking questions.
The blondes are beautiful. They are intelligent. They are the wonders of the universe in terms of their power and abilities. But they don’t really know shit about fighting a war on all fronts. To them, it’s good enough to be the biggest hammer in the universe.
Well, it isn’t. I had a long conversation with the senator about this. What is the Arion population? He didn’t know. What proportion of them are Primes? He didn’t know. How many fighting ships do they have? He didn’t know.
What are their objectives? This he did know. Bring all Terran worlds into their sphere of influence, by force if necessary, and it usually is. Then expand to conquer the non-Terran species.
How capable are they to achieve their goals? He didn’t know.
From the results of this battle, it is obvious that a smaller Velorian force consisting of P1s can defeat a much larger Arion force, it’s certain if they have a P1 with Xara’s capabilities. But this was an anomaly. Multiple Combat Wings engaging the Arions is the exception, not the rule. The battle for Xanadu and this encounter were atypical. I asked the senator if there were any plans to build an offensive force around the Combat Wings and take the fight to the Arions. No, he said, but he did say he’d bring the idea up to the full senate. But he didn’t think it would fly because the Enlightenment preferred a defensive stance built around defending individual planets with Protectors. Then why have Combat Wings? Because sometimes they had to bring more than just a Protector to the defense of a planet. Combat Wings are the Velorian equivalent of what I’d call a QRF. A Quick Reaction Force used when a Protector needed serious backup. But they were not meant to be an offensive force.
The senator explained to me that The Enlightenment has ethical problems with taking the fight to the enemy.
What the fuck? You think it’s unethical to take the offensive against a genocidal enemy bent on galactic conquest and then tell me I’m backwards because I draw a line at pedophilia?
To give her credit, Kara was able to see it from my point of view. She had the honesty and decency to admit that the Velorians had pissed away a major opportunity to gain insight into the plans of The Arion Empire, and she felt bad about it. And a little ashamed that she hadn’t thought of it herself. The senator? Not so much.
Xara was trying to come to grips with whatever it was she did to the Arion Primes she captured. Maybe Velorians don’t get PTSD like Terrans do, but they still have the capacity to recognize the horrors of war and struggle with their conscience. And maybe, in the end, that is why they can’t conceive of total war against the Arions. Because they want to be able to look at themselves in the mirror. I can understand that.
I wanted to explore the planet surface. Xara didn’t want me going up there because there were stinging insects up there, and she was worried about me. She didn’t know if their stings would be dangerous for me. So I asked her to go up to the surface in my space suit and spend some time running through the weeds to see if anything could penetrate the suit. And the answer was no, nothing she ran into could get through it. And the insects wouldn’t follow her back into the cave, because underground the temperature was a constant 55° F, and the surface was thirty to forty degrees warmer, and the insects really did not like the cold.
So she filled my air tanks and picked me up and flew me up to the surface. It was quite a flight. The cave we were in connected to the surface through a serious of tunnels of various sizes. There were places where the tunnels narrowed too much for a person to get through. The Velorians just made them bigger by blasting through them. And it was dark, which makes sense. My suit lights let me see around me and they were more than enough for Xara.
When we got to the surface we were in a jungle. A thick jungle. I could see where Velorians had made passageways through it. The forest canopy must have gone up 400 feet, maybe more. Xara took me into space, and we looked down and the moon was a beautiful green and blue ball. Blue where there were small seas. Or large lakes. I asked Xara how big the moon was. She said nearly the size of earth.
When we turned away from the moon our view was filled by the gas giant it orbits. We could see lightning flashes in the clouds.
“It’s bigger than Jupiter,” she said.
“It’s spectacular,” I replied.
And it was. I’d seen pictures of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. This planet had two of them that I could see. And it was rotating fast.
Xara took us out further and I could see at least two more moons, and rings. This planet has rings like Saturn. We stayed up until I told Xara that my air tanks were half empty, then we started down again.
“Xara, when Sharon was looking for food, did she check out those lakes?”
“If she did, she didn’t tell me.”
“I wonder if there are fish in them.”
“Let’s find out!”
She brought us down near one of the lakes. Or seas. They were pretty big, maybe sea is a better description. But we tested the water, and it was fresh, so I guess lake is the better description.
It was cooler at the beach we landed on, and there weren’t any insects flying around, so I took off my helmet. Xara took that opportunity to refresh my tanks.
“The air smells better here,” I told Xara. “More earth tones, no sulfur.”
“You’re right,” she said.
“Wait here,” she said.
She took off her flight suit and dove into the lake and came up within seconds holding a large fish. It was huge. If you’ve ever been on the Columbia River and seen the sturgeon, that’s how big this fish was.
Xara twisted its head off and handed it to me. My suit came with utility tools, including a knife, which I used to gut the fish. Xara came back with some wood, and she started a fire, and we cooked the fish. She tasted it first and said it tasted fine to her, then gave me a very small bite to taste.
OMG, it tasted wonderful! Truthfully, to this day I don’t know if it really tasted that good, or if I was so used to eating insects that burnt rubber would have tasted good to me. Xara made me wait half an hour before she let me have another bite. Then another half an hour. By then the fish, this huge fucking fish, was gone because she was eating it too. I complained.
“There’s thousands of them down there, Joe.”
“Do you think it’s safe for me to go for a swim?”
“Yes, I didn’t see anything that could be dangerous to you.”
So I stripped off my suit and went skinny dipping with Xara. The water was cooler than the air, but not very cold, so I was able to enjoy swimming with her. And then we came up onto the beach and made love.
“Joe, oh, I so needed this. I just want to hold you inside me for a while and be gentle.”
I didn’t object. Being held inside a Velorian is wonderful. I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be.
“Joe, I want to tell you what I did?”
“What you did?”
“To the Arions. Can I tell you?”
“Yes, Xara, if you’re sure you want to tell me, I’ll listen.”
“I want to tell you, Joe. I need to tell you.”
“When the Golden Cathunk came out of the wormhole we were surrounded by Arion ships. At first, I didn’t know, because I wasn’t looking outside. Once you’ve been through a few dozen wormholes the novelty wears off, so I didn’t think there’d be anything to see.
“And then the ships alarms went off and the Captain called battle stations. I was wearing Xanadusian clothing, I just stripped it off and flew to the nearest airlock. By then I was looking outside, and I saw all those Arion ships.
“I was in the airlock with mom and the ships two Protectors and when the internal doors closed, we didn’t wait for the air to be sucked out of the airlock, we opened the outer doors and flew out. And then the Arions started firing on the Cathunk.
“Joe, I was so afraid for you! All I could think of was that I wasn’t going to let you die. I didn’t care about anything else. I started attacking the ships that were firing at the Cathunk. I was accelerating towards them as fast as I could, I left the others behind me. I should have stayed with them so we could attack as a group, but I wasn’t thinking. And I started blasting my way through the ships. I’d get in front of them so their GAR fire would have to hit me before it hit the Cathunk, and then I accelerated as fast as I could at them and used my heat vision to soften the hulls as I approached. And I went right through them, Joe, from bow to stern, venting them to space. The Arions weren’t any more prepared for us than we were for them. None of them were wearing pressure suits. The Betas died quickly when the atmospheres of their ships were vented to space.
“There was one ship, a Battle Cruiser. Joe, it was huge, and it was bringing its guns to bear on the Cathunk. I got between it and the Cathunk and started taking GAR fire from it, and it was hot and it was horrible, and if I could have screamed in space I would have. But I didn’t move out of the way, I turned my heat vision on it and gave it everything I had. I put out more energy than I ever had before in my life. And Joe, I was able to create a wide beam of energy, and I melted the fucking thing. Just melted it, and then it exploded.
“Mom said she’d never seen or heard of anything like it. At some point, I don’t remember when, I wasn’t aware of it when it happened because I was fighting, the Cadet Combat Wings showed up. I should have known they would be there because their course out from Xanadu was the same as ours. They must have entered the wormhole just a few minutes behind the Cathunk.
“They joined the fight and one wing headed towards the Cathunk, to protect it. Joe, they were taking horrible GAR fire, but they wouldn’t let the beams hit the Cathunk. That’s when Mar’ni was killed, Joe. She died protecting the Cathunk. She died protecting you.”
She stopped talking and started crying. I was crying too.
“Jesus, Xara, she was only 19.”
“I know Joe.
“I destroyed one of the ships that was she was facing. Mom got another one and the other two Combat Wings cleaned up what was left.
“We destroyed the engines of the Arion troop ships and pushed them into the wormhole. I watched to make sure they all went into the blackhole. When I came back Primes were being rounded up.
“Primes can’t fly. You know that. That puts them at a disadvantage in space, but they still try to fight. And Joe, that was fine with me. I went at them Joe. I killed them, one at a time. I put them in the same place you are now, and I fucked them. And I crushed them, Joe. By the time I was done I’d crushed their cocks, their pelvises, even their rib cages. And if they were still alive, I put one hand behind their backs to brace them and shoved my other into their chest and yanked out their hearts.
“Joe, I was in a rage. I kept thinking of you, and I kept thinking of what I saw on Xanadu. After I’d killed at least a dozen, maybe more, I started searching the fleet for more surviving Primes. I didn’t find any. While I was killing them one at a time the Protectors were rounding others up and throwing them into the black hole.”
“Jesus, Xara. Is what you did, is that something Protectors can do?”
“No, Joe. Prime bodies don’t crush like that. Mom and Sharon said my strength levels must be completely off the charts.
“Joe, I scared myself. I didn’t think I could go into a rage like that. All I could think of was protecting you and killing every Arion I could find to make sure you were safe.”
And then she broke down and cried again.
“Joe, should I be ashamed of myself? Are you ashamed of me?”
“No, Xara. There is no shame in what you did. You had something to fight for, someone to fight for. But you should learn how to control your rage, and how to channel it. Xara, you want to control it, you never want it to control you.”
“Can you do that, Joe? Can you control your rage when you’re fighting?”
“I usually can, Xara. There were a couple of times when I lost control, and it could have gotten me killed. I think I learned to control it because of that. I couldn’t let my rage get me or my buddies killed.”
After that we just held each other for a long time. And then Xara emitted her pheromones, and we made love again. Then we jumped into the lake to get cleaned off. We came out of the lake and Xara did her spin dry thing where she just starts spinning really fast throwing all the water off her, then she dried me with her heat vision. I put my suit back on and we went back to the cave, then she grabbed a large container and went back to the lake and came back with fish which we shared with the others. Everyone really liked the fish, and that became my diet until a rescue ship arrived. The Velorian’s supplemented their food with the fish, they liked it as much as I did.
As I said, coming out of stasis, with no IVs and not able to eat much, I lost somewhere around 30 lbs. Xara said I was thinner than when she first met me. So she put me on a program of diet and exercise.
We’d go to the beach every day and swim, then we’d run along the beach. Then I’d do calisthenics and what I called Velormetrics. See what I did there? I replaced iso with Velor … anyway …
When I would do pushups, Xara would sit on my back and using her flight powers apply whatever amount of weight she wanted to. So we started out with her adding an additional ten pounds of weight and then worked up from there.
For sit-ups and crunches, we’d rotate them, she’d just put her hand against my chest and apply the exact amount of force she wanted to, to increase the resistance I felt.
She’d ride me piggyback for squats, and she’d put her hands against my feet for leg presses. For curls, well, I curled her. She could set the amount of resistance she applied exactly. For pullups, she’d float into the air, and I’d grab her ankles and pull myself up.
She also added a really nice distraction: she did all this naked. I was seeing a lot of naked Velorians. They are uninhibited. Totally.
When Xara was on patrol duty, the Velorians all took turns patrolling the system we were in, looking for Arions and watching the local wormhole, Kara or Sharon would take over.
On Xanadu, I didn’t have sex with Kara or Sharon, there were lots of Velorians to sample, and I assumed that would be the same on this moon. But they didn’t see it that way. They wanted what Sharon called, ‘Joe time,’ and so they got some.
On the diet side, it was mostly fish, and that meant mostly protein, which is great for putting on muscle. But Xara wanted me to increase the amount of fat that I carried too. Not a lot, just more, she thought I needed more to be healthy. Well, eating fish and insects, and the fruit that was available, wasn’t going to add much fat to my diet. The fish were very lean, so even if I stuffed myself, I still wasn’t getting a lot of excess calories. Xara joked that when we got home, she was going to feed me Domino’s pizza morning, noon and night for a month.
Oh, there was one other exercise that helped put muscle on me. I wanted to get in on the fishing too, so Xara helped me to fashion spears, and I’d stand in shallow water waiting for one of those big suckers to swim by. They had no fear of humans, or Velorians, they just ignored us, so it was easy to spear them.
Spearing them was the easy part. They’d fight like hell and then, if I won, I had to get them out of the water. At first, Xara wanted to help right away. I asked her not to, to wait until I asked for help. She agreed. And then found it very entertaining to watch me wrestle with a big fish.
Day and night on this moon were very strange. Between light coming from the local sun, and light reflected off the planet the moon orbited, it was never really dark. Except when the planet was between us and the sun. And then, the lightning flashes from the planet, which were constant and provided a fair amount of light.
With all the lush, thick vegetation, and the large lakes, I was wondering where the water came from to support them. I got my answer. Monsoons. There was a definite rainy season which started a couple of weeks before we left. How the weather systems worked on this moon, I really have no idea. Xara thought the planet it orbited affected the weather, but she was just guessing.
One day, one of the Velorians who had been monitoring the wormhole came back to the cave and excitedly announced that two ships had just emerged, one a Kelsorian, and the other a Scalantran. Were they rescue ships? He didn’t stick around to ask, he just assumed so.
Sharon took off to check them out and came back and told us they were indeed rescue ships. The Kelsorian ship was going to take me, Xara, Kara and Sharon back to Earth. The other was going to take the Matras and Bravas back to Velor where they would be reassigned from there. The remaining P1s would make their own way to wherever they were going.
Xara, Sharon and Kara managed to get all of our stuff out of the Golden Cathunk before it was destroyed. So I had my Velorian citizenship papers, which made a difference.
On hearing there was someone from Earth in our little group, the captain of the Kelsorian ship made the decision that I was to be kept in isolation for the trip home to avoid ‘contamination.’ But Xara showed him my citizenship documents and the captain said, okay, I get the same run of the ship as the Protectors and the Scribe.
We were all interviewed by the ships Executive Officer, or XO, and upon hearing I had been in stasis he became concerned and ordered me to report to the ships doctor. He didn’t say why.
“I think I know why,” said Xara.
“Really? So spill it,” I replied.
“No. Let’s hear what the doctor has to say first.”
Xara wanted to go to the doctor with me, which was find, she’s my wife after all. But Kara and Sharon wanted to go too. When I asked them why, they said because I’m Kiraling. And nothing else. So we went to see the doctor as a group.
When we got to his office, sick bay(?), he started questioning me.
“The XO says you were in stasis, twice, is that correct?”
“How long a time between first leaving stasis, then going back again?”
“A few weeks.”
“Why did you decide to go back into stasis so soon?”
“Well, we were leaving for home, and since I can’t tolerate the acceleration of the Golden Cathunk, I had to go into stasis. Why? Is that a problem?”
“Normal procedure is to have at least a year pass between periods of stasis, for a human. Anything less than that risks permanent organ damage.”
“I didn’t know that,” I said. Then I turned to Xara and asked her, “Did you know that?”
Xara looked at Kara and Sharon. Kara shrugged her shoulders and said, “We knew that Joseph, but we had every confidence that Gloria would be able to handle any side effects when you returned to Earth.”
“But I didn’t return to Earth,” I said. “Is that why it took me longer to recover from coming out of stasis the second time, because of how soon I went back in?”
“Yes,” said the doctor. “Tell me about both recovery periods.”
So I did.
“We have a Terran, who was put into stasis less than a month out of coming out of it, and you didn’t warn him of the health risks?” The doctor asked Kara, Xara and Sharon.
“No,” said Kara, “we didn’t. Stasis is hard enough on a Terran without frightening him about the side effects.”
“How much danger am I in, doctor?” I asked.
“I can’t really tell you off the top of my head,” he answered. “I’ve never met a Terran who was willing to go into stasis twice. Recovering from the first one dissuades them from doing it again. Didn’t you have extreme vomiting and diarrhea?”
“I did. But I didn’t know it would be worse the second time.”
“It’s always worse the second time,” he said. “In the future, don’t get your medical advice from a Velorian. They have no idea what we Terrans feel when we are suffering.”
He said that. Right in front of Kara, Xara and Sharon. Normally I would have expected all three of them to take that as an insult and get angry. None of them did. They didn’t say anything.
“I do know. I felt it in the connection.”
“We’ll talk about it later.”
“Doctor,” I said, “We have a very good Arion physician on Earth who takes care of my medical needs. I’m sure she would have been able to treat me if we’d gotten back to Earth before I came out of stasis.”
“An Arion physician?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“As in an Arion who has been trained to treat humans, Terrans, like you and me?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, oh,” said Sharon.
“Joe,” said the doctor, “Arions who are trained to treat humans, like you and me, are called veterinarians. The Arions consider them to be animal doctors.”
“We should probably talk about that later too.”
“Joe,” said the doctor, “I’m going to give you a complete physical. Are the ladies going to stay or leave?”
“We’re going to stay,” said Kara.
“I was asking Joe,” said the doctor.
“They can stay,” I said.
He put me into a scanner. I’ve had PET and CAT and MRI scans, and this wasn’t too different, except it was quiet and worked quickly. Afterwards we all gathered around him while he went through the results.
“I see signs of a lot of physical trauma, all over your body.”
“I’m a soldier. I had a lot of wounds.”
“Alright. That makes sense. You’re stomach lining is inflamed, as is your colon and esophagus. It isn’t too serious. Have you been able to hold down food?”
“Yes. I had three bad weeks, then I was able to keep everything down.”
“I’m going to give you medication that will take down the inflammation. Otherwise, I’d say you were lucky. There isn’t anything here to worry about. But there could have been. Do not go back into stasis in less than a year. Those are my medical orders.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem, doctor, I don’t see myself leaving Earth again anytime in the near future.”
We all went back to Xara and my cabin.
“Ladies, you didn’t tell me that going into stasis could be dangerous.”
“It isn’t,” said Sharon. “It’s coming out that is the problem.”
“That’s a distinction without a difference, Sharon, and you know it.”
Kara said, “Joseph, we were aware that there could be problems, but we thought we’d be going directly back to Earth, and Gloria was confident she could treat any complications. And even this doctor said your symptoms were minor.”
I turned to Xara and said, “You’re my wife. I trust you. In the future please don’t withhold information from me. Let me make my own decisions based on all the facts.”
“Yes, Joe. This won’t happen again, I promise,” she said.
“I believe you, Xara.”
She gave me a big hug.
“Same to you two,” I said to Kara and Sharon. “Please don’t withhold relevant information from me.”
“If you knew,” asked Kara, “would you have turned down the trip?”
“No. I wouldn’t have. That’s why I’m not yelling and screaming at you right now.
“And what’s this about Gloria being a veterinarian?”
“Joseph,” said Kara, “it’s true that Arions see medical personnel who treat Terrans as veterinarians, but that doesn’t make her less capable.”
“So who do their doctors treat?”
“Betas,” said Sharon, “there isn’t much that can happen to a Prime. If they break a bone all they need to do is make sure it is set properly and it will heal very quickly.”
“How could they break a bone?” I asked.
“Well, being caught by my daughter on a bad day will do it,” said Kara.
That made all of us laugh.
For all they have done for me, it’s hard to stay mad at them. And I would have made the trip anyway, so I wasn’t going to push this too far. I just wanted to make sure that in the future they told me everything I needed to know to make an informed decision. Will they? Time will tell.
“Oh,” said Sharon, “it probably isn’t a good idea to call Gloria a veterinarian to her face.”
“I figured,” I said.
We had dinner together as guests of the captain. All Terran food, no Velorian food. It was a good meal, complete with wine which, I have to say, wasn’t as good as the wine Sharon brought from Earth.
The captain arranged for us to get a tour of the ship the next day. After dinner, we went back to our cabins. As we got into bed, I held Xara close and said, “Xara, I have to be able to trust you.”
“I know darling. I’m sorry we misled you. I’m sorry I misled you. It won’t happen again, I mean it.”
“The three of you take a lot for granted when you make decisions for me. Sometimes I feel like you don’t think I can make decisions for myself.”
Xara sighed and said, “I get that Joe. Do you understand that we are more intelligent than you?”
“I know you are; I’ve seen you’re school work.”
“Well, mom and Sharon are too.”
“Do you think I’m too stupid to make my own decisions?”
“No, darling. We don’t think you’re stupid. We think we’re smarter. And that leads us to being … inconsiderate.”
“Xara, do you think I’m too stupid to make my own decisions.”
“No, Joe, I don’t. It isn’t you, it’s us.”
“Famous last words,” said Dixon.
Miguel and Juanita named their new daughter Janelle. Janelle was so touched by this she cried the first time she held the newborn in her arms.
Being Godmother to a child in the religion Miguel and his family belonged to brought with it some obligations related to, “raising the child in the faith,” something Janelle knew nothing about. So she bought some books and studied this religion. She thought it strange that so many people worshipped a deity that had died. Not just died but been executed in a way Janelle herself may have chosen to kill a frail. The god these frails worshipped was no Skietra, that was certain.
Near Earth Command was preparing for an attack, an attack they were not certain would come. Conventional beliefs held that if Aria and Velor engaged in open hostilities on Terra, the Galen would intervene, and it would not end well for either set of combatants. There was some disagreement over the extent of the area the Galen would consider to be part of Terra. Would they limit their concern to the planet itself, or would it extend throughout the entire solar system, or beyond? No one knew. No one wanted to find out.
Rumors gathered by Arion agents had it that the Terran who had married the Protector was taken off planet. No one trusted the rumors. No one totally dismissed them either. Janelle was still being asked to keep her ear to the ground, so to speak, to learn what she could, from where she was, about the rumored marriage and the rumor of multiple Combat Wings being assigned to Terra.
If there were Combat Wings on Terra, they were certainly keeping their activities low key. Janelle subscribed to multiple news sources that covered multiple countries and if there was a substantial Velorian presence on Terra, the Terrans were unaware of it.
Her City Council duties were quite enlightening. There was more corruption in the city than she realized. This became clear when her constituents complained about potholes, and she went to the city department responsible for fixing them. She discovered that funds appropriated for road maintenance were diverted, and when she pressed the issue the head of the roads department offered to ‘cut her in on the action,’ as he put it.
“Are you aware of what happened to the gangs who opposed me, senior?”
“Yes, Council Woman Janelle, I am.”
“The same can happen to you if these potholes are not taken care of.”
That afternoon city trucks were busy all over her district filling in potholes. Her constituents loved her for it.
Janelle had also wondered what she would do for entertainment now that she had destroyed the last of the local gangs. As it happened, the gangs from outside the area who were trying to establish themselves in the city provided all the entertainment she needed. It never failed to amaze her why they kept coming back, even after realizing their members were disappearing. She got into the habit of asking her captives why the gangs didn’t just abandon the area. They told her it was too lucrative an opportunity to pass up.
She discovered something else. If she had more than one plaything, and she let the others watch while she killed one, they became very eager to answer her questions if she promised them a quicker, less painful death. She even made a game of it, based on quiz shows she watched on TV. She would use one frail to sexually satisfy her while the others watched, putting in a little extra effort at the end to make it beg for mercy and scream in pain. Then she would tell them they were going to play a game, and whoever had the highest score would not only die last but would die painlessly. Quickly and painlessly.
She had Miguel make her buzzers that could be set off by pushing a button. She would put the buzzers in front of the frails and begin asking questions. Whoever buzzed first would be allowed to give her the answer. And she kept score, each frail scored one point for giving her an answer first, losing a point if she knew it was the wrong answer. At the end of the game, she would let the winner watch while she played with the losers, making sure that they died screaming. Then she’d take the winner by the hand, take it to the center of the room, surrounded by the remains of its fellow contestants, and quickly break its neck. Or crush its skull by bringing her hands together very quickly. Or look into its eyes and shoot a beam of heat vision through its head. She liked to mix it up, the only rule she placed on herself was that she keep her promise to make the frail’s death quick and painless.
We’re celebrities. The four of us, me and the blondes. We’re celebrities. The ship we were on, the Nebula Explorer, was a science and research vessel, that was diverted to bring me and the ladies home. Actually, it was diverted to bring me home. The ladies could have found their own way home, but they decided to stay with me.
Given the vast distances in space, voyages always took some time, and there was ample opportunity for the crew to become bored. To fight this, many tasks that could be automated, and in fact had automated backup systems, were done manually. So environmental readings that could be monitored by ships systems were also monitored manually. Logs were filled out, signed and reviewed. Meetings were held to discuss the logged data, which never really changed. Everyone was constantly being trained, cross trained, really, to be able to step into different jobs if needed.
Xara and I had a Kelsorian cleaning robot at home. There were no cleaning robots on the Nebula Explorer. Cleaning duties were handled by crewmen and women, overseen by officers. One day a week was dedicated to doing a deep clean all over the ship.
Everything was routine. The only change to the routines occurred when the ship was near a planet, or star, or some phenomena it was studying. And then everyone had their scientific duties to perform, on top of the routine work.
So the passengers, me and the ladies, were something new, a break from the routine. Curiosities. Everyone on the crew knew about Velorians, and some had met Velorians. But none of them had ever met a Protector or a Scribe. And while the Kelsorians were the same species as me, Earth, or to them, Terra, was the mother planet and was isolated to keep it pure. Yeah. I never really understood what that meant, or why it was important. That meant that none of them had ever met a Terran from Terra. So there was a lot of interest in me, and they wanted to know all about the home planet, the place where all Terrans came from.
And then, to meet a Terran who was married to a Protector, and who had Velorian citizenship, that just made me all the more interesting.
And the blondes … everyone wanted to talk to the blondes. The crew had heard about Velorian sexual proclivities, and the captain talked to the three of them about that. He couldn’t have discipline break down on the ship, he couldn’t have jealousies erupt among the crew if some were bedding Velorians and others were not.
And the blondes understood, and went along with the captain’s request on this, and that just about blew me away. Okay, Xara and I were married, and that meant Xara didn’t have Terran partners, other than me.
Kara is a reasonable person, and she didn’t want any trouble with the Kelsorians. She wanted to stay on the Kelsorian captain’s good side as much as he wanted to stay on hers. Kelsor and Velor, in some ways, are co-dependent. Velor needs Kelsor for their technology. Kelsor needs Velor for their protection. Not that the Kelsorians aren’t capable of holding their own in a fight. They’d bloodied the Arion’s noses more than once, Kara told me, but they’d been bloodied back, and so they looked at Velorians, especially Protectors, as their allies. If Kelsor was being squeezed by The Empire (kinda sounds like Star Wars, doesn’t it) they could count on Velor sending Protectors to help. So Kara recognized the balance here, and wasn’t going to do anything to make the captain’s job harder.
Xara is married, she isn’t going to go around bedding Kelsorians. Kara is a Protector who understands the dynamic between Kelsor and Velor, so she isn’t going to cause problems on a Kelsorian ship, so that left Sharon.
Does Sharon follow anyone else’s rules when it comes to sex? She did on Xanadu, because that is a disclosed world with an embassy, and she could get better sex from the Velorians there anyway. So she behaved herself on Xanadu.
Kelsor is also disclosed, but we weren’t anywhere near a Velorian Embassy with Ambassadors and Guardians who could remind Sharon what the rules are. And for someone like Sharon, a ship like the Nebula Explorer is a Terran smorgasbord. Kara had a talk with her and convinced her to follow the captain’s wishes and not rock the boat. I couldn’t hear the discussion. Xara could and said it was less of a back and forth discussion and more of Kara laying down the law.
Well, Sharon is bisexual, so she floated the idea of having a sexual relationship with one of the crewwomen. The captain vetoed that. He had more than one female crew member who would have been happy to get between the sheets with Sharon. Or Kara. Or Xara.
Sharon behaved herself, and I must admit I was impressed, because the crew, especially the men, but also some of the women, didn’t make it easy on her. The ladies always had the attention of whatever personnel were in the same area as they were in, and while the captain gave them strict orders regarding the limits of fraternization, men will be men. And women will be women. They all made it clear, in ways subtle and not so subtle, that if the Velorians were interested, so were they.
Velorians don’t like to go a long time without sex. And their definition of a long time without sex … I’ve said enough about that. The captain arranged for us to have adjoining cabins, with internal doors between them. Xara and I had the cabin in the middle and Kara was on one side and Sharon on the other, so we could move freely between the three cabins without being observed.
They kept me busy. Very busy. So much so that Xara drew up a rest schedule for me. At least one full day every few days for me to rest up. And I needed it. There were times when if I didn’t get out of our cabin, I would be in a pheromone induced fog all day. Even with the excellent ventilation on the ship.
Which brought something else up. If the ship’s air is recirculated, and it is, what happens when the ladies’ pheromones get out? Well, the ships HVAC had scrubbers that removed Velorian pheromones. That hadn’t always been the case. The ship’s crew alluded to an event that happened sometime in the past, shortly after Velor and Kelsor discovered each other, where a ship was presumed lost before it was discovered that the crew was in the midst of a pheromone induced orgy brought on by a few Velorian men and women passengers. This was way back, before ordinary Velorians knew what their pheromones could do to Terrans. Apparently, when Velorians first made contact with Terran species and discovered what their pheromones could do, the government decided to keep it a secret. They soon learned the error of their ways. Those pheromone scrubbers are standard equipment on all Kelsorian spaceships.
Discipline is tight on a Kelsorian vessel. The crew and officers always address each other with very formal titles. The lady’s and I got a pass on that, we weren’t expected to be as formal. This made it easy for me to make friends with the crew. And because I was such a novelty, they were open to forming relationships. One benefit was that the section responsible for maintaining what they called environmental suits, i.e. spacesuits, looked at mine and installed some upgrades. One is really nifty. My suits carry air tanks, and exhaled air is vented. That is inefficient, because our lungs are not 100% efficient at exchanging oxygen with CO2. The numbers vary depending on the planet you are on, or whose ship you are on, so I’m using numbers here that reflect conditions on Earth. We inhale air that is 21% oxygen and .04% carbon dioxide and exhale air that is 16.4% oxygen and 4.4% carbon dioxide. It varies with your health and conditioning, but the Kelsor crewman who was explaining this to me said those are very typical numbers.
That is a lot of oxygen that is exhaled, and it can’t be helped because the carbon dioxide has to be carried away. If the concentration of the carbon dioxide we inhale goes above about 1.5% we start to feel mild discomfort. At 4%, for long periods of time, it is dangerous. The Kelsorian engineer added an upgrade to my suit that scrubs the carbon dioxide out of the air I exhale, then mixes the other gasses, the oxygen and nitrogen, with the air that comes in from my tanks, and balances it out so I’m still getting 21% oxygen. That makes my air last a lot longer than before the upgrade.
Xara wanted to try it out, so, with the captain’s permission, we stepped out of an airlock onto the hull of the ship. And then just walked around (they gave me mag boots so I wouldn’t float off). The upgrade added about 20% more capacity to my tanks. Xara was very happy about that.
The crewman showed me how to install the upgrades and, with the captain’s permission, gave me the hardware, tools and software to upgrade the other five spacesuits I own.
The crewmen and women I met also spent a lot of time trying to help me understand how their drive and gravity systems work. I just don’t have the background in physics to understand it. The drive system for the ship, translated into english, would be CM, for Center Mass. It allows the ship to travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light without incurring relativistic effects. I don’t know how it works; I just know that it does. They said that the CM drive creates a CM field, and if we had a timepiece traveling outside our CM field, on a parallel course, that time would move slower out there than inside the field. Again, they tried to explain to me how it works, and I didn’t understand it. Xara told me that the Kelsorians don’t really understand it either, they just know the conditions required to form a CM field.
The CM field also generates a gravitational field on the ship. I get headaches just remembering how they tried to explain that to me.
I asked them about Einstein’s theories of relativity and special relativity and how they apply to the CM drive and the CM gravitational field, and they just looked at me. Then Xara giggled and explained to me that they didn’t know who Albert Einstein was. Well, duh.
The highlight of the trip for me was wormhole transits. Wormholes are not visible, nor are they easily detectable. There are beacons outside the wormholes that signal their presence by emitting tachyons. No one knows who put the beacons in place, the Kelsorians said they predate the Seeders, the civilization that spread Terrans around the galaxy. You don’t see a wormhole, you see the signal from the beacon, and you pass the beacon on a certain course and speed, and then suddenly you are … somewhere else. You see stars all around you, until suddenly you don’t. Everything looks normal until you are in the mouth of the wormhole, and then you see light that is … all messed up. Because it is traveling in a circle around the inside of the mouth of the wormhole, as are gases that are illuminated by that light. And every direction you look is the same, because you are inside a sphere. And light is ‘echoing’ around the inside of the sphere.
The ship has a great deal of velocity as it enters the wormhole, it needs to, to avoid crossing the event horizon of the blackhole at the center. The ships course keeps it well away from the blackhole event horizon, nothing good happens if it gets too close.
And then you are out the other side and you see stars again. And honestly, I don’t see how transiting wormholes can ever get old. But it was old hat for the blondes, even Xara.
Wormhole transits are not without risks, and the crew and passengers are required to be belted into chairs during the transit, in case the ship has to make sudden course changes that are beyond the ability of the CM fields to dampen. The blondes didn’t need to strap in, of course, but the captain asked them to anyway, and they didn’t argue. The ships view screens are all turned on during the transit so we could see what was going on, or what looked like was going on, outside the ship.
One of the interesting things about black holes is that they can have multiple wormholes. And the exit point is dependent on the input point. And they are marked by these beacons put there by nobody knows who.
When you enter a wormhole one of two things can happen. You can exit the wormhole through the one and only exit that corresponds to the entrance you took, or you could fall into the black hole.
The blondes can travel through wormholes on their own power. Which means they can detect tachyon emissions. Because they have to be able to do that to find the beacons, so they know where the wormholes are. Velorians who travel off planet, on their own power, are given maps etched into crystals, or recorded onto crystals … something having to do with crystals, that they use to figure out which wormhole entrance gets them to which wormhole exit. Kara said these maps were worked out by trial and error.
And about those crystals, the blondes showed me theirs, and I can’t make out any useful details. But they can. It’s a combination of the maps being very small and them being able to see wavelengths above and below what we humans, Terrans, can see.
This crew on this ship had never had Velorian passengers before, but they seemed to be pretty well informed about their eating habits. At meals they put large platters of food in front of the ladies and sat back and watched in amazement as the Velorians at everything that was put in front of them. It was too bad we ran out of Xanadusian food while waiting for a rescue ship on that moon, I think the Kelsorians would have enjoyed it.
Oh, I discovered that Xara was only half joking when she made that remark about serving me pizza for every meal when we got back to earth. She watched every bite I ate while on the Nebula Explorer and if she didn’t think I was eating enough, she put more food on my plate and watched me until I ate it all.
“Xara, I’m stuffed. One piece of this cake is all I can eat.”
“Eat the second piece, Joe. You still haven’t replaced the fat you lost while you couldn’t eat after coming out of stasis.”
She made sure I ate three meals a day and then had me eat snacks. While on the ship I had access to the gym facilities, which were nice, and which had exercise equipment not too different from what you would see at a well-equipped gym on earth. Xara put together an exercise schedule that hit every muscle group and supervised me.
“I want you to be back in the same shape you were in, or better, when we get back home. I don’t want Gloria to yell at me.”
Since Xara was putting so much emphasis on my exercise and diet, and since I was making friends among the crew, the galley crew let me observe them and taught me a couple of recipes. I can’t replicate them exactly, they have spices and vegetables that can’t be found on earth, but I think I can make some substitutions.
The Kelsorians have all kinds of card games, video games and board games that they play, to break up the monotony when they aren’t on duty. And I confirmed that they don’t have holodecks, like on StarTrek. I told them about the series, and the holodecks, and they thought the idea was intriguing, but said they didn’t know of anyone in the galaxy who had them.
When you spend months on a ship with people, and you get to know them, and they learn about you, lots of questions come up. They wanted to hear about Terra, and our wars, and my experiences. They thought that was interesting and they asked a lot of questions. But what really got them excited was learning that Xara and I can communicate over a psychic link. They were all over that.
So Xara consented to letting them attach electrodes to us and measure our brain waves. I don’t know if the technically advanced civilizations in the galaxy had ever measured Velorian brain waves, but the medical crew on this ship never had. They got all kinds of measurements of activity going on in Xara’s brain that they had never seen before. They talked Sharon and Kara into being part of the experiment too, and they got the same readings from those two as they got from Xara.
And the measurements they got from me were exactly what they’d expect to see from a human. Things changed though when Xara made a connection with me. They found new activity that they hadn’t seen before in the Velorians, and they found matching activity in my brain. The energy levels, the strength of the signals they were measuring, were orders of magnitude higher in Xara’s brain compared to mine, but otherwise they were very similar.
They recorded a lot of data. They recorded Xara sharing my perceptions with Kara and Sharon, they recorded Xara sharing her perceptions with me, they recorded us both seeing through each other’s eyes and hearing through each other’s ears. They got reams of data. But they didn’t figure out what was going on. I mean they could measure that something was happening, but what that something was they didn’t know. Or at least they didn’t figure it out while we were on the ship.
One thing they did confirm is that Xara can send and read my thoughts faster than the speed of light. They put her at one end of the ship and put me on the other and with very sensitive instruments had her read a set of numbers to me, and then had me read a set back to her, and they confirmed that the signals in our brain, the electrical signals that get passed back and forth when we think, see, or talk, were happening simultaneously in both our brains, at least to the level of precision of the instrumentation they were using. They had no explanation but thought maybe something was happening at the quantum level. Then they lost me when they tried to explain quantum mechanics to me.
I had one question, which no one on the Nebula Explorer could answer. Why are some Terran civilizations so advanced, and others are not? Why do the Kelsorians have interstellar space travel, and the Xanadusians and Earthlings do not? The Kelsorians I met on the ship had no idea. Neither did my Velorian companions. One hypothesis I came up with is that on some planets, such as Kelsor, virulent diseases never developed. They didn’t have smallpox, or anything in their history like the Black Plague. But neither did the Xanadusians, and yet they were behind Earth.
I spent a lot of time with the crew, and I enjoyed their company and they seemed to enjoy mine. I liked them, I respected them, and with their help I can now speak, read and write conversational Kelsorian. Immersion in a foreign language really is a great way to learn it.
The day came when we transited the last wormhole and headed for Earth. Kara left the ship, P1s can travel faster on their own than any ship, and left to let the Protectors and Scribe, Gloria and Mona, know that we were back. She thought they might have been worried since we were delayed by the battle in space. Before leaving she gave Sharon very strict instructions to leave the crew alone, sexually. Sharon behaved herself.
Long before we got to earth the captain turned the ship’s cloaking mechanism on. When the ship got to about the moon’s orbit, we got on a shuttle that cloaked and took it down to earth, landing at my dock. Since Kara had gone ahead, everyone knew we were returning, and we were met at the dock.
Gloria came up to me and hugged me, which was surprising, Gloria is not a hugger, but she hugged me then stood back and looked at me, then turned to Xara and said, “You let him lose weight! I’m ordering Pizza for dinner.”