Shepherd Moon, Chapter 11: Female Chauvinist
Mia deliberately walked leisurely back into the Talon, surrounded by her armed Elyran escort, taking her time to take a look at the bustling Elyran activity in the corridors. Nick took the opportunity to discreetly record more in the hidden camcorder mounted on the shoulder of his suit.
"So, Nick," she said, "what are you thinking?"
Nick minutely swiveled his suit from side to side as he walked. "Well, Skipper, everything seems to be going well." He bent backward and focused on one of the ceiling light panels. "And the Elyrans seem to be friendly sorts." He bent over and focused on the deck. "In a very nineteenth-century Victorian sort of way." He smiled.
"Their civilization is at least eighty millennia old. I find it hard to believe we're still dealing with a bunch of prudes."
"So? Age doesn't make one an automatic sophisticate."
"Notice the smell?"
Nick sniffed cautiously. "It's almost gone, now."
"I think it's some kind of natural pheromone or chemical. It comes out during stress or fear. Something like that."
"Wish we could get a sample."
"Tiny little buggers, huh?"
"Just a bit. What about those other ones - they weren’t small at all."
"Yeah, the Detterex. I wish we could keep one of them for tests and observation."
"These aren't pets, Nick. These are people."
"I know, I know. Just wondering out aloud."
O'Connell looked ill at ease. Though she knew the Elyrans couldn't understand what they were talking about, she couldn't help but blush in embarrassment. Their Elyran escorts looked at her somewhat in shock, but quickly looked away. Now what did that mean? She reached up to her suit collar and turned up the gain of her translator but the aliens weren't talking.
She turned to Mia. “I'm being silly,” she thought, and decided to join in.
"I think the princess has the hots for you," she blurted. Mia and Nick looked at her, and she laughed.
"How can you tell?" Nick asked.
"I know. Women almost always know."
"Ma'am," Nick said, "beggin' your pardon, but this particular woman was born hundreds of light years away. Not to mention the fact that we have more in common with a bullfrog than with her. And besides, Mia's a girl, too."
"What? There are no lesbians in Elyra?"
O'Connell tried to hide a small grin. Mia blushed, and the Elyrans looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
"This discussion is getting us nowhere," Mia said gruffly. "Let's drop the subject." She tried to change the topic. “I wonder where they're leading us. This isn't where we passed through before."
Nick tapped the lead Elyran and asked.
"We are going to My Lady's main audience chamber," the Elyran answered, "where we are to meet the Princess, and Prince Ren's science staff."
"That's good. Lead on, MacDuff."
The Elyrans looked at each other. "Macduff?" one of them asked the other.
Tomoguchi peeked through the window of the carrier's airlock. "I don't think the Captain or Commander O'Connell will like this, sir," his aide said.
"Shut up, Lieutenant." Tomoguchi knew his commanding officers would not like the fact he left the ship in the hands of the chief engineer, But he felt he had no choice. No way would he risk someone if he could stand in for that person. He turned back to his work.
"Everybody ready?" He took a deep breath and swung open the door. He could only half see what was in front of him: barely perceptible coruscating bands of rainbow-colored distortion washed over his helmet's faceplate as his radiation shield ticked over, blocking his vision enough that visibility was cut down to about eight feet or so.
"Alright, people. We only have an hour to do this. Let's make it snappy." He pulled out a utility “sword” with a curved blade and hacked away at the jutting pieces of metal, like an explorer in an old jungle movie. The pieces of metal made easy work for his laminated-durasteel sword as he rapidly cut into the Arachnian ship's hull. Around him were several of Seeker's Marines and the rescue team, quickly cutting into the ruins of the ship. Each time they reached a main bulkhead, Tomoguchi's demolition squad would attach a detonator and blast a hole into the deck, and, foot by foot, they went deeper into the ship.
Luckily, they chanced upon a ruined elevator shaft, and going down suddenly became easier. In a short while, they reached their goal.
Tomoguchi pushed away pieces of junk and laid bare a small patch of a smooth, blackened metal surface. One of his technicians attached a sound transmitter to the metal and spoke very loudly in a much-accented Elyran.
"Hello, in there. We are from the Earth ship and we have come to rescue you. You are instructed to move away from this part of the wall as far as you can. Please signal that you will comply."
A faint answer could be heard - something about radiation.
“We have taken care of that. Signal that you understand and will comply.”
After a muffled reply, the technician nodded to the rest of the team.
Tomoguchi's aide produced what looked like a packet made of clear plastic. As they shook it out, it started to look like a big cellophane-like bag. Two spacers stepped in the bag and the rest glued the opening to the black hull.
Faint rainbow-like patterns of distortion surrounded them, like those on the surface of a soap bubble or a film of oil, as a field-unit radiation shield was activated. The spacers took out what looked like pick-axes and started hammering into the metal.
They found the metal relatively thin, actually, and had an easy time of it.
As pieces of metal were gouged out, a faint hissing sound could be heard and the plastic bag puffed out. The spacers dropped their axes and used their gauntleted gloves to peel and push aside the metal. Tomoguchi peered into the bubble and gasped as two big white-and-orange insects with antennae levered themselves from the crack in the hull.
“Umm... hello,” he said, and shrugged as his aide gave him a sour look.
Mia stood at the podium of Seeker's main conference hall. She had invited all of Seeker's officers and crew who had come in contact with the aliens.
On the screen were the officers and crew of the other ships in a split screen, who, like them, came in close contact with the aliens. She nodded to the yeoman technician who pressed a switch on her console, and broadcast the electronic conference on the three ships' entertainment channels.
"Settle down everyone." The soft murmuring of the crowd petered out.
"I've put together this meeting so as to get all of your impressions about the aliens. We're putting it on close-circuit so that the rest of the ship can watch. Needless to say, we will be recording this and sending it back to Fleet Command."
Mia nodded again to the technicians and various close-up shots of the Elyrans replaced her half of the screen.
"Here you see close-ups of some of the aliens we've met. Notice that most of them are female. In fact I can only recall actually encountering just one male.
"There are also several similarities between us and them, besides having two sexes. As you can see, the gross anatomy is obviously humanoid. There are, however, several differences in detail. Notice here that they have only three fingers, not including the expected opposable thumb. Notice also the solid-colored eyes and the thick fur-like hair.
"They also seem to be a little on the short side, by our standards. They average about 1.5 meters. Or five feet for those from NorthAm.” People laughed politely. “Yet other than this, they seem for the most part like us."
Mia noticed a waving hand. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
"Sir, what about those other aliens we encountered? They were definitely more than 1.5 meters. They were more like two meters or more… more than seven feet.”
O'Connell interrupted. "Those weren't Elyrans, Lieutenant. They were Detterex soldiers. But some of our Phase-wave intercepts say these two races come from the same genetic stock. The physical differences are minor. The Detterex language is even Elyran, although with a very pronounced and distinct accent. Most of the fighters that we've gone up against were Detterex. The other Empire ships, the Tirosians - we never had a chance to meet up with them. For some reason, they seemed to hold back from the battle. I don't know why.”
Mia was impressed with O’Connell’s knowledge. "Other things you've noticed?" Mia asked her audience. She saw another raised hand. "Yes, Nick?"
"Captain, when we were brought to the bridge, I couldn't help but notice the, umm, smell. None of us were expecting that."
"Yes, I noticed that as well. But the Elyrans seem to be well disciplined. I'm sure that they know the value of good hygiene especially in a spacecraft. This leads me to suspect that this may be a normal, natural condition."
"Well, it isn't bad. Sort of a musky dry scent. We can get used to it. But we have to warn everyone to stock up on air fresheners." The shipboard company laughed.
One of the Marine sergeants raised his hand. "Sir, it may be just me, or maybe it's because of the blasts, but I felt sort of funny when we were in close quarters with the aliens. Sort of an itchy feeling, but inside my head. Y'know what I mean?"
Mia looked at the others. "I also had a feeling like that. Anyone else?"
Almost half of those who went on board raised their hands, mostly the men.
"So it wasn't coincidence. Anyone have an idea what it was?"
The Captain of the Hermes signaled. "Well, it was obviously being caused by the Elyrans. Because, if it were coming from their equipment, I'm sure we'd have picked up something."
"I agree, Captain."
Another one, a Marine this time, raised her hand. "Could they be telepathic, Captain? You know, read minds and stuff."
Mia shrugged. "I don't know, Private. They could be. Gives them one hell of an advantage, if that’s true." The looks that she got were thoughtful.
"Anyway, Fleet and the CETI people will investigate this and get back to us."
In the video pickup, one of the fighter pilots from the Constellation raised his hand. "Sir, mostly the thing I noticed was their fighters. They look like rocket-powered ships. Now, why would they use rocket power, when they have artificial gravity? Look at us. All our ships have gravity engines."
"That's right,” Mia said. “And, you know, the Detterex had two tankers? One of them was blown up by an accidental collision. They probably use the tankers to refuel their fighters and other smaller ships."
“Either they know something about gravity plates that we don’t, or else they’re not as smart as we thought they’d be,” O'Connell said.
Someone else signaled for attention - the chief navigator on the Constellation. “Sir, how about military tactics? Seems to me, our guys were able to run rings around ‘em.”
“I think it was more technology than anything else, lieutenant,” Mia answered. “Naturally our ships were faster and more maneuverable.”
The lieutenant raised a slightly dubious eyebrow. “Well, maybe.”
O'Connell turned towards Mia, a questioning eyebrow raised. She was wondering if they should talk about the meeting. O'Connell decided to shut down the meeting instead. "Well, sir,” O’Connell said. “After all of this, what now?"
"We'll wait for our people that are investigating the Arachnian derelicts, and, unless Fleet Command has other ideas, we will escort the Federation ships back home."
"Back home, sir? Back to Earth?"
"Yup. Also, have the Quartermaster replace all issued translators with ones that can also broadcast English-to-Elyran.”
O’Connell nodded. "What about the other aliens, sir? The Detterex?"
"They’ve changed course and seem to be headed the same way, Commander. Along with the rest of their fleet."
Tomoguchi gave terse instructions to his pilot, and their carrier smoothly took off from the ruined alien ship. He felt his back prickling but suppressed an urge to look back.
On his ship were twenty-one of the bugs (“Excuse me,” he thought to himself laughing, “I meant extraterrestrials.” The captain wouldn’t like it if he made such a mistake out loud.), which accounted for roughly two thirds of the surviving Arachnians. Another shuttle carried the remaining third, along with a load of their equipment and personal effects. Both shuttle-carriers were headed to the Seeker.
He listened with more than half an ear to the chattering and clicking alien talk and tried to sense some meaning in them. He could not shake the vague impression he had of the aliens being familiar. He thought of spiders but they weren’t that similar to strike a chord. He snapped his fingers and thought, “Aha!”
The aliens curiously looked over to him, and he turned and automatically shrugged, as if to say that he didn’t mean anything. Unexpectedly, the other aliens shrugged, too. Almost as if imitating him. One of the scientists they had on board who was trying to converse with the only alien that was wearing an Elyran-language translator raised a curious eyebrow, as the aliens started chattering to each other with renewed vigor.
Whatever it was, Tomoguchi thought, I missed it. Hope it didn’t mean anything. He turned to face front and thought back to the idea that made him go “Aha.”
“I know what they remind me of now,” he thought. “Crabs!”
Once he was at the Fisherman’s Wharf in old San Francisco, and he remembered the delicious crab that they had for lunch then. Despite their general appearance as big overgrown tarantulas, the aliens’ shininess and spotty orange-on-white coloring made them look like big crabs fresh out of the boiler, and reminded him that he hadn't had lunch yet. Their lemony scent reminded him of shrimp in lemon sauce, and he tried to hide a grimace.
The scientist talking with the aliens bent his head lower and tried to understand the alien and answer his questions better. He again tried to explain that they were on their way to Seeker, and then to Earth.
The alien, whom he found was referred to by the others as the First Ambassador, apologized for being too much trouble.
“It is our pleasure, sir,” he said in a very poor, accented Elyran.
The curious alien started pointing at the fixtures on the wall again, and he did his best to explain the function of each without missing details.
After a few minutes, they cruised into Seeker’s landing bay and felt a soft bump as their carrier landed on the bay’s deck. Tomoguchi felt the artificial gravity push his feet against the deck, and walked quickly to the back of the cabin. He opened the carrier’s doors and escorted the aliens down the ramp. The aliens stood on hind limbs and gingerly walked down the gangplank.
Mia was at the bottom of the ramp. Tomoguchi gave her a crisp salute and a short verbal report. Mia nodded, thanked Tomoguchi warmly, and faced the Arachnians. Mia bowed Elyran-style, with fist over heart, and the First Ambassador gave her a salute, a pretty good imitation of the commander, but using two front limbs instead of one. The others did the same thing, and Mia tried not to smile too widely.
“Welcome to the Seeker, Ambassador,” she said in her best Elyran. “I wish we could have met in better circumstances, but nevertheless, we hope that you will find your stay with us to be a comfortable one. I am Amelia Steele, captain of the Seeker.”
“Thank you, Captain,” the ambassador said through his translator.
“Friendship found in war is as welcome as a drink in the desert. I cannot say our thanks enough. You saved us from sure death.”
“Just doing our job, sir. If you care to follow my people..."
- Washington DC
- Mistress of Confusion
Bobbi Cabot is a transgender girl in her thirties (35 y.o. as of 2016), who transitioned in 2005. She is known as "Roberta J. Cabot," "Bobbie-C," "Bobbie," "Bobbi" and "Bobbi-C" in the sites where she posts her stories.
Though not a professional writer, Bobbi is under the delusion that she writes passably well and indulges this delusion by sometimes posting stories, which is, thankfully, very seldom.
Bobbi's day job (the phrase "day job" is hereby stressed) involves being the big cheese of the overseas BPO practice of a Top 100 computer technology corporation.