The planet Tetra, near the western coast
She was perfect. The pinnacle of female sexuality. She moved before him with all the grace and beauty of the cosmos. Her legs were long, angular, yet shapely. Her body was slender, so perfect. He could not take his eyes off her. She appeared to just float by him with effortless elegance. His picture of loveliness looked up toward him slowly. Their eyes met. He was lost in them as she too did not look away. She slowed her walk and finally stopped. Their eyes were still locked together. Saying nothing, they said so much! Finally, standing face to face, both of their heads tilted slightly. Neither was sure what to do in such a situation. He was the first to speak.
Phil had reason to believe he was in love.
She had a wry smile as she walked seductively toward him. All eight of her sexy legs moved in such a mesmerizing rhythm! The luster of her fur delighted the senses! Philís nerves were on edge. He was unsure of what to say or what to do! In his mind, one phrase kept repeating over and over.
"This is most uncomfortable."
A voice that ceased the moment he heard her radiant voice.
"You are the one referred to as Phil, are you not? I have observed you on multiple occasions."
Phil thought fast! He needed to say something that would make him unforgettable to her for the rest of her long life! He evaluated a number of options. His keen mind weighed pro and con of each possibility that came to mind. There were few.
A silence seemed to descend over them briefly before she spoke again.
"I am referred to as Scilicetta. I have no definitive function to perform as of yet. I am still evaluating the options."
Again Philís mind raced to come up with a memorable response!
Scilicetta took a few tentative steps in the original direction that she had been walking when she had noticed this handsome male watching her so intently.
"Well,.....I should continue.......The nest is in need of much work."
Phil stood motionless and speechless.
Philís mind was afire as he tried in vain to think of anything to say! All he wanted to do was gaze upon her! All he desired was to listen to her speak! But she was leaving; time had run out!
"Please come and visit when you can, Phil. I......have information."
The temptress! She was not only beautiful but she had information! How the stars in the sky conspired to make her irresistible! Phil shook deep to his soul!
He meekly lifted an leg to wave just before she turned to trundle up the path. Phil remained in place, watching her until she had gone over the brow of the hill and out of sight. He did notice when she momentarily looked back at him. She appeared pleased that he was still watching her. When she passed over the hill, Phil took one hesitant step in her direction. He paused thoughtfully before he took another step. Another brief pause just before he broke into a wild run back toward the habitat!
The sight of Phil running so quickly toward the habitat invoked the curiosity of every Tetrite who saw him. Is he running from something? Or perhaps running toward something! Something interesting! Something that I should not miss! So every Tetrite, young and old, that saw the rapid and panting Phil, took up chase behind him. One turned into ten turned into a hundred as more and more of his fellow creatures were drawn into the mob scene. By the time Phil reached the habitat, there were one thousand, five hundred, and forty-seven Tetrites scampering wildly behind him without a clue why! Two hundred and forty-five of which were tiny newborns who merely thought there might be food involved.
William was putting the finishing touches on a wonderful new central fountain when he heard a rumbling behind him. Turning to see what was causing that unusual sound, his eyes widened as he saw a huge herd of stampeding Tetrites barreling his way!
William dropped his trowel and turned to run, only to trip over his tool bag. He never had a chance as the stampede enveloped him in a swirling tan cloud of Tetra desert dust.
When the cloud finally began to clear, there were Tetrites everywhere! On the roofs, along the windowsills, around the courtyard. All facing William, who was lying on his back next to the Tetrite-covered fountain. Phil was tapping on Williamís forehead insistently.
"Sir! Sir! The most amazing thing! The most amazing thing!" All the Tetrites leaned forward to hear the amazing thing.
"What is it this time, Phil." William sounded more annoyed than usual. Yet this was so important that Phil simply had to continue. He crawled up onto Williamís chest to face him. The repositioning serving to highlight the significance of the moment. Philís voice took on the gravest of tones. It suitably reflected the seriousness of the situation.
"Sir. I have reason to believe that I may be in love."
A collective groan rose from the gathered Tetrite throng as they quickly disbanded to return to whatever activity they had been wrenched from. A great deal of mumbling and grumbling could be heard as they moved away. It was only now that Phil noticed everyone around him. For a moment, he wondered where everyone was going! Was there something interesting? The thought was quickly put aside. He had a major issue of his own to deal with here!
"Love? You? Phil, you must have gone through this before! I mean, you have a couple of thousand kids!"
"One does not need to love in order to procreate, sir. I merely performed a needed function. This is entirely different."
As profound a thought as that was, William decided that he had no need to be flat on his back. He picked Phil up off his chest and rose in one swift movement to his feet. Placing Phil on the fountain wall, they continued their conversation.
"Well, whatís the big deal, Phil. Youíre a big boy now. Havenít you been in love before?"
"I do not believe so, sir."
"What do you mean you donít believe so, Phil? Donít tell me you donít know about love!"
For a long minute, the two friends just sat and stared at each other in total silence. William finally sighed.
"Itís just an expression, Phil. Talk away."
"I do not know about love, sir."
For the hundredth time, William made a mental note to watch his use of Terran expressions in the future.
Lillith appeared at the window of the habitat. She was wearing her favorite yellow t-shirt, the one with "Aurora Universe" across the front. In her hand, she held a tattered copy of a Velorian-English/English-Velorian phrase book that she had bought second hand from the last Scalatran traders. One of her slender fingers acted as a placeholder in the small paperback. Her young face showed mild confusion as she looked out of the window for the Tetrites. Her English was getting better.
"Willím, wha day doo?" Well, a little better.
"Nothing, hon! Everyone just came for a visit. Philís here. You can talk Velorian if you want."
Lillith shook her head adamantly and pointed to the book.
"The warmest of good afternoons to you, Mistress!" Phil waved enthusiastically to Lillith with a bony leg before turning back to William. "Now, sir, I truly wish for your guidance. This entire situation is quite disconcerting."
"Help from me? Thatís new." William brushed the dust off his jeans.
"Sir, I have observed that you are in love with the Mistress."
"And she with you."
"Then I require additional information based upon your expertise."
"Well, I wouldnít exactly call it experti..."
"I have observed you both together on several occasions, sir. The Mistress appears satisfied with your preoccupation with affection."
"Now wait just a minute...."
"Although, I must admit, I do not understand your predilection for calling her Ďkittení. Do females enjoy being referred to in terms analogous with Terran house pets, sir? That would be most insightful indeed!"
Williamís mouth tightened into what appeared to be a grimace as his hand ran back and forth across his eyes. He exhaled slowly and loudly.
"Look, Phil. When I call her Ďkittení, itís just a term of endearment. It sounds cute and cuddly, like I think of her sometimes."
"Yeah. Itís a way for me to say to her ĎThis is how I think of you right now.í without saying all of that to her. Understand?"
"Oh, quite, sir! I have observed you angry at the Mistress on occasion. What term of endearment is appropriate in such situations?"
William just stood motionless with his mouth open for a few seconds before he answered wearily. "There arenít any."
"I see." Phil was thinking as his foot tapped noisily on the fountain wall. "Then those expressions that you speak to yourself are not..."
"LILLITH!" William was waving to her to come outside and join them. He needed her assistance. As she approached, he thought about how she was going to wear that t-shirt out the way she kept it on all the time. Then again, what the hell - she looked cute in it!
"Honey, Philís concerned that heís falling in love." Lillith was leaning forward to hear each word clearly and to try to understand every English word William spoke. She had asked Phil not to act as a gateway unless specifically asked to do so. She wanted every chance to work on her Terran English. When she heard what William said, she beamed and patted Phil.
"I lourve hew too, Pheel!"
Phil looked a bit confused as he scratched the same place where Lillith had just patted him.
"No, honey, Phil loves a female, um, female Tetrite."
"Close enough. Phil....love......female." The days of Tarzan-talk had returned.
Lillithís eyes moved to the side momentarily, deep in contemplation. When her eyes looked back at William, she simply said "Goot!", gave William a peck on the lips, smiled sweetly, and walked quickly back to the habitat. As she reached the door, William saw a discreet glance back from behind her long hair, complete with a smile and an air-kiss. William smiled back. When she disappeared inside the doorway, he sighed.
"Okay, Phil. Looks like weíll get no further help from the Protector of the planet."
"Yes, sir. Her English is coming along rather interestingly."
On the path, the next day
Phil had the good fortune to run into Scilicetta again. In fact, his good fortune was stacked in his favor. He had been waiting at that spot for nearly six hours. She was pleased indeed to see him.
"The warmest of good mornings, Phil. Are you waiting for me?"
"It would be invalid information if I were to say that I was not."
"Invalid information is never welcome!"
The two Tetrites walked along the narrow path that led to her nest. The sun warmed them as a pleasant breeze fluttered their fur. It was a beautiful day and Phil remembered what the William had said about terms of endearment. He recalled in detail how the William used one to express to the Mistress how he felt about her at the moment. A moment such as this!
"If I may inquire, how are you this day, hot rock?"
"I beg you pardon?" Scilicetta froze in her tracks.
"It is a term of endearment to describe how I feel toward you! I thought the analogy was quite appropriate since I always enjoy being close to a warm rock! Does the analogy suit you?"
"It certainly does NOT! I AM NOT A ROCK!!" Scilicetta was fuming! "I insist that you understand that expressions such as these have never been acceptable to me!"
"It has been said to you before?"
"NO! IT MOST CERTAINLY HAS NOT! I do not understand why males deal in such misinformation! It is not welcome!"
"But I have information that it is commonplace for males to express...."
"Just as I thought! Males are all the SAME!" With that, Scilicetta stormed up the path alone. This time she did not look back.
Phil stood alone on the path as the sun slid behind a cloud. The breeze died to nothing as a moth fluttered silently above him. The moth landed momentarily on his head, flexed its wings twice, and then fluttered just as silently away. Phil never noticed. He could not move for long minutes until he sputtered.
Phil accelerated back down the path toward the habitat. As he ran furiously through the settlements, no one followed this time. This time they knew. Everyone knew.
William and Lillith were practicing her English together. William kept finding her pronunciations of certain words so sexy that the practice was continually interrupted by his kisses. They were involved in one when Phil came scrambling in through the door. He did remember to wipe his feet, but did so frantically before he tumbled onto the table in front of the amorous couple.
"My goodness! My goodness! Sir! Mistress! The worst possible disaster has just occurred! I tried to use a term of endearment with Scilicetta but she did not accept it as such and Iím not even sure what part of it she didnít accept although I recall she did take exception specifically to the word Ďrockí but it may have only been a synopsis of her discontent with..."
William and Lillith continued kissing.
"....and before I could amend the term she expressed her opinion that I was identical to every other male which I find demeaning but I am sure she would never say anything that would....
William and Lillith continued kissing.
"...but I am so worried that everything is ruined! Why could she not merely invite a mating! We could perform and be done with it all! I do not understand this Ďloveí at all."
William and Lillith finally stopped kissing and looked down upon a totally dejected Phil slumped on the table. Lillith reached out and, using one of her fingers, spun Phil around by one of his legs. He now faced them both.
"Pheel, I no know luff eeder. Bud I luff heem. I know all bout dat!" She shrugged and pointed to William. He smiled and took the cue.
"Phil, I donít have a clue as to what love is either. But I just know that I love her. Thatís all anyone really has to know about love." He pointed back, touching her fingertip with his. It made her giggle a bit, but Phil only groaned.
"I will never have anyone to love." He took on a pitiful look. William rolled his eyes.
"Oh, brother! Look, Phil. Who did she talk to the first time?"
"I do not see the point to your inquiry, sir." Phil rotated away, but William turned him back.
"I mean....when she first talked to you, she was just talking to you, right? You werenít trying to DO anything more than reply to her, right?"
"Yes, sir. Quite right."
"And was she glad to see you when you saw her this time?"
"Yes, sir. Quite pleased. Until I blundered."
"Thatís the point, Phil. She likes YOU, not Mr. Endearment. The proof is in her happiness to see you this time. Just be you. Say what you wish to say to her, not what you think you should say to her. At least that way, if you make a mistake, it will be an honest mistake. Sheíll forgive you for that. At least I think so. I really donít know Tetrite females. Hon?"
Lillith nodded knowingly.
"Tíaye, Pheel! You bay you! You so nice to bay Ďrouní for feymahls. Day all luff you, Pheel. You no know dat?"
"Mistress, might I gateway for you if I..."
"No! You know I say ahl goot stuff to you! My Anglich eess protty dam goot dis dayz! Right, Willím?"
"Right, hon! You betcha." William raised a firm thumbs-up.
"Dere, see? You betch!" Lillith duplicated Williamís enthusiastic thumbs-up. The two of them looked like Siskel and Ebert.
"Very well, Mistress. I shall endeavor to remain true to myself. But I do not think that I will ever get the opportunity to do so with Scilicetta." Phil still looked very downcast.
"Inwhite her to deener!" William got it first.
"Invite her to dinner, Phil! Thatís a great idea. Invite her over here for a dinner. We can all talk and make it a lot easier for you two to get to know each other. You know, any lulls in the conversation, we can fill. Right, kitten?"
"There see? Sheís a natural conversationalist!"
"Forget it, hon. Later." Lillith shrugged.
Phil was on his feet again. He seemed to positively beam!
"That is without a doubt a capital idea! My goodness! I must converse with Scilicetta immediately!" Phil scrambled down off the table and ran toward the door. William stopped him.
"Phil!" Phil turned back impatiently. "Just be Phil today, right?"
"Certainly, sir!" He was gone instantly.
William turned back to a smiling Lillith and touched his forehead to hers. He ran his finger down her belly and through a soft tuft of golden hair between her legs.
"Now, honey, once again. Whatís this?"
Lillithís smile scrunched her nose for a moment before she answered in English. Her voice dripped with her Velorian accent as she lowered her voice and made it sound so wonderfully sexy.
He had goosebumps.
Phil approached the nest without hesitation. His enthusiasm was boundless as he stood facing the dark oval opening. Scilicetta was nowhere to be seen. Rather than simply peering into the nest - regarded as rather intrusive by the Tetrites, he rightly stood a few paces away from the opening and called out to her.
A small pebble immediately sprang out of the nest, hitting Phil squarely in the head with a loud thwack! He quickly ruffled the fur around the area of impact with a few quick moves of two of his legs, shook his head in a quick blur, and tried again.
A second pebble was launched with the same effect as the first. This time, the fur along Philís back rose up a bit.
The third pebble hit again. This time, the fur stood up on Philís back and stayed up.
A pair of beady eyes meekly looked out from the depths of the nest. Phil was as angry as he had ever been.
"I see no purpose in your behavior! I have come to present you with an invitation from the William and the Mistress Lillith, Protector of us all, to join them for a social meal at their habitat! I had hoped that you and I could attend together as one! But I see now that I was in error. I simply would not wish to be in the company of one who throws boulders at my person!"
Scilicetta was at the opening to the nest. She stood silently with a sheepish look on her face. She was terribly impressed with the invitation. Being asked to the habitat in the presence of Lillith was an incredible honor! After all, Lillith was revered by all the Tetrites! Scilicetta spoke gently, trying to calm Phil.
"They were, perhaps, larger than I intended, but could not be classified as boulders. Donít you think?"
"IT DOES NOT MATTER! They were flung at me just the same!" Phil was not calming down. If anything, he was on a roll! "You may find adequate entertainment value in it, but I did not! I have reason to believe that I am in love with you! I do not believe that being pelted with stones enhances the experience in the least!" He turned his back to her.
At first, she could not speak. She could only approach him slowly and place her leg on his.
"Did you say that you feel love for me?" Her voice had become soft, yet unsure as her leg stroked his lightly. He moved away a step, keeping his back to her.
"I have become aware of specific feelings toward you that I have reason to believe could be identified as love."
Scilicetta moved close to Phil. Her voice purred to him as his words took root within her and began to flower. "I thought that I had loved alone."
Phil immediately turned toward her. He was stunned to hear what she had just said! He had never considered the possibility that she might love him! He spoke warmly.
"That is invalid information!" They moved closer as their legs intertwined.
"Invalid information is never welcome." She was cooing at him.
"Quite so!", whispered Phil.
Without lips, Tetrites do not show affection by kissing, but by nuzzling. Phil and Scil were nuzzling warmly, lovingly, beneath the gaze of a passing Velorian Protector in silent flight, who smiled brightly as she turned for home.
Near the habitat, later that evening
Scilicetta beamed proudly as she and Phil passed through the settlements on the way to the habitat. A social occasion with the Protector herself! Nothing could make her happier, except maybe Phil. Walking leg-in-leg with him, she nodded courteously to well-wishers along the way. She only had to remember to take Philís leg on the side of him that had a sufficient number of legs left!
"My goodness, Phil! This is most exciting!"
"Most exciting indeed!"
"Do I look alright?"
"You are indeed delightful!"
The conversation on the path to the habitat consisted of variations on these lines. Yet neither of them noticed the repetition nor would they have minded in the least if they had.
William was looking down into a bowl of something stringy and brown. Those two terms were not normally his favorite descriptions of food.
"Lillith. What the hell is THAT?"
"Dat food. Nortundra...um, zeewood."
"You made seaweed for dinner? What about Phil and Scil?"
"Day like. Eets Tetrot food."
"Really?" He looked back into the bowl. There was a brown crust on top like a casserole. "Hmph. Beats me. Iíve never even seen them eat!"
"Dots cause day no like you see dem eat."
"Me? What did I do?"
"Not joo only. No one zee eat. It priefat."
"Priefat? OH! Private! Oh, I get it. The Tetrites consider eating to be private." A second thought just occurred to William. "Hey, wait a minute. Iíve been here for years. How come no one told me this before?"
"Eets fairy priefat!" Lillith sounded like she was scolding him as she turned to return to the cooking area. Confused, William sniffed at the bowl and looked down at Flare. She wagged at his attention.
"Seaweed and canít eat in front of anybody. This should be a real festive occasion." Flare just wagged more.
Lillith suddenly appeared, waving a wooden spoon in Williamís direction.
"You no bitch bout nuttin!" William smiled his best not-to-worry smile.
"Who me? No way, honey! Donít you worry!" He continued to smile as Lillith eyed him suspiciously. Her blue eyes glanced down at Flare, who wagged her tail enthusiastically. Everyone seemed to be reassuring her of their total support.
"Hmph." She turned back to the cooking area. William put his finger to his lips as if telling Flare to remain quiet. He whispered a simple warning to the dog.
Suddenly, Lillithís voice boomed from the cooking area.
"I HAIR DAT!"
Williamís shoulders slumped in defeat as he went into the bedroom to change clothes.
Phil and Scilicetta were approaching the habitat when Scilicetta suddenly froze in her tracks. Whatever she had been thinking about for the last few moments had finally taken control.
"My goodness! The Protector! This is most disconcerting!"
"I can assure you, Scilicetta, the Mistress is most eager to meet you."
"But she is the Protector!"
"The Protector of us all." Phil corrected.
"My goodness! What will I say?"
"Regarding what subject?"
"Subject? I require information! What subject would be appropriate?" Scilicetta was walking again, but tentatively.
"I find that the subject of her sister, Mistress Kara, will invoke conversation from the Mistress. She is quite proud of her sister!"
"Indeed! That is sure to begin a conversation for us! What other topics are useful?"
"Well, she has recently shown a marked interest in Terran confections. Chocolate-covered caramel, I believe."
William had just finished dressing when he heard a brief tap at the door. When he opened it, he looked down on two well-groomed Tetrites who peered right back up at him. Lillith had coached him on the proper greeting.
"The...uh, warmest of good evenings to you, Phil and Scilicetta." He felt as if he was doing a Phil impersonation, but remained in character.
"The warmest of good evenings, sir!"
"Please come into our home. You are most welcome."
Phil and Scilicetta scurried in. Phil remembered to wipe his feet. Scilicetta quickly caught on and did the same. It was at this point that Lillithís training of William had run out. He felt he knew how to entertain guests.
"Okay! Can I get a drink for you two kids?" William had slapped his hands together in anticipation of drink orders. All he got was beady stares. He cleared his throat nervously. "Um, Phil. Iím a bit new at this on Tetra. What do I do now?"
"We require little more than a place to sit down, sir. But we havenít performed the formal introductions. May I?"
William pursed his lips and nodded vigorously. His hand was outstretched as if to say "Yep. Itís all yours!"
"May I introduce Scilicetta, daughter of Constantalatus and Minaatta."
William bowed. "I am most pleased to meet you, Scilicetta." She chittered a giggle and bowed in return. Phil continued.
"Scilicetta, may I introduce The William, companion of the Protector." Scilicetta bowed once again.
"Phil has told me of your many adventures together. Most exciting!" William smiled. Perhaps a little charm was called for here.
"Well, thank you, Scilicetta. Phil has told me much about you as well. But he couldnít describe to me how beautiful you truly are." Scilicetta turned suddenly to Phil.
"Do you require more information to provide an adequate description?" Phil tried to explain.
"I do not see where my descriptive abilities were insufficient...." William tried to interrupt.
"Please! I only meant to say..." Now it was Philís turn to interrupt.
Thank god, thought William. Iím bombing here!
When William turned, he wasnít prepared for what his eyes took in.
"The Protector!" beamed Scilicetta.
"Wowwww!" beamed William.
Lillith stood before them, dressed in the most exquisite floor length dark blue dress. It hugged her curvaceous body without exception. A slit ran the full length of her long right leg all the way to her hip. Generously dished in front, her breasts appeared as two perfect mounds, producing generous cleavage that captured Williamís attention. Two thin straps, one on each shoulder, traveled down her bare back to meet again with the rest of the dress far down below. For the first time that he could recall, Lillith wore silver bracelets and a pearl necklace. And she was wearing makeup! William had NEVER seen her with makeup before! She looked like a totally different woman! Her sophistication in his eyes just went up twenty points! When he noticed that she was wearing high-heels that made her calves bulge alluringly, it went up another forty points!
Williamís mouth hung open mindlessly. He did not take his eyes off her as he mumbled to Phil.
"Are you gonna gateway tonight?"
"If you wish, sir."
"I wish. Oh, I wish!"
"Then you may proceed, sir."
"William took a few steps forward to Lillith. He felt as if he were meeting her for the first time. Her effect on him was electric. His surprise complete. He could only speak from the heart as he took her hand and spoke softly to her.
"I thought I knew how beautiful a woman could be until now. I have never in my life ever seen anyone so devastatingly beautiful as you are this evening. You take my breath away!" He kissed her hand tenderly as she smiled. With Phil acting as gateway, she spoke her native Velorian for the first time in weeks.
"Oh, darling, thank you so much! Itís sweet of you!" William moved to kiss her, but she pulled away. "No, no, honey. Youíll mess up my lipstick!" William only smiled and took her arm in his.
"One of the drawbacks to glamour. Come on, Mistress Protector. I want to introduce you to a new friend."
They walked arm-in-arm to the Tetrite pair waiting patiently. It was now Williamís turn at the formal introductions.
"Scilicetta, allow me to introduce Lillíthía Velor, Protector of the Tetrites, companion of Willím aíTerra, and my most beautiful friend." That last part made Phil and Scilicetta look at each other with a smile. Lillith, may I introduce Scilicetta, daughter of Constantalatus and Minaatta." Scilicetta found her voice.
"Oh, Mistress! It is indeed an honor to be in your house!" Scilicetta was bowing.
"You are always welcome here, Scilicetta. I hope you will come again often." That sounded like part of a normal Tetrite script to William. Lillith just wasnít that formal. Speaking of which.....
"Um, okay. With the formal intros done, what do we do now?" William decided to just be openly disorganized. What the hell.
"Well, sir. We can do whatever you wish. We are all friends here now." William liked the sound of that.
"Well, Phil, letís eat."
"Nicely put, sir. Mistress? Scilicetta?"
The ladies headed for the table first as William and Phil followed.
Flare could only peer through a crack in the door. She had been evicted for the duration of the evening. She moaned impatiently at the sight of everyone having fun without her.
The bowl of Nortrundan Seaweed Casserole a la Lillith was prominently placed on the table. Normally eaten with the hands, or rather legs, no forks, spoons, or knives were placed next to the plates. Small piles of napkins were strategically placed around the perimeter of the table.
On the left side of the oval table sat Phil and Scilicetta. Directly across from them sat William and Lillith. Scratching insistently at the door was Flare. The social dinner with Will, Lill, Phil, and Scil was about to begin.
As the host, Lillith dished out the steaming seaweed to everyone.
"I hope you like Nortrundan better than Contrundan. Itís getting so difficult to find good Contrundan. Isnít that right, honey?" Cue the William.
"Hm?" Missed cue. Take two.
"Hard to get Contrundan seaweed, dear. Right?"
"It is? OH! Yes! Impossible! Donít you think, Scilicetta?"
"Oh my, yes! I am in possession of the latest information regarding the harvest so far this year!" Phil jumped in.
"You say your information is the latest?"
"Why yes it is! Would you like the information provided to you?"
"That would be most welcome indeed!"
"I would be most happy to do so immediately!"
And so began a two hour marathon of Tetrite conversation between Phil and Scilicetta. William and Lillith remained silent for the entire time as their eyes moved back and forth from Phil to Scilicetta as each spoke in turn. They had the appearance of watching a tennis match at Wimbledon.
While Lillith and William could eat openly, Phil and Scilicetta would not do so. Observing strict Tetritian etiquette, they would suddenly stop conversing, take a leg-full of the seaweed, and retreat to opposite corners where they would consume the helping with their backs to their hosts. Faint sounds of munching could be heard just before they both returned to the table simultaneously. The conversation picked up where they had left it without any hesitation. Time after time, Phil and Scilicetta did this as if they had rehearsed it all for hours. After the fourth or fifth time, William leaned over to Lillith and whispered "These two were made for each other." When Lillith turned to him, her blue eyes were open wide and her cheek stuffed with seaweed. Her response was buried in seaweed.
"Oh darling, I love it when you talk like that." He grinned as if to say "gotcha" before sitting back up to smile at the returning Tetrites. Lillith only scowled at him quickly before she turned back to her guests as well.
In spite of the monopoly of the conversation by Phil and Scilicetta, the evening passed quickly. Standing in the doorway of the habitat, William and Lillith waved goodbye to their guests before turning back to clean up the table.
"Well, now I know why Iíve never seen a Tetrite eat anything. Was that the normal thing they do, hon? Or did they go back and forth just for us tonight?"
"No, dotís how day doo dot. Eets not so bod one zue get to know dem."
"For cryiní out loud, Lill. Iíve been here for over four years now. Why doesnít Phil tell me about this stuff."
"You no need to know."
"Aw, jeez. You sound like Phil! Iím gonna ask him about this tomorrow!"
"Den you need to know."
William just looked at her. He couldnít believe that it was just that simple. He leaned forward and lowered his voice.
"Do you mean to tell me that for me to Ďneed to knowí only means that Iíve asked!"
"Cheeeeeerist! These creatures are so figginí complicated!"
"Youíre right, Lillith. Simple. Maybe too simple for me to understand them." He shook his head and took some more dishes into the cooking area. "Good thing we were here tonight, eh? Otherwise olí Phil and Scil would never have said Ďbooí to each other." Pleased with his joke, he disappeared into the other room.
Lillith stood quietly contemplating what he had just said.
"Day no say boo!" She finally shrugged it all off and sighed. "Dot Willím. He no right ahgin!" Picking up the bowl, she followed into the other room. "You want some dis goot stuff?"
"I found the evening to be most informative!" Scilicetta was floating on air.
"Yes. I feel compelled to express the same as well!" Phil had her leg in his as they trundled along the same path they had followed earlier.
"The William and the Mistress do not seem to be very talkative. Do they lack information?"
"Not at all! Perhaps they only require a bit of help to converse properly in social situations. It is, after all, not their primary function."
"If that is the situation, then we simply must provide the required information to them to overcome it. Might there be another opportunity to do so?"
"Oh, I am sure that will occur."
"That would be most welcome!"
"Most welcome indeed!"
The nest came into view in the moonslight immediately when they crested the hill. Phil stopped short of the entrance, as is proper.
"Scilicetta, I found the evening with you to be most satisfying. If you are agreeable, I will return tomorrow to see you once again."
Scilicetta had other ideas.
"If you are agreeable, Phil, I would like to invite you to mate."
"That would be a most welcome function!"
"I am glad that you are agreeable."
Scilicetta turned to lead Phil into the nest when he took one of her legs to momentarily stop her.
"Scilicetta, may I have a moment." She turned back to face him. His voice sounded very serious. "I find the concept of mating with you to be most agreeable. But I have found that the feelings that I have for you, as we have discussed previously, now confuse the issue." Scilicetta looked a bit confused herself.
"Do you wish not to mate?"
"Oh, no! I DO wish to mate. But...."
Scilicetta thought she knew what he wanted to say. She searched for a way to tell him to simply say what he was feeling to eliminate any ambiguity.
"Phil, simply say what you are feeling in order to eliminate any ambiguity." Scilicetta had a way with words.
"Scilicetta, I wish to mate with you for life. To take you as my life-mate." Phil waited for her to laugh or to tell him to get lost. Lifetime mating was an entirely new concept among the Tetrites. Normally, a female would invite a male to mate, they would, and that would be the end of it. The newborns are pretty self-sufficient, scattering to find food for themselves. The Tetrite community teaches each newborn the mores of Tetritian life. So a complete family is simply not needed. But as the species has evolved, the concept of remaining with one mate for life was starting to take hold. Phil, being from the future, was completely enculturated with the concept. He did not expect Scilicetta to desire it.
"I would find that most agreeable, Phil!" She actually sounded excited.
"Oh, most certainly! Have I not expressed to you that I feel love for you?"
"Indeed you have! As I have expressed the same to you!"
Scilicetta wove her legs amongst Phils.
"Then let us remain together always. You are my mate for as long as we shall live."
In the darkness of the nest, two Tetrite lovers nuzzled passionately. Their legs moving slowly over each others bodies. Touching each other in the most wonderful ways. Scilicetta had her back to the opening, where the blue light of the Tetritian moons flooded through. Phil could just make out her silhouette as she rose vertically, her legs splayed out sensuously. The female invitation to mate. Phil moved quickly to his waiting lover, rising up as well. Their bellies touched lightly, making them both sigh with pleasure. The feel of each other through that tender side provoked each to become quickly aroused. Phil moved slowly from side to side, stroking Scilicetta, turning her on more and more. She could feel herself filling quickly with desire! She was on fire!
As if on cue, both lovers intertwined their legs, pulling themselves together ever tighter. Scilicetta leaned back, letting Phil assume the proper position on top. But at the apex of her passion, she suddenly rolled them both over so that she was on top! Now she too began to move sensusously across Philís tender belly! A progressive female, she was taking control! He shouted out passionately!
They had made wild, burning love for hours. Both giving pleasure to their lover in every way they knew how. And a few ways that, until this night, they did not even know that they knew. Their own passions satiated for the evening, they settled into the warm embrace of appreciative partners. To await together for sleep to envelop them both.
William and Lillith; Phil and Scilicetta.
Phil felt so content. So filled with soothing happiness. He held his lover close and began the low drone of a song. Feeling the vibrations of Phil, Scilicetta joined in, taking a minor third above the note droned by Phil. Their song built louder as their contentment fueled their voices. The vibrations of their bodies soothed each other. The song of contentment and pleasure carried across the cool night skies of Tetra.
"Listen, hon! Hear Ďem starting up?" A pair of droning Tetrites could be heard in the distance.
Lillith, warm in the arms of William, was resting her head against his chest. She could hear his voice boom inside his body.
"I wonder if Phil and Scilicetta will sing tonight too."
"I dunno way not." Lillith was very sleepy. Notrundan seaweed always did that to her.
William now heard other Tetrites joining in. Their voices filled out the droning song as it flowed from chord to chord. William always found it mesmerizing to listen to.
"I wonder why they start a song."
Lillithís mouth distorted into a wide yawn just before she adjusted position. "I dunno. Day hoppy, mebbe."
"If thatís true, then I could sing right now too."
"Donít." Her sleepy voice barely got the word out.
"Okay." He cuddled closer and smiled.
The Tetrite song soon faded. Silence returned to the desert night and they were all soon fast asleep.
Passing midway between the planet Tetra and its largest moon, Thebe, about 4:00 AM central Tetrite time.
The deckplates rattled beneath his feet as the Captain of the Arion Attack Cruiser, Spira Yar, strode confidently through his bridge. His crew was sharp! Tough! They had won the battle exercise handily. He was damn proud of them all and proud of himself as well. After all, he WAS the Captain of the vessel. The accolades from the High Command will fall on him. The crew will settle for what they can get in the way of praise from the Captain alone. Such was life. A thought came to the smiling Captain.
"Weapons. Remaining stocks of torps. All tubes." The answer was immediate.
Only five torps from a clear magazine. He hated to come home with weapons still on board. It showed a certain lack of initiative on his part. That would never do.
"Weapons! Load tubes 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Prepare to salvo. Helm, watch the yaw. Tube 2 is empty. Report!"
The commands were repeated as they were done. It was only seconds before the warship was ready to fire.
"Helm! Down five. Take her into the atmosphere of the planet ahead." The Captain stopped his commands as he leaned to the side to confer with his First Officer. "What the devil planet is that?"
"Tetra, sir. Inhabited by spiders. Weíve had unconfirmed reports that...."
"Helm! Takes us just inside the atmosphere of Tetra. I donít want these torps to be bouncing around out there. Weíll just shit on these bugs and be on our way."
It was all perfect. He can get rid of excess ordinance and maybe kill a few of the locals as well. It was only a few minutes before Sensors reported oxygen/nitrogen detected on the bow.
At the habitat, Flare woke suddenly. Ears up, she listened intently for a moment before she sounded an alert.
Lillith sprang up in bed, shushing the dog from making any more sounds. She listened now too. Listened for sounds that she hoped would not be......
"Pistu!" She jumped out of bed in one leap, slapping William on his bare behind to wake him. His head reared up sleepily.
"What did I do?"
The Weapons officer had his hand on a single handgrip. At the call of his captain, with torps loaded in the tubes, he instantly rotated the handgrip to the right to arm the weapons and waited for the next order.
"Fire all tubes in salvo!"
The Weapons officer depressed the red metal trigger under his index finger once. All five tube indicators instantly turned from green to amber as a loud rumble came from outside the shipís hull. "All torps away, sir. Doors closing. Doors closed. All tubes venting normally."
The Captain smiled. "Helm! Ten up! Ahead slow! Sensors! Let me know when weíve cleared atmosphere!"
The response was almost immediate.
"The ship is clear, Captain!"
"All ahead full. Take us home. Quickly."
The V-shaped, black ship of war accelerated in an instant and was immediately nearing the far reaches of the system.
The five blazing torps spread out and descended to the surface.
Lillith scanned the sky, looking for any sign of trouble. Suddenly she saw tiny dots of dazzling light high above the horizon. Theyíve done it again! she thought Why do they DO this! The torps seemed to just hang motionless in the night sky, but Lillith knew otherwise. She had to move fast!
Instantly, she was climbing through the chilly air to intercept the explosive weapons that were thrown onto the planet as an empty can is thrown onto a highway. She saw that two of them were traveling very close to each other. It gave her an opportunity.
As she neared the first torp, its blazing brilliance was blinding! The amount of heat one of these things threw off during the descent was enough to heat a city the size of Boulder for a month! That was the least of her worries right now. It was the incredible explosive power of even one torp that frightened her. She had to destroy them all!
The two torps nearby were handled by deflecting one of them into the other. The resulting explosion lit up the night sky, thundering the ground below with a delayed rumble. The explosion was so great, that it had thrown Lillith backward, directly into the path of a third torp! It exploded directly on her head, spinning her crazily through the air. It took her a few moments to recover from the effects of having such a heavy weapon detonate right on top of her. Her eyes were filled with sparkling lights as she fought desperately to clear them. It took time, time that she did not have!
Her blue eyes cleared in time to see a fourth torp splash harmlessly into the sea, north of the Latitudes. But a thought shot through her like an electric shock! There were five!
Phil had heard the first explosion and was on his feet instantly.
"My love, I must go to help the Mistress and the William! Please refrain from leaving the nest until the problem is resolved!"
But Scilicetta was on her feet too and right behind Phil.
"I will accompany you to assist!"
"We do not know the nature of the problem as yet. Please do not! I insist!" Scilicetta ignored him and started for the entrance. Phil stopped her.
"Please, my love, do not just yet. Let me see what is the matter and then I will come for you. Please, it is safe here and I need to know that you will be safe. Please. Just this once."
Scilicetta looked into Philís eyes and nodded.
"Do not die or I will never forgive you! Be watchful and careful!"
Phil shrugged with his five remaining legs. His stump always trembled when he was nervous.
"I am always careful!"
The two lovers embraced as a second rumble was heard overhead. They nuzzled briefly and Phil moved quickly out of the nest onto the path to the habitat.
Phil had hardly gone a hundred yards when the night seemed to turn into day. He quickly spun around to see the horrifying sight of a blazing Arion torp shrieking directly down on top of them! Instantly his eyes flashed to the entrance to the nest where he saw Scilicetta calling to him! He could see her plainly in the stark light as she...
Phil was immediately blinded by the most brilliant flash of light that he had ever seen! The sound of the explosion was so fierce, that his ears went deaf from the force of it! Blazing heat hit his face as he was flung violently into the air!
He believed, for a brief instant, that the sun had crashed into the planet.
The surface of Tetra, near the western coast
The sun had not risen high enough to keep from casting the long shadows. A weary Protector walked slowly down a well-worn path. Her face was smudged; her hair messed and matted. She was looking for Phil and found him here.
His low round body was silouetted against the rising sun. Phil silently looked out across a 96 foot wide crater that had once been his nest. He sat motionless at the rim. His eyes gazed down into the smoldering pit where he had last looked up to see her calling to him. Scilicetta, the nest, their life together, all gone in an instant of insanity. He looked, tried to understand, and trembled.
William walked up beside Lillith. Not wanting to disturb Phil, she struggled not to cry at the sight before her. William put his arm around her and hugged her once before whispering.
"Iíll go." She touched his cheek lightly and nodded.
Slowly, William walked to the crater and crouched down beside Phil. William noticed that Philís fur was scorched in several places. He also noticed that all the fur on his face beneath his eyes was wet. He spoke as gently as he knew how.
"Are you all right, Phil?"
"...........I will be, sir."
William nodded. He looked around as if trying to find the right things to say.
"Is there anything....did you find anything of....."
"No, sir. There is nothing of her here."
William felt a sudden welling up of tears at the sound of that. But he felt that he had to be strong right now. This was Philís loss. He had to be here for Phil. He cleared his throat and tried to change the subject.
"They....they got away. Weíll get Ďem next time." He felt a bit silly saying that as he looked out over the crater.
"Yes, sir. The Mistress did her best. The next time we will stop them."
William nodded again. He finally realized that no conversation was appropriate right now. Phil was too busy feeling to talk. So William stood to leave him in peace.
"Weíll be heading back now Phil. Will you be coming home?"
Lost in his own thoughts, Phil did not appear to hear William. He spoke slowly, as if he could just not make sense out of a thought. His voice trembled a bit, but he spoke evenly. His eyes did not move from the crater.
"There is no doubt about love now, is there, sir. I mean to say,....... when they are here, one cannot be sure what those emotions are. One can only accept the idea........ that one is in love. But when they are gone, there is ...........there is no doubt as to what love truly is. No doubt at all."
William had nothing to add to his friendís thoughts. At that moment, William believed that Phil knew more about love than he did. The best he could do was to say what came into his head at that moment.
"Maybe youíre right, Phil. When theyíre gone, thereís no one left to love." Phil wiped his eye with his leg. His voiced dropped to little more than a whisper.
"I think perhaps I will continue to love her just the same, sir."
William knew that Phil would love her forever.
"Soon, sir. I will be along in a bit."
William turned without another word and walked to Lillith. She whispered "Iím so sorry." between her tears as he approached, only to be shushed by her lover. They embraced tightly. His hand caressed her long blonde hair back into place. He lightly kissed the top of her head just before he whispered something to her that made her pull him even closer to her. Then they walked silently back up the path with their arms around each other as if both were trying to console the other.
Phil was alone.
Two months later, near the planet Tetra
The bow of the Arion light cruiser was at the appropriate angle to pierce the light meniscus of the atmosphere. All outer torp doors were open as the cruiser moved steadily toward the planet.
Inside the ship, the Captain was laughing at some remark made by the helmsman. The exercise had been most successful. Everyone at the Velorian station had been killed instantly. This was certainly due to his brilliant battle tactics. Never mind that the station was a lightly armed scientific research station.
The crew was in high spirits! So high that the Captain was considering taking the ship down to the surface and strafing whatever they could find to kill. There was plenty of time before they were due back. Yes, letís do that! he thought, that would be fun!
He was about to give the order when every crewman and every thing not tied down was instantly thrown brutally forward as if the ship had just hit a wall! Panels cracked and circuits shorted from the sudden impact! Klaxon alarms sounded everywhere so loud they hurt the ears. The lights immediately went out, pitching the entire ship into blackness.
"Lights! LIGHTS!" The Captainís voice came from the forward section of the bridge. He sounded very upset and very, very nervous! Red emergency lights came on, casting a dim glow. In the aft bridge section, someone was dealing with a small fire. The smoke cast a gray patina on the red glow. Without warning, the entire ship rotated almost completely on her side! Then, just as quickly, was returned to level. Everyone on the crew looked nervously upward, as if they could see what would happen next.
"REPORT! AND TURN THOSE DAMNED ALARMS OFF!"
"Engines are off-line, sir! Theyíre trying to reset Number-1. Number-2 has a broken mount." The alarms were silenced.
"Shit. All right, I want..."
The Captain and everyone on board were thrown again to the deck as the entire ship rocked violently to the side with a great bang! Something had just impacted the side of the ship! A second great bang threw everyone around again! The Commanderís hand was visibly shaking.
"Wh....what the hell IS THAT?"
Immediately, as if in answer to his question, the ship was thrown violently the other way. Three impacts on the other side occurred in succession! They were like explosions on the hull! The helmsman screamed something unintelligible and ran aft, only to be grabbed by his shipmates. He was quickly hustled off the bridge. The sight nearly panicked some of the others, but they stayed at their stations.
It was the Weapons Officer who saw what was happening.
"Sir! Whatever it is, itís collapsing the torp tubes! Our secondary weapons are being sheared away as well!"
"What!" The Captain lunged at the weapons console to see for himself. There it was on the screen. Five of the six tubes showed red. Malfunction of the doors. His pulse weapons were simply missing! For a moment, he felt panic. Hearing his Weapons Officer mumble nearby did not help.
"They cut our legs off and now theyíre pulling our teeth!"
Another incredible bang shook the ship from the first side. Everyone had to pick themselves up from the floor yet again. The Weapons Officer sounded as if he had given in to death already.
"That was tube 6."
"SHUT UP!" The Captain was screaming! "VIEW AHEAD! MAG ONE!"
The center screen came to life showing the view straight ahead of the ship without additional magnification. They saw nothing but a beautiful view of Tetra. But then.....
From the right side, a figure passed quickly to the center of the screen. It was a blonde female wearing the red and blue uniform of a Velorian Protector. The entire crew watched silently as she simply floated about a thousand meters out, turned to face the ship, folded her arms, and simply stood there in the distance. The Commanderís mouth was agape as he mumbled.
"It canít be. Mag four." The screen presented a perfect close-up of Lillith in her redíníblues standing defiantly in front of the ship.
"A......a.....Protector? Here? I got no reports of Protectors out here." The Captain was still mumbling in disbelief. Snapping out of it, his mood quickly changed.
"Iíll kill the bitch! WEPS! READY ALL TUBES! ZERO ANGLE! ZERO ELEVATION! DO WE HAVE A LOCK!"
The Weapons Officer couldnít believe what he was hearing. His board showed red on everything. "Well, yes, sir. Confirmed lock on target, but the tubes, sir. Theyíre all.."
"FIRE ALL TUBES!"
"Sir, I need to remind you that the tubes are..."
The Captain swiftly pulled out his Gar pistol and jammed it to the temple of the Weapons Officer. The gun shook in the hand that wielded it.
"FIRE THE FUCKING TUBES!!"
The Weapons Officer closed his eyes and mumbled "And now itís taken away our sanity as well." He said an instant prayer to his gods, twisted the grip to arm the trigger, and pressed the red trigger mechanism. Immediately, the circuit breakers of tubes 1, 2, 4, and 6 tripped and the loud clack of each one signaled to the Weapons Officer that he could open his eyes to relax. When he did, he saw breakers 3 and 5 still up and heard the rumble as those tubes obediently fired.
Lillith was standing far out ahead of the great black ship when she saw minor venting from both sides of it. It was normal for torp tubes to blow off excess pressure when they fired. Everything after that was not normal.
Tube 3 fired its torp which almost cleared the restriction of the flattened metal tube. Jammed in place, its heat built up as its solid propellant burned wildly. It was as if a huge blowtorch had been strapped to the hull of the ship. On the other side of the hull, tube 5 fired its torp so well that the torp was deflected down under the damaged tube into the hull! Number 5 went off just 0.0047 seconds before number 3 detonated.
In the vacuum of space, Lillith watched the expanding yellow blast envelope the ship in total silence. She had no expression on her face except that of a cool observer. Secondary explosions began to occur without a sound as the ship began to fragment and disintegrate. The energy waves from the detonations made her cape flutter slightly as the brilliant soundless explosions illuminated her stony face. A sudden matter/anti-matter reaction finally vaporized the aft two-thirds of the ship before the silent show ended as abruptly as it had begun. The ship was literally gone.
Lillith unfolded her arms and waited a moment until she could see the stars through where the ship had once stood. It was then that she noticed a large piece of the hull that was tumbling toward her. She floated up to catch the scrap piece of an Arion ship. A ship that no longer existed. Turning it over, she saw that the Arion registration number was complete on it. Even the shipís name, or rather part of it, appeared just where the scorched blackness along the edges cleared away. For a moment, she thought to take it home with her. To give it to Phil. To show him that today, he had his revenge. Yet she knew her wonderful little friend too well. He would not appreciate such a memento. Then another thought occurred to her.
Turning slowly to face the general direction of the Aria system, she
squeezed the thick gusset reinforcement beam with her slender fingers, leaving an obvious humanoid impression. Then curling her arm a bit to the side, she flipped it away into space as if it were a Frisbee. Briefly watching it spin away, she rolled backward in an elegant arch to begin the flight back down to the surface of Tetra.
Lillith shrugged to mark the end her story as Phil tapped his foot thoughtfully. Before he responded, he turned to walk away.
Four months later, the planet Aria
The General stared at the scrap metal plate wobbling on his desk. This spaceworn piece of junk was all that was left of the Spira Yar. The ship had been missing for months. Now they knew.
Speculation among the General Staff began immediately. The scenarios were endless, but no one could explain the impression of a slender hand. The General was the first to suspect a Velorian Protector, but everyone reminded him that policy said that there was no Protector on Tetra. Even his staff supported the policy. Yet, as he ran his hand over the pitted surface of the plate; as his fingers felt the rough impressions of other fingers; as he looked repeatedly at the remnants of a once mighty Arion ship of war; he had his doubts.
His abrupt shout for his adjutant got an immediate response.
"I want a meeting with Section 5."
"Section 5, sir? What purpose shall I tell them?"
"Tell them I have business for them."