On the planet
of Tetra, under the starboard engine of the Sabre
Where';s that damn wrench." William's angry voice filled
the cramped area between the dusty ground and the giant Terran
fightercraft. He struggled on his back to twist and turn to find
the lost tool. A calm nine year-old voice helped. Mara worked
on the same engine nearby and she didn't even have to look up
from her work.
"Over your left shoulder,
"Hm?" he grunted, looking
back to his left. The wrench gleamed in what little light there
was. "Oh... yeah. Thanks, Bunny."
Mara disliked when her father
called her by that old nickname. It was childish and she was,
in her eyes, no longer a baby. Her eyes rolled in tolerant annoyance
before letting it go... this time. She was much too busy right
"Daddy?" she asked,
"Yeah." William continued
working as well.
"This LSC pump is toast,"
she commented, examining a metallic module closely. Mara spoke
with the conviction of an expert. She had been working on the
Sabre with her father ever since she was five. She knew every
bulkhead and system, especially since they had to constantly
work on it just to keep it flying. "We should pull it out
and get a new one." She tilted her head to listen for her
father's decision on that.
"We don't have a spare, Mara.
Just laser-lap the cylinders and..."
"I know, 'and make it last
a little while longer'." Mara mimicked the often said words
of her Father with a sigh of resignation. "The thing is,
Dad, we've already rebuilt it three times. I don't think it can
take another..." Mara heard her father searching and grumbling
again. "What're you looking for?"
"That damn photosplice. You
"In your right shirt pocket,
A brief rustling of clothing was
followed by the usual mumbled words, "Oh, yeah." He
had found it.
William had just begun tying circuits
into a repaired holographic data relay when a few hundred pounds
of blue, furry animal slumped lazily over his exposed legs, putting
William in a very awkward position of not being able to get out
from under the Sabre very easily.
"Flare, you bonehead,"
he yelled in mock anger. "Get offa me!"
The sound of his voice only made
Flare's tail whump repeatedly against the dusty ground, kicking
up clouds of tan Tetritian desert. William coughed as the dust
found its way under the Sabre.
"Oh, Dad," admonished
Mara, "she just wants to be near you."
"Near me is not ON me, Mara.
I swear that mutt has a brain the size of a walnut."
"She just loves you, Dad."
laughed Mara at her father's constant problem with the dog. "Besides,
what's a walnut?"
"It's a small nut on Earth
that grows on a tree. It's pretty small."
"If it's so small, why did
they name it after a wall?"
William paused, sighing at the
simplistic nonsense that his daughter had just spoken.
"Mara'Lyn," he commanded
in his best fatherly voice, "I forbid you to ever talk with
Phil again. You're beginning to sound way too much like him."
"Oh, Dad," crowed Mara,
rolling her eyes at the thought.
voice came from outside and above the Sabre.
"Down here, hon," William
called back. Flare's tail beat the ground rapidly just before
Lillith's face peered under the spacecraft.
"How's it going?" Her
bright smile immediately changed to a more questioning expression.
"How come you put the dog on your legs?"
"I didn't 'put' the dog there,"
William sighed, "she just flopped on me."
"Oh, how cute!" Lillith's
bright smile returned.
"Yeah," grumbled William.
"I'm heading out now. Is
Mara with you?"
"Hi, Mom," called out
Mara from somewhere up inside the engine. Lillith looked up in
the direction the voice came from, her eyes flashed with a glint
of intense blue light, seeing the Tachyon outline of her only
child making repairs on some piece of equipment that Lillith
had no understanding of. Lillith was content enough in knowing
that her family was accounted for.
"You two have fun,"
she said. "I have to go. Need anything?"
"Yeah," mumbled William.
"Take the dog with you."
"Oh, what a grouchy guy,"
scolded Lillith jokingly. She reached out her hand to collect
his fingers in hers and mouthed a silent "I love you".
William did the same to her warmly with a wink. Their open affection
had become a bit more private since their fast-growing daughter
had begun teasing them about it. It was simpler just to keep
it quiet around her than to put up with the theatrical moans,
groans, and comments.
Mara was a typical child in every
way, including her total lack of any kind of Velorian superpower.
Except for her instincts, she was more of a Terran than a Velorian.
What she lacked in physical powers, she made up for with a keen
mind. She seemed to have a different perspective that gave her
a unique understanding of things and situations that she encountered.
Lillith suspected that the Tetrites might have had something
to do with Mara's intelligence. William preferred to believe
that she was merely a chip off the ol' block. Whatever the reason
for it, Mara was showing signs of extreme intelligence.
Physically, Mara would cause some
of the more ardent experts on Velorian genetics some pause. At
nine years old, she was already showing signs that she would
be a remarkable beauty when she grew up. Quite tall for her age,
the slender child had generously extravagant hair, wildly flowing
past her shoulders and around her face. If the quality of her
hair was like her mother's then, thanks to the interference of
her father's Terran genetics, the natural color of it was not
the golden blonde that one would expect of an offspring from
a Velorian Protector. Mara's hair was a sandy-brown, almost as
if she were born of the vast Tetra desert landscape instead of
the natural child of a Terran and a Velorian. She kept it tied
back, the excess length of it tucked safely inside the collar
of her dirty blue coveralls to prevent it from tangling with
the myriad hydraulic, photonic, ionic, and half a dozen other
kinds of lines, fittings, and valving inside the tight compartments
where she spent most of her time.
Mara was simply a smart, pretty
Her young eyes though were pure
Velorian Protector. Their bright, crystal-blue coloring seemed
to glow in sharp contrast to her sun-darkened skin and her remarkable
hair. This, Lillith concluded, was proof enough that Mara possessed
the Protector gene. Even though nine years had passed without
Mara displaying any outward signs of special powers, Lillith
was convinced that it was only a matter of time. To support her
point, Lillith reminded William that she herself had been a "late
bloomer", not manifesting powers until the ripe old age
of seven. True, Mara was even older now, but that didn't matter
to a young Velorian mother who, lacking evidence or facts to
either support or deny any idea or concept one could have, simply
chose the "truth" of what she wanted for her daughter.
Lillith gave his hand one more
squeeze with her smile and released him. Standing, she slapped
her own hands together rapidly, calling Flare to get up and move.
With a protesting groan, Flare struggled to her feet, clumsily
tripping twice over William's feet.
"Thank you, dear," said
William, but Lillith had already gone. Freed from his blue fur
prison, William bent his legs slightly to discourage a repeat
of Flare's affectionate, but misguided behavior. Flare merely
slumped nearby, setting her massive head down on the ground where
she could see William under the Sabre. William looked her way.
"Good dog, Flare." he
said quietly to the giant blue dog. "You stay there."
Flare's tail flopped twice on the ground before she sighed. It
was boring when William and Mara were both working on the Sabre.
There was no one to toss the ponka ball.
Work continued in silence for
a number of minutes as William completed the installation of
the relay. Wiping his hands on a rag, he called out to Mara.
"Bunny, let's take a break."
There was no response.
"Mara?" he called out,
but still there was no reply. He suddenly felt a chill of worry
shoot through himself. "Mara, answer me!" The tone
of his voice made Flare leap to her feet. "Mara!" he
"Daddy?" came the plaintive
"Oh, SHIT!" exclaimed
William as he frantically struggled to get out from under the
ship. Once clear, he was on his feet, dashing around to the rear
of the engine nacelle so fast that he was a blur. There he found
Mara, sitting on the edge of the nacelle, staring at a forged
steel wrench in her hand. She had been crying, the tears on her
cheeks and the frightened expression on her face made William
quickly look around the area before taking her in his arms.
"Mara? Honey?" he pleaded.
"What's wrong? What happened?"
She looked up at him and quietly
said, "I feel strange."
"What, you feel sick?"
William began feeling her forehead with the back of his hand.
"No," she said, holding
up the wrench for him. William saw the deep impressions in the
solid steel that her small hand had made. The curved extrusions
that had pushed out between her fingers were cooling to a dull
"Well, I'll be..." muttered
William, taking the wrench from her to examine it closely.
"Daddy," she said, swallowing
hard. "I think it's happening."
the pull of the Tetrician Sun
light flooded through the windows of the bridge, brilliantly
illuminating what had once been a cold and dark chamber. It was
not only no longer dark, but the ambient temperature was steadily
rising, now well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Oxygen was nearly
depleted, replaced by too much carbon dioxide for life to continue
The male remained unconscious
on the floor with his mate slumped next to him. She too was unconscious.
Sitting up along a nearby bulkhead, the female child found one
of the few remaining places of shade within the chamber. Barely
alive, her blue eyes mere slits, she tilted awkwardly to the
side, either unable or uncaring to right herself. She looked
up at the intense light, its brilliance now just a haze to her
failing eyes. How much worse, she wondered, could it possibly
get before she dies. Her tongue uselessly tried to moisten dry
lips as her eyes momentarily closed.
Slowly, her eyes eventually reopened
to see a dark spot at the center of the windows. The glaring
light almost enveloped the spot, absorbing it into the brilliance
and heat that would eventually consume everything here. Yet,
the spot remained... and moved. The young eyes widened with the
understanding that something was there that had not been there
Innocently, the young girl struggled
to her feet, staggering toward the spot. She could barely move
her legs, yet she felt that she must go to it. She had been taught
about Skietra. About how, when you are dying, Skietra sends a
Messenger to take you to them. It must be the Messenger come
for her. The importance of it all kept her moving. She must,
she felt, see for herself.
At the window, the child struggled
to hold on to the frame. Looking up, her eyes saw the beautiful
face of Skietra's Messenger looking curiously back at her. So
beautiful, so radiant, the face was a vision from a dream. Their
eyes met and the vision... smiled. The child now knew that Skietra's
Messenger had come for her.
"Skietra," the child
murmured, closing her eyes, "I am yours." Within a
moment, her eyes opened and the vision of the Messenger was gone.
The ship lurched forward, flinging
the surprised girl to the deck with a scream. Her first thought
was that they were falling into the sun, but the intense sunlight
dimmed as she felt the great ship turn. Pulling herself up to
see, she peered out through the same window the vision had appeared
in. They were moving away from the Sun and toward a planet covered
with water and what looked like one big spot of land.
Perhaps Skietra had changed their
at the Habitat
on the table, her legs dangling over the side. In her mouth,
a temperature sensor stuck out at an odd angle. She alternately
looked at it and at her worried father pacing the room before
"Dad," she mumbled around
the sensor, "I don't think this is necessary. I don't have
a fever or anything."
"Well, maybe you're right,"
said William, nervously removing it from Mara's mouth and looking
at the normal temperature reading on the display. "I don't
know. Maybe we should... Where the hell is Phil, anyway?"
"Now, Dad, Phil's been up
in the Faldref for nearly a year now. You know that."
"Well, it's time he should
come back down." William peered out the window at the distant
mountains. "It's time, don't you think?"
"He's probably 'hearing'
real well. No reason to come down if the 'hearing' is good."
"Yeah, that's true."
William turned away from the window and took a breath. "Well,
we can handle this. We've always been able to handle everything
together before, right?" William slapped his hands together
as if they were about to get down to the business of painting
a room or mending a chair.
"Right," agreed Mara
"Right. Then let's get started."
William sat down in front of Mara. "What other symptoms
have you noticed?"
"Well, a week ago my boobs
started to really grow and the nipples are really sensitive to..."
William launched up from his seat and headed back to the window.
"Where the HELL is your mother?"
he growled. "She should be home by now!"
"No, really, Dad. Look at
this." Mara started to unbutton her overalls. William flung
a hand up to stop her.
"No, that's alright, honey.
We've all seen breasts. Seen one, seen 'em all."
"They sorta happened kinda
fast, too, Dad," said Mara as she studiously looked under
the front of her overalls.
"Yeah, yeah," responded
William with a clinical nod. "Yeah, they'll do that sometimes."
He glanced back out the window in the vain hope that Lillith
would be there. Mara giggled.
"You don't like talking about
girl stuff, do you, Dad?"
William leaned on the window sill
and sighed. "Let's just say that I wouldn't make the list
of experts on that subject, Mara." The fact was, William
knew a great deal about a woman's anatomy, none of it suitable,
in his fatherly mind, to be applied to his own daughter. To him,
Mara was still "Daddy's Little Honey-Bunny". A frame
of reference limiting to him and annoying to his growing daughter.
He knew, of course, that he shouldn't be that way, but it was
certainly difficult to do otherwise. She was, after all, merely
nine years old. He had thought that he had much more time before
he'd have to deal with problems like this. At least, he imagined,
not until she was a teenager, at least. The realities of Velorian
physiology had accelerated things a bit.
A casual glance out the window
made William take a second look. A large alien spacecraft floated
silently toward the habitat. Beneath it, the Protector of Tetra
held the craft firmly overhead. Lillith was home.
"Mom's home! Stay here, Bunny,"
he rattled off as he vaulted from the room. Mara sighed once
and nervously peered into her overalls again.
Lillith stopped her descent about
twenty feet above the ground when she saw her frantic mate run
out of the house.
"Lillith! Jeez, I'm glad
you're home. We got a real situation here and..."
Lillith, her voice sounding a bit strained. "I sorta have
my hands full right now." The huge ship groaned and teetered
forward a bit. Lillith shifted her left hand forward to balance
it better. "Could we talk after I put this down and let
these people out?"
William's eyes scanned up to see
the dark hull of the multi-ton vessel and nodded with a shrug.
"Oh, yeah, sure. Um, let
me grab Flare and you can put it down over there, okay?"
"That would be nice, honey.
Hurry up though, would you?" Lillith's arms were getting
William reached up to take Flare
by her thick collar. "Come on, knucklehead. Mom doesn't
need you getting in the way." This ruined Flare's plan to
bound along directly beneath Lillith wherever she took that big
thing that she was bringing home, but Flare also understood by
the tone of his voice that what William had said meant to sit
down. She sat down.
They watched Lillith float slowly
to the ground to settle the stern of the ship first before walking
herself hand over hand to the front of the bow. There she turned
to lower the tilted ship gently to the ground. Free of the heavy
load, she shrugged her shoulders twice to work the cramped feeling
out of them, her muscles quickly returning to their normal size.
Lillith rose rapidly into the
air to look into the high forward windows of the bridge. She
couldn't see anyone moving anymore and waved to William to come
to the ship.
"Will'm! There's three people
in there that need our help. Can you get the hatch open?"
William put his hands on his hips
as he looked over the huge ship.
"Thesultic transport, Type
97," he remarked confidently. "Yeah, I can..."
"Type 93," said Mara
more confidently as she walk quickly by him on the way to the
ship. "There's no bilrun on the aft quarter and those are
"Well... I," William
stammered, bending over to see the lack of any sign of a bilrun
fairing along the hull and the external ducting of the ion regeneration
pumps identified the engines as early B-model Farg/Koti's. William
shook his head with a smile.
"That's my girl."
Pulling a torquer from her rear
pocket, Mara called out to her mother, "Could you lift me
up to the hatch, Mom? I'll..." William took the torquer
out of her hand.
"Just a minute, young lady.
We don't know who or what's in there. Let's let the invulnerable
old folks deal with this. Lillith, up, please."
As Lillith took William up to
the hatch, Mara crossed her arms across her chest and watched.
"That reminds me, Mom. We
gotta talk about stuff when you're done."
"What stuff?" asked
Lillith quietly of William.
"You know," he responded
"Stuff?" asked Lillith.
"Stuff." confirmed William.
"Stuff." muttered Mara
as she pulled her now uncomfortable clothing away from her still
expanding breasts. She didn't like them, they felt weird.
hatch, William used the torquer to remove the fasteners of the
access panel. Dropping the small metal cover to the ground, he
reached in and rotated the exposed manual release handle.
"As soon as the hatch releases,
Lillith, be ready to..." The hatch flew off its mounts like
a champagne cork, right at Lillith and William. An overpressurization
problem within the hull launched it like a missile. Lillith was
so startled that she reacted by instinctively grabbing for the
flying hatch. Doing so, unfortunately, meant that she let go
of William, who had also reacted to the oncoming projectile.
He succeeded in catching it --- all 845 pounds of it.
The thirty-foot fall of William
and the hatch ended with a thud, a burst of dust, and a loud
grunt. William had landed flat on his back, still holding the
broad curved hatch on top of himself. Lillith floated high above,
her mouth pulled back in a grimace with the knowledge that she
might have just done something wrong. Her left hand clung to
her chin and her eyes were open wide.
"Will'm?" she called
down to him. "Are you alright?"
"In the pink, hon,"
he groaned. An arm extended from beneath the hatch, forming a
positive thumbs-up pose. Flare stepped forward and slurped the
gesture with her tongue as if adding her congratulations. Unfortunately,
her affection was not well taken. "Oh, for cryin' out loud!"
moaned William, his hand drenched in dog slobber. He rapidly
retracted his hand to remove the excess on his pantleg.
Shaking her head at the scene
below, Lillith turned to look inside the ship. Three beings were
strewn on the deck: an adult male, an adult female, and a young
female child, the one Lillith had seen at the window. Lillith
floated inside, touching lightly down onto the deck. No one was
moving. The air inside the ship was very warm and smelled of
steel, oil, electrical ozone, and all of the inadvertent aromas
of living creatures living under adverse conditions.
Kneeling down, Lillith raised
the young female up from the deck and smoothed her blonde hair
away from the dirty face that remained so still. Her touch prompted
the little blue eyes to flicker and open a bit. Seeing Lillith,
the child remained expressionless, seemingly resigned to her
the child murmured.
"N'ai." said Lillith
warmly, shaking her head. "Kai'l'zü Skietra. Kai'l
"Veloor?" mumbled the
perplexed child meekly, her eyebrows lowering to show that she
wasn't sure that she understood.
confirmed Lillith with a soothing voice and a smile, "Veloor."
As the child's eyes weakly fell
closed again, her face relaxed and a faint smile came to her
lips. Lillith took her up in her arms and out into the fresh
air of Tetra.