Disappeared, feared lost forever in a final battle with the all-consuming N.A.W.L., four-armed Yrangian Commander Holth returns to the Keiratus fold, joining Srin, Kate and Eli as a new race of Entity-I converted beings called forth by a Universe in peril. But insurrection at the Hub, death threats, and underground attacks against the Ona and the Keiratus Alliance threaten their survival, forcing the Ona to send them far out into the safety of space. But a rapidly destabilizing planet awaits them and a simple Keiratus rescue and relocation mission erupts into chaos as the native Nyrlkas wreak havoc at every turn, running amuck and spreading ‘too much joy’.
How can anything so adorable, engaging, and cuddly cause so much trouble or be so untrustworthy? How do these symbiotes change from particle to wave and back, disappearing at will? How do you rescue or even contain quantum light packets of intelligent energy?
Meanwhile an Anomaly pierces the fabric of space-time, swallowing one of Srin’s Command ships. The ship reappears but with four additional life forms aboard, and enthralled, two mid-young Nyrlkas steal an Explorer vessel, disappearing into unknown shunts with the ‘liberated’ new life forms on ‘an heroic adventure’.
The chase is on as Srin, his Entity-I converted companions and Command ships track the young Nyrlkas through one catastrophic shunt after another, and three planets in their path will never be the same.
Insurrection back at the Hub, an onboard spy, and an aggressive deadly parasite spark even more bedlam in Chasing Nyrlkas. Who will survive?
Excerpts from Chasing Nyrlkas–for your reading pleasure
…Kate dried herself from the water battle with an absorb-cloth supplied by a smiling Guranian cousin of Srin’s and relaxed into gathering favorite stories of her intended from the clan.
Srin and his daughter sat comfortably under the wide spreading shade of a Noctina tree late in the orad, discussing soil amelioration and botany.
“I was very excited by your concept of synthetic terra-preta fertilization,” Srin said. “If productivity continues to increase planet-bound, think what it could do to eliminate the food problems across the Keiratus and in space!”
Strlin nodded, delighted to have this ‘adult to adult’ time with her father, and the chance to share what she was passionate about with him.
…As their conversation drifted toward the merits of early mind training, a shadow fell suddenly across them. Srin looked up to see his son glaring down at them, and braced inwardly.
Sensing his discomfort immediately, Kate glanced over to see Srin and Strlin rising to speak to a tall, young Guranian male, and the conversation did not feel happy. “Who is that?” she asked Srin’s sister, Xnrin, nodding at the trio across the lawn.
“Hmm? Oh–,” Xnrin’s voice dropping to an anguished whisper, “that is Srin’s son, Kriln. He said he would not come. He–He was a difficult child and has been less than a model Guranian growing up–always unhappy, always blaming someone about something, not really like a Guranian at all. A great puzzle to me and to his uncle as his surrogate parents, and especially difficult since his mother’s death, blaming both Srin and Star-Command for taking her from him, which is just so wrong. None of us know what to do with or about him,” she confided in Kate, surprising them both with her candor to an outsider.
Kate patted Xnrin’s arm, at a loss for words in this strange new world of instant family, allowing her empathy to take the lead. She sighed deeply along with the aunt and surrogate mother of Srin’s offspring, shaking her head in tandem with Xnrin at the vagaries of children.
To Kate’s surprise, Kriln spun suddenly away from his father and marched straight toward her. Kate registered the resentment and intent of attack in his features and stood taller, straighter, sending Srin a mind-message to please stay where he was and allow this festering sore to be lanced. Srin’s shoulders slumped, but he held her gaze and nodded, sending her back his strength through Entity-I.
Kriln went straight for the heart as he stepped up close, invading her personal space. He was tall, like Srin, but slighter of build, and his visage had none of the compassion, experience, wisdom or grace of his father. He towered over her haughtily, glaring, trying to intimidate, but Kate didn’t flinch as he finally spoke in a low snarl, “I understand, ALIEN, that you intend to mate with my Father?”
Those around him gasped at the rudeness and several of the nearby males hackled up their emerald armor at the disrespect, snarling warnings at Kriln, as Xnrin admonished him. “Kriln! You were raised…”
Still holding eye contact with him, Kate lifted a hand slightly to stay the others from interfering and smiled at Srin’s son, deflecting his anger with a deep, compassionate tone. “We have not yet been introduced, Kriln Urptls. I am Kate Lightfeather and while I am not Guranian, I am a member of the Keiratus and a Keiratus Commander,” she said firmly to establish her status, then softened her tone,” and I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother. Please accept my deepest condolences on her passing,” keeping her voice modulated to that of a proper Guranian.
“I know from experience that there are some deep wounds and grief that never quite leave us,” allowing the loss of Holth, Litlx, and the terrible deaths of all the sentient beings in the FRAN deprivation boxes to carry over into her voice. “Though I never met Kdra, Srin speaks of her so often and with such love for her and for his two children, it is an honor to finally meet you and Strlin.” She paused slightly to give weight to her next words, “While I understand why it might still be difficult for you, we would be very pleased to welcome you at our joining ceremony.”
Kriln’s body stiffened and his eyes went flat with rage on the last words, but before he could lash out, Kate continued mildly, “Oh, and before I forget, we met with the Guranian Minister of Architecture two yestorads past. He says you have a brilliant mind and that the new area of fractal designs with Guranian plasti-glass you proposed last cycle is revolutionizing the entire architectural field. Your unique application of the recursion properties sounds fascinating and we would both enjoy learning more about it from you. The Minister is very proud of your accomplishments, Professor Urptls,” using Kriln’s most recently earned title to show her own recognition and respect for him, “and so is your Father. In the meantime, if there is anything we can do to support your studies or research, please do not hesitate to let us know.”
Kate watched the emotions flash across Kriln’s face, from rage to surprise, then baffled pleasure at the compliments. But to her disappointment, the sullen rejection that had etched into his countenance over too many cycles returned. Kriln leaned in close to her left ear to whisper the insult, “You will never replace my mother, ALIEN,” then stepped back and bowed stiffly, wrong hand to heart in a mock Keiratus salute and struck off across the turf for the exit and his transport, all eyes upon him. Srin’s clan surrounded Kate with apologies, hoping she would not hold Kriln’s rudeness against them.
“He is in pain, and let us hope he will heal in time,” Kate said simply. “And,” she added with a warm smile, “you have all been most gracious in your hospitality to a stranger. It is a privilege to be welcomed into your clan. I only hope to live up to the honor. I also want to thank you for allowing me to play with your children. It gave me back ten years of life with the fun,” she grinned, setting everyone at ease again.
* * *
“You comported yourself as well or better than any Guranian, born and raised,” Srin said, cradling Kate in his lap in the auto-shuttle. “And you never cease to amaze me in your ability to adapt, stretch and grow,” gently stroking her forehead. He paused, the frown returning, “I apologize for anything my son said or did to hurt you,” Srin began as they returned to the Hub late that evening, but Kate placed a finger to his mouth to silence him.
“Shhhh,” she said gently, “we are not responsible for what others say, think, do or believe, and that apparently now includes family. The root of his anger is old, with space, for taking you and his mother from him. I am just another obstacle, doing the same thing. There is always hope he will change. Perhaps when he meets someone and has children of his own? Or maybe not till we are both long gone, but there is always hope, Srin.”
Srin sighed, the anguish in his heart over his first-born, a child that seemed to have rejected him at birth never quite having healed. But he drew Kate close to him, “Yes, perhaps. There is always hope.”
“And the rest of your family is wonderful, Srin—Strlin and her mate and your beautiful grandchildren, your sister, aunts and uncles. They all do you proud.”
“Yes,” he smiled, letting thoughts of Kriln go, allowing the Ona-in-him to put pain and loss in perspective and move on. He smiled suddenly, “Oh, and my sister thinks you are a ‘perfect’ match and challenge for me,” he said, slipping into a flawless falsetto-mother-tone to mimic her, “That female is just what you need to keep you in line, Srin Urptls. See that you take good care of her. Oh, and don’t fall on her. She looks like she would squash easily.”
Kate doubled over in a belly laugh so deep she lost her breath, the inner joy of sharing the little things with her intended carrying them both into a restful night.
* * *
Well into their fourth meeting, the hooded figure studied those seated around him in the seedy bar, the stench of stale beer wrinkling his nose. All would pass muster, he thought, and hold true to the plan and ideals–all except for the minister’s son. He could see the hesitation in his eyes, the beginnings of withdrawal and regret at his decision to join, and he could smell the fear.
“If we are all in agreement, I will initiate level one and we’ll meet at the next rendezvous in two orads, but one cora later?” the leader said. The conspirators nodded and began to leave one at a time, drifting easily into the crowded walkway outside.
“Ruslyn, hold a minute, will you,” the leader said. “Follow me out and walk with me a bit,” he encouraged. “I have a special project I’d like to discuss.”
The young clerk’s eyes lit up at being singled out, some of the fear leaving him, and did as he was asked…
* * *
…Kate awoke, sitting bolt upright from a sound sleep–again, but this time startling Srin awake into alert defense mode, his emerald green armor flexing out automatically.
“What is it, Kate? What’s wrong?” he asked, instinctively pushing her out of harms way of his armor to avoid cutting her, and reached for his uniform.
“It’s Holth, Srin. He’s been found by the resurrected Phoenix near Earth’s moon, but he’s only barely alive,” Kate said. “We have to go! Now!” she urged, and jumped up, slipping into her dark blue Commander’s uniform as she spoke rapid fire into her com, alerting Eli and Honey to prepare for an immediate return to the Hub.
Now awake, Srin ‘felt’ it, too, and sent the Ona a quick message, trusting his mate’s intuition about the need for haste as he raced to join her.
They had just boarded the Stla III when an urgent message came in over Honey’s Com from the Ona.
“You were right, Commanders,” the Ona said, addressing Srin and Kate. “We have just haplos ago received a communication from the near-Earth-orbit drone we left there, that Commander Holth is alive, though not well, and your friend, Sven, at the Earth space station is asking for our immediate help in recovering him. The image they sent indicates he is near death and that there is no time to waste. The Entity has informed us it will transport you immediately in the Stla III, with a Command ship to follow in the more traditional manner and under cloak. Trident Parflon is already on her way to you as medical officer with all equipment and supplies necessary to treat a Yrang. Please be ready for departure upon her arrival.
“Yes, Ona,” was Srin’s economic reply and they lifted from Aditi as the Ona faded from the screen. Within a haplo of reaching lunar orbit, the Entity-I carilloned its approach and Nona Parflon stumbled unceremoniously onto the deck, having been transported from the Hub, Entity-style, instead of the normal transfer stations and T-pak.
The Entity-I apologized for not adjusting itself better to transporting this strange being, so different from Eli, yet the same, then imaged its split self transporting the medical equipment and supplies to the restorer room for the 27 twins to secure, then merged again, enjoying the undivided rejoining with a grateful joyous carillon.
Srin suppressed a smile as Eli flushed a deeper blue and rushed to help the startled Trident to her feet, “I am so sorry, Trident Parflon. This new transportation method takes some adjusting to.”
“Umm…yes…I can see that,” she stuttered, trying to recover her space legs and mental balance after the momentary root-deep terror of seeing nothing separating her from the terrible, empty beauty and vastness of space, and still not knowing how it had been done.
“Strap in and ready for transport,” Srin ordered, giving the Trident no more time to fret, “Holth needs us now.”
“Yes, Sir,” the crew replied as one. Nona Parflon strapped in as the other four joined Entity-I to assist in the transfer as the undivided whole.
“Earth space-station, this is the Stla III. Please acknowledge. Commander Kate O’Shaunessey Lightfeather requesting permission to board with a medical officer to begin treatment of our friend, Holth,” Kate spoke into the Com without ceremony or introduction, knowing their new Keiratus cloaking device would keep them hidden from prying Earthian eyes.
“Kate!” Sven responded almost immediately from the station. “Commander Yohst here. We weren’t expectin’ you so soon, but glad we are of it. Your friend is only just hangin’ on. What do you need from us?” forgoing his excitement to hear from Kate, staying on point.
“Please clear and isolate the medical room and place the locator chip that you discovered, near Holth. We will be boarding within two of your minutes. Only you and your top engineer are allowed in with us. And thank you, Sven, for all you’ve done to help him. Com out.”
“You are welcome. Earth-station out.”
* * *
“Hank, meet me in medical on the double,” Sven contacted the station’s lead engineer. “No questions. Just be there. Now!”
“Medical?” Sven pressed their Com. “Please clear all personnel immediately except for our new friend, Holth. Kate and his people have come to treat and reclaim him. EO Hank and I are on our way down now as per their request.”
“Yes, Sir,” came the relieved reply and Sven knew they’d been highly stressed over losing the life of the first alien under their care.
“Lena, you and Captain Kelly are in charge on deck. You know what to do, should things not go as planned.”
“Yes, Sir,” they both replied in unison, and Kelly turned immediately to scan the surrounding area for energy signatures or signs of imminent danger.
Sven pushed off to leap-run-and pull his way down to medical at top speed. He reached the entry just as the last of the techs and the surgeon ‘floated’ out, pulling themselves along the safety bars to ‘stand at attention’ just outside.
“Thanks, Doc. I’ll let you know as soon as we do if they’re able to save him,” Sven assured.
“Thank you, Commander,” the surgeon said. “I’d give anything to see what they do for him–but probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.”
Sven nodded his appreciation for the surgeon’s curiosity then stepped into medical. Hank, the tall, lanky Engineering Officer, arrived seconds later and followed him in, raising questioning looks and grumbles from the medical team. What was an engineer doing in their domain when they themselves weren’t allowed in?
Without explanation, Sven shut and sealed the door, engaging privacy mode, but, after hesitating a milli-second, left the cameras on.
“What’s up, Commander?” Hank asked, nervously eyeing the other figure in the room, the dying alien, Holth.
“Within seconds we’re goin’ to be boarded by Holth’s people,” Sven replied, walking over to the thin shriveled ebony body and raising the dome. He placed a hand gently on one of Holth’s, slipping the retrieved medical chip into the cupped palm, grateful on a side note that John Reins and his team had been able to decode much of how it worked and were even now working on similar units for Earth-bound humans.
He spoke to Holth directly, soothingly, as to a small child. “They’re coming, Holth. Kate and the others. They’re coming and they’re gonna’ fix you right up. So you just keep breathin’, OK?”
Hank sidled up to Sven. “But, Commander, what am I doin’ here?” he whispered, suddenly not at all sure he wanted to meet any more aliens.
“I don’t know, Hank. Kate just asked for our top engineer, so be on your toes and do what she asks, without question. This fellow’s life may depend upon it,” Sven said, as much in the dark as his Engineering Officer, but trusting Kate implicitly.
* * *
Kate and Trident Nona Parflon materialized out of ‘nowhere’ before them, startling even Sven. As per Kate’s instructions, Trident Parflon employed one of the newer stronger holograms as she completed the transfer, to project an Earth-human countenance.
Sven caught Hank by an arm to steady them both, then saluted Kate and the Earth-human-looking female with her, but knowing she was probably under an illusion projector, a new one, he mused, or he’d be able to ‘see past it’.
“Welcome aboard,” he began, but stepped immediately back to give the new female access to Holth as she rushed over and began running a small, long, metallic-looking instrument over the Yrang. Lights flashed, beeps sounded, and she immediately gave Holth a series of air-injects as she dialed in parameters on some kind of thick, short wand.
To Sven’s surprise, the Yrang relaxed immediately out of the fetal position, and the female opened her small blue box of magic gizmos to begin further treatment, speaking softly in an unknown language to Holth.
To draw their attention away from the medical technology, Kate interrupted, motioning Sven and the engineer over to a table, forcing their backs to Nona Parflon.
“I am Commander Lightfeather,” Kate extended her hand, Earthian-fashion, “and you would be the engineering officer?”
“I–I’m Hank,” he stuttered. “Uh–E.O. Henry Burt Rutan V, uh The Fifth, Commander. It’s an honor to meet you.”
“Thank you, E-O Rutan. We haven’t much time, so I’ll get to the point. The group I represent are very grateful to Sven, especially, but to all of you on the Space-station and to your Star-Seekers, for your rescue and care of Holth and for finding a way to contact us for his recovery. They have agreed to break one of their unbreakable rules and extend, by way of thanks, a technology that will allow you to establish near-Earth gravity on your space station and moon base. I have the schematics here and request access to one of your link stations to download it. Please isolate that station until you are assured we are not withdrawing or injecting anything into your system, only offering information and technology,” she added, knowing how paranoid and suspicious her people were, sadly noting the glint of approval in E-O Rutan’s steady blue-eyed stare.
“It may take you some time to understand and implement it,” Kate continued, “but I believe you will find it most helpful and are more than up to the task. We hope this is an acceptable expression of gratitude, and that you will receive it as our gift of support for your courage in returning to the stars.”
Sven hadn’t taken his eyes off Kate, marveling at how young and strong she looked, but more mature, more in command, and taller. How did that work? But he wondered out loud–“And will this near-Earth gravity slow the bone degradation and aging?”
“It will go a long way toward that, Sven, even slowly reversing it. And there are many other advantages you will discover once you have implemented the concept of this type of gravity-spin to your existing system, all to your good. I am sorry, there is not more I can tell you, except that I expect you to vastly expand your horizons and knowledge base from here,” she smiled encouragingly at him.
Kate spent the next ten haplos going through the schematics and principles of the gravity-spin with Sven and E-O Rutan, enjoying their questions and delighting in their enthusiasm over the potential of this gift from the Keiratus.
“And now,” she said, glancing over to see Nona signal her, “our friend is stable enough for transport. His recovery will be long and slow, I’m afraid, but he IS expected to recover, and that is all thanks to you and yours. We hope to see you again someday, in the stars.”
Projecting in advance that he wouldn’t be granted any extended time with Kate, Sven offered his hand in farewell, slipping her a small disc he’d created for just this occasion. A disc detailing all that the Star-Seekers had encountered, the return of the Phoenix, the troubles on the moon, his efforts to find the traitor or traitors, and new advances the team down-Earth were making to the launch process–advances that would allow even people with metal implants, like him, to make the journey to the stars, and the biggest news–that they were only a few weeks away from launching their first return shuttle back to Earth, a major milestone. John Reins predicted they would be ready to challenge and overthrow The Mother within the year and there would be no more need for hiding.
He yearned to share these things in person with the being who had launched it all for him, but instead he spoke simply and from the heart, “Please extend our gratitude for the gift of the gravity-spin to your people and we hope to honor that gift by spacing right this time, to join you and yours some day. And from me personally, thank you for getting me up here, to be with Lena and my daughter, for the chance to space. We will always be grateful,” he swallowed hard, “and wish you well.”
Kate merely nodded, already distancing herself from Earthian cares, knowing they were losing precious moments toward Holth’s recovery, “Be well, Sven,” she said, then joined Nona Parflon and Holth, signaling the Entity-I they were ready, and just as they had appeared, they disappeared from sight.
* * *
“Did you register anything?” Sven asked Lena and Captain Kelly.
“Not a thing, Commander,” Kelly heaved a sigh. “We scanned in a three-sixty the entire time and couldn’t pick up any signature or energy emissions. Whatever kind of cloaking device they’re using—it’s better than our instruments can detect. But even that knowledge gives us something to work from.”
“Well, no worries,” Sven smiled wryly. “They left something for us that’s gonna give John Reins kittens! Top-flight gathering in one hour, conference room, and set it up for a closed holo-cast with Reins. Tell him to have his best minds awake and on hand. And this is need to know, only. We have a spy among us, and we don’t want this falling into the Mother’s hands.”
“Yes, Sir!” Kelly’s curiosity had his imagination running wild, wondering what the aliens had left them that had his Commander in such high spirits, and worrying at a deeper level as to who could be the traitor on the moon base.
“Nyrlkas?” The Ona frowned collectively, as Srin and the Entity completed their holo-request.
The elder Ona spoke slowly, thoughtfully. “They are a part of legend from ancient Gurania, well before the Ona or Keiratus came into being. It has long-been thought they were a myth, or extinct even, a race of innocents, perhaps, and their story is not well-known, even in Guranian history.”
Kate spoke up, “The Entity implies they are indeed alive and a race of peaceful beings, filled with light and advanced knowledge that have the potential to enhance the Keiratus. It asks that we once again break our rule of non-interference and aid them.”
The Ona frowned collectively, “We have looked within, assessing the rule of non-interference against the ramifications of allowing this race to die, or be rescued, and what ripples it will create in the continuum, no matter our decision? We also ask, do we have an obligation, as we have the means to relocate them? Is this a turning point in the Keiratus? And what of the ancient tales of Nyrlkas run amuck?” choosing one of Kate’s Earthian words, as it rolled easily off the tongue and had a more pleasant sound than the Guranian or Keiratus equivalent. “We do not see a clear path forward to this puzzle and require some extended time to consider the request,” the Ona said and uncharacteristically, signed off abruptly.