WRITING On All Fours

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by Roose Hurro, Nov 28, 2015.

  1. Chapter One...


    Forests all over the universe are pretty much the same. Flora. Fauna. Trees and wildlife. Perhaps a river passing through. Perhaps a lake? Meadows filled with flowers. Birds, bees and other things. Yes, other things. Because the universe is a vast place, filled not only with forests - and what comes with forests, pretty much everywhere - but filled with certain creatures, bent on travel. And nothing is better to some travelers than hiking in the woods. Which leads to camping in the woods, in some ways better, some ways worse than staying at a local motel. Better, because staying in the woods is freebie. Worse, because... well, to some travelers, there is no worse. Just different.

    Yes, different.

    So, when a Door that was not a door, opened by turn of a Knob that was not a knob - yes, when this ear-pop sensation opened up a slice of air, the four traveling creatures who emerged from that slice, that ThreshHold, well, different took on a whole new meaning. Because humanity was not the only sentient, sapient species in the universe. Yes, a very reasonable fact to assume. Remember. Universe. Vast place. Many worlds around many suns. Had to happen. Did happen. With mixed results, in some places. Awkwardness in others. Laughter. Tears. Perhaps some cuts and scrapes and bruises. Life is like that, wherever it comes from. Whatever it looks like. However it...

    "Dada!"

    Oh, yes, these four travelers. Almost forgot! A rather unusual foursome. Father. Mother. Daugther. Son. Not unusual? Depends on viewpoint. To a human, for instance, quite unusual, though not unusual in a "What is that thing?" way. Or in a way which would invite the liberal use of a barf-bag, either due to the horrible odor, or to all those wiggly tentacles and green drool. Yes, when traveling, you meet all kinds of "people"...

    ... and these four "people" were at least bilaterally symetrical. No wiggly tentacles. No green drool. Quite nice smell, a bit like a bakery with spiced bread still warm. Two eyes. Two quite generous ears. Four limbs... a tail, to add a fifth. Four nostrils on end of sleek, muzzled snout, to add a touch of the exotic. Feathered shroudruff on the father, to go with fur and scales. Generous fur-tuft on end of mother's and daughter's tails, a detail missing on father and son. Though all four possessed a sensory "badge" on their foreheads.

    "Dada!"

    "Yes, Hun?"

    The father spoke as he lead his family... well, yes, his infant son rode under cover of his shroudruff feathers, presently sound asleep... yes, lead his family into the forest. Lead them with a grin. Him, his mate, his daughter, on all fours. Remember viewpoint?

    "You's a'promised!"

    Dada grinned even wider, a show of sharp, white, raccoonish teeth. Mother? She rolled her eyes, then halted, and sat back on her haunches. Her mate turned to their daughter and did the same, mindful of sleeping son in his careful movements, clawed hand to muzzle as he cleared his throat. And softly sang...

    ... "Luuunden's britches faaalling down, faaalling down, faaalling down... Luuunden's britches faaalling down, myyy ferret lady!"

    Hun giggled so hard she fell over. Mother watched, eyes turned from daughter to mate with a small yet warm smile.

    "My Love, a perfect rendition."

    "You think so, Sweetness?" His tail's tip flicked, ears laid back, eyes mock-expectant. "I could sing it again...."

    "Yes! Yes!"

    A peep sounded from underneath paternal shroudruff. Sweetness moved very close to her Love, swift yet gentle hands slipped under to cup their Very Small One. Their son, now out in dappled forest daylight, blinking, then eyes-wide at this new world. A wiggle, as he tried to look about, his peep-coo-chirp and ruffled fur, yes, seemed an expression of frustration: So much to see! No freedom from maternal hands. Only a few weeks old, still not much bigger than a rat. With all the curiosity of that famous feline. With parents who wouldn't allow him to be killed by such curiosity.

    "No, My Love... once is enough for the day." Her tail swept around, its tuft brushing her mate's chest as her arms cradled their tiny child. Who protested for a second or two, until he felt warmth through soft fur, felt the thrum of his mother's Heartstone. Felt and heard her heartbeat. Started falling asleep again.

    "Mama, when's is Peeve gonna sings?"

    Dada hurked, ruffled mane, chuffed shroudruff against back, then rose back to all fours and continued to lead. Mama stood up on twos, her forelimbs of course presently occupied.

    "Honalee, you should not call your brother Peeve."

    "And you shouldn't call me Deen until you're old enough to take a mate of your own." Grin over shoulder. "However, feel free to call your mother Thoee soon as you have a boyfriend."

    Honalee made an Ick! sound, and covered her face with her tail's tuft, and with both little pawhands. After that display, she bounced after her dada, very girlish laughter ringing in the air, tail up, tuft now a-wave.

    -------

    A bird. At least, it looked like a bird. Flew like a bird. Even landed on a forest tree's branch, just like a bird would. Head cocked, as if it had heard the sound of girlish laughter. Curious. It made a small chirrip, then a twitter as it hopped along the branch. Blinked. And then did, perhaps, an un-bird thing - followed after the unknown.

    -------

    "Dadda?"

    Deen knew that voice. Ever since her brother's birth, he'd taken over her place riding under her father's shroudruff. Couldn't blame her for still wanting that place. She was still in the weaning stage. Yet grown so... Deen felt that zing all fathers feel when their child wants but can't have. At least, not like before. But still...

    "Aren't you too old for that, yet?"

    "No'sers...." Honalee sniffled. Just a little. Gave her Dada that uppies look, ears back, eyes moist. Hands out as she stood up on twos. What's a father to do?

    Shroudruff flared, exposing the cream with yellow chevrons patch underneath. Deen's "father" mark. Honalee brightened, hopped up onto her father's back with vigor, a hug and snuggle her reward in return.

    Thoee? Still on twos, following her mate. Quiet, because she now nursed Peet, him suckling on her left milk tongue. Her, being a mother. Her turn to nurse. Deen's turn, next. Him, presently being a father to their daughter in another way. Yes, this is what a father does. What parents do, whatever their species. Well... it does tend to be a "mammal" thing. Yet every parent of every sentient, sapient species cares for their young. Normally. Because the universe is vast, and Life... is life.

    Ahem! Remember, differences abound.

    This forest. This world. Wind-rustled leaves. Scent of undergrowth, of flowers. And earthy things under leaf-litter aroma. Water-scent. Thirsty. Deen's ears flicked. His eyes caught a movement in the trees. A flit of something. A sense that someone was watching, intent. But water called, and water was where he led, no trouble finding the river, a stream, really, from which he could drink, daughter still on back, half asleep in contentment, even knowing it was for just a short time. Taste of fresh-cold water still on his tongue, Deen spent a moment just basking in the sensation of being alive, stream-side breeze through fur, reliving memories of...

    ... well, memories of him, Thoee. With daughter on back, mate nearby with son, what it felt like, those intimate moments that result in offspring. Seeing their children born. Seeing them grow. Those first moments, newborn in hands, knowing him and her had made new Life. That overwhelming sense of responsibility. Made his whole body tingle. So happy, so filled with Wonder, he could barely stand it.

    But there again, the sensation of other eyes watching. His forehead badge, a brief shimmer. Yes, not only forest trees, but wildlife. One particular, avian member of which tweaked his senses. Something... odd. Slivers, not organic in nature. Distortion in the flow of chi. All four nostrils flared.

    "Sweetness? I think the natives are restless."

    Thoee had finished nursing, held their son Peet close as she crouched by the stream, reached out with her free right hand, and traced a pattern on the water. Which rose up into her grip and formed a sphere, from which she drank.

    "I would expect so, My Love. I believe this world is not familiar with visitors. They seem quite advanced, though... perhaps they just like to keep visitors where they can see them."

    Yes, perhaps. Some worlds didn't like outsiders just popping up, unanounced. Visas needed presenting, papers needed signing, fingerprints - if such existed - needed to be taken. And the whole mess needed to be processed. Clearance granted! Or not. Yes, some species are very anal retentive. Even some that don't have an a.......

    Oh, sorry, TMI.......

    Honalee yawned, made a coo-purr baby happiness sound.

    "Is a birdy bird?" Her own forehead badge shimmered as she slipped like a greased ferret from her father's back, stretched, then bounced like a tigger in anticipation of all the fun. She loved finding new things to play with. Yes, indeed!

    "It would seem so, Hun..." Grin as Thoee approached. Shroudruff rise and spread. Presentation of his father spot, to receive their son again. Yes, she'd carried him inside during gestation, but after birth, now Deen's turn to carry. Just as he'd carried their daughter, before. And would carry any offspring who came after. If they chose to have three. Or more. Two seemed enough, for now.

    And now, thirst slaked and offspring settled, this alien family continued through the forest, Thoee now walking on all fours again, like her mate and daugther now, hip brushing hip, shoulder brushing shoulder with her mate. Her male. Warmth, affection... love... radiating from her whole being. Her tail, entwining with his. Honalee making another ick sound as she bounced ahead.

    Birdy bird?

    Said curious, inquisitive avian lifeform continued to follow, tried harder not to be noticed, but failed. Slivers inside, sending out their signals.

    -------

    Curiosity kills more than cats, to be honest. But not as many cats as failure, especially when the mouse notices it's being stalked, and the cat starves as a result. Or said mouse leads said cat out onto a roadway, squeaks, said squeak attracts dog, and all three end up roadkill. Sure, it could happen like that. Slivers? Painful, but not usually lethal. And not usually able to send signals. Yes, odd. A bird with slivers. But no pain. Sending signals to.......

    -------

    Deen lead his family in a roundabout way. They didn't have anyplace specific to go, just a little outing in the woods, away from civilization for a bit, so they could commune with Nature. Yes, capital N. Or capitol N. Either works. Thoee and the kits didn't mind. They didn't even mind the underbrush, the thickets and other tight, narrow spaces forests tend to have when way out in the boonies. Poor Birdy Bird could only catch glimpses. Bits of anatomy here and there. Its masters, desperate for more. Though Birdy Bird had no trouble hearing...


    "Are we's a'there yet, Dada?"

    Honalee, no longer ahead, bounced beside her father, him now "pinned" between the two females in his life. One, licking his left ear (nibble nibble). The other, asking questions in his right.

    "No, not ye..."

    Honalee pounced on a bug.

    "... not yet."

    Difficult keeping track of their avian tail, what with mate being affectionate on one side, energetic daughter being young and full of it on the other. Thoee also found it hard to keep track, but not too hard. Her many skills included multi-tasking. Besides.......

    -------

    Far away, but not too far, Birdy Bird's masters... well, they didn't exactly sweat, but a few of them were feeling the pressure, enough that they couldn't keep their quills down. A few even licked their bellies, perhaps searching for their belly buttons, so they could crawl in and hide. But those not licking decided to inform their superiors about what was going on, even with little in the way of info. And those superiors decided to send.......

    -------

    Ahhh, yes!


    Deen, with Thoee in cooperative tow, son under shroudruff and daughter following along... yes, Deen meandered his mate and brood to a meadow, grass and flowers and a few scattered saplings. No, not much in the way of cover. But this was fine. An internal sigh, knowing his and his family's little jaunt away from civilization hadn't lasted for even a day, but hey, all part of the adventure! These unexpected twists. Best laid plans of mice and men. Though no mice were involved here, and he wasn't a man. Male, indeed. But not a man. Not even humanoid. But then, not everyone was.

    Thoee.

    Deen.

    Honalee.

    Peet.

    NISM.......


    ***
     
    #1 Roose Hurro, Nov 28, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  2. Chapter Two...


    Anzifar Terse hadn't expected a call on his day off. But an incident, something out of the ordinary, had occured in Boll Forest, Surkindi province. Not far from Ondo territory. From their south-eastern border. What? Fifty-one years from the war's end, and now this? Pulled from his mate and offspring, not knowing if a war fought and won before his own birth would soon revive. Not knowing if... if he would be one of the first to die. But he swallowed his nervousness, his tremble. Stripped from his casual robes and took on his armor. Held up his weapon. And joined the others like him, instructed to engage transport to Boll Forest, Surkindi province. Not told anything about what he was going to meet.

    Or if he would end up just meat.

    That thought made his heartrate monitor ting.

    -------

    Poorva Ents also found herself confronting something she hadn't expected to ever encounter. Something thrilling. A sensor-bird had been tracking what were clearly voices, speaking a language unfamiliar. Or at least what sounded like a language. Handclaws shrouded in protectors, she tapped keys on her board, continued passing her data on to her superiors as she directed that sensor-bird, now in her charge. They'd already sent an investigatory force to Boll Forest. Her job - find more information, keep her bird there, a covert beacon. But so far... so frustrating! Her, one of those feeling the pressure, quills on alert. At least she wasn't like Shish Gellen, so overcome she'd been licking her belly as if about to give birth. Useless. But... Poorva couldn't really blame her. What they.......


    ....... Ahhhhh!

    There! There! Finally, an image!... a clear image! Of.......

    She didn't know what. Her quills fell back, no longer threatening to tear her robe. She'd... never seen what she was presently seeing through her sensor-bird's eyes. They were like no animal she'd ever seen. Fascinating! Either a new species or...

    ... one of the creatures, the big one with the tufted tail, wasn't in her view any more. Only then did she realize her mistake.......

    ....... Ahhhhh!

    Her quills floofed again. She'd been so intent, so fascinated by what she was seeing, she'd failed to realize her sensor-bird had been left clearly visible to these... whatever they.......

    ....... Ahhhhh!

    The sensoria flowing through her interface wasn't pleasant. Pressure. Confusion. Fright. Sight and hearing, jumbled. But then...

    ... "Hello!"

    Poorva's sharp-inhaled breath didn't pass through her interface, thank Ghoz. But her covered claws worked her keyboard in a rush of shocked excitement. Yes, a bit of fear, a slight tremble, but this... these animals were talking! She'd understood...

    ... "If anybody's on the other end of this thing..." She could see it's mouth move, the one with the feathers covering its... his?... back. Yes, he was speaking "... don't panic. We're sorry if we're unwanted." This creature grinned! "But we swear... we're housebroken, and we don't bite."

    Poorva realized her mouth was hanging open. Quickly, eyes bright and voice low, she sent her info onward in a continual feed, from the beginning, then took up recording and sending her own narative, her own report on this newest reveal. This monumental... yes, though they looked like nothing she'd ever seen, not like her own kind, they were obviously not animals. Which meant...

    Yes, ever since she'd been very little, old enough to read, she'd spent many a night reading stories about Other Beings from Other Worlds. Fiction. And now, she was living one of those stories!

    -------

    Anzifar had a desperate need to pee. His armor, designed to handle such a need, but he hated doing such... doing any bodily function while still dressed. But distracted from his need, signaled their destination was in sight, their transport hover soon and swiftly to land. Be prepared! He'd been prepared for the last hour. Well, not in truth. Because he still knew nothing about what he was being sent to encounter. How could he prepare for the unknown?


    Why had he ever chosen to join the Gell, to submit himself to military service? Because his grandfather had been a soldier in the war. His father, also military, to honor grandpa for what he'd done. So yes, he'd also followed in his own father's footsteps. Dug his own trench. His own hole. Smell of sweet earth, soil between his claws. But this. No, a soldier, trained and equiped, but never a warrior. Never in battle, his blessing. Or curse.

    What now?

    Do his duty. He almost didn't notice his bladder release, only the relief a reminder of what he'd just done. A different kind of duty. But, for some reason, this relief flowed through his whole body. Whatever came, he'd do what had to be done. And hopefully return to his family when it ended. Alive. Not in a body bag.

    The second signal came, and he went.

    -------

    Speculative fiction. Yes, Poorva Ents, a fan-girl. Her reading, inspiration for her career choice. Work with state-of-the-art tech. Interface with a sensor-animal, and play I Spy! This career choice, the most science-fictiony thing she'd found she had the talent for. But now, she'd been contacted by honest to Ghoz aliens! Her! So she poured her heart and soul into her report, hoping, wishing.


    She'd always wanted to meet a real alien.

    Even more so, she wanted to meet these particular aliens. They'd released her sensor-bird, unharmed. Already in for the penny, she decided to go for the pound. No, she hadn't thought that exact expression, but similar enough, just with different measures. She continued her feed, continued her narative, hopped her sensor-bird all about, for a good, detailed view. Which wasn't difficult, given these creatures seemed to know what she wanted, posed and moved so her bird could... well, they weren't wearing any clothing, and they certainly weren't shy! The male, most especially. And most remarkable! The male was carrying a very small, very young child... infant... under his remarkable spread of feathers. Feathers blood red with blue tips, Bronze, tan and golden cream fur, with black markings, like claw slashes, on hips and shoulders. Bright emerald eyes. Dark green scales on lower forelimbs, lower legs, and tail's underside.

    And now! Now, he held out the infant... male, she could see... held the child out, presented to her bird, wide-eyed and...

    ... "My Love, we have guests."

    Guests?

    Again, her inhale, sudden and sharp. Her, speechless.

    What guests?

    Surprised, but quite intelligent, it only took Poorva a second or two to realize what that meant.......



    ***
     
    #2 Roose Hurro, Nov 28, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
  3. Chapter Three...


    Yes, NISM. Or just Nism, no need to shout.


    A well-traveled species. But, as mentioned before, the universe is vast. And Nism who travel are few. Honeymooning couples, fresh-bonded. Families taking their kids to see the sights. WorldWalking teenagers looking for fun and experience. Universe. So vast. Yes. Not every species in the universe familiar with every other. Some, familiar with none. If only one Nism happens to be visiting, or even living on a world for a time, not every individual being on that world will have met even that one. Or those four present and accounted for here and now. Because, on a world familiar with Others, one... or even four more... is no big thing.

    But on this world?

    It seemed Thoee and Deen's simple desire to avoid civilization tweaked ThreshHold, the result, their family outing on a world unfamiliar with aliens, except in fiction. A world somehow missed by other travelers. For a very long time, if ever. Well, first time for everything, so the saying goes.

    Guests, indeed a polite word for the transport hover, whoshing in over the treetops and dropping nine armed.......

    Well, to say there was a moment of surprise on both sides wouldn't be all that accurate a statement. To the nine armed natives, all quite familiar with the history of war with their neighbor, Ondo, to be confronted by a family of four quite obviously not native creatures, well, just imagine how difficult it would be licking a belly-button through an armored battle-suit. So much tension, so much not knowing... not that they knew much now, but they did know, threat or not, it wasn't the Ondonans come to restart the war. So the moment was more one of confusion, training be damned. Coupled with a pure sense of the bizarre. Out of their element would be a good four words to use.

    Whereas Thoee and Deen were completely in their element. Just as at ease in this situation as they were in their birthday suits. Thoee? She raised an eyebrow and a gentle, warm smile, her on-haunches poise elegent and controlled. Deen, however, had to work very hard to keep from laughing... these natives were barely three feet high! But they were armed and armored. Not that Nism were bothered by arms or armor, just, well, some beings took pride in their aggression. But these poor souls looked just...

    ... like someone took a hedgehog, porcupine and badger, and used the best bits to make something new. At least that was the impression, even through the armor these nine wore. Still, nothing to laugh at. Deen certainly didn't want to be shot by one of those weapons - they looked nasty, small as they were. And seemed to be scaring the bird, the way it cheeped and hopped about. Or maybe the bird was just mad. Though Deen did find himself impressed by how quiet the transport hover... hovered. For something that used rotating fan-blades for thrust. Very stealth design. Yes, nothing to laugh at.

    Thoee? She couldn't help finding the whole situation adorable. Of course, if triggers were pulled, the whole adorable motif would end, with serious unpleasantness a result. She'd already been shot by a native once, elsewhere in the universe, while pregnant with Peet. That had been seriously unpleasant. Painful.

    Oh, sorry... natives, guns, first contact. Got it.

    Neither Thoee nor Deen... especially Honalee or Peet... no, neither of these four were First Contact specialists. Thoee, an exo-biologist/doctor. Deen, and exo-geologist/cartographer. Honalee... a toddler. Peet, a sleeping infant.

    Yes, Peet slept again under his father's shroudruff, snoozing away the moment his father returned him to that comfy place. Honalee? Despite her young age, well, she'd spent a major chunk of her life traveling with her parents on their second WorldWalk. And she was Nism. Barely two, but able to talk and run and... she'd learned many things. As Nism children are wont to do. Like...

    "You's a'wanna play?"

    Hmmm... nope, that wasn't it.

    Yes, children will be children. Just like parents will be parents, fathers holding on to their daughters tails to keep them out of trouble. But it this case, it broke the ice. And it seemed Birdy Bird was not the only one sending - and receiving - signals. Busy busy busy! To the point Deen sighed, flopped down on his belly in relaxed repose (Peet, recently fed, way too fast asleep again to notice) aaand...

    "Hey, Birdy Bird..." The sensor-bird stopped hopping about, turned it's attention towards Deen... "Is there any way you can get these guys to talk to us? I'd really like to know if we're due to be shot, or invited to a barbecue. Preferably us not on the menu." He still had a grip on Honalee's tail, but Honalee had gotten the message, and also flopped down on the grass. Her ears, attentive to her father's words, eyes locked on Birdy Bird. She'd been there when her mother had been shot, so the whole concept was not beyond her comprehension. She knew some people were not friendly.

    And, well, what with mate and daughter in repose, Thoee joined them, a graceful settle, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder with her male. First-born daughter rolled over on her back, all so she could play with her toes. Yes, picture of innocence.

    ... "It would be wise for us to talk. Over tea, no weapons involved." Thoee gave Birdy Bird one of her small, warm smiles, her eyes seeming to bore past bird to the person behind the bird. "Please, send someone who knows what they're doing."

    Because it was obvious the nine present, despite their back and forth, were still quite nervous. In other words, they didn't appear to know what they were doing. Whatever they'd received back from their leaders, obvious they'd never encountered anything like this situation. Not that any of these people had, from the look of things. Even so, it wasn't beyond reason to think somewhere, someone - perhaps - at least had the skills needed to deal with this situation. Or had written a book on the subject of Alien Contact! and so, wouldn't be prone to wetting his or her pants. If these people wore pants. Which was hard to tell with the nine present, what with all that armor in the way. Deen guessed they didn't. Thoee didn't have an opinion on the matter, at least at present, as she, like earlier, kept her present self occupied with licking (nibble nibble) Deen's nearest ear.
     
  4. Chapter Four...


    Anzifar, Paka, Hurrin, Sust, Bant, Tehnal, Fherr, Kekked, Aurrn. Nine highly trained soldiers of the Gell. All male. All... frozen by the need to know what to do, how to handle this Alien Contact situation. Though the aliens, themselves, appeared quite willing to talk. And all nine, with mates and offspring of their own, all amazed these aliens spoke Hektoani with perfect fluency. And yes, waiting for final orders. Not all happy, though. Things had been so rushed, no leadership had been included. Oh, and yes, with mates and offspring of their own, feelings of protection arose in some, while others felt like putting their weapons down, as the female alien had requested, knowing the experience of parenthood and feeling a kinship. Others felt a mix of these extremes. Anzifar, most especially.


    Not knowing whether to shoot, or throw a barbecue of welcome. He just didn't know how these strange creatures... what changes they would bring. Most especially, this close to the border, if the Ondonans found out. Trust. Yes, that was it. To trust, he needed to know the unknown. Or at least find out more, quickly. Then get these creatures elsewhere, where they could be tested. In his own mind, better safe than sorry.

    In his own mind, other layers to that thought.......


    -------

    Poorva couldn't believe what she was seeing. Yes, yes! She'd heard - been told - an investigatory force had been dispatched. Surprised she'd been so busy, she'd lost track of time. Surprised that the "force" sent had been armed! Yes, she should have expected that, so close to the Ondonan border. But it had been so long since the war! Ondo, no longer hostile, but Hekto had suffered so much! Ohhhh!


    She had to work even harder to keep the churrr of displeasure from her voice...

    "Just want to talk, Sur Kurrn! Mother, father... children! Like us!" She'd learned the value of brevity, long ago. Especially when talking with superiors. Yes, she was young. Yes, only a few years as a sensor-animal operator, so much into her learning and work, she had yet to find a mate or bear offspring of her own, but... youth and lack of parenthood experience didn't keep her from knowing these situations were delicate. Needed to be handled with care. NOT with soldiers. NOT with threats of violence.

    Sur Kurrn Hettel? Director of Operations? Yes, he knew Poorva Ents, as he knew all those who worked under him. Worked for him. Young. Unmated. Interest in speculative fiction... kept a book of said fiction at her station, hidden in a drawer under her clearance forms. Liked poking at technical subjects. Very bright and organized. Focused, sometimes to a fault. Willing to protect and defend others. Not afraid to risk. To make independent decisions. To care.

    Sur Kurrn knew his responsibilities as Director. Kurrn knew his responsibilities as a Hektonai citizen... as a member of his species... as a person. Mez Poorva's plea - yes, all the data she'd provided, sent where it needed to go, but still, he had the right to make a decision, if necessary, to secure the situation. Nine nervous Gell needed Direction.......


    -------

    Yes, other layers, thoughts troweled over thoughts in Anzifar's mind. Amazement layered over worry layered over fear layered over... half the time, he just couldn't think straight, so much this and so many thats, reasons that seemed reasonable speckled with doubts and wonder. Like Poorva, in his youth, prone to flights of fancy, adventurous and free. But adulthood, for him, had changed things. Like Deen, he'd held his newborn offspring. Felt that zing. But unlike Deen, felt for a different reason. Well, yes, sense of responsibility was there, but so too the knowledge Life could be cruel. His once free childhood spirit now caught in the adult cage of rules. Because rules kept you and your children safe.


    These alien creatures he watched. Did they have rules? Would their rules conflict with Kwirrill rules? With the laws of the Hektonai nation? He thought so, with reason. But he watched male with female. Father with offspring.......


    -------

    "Mez Poorva!" Sur Kurrn spoke with some force, his handclaws tapping his desk as his own quills fluffed. Yes, he tapped to help himself think, to help with decisions. Call it a habit. Though he did not share the room with his employee, just a simple video/audio feed, he could almost smell her determination. He respected that. But he needed to catch her attentions, so he could pass on his decision. Then fill out his own reports, to send to his own superiors, to let them know what had happened, and the decisions he'd made. Yes, he would be responsible. Yes, his superiors would get back to him, let him know if his decisions met with their approval. This was how Kwirrill got things done. How Kurrn got things done.


    "Since you initiated first contact, and since they wish to talk... and since we don't have anyone immediately available who knows what they're doing, other than you, I suggest you remain in contact with these... whatever they are." Kurrn stopped tapping his desk, made a soft snort. "I'm sure you can turn enough soil if I let you do as you see fit." He tapped a few controls on his own desk-station comm-moni. "But I don't think it wise to let them have everything, so I will instruct the Gell to pick one to stay guard. To watch your back."


    -------

    To say Poorva was startled would be an understatement. To say she was not happy with having an armed guard... well, in the way would be three mild words expressing her opinion on the matter. Her quills went down so fast, it felt like she'd pinched herself, all over. Her dream come true! "My back needs no watching, Sur! Yet I will honor your decision." Yes, much as she hated the idea, it made sense. All she had to do was prove her back didn't need watching. That these aliens could be trusted.



    -------

    Anzifar and his team-mates received their orders - choose one to guard, the rest, stand down. As before, feelings ran from left to right to up to down. But it all came down to all nine playing a Kwirrill version of Rock Paper Scissors... Anzifar surprised when he won guard duty. During all of this, their transport hover landed. After, they were further informed someone would be sent to deal with this incident, and that they all were to follow her instructions.......
     
  5. Chapter Five...


    Thoee and Deen patiently watched and waited for the nine natives to decide what was what and who was going to do what to whom. For Deen, the whole proceedure was quite entertaining. For Thoee, well, her idea of "entertaining" focused at present on her male, her feeling a bit frisky (nibble nibble). Peet still slept under his father's shroudruff, and Honalee...


    ... watched their game of whatever it was with fascination, father's grip still holding tight to her tail. Which led to a small, sad sigh. Which led to her curling around, to nibble on Dada's fingers. Yes, if it wasn't his mate nibbling on his ears, it was his daughter nibbling... chewing... on his fingers. At least his son Peet hadn't picked up any bad habits. Yet. Well, not that he minded Thoee's affections. They made him feel quite pleasantly warm below the.......*

    Oh, good... finally decided to do more than crouch in a huddle, making gestures and arguing over their comms. No more games, too. Yes, things were starting to roll!

    Had one of them not stomped over, Deen would have rolled his eyes and chuckled at the whole affair. But now was not the time for levity. Though he wasn't sure if it was time to be dead serious, either. So he just flared his shroudruff for a few seconds, to make sure this native saw he was "with child"... hopefully such knowledge would temper this native's apparent... heh... temper. From the flow of his chi, he appeared in great inner turmoil.

    Yes, time to be calm, friendly and honest.

    -------

    Anzifar did not feel calm or friendly, to be honest. His emotions, so mixed by the sheer unreality of this moment, he couldn't honestly think straight. But he did know, not thinking straight wasn't a good thing. Not for one in the Gell. But even his Gell-mates had... no, no, he would do his duty. He would guard the one sent to handle these... Anzifar had no word for them. Other, perhaps. But Other what? Or better, who. From where. They were not Kwirrill, but they were also not animals, despite their apparent wildness. They spoke fluently, with evident intelligence. Were themselves calm. Not acting in a hostile manner.......


    ....... just looking at them, he couldn't see.......

    His helmet unlocked with a snick/thup, his head, his face, his eyes, now exposed. Rifle, held in one hand at ease, but ready. Nostrils could inhale their scent, eyes see, with nothing in the way. Ears hear. Voice...

    ... "I'm told to guard the one who comes to speak. My duty as guard to her requires I also speak, if able." His dark eyes narrowed, quills on his head fluffed, front teeth exposed. "My concerns... who are you, where are you from, and why are you here."

    Anzifar Terse hadn't failed to notice the infant, to take in that gesture the alien father had given, and give back some modicum of respect, questions asked without a question mark, temper held in check.

    Fear held deep within.

    -------

    Thoee stopped her nibbles, though she did not otherwise break physical contact with her male. Eyes on the native face exposed. Deen had to hold in a hurk when he saw the black fur around Anzifar's eyes, so much like a raccoon's mask. Quill tips also black, the rest, chestnut brown. Hint of a black "collar" around neck. Rodentish teeth. Very dark red eyes. Serious eyes. And yes, best bits of hedgehog, porcupine and badger, mixed into something new. Deen again raised his shroudruff, turned a glance to his still sleeping son before meeting this native's... meeting Anzifar's eyes, though Anzifar hadn't yet given his name.


    Nor had Deen given his, yet...

    ... "I'm Deen, of the Bloodline Ahvviyinn."

    Thoee bowed her head, then gave Anzifar one of her small, warm smiles...

    ... "Thoee, Bloodline Rurrumm."

    Deen gave Thoee a lick on her cheek. Then looked straight up past the clouds.

    "We're from far away, another world around another star." His eyes dropped back down, meeting Anzifar's with a grin. "And we're here on vacation, just to camp in the woods, explore, have fun......."

    "I's a'likers havin' funsies!"

    Deen's grin widened as his eyes rolled...

    ... "Almost forgot... this is our daughter, Honalee..." Again, he exposed the infant sleeping under his shroudruff feathers... "and this is our son, Peet."

    At the mention of his name, Peet wiggled, little fingers and toes flared for a second, then he opened his eyes, yawned, and then peeped. Deen gave Anzifar a raised eyebrow and tweak of ears, then turned a glance to his mate. Thoee knew that look. She rose slow to her haunches, cupped their son in her hands... kissed and licked him once... then presented him to Anzifar. To a stranger.

    "Would you do us the honor?"

    -------

    If someone had asked him just an hour ago what he expected from an alien encounter, should he ever experience one, well, Anzifar wouldn't have imagined this. Not a family. Not a father so... loose. Relaxed. Not an infant. Not a mother presenting said infant... to him. What honor? Did she expect him to...?


    Anzifar, in that moment, didn't know whether to back away, then turn and run, or stay, and...

    ... trust. Fear, anger... mistrust. But also wonder. They were committing an act of trust towards him. And he didn't know what to do with it. Still worried. Still feared. Still.......

    Anzifar sat where he'd just a moment ago stood. Sat down on his own haunches, just like the mother. Rifle still held in one hand, helmet in the other. Helmet set on the ground beside him, but still, no reaching out to accept. Just stare. And then twitch, when the father moved. Stood up on all fours... stretched... then made the sitting-on-haunches pose a threesome. Daughter now loose, but again playing with her toes. Not afraid. None of them afraid, not even the infant. The infant, staring back. A peep-chirp when father took him from mother and cradled son to chest.

    "See? It's easy."

    Fear, yes. But wonder again, as well. Infant, so tiny compared to parents. Anzifar couldn't help thinking of his own children, how tiny they'd been. The hopes and fears he had for them. This alien father didn't appear to have any fears, as he, like his mate before, held out his son. Oh, the pride! Yes, fathers took great pride in their offspring. Anzifar knew that feeling... knew that feeling in others, could see it even in this alien male. Who, along with his female, wanted to share that pride. Through trust.

    Wide-eyed, Anzifar broke, and accepted this tiny alien child. Who, held to his chest, reached out tiny clawed hands, patted his armor... then licked it. Again, Anzifar didn't know what to do. So he just sat on his haunches, cradling this strange offspring of an even stranger parent. Strange parents. But the longer Anzifar held this tiny warm bundle against cold armor, the warmer he felt. The less strange alien mother and father became.

    But he still worried, this close to Ondonan territory.

    -------

    Ahhhhh!


    This native's inner turmoil slowly eased as he held their son. Yes, Thoee and Deen, even Honalee now, watched. Thoee and Deen remained on haunches, leaned against each other in affection. Honalee? It didn't take long watching for her to slowly start crawling towards the native and her baby brother, till she got close enough to sniff his armored right foot. Then...

    ... "I's a c'n seesers... you's a good dada."

    Anzifar's rifle had already joined his helmet, when he'd accepted this small life in to his care. He'd even smiled, seeing their older child crawl along, so determined, yet so careful. No, still nervous, still worried. But his fears. He'd gained control. Used reason to fight instinct. Learned. Which is something both children and adults need to do. Still not sure to trust, but for now, at peace within himself.

    That small, intent voice.

    "Thank you, young one... Hon... Honalee."

    "Sur!" Kekked had approached, helmet unsealed, a respectful distance maintained. "Ten minutes."

    Anzifar made a chit of acknowledgement, eyes turned to Kekked with a lift of chin. Kekked returned to the rest of his Gell-mates, leaving Anzifar to his duty. Eyes back, Anzifar watched the father, Deen, cover the short distance, a step or two, to sit again right before him, eye to eye, close enough to lay a clawed hand on his shoulder, but...

    Deen didn't touch. Simply sat. Thoee also approached slowly, a few small steps to join her mate. Did not make any further moves. Then Deen looked down, grinned, and picked up his daughter from underfoot. Cradled her in his arms as he licked her belly. Honalee giggled.

    "Dada! Thas'a ticklers!"

    Deen finished his licks, then looked Anzifar straight in the eyes.

    "They burrow under your skin and right into your heart, don't they?"
     
  6. ---------------------------------------------------

    Well, a bit of interlude before Chapter Six. Hope everyone who's read the story so far has enjoyed the experience. Now, I'm not changing the tag from "Writing"... just thought I'd ask for commentary. Perhaps even suggestions. What I'm looking for, to be honest, is an Audience. Feedback. Something to let me know I'm on the right track, that I have something worth publishing. A book that, if you came upon it in your neighborhood bookstore, you'd be willing to buy. So I can know it will be worth the effort to see this through to Publication. Because I really want to enter my own neighborhood bookstore and see my book there, my name (or pen-name) on the cover. Been a dream of mine since I was thirteen.

    Help an Old Fart feel happy.

    Oh, and PM any commentary... don't want to crowd this thread. Thanks!

    ---------------------------------------------------
     
  7. Chapter Six...


    Poorva knew just what to do with her newfound authority. First, she called in her relief, so her sensor-bird had direction. She'd already set it to perch in a nearby tree, one of those stray saplings, still within sight and hearing. Once done with the transfer, she headed straight to the breakroom and 'borrowed' what she needed to serve tea, as requested. Yes, ever practical and sensible. If the aliens wanted tea, they would get it. So, packed up and ready to go, her next step, transport. Which Sur Kurrn provided in a timely fashion, so her one-hundred one point three six mile journey would be swift. Wouldn't do to keep their alien guests waiting!


    No, would not do.

    She knew, soon as she landed, the eight Gell still on-site would return to their previous stations, reason their transport hover had remained. Reason she flew in a different transport hover, smaller, yet still as fast. Her, so excited, quills so tight against skin, she felt like she'd burst from the pressure. Pop like a grape. Though grape wasn't the word in her thoughts.

    Hey, gotta use what's available, what works. Okay... more 'pop like a beetle underfoot'. Was trying to keep the image less graphic! Next time, don't ask.

    Yes, unlike Anzifar, Poorva felt excitement, her only worry... had she brought the right tea? In all other respects, she felt confident she could handle this, given what she'd seen and heard and felt through her sensor-bird. She knew these aliens were friendly. Didn't mean harm. She'd bet her own life on that!

    Dear Ghoz, couldn't this drasted machine go faster!

    Poorva couldn't help a bit of impatience, tail pressed into seat-cushion, while fix-harness kept her from pacing, more than anything else. Even when she received the "ten minutes to site" announcement, she couldn't keep her breath steady. Couldn't keep from fidgeting with her claws. Fussing with her robe's collar. Her heartbeat, so loud in her ears! She'd be needing that tea just to calm herself.......

    ....... instead, she used her excitement to push through her mind just how she would present herself, what she would say and do.

    -------

    Honalee snuggled against her Dada and made no move to escape his arms, oh so happy just to be held. Dada... Deen... leaned forwards, tail curved over toes, and gave Anzifar a grin. A proud mane and body-fur ruffle all over. Anzifar...


    ... "I... yes, they do."

    Anzifar looked up from the infant alien in his arms. Arm. So tiny, only one hand needed to hold. The other? There, just in case. Eyes, yes, on father alien. Each holding a precious life. Two fathers, sharing a moment. A commonality. Not so different.

    "Fun to make, a challenge to raise."

    Thoee restrained her tail's tuft this time, gave Deen's ear a single nibble... in truth, a nip of several seconds. Deen winced as he grinned, but he was caught by his own words as well as his ear. Anzifar? He snorted, wide-eyed at this pair's antics. At this alien male's words. His own mate in his memory, in his thoughts. Her disciplinary measures, when he got out of line. A sigh...

    ... "I remember every small detail, from birth till now. Till when I saw them, last." Anzifar's eyes fixed on Deen's. "I miss them every time I'm away. Miss their mother."

    Thoee administered another smalll, warm smile, while Deen sighed in sympathy, a rub to his abused ear.

    "We're keeping you from your family, aren't we? Sorry about that...?"

    Deen realized he didn't know this native's name, only heard him referred to as Sur, which sounded more like a title than a name. This native, not short on the uptake, understood...

    ... "Anzifar Terse." He raised his chin.

    Peet peeped. Honalee...

    ... "Anzifar!" Yes, she'd pronounced his name correctly, first try, no 'baby talk'. All ruffly in her father's arms, fur a-fluff, little hands, claws and all, making a clap gesture at her accomplishment. Anzifar couldn't help feeling warm inside, that father feeling, even towards a child not his own.

    "My duty requires I be here."

    Thoee and Deen understood duty. They also understood parenthood. Hadn't been a day away from their own offspring. But that day would come... they'd been kits themselves, after all. Remembered their own first long separation, and all those that followed. Hadn't failed to note their own parents' reactions. All the growing up pains. Responsibility hurts.

    "My Love and I do apologize, dear Anzifar." Thoee finally reached out, touched him on the shoulder, feel of cold hard armor under her hand. No, no, not cold. Sun-warmed. Still, not a perfect contact. Anzifar didn't twitch. Accepted her apology with a lowering of head, a brief close of eyes.

    "I will live, Maz Thoee of Rurrumm." He'd addressed her with the proper prefix, indicating her mated status. He'd made the decision to accept everything, come what may. No more fears. He would be Gell, as his grandfather had been Gell. Fight, and uphold his duty, but accept any consequences, those of his own making, or those of others. Or, in this case, Others. He would be a warrior, even with no battles on his record. Promised to honor history and his people.

    Deen placed his own hand on Anzifar's other shoulder, Honalee still small enough to cradle in one arm...

    ... "Live with Warmth, Breath and Heart, Ansifar Terse." No, not the usual, formal Nism greeting ritual, but it would do.

    Yes, it would do.......

    ....... because another transport hover arrived in that moment right after, not quite as quiet as the other, but just as urgent.

    -------

    Calm. Calm. Calm.......


    Poorva took slow, deep breaths after releasing her harness and vacating her seat. Deep breaths in, out, before she gathered her tea supplies and... for a moment, she wondered where everyone else had gone, before some young male rushed in to the cabin, rushed up to the entrance/exit door/ramp, and unlocked/extended it for her. For that bit of chivalry, she gave him a smile, a nice show of teeth, before she confidently...

    ... felt a bit light-headed. This was the moment she'd dreamed about! Grass and soil now underfoot, walking towards where aliens and Gell were gathered in this wide forest meadow. Walked up to... was that their infant in what could only be her chosen guardian's arms? Yes. Yes, it was... daughter in father's arms, as well. Mother accepting son back from the Gell soldier. Her whole attention on the transfer, barely registering the other eight Gell... leaving. Their own duties, done. She couldn't help feeling jealous, just a bit, towards this remaining Gell. But she quickly shook the improper feeling away, bowed to him before raising her chin, then went about setting up tea in the leaving transport hover's brief fan-wash.

    So nervous, she didn't dare yet to speak.

    Teapot, cordless. Four varieties of tea to go with five cups. Yes, she'd brought one for the Gell, as well as one for the alien parents' little daughter. A small, low folding table, to hold it all. Cloth for the table. Yes, she'd needed that young male's aid to exit her transport hover, her arms full. Teapot set to heat, she sat, attentions now firmly fastened on her alien guests.

    "Poorva Ents, very glad to meet."
     
  8. Chapter Seven...


    Interesting.


    Thoee and Deen and Honalee and Anzifar and yes, even Peet, watched this young female approach. To Anzifar, her plain yet sturdy gray robe signified a female, unmated, with a very practical bent. The black collar on such, her status as one of the Gell, just as the black chromed collar on his dark, dull green armor marked his status in the Gell. Her, not a soldier. Badge on her collar, marking her as a member of the Sensor Animal Division. Or S.A.D., for short. Though she appeared very happy at this moment.

    Thoee bowed her head in greeting, waved her tail's tuft between her and Poorva, as Deen grinned. Both, repeating their introductions. Honalee wiggled out of her father's arms, sat with arms folded across chest as her parents spoke, wide eyes on this new person... sniff sniff... and what she'd brought. Yes, little Honalee knew all about tea from her mother's love for it. She looked up at father and mother...

    ... "Can I's a have some teasers?"

    Thoee leaned down and licked Honalee's forehead badge, a softly peeping, wide-eyed Peet held to chest, infant eyes bright and curious.

    "Yes, you may, Little One."

    "No reason not to, Hun." Deen ruffled her mane fur with the edge of a finger-claw, right between her ears. She closed her eyes and lifted her muzzle, a hurrf from all four tiny nostrils before she ducked away, dropped to all fours, chest to ground and tail in air as she 'stalked' to the small table. And 'pounced' on a teabag...

    ... "I's a wants thisy ones...."

    The teapot whistled. Poorva almost didn't hear it, her heart threatening to melt. All those unused hormones made her mothering instinct zing. Made her touch her belly as she stared at this alien Little One. And poured hot water in her little guest's cup with her free hand, her own claws clinking against ceramic.

    "Careful. It's hot, child."

    Anzifar also found something stirring inside himself, as Honalee dipped her teabag into her cup... over and over, so intent and careful. He missed his own daughter. His own sons. Even though he hadn't been separated from his children for very long at all. Missed his mate, Oanasi.

    "Why do you not worry for your offspring?" Anzifar had retrieved his rifle, though he still left his helmet where it was. Eyes moved between Thoee and Deen.

    Dip dip dip... Honalee kept up her intent tea-making, ears listening, but determined not to let anything interrupt her first efforts.

    "If they worried, Sur, why would they even come to us?"

    Yes, indeed, a practical and sensible female, this Poorva Ents! Her narrowed eyes on Anzifar, she stood up, paced the few steps between, and poked him in his armored chest with a very firm claw.

    "If you worry, why do you leave yours?"

    Deen clamped both hands over his muzzle, but he just couldn't keep from saying it.

    "Anzifar... if you're not careful, she'll serve you your nads in a teacup."

    *Thwap!*

    This time, Thoee didn't hold back her tail's tuft. Deen grinned through his wince, rubbed the back of his head as fur ruffled all over.

    "Sweetness!" He waved his free hand, claws and all, over his own nether regions. "I know you love me. And you know all males need to defend their... heh... honor, when their malehood is threatened." Grin. "It's a brotherhood thing. Just a friendly warning."

    "You are incorrigible, My Love." Thoee licked his forehead badge, then gave him a hug before taking her place beside Honalee, and serving her own tea, one handed, while Poorva... handed poor Anzifar his nads, this time. Figuratively speaking.

    "Worry makes you nervous, and nervous makes you miss things, Sur Anzifar!" Poorva knew this from experience, youth not a barrier to learning wisdom from life. And yes, like Anzifar, quick on the uptake. The forceful tap from her claws against his armor made him take a step back, eyes wide and quills raised. Glad his armor protected his crotch.

    "Yaaays!" Honalee had successfully steeped her tea. Well, dipped it into submission, anyway. Pretty much the same thing.

    "Mez Poorva Ents... I have been given guard duty over you, and that duty I will fulfill. I will... try not to worry."

    "Good. Now that that's settled..." Deen threw an arm over each of their shoulders, his right for Anzifar, his left for Poorva... "we should all enjoy our tea." The size differential didn't seem to trouble him in the least. But.......

    ....... Anzifar stiffened for a moment, only now really getting a good... feel for just how large these alien creatures were. Poorva didn't stiffen at all... was, in fact, quite delighted. Overwhelmed in some ways, yes. And perhaps a bit embarrassed, when she found herself... yes, the recent references hadn't helped... found herself glancing at this alien male's nether regions. Not for the first time. Just for the first time with her own eyes.

    Impressive. And on the video record, too. Most likely giving the team now studying those vids fits, along with all the other details she'd captured with her sensor-bird. Remarkable creatures, these aliens! This close, she should probably be afraid. But she just couldn't be.

    Anzifar, on the other foot. A shiver went up and down his spine. But he held his ground. Didn't want his nads in the teacup, again. More afraid of Poorva than of this... Deen. Who had so far proven, if not harmless, friendly, with no deception Anzifar could dig up, so far. Just a male and his family, on vacation. No invading force. Other than claws and teeth and size, no apparent weapons. Odd structure on their foreheads didn't seem to have any function, not that he could determine. Still, at Deen's touch, this sense of wildness permeated the air. Something felt, not scented. As if this alien male gave off... something. Certainly confidence. Sure of himself. Open. Free. Anzifar snorted.

    "Mez Poorva... some would consider your stare rude."

    Poorva startled, that 'hand in the cookie jar' look, classic.

    Deen gave her a gentle pat on the back, his grin, also classic.

    "And some would consider it a compliment."

    Poorva's mouth hung open for a second or two, her, speechless. Her dream wasn't quite occurring as she'd imagined, no. But she knew full well imagination and reality rarely if ever matched. And her imagination had never imagined this conversation. No, not ever. After handing Anzifar his nads in a teacup, it appeared he'd swallowed them all the way down into their proper place. Handed her back an empty teacup with his words.

    Touche'.......

    She giggled. Hands to mouth, claws over snout.

    "So sorry, Sur Deen of Ahvviyinn!"

    "No need to apologize... I can stare at them for hours, myself."

    The hark! from Anzifar, loud and sharp, a clear indicator of his amusement. Also a strange, maybe not so strange relief from his sudden tension. At this... confession... he just couldn't hold on to any fear. Because, to be honest, he had stared at his for hours, back when he was young and unmated. A teenager. Having to deal with all the strange things puberty brought into the mind of a young male.

    Thoee gave Deen a ruffle of mane, a drop-flick of ears in warning... sighed, rolled her eyes, shook her head, flicked her tail's tuft...

    ... "My Love has no shame."

    "And you, Sweetness, love every minute of it." Grin.

    Thoee handed Deen his tea, she having picked from the four. No, it wasn't coffee, but it would do for this first-meeting of species. And since 'everyone else' was doing it, she also let her eyes and attentions drop, another warm smile, this large enough to show teeth. Hands to chest...

    ... "I confess... I also have stared at them for hours. While you sleep, My Love."

    After that declaration, she handed both Poorva and Anzifar their tea. Again, she'd picked from the four, using her own judgment.

    Anzifar was the first to speak, while staring into his teacup.

    "I confess...."

    "No more confessions!" Poorva waved everyone to sit around the tea-table, small as it was. "I am authorized to speak first for the Hektonai, and second for all Kwirrill living in Hekto, wherever they may come from."

    Coo-chirp!

    Little Peet had reached out towards Poorva, as if trying to grasp her words. Though he was still too young to speak, himself. As she had towards Anzifar, Thoee presented her and Deen's son to Poorva. Unlike Anzifar, Poorva, speechless again, accepted without hesitation. Also unlike her male counterpart, she held this alien child to her chest with no cold armor in the way. Peet... he could feel her warmth, her heartbeat, her breath. Clamped on, and fell fast asleep.

    Babies are like that.

    Honalee kept quiet, unusual for a toddler, Nism or otherwise. But she knew her parents and these other people had important business to discuss. Besides, her tea kept her busy, its steam never moving the same way twice, so far. Her, waiting for it to get cool enough to sip.

    Thoee, Deen, Anzifar and Poorva. Yes, they had business to discuss. But Anzifar was just a guard. Poorva, still speechless. Thoee sipped her tea with grace. Deen? Fluffed up all over again, shroudruff feathers on display. Pride all over.

    "Heh... I know you probably had a speech ready. But I've found just sharing Life's Little Moments... works far better." Deen's intent gaze cast between Anzifar and Poorva, him giving off more of that vibe. Wild animal. Wild talking animal. Civilized, without the trappings of Civilization. Eyes falling on his and Thoee's son. "Wherever we come from, whatever we look like......."

    ....... crackle-snap!.......

    Their little 'tea party' hadn't been set very far from the meadow's edge, Thoee and Deen having just cleared the trees about fifty yards or so before settling to wait. Indeed, without knowing, they'd arrived in Ondo and walked into Hekto, crossing the south-eastern border into Surkindi province... yes, Anzifar had good reason to worry about that, because they were oh so close.

    Anzifar.

    Alert. Tea, abandoned. Rifle in both hands now, eyes and ears towards the sound.
     
  9. Chapter Eight...


    Sud Nook Danja should have known better. He'd been warned not to take his fishing trip so close to the Ondo/Hekto border, but the Gurrin-Na Forest had the best fishing this time of year. And he'd been following the river... well, a stream, really. Better than any river for catching fish, far as his concerns went. Much more peaceful. And no need for a boat to reach the best spots.

    Relaxation.

    Leaving civilization, yes, best way to undo the stress of work and family. Work, satisfying, but the near constant competition with Tin-Bah Observatory over who would... no, no, not what he'd signed up for when he'd chosen astronomy as his profession. Family, oh how he loved them, but his mother's near constant 'hints' for grandchildren, his father's disappointment... yes, he was twenty-five, no family of his own, too busy. Too shy, to be truthful. Felt awkward around females. Lacked confidence when it came to romance. Had four elder sisters who hadn't helped.

    So, he'd gone fishing. Couldn't go any farther away from work or family than here.

    Nook hadn't had any luck catching any fish today. Reason he'd been following the stream. Following the stream, reason he'd found these odd footprints in the shore's soft soil. Odder, given two of the prints seemed to be hands. Opposable digits clearly in evidence. The scientist in him had been fascinated by this discovery, not like any animal prints he'd ever seen. Not like any Kwirrill prints he'd ever seen. Curious. Distracted from his fishing efforts, he wished he'd brought his camera, perhaps other gear, yes. All to record this find. He felt rather naked... not too remarkable, given he carried his fishing pole, and carried the rest of his fishing gear in his vest's pockets. Hat to shield his head from sun's glare. But nothing else to cover what nature had given him. Another thing about being out alone in remote woods... no need for social conventions like clothing. Well, what with wading after fish and climbing in and out over stream-banks, better to wear nothing else that could get wet or otherwise get in the way.

    Oh, naked.......

    Equipped for fishing, yes, but 'bare' of what he needed to... yet he still looked and sniffed about, found more tracks leading in this direction. His focus so tight, he'd for all practical reasons forgotten where he was. How close he was. The direction in which he was presently walking. His tight focus, excellent for his particular job description, but lousy when it came to avoiding...

    ... well, borders.

    Yes, Sud Nook Danja walked right over from Gurrin-Na Forest, Pahn-Nassa prefecture, directly into Boll Forest, Surkindi province. Hekto territory. His mind very far from any past war, or bad blood passed from that generation to this. Then...

    ... he heard the distant, muffled sound of engines through trees. Still, his focus on tracking whatever it was, whatever creature or creatures had made the prints, kept him from registering the sound as a warning.

    Lead him to.......

    Nook heard voices, breeze carrying the scent of tea and... he suddenly realized just where he was as he suddenly cleared the trees, stepped into a meadow and.......

    ....... crackle-snap!.......

    -------

    Deen had good cause to be thankful for his reflexes. Anzifar also had the good fortune Deen was there. Because he, Sur Anzifar Terse, may have lost his fear of aliens... of these particular aliens... but he hadn't lost his... well, to be truthful, he had lost something important, when he saw the Ondonan standing there, holding something long and...


    ... Anzifar lost sense of time in that split second he had to decide. Through pure, trained reflex, rifle came to shoulder, finger squeezed trigger, and rifle went...

    ... THUP!...

    ... only Deen, sitting right next to Anzifar, had reached out in that split second, and tipped his rifle up, so his shot went high and...... *

    Bullet missed Ondonan, as Ondonan turned to flee. But the tree he was under reacted rather badly to being shot. CRACK! followed THUP! Tree, very startled, seriously wounded, dropped a heavy branch on Ondonan head. Hat, not enough to protect from the clunk of wood to skull. No, not heavy enough to be lethal. Just heavy enough to knock the Ondonan instantly unconscious.

    Peet peep-chirped, tiny hands to ears as he protested.

    Honalee dropped to the ground, hands over head.

    Thoee, both hands cupping her muzzle, looked towards injured tree and unconscious Ondonan with wide eyes.

    Deen... Anzifar found his rifle no longer in his hands, without knowing how he'd lost possession of it. Deen's ears, down and back, eyes very intent and intense...

    ... "Why do soldiers always shoot first and ask questions later?... or never!"

    No, not a happy Nism. A pleasant tea, interrupted by gunfire. Unhappy not only with Anzifar, but with himself, for not mentioning this approaching biopattern, so much like these two Kwirrill. Of course, Deen knew nothing about any war or bad blood, just that a soldier with an itchy trigger-finger had almost killed someone innocent. Someone with a fishing pole, not a weapon!

    Poorva, also not happy. But at least she knew about the war, and being part of the Gell, understood why. If not for the upset alien infant in her arms, she would have Anzifar on the ground, teeth bared. Armor be drazd! Dear Ghoz! Understanding didn't mean she accepted his actions. Not under these circumstances. Not with this company.

    "Sur Anzifar!" She said no more, her look alone saying Down, boy! Bad dog! Her words after, soft and soothing and for Peet. Her feet, following more slowly after a swift-moving Thoee.

    Honalee said nothing, just looked between her mother, her father... Anzifar and Poorva. Then she followed her father who followed her mother, all but Anzifar heading for the place where the Ondonan lay under tree-branch. Deen, tossing aside Anzifar's rifle halfway there. Anzifar... a deep, deep sigh and chitter. His own feet reluctant to move, but moving him anyway, after everyone else. After all, he still had guard duty, reprimand or no. Better to be there, maintain some control over this new situation.

    If this situation could be controlled.......

    -------

    Hnnnnnnn.......


    Nook hadn't expected he'd still be living. Felt... thought the rifle bullet had taken him through the head. Well, to be honest, he didn't think anything at the time. Klunk! And nothing, till now. His thought, after the fact, and based on how much his head hurt. Yes, at this moment, the scientist in him was babbling in woozy drunkenness. And yes, like a drunk, any effort he made to move felt fuzzy. Just couldn't get coordination out of his limbs. Barely managed to open... his... eyes.......

    Ohhh.......

    So that's what made the tracks! Indeed, he couldn't help noting the hands and the creature who owned the hands, because one of them happened to be touching his chest, over his heart, while the other... felt like the other... examined his head. Felt like an examination, of some sort. And then... fascinating. His pain, gone. But he still felt drunk...

    ... "Hnnnnnnn... who... who are you?"

    The creature gave him a warm smile. Yes, she did! He felt the heat rise to his cheeks as his eyes confirmed... as the voice sounded female.

    "I am Thoee. And you are injured. Try not to move."

    His embarrassment didn't ease, but he stopped trying to move. Felt better to just lie still, anyway. Then he noted another female, Hektonai. An armed male in armor. And another quite different male, different in the same way as... Thoee. Not Hektonai. Not Ondonan. Not like anything he'd ever seen or heard tell of. Read anywhere in any scientific journals. Dreamt of in his wildest fantasies. Yes, it took him a moment. A moment staring at a small face sniffing over his own...

    ... "Mama's goodsies at's a'takin' cares of booboosers." He barely understood the... child. Yes, in this moment, aware a small child, Thoee's child, sniffed his face. Aware the female Hektonai held an... infant. Both... Other, like their parents.

    Nook felt so many things in that moment, but the fuzzies inside his head kept him from pinning down any of his present emotions. Kept him from asking further questions. But those same fuzzies also caused him to pass out, so any further questions he may have asked remained moot.

    -------

    Anzifar recovered his rifle, not sure if he should. Noted its safety was engaged. Tried to stay out of the way as he watched. Tried very hard to make peace with his inner turmoil, again. Sense of duty. Responsibility. Poorva and her displeasure. And aliens. Couldn't forget the aliens! Mother. Father. Child. Infant. Injured Ondonan. Who for some strange reason wasn't wearing pants. Yes, Anzifar knew about Ondonan culture, their different modes of dress. Hektonai and the wearing of robes. Ondonan and the wearing of shirts and pants. Or, in this case, the wearing of a fishing vest and hat. Hektonai never waded in the water when fishing. They also didn't fish with poles. In fact, they really didn't fish at all, not recreationally, anyway. More into getting their protein from grubs and worms. Digging in cool-moist soil.


    Poorva recovered her shock at this turn of events. Recovered from it, to be more precise. Stroked little Peet's ears, gentle in her touch. Stared at this Ondonan male. At his... she felt her own embarrassment rise. He's soooo handsome! No, being female, with no mate, it didn't help her hormones, this sight of attractive male, exposed. Ondonan or not, she felt... no, not love. She didn't even know this male! But she did like what she saw, liked his differences from Hektonai males she'd seen. Unlike Anzifar, she held no grudge against Ondonans for the war. This war, in the past. Done. Over with. Time, in her opinion, to move on.

    Deen found himself, for, what, the third time now?... having to hold in a snerk of amusement, this time both at the changes in Poorva's chi, and at the Ondonan, himself. Yes, different. A bit of marmot in place of badger, honey-colored fur and steel-gray quill tips. Gray collar, gray spots on outer thigh-fur. And yes, amusement that he was not the only male present... showing what nature had given him. Noting where Poorva's eyes roamed. Yes, he tried very hard not to snerk, not wanting to interfere with his mate's ministrations. Or to attract another tail-tuft thwapping.

    Thoee, in 'doctor' mode, hadn't missed Poorva's chi alterations, either. A simple look, slight 'glimmer' of forehead badge... ahhh, yes! Basic physical attraction. The romantic in her, piqued. Yes, she would need to keep her eyes on Poorva as well as her patient. Help this... interest to grow. She'd already picked up choice details from her patient, his embarrassed reaction towards her. His reaction towards Poorva, also, in that moment before he'd lost consciousness, again. Ahhh, how she loved a challenge!

    Honalee patted Nook's nose.

    Peet churred. Perhaps because his father hadn't considered him in his 'not the only male present' evaluation. Perhaps because he just wanted his dada.

    -------

    "Sur Anzifar!" Poorva re-used her last words to poor Anzifar, to again express her displeasure. Only this time, she had more words to say. "This, your fault!" She returned little Peet to his father, so she could use both hands to tap claws against Anzifar's armored chest. "By Ghoz, you will make apology... your home, recompense! I charge you and yours to care for this Ondonan till he is well......."


    There, it was said.
     
  10. Chapter Nine...



    The phrase "Nothing happens in a vacuum" is actually quite a wrong assumption. When loose things are sucked into a bag, many interesting interactions can occur. Both inside and outside the bag. Inside the bag, dirt meets dirt, dirt touches other dirt it hasn't touched before, and, most importantly, dirt inside the bag is no longer where it was. Dirt outside the bag.......?

    Sur Kurrn wondered what was happening. No, having a new operator working Poorva's sensor-bird still gave him a running tally on what was happening in that quarter. He just hadn't heard back from his superiors, from the higher-ups he'd relayed his oh so important information to. So his claws tapped his desk again while he waited, quills alert. Yes, nervous, but ready to justify his decisions. To back up...

    ... THUP!...

    Handclaws danced on his board, signal relayed to this Anzifar Terse's suit-com. Not immediately... the shot had disturbed the sensor-bird feed, fear-instinct warring with implant-control. And then, signal back, he watched and listened as Poorva Ents gave Anzifar his orders. Actually, her orders. Sur Kurrn hadn't expected her chosen guardian to do what he did, but Kurrn did expect Poorva's response. As a Believer, she would invoke a sacred requirement. Something more to relay above. Still a bit frazzled, but there existed no precedence for this, no written law. No rules, no regulations. Since no-one would ever have expected such a visit as this. Well, except fiction writers. Storytellers. Even alone in his office, Kurrn had to lift his chin and give a chit, that short sound of acknowledgement to his sudden thought: Let his superiors decide to bring in Storytellers, the only Kwirrill who, far as he knew, ever gave thought to this situation. Sur Kurrn, of course, relayed this thought immediately above. Curious as to whether or not his thought would lead to action on their part.

    Hurry things along by providing that last little grub on the scale, to tip the balance.

    Anzifar Terse? Yes, message sent and received. A short back and forth. Resigned to his fate. Sur Kurrn liked keeping things neat and tidy, even when digging in loamy soil. And this was the loamiest soil he'd ever in his life encountered! So, a moment to open the second-from-top drawer, so he could retrieve his gnaw-stick. Yes, he needed a moment to chew. And to think further. Though what he really needed right now... go home, strip out of his robe, and dig in his garden with bare fur and claws. That activity always centered his thoughts. Calmed any nervous twinges. And always ended with the pleasure of a thorough bath and grooming, under his mate's gentle and very personal ministrations.

    Hnnnnnn.......

    But no, he had his duty. His official responsibilities. Needed to remain, until above handed down their decision. Home and family would have to wait. And yes, indeed, this other situation, this Ondonan. Another grub, this set to put a bad taste in a few choice mouths, if Sur Kurrn Hettel knew his aboves. Which, after all these years, he certainly did. There'd be quite a few new tooth marks on quite a few old chew-sticks.

    Indeed, much bad blood passed down. Kurrn could only hope. And pray this situation would end with no more blood spilled.
     
  11. Chapter Ten...



    Fifty-one years, four months, one week, three days, nine hours and forty-two minutes ago, give or take a few seconds, Ondo attacked Hekto through this very same forested valley of Gurrin-Na and Boll. This forest swath the only clear way, the only split in the mountain range that separated these two neighbor territories. Broad, easy to cross, despite its rivers and streams. And trees. Much easier than mountains with their crags and possible snow. Surprise!

    However, easy to cross meant easy to defend, at least in the present day. Of course, the war had led to many advances in technology... a push to develop better means of defense. Better modes of transport. Better weapons. Better protection and security measures. Better communications...

    ... "Sur Kurrn!" Now it was Anzifar's turn to protest. "You can't hold me to this charge!"

    Poorva no longer threatened to puncture his armor with her handclaws. But she did still glare at him, arms crossed.

    Anzifar couldn't see any good come of this...

    ... "I can't just take an Ondonan into my home... risk my family! Risk other Ondonans come to find him!"

    The voice coming through his suit-collar's backup comm remained firm. Better to care for an injured Ondonan than to leave him unprotected. For now.

    A long chitter escaped Anzifar's throat. No, not happy. But he would do as told. For now. If only to avoid Poorva's... displeasure. Didn't want his testicles constantly removed. No wonder she was still a Mez!

    Thoee and Deen and Honalee and little Peet remained witnesses to this exchange. Peet, not yet old enough to understand what was going on, words just sounds with unclear meaning. Honalee, old enough to understand much, but distracted by mention of 'family'. To her, this word meant other children to play with. Deen and Thoee understood everything. They hadn't meant to cause trouble, but life is Life, and things like this happen when traveling the Universe. ThreshHold, subject to Advents natural and artificial. Hammerspace folds, distorted by need. Innocent camping trip now an incident. A First Contact. With complications. Need? Perhaps. Perhaps just chance. No way to really tell, at present. No promise this particular situation would end happily ever after. Son clutched to chest, daughter clutching his tail, Deen gave his mate a lick to her cheek, a lick she returned. Yes, with them now here, they had no choice but to get involved. To deliberately finish what they'd accidentally started.

    Responsibility.......

    Fatherhood taught Deen much about responsibility. If you make it, care for it. Teach it. Help it grow.......

    Thoee? She'd learned responsibility early in her life. But had chosen a very irresponsible male as her mate. Father of her children. Perfect match, even so. She'd learned to loosen up, he'd learned to be more serious. They'd both matured, together. Both worked to raise the new lives they'd made, together. So... even though they hadn't been charged, they accepted responsibility, shared blame for this with Anzifar. Since their presence had started this whole mess.

    Son in arms still, daughter hug-latched to tail now, Deen approached Anzifar. Shifted son to left arm and patted Anzifar's armored right shoulder with his right hand. Claws tinked against ceramic-coated metal as he passed. Grin, aimed at Poorva over his own shoulder...

    ... "We'll help."

    Indeed, while Deen had done his business, Thoee had done hers. Made sure her patient was stable enough to move, before she picked him up like an overstuffed pillow (gently, so as not to lose any 'feathers'), and started carrying him towards Poorva's transport-hover, following her mate. Poorva, herself? Still mad at Anzifar, but Deen's grin had worked its magic. Broken her glare. His offer? Well, she'd in no way leave without him and his family! They would all be going. All staying together, till her charge was fulfilled. This Ondonan situation had not allowed her to finish her interview. So, yes, time to go.

    Again, Anzifar found himself the last to respond. Recovered his helmet. Started his walk towards the transport-hover. Then looked back, hesitated, finally turned, walked back, recovered the Ondonan's fishing pole, then ran after everyone else.

    He could not see Oanasi being happy with this charge.
     
  12. Chapter Eleven...



    Though not human, not even in any way humanoid, Kwirrill still had a government with bureaucratic layers. Sur Kurrn, on a lower rung, but still in a place of authority. Able to make judgments, give orders to those under him. While those above, busy with other business, contemplated his information, and decided where in the importance order his information stood. Of course, assumption could be made first contact with an alien species would move right to the forefront, rise on its roots till it pierced the soil's surface and caught sunlight.

    Which Sur Kurrn's information did. The delay in response simply the result of much deep and loamy discussion. And the fact information kept coming in. Changed things. Sparked further discussions. Some, like Poorva, eager to dig in. Others, like Anzifar, doubtful. But creatures able to cross the stars! If they meant ill, would they not already have flung dirt in available faces in challenge? Eaten out three available Kwirrill livers, even if one of those Kwirrill available happened to be Ondonan? Well, perhaps not exactly the questions asked. Doubts...? Many. It came down to the simple fact two 'naked' parent-aliens with one toddler and one infant just didn't pose much of a threat in enough minds. Yes, there could be more coming. However, even if so, given the sudden arrival of this alien family, not much could be done. Just remain on alert, just in case. Keep eyes on the group here and now, which, according to the info provided, was already being done.

    And yes, hunt down appropriate representatives to handle the situation. To include the suggested fiction-writers. Photographers and artists. And organized medical personnel. A large task, yes. Needed as soon as possible, along with all the appropriate, portable gear that could be managed on short notice. Learn as much as possible!

    However.

    Until all this could be arranged and executed, Poorva, Thoee, Deen, Honalee and Peet would be living with Anzifar and his family. Five unwanted guests, far as Anzifar was concerned. No, six. The Ondonan, unnamed. Almost forgotten, hard to believe, yes. At present, no more than a 'dead' body. Breathing, alive, but unknown. More an unknown than four aliens. Again, perhaps hard to believe. But Anzifar.......

    He entered the transport-hover behind everyone else, secured rifle, fishing pole and, after he took his seat, restraints. And bowed his head in thought, if not prayer. Even though he was not a Believer. Not a Ghozillin, like Poorva. Still, there had to be some deity up there, or deep below, who wanted to teach him a lesson for past sins. His most recent, being a Gell soldier, and shooting the branch off an innocent tree. His breath came in short bursts, as if he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. A moment later, airborne, on their way towards... Anzifar didn't know what. Towards community-Tiri, his home-place. Transport-hovers able to land anywhere on open ground, no need for runway space.

    "I'm sorry we messed up your day." Deen had left his mate and daughter with Poorva, sat in the seat next to Anzifar, infant son still in arm as he managed to secure his harness one-handed.

    Anzifar found himself raising an eyebrow, wondering how, just how, this alien father could be so calm. But then he realized... alien, traveler, probably been there, done that. This, just part of his life. Yes, he understood more about this strange, non-Kwirrill male, more than he did one of his own kind, a stranger from Ondo. Perhaps because this alien, conscious, had communicated clear and open. The Ondonan, one line of dialog, then out again. Anzifar felt...

    ... "No... no, my fault. You didn't know... coming here would......."

    Anzifar fell silent, Deen's clawed hand on his armored shoulder.

    "You didn't know we exist." Deen looked up to the stars he couldn't see due to daylight, mostly due to the transport-hover's ceiling-skin. "I'd say you have a very good excuse for being startled. Scary stuff out there. Wonderful stuff. Stuff in-between. Sometimes I tremble... and I'm familiar with the universe... out there." His tongue slipped out as he licked himself between all four nostrils, ears back as his head gestured up. "Like I said, we'll help."

    Deen's eyes dropped back down, fell on his mate... grinned. Flared all four of his just-licked-between nostrils, as if he took in her scent. Anzifar knew that look. He'd given his own mate that look, many times. Strange. This Deen. Again, Anzifar felt the wonder bubble up inside. This connection he felt. As if he talked with a brother. With someone who shared his skin. Who would be sharing his life, his family. Tentative hand, heavy-clawed, reached up to touch Deen's near shoulder...

    ... "Thank you."

    The slope of Deen's shoulder made keeping his heavy claws in place difficult. Deen's hand still on his shoulder made his own gesture awkward, as well, but Anzifar didn't know how else to express his thanks, other than with two simple words and a touch to seal those words. To make them true and heartfelt. Honest. Then a raise of chin, with no sound.

    Peep!

    No, that sound came from little Peet, who tried to reach Anzifar's claws with his own. Anzifar's eyes dropped from Deen's to Peet. Hoped he would get to hold this alien child again, with no armor in the way. Suddenly realized... a being near twice his size was sitting next to him, safety harness around midsection... narrow hips, long torso, long neck with head and shoulders held low enough to... again, Anzifar found himself awash in wonder, that a creature so different, so large, had somehow squeezed himself into a normal-sized seat... had seemed, for a time, not so much bigger. Yes, ear-tips brushed the ceiling. Head would bump, if he sat up straight. Even for a Kwirrill, headroom lacked generosity. About four feet, floor to ceiling. Enough for him, but not enough for Deen to stand. Or even sit comfortably. But there he sat, having managed to move about with son in arms. Infant so small, perhaps the reason Anzifar hadn't remembered this size-contrast.

    Yes, Thoee in the same position with Poorva, adapting to what they had. Though Thoee lay on her belly next to where Poorva sat, daughter snuggled against her side, apparently asleep. Ondonan, secured in the back. Sound of the transport-hover's engine-fans, it seemed, a lullaby to this alien child. Though it also sounded like Thoee hummed, softly. A song he'd never heard before. To be expected. Heh. A sound not unlike a chuckle rose up from deep in Anzifar's chest, not very loud, but there, anyway. A sigh of acceptance, after...

    ... "You don't look very comfortable."

    Deen tried to shift in his seat, but he couldn't. Tail tucked between legs, hips vised by armrests, he looked very... pinched.

    "I've been..." His voice had a mock-falsetto squeak on the first two words... "better. And worse." Grin. "I'll live."

    Anzifar again raised his chin, this time with chit included.

    Deen looked down at his lap and winced... "Though I may need a few parts refitted."

    Anzifar again made that chuckle sound.......

    -------

    Thoee had a bit of difficulty carrying the Ondonan into the transport-hover. No room to stand up. But with Deen's help and Honalee's encouragement, they managed to get her patient settled in the back. Then Anzifar entered, secured weapon and fishing pole, and found a seat in front, as far away from the Ondonan... from Poorva... as possible, without entering the cockpit. She exchanged a glance with her mate. Deen stuck out his tongue in good humor, then moved towards Anzifar. And actually somehow managed to sit in the seat next to him. Thoee rolled her eyes, then turned back to Poorva, this young female still upset. Honalee, usually not so silent, simply slipped up beside her as she settled cattishly on her belly next to Poorva's seat. Daughter snuggled in, yawned, then fell asleep. Thoee gave daughter and Kwirrill each a warm smile in turn.


    "He is trying, Young One... do not hold anger against him."

    Poorva sigh-churred, then tried to imitate Thoee's facial expression, but it just didn't look right. Or feel right...

    ... "He's not trying hard enough!" Her voice, soft so as not to carry, but still clear in its exclamation point.

    Thoee offered her tail's tuft, decided to also offer a hummed lullaby, to help Poorva relax. Managed to keep a straight face, as she could hear loud and clear the conversation between mate and native male. Ahhh, yes! Deen being Deen, as always. As always, her Love.

    Poorva listened to her alien lullaby. And like Anzifar's touch to Deen's shoulder, her touch to Thoee's tail-tuft, tentative. Then a gentle, steady stroke, claws over fur.
     
  13. Chapter Twelve...



    Oanasi already felt put out by her mate's duty. Yes! She'd known what the male of her life did for a living, that he could be called away at any time. But knowing it and living it were two different things. She'd never had to live with her love called to duty, the fear he could very well not return alive. Or worse, return only in part. Either in body, or worse, in spirit. His body, attractive, yes. But she'd fallen in love with his spirit, his determination. And yes, his innocence. In the Gell, but due to peace with their neighbors, untouched by blood. His heart, still lit with life. Lit even brighter when they'd become parents. When Onala, Akrin and then Toosi came into the world. Daughter. Son. Daughter. Motherhood for her, fatherhood for him. Dedication. Commitment.

    Love.

    She didn't know where he'd gone, or for what reason. So she worried. Perhaps... yes, most likely for nothing, but the call, urgent and rushed, hadn't encouraged hope. Nor had it encouraged despair. Just... a big unknown. War, having touched both their families in the past, they couldn't help but speculate on what this call meant for their future. For Hekto's future.

    However.

    She kept worry to herself. The children, disappointed enough that their father had to go away so sudden when they'd already had plans for his leave-time. For today, to be more specific. Toosi, their youngest, wouldn't stop pattering about the den on all fours. So active in her efforts to "Find Daddy!" no amount of her own efforts would calm their child enough to give her a bath, or even get her to put on her den-robe. Akrin also had his own dressing problems... couldn't decide what robe he wanted to wear to welcome Daddy home. If his father did return. At least Onala, eldest, had taken her father's leaving well. Tried to help her mother with her siblings. Oanasi wasn't used to such chaos in her denhold.

    No, she'd always kept a firm claw on everything. Kept her denhold organized. Children fed and clean. Lessons done on time. But she'd been more affected by her mate's unexpected leaving than even she'd realized, until.......

    THUMP! CRASH!

    No, not that loud in truth, but being a mother made it sound that loud. Every parent instinctively knows when one of their children has gotten into trouble. Of course, instinct alone can be hard to pin down, but when sound is involved... tingle down the spine, rush of blood to head. Thump of little head hitting something hard, followed by crash of breakable object hitting floor. Squeak of distress somewhere in the middle.


    -------

    Time passed in silence for Anzifar and Deen, both males thinking about their families, only different in aspect. Deen's family, present. Anzifar, missing his. Deen, almost asleep as he listened to his mate's continued lullaby. But still conscious and aware enough to feel a bit jealous towards Poorva... Thoee's tail tuft, a favored play toy. Not just a tool of discipline. Anzifar, wide awake. Concerned. Wondering how Oanasi would respond. How their children would react. Where this would all go. Then...


    ... "Hnnnnn... I just realized... I don't know what you eat. You drink tea. I don't know what to offer you at my denhold."

    Deen's half-closed eyes opened full and bright, Peet sound asleep against chest.

    "I'll eat anything my host provides." His bright eyes cast down on Anzifar, head tilted a slight bit sideways, with grin. "I'm not fussy. I'm also good on the grill. Give me any ingredients and open flame, I'll give you dinner."

    A deep intake of breath, slow exhale as he he glanced at the armrests pressed against hips. "If I can still feel my legs......."


    -------

    Poorva kept up her gentle, steady strokes over and then through Thoee's tail-tuft fur. Stroke. Comb. Stroke again. Comb. All in one continuous, steady motion. Ears, a-twitch to the lullaby of the moment. Thoee humming about pretty ponies, twinkling stars, Pooh bears and wishing fish, amongst other childhood things. If she had to keep this up the entire trip, yes, she would. For Poorva's sake. With her chi perceptions, she could monitor the injured Ondonan without having to move from her spot. Let her daughter sleep, let this Hektonai female... relax. Her own mother had shared her tail's tuft in this manner, when she'd needed comfort. Something to distract thoughts.


    "I dreamed but never thought I'd ever meet someone from another world. When my dream came true, I never thought... this would happen." Poorva turned her eyes from tail's tuft to Thoee's eyes. "All my questions... don't know them anymore. Maybe... already answered."

    Thoee's present lullaby stopped, her warm smile present, again. "If you remember, please, ask. You may find the answers I and My Love give... different than you expect." She turned a glance to sleeping daughter, looked over at mate and son, what sounded like a purr in her throat. "Self-answered questions rarely match a different viewpoint."


    -------

    Sur Kurrn had to admit surprise when he found those above had taken his advice on the fiction writers. Even more surprised when he was instructed to meet these visitors, himself. In person. So he could see with his own eyes, smell with his own nose, touch with his own hands, and then present his own detailed report. His evaluation. Not surprised to find he had till morning to be there. Which, given the distance, meant he would not be sleeping in his own nest-alcove tonight. Or for several days, at the least. Once he arrived.


    Yes, this would be a quite interesting assignment.
     
  14. Chapter Thirteen...

    Interesting things occurred elsewhere, perhaps. Bits of happenstance. Slices of perspective. A few tears, and the gnashing of teeth. But time needed passing. Yes, booboos needed care, messes needed cleaning up, words and just moments of companionable silence needed doing. Heartaches tempered by songs. Another past bonk on the head, path to dreams for one, tears for another. Strange, how things like that happen. How...

    ...Ahhh, yes. Ramble, over and out.

    In due time, Poorva, Anzifar, Thoee, Deen, Honalee and little Peet... and yes, two others, unnamed... arrived. A transport-hover fanned down, landed in Community-Tiri early in the afternoon of a very nice Spring day. Dropped off seven of its nine occupants, then fanned away. Yes, pilot and co-pilot/navi/door-opener, busy with flight operations, but unable to stop thinking, or talking, about what they'd just been part of. But... sigh... unnamed. Not part of this story.......

    Onward, again.

    So here they all stood. A moment of awkward silence. Or perhaps just ordinary silence, like patrons at a movie theater, just before the movie starts. Big moment. All just anticipating what's to come. Will it be a blockbuster? A... hmmm... bomb? For Anzifar and Poorva and others to come, this would be their first time. But even Thoee and Deen had no idea how this "film" would end. Yes, they were familiar with the genre, but they hadn't seen this particular "movie" before. Never the same way twice, in the particulars. Though there tended to be common endings. Themes. All that action/adventure/drama stuff.

    Deen inhaled a deep and abiding breath of fresh air, still able to walk and... heh... father children. Relieved, too, that his efforts at un-wedging himself hadn't broken off armrests. Or ripped fur off hips. One would have been awkward, the other, painful. But neither were worse for wear. And as Deen exhaled, eyes open and looking about, it struck him...

    ... "This looks just like Hobbiton!"

    Indeed, Community-Tiri bore a very striking resemblance to that famous fictional community of little men with hairy feet. Also little women with hairy feet. And even smaller boys and girls with hairy feet. Which... isn't very helpful. But yes! Homes dug into hillsides and buried under mounds. Round doors, round windows. Though the welcome mats were still square. Or rectangular. Or.......

    Anzifar and Poorva had no idea what Deen was talking about. Neither having read the books nor seen the movies. Anzifar shrugged it off and lead the group down a path leading away from the park where the transport-hover had landed. And flown away from. Deen settled Peet under his shroudruff, dropped to all fours. Thoee did her own inhale, exhale. Dropped to all fours, as well. Followed by Honalee, who just did what her parents did as they all followed Anzifar. And Poorva, who felt better now, but still wasn't sure if she forgave her "guardian" for his itchy trigger-finger.

    Oh! Almost forgot!

    Thoee had rigged an emergency stretcher for her Ondonan patient. So, on all fours, harnessed, she had no trouble transporting her injured load. Though one end dragged and made clicking noises against pathway stones. Poorva had offered to help, but Thoee gently insisted this would be best. Still, while Anzifar lead, Poorva covered the rear, eyes on this handsome Ondonan male. Yes, they made quite a procession. Anzifar followed by Deen, Peet under shroudruff, followed by Honalee, followed by Thoee and her burden, followed by Poorva. The "streets" seemed quite deserted, though Thoee and Deen did pick up the chi from several curious pairs of eyes. Perhaps everyone was home, eating lunch. Or taking a nap. Those eyes, just peeked out from behind the curtains.

    About five minutes later.......

    No shouts. No torches or pitchforks. In a way, something of a disappointment. In another way, quite impressive for a species unfamiliar with other lifeforms in this universe. Yes, Deen had been... well, he'd kinda been looking forward to being mobbed. Or having little kids say "Look, Mommy! Aliens! Ah, sigh. Anzifar? A bit nervous, now that home was in sight. Quills ruffled. Glad he would soon be out of armor, washed up, and ready... well, ready as he could be to perform his charge. But not ready to drop this on his mate and children. Poorva? Also nervous, but for different reasons. Thoee, serene in her grace, her patient's weight light on her shoulders. Peet, asleep, as babies are wont. Honalee, almost ready to pounce on her Dada's tail.

    All seven arrived at their common goal, a round green door in a hillside.

    Bore a quite remarkable resemblance to Frodo's place.

    Ahem!

    They were greeted by a scene inside quite domestic. Broken crockery, kitchen table out of place, softly squeaking youngest child being comforted by mother while eldest daugter/sib collected bits of that broken crockery. Middle son, holding a dark red den-robe he didn't know whether to put on or.......

    Obviously, some domestic incident had just occurred. Anzifar felt the tension rise. Didn't take a genius to see what had happened. Or a genius to see what had just entered her home. Beloved mate... and... strangers. Hektonai female, young, robes of office apparent. Ondonan! Male, half "naked" on a stretcher. And.......

    Thoee set her patient out of the way as she unharnessed herself. Deen scooped up Honalee and held her to his chest, just to be safe. Sat on his haunches right there by the door, shroudruff flared. Honalee... stared. Thoee gently removed Peet from father's back, and held him, still sleeping, to her own chest. Sat on her own haunches by her male. Both waiting as.......

    Oanasi always had been practical and matter-of-fact in her bearing, one thing Anzifar loved in her. Well, two things. But these two things had been of concern, him not knowing if this sudden revelation would trigger a practical or matter-of-fact reaction. Yes, practical meant she'd accept and move on. Matter-of-fact meant she'd react with instinct. Because the fact aliens were in her home could definitely matter, her reaction the instinctual desire to remove a possible threat from her den-space. Or possible pest. Anzifar had a heathly respect for his mate's teeth and claws. For a moment, possibilities hung in balance. For a moment, Oanasi had more concern over the Ondonan than over the aliens. But the Ondonan was unconscious, the aliens, polite, if in dire need of den-robes. So, for a moment, she held her youngest close, chittered as her quills raised... then settled. Eyes on the fact her alien "guests" ear-tips brushed her ceiling, even though they sat. No... no, she didn't have any spare den-robes that big.

    Yes, Oanasi decided to be practical. To not screech and yell or otherwise panic, even if with a purpose. She'd already had enough upset dealing with a hurt child. She would remain calm and reasonable. So her eyes locked with Anzifar's. He chittered a return, stripped off his armor, and went to kiss his youngest's head, gentle, before he touched foreheads with his mate.

    Deen couldn't help providing his D'awww! expression at this oh so... cute scene. Thoee rolled her eyes at her mate's antics, but had to agree within her own thoughts, yes, this whole domestic scene was indeed adorable. Honalee just stared at the older-than-her male child, then the even older female youngster, them staring with wide-eyed "fascination" at these huge, not-Kwirrill creatures sitting in front of their front door.

    "Dada? Can I's a go play?" She gave her father her best puppy dog eyes.

    Akrin dropped the den-robe he'd been holding, and scampered behind his parents. Onala dropped the crockery pieces she'd been holding, a clatter as they hit the floor again and broke further. But she stood her ground. Toosi remained between her parents, too young to be all that concerned, given her head hurt and she'd been so sorry she'd broken that bread-pot. It'd been an accident! Yes, still very young, but old enough to know she'd made a mistake.

    Only a moment for all this to occur. Then Deen set Honalee down...

    ... "No, Hun... not now. Perhaps later. Just sit till I or your mother say otherwise."

    Hun sat, like a good little girl. Yes, she wiggled, but she wiggled in one place, enthusiasm contained. Eyes dancing from Akrin to Onala to Toosi to Anzifar to Oanasi, over and over again, not missing one little detail. Just waiting for her Dada or her Mama to "release" her. Eyes now including her Dada as Deen, on all fours, eased forward into touching distance, but still respectful towards Anzifar and his mate. A bow and nod from haunches before he settled in a sphinx-pose on the floor. Tail curled carefully around, out of the way. Not a good idea to add further breakage to an already difficult situation.

    "Sorry to invade your home so unexpected and uninvited." His eyes met Oanasi's. "We promise we'll be good guests...." He restrained his grin. Yes, Deen knew when seriousness was necessary, just as sure as he knew when it was not. Hard to do in this case, given Anzifar hadn't been wearing anything under his armor. And didn't seem to mind. Poke fun later.

    Thoee gave Peet's care over to a nervous Poorva. Now that she was here, the young Mez wasn't sure she should have made her charge. She could see several problems, given the circumstances... the size difference, one. Thoee? She saw no problems that couldn't be solved. But it would all depend on their hosts. On Anzifar and his mate and his children. So she joined her male, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, in sphinx-pose repose, a nuzzle to his neck with her cheek.

    "My Love and I will help any way we can."

    Onala hadn't moved from her place in the kitchen, frozen as she stared. Amazed, to be honest. So it took her till now to speak. "Mom? Dad?" In those few words, with her shift in body and gesture, she seemed to express a number of questions asked of both her parents. Oanasi held her mate's face in her hands, rubbed his cheeks while Anzifar, himself, simply enjoyed her attention. But at this, they both looked to their eldest child, quills down tight.

    "They are here, in our den-hold. Unexpected, uninvited, but I will not turn them away." Yes, Oanasi had decided to be practical. Because her mate had brought these guests. And she trusted him. He would not bring death into their home. And these... others showed no signs she could see, hear, scent or feel as threat. If they turned, she would fight. If they did not, she would not. But. She did not like the implications of this Ondonan. Perhaps strange, how she could accept aliens without question, but not one of her own species. Still, she would allow this Ondonan to remain, because it was obvious a charge was involved, or the Ondonan would not be here. She didn't need to be told where the Hektonai female stood in the chain of authority.

    Anzifar returned the cheek rub as his mate turned back. "I'm sorry, Oanasi." No, he didn't need to tell her about the charge, or about the comm restrictions. She already knew what his work required of her, what things meant when.......

    Onala slowly paced her way out of the kitchen, her brother Akrin, poking his head out from behind his father. Toosi...

    ... "They talk!" Yes, she also finally broke her silence, her elder siblings' actions breaking her own nervousness. She couldn't help staring at this other child, sat with such restraint, her desire to play still alive in her ears. Yes, she moved to where she could see, then turned to her parents. Anzifar and Oanasi exchanged chitters. Oanasi sniffed.

    "They are now part of our den-hold." Back home with his family, Anzifar made his final decision with those words. Let things be as they happened, he would accept aliens, Ondonan and the consequences of both, just as his mate had done. With Onala now close, his family together... Oanasi took charge of Toosi, Anzifar took charge of Akrin, Onala took charge of herself, and they all presented themselves formally to their guests, chins raised as they churred welcome. Only then did Poorva move from her spot by the door, Thoee casting a "release" glance over her shoulder, with a twist-wave of tail's tuft. Honalee also moved, but her mother's tail told her to act with care, so she sighed out her energy, and pounced on her mother's tail with only a quarter of the enthusiasm she normally would have.

    She would wait.

    Poorva sat by Thoee's side, Peet for the second time cradled to her chest. Thoee and Deen...

    ... "You are most gracious, Den-mother." Yes, Thoee gave Oanasi a title.

    ... "As my Sweetness says... and thank you." Deen couldn't help a grin now, though he made sure his teeth didn't show. But he did fluff up, shroudruff on display for emphasis. This brought a wide-eyed stare from Anzifar's kids. Oanasi didn't quite know how to respond to this impressive display. Or to Thoee's title. Anzifar? He found himself staring at her warm smile, given for his own vocal confirmation of alien status under his roof. Which gave him a feeling of self-consciousness. Sudden realization of his "naked" condition in front of guests. But then, these particular guests? Not in any way usual.


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    #14 Roose Hurro, Feb 23, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016