“Oh that infant is unusual! Look at the hair, it’s out of control! And he’s… huge!” Emperor Bartala said, putting forth his best effort to look disgusted as he looks up from the image on his tablet.

“Hush Bartala, you’re being rude.” scolded Empress Nalau.

Emperor Bartala knows he’s being rude, but he also knows he’s right. The child is not attractive. He looks for a rescue from his oldest friend, the Muse of Mischief, but doesn’t receive one.

“Wait, YOU’RE insulting his hair? It wasn’t that long ago that you were wearing yours styled like Londo, the science fiction character from Earth. It stuck straight up, kind of like a wave was framing your face. Besides, aren’t most infants ugly? Most of them seem to have smooshed faces and…” The Muse of Mischief said.

“Smooshed? What is smooshed? You know I’m right, I can see it on your face. Even Ferocity agrees.” Emperor Bartala interrupted.

M refused to turn and look at Ferocity, they had a telepathic link so she was already well aware of what the Dragon was thinking. Instead she looked at Empress Nalau, hoping to steel herself. It didn’t work. Instead they both started laughing, soon they were all laughing.

“Oh I am so sorry, so sorry, that is mean.” Nalau cleared her throat and attempted to regain her composure. “It is just amazing that they were able to have a child, the combining of DNA from a Rogsaar and a Xinood has never been done before – and they are ecstatic, very proud parents.”

The infant they’re speaking of is a marvel of modern science. Doctors on Xinood figured out a way for Rogs, an asexual, oviparous, Myaad, and G’ist, a male Xinood to combine their DNA and produce offspring. The infant was carried by surrogate, a female Xinood. All Myaads have pale skin, shockingly white, messy hair, and black eyes. Xinoods on the other hand have skin and hair as black as obsidian, but they have brilliant green eyes, except when angered. Then their eyes turn red. G’saar is a combination of the two. The infant has G’ist’s skin and eye color, but Rogs’ white, messy hair.

They’ve gathered in the great green sitting room of the Ploosnar Palace. Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau are dressed in their usual fashion – he in a long coat with colorful trim, and she in a gown that matches the color of his trim which is purple today. Bartala leads his wife to her usual winged chair, once seated he takes a seat in his chair next to her.

“Well we should get it all out of our system now, they arrive tomorrow.” M said taking a seat on the sofa. She’s tempted to put her feet up on the table, but that would be just a little too relaxed for the green sitting room. Instead she crosses her long legs, covered with her favorite striped stockings. Ferocity pulls a stool over and takes a seat near M. His tail and wings do not work well with chairs. Now that he frequently visits the palace, a variety of stools have been placed in every public room. Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau may not be able to hold their laughter when presented with shocking images of an infant, but they are more than gracious to everyone they know.

“Speaking of infants, how many days of freedom do you have left?” M asked.

“Five, only five, and we are too excited to think of much else.” Nalau answered.

M was pleased to see her so excited about the arrival of their first child. Ploosnarian reproduction completely incapacitates the mother for several months and so Empress Nalau had invoked the ancient right of using a surrogate – much to Bartala’s disappointment. Nalau is somewhat indifferent to being a mother, she has nothing against children, but doesn’t want to devote her life to raising them. It took some negotiating, but they had finally come to the agreement that a surrogate would carry the child and Emperor Bartala would be the primary parent.

“And have you selected a name yet?” M asked.

“Probably, but we cannot make it known until we meet him. We have selected three possibilities and when we meet him we will decide which name seems appropriate.” Bartala answered. “When will that partner of yours get here? He said he was going to bring espidrun.”

“He’s here now.” M answered.

Ferocity snorted with laughter.

There was a knock at the door, a butler stepped in, “Your Majesties, Agent Brzko has arrived.”

Brzko steps past the butler and enters the room carrying a brightly colored titanium bottle of espidrun in each hand. He hands them to the butler to hold, the titanium bottles came together for just a second and let out a pleasant clinking sound.

“Oh that telepathy thing you two do now is just too cute, stop showing off.” Bartala said waving his hand dismissively.

“You’re just jealous.”  The Muse of Mischief said as she stands to greet the love of her life. As is his custom, Brzko sweeps her back, planting one if his best Hollywood movie star kisses. He rights her and releases her, he turns to the Emperor and bows, “Emperor, a pleasure.” Then he turns to Empress Nalau, gently takes her hand and bows while kissing it, “As always it’s a pleasure to see you Empress Nalau.” He removes his hat and his coat and trades them to the butler for the espidrun bottles. The butler hangs them on the coat tree near the door and leaves the room. He nods to Ferocity. “Ferocity, you are looking well.”

Ferocity just nods in return.

“Here, I brought one for each of you.” He said as he hands one bottle to the Emperor and one to the Empress and then settles in on the sofa next to M.

“Wonderful, thank you Brzko.” Bartala said. “Now I won’t have to get into that stash your wife keeps in her rooms. You know, the one she thinks I don’t know about.” He grins at M, like a triumphant sibling.

“This reminds me of our trip to Trella.” Nalau said. “Let’s drink your bottle first darling. We need glasses.” She retrieves them from a side table and places her bottle behind the table – effectively hiding it.

“Oh! I see how you are… stashing your bottle for later. M is really rubbing off on you.” Bartala stands and pours a little espidrun in each glass. Lifting his high, he toasts “To ugly infants! May we not see another anytime soon.” This makes them all laugh. Brzko catches the image of the infant via telepathy from both M and Ferocity.

They haven’t even put their glasses down when a familiar voice brings M, Brzko, and Ferocity’s earcom links to life.

“We have a situation. Your immediate assistance is needed on Chyke 2C95. Are you available?” It’s Lelelu, their assistant.

M answers for them, “Yes Lelelu, what’s wrong?”

Bartala and Nalau know something serious must be happening, they stay silent, waiting to hear what the situation is.

“A team of Jreyonian researchers is trapped. Initial reports are that about ten beings are at risk.”

“Where’s the Gaznzulian ship? Aren’t they in orbit?” M asked. There is always a Gaznzulian ship in orbit around Chyke 2C95. Their main responsibility is to monitor the fresh lava flows. The inhabitants of Chyke 2C95 live in old lava tubes, far from the currently active volcanoes. But the Gaznzulian ship in orbit, monitors the planet’s surface, ensures that the unpredictable lava flows don’t take them by surprise. But Jreyonians don’t live on Chyke 2C95, these researchers are only visiting the planet.

“Yes, but they are on the far side of the planet. The research team deviated from their original exploration route and got too close to an active volcano. They’ve taken shelter in a cave but there’s lava all around them and it’s already taken over their shuttle craft. There’s no place for them to go. Commander ShyUst doesn’t think they can get there soon enough to save them.”

“Send us the images Lelelu, we’re on the way.”

“Surface or underground?”


Brzko and Ferocity look over M’s shoulder as she unrolls her tablet. They can see a huge lava flow heading toward a small cave from all directions. It’s too close to the entrance to provide them a safe egress. If the flow changes directions slightly the cave will be filled. The images inside are just as disturbing. In a small cave there is a group of Jreyonians huddled to one side. They look uncomfortably hot -sweat pouring down their long narrow faces.

“Ferocity, we don’t have time for you to travel by ship.” Brzko said putting on his hat and coat. He takes Ferocity’s arm and they’re gone.

“Sorry, we’ll be back when we can.” M said to their friends as she put on her own hat and coat. She doesn’t wait for a response.

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