The Gaznzulians had cleared the Suus cargo ships transporting the evacuees for landing. It just wasn’t practical to transport over 100 beings to the surface via shuttle, especially when many of them suffered from muscle atrophy from being confined for so long. They’ve converted a training facility into temporary quarters for the evacuees. Originally there had been a very small wing of the facility that served the medical needs of the trainees – they’d tripled the size of the wing as soon as the rescue plans were made. They also brought in a team of medical professionals to help – Gaznzulians could handle the security of almost any species but not the medical needs. In addition to Gaznzulians there were Suus, Ploosnarian, Trelod, Myaad, Dragon, and Xinood medical professionals all standing by, ready to receive and evaluate the evacuees. A few of them were specialists in psychology. Each wore a white band around a forearm to identify them as part of the medical team.
The Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, and Ferocity, made sure to arrive before the ship did. As soon as they heard it land, they went out to meet it. They were all three anxious to see Lelelu and Zri, and to meet her father.
Zri stepped off the ship first and was greeted by the highest ranking Gaznzulian general. With the formalities over, he turned back toward the ship, motioning for someone to come down the ramp. It was Lelelu and her father.
“M! Brzko! Ferocity!” She called as she descended the ramp. She walked slowly, holding her father’s arm, supporting him. Lelelu approached each of them, hugging them as she went. Ferocity wrapped his wings around her as they hugged. Once released she stepped back and looked at him, “No one hugs better than a Dragon!”
“Hey…” Zri teased.
“I’d like you to meet Iysuno, my father.” They greeted him one by one, approaching him. He was walking, but with great effort. The muscles needed time to strengthen after decades in stasis.
They heard commotion at the top of the ramp and turned that way, first off the ship were those too injured to walk on their own. Always efficient, the Suus had loaded their beds onto hovering cargo transports, two per transport. Life support equipment blocked their view of the first two beings. After six of the hover transports containing the invalids had passed, two Suus came down the ramp with a group of young beings. M quickly counted them – there were eleven, including one that was carried.
One in particular caught everyone’s attention. Walking with small blanket wrapped around its shoulers was a yellow being with pointed ears. The facial features looked like most humanoids, with almond shaped eyes. M reached for the Suus telepathically, “What species is that?”
“We can find no record of such a being in the database, they call themselves Keateran.”
“Male or female? Do they speak?”
“Female, yes she is able to communicate. We have not alerted her to the fact that we have never seen her kind before. There are others on the other ship, adults.”
By now they were at the bottom of the ramp, passing M and the others. “Oh, that’s good. She won’t be alone.”
“Iysuno, do you want the medical team to attend to you?” Zri asked.
“No, no, I’m fine. Well going to be fine. The Suus gave me a once over on the way here. They did not find anything concerning with my health, it will just take time for my muscles to recover.”
“And how are you Lelelu?” Brzko asked.
“I’m OK Brzko. I… “ She paused, considering her next words carefully. “I’m OK physically but I have to come to terms with the reality that the Universe is more dangerous than I like to believe, and I either need to upgrade my weapons and shields or stop traveling alone. It feels like a betrayal, a betrayal of my freedom. Right now I just want to go home and sleep in my own bed.”
“We can help you with that, which home?” M asked.
“The one on Misko, I look forward to nothing but the sound of the waves.”
“Will you be going too Iysuno?” Brzko asked.
Lelelu answered before he could. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“There you have it, I indeed will be going with her. Do you have a ship here?” He said looking around, expecting to see a small ship somewhere nearby.
“Not exactly.” M said. “We can travel a little faster than that. Lelelu can explain once we get there.” She stepped forward and gently took Iysuno’s arm. “Zri, I’ll be right back to get you.”
M moved Iysuno to Misko before he knew what was happening. She kept a firm grip on his arm and used her other hand to help steady him once they’d arrived. “Easy now, the dizziness clears in just a second.”
Lelelu and Brzko arrived a second later. “Baba, are you OK?”
He didn’t answer her directly, instead he turned toward M, “You’re one of those beings, no wonder you led the rescue.”
“Those beings? Do you know others that can travel like we do?”
“No, no, just stories from childhood, stories of beings called Clyreans.”
They both really wanted to question him about these stories but it wasn’t the right time.
“I’ll get Zri.” Brzko said and left, returning with Zri a few seconds later.
“We’re going back to Gaznzul, call us if you need anything.” M said before she and Brzko left.
Back on Gaznzul, all of the evacuees had gotten off the ship. Waaw was waiting for them with Ferocity outside the converted barracks. “I’m glad you have returned.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No, no, nothing is wrong. The second ship is almost here, I need to go and I just wanted to thank you. A rescue mission of this size never would not have succeeded without great leadership. It has been my honor to work with the three of you.”
“It was our honor to work you Waaw.” Brzko said. “You have represented your home well, and without YOU this would not have worked. We all look forward to the next time we can work with you, but hopefully it won’t be a cause such as this.” After addressing each individually, Waaw headed for her ship.
“There you are! You always keep me waiting!” The familiar voice of Emperor Bartala was a welcome comfort, even if he was his usual sarcastic self.
M, Brzko, and Ferocity turned toward him as he walked out of the barracks, followed by two of his guards and a nanny. He was carrying a struggling miniature version of himself. “Now go get your your Autuania.” He said setting Wisssi down. They were dressed in identical outfits, both of them making serious fashion statement with identical long black jackets trimmed in purple, purple shirts and a black scarf secured with a jeweled family crest.
Wisssi ran over to M and grabbed onto her legs in bear hug. “Auta, Auta” he chanted. M picked him up.
“Hey little Bartala, how was your trip?”
“Auta, Auta….” he giggled, reached for hat and almost got it.
“Careful Wisssi, I might feed you to the Dragon.”
He tried to say Dragon, it came out more like a grunt. Apparently he’d already had enough of his Autaunia and started struggling again. M sat him down and ran over to Ferocity, who gladly picked him up. Ferocity made the purring sound that Wisssi loves, making him giggle again. Then he settled in, completely content to be held by a Dragon that could breathe fire.
“Huh… what’s he going to turn out like after being exposed to so many different species as a baby?” M asked rhetorically.
“For real.” Brzko said. “He’s going to think that Suus, Trelods, Dragons and Xinoods are part of everyone’s family.”
“Aren’t they?” Bartala asked sarcastically.
They heard the second evacuee ship before they could see it. Bartala was overwhelmed with the anticipation of seeing his wife. He started walking toward the ship as soon as it was down.
“Oh it’s OK Bartala, Ferocity can watch Wisssi for you!” M called after him.
He turned halfway toward her and waved his hand at her dismissively, knowing that if Ferocity tired of Wisssi the nanny would be right there to attend to him.
The ramp descended and Xiix walked toward them, “Hello.” He projected to all of them.
“Hello, I am Emperor Bartala of Ploosnar, I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Ah, hello Emperor, it is a pleasure. I must tell you, your wife, Empress Nalau was of great service to the evacuees. She is a wonderful person.”
“Yes she is, and I can’t wait to see her.”
“She’s coming now.”
Empress Nalau somehow managed to look regal as she descended the ramp, even though she wearing pants and work boots, was covered in a combination of dried stasis fluid and baby drool, and was carrying an infant and surrounded by a crowd of little evacuees. She was met at the bottom of the ramp by two of the medical team. They quickly whisked the children away. She fell into her husband’s arms and laid her head on his shoulder. They stayed that way for quite some time.
“Ferocity, we are going to need your assistance. The young dragon you rescued had to be secluded. Everytime anyone approaches her she attempts to burn us with her fire.”
“Of course” Remembering that they were in mixed telepath company he switched back to speaking, “Of course. Right away.” He was still holding Wisssi, he was about to hand him back to M when Nalau left her husband’s embrace.
“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, I missed you!” She said as she reached for him. He lit up, squealing and kicking his feet and waving his fists. Ferocity sat him down and he took off, running toward his mother.
Ferocity followed Xiix up the ramp and the debarkation began as soon as they were out of the way. The same process as before, the most infirm were taken to the barracks first.
“Darling, are you ready to go home? There is a full medical team here, they can take care of the evacuees now.” Bartala said.
Nalau handed Wisssi to him, “In just a minute darling. I want to speak with M.” She didn’t wait for an answer, she just walked a little ways away. M followed, as did one of Bartala’s guards at a distance.
Once they were out of earshot she spoke, “M, this mission has changed me. It was dangerous, and disgusting…. I mean look at me.” She gestured toward the grime on her shirt, “I’m covered in dried stasis fluid, infant puke, and I don’t know what else. But I feel stronger than I ever have.”
“I’m not surprised Nalau, you kicked ass. You were much more of an asset than I had envisioned. You impressed all of us.”
“More, I want to do more.”
“What do you mean? More with the evacuees?”
“No, I want to take an active role in helping others. Like you, Brzko and Ferocity do.”
“You’re husband might not be…. shall we say agreeable to that.”
She laughed casually, “I’m certain that he won’t be, at first. But if anyone can help him understand that it’s what I need to do, it’s you. You two go back a long way, he listens to you, he trusts you. That’s why I wanted you to know first. So that when he comes to you and tells you he disallows it, you’ll be ready to squash his objections.”
“You know Nalau, I’m starting to feel sorry for my old friend.”
“Because with the two us working together, he doesn’t stand a chance!” They both laughed. “I’ll be ready for him, but please, at least wait a few days OK?”
“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try.”
“Now go home and take a shower, you stink!”