The attempted capture of the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko by the VReoria had surprised everyone. But they were prepared and had reacted properly, and everyone was fine. It certainly wasn’t the first time M and Brzko found themselves in danger. Even Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau seemed to be fine. They were happy to be heading home – they expected to arrive the next morning. The only one that wasn’t OK was Zri.

Neither M nor Brzko could sleep knowing that Zri was probably still beating himself up for the encounter with the VReoria. They found him in the common room staring out the window.

“Did you manage to get any sleep?” Brzko asked as they entered the room.

“No, I didn’t see the point in trying.”

“Zri how long ago was it that the Brusher was hunting for me and Brzko?” M asked.

“It was a few days before we left for Trella.”

“And in the last five years, how times has someone been chasing or stalking me or Brzko?”

“Uhhh, at least ten, maybe fifteen that I know of. Why?” He pulled his gaze from the window and looked at her. He didn’t see what she was up to yet.

“So isn’t it fair to say that this is all in a day’s work, and you’re really just upset because you think that you alone were responsible for everyone’s safety on this trip. But everyone on this ship, maybe with the exception of Ferocity, knows what Brzko and I do, and knows that we are constantly faced with danger. And everyone here is smart enough to know that being with us, could put them near that danger. But they also know that being with us is one of the safest places to be. Get past this Zri, get past it and help us work on where we go from here. Don’t let this ruin the fine memories we all have from this trip. This trip was like nothing we’ve done before, and I expect to do it again.” Brzko touched her arm, concerned that she was pushing him too hard.

Zri was silent for what seemed like a long time, contemplating what his friend was telling him. “M, would you please do me a favor and stay out of my head. I really hate it when you do that, when you use logic to make me accept things I cannot change.” He was softening.

“If we had not gone to Trella, Brzko would not have been reunited with Ferocity, true?” “Yes.” he affirmed.

“If we had not gone to Trella, Brzko and I may have encountered the VReoria while alone, or worse in a highly populated area without the ability to call upon Dragona to… shall we say neutralize them, true?”

“Yes.” he affirmed.

“And you took the proper precautions, everyone was prepared, and handled the situation flawlessly, true?”

“Yes.” he affirmed. She was breaking through.

“And if we had not gone to Trella, you would not have figured out that you have a taste for espidrun, nor would you have given yourself permission to relax and hang out with old friends and get to know new ones, true?”

“Yes.” He affirmed, this time he smiled.

The Muse of Mischief took hold of Agent Brzko with one arm, and Zri the Gaznzulian Commander with the other, “Then let’s go get a bottle of espidrun, and tonight we will be nothing more than old friends.”


The group emerged from the forest, enjoying their final outing on

Trella. They were all there, even Ferocity.

“This is stunning; the blue water is so bright!” Empress Nalau exclaimed as she approached the edge of the water.

The banks of the river were fairly flat so she was able to stand right at the edge. Emperor Bartala joined her.

“Hey Lelelu if you went swimming in here no one would see anything but your eyes!” he teased.

“You’re just jealous because you have boring colorless skin.” She fired back as they stood at the water’s edge. Looking down at the water near her shoes she said, “I enjoy a good swim as much as any Trelod, but those little purple fish look carnivorous! You go first Bartala.”

There  was  a  school  of  small  heavily finned  fish swimming about near the surface. They were more fin than fish.

“Hmmm no. My hair would be ruined.” Lelelu turned and looked at him, they laughed at the idea of Bartala’s hair getting wet.

“Let’s go eat.” She said as they walked over to where the other’s had gathered.

The group used the boulders near the river’s edge as seats and settled in to chat and tell stories as they had during much of this trip.

“Break it out Lelelu. I know you brought a bottle of espidrun and disposable cups in your pack.” Bartala teased.

“I guess I can’t hide anything from you Bartala.” she answered.

“Actually I was just hoping; I had no idea!”

They all laughed while Lelelu handed each of them a flat disc that popped up into a small glass, then she went back around and poured a little espidrun in each glass.

“Just a little though. We have a long walk back to the ship and I’m not carrying anyone, especially you Ferocity.” She teased.

“You have nothing to fear Lelelu. Dragons do not feel the effects of alcohol.” he said.

Bartala drew his breath in dramatically, “Oh that is awful! Always sober, I cannot imagine.” he said shaking his head. He stood up and held his glass high, the others followed his example “To good friends, new and old, and the adventures we have had, may the memories last a lifetime. We did not solve the mystery of the blue crystals but we gained a new friend.”

They all mimicked him and sipped their drinks before sitting back down.

“This really has been the most fun I have ever had.” Nalau said. “But I look forward to returning to Ploosnar tomorrow. I am a little homesick.”

“As am I my love, as am I.” Bartala said.

There was a commotion at the edge of the clearing. The guards seemed to be engaging with someone, Bartala’s guards immediately surrounded him and the Empress. Zri, M, and Brzko

ran over to the commotion. Ferocity took flight to survey the surroundings from above. Zri arrived first. He had his back to them, facing two beings that were restrained by the Gaznzulians.

When M got close enough to see around Zri she stopped dead in her tracks. She grabbed Brzko’s armed and looked at him to see if he saw what she did. They stood there for what seemed to be a long time. Lelelu came up behind them.

“They look just like you two. Do you know them?”

The male was tall and dark; he was built just like Agent Brzko. The female tall with long light brown hair, she looked fit but not threatening. She looked like the Muse of Mischief. The male leaned forward, clearly wanting to step toward them but prevented from doing so by the presence of the Gaznzulians.

“Please… We are not here to harm you. We have been searching for you Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko. We can tell you about Clyrea X9, about what you are.”

Zri turned and looked at the Muse of Mischief over his shoulder, the question in his eyes was clear, “Were these strangers a threat to his oldest friend or did they really have information about her origins?”

They all heard Ferocity’s voice in their minds, “They are cloaked. They are not what they seem. You must escape now.” The Emperor’s guards did not waste a second; they immediately activated the emergency transports on Bartala and Nalau’s wristbands, and then their own.

M turned to Lelelu, “GO!” She complied, activating her own transporter.

Gaznzulians from the orbiting ships transported to the surface and surrounded the imposters.

M approached the imposters, “Who are you?”

The one that appeared female answered. “We are you from another time, from another dimension.”

“Then why are you cloaked? I can tell that your appearance is false. Who are you and what do you want?”

“We want only to know you.”

While M had their attention, Brzko spoke quietly to Zri and his team through his ear com. “Transport them to a cell on one of your ships.”

Zri made no indication that he had heard Brzko; neither did the four Gaznzulians who surrounded the imposters. With perfect choreography the Gaznzulians made physical contact with the imposters, each grabbing the arm of an imposter at the same time they activated their transports.

The imposters realized they had been captured and shrieked, it was a horrid high pitched sound. In the last second they were visible, their shapes changed. They were bulky with elongated heads and large eyes, long appendages, covered in tentacles hung down from the front of their faces.

M and Brzko were left standing with Zri and two other Gaznzulians. Ferocity landed and joined them.

Zri turned to him, “Thank you Ferocity. Your quick action may have saved our friends. How did you know they were cloaked?”

“VReoria have a death smell. They are safely aboard your ship?”

“Yes, they are secure. Have you seen those beings before?”

“They are VReoria, they are the enslavers. If they cannot enslave a species they exterminate them.”

“Why would they be trying to get to us?” M asked, really just thinking to herself. “Unless… could they be responsible for the demise of Clyrea X9?”

“Let’s get out of here. There may be more of them.” Zri

said. “Everyone transport back to the ship now, I want to get off this planet.”

Zri’s ship was secured, the ramp was closed, and the observation window was covered. As he was heading for the command deck and remembered they had not yet installed the transporter on Ferocity’s ship. “Brzko, can you take Ferocity to his ship? The transporter is not installed yet and I don’t want to open the door.”

Before Brzko could answer, Ferocity did. “There is no need, my ship is sentient. She will go where I tell her to.” As if to prove his point his ship ascended, joining the other ships in orbit.

“ShyUst, get us out of here.” Zri said on his way out of the cargo bay.

Lelelu, Bartala, and Nalau stayed out of the way in the common room. They knew they would be called upon if they were needed.

M, Brzko, and Ferocity joined Zri and his crew on the command deck.

“Why didn’t we detect them before we saw them? Do they have a ship in orbit?” Zri was very agitated.

“We have not detected any ships, sir.” ShyUst said.

To everyone’s surprise Ferocity had the explanation, “They have the ability to transport great distances from their ships. Their ship is likely beyond sensor range.”

Everyone turned and looked at him, they waited for more. “We thought we had exterminated the VReoria, they have not been seen for a very long time. They cannot be allowed to live, they will attempt to return to Dragona and exterminate us. And if they are after you Lord Brzko, they will not stop.”

“How do we find their ship, what do we scan for?” ShyUst asked. “And how can we make sure they don’t follow us.”

“We wait.”

“Wait? Really Ferocity? Wait for them to get close and then hope that we can escape them?” Brzko asked.

“No, we wait for the Dragons, they are coming. When they arrive we may leave without being followed.”

“How long?” Zri asked. “Minutes.”

“ShyUst as soon as Ferocity gives the word depart. I’m going to go speak to our guests and…” “They are dead.”

This shocked everyone, they stared and Ferocity waiting for an explanation.

“VReoria will not be taken captive. By now they will have activated the death gland.”

Zri disappeared, transporting to the bridge of the ship with the prisoners. He returned in less than a minute. “He’s right, they’re dead.”

Ships began dropping out of jump all around them. Each time a ship drop out of jump there was a brief flash and the Gaznzulian scanner alerting them to the sudden appearance of an unexpected ship. There were already more than thirty of them, more were on the way.

“It is time for us to depart.”

Zri turned toward ShyUst, “Alert the other ships we are leaving. Ferocity, is your ship secure?”

“Yes it is in the cargo hold as you instructed.”

Zri took his place in the command chair, watching the data stream that reported their position. ShyUst took his position, standing behind his commander. Zri would not be relaxing anytime soon, not until he was assured that his passengers were safe.

M projected to Brzko and Ferocity as she headed to the lift, “Zri has everything under control, let’s go. We need to update the others.”

They followed her down to the common room to bring the others up to speed. The trip home would surely not be as jovial.


The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko were up well before first light the next morning. The anticipation of Brzko’s trip to Dragona prevented either of them from sleeping well.

“Don’t worry M, I’ll be fine. Zri has given Ferocity’s ship a once over and confirmed its flight worthy. If there is any trouble I can return here.”

“I know, and we often travel alone. But it’s usually to places that we’ve both been, so we could catch up with each other if we needed to. I completely understand why they keep their home secluded, but I don’t like not knowing where Dragona is.”

“But I don’t need to know where it is to leave if I need to. Do you have any sense that Ferocity is not what he seems?”

“Nope, none at all. So you’re right that there’s no reason to worry. Maybe I’m just wishing I could watch this ceremony.”

“I think you can, close your eyes.”

M complied with his request. It was foggy at first but she began to see herself through Brzko’s eyes. He was somehow sharing his image with her. She opened her eyes and the image was gone. She was once again looking at Brzko.

“I knew I could send you the idea of where I am, a single image, but we can actually just watch events unfold through the other’s eyes? I didn’t know we could do that.”

“Neither did I. But remember Ferocity said that we were limiting ourselves with our expectations of ourselves. And we’ve been learning to use telepathy, so I figured we should be able to use visual telepathy too.”

“Huh, I wonder how close we have to be, and I wonder if we can just tap into each other anytime we want to.”

“We shall see my love, we shall see.” Brzko held his beloved Muse of Mischief for a few minutes. “I’ll be in contact when I can M, I love you.”

“Bye Brzko, be careful.”

Brzko left Zri’s ship, arriving near Ferocity’s ship. The doorway in the back was open and the ramp extended. Brzko stopped at the bottom of the ramp and paused, waiting for Ferocity to notice his arrival.

“Welcome Lord Brzko. Enter as you please.” “Thank you Ferocity.”

The inside of Ferocity’s ship is simple yet comfortable. There is a command center in the front, where the controls are located. A small room in the back provides for Ferocity’s living quarters. It is really just a small room that provides him shelter from the elements. Dragons don’t need much more than that.

“Are you ready to go?” Brzko asked, after he’d had a look around.

“Yes, preflight is done. You may sit here.” Ferocity

motioned to a high backed chair, in front of the consoles, facing the front window. Next to it was high stool. Brzko took his seat and looked at the stool.

“I guess wings get in the way with chairs.”

“As does a tail Lord Brzko, are you ready to depart?” “Yes, how long will it take to get to Dragona?”

“Less than an Earth hour.”

Brzko could feel the ship ascend, within seconds they were well beyond the atmosphere, already in space. He reached out to M. “Can you feel me M?”

She responded immediately, “Yes, wow. You’re already beyond the atmosphere, not wasting any time I see.”

Brzko was relieved to know that she was still able to hear him.

“Initiating jump drive.” As Ferocity made this statement a safety belt emerged from the edges of Brzko’s seat and connected in the center of his lap. While he appreciated the safety aspect of the belt, the automation of the action was uncomfortable. He wondered what else was automated on a sentient ship.

“Jump drive? I thought that was only theory, Dragons actually possess the technology?”

“Yes. We must be able to quickly move throughout the Universe. It is the only way we can keep up with our bonds.”

The ship had a slight vibration, the view out the windows was as though they were racing through a star filled tunnel; occasionally the hint of other colors was visible. After only a few minutes the ship seemed to come to almost a dead stop. It hadn’t stopped, it just seemed that way when it slowed down after traveling at jump speed. They had arrived.

Brzko was so taken with what he saw out the window that he didn’t realize the safety belt had automatically withdrawn. He was looking at a huge red and black planet. He reached for M.

“Yes, Brzko, I can see it. Wow!”

“Ferocity, this is beautiful, it’s so vibrant.”

“Yes. Dragona is like no other place. We will maintain our orbit until we are summoned.”

“What do I need to do to prepare for the ceremony Ferocity?”

“No preparation is needed. We will land and be escorted to the great hall, an oath will be read. If you choose to do so, you will affirm the oath. After that I am bonded to you.”

“Ferocity, before I can affirm anything, I need to know that you take this action freely. That it is entirely of your free will that you will be bonded to me.”

To Brzko’s surprise, Ferocity knelt in front of him and bowed his head. “Lord Brzko, it will be an honor to be bonded to you. By my free will I accept this bond.” An inconsistent ticking sound began coming from the main control panel. Ferocity stood and stepped back, “We have been summoned.”

“Is that sound an alert that you have received a message, or is that the actual message.”

“It is the message. Dragons use an ancient language for all off planet communications. If we are overheard it only sounds like space static to other listeners. Please take your seat.”

The both took their seats, the ship began to descend. As they dropped through the atmosphere Brzko got a good look at Dragona. It was likely to be the only time he saw Ferocity’s home. They dropped out of space over what appeared to be a bright red sea. The water on Dragona is amazingly vibrant, as land came into view he could see huge waves crashing against a black rocky coastline.


“Speechless, Brzko. Wow.”

The land they flew over was made up of huge black boulders, a few small red streams cut through them, leading to the larger body of water they had first flown over. Up ahead Brzko could see a huge structure. It looked like a big, black castle. There is a large raised platform on what looks like an island, large enough to land the ship. A raised walkway leads over the water from there to the great castle.

Ferocity sat the ship down with the rear entrance facing the castle and opened the door and extended the ramp. “You will follow me into the great hall, when we emerge it is I who will follow you, until the end.” Ferocity headed down the ramp and Brzko fell in step behind him.

The smell was amazing. Dragona has a strong ocean like smell, the smell of saltwater. As they neared the raised walkway Brzko realized the edges, on both sides, were lined with Dragons. They were so still that he first assumed they were part of the stone. Ferocity stopped before entering the walkway, he extended his wings, leaned forward, and roared. It was the battle cry of a Dragon, a narrow stream of bright red fire shot from Ferocity, it only lasted a second. He stood and began walking again.

As they progressed down the walkway each Dragon they passed took flight and began circling above them. Their wings were creating a strong wind from all directions at once. Brzko’s long coat fluttered out behind him. He removed his derby and carried it. By the time they were halfway down the walkway there were well over a hundred dragons in flight. The sky had turned dark because the light was blocked by their vast wings.


“Uh-huh, still with you.”

Ferocity stopped at the door, he raised both of his hands, made fists and banged one fist on each door. They opened. He stepped through the doorway and stopped. The doors closed. They were in a huge stone room, the ceiling so high that it couldn’t be seen. The walls were lined with a single file line of Dragons; each wore a medallion on red chord. Above each was a sconce with a bright red flame. The Dragon in front of them was on a stone platform holding a scepter topped with a glowing red orb. Once the doors were closed they walked to the center of the room and stopped.

The Dragons all began ticking, speaking a language that Brzko could not understand. It became very loud. The scepter was raised and gently brought to the floor. There was instant silence.

“As we have for millennia, Dragons bond to those that are worthy, those that are a positive force. Before us stands Ferocity, he comes here to complete his bonding to such a being. Ferocity, present the Bond.” The Dragon again raised the scepter and brought it to the floor.

Ferocity turned toward Agent Brzko, standing to his right, a half step behind him. “I present Agent Brzko, a being of unknown origins. He is a being of light, a representation of that which is good. He is a protector of those that cannot protect themselves. I willingly accept the bond.”

“Agent Brzko, you have been found worthy of a bond, if you are to accept Ferocity as your bonded Dragon for all of time, knowing that only death can break this bond, you will step forward and kneel before the Great Assembly.”

Brzko stepped forward and knelt, lowering his head.

Ferocity knelt beside him. The scepter was extended toward them, a bolt of red light jumped from the scepter. It split and completely enclosed Brzko and Ferocity. Visions began to appear in Brzko’s mind, he was seeing through Ferocity’s eyes, seeing his life up to this point. Just when he thought he could take no more the vision ceased, the light was gone.

“Stand!” The Dragon commanded and they stood. “You are now Agent Brzko and his bonded Dragon Ferocity.”

The Dragons began ticking again then all at once they ceased, and were no longer visible. At first Brzko thought they had disappeared, but then he realized they had probably changed their appearance to blend in. He knew it was time to leave so he began walking toward the door. His Dragon followed.


“OK, this time I really am speechless.” Brzko had a huge smile as he opened the doors, placed his derby back on his head, and headed down the walkway. The Dragons were gone. Other than Ferocity, he would probably never to see another.

When they got to the ramp of Ferocity’s ship Brzko turned to him, “Let’s get back to Trella Ferocity. I want to see M.”

“As you wish Lord Brzko.”

The return trip to Trella was just as fast as the trip to Dragona. They traveled in silence most of the way, Brzko had been given a glimpse of Ferocity’s life leading up to the present. He needed time to let it sink in, to absorb it. He wasn’t willing to devalue it by commenting before he was ready.

“When we get there I’d like to land near Zri’s ship. I’d like you to be with me on his ship when we return to Ploosnar; we can transport your ship in one of the cargo holds of the other Gaznzulian ships.”

“As you wish Lord Brzko.”

M was waiting on the ramp of Zri’s ship when they landed. As usual, Brzko didn’t wait for the door to open. He appeared next to M, took her in his arms, leaned her back, and kissed her.

The rest of the group was gathered at the top of the ramp to welcome them back. Empress Nalau turned to Emperor Bartala, “Why don’t you ever kiss me like that?”

Bartala opened his mouth to respond, but couldn’t think of anything to say. Luckily for him Ferocity arrived at the ramp and everyone’s attention turned toward him.

M was of course the first to greet him. After that Zri approached him.

“Ferocity, I have some things for you. I want to make sure that you have a com link to us at all times. I know that one of our usual earcom links will not work for you, so I had this made.” He had a small device, the size of a vitamin capsule, in his outstretched hand. “It’s subcutaneous, similar to the one I wear. If you want to give it a try we can…”

Ferocity exposed his teeth and nodded his head a few times. “This pleases me Zri. I will try your device. Is it ready now?”

“Was that a Dragon smile Ferocity?” Brzko asked.

“Yes Lord Brzko. Zri has made your Dragon smile.” He turned from looking at Brzko back to Zri, “You said things, plural.”

Zri chuckled, “Yes I did. It seems you enjoy technology as much as Brzko. Here, wear this on your arm, I think it’s large enough. It will provide you with the ability to transport to my ship. With your permission we can install a receiver on your ship as well, then you can transport between the two. Follow me, I’ll show you how to use these, and a few other things I have for you. Brzko said you’d be returning to Ploosnar with us, we’ve prepared quarters for you.” He turned and walked back into the cargo hold, Ferocity followed.

As they passed Bartala he called to them, “Hey don’t take too long with your toys. The rest of us are ready for the last picnic on Trella, it’s lunch time!”

Zri called back over his shoulder, “It’s always lunch time for you Emperor!”


The next morning, the surface sans did not divulge anything concerning. The Gaznzulian ship touched down effortlessly in the field they had surveyed the day before. By the time the Muse of Mischief got to the community room Lelelu, Emperor Bartala, and Empress Nalau were standing in a group in front of the observation window. They were so interested in the view that they didn’t hear her come in. She just couldn’t resist – with a thought she placed herself outside the window, looking back at them and started waving.

Their shock only lasted for few seconds, but it was priceless. She came back inside.

“Soooo, have you seen anything interesting yet?” she asked from behind her friends.

“You are truly mischievous!” Emperor Bartala announced, laughing. “Well d’uh!!!!” she exclaimed. “I am the Muse of Mischief. Jeez, I thought you got that by now. Are you ready to go meet Ferocity and do some exploring?”

“Yes!” Bartala said.

“Do we need to bring anything with us?” Nalau asked.

“I don’t think so Nalau, I don’t expect to be gone for very long on this first trip. Two of your palace guards and at least one of Zri’s crew will be with you two at all times, just in case any issues should arise. And remember, those arm consoles can return you to this ship instantly. We’ll be exiting through the door in the cargo hold area, let’s go.”

Lelelu caught up with M as she walked toward the cargo hold, “Are Zri and Agent Brzko already out exploring?”

“Yes, surprisingly they didn’t wait for the ship to land. Zri let ShyUst handle the landing. Brzko wanted a chance to speak with Ferocity before we all arrive.”

As the group walked down the ramp, two palace guards and one of Zri’s crew followed them. Zri and Brzko were standing a short distance from the ramp. “Where’s Ferocity?” M asked.

Neither of them answered, they just looked up. Everyone followed the direction of their gaze. Ferocity was flying far above their heads. He was beautiful from this angle. His long jagged wings stretched wide and his forked tail extending out behind him.

Brzko projected his thoughts to Ferocity, “The others have arrived, please come down.” He could feel Ferocity’s affirmation. He immediately began to descend, landing a few steps behind Brzko. He folded his wings and stepped forward, Brzko began the introductions. Beyond hello, no one spoke.

“Bartala are you actually speechless?” M asked. “I have never known you to be at a loss for words!”

He managed to pull his gaze from Ferocity and look at M. “Yes, I think I am speechless. I have so many questions but finding out that the mythical Dragon is real? I don’t know what to say.”

“No need to say anything, we’re here to explore and Ferocity is one of us. We’ll all get to know him in time.” She could feel Ferocity’s gratitude for taking the group’s focus from him. “So what do you guys want to see first?”

“Pink River!” Bartala and Nalau said in unison, and then looked at each other and laughed.

The group took off in the direction of the Pink River.

They walked quietly for a while, taking in the perfection of the grassy field and impending forest.

Bartala broke the silence, “I noticed you don’t wear your striped stockings on Trella, is this your explorer outfit?”

His attempt to catch her off guard did not work. She was ready for this, knew it was coming. “Yes, actually. Pants and boots will make it much easier for me to throw your ugly butt into the Pink River today. Do you remember the last time we were on Trella?”

“Oh no! We were just children then, you wouldn’t dare!” “I wouldn’t trust her if I were you Bartala. She’s been known to toss more than one friend into the rivers on Trella.” Brzko teased with Ferocity walking along beside him.

M paused, and turned to look at Bartala and Nalau. They were of course stunning in their own exploration garb. Nalau was in ankle length pants that were a nice shade of beige and a white blouse. Bartala was almost identical except he was wearing long shorts. “No, I probably wouldn’t. But only because it would mess up that Londo hair of yours!”

Nalau covered her mouth, trying to stifle a laugh. It didn’t work, she let it out. “Oh Bartala, the image of you dripping wet with that hair is quite hilarious!”

Her comment left him quiet, they continued on. At the edge of the field they approached a thick forest. One of Bartala’s guards felt the need to take the lead. The forest here is made up of incredibly tall trees that look like pine trees, they have segmented branches that are covered in needles. Unlike the conifers of Earth, the needles on these trees move with the breeze. They make a slight rustling noise as they move. The forest floor is covered with small clusters of wildflowers in every color. Even though the forest seems thick, it is not dark, not the least bit intimidating.

A short distance down the trail, Nalau stopped to survey her surroundings, “Ploosnar is the most beautiful place I’ve seen but this, this is absolutely stunning. It’s so perfect that it doesn’t look real.” She looked in each direction, absorbing the beauty. The others, except for the guards, did the same, silently. After a few minutes they moved on. After ten minutes or so, they were able to see a clearing up ahead, at the edge of the forest.

The forest gives way to a small grassy area, which gives way to sandy shores. The sand is well compacted rather than being the soft kind that swallows shoes. There is a gentle slope leading from the edge of the grass to the water. The river is about four meters across with some current to it, but not so much as to make it look dangerous. The water isn’t just tinted pink – it is literally the color of cotton candy.

“Whoa! I didn’t expect the color to be this bold. I thought it might be tinted pink. Can I touch it?” Lelelu asked.

“I guess so. I did when I was young and was not hurt. Ferocity, you’ve been living here for a long time, do you know if we would find any of the waters on Trella dangerous?” M asked.

Ferocity was standing next to Brzko, not quite as detached as the guards, but certainly not comfortable yet with socializing. “I have not encountered anything indigenous to this planet that would harm you.”

Lelelu walked to the edge of the stream, knelt down cupping her hands, and scooped up some water. It was still pink in her bright blue hands. She was in awe, scooping up several more handfuls, taking in the amazing color.

Bartala and Nalau were pretty much speechless. Bartala knelt next to Lelelu and joined her in the closer inspection of the water. Nalau began walking upstream, at the water’s edge. She passed a large tree with smooth bark and deeply lobed leaves on the river bank. The trunk curved so that all of the branches lean out over the water’s surface. She paused when she got to the tree and looked out over the water. Something piqued her interest.

“Come and look at this.”

When they were standing alongside her she pointed to the opposite side of the river, “Look at that stream over there, flowing into the river, it’s bright blue and where the waters mix its lavender for just a bit before becoming pink.”

“I see, it’s beautiful isn’t it. It’s like a fairytale.” M said. “It’s even more beautiful than I remember,” Brzko said to M. He put his lips close to her ear and so that only she could hear, “So why does it feel creepy now?”

M didn’t say a word. She just turned to him and expressed agreement with her mind.

Nalau was silent, just taking it in. Bartala and Lelelu had come to look at the lavender water. As usual, Bartala broke the silence, “What is the wildlife like? I seem to remember some birds when I was here before.”

“Yes, sure. There are birds. I don’t remember paying much attention to them when I was young. I’ve also seen fish, frogs, and lizards. But I don’t remember any mammals.” M gave them a little more time to soak up the beauty of the Pink River and then made a suggestion. “If you’re up for more exploring we could walk downriver for a while. The banks are easy to navigate.”

They continued on, strolling downriver alongside the Pink River. After a while they came to a wide open area, their path was impeded by another river that flows into the Pink River. This one is green, and about the same size the Pink River. They all went down to the very tip of the bank where the rivers converge. Although neither river seems to qualify as having rapids, the sound of the confluence is loud. Bartala dropped down and just sat, it was so sudden that they were all startled.

“Darling, are you ok, what is wrong?” Nalau asked kneeling next to him.

“Nothing is wrong my love, nothing. I just, I have never seen such beauty. This is amazing, and the sound….” he trailed off and looked back at the water. Nalau sat down next to him, they sat arm in arm, absorbing the beauty of the rivers.

M looked at Brzko and smiled, they were both entertained

to see Bartala drop his gruff, sarcastic exterior and just allow himself to exist in a beautiful moment. They stepped back to give them some time alone.

“We should have brought lunch.” Lelelu said to M. “This place is perfect for a picnic. We might be able to sneak back to the ship before they even notice.”

M turned to Brzko and Ferocity, “How about you two, are you interested in lunch?”

“Maybe later.” Brzko said. “Zri and I would like to take the hive drones for a spin. Zri, if you are ready we can return to your ship and start mapping.”

“Yes. I will meet you there.” Zri pressed the button on his armband that took him back to his ship.

Brzko turned to M, “Enjoy the picnic, call if you need anything.” He kissed her cheek. He reached for Ferocity with his mind, “Please meet me and Zri at the ship. It will take us a few minutes to unpack the drones.”

He immediately took flight. Brzko also left.

“Looks like it just us Lelelu. Are you ready?” M said. She looked for their Gaznzulian guard to see if he was near, and of course he was, he nodded to her, showing that he understood the situation precisely. M and Lelelu were going to disappear for a moment and he and the other guards were to stay put with the Emperor and Empress.

M waited for Lelelu to activate her transporter before she left. It only took a few minutes to load some fruit, nuts, and a few other snacks into a large bag. Lelelu went to a storage bin and took out a large tablecloth.

“We can use this to sit on. Are you ready?”

“Yep.” M took her arm and they were back on the river bank. The Gaznzulian transporter could not return her to the riverbank.

Bartala and Nalau hadn’t even noticed that they were gone. M and Lelelu laid out the picnic, once it was ready M called to them. “Hey you two lovebirds, want some lunch?”


The Muse of Mischief was in desperate need of a shower. After two days of casual walks her body craved some exertion. While Agent Brzko was out with Ferocity, she had the perfect chance for some sparing with Zri.

“This reminded me of old times Zri, back on Gaznzul when we were both young and invincible.”

“Speak for yourself M, I still am.” Zri teased, nudging her with his shoulder and handing her a towel. “And you’re a little more unpredictable now, a better opponent. I like that.”

“Well I’ve accumulated some experience over the years.” She said dabbing her sweaty face with the towel. “Thank you for this trip Zri, it’s really meant a lot to our friends and I have seriously enjoyed seeing the real you. The one I got to know long ago. You don’t often let your guard down.”

“No, I can’t. My work is serious, as you know for yourself, being responsible for the safety of others requires a serious commitment. But I have enjoyed this time with you and your friends, our friends. And if we hadn’t come Brzko may have never reunited with Ferocity. A Dragon? I didn’t believe they were real. Hmmmm this is going to add an interesting dynamic to your work.”

“Hell yeah it is. How many crime fighting, planet hopping, time traveling, superheroes do you know that have a Dragon?”

“Just as feisty as the day I  saved  you  from the Haplogawa! Go take a shower, you stink.” Zri said shoving her toward the door.

By the time M got out of the shower, Brzko had returned.

He was sitting at the small table in their room, waiting for her.

“What’s wrong Brzko?”

“There’s nothing wrong, what makes you think that?” “Because you have that I have to tell M something she’s not going to like look, and I can feel it.”

“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” She didn’t respond, just waited for him to continue. “I’m going to Dragona tomorrow to complete the bonding.”

“And you thought that would upset me? C’mon now, you know me better than that. I think it would be foolish not to complete the bonding, and it’s something you have to do alone.”

“You’re right, and I knew you wouldn’t be upset. I guess I’m just a little apprehensive about being away from the group. This has been a great trip but I feel responsible for our friends. I don’t want them to feel abandoned.”

“This has been a great trip, hasn’t it? Don’t worry about us; you know I can take care of me and the others. But I also have Zri and his team AND palace guards. We’re good.”

“You’re right, there’s no reason to worry.” “How long will you be gone?”

“A few hours, we’ll return before nightfall.”

“So has Ferocity answered all of your questions? Are you completely convinced that there is nothing being hidden from you, everything is as it seems? How will you get to Dragona without knowing its actual location?”

“Ferocity’s ship is large enough for both of us. Zri and I toured the ship and Zri ran some scans to confirm that it is in good shape with adequate technology. The only thing I can’t figure out is where he will live. He’d be difficult to hide on Earth, but I need him close if he’s going to be helpful.”

“Good. I’m glad you had Zri check out his ship. I see two choices for Ferocity- Ploosnar under Bartala’s protection or the Planet of Portals under Lelelu’s protection. Because Bartala reigns over the entire planet, I think that is the safer choice.”

“You’re right M. Do you think he’ll approve?”

“Yep. Once we ask, I don’t think he’d let you change your mind. I suspect he’ll want Ferocity to live at the Palace. It’s the best way to ensure his safety. Will Ferocity be OK with that?” “I’m sure he will, as long as his existence can stay confidential from the general population.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem, his palace is huge. We can go talk to him after you tell me about the new drones.”

“Oh M! They are kick ass! So they start out larger than what we have now, but then they divide into individuals and cover exponentially more terrain. Traveling as one unit is more efficient so they have a broader range. When they detach they look like a swarm of huge bees. The controls are pretty much the same. I’ve already asked Zri for a set.”

“A set, as in one hive drone that breaks up into a set of small drones or a set as in one hive drone for me and one for you?” M asked with her hands on her hips, ready to scold him.

“Really? A set as in one for you one for me of course. They will be waiting for us when we get home.”

“Great! I can’t wait to take them out for a spin! They sound like a great addition to our inventory. Are you ready to talk to Bartala?”

“Yep, let’s go find him before he breaks out the espidrun.”


“Tomorrow is scheduled to be our final day on the fairytale planet of Trella. But… I won’t be here in the morning. Ferocity and I are going to Dragona to complete the bonding.” Agent Brzko paused, waiting for their reactions.

“Ahhhh this is why you have asked if he could live on Ploosnar. I thought that might be the case. Congratulations!” Emperor Bartala lifted his glass toward Brzko and Ferocity.

Everyone joined him. Ferocity was seated on a tall stool near Brzko, this was his first attendance at a social gathering inside Zri’s ship and he looked uncomfortable. With his long snout and protruding horns it was difficult to say what made him look uncomfortable, maybe it was just that his discomfort could be sensed.

“Don’t worry Ferocity; they aren’t a bad bunch of beings.

They just take a little getting used to.” Zri assured him taking his usual seat and dangling his legs over the side of the chair.

Ferocity only nodded in acknowledgement. He would need time to get used to the odd bunch.

“We will leave Trella in the morning and return by midday. We will return in time to leave Trella tomorrow night as scheduled.”

“Will you go alone?” Lelelu seemed slightly alarmed.

“Yes.” Brzko answered, he looked to Ferocity, waiting for him to offer more of an explanation.

“Many generations in the past Dragona was invaded and Dragons were enslaved. Dragons serve with honor but we do not accept dominance. The attempt almost killed us off, but our ancestors finally won our freedom and killed of the enslavers. Since that time we have kept the location of Dragona to ourselves. Only a Dragon ship can enter Dragona space and the only outsiders that may travel there are those to be bonded.” Everyone was silent, contemplating what Ferocity had just shared.

“It saddens me to know that the Muse of Mischief will not attend this momentous event with you Brzko, but we wish you the best.” Bartala stood and lifted his glass, the group followed his example. “To Ferocity, welcome to… us!”

Brzko could feel Ferocity’s discomfort at being the center of attention; he sat down and redirected everyone. “Who is telling tonight’s story? It’s time for the telling” Captain Walker.” He said mimicking a line in a Mad Max movie.

The Muse of Mischief could not hold her laughter; she was in mid sip of espidrun and spit it across the room, some of it landed on Zri.

“Oh! Thank you M but I already bathed today!” he said trying to sound disgusted. This got the whole group laughing. “Wait who is Captain Walker?” Lelelu asked.

“He’s a character in an apocalyptic Earth movie, Mad Max I think.” M said.

“It sounds, well, not good. I don’t see how apocalyptic themes would be entertainment, but Earth is odd. How about a happy story? I’d like to know how Bartala and Nalau met.” She looked across the room at them, waiting for a response.

“Shall we tell them how we met my darling?”

“Yes, of course. You begin and I’ll correct you along the way.” she teased.

“Oh I see M really is rubbing off on you! Next you will be reminding me that you are female, not feeble.” he said refilling their glasses and passing the bottle to M on his left. “I had seen Nalau several times before I actually met her. Her father

was a liaison to my father; he represented the roinad shipping pilots. They frequently met at the palace and Nalau would sometimes accompany him. I never took an interest in the roinad empire; I knew I would have to run it one day, but I didn’t see any reason to give up my freedom before I had to. So I never volunteered to attend any meetings.”

“And you were having too much fun with me.” M said. “That is true my friend. I remember the day I fell in love with Nalau, it was the first time she spoke to me.”

“What? I didn’t know you felt that way. You came off as cold and unreachable the first time we spoke.”

“Mmmm of course my darling. I was the Emperor’s son, I had to play hard to get.” Bartala chuckled and patted her hand. “She had left the meeting in my father’s sitting room to find the restroom, but she got lost on the way back. I came upon her gazing at the statues of my ancestors. She was stunning – a long pink gown with a tight waist and billowing skirts, her long dark hair was perfectly straight and smooth hanging almost down to her waist. It was such a contrast to the pink of her gown. I made a sound so that she would hear me. I did not want to startle her; she turned toward me and said Good afternoon, would you think me rude if I asked you who this statue represented?”

“This was in the creepy hallway?” Lelelu asked “You were in the creepy hallway?”

All three of the ladies laughed out loud. Nalau could not answer. She only nodded her head to confirm that it was indeed the creepy hallway.

“Creepy hallway? You three call the hallway with statues of my ancestors the creepy hallway? I am insulted.”

“No you’re not.” M said. “I can see you attempting to hide a smile.”

He laughed, “You are right I understand why it may seem creepy, the statues are very lifelike. The statue Nalau asked about is a representation of my grandmother, my mother’s mother.”

“The dress she is wearing was unlike anything I had seen before.” Nalau explained. “It had a magnificent high collar and lace sleeves.”

“I tortured her by escorting her down the hallway and back, my hand on her arm, naming all of the statues. I was really just trying to find any excuse I could to prolong our conversation. I knew she was lost, she was captive.”

“Oh you are terrible, keeping poor defenseless me against my will.” she teased.

“Mmmm yes, against your will. I think you were quite charmed that day. Perhaps it was the dress I had made for you. After that day you never let your father never come to the palace alone.”

“You had a dress made for her? That’s intriguing.” Brzko said, standing to retrieve the espidrun bottle.

“Yes he did! My darling Bartala contacted the original designer that had made his grandmother’s dress and asked him to make an identical one for me. Even though he was retired, he was kind enough to make the dress for me.” Nalau was beaming.

“It is difficult to say no to the Emperor’s son, and… he was well compensated for taking a break from his retirement.”

“So that was it for you two? You’ve been together ever since?” Lelelu asked.

“Yes.” they said in unison.

Bartala continued, “The joining ceremony was really just a formality, we knew we would always be together.”

“So if Nalau had not gotten turned around in the palace, you may never have ended up together.” Lelelu summarized.

“And Nalau married into the position of Empress. But what about your parents, which one of them carried the line of the monarchy?”

“My mother, it was my father that married into the family.”

“Interesting, so is it the first born child that ascends to the throne then, regardless of sex?” Zri asked.

“No. First we do not have a throne, as Emperor I consider myself to be a regular Ploosnarian. But I have the responsibility of running the roinad empire and that added responsibility entitles me to the amenities of the palace. The position passes to the  most  capable  offspring,  birth  order  and  sex  are  not considered. However, Ploosnarians rarely produce more than one offspring.”

“Do you know what you will name your son yet?” M asked.

Nalau’s face changed as soon as she heard the question.

“Well it won’t be Haplogawa as you suggested.”

“Darling I was kidding. It was a joke, really my love I

would never… Thank you M. You’ve gotten me in trouble again.”

Nalau nudged him with her shoulder, “You’re not the only one that can joke my dear Bartala. I know you would not name our son after a giant lizard that almost ate you once.”

The way she phrased it made them all laugh. Even Ferocity looked as though he enjoyed the jest.


Another full day on the ship was taking its toll on the Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko and Lelelu. After working out with Zri and some of his team they were still a little stir crazy. It was easy for Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau to stay busy. They had administrative duties with regard to overseeing a planet and the roinad empire. There were endless tasks for them, and those were easily completed with basic communication equipment. The other three however, were looking for a way to spend the day.

“Let’s just  go  to Trella and look around.” Lelelu suggested.

It was obvious that M liked this idea, but she had a few concerns. “Zri, what do you think? Are you comfortable with the three of us leaving for a while? Or better still, why don’t you come with us?”

The group of four was in the cargo bay, post workout, casually sitting on storage containers while chatting and rehydrating.

Zri paused and looked off in the distance, considering this idea. “In a way it makes sense for me to go ahead of everyone and look around. On the other hand if something happens here….” he trailed off.

Agent Brzko jumped in, “We are all in constant contact with your crew and we can have you back in less than a minute.”

“Well OK then, give me a few minutes to speak with ShyUst.” he headed for the door with a slight spring in his step. He was excited about a brief exploration.

“I’ll go tell Bartala we’re leaving.” M said as she left the room.

She found Bartala and Nalau settled into the common room, both of them engrossed in their duties.

“Hey, we’re going to be off the ship for a while. Brzko, Lelelu, Zri and I are going to take a quick trip to Trella. We’ll be back in time for dinner.” she announced.

“Have a wonderful time, and please be cautious.” Nalau said before returning her attention to her work.

“As long as you don’t take all of the espidrun.” Bartala said without even looking up.

M took a step toward Bartala, ready to lecture him about appreciation or respect, but realized that would only delay the group’s departure. Instead she turned and left.

Zri was already back in the cargo hold when she returned. M looked at Brzko and asked, “Green Lake?” He nodded and stepped forward taking Lelelu’s arm, they were gone.

M stepped toward Zri, took his arm and they were gone.

She kept a firm grip on his arm for a second after arriving on Trella. He was used to his own Gaznzulian transports but not her apertures; they could make the passenger a little dizzy.

They group stood on the shore, just looking at the water. The lake is the color of emeralds. There was a light breeze, just enough to create small ripples on the water’s surface. The ripples reflected the sunlight, creating sparkles. It is not a large lake; one could easily swim across and back. The shores are a combination of sand and flat stones, all bright blue. The area near the lake is clear, at the edge of the clearing is perfectly green grass, and behind that are green trees.

Lelelu broke the silence, “It looks manufactured. Not just because of the fairytale colors but because it’s so perfect, so symmetrical. Does everything look like this?”

“You’re right I never thought of that when I was a child.” M responded. “Yes, I think everything on Trella is perfect like this.”

“This is where the blue crystals are from?” Zri asked. “Yes” Brzko answered. “See the sparkle coming from the opposite side of the lake?”

“Interesting. I have some new hive drones. As soon as my ship is in orbit I’ll deploy them, I’d like to see the surface of the entire planet.”

“Hive drones?” Zri mentioning new technology had sparked Brzko’s interest.

“Yes,  they  are  based  on  the  same  concept  as  a Burdohnirc. They function as one unit, combining their power for fast, distant travel. But when they reach their destination they separate into individual units, and cover an exponential amount of territory. Then they rejoin to return. It allows us to send them further from base, and cover much more territory.”

“I can’t wait to see them in action.”

“Is there a place you had in mind for landing? If I’m going to land we’ll need someplace with less vegetation.”

“M, isn’t there a field over that way?” Brzko asked. “It seems like the path here cuts through the trees for a short distance and then ends up in an open area.”

M stopped skipping rocks with Lelelu long enough to answer, “It’s been a long time but I think so.”

“Let’s go see.” Zri said.

Lelelu chucked the last stone, and it was perfect. “Wow nine skips Lelelu! You killed me on this round.” They high-fived each other while both men just looked at them like they’d lost their minds.

“What?” M said defensively when she noticed. “It’s not like you two aren’t just as competitive.”

They both conceded.


“Well, yeah, you’re right.”

They headed to the trail with Zri in the lead. After they were through the grassy area, before they even entered the trees, he came to a dead stop.

Brzko was right behind him. “What’s wrong?”

Zri was looking down, “Shoe prints from a biped. Someone has been down this trail recently.”

M came up alongside him to see what he was looking at.

She recognized the prints right away, and she extended her leg and put her boot down right next to one of the prints. When she withdrew it there was an identical print. She giggled.

“Oh, right, when you came to get one of the blue crystals for Bartala.”

“Yep.” she said.

They continued on for a short distance through the trees. The forest continued on their right but, but in front, to the north of them and to the west, there was a large open area, maybe ten acres.

“What do you think of this area Zri?” Brzko asked. “It’s open and flat.”

“This looks fine, but I’d like to see what borders it on the other sides.”

“Let’s go, so we can be back in time for lunch.” M stepped into the lead and headed to the right, intent on walking the perimeter of the field.

Zri shook his head, “No wonder you and Bartala get along so well, you’re always ready for the next meal.”

“What can I say, I love food.”

The group finished walking the perimeter quickly. Zri hadn’t seen anything to cause him concern about landing his ship here tomorrow. So unless his scanners found something of concern, landing was a go.

“What else do you want to see while we’re here?” Brzko asked, looking at Zri and Lelelu.

They looked at each other and smiled, turned back to Brzko and in unison said, “The Pink River.”

All four of them laughed. “Let’s go.” M said “It’s over this way.” She pointed to the west.


They group spent a few minutes in the clearing created by the Pink River. Bored, the Muse of Mischief and Lelelu wandered on ahead, heading downstream, while Agent Brzko and Zri were deeply engrossed in a conversation about Zri’s new drone technology. Zri was explaining how the controls of his hive drones had been improved when they both heard something.

“Brrrrrrrrrrrrrzko, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrzko……..”

“Did you hear that?” He asked looking around.

“Yes, where is it coming from? I cannot detect the origin of the sound.” Zri was on full alert. No longer focused on their conversation, he was at full attention, ready to defend himself and Agent Brzko.

“Brrrrrrrrrrrrrzko, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrzko…….. Do you not remember me? I am Ferocity, I am your Ferocity.”

The words hit Brzko. They literally knocked the wind out of him. He plopped down on one of the boulders near him. Zri thought he’d been hit and went to him.

“Where were you hit, do you require medical?” He shook him by the shoulder trying to get a response, “Can you hear me? Agent Brzko?”

“Stand down Zri, stand down. I know this creature. He will not harm us.”

Zri was confused and there was no way he could “stand down” as Brzko suggested. Not until he knew what they were dealing with. He stood next to Brzko, surveying the area, looking for anything that may be a threat.

“I remember you Ferocity. Show yourself, please.”

The previously sunny day turned dark instantly. Something was blocking the sun. Brzko and Zri both looked up. There was a large winged being drifting down from above them. It had an amazing wingspan, and a long forked tail.

“Is that a Dragon?” Zri asked. “Brzko are you bonded to a Dragon?”

“Yes, I suppose I am.”

The winged being landed directly in front of Brzko. He knelt, lowered his head, and placed it in Brzko’s lap, “Lord Brzko, you have returned for me.”

Brzko reached out and rubbed Ferocity’s head, between his eyes. He began to make a sound, similar to the purr of a cat, but much deeper. The sound was so deep it created a vibration that could be felt. “Yes Ferocity I have returned. I, I…” He wasn’t quite sure what to say. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen you. Have you been here on Trella the whole time?”

Ferocity lifted his head and stood upright. He is a biped, and not much taller than Brzko and Zri, once on the ground with his wings folded behind him he does not seem as large as he had in the air. But he looks as ferocious as his name suggests. At the moment he was the same grayish color as the boulder Brzko was seated on. He has several horns on his head and large claws at the ends of his toes.

“Yes Lord, awaiting your return.”

Brzko stood and embraced Ferocity. “I’m happy to see you again Ferocity.” He pulled back and turned toward Zri, “This is my friend Zri, Zri this is Ferocity.”

Zri stepped up and put his hands on Ferocity’s forearms, “Greetings friend. It is a pleasure to meet you, I’ve heard about Dragons but never have I met one.” He was clearly very excited.

Ferocity tilted his head to the side as he looked Zri up and down, “You look like a Dragon to me, but not…..” he trailed off. He could sense that something was not as it seemed with Zri’s appearance. He inhaled several times in quick succession, sniffing the air around Zri, attempting to identify him.

“I am a Gaznzulian.”

“Ohhhh yes, Gaznzulian. We learn of your race as children on Dragona. You are reflective?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“Impressive.” Ferocity disengaged from the embrace and stepped back to get a better look at Zri. “Fascinating.”

“Me? No. But you on the other hand, you do realize that you are a mystery to the Universe. There are stories, but no one seems to know if Dragons really exist. Brzko, why didn’t you tell me you were bonded to a Dragon? You could have used his help a few times over the years.”

“Ferocity and I used to hang out here on Trella when we were young. It didn’t seem like a big deal back then. Ferocity how have your survived alone for all these years?”

“Adolescent Dragons live a solitary life. It is our way, it is how we learn. If we do not survive our youth, we are not strong enough to complete the bonding. It has always been our way.”

“So our bonding is not complete?”

“No, for that we must go to Dragona and appear before the Great Assembly.”

“Where is Dragona? I’ve heard tales of the planet but I’ve never seen a reference to its actual location. I thought it was make believe.” Zri asked.

“Only the bonded can know its location. Long ago Dragons were kidnapped and enslaved. We now keep the location of our home world guarded.”

Brzko and Zri both nodded, “So how do we travel to Dragona? And when?”

“We will make the journey in my ship. We can make the journey very soon, when you are ready.”

Both Brzko and Zri had the feeling that there were things Ferocity was not ready to divulge in front of Zri, in front of a stranger.

“We are here with my partner, the Muse of Mischief and my other friend, Lelelu, you need to meet them.”

“As you wish Brrrrrrrrrzko.”

“I just need to find out where M is.” Brzko said as he reached to activate his earcom link.

“You do not need the device, look inside and ask yourself where she is, ask yourself to feel her.” Ferocity said quietly.

“What? I’m not a telepath.”

“Are you sure? Use the bond as a link to find her, to ask her where she is.”

Zri stayed absolutely silent, just observing.

Brzko was about to protest again, he and M were close, they knew each other very well but could he actually reach out to her with his mind? There was only one way to tell. He closed his eyes and thought of her, tried to picture where she was.

The Muse of Mischief was walking with Lelelu when something came over her. She momentarily lost her balance and startled Lelelu.

“M, are you ok? What’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer right away. There was something new in her head. She could hear Brzko asking her where she was. It was just like hearing a Suus. She turned and looked at the river to give a visual representation of her answer.

Agent Brzko immediately appeared before her with a being she had never seen before.

They were all caught off guard by the appearance of this new being. Lelelu expressed her surprise by drawing her breath in sharply.

“It worked!” Brzko exclaimed. “You were right Ferocity.”

They all heard someone approaching from upstream where Brzko and Zri had been; it was Zri catching up with Brzko and Ferocity.

M turned back to Brzko, “What just happened and who is our new friend?” She was thinking that somehow this creature that looked like a mythical Dragon had facilitated Brzko’s telepathic ability.

“This is Ferocity, my Dragon. Ferocity, I present the Muse of Mischief.”

Ferocity stepped forward and bowed in front of M, “Your Highness. I am at your service.”

“Hello Ferocity, I’m pleased to meet you. I didn’t know Brzko had a Dragon. Did you somehow facilitate his ability to contact me telepathically?”

Ferocity paused, allowing Brzko a chance to answer. “No, he just told me that I could because I was bonded with you, I tried it and it worked. I’m still a little surprised myself.” “As am I!” M said.

“Ferocity, I’d like you meet Lelelu, she is a friend and significant member of our team.”

Ferocity turned to Lelelu, “Lelelu, it is my honor.”

“You three must have some things to discuss why don’t you take a walk? Zri and I can hang out here for while, right


“Of course, you can teach me how to skip rocks.”

M turned just in time to see him looking at Lelelu; he had the same twinkle in his eye that she had seen in Lelelu the night before. Could they be… Those thoughts would have to wait.

“Thanks Lelelu, that’s a good idea.” M said.

Brzko added. “We’ll catch up with you later. Call us if you need anything.”

He headed up the trail, back the way Zri had come. M was walking next to him and Ferocity was just a step behind. The trio walked in silence for few minutes, they paused where there was a deep bend in the river.

M could wait no longer, “So when did you two meet?”

“I’ve been thinking about that, trying to recall. It was the first time I came to Trella.”

“When you were a child?”

“Yes, and so was Ferocity, well not a child but whatever you call young Dragon. I think he was here every time I came to Trella alone. And it turns out he never left, he’s been waiting for me to return.” Brzko turned toward Ferocity, as did M.

“How did you survive alone for so long Ferocity? And why didn’t I ever see you here?”

“You did not see me because I was not meant for you.

Adolescent Dragons are solitary creatures. It is how we become strong. Only those that survive are worthy of being bonded. I have survived. I am ready to complete the bond with Agent Brzko if he will have me.”

“What exactly does that mean?” Brzko asked.

“Dragons are creatures of servitude. We always have been. However, unlike slaves, we choose whom we serve. Only those that are worthy are able to bond with a Dragon. Once bonded my purpose becomes to protect you, to support you, to care for you.”

Brzko realized that Ferocity was no longer grey; he had become more of a brownish color, the color of the sand they were standing on. “You’ve changed color since I first saw you.”

Ferocity smiled, with his large open nostrils and jagged horns jutting out of forehead, it was difficult to see pulling his lips back and baring his teeth as a friendly look. But his eyes, his golden eyes displayed exactly how he was feeling, and they sparkled with joy. When he blinked there was a second, inner eyelid, clear, that covered the eye from front to back; rather than top to bottom.

“You are still just as observant and inquisitive as you were as a child. Yes, my color has changed, now that I am fully grown it changes to adapt to my surroundings. It is naturally passive, but I can also control it – amplify it.” He sat down on the sand, with his legs drawn up, he wrapped his wings around him and changed his color to exactly that of the sand he was sitting on. His eyes were the only thing that stood out, once closed he blended in so well that he was almost invisible. He stood back up. “It is useful when I do not want to be seen.”

“That’s impressive. And I know you can fly, I’ve seen that. And you knew I could contact M telepathically. How did you know that?”

“Because I see both of you for who and what you are.

Your visions of yourselves are veiled by your own limited expectations.”

“Do you know what we are?” M asked.

“No, not for sure. There are stories on Dragona about beings like you, beings that can travel through their own apertures.”

It was M’s turn to ask some questions. “So how do you travel through the Universe? You breathe so surely you don’t fly through space.”

“Dragons use ships to travel. Our ships are somewhat sentient. They are small and very fast and cloaked. This is why scanners did not detect it.”

“A sentient ship? Oh I’d like to see that!” Brzko said, excited about the idea of new technology.

Instantly an image appeared in both his and M’s mind. It was a ship with a small center chamber and a large pointed wing on each side. It looked like a fighter of some kind. It was sitting in an open field, near a large rocky outcropping, and then it just blended into its surroundings and seemed to disappear.

“You’re telepathic?” M asked.

“Yes, slightly. Once bonded it will be stronger between Brzko and me. And because he is bonded to you, I can also communicate with you.”

“Speaking of bonding you said this would be completed on Dragona in front of a Great Assembly and that it would happen when I was ready. What did you mean?”

“A bond cannot be undone. A Lord can shun his Dragon, force him to live in exile, but the Dragon cannot bond with another, nor can he return to Dragona. This would force the Dragon to live in eternal solitude. The bond should not be completed if the commitment is not genuine.”

“What  responsibilities  do  I  have?  I  mean,  am  I responsible for your, housing, sustenance, things like that? And what do you eat? You’ve been alone on Trella for more than a decade and I’ve never seen any creatures large enough to qualify as a food source here.”

“A Bond does not need to provide housing or sustenance, although some do. Some want their Dragons under their roof, others just want them available. As for sustenance, Dragons evolved to survive on a diet of plant foods, just as you do.”

They were silent for a few moments, reflecting on the things they had just learned.

“I have another question, how did you choose Brzko? What brought you to Trella to meet him all those years ago?”

“Dragons are selected in a variety of ways. Someone made a deal with my father, at the appropriate time I was sent to Trella. I do not know who made the arrangements. It is an honor to be chosen to serve one such as you. To question it would be disrespectful. You need time to think Lord Brzko. I will return to my ship. You have seen it so you can now find it, or reach for me with your mind. I will hear you.” He bowed to Brzko and then spread his enormous wings and flew up, past the trees. They watched until he was out of sight.

Brzko plopped down, sitting on the sand. “I, wow, um….” “A little speechless huh? I guess it’s not every day that you find out you’re bonded to a Dragon!”

“So you think I should proceed with the bonding?”

“I think it’s an honor to have been selected to bond with a Dragon, I think it would be foolish not to accept such an honor. If we can find out who arranged for you to have a Dragon, we may find more clues to our origins.”

“But this will change things M this could create some big changes.”

M stood in front of Brzko, with her hands on her hips she looked down at him and asked, “And your point is….?

Brzko reached up as though he wanted a hand up, but instead, when she took his hand, he pulled first. He pulled her down on top of him, making her giggle like a schoolgirl. “I’m crazy about you M, you make everything better.”

“I love you too Brzko. Let’s get our friends and go back to the ship, I’m sure they have a lot of questions for us.”


The outing to Trella had been just what they needed, even though it was more than they expected. The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko had retired to their room as soon as they returned. There was never a doubt that Brzko would accept the honor of being bonded to a Dragon, but they still wanted a little time alone to come to terms with it, to digest it. He went back to Trella to speak to Ferocity, to accept the offer of bonding. And M joined the others in the community room.

Lelelu had been reviewing messages, sifting through them to see if anything needed M or Brzko’s attention.

M plopped down on the sofa next to her, “Anything interesting?”

“Yes and no. Bivoor checked in, everything with the hives seems to be fine. There are still no signs of aberidus. And the Rogsaars are readjusting to life on Myaad. Several of them are already planning exploration missions. I guess adventure is in their DNA. There is also a message from G’ist. He and Rogsaar are expecting their DNA was successfully combined.”

“Fantastic! The first Xinood Myaad cross.”

Empress Nalau joined them, she squealed with delight, “Ohhhhhh!!! That is wonderful news! Is there anything we can do for them? Do they need anything?”

“I don’t think so, at least not yet.” Lelelu answered. “I think they are keeping a low profile. Not everyone supports the idea of different species joining to create offspring.”

“An antiquated barbaric belief. Are we talking about Earth again?” Emperor Bartala asked, taking a seat next to his wife.

“What happened on Earth?” Brzko asked from the doorway.

“Nothing, well nothing we know of. Lelelu was just telling us that she received a message from G’ist. They were successful, he and Rogsaar are expecting.” M answered.

“Exciting news!” Brzko said. “I have some additional

news for you. Unless M and Lelelu already told you?”

Bartala turned to Brzko, standing in the doorway. “Told us what? What has happened Brzko?”

“I have been reunited with an old friend of mine on Trella, his name is Ferocity.”

“Wait, I thought there weren’t any beings on Trella.” Nalau said, “I’m confused.”

“It has been so long, and I was just a child when I last saw him, I forgot that I used to hang out with a Dragon whenever I was there alone.”

“A Dragon?” Bartala said waving his hand dismissively. “Stop Brzko, we have not had enough espidrun to believe tall tales yet. In fact we have yet to open a bottle.”

“I kid you not Emperor. Would you like to meet him?”

Bartala almost gave himself whiplash turning toward Brzko, still casually leaning in the doorway. Nalau jumped to her feet. “You’re not kidding. And the others aren’t saying anything, it must be real Bartala.” He jumped to his feet.

“Yes. Yes, of course we would like to meet a Dragon! Is he here?” Bartala said.

Brzko stepped through the doorway; Zri followed him into the room.

“No, you can meet him as soon as we get to Trella.” Brzko said taking his usual seat next to M.

“Did you begin today’s story hour without us?” They all turned and looked toward Zri still standing near the doorway. He was uncharacteristically outgoing on this trip.

Everyone just stared at him. “What? Oh, you two want more information about Brzko’s new friend.”

Their attention turned to Brzko when he spoke. “Dragons are real, I have one, I will soon be bonded to him, and you can meet him when we land on Trella tomorrow. Now who’s pouring?”

M couldn’t help it, she suffered a fit of laughter, Lelelu and Zri joined her. “Oh that’s just cruel Brzko. I love you but, c’mon you can’t leave them hanging like that.”

Empress Nalau jumped up to retrieve a fresh bottle of espidrun and glasses, “I’ll pour Brzko. But please give a little more detail before we have… story hour as Zri called it.”

“OK, OK, here’s what we know so far. Dragons are real, not mythical and they become bonded to individuals they deem worthy. My Dragon’s name is Ferocity. I used to see him when I visited Trella as a child. But that was so long ago that I had forgotten all about it. Anyway, he’s a little taller than me; he has horns and large wings. He looks frightening but is actually very gentle. You’ll meet him tomorrow when we land. I still have a lot to figure out, so that’s all I can tell you right now.”

Nalau had finished filling everyone’s glass with espidrun by the time Brzko finished his explanation. She sat down next to Bartala, took a sip of espidrun. After a moment she said, “OK, who’s telling stories of their past tonight?”

Before anyone could begin a story, Bartala offered a toast, “To friends and story hours, may we always have time for both!” Everyone agreed and drank. Zri plopped into his usual

chair and swung his legs up over the arm. Everyone stared at him.

“What? What is wrong? Why are you all looking at me? “We just aren’t used to seeing you relax, ever.” Bartala said.

“I used to relax a lot when I was young.” He smiled across the room at M.

She laughed out loud, and even though the group was looking back and forth between her and Zri, hoping for an explanation, she offered none.

“So what did I miss about G’ist and Rogsaar?” Zri asked.

“They are expecting. And I was explaining that they are going to keep a low profile, as not everyone approves of interspecies reproduction.” Lelelu explained.

“True. There is no shortage of feeble minds in the Universe. Will you please send them a message for me? Tell them that Gaznzul is willing to provide them with complimentary security services. We can help secure their dwelling or keep a ship in orbit around Xinood 5, provide an escort for their ship, whatever they need.”

“I’m happy to convey that message to them, thank you Zri.”

After a few moments of silence, Bartala spoke up, “It’s time you to tell us how you saved Ciic. Just how did the leader of Suus become indebted to you?”

“Yessssss,” Zri said “This is a great story because Gaznzul saved the day!”

Everyone got a kick out of Zri’s exuberance. Brzko started off…

“Lelelu had us travel to ancient Ireland. She had received a request for help from…?” he looked at Lelelu, waiting for her to fill in the blank.

“The initial message was anonymous; it appeared to be from someone that served the Naan family. But we now know that it was actually originated in Ireland… Earth. She clarified.

Brzko continued, “We were waiting for an Irish Faerie, I couldn’t imagine why a powerful being like this would need from me and M. Irish Faeries have the ability to travel between this world and Otherworld, sometimes friendly, sometimes not, but always powerful.”

“Otherworld? Is that a planet?” Bartala inquired.

“Sort of, it’s ancient mythology, the name translates as other Earth. Many cultures describe a place like this, usually containing beasts or odd creatures. The area that is Ireland was heavily influenced by a group called the Celtic. They described Otherworld as an island off the coast, with creatures that were red and white.” Brzko paused to sip his espidrun and continued. “It was cold and damp while we waited for the Faerie in the early morning, before it was light. Standing still gave strength to the damp cold so we started walking around the stone cairn where we were meeting the Faerie. We were both a little on edge; Hag’s have a bad reputation.”

“Hags?” Nalau asked.

“Ancient beings thought of as witches or sorceresses.” M answered.

Brzko continued, “The place seemed to have a lot of energy, there are many stories about the area. Some believe that the hills are haunted! It is said that Ireland was ruled by a witch sitting upon the Hag’s Bench. While smoking her pipe she doled out her demands, those that didn’t comply had spells cast upon them. The tombs were created by the witch when she was flying over the hills dropping stones to make the cairns. She fell and broke her neck, ended up buried under a pile of stones. No one knows for sure, but some say the tombs are actually doorways to Otherworld.

Anyway, we walked around the huge stone structures. The largest one had a single opening with a huge flat stone on the Northern side, that’s the stone that’s called the Hag’s Bench. We couldn’t shake the cold so we kept walking around the ancient burial chamber. All of sudden I see this woman where she hadn’t been before. It stopped me in my tracks.

She was standing on the stone, and she was stunningly beautiful. She wore a long white gown with so many layers it seemed to be alive in the breeze. There was a golden rope tied around her waist. It looked like stone in the center of her headband was moving, the color seemed fluid. She looked like the very definition of femininity. Yet… she seemed to exude so much power that it could be felt in the air. It was like being near lightning strikes in an electrical storm.

You may call me Mahb. She says with so much authority that we immediately knelt and averted our eyes.

I am the High Queen of the Daoine Sidhe, and Supreme Ruler of the light realm of the Otherworld. Do you know why I have summoned you here?

We did not know why she had asked to see us, and told her that.

She asked what we knew about Changelings.” “Changelings? What is a Changeling?” Bartala asked. “Irish folklore says that Changelings of that time were Faeries, sometimes children, sometimes old. Faeries took human children to Otherworld and left a changeling in the child’s place.” Brzko explained.

“A common story in many cultures. But they are usually just stories meant to frighten children. Are Irish Changelings real?” Nalau asked.

“It seems they are, or were. Mahb told us that one of the stolen human children was recently brought to her by a Faerie under her rule. But that the Faerie had been tricked because the child was not human and that if the child stayed in Otherworld she would destroy them all. We didn’t want to ask Mahb any questions because she clearly lacked patience and had a lot of power. A bad combination. Even though there is no physical place or time that can hold me and M, we knew there was a good chance that this creature could hurt us. And truthfully we were curious, what kind of child could frighten the ruler of Otherworld and how could she be linked to Suus? She told us she needed us to take the child back to wherever she was really from.

I asked her if she knew where that was and she lost it! She turned on me with vicious speed and yelled If I knew THAT I would have had her delivered there by a faerie. This Queen seriously hated men.

We asked where the child’s human parents were. She said that the Changeling that had been left with them killed them and fled. She told us she would go and get the child from Otherworld and then we were to leave her time and place immediately. In exchange she would grant us one favor. All we have to do is return to the Mountain of the Hags and summon her.”

“So when was this? I mean what century was this Mahb creature living in?” Zri asked.

“It was what Earth defines as about 900 years BC – so it was about 3,000 years ago.” Brzko answered.

“Are you ever concerned that you’ll get stuck in a different time? There are children’s stories about time jumpers getting stuck. Or worse, changing something in history and then returning to the present time and finding things have been changed. How do you know you aren’t making changes?” Bartala asked as he got up to refill everyone’s glasses.

“History can’t really be changed.” Brzko explained. “It will always take care of itself. If we are in the past, we are just observers. We can interact but nothing significant can be changed because it already happened. The worst you can do is create a new timeline. There is not a single timeline in a single Universe, timelines split into different possibilities.”

Bartala wasn’t quite satisfied yet, “Can you take a passenger, like you do when you open an aperture and travel?”

“No, we’ve tried a few times. Lelelu has been kind enough to try, but it just doesn’t work.”  Bartala nodded, acknowledging Brzko’s answer.

Brzko continued, “So she disappears to get the child, and we wait in silence. We kept our mouths shut because someone may have been listening. We circled the cairn one more time while we waited. Even after sunrise the Mountain of the Hags has its own eerie energy. There are definitely some secrets there, including exceptional symbols engraved in the stones. I don’t think their meanings are fully understood to this day.

By the time we got back to the Northwest side of the cairn, Mahb had returned. She was sitting on the Hag’s chair, with the child below her, she was holding the child in place with a very heavy hand on her shoulder, and her fingers were digging into the child. Which was odd, why didn’t she just use her magic to hold the child in place. We realized there must be something really unusual about this child.

Why must you keep me waiting? She yells when she sees us.

I bowed and apologized, referring to her as Your Majesty.

I told her we were savoring the beauty of the place before we had to leave. She was mad, but my charm was just enough to keep her from lashing out at us again. She looks at me and says Remember our agreement, you will remove this vile creature from this place and time and you will do so immediately. She shoved the child toward us and disappeared.

The child looked like a young human girl, a little more than a meter in height with long, smooth black hair, and dark eyes. They were black, the darkest eyes I had ever seen. But that was before I met Rogsaar. We introduced ourselves and asked her name, she just stared at us. We didn’t want to piss Mahb off so we decided to leave right away. We don’t usually take beings to our home but we didn’t know where else to go, se we took her there.”

“Wait, how did you get her from a historical time to present day?” Zri asked as he turned to the side and kicked his legs up over the arm of the chair, after pouring another round of espidrun for everyone.

M smiled at him, she really enjoyed seeing her old friend relax and enjoy himself. It had been far too long. “We weren’t sure we could do it at the time. But we think it’s because she wasn’t from that time, and we were essentially bringing her back to her time.”

“How did she get to a different time?” Nalau asked. “Probably with either a hired timeship or a time portal.

There are portals on the Planet of Portals that lead to different times.” Lelelu answered. “The problem with using them is returning. All Portals are one way. M and Brzko are the only beings we know of that can move through time on their own. These Portals were secured long ago, but with the right influence the Portal Authority could be swayed to provide access. And the ruling family of Suus could definitely have the right influence. I think that’s more likely than a hired timeship.”

Brzko paused to sip his espidrun and let Lelelu’s answer sink in. It was new information for them, the time Portals on the Planet of Portals were not well known. “When we get back to our home the child wouldn’t answer our questions about who she was or where she was from. But she really stunk! I mean if you got close she smelled like carrion that had been rotting in the sun for days.”

Brzko’s expression was priceless as he remembered the smell. Surprisingly no one interrupted, so he continued with the story.

“So you’ve probably figured out that in order to look human Ciic was put into some kind of shell, the shell had begun to deteriorate as she approached maturity. We’d been home for a few hours and were trying to decide how to figure out what kind of being this was and where it was from when she finally spoke. It gave us a terrible shock when her telepathy reached us. Telepaths were not new to us, but she looked human. She told us exactly who she was and that she was next in line in the Naan family to rule the planet Suus. She explained that the Viiv family was attempting to overthrow the Naan so she was hidden in ancient Ireland until she was old enough to take the throne. She said if Mahb had figured out that she was to be the ruler of a planet, she would not have let her go without a ransom. Ciic said that Mahb had powers we could not imagine, it almost seemed like she was telling us that Mahb is not of Earth. Which could explain how she was able to send the original message, and why the Suus picked an ancient Earth culture to hide Ciic.

We considered having Lelelu contact the Naan family and let them know where she was and what had happened. But Ciic didn’t think the privacy of the communication channels on Suus could be guaranteed. Our next option was to travel there, but that would take a little preparation and it was late. So we decided to wait until the morning. We set Ciic up in the spare room but she didn’t require sleep so she started watching a science fiction show called Star Trek: Next Generation.”

“Oh? What is that is it better than Babylon 5? What are the hairstyles like?” Bartala asked.

Everyone laughed, at first he couldn’t” figure out why, but then he joined in. “Oh I see yes, that is humorous. But you see this is validation. If a being like Ciic watched Earth science fiction then perhaps it is not so foolish an endeavor for me!” He dramatically finished off his espidrun, setting the glass on the table; he leaned back and settled in next to Nalau.

“It’s not foolish at all my friend.” Zri said as he stood up and retrieved the bottle. Knowing another round was to be poured; those that had not finished the current round did so. “I too have seen much Earth science fiction and it is quite entertaining. It is fascinating to see what a primitive species thinks the Universe may be like. They are so arrogant!”

Bartala nodded enthusiastically, he was pleased to have someone on his side.

“Zri, you’ve been watching Earth science fiction?” M said a little shocked.

“Hey, you are not my only source for goods from Earth.”

“I realize that, but what I’m wondering what is your favorite production is?” she teased back.

“Another day my friend, I will tell you on another day.” He smiled and sat back down after refilling everyone’s glasses, legs dangling over the arm of the chair.

M picked up the story giving Brzko time to catch up with the espidrun, “We never had a chance to decide what to do with Ciic. We were awakened by an intruder a few hours later. A Viiv had used a black market code jammer, probably purchased on the Black Sea Planet, to get through our security system. They jam the signals just long enough to transport through a system, but it

immediately triggers the security alarms. So within seconds Zri and his team were there.”

She paused to see if he wanted to finish the story. “When we arrived we found the Viiv holding Ciic, who still looked like a small human, by the neck. She was amazingly calm, just patiently waiting to see what would happen. She was intelligent enough to know that if she struggled, it would have made rescue that much more difficult. There was a brief dialogue, I demanded that he release the child, he demanded his family had a right to the throne on Suus. He would not succumb, there was an opportunity to neutralize him without harming Ciic and he was taken out. The team made sure there were no other breaches, updated the security system firmware so that style of jammer would never work again and prepared to leave. M and Brzko explained who Ciic was and why the Viiv wanted to kill her. I offered to take her and hide her until her ascent to the throne. And that’s it. She was on Gaznzul for less than 200 rotations before she shed the human cloak and emerged as a mature Suus. She returned home, took the throne, and married Muum.”

“No wonder she feels indebted to you three, without you she would have never lived long enough to take the throne.” Nalau said.

Without meaning to, the three of them answered at the same time, “It’s what we do.”

This made everyone laugh. When the laughter subsided Bartala spoke up. “What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.” This created another round of laughter.


The Muse of Mischief leaned back, kicked off her heels, and put her feet up on the low table in front of her, “Long, long ago, in a land far, far away…”

“Liar, it was not that long ago and it was on Ploosnar.”

Emperor Bartala said.

“Hey who’s telling this story anyway?” He waved his hand and leaned back, settling in next to his beloved Empress. “So anyway…. I was wandering around Trella, escaping from the pretend parents on Earth. If Brzko couldn’t get away I used to spend time on…”

“The banks of the Pink River?” Lelelu interrupted.

“Funny, no.” M replied smiling, “I used to spend a lot of time on the banks of the Green Lake. It’s more of a pond, and it’s surrounded by these blue stones that are perfect for skipping. Sometimes you can get them to skip six or seven times.”

Nalau interrupted, “Skipping stones?”

“Yeah, if you throw a flat stone with just the right angle you can get it to bounce across the water’s surface a few times before it sinks.” Nalau just nodded, M thought she was really in

for some new experiences on Trella. “The weather is always perfect on Trella, not too hot, not too cold. So after I grew tired of skipping rocks I sat down on a flat boulder that made a great bench, and I start reading a book of short stories I had with me. I never went anywhere without a book when I was young.”

“What was it?” Zri asked.

“Sorry?” M didn’t understand what he was asking. “What were you reading?” he clarified.

“Night Shift, it’s a collection of horror fiction by an author named Stephen King.”

“Hmmm makes sense.” Zri said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” M asked.

“You, horror stories as a child, it just makes sense.” Zri said.

“Agreed.” Bartala piped in.

“Ok, moving on….” M said a little intrigued that her friends were psychoanalyzing her, and getting it right. Brzko was grinning, their friends knew her well.

“I was rereading one of my favorite short stories in the book, it’s about an astronaut that is exposed to alien germs or something, and how they begin to transform him into a different being. Anyway, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I noticed that something was sparkling in the rocks on the other side of the pond. I hadn’t noticed it there before. In fact I had never seen sparkling rocks on Trella before, so I walked over and bent down to look at it. It looked like a bright blue crystal it didn’t look dangerous so I reached for it. The instant I had my hand around it I left Trella and found myself at the top of the palace stairs on Ploosnar. I had startled the palace guards by just arriving, not to mention myself, I had no idea where I was, but I knew I wasn’t on Trella anymore. The palace guards assumed I was a threat to Bartala’s father, Emperor Wisssdartai, and attempted to restrain me.”

“Attempted?” Lelelu asked.

Bartala couldn’t wait for M to answer, he jumped in. “Oh yes! You should have seen it! We were warned of the commotion and being Emperor, my father was kept protected inside the palace, but I ran before they could secure me. I got to the palace entrance and there’s M,” at this point Bartala stands up to add some animation to his story, “in high heels, striped stockings, and a mini-skirt and of course a derby. She’s already knocked four of the guards down and is standing like this…” He bent his knees and lifted his hands in an attempt to mimic her defensive posture. “The remaining guards cannot decide if they want to approach her, they know they will end up on the ground like the first four.”

“I don’t like to be restrained.” M said in her defense. “I stepped between her and the guards.”

“How did you know she wouldn’t hurt you?” Nalau asked.

“I just did. I walked right up to her and do you remember what I said M?”

“Of course, you said Hello friend, I’ve been waiting for you.” she answered.

“That’s right; I put my arm around her and led her into the palace. The guards were furious with me for having a friend show up unannounced they believed I was really expecting her. We went inside and I hid her in my rooms to wait for everyone to calm down. I went to get my father so that we could try to figure out who she was.”

“But I didn’t wait for you to return. I’d had enough excitement for one day, I went back to Earth.” M interjected.

“Yes, you did that vanishing thing you love to do, and my father thought I had lost my mind and invented pretend friends.” Bartala scolded as he picked up the bottle of espidrun and began refilling everyone’s glasses before he sat down.

“Well I came back!” M said.

“Yes, you did. You appeared next to me in my rooms the next morning and startled me so badly one of my hearts stopped.” “No it didn’t, you’re exaggerating! It only skipped a few beats, besides you have two other hearts.” she teased.

Everyone laughed at this exchange between the Muse of Mischief and Emperor Bartala. The room grew quiet while they reflected on the story they had just heard.

Lelelu broke the silence, “So Brzko, when did you meet Bartala?”

“It was a few years later, not until I had left the pretend parents on Earth. I knew M had some….” He paused to consider his next word, “non-Earth friends that she hung out with when I couldn’t get away, but I didn’t realize how much exploring she’d done until the first time we went to the Planet of Portals. I was amazed. Not only is your home beautiful Lelelu, the whole concept of the portals is fascinating.” Brzko said.

Lelelu had more questions, “Yes, the Planet of Portals is an unusual place. I’ve never been through a random portal, but I know Trelods that find it addictive. Once they do it they just can’t stop, I guess they find it thrilling. The same way a gambler would find a sporting event exciting. So how did you and Zri meet, M?”

Zri answered before she could even open her mouth, “I saved both of their butts from being eaten by a Haplogawa on Chyke 2C95.” He said pointing his finger back and forth between M and Bartala.

“What is a Haplogawa?” Nalau asked.

“It’s a giant reptile kind of creature that lacks communication skills. Its sole purpose for existence seems to be to eat anything it can swallow.” M said casually.

“And it had you and Bartala trapped between it and a fresh lava flow.” Zri said.

“I was just about to take us out of there when you grabbed us. I wanted Bartala to get a good look at it first.”

“Right, and if you had hesitated at all Bartala would have been eaten.”

“Eh, I had other friends.”

“Oh thanks M, I appreciate your loyalty!” Bartala said trying to sound hurt.

“Isn’t Chyke 2C95 covered in active volcanoes?” Nalau asked.

“Yes, the indigenous population lives in underground caves. Gaznzulians provide security and scanning services for the planet, mapping volcanic activity and making sure they have time to relocate when needed.”

“So you just grabbed them off the surface and what, took them to your ship?” Lelelu asked.

“Sort of. I transported down, attempted to grab them both and transport them back aboard. But that one resisted,” Zri pointed to M “I was not a commander at that time and my commanding officer was furious. But I couldn’t just watch these sentient beings be eaten or cooked in lava. I didn’t know M could open an aperture and travel. I thought they needed help. But I was only a science officer at the time, and not authorized to act on my own.”

“I thought I was dead, I thought I must have already died when I was grabbed by a Ploosnarian who just appeared. But then on the ship I realized you weren’t Ploosnarian, you only appeared that way to me.” Bartala said. “Then I wondered if was going to become dinner.”

The Muse of Mischief giggled at that idea.

“Of course not, Gaznzulians are an advanced raced. We do not consume anything with a consciousness.” Zri said sounding disgusted.

“So how did you finally catch my defiant partner?” Brzko asked.

Zri and M spoke at the same time “He didn’t”, “I didn’t” M continued, “I kept moving around the planet so he wouldn’t have an easy time finding me. I figured Bartala was a goner, eaten, held for ransom, something like that. Anyway, Zri finally caught up with me and transported himself near me, but not too close.”

“I said, I am Gaznzulian, I will not harm you, and dropped my mental cloak. That did it, she was intrigued enough to stay put and let me explain. I explained that I thought they needed to be saved from the Haplogawa and that her friend was safe on my orbiting ship. Then she demanded to know why I had looked human when she first saw me. I explained that Gaznzulians use reflective mental cloaking to blend in with those around them. I guess that answer satisfied her because she disappeared immediately. She went to the ship, retrieved Bartala and reappeared with him.”

“I wasn’t OK with my pal Bartala being held on someone’s ship.” M said and shrugged.

“And I appreciated that, especially since you had gotten me into that mess in the first place!” Bartala said. “You and your Haplogawas!”

“Oh come on Bartala, you know it was one of the most exciting things you’ve ever seen!” M said.

Lelelu interrupted, “Wait, Bartala being eaten by a Haplogawa is not the important thing here. What does a Gaznzulian actually look like?”

Everyone, surprisingly even Bartala was quiet waiting for M to answer. M held Zri’s gaze intently, without looking away she answered, “Gaznzulians rarely, if ever, drop their cloak around others. I am honored to have had the experience but it is not something I can share.”

The Muse of Mischief was the only one in the room that had seen a Gaznzulian without the mental cloak. Everyone was curious, and wanted to persist in questioning, but at the same time they respected Zri enough to let it go. After everyone had been silent for a few moments, contemplating what M had said, Nalau broke the silence.

“So the three of you explored the Universe, jumping in and out of trouble until you were adults?”

“They did, I had to work.” Zri said.

M shot him a challenging look.

“OK, I had some fun too.” Zri admitted, grinning. “But that is all the fun I can have today. I’m going to check on ShyUst and then retire for the night. Please alert the crew if you need anything.”

“Wait, wait, wait….” M said. “You are attempting to make your exit just when the story becomes entertaining. If you prefer I could tell the stories without you here to defend yourself.” she teased.

“Stories? What do you mean stories? I don’t know what you’re up to M, but I’m going to need another espidrun to survive it.”

Bartala was already on his feet with the bottle in hand, refilling everyone’s glasses. Surprisingly, even Empress Nalau was keeping up with them.

“So after Zri rescued us from Chyke 2C95, Bartala and I returned to Ploosnar by my power. There was no need to inconvenience Zri’s commander to take us back to Ploosnar or worse, Earth. A few weeks later I was on Earth and I felt like someone was following me when I was at a mall, which is a huge indoor shopping venue. I could never spot the same person in the crowd. But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I went down a long hallway that led to a service area, I passed through a restricted door and hid. Sure enough I was being followed, Zri walked through the door after me.”

“I wanted to make sure you made it back to Earth.” he said.

“And to find out just what I was, you’d never met someone that could travel like Brzko and I do.” “True.”

“So I jumped out of my hiding spot ready to kick his butt, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t kick someone’s butt. I was too pissed to even be frightened.”

“Ha! You were seriously angry. You really thought you could take me down, and I have to admit you were about ten times stronger than you looked but you didn’t have as much skill as you do now, and well, I’m a Gaznzulian. We’re built for defense.” Zri said casually.

“Once I recognized him I was glad to see him. He was projecting the same human cloak he’d used when we met.” M continued, “I was curious about Gaznzulians. So I asked him if all Gaznzulians were able to defend themselves like he did.”

“You had no fear and I respected how direct you were.” Zri said with admiration for his old friend. “I couldn’t resist finding a way to help you harness all that strength and energy, teaching you how to defend yourself.”

“You trained her to fight?” Brzko asked. “I didn’t know you had trained with Zri, but that explains a lot.”

“It’s true.” M said smiling. “He invited me to his home on Gaznzul and I went frequently. Over a period of a few months I trained with him and others on Gaznzul. That’s when he developed his fondness for disco music.”

Brzko laughed loudly, “Zri, you have a thing for disco music?”

“Yes especially the Bee Gees. I do not understand what the lyrics are about, but I find it soothing. Why is this funny? “Zri asked.

“What is the Bee Gees, and what does their music sound like?” Lelelu asked with genuine curiosity.

Brzko’s tablet was already out and unfolded. He scrolled through his music video database and found a video of the Bee Gees singing How Deep is Your Love from 1977.

Everyone gathered around the tablet to watch the amazing Bee Gees.

“What are those lights, why are the lights spinning?” Bartala asked. “It nauseates me.”

Lelelu answered him with a harsh “Shhhhhhh, I want to hear this.”

After the video played through, and everyone was seated again, M continued, “I even took him to a Bee Gees concert.” “What? You took a Gaznzulian to a music performance on Earth? Weren’t you concerned that someone would notice him?” Lelelu asked.

“No, I knew I could trust him to keep his “Earth” cloak up while we were at the concert.”

Zri laughed lightly, tilted his head back and closed his eyes. A smile spread across his face as he remembered that adventure from long ago.

It was late and they were all tired, the espidrun made them even sleepier. After a little more chatting and well wishing, they all retired for the night.


The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko were up very early the following morning. On the command bridge, ShyUst was showing them the scanning process he was using to look for clues, anything that might lead them to Clyrea X9.

“Is that Trella.” Brzko asked “Just coming into range now.”

“Yes, that’s Trella.” ShyUst confirmed. “We should be close enough to start scanning the surface later today.”

“How soon will we be able to see the planet?” Brzko asked.

ShyUst paused for a moment, “Possibly late this evening.

But we may be able to see the sun now.” He moved to the center console to activate the main viewing screen. “Yes, there it is. Do you see that glow?”

There was a faint glow just becoming visible. It looked very distant, surrounded by the blackness of space.

“How can we see the sun already?” Brzko asked.

“Because it’s huge, it’s one of the largest we’ve encountered. It lights the entire Trellan Galaxy, even the outlying planets receive enough light to support life.” ShyUst explained.

“How many planets are in the Trellan Galaxy?” M asked.

“Over twenty.” he answered.

“And they all have life on them?” Brzko asked.

“Our scans have not been detailed enough to answer that with any certainty, but it does seem that many of them could support life.” ShyUst answered.

“Interesting,” M said, “is there a way to scan for the remains of a planet?”

“The remains, I don’t understand, why…”

“Because the Suus have found a reference to a planet, possibly in this galaxy, that doesn’t seem to exist. Clyrea X9 may hold clues to their origins.” Zri answered ShyUst  as he approached from behind M and Brzko.

“I see. I’ll reconfigure the scanners to detect any unusual matter.” ShyUst said, turning to embark on the task immediately.

“What about hidden or cloaked planets?” Brzko asked.

“Interesting idea Brzko. We would need to be able to detect an emission or perhaps a lack of scan data would suggest there is something hidden. I’ll have each ship start scanning for different things. If you’ll excuse me, I need to visit the ships to configure the scanners.” With a slight manipulation of his armband, Zri was gone.

With ShyUst and Zri working hard at scanning the galaxy there was nothing M and Brzko needed to do on the command bridge. “Breakfast?” Brzko asked.

“Hell yeah, sounds good.” M headed for the lift. As soon as they stepped out of the lift on the lower level they were hit with the smell. “It smells like pancakes!” M said.

“It sure does, someone’s making breakfast.” Brzko said as he headed to the community room.

Emperor Bartala was seated at the head of the table, facing the door; Empress Nalau was on his right, Lelelu on his left. The table was filled with plates stacked high with pancakes, there were several different varieties. There were also several small pitchers with a variety of pulverized fruits for topping the pancakes.

“Well, finally out of bed eh?” Bartala teased.

Before M or Brzko could answer Bartala, Lelelu offered an explanation, “I hope you’re hungry, I think I made too many pancakes this morning.”

“I think we can help you out with that Lelelu.” Brzko said, taking a seat at the table.

M slid into the chair next to him, “Wow, they look great


“What have you two been up to this morning?” Empress Nalau asked, knowing that they had not just gotten out of bed as her husband suggested.

“We were up on the command bridge working with Zri and ShyUst, configuring the scanners. There isn’t a lot known about this area of the Universe.” M said as she helped herself to a variety of pancakes.

“How much longer will it take to get to Trella?” Bartala asked.

“We’ll arrive tomorrow. After breakfast I think M and I will go look around and make sure nothing has changed; look for the best place to land.” Brzko said.

“Ha! You just want to visit the banks of the Pink River again.” Bartala teased.

“What makes you think we haven’t already?” Brzko fired back.

The thought of Agent Brzko and the Muse of Mischief being able to “sneak” away from Zri’s ship at anytime caught their companions off guard for a moment. The room was silent for just a second. Then the laughter set in, they all shared a hearty laugh.

“What is everyone laughing at?” Zri asked from the doorway.

“It seems our friends have been taking excursions to

Trella while the rest of us slept.” Bartala said.

“Ah. Aren’t you used to that yet Bartala? These two never stay put for long.” Zri said.

“I guess I should be used to it by now, I suppose I miss the adventures too. But with responsibilities as an Emperor I can no longer think of only myself.”

M disappeared.

“Oh! The mischievous one is up to something.” Bartala said.

“This ought to be interesting.” Brzko said and went back to eating his pancakes.

M returned, standing behind Bartala with her hands behind her back, everyone was looking at her but Bartala.

“What?” At first Bartala thought they were looking at him. “Oh she’s standing right behind me isn’t she?”

Nalau giggled and said, “Oh I see why you have so much fun on adventures with these friends!”

M brought her right hand around and presented Nalau with an amazing bright purple flower, the same shade as her outfit. “For you Empress. If you place it in a vase with water it will last for many days.”

“Oh! It is lovely, thank you M.” She got up and took the flower into the kitchen area to find something to put it in.

M stepped up, alongside Bartala, “And for you,” she brought her left hand forward and revealed the contents to him, “one of the blue skipping stones and one of the blue crystals from the same area. I thought you might enjoy looking them over and contemplating them while we travel.”

Bartala was clearly pleased. He accepted both items, handling them delicately as if they had great value. The crystal illuminated brightly, turning his face blue. “Thank you M, I will enjoy them. This crystal looks like the ones that line the caves located at the poles of Ploosnar. There is much folklore about them, they are said to have mystical powers and often used for jewelry. I wonder if they are the same.”

“Do you have any of the crystals from Ploosnar?” Brzko asked.

“Well not with me, but back at the palace. And…. that does not matter because you can retrieve them.” he trailed off. “In my private sitting room there is a chest of drawers near the desk.”

“Yes, I’ve seen it.” Brzko said.

“In the bottom drawer there is a small black box, there is a crystal in there. But your arrival in my sitting room would trip the alarm, the palace guard would respond.”

Brzko walked over to Bartala, “Then I’ll have to take you with me.”

“But as Emperor, it is frowned upon for me to travel without palace guards. I am no longer free to jump around the Universe with you and M.”

Brzko patiently waited for him to get it, he just looked at Bartala expectantly.

Bartala snapped, “But! I would be going from a place that has palace guards to a place that has palace guards.” He stood up, Brzko took his arm and they were gone.

It took them less than a minute to retrieve the box and return. The sat at the table as though they had never left.

“How was home darling?” Nalau asked with a little sarcasm.

Bartala just chuckled. He took the small black box and lifted the lid off. The glow was the same as that from the crystal M had brought.

“They look the same, but we would need to scan them to be sure. I would like to use the scanners on one of my ships, can you take me there?” Bartala asked, looking back and forth between M and Brzko.

“There is no need.” Zri interjected. “You can use your arm console – there are temporary transports on both of your escort ships. This allows your guards and my crew to move freely between the ships. I’ll show you how to initiate the transport.”

Zri, Bartala, and Brzko sat close, looking over Bartala’s arm console. Soon the trio was gone, leaving the ladies to clean up.

They returned within a few minutes. “Wooooooooooooooo!!!! I could get used to that! Zri can I keep this arm console and those temporary transports?” Bartala asked, grinning like a child that had just received a beloved toy.

Zri laughed heartily and clapped him on the back, “Yes, my friend. You may keep them.”

“Stop playing with your toys and tell us the results of the scan.” M said taking a seat at the table where Nalau and Lelelu were already seated.

Brzko, Zri and Bartala joined them. “They are identical. The crystal you brought from Trella is identical to the one from Ploosnar.” Bartala answered.

“They are covalent network crystals, the structures are identical.” Brzko added.

“How is that possible? Or if it is possible, what is the likelihood that identical crystals would develop on Ploosnar and Trella?” M asked.

“The Suss may have an answer for that, based on all of the data they’ve collected and catalogued. But, my instincts tell me that it’s highly unlikely. The crystals on Trella may have been placed there on purpose.” Brzko said.

“It seems the mystery continues to evolve,” Lelelu said “and I just can’t resist a mystery! I’ll contact Kiik and see if the Suus have any relevant information. Why would crystals native to Ploosnar be purposely left on Trella?”

“It seems that someone wanted the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko to find Ploosnar.” Nalau said.

“I think you’re right my love.” Bartala said. “But was it for our benefit or theirs?” He walked over to the sitting area and took a seat on one of the sofas. He still had the crystals in his hand. He placed them on the table in front of him and leaned back. “These are almost the same color as you Lelelu.”

With the exception of Zri, the group wandered over and settled into the comfort of the sitting area. Zri excused himself and went back to the command bridge.

The group sat in silence for few minutes, contemplating the crystals.

“Well I guess there’s nothing else we can do until we arrive at Trella.” Nalau said. “We know how Bartala and Zri met these two, but Lelelu how did you meet them?”


Lelelu looks to Agent Brzko with a question in her eyes. He nods and says, “Go ahead, and tell the story Lelelu.”

She looks back at Empress Nalau and begins, “I grew up on the Planet of Portals the same way most Trelods do, raised by bonded  parents  receiving education  with  an  emphasis on Universal history and exploration. I took a job as a communications operator for a shuttle company. At first it was exciting, it entitled me to visit a few worlds. But after a while it became boring so I started monitoring the interstellar communications boards for something off of the Planet of Portals. I love my home but I wanted to experience more of the Universe.”

Lelelu kicked off her shoes, and drew her legs up under her on the sofa where she was sitting. She was a stunning today, bald with bright blue skin, wearing a simple green dress. This was a relaxed look for her, but she knew there would be no calls to action today.

“I came across an ad for an interstellar communications associate, I responded to the ad and after answering a few preliminary questions, an interview was scheduled. Surprisingly the prospective employer was willing to travel to the Planet of Portals.” She turned and looked at Brzko. So did everyone else. “That’s when I met the eminent Agent Brzko.”

“Had you already heard of him and M?” Nalau asked. “Yes, but I wasn’t sure they were real. There are stories told about them throughout the Universe. As soon as I saw him in the plaza though, I knew who he was. I couldn’t believe I was about to meet THE Agent Brzko. As soon as I saw him and realized I was being considered for employment with him and probably the Muse of Mischief I was ecstatic. He was sitting on a bench in the central plaza of Unilond, I approached and said…”

Brzko finished her sentence… “I’m Lelelu and you will not find a better communications associate than me Agent Brzko, hire me and you will not be disappointed.   How could I not? That confidence reminded me so much of my beloved Muse of Mischief.” He reached over and squeezed M’s hand.

“How did you know that he wouldn’t be offended but such a direct, confident statement?” Nalau asked.

“I didn’t. But I figured if the stores I’d heard about them were true, he would appreciate the direct approach. When I realized what the job was I knew I would do anything to work with these two. I thought they would expose me to experiences I’d not yet had, in places I’d not yet been, and that is so true! The interview alone was like no other experience I’d had.”

“How did you interview her Brzko?” Bartala asked.

“We took three short missions, the goal was to communicate with each population and obtain a useful commodity. Since all of the portals in Unilond lead to the Glion Galaxy we started in Foskpruchu where they speak in bizarre riddles. Then we went to the moon of the Black Sea Planet and met the League of Mongers. And from there we went to see the traders on Smd. She never lost her cool. She stayed focused on the goal and was always in command of herself.”

“What about you? Were you part of the interview?” Bartala asked M.

“No, I was back home while Zri made upgrades to our security and communication systems.”

“And you trusted Brzko to hire your assistant?” Nalau asked.

“Of course, I trust him implicitly. If there had been an issue when we met I could have intervened. But we needed assistance, we are constantly asked to help. All of those requests need to be investigated and prioritized. It’s a full time job. I prefer to be out doing rather than answering requests.” M said.

“So why do you still live on the Planet of Portals? Wouldn’t it be easier to live where M and Brzko do?” Nalau asked. Her cheeks blushed just slightly, “Oh right, Earth is infantile, they think they are the only inhabited planet, and you’re… blue.”

Bartala added what he knew of Earth, “It is an incredibly racist planet my darling. They fear what they are not familiar with and often turn violent toward it. Beings with dark skin are often oppressed and frequently unsafe.”

Lelelu nodded at Bartala, as if to confirm what he had just said before she continued. “I can go to Earth, and have several times, but because I’m blue, I have to stay hidden or disguised, and that damages my productivity. Besides, with communications technology and a fast ship, having my base of operations on a different planet doesn’t really matter.” Lelelu said.

Bartala always straight to the point, asked “Is it true that

Trelods remember every experience they have?” “Yeah, it’s true. We have great memories.” “What about bonding and children?” he asked.

“No thank you.” Lelelu replied. “I love my life just the way it is. Well bonding maybe, if I ever find one that is compatible.”

But there was a look, a brief sparkle in her eye that suggested she had already found one that is compatible. M looked at Brzko to see if he had caught it, he had.

Everyone laughed at her direct answer, it sounded so much like something M would have said.

“I felt the same way.” Nalau confessed, “Luckily we were able to use a surrogate for our son.”

“You two must be excited. Things at the palace will change.” Lelelu said.

“Yes! For the better!” Bartala said. He stood and stretched. “Is anyone else hungry?” He asked. “I think it’s lunch time.”

“Seriously?” Zri said from the doorway. “You just had breakfast!”

“It’s hard work being an Emperor, besides my metabolism runs fast, maybe faster than yours.”

Zri just smiled and nodded at Bartala. “Right, because you have three hearts. I’m headed to the cargo bay for some training, anyone care to join me?”

M, Brzko, and Lelelu all jumped at the chance for a physical workout. They weren’t used to spending an entire day sitting around talking, multiple days of it was taking a toll on them. The three of them headed for the door, leaving Bartala and Nalau to enjoy some time along together.

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With most of the Rogsaars back on Myaad, life at the Ploosnar Palace had returned to normal. Empress Nalau had done a spectacular job of hosting the Rogsaar reception. She was back to her usual philanthropic duties. Emperor Bartala on the other hand, was back to his usual unsettled behavior, always wanting to be on the go.

The group of travelers had gathered at the palace to plan for the expedition to Trella. They were in Bartala’s favorite sitting room, his personal room. The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko were sitting on one side, across the table Lelelu was seated next to Emperor Bartala. Zri of course, had stationed himself between the group and the entrance. He was one of them, but he never stopped guarding them either.

“Why can’t we leave today?” Bartala said with the tone of a pouty teenager.

“Because, we need time to pack some gear.” Lelelu said.

“I’m going home to pick up some supplies.”

“And while she’s doing that, I need to travel back to Gaznzul to reload some supplies and make some changes to my crew.” Zri said.

“Are you going to bring us the latest in Gaznzulian technology Zri?” Bartala asked with no shame.

“Of course Emperor. I have some new things that you may enjoy.”

“Good I want to ride with you Zri! Who is riding with whom and can we be ready to leave tomorrow?” Bartala said impatiently.

“OK Emperor, I’m happy to have you on my ship. How

many palace guards will be on board with you and how many of their ships will follow?”

“Two guards will be on board with me and two ships traveling with us.” Bartala answered.

Zri nodded in acknowledgement, “I assume you’re ready since the only thing you will pack is nekmid?” he teased. “Ahhhhh, you will thank me for that nekmid while we are bored out of our minds on the way to Trella!” Bartala said.

“Or we could introduce you to espidrun, although you may sleep the whole way.” M interjected.

“Espidrun? What is that and why have you not shared this before?” Bartala said, sounding truly offended.

“We only just discovered it on Smd; it’s made from fermented niptdyn. It’s very potent.” Lelelu said.

“And quite palatable!” Brzko added.

“That sounds like the perfect thing for a long journey. Maybe it will slow you down enough to finally tell me the story of how you and Brzko saved the ruler of Suus when she was a child.” he said to M.

“Maybe, if you’re lucky.” M said teasing him.

“I need to depart, but I didn’t bring the shuttle down. M?” “Oh right, sorry Lelelu. I’ll take you back.” M said standing and walking over to Lelelu.

They disappeared, and then M reappeared and took her seat again.

“I will be departing now too. Contact me if you need anything before I return.” Zri said.

“OK Zri, safe travels.” Brzko answered for all of them. After a slight manipulation of his armband Zri transported himself back to his ship. It was back to just the three of them, M, Brzko, and Bartala.

“Break out that espidrun. I want to try this stuff!” Bartala said.

“What makes you think I have any here at the palace?” M Bartala waved his hand at her, dismissing her question, “Who do you think you’re talking to? I know you have some here M, break it out.”

“OK, OK.” She disappeared from the sofa, and was back a few seconds later with a bottle in her hands. “You don’t have glasses ready yet?”

“You are such a show off!” Bartala said.

Brzko was laughing at the two of them. M loved to tease her old friend and he had no problem throwing it right back at her. They truly deserved each other. Brzko retrieved the glasses from Bartala’s side table.

“Here you two, here are the glasses. Now stop bickering long enough to try this.” Brzko said taking the bottle from M. The bottle appeared to be made of heated titanium, it was blue and pink, it was short and wide, there was a lever on top that opened a spout.

“Oh that is pretty slick!” Bartala said.

“Slick?” M asked. “Are you watching Earth television again?”

Bartala just looked at her and rolled his eyes, that meant he was busted, he had been watching trashy Earth television again.

Brzko tilted the bottle and poured the hot pink liquid into the waiting glasses. Upon contact with air it immediately began to release blue steam. He pressed the protruding spout back in to the bottle and sat it down, then handed a glass to Bartala and one to M. Lifting his own he toasted his friends, “To long life, good health, and a safe journey.”

They all sipped.

Bartala lost his mind! “Ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh this is good! It’s sweet but not too sweet, it’s savory but not too savory and the texture is like, well it feels like electricity in my mouth! But in a good way.”

M and Brzko both chuckled. Their friend’s reaction was priceless.

“Just don’t drink it too fast.” Brzko said. “It’s really potent. A glass this size is the equivalent of drinking six or seven nekmids.”

“Do you have enough to take to Trella?” Bartala asked. “Yes, we have plenty.” Brzko answered.

The friends sat in silence for a few minutes. They were comfortable enough with each other that they did not need to fill the time with pointless chatter. After a while the Emperor spoke.

“The surrogate will enter phase two of gestation before we return. My son is developing as expected.”

“I’m glad to hear that Bartala, but what is phase two?”

“As the child develops the host becomes somewhat incapacitated. Once the second phase begins she will remain inside, with limited movement.”

“I’ve never seen a pregnant Ploosnarian, the child develops in a sac on the back of the mother or surrogate is that correct? Brzko asked.

“Yes, which is why my beloved Nalau did not want to carry the child herself. The second phase of the pregnancy will last for almost two hundred days.”

“Interesting, so sac is the correct term, and is it opaque?” M asked.

“No, we do not call it a sac. The child develops within a membrane.” Bartala explained. “Yes, it is opaque; you cannot see the actual child until birth. When it is time, the membrane will begin to peel away and the connecting cells will retreat back into the mother or surrogate, leaving the child ready to survive on its own. The process usually takes two days.”

“Are there ever complications? Does the infant ever need to be extracted?” M asked.

“That is extremely rare. I believe it happens less than one time in over ten thousand births.” Bartala said. “It is not a risky process, but it is a great inconvenience to the mother and the other members of her family. So we do not procreate without a plan. That reminds me. Have you heard anything from Rogsaar of Xinood 5? I am very curious to see if Rogsaar and G’ist will be able to reproduce.”

“No, I haven’t heard from them since they stopped by here to pick up Rogs refurbished ship. They are both ecstatic about having their own ship now, thanks to you.” M answered.

None of them heard the door open, so they were startled when Nalau spoke, “They won’t return home for a few more days. But I’ve been in touch with the doctors on Xinood 5 and asked him to let me know if there is anything we can do to help.”

Bartala eagerly stood to greet his wife, “My darling, you look ravishing this evening!” And of course she did. With no official duties pressing, she was a little more relaxed than usual with her hair was gently pulled back in a loose ponytail. She was wearing a simple, ankle length black skirt and matching short sleeved blouse. The only color was in her casual attire was the bright orange and white broach she wore.

Always the gentlemen, Brzko stood to greet the lady of the house, well palace. “Empress, you are looking lovely as always this evening.” He bent and kissed her extended hand.

“Oh Brzko, I shall never tire of the way you treat a lady.

You could take a lesson dear Bartala. Now which one of you is going to pour me a taste of this new drink?” She said as she sat down on next to Bartala.

Her unusually casual demeanor had completely caught Brzko and Bartala off guard. Nalau looked at M and winked; she knew what she was doing and found it very entertaining.

Bartala caught the wink, while Brzko retrieved a fourth glass and poured an espidrun for her, “I think you have been spending too much time with my wife M. Your mischievous side is beginning to rub off on her.”

Before M could defend herself the Empress spoke, “Perhaps it’s not her that’s rubbing off on me Bartala.” She said as she lovingly grasped his leg. She took a sip of the espidrun. “Wow!” She covered her mouth and coughed lightly. “This is amazing. It’s very strong but I like it very much!”

Bartala beamed with pleasure. “Have we found a drink you like well enough to transform you into a drinking” buddy?” He said the last two words in this insanely funny fake John Wayne Earth like accent.

They all looked at him and laughed. They were still laughing when a butler entered, “Excuse me Your Majesties,” they quieted and turned toward the butler, “the kitchen has asked me to inform you that dinner is ready.” He turned and left.

Nalau stood, “I hope you will be staying for dinner.” she said to M and Brzko.

“I’m sorry Empress, we must return home to prepare for our trip to Trella.” Brzko said. “We hope to leave tomorrow afternoon.

“About that trip,” Nalau said, and the room paused, was she going to put a damper on Bartala’s fun? “What if I were to tag along? I’ve never been on one of your excursions. M, tell me the truth – do you think I would enjoy the trip?”

Knowing how much having Nalau join them on the trip to Trella would mean to her best friend, M did not hesitate to answer, “I think you would have the time of your life, Empress.” Bartala continued to beam. Brzko looked back and forth between M and Nalau to see if there was more to be said.

Nalau turned to Bartala with her drink in one hand, she pointed at the espidrun bottle with the other, “Bring the bottle and come love, we will discuss the trip over dinner. Goodbye M, goodbye Brzko, we’ll see you soon.” She turned and walked toward the door.

Bartala scooped up the bottle and trotted behind her, at the door he turned to M and Brzko, giving them an exaggerated wink, and then he was gone. M and Brzko returned home to prepare for the tip.


The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko returned to Ploosnar before Lelelu, she was stopping by Smd to pick up a supply of espidrun. The last thing they wanted to do was run out on an expedition like this. M and Brzko secured their home and returned to Ploosnar, arriving at the bottom of the palace stairs as was their custom.

As they reached the top of the stairs, they were announced by the palace guard, “The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko Your Majesties.”

Emperor  Bartala  came  running  out  of  the  palace, “Where’s Lelelu? Are you ready to go?”

Empress Nalau was right on his heels, “Relax darling. We are on schedule to leave later today.”

“Emperor, Empress, good afternoon.” M said. “Jeez Bartala, at least let us put our bags down.”

Brzko kissed the Empress’s hand, “Hello Empress Nalau, a pleasure to see you again. I’m excited to hear that you will be traveling with us.”

The two of them were more casual than M had ever seen them. Bartala was wearing simple brown slacks and a brown shirt with pale green paisley, no jacket or tie. Nalau was wearing a knee length skirt made of the same fabric as Bartala’s shirt. Her shirt was a solid green, the same color as the paisley pattern. Even though the attire was more casual than usual, their garments were still crisp and there was not a single hair out place. M and Brzko must have been staring at them.

Empress Nalau stepped forward and twirled, “What do you think? I just don’t think formal gowns and palace jewels are the correct fashion for an expedition. I had Schatorren make us new, casual wardrobes for the trip.”

“I think you both look fantastic.” M said. “Well except for that hair of his.” She said as she thrust her thumb in Bartala’s direction.

“I concur!” Brzko added.

“Let’s go inside, lunch is ready and Zri is already in orbit.” Empress Nalau said.

“Oh, Zri is here.” Brzko said. “Please start lunch without me; I’d like to visit with him for a few minutes.” He didn’t wait for a response from the group. He was gone almost instantly, leaving both of his travel bags where he had been standing. M knew what he was up to. Brzko wanted to converse with Zri about the ship’s defenses before the group was on board, there was no need to cause them any concern.

He arrived on the flight bridge. Zri was there with two of his crew. “Hey Brzko, I figured you’d pop in before the others.” Zri said.

“You know me well Zri. How go the preparations?”

Brzko asked.

“We’re just about ready, preflight tests are complete. We are stocked with supplies, and all of the gear is loaded and stowed. It will only take a few minutes to transfer your personal gear aboard and of course whatever the Emperor is bringing.”

“How big is your crew?”

“There are five officers with me – you’ve met ShyUst before right?” Zri said motioning to his second in command.

ShyUst walked over to them, “Yes.” Brzko said extending his hand “It’s a pleasure ShyUst, I think the last time I saw you was when we apprehended the Brusher.”

“Yes, it was. Hopefully this will be a much quieter trip!” ShyUst said shaking Brzko’s hand before returning to his position at the main console.

“Zri is there anything else you need before we go?” Brzko asked.

“No, thank you Brzko. I’ll come down after I run a check on the transporters.”

“Sounds good, I’ll see you soon then.” and with that Brzko was gone immediately back in the palace foyer.

It is a short walk from the foyer to the formal dining room, Brzko was surprised when he entered and found the room empty. He continued on to the kitchen, as he went down the hallway he heard Bartala’s voice from up ahead, he was laughing. Brzko continued on, following his voice.

“There you are,” Brzko said stepping outside to join the group on the back patio.

“Hi Brzko, how’s Zri, all ready to go?” M asked as she stood and went over to properly greet her partner.

He grabbed her and tilted her back in his arms, one of his best Hollywood style kisses planted on her lips. He stood her upright, she was visibly shaken. She hadn’t expected such an exciting greeting.

“Wait, what were we talking about?” This caused a burst of laughter from Bartala and Nalau. “Oh Zri, that’s right.”

Brzko smiled at his love, “He’s pretty much ready. Once Lelelu arrives, he just needs to load Bartala and Nalau’s supplies, and we’re off. But first… what’s for lunch. I’m starving. Emperor, are your guard’s ships ready?

“Yes, they are loaded and ready, holding in orbit.”

Brzko helped himself to the royal buffet that had been laid out on a side table. He took his seat next to M at the table, “I

hope you are all ready to fend for yourselves, Zri will do his best to keep us safe, but his food is not this good!”

“As long as we have plenty of espidrun, who cares!” Bartala said.

“Speaking of espidrun…..” Lelelu surprised them by stepping out onto the patio.

“Hey Lelelu, how did everything go?” M asked. Which was code for did you get all of the espidrun we ordered?

“Everything went as planned, everything…” she was interrupted by Zri.

“… Lelelu brought is loaded.” Zri said as he walked out of the palace.

Bartala jumped to his feet, “Let’s go. C’mon we’re ready it’s going to take a few days to get all the way to Trella.”

Nalau tried to calm him, “Darling please, perhaps Lelelu or Zri would like some lunch.”

They both declined.

Zri walked over to the table with something in his hand, “I’d like you both to wear these at all times.” He handed Bartala and Nalau Gaznzulian arm consoles. “I’ve already distributed them to your guards.”

“OK!” Bartala said excitedly. He loved gadgets.

“Notice these two buttons at the top.” Zri said demonstrating with his own console. “If you press the one on the right, you will be transported to my ship. But if you press the one on the left, at the same time, everyone in the group is alerted that you have an emergency. If you are away from the ship you will automatically be transported back to the ship. On the screen you can navigate to the communications menu to page or send a message to anyone, or everyone.”

Bartala managed to pull his eyes away from his new toy, “Hey why don’t they have to wear them?” he said, nodding toward M and Brzko.

“The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko can transport

themselves to anytime or place they desire. They also have earcom links that keep them in constant contact with me, my crew and Lelelu.” Zri explained. “If you would like to give up the ability to transport, and several other functions, I can switch your console for an earcom link Emperor.” He said teasing Bartala.

Knowing that he had been bested, Bartala let it go, “No, no, this is fine Zri. Thank you.”

“OK then, gather any personal items, and press the top button on the right when you are ready to board. Questions?” Zri said.

“No, thank you Zri.” Nalau answered. “We will join you momentarily.”

The Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, Lelelu and Zri all left the patio at once, leaving Bartala and Nalau alone.

Bartala stood and pulled her chair out for her, “Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime my love?”

“Yes Bartala. I am a little nervous, but I am also excited.” She wrapped her hands around his upper arm, and they walked toward the palace. Several of their staff were standing just inside the door. They had not both been gone from the palace in a very long time, but they trusted their staff. Everything on Ploosnar would be fine while they were gone. Once they reached the front steps, they faced each other and pressed their buttons simultaneously, two guards followed them directly. It was the first step of what was going to an exciting journey.


Zri’s ship was built for safety and speed, but no creature comforts had been overlooked for this trip. The ship is long and narrow, but wider at the front. There is an upper deck at the front of the ship, this serves as the command bridge. There are lifts on both sides of the bridge, basically elevators that run automatically if the sensors detect anyone in the lift. With only two levels, there is no command to give in the lift. If you are on the main level and step into a lift, you are taken to the bridge. If you are on the bridge and step into the lift, you are taken to the main level.

The command bridge is like most, the outer edges are lined with consoles and workstations. There are three seats facing the front of the room, and the main display. The display can show the view from the cameras that line the exterior of the ship, or it can show information from any of the ship’s systems.

The Gaznzulians work in rotating shifts on the bridge, there are always two on duty. Each is fully trained for all duties. The only exception is the second in command, ShyUst. He has been trained to assume command if needed.

There is a large community room at the front of the ship on the lower level. There are windows lining the front of the room, and many comfortable places to sit. The view from the room is spectacular when the ship is in motion. On the left side of the ship there is a large dining table and chairs with a kitchen area. This is the room where the group will spend most of their time. Both of the lifts are just outside this room, in a long hallway with individual rooms on either side. The rooms become progressively smaller toward the back of the ship, the smallest are the crew quarters. The very end of the hallway provides access to the cargo bay; which is basically a huge warehouse, with a large ramp that can be used for loading and unloading both passengers and cargo.

The explorers had gathered in the community room for a departure toast. Zri directed their attention to the view, “Emperor, Empress, I’ve instructed the crew to come around before we depart, giving you a view of Ploosnar.”

Everyone turned toward the window, and silently watched as they flew over the most beautifully bright blue planet there was. Once it was out of range, there was nothing to see but open space. Apparently not too interesting for Bartala.

“Let’s toast!” He had a bottle of espidrun and Nalau started handing out glasses while he poured. Surprisingly, even Zri accepted a glass. “Zri, I’ve never seen you partake of spirits.”

“Well Emperor, I do occasionally let my guard down.

And with a full crew on this ship and three additional ships behind us, I think it’s safe for me to take some down time.”

“Here here! To down time and exploration!” Bartala toasted, holding his glass high. They all took sips of the espidrun; it was far too strong to take in full shots. “Wait, four Gaznzulian ships? How much is this going to cost me?”

“Well Emperor, if it makes you feel any better, you won’t be billed for my ship. I’m technically on holiday.” Zri grinned and sipped his espidrun.

“So there are six ships in our convoy, this one, our two guards, and three more of yours Zri?” Empress Nalau asked rhetorically “Lelelu I think your decision to leave your ship on Ploosnar was brilliant. We’d miss having you here on board Zri’s ship with us.”

“Thank you Empress. I wouldn’t want to miss this fun.” She answered, taking a seat on one of the sofas. “So what is the plan once we reach Trella, or do we have a plan?”

There is a variety of couches and chairs in the lounge, the group settled in to chat about the trip.

“I think we should definitely show them the Pink River. Do you remember that forest that grows along the banks of the river M?” Brzko asked.

The  Muse  of  Mischief turned bright  red.  “Yes,  I remember the forest next to the Pink River.”

“M are you OK?” Zri asked. “You look like you are overheating.”

“She’s not hot my friend, she’s blushing! She and Brzko must have a history on the banks of the Pink River.” Bartala explained. “And I want to hear all about it when we get there!”

“Ha! No chance buddy!” M said, regaining her composure.

“Bartala, have you been to Trella before?” Nalau asked, rescuing M.

“Yes my love. When M and I were young we would escape there every time we had angered my father. Like the time we hid all of his bisporks. Remember that M? He thought they had been stolen but we had moved them to a hanger.” Bartala said cracking himself up.

“Ummmm I remember YOU hiding his bisporks and me covering for you and then saving your butt by bringing you to Trella until he cooled off.” M said, refusing to take responsibility for her old friend’s pranks.

“Mah… details. You hid them, I hid them.”

“Are all of the rivers pink on Trella?” Nalau asked.

“No, I haven’t seen the entire planet but it has many different colors of everything, plants, water, sand.” M said. “It doesn’t really make sense. It looks like someone chewed up a rainbow and spit it out.”

“Ehhh, that doesn’t sound appealing.” Nalau said letting her disgust show.

“When I was young it was entertaining.” M said. asked.

“Are there any structures on the planet?” Nalau asked. “Not that I’ve ever seen, have you seen any Brzko?” M

“No, no structures.” he answered.

“Since we are escorted by three Gaznzulian ships and two Ploosnarian guard ships, will you land Zri?” Lelelu knew that Gaznzulian protocol prevented a lone ship from landing on a foreign planet.

“Yes, assuming we don’t find anything of interest when we scan the planet’s surface, we will land. That way we have a base of operations.” He answered. Everyone just stared at him. “What, what’s wrong?”

M grinned, “You said if we don’t find anything of interest when we scan, I assume you meant if we don’t find anything of concern?”

“Perhaps the espidrun is having an effect on you Zri.” Bartala teased.

“Oh I’m sure that it is, I’m sure that it is.” He said finishing off his first drink. He stood and went for the bottle that Bartala had left on the table, he went around the room refilling everyone’s glass before filling his own and returning the bottle to the table. He plopped into an overstuffed easy chair and flung his legs up over the arm of the chair taking another sip.

Everyone was still staring at him, Lelelu looked perplexed and turned to M. “Is he always like this at a party?” she asked, teasing him.

“Sometimes he’s even more fun! If you’re lucky he will show you what a Gaznzulian really looks like.” M said.

“Tread carefully M. Remember I know a few of your secrets.” Zri said. “Like the day we met, I’m sure you remember that.”

“Was that the day you tried to have me eaten?” Bartala asked, smiling.

Nalau giggled, “I have hear this story!”

“Of course I remember Zri, I’m not sure it’s interesting enough to share though.” M said.

“Then tell us how you rescued Ciic when she was a child.” Bartala said. “As long as we’re in space we have plenty of time for stories.”

“Wait, first I want to hear how you and Bartala met.” Nalau spoke up.

Bartala laughed and finished off his second espidrun, “Go ahead M. Let’s tell them how we met.”


“OK, who’s riding with me and who’s riding with Zri?” Lelelu asked the group.

“Well who has the faster ship?” Emperor Bartala asked. “They are both as fast as lightning compared to your

barges.” The Muse of Mischief teased.

“Lightning, what has lightning got to do with this?” Bartala asked, clearly confused.

Everyone    but   Bartala    laughed,    “My   dear    Bartala, sometimes you miss the point.” Empress Nalau said.

“I think the two of you should travel with me.” Zri said. “The ships are of equal speed, but my ship is larger. Your cargo is already loaded and I can accommodate your staff. My ship also has more advanced defenses”

“There are only two Rogsaars that want to travel to Myaad for the reception, Rogsaar of Xinood 5, and a Rogsaar that was somewhere in the Glion Galaxy. Lelelu, are you OK with transporting them?” Brzko asked.

“Yes, of course. It will take less than a day to get there.” “Were you able to locate G’ist?”

“Yes, he’s on board now. Rogsaar is going to be very surprised.”

“If you want to arrive before Kiik does you’d better leave now.” M said.

“Agreed.” Zri said. “Emperor, Empress, are you comfortable with a transport or would you like me to have a shuttle land to take you up to my ship?”

With the animation of a child, Bartala answered for both of them, “Ooooh transport, transport! Yes, that will be fine.” “Excellent, if you’re ready then.” Zri took a step closer to Bartala and Nalau, working the controls built into the sleeve of his flight suit. The trio disappeared.

“I’ll take Lelelu back to her ship if you want to round up the Rogsaars.” M said to Brzko. “Deal.”

The Muse of Mischief took Lelelu’s arm and they also disappeared from the palace, arriving instantly aboard Lelelu’s ship.

“Thanks M.” Lelelu said once on the ship, “Have you met G’ist?” She gestured toward him.

“No, I haven’t had the pleasure yet.” She stepped toward him with her hand out “I’m the Muse of Mischief; I’m so pleased you could come. I know Rogsaar will be excited to see you, the separation has been difficult.”

G’ist was taller than M, He reached out and took her hand. When he spoke, she was surprised at how gentle his voice was, not feminine, but gentle. “It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance Ms. Muse of Mischief. What can I possibly do to thank you for this opportunity? Rogsaar and I did not think we would have the funding or the available free time for me to visit Myaad in the near future.  But when you called upon my employer and asked for my assistance on a mission? Well… how could they deny a request from the Muse of Mischief?”

“That was Lelelu’s idea. Brilliant, isn’t she?” M and G’ist turned toward Lelelu; she looked up and smiled but continued to prepare for departure. “I know it’s been difficult for Rogsaar to be away from you, to be away from home.”

Brzko arrived with the Rogsaar they were speaking of, the partner of G’ist.

“Ahhh, oh. We’re here. Oh, that’s….” Rogsaar trailed off. “It startles everyone the first time Rogsaar.”  Brzko reassured him. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He left to escort the final Rogsaar that would be traveling with Lelelu.

Rogsaar was facing M, he hadn’t seen G’ist yet. He jumped when a familiar voice spoke from behind him.

“Rogs, I have missed you.” G’ist said.

Rogsaar turned and couldn’t believe eyes. Lelelu stopped pre departure to watch the reunion. “G’ist!” Rogsaar rushed toward him, “how did you get here? It is comforting to see you!” he said as they embraced. They stood holding each other, as a couple they were striking – Rogsaar with pale skin and white hair, and G’ist completely black with bright green eyes.

“Lelelu contacted me and offered to provide me with transportation to attend this reception with you. I asked Lelelu not to tell you, I wanted to surprise you, to be with you for this momentous event. How I have missed you….” he stepped back and took a long look at his partner, Rogs, as he called him.

Rogsaar turned to M and Lelelu, “Thank you, thank you so much. This is unbelievable, I…. I…” “You’re welcome Rogsaar.” M said.

Brzko returned from Ploosnar with Rogsaar from the Glion Galaxy.

“We are ready to depart. Do you require anything prior to us leaving?” Lelelu asked.

“No, thank you” they responded in unison.

“You may sit here on the flight bridge.” she gestured to an out of the way seating area. “Or, you may ascend those stairs and enjoy the scenery from the observation deck above.” She pointed to spiral staircase in the wall.

The trio exchanged looks and headed for the stairs. The offer of an observation deck was just too tempting to pass up.

“OK, Lelelu, we’ll see you there.” M said. “And you were absolutely right about those new flight suits!”

This made Lelelu grin. Blue, bald, grinning, and donning a fantastic greenish brown flight suit, she was absolutely stunning. “Thanks M, see you in a few hours.”

The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko arrived outside of the administration building on Myaad. Instantly they were approached by Bivoor.

“Oh, Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko I am thankful that you are here. The Rogsaars are to arrive tomorrow and we are not ready.” Bivoor said sounding almost frantic.

“Hi Bivoor, don’t worry. We’re here to help! And more help and supplies will be arriving in a few hours.” M said.

As usual, it was Brzko that had the biggest calming effect, “Hey Bivoor, I’m sure you’ve got a plan, a timeline of sorts? Let’s go sit down and take a look at it and see where we can fit in to help.”

That did it, Bivoor was instantly calmed! The trio went inside and sat down at the meeting table in Bivoor’s office. Bivoor handed Brzko something that looked like a clipboard.

“Hey before we get started Bivoor, how are the eggs developing? Is development going as planned?” M asked.

“Oh yes, thank you for asking. There are no signs of aberidus and the Caretaker’s seem to be doing fine.” Bivoor answered.

“OK, let’s run down the list.” Brzko said.

“Housing for the returning Rogsaars, is it ready?”

“Yes, the Dumeers have been very busy. We have a separate dwelling for each Rogsaar, as well as a few extras.”

“Food supplies?”

“Yes, but I am not sure what we will need to provide for the reception.”

M jumped in, “Don’t worry about that. Ploosnar is providing   more   than   enough   food   and   beverage   for   the reception.”

“What have the Bivoors planned for the reception? Will there be a speech or any type of ceremony?” Brzko asked.

“A speech to welcome them home, then we would just like to enjoy their company, hear the tales of their survival, and allow them to renew their appreciation of home, of Myaad.”

“OK then it sounds like you are as ready as you can be.

Don’t worry about the setup. The Empress is an amazing planner and hostess. She is bringing a small army that will take care of all the details so that you and the other Bivoors can enjoy the reception.” Brzko said.

“The generosity of you and your friends is…” there was a knock at the door.

Another Bivoor opened the door just enough to lean in, “Apologies for the intrusion Bivoor. We have just been notified that a Suus ship has arrived in orbit. It carries someone named Ciic. They have been cleared to land their transport shuttle; it will be here in moments.”

M instantly felt butterflies in her stomach.  She was excited to see Ciic again, it had been several years. Brzko and M last saw her at her wedding on Suus, after rescuing her from Mahb in ancient Ireland.

The trio stood and headed toward the door. But instead of turning right to head out the front door, they turned left out of Bivoor’s office. There is a clearing behind the Myaad administration building. The shuttle was touching down just as they stepped out of the building.


The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko stood in the front of the group, there were five or six Bivoors and at least that many Dumeers standing behind them. None of the Myaads had ever received dignitaries from another planet before.  Today they would meet several. You didn’t have to be telepathic to feel the excitement of the group.

The Suus shuttle was the same shape as their standard transport ship, just smaller. The oblong ship had landed; the large door on the long side opened and the ramp extended. First to exit were two Suus carrying tall red banners that billowed in the breeze. After descending the ramp they stepped to the side and Ciic walked down the ramp with Muum just a step behind her. M and Brzko began to walk forward, they paused, about to offer a curtsy to the leader of the Suus when they received a telepathic message from Ciic, “Please do not bow to me, we are equals, we are friends.”

Neither of them gave any outward indication of the communication.  Instead, they stood in place and let Ciic approach, she eagerly embraced M.

“Hello friend,” M projected to Ciic, knowing that she would be open to hearing her thoughts, “it has been too long and

I am pleased to see you are well.”

Ciic continued the embrace, “The honor is mine Muse of Mischief, the honor is mine. Without you and Agent Brzko, I would not have lived long enough to ascend to the throne of Suus. I will always be grateful and indebted to you.”

Finally released from the awesome embrace of this tall four armed being M responded verbally as was the custom when in mixed telepathic company, “There is no debt between friends! Welcome to Myaad.”

Ciic stepped to the side of M and embraced Brzko, M greeted Muum. Once the old friends had enjoyed their private reunion a small army of Suus began to disembark the shuttle, each was carrying a tall vessel overflowing with Leel vines, heavily laden with flowers. The smell immediately permeated the entire area.

Brzko and the Muse of Mischief escorted Ciic to the waiting group. M made the introduction, “I present Ciic from the house of Naan, Ruler of planet Suus. Ciic welcome to Myaad, this group has gathered to receive you with honor.” The entire white-haired group bowed in unison; the choreography was perfect.

The Bivoor selected to speak for the group stepped forward, bowed again, “Welcome to Myaad Your Majesty, I am Bivoor. It is a great honor to have you here. Should you need anything while you are here, please let me know.”

“Thank you Bivoor, we are honored to be included in this grand event. It is a privilege for us to attend. We have brought Leel flowers for your reception. The center of each flower contains a unique nebula, and the smell is pleasing to most species. It is our hope that this gift from Suus pleases you.” Ciic projected to the entire group.

“It does, it does very much Ciic. Thank you. But you have already done so much for us. Without Kiik and your research team we would not have recovered from aberidus. We do not know how to repay your kindness and generosity.” Bivoor said.

“There is no need to repay the Suus.” Ciic projected, “It is our pleasure to help when and where we are needed. In the future Myaad may be called upon by the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko to offer assistant, it is in that way that you can repay the Universe. If you would like to show my crew to the area of the reception, they can begin to place the Leel flowers.”

“Of course, yes. I will take them to the Theatre myself.” Bivoor and the other Myaads joined the Suus that carried the Leel flowers, forming a large group – half of them with stark white hair and black eyes and the other half tall green four-armed beings carrying vessels filled with Leel flowers. They set out down the walkway on the north side of the administration building with Bivoor in the lead. This left the Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, Ciic and Muum alone.

“Lelelu and Zri should both arrive within a few hours. As you know Kiik will arrive tomorrow. Is there anything the two of you would like to do prior to their arrivals?” M asked looking up at Ciic.

“Yes” Ciic projected. “I have a personal favor to ask of you.”

“Please, ask Ciic.” M said.

“When you helped me escape from Mahb you took me to your home, your island, I think you called it. I will never forget the beauty of the ocean. There is no place on Suus such as this. I have attempted to describe it to Muum but….”

Brzko jumped in, trying to make this easy for Ciic, “But describing it just doesn’t do it justice. You’d like us to take you there so Muum can see the ocean?”

A feeling of relief came from Ciic, “Yes” she projected. “But I understand that this is your personal space and I do not want to intrude on your privacy. But when I was previously there, I had a cloaked appearance, cloaked to look like a human child. We cannot hide that we are Suus.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem.” M said.  “We should be able to get in and out without having any contact with Earthlings, you won’t be able to walk on the beach but you will be able to see the views from the windows. We just need to tell Bivoor that we will be gone for a while, we wouldn’t want to cause any concern.”

“We can have our crew share the information. They have been told that we will be away from Myaad for a short time.” Ciic projected.

Brzko stepped forward toward Muum, “Right telepathy. That must come in handy! Well, Muum have you ever traveled through an aperture?”

“No, what do I need to do?” Muum projected.

“Nothing really, I’ll take your arm,” Brzko said as he took hold of Muum’s lower arm, “and…”

They were gone. M knew that Ciic already knew what to expect from aperture travel, there was no need to explain. She placed a firm grip on Ciic’s lower arm, and went home.


“… then just relax.” Brzko finished the sentence he had started on Myaad. But before he could explain to Muum why they had left mid-sentence he had to attend to their security system.


28…” Brzko was already at the panel near the front door that was rarely used. He entered the code to disarm the system.

“ADDITIONAL LIFE FORM DETECTED, ENTER SECONDARY CODE  30…  29…  28…”  Brzko entered the second code.

The Muse of Mischief and Ciic had arrived while he was disarming the system. Brzko turned and address Muum. “I hope that sudden departure didn’t startle you too badly Muum. We’ve found that most beings are quite apprehensive the first time and because we can only travel with willing participants, it’s better if we don’t let the tension build.”

There was no response from Muum. Brzko figured it was just an issue with telepathy, maybe Muum had forgotten to project for the non-telepaths.

“Muum” Ciic projected to them all, “what is wrong are you, ok?”

Muum pulled his gaze from the front windows of the house, “It is better than you described Ciic. I have never seen a place like this, the water…. the water is mesmerizing.” He turned back to the windows.

They could all feel Ciic’s satisfaction, gratitude and deep love as she stood beside Muum and they embraced with their lower arms around the back of the other and their upper arms embracing in front of them.

M and Brzko just let them stand and take in the view. It was early evening in Lincoln City so the setting sun was reflecting off of the Pacific Ocean, creating an intense golden glow.  After a few minutes they stirred and M took the opportunity to further their experience.

She walked over to one of the sliding glass doors and opened it. Knowing that Suus have a superior sense of smell, she figured they would enjoy the smell of the ocean breeze.  M stepped back and let them soak it up.

The telepathic feelings that emanated from Ciic and Muum were amazing. M and Brzko could feel what they were feeling. It occurred to Me that this was similar to Brzko’s ability to calm others. She wondered if he had some sort of telepathic ability, at least where conveying calm was concerned. The four friends just stood and looked out at the ocean for quite some time.

After a while Ciic broke her gaze and turned toward M and Brzko, “We cannot thank you enough for sharing this with us. You are lucky to have a home like this.”

“Yes we are.” Brzko said. “We could live anywhere in the Universe but this is home. We know we are not human but we don’t know where we’re from, but there has to be a reason we were both hidden here on Earth as children. Until we discover our origins it seems logical to keep this as our home base.”

“You two are amazing beings, no matter what you are.” Muum projected. “Thank you for sharing this with me, Ciic has described it many times but I now I understand why it had such an impact on her as a child.”

Ciic was taking notice of the artwork on their walls while Muum was projecting. When he finished she commented, “Your decor has changed since I was here, it is beautiful, it fits you. Is this a Burdohnirc? I have read about them but not seen them in person. I find the water intimidating.”

“Yes, that is one of Brzko’s paintings.” M said.

Muum walked over and took a close look at the painting that had caught Ciic’s eye.

“This is remarkable, such fine detail. Brzko you are quite talented.” Ciic projected, Muum concurred.

Brzko walked over to where they were standing, “Thank you, I appreciate you compliments. These creatures fascinate me and I enjoy creating artistic representations of them.” He continued on down the hall with Ciic and Muum, showing a few more of his Burdohnirc paintings.

M went into the kitchen and made two cups of jasmine tea. There was no need to offer tea to their guests, or so she though. She sat the brewed tea on the counter and even though Ciic and Muum were around the corner and out of earshot, very clear communication echoed in her brain.

“What is that intoxicating smell?” It was Muum.

She answered out loud, “This is green tea with jasmine flowers.”  Muum and Ciic were already standing next to her, Brzko followed looking slightly bewildered.

Ciic stepped right up to the counter and projected “May I?”

“Of course,” M answered.

Muum took that to be permission for him as well. Each picked up a cup, bent over it, and inhaled deeply through their nostrils.  They both radiated glee.  M and Brzko watched in silence, they were watching Suus consume for the very first time. Once the tea had cooled the steam (or vapor) ceased to rise from the cups.

They sat the cups down.  Ciic addressed M, “This is something you would consume as a beverage?”


“The flower in this is quite delicious, and there is slight stimulation from the vapor.”

“We call that caffeine. It comes from green tea, the dried leaves of the camellia sinensis plant.”

“And the flower?”

“Jasmine, or jasminum flowers.”

“Is it possible for us to procure this product? We would like to take some back to Suus.”

“Of course, you can take what we have here back to Myaad and after the reception we can track down live specimens of the plants so you can cultivate them on Suus.”

“Thank you Muse of Mischief. How much time do we have before we need to return to Myaad?” Ciic projected. Muum had already returned to the window gazing at the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

“We have about 30 minutes before we need to return.” M answered.

Ciic projected her acknowledgement of this information and returned Muum’s side, gazing out the window.

M and Brzko took the opportunity to freshen up. M donned the new purple outfit she had recently obtained on Ploosnar.

Brzko hadn’t previously seen the outfit. “Damn girl! You look good! Is that what you had made at Schatorren?”

“Yes, do you like it?”

“Oh hell yes. I think I’ll change the hat band on my derby to match your purple, and then I’ll be ready to go.”

“All right, I’ll go see if the big green lovebirds are ready.”


The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko returned Ciic and Muum to Myaad after an enjoyable excursion to their home on Earth. A few minutes after their arrival their earcom links came to life.

“I’ve established orbit around Myaad and have been cleared to land the shuttle. I will be there shortly with two Rogsaars and G’ist.” Lelelu broadcast over the earcom link.

Before either M or Brzko could answer, Zri announced his arrival, “We have also established orbit. We’ve been cleared to land but without a sentry ship in orbit Gaznzulian protocol prevents us from landing. We will begin transporting our guests, and the supplies, to the landing zone as soon as you have landed your shuttle Lelelu.”

“OK, we are on the way.” Lelelu answered.

“So how did your guests behave Zri?” M teased, knowing that Bartala could at times be a chatterbox.

“There were no problems Muse of Mischief, I had many duties to attend to in the control room.” Zri answered. That meant he hid from Bartala and left his crew do deal with the chatter.

M, Brzko, Bivoor, Ciic, and Muum gathered at the landing site near the administration building just as Lelelu’s shuttle landed. The doors opened and she stepped out. She had changed on the way, wearing one of the new outfits she obtained on Ploosnar, she was absolutely stunning. She was wearing a long green skirt with a slit up one side and a cropped top of the same color. She was also donning a fantastic hat with interesting angles.

The two Rogsaars that traveled with her stepped out; one was arm in arm with G’ist. He was as black as night but his bright green eyes could be seen from far away.

Ciic commented and since no one else reacted, M had the feeling that the communication was projected only to her. “A Xinood! I have not had the pleasure of meeting a Xinood in person. Are they partners?”

M answered with her mind, knowing that Ciic would be listening for her thoughts. “Yes, Rogsaar of Xinood 5 created a life on the planet, finding work and entering a partnership. They are even trying to find a way to combine their DNA for the purpose of procreation.”

That surprised Ciic so much that she turned and looked at M. “Fantastic, I wish them the best of luck.” She projected to M.

The small group was upon them. Lelelu at the head of the group bowed deeply toward Ciic and Muum, demonstrating the proper protocol for greeting such dignitaries. Both Rogsaars and G’ist followed her lead. “Your majesties, it is my honor to see you again.” She straightened up, “May I present Rogsaar and G’ist of Xinood 5 and Rogsaar of Glion Galaxy.” She stepped to the side and allowed the others to approach.

The Rogsaars and G’ist looked a little uncomfortable with Ciic. No doubt they were intimidated by her station as ruler of Suus. Muum came to their rescue by projecting a calming welcome. “We are honored to meet you all, we do not often get to travel and meet well-traveled individuals such as yourselves.”

That seemed to relax them. Bivoor could hardly wait for the   pleasantries   to   be   exchanged   before   approaching   the Rogsaars. After a quick introduction of G’ist, they were off to mingle with other Myaads.

Zri and five of his team arrived on the landing pad near Lelelu’s ship. After a quick survey of the area, four of his team stationed themselves at even intervals around the landing pad. The fifth stayed near the arrival point, ready to begin receiving passengers and supplies.

Zri approached Ciic and bowed, “Ciic, Muum, it is a pleasure to see you again. I am thankful it is for an event such as this.”

They had hardly finished exchanging pleasantries when there was a commotion on the landing pad. M knew before she looked that direction, it had to be Bartala.

“Ahhhhhhhh I just LOVE instant transports, they don’t even mess up my hair.” Bartala said smoothing his hand over his tall Londo style hair. “I have to get one! My darling, what do you think? Do you like moving this way?” He asked Nalau.

“This way please Emperor.” The Gaznzulian stationed at the arrival point attempted to push Bartala along, there were several others and many supplies, waiting to come down to Myaad.

M watched her dearest friend approach. As the Emperor of  a  planet  himself,  she  knew  that  Bartala  could  always  be counted on the follow the customs of any official introductions. By the time they arrived at the group Bartala had completely recovered from his excitement. They were looking especially fine today. Nalau wore a maroon gown trimmed in black. It had many layers that fluttered in the breeze. Her jewels were modest today, a simple pendant of blue crystal hung on a piece of black silk around her neck. Bartala was of course wearing a long formal coat, also maroon, heavily embroidered with black trim. His broach was of the same crystal as Nalau’s pendant. He and Nalau came to a stop and as they were about to bow before the leader of the Suus, Ciic projected a message to them, “Please do not bow to me. We are equals, and it is my hope that we will become friends.”

The telepathic message was only intended for Bartala and Nalau, but M and Brzko could tell by the looks on their faces that it had been received. M stepped up to make the introduction.

“Ciic, Muum, it is with great pleasure that I present to you Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau of Ploosnar.” she said as she stepped back.

Ciic stepped forward and grasped Bartala’s hand, and held it close to her chest in the traditional Ploosnarian greeting. She had been studying their customs. This simple action, by the leader of a planet, showed great respect to Bartala and Nalau. He would not forget such an action. She had won his respect.

While the group chatted about the trip from Ploosnar to Myaad, palace staff continued to arrive. There were  around twenty of them standing near the arrival point. The supplies were arriving in large black cargo containers. It looked like Nalau had thought of everything.

Empress Nalau broke from the small group and caught M’s eye, they stepped off the side. Lelelu instinctively followed. “I think it’s time to get started on the set up. How soon are we expecting Kiik to arrive with the Rogsaars?”

Lelelu took the tablet from the pocket in her skirt, consulted the tracking application and answered, “Maybe about an hour, Empress.”

“Oh we have no time to waste then!”

“The  reception  is  going  to  be  in  what  they  call  the Theatre, it’s a large outdoor stadium. It’s not far from here, just a short walk over that hill.” M said. “Lelelu, will you please show Empress Nalau and her staff the way to the theatre?”

“Of course M, my pleasure.” The two of them walked away, toward the waiting palace staff and supplies. The cargo containers were stacked in threes; each stack was loaded on a hover lift, ready for transport.

M returned to the small group, while Lelelu, Nalau and her staff left for the Theatre with the cargo.

“It is time for final preparations, is there something we can do to help?” Ciic projected to the group.

“Oh don’t worry, when my beloved gets going, if you are anywhere near her she will put you to work!” Bartala said. “I am going to the Theatre now; will the rest of you be joining me?”

Everyone offered affirmation and followed Bartala toward the hill behind Lelelu’s shuttle.

Nalau was only a few minutes ahead of them but when the group rounded the corner, and looked down on the theatre, it already looked ready to receive the returning Rogsaars. The theatre has a half circle of stadium style seating on one side, the other side is wide open with a low platform. There is a large, open field behind the platform. The plan was to have Kiik land in the field, have the Rogsaars enter the Theatre via the platform and then disperse and mingle on the seating side of the theatre.

Each of the vessels used to transport the Leel vines had a telescoping rod that was extended from the center. They were all extended and the vines loosely wound around the rods. There was a long red ribbon attached to the top of each rod, they billowed in the breeze. The vessels lined the platform and went half way down each side of the seating area. The smell was intoxicating! There were tables set up at the back of the open area; they were modular setups that literally folded out of those black cargo containers. Nalau’s staff only had to extend them and then lift the food and beverage from under the table and place it on top. They

were genius inventions. They even had linens that draped the tables to hide the containers. It was a little too soon to place the food and beverage on the tables. There was a Ploosnarians stationed next to each table, ready to attend to the guests.

Nalau saw the group approach and eagerly came to them, “OK, we are ready, doesn’t this look fabulous?”

“My  darling,  once  again  you  have  outdone  yourself.

Thank you!” Bartala said.

“Well it wasn’t only me, Ciic, these Leel vines are amazing! I have never seen flowers with nebula centers. They are stunning! A wonderful finishing touch.” Nalau said.

“It is our pleasure to provide them for this momentous event.” Ciic projected.

Lelelu approached with three Bivoors, “OK, it looks like we’re all set. Which is good because we just got word that they arrived early! Kiik is in orbit, waiting to land.”

“Oh stars! We need a few more minutes.” Nalau said with just a hint of panic.

Brzko easily took care of that. Placing his hand on her forearm he said, “Just tell us what you need Empress.”

Her demeanor instantly changed, she was once again calm. “I need you all in a receiving line. Here is the order in which you should stand, first Muse of Mischief, second Agent Brzko.”

M almost spoke.

“No, I know what you are going to say. I’ve already discussed this with Bivoors and we all agree. Without the two of you the Rogsaars would never have been found and returned.” There was clearly no point in arguing with Nalau, she was in charge. “The order will be Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, Rogsaar of Earth, Emperor Bartala, Ciic, three of the Bivoor,

Lelelu, me, and Muum. The remaining Bivoors, the Rogsaars that came with Lelelu, the Dumeer, and the remaining Suus, will mingle in the open area. Zri will of course be lurking wherever he is needed.”

The entire group turned and looked at Zri, he smiled and shrugged. Lurking was what he did. It was how he kept everyone safe. They all chuckled.

“OK, places!” Nalau said and clapped for emphasis, she nodded to her food staff and within a minute the food and beverage  displays  were  on  the  tables,  complete  with  little enclosed waterfall centerpieces. That was a brilliant choice for a planet that had no surface water!

Everyone hurried to where they were supposed to be. Nalau walked up and down the receiving line, making sure everyone met with her approval. She fussed over the broach on Bartala’s coat. Making sure it was perfectly straight. She took her place in line just as the ship set down.

The large center door opened, four Suus stepped out, two carrying the tall red banners that were customary. They flanked the walkway. Kiik exited the ship and began walking toward the platform. A long, single file line of Rogsaars followed behind her.

She stopped in front of M, “Kiik, welcome back to Myaad, thank you for all you’ve done.”

“My pleasure Muse of Mischief, I would love to stay and chat but…..” They shared a moment of humor before Kiik moved on. To stall the returning Rogsaars at this point would throw several of the attendees into a tailspin.

Because the Rogsaars were most interested in seeing the Bivoors and the Dumeers, the line moved quickly. Besides, they had all been on Ploosnar together a few days ago. After the last of the Rogsaars passed through the line, Kiik’s crew came and joined the reception.

M and Brzko stood back and watched the group. With the returning Rogsaars and the others that had survived on Myaad, there were now hundreds of identical beings in one place. The only Myaads that could not attend were those filling the positions of hive Caretakers. With all they had been through, it was just too risky to have them leave the hives, even for something as joyous as the reception.

Bartala  approached  M  and  Brzko,  “Ahhhh again the misfits gather and watch. Why do the three of us dislike crowds?”

“Four of us.” Lelelu said as she joined them. “Five of us.” Zri said as he joined them.

The misfits as Bartala called them, stood in a group watching  the  festivities.  Empress  Nalau  and  all  of  the  Suus seemed to be having a grand time mingling with Bivoors, Rogsaars, and Dumeers.

“It’s not that I dislike crowds…” M said searching for the right words, “it’s just that I’d prefer to be doing something specific.

“Like planning a trip to Trella?” Zri asked. “It will be the five of us that go right?”

“Oh yes, oh yes, let’s go very soon!” Bartala said. “Once my son is born I will have less freedom. And maybe we will find clues to your origins.” he said nodding toward M and Brzko.

“I don’t think Brzko and I have anything pressing after this reception. Do we Lelelu?” M asked.

“No, not really. The dignitaries of Drolla O0 have asked for you or Brzko to attend a ceremony of sorts, but I’ve given the proper excuses to get you out of it. I know how much you two love attending ceremonies.” Lelelu jabbed.

“How long do you need to prepare Zri?” Bartala asked. “I can be ready within two days.” he answered.

“OK then we…” Bartala was interrupted.

The group was so engrossed in planning for their next expedition that they didn’t notice the Theatre platform had been cleared and turned into a stage of sorts. There were three Bivoor, one standing front and center had a wireless earpiece microphone unit, ready to address the crowd.

“May I have your attention please, attention please.” The Theatre went silent, all eyes were on Bivoor.

“Not long ago we thought Myaad would die. After aberidus took so many of us and prevented us from repopulating, we truly thought we were lost. But thanks to tenacity of one Rogsaar we are here today, with eggs developing in the hives and our long lost travelers returned home. We still have so much work to do, but before we begin I want to thank Rogsaar of Earth. Rogsaar please come forward.”

The crowd scanned, looking for Rogsaar; once spotted the crowd gladly parted for Rogsaar to pass. This was a different Rogsaar  than  M  and  Brzko  had  first  encountered  in Scorchbrooke, there was no more loneliness and despair.

“We owe it all to this Rogsaar constantly tinkering with a flashport. For those of you unaware of how this all came to be, let me explain. Rogsaar continued trying to contact home by sending various items through the flashport, but they did not arrive on Myaad, they were sent to Ploosnar. This attracted the attention of Emperor Bartala, through the hard work of the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko, the mystery was solved. The Suus then came to our rescue by sending Kiik to help eradicate aberidus and restore the hives. Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, Emperor Bartala, and Kiik, please join us on stage.” The entire crowd turned their eyes toward the group that preferred to stay out of the spotlight.

“Oh yea! This is the part we all love.” M mumbled sarcastically to the small group.

“Ha! How do you think I feel? I have to take the stage next to you in those purple shoes and that ridiculous derby!” Bartala jabbed.

“Yeah but at least my hair doesn’t stick straight up!” she jabbed back.

His hands instantly went to his hair, smoothing it.

The trio slowly walked toward the stage, meeting up with

Kiik at the steps. They stood in a line next to Rogsaar of Earth. “Please join me in thanking the  group responsible for

returning Rogsaars to Myaad and curing aberidus.” Bivoor said. The crowd went wild, they began stomping in unison. You could feel the vibration; luckily it didn’t last too long. And even better, Bivoor didn’t ask anyone from the group to speak.

Once the crowd quieted down Bivoor addressed them again. “As many of you know, not all Rogsaars chose to return to Myaad, we hope that one day, they will at least come to visit their home. But we understand that they have established new lives around the Universe and we wish them happiness. Emperor Bartala has offered to provide repairs to the Rogsaar ships that his team was able to salvage. Thank you Emperor, thank you. Many Rogsaars were forced to call these neglected ships home while they were stranded. It is my pleasure to announce that Bivoors have decided to make these ships the property of the Rogsaars. Once the ships are repaired they will be free to travel where and when they desire. It is our hope that this gift will inspire more Rogsaars to visit their homeland, and even better, to inspire Rogsaars to begin exploring again!”

This announcement was met with great enthusiasm from the crowd. Once the stomping subsided, Bivoor made the final statement, “Welcome home to all of the Rogsaars!”

They all left the stage, glad to be out of the spotlight, and accepted that mingling with the crowd was necessary.

G’ist and Rogs were standing near a table, snacking on the fresh fruits Empress Nalau had provided when the speech began. Afterward G’ist turned to his partner Rogs, “Did you hear that Rogs? We’ve just been provided an opportunity.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your ship. Your ship now belongs to you. Once it is repaired we can travel. You can introduce me to some of the places you seen.”

“I cannot think of a better way to spend my life G’ist.”

M and Brzko were standing near a table snacking on lusimis when Ciic and Kiik approached. “Friends” Ciic projected, “we have come to say our goodbyes. We must return to Suus.”

“I  guess  things  here  are  winding  down.  We  will  be leaving soon  too.”  M  stepped forward and  took  Ciic’s lower hands in hers, “Ciic thank you for the help you have provided Myaad. We could not have saved them without help from the Suus.”

“Muse of Mischief it is always my pleasure to assist you and Agent Brzko, please call upon me anytime. If you ever slow down, I hope you will come to Suus just to visit.” Ciic projected.

M released Ciic’s hands and turned to Kiik, “Kiik, it has been a pleasure getting to know you. I look forward to our next adventure! The help you have provided the Myaads is invaluable. Ciic is lucky to have as the lead researcher. I hope you will lead the  team  that  returns  to  Myaad  when  the  eggs  are  fully incubated.”

M’s compliments rendered her silent for a second or too, gratitude emanated from her. “Thank you Muse of Mischief. I do not often get to work in the field, and working with you has been an honor.”

It was Brzko’s turn, he grasped one of Ciic’s lower hands, bent and kissed it, the same way he did with Empress Nalau, “Your Majesty, it is always a pleasure to see you. Safe travels my friend. Please give Muum our best.”

Ciic was taken aback, she did not know how to respond to an exchange such as this, he didn’t wait for a response. Instead he moved on to Kiik, “Kiik, it has been a pleasure. I wish you the best my friend.”

He had flustered them, joy and excitement emanated from them. They turned and began walking up the hill to return to the landing pad, all of the other Suus joined them at the bottom of the hill. The power of their minds joined together, projecting the same  message  as  they  looked  down  on  the  crowd  from  the hilltop, “Goodbye friends, we are better for knowing you.”

The  entire  crowd  turned  toward  them,  waving,  and wishing them well. With the Suus gone, the crowd began to disperse. The reception was over. The Rogsaars had finally made it home.


Kiik’s ship left Ploosnar before anyone awoke. Zri was on his way but he would not arrive until late this evening or early tomorrow. That meant the group had a free day. They had gathered for breakfast in the great dining hall.

“Lelelu, I know you’ve been to Ploosnar before, is there anything you’d like to do today?” Empress Nalau asked her.

“Yes Empress. You may not remember this but many years ago when I was here, we visited your personal tailors. They made me the most amazing jackets. If it is possible, I would like to visit the tailors again.” she answered.

“Absolutely. That sounds wonderful. I am always up for a visit to the tailors. M will you be joining us?”

“New clothes?  Hell yeah, count me in.  What about shoes?”

“Uh-oh, next they are going to be deciding what color to paint their toenails for the reception.” Brzko said to Bartala.

Lelelu spoke before Bartala could respond, she cleared her throat, “For your information I don’t have toenails.”

They all laughed.

“Touché!” Brzko said.

“We cannot win with three of them Brzko.”

“Let’s go to Smd and get some fresh niptdyn for dinner.” he said.

“That sounds much better than a visit to the tailors.” Bartala and Brzko stood to leave the room. Bartala kissed Nalau’s cheek, “Have a wonderful day my love. I will see you for refreshments this afternoon.”

Brzko reached for M’s hand and pulled her up to standing. He literally swept her off her feet as he leaned her back giving her his best Hollywood movie star kiss. As he righted her, he said, “Until later my darling Muse of Mischief.”

She was a bit dazed as he turned and left the room with Bartala. Nalau and Lelelu were laughing as M plopped back down in her chair. “OK are you two readies then?”

“Yes, I’d like to walk. It’s not very far and the weather is perfect right now.” Nalau said.

As the trio walked through the foyer to exit the palace, M caught a glimpse of them in the mirrors that line the wall. “Wait, look.” she said.

The other two turned toward the mirrors, confused. “We look good!” she said.

And they did. Empress Nalau was dressed in her usual fashion, a royal blue ankle length dress. The skirt had a slit up the left side and both it and the short jacket were lined with black. The jacket had tabs and black buttons on the back. Lelelu was wearing a short grey skirt with a short, cropped shirt of the same fabric. She also had short boots and a fantastic hat that M had never seen before. The Muse of Mischief was wearing a short red and black dress, the bodice was tight, resembling a corset, the skirt was short and ruffled. She also had a matching jacket. It was black lined with red and black heels. The stockings she wore today were not striped.

It was indeed short walk. The ladies arrived at Nalau’s favorite tailor, Schatorren after a quick walk through the streets near the palace. Everyone they encountered recognized the Empress and gave right of way to the group. It was difficult to blend in when you were followed by palace guards. The shop is a huge unattached structure. The entrance is grand with two large arched doors, a butler stood in attendance to greet shoppers. As the trio approached, the doors swung wide and the butler welcomed them.

“Your Majesty! We are honored to have you visit Schatorren Designs today. Please enter.” He bowed deeply as he gestured for the group to enter the doorway.

They had barely stepped over the threshold when they were greeted by Schatorren himself. “Empress Nalau. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit today? It must be clothing for your friends, as you already look so divine today that I cannot suggest a single improvement.” At this the Ploosnarian sporting a Londo hairstyle bowed deeply and kissed Nalau’s hand. M was impressed to see that Bartala’s new hairstyle was catching on.

“Schatorren, surely you are not suggesting that my wardrobe is too large? It would upset me deeply if I were not able to add to it,” she teased.

Her sarcasm caught him off guard, for a moment he thought he was in trouble, “I apologize Empress.  I did not mean…”

She interrupted him, “Relax Schatorren, I was being humorous. A day out with the ladies makes me a bit playful. May I present the Muse of Mischief and Lelelu.” she said gesturing toward her friends.

Schatorren approached M first, he bowed, “Ahhhh the Muse of Mischief! You are famous throughout the Universe. You honor me with your visit today. And you are the most fascinating creature I have ever seen.” He said turning to Lelelu, reaching for her hand. “What are you? Other than absolutely divine?”

“I am a Trelod.” Lelelu said, enjoying the attention.

“Are all Trelods as blue as you are? You look like you were meant to be on Ploosnar where everything is blue. Where are you from?” Schatorren asked.

“Trelods are indigenous to the Planet of Portals, but most of us live in many places throughout our lives.” Lelelu explained.

Schatorren, seeming a little out of sorts due to his infatuation with Lelelu, stepped back to address them as a group, “What can I do for you ladies today? Are you looking for something specific?”

“I am in the mood for new shoes.” Nalau said. “I would like something purple.” M said.

“I would like new jumpsuits for traveling. With matching hats in a style no one else has ever seen.” Lelelu said, clearly having fun with Schatorren.

He clapped his hands and instantly he was surrounded by a small crowd; two designers and three design assistants. “For you, the very best shoe designer we have.” he said motioning toward one design team. “For you, my superhero team.” he said to M. “And you, I will design for you myself” he said to Lelelu as he grasped her arm and escorted her off to a design center with an assistant following close behind.

M and Nalau followed their designers to the appropriate design center.

Each designer has a small sitting area in an absolutely grand room. The ceiling so high you can hardly see it. The room

is large and open, but each designer’s area is clearly defined by their style. A variety of chairs, sofas, and stools placed around each design table. The design tables were tall, with a slanted top.

The process at Schatorren Designs starts with an interview. The designer enjoys refreshments with the client, getting to know them and “breaking the ice.” As the client describes what they want, the designer begins to sketch ideas. With the client able to see the designs develop, and offer input prior to completion, they are assured of getting something they love that is uniquely tailored to their desires.

“My name is Kilome. It is an honor to have been selected to design for the Muse of Mischief.” Kilome said as he gestured toward a small sofa in his design area.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Kilome. How long have you been with Schartorren?” M asked taking a seat.

“I have been at Schartorren Designs for many cycles, close to twenty, ever since this new location was opened. Before that, I was designing on Drolla O0. I find Ploosnar more to my liking.”

“Drolla O0, are you Sarfet?” M asked.

“Yes, partially.” he answered. “My mother is from Ploosnar and my father from Drolla O0. As far as I know I am the only being that is Ploosnarian and Sarfet.”

“I guess that would explain why your eyes are not blue.

At first I thought you might be wearing contact lenses.”

Kilome is an intriguing being, tall and thin with dark hair. He wears his hair all one length but slicked back, away from his face. As M took a closer look, she could see that his nose is at a slight angle and the nostrils are slightly flared – both traits of the Sarfet.

“Well then I guess I will have designs like no one else has even imagined!” M said.

“Oh yes! Of that I can assure you Muse of Mischief. Are you looking for a certain type of garment? Where will it be worn? What type of activities will be performed in the garment?”

“I was thinking of something new for the reception on Myaad when the Rogsaars arrive home. You are aware of the Rogsaars I presume?” she asked.

“Yes, several of the Rogsaars had new garments designed during their stay on Ploosnar. A few of them are even employed here. So, you are thinking of something formal?”

“Hmmmmm I do like formal clothing, very much. But… sometimes I am called upon to deal with situations at a moment’s notice. I don’t have time to change out of restrictive clothing.”

“I have an idea…” Kilome took a seat on the high stool at his design table and began sketching. It only took a few moments before he had enough of a design to show M. “What do you think?” he asked as he tilted the sketch toward her.

“Wow! I think you nailed it!” She said as she stood to take a closer look.

“Nailed? Is that a positive reaction?” he asked with slight apprehension.

M laughed, “Yes, it’s slang from the planet Earth. To nail something is to get right, exactly right.”

He looked relieved.

The design sketch was of M, she even had her hands on her hips with one foot extended making her look like the sassy time traveling, aperture jumping being she was. The skirt was a little longer than she usually wore, it was hard to run in long restrictive skirts, but the bottom half of this one was designed to be fringe, so it moved.

“What do you think?” Kilome asked.

“I’m impressed Kilome. It looks like I will have complete mobility even though this is a little longer. And this…” she traced her finger over what looked like a train.

“Is a short train to more formalize the garment. But it will

be removable in case you need more mobility.”

The top part of the garment looked like a corset with bows made of ribbon running in a line down the back. The same ribbon would be run in three straight lengths down the front of the corset.

“You will of course need a matching jacket or wrap, shoes and stockings.” Kilome quickly sketched those things. The shoes were amazing – pointed toe high heels with several shades of purple.

“Kilome, this is magnificent! How did you manage to create designs that are so perfect for me after only speaking for a few moments?” M asked.

“Ahh, you haven’t spent much time with Sarfets have you?”

“No, not really.  Just a little trading on Smd, I love niptdyn.”

“Some of us are empaths. In fact all Sarfets used to be empaths but the skill has been waning with the last few generations. For a race that functions primarily as traders, it is a valuable skill – and for me as a designer as well.”

“You can design for me anytime Kilome!”

“It is my honor Muse of Mischief. If you will excuse me, I will begin the creation process. The garments will be delivered to the palace later today.” Kilome said as he stood.

“Of course Kilome, thank you.” M said as she stood, planning to go look for her friends. But as Kilome walked away, Lelelu approached.

“Hi Lelelu, how did your designs turnout?” M asked.

“I think they will be the best garments I’ve ever worn. I went all out, seven new sets!” Lelelu said, sounding exhausted. “But it will be money well spent.”

“Money  well  spent?”  inquired  Empress  Nalau  from behind them, “Oh no Lelelu, today’s outing is at the courtesy of the Palace. It is truly a pleasure for Bartala and me to be able to provide you two with these gifts. You do so much for the Universe, and you never ask for a thing in return.”

“But Empress….” M attempted to object.

Empress Nalau dismissed her objection with a wave of her hand, “I’m pulling rank here M. As Empress of this planet I insist. Now let’s go down the street a few doors and have some tea before we return to the palace.” She began heading toward the entrance of Schatorren Designs.

“Wait tea?” Lelelu asked a little confused. “Isn’t that an Earth beverage?”

“Originally  yes,  but  Ploosnarians  know  a  good  thing when they find it. Some of our early explorers brought back samples from our first Earth missions. We’ve been cultivating it ever since.” Nalau answered as the trio stepped out on the sidewalk.

“Well,  not  just  cultivating,”  M  interjected.  “I’d  say they’ve been improving it. They’ve enhanced the flavors.”

Once out on the sidewalk a pair of palace guards fell in step behind them. The trio returned to the palace after enjoying their tea, they returned in plenty of time to enjoy the niptdyn with Brzko and Bartala.


The group approached the Suus ship from the palace side, opposite the side where the Rogsaars were gathered. All of the Rogsaars were there, even those staying on Ploosnar or returning to where ever they had made new lives. The Suus stood in formation next to the ramp; today they were using the doorway on the long side of their ship. The ramp was decorated with the tall banners they had been carrying when they arrived on Ploosnar a few days ago. Kiik was standing at the base of the ramp, as the group approached, she stepped forward and address Bartala.

“Emperor Bartala on behalf of the Suus I would like to thank you and Empress Nalau for your hospitality and generosity. The Suus are better for having made this alliance with Ploosnar. Should you need our assistance in the future please do not hesitate to call upon us.” she projected as she bowed toward the royal couple.

Bartala stepped forward and clasped both of Kiik’s lower hands in his own, “It has been our sincere pleasure to host you and your team Kiik. We will see you on Myaad in a few days.”

With pleasantries exchanged the group prepared what looked like a receiving line. Kiik’s team boarded the ship, no doubt to direct the Rogsaars once they were onboard. Kiik stood at the base of the ramp, Emperor Bartala next to her, then Empress Nalau, then the Muse of Mischief, then Agent Brzko, then Lelelu.

Nalau leaned toward M and whispered in her ear, “M switch places with me. You have had more to do with the Rogsaars returning home than I have.” She stepped behind M, intent on taking her place.

M shifted over next to Bartala just as the Rogsaars approached in single file. First in line was the Rogsaar from Earth. Agent Brzko extended his hand. “Rogsaar, I’m so glad we were able to help you return to…”

Before he could finish speaking Rogsaar lurched forward and embraced him. “Rogsaar so happy, so grateful. Brzko, you saved me from a sad, lonely life.” He continued on down the line without further comment, as did the remaining Rogsaars that were returning to Myaad.

“Well, I guess that’s all of them Kiik. I understand you want to have everyone settled in before you leave for Myaad in the   morning.   Should   you   need   anything…”   Bartala   was interrupted by someone yelling.

“Hey, hey Kiik, don’t leave yet sister!  Kiik wait a minute.” It was Afrit the Great of Jinn running toward them waving his hands in the air. In a flash, the palace guards were in front of him blocking his path as he neared the landing pad.

“Its OK let him pass.” Bartala called to the guards.

Afrit the Great was smoothing his clothes as he walked toward them, as though the guards had soiled him, “I don’t understand why your guards are so tense.”

“I am the emperor and you cannot just run up to an emperor.” Bartala said.

“Emperor, right.” Afrit said dismissively, waving his hand as if being Emperor were no more important than a pesky insect. He approached Kiik, “I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you Kiik. I’m glad to have met a Suus that I like.”

Kiik projected, “Goodbye Afrit the Great, thank you for the navigational charts you have shared with us. We are grateful. You are not going to attend the reception on Myaad?”

“No, nope, I’m just not feeling” it sister. I’m hitching a

ride back to Jinn with that Rogsaar over there,” he pointed to one of the Rogsaars that was staying behind. “I appreciate Bartala’s hospitality but eh… I’ve seen enough of Ploosnar. Besides I need some good food. The food here!” He said rolling his eyes.

Bartala took a step forward, ready to confront Afrit the Greta’s comment about the food. Nalau stopped him by pinching his arm. It would only draw things out. Brzko turned his head in order to stifle a laugh, the scene was quite comical.

“Thank you all, we will see you soon on Myaad.” Kiik projected as she turned and walked up the ramp, entering her ship. The ramp lifted, closing the entrance.

“Well, that’s that then. Hey if you guys are ever near Jinn feel free to stop in and look me up.” Afrit the Great said as he walked away.

They stared after him, all a little dumbfounded at Afrit’s casual departure.

“Who wants nekmid?” Bartala called loudly as he began walking toward the palace.