CHAPTER 32: THE EVACUEES

“Currently there are 279 individuals here. Unfortunately we were unable to resuscitate a few of them. For the most part their physical condition is good, of course their muscles need time to recover from stasis. We encourage everyone to participate in a body movement regime in the morning, and a stretching regime in the evening.” Dr. Q’osp is the lead medical professional on Xinood 5. Because his specialty is species other than Xinoods, he is the lead on the medical team serving the evacuees on Gaznzul.

“What about their mental state?” The Muse of Mischief asked.

“Some of them will need some time. As you can imagine, some of them are delirious. Left in stasis for so long, they resigned themselves to accepting that this was to be their eternity. Now that they are free, they have to change their outlook. Sadly, there are almost thirty beings that I suspect will not recover from the dementia. They have been moved to a special facility, where they can be properly cared for.”

“How many different species have you identified?” Agent Brzko asked.

“Identified? Seventeen. There are several that none of us have seen before. Most of them are humanoid, but not all of them. Luckily we have some very skilled veterinarians, they are helping to create the proper environments for the lesser beings. We suspect the species we’ve never seen before are from a different universe. Assuming of course that it’s true that the VReoria can travel the Multiverse.”

“We think it’s true.” M said. “In fact we suspect they hid there when Dragona fought them off. The Dragons were convinced that they had eradicated them, but they may have been hiding in a different universe.”

“That would make sense.”

“Do you have a list of the evacuees by species?” Brzko asked. Dr. Q’osp handed him a tablet with the list. “There were humans? The VReoria had humans?” Brzko asked, looking up from the list.

“Yes, as you can see there are four.”

“Are you aware of humans any place other than Earth?”

“Actually yes. There is a small colony of them in the Glion Galaxy, I’ll have to research exactly where. And interestingly these four all have similar genes, they are related.”

“I know there was one young Dragon found on the second ship, were there any others?”

“No, there are no Dragons here, but there are a few haplogawas. Luckily they are too young to be dangerous.” As Brzko scanned the list, with M looking over his shoulder, Dr. Q’osp continued. “We’ve already begun making arrangements to transport anyone who has recovered to their original home. So far, every official we’ve contacted has been willing to help the evacuees reestablish their lives.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” M said. “What about the new species, what’s the plan for them?”

“We don’t know yet. I think that there are concerns for not only their safety but the safety of others, given that we know nothing of them. That is a decision for the Universal Coalition. Would you like to meet some of the evacuees?”

“Yes! We definitely would.”  M said.

“Follow me.” Dr. Q’osp said. He turned and headed to the entrance of the barracks.

He scanned a key card to gain access, just inside the door was a small reception area, there was someone seated at a desk, reviewing information on a tablet. He looked up, took note of Dr. Q’osp and returned to his work.

The main room is a large day use area. One side of the room opens to a cafeteria style counter with small tables and chairs clustered in front of it. There is a sitting area with sofas and stuffed chairs, and a few gaming areas. There are a variety of individuals scattered about, some eating, some talking, some sitting quietly.

“Come, follow me please.” Dr. Q’osp headed across the room toward a sitting area with several yellow individuals. Zri had returned from Misko, he was there with a large tablet spread on the table in front of them.

“Oh, Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, I’d like to introduce you to some new acquaintances of mine.” He said standing up. “This is Numia, Chuna, Bloma, and Scomia. They are Keaterans, we were just trying to locate their home world.”

The Keaterans are bright yellow humanoids with pointed ears. Each clothed in bright red sarong type garment. Following Zri’s example, they all stood to receive M and Brzko. After the greeting, everyone took their seats again.

“You honor us with your presence, thank you for rescuing us.” Numia said.

“You’re welcome Numia.” M said. “I’m glad to see that you all seem to be faring well. Do you need anything?”

“We are attempting to find our home on these navigational maps but we do not see our planet. In fact we do not see anything we are familiar with. These planets are all different.”

“Is that chart from the Suus?” Brzko asked.

“No, it’s actually from the Jinn – who have more detailed charts.” Zri said.

“How many galaxies have you looked at?” Brzko asked.

“We’re most of the way through our Universe.”

“Does anything look familiar?” Brzko asked.

“Yes, the position of the planets in this area is similar to an area I worked in, but it is not precisely the same.” Numia said, scrolling to a map of the area near Trella with a hand made up of a thumb and two wide fingers.

“What type of work did you do?” Brzko asked.

“Cargo. Chuna, Bloma, and I worked on a cargo ship. We mostly hauled food to and from Keatera. Our captain did not survive the fight, she was killed when the VReoria overtook us.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. So was your crew entirely female?” Zri asked.

All four of the Keaterans tilted their heads, and slowly blinked their almond shaped eyes as if Zri were suddenly speaking a language they could not understand.

“Yes, Keatera is a matriarchy. Males do not usually leave their homes.” Numia said.

“Interesting.” M said smiling. “I can see the benefits of that! What were some of the characteristics of the planets in that area that looks familiar.”

“Tren is a unique planet.” Chuna said.

“How so?” M asked.

“It is entirely pastel, with colors that are beautiful but not normal.” Chuna explained.

“So what planet on this chart is the closest to where you would expect to see Tren?” Zri asked.

“Here.” Numia said, pointing to Trella.

Zri looked up, he M, and Brzko stared at each other for a few seconds. He looked back at the tablet and called up images of Trella. “Does Tren look like this?”

“Yes! That’s Tren.” Numia said.

“Interesting, this is actually a planet we call Trella. So, it would seem that you are from a different universe.” Zri said.

“How do we get back to our universe, to our home?” Chuna asked with desperation.

“We don’t know.” M said. “The VReoria are the only species we know of that can travel purposely from one universe to another with accuracy.”

“We don’t want to rush you into making any decision, but please consider what you would like to do now that you’re here.” Zri said. They all four just looked at him. “There are many planets that will take you in, help you establish housing, employment, a place in the community.” They could see the disappointment on their faces. “We’re not suggesting that we will give up on trying to find a way to get you home. But, living here at a temporary medical facility? Well that doesn’t seem like a good option.”

“You’re right.” Numia said. “We are all still in shock about our situation. We need some time to think about it. Do you think it would be possible for us to work together on a cargo ship again?”

M decided to jump in. “Yes. I have a friend that does a lot of shipping, his planet produces an element called ronaid, they ship it all over this Universe.”

“That might be a good fit for us. We will discuss it. But a ship is no place for Scomia. She needs to finish her education in a stable environment.” Numia said.

“If you decide you’re interested in shipping ronaid, we may be able to find a home for her on the same planet. What do you think Scomia, are you interested in continuing your education in a home on the same planet where Numia, Chuna, and Bloma work?”

She shrugged, again looking at her feet. “OK.”

“If there’s a different place that you’d like to live please feel free to tell us. We’ll try to accommodate your request.” M said.

Again she shrugged. “OK.”

“Well, Brzko and I need to check in with some of the other evacuees.” M said, standing up. “If you need us for anything, just ask one of the medical staff to contact us. They can reach us anytime.”

M and Brzko made their exit and walked a ways away from the group of Keaterans. “Hey, I need to go see Emperor Bartala. Empress Nalau sent me a message while we were chatting. I need to go see them.”

“So what did she tell you when she got off the ship, before she left for home?” He asked.

“Well, basically… she wants to work with us.”

“OH!” His face displayed his surprise. “I see why you need to speak with Bartala, I’m assuming he’ll try to stop her.”

“Of course. So you can see why I need to go to Ploosnar, I need to verbally slap some sense into  him.”

Brzko laughed. “I’d love to watch but…” He hugged her. “OK be careful M. I’m going to visit with a few more of the evacuees before I call it a day. I’ll see you at home later.”

CHAPTER 31: A FRIGHTENED DRAGON

The Suus had managed to coax the young dragon into a private room. That had calmed her enough that she stopped throwing fire, but as he approached the door to the room, Ferocity could see burn marks on the walls and floor. He gave the door a single knock and opened it a crack.

“Hello. I’m here to help you get home.”

She was standing against the far wall, looking at him.

Not sure if she heard him, he spoke again. “Can you hear me? Can you understand my words?”

“Yes.”

He entered the room, a little on edge, he didn’t want to get burnt. “I can help you get home.”

“I don’t know where home is, I don’t remember home.”

“Close your eyes, and try to accept my thoughts.” To his surprise she complied, he projected his memories of Dragona to her. After a moment he spoke again, “Do you remember this place? It’s called Dragona, it’s the place where all dragons come from.”

“Not me. I’m not from there.”

He didn’t want to argue with such a small being, she’d been through enough. “OK. Do you have any memories from before we got you out of the stasis tube?”   

“Yes.” She closed her eyes and focused on sending him images. “This is where I came from.”

The images he received were of some sort of lab. She was in a bin of some sort, looking at other hatchling Dragons. There was still debris from the eggs in the bin. He could see VReoria on the other side of the room.

“You’re egg was stolen before you hatched. I see. Do you know what happened to the other dragons, the ones that hatched with you?”

She sent him another image, there was a hatchling Dragon pinned to a work table. Three VReoria stood around the table, the Dragon was screaming in agony as they did something to it.

“Dead, all dead.” She said. “They kept only me.”

“I see.” He said. “What do you want to do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you can’t stay on this ship, it belongs to the Suus and they have other missions to perform. We are on a planet called Gaznzul. You can stay here at the medical facility as long as you want to, or I can take you to Dragona…”

“Is that where you live?” She interrupted.

“No, I am bonded to Lord Brzko. I live on his island, it’s called Misko.”

“That’s where I want to go. I want to live with you.” She broke down, ran toward him and grabbed his leg, just as Wisssi had grabbed onto M. She was so small the top of her head only came up to his waist. “Please, please don’t let them hurt me.” She sobbed.

He reached down and gently picked her up, cuddling her just as he had cuddled Wisssi. He began to making the purring sound, it calmed her. “OK, OK, you can come with me for now. But I need you to make a promise first.”

She leaned her head back so she could look at his face.

“I need you to promise that you will not throw your fire again unless I direct you to do so. Dragons are honorable, and we do not, under any circumstances, purposely hurt the innocent. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Do you promise?”

“Yes. I promise.”

“Good. You are a Dragon, you are strong, you are proud, you are honorable, and you carry the honor of all Dragons with you. You will walk off of the ship with your head held high, and you will apologize to the Suus before we leave for Misko.”

“What should I call you?”

“My name is Ferocity.”

“OK Ferocity. I will do what you have asked.”

“Because you are a Dragon, because you are honorable.” He coached.

She caught on right away. “I will do what you have asked because I am a Dragon, because I will be honorable.”

Ferocity turned and walked out of the room, assuming that the young Dragon would follow, and she did. Xiix,a few other Suus, M and Brzko were standing at the bottom of the ramp, waiting to see how Ferocity faired with the young Dragon that they could not control. Ferocity stopped just past the group. The young Dragon stopped in front of the Suus.

“I am sorry, I behaved without honor.”

Thank you little one, we understand how difficult this has been for you. We wish you the best.” Xiix projected.

The little Dragon accepted this as a dismissal and went to stand next to Ferocity.

By this time all of the evacuees had debarked the ship. Xiix said his goodbyes to the Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, and Ferocity, and boarded his ship to ready if for departure.

“I want to check in with the medical staff here before going home. What are you two going to do?” M asked.

“I’ll come with you.” Brzko said.

“Lord Brzko, if you do not need me with you, I would like to return home. I want to spend some time with…” He gestured toward the young Dragon, not sure what to call her. “…her. She has reguested to stay with me on Misko.”

“Of course Ferocity, M and I will join you later.”

CHAPTER 30: THE EVACUEES ARRIVE ON GAZNZUL

The Gaznzulians had cleared the Suus cargo ships transporting the evacuees for landing. It just wasn’t practical to transport over 100 beings to the surface via shuttle, especially when many of them suffered from muscle atrophy from being confined for so long. They’ve converted a training facility into temporary quarters for the evacuees. Originally there had been a very small wing of the facility that served the medical needs of the trainees – they’d tripled the size of the wing as soon as the rescue plans were made. They also brought in a team of medical professionals to help – Gaznzulians could handle the security of almost any species but not the medical needs. In addition to Gaznzulians there were Suus, Ploosnarian, Trelod, Myaad, Dragon, and Xinood medical professionals all standing by, ready to receive and evaluate the evacuees. A few of them were specialists in psychology. Each wore a white band around a forearm to identify them as part of the medical team.

The Muse of Mischief, Agent Brzko, and Ferocity, made sure to arrive before the ship did. As soon as they heard it land, they went out to meet it. They were all three anxious to see Lelelu and Zri, and to meet her father.

Zri stepped off the ship first and was greeted by the highest ranking Gaznzulian general. With the formalities over, he turned back toward the ship, motioning for someone to come down the ramp. It was Lelelu and her father.

“M! Brzko! Ferocity!” She called as she descended the ramp. She walked slowly, holding her father’s arm, supporting him. Lelelu approached each of them, hugging them as she went. Ferocity wrapped his wings around her as they hugged. Once released she stepped back and looked at him, “No one hugs better than a Dragon!”

“Hey…” Zri teased.

“I’d like you to meet Iysuno, my father.” They greeted him one by one, approaching him. He was walking, but with great effort. The muscles needed time to strengthen after decades in stasis.

They heard commotion at the top of the ramp and turned that way, first off the ship were those too injured to walk on their own. Always efficient, the Suus had loaded their beds onto hovering cargo transports, two per transport. Life support equipment blocked their view of the first two beings. After six of the hover transports containing the invalids had passed, two Suus came down the ramp with a group of young beings. M quickly counted them – there were eleven, including one that was carried.

One in particular caught everyone’s attention. Walking with small blanket wrapped around its shoulers was a yellow being with pointed ears. The facial features looked like most humanoids, with almond shaped eyes. M reached for the Suus telepathically, “What species is that?

We can find no record of such a being in the database, they call themselves Keateran.

Male or female? Do they speak?

Female, yes she is able to communicate. We have not alerted her to the fact that we have never seen her kind before. There are others on the other ship, adults.

By now they were at the bottom of the ramp, passing M and the others. “Oh, that’s good. She won’t be alone.

“Iysuno, do you want the medical team to attend to you?” Zri asked.

“No, no, I’m fine. Well going to be fine. The Suus gave me a once over on the way here. They did not find anything concerning with my health, it will just take time for my muscles to recover.”

“And how are you Lelelu?” Brzko asked.

“I’m OK Brzko. I… “ She paused, considering her next words carefully. “I’m OK physically but I have to come to terms with the reality that the Universe is more dangerous than I like to believe, and I either need to upgrade my weapons and shields or stop traveling alone. It feels like a betrayal, a betrayal of my freedom. Right now I just want to go home and sleep in my own bed.”

“We can help you with that, which home?” M asked.

“The one on Misko, I look forward to nothing but the sound of the waves.”

“Will you be going too Iysuno?” Brzko asked.

Lelelu answered before he could. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“There you have it, I indeed will be going with her. Do you have a ship here?” He said looking around, expecting to see a small ship somewhere nearby.

“Not exactly.” M said. “We can travel a little faster than that. Lelelu can explain once we get there.” She stepped forward and gently took Iysuno’s arm. “Zri, I’ll be right back to get you.”

M moved Iysuno to Misko before he knew what was happening. She kept a firm grip on his arm and used her other hand to help steady him once they’d arrived. “Easy now, the dizziness clears in just a second.”

Lelelu and Brzko arrived a second later. “Baba, are you OK?”

He didn’t answer her directly, instead he turned toward M, “You’re one of those beings, no wonder you led the rescue.”

“Those beings? Do you know others that can travel like we do?”

“No, no, just stories from childhood, stories of beings called Clyreans.”

They both really wanted to question him about these stories but it wasn’t the right time.

“I’ll get Zri.” Brzko said and left, returning with Zri a few seconds later.

“We’re going back to Gaznzul, call us if you need anything.” M said before she and Brzko left.

Back on Gaznzul, all of the evacuees had gotten off the ship. Waaw was waiting for them with Ferocity outside the converted barracks. “I’m glad you have returned.

Is something wrong?

No, no, nothing is wrong. The second ship is almost here, I need to go and I just wanted to thank you. A rescue mission of this size never would not have succeeded without great leadership. It has been my honor to work with the three of you.

It was our honor to work you Waaw.” Brzko said. “You have represented your home well, and without YOU this would not have worked. We all look forward to the next time we can work with you, but hopefully it won’t be a cause such as this.” After addressing each individually, Waaw headed for her ship.

“There you are! You always keep me waiting!” The familiar voice of Emperor Bartala was a welcome comfort, even if he was his usual sarcastic self.

M, Brzko, and Ferocity turned toward him as he walked out of the barracks, followed by two of his guards and a nanny. He was carrying a struggling miniature version of himself. “Now go get your your Autuania.” He said setting Wisssi down. They were dressed in identical outfits, both of them making serious fashion statement with identical long black jackets trimmed in purple, purple shirts and a black scarf secured with a jeweled family crest.

Wisssi ran over to M and grabbed onto her legs in bear hug. “Auta, Auta” he chanted. M picked him up.

“Hey little Bartala, how was your trip?”

“Auta, Auta….” he giggled, reached for hat and almost got it.

“Careful Wisssi, I might feed you to the Dragon.”

He tried to say Dragon, it came out more like a grunt. Apparently he’d already had enough of his Autaunia and started struggling again. M sat him down and ran over to Ferocity, who gladly picked him up. Ferocity made the purring sound that Wisssi loves, making him giggle again. Then he settled in, completely content to be held by a Dragon that could breathe fire.

“Huh… what’s he going to turn out like after being exposed to so many different species as a baby?” M asked rhetorically.

“For real.” Brzko said. “He’s going to think that Suus, Trelods, Dragons and Xinoods are part of everyone’s family.”

“Aren’t they?” Bartala asked sarcastically.

They heard the second evacuee ship before they could see it. Bartala was overwhelmed with the anticipation of seeing his wife. He started walking toward the ship as soon as it was down.

“Oh it’s OK Bartala, Ferocity can watch Wisssi for you!” M called after him.

He turned halfway toward her and waved his hand at her dismissively, knowing that if Ferocity tired of Wisssi the nanny would be right there to attend to him.

The ramp descended and Xiix walked toward them, “Hello.” He projected to all of them.

“Hello, I am Emperor Bartala of Ploosnar, I don’t think we’ve met.”

Ah, hello Emperor, it is a pleasure. I must tell you, your wife, Empress Nalau was of great service to the evacuees. She is a wonderful person.

“Yes she is, and I can’t wait to see her.”

She’s coming now.

Empress Nalau somehow managed to look regal as she descended the ramp, even though she wearing pants and work boots, was covered in a combination of dried stasis fluid and baby drool, and was carrying an infant and surrounded by a crowd of little evacuees. She was met at the bottom of the ramp by two of the medical team. They quickly whisked the children away. She fell into her husband’s arms and laid her head on his shoulder. They stayed that way for quite some time.

Ferocity, we are going to need your assistance. The young dragon you rescued had to be secluded. Everytime anyone approaches her she attempts to burn us with her fire.

Of course” Remembering that they were in mixed telepath company he switched back to speaking, “Of course. Right away.” He was still holding Wisssi, he was about to hand him back to M when Nalau left her husband’s embrace.

“Ezopica Mischievous Wisssdartai, I missed you!” She said as she reached for him. He lit up, squealing and kicking his feet and waving his fists. Ferocity sat him down and he took off, running toward his mother.

Ferocity followed Xiix up the ramp and the debarkation began as soon as they were out of the way. The same process as before, the most infirm were taken to the barracks first.

“Darling, are you ready to go home? There is a full medical team here, they can take care of the evacuees now.” Bartala said.

Nalau handed Wisssi to him, “In just a minute darling. I want to speak with M.” She didn’t wait for an answer, she just walked a little ways away. M followed, as did one of Bartala’s guards at a distance.

Once they were out of earshot she spoke, “M, this mission has changed me. It was dangerous, and disgusting…. I mean look at me.” She gestured toward the grime on her shirt, “I’m covered in dried stasis fluid, infant puke, and I don’t know what else. But I feel stronger than I ever have.”

“I’m not surprised Nalau, you kicked ass. You were much more of an asset than I had envisioned. You impressed all of us.”

“More, I want to do more.”

“What do you mean? More with the evacuees?”

“No, I want to take an active role in helping others. Like you, Brzko and Ferocity do.”

“You’re husband might not be…. shall we say agreeable to that.”

She laughed casually, “I’m certain that he won’t be, at first. But if anyone can help him understand that it’s what I need to do, it’s you. You two go back a long way, he listens to you, he trusts you. That’s why I wanted you to know first. So that when he comes to you and tells you he disallows it, you’ll be ready to squash his objections.”

“You know Nalau, I’m starting to feel sorry for my old friend.”

“Why?”

“Because with the two us working together, he doesn’t stand a chance!” They both laughed. “I’ll be ready for him, but please, at least wait a few days OK?”

“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try.”

“Now go home and take a shower, you stink!”

CHAPTER 29: QUICK TRIP HOME M UPDATES BARTALA

Thanks to the jump drive in Ferocity’s ship, it only took a few minutes to get home from the Glion Galaxy. After the intensity of the rescue mission, they didn’t want to use aperture travel to get home and leave Ferocity to make the trip alone. The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko had never been so glad to see Misko as they called it.

At the sound of Ferocity’s ship, Whotov came rushing out of Ferocity’s house. “You have returned! What news do you bring, was there success?”

“Yes Whotov. Lelelu is safe, the captives have been rescued, and the VReoria specimen ships have been destroyed. Come, I’ll tell you all about it.” Ferocity said, extending his wing around his butler and escorting him toward his home.

“Dibs on the first shower.” M said picking up the pace as she headed to her own home.

“Why? I don’t see why you should get the first shower, I smell just as bad as you do!” Brzko said following after her.

“Because I want to go see Emperor Bartala on the way to Gaznzul.”

“Oh, OK then. Be my guest.”

Showered, and in fresh clothes – low boots, tight black leggings, a short skirt, a corset, and of course her derby – M went to Ploosnar. Arriving at the bottom of the palace stairs she began the ascent. Bartala was waiting for her on the landing when she got to the top.

“Where is my wife M? Was Empress Nalau harmed?” He demanded nervously.

“No, not at all. She’s fine Bartala.” He immediately relaxed. “Where’s Wisssi?

“Inside with a nanny. I didn’t want him to see… to be with me in case you had bad news.” He turned and walked toward the palace, M followed.

The nanny was just inside the door. Wisssi reached for the Muse of Mischief as soon as he saw her, making some sort of indiscernible baby sound. The nanny presented the baby toward M, she had no choice but to take him. “Oh! OK then. Hello Wisssi.”

He squealed with delight. “Ah you see he already loves his Autaunia.” Bartala said. “Now, tell me how the rescue went, is Lelelu OK?”

“Yes, we were able to rescue Lelelu and destroy the VReoria specimen ships.”

“Specimen ships?”

“Yes, the VReoria travel around the universes collecting one or two of every species they encounter. They plan to either alter their own species or create a new species, with bits and pieces of their collection.”

“Wait, universes? They can travel through the Multiverse?” He interrupted.

“We think so. We rescued species that none of us have seen before, not even the Suus.”

Bartala was silent, letting this sink in. “Where is Nalau?”

“She’s on one of the evacuee ships with the young beings that were rescued in the Glion Galaxy. She wouldn’t leave them, insisted on staying with them until they get to Gaznzul, which will be sometime tomorrow.”

“Ah, that sounds like her. How many beings were rescued?”
“Around 300, and it seems most will survive… physically anyway.”

Wisssi grabbed the derby off of her head and dropped it on the floor, squealing with delight. Bartala reached for him. “OK, OK, little Emperor, that’s enough torturing your Autaunia for today. Physically?” He said wanting M to continue.

“Each being was held alone in a stasis tube. It kept their bodies from aging but their minds were functional. That kind of seclusion is sure to have driven some of them over the edge. They’ll be evaluated at a rehabilitation facility on Gaznzul, those that are OK will be found places to live. Those that are not, will be able to live out their lives in the rehabilitation facility.”

Bartala looked like someone had punched him in the gut. “I cannot imagine the anguish they must have suffered. And there were young beings? The VReoria are truly vile creatures.”

“And one of the beings rescued is Lelelu’s father.”

“What? No, he was killed when she was a child, was he not?”

“Apparently not, just captured by the VReoria and put in stasis.”

Wisssi began to fidget, Bartala let him slide down to the floor. He waddled off, down the hall giggling, one of his nannies right at his heels.

“He can walk already?” M asked.

It took Bartala a second to answer, he was still processing everything M had told him. “Hmmm? Oh yes. He can walk. He’s Ploosnarian! Not human or whatever it is that you are!”

M was relieved, her friend was returning to normal. “I think you should consider taking Wisssi to Gaznzul to meet your wife. She’s going to need you with her when she begins to process all that she’s been through.”

“Oh I’m sure she heard and saw things she’s not accustomed to while handling the administrative duties, but she’s strong, she’ll be fine.”

“Uh Bartala, she wasn’t in an office somewhere. Empress Nalau was on the front line of the combined forces, helping to release the captives from stasis.”

“What!? The Empress of Ploosnar, my wife, took an active role in the mission? I don’t know what to say.” He stood there, with his mouth agape, looking completely dumbfounded.

“Well first, close your mouth. You look like a dork. And then get your butt in gear and have the guards prepare your ship, you and Wisssi are going to Gaznzul. I’ve got to go.”

“Mmm OK. We’ll see you there.” He turned to go find a butler that could make the arrangements and M returned home.

“How’s Bartala?” Brzko asked. He and Ferocity were sitting at the table eating something that smelled divine.

“Fine. I told him to take Wisssi and go to Gaznzul to meet Nalau. What are you eating? More importantly, is there more? I’m starving!”

Brzko smiled, “It’s lasagne, there’s a plate for you in the oven, salad’s on the counter.”

M went to the kitchen and got her food before joining them at the table. “Do you want to leave for Gaznzul as soon as we finish eating?”

“I’d like to but I don’t think we should.”Brzko said. “The first rescue ship won’t arrive until the morning; and Ferocity needs some time to contact the Great Assembly on Dragona; and we should contact Ciic, and Vustia. I’m sure they were in contact with their ships, but they may have questions for us. Oh and sleep would be good.”

“Oh sleep, right.” M said sarcastically, making Ferocity laugh.

“I know how to make you slow down M.” Brzko said grinning. She just looked at him, waiting. He reached under the table and produced a beautiful titanium bottle.

“Espidrun!” She exclaimed. “Now you’re talkin’!” She jumped up to get glasses.

Ferocity sat his fork down and looked over at Brzko, tilting his head slightly.

“An old Earth phrase… I’m not sure of its origins but it basically means ‘now you’re saying something I agree with’.”

“Earth must be a very difficult place. Why don’t they just say what they mean?” He picked up his fork and went to work on his salad, because of course Dragons eat with utensils.

M returned with shot glasses and lined them up. She opened the bottle and filled each with the hot pink liquid, they all three watched the blue steam rise as it was exposed to oxygen. She distributed the glasses and held her up, “To a kick ass mission!”

CHAPTER 28: LELELU’S FATHER IS FREE

Lelelu had fully recovered from shock before they left for the specimen ship shere she had been  held captive; but she still wasn’t herself. First she’s never experienced anything as dangerous as a kidnapping. She thinks, or thought, of herself as an independent and capable being. But now, she has to accept that she is more vulnerable than she thought. And then there was her father. She wondered if she had invented his voice in her head. Maybe it was her own survival instincts that had created that voice, knowing it would mobilize her. This was all racing through her mind as Ferocity’s ship took them back to the VReoria ship near Cazoova, the ship where she had been imprisoned.

Zri could feel her stress and discomfort, he reached for her hand. “Lelelu I’m here. We’re in this together.”

The ship lurched, as the jump drive disengaged. They were above Cazoova, surrounded by the ships of the combined fleet. In front of them was one of the largest Suus ships. Just as Zri was trying to figure out how he would determine which ship held the evacuees, Ferocity’s ship spoke to them.

“You are clear to initiate transport to the Suus ship.” The ship said in a voice that was neither male nor female sounding.

Zri has never interacted with a sentient ship before, “Uh OK. Is it the ship directly in front of us?” He asked aloud, assuming the ship was listening.

“Yes. I have contacted them, you are expected.”

“OK then.” He and Lelelu stood up, he activated the transport and transported them to the cargo bay. The scene was almost identical to the other Suus ship, but there were even more evacuees here.

Lelelu immediately took off to search for her father. “Lelelu wait.” Zri called. It was no use. He couldn’t stop her.

Zri! I was informed of your arrival. We have cleared the VReoria ship and are ready to destroy it.

Zri turned and saw Waaw approaching him. “Waaw! I’m relieved to see you. Before we deal with the VReoria ship we need to deal with something else. Did you find a Trelod in gallery?”

Yes, her father is here. He is waiting for her in this room.” Waaw gestured toward one of the private rooms near them. Through the clear glass in the center of the door, Zri could see a Trelod lying on the bed. He looked around for Lelelu, she was walking toward him with a Suus. It was evident from the look on her face that she had been told her father was rescued. She hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

When she got to Zri he didn’t say a word, he just opened the door for her. Before he closed the door, he heard her father’s relief when he saw her. “Le!” They needed some time together, some time alone.

Zri turned to Waaw, “Let’s go take a final look at that VReoria ship and then destroy it.” Waaw nodded, they both transported to the ship.

The gallery of the VReoria specimen ship looked like it had been the site of a riot. The floor was wet with stasis fluid, and there was well over 100 destroyed stasis tubes. “This is disgusting… what those beings must have endured being held here for so long.”

Indeed. Some were held for well over their expected lifetime. We have also recovered species that we’ve never seen before, species from other universes we suspect.

Zri turned toward Waaw quickly, he was shocked. “What? Species from other universes? So the VReoria ARE able to travel back and forth in the Multiverse?”

That seems like the logical conclusion.

Zri heard a new voice in his head. “Commander Waaw, the ship has been cleared. We are the only beings aboard.” He turned to see a Suus subcommander enter the gallery.

Very good. Zri, unless you have more to do here I propose that we return to the evacuee ship and commence with the destruction of this one. The other specimen ship has already been destroyed.

“Waaw, what do you think the odds are that there are more specimen ships?” Zri asked.

Odds? When one is certain, there is no need to consider the odds.

Once he was back on the evacuee ship, Zri went to check on Lelelu. She was still with her father, of course, he quietly knocked once. She looked up and her face lit up when she saw him. She rushed to the door and opened it.

She jumped into his arms, “Zri! I’m so glad you’re here. I want you to meet my father.” She took him by the arm and led him across the room, “Baba, this is my partner Zri. Zri, this is my father, Iysuno.”

Iysuno attempted to stand, but he was weak from decades in a stasis tube.

“You don’t have to stand sir, it is my honor to meet you.” Zri extended his hand.

“Le, help me up.” Iysuno said, ignoring Zri’s outstretched hand and lifting his left arm toward her. Zri immediately knew where Lelelu got her stubborn streak. He turned back to Zri, “I insist.” He said as he managed to stand, leaning on Lelelu. He extended his hand, “The honor is all mine Zri. Without you neither my daughter nor I would be here now. Thank you.”

Zri paused, the past few days were catching up with him. He didn’t know what to say, there was just too much going on in his head at the moment. He was afraid he’d break down again.

Lelelu rescued him, “As our friend the Muse of Mischief said, eh, it’s what we do!”

“When will I meet this creature?” Iysuno asked. “Please sit.” He motioned Zri toward a chair next to the bed.

“Thank you.” he said taking a seat. “She and Agent Brzko will meet us on Gaznzul.”

“How long until we arrive at Gaznzul, Zri?” Lelelu asked.

“We will be there before morning.”

CHAPTER 26: RESCUES IN THE GLION GALAXY

Agent Brzko and Ferocity arrived in the gallery of the second VReoria specimen ship. The VReoria were waiting for them. With Brzko behind him, Ferocity swept the room with his icy breath. Ice was sometimes safer than fire, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. The icy breath of a Dragon had the desired effect, the VReoria were immediately immobilized.

Brzko activated his earcom link, “The transporter is in place.” The gallery immediately began filling with members of the combined fleet, including the Muse of Mischief.

They could all hear ShyUst via earcom link. “Clear the room of all VReoria and station a guard at each entrance. I want a perimeter established in the gallery now.”

Soldiers continued to transport in – Gaznzoolians, Ploosnarians, Trelods, and Suus. As they arrived ShyUst directed them out into the main ship. They could hear the commotion but they had other work to do.

“We want to take the VReoria live if possible, but once captured they will activate their death gland and extinguish themselves. Be ready.” ShyUst commanded to everyone.

Xiix arrived to help with the stasis tubes.

“Xiix, do you know how to safely deactivate the stasis tubes?” M asked.

Yes.” He approached the nearest tube and opened a panel at the base. “Like this. Someone be ready to catch the inhabitant – you’re going to get wet.” He pulled out a cluster of wires, singling out the two red wires, he yanked until they were disconnected.

The clear tube began to descend into the base, as it did the stasis fluid began to gush out, drenching all of them. The head of a male humanoid became visual, it looked like it might be a Ploosnarian. He began to fall toward Ferocity. The Dragon reached up and took the being securely by the shoulders as the remainder of the fluid spilled out.

Lean him down so that I can reach the breathing tube.” Ferocity complied. Xiix removed the clear piece that covered the beings mouth and nose, and then slowly began to pull on the breathing tube. “Remove the tube slowly, and be ready to provide rescue breathing.

As soon as the tube cleared the being’s mouth he began coughing. Ferocity gently laid him on his side, on the floor next to the tube, bending over him, he attempted to wake him. “You’re going to be OK, you’re free again.”

The being’s eyes fluttered, then opened. He looked around disoriented and then realized a Dragon was leaning over him. He screamed. Brzko went to his side and projected calmness, it worked.

Suddenly they were surrounded by Suus. “We have a ship setup to receive the evacuees and attend to them. Work in teams and start freeing them from the stasis tubes. This team will transport them as quickly as we can free them.” Xiix projected, referring to the Suus that had just arrived, they all wore blue armbands to signify their role. The strength of the four armed Suus made them the perfect candidates for transporting the evacuees. One of them stepped forward and easily lifted the first being that had been rescued, immediately transporting him to the evacuee ship.

Empress Nalau transported into the gallery, not quite looking her usual self. Her hair was tightly bound and she was donning work pants and boots. “How can help?” She asked walking over to them.

“Empress! How did you get here? It may not be safe.” M said.

“I don’t have time for safe M. There’s work to do. And to quote a dear friend of mine, I might be female but I’m not feeble.

M smiled. “OK let’s go.” She led Nalau to the next stasis tube and showed her the process.

Brzko and Ferocity took the next tube. And so it went for quite some time. They cleared tube after tube, freeing species they were familiar with as well as some they’d never seen before.

After M and Nalau had cleared several tubes she heard Zri. “M.” He called. She could tell by the way that her earcom link had activated that this was a private conversation, the earcom links of the others were not activated. M motioned to a Suus, and for Nalau’s benefit she spoke to her outloud, “Fill in for me for a second. I’ll be right back.” The Empress didn’t even look up from what she was doing, she kept working falling right in sync with her new partner.

After stepping aside M replied. “I’m here Zri, is Lelelu OK?”

“Yes, she’s OK. But we’re going back to the other specimen ship. She needs to see if her father has been rescued yet.”

“How will you get there?”

“My ship is here.”

“But that will take a few hours won’t it?”

“Yes.

“Hold on, I have another idea.” M reached for Ferocity using telepathy. “Ferocity, Zri and Lelelu need to get back to the first specimen ship to see if her father has been rescued. But it will take his ship a few hours to get there…

He interrupted her, “My ship will take them and then return here. Tell them to sit down and prepare for jump.

Understood.” She activated her earcom link to reach Zri privately. “Ferocity’s ship will take you, it can get there in minutes. Sit down and prepare for jump. Once you get there and transport off of the ship it will return here.”

“Will do. Please give Ferocity our gratitude.”

The Muse of Mischief rejoined Empress Nalau, there were still stasis tubes to clear.

The rescuers worked nonstop. The scene was slimy chaos – the floor was covered in thick stasis fluid with breathing tubes and wires scattered about. It wasn’t until the four of them approached the last tube that they realized they had cleared them all. M stepped back and let Brzko and his Dragon handle the last tube. Ferocity was focused on the wires, pulling the red ones. As the tube began to descend, and the liquid began to spill Brzko saw that the being was a Dragon, a very small one.

Brzko positioned himself to catch the dragon, “Ferocity look.”

Ferocity stood up and saw the Dragon. He gasped and took over the retrieval, gently laying the dragon down and removing the breathing tube. Everyone stayed silent, hoping that this was not going to be one of the few deceased specimens they had encountered. The Dragon didn’t move. Ferocity leaned down, and with his snout next to the small Dragon’s face he made the same purring sound that had calmed Wisssi. One of the Dragon’s toes twitched. Ferocity continued to purr. The Dragon became more animated, eventually becoming fully awake. If Ferocity hadn’t been there, the team would not have been able to resuscitate this small Dragon. One of the Suus with a blue armband came toward them, ready to transport the Dragon to the ship with the other evacuees.

“I will take her.” Ferocity said quietly, as he stood, lifting the small Dragon.

As you wish.” The Suus projected.

Ferocity manipulated his Gaznzulian armband and transported off the ship.

M activated her earcom link, “ShyUst, what’s your status? We have evacuated everyone from the gallery.”

“We have three VReoria in holding, the rest have been dispatched. We are making a final sweep of the ship, searching for anyone we may have missed. We’ll meet you in the gallery.”

“Copy that.” M said.

Empress Nalau approached one of the Suus that had been helping to transport the evacuees. “Will you please show me how to adjust this transporter? I want to go to the ship with the evacuees.” She held her arm out.

It would be my honor Your Majesty.” They both transported to the other ship.

Luckily the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko were alone in the gallery, they needed a few minutes to catch their breath. This had been a rescue operation like no other.

“You look like shit M. You’re soaked with that nasty stasis fluid.” Brzko teased as he embraced her.

“Hey I’m not the only one! Ewwwww….” she said pushing him away. “Do I smell like that too?”

“Ummm yeah. You stink.”

“We could jump home real quick and shower….” she said knowing that they would never do something so selfish.

Brzko just laughed. “So did everything with the clone work like it was supposed to?”

“Yeah pretty much. They thought it was me until it was too late. By then Lelelu had gotten away and I detonated the clone.”

“So was it weird to blow yourself up?”

“It was a relief… having a clone of yourself is really creepy Brzko, really creepy.”

ShyUst entered the gallery, “The ship is clear. We are ready to destroy it.”

“Good.” Agent Brzko said. “Ferocity, what’s your location?” he asked using his earcom link for the benefit of the nontelepaths.

“Aboard my ship, awaiting instructions Lord Brzko.”

Brzko turned back to ShyUst, “M and I will watch the destruction form Ferocity’s ship. How long will it take for the evacuees to get to Gaznzul?”

“From here, almost a day. They have already departed with a full security escort.” ShyUst answered.

“OK, we’ll meet them at Gaznzul. Thank you ShyUst. You led the combined fleet through a difficult mission.” Agent Brzko said, shaking his hand. “How are the evacuations from the other ship progressing?”

“The VReoria ship is clear and ready to be destroyed. The evacuees are already underway to Gaznzul even though there were more beings held on that ship. They had about the same survival rate. And interestingly, that ship seemed to have several species we’ve not seen before. Maybe that ship had been in other universes – we’ll be able to meet the new species when we get to Gaznzul.” ShyUst said.

“Excellent. We’ll catch up with you there.” And with that M and Brzko left the specimen ship for Ferocity’s ship.

“How’s the young Dragon, Ferocity?” M asked as soon a they were aboard.

“She is expected to make a full recovery.” He answered solemnly. “Where are we to go now?”

“Home.” Agent Brzko said taking a seat. “ As soon as they blow up that ship let’s go home. I want to shower before we head to Gaznzul to meet the evacuees.”