By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 25

Captain Jones joined the boys, dogs and Ox in the ICU room to take another look at Blue and his vitals.  He saw his eyes open and a tear running down both cheeks.

“Ah, Blue, it would seem your human reptilian brain stem is producing some moisture in your eyes.”  he said quietly as he took a tissue and wiped away his tears.  Waco, Lucas, Ox and even Scraps laughed.

“He said it wasn’t his reptilian brain stem, it was his own overwhelming emotions at seeing for the first time without having to link with another brain to experience it.”  Waco told Captain Jones.

Arlen paused for a moment.  “That’s good, Blue!  No, that’s great!  Have you tried making your mouth move?  I’ve seen you move your head slightly.”

They watched as Blue’s mouth opened and closed again, but nothing came out but escaping air.

“That’s all right.  You’ll learn.  It’s gonna’ take time.  You’re doing just fine.  Seems like you’re going to have a roommate for a while.”

“He says he understands.  He wants to know about Keekepata?”  Waco told Arlen.

“They’re just about through fixing her up.  It’s a good thing she passed out.  Cable wasn’t sure what it might take to anesthetize her.  He’s done a first rate, remarkable job of repairing the damage to her.  We know little about her biology and will have to download information from the Visallian’s computer banks about her physiology, tolerances and biology.  It would also be helpful to know what she eats, and what it will take to keep her healthy.  I’ll get on that immediately.  It would help if I had Ping here to establish communications with Captain Vinceeth.  I’m surprised they haven’t discovered her missing.  Scraps, would you and Happy be so kind as to go to the other barn and get Ping for us?  I think it’s enough of an emergency we should have her participation.”

“Sure, Captain Jones.  Well be back in a jiffy.” Scraps and Happy, once again, sped off through the portal to the barn.  A short while later they returned to the ship with Ping.  Ping took one look as Keekepata and appeared gravely concerned.  Arlen expressed his concern for when she woke up she would be in terrible pain.  Ping smiled sweetly and shook her head, ‘no.’

“Ping says she will keep her sedated, Captain Jones.  She can produce a pheromone which will induce a deep sleep for her.  It will be easier on her system than chemicals.  After a while, she can provide her with another pheremone which will block most of her major pain centers.  She doesn’t want to take away all pain or she will think she’s completely healed and might try to fly.  As long as there’s a modicum of pain, she won’t do something stupid.”  Lucas told Arlen.

“Good, we’ll leave that to you, Ping.  In the meantime, we’ll try to establish communication with Captain Vinceeth.  Waco or I should probably explain what happened and ask his input.  He’s welcome to come here or we can meet him at coordinates of his convenience.”

Jonathan stuck his head into the ICU.

“Cable asked me to tell you he’s ready to move Keekepata to a bed.”

“That’s fine we have an extra bed in here.”

“He knows, but he needs to talk with you, Waco and Lucas about it.”

The men walked back into the surgery area.

“What’s up, Cable?” Arlen asked.

“Unless we want Captain Long walking in here and finding our unusual patients you might want to consider moving them to one of the unused storage areas.  For that we’ll need your help.  We have to set up a sterile area with, perhaps, a portal from the ICU room to there.  As long as Captain Long doesn’t know about the portal the boys secret plans will be safe until they’re ready to present them to him and Master Charlie.”

“Sounds like a plan.  Is there a place we can move them temporarily until we have a little more time to prepare an adequate storage vault.”

“Cable, what about that four room hospital in the small New Mexico town we brought on board ship before we settled here in the blue mountains?  There’s a country doctor and he has a mate who’s his male nurse attendant.  We wouldn’t have any problem there.  We can explain to them why we need to use their facilities for a while.  They wouldn’t have any problems with a couple of unusual patients.”  David declared.

“I remember that place.  We rescued about eight hundred people from being totally wiped out from a huge meteor that fell on the town.  It was so dark it was never picked up by astronomers.  Nothing was left but a huge crater.  There was no trace of the town.  Of course we lifted it about two hours before the meteor hit.  What was the name of it?”

“Parsons, New Mexico.  It’s on one of the racks in the storage area on ‘B’ deck.”  Jonathan said.

“That would be perfect.  We can open a gate from the surgery to their surgery.  We just checked it out a month ago and took them medical supplies.  Captain Long met with the town people.  Everything seemed to be going well.  They had a few questions, but no complaints.  Said they were glad to be away from the rest of the country.  They were happy.  Captain Long isn’t scheduled to visit again for a year unless they have problems; however, it’s a quiet little place, I don’t foresee that happening.  How does that sound, Captain Jones?”  Cable asked.

“Great!  Let’s do it.  Bring Keekepata and place her alongside Blue, cover her well and while we’re trying to contact Captain Vinceeth you men set up the portal.  Ping, before we go to the bridge you better go in there and do your thing for her.  Do we need to vacate or will it effect us?” Arlen asked Ping.

“She says we should go to the bridge.  It won’t effect Cable, David or Jonathan.  They can just close the door to Blue’s room.  It causes an air tight seal, and they can evacuate the air from the surgery immediately afterward.  Then she’ll join us on the bridge.”

“Fine, we’re on our way.  Come men, let’s leave our medical staff and Ping to finish up here.” Captain Jones ordered.

When the men got to the bridge there were a couple of androids on duty.  They looked up from the communications area.  There was a transmission coming in.  It was from Captain Vinceeth.  They were looking at it on a small screen.

“Put it up on the holoscreen, Six.” Captain Jones ordered the android with the large ‘6’ on his uniform.   He flipped a switch and a three dimensional holographic image of Captain Vinceeth appeared on the holoscreen.  The transmission had been going for sometime.

“. . .  and we’ve looked everywhere.  We can’t find her.  We’re hoping she might have done something impulsive and tried to stowaway on your ship, Captain Goodnight.  She’s very young by Shushonni standards and has a tendency to be foolishly impulsive.  I know she was taken with you, and she knew how I felt about you.  She may have gotten mixed signals and wanted an adventure. We’re never quite sure with our young Shushonni. They go through a rebellious period just before they mature.”
“Can you set up a link, six?” Arlen asked the android.

“Stand on the platform over there.”  the android spoke in a cold metallic voice.

“Go on, Waco.  He’s your friend.”

“God, I hate to be the one to tell him.”  Waco moaned.

“It’s part of being a leader, Son.  If you start young, it will be easier for you as you grow older.  Trust me.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Waco didn’t argue as he headed for the platform and stood waiting.  The android flipped another switch and a red light came on over what Waco assumed was the holocamera.  The android pointed to him they were transmitting.

“Captain Vinceeth.  Forgive me, Sir.  I just got to the bridge of our main ship and didn’t have time to hear all your transmission.  We’re recording, and I will review the first part later; however, I’ve heard enough to know your reason for communicating.  We have Keekepata.”

“Thank goodness!  We’ve torn up my ship looking for her and interviewed everyone.  Is she all right?  Is she there with you, Captain Waco?”

“No, Sir.  She’s in our infirmary.  Our best guess is she somehow stowed away on the Buttercup and managed to elude everyone.  She was badly injured by an animal on our ranch.  I will give you the complete details later, but two of our best surgeons have mended her wounds, and she’s in our Intensive Care Unit resting.  She’s been sedated so she won’t be moving about.  She needs to rest and begin healing.”

“Blazes!  Her parents will be distressed.  Is there anything we can do?”

“Yes, we need you to download all information you have about the biology, physiology, care and feeding of a young Shushonni female.  Any information you can provide us as to chemical or natural medications and dosages which will aid in healing or sedation will be most helpful.  We also need to know what a healthy diet would be for a Shushonni.  We don’t even know what they eat.

We would like to offer our assistance to you in any way we can, Captain.  If you would like us to bring Keekepata to you at any coordinates most convenient for you we will be happy to oblige.  If you wish to come here, personally, to get her we will be happy to receive you.  Whatever you think is best for you and Keekepata is what we will do.”

“I never doubted you would be that kind of man, Captain Waco.  I will have our physicians download all information they think pertinent for the medical care and healing of a Shushonni.  We will provide you with the other information you requested as well.  I don’t know exactly what we will do right now.  I need to discuss this with Keekepata’s parents and family and get back to you.  Will you be available for the rest of the night?”

“I won’t leave her side until I’ve heard from you, Captain Vinceeth.  Me and my slaves will guard her with our lives.  We have no idea what she had in mind, but she was rescued by two of our finest and most wonderful animal friends.  Scraps, you and Happy come over here and join me.”

Captain Vinceeth watched the young man as he whistled for two animals.  He had never seen dogs before and was impressed by their beauty and friendliness with Waco.

“Scraps, would you like to tell Captain Vinceeth how you and your wife, Happy, saved their friend?  See that red light up there.  Talk to the light.”

“Hello, Captain.  Wife and me, we go out from ranch house to relieve ourselves.  When we return, we see big cat chase strange winged creature.  We know it unusual so we give chase.  We come to barn and cat already catch creature in mouth.  Wife jump up on hay behind cat and I make him drop his catch.  We see it look like small human with wings.  I tell her to get on my back, and we take her to man who can help.  Me and wife, bring her to Mr. Cable.  He good man.  He and Captain Jones fix her good.  She resting now.  My rock friends, they sing to her.  They heal her like new.”  Scraps looked up at Waco for approval.  Waco knelt down and hugged both Scraps and Happy.

“You two are heroes.  You done good.”

“I’m impressed, young man.  You certainly have some fine friends.  What does he mean ‘his rock friends?’”

“Some years ago, my Volgoron slave Ox, whom you met on our ship, and his adopted dad rescued the last of an intelligent silicon based life-form floating in deep space after their world was destroyed by a collision with another body.  They have been on the Bandersnatch ever since and have remarkable healing powers for carbon based life-forms like you, me, Keekepata, Scraps and Happy.  They are remarkable beings.  They are our friends and companions.  The delivery you brought us was a clone of my body to be an interspecies experiment.  Yesterday, we implanted one of the finest of their species, a special healing crystal we call ‘Blue’ into an organic human body.  It is to give him more mobility and abilities they don’t have as static entities.  There is a lot more I’ll be happy to share with you, but that’s an overview for right now.”

“My God, you become more interesting to me the more I get to know you, Captain Waco, and now you tell me I had a copy of you on board my ship all that time.  I would very much like to be your friend as well as suitor.  Let me go over this transmission again.  You watch the first part of mine and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done.  I fully understand how a young Shushonni can be impulsive, especially if they feel they’ve found a kindred spirit.  You have no idea the magnetism you have, Captain.  If Keekepata was drawn to you half as much as I was, she would brave the greatest dangers to be by your side.  Farewell for now, young Captain.  Thank you for everything, and I’ll look forward to speaking with you again soon.”

“Good evening, Captain Vinceeth, my friend.  I’m so sorry we couldn’t have communicated under happier circumstances.”

“I’m satisfied you’re doing your part for Keekepata’s well being.  At least I know she’s safe and in the hands of men who will care for her.  Goodbye, friend.”

The Captain cut the transmission, and he was gone.  Arlen, Lucas, and Ox started clapping.  Even the two androids clapped for Waco.  Scraps and Happy were all over him.  Waco knelt down again to hug them and shed a couple of tears.

“Thanks, Scraps.  You were wonderful.  So were you, Happy.”  Scraps didn’t say anything, he and Happy just wagged their whole bodies.

“I couldn’t have done better myself, young Captain.” Arlen complimented Waco.  “Well done!  That should have relieved him a little.”

Cable, David, Jonathan and Ping came in and they played the transmission again from the beginning.  They were as impressed as Arlen with Waco’s bearing and diplomacy.

“I think you have an admirer in Captain Vinceeth, young man.” Arlen chided Waco.  “He is an exceptionally fine looking Visallian.”

“I agree, but I’m happy with my slave, Captain Jones.”  Waco wrapped his arm around Ox’s huge waist and leaned into him.  Ox looked down, smiled and put his arm around his young master.  Then Waco added, “Will that get me some Lummox tit later?” he smiled and Ox bellowed a laugh.  

The men returned to the infirmary to check on Keekepata and Blue.  Blue was awake but Keekepata was fast asleep.  Waco had an urge to pet her, but he resisted.

“What about asking the Kryscellians to come in and sing to them before we move them.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea.  Did you contact Dr. Stevens and his mate?” Captain Jones asked Cable.

“All done, Captain.  We set up the portal and checked it.  They have no one in their hospital right now and said it would be nice to have some visitors.  They’re ready for us.”

“How is this going to work out for you men?” Arlen asked Waco, Lucas and Ox.

“I have to stay with Keekepata until I hear from Captain Vinceeth.  Lucas, you can go on back if you want and get some sleep.  Ox will stay with me and keep me company.  Scraps, you and Happy may go on back and get some rest.  You must be tired.”

“If’n you don’t need me, I think I will go back, Master Waco.” Lucas said, “I have to get up early to help in the kitchen and then get my master ready for his day.”

“We go back with Lucas, Master Waco.  Can we visit tomorrow?” Scraps asked.

“Of course you can.  Cable will let you through.  We were gonna’ bring you to meet our new brother tomorrow anyway.”

Lucas and the dogs left and went to bed.  Cable, his men, Waco and Ox took Blue and Keekepata through the portal to the small, but clean hospital.  They met Dr. Stevens and Arnie, his assistant.  They were nice men and were happy to accommodate them.  Arlen said ‘goodbye’ to them.  He wanted to return to his ship for the rest of the night.  He told them he would return for a while in the morning to check on them.  

They gently transferred Keekepata to a bed of her own and made sure she was warm.  Everyone left and only Waco and Ox remained.  Waco gave Lucas instructions to tell Charlie and the ramrod, Waco decided he and Ox needed an evening to get away and decided to stay the night in Ox’s stateroom with the Kryscellians.  The following day was a Saturday and the boys didn’t have school.

* * * * * * *

Lucas said ‘goodbye’ to Scraps and Happy in the yard.  He took his boots off on the bottom stoop and quietly returned to his room.  He undressed and started to return to his bed when he began to think about his master.  He tiptoed into his room and over to his bed.  Lazarus was breathing softly in the moonlight.  Lucas moved the covers down and gently crawled into bed with him trying not to disturb him.  He moved his body up against Lazarus and turned his back to him.  He sighed deeply.  Lazarus stirred and Lucas felt a big arm thrown over him and pull him close.  He smiled to himself.  It almost seemed like an autonomic response Lazarus had done hundreds of time when they bunked it in together.

“Where you been?”  Lucas heard whispered in his ear as Lazarus planted a light kiss on his neck.

“What do you mean, Sir?”  Lucas whispered back stalling for an answer.

“I went to the head a while ago, and I noticed you weren’t in your bunk.”

“I was on an adventure.”  Lucas thought he may as well tell the truth.

“Was it a good one?” Lazarus asked.

“Yes, Sir, . . . very good.”

“You men are farther along on your Kryscellian project than your brother wants me to believe, ain’ chu’?”

Lucas didn’t answer.  His heart began to race.

“That’s all right.” allowed Lazarus, “Boys need their secrets.  Is everything under control?”

“It is now, Dad.”  Lucas responded.

“Am I going to like the results?”

“Beyond your wildest dreams, Master.” Lucas said slowly.

“Good!  I’ll look forward to it.  Now let’s go to sleep.  Morning comes early.  Glad you decided to join yore’ old man.”

“I needed to be close to you, Sir.  I almost lost a sister tonight.”

“You don’t have no sister.”

“I do now.” teased Lucas.

Lazarus didn’t respond.  He just pulled Lucas closer and kissed him on his neck again.

* * * * * * *  

“What physical therapy have you given your twin brother?”  Arnie asked Waco.

“None.  We just implanted Blue into his new body yesterday.”

“Arnie is a physical therapist.” commented Dr. Stevens, proud of his mate.

“No one has mentioned physical therapy, but it makes sense to me.  Do you think you could help us out, Arnie?”  Waco asked.

“Be happy to.  Things get a little dull around here sometimes; however, we ain’t complaining.  We’d rather have things Mayberry dull than live back on the planet’s surface from what we see going on.  Every day we’re more grateful for our rescue.  To have a couple of actual aliens in our hospital is a treat; to say nothing about getting to meet a real Bigfoot.  This is remarkable.  He is much more handsome than I imagined they might be, and he don’t smell bad a’ tall.”

“We get that a lot, Arnie.”  Waco winked at him and smiled at Ox.

Everyone went back to bed and left Waco and Ox to keep watch.  Ox sat in a comfortable overstuffed chair they had in the two-bed room and patted his lap for Waco to join him.  Waco crawled up into his Lummox’s big arms to be cradled like a baby.

<< I was proud of you this evening, Master Waco.  You are learning to be a leader, but I think you are a natural at it.  Does my young master still want some Lummox tit? >> Ox smiled.

<< I am a bit peckish.  I’d shore’ ‘nuff  appreciate a little.  It would relax me and calm me down a bit. >>

Ox gently placed his big paw behind Waco’s head and moved his mouth to his left tit.  Waco eagerly took it into his mouth and began to suck.  Ox’s warm milk began to flow.  Arnie came back into the room to bring some last minute supplies he thought of.  He stopped in his tracks to see Waco hooked up to the big creature’s tit sucking away like a young shoat on his momma’s teat.

“I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure you had these . . .”   he stammered.

Waco unhooked and turned to him with Lummox cream dribbling down his chin.

“It’s all right, Arnie.  It’s one of the fringe benefits of owning a Bigfoot for a slave.”

“Where can I get mine?” Arnie asked grinning. “Sasquatch ‘R’ us?”

Waco fell asleep in Ox’s arms, but his Lummox stayed awake all night to make sure their patients were not distressed.  Blue shut down for the rest of the night and allowed his new body to rest.

* * * * * * *  

Waco always slept like a rock after he had Lummox milk.  That night was no exception.  Ox let him sleep and he kept watch.  He knew his young master well enough by then to know he was physically and emotionally exhausted.  Waco didn’t wake up until he smelled food and heard Dr. Stevens and Arnie wheeling in a food cart.  They prepared breakfast for Waco and Ox.  Ox usually didn’t eat people food, but he graciously ate the eggs and cereal they brought him.  Blue was awake and was stimulated by the wonderful smells of food.

<< That smell.  Is it food? >> he projected to Waco and Ox.

<< It is, indeed, brother.  They were kind enough to bring us breakfast. >>

<< I have to learn to use my body quickly.  I can feel my mouth watering at the thought of how those smells will translate to my taste buds.  It will be a totally new and wonderful experience for me.  Why is there a rumbling sound coming from the lower portion of my body? >>  Blue asked like he was concerned something wasn’t working properly.  Waco and Ox laughed.

“That’s just your stomach telling you the food smells good, and it wants to know if you are planning to send some its way.”  Waco said out loud.  Arnie and Dr. Stevens heard Blue’s stomach and laughed at Waco’s response.

“Can he eat, yet, Waco?”  Dr. Stevens asked.

“Not yet, I’m afraid.  We were going to try to start him on some Lummox milk this morning.  He should be able to suck.  Infants are provided that information from birth.  Once he learns to ingest and swallow, chewing should follow easily.”

While they were eating, Cable, David and Jonathan came into the room to check on them.  They brought along a monitoring device they put over Keekepata’s bed.  They checked her out and were pleased at her progress. They received the requested information from Captain Vinceeth and had food for her should she wake up.  They also told Waco he had a conference call with the Captain scheduled for 0:800.  It was only 0:600 at the time.

Arnie took the food trays away and returned shortly.  Waco was standing by Keekepata’s bed looking down at her and admiring her beauty.  He was feeling bad for her and decided to see if she was dreaming.  He closed his eye and gently eased his way into her mind.  He saw multiple colors.  He could see she was sitting by a azure blue pond on a bed of soft green moss.  She had her feet in the water and was making little waves with her tiny feet.

<< Hello, little sister, what are you up to? >>  Waco asked softly.  She jumped a little but turned her head to him and smiled when she saw him.

<< Waco, is that you? >>

<< Yes, it’s me.  May I join you? >>

<< Of course, you may.  I’m so glad to see you.  How did you find me?  I came looking for you, but I couldn’t find you.  Something happened and now I’m here.  Where is this place? >>

<< It’s a dream in your head, little one.  I’m standing beside your bed.  You’ve been hurt, but I wanted to come to you to let you know you’re going to be all right.  Do you remember anything? >>

<< I remember a big animal with a long tail chasing me.  He had green eyes and large fangs.  Then I remember these two other animals who were not like him.  They were soft and furry.  They saved my life, Waco.  They made the other animal drop me, and they carried me to your bio-mechanical friend Cable.  I don’t remember anything after that. >>

<< You passed out.  The animals who rescued you are called ‘dogs’ on our world and they came to get me after they took you to Cable.  Cable and his men patched you up, and another animal friend of ours whom you met on our scout ship, the one with the beautiful tail, gave you an organic sedative to make you sleep soundly.  You may wake up anytime you wish, but you may hurt some and be sore.  Can you wake up now? >>

<< I don’t know if I want to.  Are you and Captain Vinceeth mad at me? >>

<< I’m not.  I spoke with the Captain last night after Cable patched you up.  They were relieved to know we found you, and you are with us.  He was upset you were hurt, but I think he was more concerned for you than mad. >>

<< I guess what I did was wrong, but I wanted to be with you so bad, Waco. >>

<< What you did was more than wrong, Tinkerbell, it was downright foolish.  It was selfish and thoughtless of you.  A lot of folks were worried silly about you.  My heart almost broke when I saw you lying on that operating table in our surgery.  I shed tears for you, little sister, and felt awful when I had to tell your captain you were seriously hurt. >> Waco said.

Keekepata started crying.  Waco opened his eyes to see her tears running down her rosy cheeks.

<< You said you weren’t mad at me. >> she wailed.

<< I ain’t mad at you, little sister, but you deserved to hear that from me.  My heart would’ve stopped beating if you had been killed.  I would’ve never gotten over it. >>

Waco took a tissue and began to gently daub the tears from her tiny eyes.  All of a sudden she opened them and woke up.

“Good morning, little sister.” Waco spoke to her.

“Oh, Waco, I hurt all over.” she cried out in her tiny voice.

“I know.  I’ll get my friend Ping in here to take your pain away.”

“Ping is on the ship.  She came in early.  So did Scraps and Happy.  They’re waiting in the infirmary.”  Cable said.

Ping came and everyone left the room.  She produced a slight sedative for Keekepata.  She found humans didn’t respond to the same pain blocking pheremones as the Shushonni.  Most of Keekepata’s pain went away so it was bearable.

<< Thank you, Ping. >> she sent to her.

<< You’re welcome, young one. >>

The men came back in, but this time they had Scraps and Happy with them.  They were very mannerly, they didn’t jump up on the bed.

“Are they the ones who rescued me, Waco?” she asked.

“They are.  Keekepata, this handsome male is my friend and one of my companions, Scraps.”  Scraps wagged his tail.  “And this fine looking female is his wife, Happy.”

“Thank you Happy and Scraps for saving my life.” she said to them.

“You’re welcome, Ms. K.” Scraps said aloud.

“He can talk!” she observed.

“Yes, some of our other friends gave him the gift of speech when he was a hero once before.”

“Can the female speak?”

“No, Happy can’t speak, but we communicate with her with our minds like I do you sometimes.  Are you hungry, little sister?”

“Very.  I haven’t eaten since I left the ship.  I tasted something in a jar I broke in one of your domiciles, but it was too tart.”

About that time Arnie came in with a tiny cup and a small spoon that looked like it came from a doll set.  In the cup was some wild honey.  He gave it to Waco.  He took it and dipped the tiny spoon into the golden liquid and held it to Keekepata’s mouth.  She leaned forward a bit and tasted it.  A pleased look came over her face.

“That’s wonderful, Waco.  What is it?”

“It’s honey.  It’s made from the pollen of flowers on our planet by small flying insects we call ‘bees.’  Do you like it?”

“Oh, yes, more please.”

Keekepata devoured the small cup and asked for more, but the doctor and Cable said it was enough for now.  She could have more later.  She accepted their judgment and relaxed.  She looked around and saw the person laying in the bed next to her.

“Is that you, Waco?  How can you be here and there, too?” she seemed confused.

“No, no, that body is a clone of me; a copy.  It was the body your captain brought me.  It was created by the Daleks.  He was made from small amount of genetic material taken from my body.  He has inside of him another life-form.  His name is Blue.  He’s a wonderful friend and companion of ours.  He and his race of silicon based life-forms are helping you heal.  You may speak to him with your mind.”

Waco had to leave to take his 0:800 call from Captain Vinceeth.  He told Keekepata where he was going and he would be speaking with the captain.

“Tell him I’m sorry, Waco.”  she begged.

“No, that’s for you to tell him.  We’ll arrange a conference with you and him later on today.  You can tell him then.”

She looked nervous and frightened.

“He’ll be very angry with me.”

“Don’t you think he deserves to be?” Waco asked quietly.

She didn’t answer.

* * * * * * *

“You look terrible, Captain Waco.  Did you get any rest?” Captain Vinceeth observed with concern.

“Very little, Captain.  It’s good to speak with you again.  It makes my heart a little lighter.”

“How is she, Son.” the Captain asked.  Waco was moved the captain called him ‘son.’

“She’s awake.  Ping sedated her, but didn’t take away all her pain so she would remember she needs to heal.  I fed her this morning.  She feels bad about what she’s done and is worried you will be mad at her.”

“Let her think that, Captain Waco.  She deserves to feel that way for a while anyway.”

“We will set up a video camera in her room so you may see her yourself later today if you like, Sir.”

“No, that won’t be necessary.  You need some rest.  Tomorrow is soon enough.”

“Yes, Sir, that will be fine, Captain.”

“I’ve spoken with her parents and they’re relieved she’s all right.  I assured them she was being well cared for by several fine and good races of people.  They are as annoyed with her as we are, but they love her and can’t help be concerned.  We are in a difficult situation right now and can’t get away to meet you or come pick her up right away.  Can you take care of her for a while?”

“Of course we can, Captain.  I’ll look after her, personally.  I won’t let her out of my sight, and when I need to be away I’ll make sure she’s well taken care of.”

“Oh, she’ll love that!” the captain laughed.  “I don’t like rewarding her for her misdeed, and ordinarily would come whisk her away from you immediately to teach her a lesson; however, we are in a bind right now and would appreciate your further assistance.  My people will make it up to you, Captain Waco.  You will be rewarded handsomely not only by my people, but also by her people.  She comes from a wealthy family, Captain Waco.”

“Nonsense, we’re happy to do it.  We’re more concerned for Keekepata than the accumulation of wealth.  The most I want, is your and the Shushonni’s friendship and alliance, and in your case, in particular, your promise to me as a friend and suitor.”

“I know you don’t have anyone there coaching you, young Captain.  I know that comes from your heart.  You’re not the kind to toy with someone.  Of course, you have my solemn pledge of friendship as a Vissalian and as a warrior.  By accepting my pledge, consider myself a serious suitor for your affection.”

“Your pledge is gratefully and humbly accepted, Captain.  It is a great honor and privilege for me.”

“I told my superiors, you would ask for nothing more and nothing less, young Captain.  You have proved me right.  You have made me a happy warrior.”  

The men signed off.  Waco took Ox to his stateroom on the Bandersnatch and ordered him to lay down and get some rest.  He went to the house and put in an appearance.  Lazarus was already gone to work for half a day with the cowboys.  Lucas was in the kitchen finishing his clean up work.  Charlie looked at Waco funny but didn’t ask any questions.

“Dad, do you need me for anything today?”  he asked Charlie.

“Not that I can think of, what’s up?”

“Nothing much.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  Ox and I went to his stateroom on the ship so I could talk with the Kryscellians about our plans.  I need to do some more things today, but I’m worried about Ox.  He needs some rest.  You know how he gets sometimes.  He was up all night worried about me.  I told him to go to bed, but, . . .”  Waco shook his head and trailed of his sentence.

“If you need to be out there, go.  The way he frets over you he won’t rest unless you’re with him.  I can’t think of anything I need you here for.  Just get back either this evening or tomorrow morning.  We have church in the morning and then everyone’s coming for Sunday dinner again.”

“We will, Dad.  We may spend this evening out there, but we’ll make it a point to be back early tomorrow morning.”

“Good.  Try to make it for breakfast.”

“We will, Dad.”

After a brief conversation with Lucas, Waco returned to the Bandersnatch.  Little Bear and Travis were going into town with Charlie and didn’t have much time to talk with him.  Waco told them to check with Lucas about what was going on.  Waco returned to the Bandersnatch and found his Lummox fast asleep.  He took off his clothes and crawled into bed next to him.  Ox opened one eye, enfolded his young master in his huge arms and they drifted off to some much needed sleep.

* * * * * * *

The next afternoon Waco arranged for a communication  with Captain Vinceeth and Keekepata.  Waco told the Captain he would be happy to have his men and himself withdraw from the room so Captain Vinceeth could have a private conversation with Keekepata.

“That won’t be necessary, Son.  What I have to say to Keekepata may be witnessed by you and any of your staff you care to have present.  We have no secrets, and she needs to know the seriousness of what she’s done.”

Cable set up three invisible cameras for Keekepata and Blue.  Waco had three cameras on him at all times as well.  The three could operate independently or they could be linked to broadcast a holographic image.   Keekepata was awake but not feeling too well.  Waco just finished feeding her again.

“Are you all right, Keekepata?” Captain Vinceeth asked in a stern voice.

“No, your Lordship.  I’m afraid I hurt all over, but they tell me I’m going to get better soon.  Captain Waco and his men are taking good care of me.  They are very advanced in their medical skills.  If not for Captain Waco’s dog friends, I would be dead now.  They saved my life, and the bio-mechanical man, Cable, tended my wounds.”

“Do you know how wrong your actions were, young lady?” the Captain asked even more sternly.

“Yes, your Lordship.  I acted on impulse and forgot about reason and consequence.  I understand I acted foolishly.”

“Do you understand what you’ve put me and your family through?  Do you realize the trouble you’ve cause the good people who are caring for you now?”

Keekepata started crying.  Waco got a tissue and tore off a small piece and handed it to her.  She wiped her eyes.  The Captain didn’t respond to her tears.  He simple waited.  When she didn’t answer fast enough to suit him he spoke.

“I’m waiting for an answer, young lady?”

“I’m sorry, your Lordship.  I do understand, but I couldn’t have picked a finer group of people to want to get to know.  I’m so sorry for what I’ve done.  Please, Sir, don’t be mad at me.  I’ll make it up to you and my family.  I’ll try to make it up to these wonderful people.”

You could feel the tension from both sides of universe.  The Captain waited for her to get herself together.

“I have spoken with your parents several times.  They understand I can’t drop everything and come to Earth to get you.  Neither do I feel comfortable asking your benefactors to travel several light years to meet us.  As I explained to Captain Waco yesterday, ordinarily I would come get you immediately and let your parents be responsible for your punishment.  As you know it is not our custom to reward bad judgement or bad deeds; however, due to circumstances beyond my control it has been decided you will have to remain where you are until further notice.

Your parents have given me explicit orders to give Captain Waco complete control over you.  He is to administer punishment to you as set forth in private communications we will be forwarding him and his staff.  If you are to be under his care and protection, it is only right he has total say over you.  What he orders or demands of you, you will do.  Is that understood!” Captain Vinceeth barked sternly.

“Yes, your Lordship.  I will obey Master Waco.”

“Good, because he will be your Master.  I know him well enough to know he will not look upon you as one of his slaves, but you will treat him with the same respect and consideration as if you were his slave.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, your Lordship.  Please tell my family I love them, and I’m terribly sorry and embarrassed if I hurt them or caused them concern.”

“I will show them this video.  I will also check in with Captain Waco once a week until we can make arrangements to have you with us again.  I don’t know how long you’ll have to stay there, but Captain Waco has graciously consented to care for you until we can make arrangements.  Your parents and I have the utmost faith in him and warn you strongly not to make his life difficult.  That, young one, would be the greatest disgrace of all, for you to be ungracious to your benefactors.  For that indiscretion you will not be forgiven.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Very clear, your Lordship.  I will do my best not to be a bother to him or his people.”     

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.  I hope you understand your words on this video will be considered your contract with Captain Waco, me and your family.”

“I understand and accept my contract with all.”

“Very well then.  Thank you again, Captain Waco.  I see your new clone is awake.  How is it going with him?”

“This is Blue, Captain Vinceeth.  He can’t move or speak yet, but he is conscious and we are in contact with him.  He’s learned several things since his implantation yesterday.”

“How long do your doctors anticipate it will take him to be functional?”

“We hope we can have him up and around in two weeks and communicating with us verbally.”

“That quickly?  Your people must be advanced medically.”

“Our staff is highly trained, but we have the added benefit of some very wonderful intelligent entities who work along with us.”

“Ah, yes, I remember you spoke of the race of intelligent silicon-based life-forms.  Very interesting, indeed.  We have yet to come across such a race.  I can see this man is going to be your twin.  That has a great deal of appeal to me, Captain Waco.  I can only dream of seeing you two together.”

Waco laughed. “You won’t have to dream, Captain, I’ll be happy to send you regular videos of our progress.”

“I can’t tell you how grateful I would be, Son.  Being a warrior in deep space can become mind numbing.  Sometime the smallest consideration brings us great joy.  Your efforts will be appreciated, I guarantee you.”

“Great.  I’ll look forward to sending and receiving more messages from you, Captain.”

They signed off and the Captain was gone.  Waco got the feeling the Captain would’ve liked to talk more, but he knew it was best not to discuss too much in front of Keekepata.  Waco had a warm glow deep in his gut after the Captain said ‘goodbye.’  He looked at Keekepata and as bad as she felt, she smiled knowingly.  Waco blushed.

* * * * * * *

Keekepata wasn’t the best patient.  She was petulant and somewhat demanding.  For a while she would only let Waco feed her and wouldn’t attempt to feed herself.  Waco still had several weeks of school left and when he had to be at school all day, she managed to make life miserable for everyone until he returned.  In order for Dr. Stevens, Arnie and Cable to have some relief, Ping kept her knocked out most of the time.  There was no problem with Blue.  He was a model patient.  He never asked for anything and as a result, everyone showered him with attention.  It was not lost on Keekepata, and she became a little jealous of Blue.

Arnie’s physical therapy was a big plus for Blue.  He began to learn to use his body faster than anyone might have predicted.  He amazed Arlen, Cable and Ping.  He learned quickly to suck milk from Ox’s teats and within days was eating soft foods and drinking broth.  He was learning to speak and getting better at it by the hour.  By the end of the first week of Arnie’s physical therapy, they had him up and walking around the small clinic. The third day they took him into the small courtyard between the clinic and Dr. Stevens and Arnie’s home.  He stopped and cried at the beauty of the flowers.

Blue was deeply moved by all the new sights and sounds he was experiencing.  He later equated it to when Dorothy opened the door into the land of Oz and everything was in vibrant color.  There were no more shades of sepia or black and white.  Like Toto, he knew he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.  He would sit for hours in the artificially generated sunlight, recharging himself and listening to the small fountain in the garden.  He swore it was like listen to music from another realm.  Scraps and Happy were his constant companions.

Ida Mae became a bit concerned her two companions weren’t around as much, but in a way, she was happy they were finding roles in the greater arena of their extended family and the community of the ranch.  She would question Scraps and he would tell her he and Happy were helping Mr. Cable on the ship with a project for the boys, and soon he would be able to share everything with her.  For that moment, he had been sworn to secrecy.  Ida trusted Scraps.  She knew when to back off.

As Keekepata began to heal, Arnie stopped using her complete name.  He just started referring to her as Keeke and everyone began to pick it up.  Later, Waco found out from the captain, Shushonni names were similar to humans.  They had a first name and a linage name.  Her linage was the Pata family of the Bool tribe.  Arnie would also refer to her as ‘princess’ sometimes which seemed to really irritate her.

“Why do you call me ‘princess’?” Keeke demanded.

“Because you act like you’re a princess sometimes.” Arnie shot back.

“Well, I’m not!” she corrected him.

“It also happens to be a term of endearment, but in your case I doubt you would understand.” Arnie zinged her.

“I understand it perfectly!” she snapped, “You may continue. You may call me princess from time to time if it makes you happy; however, please be considerate and don’t do it in front of Master Waco.” she acquiesced.

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, your highness.” Arnie said under his breath.

“I heard that!” Keeke yelled after him, but Arnie was already out of the room.

Since Waco couldn’t be around as much as she would’ve liked, she began to look upon Blue as a viable alternative.  She began to encourage him and would insist he carry her on his walks.  They shared many hours together and got to know each other well.  She worked with him on his verbal communication and they carried on long conversation with their minds.  Blue played a major role in Keeke’s healing.  She healed faster than she normally would.  The beginning of the following week, Captain Vinceeth couldn’t believe how fast she was healing and how far along she had come.  He was very impressed and related the same to her parents.

Blue learned how to channel his healing rays up through his body and out his hands.  He would sit for hours in the patio with Keeke on his lap with his hand gently resting on her with the force of his rays flowing into her small body.  She was not unaware of his powers and reveled in his abilities.  As a consequence, Keeke was healed and learning to use her wings again within a couple of weeks.  Everyone had to watch her like a hawk for fear of her hurting herself again.  Blue saved the day.  She had come to trust him as much as Waco, but let Waco enter the room and she forgot all about Blue, at least for a while.

Blue and Waco began to grow close.  It was like Waco had a twin brother, and for all practical purposes, he did. Blue was like Waco down to the last detail with one small exception.  Blue was flawless but Waco had a small mole behind his right ear.  His many sessions with the Kryscellians managed to rid his body of most blemishes but one.  Blue began to meet and relate with Waco’s other brothers and they were agog over his likeness to their big brother.  A couple were intimidated by him, but the others were so enthused, Blue soon won them over.  JR saw Blue as an extension of Waco and more of his big brother to love.  The others came to see JR’s logic, though simple, was sound.  Waco had a number of intimate conversations with Blue.

“Has your human brain developed its own consciousness yet?” he asked.

“I don’t think so.  It seems to rely on me for all information so far.  I think it looks upon me like I’m its parent.  I’m its mother and father.  I’m also its conscience and for now, its directory.  Fortunately, you provide it with a brother, and I can notice a decided difference when you’re in our company.  It seems to be more relaxed and accepting of the situation.  I haven’t mislead it about me being another entity that’s living symbiotically with it.  It just doesn’t yet realize it could be a separate entity unto itself without me.  I will be curious to see how it develops and if it ultimately accepts or rejects me.”

“Somehow, I don’t think rejection is gonna’ be a problem, brother.”

“Perhaps, not.  He just felt very warm and his blood pressure rose significantly with your words of brotherhood.  I can’t say I didn’t approve of his reaction, Master Waco.”

Waco watched Blue’s body blush for the first time and smiled.

“I’m a bit concerned about my sexual apparatus.” Blue said.  Waco stifled a chuckle and turned it into a cough.

“I’m your man.” Waco assured him, “Tell your brother about it.”

“It feels so wonderful when I’m expelling waste, but I wonder how it might feel to ejaculate.  I know you’ve described it to me, but I can’t imagine it could feel better than relieving myself of urine.”

“Trust me, brother, it feels a hundred times better.”

“Really?  Could you help me with that for my first time, Master Waco?”

“I’d be proud and honored, brother Blue.  Don’t worry, once you’re fully mobile and can take care of yourself, we’ll spend an afternoon or evening together, and I’ll teach you what you need to know to pleasure yourself; or if you prefer, I could have one of my slaves help you with that.  Travis and Little Bear are both excellent lovers.  I would recommend either.  You think about it.  If you still prefer me, then like I said, I’m your man.”

* * * * * * *

“Dad, I need another pair of boots, a couple more pair of Wranglers in my size, a couple Western shirts, a hat, and a new belt.  Do I have your permission to use our credit card to order what I need?”

Charlie knew Waco wasn’t a clothes hound and many times he would tell Ida Mae to get rid of old, worn out Wranglers and shirts so Waco would be forced to wear nicer clothes.  Even though Waco looked sexy in his old clothes, Charlie felt he had a certain image to uphold, and he didn’t want his relatives or the community thinking he didn’t keep his slaves well fed and clothed, let alone his boy.  Waco grumbled but went along with his dad.  Charlie was pleased to hear he was taking a greater interest in his appearance.

“Sure, Son.  You planning on looking your best for your birthday coming up.”

“Uh, birthday?  Oh, yeah, Dad, that’s it!  I wanna’ look my best for my birthday.  Thanks!”  Waco chuckled as he walked away.  Charlie looked bemused and shook his head.  

* * * * * * *

Waco was urging Keeke to eat.  She was getting better fast, but she hadn’t regained her full strength.

“Look, Tinkerbell, if’n you don’t eat, I ain’t gonna’ allow you to come to my birthday party.  Blue’s gonna’ be there, and you’ll have to be here by yourself, all alone.”

She looked like she would cry.  Her lower lip quivered, but she relented and ate some more.  She looked up at him with a puzzled look.

“Why do you call me Tinkerbell sometimes?  Is that a name of endearment?” she asked coyly.

“Sort of.  If you eat your lunch I’ll show you this afternoon.  I have the afternoon off to spend with you and Blue and we’ll watch an animated movie together.”

“What’s an animated movie?”

“It’s a story told in pictures that are drawn by hand.  Unless you know about the technique, it’s difficult to explain.  You’ll get the idea when I show you.”

Someone gave Waco an antique flip-pad animation of a chicken dancing.  They were very popular in the early days even before motion pictures were invented.  When Waco flipped the pages to make the chicken dance Keeke squealed with glee.  He explained to her it was what they called animation, but the movie he was about to show her was a much more highly developed art form.  Later that afternoon, the boys gathered with Waco, Keeke and Blue in the large plush theater on the Bandersnatch and watched Disney’s “Peter Pan.”  Blue was stunned by it’s brilliance and story.  So were most of the other Kryscellians who were invited to join them.  The extra added benefit for the Kryscells was seeing it through the minds and eyes of Blue, Waco and the boys.  Since they were stationary beings, they loved anything with action.

Keeke acted like she was stunned by the whole thing.  She really got into the movie and forgot it was animation.  She was caught up in the story.  Waco was concerned about her, because she didn’t fidget or move about as much as she usually did.  It was almost like she was mesmerized.  She sat on Waco’s shoulder with her small arm around his neck for balance and didn’t move until Tinkerbell was dying.  Then she got very nervous and agitated.  Waco looked up and saw tears streaming down her little face.  He anticipated it and tore off a small piece of a tissue for her to wipe her eyes.

“Are you all right, little sister?  Do you want me to stop it?”  he whispered.

“No.  I’m all right.” she whispered back.

When Tinkerbell came back to life everyone hollered and cheered and Keeke was clapping and cheering with the rest.  She loved the movie and asked Waco if they could watch it again sometime.  He assured her they could.

“Tinkerbell was a heroine, wasn’t she?” she asked slyly.

“Yes, she was, and she was very pretty, too.  Did you notice?”

“I noticed.  Is that why you call me ‘Tinkerbell’ sometimes?  You think I’m pretty?”

“I think you’re one of the prettiest creatures I ever saw, and you are right, calling you ‘Tinkerbell’ is a term of endearment.  Sometime you get petulant like she did and get yourself into trouble.  It mostly hurts those who love you.  You notice I only call you that when you’re being difficult and refusing to cooperate.” Waco smiled.

“I see.  You showed me this movie to make a point; to teach me a lesson.  I understand.  Do you love me, Waco?”

“What do you think, little sister?”

“I think you love me.  You treat me like a little sister.  You look out for me and you help me.  If it weren’t for you and your friends, I wouldn’t be alive today.  Thank you, Master Waco.”

“You’re welcome, little sister.  I’d protect you with my life.”

“I know you would.  I knew that about you when I first met you and chose you for my companion.  I trust you and your friends completely.  I love Blue and Cable.  I love Scraps and Happy.  I love the Kryscellians.  They sing to me and heal me like Blue does.  I love your brothers and Dr. Stevens.  And as much as he bullies me, I love Arnie, too.  He’s firm with me, but he goes out of his way to see to my comfort.”

“Good.  You might try telling folks you appreciate them.  It’s nice to know someone appreciates what you do for them.”

“It’s not in my nature to do that, Master Waco, but for you and Blue, I’ll try.”

“That’s all we can ask, sweetheart.”

“You think my heart is sweet?”

“Are you kidding?  As much honey as you eat?  You’ve got to be three-quarters pure sugar.  Why, I got them bees of ours working double shifts.”

Waco laughed and winked at her.  Keeke laughed with him.

“You’re so funny, Waco.  You make me laugh.”
* * * * * * *

The artificial sunlight lighting the micro-land areas contained all the beneficial properties of regular sunlight but not the harmful ultraviolet rays.  Waco noticed several of the town folks, Dr. Stevens and Arnie in particular, had healthy tans.

“How is it you folks look so tan and healthy living under artificial light?” he asked Arnie.

“It’s wonderful.  Roy and I lay out under it a couple of times a week.  We take our clothes off and lay on those deck chairs we have on the patio for about an hour and it’s enough to keep us healthy and tan.  I’ve been taking a little more that Roy for the last several weeks.  Does it show?”

“Certainly does.  I need to get Blue out there.  He looks like a ghost.”

“Help yourself.  It will be good for him health-wise as well as making him look better.”

Blue was very pale and Waco suggested they lay in the nude under the warm rays of the artificial sunlight.  Waco didn’t expect Keeke to participate, but when it was explained what the boys planned to do, she insisted on joining them.  

Her one piece jump suit was pretty much in tatters anyway and had puncture holes in it where the cat bit into her.  Her wounds might have been much worse were it not for the strength of the material in the suit.  For the most part, Blue and Waco got used to seeing her partially nude while she was recuperating.   She tried wearing the suit again but it hurt her too much to put it on so Arnie fashioned a small gown which tied in the front with a small cotton string.

Waco wanted to maintain some decorum, so he limited the number of people who could join them on the basis of room.  There just wouldn’t be enough space or lounge chairs for everyone.  That wasn’t quite true, but it worked for his purpose.  The only other of Waco’s group to join them was Lucas.  For some reason Keeke had grown to admire him.  Lucas was quiet and unassuming.  They spent several hours for several days soaking up the rays and Blue began to gain color and not look so ghostly white.

Keeke had no false sense of modesty and lay beside Waco, Lucas and Blue with no problems.  She embarrassed the boys one day by comparing their male tackle, but she was amusing about it.

“Do you appear nude before Captain Vinceeth?”  Waco questioned her.

“Oh, goodness, yes.  He’s my Godfather.  I stay with him a lot and when we’re alone together we’re always naked.  It’s just our custom.  He's a bit larger than you men.” she giggled.

“That’s unfair, Tinkerbell.”  Waco raised an eyebrow, “We’re still young and developing.  We will be bigger.” he insisted with a trace of indignance.  Keeke giggled.

“Men!”  she scoffed, “Always concerned who’s larger than the other.  It only takes a tiny seed to create a Bilboa tree.  You would be impressed by my Lordship’s size, Master Waco.”

“I was impressed by his size, Keeke.”

“You mean he revealed himself to you?”

“Yes, on one of his videos.  It was a momento for me, like we would exchange pictures on our planet.”

“It is a great honor to have a warrior of Captain Vinceeth’s stature to allow another to look upon him.  He must regard you in very high esteem, Master Waco.”

“No more than I regard him, Keeke.  I would lay down my life for Captain Vinceeth.”

“Strong words for one so young; however, I believe you.  I know you to be a young man of strong convictions.  That’s a rare quality in any species.”

Waco didn’t bother to tell her he asked Ping to help him download a version of the video to his personal computer to a secret file no one could access but him.  It was guarded by a retinal scan Ping devised.  When he was alone, which wasn’t often, and needed his self-confidence bolstered he watched the Captain’s video and pleasured himself.  Waco had mixed feeling about his attraction to the Captain.  He felt like he was betraying his other obligations, but once again, the Winds of Consciousness came to him.

They told him life was a journey and there were many stops along the way.  They urged him to travel light and not to carry too much baggage with him.  Some decisions were already made for him.  They were like golden apples of rewards for a life well lived.  He would know them, like he knew earlier about his Lummox.  They told him to listen to his dad.  Waco discussed it with Charlie and even showed him the video of Captain Vinceeth.  Charlie was more than a little impressed.  He didn’t try to influence Waco one way or the other; however, they reached an agreement Waco would wait until his eighteenth birthday.

* * * * * * *   
School was out the last week of May and the boys were happy.  They completed their final year in secondary school and next year would be freshmen in high school.  They were happy.  Coach Baker had mixed emotions.  He was losing the finest players and young men he’d ever coached, but all wasn’t lost.  He still had JR, Jerry, and young Ts’gan to form the backbone of a pretty damn good team.  Keekepata was almost completely recovered and it was difficult to tell Blue wasn’t as fully competent as Waco and the rest of the boys.  Waco had him running and doing all sorts of physical exercise, but he also made sure there was plenty of time for relaxation and recreation.

They were altogether in a the small hospital discussing ideas how they were going to show Captain Long and his dad their handiwork. There were various ideas tossed about.  

“Look, our birthdays are coming up in June and you know what that means.” started Waco.  “We have one big blowout of a party for all of us and celebrate our actual birthdays in a small way.  This year it will be held at our ranch.  I propose we have a supper party on the Bandersnatch the evening before our birthday party.”

“Who should we invite?” asked JR.

“It will depend on space and who we can get to help.”

“How much space do you think you’ll need?” asked Cable.

A list was quickly formulated.  The boys decided the only female was to be Keeke.  She was right there listening to them debate.  Waco asked Lucas if he wanted the Stamper men to be there.  He was ambivalent about the Stampers, but did put in a vote for Blake Tindell.  Waco got the feeling it was too much too soon for Lucas to contend with, and he probably wouldn’t be relaxed with them there.  After all, pointed out Little Bear, they would be at their birthday party the next day.  Waco dismissed the Stampers, but included Blake.  Of course, Hoot Austin and Cotton Daniels and their two wards, the Olsen boys would be invited.  They would include the boy’s dad as well.  Someone suggest it would be a nice gesture to invite Dr. Stevens and Arnie to the banquet and their birthday party the next day as well.  All agreed.  The final list was surprisingly long.

Cable assured Waco, he and his staff could accommodate such a large gathering and there was a space large enough for all.  He took the boys on a tour of the Bandersnatch to a great hall.  When he opened the ornately carved doors, the boys gasped at the size, but it was completely bare.  Cable flipped a switch and it instantly became a huge banquet hall out of the middle ages complete with roaring fire.  He flipped another switch and it became a formal dinning hall with crystal chandeliers and a huge long table made of some expensive wood.  He showed the boys three other choices but they all loved the mediaeval banquet hall with the fireplace.  There was a main table and the other tables spread out from there.

“I can’t remember a time, in all my years on the Bandersnatch when Captain Long ever used this banquet hall.” Cable told the boys.

It was agreed.  They had a plan that was taking shape.  The boys missed no detail from menu to dress code.  They decided it was silly to give a big supper party and have the guest leave only to return the next day for another party.  They contracted with the owners of a hotel and motel in the small town where they were using their hospital and found enough rooms for all guest who had to drive to the ranch.  They would give options to those who came through portals like the sheriff, Hoot, Cotton, Ranger Gibbons, Angus, his ramrod and his slave and several of the other ranchers.  They could return to their homes through their portal or they would find them accommodations.
It was more convenient for guest like, Lyle Chambers, Chet Baker, Chief Tin Penny and his two sons to have lodgings for the evening.  Their families could join them the following day.  The boys spent days planning and working on it.  Waco worked by delegation.  He asked who wanted to do what and had volunteers for every job.  The neatest trick was, they were able to do it under the radar of any adults on the ranch, except Ida Mae.  She knew something was up when the boys told her she had that Friday night off but she couldn’t count on spending it with Hank Morgan because he would be on the Bandersnatch with them.  They also swore her to secrecy.  Lazarus knew something was afoot, but he didn’t let on and warned Charlie not to either.  In his own words the told Charlie, “Let them have their day.”

* * * * * * *

When Blue got dressed up in his new cowboy duds no one could tell him from Waco.  Waco made sure they had matching outfits which produced more than a little amazement in all who saw them together.  Arlen Jones couldn’t stop laughing he was so overcome by the sight.  Once again he warned the boys of standing too close to Lazarus or Charlie.

There was much enthusiasm for the upcoming party; however, the closer the time came, the more withdrawn Keeke became.  Waco was worried about her.  Blue told him he thought she might be concerned about what was going on.  Maybe she felt left out.  It was Arnie who came to the rescue.  Waco and Blue expressed their concerns to him.

“You guys watched the wrong Disney movie.” he laughed at them.

“What movie should we have watched?” Waco pressed him.

“Cinderella.” insisted Arnie, “Keeke’s a female.  She don’t have a gown to wear to the ball.  She sees you bought new clothes to dress Blue, but she’s still wearing the hospital gown or that tattered old jumpsuit she had on when the cat got her.  I know exactly how she feels.  Mercy, a girl’s just gotta’ have a new outfit to wear to the ball.”  he camped it up and giggled as he broke his wrist.

Waco and Blue looked stunned.  It never occurred to them, but of course Arnie was right.

“Well, of course you’re right, Arnie.  What, the hell, are we gonna’ do?  Here it is the evening before the banquet and we ain’t got nothing for her.  H'it ain't like we can run out to a store and buy her some'um off the rack.  Where would we find anything in her size?”

Arnie got a smug look on his face.

“Come with me, gentlemen!  Walk this way.” Arnie directed them.  Waco, Blue and several other boys followed him into a small workroom attached to the back of their house.  On a workbench was a doll on a stand that was exactly the same size as Keeke.  The doll was dressed in the most beautiful gown the boys ever saw.  It was made of the softest most wonderfully flowing material that hung in pieces, overlaid from the form of the dress.  It gave the whole design one of completeness like the feathers on a bird lay down to complete the whole of the bird.  Arnie moved the base of the statue back and forth to show the movement of the layers of cloth and how they produced a display of breathtaking colors.

“Where?  What?  How?  Did you make this dress, Arnie?” Waco stammered, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”  The other boys agreed it was pretty spectacular.

“I designed it, but Mrs. Respondi, our local doll makers and clothier made it.  Isn’t it wonderful?” Arnie said with obvious pride.  He pointed to several watercolor painting of his design of the dress pinned to a cork board.

“The colors, the purples and lavenders with the golds and pinks are as if they were taken from the colors of Keeke’s wings.  It’s remarkably beautiful, Arnie.  You should be very proud of yourself.”  Waco gushed to Arnie.

Arnie beamed at Waco’s praise.  Dr. Stevens walked in smoking his pipe.

“I wondered when you were going to show it to the boys.” he patted Arnie on his back.  “Pretty spectacular, huh, boys?” he asked them.  They all agreed with reverence.

“If you liked it, I was going to give it to her this evening in case there were any last minute alterations necessary.”

“Of course we like it, Arnie.  It’s a masterpiece.  I can just imagine Keeke wearing it.” Waco told him.  

Arnie was going to put on the card it was from all of them, but Waco said no.  He told him to put on the card it was from Arnie, Dr. Stevens and a local seamstress, Mrs. Respondi.  That evening the boys sat around talking about the next day and last minute things that needed to be taken care of before the banquet.  Keeke was attentive but quiet.  They all purposely ignored her.  Finally, Waco winked at Blue as a signal between them.  Blue turned to Keeke and spoke.

“You seem to be unhappy, little sister.” he smiled at her.

“I’m fine, Blue.” she insisted.

“Yeah, like hell you are.” laughed Waco.  Keeke shot him a glance that would’ve melted hardened steel at fifty paces.  About that time, Arnie walked in with a small box and handed it to Keeke.  Her mouth fell open.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s for you,. . . for tomorrow night.  Open it.” urged Arnie with anticipation.

Keeke slowly unwrapped the small package, removed the lid, read the card, smiled at Arnie, and pushed back the tissue paper to reveal the beautiful dress.  She grabbed at it like it was the last donut in the box and everyone had one but her.  She held it up to her and started crying.  Arnie was prepared and handed her a small tissue.

“There, there.  Don’t cry, girlfriend.  You’ll muss you’re new gown.”

“May I try it on?” she asked.

“Of course you may.  It’s yours.”  

Keeke disappeared for a moment into a small cardboard box Arnie gave her for a changing area when she first came to the hospital.  When she emerged and lightly flew back to her bed there was a stunned silence from the men gathered.  She twirled a couple of times for all to see how the dress flowed with her body.  She looked like something from a Maxfield Parish painting.

“Well, what do you think?” she was obviously fishing for complements.

“You look lovely, girlfriend.” Arnie spoke for the men.  They all joined in telling her she looked stunning, and she did.

“I’ve never had something this wonderful before, Arnie.  It’s beautiful.”
Keeke wanted to wear her new dress all evening but Arnie told her ‘no.’  He didn’t want her spoiling it for the next evening.  He handed her another small box and told her it was something nicer for her to wear everyday.  She disappeared again and returned wearing a simple one piece outfit that was attractive as well as utilitarian.  She was pleased, flew to Arnie’s shoulder and gave him a kiss.  The men applauded.  It was one of Arnie’s finest moments.  He unintentionally made Keeke feel bad about all the times she bullied him and didn’t want to cooperate.  She never before met a group of beings who gave so willingly from their heart with no expectation of anything more than her gratitude.

* * * * * * *      
The next morning at breakfast Waco had an announcement to make.  The boys were more animated than usual all during the meal and Lazarus thought whatever was causing their excitement was soon coming to a head.  Waco stood and asked for everyone’s attention.  He told Lazarus and his dad their presence was requested for supper on the Bandersnatch.  Dress would be Western.  Guests would be arriving about six in the evening but he and his staff would appreciate it if they could be there at least an hour early to meet some special guests.  Lazarus looked at Charlie and smiled.  Charlie accepted for himself and his ramrod.  They would be there by five.

The day went quickly with the boys taking care of last minute details.  The boys helped Strom and Ox bathe and fluffed them.  There wasn’t so much fur to tend to as both Ox and Strom adopted Waco’s summer appearance and were shedding their winter coats.  Strom took a bit longer because the boys removed the twin bairns and cleaned his pouch.  It was greatly appreciated by Strom.  Strom was really showing big.  It was getting near the time of the bairns second birth.

Cable asked Waco and his men if they wanted him and his staff to dress for the occasion.

“You better not!” exclaimed Little Bear.  “My granddad would turn around and go home.”  The boys laughed.

Lucas explained if they covered themselves there would be a goodly number of sad faces among the guest, and they didn’t want that.  If Cable, David and Jonathan wished to join them at their birthday party the next day, it would be a different matter.  They would be expected to wear their Western gear.  They understood and agreed they would comply.   

* * * * * * *

Lazarus and Charlie headed for the barn a few minutes before five o’clock.

“Do you have any idea what to expect this evening?”  Lazarus tested Charlie to see if he had some advanced knowledge.

“I’m as unprepared as you are, ramrod.” Charlie chuckled.  “There’s no telling what them boys’s been up to.  They spent a lot of time on the ship this last month, but I ain’t said nothing.  I think it gives them purpose and I’ve noticed more maturity and organizational abilities in them.  Whatever they have planned or done, ever’ damn one of ‘em is fallen in behind my boy as leader.  I’m pleased and impressed with that.”

“Lucas places Waco somewhere between me and God.” Lazarus laughed with Charlie.  “I can’t get nothing out of him, but I haven’t really tried.  He said something cryptic a couple of months ago, . . . remember the night of the broken bottle of preserves.  Said he was out saving his sister's life that night.  I told him he didn’t have no sister.  He said he did now.  I didn’t pursue it.  I’ve racked my mind trying to think what he might have meant.  Ever’ time I go out to the ship every thing is in order.  Nothing seems to be out of place.  They got me stumped.”

The men arrived and passed through the gate.  The gate was reprogrammed to step out into a large reception room before the huge doors of the banquet room.  They saw a reception committee standing before them consisting of Waco, JR, Ox, Captain Jones, Travis, Little Bear, Lucas and Gavin.  Scraps and Happy were running around getting under foot.  The other boys were working behind the scenes getting last minute things together.  Lazarus and Charlie noticed Waco’s slaves were decked out in new Western gear with fine looking shirts and boots.  None of them were wearing hats.  

“Interesting.” said Lazarus quietly to Charlie.  Charlie didn’t respond.

“Welcome, Captain Long and Mr. Goodnight.” Officially greeted Waco shaking each men’s hand.  Charlie got a grin on his face at Waco’s formality.  He went along with it, but Waco quickly countered.  “Forgive my formality, Dad, and ramrod; however, I felt the occasion called for it.”  he said as an aside.

Ts’gan came from nowhere and took Lazarus and Charlie’s hats.  They thanked him and he placed them on a long table in the room which was obviously there for that purpose.

Waco continued, “I believe you know all the men present.”  Everyone stepped forward to shake Lazarus and Charlie’s hand, but got a bit carried away and there was as much hugging and kisses stolen as formal handshakes.  Waco took it in stride.

“This will be our reception line for our guest who will be arriving soon; however, we have three more additions to our reception line we’ll introduce you to.  The first you know as the Kryscells or Kryscellians.  Gentlemen, if you will.”  Waco indicated for Travis and Little Bear to open the two doors to the side of the reception hall.

The boys were already there and opened them.  Waiting on the other side were the Kryscellians in their new mobile home.  They drifted into the room with ease and floated up to Lazarus and Charlie.  They were both stunned by their entrance and the ornate beauty of the vessel the boys built for them.  This was no Indy go-cart.  It was a superbly designed, well thought out, beautifully crafted home for these intelligent and kind creatures.

“Captain Long and Mr. Goodnight.  It’s good to see you again.  You gentlemen look like you’re at a loss for words.  Is there something we can do for you?”

Lazarus started laughing.  Charlie didn’t want to, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Damnation!  We’re just stunned by your new home, friends.  It’s a work of fine art.  It’s incredible.  It’s beautiful.  Congratulation to you, our friends.  Did our boys do this?”

“They did, indeed, Captain Long and we couldn’t be more grateful.  They worked carefully and considerately with us.  We knew it would increase our mobility, but we had no idea it would become as wonderful as it is.  It’s almost as if they put themselves into our existence and thus, that part of ourselves we have given them, they have given back to us ten fold.  We are very pleased.”  The crystals began to glow in unison to register each one’s approval of their new home.

“Amazing.” chimed in Charlie.  “Well, done men.” he complimented the boys. “But where is the beautiful blue Kryscell?  I notice he’s missing.”  Charlie asked.  Lazarus craned his neck to look and got a strange look on his face.

“He’s left us, Mr. Goodnight.  He’s gone to a better place.  He’s happy and content now without us.” The Kryscells answered cryptically.

“I’m so sorry, my friends.  Did he expire?” Lazarus asked.

“Not exactly, Captain.  You might say he was reborn or like your butterflies, he metamorphosed into another life-form.”

Waco was standing by the same double doors.  The boys opened them for him, he walked to his new twin brother, offered his arm and walked him over to Lazarus and Charlie.  Charlie went weak in his knees and grabbed hold of Lazarus.  Lazarus stood with his mouth open.

“Captain Long, . . . Dad,” Waco spoke softly, “may I present to you our new brother, Blue.”

The men stood there flabbergasted for a few seconds at the mirror image of Waco standing before them.  He was dressed exactly like Waco.  You couldn’t tell them apart.  Blue stuck out his hand to Lazarus.  Lazarus let go of Charlie and took the young man’s hand.

“Good to meet you again, Captain Long.” Blue shook Lazarus hand.

“I’ll be damned.” Lazarus said looking into Blue’s blue eyes. “He ain’t no bio-mechanical, is he, Son?”  Lazarus asked Waco.

“Naw, Sir.  The Daleks have come a long way in their cloning techniques.”

“Remarkable!  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of something like this.  Blue, you are truly you brother’s brother.  Incredible!  The Kryscells’ new home is a wonder but this. . .”

“This is where he craps his Wranglers, men.”  Arlen said to the boys.  They broke up laughing.

“He ain’t kidding, men.  I damn near did.” Lazarus allowed.

“I think I have to go change mine.” laughed Charlie. He took Blue’s hand and held it. “I never considered twin sons, but what the hell, why not.  Welcome to the family, Son.”  Charlie pulled Blue to him and gave him a big hug.  Blue shed a couple of tears which moved Charlie even more.

“Is that it!” grinned Lazarus.

“Not quite.” replied Waco.

“I was afraid of that.” moaned Lazarus.  “And what other wonders do you men have for us this evening.”

“Only our new sister.”

“Oh, my. . .”  said Charlie as he looked up from holding Blue.

“Gentlemen!” Waco said to Travis and Little Bear.

The boys opened the doors once more and Keeke flew into the room in her new dress and landed on Waco’s shoulder.  She was stunning.  Her new dress complimented the beautiful colors in her wings and vice versa.  Lazarus took one look at her and did something unexpected.  He went down on one knee, bowed his head and put his arm up like a falconer about to receive the landing of his pet bird.  Keeke looked and saw a small golden tattoo on Lazarus’ arm just above his wrist.  She flew to his arm and was by his ear in a second.

“Please, stand, my Lord.  They don’t know about me.  I’m a slave to Master Waco.”

End of Chapter 25 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com