By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 35

“I know there’s been talk.  Everyone’s been worried about the possibility.” replied Keekepata softly to her adopted brother. “How are you dealing with it?”

“He’s just beginning to question things.  He want’s to know why he has feelings and thoughts separate from mine.  He’s only partially aware; however, now that I’m thinking and talking to you about it, he hears and is beginning to understand a few things.  He learns very quickly.”

“Is he a part of Master Waco?”

“No, I don’t think so.  He’s raw.  He’s young and vibrant, but he’s distinctly original.  He’s who he is.  He’s a spark of intelligence.  Whether it came from me or elsewhere, he is developing on his own.  If we, as sentient beings, imagine such a thing as a soul which is separate from consciousness, who’s to say when or where it begins or when it ends; or, if it ever ends?  For all religions’ theories and beliefs, in reality, that’s all they are is ideas and theories made up by individuals.  We really have no conclusive proof of either; we just don’t know; however, this comes the closest to verifying a fundamental truth for me personally than anything I’ve ever experienced.  Chief Tin Penny advised a group of us cowboys not to judge a man until we’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.  I’ve walked much further in this body than a mile.

When I was stationary, as a young Kryscell, I was aware of great individuals and distinctly different intelligences all around me, but none tried to impose theirs onto me.  I was shielded by my parent until I was old enough to participate in the mainstream of intelligence which made up the total of our family.  I got parts from one and parts from another and so on until I began to form my own knowledge base and opinions about things; however, I always knew, and my peers were always honest with me, they were not me.  They were separate from me.  They made it clear I was not them and should not try to be them; yet, in a greater sense I was a part of the whole; however, I didn’t just reflect the whole, I was an individual.  I haven’t done that with the knowledgeable organ inside this water-bag.  I just didn’t realize it could have its beginnings like I did or any human child, for that matter.  It humbles me and makes me consider these creatures we silicon life forms consider intelligent bags of star dust and water, who are, in content, little more than the mud of the Earth, are far more advanced than we originally thought.  I have to discuss my findings with my Kryscell family after we return from this small vacation.  They’re aware something is happening, because I would never shut them out totally, but I haven’t shared details.  It confuses the young one inside because he hears their voices.  I can select, edit and chose, but he hasn’t learned yet.  Even as I explain to you, he hears and is not so frightened, but one question leads to many.”

“Will you speak with someone about it?” Keeke urged.

“Probably.  I will advise my brother Waco, his father, and our ramrod.  It’s crossed my thoughts to confer with the Ancient intelligence of Jesse Watkins and his faithful companion; perhaps, Chief Tin Penny might be able to help.  He is a man of uncommon wisdom.”

“Is it cause for concern, right now?” Keeke gently probed.

“I don’t think so.  He calmed down a bit when he heard me discuss it with you.  He’s feeling less angst.  He knows there’s someone else in his body with him, but I think he understands I mean him no harm.  If he wishes, I will withdraw and allow him complete control of his person.  It is not our nature as a species to inhabit a space or intelligence that isn’t ours.  If he becomes greatly agitated I will simply have Master Waco remove me and return to my family.”

“But that would mean giving up your freedom of movement you’ve come to cherish.  More selfishly, I would lose my beloved brother.”  Keeke empathized almost on the point of tears.

“Yes, and no.  My family has some mobility of their own now, thanks to Master Waco and our brothers, but staying inside this body under false pretenses or because I might have the power to dominate the other intelligence growing inside would be wrong.  I just can’t do that, Keeke.  It’s not who or what I am, nor is it what I want to be.  Maybe we can co-exist; I think I might be willing if he would, but it will take time.  This sort of thing isn’t easily resolved quickly; however, in the world of movement, time is on our side.”

Blue suggested they hurry back to the auditorium to enjoy the movie with the rest of their family.  That thought gave the ‘other’ inside Blue a warm feeling, and he relaxed for the evening.

* * * * * * *

The younger cowboys stayed for the movie.  It was almost like a brotherhood thing.  Even Burt talked his partner into staying so he could enjoy the time with his brothers.  The older folks retired to their cabins for the night.  Since the critters wanted to stay and watch the movie with the boys, Jack and Warren stayed as well.  They took them for another walk in the woods before the movie began.  They were refreshed when they returned.  Many of the boys went with them.

The chairs in the auditorium were comfortable and there were couches in the center of each row where several could sit together.  Moe sat between Stan and Jimmy-Bob and one or the other had their hand on him the whole time.  He was in heaven.  Patty sat between Jack and Warren.  Larry sat on the other side of Jack and Shep sat next to Warren.  Jack and Jill perched on the back of the sofa near Jack and Warren.

Waco and Ox went to the bridge to watch the movie.  They had first watch for the night and would be relieved in four hours by Lucas and Little Bear.  Little Bear and his granddad retired after Keeke’s performance.  He decided he needed the sleep if he was going to be sharp for his watch.  

Strom and Lyle Chambers went to their cabin and prepared for bed.  By the time the trip was suggested, Lyle was an old hand, broken to the saddle at pleasing his huge lummox partner.  Strom was a great lover and spared no amount of compliments and foreplay to build his mate to a point of passion where poor Lyle would beg to be taken.  The actual act of sex between them had become close to a religious experience.  Lyle wondered if all human males who bonded with a lummox experienced such heights of ecstasy.  He thought he might talk with Commander Fielding at the next Grange meeting.  Lyle noticed the strangest thing.  He was slowly making friends with the older cowboy, Warren Steele, and Warren seemed to want to know a lot about how it was with a lummox.  Lyle tried to be as honest as best he could with the old man.  He was surprised when he questioned Warren’s curiosity.

“There’s jes’ something about them giant furry men I find damn near irresistible.  I’m s’damn glad for you and Strom you’re thinking seriously about bonding; otherwise, if the big lummox looked at me twice I don’t know’s I could turn him down.”  Warren threw back his head and laughed at his own blatant honesty.  Lyle joined him.  He understood how Warren felt.

Strom and Lyle lay together after cleaning themselves.  Lyle actually bathed both of them.  He learned from the boys how to care for a lummox.  He loved brushing out Strom’s beautiful fur and using the warm hair dryer on him.  Most of the time he came out looking like a giant power-puff but a couple of shakes and movement brought everything back into perspective.  Strom was an incredibly handsome beast.  Lyle felt it was his duty to take care of his mate and keep himself clean for his pleasure should Strom want him.  Strom always did.  If nothing else, Strom was a steady lover.  He couldn’t get enough of Lyle’s ass and loved having his little human suck him off.  Strom was not one way.  He gave as much or more than he got.  Lyle never woke up from sharing a bed with his lummox he didn’t feel completely satisfied.  Strom was using one of his large fingers to relax and open his partner’s sphincter muscle for penetration.

“This is almost like a honeymoon cruise only it’s in outer space rather than on water.” Lyle observed pushing his ass further down on Strom’s two fingers.  “Use three, my love.”  Lyle urged him and Strom smiled to himself as he complied.  Strom knew it wouldn’t be long before he was inside his little human enjoying the warm of his giving body.  “I spoke with Ramrod Long and he told me again he’d back us buying the farm in Parson.  The town's offered me a teaching job in the school they're starting in the fall.  It won't be as much money but enough we could get by."

Strom smiled again as he continued his relentless gentle finger fucking and stretching his lover’s anus.

“What are you trying to say, little one?” Strom spoke softly in his booming deep voice.  The sound of his voice made shivers run up and down Lyle’s spine.

“I don’t want to wait any longer, Strom.  I want to feel my belly full of your bairn.”

“Don’t you want a human bairn first?”

“No, I want your bairn, Strom.  I talked with Commander Fielding and he told me he loves all his kids equally, but his lummox bairns are special to him.  I believe him.  I can see the love that passes between them.  I want our first to be a lummox; your son, Strom.  Oh, God, I’m so ready, Strom.  Take me now.”

Strom was lubed and ready; he slowly slipped his enormity inside his smaller mate.  Lyle’s ass was like pulling on a tight pair of gloves only for his huge dick.  It was like the universe made Lyle’s ass just for Strom to fit inside.  Strom didn’t stop until he sunk his huge shaft to his testicles.  Lyle could feel Strom’s big, full lummox balls slap against his butt cheeks.  Strom let out a sigh of a contented man; a contented lummox; a contented beast.  Lyle wiggled his butt to get more comfortable.  Strom filled him like no other.  Lyle had no doubt he was using his ass for the purpose it was made other than voiding.

“Will you bond with me, Lyle Chambers?  Will you become my mate.” Lyle heard Strom’s booming voice speak softly and longingly in his ear.

Volgorons have a ceremony they prefer between two males which bond them for life.  It was a serious consideration and not to be taken lightly.  Strom and Lyle discussed it many times, and Lyle knew of its binding import.
“Of course, I’ll bond with you, Strom.  I can’t think of anything else but bonding with you, living with you, coming home to you, having your bairns, loving you and having you love me.  I’ve never loved anyone so completely.”

“Not even your cowboy brother?” Strom asked cautiously.

“I love Chet, but I’ve always had to hold a part of me back.  I knew I could never have him for a mate.  He’s always known there was a chance I might find someone with whom I might wish to share my life.  I just never counted on it happening in such a small town, nor did I count on it being someone with whom I could share a full life.  Certainly I never counted on the remote possibility it would be with someone of a different specie; but, the moment I first saw you, Strom, I wanted you from the core of my being.  I want it all with you, Strom.  Everything I couldn’t have even if I was with Chet.  I want to have young ones with you we can call our own and raise together.  I want to give you sons and daughters we can be proud of.”   

“Are you asking me to impregnate you this evening?” Strom asked cautiously.

“Shouldn’t we have a bonding ceremony first?  Is that the way Volgorons do things?”

“Either way is acceptable.” Strom allowed. “If your anus shows you’re  pregnant, there’s little anyone can say against our bonding.  We could ask either Captain Waco or Admiral Long to perform the ceremony.  The Buttercup is a recognized ship where it is legal to perform bonding ceremonies which would be officially recognized by our communities.”

“What about the Grange and those who love us?  Remember Carol?  She would feel terribly left out and probably hurt.  She put up with a lot over the years to turn her head the other way with Chet and me.  I couldn’t do that to her; however, we could have the ceremony on the Bandersnatch when we get back.  Chet has this idea, as my brother, he wants to be the one to give me away as sort of magnanimous gesture on his part.  I think it would be symbolically important for him and Carol.  It would also mean a lot to me to include him and other member’s of the Grange who stood up for Chet and me when we could’ve been ruined by the religious looneys.  Then, there’s our newer family, the folks of Parson and the other colonies to consider.  As good as they’ve been to accept us, they deserve to be included.”

“Good point.  In the heat of my passion, I forgot for a moment.  Of course, you’re right.  It would be wrong not to include them; after all, a bonding or marriage of any sort should be a happy thing to be celebrated with those we love and who love us.”  

“On the other hand, so what if I’m a little pregnant?  We’ve been talking about it for months.  It won’t be like no one’s expecting it.  We can just tell them we got the cart before the horse; we decided to take our honeymoon cruise early, get me knocked up and do the bonding a bit later.  We could have a mock shotgun wedding.” Lyle chuckled.  Strom laughed.  He fully understood the analogy.  Strom knew the boys loved him, but they were fiercely loyal and protective of one of their favorite school teachers.

“Do you remember what’s involved?” Strom asked.

“Maybe you better review it again with me.”
Strom quietly explained the procedure to his mate as he slowly fucked him.  His description was enough to light Lyle’s inner fires of his own passions for procreation.  It was just too great a temptation for both of them.  After a couple of hours of laying together to allow Lyle’s body to absorb most of Strom’s amniotic fluid he produced to allow his male proto-embryo to swim and attach itself to his new birth father’s lower colon, Strom slowly withdrew.  He gently spread his mate’s ass cheeks to check and smiled.  Lyle’s asshole was a bright, cherry red color.  He was pregnant.  Strom made sweet love to his partner, and an exhausted Lyle fell asleep in his big beast’s protective arms.  They made the first step in their long journey together.

* * * * * * *

The next morning came as early as Captain Waco warned it might.  Everyone stumbled to the bridge for coffee and to see the looming sight of Pluto and its moon Charon off in the distance.  It still looked a long way off; however, it had grown in size in the short time they were enjoying their coffee.  It was obvious a number of folks watched videos until the wee hours of the morning.  The only two who seemed really refreshed and relaxed were Lyle and Strom.  Lazarus walked up to them and greeted them.  The huge lummox had a big grin on his face.

“Good morning, gentlemen.  I don’t need to asked if you had a good evening.” he chuckled.  Charlie laughed.  He knew the tone in Lazarus’ voice; he was up to something.  “Congratulation.”  Lazarus said more quietly and Charlie knew.  Strom grinned from ear to ear and Lyle blushed a dark red color.  “What will our new family member be?” Lazarus asked knowingly.

“Thank you, Admiral Long, for your words of congratulation.  It will be a son for Strom.  We saw this opportunity as a pre-bonding honeymoon cruise.  We plan to have our bonding ceremony in Parson as soon as possible upon our return.  Strom and I envisioned a mock shotgun wedding with the boys as protectors of their teacher’s virtue.” the men shared a laugh. “We would also like to take you up on your generous offer.”

“Say no more, the farm will be my bonding gift to you.”

“You’re a very generous man, Ramrod.” Lyle Chambers said quietly.

“Nonsense.  Look what you and Strom have brought to us.  You are family.  We expect you will continue to provide us with well educated students and Strom will become a gentle-lummox farmer.  I always thought it would be a good calling for him.”

“Since Parson is on the Bandersnatch, could we further impose on you to perform our ceremony, Admiral?”

“No imposition at all.  It will be my honor.” Lazarus assured them.

Little Bear just happened to overhear their conversation.  The news traveled like wildfire.  Mr. Chambers was carrying Strom’s baby.  Sonny and Vivian Steele laughed at Sonny’s dad.

“Damn, the thought of that turns me on so bad I may have to excuse myself.” he moaned.

“Dad, really!?  That’s a little more information than we need.” Sonny said indignantly to his father with a chuckle.  Sonny wasn’t serious.

“Speak for yourself, cowboy!” exclaimed Vivian with a giggle, “I wanna’ hear all about it, Dad.”  she said as she took Warren by his arm and walked him away from his son.

All the boys came to congratulate them.  There were hugs for their teacher and manly, well-done-you-old-dog, handshakes and pats on the back for Strom.  Everyone was in a party mood and Pluto and Charon couldn’t have come at a better time.  They circled both and took lots of pictures.  Most of the boys and many of the adults had small digital camera, and they were taking picture after picture.

* * * * * * *

Captain Waco gave a brief talk about Pluto and its moon Charon.  He really did his homework.

“There has been a lot of controversy over the years about the classification of Pluto and its moon Charon.  It was originally classified as the ninth planet shortly after its discovery by Clyde W. Tombaugh of Lowell University in Arizona, and remained so for seventy-five years.  In August of 2006 the International Astronomical Union decided on a new definition of ‘planet’ which did not include Pluto.  Pluto was downgraded to a ‘dwarf planet’ or planetoid.  There is still great sympathy for Pluto’s former planetary classification and some justification for it.        

Pluto rotates in the opposite direction from most of the other planets or planetoids, and its orbit is highly eccentric.  At times it is closer to the Sun than Neptune.  Pluto is locked in a 3:2 resonance with Neptune; i.e. Pluto's orbital period is exactly 1.5 times longer than Neptune's.  Its orbital inclination is also much higher than the other planets'.  Thus, though it appears that Pluto's orbit crosses Neptune's, it really doesn't and they will never collide.  The unusual nature of the orbits of Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, and the similarity of bulk properties between Pluto and Triton suggest some historical connection between them.  Some consider Pluto’s moon as or more interesting than the planetoid itself.

Charon, (Kay-ron) in Greek mythology, is the ferryman of the dead.  The souls of the deceased are brought to him by Hermes, and Charon ferries them across the river Acheron.  He only accepts the dead which are buried or burned with the proper rites, and they must pay him an obolus (coin) for their passage.  For that reason, a corpse always had an obolus placed under the tongue.  Those who can’t afford passage, or were not admitted by Charon, were doomed to wander on the banks of the river Styx for a hundred years.

Charon is the largest moon with respect to its primary planetoid in the Solar System, making the Earth’s moon the largest to orbit any planet.  Some prefer to think of Pluto/Charon as double planetoids rather than a planet and a moon.  Pluto and Charon are also unique in not only does Charon rotate synchronously, but Pluto does, too: they each keep the same face toward one another.  One might call it a ‘missionary position’ orbit.”  Waco finished his small overview of the two bodies with a droll joke.  A few groaned.  Several applauded.  They all offered him complements and encouragement.
The close view and orbits around the two bodies were great eye openers for everyone, but they had to admit there really wasn’t a lot to see on either Pluto or Charon.  They all went into breakfast as the Buttercup began to leave Pluto and Charon behind and headed for Neptune.  Waco gave a brief announcement before breakfast, and said if everything went according to plan  they hoped to approach and orbit Neptune while lunch was being served.  The plan for the rest of the day was to have various activities or free time as they traveled to Uranus, they hoped to orbit Saturn by Supper.  Later in the evening they hoped to orbit Jupiter and then to reach Venus by morning.  Venus would begin the final stage of their journey.

“Anyone heard making a bad joke about Uranus will be personally banned to the galley by the Captain until the next meal is served.” Waco said laughing; then added, “Your Captain reserves the right to be the only person on board to make bad jokes.” everyone laughed.  

Breakfast was served buffet style and everyone took what they wanted.  They had a leisurely time eating and socializing.  Everyone was so taken with Lyle and Strom they could talk of little else.  The wanted to know if they decided a name for their new bairn and when their bonding ceremony would be?

“We decided before hand what his name will be.  I suggested we name him Strom Junior; however, my mate tells me it’s a Vologoron custom never to name a bairn after someone still living; however, it is acceptable to name them after a deceased relative.  They believe to name a bairn after a living person unfairly takes something away from the living by the same name.  The best description or analogy I might make is it’s psychically similar to usurping someone else’s bandwidth on the Internet?  Strom told me an anagram of a parent’s name was often used, like his father was named Stronk; Bron named his first born Bronc, but Bronc was also his deceased grandfather’s name.  After much consideration we decided to name him ‘Storm.’”

Everyone agreed ‘Storm’ seemed like a good name for a young lummox  and they pressed for details for a bonding ceremony.

“We haven’t set a date for a ceremony, because we have to meet with the folk’s of Parson when we return.  We will be settling down there.  Strom will farm and I will teach in the local school being founded.”  A big cheer went up.  “We plan to have our ceremony in Parson and everyone is invited.”  there followed more cheers and congratulations.
* * * * * * *

After breakfast Jack Hall once again announced another walk in the woods.  The ‘critter walks,’ as they were affectionately named, were gaining in popularity.  This time Bill Birdsall and Shane joined them.  Stan and Jimmy-Bob went along to walk Moe.  Sonny and Vivian Steele joined them.  Strom and Lyle decided it would be good to stretch their legs and get some exercise in the oxygen heavy air of the outdoors.  Lazarus and Charlie decided to tag along.  Several of the Stamper boys wanted to go and Little Bear and his grandfather tagged along.  Several others joined them including Jessie and Utah.

After they were walking for a while, the dogs and Jack and Jill were going off in all directions taking care of their business and returning to the group when finished.  Suddenly there was some movement which caught the eyes, ears and noses’ of a couple of the pups.  They reverted to their native instincts and began to bark.  Utah joined them.

“What is it, Utah?” Jesse asked.

“Don’t know, Master, something of good size.  It’s not a bear.  May we give chase?”

“Sure, check it out.  You could use a good run.  Just be careful.”

Utah was away and the other dogs fell in close behind.  Everyone started heading in the direction the dogs went.  Lazarus noticed Jack and Jill caught sight of whatever it was and scurried up a high tree to see if they could get a better look at the critter.

Soon the dogs returned out of breath.  They couldn’t talk they were so winded.  Little Bear had a canteen of water and poured some in a hollow rock face.  They took turns drinking.

“What did you see, Patty?” Jack asked.

“Big.” Patty managed to get out, “Not big as Ox or Strom.  Smelled bad.”

“Uh-oh!” commented Lazarus smiling at Charlie.  “Did you lose him?” Lazarus asked the dogs.

“I was closest, Master Long.” said Utah, “I almost caught up with him.  I tried to send him a message we meant him no harm, but he was frightened.  He simply disappeared.  Vanished into thin air.”

“Phased-out, I suspect.” Lazarus mused.

“A lummox?” asked Charlie.

“‘At’s what I’m thinking.” Lazarus pulled out his com unit.  “Lucas, Son, do your old man a favor and ask Ms. Myra if she ever scanned this section of forest for critters?”

“She heard you, Dad.  Shall I put her through?”

“Please, Son.”

“Why, yes, Admiral, I scanned it several times before we decided to lift it into the Buttercup.  I have a list of critters who were caught up in the lifting of the property.  There’s no large carnivores, or lummox; only several deer, a couple of mountain goats, and various small critters; birds, rabbits, voles, squirrels, and a beaver family; however, if it’s a lummox, and he was hiding in a cave or phased-out my scanners wouldn’t pick him up.  You want me to scan the area again?”

“No, that won’t be necessary.  Wait until we leave, then check periodically.  If we have a brother on board we don’t know about, we should check on him to see how he’s living.  There might be enough food and fish for him, but better to check than be sorry.”

“Will do, Admiral, honey.” Myra said in a professional voice, or as professional as calling an Admiral ‘honey’ might seem.  Charlie grinned.  Lazarus shook his head, but smiled and ignored it.

“Maybe he saw Strom and was curious, Admiral.” Lyle suggested.

“Good chance.” Lazarus agreed.

“I could stay by myself and see if he reappears, Admiral.  I probably wouldn’t have any problem finding him.” volunteered Strom.  

“It’s up to you, Strom.  I don’t think he’ll be violent with you.”

“I don’t think so either.  I’ll stay around for a while after you leave.”

“You will be careful, won’t you?” Lyle asked Strom.

“Of course I will.  I have too much to lose not to be.” he smiled at his mate.

The group returned through the gate and left Strom by himself.  Larry and Shep volunteered to stay with him, but Strom assured them he’d be all right.  Lazarus reminded him they had three robo-cams on him all the time and Myra would be monitoring him.  After they left he headed off in the direction he saw the dogs return from.  It was a mountainous terrain, and he had to climb a good way up the side of a steep hill.  He came upon some bushes he saw move.  He walked slowly to the area and found what he suspected he might, a cave.  He carefully walked into the entrance.  He decided to send out a message.

<< I am Strom.  I am of your kind, a lummox.  I’m here to help you.  I will not harm you.  Show yourself. >>  he waited, but there was no response. << This is no ordinary forest.  There are boundaries you can not go beyond.  You were caught up within this area when it was lifted from the Earth.  We are worried about you.  Do you have enough food? >>  Strom sent to the young lummox.  He could almost swear he felt another presence; perhaps, an even younger bairn in the cave.  He heard a whimper.

<< Tell him, Kuluke.  Tell him I’m hungry.  You haven’t brought me any food in days.  I’m so hungry. >> he heard in his mind and his sensitive ears caught whimpering and the soft crying of a very young bairn.  Strom smiled to himself and at his body’s response.  His teats began to fill with blood, expand and his breast began to fill with milk.

<< Hush, little brother.  He will go away. >> he heard the older tell the younger.

<< No, I won’t go away, Kuluke.  I am a brother, like you and your brother, only I’m a lot bigger.  I am Strom of the Far Northern Lummox people.  I come from colder climes.  I mean you no harm.  Come out and let me have a look at you.  Don’t be afraid.  I will help you; I’ll protect you.  There is nothing to fear.  Me and my friends are concerned about you. >>

<< Please, Kuluke.  My leg hurts so bad, and it’s not getting any better.  Maybe he can help me.  I don’t want to die in this dark cave. >> said the younger voice.  

<< Don’t be foolish, little brother.  It might be a trap. >>

<< No, trap, Son.  What is your name, little one? >> Strom asked.

<< T’kan. >>

<< Make a sound T’kan so I can find you.  I can help you.  My breasts grow strong with milk.  I have lots of sweet lummox milk for you. >>

<< I can see you.  You’re big. >> he heard the little one say.

<< I’ve seen the snow fall many seasons, T’kan.  How many have you seen? >>
<< Three. >> he replied.

Strom eyes were adjusting to the dark.  He saw the young bairn laying on a ledge toward the back of the cave.  He made his way to him.  Kuluke jumped down from another ledge in front of Strom to challenge the huge lummox to protect his little brother.  

<< You’re very brave to want to protect your brother, Kuluke; however, you don’t want to challenge me, Son.  What kind of brother are you?  Would you deny your little brother food?  I have plenty.  At least let me feed him. >>

Strom didn’t wait for an answer and moved swiftly past Kuluke.  The young lummox grabbed for him, but didn’t even get a handful of fur.  For a huge creature, Strom was incredibly swift and nimble on his feet.  Strom was by the smaller lummox’s side in an instant.  He had the young bairn in his arms in a second.  T’kan winced.  Strom could feel his pain.  His left leg was broken.  Strom stroked him a few times to offer him comfort.  He offered T’kan his teat and the little lummox didn’t wait for a second invitation.  He began to drink like he was starved.  The young bairn couldn’t help project his thoughts and joy to the world.

<< Ahhhh, soooo gooood!  Mmmm, more, more, more!  Oh, so good!” he purred with a deep rumbling in his young throat.

<< You’re not too old to partake of a warrior’s milk, Kuluke. >> Strom urged him.

<< I’m not hungry. >> he shot back.

<< What have you been eating? >> Strom sent.

<< Awful old raw fish, insects, grubs, snails, mushrooms, wild berries, lichen, greens and some bad deer meat when Kuluke found a dead one. >> projected T’kan as he sucked away.

<< Come, Son.  Have some nourishment.  There’s plenty for both.  >>  Strom held his big paw out for Kuluke.  The young lummox was too hungry and the sight of his little brother’s belly swelling from warm warrior’s milk was too much for him.  He remembered the many nights his father fed him his warm milk before singing him and his little brother to sleep.  Kuluke took Strom’s big paw and allowed himself to be gently pulled to his knees and his mouth to find the big lummox’s other teat.  It was silent in the cave.  The only sound was the two young bairns sucking for all they were worth.  Strom started to sing an ancient song known to all lummox in his deep, bass voice.  It was part song, part lullaby, part growl, but it resonated with the two young lummox.  

<< Our dad used to sing us that song on special occasions.  We miss him so much. >> Kuluke sent to him.

<< I’ll see to it you get back with him, Kuluke.  My friends don’t want you to be captive.  They didn’t know you were here.  I will bring you some solid food later this evening, but for now, enjoy my milk.  Drink your fill.  It will relax you and make you stronger. >>

Myra notified Lazarus when Strom made contact.  It was all being recorded and sent to holo-vid screens around the Buttercup.  Everyone was watching as Strom shared his milk with the young bairns.  Warren Steele watched with a roaring erection in his Wranglers.  Sonny noticed and laughed at his old man.  If looks could kill, Sonny Steele would’ve stopped breathing on the spot.  Warren grinned, and they both laughed.

<< How many seasons are you, Kuluke? >> Strom sent him.  

<< Six, Warrior Strom. >>  

<< What makes you think I’m a warrior, Son? >>

<< You’re size.  You told me I wasn’t too old to drink warrior’s milk. >>

<< You’re right, I did, but I was born on Earth, like you.  I have never been in battle other than to protect my family. >>

<< Do you have bairns of your own? >>

<< Yes, I have several adult lummox children.  One is on board the ship where this forest resides.  He is a great warrior.  He was brought to me from our original home world of Volgo by some kind and benevolent humans.  I lost my female mate several years ago in a terrible flash forest fire.  I have since bonded with a human male, and I made my human mate pregnant just last night.  I am going to be a father again. >>

<< You mated with a human male? >>

<< Yes, he was with me earlier on our walk.  We have to walk our animals in this forest.  You see, you’re on a large space ship which has only this section of forest on board.  Until we return to Earth and can look for your parents, you must share it with them.  They won’t cause you any problems.  They are good and can communicate with you.  They can project their thoughts. >>

<< I heard one of the wolf-like creatures call to me, but I thought he might be trying to trick me.  I became invisible. >> said Kuluke.

<< Several of the humans can shift now.  They figured that’s what you did.  They sent me to see about you and tell you not to be afraid.  They will see to your needs until we return to Earth. >>

<< When will that be, Strom? >> Kuluke asked.

<< Only a couple of sunrises from now. >>

<< That’s not long. >> said T’kan

<< I need to get T’kan back to my friends.  They can take care of his leg and make it like new again.  I’ll return him to you as soon as possible.  In the meantime, I’ll return a little later with some solid food and stay the night with you. >>

Strom gently lifted T’kan and sang to him to ease his pain as he carried him down from the ledge and out of the cave.  Kuluke walked Strom back to the portal.  It frightened him when it sprang up and Lyle walked through.  Kuluke fell back but Strom encouraged him not to be afraid.

<< This is my mate, Kuluke.  His name is Lyle.  Lyle this is Kuluke and his little brother, T’kan. >>

<< Hello, Kuluke.  Hello, T’kan.  It’s good to meet you.>> Lyle projected.

<< Good to meet you, Lyle. >> said T’kan.

Kuluke didn’t say anything.

<< I have to go with Lyle now, Kuluke, but we’ll be back later this evening.  >> Strom told him.

Strom and Lyle walked through the gate and closed it behind them.  Kuluke had never felt so alone in his life, but he would be brave.  He was no longer afraid.  Strom reminded him of his dad, only the huge lummox seemed nicer than his father.

* * * * * * *

David, Lazarus, Ox and a couple of med bots were waiting for them when they came through the portal.  Strom laid the bairn on the anti-grav Gurney and they took him into sickbay on the Buttercup.  David left Jonathan in charge of the service bots.  David worked closely with Cable over the years and was almost as accomplished a medical technician as his older brother.  The first thing they did was to remove all fur from T’kan’s leg and get him cleaned up.  He smell horrible.  He wasn’t unpleasant to the androids and med bots, nor to Strom or Lyle, but he was to the other passengers.

The ship’s sonic showers rid him of most of his odor and a good old fashioned soaking and scrubbing with a strong soap and lots of hot water did the trick.  David gave T’kan a sedative and it made his being cared for seem like a dream.  A couple of times he even imagined he was enjoying the attention.  Once he was clean, David put him under a scanner and they could see the damage to his leg.  T’kan’s femur was broken.  It looked like it had been broken for sometime.  T’kan told the young handsome human they called Blue, he and his brother were tossed about some ten days ago in a cave they were playing in.  The time corresponded exactly to the period Lazarus and Charlie lifted the property.  Myra scanned the area, but her scanners didn’t find them in the cave.  The wound was beginning to be infected.  The bone needed setting, but it would be painful.  Lazarus suggested David pump him full of antibiotics and give him enough sedative to knock him out for the ordeal.

Jesse came in to help T’kan and managed to heal a great portion of the internal damage done to the bairn’s leg during the ten days it was broken.  After David and Lazarus set the bone, the usual plaster cast was applied; however, Blue came in and spent a couple of hours while T’kan was still unconscious inducing immediate healing to the bone.  He was well on his way to recovery.  Blue’s own young voice spoke to him as he was applying his blue light though his hands to heal T’kan.

<< Why are you doing this for this creature?  He isn’t one of us. >>

<< Ah, but he is one of us.  He’s like Strom or Ox.  He’s an intelligent, highly sophisticated, sentient creature.  He deserves our help and attention.  If you were hurt, frightened and faced the possibility of dying would you want someone helping you? >>

<< Yes, of course. >>

<< Then that should be a lesson for you. It should be the answer to your question. >>  

<< Can all humans do what we’re doing for him? >>

<< No, the part of us that’s healing him isn’t human.  I’m of another race of beings made of silicone.  I dwell in your chest cavity. >>

<< Does this power to heal make us special? >>

<< Somewhat, but it doesn’t make us better than others.  It’s just a gift we’ve been given. >>

<< By whom? >> It asked.

<< By nature; by the Universe; by the process of evolution; by the development of abilities and intelligence over many eons. >>

<< Will you always be with me? >>

<< That’s up to you.  You already know I won’t continue to dwell within you if it upsets you or you feel threatened by me.  It was never my purpose to usurp another’s body.  If you are awakening to your own consciousness and feel you must exist separately, then I will have them remove me from you. >>

<< They can do that? >>

<< They put me into you.  The Captain of this ship gave the genetic information for you from his own body.  You are an exact duplicate of him. >>

<< He is very handsome. >>

<< So is our person.  I’m quite pleased to look like him. >>

Nothing more was said.  The clone withdrew to consider what was discussed.

* * * * * * *

It was turning out to be a more interesting trip than anyone might have predicted; except, Lazarus.  When they were alone, he slapped his leg and broke up laughing with Charlie.

“This could only happen to you and me, boss.” he laughed and Charlie joined him.

“Never a dull moment, ramrod!  I thought my life was pert-damn full until the day you walked over the hill carrying your saddle slung over your shoulder.  Nothing’s been the same since.  We just seem to be gathering folks and critters as we go along, but somehow it all makes perfect sense.  I couldn’t wish for a fuller life.”

“It makes you wanna’ hang around to see how it all comes out, don’t it?” Lazarus asked shaking his head in wonder.

* * * * * * *

Jimmy-Bob was agog over all the happenings and getting to see the planets.  Just the fact they were on board an advanced spacecraft was thrilling enough for him, but talking dogs, a pregnant male school teacher, a dancing fairy, incredibly sexy and handsome naked androids, a stomping of Bigfeet,* a redwood forest on board the spaceship and two critters with tails so colorful he could swear Walt Disney threw up all over them, made him realize he was learning unusual things by leaps and bounds.  He reached culture shock two planetoids ago and was now adrift in open space ready to accept anything that came his way.  Nothing would surprise him anymore, or so he thought.  Stan gently reminded him,

“Fasten yore’ seat belt cowboy, the trip ain’t over yet.  With this crew, you never know from minute to minute what might happen next.” Stan laughed.

Poor Jimmy-Bob just grinned and shook his head.  Stan was right, by the time he returned to the Holy Plaza Dorm for Semi-vestal Virgins, he would no longer have such a narrow view of his world.  He was becoming a young man of the Universe.  He was beginning to think there was nothing on Earth he couldn’t overcome with a little help from his friends.  That’s exactly the message Stan Edmunds wanted him to learn from their holiday together.

* * * * * * *

Young T’kan was resting peacefully, but still hadn’t come out from under the anesthetics.  David woke him several times to make sure he was cognitive, then told him to go back to sleep.  He would awake him periodically to make sure he was all right.  Several of his new cowboy brothers, Strom, and Ox checked in with his mind to make sure he was dreaming peaceful dreams and monsters weren’t after him.  Strom put into his head the promise of more lummox milk when he awoke.  T’kan relaxed and slept better than he had since his leg was broken.

All of this was accomplished before noon.  Several cowboys joined the android crew in the galley and volunteered to help get lunch out.  They were skilled workers.  They knew how to get the job done.  They worked swiftly and everything was ready sooner than expected.  They all got to watch the approach to Neptune.  They gathered on the bridge to once again ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ over the approaching beautiful planet.  It was truly a jewel in the sky.  Captain Waco gave another short speech about the planet they were about to orbit.

“Neptune is the eighth planet from the Sun  and the fourth largest in diameter.  Neptune is smaller in diameter, but larger in mass than Uranus.   Neptune is the most distant planet from the Sun. (Remember Pluto is no longer considered a planet)  Its blue color is largely the result of absorption of red light by methane in the atmosphere
(the presence of large quantities of methane suggests organic syntheses); however, there is some additional as-yet-unidentified chromophore which gives the clouds their rich blue tint.  Some suggest it might even be a water world.  The planet has rapid winds confined to bands of latitude and large storms or vortices.  Neptune's winds are the fastest in the solar system, reaching 2000 km/hour.

Like Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune has an internal heat source.  It radiates more than twice as much energy as it receives from the Sun.  Neptune's rings are very dark but their composition is unknown.  Neptune's magnetic field is, like Uranus', oddly oriented and probably generated by motions of conductive material (probably water) in its middle layers or surface.  Neptune has thirteen known moons, of which, the largest is Triton.

Triton ("Try-ton") is the seventh and by far the largest of Neptune's satellites.  In Greek mythology, Triton is a god of the sea, the son of Poseidon (Neptune); usually portrayed as having the head and trunk of a man and the tail of a fish.  Legend has it, while Triton weren’t much to look at, he was a hell of a catch.” Captain Waco added for comic relief just to see if anyone was listening.  They were listening; there was more than one groan and a few chuckles.  

“Triton's orbit is retrograde.  It is the only large moon to orbit "backwards," the only other moons with retrograde orbits are Jupiter's moons Ananke, Carme, Pasiphae and Sinope and Saturn's Phoebe all of which are less than 1/10 the diameter of Triton.  Triton could not have condensed from the primordial Solar Nebula in this configuration; it must have formed elsewhere and later captured by Neptune.  Because of its retrograde orbit, tidal interactions between Neptune and Triton remove energy from Triton thus slowly lowering its orbit.  At some distant future time it will either break up (perhaps forming a ring) or crash into Neptune.

The most interesting (and totally unexpected)  feature of this unusually interesting moon is its ice volcanoes.  The eruptive material is probably liquid nitrogen, dust, or methane compounds from beneath the surface.  If you look carefully you can see several erupting as we pass.  Triton, Io and Venus are the only bodies in the solar system besides Earth which are known to be volcanically active.  It's also interesting to note that very different volcanic processes occur in the outer solar system.  Earth and Venus' eruptions are of rocky material and driven by internal heat.  Io's eruptions are probably sulfur or sulfuric compounds driven by tidal interactions with Jupiter.  Triton's eruptions are of very volatile compounds like nitrogen or methane driven by seasonal heating from the Sun.  What purpose do these eruptions serve?  No one knows for certain; however, one might wonder whether they do this to tease, or do they do it just to get their rocks off?”  Waco finished his talk on Neptune and Triton with another bad joke; however, this one got a bigger laugh and even a little applause.  Then he added.

“Please remember, the Captain is the only one allowed to make bad jokes.” they all laughed again.  “I understand several of our honored guests, Shane, Jeb, Zeke, Sam, Stan and Jimmy-Bob helped with lunch due to our head steward and a couple of med bots being called away for medical duties.  Their help is greatly appreciated.”  Waco stated, applauding for the men and everyone else followed suit.  “So, we invite you to join us on the galley deck. Lunch will be served as we orbit the beautiful planet Neptune.”  One of the crew piped in the soft music of  “Neptune the Mystic” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”  It was a perfect complement to viewing the planet.

Everyone was taking multiple pictures of Neptune as Waco was droning on with his speech about the planet, but now they were looking forward to enjoying a light lunch while watching the planet below.  It was truly an impressive sight.  Lunch was wholesome and light.  It was once again served buffet style.  Waco commented the only ‘sit down’ meal of the day for their cruise would be supper.

* * * * * * *

Everyone sat enjoying coffee and dessert as the Buttercup made its final orbit of Neptune to be on its way to Uranus.  The Captain hoped to be coming upon the almost twin planet of Neptune around mid-afternoon.  He announced there would be snacks and drinks served on the bridge and he would give another ‘stimulating’ lecture about the planet.  A few giggled at Waco’s emphasis of the word ‘stimulating.’  Waco grinned.  Then he announced right after lunch Jack Hall would be, once again, walking their four legged guests.  This time almost everyone wanted to go along.  Jimmy-Bob could hardly wait.  Lazarus made certain Strom and Ox had several containers of slave chow for Kuluke to eat.  Lazarus told them to invite him aboard to visit his little brother if they could talk him into it.  He was welcome to stay on board as long as Strom took responsibility for him, and he was cleaned up.  Strom and Ox said they would talk it over with him.

Everyone left through the portal and Kuluke watched as they all streamed into the wilderness.  The pups and Utah picked up his scent immediately, but they were warned not to give chase this time.  They stayed with their human companions only venturing far enough to go behind a bush or tree to have some privacy to answer nature’s call.  Strom and Ox each carried two large containers of slave chow and several bottles of fresh water for their young lummox brother.  They took the lid off one of the containers and left an open bottle of water next to it.  Strom sent a greetings to Kuluke.

<< Your little brother’s leg has been mended, and he’s doing well.  We brought some food and water as I promised.  You’re welcome to return with us to the main part of our ship to visit T’kan.  You’re also welcome to stay with me and my mate Lyle, but our Captain says you must clean up and rid yourself of your powerful smell.  Once you get used to it, it ain’t so bad.  Ox and I have been clean for sometime now, and we’re used to it.  We had to clean your little brother to take care of his leg.  Come, walk with us. >> Strom invited him.

<< No, thank you.  I’ll just stay behind and eat something.  I can smell the food from here, and I’m hungry.  I would like to see my little brother, though, but I don’t want to stay. >>

<< Okay, you think about it while we’re gone.  You can tell us what you want to do when we return. >>

Strom and Ox lumbered off to join the others.  Kuluke warily came down to the rock where the lummox left his food and began to eat and drink.  The slave chow was like ambrosia to him and the water was clean and pure; although, it did have a funny aftertaste from the plastic container.  He wondered whether he should trust them?  He had strong feelings for the big one whose milk he drank.  It’s a very strong bonding thing for an adult male lummox of Strom’s stature to offer to share his milk with young bairns who weren’t his.  Kuluke thought just maybe he could trust Strom, and his mate seemed genuine enough.  He also felt something stir between his legs at the sight of such a fine looking human male.  He dismissed it by telling himself the man was already carrying his mate’s bairn, even if it was only last night.  Kuluke was still sitting on the rock eating more slowly because he was getting full.  The dogs, Jack and Jill ran ahead of the folks and stopped in a ring away from him so they wouldn’t rush him or frighten him.

<< Hello, Mr. Kuluke. >> sent Patty.

<< Howdy, Kuluke. >> sent Moe.

<< Good day! >> projected Larry and Shep.

<< Sorry for chasing you this morning. >> added Utah. << We didn’t mean any harm. >>

<< Are you wolves? >> he asked. << And what are those two with many colored tails? >>

<< We’re first cousins to wolves but our kind have been domesticated for centuries to live in peace with humans.  Jack and Jill are from another world.  They mostly speak mind to mind; however, we’re teaching them to talk.  We can speak like humans. >> Moe explained.

“So can I.”  Kuluke said out loud.

“Good, then we don’t have to think when we talk with you.” said Larry.  The rest of the dogs howled with laughter at his faux pas.  Even Kuluke laughed.  “Awh, you know what I mean.” said Larry in his own defense.

“Have you made up your mind, Son?” Strom boomed out loud to Kuluke.  “Would you like to come with us to visit your little brother or stay here?  If you go with us, I’ll bring you back after your visit.”

“I’ll go with you, but last, after everyone else has gone through.  Is it safe?”

“Sure, we go through it all the time.” said Patty.  “C’mon, guys, let’s show him.” Patty bounded off toward the gate.  It sprang up with the recognition of her DNA, and she ran through it.  The rest of the critters followed.  Then the humans went through and only Ox and Strom were left.

“Come, take my hand, I’ll be by your side.  Close your eyes if you want.”

Kuluke replaced the covering on the tub of slave chow he was eating from.  He wanted to find it there when he returned.  Ox suggested he carry it to the other side of the gate, and he could bring it back with him when he returned.  He wasn’t sure he understood, but Ox was too big for him to argue with.  He took Strom’s hand and walked through the portal with him.  He felt nothing; except, when he opened his eyes he could tell he was in a totally different environment.  There were walls and doors everywhere.  He felt closed in.  There was a tightness in his chest, and he began to labor in his breathing.  

“Just breath deeply, Son.  I happens to everyone who first comes into a confined space.  It happened to us, but you quickly adjust.”

Kuluke did as he was told and quickly began to feel better.  Soon they came upon a door and Strom ushered him into a room.  Laying in a beautiful, clean bed was his little brother.  He had just awakened and was glad to see his big brother.  He held out his arms for him, but Kuluke looked at Strom.

“Go to him, Son.  He’s much better, now.”   

Kuluke was holding his little brother and shedding a few tears.  

“How are you, little brother?”

“Much better.  I don’t hurt no more.  Look at this thing they put on my leg.  They put my bones back together, and now they say this has to stay on for about ten days.  Gosh, you smell awful, brother.”  T’kan said.

His brother looked a bit hurt.

“Well, just as long as you’re okay.  That’s the main thing.” Kuluke chose to ignore his little brother’s comment.
Kuluke stood and talked with his little brother for a good while.  He was satisfied and impressed his little brother was being well cared for.  He was clean and looked better than he had in weeks.  Kuluke was afraid his little brother was going to die in the forest.  Occasionally, one of the good looking naked men would come in and check something then leave as quickly as they came.  They would smile and nod to Kuluke, but they didn’t speak to him.  Strom and Lyle were the only others in the room.  The walls of the small room began to close in on Kuluke and he decided he’d been there long enough.

<< Can you take me back now? >> he sent to Strom and Lyle.

<< Sure.  Come with us. >> Strom turned to leave the room followed by Lyle.  Kuluke followed until they came to the funny looking gate.  He closed his eyes again, but this time he walked through it himself.  They found his food next to the gate and Strom and Lyle carried it to the other side for him.  They walked him to his cave and made sure he put his food away and stored his water.  Strom told him he would return when the folks walked the critters later in the evening, and he would check on him.  He would return later to stay the night with him.

<< That’s not necessary.  I’m old enough to stay by myself.  Stay with your mate. >>

<< Oh, he won’t be leaving me behind, Kuluke.  Where he goes, I go.  I’m carrying his bairn inside me.  I have that right. >> Lyle sent proudly.  Strom grinned.

<< I don’t need anyone looking after me. >>

<< We all need someone looking after us, young one; however, we’ll come and you can decide then. >> Strom insisted.

Kuluke didn’t say anything.  Strom and Lyle turned and left without further comment.  On the way back to the gate Strom spoke to his mate.

“You don’t have to stay in that cold, drafty cave tonight.  You’re pregnant.  You carry my bairn.” Strom spoke to Lyle like a concerned husband in his booming deep voice.  

“Oooh, yes, I do!” emphasized Lyle.  I meant what I told Kuluke.  I go where you go.  I already checked.  They have thermal sleeping bags on the Buttercup and Little Bear got one out for me, made sure it was sanitized, and left it in our cabin.  Besides, with you I’m never cold.  I could swear you’re capable of adjusting your body temperature to keep me at the same perfect comfort zone all night.”

“I am. I know the exact temperature that seems to make you the most comfortable, and I have an internal thermostat that increases or decreases my stored body heat according to your needs, especially now you’re pregnant.  It’s a part of my specie’s preservation instincts.”

“I didn’t know that.” Lyle exclaimed.

“Few people do.” smiled Strom. “It takes a while for them to figure out why they love sleeping with a lummox, other than . . .”  Strom looked down at his crotch and they shared a laugh.

* * * * * * *

Because of their size and food requirements, the two lummox and Jack and Jill didn’t eat with the humans.  They ate mostly slave chow and some green vegetables.  They had a separate area where David and Jonathan fed them.  They were perfectly happy with the arrangement.  They didn’t like sitting in an enclosed area for long anyway.  That evening as they were having their dinner Lazarus and Charlie visited them with Lyle and Waco.  Waco spent as much time with his lummox as he could on the trip.  

“If you’re interested in integrating Kuluke into our society, you might want to consider letting him stay by himself.  I’m not trying to sound cold or heartless.  I know the first lummox instinct is to father him since he’s so young.  If I remember correctly, Garron was about his age when we brought him to you, Strom.  My point is, if he gets lonely enough, it might speed his need to be around folks more.  He knows he will have some contact with his kind through you and Ox.”

“I just can’t leave him out there by himself.  I’d never do that to a bairn whether he’s mine or not.  If my bairn was lost and needed a friend, I’d want someone like me or you looking after him.  Kuluke is at a critical developmental stage in his life.  It’s lessons he learns now that will stay with him for life.  Look at the lesson you taught Garron.  You and Captain Jones took him in, healed his wounds, took care of him and raised him as your own until he was capable of living with his own kind.  If I don’t show Kuluke compassion and offer him comfort, he will never be imprinted with such values.  He could grow up cold hearted and ruthless.  Our species learns their values and principals from adults, and they’re passed on from generation to generation.”

Lazarus sighed.  “Yes, I’m well aware of your values, and your species devotion to such things make you the great people you are.  I just wish my species could learn to be so devoted to their young.  Some have come to understand your ways.  By and large, Native Americans are better parents than their white brothers.  They learned from you.  Perhaps, as our people interact we will begin to learn from you.”

“I would say we already have begun to learn from them.” allowed Charlie, “I thank God every day for having the good sense to listen to my boy when he wanted to buy a huge monster of a man from our local slave dealer.  I’ve learned more from Ox than I ever did my parents about child rearing. Best money I ever spent.”

Myra interrupted their conversation.

“Captain Waco, sweet heart?” she paged him.

“I’m here, Myra.  Speak to me, lovely lady.”  Waco winked at Lazarus.

“Is Admiral Long there with you, dumplin’?” she cooed.

“He is.  What can we do for you?”

“I’ve been scanning the forest, and I’ve found another unexpected life form that must have been hiding in another cave.  The area is rife with caves.  Those small mountains are honeycombed with them.”

“What kind of life form, Myra?” Lazarus asked cautiously fearing the worst.

“A large, female predator, Admiral.  A mountain lioness, with four, small, hungry kittens.”

“She wouldn’t go after a lummox, I don’t think.  They smell too bad for her to mess with.” Lazarus expressed his thoughts out loud.

“But, Kuluke is a young, small lummox, Admiral, and if she couldn’t bring down enough wild game to feed her young she might go after him in desperation.” said Lyle Chambers.

“Good point, teach!” Lazarus smiled at Lyle, “Well, I ain’t gonna’ kill her just to protect Kuluke when other arrangements can be made.  We have options.  We have a number of frozen beef carcasses on board from cattle what died of natural causes.  We can offer her enough meat to satisfy her needs until we return to Earth.  That way, everyone will be happy.  We can still go for walks.  As long as our critters don’t stray too far from the path, I don’t think she’ll bother us.”

“Sounds like a good plan, Admiral.” said the Captain, “Shall I make it so?”

“Please do, Captain Waco.  We’ll take the meat to her on our next walkabout.”  

* * * * * * *

Uranus began to loom large in the holo-vid viewing screens.  Captain Waco ordered a pipe to be blown announcing refreshments were being served on the bridge as they orbited Uranus.  Everyone gathered and were agog over seeing another wonder of the Sol system.   Uranus was more beautiful than anyone expected.   After everyone had been served refreshments, the Captain began his brief speech about the planet.

“Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and is the third largest in the Solar System.  It was discovered by William Herschel in 1781.  The atmosphere of Uranus is composed of 83% hydrogen, 15% helium, 2% methane and small amounts of acetylene and other hydrocarbons.  Methane in the upper atmosphere absorbs red light, giving Uranus its blue-green color.  The atmosphere is arranged into clouds running at constant latitudes, similar to the orientation of the more vivid latitudinal bands seen on Jupiter and Saturn.  Winds at mid-latitudes on Uranus blow in the direction of the planet's rotation.  These winds blow at velocities of 40 to 160 meters per second (90 to 360 miles per hour).

Uranus has twenty-seven known natural satellites.  The names for these satellites were chosen from characters from the works of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.  The five main satellites are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.  The two largest moons, Titania and Oberon, were discovered by William Herschel in 1787.  The Uranian satellite system is the least massive among the gas giants; indeed, the combined mass of the five major satellites would be less than half that of Triton alone.

In 1977, the first nine rings of Uranus were discovered during the Voyager encounters.  These rings were photographed and measured, as were two other new rings and ringlets.  Uranus' rings are distinctly different from those at Jupiter and Saturn.  The outermost epsilon ring is composed mostly of ice boulders several feet across.  A tenuous distribution of fine dust also seems to be spread throughout the ring system.

Uranus is distinguished by the fact it is tipped on its side.  Its unusual position is thought to be the result of a collision with a planet-sized body early in the solar system's history.  Consequently, for part of its orbit one pole faces the Sun continually while the other pole faces away.  At the other side of Uranus' orbit the orientation of the poles towards the Sun is reversed.  This gives each pole forty-two years of continuous sunlight, followed by forty-two years of darkness.  Between these two extremes of its orbit, particularly at the equinoxes, the Sun rises and sets around the equator normally.”  Waco finished his comments and asked for question.  No one seemed to have any.

“One announcement.  It has been brought to my attention by our lovely AI in residence, Ms. Myra, there’s another large animal who went undetected upon lifting the forest when it was brought here to reside on the Buttercup.  It is a mountain lioness and her four kittens.  In discussion with my dad, Admiral Long and our lummox guests, it has been decided to take a frozen side of beef to her and her young.  We will take care of that on our next walkabout which will follow our viewing period.

I would like to offer a word of caution to our smaller brethren and sisters.  Don’t stray too far from the trail so you may be in sight of your human companions.  I know it may be embarrassing for you, but suck it up kids, it’s for your own protection.  We’re hoping we can negotiate a peaceful arrangement with her until we return to Earth.  So just this once, for your own protection, keep my warning in mind.”

“We will, Captain Waco.” Patty said.  The others joined her and agreed.  They seemed pleased they were looking out for their safety.

On the afternoon walk, Strom and Ox were noticeably absent.  Myra beamed them within a hundred feet of the cave where the mountain lion had her kits.  Each lummox had a large chunk of frozen beef on his shoulder.  They set it down on a big rock to thaw.  Strom called to her in his mind.

<< Sister cat.  We come bearing food for you and your kittens. >>

<< Who dares call me ‘sister’?  Are you a two-footed furry-one? >>

<< We are, sister cat.  We are two large furry-ones.  What is your name? >>

<< My mother called me Ah-ne-purrna.  I can smell you, but you don’t smell bad.  As a matter of fact, you smell delicious. >>

<< I am Strom, and my adult cub is Garron.  We are clean, but we are not food for you.  Don’t get any ideas.  We are large enough to break you in two.  Then your kits would go motherless.  We have brought you food to satisfy you and your kit's hunger.  There is little game in this forest.  You will need food.  We have a small, smelly brother who resides in a cave not far from here.  We will bring you food, but in exchange, you must agree to leave him alone. >>

<< I have smelled him.  He stinks worse than rotten meat.  You need not worry.  Ah-ne-purrna not go near such awful smell.  He is enough to gag a vulture and rob him of his dinner. >>

Strom and Ox couldn’t help laugh.  She was right.  A lummox’s odor was a great protective device.  Ah-ne-purrna came out of her cave followed by her rambunctious kits.  She turned and growled at them giving them each a warning swat with her big paw to wait for her in the cave.  They didn’t argue with their huge mother or her well developed climbing gear.  They high-tailed it back to the darkest recesses of the cave to wait for her to call them.

She cautiously came to see the meat the lummox brought her.  She had to admit to herself she was no match for the two of them.  They were huge.  She wouldn’t stand a chance against them.  She sniffed at the fresh frozen meat.

<< It’s frozen, like in winter, sister cat, but it will thaw and be a feast for you and your young. >>

As hungry as she was, it was like a banquet spread before her.

<< It is acceptable. >>  she allowed with some disdain.

<< We’re glad you think so.  We will check with you later to see if you need more.  In the meantime, remember our agreement. >>

<< I will honor our agreement as long as you provide food for me and my young. >>

<< Goodbye, Ah-ne-purrna, and good health to you and your kits. >>

The two lummox simply disappeared before her eyes.  She had seen that happen once before many years ago when she was stalking another lummox who didn’t smell so bad; however, it startled her and she jumped back.  Then she went back to the meat and started licking it.  The flavor was wonderful, and she called her young to join her.

* * * * * * *

Ox and Strom were beamed back to the trail not far from the folks.  Lyle came to Strom and gave him a hug.  Waco did the same for Ox.  He was happy to see his slave again.

“Any problems?” Waco asked.

“None, Captain Waco.” Strom said, “She will abide by our agreement; however, I’ve decided I don’t wish to leave such a young bairn alone in that cave.  Neither am I willing to have my mate stay with us in such bad conditions.  It’s my opinion Kuluke is too young to make such decisions for himself.  He needs to be under the direction and control of an adult.  I’m asking your permission to take my son, your slave Ox, with me to the cave and forcibly remove him if he doesn’t agree to come with us.  I will be responsible for his cleaning and keep him with me and Lyle for the rest of our journey.”

“Certainly you have my permission to take Ox with you, but let’s bring my dad and the Admiral into this decision.  I don’t consider myself a full fledged adult yet, and would appreciate their counsel.  They might have other ideas we haven’t thought about.  They’re just over the rise with Jack and Jill and they’ll be here in a minute.”

Waco no sooner said the words when Charlie and Lazarus strolled over the hill.  Jack was holding Charlie’s hand and Jill was holding Lazarus’ bouncing and bounding over the ground like they were using the men’s arms as slinkys.  Charlie and Lazarus seemed to be enjoying the game with them. They came to Waco and the lummox.  Waco explained about Ah-ne-purrna and what they discussed.

“I think under the circumstances we have a right to consider your and Lyle’s safety as well as Kuluke’s.” said Lazarus.  Charlie agreed.

“It might be different if the big cat wasn’t in the picture, and T’kan wasn’t in our infirmary after spending almost two weeks with a broken leg.” added Charlie.

“Good point!  Well, said, boss.” Lazarus told him. “You have our full support, gentlemen.  Go!  If he absolutely refuses, we’ll be following your progress by robo-cams.  If necessary, I’ll send David with a sedative to calm him until we get him cleaned up and get him used to the idea of interrelating with others.”  

The others returned through the gate, but Ox and Strom remained.  They made their way to the cave and explained the circumstances to Kuluke.  Even though he and his brother had seen the mountain lion on several occasions he refused to believe he was in any danger.  He simply was not going to cooperate.

<< Look, Son.  I don’t want to have to force you to go with us, but you’re too young not to have adult supervision and guidance.  Now, once we get you cleaned up you can join us on our walks.  As you know, we come here several times a day.  Please, cooperate with us and come with us.  Look at it as an adventure, and you can spend as much time with your little brother as you wish. >>

<< No, I will stay here!  You can’t make me go with you! >>  

<< Yes, we can.  Garron, I’m got going to fight him.  We may injure him or he might get in a lucky kick or bite us.  I want us to be able to enjoy the rest of our trip with those we love.  I’m taking the Admiral up on his offer. >>

<< I agree, dad. >> Ox sent to Strom.

<< What are you going to do? >> projected Kuluke at them loudly.

“Captain Waco, will you please send David in to help us.  We’ll be waiting for him.”

Strom spoke to no one Kuluke could see.  In a few seconds a bright light appeared at the entrance of the cave and the naked human who smelled different from the others stood at the entrance with something in his hand.  Ox lunged for Kuluke and tackled him.  Strom grabbed his arms and folded them behind his back.  He struggled for all he was worth, but he was no match for two mature, adult, male lummox.  David walked over to him, smiled and gave him a hypo of a strong sedative.  It took only a moment to work and Kuluke went limp.  Ox released him and Strom held him in his arms to keep him from falling.  Strom picked him up and threw him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and the lummox and bio-mechanical man left the cave.

It was a good while before the fog wore off from Kuluke’s brain.  By that time he was placed in the sonic shower with Strom and Lyle who brushed him clean.  Then they carried him to a huge spa in a separate room on the Buttercup that provided an advanced form of filtering for the water.  The dirty water would leave the spa and run through various sub-filters and all impurities and particulate matter would be removed.  By the time the water returned to the jets it was as pure as a mountain stream.  They kept bathing and brushing Kuluke’s fur until all his bad odor was gone and he was as clean as a new born bairn.  

Through all this, Kuluke’s brain was fighting against his forced captivity, but every now and then some word of comfort Strom would say or something Lyle would do began to feel so good, he began to wonder about his doubts.  They weren’t hurting him.  They just wanted to see to his well being, and they were willing to go out of their way to follow though with their convictions.  He had to give them credit for that.  He knew better than to ever try to talk back to his dad.  He suffered some violent rages from his father; although, his dad never physically hurt or attacked him, he could be awfully frightening.

At the last, when all was done and the three were relaxing in the warm, moving water of the spa, Kuluke started to come around and gain control of his body.  His head was laying above the water against Strom’s big shoulder.  All Kuluke could smell was the sweet, gentle odor of Strom’s teat not far from his mouth.  Strom could see him looking at it and saw him drooling from the corners of his mouth.

“Would you like some milk, Son?” Strom boomed softly to him.

Kuluke slowly shook his head.

“You won’t do anything stupid and try to bite me, will you?” Strom asked.

Kuluke looked him in his eyes and shook his head.  Strom allowed him to move to his teat and Kuluke began to drink his fill.  Strom’s milk had to be the best he ever tasted.  He was angry with Strom, but he just couldn’t bring himself to hurt a lummox who was so giving to him.  He drank and drank until Strom’s milk began to make him so sleepy he could hardly hold his head up.  When he woke up, he was laying in bed between Strom and Lyle.  His fur was dry and powdered.  He was cleaner than he’d ever been in his life, but he wasn’t uncomfortable.  Strom was awake and laying there looking at him.  He turned to Strom and threw his arm over him.  Strom embraced him.

<< Feeling better? >> Strom sent to him.

<< Yes, Sir.  I’m sorry, Strom.>>  he projected.

<< No harm done, Son.  I’m sorry we had to force you, but it was necessary.  Are you ready to explore your new world? >>

<< Will you and Lyle be with me? >>

<< Every step of the way, Son.  Do you know what happened to your family, Kuluke? >> Strom asked.

<< I don’t know what happened to our mom.  She was missing shortly after she gave birth to my little brother.  My dad was still carrying him when she wasn’t around any more.  T’kan never knew our mom.  I don’t remember much about her.  Dad never would tell me where she went or why.  We were traveling across country; moving from cave to cave.  Dad went out to find another place for us and said he’d be back in a day or so.  We were playing in the cave when the Earth started to move.  It threw my little brother off the ledge you found him laying on.  I knew he broke his leg, but there wasn’t anything I could do.  I knew if we didn’t get help he would probably die or be killed by a big cat.  Crippled lummox bairns don’t last long in the wild. >>  

<< You’re right, Son.  I’m sorry you had to go through what you did.  Admiral Long and his partner, Mr. Goodnight, wouldn’t have lifted that piece of land if they knew any of our people were on it.  They scanned the area, but didn’t find any animals of large size.  I think this has been a good lesson for them.  They will try to find your dad when we get back.  In the meantime, accept what we have to offer you and your little brother.  You will see some wonders you never could imagine.  You are on board a ship that sails the heavens.  You know when you look up at night and see all the bright lights in the sky? >>

<< Yes, Sir. >>

<< You are traveling among them right now.  We are soon coming upon one of the largest worlds in our night sky.  You will get to see it with us. >>

* * * * * * *

Strom took Kuluke to visit his little brother again.  T’kan was so happy to see him and to see him clean.  He hugged and kissed his brother.

<< You’re very brave, Kuluke.  I think you did the right thing by joining these folks. >> T’kan sent to him. << I think they’re good people and will find our dad for us. >>

<< I hope you’re right, little brother. >> Kuluke replied.

The young bairns began to fit into the routine of the ship.  There was a lot for them to learn, but they learned twice as fast as human children their age and were far more dexterous.  Strom was right.  Kuluke was introduced to such wonders he couldn’t imagine how he might ever describe what he and his little brother experienced to his dad.  He went on the forest walks every time Jack Hall announced he was taking the critters for their outing.  He didn’t try to get away or return to his cave.  He came to accept the intelligence and power of these people; he knew he couldn’t escape them.  If he tried to run away and hide they would find him and bring him back.  Why should he cause them more trouble than they already were put through with him and his little brother?  With Strom’s firm but loving guidance, he thought he would try to make the best of the situation.  As time passed, he was glad he did.

* * * * * * *

Holy Tabernacle, Holy City, Washington, Earth.

“What are these reports two of my newest Semi-vestal Virgins are missing from their dorms?” Jeremiah Scudder yelled at Officer Brick Armstrong.

“They’re not missing, your Holiness.  They’ve been staying at my condo in the Plaza.  They came down with terrible colds and have been in bed at my place for the last several days.  Me and Timmy Kelly have been taking care of them.  I thought it might be best to keep them away from the general congregation so they don’t infect everyone.”

“Well, that’s very considerate of you; being a good Samaritan and all.  We certainly don’t want an epidemic of colds or flu going around, now do we?  But what about you and your friend, are you in good health?” Scudder raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, Sir.  We’re taking lots of vitamin C and Zinc to keep us strong against getting a cold.  We sterilize everything.  Tim is really quite thorough.  He takes good care of them and me.”

“Yes,” Scudder paused, “I’m sure he does.  And have you given more thought to joining the Holy Order?” Scudder asked.  Once again Brick was unprepared.  

“Yes, Sir.  I’m praying about it and trying to see myself as worthy.  I’ve asked God to give me a sign.”

“You don’t need no sign from above, boy!  I’m the closest you’ll ever get to the voice of the Almighty.  I’m the one what will tell you whether you’re worthy or not, not some imaginary voice you dream up in your head.  Are you following your routines and taking your holy supplements as ordered?”

“Not lately, Holy Father.  I don’t want to lie to you.  I’ve stopped recently, because they were causing bad reactions.”

“Did you go to the Plaza Clinic and get checked out?”

“No, Sir.  I just thought if I laid off of ‘em for a while, give my system a rest, my body would reset itself, and I could start taking them again.”

“You thought?  You thought?  When did you ever get the idea you could think for yourself?  I will do your thinking for you, boy!  Don’t you never forget it!  If you aspire to be one of the Holy Order and insure your salvation for eternity, you will do as I say and as I command you!  Is that understood?”

“Yes, your Holiness.” Brick answered quietly.

“Are you a medical professional?  Are you a doctor?  Are you capable of making medical decisions?”

“No, Sir.”

“Well, one would think so.  All of a sudden you stop taking your supplements and your hormone shots because you thought it best and now you’re playing doctor and nurse to two of my Semi-vestal virgins?  What do you have to say about that?”

“I was just trying to do the right thing, your Holiness.  I was trying to care for myself and others in a selfless way, like you’ve taught us over and over.  You are all wise and knowing.  When you preach about loving and taking care of our fellow men, I take it to heart.  If I’ve misinterpreted your teaching, then I’m terribly sorry and would ask you instruct me in the error of my ways.”   

Scudder was quite for a while watching Brick’s face closely for any sign of insincerity.  There was none.  Brick was a better actor than Scudder was an amateur psychologist.

“Notify the Dorm directors the two Semi-vestal Virgins are staying with you temporarily.  How long do you anticipate their absence?”

“They just came down with these colds yesterday.  It usually takes seven days for a cold to run its course, Holy Father.”

“So be it!  As for you taking your supplements, how long do you plan to be off them?”

“Only until we can get the men back to their dorm, Holy Father.  I don’t want to overload my system with a lot of drugs right now.  It might possibly lower my immune system, and I might catch their cold.”

“Humm, good idea, I guess, but I want you to understand something, Officer Armstrong.  You are never to take an action like that again on your own!  Do I make myself clear!”

“Absolutely, Holy Father.  I will consult with you or the doctors first.”

“Okay, now be off with you.  Don’t come around me again until the boys are over their colds.”

“No, Sir, your Holiness.  Thank you, Sir.  Praise God for our Holy Father.”  Brick said as he turned and walked out.

He pulled his neatly folded handkerchief from his back pocket.  He never thought to put one in his pocket.  Tim insisted he wear one.  He was glad of it as he wiped the sweat from his brow.  He made a mental note to slowly choke Stan and Jimmy-Bob until they were about to turn blue, then let them live to repeat it several more times before he finally choked them to death.  He smiled to himself knowing he would never do such a thing, but it warmed his heart to fantasize about it.  What the hell could those two be thinking putting him and Tim in such a position?  He and Tim agreed to protect their secret.  The least they could do was cooperate.  Now they were off on some junket and didn’t even have the decency to share it with them.  Well, why would they?  Would he have approved and told them to do what they needed?  Probably not.

Questions began to nag at him.  How did they get out of the compound without being noticed?  Was Timmy right?  Was there something special about Stan?  Brick felt it himself; Stan giving himself to him after what Brick put him through.  Stan’s devotion to his dog.  What was that all about?  Now his union with Jimmy-Bob seemed like it was planned by a greater power than he could account for.  Did Stan know something he didn’t?  Was Stan a warlock, a male witch?  No, no, he couldn’t imagine there really was such a thing.  Maybe some old ladies or kids dabbling in the supernatural for shock value, but nothing real.  Only faith in good men who were religious leaders of the country were really in touch with a higher power; however, there was just something different about Stan.  What about that talking, disappearing dog?  Where did he come from and where did he go?  Where the hell were they?  For all he knew they could be on a spaceship headed for Mars.  No, maybe Saturn.  Wherever they were, their note said they’d be back in a couple of days.  Brick hoped so, he didn’t want to suffer the wrath of the Holy Prophet again.

End Chapter 35 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

* "A stomping of Bigfeet"  A collection, as in “a murder of crows” or “a gaggle of geese.”