By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 36

“If I should ever die, God forbid, I wish for my epitaph to read: I could never believe in a God if it were not for music.”  Kurt Vonnegut 1922 ~ 2007

Everyone gathered on the bridge to watch their arrival at Saturn, one of the most beautiful and magnificent of the Jovian worlds.  Captain Waco was ready with another of his brief but informative talks about what his passenger’s would be seeing.  Kuluke stood beside his little brother.  David and the med-bots had T’kan out of bed and walking with the aid of crutches.  The cast on his leg was a full leg cast.  It ran from just below his butt to his foot.  Only his heel and toes were exposed.  They attached a hard rubber stop to the very bottom, beneath his foot, for him to rest his weight on without damaging the cast.  After they adjusted his crutches to his proper height, T’kan quickly learned to use them almost as easily as walking naturally.

He was a natural little athlete and his crutches provided him with a new form of locomotion to master.  He saw it as a challenge and worked hard to get the hang of it.  He soon became adept at using them.  He could go anywhere his brother could; however, after being cleaned up and being on board the Buttercup for a while, Kuluke wasn’t real sure he wanted to return to the cave.  Besides, they were going for walks in the woods several times a day.  It wasn’t like they were cooped up in the confines of the ship around the clock.  The critter walks became as important to them as the other guests.

Everything they were experiencing was like magic to the bairns, but they stayed close to Strom and Lyle while they took it all in with wide-eyed fascination.  The young of any species will adapt quicker and easier to a new situation than adults.  Kuluke and T’kan felt like they had family for the first time in their lives, and they had to admit to each other, it was appealing to them.  Their dad rarely let them have any of his teat.  He acted like they were too old to be nursing on him.  They got all they wanted from Strom and Ox.  Everyone treated them as honored guests and special friends.  T’kan especially loved the attention his crutches brought him.  They set him apart and made him feel special.

“May I have your attention, please?” Captain Waco spoke to the assembled guest.  He started speaking after he had everyone’s attention.

“Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest.  In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture.  The associated Greek god, Cronus, was the son of Uranus and Gaia* and the father of Zeus (Jupiter).  Saturn is the root of the English word "Saturday."   When it is in the nighttime sky, as seen from Earth, Saturn is easily visible to the unaided eye.  Though it is not nearly as bright as Jupiter, it is easy to identify as a planet because it doesn't "twinkle" like the stars do.  The rings and the larger satellites are visible with a small astronomical telescope.  Like the other jovian planets, Saturn has a significant magnetic field.  Saturn has thirty-four named satellites.  Of those moons, for which rotation rates are known, all but Phoebe and Hyperion rotate synchronously.
Saturn is visibly flattened (oblate); its equatorial and polar diameters vary by almost ten percent.  This flattening is the result of its rapid rotation and fluid state.  The other gas planets are also oblate, but not so much so.  Saturn is the least dense of the planets; its specific gravity (0.7) is less than that of water.  Like Jupiter, Saturn is about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia and "rock", similar to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the solar system was formed.  Saturn's interior is similar to Jupiter's consisting of a rocky core, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer and a molecular hydrogen layer.

Saturn's interior is hot (12000 K at the core) and Saturn radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun.  Most of the extra energy in the form of heat, is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism as in Jupiter, but this may not be sufficient to explain Saturn's luminosity; some additional mechanism, as yet unknown, may be at work.  The heat is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism by the slow gravitational compression of the planet.  Saturn and Jupiter do NOT produce energy by nuclear fusion as in the Sun; they are much too small and hence interiors are too cool to ignite nuclear reactions.  Interior heat probably causes convection deep within Jupiter's liquid layers and is probably responsible for the complex motions we see in the cloud tops.  Saturn and Neptune are similar to Jupiter in this respect, but oddly, Uranus is not.

Two prominent rings (A and B) and one faint ring (C) can be seen from the Earth. The gap between the A and B rings is known as the Cassini division. The much fainter gap in the outer part of the A ring is known as the Encke Division.  Saturn's rings, unlike the rings of the other planets, are very bright.  Though they look continuous from the Earth, the rings are actually composed of innumerable small particles each in an independent orbit. They range in size from a centimeter or so to several meters. A few kilometer-sized objects are also likely.  Saturn's rings are extraordinarily thin: though they're 250,000 km or more in diameter they're less than one kilometer thick.  Despite their impressive appearance, there's really very little material in the rings.  If the rings were compressed into a single body it would be no more than 100 km across.  The ring particles seem to be composed primarily of water ice, but they may also include rocky particles with icy coatings.  Voyager confirmed the existence of puzzling radial inhomogeneities in the rings called "spokes" which were first reported by amateur astronomers.  Their nature remains a mystery, but may have something to do with Saturn's magnetic field.

There are complex tidal resonances between some of Saturn's moons and the ring system: some of the moons, the so-called "shepherding satellites" (i.e. Atlas, Prometheus and Pandora) are clearly important in keeping the rings in place; Mimas seems to be responsible for the paucity of material in the Cassini division, which seems to be similar to the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt; Pan is located inside the Encke Division and S/2005 S1 is in the center of the Keeler Gap.  The whole system is very complex and as yet poorly understood.  The origin of the rings of Saturn and the other Jovian planets is unknown.  Though they may have had rings since their formation, the ring systems are not stable and must be regenerated by ongoing processes, perhaps the breakup of larger satellites.  The current set of rings may be only a few hundred million years old.  Is there any question?”  Waco asked his guests.

<< You mean we come from a place like that?  The place we call Earth? >>  Waco overheard Kuluke ask Strom and Lyle.

“Yes, Kuluke, but our world is much smaller than the world you’re looking at.  Myra, sweet heart, would you project Earth next to our current picture of Saturn on the center screen so our passengers can get an idea the difference in size between them?”

“Be happy to, my handsome Captain.” Myra replied.

Instantly the Earth was on the bottom left of the huge holo-vid screen.  It looked like a large blue marble next to the huge size of the ringed gas giant.

“There, everyone, that’s what our planet would look like next to Saturn.  When you’re viewing something as large a Saturn or Jupiter from the deck of a spaceship it’s hard to keep in perspective just how enormous the gas giants are.”

Everyone had to agree it made their home world look insignificant by comparison.  Kuluke and T’kan were impressed.  Waco then had Myra show a full screen view of the Earth from the Clark orbit and everyone seemed to reconnect with their personal sense of perspective.

“Our world is beautiful.” whispered T’kan.

“It is, indeed, little brother.”  Waco came and stood by the two young lummox.  “By the way, welcome to the Buttercup.  That’s the name of our ship.  Glad to have you aboard.”

“Thank, you, Captain Waco.” replied Kuluke for him and his little brother.

Waco made another announcement.

“Folks, enjoy your evening meal while we orbit Saturn.  When we finish we will be leaving orbit and heading for Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System.  If you think Saturn is spectacular, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  It’s a shorter hop from Saturn to Jupiter because of the way the planets are aligned right now, so we should be coming into site of the big planet shortly before our bosun pipes ‘lights out.’  Of course, you’re all welcome to join us for a late night hot chocolate party here on the bridge and we will orbit the planet several times.  We will then leave orbit and head back into the direction of our home world.  We hope to arrive within sight of Venus by early morning.  Those of you who haven’t met our newest guests, Kuluke and his younger brother T’kan, please stop by and introduce yourselves.”

Some of the cowboys already introduced themselves, but the rest of the folks slowly strolled over to meet them.  Kuluke stayed close to Strom and Lyle, but T’gan was far more outgoing showing off his new leg cast to everyone.  He was the center of attention and loving it.  He was adventurous enough to pet all the dogs, and they talked freely with him.  He was fascinated with Keekepata, and she became quite fond of the young bairn.  

Folks moved on to have supper.  Lyle left Kuluke and T’kan with Strom and went to the main mess hall on the galley deck.  He told Strom he would eat quickly and join him and the boys in the critter feeding area.  Strom nodded his understanding.

“We don’t eat with them?” asked T’kan.

“No, Son, they eat different foods.  Our diet is more basic and simple than theirs.  We are closer to the land than they are.  They have more formal eating rituals than we do.  It’s just more comfortable for us to eat separately.  If you want to eat with them, they will gladly make a place for you at their table without question.  My boy Ox and I have eaten with them many times, but we are never really comfortable.  You’ll have a chance one of these days, and then you let me know what you think about it.”

<< Trust me, their food and eating habits are over rated. >> Jill projected to them.  I just want my cup of chow and to be left alone while I eat.

“Me, too, sister Jill.” echoed Patty.

“Couldn’t agree more.” allowed Moe

“Yeah, eating should be for eating, not for chit-chat.” said Shep.

“Utah, eats with them.” said Larry.

“That’s because he’s like his master.  He eats special food that only his master can make for him out of the same chow we eat, but he does something to it to rearrange its nutritional values especially for Utah.  He never stays.  His master gives him permission to come find us.  I think he’d rather be with us anyway.”

“Is he really a dog, like us?” Shep asked.

“I think so, he sniffed my butt.” allowed Moe.

“You’re just awful, brother.” Patty said indignantly, then giggled.

“Don’t get high and mighty with us, little sister, I saw him sniff your butt, and I watched you return the favor.” laughed Shep.  Poor Patty looked at her brother like she could kill him.  All the critters laughed at their exchange.  Kuluke and T’kan thought it was funny.  They laughed out loud.  Strom smiled at his son, Garron.  Ox winked back at him.  It was good to see the boys find humor in something.  It seemed like Kuluke and T’kan were becoming comfortable with their new life.

The four legged critters and their friends finished their meal a lot quicker than their human friends.  They sat around and talked to one another until Jack Hall whistled for them it was time for their walk.  He and Warren Steele were the unofficial walkabout captains and were responsible for accounting for everyone.  Warren had a clipboard with everyone’s name who was going on the walk and checked off their names before they could go through the portal.   Before they returned he’d call out everyone’s name and check them off before anyone was allowed to return from the forest.  It was organized and they made sure no one was left behind.

It was still dusk as they went through the portal onto the dirt road they usually took up and over the hill.  It was T’kan’s first attempt at going any distance on his crutches.  David said he could go as long as he didn’t overdo.  Jack and Warren watched him closely.  Strom, Lyle, Ox and Waco were along to back them up.  The animals were pretty well trained not to go too far into the brush to relieve themselves.  Agreement or no agreement, no one was anxious to run into a full grown mountain lion.  Kuluke walked slowly along side his little brother and offered him encouragement.  He enjoyed their outings in the forest as it made him feel less captive and enclosed.  T’kan was adapting much faster than Kuluke was.

Later that evening, Kuluke and T’kan watched a Disney movie with the cowboys and the critters.  Captain Waco promised the critters a special movie just for them even the pups would enjoy.  It was Disney’s original version of  “The Shaggy Dog.”  There was much laughter, cheering and talking to the characters on the screen as the young boy would turn into a dog and then back into a human.  The audience participation made the film much better than it really was and everyone had a ball.  Everyone agreed it was one of the best movies they’d ever seen.  Kuluke and T’kan were enchanted by it.  They didn’t understand how a human could change into a dog and back again.  Kuluke thought it must be some kind of magic.

“Ah, it’s just a story, Kuluke.  Ain’t no magic to it.” explained Moe, “It ain’t real.  They make it look like it’s really happening, but it’s all done with special effects.  He don’t really change into a dog and when he becomes a dog, it’s a real dog what plays the part.  It’s all make believe.  Anything you can imagine they can make into a story and make it look real.”

Kuluke wasn’t real sure he understood, but his little brother came to his rescue.

“Later this evening I’ll show you a video I ran across while laying in bed that explains it all.  I wondered how they do it, and I asked Myra about it.  She’s real helpful.  She told me there weren’t no magic to it.  She showed me this wonderful video that explains it all.  Once you see how they do it, you’ll understand.”  he spoke like a knowing sage.  Warren and Jack found T’kan’s self-assuredness amusing.  Less than a day out of the wild and the little one knew about special effects.

A number of the adults watched the movie with them, but Charlie, Lazarus, Strom and Lyle were in the canteen drinking coffee with Sonny and Vivian Steele.  They were discussing the trip and the chance finding of the young bairns.

“Thank God we found them when we did.” said Lazarus, “David told me T’kan was close to having major infection set in, and he could’ve been dead within a day.”

“I just can’t understand a father leaving his bairns alone to find another place for them to live.  I’d never leave one of my bairns behind even when hunting.  They were always within sight of me or Pangle.  Ask Garron, in all the years he lived with us, we never left him alone for a minute.  I don’t know of any other lummox parents who would do that either.  Our children are everything to us.  They are our past and our future.” said Strom almost angrily.  His booming voice rose in volume toward the end of his impassioned speech.  Everyone was silent.  Lazarus got a funny grin on his face.

“Oh, my God!  You’re becoming attached to them.” Lazarus laughed and gently slapped Strom on his back. “I should’ve seen this coming.  Why am I not surprised?”  he asked.

“You just realized it?  I’ve known it from the time Strom and Ox brought Kuluke back to the ship.” grinned Lyle.

“I could a’ told you!” exclaimed Vivian. “I can see the way he looks at them when he thinks nobody’s looking.” she laughed and grabbed her husband’s arm.  Sonny laughed with her.

“Now, maybe ya’ll understand why I fell in love with him?” said Lyle laughing and putting his arm around his mate.

“Of course!  No doubt!” said Charlie. “I think we’ve all fallen under their spell, especially the little one— Mr. Personality plus.”

“What are you gonna’ do about it, big’un?"  Lazarus put to Strom.  “What if they want us to find their dad?  He shouldn’t be hard to find.  We can find him with their DNA.”

“I wanna’ check him out first.  I wanna’ ask him why he left them in that cave all alone.”
“And if you don’t like his answer?” Lazarus asked.

“He don’t find out we got ‘em, and I tell the boys we couldn’t find him.”

Everyone was quiet again.  Vivian Steele broke the silence with a sigh.

“I suppose there are good and bad lummox just like every other race of people.  If it came to a vote, I’d be more likely to vote in favor of Strom and Lyle than a father who would abandon his boys unless he had one hell of a good reason.  I think Strom’s idea to check him out sounds reasonable.” she said.

“I agree with Vivian.” said Charlie quietly.

“Me, too.” added Sonny.

“I agree with my mate.” Lyle grinned.

“Smart man!” Lazarus laughed at Lyle, “I think it’s a good idea, too.  I have to say, Strom, you never cease to amaze me.  I’m proud you were the second birth father for our twins.  Does that mean you and Lyle would be willing to take them in and raise them as your own?”

“My husband speaks for us.” Lyle smiled and winked at Lazarus.

“Once again, you’re a wise young man.  You won’t never go wrong throwing your lot in with a magnificent beast like Strom.” he grinned.

“Of course we’ll accept them as our own.  We’ll start off with a little larger family than we planned.  These are unusual times we’re living in and they call for creative solutions to difficult situations.  We’ll just have to have three human bairns to make up the difference.” Strom laughed and hugged Lyle to him.

“Only three?” Lyle complained.  Everyone laughed.

“All right.  It all sounds good, but you have to promise you’ll take Garron along with you when you check out their dad.  Not because I wouldn’t trust your word, but because I want someone covering your back.  Also, we have no idea what kind of lummox we’re dealing with.  Like Vivian said, there are some bad one’s out there.  I know your husband would feel better if you were accompanied by one of your kin.”

“He’s right, sweet heart, I would feel better.” Lyle told him.

“Garron will go with me, if nothing else, to keep me from killing a brother.” Strom said more quietly.

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind Strom might be capable of such a thing in the heat of anger if he thought the bairns had been mistreated.  Nothing more was said, but everyone watched with amusement as the four grew closer to each other.  Kuluke and T’kan came to accept Lyle as a second dad as readily as they accepted Strom as their primary father.  They even came to look upon Ox as their big brother, because they knew he was one of Strom’s adopted sons.  They didn’t talk about their other dad a lot.  The boys were promised the men would try to find their dad when they returned to Earth, and they seemed satisfied Strom and his friends would keep their word.

* * * * * * *

After the movie, Jack and Warren took everyone for another walk.  It was the last one for the evening.  It was getting late.  They no sooner returned when Travis blew his bosun’s pipe to announce the Buttercup’s arrival at the planet Jupiter.  David and Jonathan and the service bots served hot chocolate on the bridge.  The critters got other treats, but after one taste of a little of Lyle and Strom’s hot chocolate Kuluke and T’gan knew they’d found a home.  They couldn’t get such strange and wonderful things in a cold, damp cave.

The Captain began his talk about Jupiter.

“Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest.  Jupiter is more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined.  The mass of Jupiter is three hundred and eighteen times that of Earth.  Jupiter, or Zeus in Greek, was the King of the Gods, the ruler of Olympus and the patron of the Roman state.  Zeus was the son of Cronus (Saturn).  It is the fourth brightest  object in the sky after the Sun, the Moon and Venus.  It has been known since prehistoric times as a bright "wandering star".  In 1610 when Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky, he discovered Jupiter's four large moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (known today as the Galilean moons) and recorded their motions back and forth around Jupiter.  This was the first discovery of a center of motion not centered on the Earth.  It was a major point in favor of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the motions of the planets.  Galileo's outspoken support of the Copernican theory got him in trouble with the Holy Inquisition.  You remember them folks, don't you?  If it ain't in the bible, it ain't so.  What a pity religion and belief systems have progressed very little in four hundred years.  

The gas planets don't have solid surfaces.  Their gaseous material simply gets denser with depth.  What we see when looking at these planets is the tops of clouds high in their atmospheres.  Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium with traces of methane, water, ammonia and "rock".  This is very close to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the entire solar system was formed.  Saturn has a similar composition, but Uranus and Neptune have much less hydrogen and helium.

Our knowledge of the interior of Jupiter and the other gas planets is highly speculative and likely to remain so for some time;  however, some scientists' best guess is Jupiter probably has a core of rocky material amounting to something like ten to fifteen Earth-masses.  Above the core lies the main bulk of the planet in the form of liquid metallic hydrogen.  This exotic form of the most common of elements is possible only at pressures exceeding four million bars, as is the case in the interior of Jupiter and Saturn. Liquid metallic hydrogen consists of ionized protons and electrons like the interior of the Sun but at a far lower temperature.  At the temperature and pressure of Jupiter's interior hydrogen is a liquid, not a gas.  It is an electrical conductor and the source of Jupiter's magnetic field.  This layer probably also contains some helium and traces of various ices.  The outermost layer is composed primarily of ordinary molecular hydrogen and helium which is liquid in the interior and gaseous further out.  The atmosphere we see is just the very top of this deep layer.  Water, carbon dioxide, methane and other simple molecules are also present in tiny amounts.

Jupiter and the other gas planets have high velocity winds which are confined in wide bands of latitude. The winds blow in opposite directions in adjacent bands.  Slight chemical and temperature differences between these bands are responsible for the colored bands that dominate the planet's appearance.  The light colored bands are called zones; the dark ones belts.  The bands have been known for some time on Jupiter, but the complex vortices in the boundary regions between the bands were first seen by Voyager.  The data from the Galileo probe indicate that the winds are even faster than expected; more than 400 mph.  Jupiter's atmosphere is quite turbulent.  Jupiter's winds are driven in large part by its internal heat rather than from solar input as on Earth.  The vivid colors seen in Jupiter's clouds are probably the result of subtle chemical reactions of the trace elements in Jupiter's atmosphere, perhaps involving sulfur whose compounds take on a wide variety of colors, but the details are unknown.

The Great Red Spot (GRS) has been seen by Earthly observers for more than 300 years.  The GRS is an oval about 12,000 by 25,000 km, big enough to hold two Earths.  Other smaller but similar spots have been known for decades.  Infrared observations and the direction of its rotation indicate that the GRS is a high-pressure region whose cloud tops are significantly higher and colder than the surrounding regions.  Similar structures have been seen on Saturn and Neptune.  It is not known how such structures can persist for so long.

Jupiter radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun.  The interior of Jupiter is hot.  The core is probably about 20,000 K.  The heat is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism, the slow gravitational compression of the planet.  Jupiter does not produce energy by nuclear fusion as in the Sun; it is much too small and hence its interior is too cool to ignite nuclear reactions.  This interior heat probably causes convection deep within Jupiter's liquid layers and is probably responsible for the complex motions we see in the cloud tops.  Saturn and Neptune are similar to Jupiter in this respect, but oddly, Uranus is not.  Jupiter is just about as large in diameter as a gas planet can be.  If more material were to be added, it would be compressed by gravity such that the overall radius would increase only slightly.  A star can be larger only because of its internal nuclear heat source; however, Jupiter would have to be at least 80 times more massive to become a star.

Jupiter has a huge magnetic field, much stronger than Earth's.  Its magnetosphere extends more than 650 million km past the orbit of Saturn. Jupiter's moons lie within its magnetosphere, a fact which may partially explain some of the activity on one of its moons, Io.  Jupiter has sixty-three known satellites: the four large Galilean moons plus many more small ones.  Jupiter is very gradually slowing down due to the tidal drag produced by the Galilean satellites. Also, the same tidal forces are changing the orbits of the moons, very slowly forcing them farther from Jupiter.  Jupiter's satellites are named for other figures in the life of Zeus; mostly, his numerous lovers.”

Captain Waco’s discourse on Jupiter was the longest and most complete for all the planets.  He explained there were more mysteries than answers about such an imposing giant in our Solar System.  For all our technology there are questions about the planet that may never be answered.

Because of the planet’s size, it took sometime to orbit Jupiter; however, by the time Waco gave the command to leave orbit and continue on their journey to Venus, most of the guest had said their ‘goodnights’ and drifted of to their individual cabins.  Kuluke and T’kan were sharing a huge bed in same cabin where Strom and Lyle were staying.  It was another double cabin that had a water-tight door in between as found on most ships at sea, spaceships, and Mormon Temples.

Before they could go to bed they were required to join Lyle and Strom in the bath where they were both subjected to sonic showers and water.  They were careful with T’kan’s cast so it didn’t get wet.  It became a major family moment.  The young bairns were embarrassed the first time they saw Lyle naked.  They had plenty of fur to cover their genitals and so did Strom.  They didn’t have any problem with him; however, seeing a nude human was something altogether different for them.  They tried not to look at him and kept their backs to him most of the time.  Strom laughed at them.

“Come on, guys, you’re going to make Lyle feel bad.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.  Just think on him as family.  He’s my family and as long as you two are under my care he’s your family, too.  Once you get used to the fact he has no fur to speak of, you began to see the beauty of the human race.  And, as humans go, I picked me a good looking one.” Strom boomed with laughter as he hugged Lyle’s nude body against his.  The boys blushed.

It took them several evenings, but they slowly began to loosen up, but Kuluke’s problem was not that Lyle was nude, it was because he found him so attractive.  It didn’t take his little brother long to figure it out and made his big brother’s life even worse.  Lyle would bathe the boys just like he would Strom.  Strom would take one and Lyle would take the other.  Kuluke always managed to be with Strom.  T’kan told Strom what was going on and they roared with laughter.  It became their secret.

T’kan got Strom’s permission to show his brother the video Myra put up for him to watch while he was in sickbay.  That night, after Strom and Lyle had tucked them in, T’kan showed Kuluke what he discovered.  He taught him how to speak to Myra.

“Are you there, Myra?” T’kan spoke softly.

A soft female voice came back.  “I’m always here, sweet bairn.  All you gotta’ do is speak my name or give a whistle.  You do know how to whistle, don’t you?” she giggled.

“No, ma’am.  I don’t know how to whistle.”

“No, problem.  I’ll have one of the cowboys teach you.  Now, what can I do for you this evening?  It’s late, shouldn’t you men be going to sleep?”

“I got permission from Strom.” T’kan replied.

“I know you did.  I heard.  What do you need from Myra?”

“Could you put up that video you showed me in sickbay about how they make videos and special effects?”

“Sure.  Get comfy and I’ll start it in a minute.  Enjoy.” she replied and the video started.   

They watched it all the way through and Kuluke was impressed.  It was all very logical how they did it.  It was an art or a craft.  There was no magic to it; however, when he stopped to think about it, it came off looking like magic, and after all, wasn’t that what magic was all about?  Myra spoke to them again.

“Anything else I can do for you this evening, handsome?” she asked T’kan.

“No, ma’am, but thanks a lot, Myra.  You’re a good friend.”

“Why, thank you, little one, I try to be.  You take good care of your leg and get well soon.” she signed off.

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, Kuluke rolled over to throw his arm over his little brother, but he wasn’t there.  He sat up in the bed, but he didn’t panic.  He saw the door open between the bedrooms and went to look.  There was T’kan fast asleep in Lyle’s arms.  Kuluke silently walked around their big bed and gently crawled in next to Strom.  It was just enough to wake the big beast.  Strom saw it was Kuluke, smiled at him, and opened his huge arms to him.  Kuluke snuggle up to Strom and the big lummox embraced him.  Kuluke felt safer in Strom’s arms than he ever had in his young life.  There was just something about the huge lummox he felt comfortable with and trusted.

<< Would a little warm milk help you sleep?” >> Strom projected.

<< It just might, Sir. >> Kuluke smiled.

<< Help yourself, Son. >>

Kuluke fell fast asleep after only a few minutes of drinking Strom’s warm sweet milk.  He slept peacefully the rest of the night in his big lummox friend’s arms.
* * * * * * *

The morning pipe was blown early.  The Buttercup was approaching Venus.  Lyle and Strom lay in bed with their two new wards.  Lyle got everyone up.  He knew the first walk of the day started early.  They needed to get up and out to go for a walk in the woods.  After their walk, everyone had breakfast.  The Captain announced things would be different that morning, because there would be a lot more to see on Venus.  After breakfast all the guest gathered on the bridge.  Everyone was excited to get the first glimpse of the Venerean Bladder Whales, Cetacea Balaena Cythereinsis.
Waco told Burt to take the control seat next to his left where Jill had been setting.  She simply crawled up in Burt’s lap and smiled at him.  She weighed almost nothing so it wasn’t uncomfortable for him.

“I wanted you to get the feel of operating one of these ships, Burt.”  Waco told him.  “When things begin to get worse back on Earth the Admiral is going to need more command pilots.  We have a fleet of almost thirty of these small ships on board the Mighty Bee.  You interested?”

“Hell, yes, I’m interested.  Ever’ time I see you, Little Bear, Travis and Lucas take your seats up here, I damn near cream in my Wranglers.  I want to experience this for myself.”

“Well, just sit there and observe for right now and when we get back I’ll make arrangements for Ping and Pong to start a formal training program for you and Phil.”

“Hot damn!  That’s great, Captain Waco.  I’ll do my damnedest to make you, the Admiral and Master Charlie proud of me.”

“Okay, strap yourself in and hold onto your partner.  We’re heading into the atmosphere of Venus.  There may be a small amount of turbulence.”

Waco’s second in command, Lucas already instructed the passengers to get in their assigned seats and fasten their seat belts.  They didn’t know exactly how turbulent the cloud cover might be in the upper atmosphere.  Once they were inside and had a better idea they probably could walk about more freely.  They were no more than a few minutes in when the ship had to take a sudden turn to miss a huge bladder whale.  Waco pulled along side.  

“Myra, sweet heart, could you activate ship to creature communications, please.”

“Happy to, Captain.  Done!”

Immediately there came over the speakers strange sounds.  Intelligent sounds.  Rumblings.  Pops and squeaks, followed by high-pitched vocal sounds that resembled singing.  The sounds repeated then several voices joined the solo voice adding an even richer blend to the mix.  

“It sounds like singing!” exclaimed Johauk Kodaly.

“It is singing, Johauk.” said Shane Goodnight sitting next to him.  It’s the songs of the Venerean Atmospheric Bladder Whales.  I recognize that voice.  I think it’s the leader’s son, Chacheellian.”

“My God, look at them.  There must be fifty to a hundred of them.  How beautiful!  What are those long ropes attached to their fronts?” asked Blake Tindall in awe.  Everyone else was speechless.  

“Those aren’t ropes, Son.” Lazarus replied. “They’re like arms or legs.  Some have incorrectly called them tentacles or tendrils.  They are hundreds of miles long and continue to grow all their lives.  They have eight of them and they rotate forward as new ones are produced from their underbellies.  They cast them out before them and secure them on something solid on the surface to anchor them and pull them along even in the most severe wind storms.  It steadies them and keeps them from blowing away.  It also produces a more even flow of food for them.”

“Amazing.” said Vivian Steele.  “God, I’m glad I turned down that Mexican cruise.” she whispered to Sonny.  They shared a laugh.  

The Buttercup came up along side a particularly spectacular specimen.  Waco decided to hail it.

“Hello!  Greetings!  I’m Captain Waco Goodnight of the Earth ship Buttercup.”  Waco sent out into the atmosphere.  Everyone was amused and chuckled at Waco’s call.  They were even more amused but shocked when he got a response.

“Ah, yes, young Master Goodnight.  You’re now Captain of your own ship.  We heard you were assigned your own ship.  Congratulations, it’s a handsome ship, indeed.  I remember meeting you with my father on your last visit to Venus some time ago with Admiral Long and your father.  They are with you this trip as well, I believe?”

“They are, indeed, Sir.  Are you Chacheellian?”

“Indeed, I am.  You remembered my name.  How gracious of you.”

“Yes, Sir, and how is your handsome father Chuchulack?”

“He’s well.  He’s a bit ahead of me.  I’ve been put in the rear to assist the elderly stragglers and new calves who have lost their mother, but I’m slowly catching up with him.  As you can see I have a couple young calves in tow who haven’t learned to use their wind legs yet.  Welcome, Captain Waco and all your guests to Venus.  I know you have some unusual new folks with you.  You have one of the Ancients in corporeal form aboard your ship and his companion.  What a delight to feel his presence.  And what a delight to get to meet the singing quadrupeds Patty, Moe, Larry and Shep.  We hope to hear them sing while you visit.  And young Jimmy-Bob Dodge and his companion Stan Edmunds.  Mr. and Mrs. Steele and Mr. Steele’s fine looking father Warren.   Mr. Jack Hall, young Johauk Kodaly and Mr. Blake Tindell.   Not to forget Garron, Strom and his new mate, Lyle Chambers and their two new wards, Kuluke and T’gan.  Congratulation Strom and Lyle on the success of your coupling.  May your new infant bairn bring you much happiness.  And welcome to your men Captain Waco, Little Bear and his grandfather, Travis and your handsome brothers JR, Blue and Lucas.  Welcome Princess Pata.  Welcome Admiral Long, Master Charlie and Hank Morgan.  It’s is good to hear your thoughts again.  It’s so good to have you all visit Venus.  Go on up ahead a ways and you will find my father.  You can’t miss him.  He’s the biggest bull at the front.  He’s also in full mating colors so I hope you’re all wearing eye protection.”  Chacheellian laughed and made everyone else laugh.  “I know my father is anxious to greet you.  We’ve been expecting you.”

“Thank you, Chacheellian.  It’s good to see you again.  You’re certainly taking on some of your father’s handsome good looks.  You’re much larger than our last visit.”

“Why, thank you, young Captain.  So good of you to notice.  I’m afraid I will never be such a fine looking Cytherian as my father, but I struggle on.”  Chacheellian laughed again and everyone was in love with the Bladder Whales.

Lucas gave everyone permission to release their seatbelts.  The ship’s stabilizers were functioning to full capacity and it would be smooth sailing through the Venerean atmosphere.  Waco explained there were two adjectival usages to describe aspects of Venus; one was Venusian and the other was Venerean; both were correct but Captain Waco preferred the latter.

Waco turned the controls over to Lucas and went to stand along side his dad and Admiral Long.  Lucas expertly guided the ship slowly to the front of the pod of Whales.  It took them sometime, because there was close to a hundred of them.  They were all sizes and shapes.  They were beautiful and the adults were in full mating colors.  It was spring on Venus or as close to it as a planet that only rotates once in two hundred and forty-three Earth days can claim.  As it was the beginning of a new sidereal day, it was their spring.  Venus rotates in the opposite direction from Earth.  The sun rises in the West and sets in the East.  Lucas had no problem identifying the lead bull, Chuchulack.  As they came upon him, Burt pointed him out.

“It that him?  Is he their leader, Lucas?” he asked with considerable enthusiasm.

“‘At’s him all right.  ‘At’s Chuchulack.  Magnificent ain’t he?” Lucas grinned.

“Unbelievable.” whispered Burt.  “And fantastically handsome for such a large creature.”

They could hear the whales calling and singing to each other.  Some of the young ones were singing to their leader.  He was bellowing to them in his native song.  He halted his song with an admonition to his young, he must take care of protocol with their visitors.  No one on the ship could understand the words, but there was no doubting his intent.

“Ah, the Buttercup has arrived and Admiral Long’s young slave-son Lucas is at the helm.  Welcome all and thank you Burt Stamper for your kind words about my person.  They are greatly appreciated.”

Burt laughed he was so stunned the big creature might have heard him and was so personable.  Lazarus decided it was his turn to communicate.

“Chuchulack, our old friend.  It looks like your kind are prospering and feeding well.  I must say we’re all thrilled to see you and your family in such fine shape.  Have things been well with you?”

“They have, Admiral.  We were so happy when we received word you and your extended family were planning a pleasure excursion and including Venus as one of your destinations.  Welcome one and all, but particularly your honored guests, the Stamper brothers, their boss Blake Tindell, their Masters Hoot and Cotton and the young men’s suitors.  Also we’re pleased to welcome Master Jesse Watkins and Utah.  What an honor.  It’s been several centuries since we were honored by a visit from him.”

“Hello, Chuchulack, our old friend.  You don’t look a day older than the last time we met.” said Jesse.

“Ah, you are too kind, Master Watkins.  We’re so glad you took a name for yourself.” the big creature laughed, “I understand it was given to you by the other Masters.”

“You’re correct; however, they chose a fine bearer to give it to me in the form of Mr. Goodnight’s son and new captain of this ship, young Waco.”

“Ah, yes, I was saving my Welcome for him and his father for last, but now is appropriate.  Welcome to Venus Mr. Goodnight and Captain Waco.  Your generosity and exploits have been carefully noted since your last visit to us, and you have accomplished much.  We are particularly interested in your sharing your body’s information for the formation of a clone to house another species of silicone based life form, one of the delicate and beautiful Kryscellians.  Never before in the history of the Universe has anyone attempted to conjoin two life forms like this.  It is remarkable to say the least;  however, we foresee some minor problems on the horizon.  Your new brother will tell you about it later, but for now I must tell you you’ve captured the hearts and imagination of the entire Venerean world.  You have been given the honor of landing on Venus and a requested audience with some of the Venusian dignitaries.”   

“My, that is an honor.” said Lazarus nodding at Waco.  “In all my years and visits to this planet I’ve never been honored with such request.”

“You were in military vessels and not simply on a pleasure cruise of our system, Admiral.  They were not allowed to socially receive you by their binding treaty with their overlords, the reptilian race.  They forced them to accept a reticent neutrality toward all other races who either exist within or frequently visit our solar system.  Like other civilizations, the Venusian’s have evolved in their technology, attitudes and politics and have thrown off the strict protocols the reptilian race has imposed on them for centuries.  They have announced their independence and now function as an autonomous people.  They also have our full support in their decision.  We were never fond of the reptilian race which evolved on your planet.  Their logic and methods were looked upon as flawed, self-serving, crude and thoughtless, sometimes bordering on the barbaric.  Their civilization has very little to consider as lofty or striving to attain higher degrees of thought.  They seem to exist simply for the purpose of survival and reproduction of their kind.  They have no art in their living.  It is our humble opinion, life without beauty and the freedom to strive for pure thought is not a life worth living and of as little import or necessity as a dreaded disease.

Furthermore, the Venusians are fascinated by your successful attempts to gift your quadrupedal friends with speech.  They can’t wait to meet Patty, Moe, Larry, Shep and of course, Utah.  What does it say in your book of books: ‘The least among you shall be first?’  By your consideration of a humble species, who have given so much to mankind over the years, it is only right that you begin to be noticed and respected as a species who are beginning to take your rightful place in the Universe.  And, if that weren’t enough, Captain Waco, they have an enormous and unplanned surprise for you and your men.  By the way, we all saw and experienced Dame Pata and Blue’s dance the other night and found it to be of the highest quality.  We can’t tell you how much we enjoyed it.  The Venerean clouds resounded with songs of such beauty afterward you would have been stunned by their brilliance.  I’ve never heard such singing from my kind since the Song Wars we held with the whales from you planet for centuries.  They weren’t really Wars as you think of them, but they were as important to us and every bit as glorious.  Afterward, instead of the defeated being vanquished, we all rose together more proud than ever to join with the triumphant to sing their song of victory.  Ah, those were the times that elevated our species and worlds to new heights of existence.  Together the victors and the vanquished became the envy of the spheres.  Our hearts conjoined in the victor’s song to become so much more than we were.  Can you relate to that, young Johauk Kodaly?” Chuchulack asked with his booming voice.

All faces turned to look at the young man who had tears streaming down his face.  Blake put his arm around his shoulder and pulled him close.

“I’m afraid our brother cannot speak right now, Father Chuchulack.  He is so moved by your words.” Waco spoke.

“My words were meant for one as beautiful as him.  He reached to the bottom of his soul, pulled his talent up by its bootstraps, and sang his own mother back from death’s door.  Neither Orfeo nor Faust could do that for their beloved.  In everyman and creature’s heart, there is a song that only they know, and as many as they sing or create within their lifetime, they will never be as sweet as the song they alone can hear.”

“How can we land in one of their cities without coordinates, Chuchulack?  From our observations of the planet there are no visible structures on the surface.”  Lazarus inquired.

“You’re correct, Admiral Long.  It is much too warm for their species on the surface.  Everything is underground and their entries or space docks are phased out so as not to be seen by any means.  If you give your onboard computer, Ms. Myra, permission, they will take over the landing for you.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Once again, it is a great pleasure to be the first to welcome you to Venus.  We have become unofficial welcoming ambassadors for our planet for sometime now; however, we don’t extend our hospitality to all species.”

“We are honored, Chuchulack.  Long may you live and may you have many healthy, intelligent, song filled calves.”

“The same to you, Admiral.  You just had two new bairns with your partner.  Give him our best and tell him he only grows more handsome as the years pass.”

“I will, my friend and we will speak again before we depart.”

“I will look forward to it, Admiral.”

Waco told Myra to look for a signal from the surface and respond accordingly.

“Already done, my handsome Captain.  We’re on our way.”
Chuchulack’s words generated great excitement and speculation.  Lucas instructed everyone to their assigned seats for landing.  They didn’t expect any difficulties out of the ordinary, but it was better to be safe than sorry.  Everyone buckled up and Captain Waco resumed his seat.  There was really nothing for the crew to do but watch and wait.  Myra and the Venusians were directing the Buttercup to the landing spot.  All the holo-grids were active and it looked like you could reach out and touch the surface as they glided smoothly to the base of a large crater.

A large round platform rose up to meet them to dock with the base of the Buttercup.  Everyone felt a slight thump as it engaged.  Myra cut her engines and the ship was at rest on its docking platform.  The platform was slowly lowered and began to move in the direction of the wall of the crater.  The wall began to shimmer and then it simply opened onto a huge underground base for all kinds of different spacecraft.  The platform moved in the same direction and went past numerous crafts.  Waco caught sight of a huge ship where men were working.  There were work crews all over it.  He thought he recognized it.  No, it wasn’t possible.  He leaned over to Lucas.

“I know it can’t be, but that big rusty looking battle cruiser what looks like it’s seen better days reminds me of. . .”

“You better take a closer look, brother.  I think it’s what you think it is.  Keekepata, front and center!"  Lucas shouted. 
Keeke unfastened her seat belt and flew to Lucas and Waco’s side.  "Are we seeing what we think we’re seeing, Darlin'?” Lucas asked Keeke. 

“Yes, brother Lucas, Master Waco, it is the Banshee.  I’d recognize her anywhere.  She’s seen better days.  It looks like she’s been in several battles.”  Keeke answer like she was excited but worried.

“That must be the surprise Chuchulack spoke about.”  Waco was grinning from ear to ear.  Waco and Lucas expressed their joy by high-fiveing each other.  Keekepata giggled.  Several folks laughed at the Captain and his first mate; however, several passengers didn’t have a clue what they were so joyful about. “From the looks of the cruiser, I hope they’re all right.” Keekepata said.

“They are.  Three are in sickbay off the dock.  Your Captain is one of them, Captain Waco.  He has a broken leg like young T’gan.” confirmed Myra from information she was receiving.  He can’t wait to see you.  One of the other injured crewmen, Commander Trapeeth Newsong Maddragon (Madre-gone), keeps asking for you, First Mate Lucas.”   

“Oh, my God!”  Lucas exclaimed with concern.  “Is he all right, Myra?”

“He’s fine, Son.  He banged his head against a bulkhead.  It resulted in a deep cut, but it’s been fixed.  He’s doing fine.  He’s much better now that he knows he’ll be seeing you in a while.  They can’t keep him in bed.”

“Please send him a message, Ms. Myra.  That’s where I expect to find him.”  Lucas blurted out and everyone chuckled.

Lazarus’ attention perked up as he watched his boy’s face turned a deep red color.  He saw Lucas cover the huge grin on his handsome young face with his hand.  He watched as Waco patted his slave-brother on the back and whispered something to him that sent them both into spasms of laughter.  At that moment, Lazarus knew who Lucas was considering for his first time.  Lazarus had seen holo-vids of Commander Maddragon and if he had to pick anyone for his son, he couldn’t imagine a finer warrior than the Commander.  He breathed a deep sigh of relief.  He would have kept his promise to Lucas, but he was glad he might not have to.  Lazarus felt it should be someone else; someone his boy could love and relate to as a mate or master; someone who would be strong, but gentle, kind and loving.  Commander Maddragon met all those qualities in Lazarus’ mind.          

The platform moved swiftly enough, but it wasn’t moving fast enough for the cowboys on board.  They had grown to love and appreciate Captain Vinceeth and his men.  They felt like they knew them personally and were about to see family.  Most of the rest of the passengers felt the same.  They were all anxious and looking forward to seeing the fine looking warriors of the Banshee.  But first they had to go through the protocol of meeting the Venusians.  Lazarus warned them.

“Now, gentlemen, slaves, lummox, critters and freemen, you will all have time to see your friends; however, there is business to attend to first.  We must always remember we are first and foremost invited guests of the Venusians and their world.  Our friends, no matter how our hearts may yearn to see them, will appreciate our necessity to follow protocol and be gracious to our hosts.  After all, it’s the first time in my long history in this system that I know of anyone being invited to their world.  The Venusians are a very solitary people and rarely mix with other societies.  It is a great honor to be invited to their world.  Each of us, freeman, slave, lummox or critter must conduct ourselves like we are ambassadors of our world.  One day we may need their assistance and the hope and possibility of an alliance with them could very well be based on the way we conduct ourselves while we’re here.  Any questions?”

“Does that mean we ain’t suppose to nip at them if they step on our tails, Admiral?” Shep asked innocently.

Everyone broke up laughing.  Even Lazarus had a hard time keeping a straight face.  He thought to himself, perhaps he was being a bit over-the-top with his comments.

“Yes, Shep, it does.  You may yelp as loud as you want, but no nipping.”

“Yes, Sir.” Shep replied sheepishly.

They were met on the docks by a reception committee.  The Venusians were a beautiful race of people.  The were very tall, had blonde hair and light blue eyes.  There was very little variation in their people, except one young male was an albino and had pure white hair and pink eyes.  He was unusual to look at, but once you got to know him, he was easier to relate to than most of the Venusians.  He seemed to fit in very well with the humans, lummox and critters.  He particularly liked Jack and Jill.  They thought he was okay, too.

There were formal introductions and the dignitaries made speeches and welcomed everyone personally.  Everyone tried to keep smiles on their faces but Waco and all the other cowboys were twitching in their seats to see their warrior buddies, their heroes.  Waco kept pulling on his ear in case the Captain was watching a holo-vid broadcast of their arrival.  It just so happened he was and the men standing around his bed went crazy when they saw Waco’s personal signal to him.  As subtly as possible, Lucas did the same and Commander Trapeeth Maddragon was the center of much good natured teasing.
Lazarus and Charlie were proud of the boys.  They managed to keep their composure and dignity during the ceremony and acted like young gentlemen through it all.  They responded properly and graciously to the Venusians.  Even the Stamper men were the very models of manners and integrity.  The Venusians were greatly impressed and were looking forward to seeing more of their guests.  Their arrival was being broadcast worldwide and they would be the center of attention for the rest of their visit to Venus.

None of that mattered to the cowboys.  All they wanted was to see their friends.  Finally, it was mentioned, they might wish to visit the warriors of the Banshee who had been asking endlessly about them.  Waco, spoke as calmly as he could for himself and his brothers.

“We would greatly appreciate it if we might be allowed to visit with them at you and your staff’s earliest convenience, your Honor.”  Waco spoke to the head of the Venus world confederation.

“No time like the present.”  he heard the head honcho say.  There went up a cheer from the cowboys that was unexpected, but the Venusians found amusing.

“This way, gentlemen.”  one of the tall male officials directed the boys.  They graciously thanked the head man and told him they appreciated the fine welcome they provided for them.  They looked forward to seeing more of them and their world.  They couldn’t wait to be off to the hospital and barracks.

What set out to be an orderly get together turned into chaos when the warriors and the cowboys caught sight of each other.  It was utter confusion.  Even stoic Sonny and Warren Steele were taken aback by the shear powerful masculine beauty of the Visallian warriors.  They had seen holo-vids of them, but to see them up close and personal was altogether something different.  Vivian Steele was stunned by their physical attractiveness.  Waco and Lucas were physically lifted onto the massive shoulders of several as if they were lightweight sacks of flour and carried into the hospital room, where their Captain and Commander were, in a triumphal march to rival the second act of Aida.  They set Waco down and he ran to his suitor Captain Vinceeth and Lucas ran to Commander Maddragon.  They were all over each other.  Travis was all over the other injured man in his bed, Sergeant Major Sallient Leashman Doggoral.  He was, perhaps, the largest of all the Visallian warriors.

All of this was being broadcast to the entire world of the Venusian people and the Venerean Atmospheric Bladder Whales were tuned into the joy as well.  No one was left out.  It was a great historic moment on Venus.  As stoic and unemotional as the Venusian’s were, there were many who felt deeply touched by the reunion of the two separate but distinct humanoid species.  Add to that a third specie with the lummox, and a fourth with Jack and Jill and they were overwhelmed at the expressions of joy they were witnessing.

“Oh, God, it’s so good to see you again, Captain Vinceeth.”  Waco spoke with tears in his eyes.  “What an unexpected pleasure to find you here.”  Blue and Ox were standing looking over Waco’s shoulder as the men hugged and kissed.

“I’m the one blessed to see you again, young man.  How well you look, and your brother is just as fine looking.  Hello, Son, and hello Ox, you strong, handsome lummox.  Welcome to Venus.”

“Are you all right, Captain?”

“I’m fine, Captain Goodnight.  We had several skirmishes, but we managed to escape by the skin of our teeth and were invited here for the three ‘R’s’: repairs, rest and recuperation.  Little did we know we’d run into you, but we knew we were in your neighborhood.  Do you think the Ancients, or Elders had something to do with this happening?”

“I have a feeling they just may have, my good Captain.”  Waco laughed and hugged him again.  Hogarth Treygor Vinceeth was the most handsome masculine male humanoid Waco Goodnight every laid eyes on.  Everything about the man was perfect.  He was breathtakingly good-looking.  Even Vivian Steele later confided in Waco she was just a little envious of his catch.  Waco took it as a supreme compliment.  He knew there was only one cowboy for Vivian Steele.  Waco wanted to see what the Venusians had done for Trey’s leg; however, he wasn’t sure about protocol.  He first checked with his Admiral.

“Admiral, I’m concerned for Captain Trey.  He doesn’t seem to have a cast on his leg.  Unless there’s another healing process we’re not familiar with, I want him checked out by you and our medical staff on the Buttercup.”

“Sounds reasonable.  Let’s get the Captain to our ship where we can have some privacy, and we can check him out.  Even though the Venusians are humanoid, and some of our Nordic races actually sprang from them, I’m not sure they have the same medical expertise we do.  It certainly couldn’t hurt to examine the three injured men.” Lazarus told Waco.

The men were only too willing to go aboard the Buttercup for a private gathering.  The Venusians didn’t have a wheelchair but they did have an anti-grav Gurney they lifted the Captain onto.  Once on the Buttercup, Waco explained to Trey what his concerns were.

“I’ve wondered myself.” he responded. “They scanned me and put some healing rays on my leg, but I’ve been told I can’t stand or move about for almost six weeks.  I need to get on my feet.  I appreciate what they’ve done.  I’m not in any pain; however, I would appreciate your staff taking a look at what they’ve done.”

When Trey met T’kan in his leg cast and crutches and saw how well he was getting around on his own power, he told Waco and Lazarus that’s exactly what he needed.  He’d never seen anything like it.  Even on his home world people with broken bones had to remain immobile for many weeks.  Keekepata confirmed his words and insisted Lazarus’ and his medical staff’s knowledge was much greater than theirs.  Keeke was overjoyed to see her people again.  The warriors and crew of the Banshee treated her like a God.  They were so in love with her and held her in such awe.  
Keekepata had forgotten how it felt to be so adored and she wallowed in the feeling for all of thirty minutes.  Then, it hit her, how much more she relished and adored her rough and ready cowboys.  She worked so hard to become a part of them and their world, their affection and the slightest inclusion into their hearts became of greatest importance to her.  Now, she might be faced with making a choice.

After scanning Captain Vinceeth’s leg, Lazarus and David were pleased the Venusians managed to set the bone and it showed definite signs of healing. Jesse Watkins was with them and interested in the Captain’s progress.  He suggested Blue have a go with his healing techniques and then cast the Captain’s leg like T’kan’s.  Trey was thrilled there might be a chance he could become more mobile.  He agreed and told them that’s what he wanted.  He consulted with Dr. T’kan about his own cast.

“How does it feel, Son.” Trey asked him.

“It itches something awful sometimes, Captain; however, David tells me mine is from my fur growing back.  You don’t have fur like I do, but you’re pretty hairy.”  T’kan smiled.  He wasn’t sure he said the right thing.

Trey winked and smiled at him. “I think I can put up with itching as long as I can get about.  Will you teach me how to use crutches?” Trey asked.

“Sure, Captain.  Ain’t nothing to it.” T’kan bubbled with enthusiasm.

Trey Vinceeth fell in love with the young lummox.  It wasn’t hard to do.  The bairn was not as retiring and suspicious as his older brother and tried hard to make the best of every situation.  He was full of the joy of life and wanted to please those he found worthy of his attentions and affection.  That was just about anyone who showed him any interest with a modicum of kindness.  T’kan faced the world with an unassuming innocence and innate stolid bravery.  Everyone fell in love with the young lummox.  It didn’t take him long to capture the hearts of the Visallian warriors and the entire Venusian world.  They even coined a name for him.  Since he and their Captain had the same leg broken they began to refer to him as the “Little Skipper.”

After Blue applied his therapy and David and Lazarus looked at more scans of the Captain’s broken leg they could see the healing process had been greatly accelerated, and he could benefit from a cast.  David gave Waco and Blue the job of denuding his leg of all hair.  It became very sensual to the brave Captain and try as he might, he couldn’t help but get an erection.  He  lay propped up with some large pillows with a huge grin on his face.  Waco and Blue blushed and giggled a lot.  Finally, David took over and provided him with a fine cast just like T’kan’s.  

David fitted the Captain with a pair of crutches like T’kan’s and true to his word the young lummox taught the big Visallian warrior how to use them most effectively.  They even took a walk in the forest with the critters, and everyone encouraged the Captain.  He was thrilled he could be up and around and somewhat mobile.  It was certainly better than lying in a bed for weeks.

He was stunned by the forest on board the Buttercup.  His people didn’t have the miniaturization technology Lazarus possessed and he couldn’t believe it was a real forest with enormous trees.  On their walk it was the first time anyone saw Ah-ne-purrna.  Everyone stopped in their tracks.  Jack and Jill ran for the safety of Jack Hall and Warren Steele and the pups fell in behind Utah and Jesse and the lummox.  Waco urged Captain Trey to stand still.  Trey never saw an animal like her before, and he was fascinated.  She saw the entourage of critters and folks and turned to avoid them.  She was simply out for a stroll with her kittens.  As she turned to disappear into the forest, everyone got a good look at her kits.  They looked well fed and healthy.

At the halfway point in their walk Jack and Warren called a halt so everyone could take a breather and rest for a few minutes.  All the cowboys brought bottles of water with them and shared with their critter buddies.  The men sat around Captain Vinceeth and his new little partner T’kan.  They managed to find a rock of just the right height to sit upon.  Trey brought along his Commander Maddragon and the other wounded man, his Sergeant Major Doggoral.  Almost the entire passenger list of the Buttercup was on the walk.  They all wanted to be where the action was.  They all gathered around to hear their conversation.    

“It’s such a pleasure to run into you men on Venus.  We had no idea you would be out and about.”  Captain Vinceeth said for the hundreth time.

Lazarus explained the purpose of their brief journey.  Trey and his men knew who the Stamper boys were.  They knew all their names and the positions they played on the football team.  The were great fans of the boys.  Lazarus asked Trey about his ship and what happened to them.

“To be honest, Admiral and honored guests of the Buttercup, we were on our way to your planet with a precious cargo; however, our ship was in such bad shape we weren’t sure we could make it.  We made it to your smaller planet Mars, and there we unloaded our cargo.  Our thought was, if we could contact you, we could return later with you to retrieve it and then repair our ship in the safety of Mars or one of your hidden ships.  But as we began our journey, we found ourselves under attack again and the snakes took out our engines.  They left us dead in the water, so to speak, probably thinking we would meet slow deaths by starving to death.

But the Venusians saw it all and came to our rescue.  They were very kind and gracious.  They towed us here and have been busy working with my mechanical crew to repair the Banshee.  Some of their upgrades are better than our technology.  We don’t know what changed their political attitude about helping those who are against the snakes, but we’re grateful they came to our rescue.  We couldn’t contact you.  Our communications were gone.  I was trying to mentally contact Keeke or my young cowboy here to no avail.

We have to get back to Mars as soon as possible.  We left live critters and folks there.  The snakes were in the process of destroying their world and we got out as many as we could before the whole planet collapsed.  We discovered something wonderful on Mars we thought was only myth.  It is the last of a terrifically advanced civilization and we managed to get just enough of the systems working to provide a temporary atmosphere in a huge underground cavern designed especially for the purpose of preserving life on the planet.  Unfortunately, we only have a portion of the key which will unlock the contents of the vault of knowledge stored there which could begin a chain reaction to restore the enormous caverns to their original intent.  We did figure out the remaining key to the puzzle is stored in an ancient book, not of this time line, on one of the terrestrial worlds of the Sol system.  We’re not sure what it means.  Is it stored out of sync with our time line, or was it created in another time line and hidden in this one?  What we could make of it says, only one man who was blessed and sent by the Ancients would be able to access the key.  I immediately thought of you, your Lordship.”

“What language is it written in, Son, and how did you manage to translate as much as you did?” Lazarus asked.

“We’re not real sure about that either, Admiral.  As you know, all our warriors are carefully schooled in multiple disciplines and become quite expert in several different subjects so if we lose a man in battle, someone’s knowledge base will cover the lost man’s.  Of our four language experts, Sergeant Major Doggoral here is probably the most accomplished.  I’ll let him tell you about it.”

The Sergeant Major had his big arm around Travis holding him close.  He removed it, formed a fist with his huge hand and coughed into it like he was clearing his throat.

“It was written in an ancient language of the Volgorons, Admiral.  It was a golden metallic ink embossed upon a strange parchment.  I could barely make out the runes.  I studied them for hours and when I was just about to give up from frustration and anger, I took a deep breath and tried once more.  I cleared my mind and thought I wouldn’t try to conjure a translation so much as let the runes speak to me of their purpose.  As I did, to my amazement, the runes began to rise from the old parchment and rearrange themselves to an understandable message.  I was able to translate it without referring to a translation index.  It was right there before me, hanging in the air.  As soon as I understood its message, the runes returned to the page in their original order.”

Waco got a big smile on his face and looked at his cousin.  He knew Shane brought along his copy of the history of the Long family including the parchments he found.  Lazarus saw their exchange and knew in an instant what and where the ancient texts were.  They were on the Buttercup carefully hidden under the mattress of Shane and his master’s bed.

“I think we just may be able to help you, gentlemen.  If I may suggest a plan?” Lazarus deferred to Trey Vinceeth.

“We’re at your command, Admiral.  My father, grandfather, and great grandfather would tie me to an Adoromacious root and beat me within an inch of my life or until the sympathetic root began to bleed in empathy for my plight if I were to deny you anything, Sir.”

“I’ll have to speak to them about that, Trey, when I next meet them.  It might be fun.”  Lazarus laughed and winked at Trey.  “I suggest you and your Officers travel with us to Mars.  Let’s see what we can arrange.  I understand the full compliment of your crew is about three hundred men, is that right?” Lazarus asked.

“Yes, Sir,— and we have twenty Shushonnii with us.”

“Leave half here to supervise and protect your ship and the rest come with us to Earth for a vacation and relaxation.  After a couple of weeks we can rotate your crew so all will have a chance to stretch their space-legs and visit with us.  Even with Blue and his family’s help it will take several weeks for your leg to heal properly before the cast can be removed.  I know Captain Waco and his crew will be happy to shuttle you back and forth to either Venus or Mars.  We need to start breaking some more of our men into shuttle flying.  They can use the practice and flight time.  We plan to begin a program when we return.”
“That’s a most generous offer, Admiral.  We will certainly be honored and thrilled to accept.  I think you will be most pleased with the treasures we managed to save from several worlds being destroyed by the snakes because they refused to submit to slavery and domination.  Some day they must be defeated and strict controls placed on their further expansion in the Universe.”

“I couldn’t agree more.  The Reptilians have had far too much unchecked freedom in the Universe.  It’s time they were confronted for the eons of pain and suffering they’ve cause others in the galaxies.  It will begin with the fall of Earth and its government.”  

That evening Captain Waco decided to show Captain Vinceeth and his crew the video of Keekepata and Blue’s dance they performed the evening they started their journey.  Since the auditorium of the Buttercup wasn’t large enough they used the auditorium on the Banshee.  It was in a central part of the ship and was unharmed by any of the battle skirmishes the ship suffered.  Captain Vinceeth offered to share the holo-vid with the Venusians and it was sent out to every home in the Venusian world.  Trey knew how interested in the singing pups from Earth the Venusian’s were and asked Waco’s permission to show the video Waco sent him and his crew a number of months earlier of the pups singing at the Parson Rodeo.  Waco agreed.

Everyone gathered to see both videos, and although Patty, Moe, Larry and Shep were older they were proud of themselves and sang along with video.  Their participation made it all the more fun for the crew of the Banshee.  When they watched the video of Keekepata’s last dance the crowd was silent.  It was one of the most moving moments any of them experienced and they reacted the same as the cowboys when they first saw it.  There was a prolonged, stunned silence and then chaos erupted.  

The Venusians didn’t know what to expect but were bowled over by both videos.  The first with pups was wonderful and silly, but the dance of Keekepata and Blue they recognized as great art.  They pups, Keekepata, Blue and Arnie became the darlings of Venus.

“You better have your Captain ask his girlfriend to send a message back to the Mighty Bee we might be delayed a couple of nights.”  Charlie spoke in Lazarus’ ear.  Lazarus grinned and agreed.

“I don’t anticipate being delayed more than one evening, boss.  It depends on what we find on Mars and what we’re able to do about it.  I have no idea what Trey is talking about.”

The Venusians were happy and pleased to see Captain Vinceeth up and around.  They never used casts before.  It seemed like such a simple thing, but sometimes, even with the most advanced civilizations, simple things are overlooked for more difficult solutions, making both impossible.  They quickly learned and adopted such practices.  Many Venusians with broken bones were spared the long convalescence previously imposed by lack of mobility.

Trey Vinceeth agreed to stay over on the Buttercup with his young Captain.  They were accompanied at all times by Waco’s huge lummox slave, who acted as an escort or chaperon for them.  Neither Charlie nor Lazarus had the least worry about Waco’s chastity with Ox around.  Besides, the two Captains had much to catch up with each other.  Lazarus was more concerned for his son-slaves’ chastity; however, since Lucas was a slave and fully within his duty description to provide pleasure for a man he considered his temporary master, was appropriate.  Lazarus spoke to him.

“Have you forgotten I am your master, Son?”

“Not at all, Dad.  How could you even ask?  Don’t let my attraction to the Commander confuse you.  I have been honest with him.  I’ve told him about our relationship.  While I’m your son, I am also your slave and your wishes and orders to me come first.  My first allegiance to you is as my master and my second is to you as my dad.  He understands that.”

“I knew before I asked that would be your answer; however, I didn’t ask my question for a loyalty check.  I know beyond a doubt where your loyalties lay.  I asked because I know as your master, if it is my wish for you to give yourself to pleasure that big, fine looking, Visallian warrior, you will obey me without question.”  

Lucas got a big grin on his face, but looked down at his boots trying to hide it from Lazarus.  He saw a trap.  He knew what his dad was up to.

“Yes, Master, you are correct, I would follow your order without question.” he answered quietly.

“Is it an order you would like to hear from me, Son?”

By such a subtle thing as adding the world ‘son’ to the end of his question, Lucas knew his dad wanted to know if he was ready to lose his virginity and was this the man he wanted to lose it with?

“You sure you won’t be hurt or offended if I don’t share it with you, Dad?”

“Not at all.  Your first time should be with someone special; someone who captures your heart and imagination so greatly there’s no doubt in your mind you want to give it up to him.  You do plan to save some for your old man, don’t chu’?”  Lazarus chuckled as he hugged and stole a kiss from his handsome son.

“More than you can handle, old man.” Lucas shot back.

“‘At better be two more bushels than a wagon load, boy!”  Lazarus exclaimed with a laugh.

“I promise, It’ll be enough to haul your ashes.”  Lucas joked with his dad.  “I have a feeling, after the Commander breaks me to his saddle, you can ride yore’ tame slave-pony anywhere with no problem.”

“I agree.  Sounds like a plan to me.  All right then, slave-boy, I order you to pleasure that hot Visallian warrior any way he needs it, you understand?”

“I understand, Master.”

“Make me proud of you, Son?”

“I promise, I will, Dad.  Oh, yes, and tell my master I said, ‘thank you.’”

“Not to worry, he heard you — loud and clear.  He hopes you enjoy your first time.”

“I have to ask, Master, was this your idea?”

“What do you think?”

“I think someone politely asked my master if he could take me.” Lucas grinned at Lazarus.

“You would be correct, slave.  You wanna’ tell him or you want me to?”

“I can take it from here, Sir.”

“I had a feeling you might like to.”  

* * * * * * *

Lucas shared with his cabin mate Blake the order he was given by his master.  Blake knew Lazarus wouldn’t have ordered his son to give himself to the lusty Commander if he hadn’t asked Lucas first.

“Would you like for me to get another cabin assignment, brother?”  Blake smiled at him.

“No, that won’t be necessary.  I already got another cabin assignment.  After all, it was my job to assign everyone in the first place.  The Captain just reviewed my list and approved it.  I took one away from all the others on ‘C’ deck.”

“Can’t say’s I blame you.  I’m envious of you in two ways, little brother.” Blake grinned at him.

“How’s that, brother Blake?”

“I won’t be your first and you get to be taken by one a’ them Visallian hunks.  Lord hep’ me!  Ever’ time I’m around them men my dick loses its mind.  It starts drool’n like an idiot.” the men shared a good laugh.

“I know what chu’ mean.  Y’ain’t the only one.  I can’t stand it no longer.  I jes’ gotta’ feel that big warrior-buck inside me.  I met him when we went to pickup our brother Blue and I seen him on all the videos they send us.  We been sending each other personal videos for over a year now, and well— you know the rest.”

Blake declared, “I’m gonna’ beg Master Charlie and Admiral Long to take pity on me this evening and mercy fuck their loyal slave to death.” Blake  laughed and Lucas laughed, too.

* * * * * * *

Commander Maddragon took Lucas for his first time.  It was everything Lucas hoped it would be and more.  He heard what fantastic lovers Vasillian warriors could be, but he had no idea the height’s of passion the Commander could take him to.  Lucas was glad he placed him and his warrior away from the rest of the guests.  As it turned out, neither were quiet lovers.  Lucas found the Commander’s need to revert to some almost primal form of animal involved in a near spiritual quest for his rut infected his partner to respond to his call.  The Commander would grunt his urgency, his need, his hunger and Lucas would answer to let him know he was with him in his rut until the very moment his passion burst forth and flooded his partner’s young bowels with his massive quantity of seed.

Commander Maddragon took his young partner with strength and consideration.  Every movement he made was calculated to be the best he could bring for both of them with the most care.  He made damn sure his mate got his own reward.  He continued to fuck Lucas until he could hold onto it no longer.  The Commander was surely taking his virginity from him.  Lucas consented to give it to him, and the large Visallian warrior took what was his.  Lucas’ back arched as the Commander hit the same spot in his ass over and over again with the massive mushroom head of his male penis.  Lucas yelled at the top of his voice as he erupted all over his partner’s stomach and his own chest.

Maddragon was unprepared for the muscle spasms of Lucas’ sphincter muscle as he ejaculated.  The sensation was too sensual for him and the Commander began to climax more into his partner.  He joined Lucas in his cry of release.  The Commander collapsed on top of Lucas and became the consummate lover.  He had nothing but praise for the young man amid volumes of kisses and petting.  He remained inside Lucas for sometime as they enjoyed the afterglow of their coupling.  Lucas lay beneath the big warrior trying to get his breath.  He could smell all the wonderful odors of their love making.  He was adrift on an ocean of sexual stimulation.  He wanted to go on this ride again as soon as possible.  His mind was racing with many thoughts.

‘How lucky am I to be the son of such a fine man?  How lucky am I to  be the slave of such a fine man?’ He had much to be grateful for.  Had it not been for Master Long he would be sitting on a shelf in someone’s home in a tin labeled ‘Choice Cuts with gravy.’  He shed a couple of tears of thanks for his dad and his understanding of his need to be with Commander Maddragon.  His partner duly kissed his tears away.

“Did I hurt you, Son?”

“Not at all, Commander.  My tears are tears of joy and contentment.  I couldn’t have wished for a better partner for my first time.”

“It was special for me too,  Lucas.  If you were not a slave and the property of someone else, I would ask to become your suitor.  My people don’t believe in slavery, but if I could one day buy you, I could set you free.  Then I would be free to court you properly.”

“You don’t know all there is to know about me, Commander.  I’m not sure I’m ready to consider giving up the security of being my father’s slave.  I know that may sound strange to you, but you don’t know how I came to be in this position.  And if I were not a slave, I wouldn’t have been able to have sex with you due to the restrictive laws on our planet.  Speak to my father.  Ask the Admiral to tell you the story about how I became his son and slave.  Then after you know my story, we can talk again.”

“I will, Lucas.  I have a feeling there is something special about you I want to share.  Do you think you could ever love a Visallian warrior?”

The Commander let a little of his massive shaft slip from Lucas’ well filled ass.  Lucas wiggled his ass back down on it until he felt the Commander’s massive balls slap against his butt.  He sighed deeply.

“I think I just might be able to love you, Commander Maddragon.”  he grinned at the Commander.

End Chapter 36 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com

*It is important to note the name Gaia, Greek Earth Goddess, mother of the Gods, became associated with an important scientific hypothesis.  The Gaia Principle is an ecological hypothesis which proposes living and nonliving parts of the Earth are viewed as a complex interacting system which might be thought of as a single organism.  It postulates all living things have a regulatory effect on the Earth's environment which promotes life overall.  It was first scientifically formulated in the 1960s by the independent research scientist Dr. James Lovelock, as a consequence of his work for NASA on methods of detecting life on Mars. He wrote an article in the science journal Nature, before publishing the concept in the 1979 book "Gaia: A new look at life on Earth."  He named this self-regulating living system after the Greek goddess Gaia, using a suggestion from the novelist William Golding, who was living in the same village as Lovelock at the time.  The Gaia Hypothesis has since been supported by a number of scientific experiments and has provided a number of useful predictions, and hence, it is properly referred to as the Gaia Principle or the Gaia Theory.