By Waddie Greywolf

      Chapter 51         

Lazarus and Trey originally planned to visit Venus for no more than three twenty-four hour periods or three Earth days.  Previous visits to the planet were brief as they were little more than a response to invitations for limited exposure to the planet and its people.  Lazarus remember an old bromide about guests and fish and shared it with Captain Vinceeth.  Now, after a couple of years, being exposed to what was happening on Mars and the trouble brewing on Earth, the Venusian population demanded the officials get to know these people better and allow them more personal exposure to interact with them.  The Venusian people had been cut off from other worlds for so long they forgot the joy of discovering the new and different and the enrichment other cultures could bring them.  Darryl was their gateway.  They could see on his videos he had come to respect, love and admire the people and critters he was reporting about.

This was their fourth visit to Venus and the first visit where they didn’t have any official reason other than to foster good relations and return their representative/ambassador for a visit to his home world.  Lazarus and Trey made damn sure Darryl was free to go and do whatever he pleased.  There were no restrictions placed on him.  They didn’t want anyone getting false ideas he was being forced to participate against his will.  Darryl was the best public relations man Lazarus and Trey could have hoped for.  He was a one man band for his life among the aliens from several worlds.  His reporting on the Visallian’s discovery and rescue of an almost extinct alien race, the Langerians, won him many awards and accolades on his world.  Darryl deserved his new found popularity and wealth.  

It was ironic in a way.  Being an albino, Darryl spent his younger life being shunned and ignored by the majority of his fellow race.  Anyone, with any degree of difference because of a birth defect or another reason, was usually kept out of public view.  Some anomalies were considered worse than others.  Being an albino was tolerated more readily, but for most of Darryl’s young adult life he couldn’t get a job of any substance.  He barely got by for years.  Now, here he was, wealthy, lionized by millions and quite possibly one of the most powerful men on his planet.  At first he was completely overwhelmed, but after the smoke cleared, he began to see his true calling was to help those like himself who were socially marginalized.

Darryl was greatly influenced by the openness of Admiral Long and how easily and readily he was accepted into his larger family.  He began to make a complete study of the unhealthy political and social structure on Earth and how it had come to the place where it could possibly destroy the planet.  He found it enlightening but sad that a beautiful world with such seeming promise could be on the brink of extinction because the dominant primate evolved scientifically far enough to create weapons of total destruction but had failed to cultivate their political structures to care for all levels of their society.  He saw a lopsided society built on mendacity, superstition, myth and greed that could not survive for much longer.

On the other hand, he was accepted and lived with a group of folks who were working together toward a new hope.  He witnessed how humans, no matter how messed up their politics or how strange, bizarre or varied their religious beliefs might be, were still basically a good hearted, compassionate race of people when it came to doing the best they could to enrich and encourage those among them who were different because of birth defects or casualties of violence or war.  Darryl’s people had little empathy for those in their society who couldn’t contribute a hundred percent at all times, with one exception; they did take care of their aging and elderly, but even those efforts needed improvement.  Darryl could see the flaws in both societies and chose to make his stand with his new family and their vision of a new hope he saw emerging.

He had come to greatly admire the Visallians and their close bonds with the Humans.  He saw Lazarus, Trey, Jesse, Charlie, Chief Ten Penny and many others as his role models and mentors.  He could go to any one of them, and they always had time for him.  He had many long conversations with these men about their people’s pasts and their hopes for the future.  They helped him understand what he must do with some of his newly acquired wealth.  Did that mean he had to give up his current lifestyle?  On the contrary.  He learned well from Trey, Lazarus and Charlie, to get things done and still be able to have time for one’s self to live a decent family life; one simply had to learn to delegate responsibilities.

There were only a few things his new family shared with Darryl he was encouraged to keep to himself.  He never felt threatened by these things, because he was a direct beneficiary of certain scientific arts that were way ahead of the scientist on his planet.  Shortly after Darryl’s arrival on Earth, Cable and Kyron, along with Ping and Pong, and David and Jonathan synthesized a variation of the Long serum for Venerians.  They examined Darryl’s blood and found certain similarities in his blood and DNA that suggested Humans and Venusians may have shared a common ancestor in the past.  They were able to manufacture a small portion for him.  With his consent, they gave him his ‘longshot’ within the first couple of months living among them.  Darryl could tell the shot worked.  He knew he would live far longer than most of the folks on his planet, but he wasn’t about to share the information.  If the Humans were kind enough to share it with him, he felt it should be their decision whether or not to share it with his world.  With that decision he realized he had thrown his lot in with them and would probably never return to his planet permanently.  Wherever his new family was headed, Darryl wanted to be with them.
Venusians rarely traveled from their home world.  They had a limited number of space ships, about six total.  Of those, only three were space-worthy.  They were so old no one could remember just when they were built.  While the ships represented their planet’s cutting edge technology when they were built, they were hopelessly behind the new drives and marvels of the Admiral’s and now the Visallian ships.  That’s just the way the Grays and the Reptillians wanted it.  Their ships were far more advanced and could easily destroy the Venusian ships if it came to armed hostilities.

The Venusians lived under the strict dominance and fear of the Reptilian and Gray races for several centuries, but a number of years before the rescue of the Banshee they severed all ties with the grays and reptiles.  They simply refused all access to their space port and shunned any contact with them.  Because their world was mostly underground, they had little fear of an attack from the reptiles or their slave race.  They made several trips to Earth, but never made contact with anyone higher than common folks.  One of their few space ventures was to rescue the Visallian vessel and bring it to their space port to offer what assistance and repairs they could provide.  Now, Darryl’s brave venture to live among the humans on Earth rekindled their interest and excitement to once again leave their planet and explore.

* * * * * * *

Trey woke up in one huge arm of Waco’s lummox.  As big a warrior as Trey Vinceeth was, Ox was still considerably larger.  Trey found himself warm and comfortable in the giant beast’s arms.  He made no quick move to separate himself.  He looked over at his young apprentice sleeping soundly in Ox’s other arm.  Ox woke and glanced down at Trey and smiled.

<< Good morning, Captain.  How do you feel this morning? >> Trey heard in his head.

<< Ox?  Am I hearing you? >> he asked in his mind.

<< Yes, Sir, my milk was enough to open your gates. >>

<< Amazing.  Then it wasn’t all a dream. >> Trey stated.

<< No, Sir.  We allowed you to rest while you drank. >>

<< Thank you.  I needed more rest.  This change-over isn’t without its consequences. >> Trey moaned.

About that time Waco began to stir and looked at his companions.

<< How fine you look this morning, my faithful friend. >> he projected to his slave.

<< And am I not as fine looking to you, cowboy? >> Trey sent to Waco.

<< Captain! >> Waco exclaimed, << You heard.  Can you hear Ox? >>

<< He can, little one. >> confirmed the huge creature.  

<< Outstanding! >> Waco enthused. << How do you feel, Captain?>>

<< Like I’m included.  Like I’m no longer on the outside looking in.  Like I’m a part of everything; part of a greater whole. >>

<< That’s exactly how you should be feeling, Captain.  I’m so glad for you, and you are certainly as fine looking to me as my slave. >>

<< Thank you, cowboy.  I think you’re both pretty fetching.  Now, one thing has bothered me all night.  What were those dark, ominous clouds gathering overhead when we were in that beautiful valley?  Are they an omen of things to come. >>

<< I hoped you wouldn’t notice them.  I tried to chase them away, but they were persistent.  They were the spirits of the ancients coming to me and Garron, as they call my slave.  There is an upheaval in the voices.  Something has happened within the depths of the reptilian race and they have come down hard on their slave race, the grays.  They have sent Reptilian ambassadors to Earth to make demands on the nations to provide them with what they want or else.  The Earth nations have managed to cancel out any threats the Grays pose and so have the Venusians.  The Reptiles are beginning to feel they are losing power in our solar system and are planning a massive, aggressive assault to scare the wits out of both worlds to get what they want.  They don’t know about Mars.  They still think Mars is an uninhabitable world and not worth their time to explore. >>

<< Do you concur, our handsome beast? >> Trey send directly to Ox.

<< I do, Sir.  There’s more, but I’ll let my young master tell you. >> Ox looked into Trey’s eyes, and he got the beast’s unspoken message, they would commune later.  Trey smiled back at him and nodded slightly.

<< The Grays have panicked and are trying to appease their masters.  They are planning an assault on Venus, but we don’t know how or when. >>  Waco continued.

<< Not good news.  Do you think it will occur while we’re here? >>

<< I have no idea, Sir.  Sometimes information from the ancients can be spotty at best.  It sort of becomes a fill-in-the-blank game sometimes. >>

<< I must speak with the Admiral first thing this morning.  Maybe over breakfast.  Then we must warn the Venusians.  I think Admiral Long will insist we aid our new allies.  After all, they saved our butts.  It’s the least we can do for them. >>

Captain Trey Vinceeth was a changed man.  He could still hear the background noise of the voices on the winds of consciousness, but they weren’t so intrusive.  Waco and Ox were working with him to show him how to be selective with his listening and how to tune out that which he didn’t wish to hear.  His new found powers gave him a psychological lift that made him even more sure of himself.  It was difficult to imagine a man of the captain’s rank and accomplishments needed to feel more self confident, but it was more than that, it was a rounding off of his hard charging personality that gave him a mellow edge and made him all the more attractive.  Waco thought to himself the captain would have the Venusian’s eating from his hand.

The Venusians allowed their visitors their breakfast in private that morning and the Captain and Admiral were able to discuss what was going on.  They set with their closest members at their table.  Present were Waco, Indigo/Blue, Charlie, JR, Travis, Sergeant-Major Doggoral, Trap Maddragon, Lucas, Commander Hawkins, Sam, Shane, Little Bear and his granddad, the Chief, Jesse Watkins and several others including Darryl.  Lazarus asked Jack Hall and Warren Steele if they would ride herd on the coyote kids at breakfast.  The boys knew something was up because their dad would never segregate them unless they had something to talk about they didn’t want them to know.  They were tempted to tap into one of their brother’s minds, but knew it would be impolitic of them.  They would be skating on thin ice if they were caught.  They were in enough trouble as it was.  Everyone was listening with rapt attention to the conversation between the Admiral and Captain Vinceeth as they partook of the various foods the Venusians provided.  It was not what they were used to, but for alien food it was quite toothsome.

“Do you think we should alert the Venusians, Admiral?” Trey asked after Waco told of his contact with the ancients.

“Certainly.  I think they feel pretty secure beneath the surface of their planet, but who knows what mischief the Grays might cause?  They have been known to interfere in many ways to determine the outcome of civilizations, but always to the Gray’s or their master’s benefit.  They, along with the Snakes, have always been nefarious and perfidious in their dealing with various civilizations and cultures on Earth.  Being parasitic races they never heard of the concept of a prime directive or noninterference.  By trying to educate and train the primates on Earth they inadvertently, but sometimes purposely, created mythologies and religions to confuse and make the people more prone to control with what we consider today as supernatural influences.  Consider the Venusians.  The Snakes never managed to accomplish that here, and yet, they have a strong, thriving social culture not wrapped up in the superstitions of reveal.

Why do you think evil spirits and the devil are usually portrayed as snakes or serpents?  Quetzalcoatl was one of the main gods of the Mesoamerican culture.  He is depicted as a feathered serpent.  He was nothing more than a light skinned, blonde reptile.  Some Snakes retained parts of their genetic information from their ancestors on Earth and can grow feathers.  Many scholars have found it interesting Quetzalcoatl and his twin brother Xolotl were the son’s of the virgin goddess Coatlicue.  Immaculate conception seems to permeate all religions.  The Mayans and the Aztecs were confused by the planet Venus.  Because its position in the sky varied so dramatically from morning to evening, they thought it was two separate stars.  Quetzalcoatl became the god of the morning star and his brother Xolotl became the god of the evening star.  Quetzalcoatl taught man to write and create books; taught him mathematics, to read the stars and create calendars; he gave mankind maize and became the symbol of death and resurrection; not too far from the basic tenants of Christianity.”  

“How do you know these things, Admiral?” Johauk asked.  Lazarus looked at Jesse and smiled.

“Some of us were around when these things were happening, Son.” interjected Jesse Watkins, “There’s  more to the story than what the Admiral hinted at, but all will be revealed eventually.  Mankind has been manipulated and controlled since they were first created from genetically modified primates over a hundred thousand years ago.  A weakness for religion and the belief in the supernatural was genetically inbred into the new primates for a purpose.  It was to keep them a subservient race easily controlled by fear and threats of the supernatural.  Many have asked how we will know those who are to be rescued in our gathering?  It’s simple.  We will scan for those without the gene, those who have resisted reveal and those who’s gene has never been turned on.”

“What’s on our agenda for this morning, Darryl?” Lazarus asked.

“We have one main meeting with the leader and his cabinet and a big parade immediately thereafter.  We are to be taken to a very posh and lavish tower for lunch that looks out over Venus space port and revolves three-hundred and sixty degrees for wonderful views.  Interestingly enough, I’ve been requested not to video any of your meetings with the leader and his staff.  I have a feeling they wish to discuss some greater alliance with you and Captain Vinceeth.” Darryl spoke with a voice of authority.

“We certainly have no problems with a greater alliance with your world, Darryl.” replied Lazarus.  Darryl got a funny look on his face.

“Please, Admiral, Venus is the world of my birth.  Your people have become my people.  You reached out to me and gave me a chance to become more than I ever could be on this world.  When the time comes for you to leave Earth, if there’s room for me, I would consider it a great honor to be included and travel to the stars with you and those I’ve come to love, Sir.”  There was a great silence that came over the men.  

“I humbly stand corrected, Son.  Of course there will be room for you, but we will be the ones who will be honored to have you join us.” Lazarus assured him.
“Hear, hear!” agreed the men at the table.  

* * * * * * *

The men went from breakfast to their first meeting with the Venusian council.  There they met with representatives from all over the planet.  There were more speeches of welcome and gratitude for allowing Darryl to share their lives with the people of Venus.  After the formal welcome and introductions there was a reception where ideas and concerns were tossed about between leaders.  Lazarus and Trey were involved with most of the conversations.  

“We seek a wider cooperation with your confederation of Earth people who seek to escape the tyranny of your world.  We’re fascinated and approve your efforts to peacefully extract yoursleves and those most threatened in danger of losing their lives.  We think your efforts are heroic.  We also highly approve of what you’re doing to rehabilitate the long lost caverns of Mars.  We have come to consider Mars as our sister planet.  We also approve and applaud your efforts to rescue and conserve endangered species and to start new colonies there.  Over the centuries we have come to appreciate our few indigenous species and consider our whales one of the treasures of our world.  

Through trade and cooperation, and with your help, we are hoping to begin rebuilding our space fleet.  We would like to venture out into space once more without fear and intimidation from the Grays or the Reptilians.  For that, we will need to be educated in construction techniques as we don’t have time to back engineer our own vessels.  I’ll be blunt, Admiral.” paused the First Minister of Venus, the Honorable Putt (short for Putnam) Chasson, “we are asking you to share your technology with us.”

“We have no problem with that, Sir.” agreed Lazarus.  “After all, certain technology the Krells left behind have been incorporated into the very ship we arrived in.  We have no particular need to keep that technology secret.  We would like to use any technology in such a way to protect you and us without having to resort to force, but if push comes to shove, as it certainly may with the parasitic races in the universe, it’s better to come from a strong position while negotiating carrying a much bigger stick behind your back than they have.” everyone chuckled. “The Boy Scouts on Earth have a motto: Be prepared.  I think it’s a good motto to live by.” the Admiral allowed and everyone seemed to agree with him.

Lazarus went on to tell the Venusian what Waco heard from the Ancients and was being carried on the Winds of Consciousness.  They were not surprised.  The bladder whales kept them in close contact with the Winds and would filter information down to them.  They knew little more than their guest, but they knew there were storm clouds gathering.  Before the informal meeting was over they agreed on a schedule to begin work on three new space crafts for the Venusians as a learning-as-you-build effort.  Lazarus’ men, Trey’s men and the Krell androids would assist the Venusian scientist in designing and building the craft.  It would be done at a huge, long unused ship building area not far from the landing docks on Venus.  A large gate would be installed from Mars to Venus to easily transport personnel and manufactured parts between worlds.

* * * * * * *  

The parade that followed the informal meeting was incredible.  The First Minister declared a worldwide holiday so everyone could attend or watch.  There were people everywhere in brightly colored costumes, waving and shouting ‘welcome’ to the visitors.  The cowboys were almost overwhelmed.  They hadn’t expected such a turnout or such an exuberant display of joy and affection for them.  The Venusians were yelling their names to get a personal wave from them.  They even yelled the names of the critters.  The dogs would do their best to holler back and finally reverted to barking until they lost their voices.  The parade was a great success.  After the parade the men were taken back to their sybaritic hotel and allowed to relax for a while.  There was another formal dinner planned for that evening.  After that, the First Minister promised they would be on their own to go and do as they pleased.  The Venusians would be happy to provide guided tours of any attraction the men would care to visit, but they stressed, the world of Venus was open to them.  They could go anywhere they wanted and visit what they found of interest.  They had invitations from groups and individual families all over they planet, but they chose to centralize their activities to the city of Venus Space Port.  They were given list of concerts, art festivals, and tours being given especially in honor of their visit.  Venus pulled out all the stops.   

* * * * * * *  

There were more meetings among the nabobs in each group; planning sessions for beginning the work on the Venusian space vessels.  The Admiral, his staff, Captain Vinceeth and his top officers toured the shipyard facility at Venus space port.  While it was quite large it was not as technologically up to date as it might be, but Lazarus didn’t see it as a major setback.  They would be brought more current as they progressed and as the work demanded.

The cowboys, their guests and some of the crew of the Banshee were having a great time.  The coyotes were perfect gentlemen everywhere they went, and Lucas didn’t have to get after them once.  With Lazarus’ permission, they accepted an invitation from a regular Venusian family to attend an informal party in their honor.  Many families participated but only one family’s name was drawn at a special televised event.  The family who won the draw lived in the suburbs of Space Port City and had a beautiful home on a rather large piece of property by Venusian standards.  It was the cowboy’s third afternoon of their visit to Venus.  They were having a good time socializing, eating fine Venerian food and playing with the children of the chosen family and their guests.  As Venusian families go, the chosen family was pretty large with five kids.  Two boys about the same age as the coyotes and two younger girls.  They also had a brother who was the youngest member of their family.  He was very cute and obviously the center of his family’s attention.  The cowboys found him irresistible and included him in everything.   

It was late in the afternoon and those attending the party settled down to talk and enjoy each others company.  The women served more desserts and a sweet punch.  The boys found the refreshments very much to their liking.  All was going well when suddenly there came a great noise like an explosion in the distance.  There was no smoke but the ground shook and some said they saw huge chunks of the underground ceiling drop.  Bo said it was like one of his and his brother’s storybooks about Chicken Little because the sky seemed to be falling.  It was the cause of much excitement and consternation among the adults and older cowboys.  Lucas and Travis looked to Little Bear for an opinion.  Before he could reply, there was another huge explosion nearby which rocked the buildings and shook the ground so hard it caused several people to lose their balance and fall.  Tables were overturned.  Women and children were yelling, screaming and running for shelter.  This time it was clear for everyone to see, there were huge chunks of the ceiling falling, crushing homes and buildings.

Soon the explosions were coming more closely together, and everyone was running for cover.  The family, whom the cowboys were spending the afternoon with, lived in an older home which had an emergency underground shelter.  The father, Mr. Sprool, yelled for everyone to follow him to safety.  All the guest followed to a set of huge metal doors which opened easily when he placed his hand on a nearby scanner.  Large rocks and boulders were dropping in the well manicured yard like a hail storm on Earth.  One rather large rock hit the youngest boy and knocked him to the ground.  He didn’t get up.  Everyone was running for their lives.  His brothers and sisters looked in horror, but ran past him leaving him for dead.  Shane saw the child in distress and ran to him.  He quickly scooped him up in his arms as he and Lucas herded the coyotes and the rest of their party into the underground shelter. 
They entered a huge hypogeum built for such a purpose.  The child was limp and bleeding badly from the wound to his head.  When everyone was accounted for and they were safely underground, Mr. and Mrs. Sprool were beside themselves with worry because their son was hurt.  Fortunately, Brett Jones and Basil were among the invited guest.  Several folks were hurt and they were seeing to their wounds.  Lucas sent the coyotes after them as he tried to stop the bleeding from the child in Shane's arms.  They were there in a second.  Bret was unsure what he could do or if his healing powers would work on Venusians.  Basil reassured him.

“Look, partner, we stopped the bleeding with those other folks and fixed a broken wrist on that older Venusian woman.  We can do this.”  

Basil took the young male child from Shane and cradled him in his arms.  He reached down and pushed the boy’s dark hair from his face.  He could see a large cut across his forehead and deep into his scalp.  Basil started humming to the boy.  Brett recognized the tune and joined him.  Basil ran his fingers gently across the boy’s open wound and to everyone’s amazement the sides of the gash came together and began to heal.  The bleeding stopped, but you could tell there would be a dark bruised area for a while.

“You need to check him out internally, Brett.” Basil said, “There may be damage to his body or brain we can’t see, and he can’t tell us about.”

“I’ve never done it before.” Brett said quitely.

“No time like the present to learn.  You know what Adam did, you can do this, Brett.  I have faith in you.”  Basil assured him.

The Venusian family gasped as they watched Brett Jones disappear before them, and his clothes drop to the floor in a pile.  They could see glittering dust-like particles moving all about Basil and their son.  They observed some of the dust particles being breathed in by the boy.

<< Can you hear me, partner? >> Brett sent to Basil.  Basil looked around and could see the cowboys, dogs, lummox, and a couple of warriors heard Brett’s voice in their heads.

<< Loud and clear, Officer Jones. >>

<< His head is all right, but his left arm is broken.  I can reset it before his wakes.  If we can get him back to the Banshee the medics can put a cast on it.  I think he’ll be all right.  I’ve told him to remain asleep for a while; we’ll awaken him when we’re finished. >>

The cowboys were animated at the news, but his family continued to look worried as Brett began to withdraw.  Adam and Eve found their way to them and were waiting for Brett Jones to help him reform.  Jones reformed in all his nude male glory before them, naked as the day he was born.  While the Venusians were amazed and bewildered, no one seemed overly concerned with his nudity.  They were more worried about the boy.  

“You...  you actually went inside our boy?” the father asked.

“Yes, Sir.  It was my first time.  I’ll have to admit, it was pretty fascinating.  Adam and Eve showed me how to do it.  You have them to thank.  They were fine teachers.  His brain is fine, but his left arm is broken.  We much reset the bone.  I won’t let him wake up until I’ve done it.  It could be quite painful.  Jack and Jill can give him a shot of sedative to ease his pain until a doctor can cast his arm.”

“Amazing.  I don’t know what we would’ve done if you men weren’t here.” Mrs. Sprool burst into tears and fell into her husband’s arms.  About that time, Lucas’ cell phone rang.

“Lucas Long.” he answered and listened for a minute. “We’re okay, Dad.  We made it to an underground shelter on the Sprool’s property.  We had a couple of casualties but Officer Jones and Mr. Troubadour have taken care of them.  They’ll be all right.  None of our people were hurt.”  Lucas listened for a while longer.  “Yes, Sir.  Yes, Sir, I understand.  We’ll get there as soon as we can, Dad.  Don’t worry about us, we’ll make it.  It seems to have let up a bit.”  Lucas said goodby to Lazarus and closed his cell phone.  He turned to the crowd and spoke to everyone.

“Venus is under attack from the Grays.  They are above the atmosphere of the planet shooting huge concentrated hyper-sonic blasts down to the surface to cause seismic events.  We’ve been ordered back to the Banshee.  We’re taking off as soon as possible.  Is there an exit to the underground system from this shelter, Mr. Sprool?”  Lucas asked the gentleman.

“Yes, of course, att the far end of this hall and through those big metal doors.  It feeds right into a private shuttle system.  I can have you men back to the space port in a matter of minutes.”

They waited long enough for Brett to reset the boy’s arm and wake him.  Jill gave the boy a brief pheromone shot which immediately relaxed him and took away his pain.  He was groggy, but he would be all right.  Lucas explained to the Sprools, if their son was taken aboard the Banshee, and the Admiral wanted to leave immediately, he might have to go with them.

“I can’t promise when we could get him back to you, Sir.  The way my brothers and I have taken to him, there’s a good chance you might not get him back at all.”  Lucas smiled and winked at the concerned parents.  Everyone laughed with him.  It was a great compliment to the family and a bit of humor they all needed at the moment.   Mr. and Mrs. Sprool thanked the men profusely for their emergency help, but decided to take him to their doctors on Venus.  

There were hasty ‘goodbye’ said.  Mr. Sprool saw the cowboys and their party to the private tram and sent them on their way.  There was still occasional explosions but the tram was so far underground there was little more disturbance than causing the tram-car to bounce about some.  The coyotes, who were, for the most part, being pretty brave cowboys, and the pups began to moan and wail.  Waco, Lucas and Little Bear were astounded.  They looked at each other in puzzlement.  Ox had tears streaming down the fur of his cheeks.  Waco had never seen him react that way.

<< What’s going on, Lummy?  What are we missing? >>

<< You’re not listening?  Hear the winds. >> Ox sent to them.

They dropped their barriers and heard the most awful sounds of pain and suffering; great moans and cries.  It was coming from the surface of the planet.  The Grays were attacking and slaughtering the bladder whales.  That explained why the explosions were so erratic and not centrally placed.  The Gray’s first targets were the whales.  It was so bad they didn’t care to listen for long.  It wasn’t a long trip and the men were soon disembarking at the space port station.  They found Lazarus, Arlen, Trey, Charlie, the Steeles, Jack Hall and several other men waiting like mother hens with concerned looks on their faces.  The coyotes were trying to be brave, but it was evident they were pretty shaken.  They were reduced to tears to hear their friends crying out in horror and pain.  They ran as fast as they could to Lazarus and Arlen.  Even Ranger Jr. and Cable saw Lazarus and Arlen as their surrogate father figures.  The men did their best to comfort them, but there was little time for consolation or conversation as they hurried them to the Banshee.

“Won’t our hasty departure be looked upon as pusillanimous, Dad?” Lucas asked Lazarus along the way.  Lazarus chuckled.

“I know you’re intelligent, Son, but where the hell did you get that word?” he queried.  Lucas smiled.

“I paid attention to the man behind the green curtain, Dad.” they shared a laugh.

“No, we ain’t running.  We’re going out to engage the enemy.  I just wanted all my family on board, especially you and the young’uns.  I have greater faith in the improvements to the Banshee than I do the readiness of the Venusians.  I oversaw and approved the final upgrades to the ship.  I know what its capabilities.  If we don’t do something, the Grays could devastate the planet.  Haven’t you men been listening to the winds?”

“Only briefly, Sir." Waco spoke up,  "We were so preoccupied with helping the wounded and getting here we weren’t tuned in.  When the coyotes and pups began to wail in unison, we knew something wasn’t right.  Ox told us to listen.  It was awful.  How bad is it?”

“We don’t know the total damage.  We can’t know until we get out there and see for ourselves, but we’re getting information from the surface, the whales have suffered greatly.  Many lie dying on the surface.  It seems the Grays first targets were to attack and silence as many of the whales as possible and to cause terror among the Venusians so the populace would demand their leaders begin to renegotiate with their masters.  It’s all very psychological and ultimately political.  It’s terrorism for the sake of political purposes.  We plan to run interference.  The Venusians can’t send one of their ships for backup because they are so inferior to the Gray’s technology.  They offered, but we discouraged them.  It would be suicide.  Since they risked the wrath of the Snakes to save the Visallians from sure death and the Visallians and Shushonni have become a part of our family, it’s only right we come to the Venusian’s aid.” Lazarus looked back over his shoulder like he was looking for someone.  “Did Darryl arrive on your tram with you?” he asked Lucas.

“No, Sir.  He wasn’t at the party.  He had something planned with some old friends.”

“I want to make sure he’s with us.  I don’t know when we’ll be able to get back.  I want him to film and narrate what we find on the surface.  It’s important all the people of Venus see what horror they will be giving into if they allow this attack by the Grays to put them back into subjugation under the Reptiles.”

As they approached the Banshee another tram was arriving at the station.  Everyone saw several of the warriors and Darryl disembarking.  Lazarus got a big smile on his face as Darryl came to join them.

“We were just talking about you.  Glad to see you made it.  This is where we draw the line in the sand, Son.  If you go with us, there’s a good chance you may not come back.  We are going out to fight, but I can’t promise we will prevail.  No one will fault you if you decide to stay.” Lazarus spoke softly to him so the others wouldn’t hear.  Only Lucas and Shane was privy to their conversation.

“You are my people, Admiral.  If you perish, so be it, I will perish with you.  I was serious about my choice, Sir.” Darryl had tears in his eyes.  Lazarus grabbed him and hugged him.

“I knew you’d say that, but I wanted to give you one final chance.  Come, let’s get aboard.  We have need of your talents.” Lazarus assured him.  He could have said a lot of things to the young Venusian, but calling Darryl ‘son’ and telling him he needed him was all he needed to hear.

* * * * * * *

Everyone got on board.  The computer made a check and found everyone who should be there was accounted for.  There were no dignitaries there to see them off or wish them well.  Lazarus understood.  They were busy with their own problems.  He and Trey promised to keep them informed.  The computers opened the bay for the Banshee just long enough for them to get underway.  Trey ordered the ship cloaked and requested the Venusian computer turn control over to his ship’s computer immediately after they cleared the docking bay.  He didn’t want to give any of the Gray ships the temptation of  surreptitiously trying to make a docking.  Trey ordered the computer to move them slowly out into the atmosphere and maintain a low trajectory so they could see what was going on.  There was still some blasts coming from the Gray’s ships, but they were nowhere near the Banshee.  As they flew along they began to come upon the bodies of the whales who had been shot down.  The surface was chaos.  There were bodies upon bodies and here and there you could see the small crab and mammalian symbiotes scurrying about in confusion and horror.  There was nothing but silence on the ship.  No one said a word.  It was like they were looking upon a surreal scene; a battlefield which was strewn with the bodies of the beautiful, peaceful, loving creatures of Venus.  It was unimaginable to them anyone of any species could be so heartless to do such a dastardly thing.  It was an invidious display by the lowest of poltroons.  You could hear grown men, Warriors, Shushonni, Lummox, Canines, Langerians, Evanescents, Cowboys, quietly weeping to see their beautiful friends so decimated.  Poor Darryl was devastated.  Everyone was almost relieved to hear Trey’s strong voice break into their sorrow.

“Everyone double check to make sure your buddy next to you is strapped in tight.” he commanded.  “We got us some Gray butt to kick, and it might be a bumpy ride.  Admiral, we need to go higher and away from the planet a bit to see what we’re up against.”

“I agree, Son.”

Trey barked some orders to his on-board artificially evolved intelligence, and it responded instantly without reply.  The evolved intelligence was also new to the Banshee.  At the center of its intelligence was the brain of brilliant astrophysicist who was a personal friend of the Goodnights for many years.  He was Waco’s Godfather.  With Lazarus’ permission, Charlie, Waco and Angus shared with him what was going on shortly before his death.  His body was in such bad shape there was no hope for him from any source.  His greatest wish was to become something more than he was on Earth.  He wanted to see the stars which he had dedicated his life to studying.  He had no family other than being adopted by the Goodnights.  He made Charlie the executor of his estate and his brain was removed immediately upon his body’s demise.  It was done so quickly he woke up in a nutrient solution with his brain connected to a computer.  He was fully capable of input and response.  After considerable training, and apprenticing under Kyron, he was installed on board the Banshee and was thrilled with his new position.  He quickly learned to control everything on the ship and developed almost a symbiotic relationship with Trey and the crew.  His real name was Brian, but he wanted a new name for his new position, a name to set him apart from his past and body.  The cowboys came up with a cognomen he considered appropriate.  In a solemn ceremony he was christened “Klaatu.”    

The Banshee rose above the cloud layer and moved away from the planet.  It was sheer chaos.  There were Gray ships everywhere.  In the distance you could see a portion of space that seemed to shimmer like a heat mirage on the desert on an exceptionally hot day.  There were ships winking in and out of the area.

“I’ve detected a warp dead ahead, Captain.” Klaatu spoke to Trey.

“Thanks, Klaatu.  We can see it, too.  Any suggestions, Admiral?” Trey requested of Lazarus.

“What wattage antimatter missiles are you pack’n, Son?”

“We can set them to any size you recommend in twenty-five mega-joule increments.”

“Set one at a hundred and fifty mega-joules.  Let’s ram one up them Gray's bungholes.  That should stop things up and make them very constipated for a while.”  everyone laughed nervously.  Lazarus continued,  “But once we plug their hole all hell will break loose.  We’ll have a fight on our hands, but first they have to find us.  They’ll be able to trace where the missile came from and target our position.”

“Klaatu, can you make a jump quick enough to evade any shots they might get off?” Trey asked his intelligence.

“I can, Captain, but once we engage in battle it will be more difficult for me to target and fire our cannons without them getting a good fix on us.  Our shields will protect us, but not if I’m firing.  I have to cancel the shields long enough to get off a shot.  The only way I can do both is if you assign manual gunners.”

“I’m aware of that, but I can’t assign gunners.  I never considered we’d need them.  We left our best gunners on Mars.  Do your best, buddy.  Is the missile armed and ready?”

“It is, Sir.  Strange, I never imagined cyber-circuits could itch.” Klaatu tossed off as a funny aside, “By your command, Captain.” Klaatu told him.    
“Fire!” Trey commanded quietly as if it were the deadliest way he could express it.

From the belly of the Banshee burst forth a missile which traveled so fast, if you weren’t paying close attention you would have missed it completely, but no one missed the flash and the explosion.  Neither did anyone miss the area around the warp implode and suck a huge number of Gray ships into the gravitational field the resulting gravatic well produced by the collapse.  Their deaths were instantaneous as their spaceships were crushed to a size smaller than a water molecule in the implosion.  In essence, they winked out for their last time, never to wink on again in another dimension.  Klaatu immediately jumped position before the missile impacted.  He was so fast their computers couldn’t get a fix on the Banshee’s position.

“Unfortunately, there’s more where they came from.” lamented Lazarus quietly.

Lazarus was right, all hell broke loose.  The Gray ships began to act like a hive of killer bees searching for the culprit who just destroyed their dimensional gateway and a third of their ships in a single blow.  Their instruments couldn’t detect the Banshee.  The more they searched the more frustrated they seemed to become.  There was a certain comfort in that for Captain Vinceeth.  He found their frustration perversely gratifying.  Ships that were shooting at the whales rose up from the atmosphere to join the others in their search.  It gave the poor creatures a respite from their slaughter.  It soon became clear, the Grays intended to wipe out all of the whales.  

“Engage, Klaatu!” Trey ordered his evolved intelligence and laser fire began to burst forth from the Banshee from numerous ports.  Klaatu took out another third of the ships.  Everyone cheered as another would burst into flames or be blown to bits.  Klaatu would jump after each volley from the Banshee’s laser cannons, but after the third round one of the Gray ships got a fix and fired off a lucky shot.  Klaatu didn’t get his shields back up quickly enough and the resulting blast knocked out his targeting computers.  The Banshee was robbed of its stingers.

“I’m sorry, Captain, it was a lucky shot.” Klaatu apologized.

“That’s all right, Kay!  Can you bypass them someway?”

“No, Sir, but they will still operate manually.” he allowed.

“How many gunners do you need, Captain?” the Admiral asked.

“As many as I can get.”

“Captain Goodnight, how many gunners we got?” Lazarus barked.

Waco looked around, grinned real big and made a rough count.

“Fifteen!  Maybe twenty, Sir.”

“What do you mean, Son?” Trey challenged his mate.

“Ping’s space invader program is nothing more than a simulated firing program from our ship’s computer.  She predicted one day it would come in handy.  All us men have been trained on it since we could operate a joy stick.  The coyotes and their brothers are the highest scoring shots on Earth.  They’re lethal.  Ping and Pong can hook the coyote’s lap tops into Klaatu’s targeting computers and you got fifteen, maybe more, expert gunners.”

“Make it so!” ordered Captain Vinceeth.

The cowboys got their little brothers out of their seats and took them to the mess hall.  They gathered their lap tops and set them before them.  Ping and Pong already tapped into Klaatu’s targeting computer, and they were ready.  Waco and his brothers including Ping, Pong, Jack, Jill and several others including Darryl went to the ships gunnery row, strapped themselves in and on the Captain’s order began to shoot down the enemy ships.  Waco was right.  The coyotes were running on pure adrenalin, and they were deadly.  There was much cheering and jactitation about how many they were killing, but their computers didn’t lie.  It was keeping their tallies just like the game and when all the enemy ships were destroyed, each coyotes killed more than any other gunner on the ship.  They were the heroes of the moment, but their joy was short lived as Trey ordered Klaatu to return to the surface to reevaluate the damage.  From their angle of trajectory upon approaching the planet they came upon the sundower group of whales.  The slaughter was almost as bad as the sunrise herd but not quite.  Both the large bulls Gongorealgun and his son, Gonzoxanthullii, were still managing to stay afloat in the atmosphere.  They suffered minor wounds but they would recover.  Many cows and young lay on the surface and the din of sorrow and pain was almost more than the passengers of the Banshee could bear.

“Gongorealgun.” Captain Vinceeth addressed the handsome bull.  “What can we say but we are terribly sorry for what has happened.”

“Your sympathies are appreciated, Captain Vinceeth, but you and your crew’s heroic efforts to remove the threat to us will forever be remembered by our specie.  Your kindness and bravery will never be forgotten.”

“I don’t know if there’s anything we can do to help you other than what we’ve done to eradicate the problem.  We can promise there will be no more of the Gray’s ships coming to kill you for sometime.  In the meantime we will work with your world's government to help them with better protection for themselves and your species.”

“Though we suffered great losses, we are extremely grateful to you for saving us, Captain.  How have our brothers faired?  We get only bits and pieces of information from them.”

“We don’t know yet.  You are the first we’ve visited.  We saw them on our way out, and it looked bad.  We haven’t been able to make contact with Chuchulack or Chacheellian.  We will notify you immediately when we know anything.”

“It would be greatly appreciated, Captain.  They are our grand sires and dames, cousins, brothers and sisters.  Though we are separated for better grazing purposes, we are still family.”

“We understand, Gongorealgun.  Peace be with you.” Trey said with a crack in his voice like the carnage he was witnessing was about to break the big warrior in half.  
“May the love and protection of the ancients be with you and your family, Captain.” Gongorealgun blessed him.

Trey ordered Klaatu to leave the area and head for the sunrise group.  They came upon a scene of destruction and despair straight out of Dante’s inferno or one of Hieronymus Bosch’s panels, the terrors of hell, from the Garden of Earthly Delights.  Ranger and Bo spied Chacheellian barely floating.  He seemed to be all right, but he was fighting a losing battle trying desperately to hold up a cow who was shot through her bladder and not able to sustain her buoyancy.  It was obvious to all she was done for, but Chacheellian was bravely trying to support her while he, himself, had major wounds in his side.  He must have been in terrible pain and was suffering greatly.  He sensed the Banshee coming near and shuddered at first.  He thought it might be another Gray ship returning, but he soon felt the wave of sympathy and concern coming from the passengers inside and knew the ship was friendly.

“I managed to get parts of your conversation with our brother, Captain.  I wish to thank you for your bravery in coming to our defense.”

“It’s what brothers do for each other, Chacheellian.” said Trey.  There wasn’t a dry eye on board the Banshee.  Everyone shared the captain's sentiment for the big bull whale.

“Are we broadcasting to the surface, Son?” Lazarus whispered to Darryl.

“Everything, Admiral.  It’s a direct feed.  I am censoring nothing.  They must see this.  Venus needs to know they must learn to protect the treasure of the limited species who share their world.”

They said their goodbyes to Chacheelian and flew on a bit further.  Waco was the first to see the horror they all didn’t want to see.  On the surface, lying on the bodies of several other whales was the most handsome of all the bulls, Chuchulack.  He was lying on his side, but only one side was visible to them.  He had a large hole in his side and fluids were pouring from him.  He was dying, but he was still conscious enough he recognized the love and sympathy of his friends in the Banshee.  He tried in vain to raise his head to look but could not.  

“I’m so sorry you have to see me this way.  I’m afraid I have sung my last, friends.” his weak voice tried to sound uplifting.

“Nonsense, Chuchulack.  We have faith in miracles.  Is there anything we can do for you, great friend?” the Captain asked.

“Ah, it would, indeed, take a miracle to save me, my friends.  I don’t know what you folks are capable of, but if love be the fount of miracles, if any specie could bring me one, I have faith it would be you.  I heard my brother, Gongorealgun and my son thank you for removing the threat from us.  I must add my appreciation.  At least I will die knowing my herd and family will survive.  We have not been wiped out as a specie.”

There was nothing but silence on the ship.  From the largest to the smallest there was nothing but abject sorrow and heartfelt pain.  There was no shame in weeping.  It was gut-wrenching to hear the big bull talk about his end.

“How long do you have, Chuchulack?” Trey asked softly.

“I don’t know, Captain, I’ve never died before.” There was a slight hint of mirth in his statement, and it caused several folks to smile.  Still it struck a bitter-sweet pang in everyone, and there was only more sorrow.

“I meant no disrespect nor insensitivity, great friend.” Trey said quietly.

“I know, Captain.  You are trying to understand if there is time for you to construct a battle plan against death.  It’s an admirable trait.  Our brains or consciousness continues on long after our bodies are dissolved by the harsh atmosphere and swept away by the bitter winds.  We are still able to hear and communicate with our ancient relatives for centuries after their physical bodies have deteriorated.  We don’t know why or how it happens.”       

“Perhaps we can find someone on Venus who can tell us.  We will return to Venus port and consult with the Venusians.  We’ll see what we can do for you.”

“There was one Venusian, many years ago, who had exceptional hearing and musical capabilities.  He was one of the few who ventured out into our world to learn more about us.  We still hear from him from time to time, but his voice has grown weaker over the last several cycles.  His name is Professor Henri Wankle.  Look to your young, Captain.  They are empowered.  Let them lead you.  Look to your mate.  He hears the voices of all the Ancients.  His powers are in their infancy.  Admiral, look to your sons.  All four of your coyotes are empowered.  They are full of themselves, but they have the best of hearts.  Cowboys, look within yourselves.  Compared to us you are physically small; yet, you are bigger than you think.  Our symbiotes are smaller than you, but we could not live without them.” Chuchulack’s voice trailed off like it was too great an effort for him to continue.  The Captain bid a fond farewell to the gigantic beast and ordered Klaatu to move the Banshee away from the scene of destruction.  

“Set us in a low orbit, Klaatu.” Captain Vinceeth ordered his evolved intelligence.

“Right away, Sir.” replied Klaatu.  There was a noticable crack in his voice.

“A meeting for all crew, officers, passengers and guests on the mess deck in ten!” ordered Trey.

“Aye, Captain.” several were heard to respond.

Trey asked Darryl not to include this meeting in his videos to the planet as it was to be private among him, the crew and passengers, but he did want it recorded for a historical record.  Darryl understood and agreed.  When everyone was gathered Trey stood before them.  He looked out upon a gathering of sad, sober faces.   

“As you know, I am the captain of a vessel of war.  When it comes to battle, I will step up and take charge.  We won today without a casualty, and I can’t tell you how gratifying our victory was to me after suffering almost total defeat from the Gray’s before.  For all our new and improved technology, of which we are grateful, I still couldn’t have done it without your help.  I’m damn proud of all of you, especially my gunnery crew.  I’m still trying to get a grip on how quickly you men dispatched a large fleet of Gray ships.  Well done, men, and a very special thanks and well done to Klaatu.  There will be time for celebration later.  Right now, we have a greater emergency.  Part of being a leader is knowing when to admit defeat or knowing when you have few if any answers.  That’s when you call on your crew for input.  This is an open forum.  I’m open for suggestions from the least to the greatest among you.  No one will be ridiculed for any question or thought, from any specie.  If you have an idea or comment, no matter how dumb you might think it is, I want to hear it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to what we just saw.  Lately, my vision has become clouded with emotions, and I can’t always see clearly.  Maybe it has something to do with being in love.  I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is part of our extended family, the giant beasts we have all come to love, have suffered greatly.  What are we going to do about it other than eliminating the enemy?  What are we going to do to help them?  What can we do to alleviate some of their pain or suffering?  Work with me!  Give me something, family!  Before we dock again at Venus space port I need a workable plan to put before the Venusians to help save our friends.  It can’t all be our effort.  It’s their world, and we must include them.  If we don’t get them involved, they will never become self-sufficient in the husbandry of their planet.  If they want to be responsible for and protect the treasure they have in the whales then they must put forth an effort.  If we have to use trading our technology for their cooperation, so be it.”

“Hear, hear!” agreed the Admiral, “Well spoken, Captain.  We’re behind you all the way.”  Everyone agreed with the Admiral.

Hands and paws went up all over the room.

“Does anyone know anything about the biology of the whales?” asked Maxine.

“Good question, little one!  I know what your getting at.  Surely the Venusian know all about them.” Trey answered.

“Don’t bet on it, Captain.” spoke up Darryl.  “I seriously doubt there is any written information on them.  I don’t remember ever seeing anything other than pictures of them when I was in school, and the pictures were not photographs, they were hand drawings.”

“All right!  While that may not be helpful, it’s information we need to know.  Anything else you can tell us about them, Son?”

“No, Sir.  Only they are composed of silicone and have a totally different life structure from carbon based life forms.” Darryl replied, embarrassed he didn’t know more about the fauna of his birth world.

The meeting went on for almost an hour.  Jubal suggested they get into suits and get out there among them.  If little was known, it was the only way they were going to find out about them.  Lazarus put the kibosh on that idea right away, but soon saw he was fighting a losing battle.

“When will they be old enough to face what we’re up against?” Charlie smiled as he asked Lazarus quietly.  Lazarus knew he was cornered.  Waco, Lucas and their brothers were only a little older than the coyotes when they the were forced to step up and begin to accept responsibilities greater than their years.  “If not now, when?” continued Charlie.

“Birds gotta’ fly.” laughed Arlen.  “I hate to see it as much as you, but them boys is special.  They can handle it.  Look what they done to them Grays.  They’ve earned their chance.  Their brothers and everyone of them warriors will be watching them.  The first sign of danger, they’ll have their backs covered.”

“Have I become that much of a broody mother hen?” Lazarus lamented rhetorically.

“Worse!” laughed Bryce, “I’ve watched it since you took on Lucas.  You’d still be wiping his butt if he asked you.” everyone laughed.

“I guess I deserved that.  You’re right, Son, I would and have on occasion.  I’d do anything for him.  Ain’t nothing comes out of that boy what ain’t sweet, no ways.” Lazarus finished with an irreverent cowboy bullshit garnish.

“Let ‘em go, Admiral.  Give them boys their chance.  Look what it done for my grandson.” allowed the Chief.

“All right!  I know when I’m licked.” Lazarus spoke directly to the coyotes, “If you men can figure out a way to get suits made for you, I’ll agree to let you go along with your brothers.  You done proved your mettle this afternoon, and I’m proud of you.”

“No problem, Dad.” said Jubal.  “We already done asked Klaatu if he could downsize and replicate one a them big warrior suits.  He scanned us and is ready to go on what he calls his micro-mini-munchkin spacesuits.”

“Okay, I should a’ know’d better, but I was hoping you men wouldn’t figure it out.” Lazarus grimaced.  His companions laughed at his stubborness.

Everyone got serious from that point on.  They set out a plan to learn everything they could about the whales and gather all the information they could as quickly as possible.  They decided not to confront the Venusians with what they might plan to do.  They would just let the world watch and see what efforts they were making to save the whales.  They would issue an open invitation for them to get in their ships and come out to join them in their rescue operation.  If they were leading the way, it was Lazarus’ and Trey’s guess the people of Venus would pressure their government to make an effort to assist their friends.  Darryl approved of their plan and thought it just might work, but he added one interesting, final bit of information.

“Captain... Admiral.... the man Chuchulack spoke of is an old man who tried to tell people about the whales for years.  He claimed to be able to hear them and talk with them.  Everyone thought he was crazy.  He was finally committed to a mental institution.  Funny thing is, he’s an albino like me.  The name ‘Wankle’ became synonymous with crazy folks.  If you want to say someone is crazy, you say he’s a bit of a ‘wankle.’  Today, we know we can communicate with them, but poor Professor Wankle probably still resides in an institution.”

* * * * * * *

Klaatu requested landing instructions from Venus space-port and once again allowed their computer to take over the landing of the Banshee.  This time they were met by every dignitary and had to have armed guards to keep the throngs of people back who were cheering and wanting to get a glimpse of the heroes who saved their world and their whales.  Captain Vinceeth and the Admiral went to a podium.  Trey wanted to dispense with political speeches and get down to business.  He wanted to be able to leave the port again within the hour.  Trey offered the Admiral the senior position of speaking for them.  Lazarus smiled and told him he was doing fine.  

“Leaders and citizens of Venus.” the Captain spoke loud and strong, “We greatly appreciate your welcome, but our job is not finished.  We have much work to do to save as many of our friends on the surface as possible.  Please understand, there will be time for celebration and rejoicing after we have done everything we can for them.  We need to know about the biology of the whales.  Is there an authority on your world who can give us any information about them?  We need this information as soon as possible.” Trey pleaded.

One of the dignitary’s personal aids stepped froward.  It was a young, pretty Venusian female.  

“My name is Delfee McNair.  My great uncle claims to know about the whales.  I am his guardian.  I have all his papers.  He’s long been thought to be mentally ill because of his beliefs.  I’ve read through his work and lately I’ve begun to question whether he’s crazy or not.  I will be happy to take you to him and with his permission provide you with copies of his work.”

“Is his name Henri Wankle?” asked Trey.

“Yes, Sir, it is.” she replied with some surprised.

“Good.  We’d like to speak with Professor Wankle as soon as possible.  We’ll send our mutual ambassador, Darryl, to him.”

“I know Darryl.  My uncle speaks of him often.  I guess he’s seen him on the vid-tube.”

Lazarus interrupted Captain Vinceeth.

“We don’t have time to interview him, Captain.  Have them bring him to the ship.  Can you meet us at the space port dock with his papers, Miss McNair?”

“Yes, Sir, Admiral.  I’ll leave for home immediately.  My uncle is ambulatory, but I don’t know how sound his mind is right now.  He has his good days and bad.”

“It’s important we have him and his information as soon a possible.  Any delay and lives will be lost.” added Captain Vinceeth.

Nothing the men of the Banshee could have asked for would have been denied them.  Several dignitaries got their heads together and arranged for an ambulance to transport Professor Henri Wankle to the Banshee in the space port.  They sent armed guards with a police escort to accompany Miss McNair to her apartment in the city and return her to the Banshee.  Captain Vinceeth and Lazarus said hasty ‘goodbyes’ to the dignitaries and told them they would be leaving immediately after getting Professor Wankle on board.  They would send video feed directly to them of what rescue efforts they were trying to do.  Trey also added they were certainly free to join them with their ships and what men and equipment they could spare.  It would be a huge job to try to save some of the whales so the more help they got the more they could save.  The crowds were disappointed but admired the off-worlders for their dedication and commitment to a specie so foreign to them.     

A dazed and befuddled Henri Wankle was wheeled out of an ambulance at the space-port.  He looked like he was heavily drugged.  Through his fog he recognized Darryl and smiled at him.  Shortly after his arrival his niece arrived with his life’s work.  She had about ten large file boxes containing his work.  She looked somewhat frazzled herself.

“I’ve been instructed to invite you to join us, Miss McNair.” Darryl requested of her surrounded by his cowboy brothers.  

“I’ve never been on a spaceship before.” she seemed uncertain.

“It’s like a floating hotel, Miss McNair.  I promise, you’ll enjoy it.  We’ll bring you back.  There is no longer any threat from the Grays.  There won’t be for sometime.  We destroyed their entryway to our solar system, and it will take them a good while to create another.  We are only going to be setting down on the surface, and you will have a first hand look at what we plan to accomplish.  Besides, we think your uncle might be a little more calm if you were to join us.” urged Captain Waco Goodnight.

“We’ve already cleared it with the First Minister.  You will be paid full salary by your government the whole time.” encouraged Darryl.

“Very well.  Is it all right with you if I come along, Uncle Henri?”

“Of course it is, child.” answered Professor Wankle quietly.

Henri Wankle wasn’t an old man by Venusian standards.  Venusians generally lived double the life span of a human, but this man looked to be in his early sixties.  They boarded the Banshee and took off.  Vivian Steele took Delfee under her wing and escorted her to the observation deck for liftoff.  She helped strap her in her seat, then strapped herself in.  There were any number of other folks join them on the observation deck to stay out of the way of the bridge.  The bridge would be the focal point of all activities and would be chaos after they landed.  Those on the observation deck were situated above the bridge and operations decks.  They had a three hundred-sixty degree viewing panorama and would miss nothing.  Delfee thought it was so strange being among other species who were traveling together like they were family.  It was unusual, but in a way she found it refreshing, because they all seemed to get along and be genuinely concerned for each other.  Several came to her to introduced themselves and inquired if they could be of help.  She particularly liked the dogs.  She had seen them on videos for several years and wondered if they were real.  They all came to her to welcome her and wish her well.  She was amused when she asked Larry and Shep why they were wearing headbands, and they told her they were members of the Banshee's crew.  They had been sent by Captain Vinceeth to welcome her, to see to her comfort and well being and to guard her at all times.

The medics on board the Banshee whisked Henri Wankle away to their sickbay.  Waiting for him was a team of medics including Cable and his men.  They took blood samples to find out what drugs he had in his system.  It took only minutes for a readout from the machine.  They immediately shot him up with mild counteractive drugs and some that would flush them all from his system.  Ping gave him a whiff of one of her special pheromones that made him alert and feeling better than he had in years.  Darryl and the cowboys slowly walked him to the bridge.  After meeting the Captain and Admiral he sat with the cowboys as the Banshee began to move about the destruction.  They could see the still smoldering remains of many Gray vessels that had spun out of control and crashed onto the surface.  There were bodies of the Grays and bits and pieces of their torsos and limbs strewn about the landscape.  It was a horror to behold.  Everyone gasp as they came upon the first bodies of the whales.  Some were still alive trying to move about to orient themselves, but they couldn’t as most of their bladders were punctured and they couldn’t take in the gases they needed to maintain buoyancy.  Professor Wankle became more and more animated.  He became fascinated with Trey’s interaction with the onboard evolved intelligence.  There was more to their exchanges than man relating to a machine.  The Captain almost seemed to have a respect and admiration for the intelligence.  Dare he even consider it almost an affection?  Captain Vinceeth treated the ship’s intelligence more like a crew member than a machine.  Henri asked Captain Waco about it.

“There’s a good reason for it, Professor Wankle.  At the core of Klaatu’s intelligence is the brain of a human, Sir.  It’s kept alive by artificial means.  If all his needs are met, he can live for several thousand years.  He was my Godfather when he was in his physical body on Earth.  His body deteriorated so badly from age and disease it expired, but he wished for his brain to be used as the core intelligence for this vessel.  From what he tells me, he couldn’t be happier.  He is very much a member of the crew.  He controls everything on the ship.”

After surveying much devastation they came upon Chuchulack again.

“Ah, you have returned, Captain Vinceeth.  I knew you would, and you have brought an old friend whom we have not been able to communicate with for several years.  Welcome, Professor Wankle.  It’s so good to feel your presence again even if I am unable to be at my best.”  

The old man was overcome with joy and grief.  He obviously had great sentimental feelings for Chuchulack and his herd.

“Old friend, I hate to see what they have done to you.  Likewise, it is a great joy to see and hear you once again.  We have been separated for too many years.  These kind folks have brought me to you with hopes my knowledge will help them help you.  I will do my best.”

“We can ask for no more, Henri.  Have you come to bring us a miracle the Visallians and Humans speak of?”

“It is a miracle I am standing here speaking with you, great one.  We will do our part.”

Klaatu expertly landed the Banshee near the group of wounded whales.  Since the area was so rocky Klaatu had to deploy the quartet of landing skid-boots.  He sat the Banshee down gently.  Impact with the planet’s surface was absorbed by the big springs attached to the legs.  The huge mega-ton ship was like a feather settling to the ground.

“Excellent landing, friend.” Trey said softly to Klaatu.

“Thank you, Captain.  Glad to be of service.” he responded.

The old man almost cried when the Captain ordered his first mate to open the right conference area off the bridge.  Commander Maddragon hit a computer key and an entire wall simply vanished like a liquid running down into a gutter and away to a holding tank.  To one side, out of the way, in a well lighted area, was a work station set up just for him with his boxes of research and stored data.  Assisted by Darryl and several of the cowboys Henri made his way to the area.  He gently ran his hands over his collected life’s work with the reverence of prelate inspecting holy relics.

“No one believed me all these years.” he moaned softly, “No one would even look at my research.”  He muttered as he moved from box to box.  Travis handed him a hot cup of andromachious cider.  (a mild, sweet stimulant much like sassafras on Earth.)  He took it and smiled at the good looking young human who handed it to him.

“We will believe you, Sir.” Travis encouraged him, “We need to know about the whales biology.  What can you tell us about them?  Can we help them?”
The old man began to speak, tossing out bits and pieces of information which prompted other questions.  As he answered question after question, he would move from one box to another to refer to notes and drawings.  He was a fount of knowledge about the huge creatures.  He was the miracle of information they were hoping for.  Darryl was filming everything, not only for posterity but also for information for their computer banks.

* * * * * * *

“We have landed.” spoke Larry, “Everyone may remove their seat belts and may move about the area.  Please, we ask that no one leave the observation deck.  You would only get in the way, and the men don’t have time for that right now.”  he said in an official manner.  Delfee was impressed the two dogs with the headbands were very much official members of the crew.  Shep continued.  “Refreshments for all will be served in a few minutes.  I know it will be difficult to enjoy yourselves at a time like this but remember, we must replenish our body’s nutrients and liquids to keep us active and alert in a time of crisis.  We don’t know when we’ll be able to rest.”

“Come, dear,” Vivian Steele spoke to Delfee, “we have several hot beverages available which will offer you a mild stimulation.” Delfee was impressed.

* * * * * * *

“Is there some way we can repair our great friend, Professor Wankle?” asked Lucas.

“Their outer layers are nothing more than a silicate gel made solid by silicon and various lightweight metals.  They take in silicon from the surface blowing into their baleens.  Internally, they take the lighter metals they ingest and combine them with rare-Venusian (rare-earth) salts to make a buoyant melange which completes their outside skin.”

“Humpty-dumpty...”  Ranger Jr. was heard to say under his breath.

“Exactly!” picked up Jubal.

“We can put them together again!” exclaimed young Cable.  

“How?” insisted their older brother, Lucas.

“We got silicon glue onboard by the bucketful.  We got sailcloth for bandages.  What we ain’t got, Klaatu can manufacture for us.” coyote Bo insisted.

“What about inflation?  They can’t get enough input of gases on the surface.” Threw out Henri Wankle.

“No problem.  We got huge squirrel-cage gas expulsion blowers on the ship to regulate air flow in emergencies.  They can blow in as well as out.” said Commander Maddragon.

“What about the whale’s symbiotes?  Will they be a problem?” asked Bo.

“I don’t think so, Son.  It’s been my experience the small hominids are intelligent and the crabs will only attack if they think their free ride and meal ticket is being threatened.  You might even get some cooperation from them.” explained Henri.  He was becoming more and more animated.  He asked for another cup of the tea Travis gave him earlier.  He rolled up the sleeves of his hospital nightgown like he was just beginning to go to work.

“Come, men!” spoke Captain Waco, “It’s time for us to suit up.”

“You’re going out there?” asked Professor Wankle.

“Yes, Sir.  All of us.  Even our little brothers have earned the right to go with us.  We need every hand we can get.” said Little Bear.

“I only wish I could go with you.”

“We understand, Sir.  Trust us, professor, you are a far greater value to us here where we can ask you questions and get your advice if we need it.  You have a screen here to see our every action.  If you see us doing something questionable, you can let us know.” assured Captain Waco.

Indigo/Blue had been in the background observing, being quiet as usual.  Henri looked at the cowboy who was a double for Captain Waco.  He blinked twice.

“There are two beings inside you.  I hear a being like a whale and another like Captain Waco.  How is that possible?” he asked with a bemused look on his face.

“We are a clone of our brother Captain Waco.  We are an exact physical duplicate as you can see, but we were created to allow another silicon life-form more mobility.  Unlike the whales, the silicon intelligence inside us never evolved locomotion.  When the silicon entity, Blue, was implanted into this body they never counted on another, separate entity developing within the clone.  Thus we are two living in the same body.  I am Indigo and my symbiotic brother is Blue.”

“Incredible.  Organic brains piloting spaceships and two separate, distinct species inhabiting one body?  I have to know more.  I think you people have only scratched the surface of what it possible here.  I can’t say more right now, but if I’m right, because of your altruism and generosity, you may have stumbled upon a door to the future you never could have imagined.”

The whales were ambushed just at the twilight of sunrise.  It was their preferred area to travel in.  If temperatures were still moderate enough they encountered neither the discomfort from the cold of the Venusian night nor the heat of the day.  They traveled from the darkness into the light as their brothers on the other side of the world traveled into the darkness.  It would still be another four or five Earth days before the sun was high enough to cause them or the humans much discomfort.  Everyone volunteered to suit up to go onto the surface to help.  Lazarus decided it would be too many and it would be too much confusion to allow everyone to go at once.  He allowed only a group of about twenty men to go ashore first, including the coyotes.  They were under strict orders to obey Commander Maddragon, their older brothers Lucas and Waco and their Uncle Shane.  There was just enough light to see from the coming dawn, but Trey requested Klaatu turn on the outside floods on the front perimeter of the ship.  The area was flooded in light.  Everyone on the observation deck could get a better look at the carnage.  It looked like an abattoir.  They were very quite in reverence for the plight of the massive creatures.  Walking was slow in the suits but a bit easier than walking on Earth because of the slightly reduced gravity.  They approached the huge bull whale, Chuchulack.

“We are here next to you, great one.” said Waco to him.

“I feel your presence.  What do you plan to do?”

“We need to crawl around on you to pull your parts together.  We have chemical compounds which may be able to bond you back together again.”

“I am wounded on both sides.  I don’t see how that would be possible.”

“Will you trust us, father Chuchulack?”

“Of course.  You have already done more for us than anyone before.  I would be honored to have you crawl around on me.”

The men of the Banshee got busy and made plans to step by step force the torn parts of the great whale’s body back together.  They flew hovercrafts from the ship and attached large hooks to portions of Chuchulack’s flesh which were attached to synthetic ropes of high strength.  They attached them to the rear of the hovercrafts and would slowly bring them into place.  The coyotes had Klaatu replicate old time paint rollers and attached them to long poles.  They got buckets of the silicon glue and would paint each edge.  It dried quickly, but caused a strong bond when the parts were brought together.  The silicon flesh of the whales proved to be a surprise to everyone.  It was much more soft, tinsel, and nacreous than they might have imagined.  When they walked on the surface it gave like one was walking on foam rubber.  The coyotes watched for the crabs and the small hominids.  They saw many of them, but none seemed interested in trying to confront the workers.  It’s almost like they sensed these folks were trying to help their symbiotes. They stood on the side away from the work and looked on like they were stunned.

It took about an hour to pull the side of Chuchulack back together.  They explained to the great beast they were going to apply a bandage that would wear away after he healed properly.  They brought out the sail cloth and unwound bolt after bolt.  The coyotes were coating the entire surface of the wounded area and the other men would lay the sail cloth on in overlapping strips.  Somewhat hampered by their suits, the boys were having a devil of a time cutting the cloth into the proper lengths.  It was heavyweight canvas used in old-time sailing ships.  One of the crabs saw the trouble they were having and stepped forward.  The boys didn’t know what to think.  It simply went to the cloth, took his huge claw and cut though it like it was hot butter.  The boys gave a cheer.  The creature seemed pleased with itself and scurried away.  From then on the crabs lined up to help, and the coyotes gladly showed them what they wanted.  Another hour and they had one side of Chuchulack bandaged.  Out of the ship came another contingent of men in spacesuits with several more surface crafts with a couple of large blowers.

“You have become our test subject, great father.  How are you feeling now that we’ve closed you wounded side, Sir?” Waco checked with Chuchulack.

“Your attentions to me have been wonderful, my son.  There is something in the ointment the young coyotes are spreading on me that seems to be analgesic.  It has taken away my pain on that side.  I feel much better, thank you.” he sounded less depressed than he was previously.

“The time for truth is here, Sir.  We must ask you to open your mouth so we might move atmosphere into you.  We have large machines that will fill you with the surrounding gases much like you might experience while airborne.  Once you begin to lift, you must help us by flopping over on the side we just bandaged so we may fix the other side.  Do you think you can do that?"  Shane spoke to him.

“I always imagined one day my size and clumsiness might be a blessing.  I’m an expert at flopping.  Please make sure everyone helping is well clear of my body.”  Chuchulack made humor in the midst of a terrible situation.  Everyone saw his comment as a sign of hope.  The men set up the huge blowers and the minute Chuchulack felt the air moving against his face he opened wide his enormous mouth.  He began to fill with atmosphere.

“Yes, yes!  I can feel it, my friends.  It is giving me some relief.  It will take some time.  Can you help others while I’m filling?” he asked thinking of his herd.

“We already have teams doing the same for several others, Sir.  We’ll try to get to as many as we can.”  Waco assured him.

“You are, indeed, miracle workers, Captain Waco.  The Ancients chose well for you to represent them.”

“I don’t know about that, great father, but I know they instructed me to take good care of you and your family.  I am only fulfilling a promise I made to them.  You are important to us.” Waco assured him.

The men could see Chuchulack’s side beginning to swell.  It went from concave to convex.  All of a sudden the great beast shuddered and there came an explosive sound that shook the ground and caused a great wind to exhaust from the whale’s rear area.  Great clouds of dust could be seen rising.  Several crabs and small hominids who didn’t get out of the way quickly enough were blown off their feet.  They didn’t seem hurt as they picked themselves up and scurried away.

“What, the hell, was that?!” exclaimed Lucas.  There came great laughter over the intercoms of their suits.

“I forgot to tell you,” came the voice of Professor Wankle, “bladder whales fart.” Everyone fell out laughing.  “When they take in atmosphere, they retain the sweet, lighter gases which make them buoyant, but they expel the rest.  It will take a bit longer than you originally thought to fill him to the point of buoyancy.  In the meantime, stay away from his anal area.”

It took several hours before the huge creature began to lift off the ground.  He managed to hold himself to a side position, but once he lifted off the ground the men could see him losing his volume quickly from his other side.  He make one great leap and flopped onto his bandaged side.  A great cheer went up from the men.

“Well done, great father!” Waco sent to him.

“Ah, but once again I am deflated.” he moaned like he was feeling defeated.

“Have courage, Sir.  You are not down for long.  You have given us new hope.” Waco tried to encourage him.

The men went to work.  In another couple of hours they hooked up the blowers and began to fill him again.  This time there were no leaks and the huge whale began to lift from the surface.  Darryl was making sure all of their actions were being broadcast to the people of Venus.  Every man, woman and child were glued to their video-screens.  When they weren’t they were calling their politicians wanting to know where they could go to get onboard their remaining space ships to get out there and help their friends.  As Chuchulack rose higher and higher into the atmosphere, he could see the lights from the four remaining Venusian ships heading their way.

“Ah, my friends, more help is on the way.  My faith in our world has been restored.” he sang to his saviors.

End of Chapter 51 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com