By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 52

The videos of the fearless men of the Banshee working their butts off to repair the huge bull leader of the sunrise group of bladder whales were overwhelming to the Venusians.  They only had three vessels they considered space worthy, but they managed to get a fourth one going.  It was loaded with men in spacesuits.  They had some supplies of their own, but prevailed upon the generosity of the Captain and Admiral to provide them with some things they didn’t have.  Captain Vinceeth was only too happy to oblige them.  The Venusian world government decided to place their four vessels under the command of Captain Vinceeth and Admiral Long to coordinate the rescue operations of the whales.  After the Venusians got a crash course in bladder whale repair and bandaging, Captain Vinceeth dispatched three of their ships to rendezvous with the sunset group and start helping them.  He retained the older of the four ships to remain with the Banshee and organized four more work groups.  With the added help, the work was going along much faster.  Working together the men of the five ships managed to repair a majority of the wounded whales.

Chacheellian was so grateful to be able to rest his burden of carrying a large cow.  He was thrilled to hear his father was in flight again and he was actually singing to keep up the spirits of the wounded and dying.  The large cow was afraid, but after she saw the men carefully repair and bandage several of her sisters and their calves, she decided she’d let them work on her.  They patched her up in a short period of time and then began work on Chacheellian.
Lazarus and Trey decided they would work four crews.  Any more than that at one time would be chaos.  Each crew would be allowed to work for six hours at a time.  Three would be working on separate victims and the fourth crew would rotate back to their respective ships for rest, relaxation and nourishment.  It worked well.  Depending on the severity of their wounds, it took, on an average, about four hours to repair, bandage and get one of the big creatures airborne.  The smaller calves took less time as they generally weren’t hurt as bad as their mothers.  Wankle said it was probably because when the shooting started they hid under or behind their parents.

The men worked around the clock at their appointed shifts.  Captain Vinceeth and Lazarus would have to threaten them with their lives to get them to knock off work and come to the ship at the end of their allotted work period.  They put in four solid shifts each which amounted to about two Earth days.  They were beginning to tire, but they could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Several thought they were about three quarters of the way to  having those they could repair up and flying.  Some were beyond repair.  There wasn’t much they could do for them except comfort them.  The cowboys were raised to believe it was the humane thing to put an animal out of its misery if it was severely wounded and couldn’t be repaired, but they softened their opinion when they saw the miracles Cable and his staff  accomplished with animals.  It was discussed during their break periods about what to do for those they couldn’t save.

“We have no choice but to make them as comfortable as possible and let nature take its course.” advised Jesse Watkins.  Besides, what man among you could pull the trigger?” He didn’t have to say more.  There wasn’t a man there who could raise his hand to his challenge.    

On the third twenty-four hour period, as the men stood and watched one of Chuchulack’s heifers begin to lift from the ground they took a break to stand together for a few moments to appreciate the success and enormity of their work.  Every man had his arm around a brother or friend in comradery.  They were tired, but proud of their achievement under what seemed like impossible odds when they began.  With teamwork and cooperation they accomplished a miracle.  It was a strong bonding moment.  They looked over and smiled to see the hominids and the crabs mimicking their closeness.  They had their big claws and arms around each other like they were sharing in the moment.  You could feel the affection coming from them.  The coyotes were beginning to communicate with the hominids.  They kept getting the equivalent in their heads of,

 << Good!  Good!  You men do good for our great fathers and mothers.  We are grateful.  Crabs grateful, too.  We hear them.  We can’t speak their language, but we know when they are pleased and when they are unhappy... enough to coexist in peace. >>

The symbiotes were very protective of their great host, but when they saw the men of the Banshee were trying to help their friends, they offered them no resistance.  Every now and then the men would come upon a spacecraft of the aliens which was shot down and crashed on the surface.  Some were blasted apart, but several were fully intact, only incapacitated.  Sometimes, there were bodies of the Grays lying about and in several cases four of five crewmen were still alive in their craft.  The men of the Banshee were told not to come in contact with them under any circumstances.  They certainly were not to offer them any assistance or medical care.  If they were exposed to the surface they would die quickly enough, but if they were still in their ships they were to leave them as they found them.  They would perish in time.

It didn’t quite work out that way.  The crabs and the hominids would come upon several lying around gasping for breath and would become an attack force.  The hominids would pick up huge stones and crush their heads or the crabs would rush in and snip their heads off with their sizable claws.  They wouldn’t stop there.  They would continue until they were reduced to a mass of gray pulp.  The coyotes noticed that neither specie tried to eat one.  The professor theorized they might have some inner warning that told them they were diseased and not to ingest any part of them.  It was later found out he was right.  If the Grays were still in their spaceships the hominids would pound the portholes with rocks until they broke them.  Their sustainable air would rush out and they would die of asphyxiation; or the crabs would attack the metallic seams of the ship with their vice like claws until they managed to get inside.  Once they breached the ship the Grays were dead within a matter of minutes.  It was not pretty to watch, but it was a fact of life.  It was a sobering and maturing experience for everyone.  No one blamed the symbiotes for their anger, rage and the frustration they took out on the wounded and dying Grays.

* * * * * * *

In every rescue effort there is usually one person who stands out as being the most together, organized and accomplished of all the men.  Shane was that man on Venus.  He seemed to have a sixth sense about what to do and how to go about it.  If anyone had any quesions they began to refer one another to Shane.  While he was stoic and quiet, he gave good advice that always worked, and he worked tirelessly himself.  He seemed to be everywhere at once and was never too busy to give his advice or lend a helping hand to someone else.  Darryl quickly picked up on Shane's importance to the men and his unofficial status of crew manager and followed him during most of his shifts.  Shane's selfless actions and strong will began to define the heart and soul of the rescue operations.  When later interviewed by Darryl he was humble and quiet spoken giving all the credit to those who worked closely with him.  He became the darling of Venus.  It was one of the few times Shane was allowed to be out in the universe without his master and ramrod by his side.  Bill Birdsall didn't want him to go on the trip, but Angus overruled his foreman and thought it would be good for Shane to get away with his brother and nephew.  Birdsall never said anything to Shane when he return but Angus was blown away by the number of people who came to him to thank him for letting Shane go with them.  They assured him he should be proud to have Shane as a slave and brother. 

* * * * * * *

As the men stood together sharing a brief moment of rest and comradery, Brett Jones stood close to Basil and took his heavily gloved hand in his.  He pressed his person-to-person button and spoke to his friend.

“When you accepted my invitation to accompany me to Mars did you ever, in your wildest imaginings, consider we might be playing doctors, nurses and saviors to such magnificent creatures?” he felt Basil lightly squeeze his heavily gloved hand with his and chuckle.

“Never, in a million years.  It seems like we’ve come light years from what we were only a short time ago on Earth, but I’m convinced we were meant to be here.  We were meant to be here together.  As bizarre as it all seems, the very strangest part I’m having a hard time fathoming is why it all seems so right?  Why?  I don’t have a clue, but even though my ass is dragging, I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the universe other than where I am right now, standing here by your side knowing we’re a part of something greater than ourselves.  We are only two, but together and with our friends we have something of value to bring to a greater purpose in the universe than the petty lives we we're living.  When I saw the devastation before us I was skeptical.  I really didn’t have hope we’d be able to do much... which just goes to prove that old song was right.”

“What song was that?” Brett bit.

“You know... the one that goes, ‘Ooops, there goes another rubber tree plant!’” Basil sung.  They shared a laugh.  “But because of what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished, I know where I have to be, Officer Jones.  I know what role I have to play.  There’s no doubt in my mind anymore, no matter what the future of the universe has in store for me.”

“I hope it’s to walk down the same road with me, Son, hand in hand.”

“If you’ll have me, Sir.”

“Of course I’ll have you.  I would take you in my arms and kiss you right now, if we weren’t in these damn suits.” Brett said with sincere affection and frustration.

“Awwww...” came over both their intercoms, followed by much laugher, cowboy hoots and admonitions to 'get a room.'  Basil failed to set his suit to person-to-person and everyone shared their moment of intimacy.  The cowboys remained silent for their conversation until that moment.

The men were waiting for one of the hovercraft to come by, pick them up and take them to the next whale needing attention.  The coyotes were trained in driving hovercraft in case an emergency situation required them to know such a skill.  Bo was piloting the craft as he expertly maneuvered it next to his older cowboy brothers and sat it down.  Jubal was sitting next to him in the front seat.  Cable and Ranger Jr. were sitting behind.  The cowboys piled in the other seats.  Jubal looked over to the gathering crowd of crabs and hominids.  There was one smaller hominid who seemed really intelligent and  helped the boys paint the silicon glue onto the whales.  They nicknamed him “Radar” because he was always one step ahead of the boys.  He looked longingly at Jubal.  Jubal motioned for him to come join him on the seat of the hovercraft.  The creature hesitated for only a moment then ran and jumped into the seat next to him.

Jubal slowly and carefully adjusted the seat belt around the hominid.  Radar seemed pleased and waved to his companions as Bo hit the accelerator for the craft to lift and move slowly forward.  After that, more of the hominids came forward to help with the gluing.  The coyotes became crew bosses and showed them what to do.  The work progressed even faster.  As the giant beasts became airborne many of the crabs and hominids would scurry to get aboard their long, rope-like legs to begin taking care of their host again.  They would wave ‘goodbye’ to their brothers, sisters and the men still working on other whales.  The groups standing around, observing and helping were getting smaller.  As the symbiotes climbed the huge rope-legs of the repaired whales, Sam Stamper remarked they looked like they were catching the last cable car for the rest of their lives.  There were still several crabs and hardcore hominids who stayed behind to help.  They would take the last whale the men could get airborne.   As the hovercraft headed into the darkness of the planet’s night zone the coyotes could see small flashing lights that looked like colored fireflies darting about.  They were puzzled, because they knew of no creature who could produce such an effect.

“Captain Waco, have you men seen the rainbow lighting bugs?” young Cable asked him.

“Is that what you men call them?  Good name.  They look like colored  fireflies on Earth.  What do you think they are?”  Waco asked.

“We ain’t got no clue.  We was hoping you’d know.” Jubal said.

“I have no idea.” Waco responded.

“I might have an idea.” came a voice over their intercoms.  It was Professor Wankle. “If you investigate you might find the lights are produced by some of the silicon nodules lying about you mentioned before.  You said you thought they were eggs, but the whales are viviparous.  My first guess was they might be droppings, but that doesn’t seem logical.  They’re too perfectly formed for waste.  I’m not sure, but it might be a bioluminescence from the electrical energy their brains give off when thinking or communicating.  They claim the thoughts and memories of their departed live on with them for many years.  They tell me they’re able to communicate and even sing with them long after their body’s demise.  I never understood why or how this could be possible, but it’s beginning to make sense.

“You mean, you think the flashes of light could be the still active brain casings or nodules of the whales, Professor?” Waco asked.

“Once, a surface scouting party brought me a couple of the silicon nodules.  They wanted me to tell them what they were.  I had no idea, but I subjected them to many test.  They’re incredible.  You should find them crystal clear with a network of what looks like massive clouds of super-thin webbing inside.  I tried every known device on Venus to open them but couldn’t.  The clear cases are several thousand times harder than a carbon diamond.  I even considered they might be the undeveloped eggs of the crabs or the hominids, but I’m sure the latter are proto-mammalians.”

“Mammals wouldn’t lay eggs.” observed Lucas.

“Platypussys do!” exclaimed Ranger Jr., happy to contradict his more knowledgeable older brother,  “Yet, they suckle their young.” he added for good measure.

“What is he talking about?” asked the professor.

“On Earth we have a small, strange creature that defies all the textbooks on specie development.  It’s a specie unto itself.  Many scientist on Earth think they could be a leftover from a time when reptiles began to evolve into either mammals or birds, only it couldn’t quite make up its mind what it wanted to be so it sort of mixed and matched.  Its technical name is Ornithorhynchus anatinus.  The first part means bird-like and the last part means duck beak.  Together, with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.  It’s the sole living representative of its family, Ornithorhynchidae, and genus, Ornithorhynchus, though a number of related species have been found in fossil records.  It has a leathery bill and webbed feet like a water foul, but it is covered with fur.  It lays eggs but suckles its young like a mammal.  It has lungs and breathes oxygen, yet it spends most of its life in water.  Oh, yes, and they are the only mammal to have poisonous spurs on their hind legs.  The spurs are much like those found on a rooster’s legs.” Lucas said.  The professor was impressed by Lucas’ knowledge.  He obviously underestimated these men’s intelligence.  

“Amazing.  I’d love to see one someday.”

“We can show you videos when we return to the ship, Sir.” Lucas added.

“Excellent.” the professor seemed excited by the prospect. “How is it you can recall such detailed information of such a select and precise scientific nature, young man?  Your knowledge of the subject is remarkable, to say the least.”  Professor Wankle asked like he was astounded by Lucas’ response.

“I have a condition scientist on Earth call hyperthymesia.  I have total recall of all information I’ve been exposed to, written or oral.  Very few have this ability, but lately I’ve been observing it slowly developing in my younger brothers.  They ain’t just the obnoxious, precocious little know-it-alls everyone thinks.  They are developing hyperthymesia.  I can see all the symptoms in them.  Several of my older brothers are as well.  As humble as he may seem, our brother Shane is developing the same symptoms.”

“Is this from a natural bio-evolutionary response or is it artificially induced?” the professor wanted to know.

“It’s unclear, professor, but I have my own humble theory.” Lucas said.

“Would you share it with a fellow scientist, Son?”  Wankle asked.  Lucas laughed at the professor calling him a ‘scientist.’

“I don’t claim to be no scientist, Sir, but it’s been my observation nonverbal communication has a lot to do with it.  Of course, that might be considered a part of our evolution.  We don’t think of it quite that way, because we think we’ve always had the ability, but we lost it when we developed speech.  It was only through certain stimulus we re-learned how to use it.  Most animals are capable of nonverbal communication.  They always could read our minds even when we couldn’t theirs.  My older brothers, who grew up and developed along with me are now able to tap into what I like to think of as a mass or universal mind.  They’re getting better at it all the time.  What one of us learns is set apart from our everyday working brains and becomes part of a composite universal mind-set.  If you know about computers it becomes analogous to an archived or random access memory.  If I’m correct, it ain’t too far removed or different from our brother Waco’s ability to clearly hear the voices of the ancients.  Likewise, we just discovered our brother Shane shares the same ability.  Certainly we can hear and listen to the voices of the winds of consciousness as can our brothers, the whales.  That’s what has stimulated our deep desire and passion to help them in their time of need.  They have been kind and generous enough to help us over the years.  It is because of them and their counterparts on Earth we have begun this new development.  We have conjoined with them and share their fate.”

“Amen to that!” whispered Charlie Goodnight to Lazarus, Trey and Jesse.  They shook their heads in agreement.

“Lucas’ theory also happens to be correct, Professor.” added Jesse.

“That’s beyond remarkable, young man, it’s amazing.  I must know more about you men and your achievements.  You have developed your mental abilities beyond ours.  If my hypothesis about the colored lights is correct, you should be able to hear and speak with them at close range.  If possible, it would be a great scientific boon to our greater understanding of the species if you could bring back several with you so we might study them.  Perhaps we could learn more to help them.”

“Before we go around gathering up whale brains– if that’s what they are– we should seek permission from the Venusians and the whales themselves.  The nodules may be considered sacred to the whales.  Our largest land mammals on Earth revisit the bones of their dead regularly to grieve for their departed friends and family.  It would be our captain and admiral’s job to seek permission from the Venusian council, Chuchulack and Gongorealgun.” replied Waco. “Thanks for the info, professor.  We’ll see what more we can discover.”

“That’s ma’ boy!” Trey Vinceeth exclaimed after Waco’s comment as he turned to Charlie and blushed bright red from embarrassment.  “I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t mean...”

“Relax, Captain.” Charlie laughed, “You gained a cowboy to love, and I gained another son.  How great is that?  Just ‘cause you ain’t human don’t mean I can’t think on you as my son.  If I can accept a big furry beast as one of ma’ boys, you're a piece of cake.” Charlie broke everyone up.    

“He is an amazing young man.” came a voice over the ship’s speakers.  It was Chuchulack speaking. “I have heard his words and noted his compassion.  Creatures of his and Captain Vinceeth’s sensitivities and sensibilities rarely appear in the cosmos, but to have them join together is even more special.  Separately they are unique and admirable, but together they form a force, with which, to be reckoned.  (Chuchulack was a strict grammarian.)  It was told to me, as I lay dying, they would provide a miracle for me and my herd.  I couldn’t see how.  In my pain, misery, and self-pity I lost my faith.  After the good ship Banshee destroyed our enemies and you came back for us, my faith was renewed.  I grew more confident the cowboys would be able to save a few of us, but what they have accomplished far exceeds any expectations I might have imagined.  And, your coyotes, as you call them, have proved themselves more than worthy of your and your number one son’s forgiveness, Admiral.” the men listened as the booming voice laughed.  

“I have considered it, great father.” Lazarus assured him.  Chuchulack continued.

“Captain Waco is correct, we do consider the voices of our departed as sacred to us, but not in a sense of worship.  They are important to us because they can still join us in song until we can hear them no more.  Eventually, their voices become more faint until they sing their final song, and we know we will never hear from them again, but I have considered your impressive work to help us, without which we may not have survived as a specie, and knowing your work to save and preserve other endangered species, Gongorealgun and I have discussed the situation and agree you may take as many of our landlocked brothers and sisters as you choose.  We would ask you take only those who agree to go with you.”

“What made you and Gongorealgun come to this decision, great father?” asked Trey.

“From private discussions we’ve had with your onboard intelligence.  Notice I didn’t use the word ‘artificial.’  There is nothing artificial or manufactured about Klaatu or Ms. Myra.  If there is any chance you can provide our family members who have dropped out another chance, then their boldness and gamble in choosing to go with you will have paid off.  They are listening to my words as we speak.  They all know of our decision.  They understand no one has to go who chooses not to, and they also understand not all will be chosen.”

“We don’t know what will come of this decision, Chuchulack, but if I know our cowboys they have already been tossing ideas around that will be inventive and original.  We’ll do what we can, but if we can’t come up with anything your family members will be returned to spend their final days with you and their loved ones.” said Lazarus.

“We ask for no more.  We know you will respect us and treat our departed as your own, as you have been so gracious with us.  We owe you a great debt of gratitude.” Chuchulack said with humility.

“It’s the least we could do, great father, to repay you and your family for your generosity and graciousness of spirit.” said Captain Vinceeth for everyone.  

* * * * * * *

The men of the Banshee labored alongside the Venusians for another two Earth day periods.  One particularly large cow was reluctant to have the men work on her.  Her wounds were superficial and could easily be repaired to have her airborne and on her way, but her young calf, who was only one Venusian year took a direct hit. Very little of him remained.  There were not enough pieces to put back together.  He was one of five calves for which there was no hope.  His mother, who told the cowboys her name was Glyndinnadram, which they immediately shortened to Glynda, didn’t want to leave him behind.  She was willing to give up her life to stay with him no matter how long it took for him to expire, but she would surely die herself.  He kept crying out to her in fear and pain.

“Mother, I’m afraid.  I don’t want to die.” he wailed to her.

“I will stay by your side, my love, until you’ve breathed your last.” they heard her sing to him in a lullaby.

“You must not stay, Glyndinnadram.” Chuchulack admonished her sternly.  You must go on to preserved our family.  You are sound of body and still fecund.  You must think of the future and the greater good of our kind.  Have faith our friends will care for little Dahlaquinquaneene.”

Finally, after the cowboys arrived and talked with the young calf, the big whale allowed them to patch her small wounds.  She knew once she was repaired she would begin to inflated to her full capacity, and even against her will, she would become airborne again.  Chacheellian, who was bringing up the rear of the herd, was in sight and soon those who could be saved would go with him.  He paused long enough to allow her to regain her position within the herd.  The coyotes were particularly concerned for the baby whale.  They placed their hands upon it to consol him.  Jubal spoke for them.

“Do you wish to come with us, little brother?” he asked.  “We promise we will take good care of you, your brothers and sisters.”

“Should I go with these creatures who have come to rescue us, mother?” he called to his mother.

“It would be an adventure, and you would not be alone, my son.  My mind and the beat of my body which stirs the blood of my system will be at peace rather than having to depart and leave you by yourself.  My love for you is endless.  Even though our time together was tragically short, the joy of your birth and your love will remain with me forever.  You are the son of our great leader Chuchulack.  Always remember, you were wanted, and no mother could have loved you more.  Carry my love with you, and return to me if you can.  I know you have great potential.  You have the best of us within you.  Go and become more than you might have, even as a great voice among our kind.”

“Then I will go with them, mother.  Goodbye, I know you must go to survive.  I won’t be selfish by begging you to stay.  I will do my best to make you proud of me.” the little one cried.

“I am so very proud of you, my son.  You have made the right choice.  I will love you always.  My sweetest songs shall be for you.” and slowly the big cow began to depart.  She carried with her many stragglers of the symbiotes.   

“How do you men propose to get his brain out of him?” Lazarus asked,  “You can’t just play surgeons and carve him up like a Christmas goose.  Knowing you, you wouldn’t have offered unless you had some plan.”

“We won’t have to, Dad.  Compared to his mother, even as small as he is, we couldn’t get what’s left of him onboard the Banshee.  Klaatu can get a fix on his nodule and beam only his brain onboard.  It will be instantaneous, hopefully with little pain, and he will be clear of his body.  Best of all, he won’t be alone.”

“What do you men have in mind for these five young whales you plan to rescue?” Lazarus probed.

“We’re working with Professor Wankle, Dad.” Bo replied.

Lazarus smiled at the older men assembled on the bridge, knowing he wouldn’t get anymore out of the boys.  It was Bo’s polite way of saying, ‘We’re way ahead of you old man.  We don’t have time to spell it out.  Step aside and let us do our job.’  

“Very well, then... if you men have his permission, make it so.” Lazarus reluctantly agreed.

The five young calves who were beyond repair agreed to go with the coyotes.  There were three from the sunrise group and two from the sunset group.  The coyotes were in the cargo bay designated for the arrival of the brains from the five calves.  They were surprised.  They were expecting huge nodules as some of the remaining nodules were quite large.  Some were the size of a large beach ball.  The calves’ brains were a little larger than a softball; almost, but not quite as large as a human brain.  They gently picked them up and wiped them clean of extra silicon material that remained.  They were concerned because they couldn’t hear anything from them.  They placed them gently on a silicon foam table some of the crew members prepared for them.  Slowly they came around, one by one.  They said they felt no pain being separated from their bodies, but the shock was so great they automatically shut down for a few moments.  In the darkened bay the coyotes marveled at the beauty of speaking with them and watching the lights in the angel hair like material twinkle and dance about.  The boys could actually see their synapse firing as they thought.  They were beautiful to behold.  The coyotes turned them over to Ox, Strom, Horse, the pups, Warren, Jack, Buck and several others to keep them occupied and provide company for them while they returned to the outside with their brothers.  They wanted to be part of the selection committee who chose the other brains to be gathered.  

The men completed their jobs of rescue and repair.  They were unable to save several of the adults from both herds, but what they accomplished was beyond remarkable.  It was herculean.  It was nothing short of miraculous.  There were a couple of adults who were so ravaged and dying they requested to be beamed out of their bodies to go along to keep the young ones company.  The Venusian ships finished their work and departed to return to Venus-port.  Only the Banshee was left behind.  The cowboys loaded up what symbiote helpers that were left and shuttled them to the last of the whales in their area so they could get aboard.  No one was left behind.  There was much waving and fond ‘goodbyes’ as they left with their host.  The men returned into the encroaching dark and into the world of the rainbow fireflies.

As predicted by Professor Wankle and confirmed by the coyotes the mysterious lights were from the silicon nodules which turned out to be what was left of the once great creatures.  The cowboys communicated with them.  The nodules were already aware of Chuchulack and Gongorealgun’s conversation with the Captain and Admiral.  Many wanted to be considered, but some didn’t.  The boys only chose those who sincerely wanted to be part of a new and grand experiment.  They were reassured if things didn’t work out, and they were unable to help them, they would be safely returned.  Many sat in the Venusian landscape for several years as their strength grew weaker each time the herds passed over them.  They could communicate with them, but they would be left to themselves for long periods of time.  Then they would sing among themselves to keep their sanity and their spirits up as they slowly sank away into the dark night of oblivion.   

It was discussed with Professor Wankle and it was decided to take a cross section of all types, genders, size and ages.  Those who were dying and still had bits and pieces of their bodies were given first choice.  There was about fifteen total.  Of those, five decided not to go with the cowboys and of the rest they chose eight.  Four males and four females.  Of the remaining brains spread out over the planet they chose four who recently crashed and four weak voices who were fast approaching the end of their days.  They had little strength left.  The boys wanted to see if there was something they could do to rejuvenate the older brains.  The cowboys chose at random four middle-aged brains who volunteered and were anxious to go.  They chose a total of twenty-five brains including the five calves.  They were all beamed aboard the Banshee into the same cargo bay as the calves.  The bay came alive with flashing rainbow lights.  Even the four senior brains seemed to be more active and encouraged by their new surroundings and associates.  They all knew each other but had never been in such close proximity.  They were thrilled with the ease they were able to communicate.  

Everyone on broad the Banshee came to the storage bay to welcome them.  The whales were overwhelmed.  Professor Wankle was moving from one to the other checking out one thing then another.  He was a newly invigorated man.  His days on board the Banshee had seen a rebirth within him no one could have imagined, except those who knew he’d been given the same long-shot Darryl received.  His body was slowly repairing itself, rejuvenating him and would continue until he was a much younger man about the age of forty.  He hadn’t stopped long enough to consider he was feeling better than he had in years.  He just assumed it was from a reawakening within him for the passion of his work.  That was certainly a part of it.

Darryl had been absorbed into the life of his new friends and the crew of the Banshee.  He worked his shifts along side the coyotes and their cowboy brothers in helping to mend the whales and get them on their way.  All of his actions and the heroic work of the men of the Banshee was being broadcast all over Venus.  There were several public broadcasting channels and they all were carrying various aspects of the whale rescue efforts.  Commercial broadcasting continued but was all but abandoned by the public.  Venusians were glued to their vid-screens.  The efforts of their own military and space program were being closely followed.  Delfee McNair, Professor Henri Wankle’s niece, found herself in the role of official announcer and spokes person for the rescue operation.  She was tireless in her efforts and traded off shifts with Vivian Steele and Keekepata as host to explain what was going on.  They interviewed Dr. Wankle several times to explain some point about what the men were trying to do for one of the giant beasts.   

Keekepata was already well known on Venus because of her dancing artistry with Blue as her partner, but Vivian Steele soon became a household name as well.  Pictures of Vivian, Sonny, and their Evanescent children were on food storage lockers in every Venusian home.  In fact, the whole Steele family and their families, including granddad Warren and his mate Horse were included.  Darryl’s promotion company saw a good gimmick and with Keekepata’s approval produced a beautiful doll for little girls with wings that actually worked.  They made millions over night.  Every little girl just had to have one, and many of the little boys, too.

Delfee McNair worked closely with Darryl and came to see him as a charming, self-effacing young man who showed her the greatest respect.  She found herself inexplicitly drawn to him.  She began to understand just how truly dangerous the work was the men were doing and became concerned for Darryl’s safety.  He assured her he knew the risks but explained when he became a part of the greater universe and the world of his newly adopted races of people and critters, he accepted their enemies and their challenges as his own.  He felt he was making up for his own race’s reticence in helping others even in their own solar system because of years of intimidation from the snakes and grays.  Perhaps if they had reached out to the people of Earth many years ago they would not be in the position they found themselves.  Darryl patiently explained to her he didn’t consider himself a hero, only a common man who decided if change was to come about, it had to begin with him.  

Delfee had tears in her eyes.  She knew at that moment she had fallen deeply in love with Darryl.  His albinism only added to his allure for her.  She was used to her uncle’s physical difference and saw how hard he fought all his life to be accepted for his scientific theories and for his research to be taken seriously.  Darryl had just returned from their last trip to the surface and brought her a lovely, small rock that had a rather large, perfectly formed, flawless, dark-green emerald embedded within it.  A stone which would cost millions on Earth.  He told her he saw it and had to bring it to her as a memento.  It reminded him of her because the magnificent stone was the color of her beautiful eyes, the color of emeralds.  She took it from him like it was a holy relic, threw her arms around his neck and gently kissed him.  Darryl was pleasantly surprised, but not too shy to appreciate the gift she felt she needed to give him.  They shared a gentle but passionate kiss.  It was not missed by Darryl’s new brothers who had the good sense and tact not to respond, but smiled and nodded knowingly among themselves.  Even the coyotes knew this was off limits for their teasing.  There was no doubt in anyone’s mind something special was happening.

“Thank you, Miss McNair.  While I didn’t deserved that, it was certainly most welcomed and appreciated.”

“Please, Darryl, call me Delfee.  We’ve been through too much together these last few days not to consider each other close friends.  My heart almost stopped a coupled of times when I lost sight of you out there or when you were balanced precariously on the side of a whale and looked like you could be thrown into a deep crevasse at any moment if it should give some sudden unexpected movement.”

“I know.  I could almost feel your presence with me out there.” Darryl said as he brought his hand to her chin and raised her face to look into his eyes.  “I don’t wish to appear greedy, but would it be too bold of me to ask for one more kiss, Miss Delfee?”

She didn’t answer but smiled the sweetest smile and proceeded to kiss Darryl again.  After their kiss, Darryl tuned and offered his arm to Delfee.  She slipped her arm in his.

“Shall we join our family in the cargo bay?” he asked, “I think your uncle may need to be pried away from his new charges.”  

When they arrived almost everyone was here.  Most of the warriors, cowboys and coyotes hadn’t bothered to change from their space suits.  The bay was huge and could hold everyone.  The captain raised his hand for silence.

“The Admiral has a few words to say, and then I will tell you our immediate plans.”

Lazarus stood on an extra surface shuttle and looked out at the tired and dirty faces.  He took a moment to marvel at the looks of hope and strength on every face from the smallest critter to the biggest lummox.  They all radiated  love, joy and great pride in their accomplishment.

“What can I say to you, you don’t already feel in your hearts.  There ain’t a creature here what didn’t do everything in their power to save what life we could and to bring comfort and love to our brothers in their hour of need.”  Everyone was deeply moved as they saw one tear roll down the old stoic cowboy’s cheek and his voice began to crack.  “In all my two thousand and almost thirty years, I have never witnessed or experienced such a varied group of lovable misfits come together to form such a powerful force so impressive they literally moved mountains.  To tell you, you did a good job, is an understatement.  What you accomplished was a miracle.  I am very proud of each and everyone of you.  There is but one word to describe what I feel and what we have become.  We are family!” Lazarus exclaimed with great dramatic force as he held his arm straight up with a clenched fist.  There went up a great cheer from everyone.  The dogs were barking and the lummox were roaring.  It was a moving moment.  Captain Vinceeth stepped up beside him.  They hugged, patted each other on the back, and shook hands.  The crowd was still going crazy.  Trey held up his hand again for silence.

“We will get underway in a few minutes.  I’ve instructed Klaatu to take us on a tour of both herds of whales so we can have one last check on them.  Go to your cabins, relax, clean up, refresh yourselves, and when the bosun pipes for our evening meal in approximately one terran-hour, report to the dining area.  We will share one last meal before returning to Venus port.  We wanted to give the Venusians first return to their world to enjoy the fruits of their heroic labors.  We don’t want to detract from or eclipse their moment of triumph.  As soon as we finish supper I’d like for everyone to report to the observation area.  I want only those on duty to be with me on the bridge.  Naturally, that will include the Admiral, Captain Waco and his first mate Lucas Long.” Trey grinned real big, but no one missed the meaning.  

“There are several folks who deserved special thanks.  First of all I’d like to thank our crew member, Klaatu.  Without his exceptional coordinating abilities we could not have accomplished even a small portion of what we did.  I would also like to thank Mr. Shane Goodnight for his outstanding leadership and his particularly fine coordinating abilities in the face of crisis.  Some men, no matter their station in life, are born to lead and Shane Goodnight is one of them.
Thanks to Darryl for his tireless work and consideration.  Thanks to our impromptu Banshee news coverage team, of Miss Delfee McNair, Mrs. Vivian Steele, and certainly our own Keekepata.” Another round of cheers and applause.  “Beware, Miss McNair.”  Trey tried to sound ominous, “Once you’ve been accepted within this group, they have a difficult time letting go.”  Everyone laughed.  Delfee smiled and blushed.  “Furthermore, Darryl you have our permission to discuss with Professor Wankle what we discussed.  I know you will be completely honest with him.  You may share with him our secrets.  He is a man of integrity and science.  He can appreciate sensitive knowledge, and we feel sure he will respond accordingly.” with that, Trey dismissed everyone to go about their business.

The cargo bay began to empty except for several die-hard people who were fascinated by the whales.  The cowboys became so engrossed with talking with the whales and getting to know them, they had to be dragged away to rest and clean themselves.  The pups couldn’t seem to get enough of them.  Every chance they got they were in the cargo bay chatting up their new friends.  Dr. Wankle got a strange look on his face from Captain Vinceeth’s words.  He looked at Darryl and Delfee standing together and smiled, but went back to checking out the twenty-five whale brains.

“Professor Wankle it has been discussed, and it was decided, with your cooperation, we can’t let you stay on Venus, Sir.” Darryl started, “You are much too valuable to us.” Darryl said to him as the professor peered over one of the young calve’s brain to check it out and comfort the young one.

“I don’t understand, Darryl, I’m much too old to leave my home world.”

“Not anymore, Professor.” Darryl went on to tell the professor and Delfee the shot he had been given and his life expectancy now, outside of an unforeseen catastrophic accident, was several thousand years. “We took the liberty of giving you the shot, Sir, because we need you.” Professor Wankle looked stunned.  He had to sit down in his wheelchair he hadn’t used in days.  What Darryl was telling him made perfect sense.  He felt younger than he had in years.  He was overcome with emotions.  The old man began to shed a few tears.  Darryl continued, “It was discussed among our family and it was decided, whether you decided to join us or not, you would be given a second chance at life because of your work experience, your insights and compassion for the whales.  There are no strings attached, but we need you and your knowledge to create a new program for these wonderful creatures that might become a benefit to all concerned.  We’ve seen how well you work with others and because of how much you contributed to our success, we decided to ask you to join our family.  Certainly we will share your knowledge and what we learn with our home world, but we must ask you not share the true reason behind your miraculous recovery and new found stamina.  You may claim it’s all because of a rebirth of interest in your life’s work.  Our point is, we want you to come with us to Mars to work with me, the cowboys and the Martian androids to provide a new and healthy environment for our friends.”

“I don’t know if I could leave my niece.  She’s been good and kind to me.”  The professor looked at his niece with great love in his heart.  Delfee took his hand and smiled at him.

“You don’t have to, Professor.  She can come along as your assistant.  I understand they plan to install a large gate between Venus space port and Mars to help facilitate the building of new space craft for Venus.  You and she may come and go as you please.  With the Admiral and Captain Vinceeth’s request she can be a coordinating liaison between your work and the Venusians.  They will create a new position for her similar to the one they created for me.  Have no fear, you both will be well compensated for your work.”

“I’d love to work with the Humans and Visallians and see the wonders of Mars I’ve been hearing about.” The professor muttered almost to himself.  

“It’s only a step away, Sir.  Say the word and it will all be taken care of for you.  All you have to do is take care of our charges.  Find out what makes them tick, and if we can maintain or restore their life functions adequately enough to keep them going.  There was some talk about bringing back a couple of dead ones with us to see if we could regenerate them.”

“No need.  I still have the two they brought me to work with.  I left them with Delfee.” He looked at her and she nodded she still had them.  He continued,  “I never tried to regenerate them.  I didn’t know what they were.  It wasn’t until I was in the rest home it came to me what their real purpose might be.  By then it was too late, and no one would listen to me.  I wrote a book on the subject, but I was never able to get it published.  There just was no interest in the subject.”  The professor paused for a minute and looked at his niece for an answer.  His unspoken question passed between them.  She gently nodded her head in approval.  “I’ll do it!  Of course I’ll do it!  How could I even hesitate?  If you can arrange it, Son, I’d be proud to become a member of your family.”

“That’s all I needed to hear, Sir.  It’s in the works even as we speak.”

Everyone finally broke away and went to clean up and get ready for supper.  The galley crew went all out for the evening meal.  It was a sumptuous repast.  Everyone was in great spirits as they shared their final meal.  There were several more speeches made by Commander Maddragon and Sergeant-Major Doggoral.  Even Commander Hawkins gave a brief speech pledging himself to his new family and friends.  He said he had never been a part of anything so meaningful to him.  He was proud to have been given the opportunity.  They all received great applause.  When the meal was over they broke up and headed for the observation deck to strap themselves in.  Everyone was excited to take a brief tour to see their work then return to Venus port.

Klaatu expertly sailed the Banshee past the two herds who were now fully functional again and on the move.  The men had managed to repair the wounded of both herds before the extremes in temperatures became so great it might be life threatening to the young and oldest members.  Both herds were making valiant efforts to sing and keep their spirits up.  Chuchulack was growing stronger by the hour and insisted his herd keep singing.  Even though he was patched and scarred, he was still a magnificent creature.  He became a symbol of strength, a great hero for the men of the Banshee.  As the Banshee pulled along side him he hailed everyone.

“Thank you again, you son’s of Tentagel, you son’s of Earth, you son’s of Mars, and you son’s of Venus.  We will sing of the miracle that you have brought us.  The voices of the ancients are pleased with our song and were concerned for our brief period of silence.  Many of the great singers on Earth suffered such great despair they beached themselves from their seas and almost died.  Fortunately there were many concerned who helped them back into their habitat.  We know you plan to return immediately to Mars.  You have spent more time than you originally planned on this trip.  We are grateful you were here during our hour of need.  As you leave we will sing for you our new hymn of praise.  You should recognize the tune, Officer Jones.”

After tearful goodbyes were said the Banshee began to pull away to head back to Venus port and the men stood close together as they listened to the strong chorus of whales serenade them:

  How bright appears the Morning Star,
      With mercy beaming from afar;
      A host of ancient songs rejoice;
      O righteous branch of Jesse's Rod!
      Thou son's of men and son's of gods!
      We, will lift our voices high;
      Save us, save us,
      Lowly creatures;
      Hear our plea
      Draw thou near us;
      Oh great healers come and save us.

   Though circled by the Grays on high,
      Thou deigned to cast a pitying eye
      Upon us creatures here below;
      The Banshee's crew, our brother's bond,
      By highest Seraphim adored,
      Assumed our very nature;
      Ancients, grant us,
      Through thy merit,
      To inherit
      Thy salvation;
      Our savior's heard our supplication.

  Rejoice, ye heav'ns; thou songs reply;
      Great praise our saviors, fill the sky,
      They are but love's great incantation.
      Incarnate ones, stretched forth their power,
      Ride on, ride on, great warriors,
      All shall know of our salvation.
      Amen, amen!
      Alleluia, Alleluia!
      Praise be given
      Evermore, by songs of love and joy.

The last of their song came through loud and clear.  There were many tears of joy, happiness and several from pure exhaustion as the Banshee picked up speed and announced a landing at Venus port.  They planned for an early morning arrival when the Venus port was just coming alive and figured they would get in and out as quickly as possible without too much fanfare.  The docks were full of adoring Venusian who couldn’t wait to get another look at their favorite crew members of the Banshee.  By that time Delfee McNair and her uncle, Professor Wankle had been elevated to cult-personality status.  So had Vivian Steele, her cowboy husband and their two children.  The coyotes were popular with the Venusians before, but now they had been elevated to the position of minor deities.  Through Darryl’s managerial staff, their artist and business men created a line of action figure toys based on the exploits of the Coyote Cowboys.  Each coyote had his own action figure which was anatomically perfect in every detail.  (Venus is not a planet of self-righteous religious prudes) There were changeable costumes: cowboy, spacesuits, young warrior, cadet uniforms and each Coyote Cowboy’s favorite pony.  They also created a separate set of flying horses for the cowboys.  They created floating bladder whales with flashing lights that would float around a child’s bedroom at night as a nightlight.  The fringe market brought in billions of credits, enough to fund any research and development they wanted to achieve for their new wards.  Last but not least they created an anatomically perfect Captain Shane Goodnight action figure that outsold all the others combined.

They remained in Venus port only long enough to debrief the Venusian high council, advise them of their plans, and seek their approval.  They agreed to everything.  The council had copies of all the videos made and knew as much about their exploits as anyone.  They had no problem gathering the Professor’s personal belongings and Delfee McNair’s apartment was carefully packed and brought aboard the Banshee in a matter of hours.  A new position of Director of Venusian Whale Studies was created for Professor Wankle and Delfee was appointed his assistant and chief of staff.  Lazarus and Captain Vinceeth promised they would have a gate created and delivered to Venus port within the month which would make travel between worlds almost instantaneous.  They would have Delfee produce a monthly documentary of their progress on whale research.  In the meantime they stocked the Venusian fleet with enough emergency repair materials they should be able to care for any whales who might need further attention.  They gave accurate accountings of the murdered whales and the number they were able to save.  The men tried to give as much credit to the Venusians as they could and insisted they never could have accomplished as much as they did without the heroism of the valiant Venusian crews.  Shortly before noon, terran-time, the Banshee lifted off to return to Mars.  Once again the dock at Venus port was jammed with grateful people straining to get one last look at their heroes.

Klaatu set a course for Mars and everyone aboard the Banshee disappeared into their private cabins to gain some much needed rest.  It was hard for Delfee to talk her uncle into tearing himself away from the whales, but she was pleased to see his new found strength was only adding to his enthusiasm.  The two nodules in his niece’s possession were added to the tables where every brain sat in an individual silicon foam base.  Each was strapped down tightly in case of unexpected turbulence.  The tables were secured to the floor and against one wall of the huge cargo bay.  All twenty-five of the whale-nodules were doing well, but the professor was concerned about the four older nodules.  Their strength was rapidly waning.  Professor Wankle wasn’t sure they would complete the voyage to Mars alive.

* * * * * * *

That evening as Lucas was getting the coyotes ready for bed Lazarus walked in and sat on a large sofa in the room.  Lucas had just gotten them out of the shower and was making sure they were dry.  They dropped their towels and ran naked as four baby jay-birds to join him on the sofa.  He laughed, hugged, patted each one on his little butt, and kissed them.  They sat on either side of him to listen to what he might have to say.

“Your big brother and I have been talking, and I’ve decided since you made such a good accounting of yourselves working with the whales and their symbiotes, I’m going to overlook your foolish prank of spying on your brother and me while we were sharing a very private, intimate moment.”

“Thanks, Dad.” said Jubal.

“Great, Dad.” agreed Bo.

“Super.” said Cable

“Wheeeeu!” exhaled Ranger Jr. like he was relieved.  He knew whatever he and Cable faced with the Admiral, they would get it again from their dads when they got back to Earth.  There were more hugs and kisses and promises never to do anything stupid again.  Lazarus just raised an eyebrow and laughed.

“Yeah, right!” he said with sarcasm, “The main lesson I hope you men learned is, you should respect your older brother more.  He’s busted his butt to earn your trust and love, and to treat him that way was not only disrespectful, it was downright unconscionable.  The worst part is, if you were really so curious, if you asked right nicely we probably would’ve let you watch anyway.”

“Careful, Dad.” Lucas warned with a smile.

“Right, Son.  Before you yahoos go git’n any ideas, that ship has already sailed.” he grinned at them. “Just be grateful you didn’t get a worse punishment.”  The coyotes were solemn faced as Lazarus spoke.  They knew it was not the time to be cute.  Lazarus continued, “Now, I’m sending your brother to take care of his mate.  He’s worked his ass off with the whales and riding herd on you men.  He deserves some time with his warrior-master.  I’m going to be top waddie for you men this evening and for tomorrow.  I don’t want no foolishness from you, understand?”

“Yes, Sir, we understand.  We’ll be good.  We’ll miss Lucas, but can we bunk it in with you?”

“No, I’ll be right next door.  Besides, when the four of you get to snoring it’s like listening to a bad performance of a Wagner opera.” The boys had no idea what a Wagner opera was, but they thought it sounded funny and laughed.

“Are you sure, Dad?  I can stay with them tonight.  I already told Commander Trap I probably would.”

“Naw, ain’t no use.  I can keep an eye on them.  You go.  Take care of your warrior.  His balls must be turning blue by now.”  Lazarus smiled and Lucas laughed.  “Besides, Captain Arlen Jones will be sharing my bed this evening.”

“Awww-right!” Lucas high-fived his dad.

* * * * * * *

The next morning Lazarus and his partner Arlen were up early getting the coyotes up and going.  They were pretty much self-sufficient but they still needed riding herd on.  One would always forget something.  They were busy getting ready for breakfast because they would be landing at Mars port later in the morning when the view screen in their room came on and the men could see Captain Vinceeth and his skeleton crew on the bridge.  Waco, Lucas, Commander Maddragon were with him.  

“Sorry to disturb you so early, Admiral.  Klaatu just informed us we have stowaways on board.”  

Lazaras didn’t say a word but shot a look at the coyotes.  They froze where they were.  He looked at each of them questioningly.  

“We don’t know nothing ‘bout no stowaways, Dad.  We swear to you.” Jubal spoke up for the four of them.

“Does he have a fix on them, Captain?” Lazarus asked Trey.

“Yes, Sir, they’re hiding in one of the surface shuttles in the rear compartment under some of the leftover sailcloth the men used to bandage the whales in the cargo bay where we housed the nodules.”

“Do we know what they are?” Lazarus asked.

“Yes, Sir.  Klaatu said there’s three.  Two adult hominids and one baby.  His sensors didn’t pick them up until they left the cover of the surface craft.  He thinks they must be hungry and thirsty and looking for sustenance.”

“I’ll bet it's Radar, his mate and his kid!” exclaimed Ranger Jr. trying to hide his excitement.  He wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

“And you men know nothing about this?” Lazarus grilled them with a tone and a look that said, ‘you better not be lying to me.’

“Naw, Sir, Admiral.  We swear to you.  Until last night we’s in hot enough water as it was.  We wouldn’t do nothing like that.”

“The boys are telling the truth, Admiral.” came the voice of Klaau.  “I’ve managed to get bits and pieces of their thoughts, and they did this on their own.  Actually, it’s pretty remarkable for them to have been bold enough to take the initiative to do something so daring.  It means a great leap of faith for their species.  It means they are capable of evolving into more than they are.”

“All right.  Thanks, Klaatu.  We’ll see you men at breakfast, Captain.  We can take care of this afterwards.”

The coyotes were talking a mile a minute.  They were passing ideas and information back and forth like machine guns as they were herded to the main mess hall.  They joined their cowboy brothers and the crew of the Banshee for breakfast.  They couldn’t shut up they were so engrossed over the possibilities.  

“All right, men.  Eat your breakfast.  The sooner you finish your meals the quicker we find out who the critters are.”

They coyotes shut up long enough to eat and gave the men a chance to talk among themselves, but they were still busy communicating with their minds.  Lazarus and Arlen took the boys to the cargo bay accompanied by Trey, Waco, Trap and Lucas.  Shane, Sam Stamper and Commander Hawkins joined them.  They found the professor already up and fussing over his charges.  They explained to him why they were there, and he became interested as well.

“You know, I’ve been in here for several hours, and I thought I heard something a while ago, but I couldn’t see anything.  I just thought it was my imagination.” the professor told them.

Trey led the way and he and Waco threw back the sailcloth to find the creatures nested in the back of the surface shuttle.  They didn’t try to bolt or run.  They just looked at the men with stunned looks on their faces.

“It’s Radar!  I’d recognize him anywhere.” exclaimed Bo.  “What are you doing here, little buddy?”

<< We want come with you.  Start new life. >> he sent to the coyotes.

“Did you all get that?” Young Cable asked everyone.

“Yes, we got it, Son.” Trey smiled, pleased with himself he could hear the small creature’s thoughts.  “We don’t even know what they eat.”

“I have a feeling if you offer them what you feed your critters, Captain, and some pure water they will thrive.” said the professor.

“Okay.  We’ll find a place for them to stay until we get to Mars port.  They can stay in the critter-walk area in the forest.”

The boys motioned for Radar and his mate to come down from the surface shuttle and they responded.   Ranger Jr. reached up and offered Radar his hand.  It was the first time the two species physically touched.  It was an electric feeling.  Bo offer Radar’s mate his hand and she reluctantly took it as she clung to her young offspring with her other.  Along with the professor, the men took the three hominids through a gate to a beautiful wooded area where the men of the Banshee walked the four legged critters and the lummox to do their business.  Radar and his mate were afraid of the gate, but the boys showed them it would do them no harm and went through with them.  When they emerged on the other side their eyes almost popped out of their heads at the beauty of the countryside.  It was like a paradise to them.  They’d never seen anything like it.  The professor was pretty impressed with it as well.  He’d never seen a landscape like it before.  The boys got a couple of metal bowls and offered them some slave chow the ship’s critters thrived on.  They took one taste and decided it was the best thing they’d ever eaten.  They drank the pure water like it was the finest wine.  They had big smiles on their faces.  Radar had a big smile on his face and his mate seemed pleased and satisfied with the food.  The professor was thrilled to see the hominids up close and get to know them.  He noticed Radar had a pronounced belly and wondered about it.  Obviously, Radar heard his thoughts and spoke to Jubal.

<< Radar have young one soon. >>

“He just told me he’s gonna’ have a baby soon, professor.”

“But he’s obviously a male.  How is that possible?”

Radar smiled looked down at his mid-section, took his hand and opened a pouch to show the men.  Inside his pouch was a single egg.

<< Mate lay egg.  Radar keep in pouch until it hatches.  Both care for baby. >>

“My god!” exclaimed Lucas, “What are the chances, Professor?  Monotremes evolving on two different worlds?  Only these are sentient monotremes.”  Lucas added.  

“This has to be a common point in evolution.” The professor answered.

“Exactly.  The scientific ramifications are staggering.” claimed Lucas.

“I can’t imagine the wealth of zoological material and biodiversity I’m being presented for study.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s almost too much for me to consider.” Professor Wankle said.

“Nonsense, Doctor.” Lazarus reassured him.  “Take it a bit at a time.  Your work is your life.  Live your new life to the fullest.  You’ve been given a second chance.  Enjoy it.” Lazarus urged him.

“You’re right, Admiral.  I couldn’t be more grateful.” he conceded.  

The professor wasted no time studying the hominids as well as the whale nodules.  He discovered the hominids not only suckled their young they sometimes regurgitated their predigested food into the young one’s mouth like a bird might.  The professor postulated it was because the mites they ate from the whales were too difficult for the young to digest raw.  He predicted, on a steady diet of the critter chow they would no longer have the need to predigest their young’s food and would evolve accordingly.  He was correct.  Other than the stowaways, the flight back to Mars was mostly uneventful.  It was almost a textbook flight.  Everyone was coming down from the excitement of the days spent on Venus.  Captain Vinceeth called for an exercise session after an eight hour rest period.  He reasoned it would get their heads back to thinking like warriors rather than heroes.  Once again the cowboys and warriors went to the gym area to perform the sacred Tao 'Mak.  It was not as elaborate a production this time.  They only did the mass exercises and didn’t do the individual ones.  Delfee was invited but when she found out she would have be nude as well as the men she graciously declined.  Vivian Steele declined this time to keep her company.  So did Keekepata and one of her female courtiers.  They retired to a country villa on a hillside for tea in one of the many new miniature landed-colonies Captain Vinceeth and his men added to the Banshee.  Captain Vinceeth was so taken with the redwood forest and massive lands on the Buttercup and all the small towns on the Bandersnatch he wanted the same technology for the Banshee.  Lazarus had no problem sharing with him.

After a successful and rewarding exercise period, there was a brief ceremony in which the coyotes were officially accepted as full members of the house of Maddragon.  Lucus told Trap about his and the Admiral’s decision to let the boy’s indiscretion slide because of their heroism and work ethic with the whales.  Trap couldn’t have agreed more and gladly welcomed them into his family.  The coyotes couldn’t have been prouder.  Even though that didn’t have anything to do with the stowaways, the boys were secretly proud of the friends they made, that they could make such a positive impression on someone of another specie they would want to follow them and become a part of their world.  It opened new doors of possibilities for them.  

* * * * * * *

Klaatu landed the Banshee smoothly at Mar’s port and the great wall closed behind the spacecraft.  The landing area was quickly flooded with breathable atmosphere.  There were many people who came though the gate from Earth to welcome the heroes home.  Captain Vinceeth and Lazarus sent encrypted videos home of the attack on Venus.  They sent regular updates and everyone was equally glued to their video screens.  Ranger Gibbons and his ramrod, Bobby Jessup, hardly got anything done on the ranch during the time the coyotes were working like beavers to save the great whales.  They were more than a little worried about Lazarus and the captain’s decision to allow the boys to participate in such a dangerous project, but surprisingly it was Mary Gibbons and Elsie who encouraged them to have faith in the Admiral and Captain Vinceeth.  As time progressed and they could see the boys were being protected and supervised at all times by their cowboy brothers they began to relax and be very proud of them.  Bobby and Ranger would have to go out to make sure work was getting done, then they would hurry home to see the latest broadcast from Venus Mary and Elsie recorded for them.  

Mary and Ranger were there waiting on the dock for Ranger Jr. and the Jessups were there waiting for Cable to disembark.  All four ran to them for hugs and kisses.  The Gibbons and Jessups were equally glad to see Jubal and Bo.  They had just come to accept them at a quartet and looked forward to having them home and to spend some time with them.  The coyotes were glad to be home.  Everyone was glad to be back on Earth except Commander Hawkins, Sam Stamper, Officer Jones and Basil Troubadour.  The Commander and Officer Jones had to get back to the Holy City.  They had no way of sending messages back to Scudder and his men as to their condition or whereabouts.  Immediately upon getting back Hawkins sent a brief message to Austin Taycious letting him know the medical personal had cleared Officer Jones and they would be returning later in the day.  Taycious seemed cryptic and noncommital.  He said he knew the Holy Father would be pleased with the news but things happened he couldn’t talk about.  
Brett Jones learned to control and use his new body to a degree Jessie Watkins and Cable seemed sure he would be able to handle.  He could now do most anything he wanted by will alone.  He and Basil managed to heal any number of sick and injured people on Venus.  They visited several hospitals while there.  A man on one of the Venusian ships developed a tear in his spacesuit and suffered severe chemical burns from the atmosphere on his left side.  They went about soothing his pain and began the healing process so he would make a full recovery.  It seemed like everything was tumbling downhill for Brett and Basil as the time for their separation became eminent.

“I’ll take you for your word what you said to me on Venus, Basil.”

“Good.  I meant ever word.  I’m even willing to change to your specie.”

“I know.  I think you’ve already begun the process.” said Jones.

“Yes, I’ve noticed, but I’m not afraid.  Just come back to me.  No matter what you have to do, be safe and well.  Promise me no heroics.” Basil’s voice cracked.

“No heroics, I promise.” Jones assured him.

“I love you, Brett.”

Officer Jones threw his arms around his smaller companion and kissed him hard and passionately.

“I love you, too, Basil.  I always will.  I promise I’ll keep in touch.”

“You better...”  Basil choked.

Basil decided not to go with him on the Buttercup for the trip back to the Holy City.  He and Sam decided they would tell their men goodby while seeing them to the ship.  It was much the same scene between Commander Hawkins and Sam.

“You gonna’ be all right with your brother?” Hawkins asked Sam.

“Yes, Sir.  That’s all behind us now.  That’s light years in the past.  After what we went through together, him watching my back and me watching his, I know it’s gonna’ be okay.  As you know, we had a long watch together on the bridge on the way back, and we talked some more.  It was good.  I’m getting to know my brother like I never did before.  We’re developing a comfortable relationship, and I’m happy with it.  So I got me another brother my other brothers don’t have.  It’s kinda special.”

“Good for you, kiddo.  I’m happy for you.  You gonna’ miss me?”

“Don’t joke with me, Commander.  This is hard enough for me as it is.”  Sam said lowering his head.  Hawkins threw his big arm around him and pulled him into a hug.

“I assure you, it’s just as hard for this old warrior.  You grow on me, Sam, but that ain’t a bad thing.  The more we get to know one another the more I see in you, and it’s all good.  Promise you’ll keep in touch?”

“I promise.  I don’t want to interrupt you at a bad time so send me a signal when you can receive a holo-vid from me.”

“Will do.  I wish you could come visit, but from the cryptic message we got from the Holy Father’s right hand honcho things must be uneasy back there right now.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable for your sake.  Besides, we don’t need to raise anymore suspicion than we already have.”

“What are you going to tell the Holy Prophet you been doing these last few days?” Sam grinned.

“The truth.” Hawkins stated flatly, “He won’t believe me no ways.” they shared a laugh.

Sam and Basil stood together and waved like two Honolulu hookers waving goodby to their sailors as they walked up the boarding steps and into the Buttercup.  Captain Waco and his first mate would be flying them back.  A couple of other men went along for the ride.  Lazarus and Jessie Watkins wanted to see them safely returned to the Holy City.  Of course, Utah was by Jessie’s side.  It took no more than thirty minutes and the Buttercup was over the Holy City airspace, but it was invisible to radar or any other flying vehicles.  They made arrangements to beam the Commander and Officer Jones down to the Commander’s quarters.  They could take it from there.  Jessie told them to give him about thirty minutes before they notified the Holy Father of their return.  Jessie located Scudder in his private quarters, and he and Utah beamed down.  Only Austin Taycious was with Scudder in his private office when the light flashed in the room.  This time Scudder didn’t seem shaken.  Austin was clearly unnerved, but he pulled himself together.  Jesse appeared in his working cowboy clothes and Utah as his faithful companion.

“Ah, my two favorite angels.  Jessie and Utah, I believe?” he said as a question.

“Yes, Sir.  It’s us.”  Utah took the initiative to reply.  Jesse smiled down at him.

“The dog spoke, Jerry!  The damn dog spoke!” Taycious exclaimed.

“Yeah, neat, ain’t he?  Welcome friends.  Good to see you again.  You bring my men back to me?”

“We did, indeed, Norman.”

“Damn it!  I told you never to call me Norman.  My name ain’t Norman.”

“Yes, it is!” confirmed Austin, “That’s the name yore’ daddy give you. You changed it ...”

“Shut up, Austin!” Scudder commanded.  Utah chuckled.

“A laughing dog.  Now I done seen about ever’ thing.” said Taycious.

“Y’ain’t never seen no Elephant fly, asshole!” Scudder barked.

“No but I got me a feeling these men just might be able to show me one.” he gushed.  “Now about that new feature you give Norman...”  Taycious took over the conversation.

“What do we look like?  Cunts R us?” Jesse sneered.

“Shut up, Austin.  They’re here to visit me, not you, you slut!”

“Me a slut?” Taycious laughed, “Well, I never...” he huffed and then giggled.  
“How are my men?”

“They’re fine.  They’ll be in touch as soon as we depart.  I just wanted to check in with you and find out how you’re doing with your new plumbing.” Jesse smiled.

“Tolerable.  Right tolerable.  I’ll be a lot better now I got my main man back.  You don’t know how much I missed him.  I tried another couple of them overdeveloped assholes, and I was like a wildcat trying to fuck a plate of hamburger helper surprise.  ‘Cept’n there weren’t no surprise to ‘em.  I cut out all  drugs to them son’s a bitches.  You ain’t here to change me back, are you?”

 “Not for a while.  I just thought I’d see if you wanted to go all the way?”

“Naw, Sir.  I’m just get’n comfortable like I am.  Don’t wanna’ have to worry about more female problems.  I period a month is quite enought, thank you.  I’m still hoping you’ll change me back.”

“We’ll, see.  What’s been happening since last we spoke?”

“Don’t you know?”

“Yeah, I just thought maybe you might like to tell me.”

“We had visitors from a damnable alien race of reptiles.  Green scaley things they was with slanted eyes and forked tongues.  They offered us an ultimatum.  Either we cooperate with them and become subjects to their empire, or they’ll wipe us out.  They assured us they had weapons far in advance of ours.  Can you do anything to help us?”

“You’re on you own, Norman.   We might’ve tried to help if you had been more interested in your people and not so involved with your military industrial complex and the overwhelming greed of your bureaucratic corporate structure.  You and your predecessor had the power to make massive changes in your infrastructure to make things easier on the middle class and the poor, but you didn’t.  You just butt fucked 'em 'til they had nothing left to fuck.  Your predecessor was too damn stupid and no more than a puppet for the evil Cheney who manipulated him.  You ain’t much brighter, but at least you have some cunning to you.  You know the difference between right and wrong.  In some ways, you’re worse than he was.  He was too stupid to know better.  You ain’t.  All you and Cheney ever did was squeeze the life blood out of your people, always to make a few more bucks for the rich.  You created a huge division between the super rich and the poor.  Aside from agriculture you have no middle class left to speak of.  Trickle down theory my ass.  You’ve made slaves of most of them and wiped out your intelligent class.  Most intelligent people who know how to think for themselves but ain’t a slave to rigid religious beliefs are usually pretty liberal folks.  Anyone of a liberal bias, you have either exterminated or have working as slaves for the corporations.”

“Are you responsible for taking away the sick from our camps?”

“Yes, some are being raptured.”

“Where do you take them?  What to you do with them?”

“Why would you care?  You don’t want them anymore.  You leave them alone to die.  You know I ain’t gonna’ give you information like that, Norman.  You don’t need to know.  How does it feel to have someone tell you ‘no’?”

“I could have my guards in here in a second.” Scudder threatened.

“No, don’t, Jerry!” yelled Taycious,  “They’ll only go away, and I wanna’ know more about... you know....”

“I ain’t giving you no cunt, Austin.  Your mouth is big enough.” Jesse snapped at him.  Scudder laughed.

“Shit!” exclaimed Taycious.

“Am I gonna’ get raptured, Jesse?” Scudder put to him boldly.

“What do you think, Norman?” he smiled.

"But I'm God's holy prophet."

"Like hell you are!"  Jesses chuckled,  "Listen to yourself.  Do you really know how stupid that sounds?  Of course you do.  You don't believe it for a minute yourself."

“No chance in hell, huh?”

“You might stand a better chance in hell if'n there was one.” Jesse laughed.  “As sick as he is, Taycious stands a better chance of being raptured than you.  But that’s a discussion for another time.  We gotta’ go now.  When we get down to threats, it’s time for us to leave.  Be good to your men.  Don’t question them too much.  I’ve told them to tell you the truth.  They won’t lie to you.”

“Are they gonna’ be raptured?” Scudder demanded.

“Oh, yeah.  They’re fine men.  They’ll do their jobs and be loyal to you until the end, but they won’t have to go through the final tribulation.  I’ll come for them before that.  In the meantime, just remember they're under my protection, and I won't allow you to abuse them.  Another point you already know, we are no threat to you or your country.”

“I didn’t figure you was, no matter what you done to me.  To be honest, I done me some thinking on it, and I guess I sort of deserved it.” Scudder tried to look as contrite as possible for a megalomaniac.

“That’s good.  Work on that, Norman.  When I feel you ain’t saying it just to manipulate me, I just might return you to your original state.”  Jessie grinned.

“Damn!  You’re like dealing with the Devil himself.” Scudder spat out like a curse.  

“I’ve been called that before, but not by someone who should know what the Devil looks like.  You don’t know it, but you met him recently if you met the snakes.  There ain’t no escape from them bastards.  They’ll take everything you have and hold dear, then they'll fatten you up, shove an apple in your mouth, one up your butt and bake you in an oven until you’re medium rare, nice and tender, and serve you up piping hot.  I been told they especially like the flesh of bureaucratic hypocrites.  Welcome to the end times, Norman.  Hope you and Austin enjoy the ride.” Jesse smiled, waved, nodded to Utah, a bright blinding light flashed and they were gone.

“I just know that damn dog is the wizard!  He’s the brains behind them two... not that ignorant hick of a cowboy.”  Scudder spat out.

“Ignorant?  Hick?  I dare say he gave you a run for your money, Norman.” Taycious laughed at him.

“Goddamn it!  Don’t you go calling me that.  I left that name behind me damn near fifty years ago, and I don’t wanna’ hear it no more.  Understand?” he ranted at Austin who was laughing his ass off at his miserable friend.

“Why didn’t you tell Jesse that snake asked about him?” Austin asked.

“I didn’t tell that snake nothing about Jesse.”

“I know, but you could’ve made some points by sharing it with him... maybe even gotten me a new cunt.” Austin groaned slightly.

“Look, you sick bastard, if you want a cunt so bad, say the word and daddy will buy you one.  I’ll buy you the biggest damn cunt you can imagine.  One I can slip my whole head into, swing from side to side and listen to the ocean roar.  I'll make you as happy as a redneck with a beer and a bug light.”  Scudder challenged him.

“It won’t be the same.  Besides, it only took him a minute to make you over.  I want a quickie cunt.” Austin moaned.

“A quickie cunt?” Scudder almost fell on the floor laughing at his friend. “You sick son of a bitch.  You can say the damnedest things sometimes.”
“Admit it!  That’s why you love me.” Taycious batted his eyes in jest.

“Faggot!” Scudder barked at him.

“Cunt!” Taycious spat back.  They shared a laugh.  Scudder’s phone rang.  Austin reached for it.  Scudder let him.  He didn’t bother to say ‘hello.’

“It’s time you two got back.” he barked, “Yes, he’s here.  Yes, they just left.  Here, you can talk with him.”  Austin handed Scudder the phone.

“Howdy, boss.  We’re back.” said Hawkins trying to be upbeat.

“Good to hear your voice, Son.  How are you?” Scudder asked.

“I’m fine, Sir, but you don’t wanna’ talk with me.  Here, I’ll let you speak with Officer Jones.” Hawkins handed the phone to Brett.

“Hello, your worship.”

“Hey, Jones.  How’s my boy?”

“Much better, Sir.  Thanks to you and some fine medical care.”

“Are you back up to speed?”

“Just about.  They said take it kinda slow at first, but I feel all right.”

“Yeah, we just talked with them two angels, I guess you’d call 'em.”

“Yes, Sir.  I’d call them that.”

“Why don’t you men come over.  We ain’t doing nothing this afternoon and evening.  We can fill you in on what’s going on.  We’d enjoy your company.” Scudder encouraged.

“We’ll be right over, Sir.” said Jones.  They said ‘goodbye’ and hung up.

“He wants to see us.” Jones said to Hawkins.

“We figured he would.  You up to it, Son?”

“I guess I have to be.  It’s now or never.  Showtime.” smiled Jones.

“You can handle it, Son.  I’ve watched you grow up in many ways in the last few weeks.  I’m proud of you.  You ain’t gonna’ fall apart on me, are you.”

“Naw, Sir.  I can hold myself together.  I’m more in control of myself than before we left.”

“I have faith in you, Brett.”

“You always have, Commander, when no one else did, and I appreciate it.  It ain’t gonna’ be easy for either of us, but we’ll get through it as long as we remember there’s a better day a’ coming.”

“Amen to that, brother... amen to that!”  agreed Hawkins.

* * * * * * *

The androids at Mars port were expecting the arrival of the Banshee and set aside two apartments close to each other for Professor Wankle and his niece, Delfee McNair.  He reluctantly released the whale nodules to them.  Lazarus and Trey assured him they were fully competent and highly trained.  He would be amazed at the assistance they could give him.  They also released Radar, his mate and young son to them.  They would find them a new home and start taking care of them.  The hominids were wide eyed at the wonders of Mars space port.  They were intelligent and curious creatures who had never seen anything beyond Venus and the whales.  They couldn’t take it in fast enough.  Radar wanted to see everything and his mate only wanted to be with him.

When Delfee McNair walked into her apartment and saw how sumptuous it was and the view of the savanna below she had to catch her breath her heart was beating so fast.  The view of the animals roaming the veldt was magnificent.  Her uncle joined her on the balcony.

“Are you sure I haven’t died an gone to heaven, niece?” he asked in a joking manner.

“If you did, uncle, so did I.  This is too wonderful to be believed.  I never expected anything this grand.  They said "apartment."  This place is a palace.  I think I could live here forever, and I know you must be in awe.”

“Look at the life down there.  Creatures I’ve never seen before up close.  I’ve seen the holo-vids while in the rest home, but to see them in person is the only way to truly appreciate them.  I can’t wait to go down there among them.”

Darryl joined them, and they couldn’t thank him enough for bringing them to Mars.  He laughed.

“Don’t thank me.  Thank the Admiral and Captain Vinceeth.  They are your hosts.  I didn’t say anything about the accommodations, because I didn’t think you’d believe me.”

“Will you be around for a while, Darryl?” Delfee asked coyly.

“I will have lunch with you and then give you a brief tour of the savanna and your new research facility, Professor, then I must go through the gate back to Earth.  I have some business I must take care of, but then I can return tomorrow morning to check on you and help you get settled.  The androids are unloading your personal belongings, and they will arrive shortly.  Come let us go to the ‘Jungle Room’ restaurant for lunch.  It’s one of my favorites, and we can sit on the balcony and look down at the animals.  If we’re very lucky some of the young flying ponies may pay us a visit.”

They left the apartment with Delfee on Darryl’s right arm and the professor on the other.  Darryl didn’t tell them he prearranged for the flying Equus young to pay them a welcome visit during lunch.  They were joined for lunch by Commander Maddragon and his mate Lucas.  The professor and Delfee had grown quite fond of the men and enjoyed their company.  Just as they were finishing lunch six of the most beautiful flying ponies could be seen leaving a mountain peak in the distance just to the right of the huge magnificent waterfall.  Delfee sighed deeply when Darryl called her attention to them.  They watched in rapt attention as the young horses flew, played and glided all the way across the vast savanna to gracefully land on the patio of the balcony.  Darryl stood and approached them.  He bowed deeply.

<< Welcome sons and daughters of Pegasus and Istar.  Thank you for being so gracious to visit us and the new members of our extended family. >>

<< The pleasure is ours, Sir Darryl.  What a fine lady your chosen one is.  She is quite beautiful for a human. >>  said the head male, Mercury.

<< Thank you, I’m quite fond of her.  How did you know she was my chosen one? >>

<< We can read your aura, Sir.  Your colors change as one. >> announced Peggy Sue, a young filly who giggled. << You are in love, Sir, and she’s in love with you. >> she finished and threw back her pretty head and whinnied.

“Will they allow us to approach them, Darryl?” Delfee asked.

“Yes, certainly.  I just spoke with them and welcomed them.  You both may pet them.  Just remember to be kind and gentle, and they will be with you.”

“I wish I could speak with them and tell them how beautiful I think they are.”

“You’ll learn in time, Miss Delfee.  So will you professor.  In the meantime, they can hear your thoughts.  Tell them in your mind.  They’ll hear you.”  Darryl encouraged them.

It was a wonderful afternoon and the ponies were great ambassadors for their new world.  They were quite courteous and patient with the new people.  They had come to see it as a duty rather than a joy, but their parents threatened them with their lives if they didn’t behave.  They didn’t mind doing it for Darryl.  He had always gone out of his way to be kind and genteel with them and they liked the formality of his approach to them.  It made them feel special and appreciated.  Darryl learned that from his canine friends.  Darryl requested the androids bring treats for the ponies and they did.  After the young ponies had their treats they bid farewell to everyone and flew away, back to their land high in the mountains.  The people stood and waved goodbye as they sailed off into the mist of the distance.  Delfee shamelessly found herself leaning against Darryl’s big chest as a tear rolled down her cheek at the beauty of the moment.  She looked up at him and found his lips.  She gave him a quick kiss.

“Thank you for that, Darryl.  It was special.  It was truly remarkable.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my uncle.”

Darryl gently kissed her behind her ear.

“It’s what you do for those you love and respect, Miss Delfee.”

End of Chapter 52 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All rights reserved~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com