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Journal Entry 1

June 12

Breaking news. Aliens invade Earth, or so the radio blares. Invaded, yeah. The TV shows something that looks like a cross between a tour bus and a Star Wars X - Wing landing in a park in Tokyo. Then one lands in New York. Then one lands in Sao Palo. All within five minutes of each other.

At first, the military went crazy launching planes to intercept the invaders - all the militaries all over the world. But nothing happened. The aliens didn't do anything except land. They're lucky they didn't get shot down

For a while, they just sit there. People gather. The news goes crazy. Within minutes, every station is showing pictures of the big event. Reporters and politicians vie for the spotlight, each giving their own explanations and predictions. The military arrives and points guns at the ships. Then a door opens, in each city, at the same time.

Out walks an alien. I know it's an alien. They look a lot like us, people, humans. They have two legs, two arms, a head on top of a body, eyes, nose, mouth, almost like us, except they have fur; red, brown, black, yellow, just like cats. But they don't look anything like cats. Their eyes are blue, green, and yellow, at least the ones on the news.

Their fur isn't long or messy, like Chewbacca's, just soft, and short. At least, it looks soft. Most have straight fur, but one has curly fur. Their ears are round, close to their heads, and higher than ours. And their nose is rather flat, pink, and furless. And they're short and skinny.

So here I am, a reporter slash artist, stuck in Los Angeles when all the action is in New York. Well, I will be a reporter when someone hires me. Since I can't be there, I watch and drew flowers. That's what I do when I can't do what I want. My art teachers say I should draw something more relevant, but I like to draw flowers. They're easy.

At least the voices have stopped.

Something happened during my last semester at UCLA. I majored in both art and journalism. Art is my first love, but I don't think I can make a living at it, so I also majored in journalism. That may not have been the best choice. Reporter jobs are just as hard to come by. All went well, my grades were good and everything until the voices started, voices in my head all the time.

I'm not exactly sure when it started. At first, the voices were so faint, only intruding on my conscious when my mind drifted, mostly during really boring lectures. Then it got worse.

For a while, I could block them out with music or any loud noise. When that didn't work, I went to see a shrink. The doctor told me it was all in my head, imagine that, and gave me some pills. The pills made me sleepy but didn't stop the voices.

Eventually, the voices got so loud I couldn't hear anything else, and I ended up in a psychiatric ward at a hospital. Then they stopped, all but one. I tried yelling at that voice, which must have worked because it shut up.

It took me a couple of months to get out of the hospital. No matter how many times I told them the voices were gone, they didn't believe me. They wanted to find some underlying cause. I told them I couldn't understand anything the voices said. One day, I just left. I expected someone to come and bring me back, but no one did, so I went back to my old life. My parents were happy that I was well, and most of my friends accepted my recovery without question.

So now I'm here, alone in my apartment, watching aliens walk on my world. And here comes the first reporter sticking a microphone in the furry face of this new species.

"Hello, my name is Francis Hammond. Who are you?"

"Mbly hesti seetir leesteest cammel."

Good one. Did he expect aliens to speak English?




Journal Entry 2

June 29

The aliens, they're called Hocalie by the way, have been here for two and a half weeks and they still haven't started a war. In fact, all they've done is learn our languages, well English, Japanese, and Portuguese. So today is the day they meet with the world's leaders to make their demands. They've been locked up with our president and several other presidents and prime ministers for most of the morning. Everyone is coming out now, and hundreds of reporters are waiting. I wish I were there. I'm not, so I draw another flower.

"Ladies, gentlemen," the tallest Hocalie starts. "We have come to your world to learn about your society and to protect your world from invasion by other spacefaring cultures. We will not interfere with your development, but will protect you."

Oh, that sounds straight out of Star Trek.

"We will select one person from this world to travel with us and learn about our culture."

I want to go. I want to go more than I've ever wanted anything in my life. I have to go.

"Those who wish to apply should send their request electronically to this email address."

An email flashes on the screen. I take a picture with my phone before I trust myself to write it down.

"Do not apply lightly. We will take you to the Intergalactic Trade Council Headquarters on Rosat. There will be opportunities for you to send messages back to this world. But it will be at least five years before you can to return. Earth is now a protected planet. Travel to this system is prohibited except under intergalactic treaty."

Reporters shouted questions at him.

"I go. That all I say."

More shouts and questions.

"I not know English."

Ah, so he memorized a speech. The email was still on the screen, so I double check my notes. "How long will you be accepting applications," I shout at the screen.

As if he heard me, he turns to the microphone and says, "We accept applications until the right person applies."

Really! There are eight billion people on earth, and they're looking for one person, the right person. Do they already know who that is?

What the hell. I shoot off an email. I give up on the flower and haul out my resume. Maybe if I word it differently, someone might hire me. But I really want to go with the Hocalie. The ink on my diploma isn't even dry, and I apply for a one in eight billion job.





Journal Entry 3

July 16

The aliens have been here for just over a month. Everything they do gets covered by the news, even if they stay inside all day. They still haven't found the right person and haven't given a clue as to what they mean by the right person.

I got a job at Taco Bell. Not exactly journalism or art, but it pays the rent on this dump. Some of the people I work with think the Hocalie are sent from heaven to protect us, but most don't trust them. They think this may be the start of an invasion.

Really, who would want to invade Earth? We're already hopelessly overpopulated and polluted. The ecosystem is on the verge of collapse, and our governments act as if it isn't important.

The Hocalie in New York now speak passable English. According to the news, the same is true for the ones in Sao Palo and Tokyo, with Portuguese and Japanese that is.

I guess I'm not the right person because I never head anything after I sent in my email. I sent a second email just in case the first one got lost.

Most of the world's governments are trying to persuade the Hocalie to take their representatives. I don't know if those representatives volunteered or got commandeered. After all, some have families.

The Hocalie are ever so polite. They listen to everyone and respond with smiles. but they still say they haven't found the right person.

There's a knock on my door. Outside stand four men in black. I kid you not. They have black coats, dark glasses, and evil looks. I slam the door in their faces.

They knock again. "Robin Mayfield?" one calls through the door.

I don't answer.

"Robin Mayfield, the Hocalie commander would like to speak with you."

This has got to be some kind of joke. I open the door to see if I recognize any of my friends from school. Although, I didn't tell anyone I had applied.

One of then hands me a phone.

"Hello," I venture.

"Robin Mayfield, I Leesel Nefel, of the Cadorie vessel Lossel. We ask you come to Trade Center on Rosat. These Humans will take you to shuttle. You come?" The voice is high and tinkely, just like the aliens on TV.

I'm trembling so hard I have trouble getting the words out. "Yes."

"Good." One of the men takes the phone from my hand. "You have one hour to pack."

"Do you have any pets?" another asks.

I shake my head. "But I would like to call my parents."





Journal Entry 4

July 16

Don't know why I believe these men. It could be a joke or abduction. I run around my apartment like a crazy woman. I only have one small suitcase, and I want to take everything. In the end, we all leave carrying garbage bags full of stuff. I probably won't need half of it. I just can't decide like that with no warning.

They drive me to the airport, and we fly to DC on a private plane along with Leesel Nefel.

I'm kind of short, but he is shorter still. His ears are flat on his head, to the side, and above his eyes. Fur covers his face except for his pink nose. His eyes are the deepest blue, and his teeth are narrow, and he has a lot of them. His voice is high and clear, like crystal tinkling. And he smells like mint, not overwhelming, but pervasive.

He speaks English pretty well but tells me that I need to learn Standard on my way to Rosat because that is the language of commerce and everyone speaks it.

I ask him, why me, and he says I am the correct person. He assures me he has downloaded sufficient information on human anatomy and medicine so the doctors at the trade center can treat me, should something go wrong. And they have analyzed humans enough to determine that I can eat the same foods Hocalie eat.

I wonder if they have coffee but don't ask.

We land at LaGuardia, and a limo takes us to the park where the shuttle landed six weeks ago. Barricades and military still surround the park. Reporters swarm around, but we drive past everyone without a problem and park next to a tent as big as a small house. I step out and into the tent.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Mayfield." The president extends his hand.

Yikes! I didn't vote for him. I dislike everything he stands for. I take a deep breath and hold out my hand. "Mr. President." Can't think of anything else to say.

"Mr. Nefel here tells me that you have been chosen to represent Earth to the rest of the galaxy. I have prepared a list of things I want you to do on our behalf." He hands me a thick notebook. "You will keep detailed records of everything you see and hear and report back to me. This is a matter of national security, as I am sure you are aware."

It takes me a moment to get my mouth working. "Yes, sir," I stammer.

National security. The Hocalie came from space. If they had wanted to hurt us, they would have by now. My stomach curls into knots. This folder is way to thick to be anything good, or simple.

"We go now," Leesel says.

The president shakes his hand, holding it too long. "Are you sure I can't convince you to take one of our diplomats with you?"

I nearly laugh. Convince means to get someone to believe something. To get someone to do something, you have to persuade them. Shouldn't the president know that? I wonder if the Leesel does.

Leesel doesn't show any emotion that I can tell. "Robin Mayfield is correct person. We go now. There is a war to stop."

War! My mind screams. I didn't sign up for a war. The men in black usher me out of the tent and up the ramp into the Hocalie shuttle. My garbage bags of stuff are waiting for me there.





Journal Entry 5

July 17 - Morning

The shuttle is a strange little affair. It has a control panel and displays in the front and rows of seats along either side, like a miniature airplane. There is a door at the far end, but I can't see beyond it. I sit in the first seat on the left. Leesel sits next to me. He reaches over and fastens my seat belt.

A black - furred Hocalie sits at the controls and speaks to Leesel in a different language. There is a big window, or maybe it's a display in front.

"You ready?" he asks.

"Do I have a choice?"

He chuckles. "No."

The ship vibrates, makes a roaring noise, and I get pushed back into my seat. I see clouds whiz by and then the sky turns dark and stars sparkle. I float up against my seat belt.

I'm in space and weightless. This is too good. I try to unfasten my seatbelt, but it won't budge.

Leesel chuckles again and says something to the pilot. The seatbelt clicks and comes loose.

I float up. "Wow! I never dreamed I would ever be weightless." I stand, bump the back of my seat with my foot, and shoot up to the ceiling. After banging my head, I push off with my hand and bounce off the floor.

The pilot says something, and Leesel tells me to sit down.

I would if I could figure out how to get to my seat. I'm floating in the middle of the shuttle.

The pilot says something. The intensity of his voice worries me. Leesel pulls on my arm and guides me back to my seat. "Strap in," he insists.

I get the seat belts hooked just in time. The ship swings to one side and then slows down. If I weren't strapped in, I would have ended up flattened against the front window.

We enter the mothership. It is a slowly spinning cylinder like thing with a gaping hole in the end. We fly through the hole and stop. For a moment, everything spins around us, then slowly it stops. Actually, I think we matched the rotation of the ship.

We move forward again and settle down on some kind of landing platform. After a few bumps and clicks, the back opens.

Leesel tells me to hang on as we walk out the back of the ship.

It's really weird. I think I can jump ten feet. I give a little hop and bump my head on the ceiling. "We aren't quite weightless."

"Ship spins to make gravity," Leesel says.

Great. I get motion sick on anything that spins.

We get in an elevator and go down. I get heavier and heavier until the elevator stops and the doors open.





Journal Entry 6

July 17 - Afternoon

"Welcome aboard the Lossel. My name is Jilliy Mifor," A pale orange alien says in English with only a trace of accent.

"Oh," is all I get out. Four more of the furry aliens scurry by with my bags of things, speaking in another language.

"Your supplies will be taken to your room. I'll show you there in a few minutes, but first, our chef would like to discuss the menu."

"Menu?" I stammer. He speaks perfect English.

"Yes. Early space explorers worried about things like right and left* handed molecules causing incompatibilities. But, so far, all worlds with people like you and me, are compatible. We think either, some much more ancient race or some unintentional spacefaring organisms seeded planets, so most life is basically compatible. Most species can't interbreed, but we can eat the same foods - for the most part."

"Oh." I don't seem to be able to get much out.

Leesel and Jilliy speak briefly then Leesel scurries off like he can't wait to get away.

The interior is painted in the softest greens, yellows, and browns. It reminds me of walking through the woods. All of the Hocalie have slightly different fur and eye colors. They wear simple clothing, shirts, pants, and jumper style dresses, which makes me do a double take. Jilliy is wearing a dress. "You're a girl," I blurt out. She acts like an adult, but she has the build of a twelve* year* old.

She smiles. "Yes."

"You have hair on your face." That was really stupid. My face gets hot. "I'm sorry. This is all a bit overwhelming."

Jilliy laughs. "Wait till you meet the Jerels. They're furred, also. And the Lasyans. Their skin is almost iridescent. And the Orisits, all pale white, even their eyes."

She leads me down a hall where music drifts out of closed doors. But before I ask about that, I just have to know. "How come you speak English so well? I mean, if you just got here six weeks ago, how did you learn English so fast."

She stops, folds her arms, and looks up at me. It makes her curls bounce.

There are five continents on Hocalie. Each one has a different language. I come from Cadorie, so that is my native language. But, in school, classes are taught in all five languages, so everyone learns them all, plus Standard and Langon."

"Oh." I'm impressed. I took Spanish and French in school. I can say a few phrases and count. "You speak seven languages and English, that makes eight."

She nods. Her curls bounce but don't fall on her face.

"Also, Jerel, some Orisit, and a little Japanese and Portuguese. When we realized you were the person we wanted, I concentrated on English."

"Languages must be easy for your species."

She starts down the hall again, and I follow.

"Most adults keep a smattering of the other Hocalie languages, enough to get along, but some of us can remember them all. My great, great, great, great, grandfather, Lannes Mifor, could translate from any language into any language just as fast as you can talk. He was one of the first people to learn Standard and Langon when the Langons invaded our world. I'm not quite that good, but pretty close."

That's a lot to take in. Not only are these creatures really good at languages, but their world got invaded.

I'm about to ask about the music, but we go into the kitchen.

There is a table with about three* dozen containers the size of grocery store samples, all sporting a different colors and shapes of food.

"Take a taste of each one," Jilliy says. "Let me know what you think. They're all safe for your species."

Well, why not? I have to eat and to tell the truth; I'm hungry. I start at one end. It's yellowish brown, round, and a little wrinkled. I give it a sniff. Smells sweet, so I take a nibble. An explosion of flowers fills my mouth. It's the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. I pop the whole thing in and savor the wonder of it all. If the rest of the foods are half this good, I'm going to love mealtime.

"That's a sallaberry," Jilliy says.

"I love it."

She makes a note on a computer tablet of some kind. I glance at it, but the alphabet is gibberish.

The next selection is a heap of green. I take a nibble. It's a little bitter, not too bad, but no matter how long I chew, I can't get it swallowed.

Jilliy hands me a napkin. "I can't take frazen root either." She writes on the tablet.

The next selection is a cracker, off* white with deep, blue speckles. I bite off a chunk. Youch! My mouth explodes. Fire burns my tongue. My teeth feel like they're exploding. I gasp, and she hands me a glass of water.

The water helps but my eyes water and my nose runs.

"That's Langon food."

Now, I like Mexican food. Don't get me wrong. I slather things with hot sauce. That cracker made habaneros feel like ice cubes.

Jilliy hands me a spoonful of pale orange pudding* like stuff. I shake my head. I'll stick to sallaberries.

"It'll make the pain go away." She points the spoon at my mouth and opens hers as if feeding a baby.

My tongue still burns, so I give it a go. It's cool and creamy. I let it coat the inside of my mouth and the pain disappears.

"Ready for the next one?" She asks.





Journal Entry 7

July 17 - Evening

Once the cook has my food preferences down, I ask why everyone is singing.

Jilliy takes me into one of the rooms. It's a stage with no audience space, just a couple of tables, and a few chairs. In one corner, two Hocalie are doing a cross between dance and acrobatics. They're wearing gold coveralls with short, flared out legs. One has black fur with silver stripes. The other has white fur with black stripes. I get the feeling that the fur colors are not natural.

Jilliy is, what I would call, medium blond with pale stripes here and there. Those two stand out like neon lights.

On stage, three Hocalie sing while several musicians play nearby. I don't recognize any of the instruments, but a couple are stringed, several are wind instruments, and one resembles a cross between a piano and a marimba. The voices are spectacular, high and clear. The sound soars around the room. I can't understand the words, but I could listen forever.

The song ends, and I come out of my trance. This looks more like a cabaret troop than space explorers. "They sound professional."

Jilliy nods. "They are."

"Why do you have professional entertainers on a spaceship?"

A group of, what looks like Morris dancers dressed in green marches on stage.

She leads me back into the hall. "Welcome to Bennet Productions Intergalactic Entertainment. We travel to different worlds to put on shows, singing, dancing, plays and so forth."

"You make a living at that," I blurt out. It probably wasn't the best thing to say, but Jilliy makes a little smile.

"A very good living. The Bennets are," she pauses. "They're very successful."

I take it that means rich. "Wow, too bad you're not a Bennet."

She interlaces her fingers and looks at the ceiling for a moment. "A long time ago, when the Langons first invaded my world, Kefan Bennet married Lenea Mifor. Kefan, Lenea, and her brother, Lannes, tried to stop the Langons. They failed, but Kefan Bennet and Lannes Mifor built Bennet productions into a successful business. One hundred twenty* years later. Gillis Bennet and Kaylee Fandor freed our world from Langon oppression. I'm related to Lannes."

So that means she's rich, or maybe not. I don't ask. "So I take it Leesel isn't a military commander?"

"Commander? Leesel?" She shakes her head. "He's and actor who also plays qulute." She opens the door to a small apartment. "These are your quarters."

My bags of stuff sit in the middle of the floor.

"The bedroom and bathroom are behind those doors. Food is in the mess. Here is a map of the ship." She hands me a sheet of paper. It doesn't feel quite like paper, but it has a layout of the ship printed on it. Two places are circled. I presume one is my quarters and the other the mess.

"There's a selection of snacks over there." She points to a wet bar.

I have a sudden need to be alone. I'm on a spaceship with furry people that smell like mint. They seem nice, but right now, I just want to be back home, safe and warm. "I'm kind of tired," I say.

"When you're hungry, make your way to the mess. You probably want to relax." She leaves.

I'm freezing. Maybe having fur makes then like colder temperatures. I find the bed, pull the blankets over me, and stare at the ceiling. In this strange place, I wouldn't turn off the lights even if I knew how. I grip the blankets tighter.

really want to go with the Hocalie. The ink on my diploma isn't even dry, and I apply for a one in eight billion job.





Journal Entry 8

July 18, 2021

My stomach rumbles. I'm in a strange bed. I've no idea how long I've been asleep. My phone says it's 9:52 AM, and it has twelve percent battery left, so I dig into my bags to find my charging cord. I also find my recent drawings, colored pencils, and a diary. I got it when I started UCLA. I thought I would keep a journal of my university experiences, but I never wrote anything.

Then I look for an outlet.

Yeah, right, an alien spaceship has standard wall outlets. There isn't any signal anyway, but my life is in that phone.

It's cold, so I pull on my favorite purple hoodie, stuff my phone and cord into the pouch. Before I search for food, I write everything down from the first moment I heard about the aliens. I even do a self - portrait, just to see if I change after being with aliens. I would take a picture, but don't want to waste my phone's battery.

The self - portrait turns out better than I expected. Hey, I'm not that cute. Oh well, what good is it to be an artist if you can't improve on nature.

I stuff the diary in the pouch. I want to document every moment.

My door doesn't seem to have any kind of lock. There is a number or name on the door, but I don't recognize the letters. I think I turned left to get into the room, so I turn right and hope I recognize something. I don't. The map Jilliy gave me doesn't help. I never could read maps anyway.

Two fuzzy people are talking a little further down the corridor, so I ask them where I can get some breakfast, but they don't speak English. I come to a junction and turn left. A couple of fuzzies pass me. One pulls something that resembles a phone out of their pocket and talks into it. The other one gestures for me to wait.

In a few minutes, Jilliy jogs up. "Good morning. Would you like to eat?"

"Yes." My stomach growls at the thought of food.

She leads me down a few corridors toward wonderful smells and happy voices.

The ship's mess is like a cafeteria. There's a counter with various foods set out. You get a plate and serve yourself. Jilliy gives me some suggestions, and I fill my plate.

She leads me to a table. "It's midday ship's time."

"Oh," I say and take a bite of pink stuff. It looks like strawberry jam.

"We'll be at Rosat in twelve days. I've assigned Bessel to teach you Standard. Can you learn a new language in twelve days?"

The, whatever it is I just ate, goes from sweet to so sour. Warheads aren't this sour. I pucker* up and try to keep saliva from dribbling down my chin.

She cocks her head and grins. "Give it a moment. Halsel berries are fun to eat."

The sour turns briefly bitter then sweet again. A burst of wonderful flavor fills my mouth, and I feel warm all over like I just had a big slug of whiskey. I get my mouth empty before I attempt to talk. "Twelve days?" I exclaim. How can anyone learn a language in twelve days?

A mahogany colored Hocalie strolls up to the table.

"This is Bessel," Jilliy says. "He'll be your language instructor."

He? I do a double take. So Bessel is male. Jilliy is female? I can't tell the difference. "I don't mean to sound rude or stupid, but you look the same."

They look at each other. Bessel is dark brown, and Jilliy is pale gold.

"We're different colors," Bessel says.

I feel my face get hot. "I don't mean your colors. I mean your . . ." Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.

"Yes, your race has more obvious sexual differences. I think you will learn to tell our genders apart in a few days. Most races do."

"Most of the time," Bessel adds.

I pull out my phone. "Can I charge this?"

Both Bessel and Jilliy examine the phone and the cord.

"Everyone has these on your world," Jilliy says.

"I doubt it is compatible with our power systems," Bessel says. "Even if it were, it isn't compatible with our communications network."

"But everything is on my phone, my music, games, Facebook, email," I moan and then realize that I can't access the Internet from a spaceship.

"You should keep it," Jilliy says. "You can use it when we get back, in five years or so."

Five years! Yikes, what have I got myself into? "It'll be obsolete by then."





Journal Entry 9

July 30, 2021 I think.

My phone is dead, but before it ran out of battery, I determined that Hocalie days are about two hours longer than Earth days. I'm sticking to Earth dates for now.

It's been twelve days of language lessons. I can understand most stuff in Standard, as long as they don't talk too fast, or have a really different accent. Speaking is harder. My mouth has trouble with some of the sounds, and the sentences are constructed differently. Reading is really hard. None of the letters resemble English.

For the first few days, I carried my phone around as if it might suddenly ring or something. Then I packed it away. I still reach for it occasionally, and I really want to get on Facebook to see what's happening.

The ship just came out of interstellar drive and is cruising toward the third planet in this system. Since the habitat ring rotates, there aren't any windows, they would have to be in the floor, but monitors are everywhere. Everyone is sitting in front of one watching the approach.

The people I'm with point to a reddish speck. Slowly, it gets bigger until it fills the screen. The more I see, the less I like this planet. The sun shines intensely on one rusty colored side. The other side is black.

The ship spirals around the planet as it hones in on its parking orbit. People point at other ships in orbit and at the spider* like structure on the surface - the only structure on the surface. With no atmosphere, everything on the surface is crystal clear.

We circle the planet every three hours in our parking orbit waiting for permission to shuttle to the surface. That takes an entire day, so I get several good looks at the Intergalactic Trade Center.

There is a smaller circle surrounded by two larger circles, right on the terminator. Pipes and conduits extend out from the dome* like spokes on a wheel. The shuttle landing field is due north and also on the terminator. A stout conduit connects the main dome to the smaller dome of the landing field. I can see several roads and a few vehicles wandering around. They must be airtight. I don't fancy being exposed to vacuum.

I want to go down on the first shuttle, but instead, an announcement comes over the comm telling everyone to go to bed. The first shuttle leaves early tomorrow.

I trudge off to my room to double check my packing. Since I'm staying on Rosat, all my stuff in now in packing crates. My name and ID number are on the crates in Standard. I lay out my clothes for tomorrow and crawl into bed. There's no way I can sleep so I read the book Bessel gave me. It's a silly kids story, but it's in Standard, so I struggle through the pages.

The alarm buzzes. I nearly fall out of bed sending the book skidding along the floor. It's time to leave.





Journal Entry 10

July 31, 2021

The first shuttle to the surface is packed. Jilliy sits next to me. I recognize everyone, but I don't know all their names.

We fly out of the rotating cylinder and spiral toward the planet's surface. I watch the display in the front. The planet whizzes by, getting closer and closer. Then we hang a one* eighty, and I'm pushed back in my seat. Things fall out of my hoodie's pouch.

"We have to decelerate," Jilliy says.

"Yeah, but at this rate, we're going to stop before we get to the ground."

She laughs. "The ship travels about twenty* thousand miles per hour relative to the surface while in orbit. We can't land at that speed."

"No, I guess not." The pressure eases up, and we hang another U. The surface is a lot closer. I can see the dome off to the left. The ship circles once, pauses mid* air, and settles to the surface. We wait.

Jilliy retrieves journal from the floor. It opens to a flower drawing. "What kind of flowers are those?"

"I don't know. They grew at school." I stash the journal back in my pouch before she gets curious about the rest of it.

A large, wheeled vehicle, like a giant bus, pulls alongside. After some bumps and clanks, the airlock opens. Everyone stands and talk.

Jilliy leads me into the transfer bus, as workers unload the cargo, mostly boxes and suitcases. None of the workers are Human or Hocalie. One has pale, yellowish skin with straight, black hair and deep, orange eyes and six fingers, but no thumb. Another is tall and reddish with black things dangling from its elbows and knees. It's bald with black eyes. The third is bright green with yellow, for lack of a better word, hair standing up straight along the top of its head and extending down its neck. I can't tell if they are male or female.

I have to stop myself from chewing on my fingernails. My hands tremble.

Jilliy takes my hand. "Are you frightened?"

Hocalie do that a lot, touch each other. I pull my hand away. "Yeah, I think. I didn't know there were so many kinds of aliens."

She gives a little laugh. "Wait till you get inside."

We take a short ride into a building. The doors open and we walk out. Here we get processed. A short, white woman, I think it's a woman, with stringy white hair and pale gray eyes asks for identification. I don't have any.

Jilliy hands her a datapad. She looks me all over and takes my picture. "Go see doctor first." She points to a green line on the floor. "Follow to new incoming."

Jilliy and I follow the line to an office with a counter and chairs, just like a doctor's office, except it's empty.

Another one of the white people steps out. "I'm Nurse Fimoh. You are new species," she says to me.

I nod.

"Come. I check compatibility."

"Compatible with what?"

Jilliy nods at me to follow her.

What if I am not compatible?



Journal Entry 11

July 31 - Rosat

Before I can enter the Intergalactic Trade Center proper, I have to be checked for compatibility by an alien doctor. Jilliy calls her an Orisit. She is white, really white, with long fingers and huge hands.

She has me stand in front of a section of wall painted white, and then she tells me to lie on a slab. She has me lick a stick and swabs my nose. Then she orders me to take my pants off.

Her fingers are extra long and her hands huge, but her touch is gentle. The room is too warm. At least she doesn't seem to have any kind of smell.

I shake my head. "Why?" I haven't made any of the Hocalie sick - yet.

She doesn't flinch. "You will give me the necessary samples, or you will leave on the next shuttle, where ever it goes."

"Alright," I say and take off my pants.

She puts my feet in stirrups just like the gynecologist. I grit my teeth while she takes her samples. Apparently, she needs to probe every orifice no matter its purpose. She asks me what each of my openings are for. Her curiosity only increases my embarrassment and I break out in a sweat. The hot room doesn't help.

Satisfied, she tells me to get dressed while she analyzes the samples.

I wait in the empty room for a while wondering what will happen if I am not compatible, or what I am supposed to be compatible with.

She comes back and jabs my forearm with something resembling a toy gun.

I yelp at the sharp pain. She stabbed something into my arm.

"You are processed. Your medical data has been forwarded to the ITC medical center." She hands me a card. "This is your ID card."

What did you do to my arm?" I say as I rub the red spot.

"ID chip. In case, you lose card."

"Chip? You can't just stick things inside me without even asking. Take it out!"

"You may leave now," is all she says as if my opinion didn't matter.

I take the hint and get out of there before she decides to mark me in some other way. I don't want to be chipped like a dog.

Jilliy doesn't give me a chance to complain. She hurries back the way we came.

We hop on a moving sidewalk with seats along one side. In ten minutes, we hop off as it rounds a corner. People get on the other side headed back to the shuttle port.

There's a row of turnstiles. Before I can get out my ID card, my name, as it is written in Standard, flashes in the middle of the air. "Welcome Robin Mayfield," a voice says, and the turnstile opens.

I wonder if the machine read my chip. Can they track me where ever I go?

The same must have happened for Jilliy because she is waiting on the other side.

We walk down a short corridor and around a corner. I come face to face with the middle circle of the Intergalactic Trade Center. It's like something out of a Keith Laumer book. Beings of all kinds and sizes walk around.

The center ring is all one giant building with many different doors and edifices.

"That's where the trade representatives conduct business," Jilliy tells me. "There are embassies, trade coalitions, stores, a hospital, administrative offices, and hotels. Over there." She points to the outer ring. "Are the habitats. They extend for a mile out from the center, twelve of them. The cold climates are on the dark side of the terminator, and the warm climates are on the light side of the terminator. They simulate the environments of different worlds."

We stroll past a set of double doors you could drive two trains through and have space left over.

"Each section has a main supply door, but most people use a normal sized door off to the side. Most have a restaurant or other business in front of their sections. That's the Lasyan section. Their food is delicious."

We pass a small building nestled against the outer circle surrounded by tables and chairs with people eating.

The ceiling is bright, lighting the area. "How come I can't see out of the dome? I could see in from orbit."

"The trade center has its own day - night schedule. During the day, the whole place is lit up. At night, they turn off the lights. You can see both the sun and stars, depending on which way you look."

We enter one of the doors in the central ring and take an elevator to our hotel. After checking in and finding that our bags are already in our rooms, we search out food. The hotel has a little cafe where I order a few things that I know I can tolerate.

"Now," Jilliy says. "Are you ready to find out why you were selected?"



Journal Entry 12

July 31 ITC

Jilliy and I stop at the door labeled Chief Administrator, Intergalactic Trade Center. That sounds important. Jilliy knocks on the door. It opens, and we walk in.

"You're a little early," says a high - pitched being with purple things that dangle from its chin. "I'll notify the others."

He's sitting at a desk in a small room. There's a door off the side with an impressive title painted in gold and green. At least, it looks impressive. I recognize the bit in Standard. It says, Chief Administrator. I assume the rest of the sign is his name. The symbols below aren't Standard. They look like squiggles and dots. But Standard looked like that at first.

A huge hairy bear of a man steps through the door. His fur is not neat and short fur like the Hocalie, but long and shaggy. A cold breeze blows from the open door, and the high - pitched being jumps up to close it.

"Anciem Zenfor." He holds out his arm as if wanting to shake hands. "Jilliy Mifor. And must you be Robin Mayfield."

I must be. I hold my arm out. I expect his grip to be hot and hard. Instead, it is gentle. His hand is warm, but the fur that brushed my wrist is freezing.

He leads us into a conference room with a round table surrounded by chairs of various sizes and configurations.

Two furry beings wander in talking in a different language. They look like a cross between Humans and Hocalie. Jilliy introduces them as Jerels. One is obviously male and the other female, at least by human standards.

Two very tall beings come in. They have long, thin faces, pointed, dangly ears, and both have a bald patch on the top of their heads, like male pattern baldness, even the female. Their clothing is so brightly colored, my eyes do a double - take. The female, I assume she is a female because she's wearing earrings and a necklace, is in chartreuse green, bright, yellow and deep orange. The other, the male, is wearing grass green and pink stripes, with pale orange pants. The colors make my eyes water. Maybe they don't see color the same way I do.

Their skin is a deep copper color, and they stink like tomcat spray. Jilliy rubs her nose and tells me they're Langons. I wince at the smell when they walk by. They take the larger chairs but can't get their legs under the table.

One of the short, white Orisits enters.

The high - pitched fellow from the lobby takes a seat.

Anciem Zenfor introduces everyone. The high - pitched guy is his assistant.

I get out my notebook and try to jot down the names, but I can't write Standard very well and haven't invented any English equivalents for alien words. So I do sketches.

The discussion goes on all afternoon. As far as I can make out, the Langons put a settlement on an uninhabited world. At least, no one was there when they arrived even though they found buildings in excellent condition and working power facilities. They didn't use those buildings or power facilities; instead, they built their own settlement on a different continent.

Sometime later, the apparent owners returned and got pissed. They didn't hurt the colonists, but they tracked down the Langon supply ships and shot at them. The Langons fired back and people died on both sides. They followed Langon ships to other worlds and fired at those ships.

Now, an entire region of space is unsafe. The marauders, as they're called because no one knows who they are, attack any ship passing through. Since both the Jerel and Orisit homeworlds are in the middle of that region of space, they're also pissed.

At first, the battles were all in space, but recently the marauders lobbed bombs on an Orisit colony and on a Jerel colony.

Earth is on the edge of the contested zone. We don't have any interstellar ships. I hope they don't bomb us. But I don't know what that has to do with me. I'm the first, and only, human to travel outside my solar system, as far as I know.

I haven't said a word so far, but I do have a question, so I raise my hand.

The high - pitched guy nods at me.

"Why not pack up the Langon settlers and take them home?"

The male Langon looks down his nose at me. "That world is unoccupied. We have every right to settle there. The original colonists abandoned it. There is no evidence that the marauders claimed that world. Even if they do, Langon Central claims rights of salvage."

Okay, I won't ask him any more questions.

Jilliy jumps up. "You invaded my world even though you knew it was populated. You knew about the buildings and power facilities on this world. Didn't it ever occur to you that the people might come back?"

"The two situations are not the same," the male Langon says. His deep voice rattles the walls.

Jilliy's fur stands up. She raises her voice. Even though her anger is unmistakable, her voice is still high and sweet compared to the Langons. "No. You thought we were too primitive to worry about, so you made slaves of us. You --"

"That was not the Langon government," the female shouts. "That was a private corporation. You should have resisted."

Jilliy stomps over to the male. Sitting down, he is taller than she is standing up. He is taller than I am standing up.

"We tried," Jilliy shouts.

The high - toned guy bangs a book on the table.

Anciem Zenfor straightens his back. "Politeness will be maintained. We come to settle dispute, not argue actions of past."

Jilliy lowers her voice. "The point is, Langons have a long history of disregarding indigenous populations."

"The point is," the female Langon says. "We do not know if the marauders are the indigenous population. They have never landed on that planet."

If true, she does have a good point. Way back in my consciousness, I hear voices; so faint I can't be sure they're there. Maybe it's stress. I still don't know why I'm here. There isn't a thing I can contribute, except maybe to change the topic. So I risk another question, this time to Anciem Zenfor. "May I ask why I'm here?"

As if on cue, a voice in my head says, "Bleep ledep geggit og."



Journal Entry 13

July 31

Everyone in the conference room stares at me. I am not responsible for the marauders. I know nothing of these other cultures. And my head is full of strange voices again.

"The Hocalie wanted you here," the Orisit says.

The female Jerel adds her two cents. "The Hocalie homeworld is not in the disputed section of space, but the Hocalie said you could help."

I turn to Jilliy. "Why me?"

Jilliy takes in a long breath and lets it out before answering. "We think you can help, but I can't explain it here."

Anciem Zenfor grunts. "Have you not the ability of explanation or fear you repercussions?"

I'd like to know that too. All the adventure, spaceships and aliens, has been fun, but I've nothing to contribute to this discussion and the voices have come back. If they get much worse, I won't be able to hide it. "I would like to know that?"

She shrugs.

I hang my head. This is getting nowhere. The voices get louder.

"Do not be discouraged," the Jerel says. "Hocalie are clever. They didn't even have simple air transport. In fact, if my history is correct, they still used draft animals for transport when they stole an intergalactic transceiver from the Langon slavers and used it to invent instantaneous intergalactic transmitting. When the Langons bombed their friends, they destroyed a shipyard."

The Langons groan while the rest smile and nod. I fend off the voices so I can pay attention.

"That was Kaylee Fandor and Gillis Bennet. The Langons kidnapped and tortured them," Jilliy says. "We used that technology to buy our freedom. Now we have our own spaceships."

"You have Langon spaceships, which you get for free." The female Langon sounds pissed.

"Agreement to that you made," Anciem says.

"That was under duress." The Langon male shouts. Or maybe he isn't shouting. Maybe that is his normal voice. I can't tell. I can't understand the voices in my head, and it's hard to hear over them.

These people have spent a long time talking about who did what but, "Has anyone talked to the marauders?" I shout over the voices in my head. "Why aren't they here?"

Everyone in the room gives an exasperated sigh. "Never have they answered hails of anyone," Anciem answers.

I rub my head. "Maybe they don't speak your language."

The female Langon lets out something that sounds like a growl. "We have been at this for almost three - hundred years. We know how to communicate with new races. They do not respond to anything. They are not interested in talking. As soon as we find their homeworld, they will pay for their insolence."

Jilliy has her fingers interlaced and a smug little smile on her face as if she knows a big secret. She only has three fingers - a thumb and three fingers. Why didn't I notice that earlier? I wonder if all Hocalie are that way. Now that I look, the Langons have six fingers. For a want - to - be reporter, I can overlook the obvious.

The chief administrator stands. "Finished is our time. This room for others is needed. Continue we will day after tomorrow. Please, new information to meeting you bring."

I lean my head back for a moment before standing. Freedom, at last, I hope.

Jilliy goes off somewhere, and I wander back to my room. Those voices won't leave me alone. To keep sane, I draw a picture of the chief administrator. The voices quiet a little. I close my eyes ordering them to go away, but it doesn't work.



Journal Entry 14

July 31 - Afternoon

I wander around the central area for a while, then go to the Orisit section. The voices have quieted a bit. Two Orisits sit outside the big door as if waiting for something. They're bundled up as if it were snowing.

"May I see inside your section?" I ask.

Their eyes get big and one says. "What world do you come from?"

I introduce myself and we chat for a few minutes.

"There are few beings willing to visit us at home, but you are welcome." One says with a bit of a snicker.

Well, I --"

"It's perfectly safe," he tells me as he opens the door.

A hot breeze brings the smell of dusty sand. Jilliy warned me it might be too warm, but it would be rude to back out now, so I step through the door.

Their habitat is a desert, sand, rocks, brick buildings, and blazing heat. Pale people wander around in lightweight shirts and short pants. My escort takes off two jackets and slips out of insulated trousers.

My lungs sting and my face sweats. It is way too hot, so I leave, take a moment to cool off, and then stroll over to the Lasyan section. Jilliy suggested I eat lunch there.

All the waiters are Lasyan, tall and thin with iridescent skin. They wear long flowing robes in greens and yellows. They smell like flowers, so sweet and enticing.

I don't recognize any of the foods or names, so I tell the waiter that I can eat Hocalie food and like things slightly salty or sweet. I get something that looks like a roll but tastes like cream cheese and peanuts. There's a pile of yellow mush that tastes like cheesy potatoes but has the consistency of pudding. Last, there's a pile of tiny green pees that pop when I bite them. The don't have much flavor but are fun to eat. I hand him my ID card. He touches it to a band on his wrist. I ask if I can visit their section, he hesitates then says he'll have to ask.

A female Lasyan comes over. "We are honored that you would like to walk in the rain but must ask why."

"I'm just curious about the different cultures here."

She nods. "I am not familiar with your species."

"We're called Humans, from Earth. I'm the only one of my kind on this world." I'm the only Human not on Earth, but I didn't tell her that.

She nods again. "I will show you our section, but you must be careful. For some, our world is deadly." She gestures for me to follow.

After the Orisit section, I hesitate. Maybe I'll just peek in for a moment. Jilliy said it was all water with floating islands of soggy plants and no buildings. The Lasyans sleep on the ground even if it rains.

She opens a small door next to the giant double doors, steps through, and holds it open for me.

A blast of sweet smelling, wet air hits my face and the voices disappear. They didn't just get quiet, they went away, even my memory of them. The temperature is perfect and the smell calls to me. I only planned to take one step, but once inside, I wade step knee deep into the water. At least I think it is water. It has the feel of silk on my skin. It calls to me.

I dip my hands in to splash it on my face. The Lasyan stops me.

"Our world is dangerous to others. You must not drink the water."

A gentle mist falls. Happiness overwhelms me. I want to crawl through the grass and roll in the flowers. I look up to let the rain love my face.

She pulls on my arm, dragging me outside.

It breaks the spell. My shoes are squishy wet. My pants are sopping, and I start coughing. And the voices are back, jumbled, fading in and out, sometimes blasting sometimes whispering.

"I think you will recover." She says. "You must see the doctor if you do not. You may crave the rain for a while."

"Maybe I should go back to my room and change clothes." I leave wiping the wet off my face.

After a shower and change of clothes, the voices settle down.

I pick up my wet things. I want to bury my face in the wonderful smells. Instead, I cram the soppy clothes into the trash bin and kick it into the hall. My hands tingle with delight, so I scrub them again. If I had stayed there much longer, I would never have left.

I wander around doing nothing for the rest of the day thinking about sweet water and gentle rain. Tomorrow, I have another meeting about the marauders. And the voices are louder.



Journal Entry 15

August 1 - Morning

I meet Jilliy at the meeting. The voices stay in the background. All the usuals are there, Langons, Jerels, The administrator, and his assistant. Nothing has changed except the marauders destroyed a Langon freighter last night, and now the Langons are threatening to go on the warpath. I'm sure they will if they can figure out how to find marauder ship.

I listen to them discuss why the ships appear and disappear at random. Each person has a hypothesis - none make sense. Jilliy sits still with a little smile. I think she knows.

Halfway through the meeting voices blast into my head. Moments later an alarm goes off and everyone runs out of the room. All I can do is hold my head and moan. I don't know if the alarm ever stops because the voices overwhelm everything else.

Jilliy takes my hand and runs down the corridor. I stumble, but she pulls me forward. Blew lights flash everywhere. We zigzag around beings of all kinds going every which way, some shouting, others yelling.

I fall to my knees and scream, "Shut up," over and over. I'm yelling as loud as I can, but you can't really reason with a malfunctioning brain. I try again. "Stop! You're hurting me."

Silence. The voices are gone. My head pounds. The sirens still wail and feet pound the floor. Someone catches their foot on my leg. They almost fall the run on. I don't think the even noticed. I'm still panting. The sirens stop and people slow down.

Jilliy sits beside me. "Did it work? Did you stop the voices?"

I nod.

She grins and pulls me into a corner where people don't have to jump over us.

Another voice intrudes. "No," I scream. The voice softens but continues. At least, it's bearable.

Jilliy stares into my eyes. "More voices?"

I lean back against the wall. "Only one." How did she know? I never said anything about being insane. I'm not that stupid.

"Why don't you answer it?"

I can't stop the tears as I tell her about my incarceration in the mental hospital.

"Yes, that's why we chose you."

"Because I'm crackers?"

She helps me up. "No, because you're telepathic."

I don't even have a response to that.

"Why don't you talk to the voice in your head?" she asks with all seriousness.

I let out a big sigh and wipe my tears. "Because it's gibberish."

Her eyes get big. "Really. That's interesting." She motions me down the hall. "We assumed telepathy would not require language. The thoughts should manifest in your language, or in images or feelings, not in the sender's language. So you don't hear the senders thoughts, you hear their speech?"

She really thinks someone is trying to communicate with me telepathically. I always thought that was impossible.

The whole world jerks up and to the side. A new alarm goes off. This one wails from high to low oscillating like a physics experiment gone mad. Voices blare out of speakers. Jilliy grabs my hand, and we run. Everyone is running; diving thought blue doors with flashing blue lights above them. The first blue door we reach slams shut before we get there. Jilliy drags me onward. We dive through the next blue door just as it shuts.

We're in a room with a mismatch of beings all looking terrified.

"What happened?" I ask in English. Then switch the Standard.

"The dome is breached," someone says.

The dome is breached. I have trouble breathing. The air is being sucked out. We will suffocate, or freeze, or both, and I'm stuck in a room full of alien strangers.

"This room is airtight," Jilliy tries to reassure me.

Airtight, but full of people who will soon use up all the oxygen. I want to go home.

"There's plenty of emergency equipment and supplies in these rooms. We will be safe until the breach is sealed," Jilliy reassures me.

The world lurches again. Jilliy's comm beeps. After a brief conversation in her language, she turns to me. Her eyes are so wide I think they might pop out.

"You have to answer the voice. You have to talk to them." She grabs my shoulders. "Try, Robin. You have to."

I shake my head.

She switches to English. "We think the marauders are telepathic. That is why they never send any radio communications. That is why all attempts at communications have failed. You can communicate with them. You must do so, now. They're bombing Rosat."



Journal Entry 16

August 1 - Evening

I back against the wall and slide to the floor. Me. I have to save the world. Me. I'm in an airtight room full of strangers, while outside a hole in the wall lets all the air out - instant freeze dry.

Jilliy kneels down to be at my level. "Robin, set all other thoughts aside. Concentrate on the voice."

All the others in the room talk, a jumble of languages competing with the voices in my head.

Jilliy stands on her toes. She's still the shortest person in the room. "Stop talking." No change. She jumps on the desk and bangs a box on the wall until it breaks into pieces. Everyone now looks at her. "Be quiet. I can't hear." She holds her comm up. "Let me talk to the chief administrator."

They almost obey.

She faces me. "Robin, concentrate on the voice. Try to answer. Use your own language."

I close my eyes and listen, really listen. There is an urgency to the voice I never noticed before. "Hello," I think.

"Hello," the voice sends back.

"Please, stop bombing us," I think.

"Pleaz ost buming woz, Membles zog lessx." it replies.

I give, "Membles zog lessx," a try.

"What's happing?" Jilliy asks.

"Your right, I think. I can talk to this voice, but we don't speak the same language."

Her comm beeps. She talks a moment then smiles. "Two Langon warships are headed this way, but the marauders have disappeared."

That causes a surge in the sound level. Everyone has some comment they feel compelled to announce to the world.

A moment later, the all - clear sounds, and the door opens. Everyone cheers and rushes into the hall.

That was too fast. "How can a hole get fixed and all the air replaced so quickly?"

She fiddles with her comm as she talks to me. "There are multiple redundancies in the event of a breach. I doubt that much air escaped. Gillis wouldn't let anyone come here until he checked the engineering to make sure it was safe."

Jilliy makes a call on her comm. "Anciem, we must have an emergency meeting. I know how to communicate with the marauders." She listens for a while, agrees, and then turns to me. "You have to talk to the marauders before they get frustrated and blow up this city."

No pressure. "I thought it was safe from punctures."

She nods. "A minor breach or two, but it won't withstand an all - out attack."

Her comm beeps again. This time she talks in her language. She drops the comm in her pocket and grabs my hand. "Let's go. They're waiting for us."

"Who?" I ask but she doesn't answer, nor does she let go of my hand.

We run through the central area back to the turnstiles. She leaps over the barriers, and I follow. I'm not sure what is so urgent. The marauders left a few minutes ago, but she is really panicked. Someone yells for us to stop, but Jilliy hops on the moving sidewalk and runs along it. It's crowded with beings. We weave around them, bumping into a few.

Jilliy must be in great shape. She hasn't slowed, but my legs feel like lead. I keep stumbling. I'm breathing so hard, I can't even tell her to slow down, not that it would do any good. She is bent on getting somewhere fast and keeps a death grip on my hand.

Jilliy stops.

Thank god. I'm panting so hard I can't see. She jerks me forward. We step off the sidewalk just as it turns the corner to go back to the city. A clot of Hocalie surround us, jabbering in their language. They push me into one of the transport vehicles.

Finally, I get to sit down and catch my breath. Sweat soaks my clothes, and I'm dizzy from running. Right now, all I can do is try to catch my breath. The voice in my head keeps talking, but I can't concentrate well enough to do anything about it.

Jilliy is also panting, but that doesn't stop her from talking on her comm. It's on speaker, and several of the other Hocalie join in.

I'm breathing normally now, although my legs are still twitching. We're outside the dome and headed across the landing field. The voice in my head is louder now, and more urgent. Once in a while, other voices intrude, sometimes as a loud burst, other times a whisper, but they never stop.

After some banging and clanging, the door opens, and we all run into the shuttle.

I take my seat and strap in. All my stuff is still in my hotel room, except my journal. It's still in the pouch of my sweatshirt along with a pencil.I strip off my sweatshirt. I know I'll be putting it on in a few minutes, after I cool off. "Where're we going?" I ask Jilliy

"To meet the marauders, unless they kill us first."



Journal Entry 17

August 2 I think. I'm so tired. Another day must have passed, but what with all the running around, different local times, and no actual days or nights, it's hard to tell.

There has got to be some kind of mistake. I don't want to talk to the marauders. I want to go home. This sounded like a great adventure, but I have to eat weird foods and sleep in strange beds. Odd, smelly creatures are everywhere. Jilliy is nice, but for the first time in my life, I really miss my parents. I miss my mom. Right now, I would give anything to be home having her bitch at me for my messy room and sloppy clothes. She must be worried. Out of habit, I reach for my phone in my hoodie's pouch. I find my journal. At least, I can continue to document my adventures. For just a moment, I wonder what happened to the president's binder full of instructions. Oh, well, I didn't vote for him anyway.

We're approaching a ship. It's not the same ship. This one is smaller and painted differently, but the design is similar. We enter through the center of a spinning cylinder.

Jilliy and I get out, but the rest stay in the shuttle.

"They're going back to their ship," Jilliy tells me. "This is the Bennet family's ship. The first one the Langons gave us after we destroyed their shipyard."

Somehow, that doesn't make a lot of sense. "Why would the Langons give you a spaceship for destroying a shipyard?" Why would they care about boats?

"Oh they didn't want to, but they didn't have much choice. It's a long story. The Langons enslaved my world for a hundred twenty years. When the rest of the galactic trade community found out, they forced the Langons to make reparations." She giggles. "We traded instantaneous intergalactic communications technology for freedom. During the negotiations, the Langons tortured and tried to kill Gillis and Kaylee the Cadorie who invented the technology. The rest of the worlds got upset and forced the Langons to help us."

"Langons must be really stupid," I say.

She shakes her head. "No, but they are arrogant and selfish. The Langon government didn't have anything to do with it, except they ignored the obvious. Galactic Mining and Exploration, a private company, invaded Hocalie. They considered us primitive and refused to treat us as people. Hehe," she giggles. "We taught them a lesson or two."

"How long will this trip take? All my stuff is still in my hotel room."

She shrugs. "Let's go meet Gillis and Kaylee."

She leads me into one of the larger private quarters. A pure white Hocalie with the bluest eyes I've ever seen stands. A yellow - gold Hocalie remains seated. I think she is female although I don't know why. Something about the two makes me think they are elderly. Their facial fur is quite thin showing pale pink skin, and their movements are a bit stiff.

Jilliy hugs the white Hocalie first then the gold one stands, and they hug. After a few sentences in their language, Jilliy introduces the white one as Gillis Bennet and the gold one as his wife, Kaylee.

"Welcome," Kaylee says in Standard. "Please, have a seat. It's wonderful to finally meet you."

I select one of the chairs. The reporter in me takes over. "Are you the Gillis and Kaylee that blew up a shipyard?"

Gillis' skin turns a slightly darker shade of pink. "That was a long time ago. I didn't blow it up, but I did cause it to fall out of orbit."

"Orbit? It was in space?" I must be an idiot. Jilliy must have meant a spaceship yard, not a boatyard.

This time Kaylee explains it. "Yes, the Langons used our resources to build spaceships. I grew up in one of the slave camps."

"My family built Freedom Hold, an alien free zone," Gillis says. "But that was a long time ago. Our immediate problem is the marauders. We need to communicate with them."

"I get that no one wants a war, but they aren't attacking you, or are they?" Maybe I got it wrong.

"They're not attacking us," Jilliy says. "No one attacks us." Gillis snickers, but Jilliy continues. "We have a reputation. Well, Gillis does. After the shipyard incident, no one quite trusts us. And we're entertainers. We don't buy or sell anything. We don't attempt to influence politics. We just put on plays and concerts. We're good at languages so that we can do most everything in the local language."

I still don't understand. "Are you afraid the marauders don't know that and will attack you?"

Jilliy's eyes go wide. "I hope not. We don't have any weapons."

"It's much more than that," Gillis says. "Kaylee and I know that there is a way to take physical objects outside of spacetime as we do with electrogravimetric waves. That's how we send instantaneous transmissions across the galaxy. Theoretically, we know how to do it with mass, but practically we haven't succeeded."

"Yes, we have," Kaylee states with authority. "It just takes so much power that it isn't feasible to incorporate that technology into a spaceship. Also, until now, we didn't know if living things could survive the trip. However, we think the marauders can travel outside spacetime. If not, they have some other kind of cloaking technology, which doesn't make sense."

Gillis nods. "All I need is a good look at their engines, and I bet I can figure it out."

This is way beyond me. "Cloaking technology, like Klingons?" I ask.

"I've never heard of the Klingon race," Jilliy says as Gillis and Kaylee look at each other.

Oops. "Klingons are fictional, but they have cloaking technology, fictional also."

Jilliy smiles. "Your world did have a lot of fictional science."

"We don't think practical cloaking is possible," Kaylee says. "You would have to bend the full spectrum of electromagnetic radiation around the object in all directions simultaneously. Theoretically, that is possible, but from a practical standpoint it is --"

Jilliy interrupts. "The first thing we need to do is get Robin aboard one of the marauder's ships."



Journal Entry 18

August 2 - Afternoon

Me! Jilliy wants me to go aboard a marauder ship. "You three may be the smartest and most important Hocalie in the world, but I want to go home." I wish the voices would shut up. They have stayed in the background, but they're never gone.

"We're Cadorie," Gillis says. "Hocalie is our planet. We come from Cadorie Continent, so we are Cadorie."

"The same as you are American," Jilliy adds.

All that doesn't matter. Going aboard an enemy ship isn't what I signed up for. "Why me? There must be someone who is better qualified."

"The marauders chose you," Jilliy answers.

Yeah, right. "And you know this how?" I slip into English.

"She want's to know how we know," Jilliy translates.

Gillis gestures at Jilliy to continue.

"We were on our way from the Relse'mdk homeworld to Bloth when we noticed a marauder ship slipping in and out of spacetime. I called Gillis, and he asked me to investigate."

In and out of spacetime. That doesn't make a lot of sense. Isn't spacetime all there is? I doubt I could understand the answer to that question, so I ask a simpler one. "What's that got to do with me or Earth?"

Jilliy continues, "Since your world has lots of satellites, we assumed you could see us if we came too close. We stayed in the asteroid field and kept our power signature as low as possible. The marauders didn't seem to care about us even though it is inconceivable that they didn't notice us. They did the same thing, just drifting in the asteroid field for quite a long time. We waited until they left and then contacted your world."

It's making a lot more sense now. "That must have been when I heard voices. How did you know?" I wonder if I am the only person on Earth who heard them?

"I guessed that they might have attempted to communicate with someone and hoped that person would apply to come with us."

Gillis turns a little pinker. "It took us a while to surveil your records. We searched for people who might have heard voices or had visions during the time the marauders were in your system. We're good at that."

"The surveillance," Kaylee adds.

So these two hung around pretending to be an asteroid while they learned Earth languages, and figured out how to hack into our medical records just so they could see if the marauders tried to contact someone. I don't know whether to be impressed or frightened.

Gillis continues. "Several other individuals also heard voices during that time period, but they were too young, too old, had families, or lacked sufficient intelligence. So we picked you."

"I understand your reluctance to contact the marauders, Robin," Kaylee says. "But if you don't try to communicate, they may return. I don't think your world is ready for that."

This should be the most exciting thing that could ever happen to anyone. Someday, my memoirs will be a best selling book, if I survive, but a part of me really wants to be home. My stomach churns and my head pounds. "I can still hear the voices, but I can't understand them. How do you know they want to talk to me?" Just because I can hear them, doesn't mean they can hear me. I mean, I don't know how to talk telepathically.

"Because they're following us," Gillis says. "We made several course changes, and they've stayed the same distance behind us. And because sometimes you only hear one voice. And you said it repeated your words."

I take a deep breath and let it out, hoping it will generate a little courage. Instead, my hands tremble. "Alright, but I'm not going alone. If I go on their ship, you're coming with me."

"I'll come with you," Jilliy says. "Gillis and Kaylee are a bit old for these kind --"

"I am not old." Gillis interrupts.

"Yes you are," Kaylee glares at him. "So am I."

They stare at each other for a few minutes, just like an old married couple. Jilliy looks at them sideways but doesn't say anything.

Gillis lets out a big sigh and looks at the ceiling. "I will concede that I am old, but I'm going aboard the marauder ship. Kaylee can stay --"

"I will not!" Kaylee exclaims. "I'm going, too. You don't get to have all the fun."



Journal Entry 19

August 3

We all rest for a few hours before starting the next adventure. I rummage through the clothes Jilliy had made to replace the ones I left at the Trade Center. One advantage of being a traveling cabaret is having a costuming department.

They are all Hocalie clothes, straight pants, simple shirts with round necks, and jumper dresses. Not exactly my style, but they fit, and it's better than having to wear the same thing every day.

My purple hoodie is getting a bit ragged. But the Hocalie keep their ship too cold so I wear it all the time, so Jilliy made me two new hoodies.

"We couldn't quite duplicate the material, but this should keep you warm," she explains.

One is so purple it hurts my eyes. The other is blue, with flowers printed all over it.

"I like that one," she says. "It reminds me of your drawings."

That stops me. "How did you see my drawing?" She must have looked in my diary.

"You asked for colored pencils so you could draw in your journal. You always carry it in your stomach pouch."

That's true, but how did she see it?

"You left it on a table so I peeked." She makes coy smile. "I can't read your written language."

"Oh." My cheeks get hot. "I didn't write anything personal anyway."

"If you would like, I can send copies to your homeworld before we . . ."

She doesn't finish that sentence, but I get the gist.

"Is there someone you would like to receive copies?"

I let out a long sigh. I'm about to go aboard an enemy ship, and perhaps never be heard from again. Maybe I should let people know what I've been doing. "I have a friend, Romana Drew. She should get the journal. I'd like to write a letter to my parents."

She nods and holds out her hand. "I'll give your journal back after I make copies. You still have a couple of hours to write your letter."

###

Jilliy, Gillis, Kaylee, and I all wait in the captain's office. His fur is the deepest brown, almost black, with faint yellow strips. His eyes are so yellow - orange, they practically glow. The display on the wall shows nothing but stars.

"The marauder ship is right there." A green dot appears in the middle of the screen.

"If I'm right," Gillis says.

The voices in my head have been fairly quiet, but they never stop. One is always louder.

"We're stopped and facing their ship," the captain says. "Can you talk to their captain?" he asks.

I shrug. I've no idea how to do that.

"Please, try," Jilliy says. "Ask them if we can come aboard. Even if you can't understand the words, maybe the thought will get across."

"Alright, here goes." I close my eyes and focus on the voices. If I do it just right, they clarify and I can make out individuals, but I still can't understand the words. "Can we come aboard?" I think.

"Birrys slmmea delasp hayytst," or something like that fills my head. Actually, it sounds as if someone in the room spoke. "Well, someone answered me," I tell Jilliy.

There's a flash on the screen and a ship appears.

It is the weirdest ship I've ever seen, although to tell the truth, I haven't seen that many. It has two long, thin hulls connected at the middle, like a capital H. Two disks, looking somewhat like wheels, spin between the hulls. Some things on the hulls glow greenish - blue, other structures glow violet.

"That's not a warship," the captain says. "You couldn't maneuver fast enough."

"Why not?" I ask. "Space is empty. What difference does the shape make."

"It's all about momentum," Gillis says. "Whip that thing around too fast and some of the parts might fly off. Besides, it doesn't have any thrusters. I don't know what those glowie things are, but they aren't trusters."

"I bet those are armed," the pilot says as three smaller ships fly toward us.

My heart pounds. They maneuver like fighter jets, turning and zipping in all directions. I get a good look at the side of one. I swear it has a rack of missiles. This shuttle is completely unarmed. It doesn't even have shielding. Apparently, that is fictional, but right now I wish we had some.

They circle as if ready to attack and then stop facing us as if waiting to pounce.

Three voices blast into my head so loud I can't think. "Shut up," I shout. They stop.

"I think they want us to follow," the Jilliy says.

Gillis has the biggest grin I have ever seen on a Hocalie. "The shuttle is prepped and ready. Let's go."

He and Kaylee jump up and head for the door.

Jilliy follows. "Come on, Robin. Time to stop the war."



Journal Entry 20

I give up on dates. The Hocalie days are longer than Earth days, I know that, and they divide the day into ten hours. I've lost track of how much time has passed on Earth.

We all pile into the shuttle, me, Jilliy, and Kaylee. Gillis sits at the helm. He fidgets until the captain gives us permission to leave. Gillis takes the shuttle through the center of the ship into space. I remember something about how point of view is relative.

The main body of the ship is a spinning cylinder to make a kind of pretend gravity. So as we inch out, we continue to spin with the cylinder, but it isn't obvious until we are in open space, then the stars spin around. Although, in reality, the stars stay put and we spin. My stomach doesn't care about the explanation it just threatens to empty itself. I keep swallowing the sour bile to keep it inside. Freefall's not the best place to barf.

Gillis works the controls and after a moment, the stars stay put.

The three marauder ships zip back and forth as if begging us to follow them toward the mothership. They're a lot bigger than this shuttle but too small to travel any really long distance, according to Gillis anyway. He doesn't think they can fly in atmosphere or land on the surface.

Even though my stomach settles down, being weightless makes me dizzy. It never did that before. Maybe it has something to do with the marauder ships.

Jilliy fidgets in her seat while Kaylee pokes at a data pad and talks to Gillis in their language.

Jilliy's hands look like mine; except she only has three fingers and the back of her hand is furry. She has fingernails, although they're pinker than mine. Gillis and Kaylee don't have fingernails. Now that I take a good look, their hands are mangled. They're missing fingers, and all are too short. I know it's impolite to stare and rude to ask, but I wonder what happened.

The marauder ship is huge. One at a time, the little ships fly between the two disks. They aren't at all solid. There is an outer ring connected to the center with fat spokes. There are even a few partial inner rings. Of course, they spin, so if you were inside the disk, you would stand on the inside of the outer edge.

We fly between the two rings toward a supporting hull. A wide door opens right in the middle of the hull. Light streams out and the little ships disappear inside. The voices reach a frenzied pitch.

We stop and hang in space in front of the door. It's huge. You could fly a two - story house though with space left over.

The disks spin above and below us. Voices only I can hear overwhelm everything else.

Jilliy holds my hand. "Looks like we've been invited in. If they wanted to hurt us, they would have. Let's not lose our courage now."

It sounds like she is trying to convince herself more than me.

The voices end. I break out in a cold sweat. I thought people only did that in books, but no, it's real. I shiver and pull my hoodie closer just as heat flashes through my body, causing more sweat. By now, I must stink.

One voice says, "Mleebe lettgh gwaaka veep."

I close my eyes, concentrating on the voice. "Hello. My name is Robin Mayfield. What do you want us to do?"

As if it understands, a light makes a pathway through the door. "I think they want us to follow that."

Soft voices bounce around my head. Most sound more excited than threatening. I think I can pick out a few individuals, or maybe it's my imagination.

We follow a line of flashing yellow lights to the left where the three other ships sit. Gillis sets the ship down next to the one on the right. Our shuttle is tiny compared to the marauder shuttles.

They have a clear cockpit in front like a fighter jet. On either side of the top and bottom, they have tubes, similar to jet engines. In flight, bright jets shot out of those tubes. On both sides, between the thrusters, they have racks of missiles, at least they look like missiles. There are also long tubes that look too much like giant guns. I think the captain was right, these things have serious weaponry.

Another voice says something in my head as Gillis switches to the aft view.

The back wall closes.

"The bay is pressurizing," Gillis says.

"Yeah, but can we breathe it?" Kaylee asks.

He does something with the console and lists of words appear on the screen. Kaylee and Gillis talk in their language. They seem pleased, so I assume the air is safe.

Two beings exit each of the small ships. They're wearing space suites with big helmets except they don't have backpacks like the NASA spacesuits do. They make a point of putting their feet on the floor and face us.

Voices bounce in and out of my head while my stomach does flip - flops. I unfasten my seat belt and float up.

Gillis flips a switch. "Time to meet these marauders."



Journal Entry 21

Marauder Ship

The shuttle door opens and we all float to it, hanging onto whatever we can. It smells cold, like a snowy day. Not that I have a lot of experience with snow, being raised in Los Angeles.

Jilly works her way out of the shuttle and twists around until her feet touch the floor. They don't stick. I swear the voice in my head laughs.

Amber light streams from an open door in the wall past the ships. The marauders stomp toward us, not in a menacing way, but that is what it sounds like. Their feet click each time they lift them up and thump when each foot contacts the floor.

"Must be magnetic, or something," Gillis says.

Their helmets don't let me see much, but they are big and stout. And they have six fingers, no thumbs, but six fingers by the looks of their gloves. The air turns stale smelling of mud.

One wraps his huge hand around my wrist, pulling me free of the door. Voices bounce around in my head. I try to break his grip pulling and twisting but he is too strong.

I'm about to panic, when Gillis reaches out to take the hand of the nearest marauder.

"They're taking us to the door," he says.

My guy holds my arm over his head and stomps toward the lighted door. I trail out behind him horizontal to the floor like a flag. My mind screams to be put down, but if he let go, I would be stuck in the middle of the air with nothing to grab onto. I nearly lose my lunch.

Our bags and things are still on the shuttle. I wonder how I'm supposed to tell the marauders that.

We are pulled into a space barely big enough for the four of us and our marauder guides. Once they get us pointed feet down, the floor goes up. At least, my feet stick to the floor. I swear the elevator turns on its side, and then I start to get heavy again. The doors open.

A smell of ocean mudflat stings my nose, a thousand voices crash into my head, and the world goes dark.

Silence. Complete silence. Only a trace of mint and a ceiling full of amber lights.

"Are you awake?" Jilliy asks. She sits on a chair that is so big her feet dangle. She pulls out her comm and speaks in her language for a moment.

I'm on a gurney twice as big as necessary. The walls are dull green and the floor mud brown.

I sit up.

She comes to my side. "You gave us all a fright when you passed out. What happened?"

I concentrate, but the voices are gone, I think. There might be a faint whisper, but unless I really concentrate, I can't hear it. I take a deep breath. "I'm not sure. There were a lot of voices."

The door opens and a million jumbled conversations fill the room. I grab my head and moan. The door shuts and the voices stop.

Gillis, Kaylee, and a marauder stand beside my bed. He is close to seven feet tall and must weight three hundred pounds. His skin is dark orange and his lips dark reddish - brown. There are ridges on his face and head. His eyes don't have any white. They are solid orange except for the black pupil. He does have six even length fingers, and no hair, anywhere, no eyebrows, eyelashes or anything.

He stares at me, and few words go into my head.

His teeth are short, fat, and slightly orange colored, or maybe it's the lights. Everything looks muddy and discolored under these amber lights.

After comments about my health, Jilliy asks Kaylee, "How's it going?"

Kaylee holds up a data pad full of gibberish. "They have a written language." She looks at the marauder. "This is Selan, at least that is what I am calling him. He showed me his name, but I've never seen that alphabet before, so I don't know how it is pronounced. We're working on vocabulary, naming things."

Selan opens and closes his mouth as we talk. His eyes narrow and his brow furrows. If I had to guess, I think he wonders why we open and close our mouths so much.

Gillis looks sideways at him. "I've seen him respond to sounds, but not to our speech. He may not hear the frequencies we speak in. We have an idea, if you're up to it, Robin."

I feel fine now that the voices are gone, so I nod.

"Good. Come with us. We'll point at something and exchange the written words. I bet he thinks the name, so you can tell us what their language sounds like."

That sounds like a reasonable plan, so I agree.

Kaylee gestures to Selan, me, the data pad, and the door. Selan reaches for the handle and my head explodes.



Journal Entry 22

I'm on the floor of the marauder ship and my elbow aches. Everyone stares at me.

Gillis and Kaylee bend over their eyes wide.

"You passed out again," Jilliy says.

The marauder sends a few words into my head. There is a softness to them as if he is apologizing. He reaches for the door handle, and I cringe.

The blast of voices only lasts a second, then it drops to a whisper. After a moment he closes the door.

I let out a breath and stand. My head still pounds. I rub my eyes trying to get them to focus. Everything is dull orange like I suddenly developed some kind color blindness, but it is only the rusty colored overhead lights.

Selan stares into my eyes, sending more words into my head. I say thank you. "I think he told everyone else to be quiet."

We wander out. The hall is wide and straight. It curves up. We pass several doors, but no other marauders. I don't know how much Selan can understand when he listens in on my thoughts. I shouldn't think anything which might upset him. "We should call these people something besides marauders. That is a pretty negative term. Antagonizing them probably isn't a good idea," I say.

Jilliy and Gillis nod.

"For now, we're calling them aliens. That's probably what they call us," Kaylee says.

Selan steps into a short hall with three doors leading to bedrooms, guest quarters - I presume.

He swings his arm as if suggesting one of us claim that room. Jilliy steps inside.

I step inside the next door, but he pulls me out and pushes Kaylee in. Gillis follows, and Selan pulls him out. After a few moments of gesturing, he agrees to let Kaylee and Gillis share a room. Then he gestures for everyone to follow, and we go back to the original room.

There was another room. Why can't I have it? I run back, but Selan places a vice grip on my shoulder and leads me down the hall. I plant my feed and mentally shout, "What about me?"

He stares at me so I do it again.

He lets go and points back the direction we came from then says something in my head and starts walking in that direction.

"What's all that about?" Kaylee asks.

I glare at Selan. "I guess my room is this way. I want to be next to you."

We get back to the first room. The gurney is gone. Aliens carry in a bed and wardrobe. Selan points to me and then opens a door to a bathroom. It's a bit different, but toilets, showers, and sinks seem to be universal in general appearance and function.

"I guess we're here for the duration," the Gillis says.

"And this is my room," I add.

Selan points to his head, then to my head, then to the door. He opens the door and voices crash in. He closes the door and the voices stop. He says something inside my head, then opens and closes the door. The voices come and go.

"What was that all about?" Jilliy asks.

"I think this room is shielded. I only hear voices when the door is open."

That prompts an animated discussion between Kaylee and Gillis as to the nature of telepathy. I almost understand the first couple of sentences, then they drop into another language.

Selan pushes a few words into my head and then leaves.

We all look at each other, but before anyone makes a comment, the door opens again. Voices assault me. I wish they would give me some warning.

Two aliens come in with a table and platters of food.

I slam the door closed.

They set out the meal and leave.

Come to think of it, I am kind of hungry, but after my experience with the Langon cracker, I'm not sure I want to eat marauder food.

There are round bright orange balls the size of limes, white colored crackers, a pile of deep purple berries almost like blueberries, and a heap of strings looking very much like green gagh. You know the Klingon food. Four short fat bowls are filled with brown liquid. Colored steam rises from them.

Jilliy is the first to take a try. She takes an orange ball and sniffs it. But before she gets it into her mouth, Selan rushes in and pulls the entire table out of the room.

I nearly pass out at the onslaught of voices.

Two more aliens walk in with boxes from our shuttle. One of them is food.

We smile and nod, and they leave. Silence.

My head throbs from being assaulted so many times. I take a deep breath and flop on the bed. If that door opens again, I might just kill the person who comes through. How am I'm supposed to communicate with these marauders to stop a war?



Journal Entry 23

Jilliy rummages through the boxes the marauders brought from our shuttle and hands each of us packets of food and bags of water. I get loryfowl stew. It tastes like a chicken pot pie with apples. One of the more delicious Hocalie dishes.

I eat in silence while Gillis and Kaylee concentrate on their datapads and Jilliy talks on her comm. "I told the Lossel we're alive and well so they don't worry."

Before I finish the stew, the door opens again. Oh, my head. Aliens set more boxes on the floor.

"How did they get into our shuttle?" I ask.

Gillis shrugs. "We left it unlocked. Remember, they pulled us along before we had a chance to do anything."

Yeah, I kind of wondered about that at the time.

He continues. "If it were an alien shuttle aboard my ship, I'd investigate it even if I had to break in. Better to leave the door open so they don't break anything getting in."

I jump down to find my box of clothes. The door crashes open, voices nearly knock me over, and a new alien puts his arm around me.

"Let me go," I scream as I kick and hit - the voices drop to a whisper, intense, and angry, but tolerable. The door is still open.

Jilliy's comm beeps. "We're being attacked." It blares. "A Langon heavy cruiser and two battleships are closing in on them --"

The world goes white, then black, and then returns to normal. My head spins and my stomach flips over.

Gillis jumps up. "I bet we just left normal space."

We all get herded down the hall into the elevator again. The new alien never lets go of me. Although he smells like a mudflat, salty and organic, it keeps the voices at bay.

The elevator deposits us in another hall where we're weightless. The aliens use handholds to move along the hall. Gillis, Kaylee, and Jilliy follow. I get pulled along by the alien holding me. He holds my waist tight while my legs dangle. I feel like a cat being carried by a child.

A door swishes open, and we enter the bridge. At least, I think it's the bridge.

Three aliens strapped into chairs face displays with knobs and switches. One display shows several of their little ships buzzing around two bigger ships, while a third ship backs away.

"Uh oh," Gillis' eyes open so wide I think they might pop out. "Langon warships."

Another display is filled with text of some sort. It scrolls and changes occasionally. The third display is a holographic representation of space. There are bright dots, stars I presume. As it turns around, lines come and go.

Selan floats in and stares right at me. Words fill my head. I wish I knew what he wanted. I spread out both hands and bring them down, trying to tell him to slow down.

It works. He sends one word at a time and I repeat it. Kaylee does something and her tablet repeats the word. It takes me a couple of tries to get it right, then I look back at Selan and he sends the next word.

After a while, he stops. Kaylee makes her data pad repeat the phrase. "Is that right?"

I nod.

Salan points to the display of the battle and sends more words into my head.

"I think he wants us to tell the Langons to stop."

Gillis let out a long sigh. "We can't talk to the Langons until we get back into normal space. You must tell Selan that."

Yeah, right. I can do that.

The little marauder ships zip around while the Langon ships shoot beams of light at them. It looks a bit like a video game until one of the marauder ships the get hit and blows up.

The guy holding me cries out in agony, letting a cacophony of thoughts hit me. Selan clenches his fists and pounds words into my mind.

I grab my head and scream, "I can't understand. Stop hurting me."

Gillis and Kaylee make gestures at the display and at Selan. "We have to be in normal space." The both say several times.

Jilliy holds up her comm pointing to the battle. "It won't work here."

Selan appears to understand. He narrows his eyes. A moment later, the smaller ships hightail it to the left. The world goes light and dark again, and the display changes. The Langon ships are further away, and the little ships are zooming straight for us.

The Langon ships accelerate toward us.



Journal Entry 24

On the bridge, three marauders stare at their screens, the alien holding me grabs tighter. Being weightless, my legs trail behind him. Selan keeps putting words into my head.

On of the screen has an image of the space battle. Beams shoot out of the Langon ships. Our ship jerks and a low wailing fills the air. The world goes white and black.

Intense conversations fill my mind, no longer jumbled or chaotic, but organized and methodical. The displays flash from one seen to the next, filling with letters and diagrams faster than I can figure out what the might mean.

Gillis, Kaylee, and Jilliy talk in their language. My buddy holds tighter. Selean paces the bridge pushing from one handhold to the next.

Then he stops. All the voices quiet and get jumbled. All of the aliens take deep breaths and relax. Even Selan's words are slow and quiet.

"We're safe," I say. "At least, everyone has relaxed."

"Must not have caused serious damage," Gillis says.

"But we're still not in normal space, so I can't call the Langons," Jilliy scowls. "I have a few words to say to them."

"What now?" I send to Selan. As if he understands, the world does its white and black thing and all the displays change.

A planet fills one of the screens. It is smaller on the screen to the left, but lines and dots surround it.

"I think we're approaching a planet," Jilliy says as if that weren't obvious.

"I bet it's their homeworld," Kaylee says.

Gillis grins and bumps Kaylee's shoulder with his fist. "I told you so. It's instantaneous. Anywhere in space. Wonder how far we traveled. I wish I could see the engines."

Kaylee sighs and nods. "We can't do anything until we can communicate with these people." She changes her grip so she faces me. "Robin, do you have any ideas?"

I want to go home. I don't know how many aliens were on the ship that blew up, but feelings of anger and loss overwhelm me. I don't know if they're mine or the aliens, but they hurt. I can't stop the tears.

Selan touches my wet cheek. I take ragged breaths and more tears come.

Jilliy holds my hand. "What's wrong?"

"They hurt for the ones that died."

Kaylee floats next to Jilliy, working her way inside the alien's grasp. She puts her arm around me. "Apparently, they project emotions as well as words. Try to separate your feelings from theirs."

I sniffle and wipe my nose. "Someone lost someone they loved."

Kaylee wipes tears from my cheeks.

Hocalie touch each other more than we do. This should bother me but it doesn't.

"These feeling are not yours."

I never wanted to see people die, even aliens. I never wanted to be this far from home. Most of the tears are mine. "I want to go home."

Gillis joins the group hug. "Homesickness hurts so much. Let's try to get back to our rooms. Familiar surroundings help, even if it's only your things."

Homesickness, deaths, grief, I don't know which feelings are mine and which belong to the aliens, but it hurts. I can't even open my eyes.

Selan moves the Hocalie aside, not forcefully, but being so much bigger, they don't have a choice. I struggle to get control of myself. He puts his face right in front of mine and waits. I know he wants me to say something.

"I want to go back to my room," I say, but he doesn't move. I take a deep breath and concentrate on the meaning of the words. "I want to go back to my room."

He scrunches up his eyes. "Fleepe shep," sounds in my head.

I put my hands together and lay my head over on them as if sleeping.

He straightens up. After a rush of words sounding much like orders, the aliens lead us back to my room. Once the door closes, I curl up on the bed. This isn't home, it isn't safe, and I have never been so alone before.

Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy all climb on the bed with me. It's big enough, but I haven't done this since I was a child. They put their arms around me.

"Everything will be all right," Kaylee says.

"You can't know that," I shoot back.

Kaylee holds her hands out. "I don't think these people mean to hurt us. If we establish written communications, your telepathy may not be needed."

"How's that supposed to work. You go around with whiteboards and dry erase pens?" They didn't understand that especially since I said it in English. But I have a better idea. "Why not use sign language like the deaf."

"Agh," Jilliy exclaims. "Why didn't I think of that?"

Gillis holds up his hands with short and missing fingers. "I don't think Kaylee and I will be much good at that. Not if it involves complex finger movements."

"What happened?" I blurt out. My face turns hot. I open my mouth to apologize, but Kaylee smiles.

"After we destroyed their shipyard, one of the Langons tortured us."

"And one helped saved us," Gillis adds.

I say, "I'm sorry," and change the subject. "Sign language is a good idea. How can we make Selan understand?"



Journal Entry 25

Jilliy, Kaylee, and Gillis, all sleep in my bed with me. It's a bit weird, but I don't think any of us wants to be alone. I don't know how long we slept or what time it is as the alien's measure time.

First, we eat then the three of them go in search of Selan. I don't dare leave the room, so I use the time to catch up on my journal. Even my colored pencils are here.

I sketch the ship then start in on a portrait of Selan. Lost in the drawing, I don't hear the door latch. The voices hit and every muscle jerks. My pencils go rolling across the floor. I don't hear the door close, but the voices stop.

Selan picks up my journal still open to his portrait. He smiles. I think that is a smile. He stretches his lips well to the sides of his face exposing his teeth, but the corners of his mouth go straight across his face instead of turning up, so it looks more like a grimace than a smile. Or maybe he is grimacing at my drawing.

I grab the journal and stuff it under the blankets.

"Let's get started," Kaylee says. She puts her hands together beside her cheek, then starts to lie on the bed. After a couple of times, Selan does the same.

Gillis takes a food packet, points to the food then brings his hand to his mouth. Selan grabs one of his hands and one of Jilliy's hands. Then he takes one of Kaylee's hands and one of mine. I want to pull away, but I understand his curiosity. He lets go and holds his hands out. I have four fingers and a thumb, Jilliy has three fingers and a thumb. Kaylee and Gillis used to have hands like Jilliy's but they are a bit mangled. Selan has six fingers. They are all the same length and all point in the same direction.

Kaylee does the signs for sleeping and eating again and Selan follows. For the next hour or so we invent signs for doors, floors, ceilings, bathroom, drinking, clothing, body parts, and so forth. We can now name all the things in the room.

He leaves and returns with his version of a data pad. It's a keyboard that projects a holographic image, whereas Kaylee's datapad responds to her voice as well as touch.

He and Kaylee compare pictures of the gestures and their written equivalents.

The alien who took me to the bridge returns, putting his arm around my waist. "Grr. I know what this means." I call him Shield since he shields me from the voices, at least most of the voices. Some still come through, but not too loud.

Off we go inventing signs for all manner of things from running to silverware. Kaylee stops us every so often and makes us go over the signs again. She says each word as we all sign it.

Shields voice in my head is so gentle, I didn't notice a first. Just like Kaylee, he says the word when we sign it. I repeat the words inside my head and he gives me a mental poke. Not like something bad, a little positive hum if I get it right and a bit of a squeak if I get it wrong.

By the time we get back to the room, we all know three dozen nouns and a handful of verbs, open, close, start, stop and things like that. Selan closes the door, and Shield lets go of me.

I hop up on the bed with my legs dangling off. Kaylee and Selan go over the signs again. I hear Shield and Selan talking. They say each sign and then exchange a few words. I don't here any malice in their thoughts, but I'm not sure what that would sound like.

Now that I can make out individual words and voices, I also make a discovery. At the beginning of each statement, Shield says, Lagast and Selan says, Mylita. I give it a go. "Lagast?" I send.

Selan's head spins around in my direction, eyes wide open and mouth stretched across his face.

So I try the other name, "Mylita?" Shield gives an alien grin and they jabber to each other faster than I can make out.

I take a deep breath. "Mylita, Lagast." I say and think.

They both send the gentle hum.

I put my hand on Jilliy's shoulder and both say and send her name. After they get it, I introduce Gillis and Kaylee. They get excited about the names, but I'm done. I curl up on my bed, back to the crowd. The Hocalie talk out loud and the aliens jabber inside my head.

Mylita sends a quiet hum. Not the same as the one he sent before. This one varies in pitch and volume almost like a song. Lagast's voice intrudes for a moment. Mylita pushes him away and continues with the song. I want to ignore it, but I can't. Warmth flushes over me, and my muscles relax. I know he is putting me to sleep, but it feels so good I don't fight it. Just before darkness descends on my consciousness one word comes through. I've never heard it before, but I know what it means - help.



Journal Entry 26

Valeste Ship

We've been at it for two weeks now. All day, every day, inventing sign language. I can understand the telepathic words associated with the signs, but we still can't have much more than simple conversations. But I did discover that the aliens call themselves, Valeste, and the Langons invaded a world they own.

We're all tired of dim amber lighting, so Gillis rigged up a light that makes brighter bluer light. More like what we're used to. The Valeste cringe and cover they're eyes when they walk in, so we turn it off for them.

It gives me the chance to see my drawings in proper light. And, since I have nothing to do, I draw flowers from memory. When Mylita saw one of my flower drawings, he brought me a bouquet of Valeste flowers to draw. They looked all yellow and orange under Valeste lighting, but under normal light, they have the most wonderful colors.

It makes me wonder if the Valeste see those colors, or if they see everything orange tinged.

They seem to understand that we communicate using sound, and they made a device to alter the frequencies of our speech so they can hear it, but they are apparently incapable of talking.

Mylita spends extra time with me. I think he is a doctor or shrink of some kind because he helped me learn how to block out the voices. It's really hard. I can only keep it up for a few minutes, so I am still stuck in this room. Jilliy tells me all about the ship, but I can't go anywhere without Mylita.

It's lunchtime, and they all hurry through my door. Jilliy spreads food out on the table while Gillis and Kaylee talk about the engines. Apparently, they got to see something that excited them. They're pretty good about talking to me in Standard, but slip into Cadorie whenever the conversation gets technical. Not that I could understand it anyway.

Jilliy puts her drink down. "It's been two weeks. We have to get to the shuttle and send a message home, or everyone will think we've been abducted."

I agree. My parents must be freaking out. I had sent messages home every couple of days. I didn't tell them anything about the aliens and stuff, only that I was alive and missed them. Besides, I'm going crazy inside this dull room, khaki walls with amber lights make my eyes cry out for clear blues. Even my purple hoodie looks gray in this light.

"I tried to tell Lagast we need to call home," Jilliy says. "But I don't think he understood."

I crack the door and mentally call to Mylita. Part of me would like to go to the surface and see what the Valeste culture is like, but I can't keep a block up or more than five minutes. Besides, I really want to go home, or at least back to the Hocalie ship where I'm not stuck in one room.

Kaylee opens the last food box. "We've only got a couple more days of rations. I don't fancy eating Valeste food without proof it's safe."

There's a knock and Mylita comes in. The world goes white, black, and then returns. I'm sitting on the floor. Jilliy sends her drink flying. It lands on Gillis who stands and brushes himself off.

Mylita dips his head. Then he sends and signs, "We go you home."

My home? Earth?

Gillis signs, "Time, wait, in, out"

I sense Mylita's confusion.

Gillis runs his fingers through his hair, the long fur on top of his head. "We're still outside of normal space. Why do we sometimes do a hop from one place to the next in an instant, but not every time? I want to ask how --"

Mylita doesn't let him finish. He grabs me around the waist and signs for us to follow.

As much as I want out of this room and off this ship, I get a queasy feeling.

Once in the hall, he picks up speed. His long legs take huge strides. I strain to keep up, so he lifts me off the ground.

The Hocalie's legs are only about half as long as his. They're in an all - out run. We stop in the elevator, and the door closes.

"I wonder where we're going," Jilliy pants.

Kaylee and Gillis are bent over gasping. They look too old for this.

I send, "What?" to Mylita.

The elevator heads up. It's an odd sensation. For a moment, I feel heavier then I'm so light I could jump ten feet. The elevator moves sideways. My feet float off the floor. Jilliy grabs a handhold. I hadn't noticed them before. I grab one before I hit the ceiling. Mylita holds me closer.

The doors open. Three Valeste wait inside. Others, in helmets and flight suits, surround four of their smaller ships. Their ships are three times bigger than the Hocalie shuttle.

"Maybe we've already arrived, and they're staying outside of normal space while they get ready," Gillis says.

"Ready for what?" I ask. "Those little ships have weapons. Do they plan to shoot something?" I don't want to be in a space battle.



Journal Entry 27

Mylita's arm around my waist shields me from the worst of everyone's thoughts, but what leaks through are feelings of excitement and fear - or maybe those are Mylita's feelings. I can't tell.

Mylita's boots click on the floor, and he holds me tight.

"Now what?" Jilliy signs.

The Valeste by the door take Jilliy, Kaylee, and Gillis' hands and head for the Hocalie shuttle, boots clicking on the floor. Their bodies float out like flags without any gravity. Mylita's arms keep me from floating but my legs dangle, like a cat being held around the chest, front legs sticking up and back legs hanging down.

The Valeste push Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy through the shuttle door and then back off.

"Youch," Gillis says. "I banged my head."

"Whoa," Jilliy exclaims. "I got you." She catches Kaylee as she sails through the door.

"Hey, we're not karan balls," Gillis shouts out the door.

Mylita carries me inside. At least, I didn't get sent flying.

He pushes the control to retract the ramp and close the door. Then he signs, "Sit," and works his body into the first seat on the right, putting me next to him.

I think I know what pets must feel like being moved here and there without warning or explanation.

The seat is way too small for Mylita, but he squeezes in keeping his arm around me. I really don't like the way he smells, and I don't like all the close contact, but the thoughts leaking through his shielding make me glad of the protection.

Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy still float about.

"Sit. Fly," he signs and sends the words into my head loud and hard. He's squinting and using his free hand to partly cover his eyes. After all the dim amber lights of his ship, the bright clear Hocalie lights must be hard on his eyes. Me, I take in all the wonderful colors. Finally, I get to see something bright and happy.

Gillis works his way to the pilot's seat and fiddles with the controls. "The bay is depressurizing. We better sit. If they release the clamps, I'll have no choice but to fly somewhere."

He turns on the big display in front just in time to see all four Velesta ships head out.

Mylita sends, "Go. Follow," into my head. "He wants you to follow them," I tell Gillis.

"Why not," Gillis grins at Kaylee. "We weren't doing anything, anyway."

"Yikes." The ship lurches up and to the side.

Gillis works the controls. "I didn't do that."

The ship vibrates, and we head for the shuttle bay doors. "Everyone strapped in?" Gillis asks. "Here we go on another great adventure. Anyone want to take bets as to where we are?" He gives a whoop as we fly out into space, then sets the display to show the aft camera in one corner. "It's Rosat," he says as he swings the ship around to take a better look.

Mylita goes crazy. He shouts, "Move away," into my head. There's real panic in his thoughts.

"Stay away," I scream.

"Yikes," Gillis bends over the controls and we whip around so fast Mylita lets go of me. Jumbled conversations hit my head. I get pushed back into my seat as we zoom toward open space. The aft camera shows the Velesta mothership flash and disappear.

Mylita relaxes.

"Thanks, Robin," Gillis says. "Probably not safe to be too close when that ship changes states."

"So, what are we supposed to do now?" Jilliy asks.

"Call home," I say, but I don't know why. It just seems like a good idea.

"Rosat communications, Bennet productions," Gillis says.

"Rosat"

"Request transmission to Hocalie using Bennet Productions private code."

"Cleared to transmit now."

Gillis takes a deep breath. "Gillis and Kaylee Bennet, Jilliy Mifor, Robin Mayfield, and one passenger are in a shuttle above Rosat. We are safe and plan to land soon. Please contact the LFC ship and request pick up from Rosat." There's a beep. "End transmission."

"Transmission sent."

"Invoice Bennet Productions," Gillis says, and then he turns to face the rest of us. "What now?"

Mylita sends panicked thoughts into my head and points to the front screen. Two big ships head our way.

"Holy shit," Gillis shouts. "Langons!"



Journal Entry 28

In space above Rosat

Mylita lets go of me. Fear and excitement from the Valeste pilots overwhelms me, and I grit my teeth. I do my best to block the voices while he gestures from his head to the screen, where Valeste and Langons ships zoom around shooting at each other. I get it, but blocking thoughts makes it hard to do anything else. I shout, "Talk to the Langons."

Kaylee jumps out of her seat, pushes off from a handhold, and flies to the helm. While Gillis works switches and knobs, she hits a button. "Langon ships stand down. This is the Hocalie shuttle Nelles. Do not attack," She shouts in Standard.

A deep Langon voice comes over the comm. "Move away, Nelles."

Mylita goes crazy. My head aches as voices punch through my defenses. I grab Mylita, but nothing changes. He isn't shielding me from their thoughts.

Four Valeste ships move into position.

"No stop!" Kaylee shouts into the comm.

"Stop," I send to Mylita. "Stop. Go away. Stop ships. No fight." From what I know of Langons, I wouldn't mind if the Valeste wiped out a few - yes I would. I already saw a ship get blown up a few days ago. I don't want to see any more people get killed, not even Langons.

A beam of light shoots out from one of the Langon ships. One of the Valeste ships spins off out of view. A ball of light and debris flies into view.

Mylita's pain and anger breaks through my defenses, and I scream in agony. I'm not sure why, but I understand more of his thoughts, and of the Valeste pilots' thoughts than I had ever believed possible. There are two people on that ship, and they both die. One feels a sharp pain, surprise, and then anger as his life ends. The other screams in utter terror and agony as he gasps for breath, freezing solid in moments. And then nothing. A void so deep, a loss so great, my heart goes numb.

I feel it all. It hurts. I hurt more than I have ever hurt before. I live their deaths and the emptiness where they used to be. I put my arm around Mylita. It doesn't quite reach.

A Langon voice orders, "Move away Hocalie ship or be destroyed. You are consorting with the enemy."

Kaylee hooks a leg around Gillis' chair to keep from floating away. "Kill us, and you will suffer the wrath of every other race, not to mention the retaliation my people will bring upon you. The race you call marauders are called Valeste. They do not want to --"

A beam of light overwhelms our view screen.

Gillis lets out a screech, and the shuttle lurches to the left. Kaylee nearly loses her grip as her body swings sideways with no gravity.

"Move away Hocalie. This is your last warning," Another Langon voice says.

Something streaks from one of the Valeste ships and hits the Langon ship near the tail end. Bits fly out along with sparks.

Mylita sends his happy hum, but my stomach churns. I can't feel the thoughts of the dying Langons, but I can imagine them, and it hurts. Even Mylita sends a brief note of sadness into my head.

Beams of light shoot back in all directions. I clench my teeth and close my eyes. The Valestes' thoughts come fast and intense. Mylita sends waves of panic and fear. My head is spinning, and my stomach is about to empty itself, which is probably not good in free fall.

I can't take this anymore. Using all the control I have, I send a message, "Shut up!" The voices end. "Go away, run. This no win. Hide."

Mylita sends a more complex message, and the Valeste turn and run. The Langons follow.

"Tell the Langons to stop," I shout.

"Do not follow," Kaylee orders while Gillis turns our shuttle into the path of one of the Langon ships.

"Gillis," Jilliy cries. "You'll get us killed."

Four more ships fly into view, all strips and flashing lights. "Rosat Peacekeeping. You are ordered to stand down. Violence is not permitted within this system. Langon ships, you are ordered to leave immediately or lose your trade privileges. Unidentified ships, you are ordered to stand down and identify yourselves or be escorted from this system."

The Langon ships stop, but the Valeste turn around.

Kaylee punches the comm. "Rosat Peacekeeping, Hocalie shuttle Nelles, the unidentified ships cannot receive your transmissions. We will try to relay your messages, but we have limited knowledge of their language."

She turns to me. "Robin, you're on."



Journal Entry 29

Rosat

I have to stop a battle, no pressure. The Langons complied with Rosat peacekeeping's order and stopped chasing the Valeste ships. So the Valeste turn around and go after the Langons. The Rosat ships go after the Valeste.

I still hear the Valeste pilots, their fear has turned to excitement, the kind of excitement they send just before they attack. I try to set them aside and explain to Mylita. "New ships are," I don't know the word for police. "make do, order, kill bad."

He signs 'what' and shakes his head.

The Valeste increase speed. Langons come around to face them. And the Rosat ships get closer.

"Stop. Stop Valeste," I telepathically shout. "They help." I point at the screen. Probably, I should have said 'they hurt,' but it works. Mylita gives me a positive hum and sends a string of commands to the pilots.

They return a string of what sounds like chaotic questions, but they stop, and everyone in the shuttle gives a sigh of relief. The voices in my head quiet a bit, and Mylita relaxes.

"Rosat Peacekeeping," Kaylee says. "We will ask Valeste ships to land if they can land. If not, we have a Valeste representative aboard our shuttle." She turns to me again.

I don't know the word for land. "Valeste ships go planet," I send.

He signs no. Well, he shakes his head, which is our sign for no. But I don't know if he means they won't go or can't go. "Can go planet?" I send.

He shakes his head. "No. Space only." He's still shielding his eyes.

I tell Kaylee and she keys the comm again. "The Valeste ships can't land. We request landing instructions for our ship and a meeting with the Langon ambassador."

The Valeste ships fly off to the right, and I lose sight of them. Then all the voices stop like you switched off the radio in mid - sentence, all except Mylita. That makes me really curious.

When we were inside the Valeste mothership while it was outside of normal space - time, we watched a battle take place in normal space. I couldn't hear the pilots then, but I could hear everyone else on the ship. So how did they get the pictures, and how did they communicate with the pilots? Can Mylita communicate with the people on their mothership even though it's currently outside normal space - time?

It'll have to wait. Gillis tells us to check our safety belts and begins a kamikaze descent to the planet's surface.

We land and go inside the trade center. That takes at least an hour. Mylita keeps hold of me and flinches at each new species we encounter. I've been here before so the parade of weird looking beings doesn't surprise me. A being scurries by on six legs. Not insectoid, more like a giant ferret with too many legs. Mylita grabs me and backs away.

The gate reads the chip in my arm, so I don't have to get examined by the Orisit doctor this time, but Mylita does.

Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy wait while I take Mylita into the exam room.

He towers over the Orisit doctor as he gets scanned. He signs, "Why," over and over again, all the while squinting and shielding his eyes from the overhead lights.

I don't know any words for illness, disease, or medical anything.

The doctor folds his arms and gives Mylita a good up and down look then leaves the room for a moment. He returns with a dark glasses and fedora - like hat. Mylita makes one of his weird smiles and puts on the glasses and hat.

Then the doctor wants a urine sample. I don't even know if Mylita pees. I know they had toilets on his ship. You backed up to them and stood. I needed a stool.

I pull out my notebook and draw a picture of the toilet and point to the jar.

"Why?" he sends.

"Safety," I answer.

He shakes his head and pushes the jar away.

I try several more times to tell him to pee in the jar. We're not getting into the trade center until he does. But nothing works. He either doesn't pee, doesn't understand, or is refusing to comply. I don't know which.

Why is this my responsibility? I give up. I hand the container to the nurse. "Good luck making him understand." I head for the door, but Mylita sends panic and loneliness into my head. Grr, For such a huge creature, he is the most cowardly person I've ever met. Maybe if I show him.

I take the jar and head for the stall. I get my pants down and am about to fill the container when Mylita squeezes in.

Now that I am sitting on the toilet, I really need to pee. "Get out," I yell.

He takes the dark glasses off and bends down to see better. "I learn?"

"Leave," I shout telepathically.

He narrows his eyes, smiles, and looks between my legs.

Oh, this isn't going to end well.



Journal Entry 30

I send "Go away," and start to stand. Too late! My bladder lets go. I pee everywhere. Some hits the container. The rest goes on my hand and the floor. Some even makes it into the bowl. My face burns and I break out in a sweat.

Mylita smiles and nods.

I want to melt into oblivion. Showing Mylita a container of piss is one thing. Spraying it all over in front of someone is something I never intend to do again. "Get out, Mylita," I demand.

"Thank you," he sends along with a gentle hum.

So glad to have been entertaining.

Once I'm alone, I get cleaned up and gather my wits. I still want to disappear.

The doctor gives Mylita a container, and he provides the sample. His pee is green, but the doctor doesn't seem to care. She puts the sample in a machine and then tells Mylita to sit so she can take a blood sample.

I moan. I have no telepathic words to describe this. "Doctor, do me first. Let's hope Mylita gets the idea."

He watches and nods. When I'm finished, he squeezes into the chair.

Mylita sits still while the doctor runs a scanner along his arm and then holds a square box over his forearm. He jerks as the device sucks up his blood.

After the sample is deposited into a machine, a screen fills with words and the doctor studies them. Then he takes Mylita's arm and picks up the toy gun looking device.

I brace myself. The doctor jabs Mylita's arm inserting his ID chip.

Mylita jumps and mentally yelps. Waves of fear wash over me.

I'm getting better at separating his motions from mine. I wish I could do his little hum. Instead, I almost laugh. Mylita backs against the wall, holding his arm, and sending fear and confusion. I run to his side and hug him, sending positive words.

Finally, Mylita gets approval to enter the trade center.

A being I've never seen before leads us to our rooms. Its head covered with fleshly spikes and long things dangling from its cheekbones, or where cheekbones should be. Its mouth is at the bottom of its face, and if it has a nose, I don't see it. Both arms end in two tentacles. Instead of two eyes, it has one wide eye extending across its face. The whole thing disappears when it blinks.

We're in different rooms this time. Mylita has his own room, but since he didn't bring any clothes, Jilliy takes him shopping. He wants me to come, but I need some time alone. I do my best to block his cries of loneliness. Distance doesn't seem to matter to telepathic communications, at least, not the distances here in the trade center. He might as well be next to me for all the peace I get. At least, I don't have to smell him.

I wonder if I smell as bad to him?

To my surprise, all my stuff is in my room. I rummage through my clothes and kiss everything. It seems silly, but I feel like I just got home. Even my phone is here. Dead battery of course, so all I can do is look at it. I press the buttons and tap the screen hoping for something, but it stays dead.

I order room service on Jilliy's account, or as I have learned, it's on Bennet Production's account. Now that I can read and speak Standard, I can use the room's computer. It has a shopping guide, sort of like Amazon for the trade center. I order new pencils and drawing paper. They have some really great stuff here. I finish lunch just as my supplies are delivered, so I catch up on my journal. Maybe tomorrow I can draw that new alien. I never learned what his species is called.

Mylita must enjoy the shopping. I haven't heard much from him recently except hums of approval and what feel like giggles, little sounds he makes when he is happy. I guess he and Jilliy are doing fine with their sign language.

I want some alone time, so I block as much as I can. It's getting easier.

I'm scribbling away when Mylita calls me. He breaks through my block and sends waves of happy excitement. I open the door connecting our rooms, and he runs in wearing new amber - colored glasses, a frilly, pink shirt that falls halfway to his knees and wide yellow pants made of some chiffon like material all soft and flowing with sparkles around the edges.

I burst out laughing. Mylita spins around like a little girl showing off a new party dress. I don't know why I didn't get it sooner. Mylita's a girl, well female anyway. Another species where the males and females look much the same, at least to me.

Jilliy pops in without knocking. Guess my alone time is over.

"We're meeting with the Langons tomorrow," she says and signs.

I hate Langons. The first ones I met were pretty rude. Their food is terrible. They hurt Gillis and Kaylee. They killed Valeste for no reason, at least no reason I can understand. Tomorrow I'm supposed to make nice to them. Blah!



Journal Entry 31

Rosat

So here we are, back in the conference room with a male and female Langon, Jilliy, Kaylee, Gillis, the big, furry trade commissioner, Mylita, and me. The Langons smell like tomcat spray, Mylita like a mudflat, and the Hocalie smell like mint. The trade commissioner, in spite of being a huge mound of fur, doesn't seem to have any smell.

After introducing everyone, the commissioner starts, "We are here to resolve a trade dispute between the Langons and the Valeste."

"Trade dispute," Kaylee blurts out. "It's a war."

Kaylee grew up in a Langon slave camp. She tries to be polite to Langons, but she isn't very good at hiding her hatred. Guess I can't blame her.

The commissioner nods. "I understand ownership of land is disputed. Expression of dispute in violence is not acceptable. The dispute we settle at table."

Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen. I try to make Mylita understand, but I don't think she does. Even the concept of the Intergalactic Trade Center eludes her. Her reaction to each new species leads me to believe that the Valeste were unaware so many other races existed. In fact, only last night did she understand that I'm not Hocalie. It should have been obvious, number of fingers, ear placement, fur versus skin, and so forth. But then I thought she was male.

One of the Langons holds up a datapad. "We acted according to the trade rules. Unpopulated planets are open to colonization. The planet was unpopulated."

"Is there a picture of this planet, or some way to show where it is in space?" I ask. Everyone stares at me. "Mylita is confused. Maybe if she sees a picture, she'll understand."

The male Langon grimaces at me and holds out the datapad with a picture of a planet on it. Mylita shrugs.

Kaylee flicks her hand at the datapad. "Maybe you can show us a picture of something on the surface to identify the world." She scowls. "There are so many clouds you can't even make out the land masses."

The Langons fiddle with the pad and pull up a picture of a settlement from space. Mylita shrugs.

Kaylee stands with her hands on her hips. "That is your settlement. Show Mylita something she will recognize, something the Valeste built." Her fur stands on end making her face look like a gold fuzzball.

The female Langon shrugs. "There was nothing else of value on that world."

This time the commissioner gets pissed. His fur fluffs out. "Images you showed at previous meeting were not settlement of yours. Show now."

The Langons whisper amongst themselves and then pull up an image so fuzzy I can't make much of it, but Mylita sends a blast of outrage into my head. I grimace. "That means something to her."

Mylita reaches for the pad, but the male snatches it away. "Why? Why?" she signs as she sends sorrow into my head. Jilliy translates for everyone.

I hold my head and send, "Stop." She does. It takes a moment before I can talk. "That picture upset Mylita." My eyes tear up with her sorrow.

"Why important?" Kaylee signs.

Mylita points to the Langons. "Hurt, bad. Break happy good."

Yeah. Her emotions broke my happy good. I'm having a hard time concentrating. I feel like whole the world just died. They're Mylita's emotions, but I still feel them.

The male Langon laughs. "That being is too primitive to worry about. Put it back where it came from."

The commissioner stands up, a six - foot - eight mound of dark fur. "How well speak you her language? Insults be not tolerated." He sits down. "Facts I have. Langons find world with structures but no beings. They relocate two thousand colonists in less than twenty days. The dig soil, plant crops, cut trees, disturb wildlife. Valeste return and bomb Langon colony. War start."

I don't think Mylita understands much even though Jilliy signs as well as she can, and I think it in her language as best I can.

Before long, Mylita's emotions get the best of me. My nose runs and my head aches. Then the Langons stomp out saying they did nothing wrong. So the meeting breaks up and gets rescheduled for tomorrow.

Mylita sends waves of sorrow and anger until I can't take it anymore. I put my arms around her trying to ignore the mudflat smell. Then I send her emotions back to her.

I guess she gets the idea because she does that little hum of approval and all of the pain disappears. She even apologizes. It's like someone turned off the sorrow. I wipe the tears off my face, and I feel fine except for the slight headache crying always causes.

Jilliy says she hungry, and my stomach growls, so we go to the Lasyan restaurant for a meal. After we finish, the Hocalie go off to send messages home. My parents will be happy to get my letter and I send copies of my journal to Romana.

Mylita and I wander around the central pavilion hoping some other race may be able to receive Mylita's telepathy. We both send "Hello," over and over, but not one being responds, so we return to our rooms.

I spend time drawing flowers, elegant clarkia, actually. I hope I remember what they look like. They look big in my drawing even though they are pretty small. I like their color, and you don't get to see them very often.

Mylita sits while I draw. She doesn't send anything. I think she is feeling my emotions rather than the other way around.

I really like Mylita. She is gentle and kind. She's so lonely. It comes through all the time. I can't imagine what it must be like being so intimately connected to everyone around you, thoughts and feeling all the time, and then nothing. She can't hear anyone except me. It gets a little exhausting because she never completely leaves my head.

I snuggle into my bed wanting to be alone, but Mylita is there beside me. Not in the literal sense. She is in her room next door. But she's in my head humming her lullaby. I couldn't stay awake if I were next to a fire alarm.

For just a brief moment, I wonder if she knows that. Is she intentionally forcing me to sleep or am I an unintended victim?

A telepathic screech and the smell of tomcat spray wakes me. Two Langons spritz something in my face. I try to scream, but my muscles fail me.



Journal Entry 32

I open my eyes to bright lights and the smell of mudflat mixed with tomcat. Why does every species stink so much? Do I smell to them?

Mylita sits on the floor in the corner, trembling. She asks me if I am well and sends waves of both fear and reassurance.

It takes me a minute to get my bearings. I'm in a room that looks like crew quarters on a spaceship. I've been on several, and they all look much the same. Two male Langons move to either side of the door and a third male comes in. At least, I can tell Langon sexes apart.

"I must apologize for the way you were brought here," he says. "My name is Kippit."

Mylita's fear turns to terror. At least, she still has her glasses. The lights in this room are too bright for me. And it's hot. I'm getting really tired of Langons. I struggle out of bed, still woozy. "Where am I? You kidnapped me. Take me back."

Kippit opens a wardrobe door. "All of your personal belongs are here. You are guests."

My heart beats so hard I think it might escape. "Guests get invited not abducted," I say through clenched teeth. "What do you want?" Before I left Earth, I'd probably be like Mylita, paralyzed with fear, but after all that I've seen, I refuse to be treated this way. "Take us back!"

"We want you to negotiate a contract."

Mylita stands and runs to me, smothering me in a hug. She sends squeaks of disapproval, along with strings of words I don't understand. It's really hard to concentrate. I push her aside both mentally and physically.

I'm pissed. "You drugged me? Isn't that illegal? What did you tell my friends? Did you lie to them? Whatever you want, I refuse to cooperate." For a moment, doubt crosses my mind. What will they do if I don't cooperate? Will they kill me and Mylita?

"We told them you came willingly. You can make that statement true or you can . . ." Kippit rubs the bare patch on top of his head. "I told my colleagues to bring you here. They took me a bit too literally."

I don't believe that. "You want me to believe that you sent someone to extend a friendly invitation, but instead they break into my room in the middle of the night and drug me in my sleep? Don't lie to me?"

Mylita holds me closer. Her mudflat smell and the Langon's tomcat smell don't help. I wish my nose would adapt to the foul odors.

Kippit shrugs. "You are on a Langon cruiser headed for Maklik. You can explain that to your friend." He gives me a quick nod, and all the Langons leave the room.

Another Langon, this one a female, sets a bowl of brown crackers on the table along with a pitcher of water and two glasses. "Dori crackers," she says and walks out the door.

I test the door. It's locked.

What the hell is a dori?

I sniff the crackers and then investigate the room; bed, wardrobe, table, two chairs. No glasses. The bathroom has all the standard equipment. Other than being sized for someone much bigger than me, it all works. I'm really thirsty so I drink from the faucet then go back to the crackers.

I send food and caution to Mylita. All the Langon food I've tasted scalded my mouth. She picks up a cracker and sniffs but doesn't respond.

I take a nibble. Nothing. I wait. Still nothing. I don't trust the crackers, but I am starving so I take another nibble. Still nothing, not even flavor.

Mylita takes a nibble then pops the entire thing in her mouth with a smile. I watch while she chews, but nothing happens. So I eat the rest of my cracker. Still not trusting the food, I wait to see if it upsets my stomach. Mylita eats half the bowl.

"Mylita," I send. "Where, what is Maklik?"

She shrugs.

"We go there. Maybe is planet." I'm not very good in her language.

"Slazile, forever home of life?" she asks with a strong dose of worry.

"I don't know."

I'm hungry, really hungry. So I try another cracker. Three more of the dry, flavorless squares and my stomach stops complaining.

"Now what?" I send to Mylita.

She smiles. "We close now."

"Close to what?"

She bows her head and dozens of voices flood my mind. Not excited or angry, just routine conversations. I even understand a few words.

"Ship is near?" I ask.

"Ship and Slazile, forever home of life."

Okay, maybe I didn't understand the words. "Is Slazile a --"

Ding, ding. Red lights flash in each corner of the ceiling and a long string of words in Langon ring through the room.

Not again. It sounds like we're about to be attacked, or maybe attack someone. Battles in space don't make sense. If your ship gets a hole in it, all the air goes out. I don't know how big this ship is because I haven't been outside this room, but why risk so many lives to make a point?

Mylita sends waves of fear, and excited Valeste voices come faster and sharper.

I head for the door, but it opens before I get there.

Two male Langons in dark green uniforms step in. "Tell them to stop," one says in Standard.

I march up to the shorter one and turn my head up to look into his eyes. He's a foot and a half taller than me, but I don't care. I fold my arms. "Tell who to stop what?"

Mylita sends panic and fear into my head and the voices get louder. I do my best to block it all out. "

"We are at war. Stop it?"

"Me!" I shout. "It's your war. You stop it."

He grabs my arm and drags me down the hall.



Journal Entry 33

My head splits with Mylita's pain and all the panicked voices.

The other Langon has hold of her, pulling her as she plants her feet and grabs a doorknob. I want to help, but this guy has hold of my upper arm, pulling my shoulder into a painful position. I tripped a few steps back and can't get my feet under me, so he picks up speed, and I drag along the hall. Red lights flash. Don't know what happened to Mylita. Her voice isn't in my head anymore.

"Let go," I shout as I try to hit him in the face, but my arm is too short. "What did you do to my friend?"

He shoves me into an elevator and stands me upright, shouting at me in Langon. Mylita's thoughts come back, sending fear and confusion. The door shuts, and the elevator lurches sideways. After a moment, the doors open and he pushes me into a room full of Langons.

I've pretty much had it with these bullies. Visions of Kaylee's and Gillis' mangled hands flash through my mind. They better not torture me. Although, there wouldn't be anything I could do to stop it.

He pushes me forward. Kipper extends his arm toward a chair as if he expects me to sit.

"Take me home," I demand.

He smiles. "We brought you here to negotiate a contract, but we can't do that until the marauders stop shooting at us. Talk to them. Tell them to stop."

"Why don't you stop?" I take two steps toward him rubbing my sore shoulder. "Your goon over there nearly broke my arm dragging me here. He never even gave me a chance to walk. If you want my cooperation, maybe you should start treating me with a little respect."

"You don't deserve respect," the goon says.

Yeah, right, what did I ever do to him?

He and Kipper talk in Langon.

"I offer my apologies for his actions. His parents were killed by Gillis Bennet when he blew up the shipyard. He hates Cadorie, well all Hocalie," Kipper says.

I glare at the goon. "I'm human, or haven't you noticed. I don't have any fur."

Mylita sends help and why as she cowers in the corner. I think my anger frightens her. It kind of frightens me. Langons are huge, insensitive, and self - centered. And they stink. I refuse to be coerced into anything.

"You work for Hocalie."

"No, I don't, you buffoon. I'm here to help the Valeste, the people attacking you." That should tell them. Or maybe that wasn't the right thing to say. However, Mylita sends hums of approval and feelings of love.

"That is enough," Kipper says. "Robin Mayfield, can you talk to the Marauders?"

Mylita comes to my side and blocks the Valeste voices. It occurs to me that I am actually in a position of power. Langons want to negotiate, well let them negotiate with me. "I have some demands first."

Kipper scowls then nods.

Great, I can't think of a thing to demand except take me home. "And they're called Valeste. And you know that."

Mylita sends. "Leave Slazile, forever home of life."

I stare at her. She's never been able to understand my speech, only things that I intentionally send to her. "You hear?" I send.

"I understand when you," she opens and closes her mouth a couple of times. "I understand thoughts."

That's new. "I think in my language."

"I learn," she sends. "Tell Slazile, forever home of life."

Alright "Slazile, forever home of life," I say.

Kipper lets out a snort. "And what is that supposed to mean."

I hold Mylita closer. "It's what the Valeste want, or so they tell me."

He lowers his voice and shouts each word. "What does it mean?"

I take a deep sigh. "How am I supposed to know? I'm just the translator."

An announcement comes into the room in Langon. Kipper and the others speak for a moment then he talks to me. "Unless you figure it out, we are all going to die. A swarm of Valeste fighters is headed our way."



Journal Entry 34

Mylita and I are on the Langon ship orbiting Slazile. We're in an office with lots of displays and computers, not the ship's bridge. At least, it doesn't look like a bridge to me, but I've never been on a Langon ship before. Kipper sits facing a wall full of displays. Most have words, some have pictures or charts. On the big viewscreen, Valeste and Langon fighters shoot at each other. The two goons who brought us here wait on either side of the door.

"Tell Valeste to stop," I beg Mylita. I resent being kidnapped by Kipper and his Langon goons. And I don't want to die in space.

She shakes her head. "Langons shoot them." The pilot's excited voices hit my head. I didn't realize she had been blocking them. I telepathically scream at them to stop, but I doubt they can hear or understand me, so I stand up to Kipper. "You have to quit shooting first."

"They started it," he says sounding like a petulant six - year - old.

I relay that it Mylita.

"They defend Slazile, forever home of life," she says.

Maybe someone else might feel empowered being here doing what I'm doing, but I've been kidnapped. I need a shower, a change of clothes, a decent meal. My temper is gone. "General Kipper, or whoever you are. Take me home to --" I almost said to Earth, but if he doesn't know where Earth is, I'd rather he not find out. "Back to Rosat. Then you and the Valeste can blow yourself to bits."

Mylita grabs me, sobbing, sending waves of love and fear. "I don't really mean it." I send. "I have an idea. Can you let me talk to the captain of the Valeste ship?"

She closes her eyes for a moment. Valeste talk goes by so fast it sounds like computer data, then all the voices stop except one. "I'm Captain Tenpel,"

"Please, wait." I send. "Kipper, I have the captain of the Valeste ship. Who is the captain of this ship?"

"I am," Kipper responds.

"Then who is leading the battle?"

He swivels around to face me. "My fleet commander."

"Captain Tenpel," I send. I think Mylita actually transmits it to Tenpel. "I have Captain Kipper of the Langon ship." Then I say and send. "What do you want to say to each other?"

Tenpel telepathically shouts, "You killed two pilots. Leave Slazile."

Kipper says, "This is our world, Leave."

So maybe this won't be easy. I relay the messages. Then say and send, "If you both stop fighting, you can talk to each other, maybe come to an agreement."

"Aliens must leave Slazile," Tenpel sends.

"Marauders must leave," Kipper says.

"You're both pompous fools. Kill each other for all I care. Just keep me out of it." Maybe that wasn't the best thing to say. Neither says a word for a while then both speak at the same time.

"I agree to meeting on neutral ship," Tenpel sends.

"We will meet aboard this ship. The captain must come alone," Kipper sends.

I relay both responses. Silence for a while. Silence for a long while.

My head hurts, and my stomach growls. The only way to get home is to get this settled, so I say and send. "We will meet aboard a Hocalie ship." That gives me an excuse to find a Hocalie ship and possibly a way home.

"Never," Kipper shouts.

"Do not know Hocalie. Meet on my ship," Tenpel send.

Oh well, it was worth a try. "So, decide," say and send. "I'm losing my patience."

"Tell him we meet on the planet, or I will destroy his ship."

That's a bit of an empty threat since the Valeste mothership is outside normal spacetime and therefore invisible and safe.

I send his words to Mylita, and she lets out a telepathic scream that feels like it splits my head in two. "I'm pretty sure the Valeste won't agree to that," I tell Kipper.

He talks to his goons in Langon.

One goon latches onto my arm and the other onto Mylita's arm. She is bigger than me but no match for the Langons.

Getting free isn't possible, so I try to keep up as they force us down several halls into an elevator that goes sideways and up. Then they drag us down more halls. This ship is huge. It looks like a big hotel except the halls are utilitarian gray metal, and the floor is dull brown.

Mylita screams the whole time, "No! Not now."

We get pushed through a door and into a shuttle bay just like the one on the Hocalie ship. There is very little gravity here. There is an airlock with a shuttle parked on the other side, visible through a window. From what I can see, it looks similar to the Hocalie shuttle except for the paint job.

The airlock opens and the goons drag us into the shuttle. They plop me into a seat by the window and push Mylita in the seat next to me and then order us to fasten our seatbelts.

Kipper and his two goons get settled, Kipper in front and the goons in the seats behind him. I wonder what their names are?

Another Langon I haven't seen before sits at the controls. We take off. Just like the Hocalie ship, we fly through a tunnel and out into space. The stars spin for a moment then stabilize, as we compensate for hull rotation.

I get a view of the Langon ship. It is a massive affair with a rotating barrel in the middle, similar to the Hocalie ship but much bigger. I guess the science fiction bit about gravity plating is fiction. Every ship I've been on uses rotating cylinders to simulate gravity.

The front viewscreen shows a planet in the distance. We head for it.

Mylita whimpers and the Valeste pilots telepathically yell no. On top of it all, Tenpel's thoughts overwhelm everything. He tells me to stop - over and over again. The panic in his thoughts makes me break out in goosebumps and sweat.



Journal Entry 35

We head for the Slazile, a cloud covered ball in space. Something shimmers around the horizon. I can't tell if it's the sun glinting off an atmospheric layer or some interaction of sun and electrical fields. Physics wasn't on my list of required classes. This sun looks both tiny and blue - white, or maybe it's just the display that makes it look that way.

Mylita's dread rips through my head. It's just a planet. But I can't escape their fear, and my body trembles hot and cold at the same time. Tenpel sends anger and warnings. Even though he is on another shuttle, his thoughts feel as if he is right next to me.

"Tenpel and Mylita are terrified," I tell Kipper, but he and the other two Langons in the shuttle laugh.

"I brought you here to settle this dispute. The Valeste claim to own this planet, let them tell the settlers in person, face to face."

I rub my temples. I wanted to be a journalist, not a translator for a telepathic race.

Before we hit the atmosphere, my head explodes with pain. Mylita grabs her head and writhes in her seat. Sounds, thousands of sounds, screeching, pounding, and clicks, mentally assault me. Worse still, hate, fear, anger, and pain, all overwhelm me. "Stop!" I shout.

It gets worse. I've never known pain like this. It isn't so much physical pain but emotional pain. I want to burst apart. My heart pounds. I sweat. Tears and saliva drip from my face. I can't take it anymore.

I use all my concentration to reach Mylita, hoping she can shield me, but she is slumped in her seat. Tenpel's anguish fills my head. The world swirls and goes black.

###

A huge Langon face floats two inches from me. His breath smells like rotten tomcat spray.

"How do you feel?" he asks in Standard.

Tenpel is asking the same thing inside my head. He is so clear it is hard to imagine that he is miles away on a different shuttle.

Mylita's thoughts are in the background, whimpering and trembling with fear.

I really want to be alone. Maybe I could die in peace? There are things attached to my arms and neck. Something is on my head. A machine beeps and gurgles. I'm strapped to a bed, but I feel light, weightless.

"Can you speak?" the Langon asks.

I can, but I don't want to, so I try to turn over. I'm stuck, hooked up to machines and strapped down. I take a moment to gather my wits and look around. I'm still in the shuttle, but this time I'm on a gurney in the middle of the central aisle. "Where's Mylita?" I ask.

"What?" the Langon says.

"Mylita. Where is she?"

"That is what she calls the marauder," Kipper says. He's standing at the end of the gurney.

"Valeste," I say. "She is Valeste. What did you do to us?"

The new Langon moves out of my sight for a moment then returns. "My name is Dr. Pullik. You and your friend have been unconscious for several days. You both passed out before the shuttle landed. I am not familiar with either of your species. So when you didn't respond to any common treatments, we took you back into space thinking we could find doctors familiar with your species, but you both woke up once we left the atmosphere."

I moan. My brain feels as if someone soaked it in habanero sauce. Mylita calls to me, and I tell her I'm fine.

Dr. Pullik fiddles with the things attached to me and removes the ones around my neck and head. "I think you are out of danger."

Out of danger, yeah right. I can still hear Valeste in the back of my mind. The words are too jumbled to understand, but the emotions are clear - hate, fear, anger.

The doctor frees both of us. I float up, and the doctor helps me to a seat. He settles Mylita next to me, and she gives me a giant hug, sending love and fear.

She stinks worse than ever, but then so do I. I am still in the same clothes, minus my underpants. They didn't even take my shoes off. My feet itch and my shirt sticks to me. I reek. Maybe Langons don't have a sense of smell. Or maybe they just don't care.

"Holy shit," Kipper says under his breath. At least, that's what it sounds like to me even though I don't speak Langon. Kipper and his goons yammer in Langon for a while and then point to a dot on the view screen. They make the dot bigger. It looks like a ship, a typical ship, a superstructure surrounding a rotating cylinder.

A little ship zooms toward us. The comm crackles. "Langon ship, this is the Hocalie shuttle Nelles. I believe you have passengers that belong to us." It sounds like Gillis.



Journal Entry 36

The Hocalie shuttle stops right in front of us. There we sit two shuttles facing each other. I don't know if this one is armed, but I know the Hocalie shuttle isn't.

"Get out of my way or get blown up," Kipper says in a snide voice.

After a pause, Kaylee's voice comes over the comm. "You kidnapped two members of our crew, Robin Mayfield, a human, and Mylita, a Valeste. Follow us back to our ship."

I translate for Mylita.

Kipper says something in Langon, and our ship turns to the right.

"You might want to reconsider," Gillis says. "A cadre Rosat Peacekeeping is on the way. This isn't the first time private Langons have invaded a populated world."

Yeah, the cavalry to the rescue, just like an old cowboy movie.

Kipper fiddles with the controls, and the screen displays a picture of Gillis at the shuttle controls with Kaylee floating behind him. By the look on Kaylee's face, I assume that they can now see our ship.

I wave and Kaylee smiles.

Valeste shuttles, or little ships, or fighters, whatever they're called surround the Hocalie shuttle. Both Mylita and I shout at Tenpel to leave the Hocalie alone. He sends that he is protecting the Hocalie ship.

Argh, another standoff. I've about had it with these fools. "This is your last chance, Kipper. Go to the Hocalie ship with Tenpel, or blow your self to hell. I refuse to translate any more."

Mylita sends fear and anxiety into my head.

###

So we all fly the shuttles into the middle of the Hocalie's rotating hull. We settle on one landing pad and connect to the airlock. The Langons do the same. They built the Hocalie ship, so the airlocks are compatible. But the Valeste ship just doesn't fit.

The Valeste mothership had a big open shuttle bay completely separate from the rotating cylinders. It didn't have any gravity. I don't know what made the ships stay put. After several tries, Tenpel makes it onto the pad, but all the locking clamps are in the wrong place and the wrong shape.

I wait in the pressurized area watching him struggle to keep his ship on the pad while several Hocalie suit up and go outside. They tie the ship down with cables. Then Tenpel crosses the landing pad in a spacesuit.

I hope he doesn't want to leave in a hurry.

Now that we are all aboard we head for a conference room. Most of the performers transferred to another ship while this one orbited Rosat. They had gigs to get to. This room used to be filled with racks of costumes and props. Now, a few leftover things rest against one wall. There are three long tables, and two dozen chairs all sized for Hocalie.

The Valeste are too big for the chairs. The Langons look like sumo wrestlers sitting on children's chairs, except they aren't fat. That's an exaggeration but still, the chairs are way too small and the tables way too low. I fit just fine.

Kipper makes an attempt at sitting while the rest of the Langons stand around backs to the walls.

Jilliy ushers several Hocalie into the room. They hand me a hoodie. The Langon ship was too hot. This one is too cold.

They give Kipper a kind of shawl. He holds it up as if he doesn't know what to do with it. The Hocalie attempt to wrap it around him but he gets angry and pushes them away, so they leave the shawl on the table.

"It is freezing here," one of the other Langons says.

"Since we don't have accommodations for Langons, perhaps you gentlemen would be more comfortable waiting in your shuttle where it is warm," Jilliy says.

Kipper nods, and they follow Jilliy out. He sits on a table fiddling with the shawl wrapped around his shoulders.

Gillis plops a square box on another table and fiddles with the controls. A picture of space fills the wall. "Three Rosat peacekeeping ships arrived while we were docking." He moves a pointer over three ships with flashing lights surrounding the Langon mothership. "The Langon fighters will not dock until the Valeste fighters leave according to the communications we have intercepted." Then Gillis turns to me as if he is expecting me to do something.

"Yeah, I get it that someone has to leave first, but why must it be the Valeste?" I ask.

Kipper shouts, "This is Langon space. All the rest of you are intruders,".

Man, I don't like that guy. I stand. "You can talk to your ships in your language. I have to communicate telepathically translating from Standard, a language I barely speak, into Valeste, which I understand even less. If you want my help, you will do it my way." I point my arm toward the door. "Send your fighters back to your ship." That should tell him.

My hands shake, and my legs tremble, so I sit down before anyone notices.

Gillis has a funny smile on his face. "Until the Langon and Valeste fighters retreat to their ships, we will not discuss anything. Captain Tenpel, Captain Kipper, Mylita, Robin, you are all guests of the Hocalie." Several furry guys waltz in. "My assistants will assign you quarters. We don't have any Langon or Valeste food. So you can take your meals in the general mess, eating Hocalie food, or opt for universal emergency rations."

Kipper leaps up. "I will take my leave. When you --"

Gillis interrupts. "You are guests of the Hocalie, until ownership this planet is resolved."

Kipper stomps over to Gillis and stares down at him. He looks like a copper - colored giant bending over a kid in a furry Halloween costume. "Do you think you can kidnap me and get away with it?"

Gillis smiles, but Kaylee answers. "Yes! We can, and we did. Your shuttle has already left. If you ever want to get home, stop fighting."

He narrows his eyes and works his jaw. "Your world will pay for this."

"Call off your fighters or spend the night naked in our brig," Gillis demands.

This ship takes entertainers to gigs. I don't think they have a brig, not a real one anyway.

Kipper pulls a comm from his pocket and shouts into it in Langon. Then he glares at Gillis. "My government will hear about this."

Gillis fiddles with the projector. "Your government said the colonists hired you to take them to their new home. I can't figure out why defending that colony is so important to you. Anyway, your government considers this a private venture and refuses to get involved."

Kaylee makes the biggest smile I've ever seen and turns her head up to look into his eyes. "Now go to your room. Dinner is in two hours." She sounds as if she is talking to a misbehaving child. "We are having loryfowl and ganors casserole, stewed sallaberries, and steamed poepods. If you don't like that, I am sure we can find you some dori crackers."



Journal Entry 37

As soon as the meeting breaks up, I run to my old room. Everything is here, even the stuff left on Rosat when I got kidnapped. For a few minutes, my mind is quiet then Mylita sends. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah,"

She strolls in and sits on the bed. I'm still hungry, and dinner is two hours away. I've been in the same clothes for a week, and I'm exhausted. I don't want to share a room with her.

"I have room," she points to the left. "They hurt Slazile, forever home of life. You and me hurt, too."

I still don't understand what she means by Slazile, forever home of life. It sounds like a rather long name for a planet. But I don't ever want to go anywhere near that place again. It nearly killed me. Whatever the Langons did to me didn't help either. "Yeah, what happened. It hurt so bad we both passed out."

"Slazile, home of life hurt, crying." She touches my cheek.

"So the planet made us hurt?" That doesn't make sense. A planet is a ball of rock.

"Slazile, home of life."

Alright, there's life on Slazile. I get that. "Mylita, I'm too tired to talk about anything right now. Can we meet after dinner?"

She begins her sleeping hum.

I jump up. "No. Stop. I want to shower first."

She nods and stands. "Me too." She leaves sending feelings of love and then nothing.

Silence. I can't hear any Valeste, not even if I concentrate. Peace. I strip and stumble into the shower. I want gallons of warm water to cascade over me, but this is a spaceship shower. Every drop of water is recycled, so only trickle drips from the faucet, but it's enough.

This is a Cadorie ship, no soap but four types of shampoo, no towels but a whole body blow dryer.

Warm, dry, and clean, I fall into bed, naked.

###

Tap, tap.

What? I open my eyes. Yeah, I'm still on the Hocalie ship. Well, at least, I didn't get kidnapped again.

Tap, tap.

"Come in," I shout at the door in English, then do it again in Standard.

Jilliy comes in with a tray of food. Loryfowl stew. My favorite Cadorie dish. I throw the covers off. Oops, I'm naked.

Jilliy giggles sets the food down and tosses me a robe from the closet.

I put the robe on and will my face to stop blushing. But, by the heat in my cheeks, it doesn't work. Still, I run to the table and wolf down stew and juice while Jilliy watches in silence.

Mylita's thoughts enter my head. "Come in I send."

Gillis and Kaylee enter first then Mylita. The room has two chairs, a table, and a bed. Jilliy and I sit at the table, everyone else sits on the bed.

Kaylee starts. "We have a couple of hypotheses about Slazile. Robin, Mylita, do either of you hear any hear any voices from the planet, now?"

We both shake our heads.

"When did you first hear the voices?"

Mylita sends anger into my head, but I answer. "It hit me all at once as we were about to enter the atmosphere."

Mylita nods.

"There is some kind of electronic field surrounding the planet above the top layer of the atmosphere," Gillis says. "The planet has a strong magnetic field, and the sun produces a unique kind of radiation. I don't think it is harmful." He takes a long breath. "But we can't shield against it."

"That's why we've moved," Kaylee interjects. "We have put the moon between us and the sun even though the Valeste and Langons don't seem worried."

Gillis continues. "We think it shields telepathic thoughts."

I translate for Mylita, and she agrees.

"This is really exciting," Gillis grins, "If I can reproduce this radiation, we can build shields that stop telepathy."

I raise my eyebrows. "Why? You can't hear telepathy, anyway."

"Well, yes," Kaylee says. "It would be better to learn to hear telepathy, but maybe figuring out how this radiation stops the transmissions will help us figure out what they are."

"You're not going to do that before the Valeste, and Langons out there destroy each other," I say.

"Slazile, forever home of life first," Mylita sends.

"Why is Slazile, forever home of life so important?" I say and send.

"I home of life," she answers.

This is getting nowhere. "How did you build structures on the surface if you pass out before you can land?" I say and send.

Gillis and Kaylee both smile and nod.

"Langons hurt. Make --" she sends fear, anger, and pain.

It feels like a spike pierced my skull. I grab my head and moan. Mylita puts her arm around me and sends hums filled with love.

Everyone else stares at me and asks if I'm all right.

"Apparently, the Langons did something to make the planet shoot off telepathic pain. Or maybe something that lives on the planet is suffering."

Mylita nods.

So there are two obvious questions. "Do any Valeste live on Slazile?"

She shakes her head.

"Do other beings live on Slazile?"

"Billions." Her tone makes me feel as if I have just asked a stupid question. The planet must have a complex ecosystem, or the Langons wouldn't have colonized it. Of course, billions of creatures live there.

"Ask her if any of them are sentient," Kaylee says.

I try, and Mylita says they all feel.

"I think I get it," Jilliy says. "I bet the wildlife are somewhat telepathic. Maybe this is where the Valeste go to commune with nature."

I try to translate that to Mylita.

"No is home of Valeste life forever,"

"Not nature, maybe God," I hypothesize.

"Oh!" Jilliy exclaims. "That explains why the Valeste are so passionate, but the Langons will never believe it."

Journal Entry 38

After dinner, we all meet again. I wonder what Kipper ate. He wasn't in the mess hall, but he is at the meeting perched on a table as if he owned the place.

Tenpel doesn't know any of the sign language Jilliy and Mylita use so he just sits there yammering at Mylita telepathically so fast that I can't keep up. He also doesn't understand the pigeon Valeste/Standard/English telepathy that Mylita and I use. He may be the Valeste fleet commander, but he doesn't quite get the concept of speech. And I'm supposed to be the translator.

"You have no religion," Tenpel says to Kipper.

Religion was the correct word. I just couldn't think of anything better.

Kipper puffs out his chest, getting all self-righteous, "Langons have a proper religion. We believe in God, we have regular church services, a set of moral guidelines, and holy people."

He looks down his nose at the Hocalie. "Those fuzzy fools celebrate nature, the changing of the seasons, things like that. They don't believe in god."

Jilliy leaps up. "God is a mythical creature, fiction. You don't live up to your own moral code. We far exceed it."

"We god Slazile." Mylita sends with a feeling of complete submission.

I don't even try to translate that.

Tenpel paces sending anger and frustration while Kipper fidgets and talks louder and louder. Finally, Kipper stands, stomping his boots on the floor. "Since the Valeste cannot go to the surface of this planet, they have no right to claim it." He heads for the door.

I'm tired of this. "Look, you idiot. I don't know what you did down there, but you made it uninhabitable for the Valeste. You've seen their settlements, so they obviously spent a lot of time on the surface before you came."

He shrugs. "Since they can no longer inhabit that world, they have no claim to it."

"Can the Langon damage be reversed?" Kaylee asks.

That's a great question. I wish I had thought of it.

"Before that can be determined," Gillis says. "We need to figure out what they did."

I translate, and Tenpel sends thoughts so fast I get dizzy. Mylita shouts at him telepathically, and he shuts up. Then she sends, "They hurt Slazile."

"How?" I beg. "What did they hurt, the plants, the animals, the air?"

"They kill televeste."

Good, now we're getting somewhere. "What is a televeste?"

Mylita and Tenpel look at each other and jabber telepathically. I get nothing from their conversation.

"I think the Langons killed a creature they worship," I tell the group.

"How can a dead animal contaminate an entire world?" Kipper asks.

"Televeste are many," Mylita sends.

Kipper laughs. "Animals don't grieve. They don't talk to each other or spread the bad news."

Kaylee's voice is barely above a whisper. "They do if they are sentient and telepathic."

Kipper snorts. "There is nothing on that world except plants and animals -- no sentient beings, no cities, roads, or other signs of civilization."

"Your crewman lost a relative on the shipyard I destroyed," Gillis said with a smile.

Kipper scowled. "So."

"So," Kaylee says. "Langons enslaved, raped, tortured, and killed us because they didn't think we were any more than animals. You wouldn't know a sentient being if it came up and bit you."

Kipper heads for the door. "You show me what one of a televeste looks like, and I will prove it is nothing more than a dumb animal. Try to go anywhere, and my fighters will destroy this ship. I know you do not have weapons."

###

First, we need a picture of a televeste, so Mylita and I sit in my room, and I draw pictures.

I wonder why she can't just send a picture into my head. Apparently, she can, but she can only show me what she's looking at, not what she saw in the past or what she imagines.

After she approves my drawing, a cross between a chimp and a cat, we try an experiment. I send pictures into her head and ask her to draw them. She is hopeless. Even pictures of simple things like spoons come out as illegible scrawls. So I think of the drawings I did in my journal and hand it to her. She flips through and finds the correct picture every time.

We take the drawing of the televeste to Kipper. He snorts and tosses it on the table. "Those things are dangerous predators. They attack without warning. We killed every single one near the settlement."

Mylita grabs hold of me, nearly knocking me over. She sends overwhelming waves of sadness and grief. The tears pour out of me. "You hurt Mylita," I sob.

Kipper takes a comm from his pocket and talks in Langon. "To prove I am right, my men will capture one and bring it here," he says to me in Standard.

Mylita screams, "No."

Tenple's anger blasts into my head as if he were trying to kill me.



Journal Entry 39

We can't stop the Langons from capturing a televeste, and the Valeste are pissed. Tenpel's telepathy is so powerful that I can't block it. Even with Mylita's help, he blasts me with emotions. I know his hatred it directed at Kipper, but it hits me every time.

It's nighttime on the ship, and I'm exhausted, but between Mylita's telepathic wailing and Tenpel's anger, I can't sleep. I keep asking them to keep it to themselves, but they don't. Sometimes I hear the Valeste fighter pilots, waiting in space, facing the Langons.

I turn on the lights and try drawing, but even that doesn't work. I ruin several sheets of paper. With everyone else's emotions assaulting my nervous system I feel like the lady in Edward Munch painting The Scream. By morning, I've had it.

I stumble into the mess for breakfast.

"I take it you didn't sleep well last night," Jilliy says as she hands me a cup of jennis tea. She runs her fingers through the long fur on her head. "Mylita and Tenpel kept us up all night complaining."

Jennis tea isn't a substitute for coffee, but it's a stimulant, so I down the cup and ask for another. I get partway through a bowl of ganors porridge when the pain starts.

At first, it is just a pinprick in the back of my head. Then it gets harder and hotter until I feel like a raging lunatic is inside my head shredding my brains. Mylita and Tenpel feel it too and share their pain with me.

The world fades into agony. I know I'm screaming, but I can't hear it or stop it until the darkness overtakes me.

Awareness returns slowly. The ceiling is sky blue with a thousand sparkles that fill the room with light. I never noticed that before. Whimpers, fear, love, and reassurance float into my mind. I'm on my bed, and three furry faces bend down to stare at me.

"Are you alright," the reddish one says.

The white and golden faces talk in a different language. Then the golden one says, "You fainted."

"You've been unconscious for three hours," the white one says. Gillis. I remember his name.

The golden one is Kaylee. I remember now. "Yeah, I think so."

Mylita sits in the corner holding a televeste. Tenpel has his arms around both of them. The televeste clings to them as if it were a baby. It's terrified. I can make out some of its thoughts. It wants to go home. It wants its mother, gone forever. Above everything else, feelings of loneliness fill my mind. I've never been so homesick.

I sit cross-legged on the bed. "I want to go home." Tears roll down my cheeks, and my nose runs. "It hurts. I have to go home. I can't live without my mother . . ."

I shake my head. I love my mother but live with her, no way. I push the televeste's thoughts to the side. They're still overwhelming, but they aren't mine. I have to focus on that.

I blow my nose and wipe my face. After a few deep breaths, I start again. "Sorry, the televeste is homesick and frightened. Her telepathy is powerful." I just know she is female.

"We had to send the Langons out of the room," Jilliy says. "It seems to have calmed down some."

"Mylita, why is she so frightened?" I send.

"Langons kill parents. Lemaeste alone, scared, hungry," Mylita sends.

Tenpel splits my head with hate and anger.

"Stop!" I shout. "That hurts."

Mylita sends rapid thoughts, and Tenpel's feelings go away. I take a moment to regroup my wits and translate for the others. Then it hits me. "The televeste has a name. Did you name her?" I say and send.

"No."

Kaylee says it before I can. "Can you talk to her?"

"Mylita and Tenpel send thoughts back and forth then Mylita sends, "Not same as people. Simple words, emotions."

Kaylee grabs my hand and marches me to the shuttle bay where Kipper and two other Langons wait beside a cage. She stomps up to Kipper and plants her hands on her hips, looking like a thin teddy bear facing an angry giant.

"Did you kill its mother?" she demands.

The Langons look at each other.

Kaylee narrows her eyes. "When you captured the televeste, did you kill its mother?"

Kipper smirks. "I was on this ship the entire time, remember. A settler captured it."

"Was its mother killed?"

Kipper shrugs.

"Someone killed her mother," I say.

One of the new Langons smirks. "And just how do you know that?"

I don't even raise my voice. "She said her name is Lemaeste. She said her parents were killed by Langons. She grieves for them."

"And that," Kaylee pauses to make eye contact with each Langon, "makes her sentient."

Kipper and the rest nearly fall over laughing. "Of all the people in the universe, only you, Robin Mayfield, can communicate with these primitive Valeste and their pets. Unless the Valeste can speak for themselves, no one will ever believe you."

These guys must be idiots. I open my mouth, but Kaylee gets there first. "They do have a written language."

"And spaceships," I add.



Journal Entry 40

"Come with me," Kaylee orders Kipper. The other two Langons follow, but she orders them to stay in the shuttle bay. Then she talks into her comm in her language.

"What now," Kipper moans. "You got your creature. I need to leave."

"Not just yet," Kaylee says as we enter an elevator that takes us from the central hub of the ship to the outer rings where there is normal gravity. She marches back to the conference room where Mylita and Lemaeste wait, sitting on the floor in the far corner with Jilliy. She shuts the door as soon as Kipper, and I get in. Then she points at a table. "Sit," she orders.

Since he is too big for the Hocalie chairs, Kipper perches on a table.

Four Hocalie run in with another shawl. They attempt to drape if around Kipper jabbering non stop in their language. They are too short to reach his shoulders, and one climbs on the table. Kipper pushes them away and chases them out of the room yelling in Langon.

Kaylee grins, and Gillis looks at the ceiling.

Kipper rubs the bare patch on top of his head. "What more do you want? You still can't prove that creature is sentient. No one will believe you no matter how much the Valeste write about it."

Lemaeste crawls all over Mylita and sends waves of fear into my head. She is terrified of Kipper. Mylita takes her out of the room sending hums of love and comfort. Jilliy follows her. So it's just me, Gillis, and Kaylee, and of course, Kipper, looking smug.

He feels around in his pockets then scowls. "You stole my communicator. It was in my pocket. Give it back. I demand to call my ship."

Gillis holds his mangled hands up. "Thanks to your friends I hardly have enough fingers to dress myself. I didn't steal anything."

Kipper continues to search his pockets and mutters something that probably translates into "Damn Dori."

Kaylee squares her shoulders looking as if she is holding in a laugh.

I get it. A few of the entertainers are still on the ship. Some of them are probably magicians. I bet at least one of them can pick pockets. So that's what they were doing with the cape. I hold in a laugh.

Kipper leaps off the table and heads for the door, but before he can get there, Gillis points to the view screen. "Your shuttle is headed for your ship."

It disappears inside their mothership. Moments later, the mothership inches away gathering speed with every second. Valeste mothership pops into view just long enough for its fighters to return.

"Tenpel returned to the Valeste ship. Both are headed for Rosat. We are supposed to follow," Gillis says.

Kipper paces the room stomping his feet with every step. "Now what? Do you torture me en route to Rosat?"

Gillis keys his comm. "Captain put the ship in orbit above Slazile."

Kipper goes bonkers. "What in Saint Mades Hell are you doing. Go to Rosat with them. My bed is too small. This ship is too cold. The food is tasteless. I don't even have a change of clothes." Kipper's voice booms off the walls. "You have no right to kidnap me."

"Yeah, right," I say. "You had no right to kidnap me, or Mylita, or the televeste. It's not so nice when the tables are turned."

He looks at the tables for a long moment then shakes his head. "I demand to be taken to my ship."

Gillis keeps his cool. "Sorry, I need a Langon. You are free to roam the ship, well most of it anyway, but be forewarned, hurt anyone or anything, or insult my crew, and you will be confined to your quarters." He motions to Kaylee to follow him out of the conference room. I run after them.

We go to Mylita's room. She sits on the bed playing with Lemaeste. I wanted Lemaeste returned to the planet, but Mylita said she was too young to be on her own, so she'll stay here for the duration.

Lemaeste is kind of cute. She looks a bit like a chimp but with fur like a cat, soft and yellow. She clings to Mylita even when she eats, very like young monkeys do. When she discovered she could share thoughts with me, she crawled all over me, licking my face and playing with my hair. She smells like the forest, kind of earthy with a hint of bitter. Not great, but better than Mylita's mudflat smell or the Langons tomcat smell. I prefer the Hocalie's minty smell.

"Why aren't we going to Rosat?" I ask.

Gillis smirks. "I might be able to make Langons feel the emotions of the creatures on Slazile."

Now it's my turn to laugh. "I don't think they'll cooperate with that."

"If this works the way I think I might, we can simply broadcast the telepathy in waves that non-telepathic brains can perceive."

"And you can do that before they figure out we didn't go to Rosat?"

Kaylee takes a deep breath and shrugs.

"Not if I stand around here wasting time. But first, I got to send a message to Rosat."



Journal Entry 41

We've been in orbit above Slazile for two weeks. Gillis told Rosat that he had changed his mind and was heading home and that he would drop Kipper off at the nearest Langon world. Still, we expect the Langons to return any day.

Kipper still isn't at all sociable. The Hocalie avoid him, all the furniture is too small, he hates the food and constantly complains that he is cold. He pisses off so many people that Gillis confines him to his quarters. He locks the door from the outside with a hasp, simple but effective. My door doesn't have a lock. None of the quarters do. Hocalie are funny that way.

But I agree with being cold. I'm back to living in hoodies and the Hocalie version of sweatpants.

Gillis and Kaylee have disappeared. Not literally, but they spend all their time in their lab, so I seldom see them. When I do, they point at datapads and project numbers and equations on screens. So I draw pictures and play with Lemaeste. I'm desperate to read something, anything, but nothing is in English. I'm learning to read Standard. I'm up to about third grade. The stories leave a bit to be desired, but I'm improving. Mylita is learning with me, which makes it a little more fun.

We're sitting in her room. Lemaeste is sleeping on the bed. We're working our way through the Standard Language version of Charlotte's Web excepts it's about a fish-like creature and Hocalie kids.

Gillis taps on the door. "Can I come in?" he says as he opens it wide.

I nod.

He holds up a box that looks like a two-way radio with a long antenna. "This is it, I hope. I don't know if it works, but I do know it isn't dangerous."

I shrug and translate for Mylita, but I think she got most of it without me. I think she is learning to understand spoken words.

Gillis presses a button on the side of the device, and the world goes silent. Mylita grabs her head and runs for Lemaeste, who leaps on Mylita clinging for dear life.

"Is it working?" he asks. "Can you hear Mylita?"

I'm so used to having their thought and feelings in the back of my head. The silence of thoughts feels like emptiness. I shake my head.

He switches the device off. Fear, confusion, and loneliness flood into my mind. I grab Mylita and Lemaeste as if I hadn't seen them for years.

"What happened?" Gillis asked.

"For me, it shut off their thoughts and feelings. It wasn't unpleasant, just surprising. It terrified Mylita."

Gillis nods.

I doubt Gillis knows what he invented. "So you can block telepathic thoughts. That would be a powerful weapon against the Valeste. Not only would you disrupt ship to ship communications, you would render every person on board deaf."

Gillis' shoulders slump, and he nods. "You're right. I want to do the opposite, project telepathic thought, not suppress it."

Back to the lab, he goes.

###

A Langon ship just dropped out of Interstellar drive, and the Valeste ship popped into space long enough to deposit a cadre of fighters. Gillis didn't hang around to watch. We sped out of there and went into interstellar drive as fast as possible. Apparently, no one can track you while you're using the interstellar drive although we can send and receive some kinds of transmissions. Gillis and Kaylee talk a lot about the space outside of normal spacetime which makes no sense to me. Maybe I should have taken physics.

We spend two weeks in subspace, or where ever, going somewhere. Because the ship has a rotating cylinder to simulate gravity, there aren't any windows except a couple of portals at the end of the cylinder, but they're shielded when we're traveling. All the viewscreens show us traveling past stars and things, but images are simulated and filled with names and symbols.

Gillis calls Mylita and me into his lab every day or so and puts various contraptions on our heads while we talk. So far, he doesn't seem to have succeeded in projecting telepathic waves, or whatever they are.

I draw pictures, catch up on my journal, play with Lemaeste., and learn to read Standard. I even try to pick up a little Cadorie. There isn't much else to do. Then I wake up one morning to find we have stopped. Mylita wakes me all excited. We're in orbit above Hocalie.

It's a beautiful world. You can see a few of the larger cities from space, but not like earth. Even the biggest cities are tiny compared to New York or Hong Kong. And at night, Hocalie looks nothing at all like earth. It is nearly impossible to see the cities. There is a faint glow from biggest cities, the smaller ones don't show at all. Apparently, the Hocalie are opposed to lighting up the night.

I want to go down, but Jilliy says there isn't enough time. Several shuttles arrive, deposit loads of equipment, supplies, and people in lab coats. Gillis commandeers the largest dance hall for his lab, and his assistants fill it with boxes. By the end of the day, it looks like an experimental electronics lab, complete with shelves full of components and a dusty metallic smell.

I wander around the lab as the scientists as Gillis and Kaylee unpack boxes and organize shelves.

"Why didn't you hire a few assistants?" I ask.

They both stop and stare at me. "You found a sinister use for a telepathy damping field, what about a telepathy generator?" Kaylee asks.

Journal Entry 42

Gillis and Kaylee must have worked all night. They wake Mylita and me and take us to the lab before the rest of the ship is awake. We must have gone into interstellar drive during the night because all the hall monitors show stars and symbols instead of Hocalie. Lemaeste clings to Mylita and yawns. She sends sleeping hums similar to the ones Mylita uses to put me to sleep. It makes me yawn.

Gillis puts his latest contraption on my head. Then he puts one Mylita's head. I didn't get a good look at mine, but hers looks like a spaghetti strainer covered with flip phones and walkie-talkies placed somewhat haphazardly. Lemaeste hums louder, and Mylita joins in. I want to tell them to stop but I can't. I yawn and yawn. My muscles relax. I will them to keep me upright, but it doesn't work. The world goes warm and quiet.

"Wake up." Kaylee shakes me, and Jilliy lifts me into a sitting position. Mylita and Lemaeste are curled together on the floor sound asleep. Gillis takes Mylita's head contraption off and tries to wake them.

"Are they alright? What happened," I ask. My shoulder and elbow ache.

"I'm not sure," Gillis says. "I wanted to see if these amplified telepathic transmissions."

Mylita sits up rubbing her eyes and Lemaeste curls in her lap. She still does sleep hums, but they stay in the background and don't bother me. Mylita sends confusion and hunger. She asks me what happened.

"We think we figured out what telepathic transmissions are," Kaylee says. "They're not electromagnetic or electrogravamagnitic."

"Huh." I send the words to Mylita, but she doesn't understand either.

Gillis launches into an explanation. "Everything that isn't matter is electromagnetic radiation. But EM waves have to stay within this spacetime continuum. Adding a gravity component to the wave lets it travel outside of normal --"

"Stop!" I hold up my hand. "Even if I could understand that, I don't know how to send those words to Mylita."

"She may be able to understand better than you. Her spaceships travel outside of spacetime." Kaylee says. "What is her level of education or intelligence?"

"Sometimes she understands what we say even if I don't send it. Pretend I don't know anything about electro whatever waves." That is the truth.

Gillis opens his eyes and mouth and looks at Kaylee. She shrugs and starts in. "Something must carry the thoughts from one mind to another mind. It must be some form of energy. The brain uses electrical impulses to form thoughts. Those are strong enough to be measured. However, they aren't strong enough to travel from one person to another let alone through walls or across space. So they don't carry the telepathic thoughts, but something must. Telepathy has to be some other kind of energy that interacts with your brain."

Gillis nods and smiles. "We had to find something telepathic transmissions changed as they passed through. That was the first step in figuring out how to transmit them. You all fell asleep, so we must have got something right."

"Lemaeste sleep time," Mylita sends, and I translate.

I don't know why they can't see the obvious. "You didn't fall asleep."

They both stare at me.

"You want to send telepathy to anyone, right?"

They nod.

"Your contraption let Lemaeste's sleepiness overwhelm Mylita and me, but it didn't affect you. Otherwise, the entire ship would be asleep."

They sigh and nod.

"And I assume that display of Kipper pacing around his room means he wasn't affected either."

Mylita sends, "Brain have special place to hear."

I translate, and Kaylee agrees. "We have to figure out how to alter the transmissions, so any brain receives them."

"Or sends them," Gillis adds.

Good, that should give me a double whammy every time anyone thinks or feels anything.

Journal Entry 43

We're on the move again. I'm not sure where we're headed. Gillis won't go back to Slazile until his telepathy transmitter works. I wonder how far one of these ships can go before it needs to refuel? I wonder what it uses for fuel? It's been another two weeks. Whoever thought space travel was exciting, hasn't spent much time on a spaceship.

Gillis tested two more contraptions. They all amplify telepathy to the point that it feels as if Mylita's brain is attached to mine. The two of us might be able to deal with that, but Lemaeste's only a young televeste. I think she might have the IQ of that gorilla who learned sign language. She is still very young, but she has quite a few words and makes simple sentences. Every time Gillis turns on one of his devices, Lemaeste's emotions overwhelm Mylita and me.

And here we go again. Back in his research lab, while Kaylee watches, he puts another spaghetti strainer covered with electrical components over my head. He sticks one on Mylita's head, and for the first time, he puts a little version on Lemaeste. Mylita reassures the creature and sends positive hums.

I grit my teeth and wait. Mylita sends questioning squeaks, but nothing happens. Gillis turns on a monitor, and we see Kipper rubbing the bare patch on top of his head. Then he yawns and reads from a datapad.

Gillis points to the back wall. "His room is just on the other side of that wall. If this works, he should react."

Gillis has said that before.

He reaches over to a control panel and flips a switch. Mylita's eyes go wide, and Lemaeste grabs her in a panic. But me -- nothing. Guess my device doesn't work. I can't sense any telepathic thoughts.

"I don't think this one works," I tell Gillis.

"Try to tell that to Mylita," he says.

I send to her, but she doesn't react. I can't hear her at all, so I call louder. Since it is telepathy, there isn't any sound, but none-the-less, I scream inside my brain.

She and Lemaeste hug each other and act like they do when Gillis shields their telepathy. I try to get through.

"I did it!" Gillis jumps up. "Kaylee, it works." Then points to the monitor.

Kipper shakes his head and then bangs it with the palm of his hand.

I can't resist. I gather all the anger I can find. I'm don't have anything to be angry about at the moment, so it's pretty anemic. I send, "You idiot ass. What makes you think you can kidnap people? What makes you think you know more than anyone else." Remembering what he did to me, I build up the anger and let my frustrations out, emulating Tenpel's outbursts. It feels great.

It works. Kipper pounds on the locked door to his quarters. Too bad there isn't any sound. I swear he's yelling profanities. Not that I can understand his language. So I give him a few more choice thoughts.

I get an idea. I wish Mylita were in on this, she is much better than me, but I give it a go. I send sleeping hums. Then it hits me. Mylita and Lemaeste are wearing telepathy dampening devices.

I pull Mylita's off and send, "Help me send sleep." And point to Kipper.

She does one of her funny stretch her mouth all the way across her face grins and sends sleeping hums. I force my eyes open and send them back. Kipper lays down on his bed. I manage to sit on the floor, just before my world turns dark and warm.

"Why are you - -?" Gillis asks.

"I send sleep," is I all I get out.

###

I wake with Kaylee and Jilliy looking over me. Mylita and Lemaeste are already awake. Jilliy keeps pointing to the monitor and laughing. "He is still asleep."

Yeah, but I'm not, and I really want to be. If I could market that hum, I'd make a fortune back on Earth.

Mylita sends, "Wake up. Tell me."

After I get my thoughts together, I realize something profoundly funny. "Hey, Gillis, did you feel sleepy?"

He shakes his head. "Apparently, it doesn't work on Hocalie."

"Good. If the whole ship goes to sleep we might crash into a sun or something."

Gillis laughs. "There are safeties to prevent that."

I thought he wanted to let the Langons feel the animal's fear on Slazile, so I pick up the headset. "Do you expect animals to wear one of these?"

Gillis doesn't blink an eye. Instead, he practically jumps up and down. "I did it. I sent your telegraphic thoughts into Kipper's head. Through the air. Through the wall. It should work with any Langon. I just have to make the receiver more sensitive so it doesn't have to be worn."

I put the headset back on and try to send evil nightmare thoughts into Kipper's head while Kaylee pulls a comm from her pocket. "Captain, take us back to Slazile."

Journal Entry 44

Here I am again in my room with Mylita and Lemaeste drawing pictures. Lots of exciting things happen when we stop at a planet, but getting from one place to another can take days or even weeks, and nothing happens. You can't even look at the scenery. You can't stop and get a meal or visit the local tourist trap. You can watch the monitor and see the computer-generated view of all the stars the ship passes. Even the food gets repetitive. I really want a hamburger.

The ship shimmies and the rumbling stops. Everything is silent for a moment then the quiet buzzing of the maneuvering engines starts. We must have arrived. I run down the hall to the nearest monitor. Sure enough, we're entering the Slazile system.

The comm in my room buzzes, so I run back. It's Kaylee, "Robin, can you come to the lab? Gillis and I would like to talk to you."

That probably means they have another spaghetti strainer to stick on my head. "Do you want me to bring Mylita?"

"No. Not this time."

I tell Mylita where I'm going. Otherwise, she'll follow me. Her thoughts are always in my head. I'm used to it, but I relish the moments when I am free of them. I like her. Still, I have a great longing for privacy.

In the lab, Gillis shows me five mottled green boxes the size of an under the counter fridge. Each has a short, flexible antenna sticking from one corner and carrying handles on two sides.

Gillis points to the monitor showing Kipper pacing his room. By now Kipper is so pissed, he lashes out at everyone, even the people who bring him food. I can't blame him. He's been in that room for well over a month as Hocalie count time, eight day weeks, six week months.

Gillis turns a knob on the monitor, and the sound of Kipper's footsteps bounce off the walls. He adjusts the volume to a reasonable level and then fiddles with a remote.

Anger and fear hit me. I send it back to him.

Kipper stops and scowls right the camera. "I know you can see me." He gets something off a plate of food and smears it on the lens. "Get out of my head."

Mylita sends love and reassurances. I tell her to block and shield Lemaeste.

Gillis switches to a different view.

Kipper continues. "Alright, I believe you. This is telepathy. I never said it was impossible. Kidnapping is illegal."

His words bounce in my head.

"You did worse to me," I send.

"Shut up," he yells. I hear him with my ears, but not my mind. His emotions are strong, but his words don't send. His anger hurts, so I put up a block just long enough to tell Gillis to turn the damn thing off.

Gillis fiddles with the remote.

My muscles relax. Mylita sends thank you. Kipper rubs his bare patch and slumps his shoulders.

"I take it you could hear Kipper's thoughts?" Kaylee asks.

"I don't think Kipper knows how to send words, but his emotions come through hard and clear. And he hears me just fine."

Gillis leaps in the air and then hugs Kaylee. "It works!"

Kaylee wraps her arms around him and they do a little dance. Then jabber in technobabble for a few minutes.

"How far will it pick up thoughts?" I ask.

Gillis shrugs. "It's on the lowest setting."

"So, not what?" I ask.

"We make more." Gillis grins. "And scatter them around the Langon settlement. So they can communicate with the Valeste."

"With the way Kipper's emotions hit me, rational communication may not be possible."

"We'll never know until we try," Kaylee says.

Journal Entry 45

Now that Gillis has telepathy amplifiers, he plans to position them in the woods outside the Langon settlement. He's not sure how far they'll transmit, but he's pretty sure they will transmit partway into the settlement.

"They'll also zap every telepathic animal for miles around," I say. "When things get rough, Mylita often sends the little hums filled with love. What if the wildlife does the same?"

Gillis scratches the long fur on top of his head. "That might make the Langons easier to deal with."

"Or it might chase all the wildlife out of the area making it easier for the Langons to expand their settlement."

"We will never know until we try," Gillis says.

Kaylee walks in. "You two ready to go?"

"Go where?" I ask.

"Slazile," she says. "The shuttle is waiting."

Three Hocalie drag a cart into the room and load up the transmitters.

"I can't go there." Mylita sends fear into my head from somewhere on the ship. I wish I could have a private conversation, but she is correct. "It almost killed me."

Gillis hands me a headset similar to headphones but without the ear coverings. I put it on. Mylita and Lemaeste disappear. My whole body relaxes. Finally, my thoughts are free. I luxuriate in the sensation for a moment and then take the headset off. Mylita's panic hits me like a firehose. I explain, and she calms down. I tell her that I will contact her as soon as I get back. She sends fear and hope.

We follow the guys with the cart full of amplifiers to the shuttle bay and climb in. Kipper is in one of the seats, fuming mad.

"It's about time," he shouts as he sees us. "I will--"

"Shut up," I say. "Or I'll mess with your mind again." I feel a little guilty about teasing him. He's wedged in a seat way too small, and the seatbelts are stretched to their maximum.

He glares at me. "You will pay for this."

Gillis climbs into the pilot's seat, and the airlock closes.

"Where are you taking me?" Kipper asks, but no one answers.

Gillis flies the shuttle out into space. Slazile floats in the top of the view screen. He keys the comm. "Langon ship, Hocalie shuttle Nelles. We rescued Captain Kipper and wish to return him to the settlement as per his request. Please, provide landing instructions."

"You do not have permission to land. Leave, or be shot down," a deep Langon voice says.

Kipper struggles in his seat, pulling on the seatbelts and shouting in Langon.

"That is Kipper," Gillis says. "Turn on visual, and you can see for yourself."

A Langon face fills the display. Kipper yells, "Arrest this ship. They kidnapped me."

His image is replaced with Slazile. Gillis says, "That confirms we have Kipper. You can give us landing instructions, or we will find somewhere ourselves. Shoot us down, and you'll kill Kipper. Oh, and by the way, my name is Gillis Bennet, and that is my wife, Kaylee. We invented the instantaneous interstellar transmitter. Maybe you heard of us."

Kaylee whispers, "Fame has its advantages. They don't dare kill us."

After a long silence, the Langon voice gives landing details.

Kipper stews in his seat.

It takes a while to land on a planet. First, we orbit around it for about a couple of hours, getting closer by the minute. I secure my headset and brace myself. The entire screen is filled with Slazile. This is where it all went wrong before. I hope this contraption is on and working.

Shields drop over the little portals by each seat. The front view screen goes blank except for numbers and what looks like old-fashioned dials. We whip around and go backward. The engines roar and the shuttle vibrates. We have to lose a lot of speed before we can land. After a few minutes we flip around again, the shields lift, and clouds whiz by. The view screen is white for a moment then a lush green world spreads out before us.

I don't hear any telepathic thoughts, so I lift the headset up. A million emotions hit me at once. The complexity of it soothes me. I wonder why it was so painful last time. Then fear and anguish intrude. I scream from the overwhelming emotional pain.

"Put it back on," Kaylee says.

It takes a moment to make sense. She says it again. Oh, yeah, the headset. I put it back on, and all the thoughts fade into silence. I'm alone again and free. We soar over the settlement still too high to land but descending fast. We fly over groupings of uniform gray buildings with white roofs and cultivated fields.

I pick the headset up for a second, just long enough to confirm that it still hurts.

We turn in a circle losing altitude.

"Could we make one more orbit before we land?" I ask Gillis.

"Yeah, but it will take at least two hours. Why?"

"I got an idea."

"You will land and let me out," Kipper demands.

Gillis grins at Kipper. "Sure, two more hours it is." He straightens our path, and we head for the horizon.

Every few minutes I lift the headset up. Each time the mental anguish diminishes. After about twenty minutes, it disappears altogether. I sense intricacies of emotions, all fleeting. There is fear and hurt, but also love, peace, sleep, hunger, satiation, excitement. I close my eyes and live in the emotions, the joy of life in all its complexity. I could lose myself in these emotions.

I clamp the headset back on so I can concentrate enough to talk. "I know why the Valeste worship this planet, and I think I know what the Langons did to hurt it. Kaylee, please turn on your machine so Kipper can understand, too."

She fiddles with a remote. It feels like someone turned the volume up to full blast. I put the headset back on.

Kipper grabs his head. "Turn that off. Get out of my mind."

So much for sensitivity. "Leave it on," I say. "Let's go back to the settlement."

As we get close, Kipper starts to hold his head and shout profanities. I don't speak Langon, but that's what it sounds like. Then he slumps over moaning.

Kaylee shuts the amplifier off, and Kipper recovers. Back to his nasty self, he insists we land and then self-destruct before the settlers tear us apart bit by bit.

We land in a cleared area with two other shuttles to the north of the main settlement. The seatbelts release and Kipper stumbles for the door. It opens, but before the exit ramp extends, he leaps out and runs across the tarmac. Gillis shrugs and closes the door. "Now, let's get to business."

The comm crackles with Langons telling us to stay and be boarded, but Gillis takes off laughing. He keys the comm. "Sorry, we can't stay. You will find Captain Kipper running across the landing field."

We fly around the town just above the trees. My seatbelt releases and Kaylee asks me to help her. She opens a door in the back of the ship. Air swirls in, and the engine roar makes talking difficult. My headset nearly gets blown off.

We push the amplifiers to the back, and one by one, push them outside when Gillis tells us. Once they are all deployed, Kaylee closes the door, and we return to our seats.

"You ready?" Gillis asks.

Kaylee nods and pushes buttons on the remote. For a moment nothing happens.

"Is it working," Kaylee asks. "They might not have survived the fall."

I lift the headset. Youch! I cram it back on. "It hurts. worse than anything I've ever felt."

Below penned animals run in circles trampling each other and breaking the fences. We're too high to see small animals but the bigger ones in the woods surrounding the forest, run, some in circles, some in straight lines.

A Langon voice comes over the comm. "What did you do, Hocalie shuttle. Stop it."

"Do those things have a volume control?" I ask.
Journal Entry 46

We dip through the clouds and buzz the Langon settlement on Slazile. Langons living in the more isolated houses surrounded by farmland run out to their animals, but they stop. A few hold their heads. One man takes a length of wood and beats on a fence until it falls apart.

In the central part of the town, people fight with each other or smash windows. Several Langons lay on the ground writhing as if in pain. A couple are way too still.

"Stop," Kaylee shouts in her language. I've picked up a few Cadorie words.

"They're killing each other," I add. Holding the headset to my head. This isn't something I want to experience.

Gillis fiddles with a controller, and the Langons settle down some. A few wander around as if in a haze.

I lift the headset off for a second. Fear, anger, confusion, and hate all hit me as if I were a fastball hitting a bat, so I clamp it back on my head.

Gillis grins and holds up the controller. "Time for phase two."

"Phase two?" I ask. "Haven't the animals suffered enough?" Funny how I care more for the animals than the Langons. Jilliy has assured me several times that not all Langons are nasty, but everyone I have met is.

###

We circle around the first amplifier we dropped and find a place to land. Then we all hike to it. A camouflage painted box about two feet square sits with one corner embedded in the soft dirt. We roll it under some nearby bushes and make sure it right side up.

Gillis pushes buttons on the remote, and we all head back to the ship. Partway there, Kaylee heads back toward the box. Gillis watches the remote, then shouts for Kaylee to come back. "The proximity sensors work even through the branches. The closer you get, the higher the volume. Nothing can get close without getting zapped with telepathy."

"Except you," I say.

He runs his fingers through the long fur on top of his head. "I don't know why we can't hear telepathy. I really want to know what other people are thinking."

I shake my head, holding the headset, so it doesn't loosen. "No, you really don't." I get a great urge to go home to Earth where I can live in peace and ignorance.

We go back to the shuttle, find the next amplifier, and do it again. Once all five are set up, we circle above the town. Langons seem to be back to normal, rounding up their animals and cleaning up the messes.

Gillis radios the surface and gets the Langon version of an air traffic controller. "Hocalie shuttle, you are trespassing. Leave orbit, and leave this system."

Gillis scratches his nose before answering. "You can talk to us or . . ." He keys the controller counts to ten slowly as if he were performing so kind of dramatic rendition of counting. He keys the controller again. "Or I will do that again." He waits with his lips pursed and his eyes open wide.

Kaylee giggles and punches him gently on his shoulder.

"By all the demons in Saint Mades Hell, I will blast you from the sky if you do that again," Kipper's shouts boom out of the comm.

Gillis draws out his words. "I doubt you can do anything with my transmitters at that intensity."

"I see you're alive and well," I say. I really don't like this guy. "We unleashed those telepathy transmitters on your colony. Now, everyone gets to hear what everyone else feels" Before he can react, I add. "I have a shield against telepathy, so nothing you can think will touch me."

The comm squawks. "Attention all hands. We are under attack."

Gillis zooms up and out of the atmosphere heading for the mothership. I had no idea the shuttle could go that fast. Still, it will take us at least two hours to get to the ship. I bounce on the edge of my seat. On the viewscreen, the Langons fire laser beams at the Hocalie mothership. They just nick bits of infrastructure. "Get out of here," Gillis screams into the comm. "Save the ship."

I tense up. I don't think the Langons really want to destroy the ship, but one miscalculation or one pissed off pilot will kill everyone. The ship gathers speed, zooming past the Langon fighters and out into space. It flashes for a moment as it engages the interstellar drives.

Great! Now the Langon fighters hone in on us, an unarmed shuttle with two Hocalie and one human. Yikes! Mylita and Lemaeste are alone on the mothership. Without me, she has to rely on talking to Jilliy via sign language. I take the headset off to see if I can hear her. Instead, I get the Valeste fighter pilots.

"Bring back Mylita," Tenpel blasts into my head.

Without Mylita, I'm not sure I can answer, but I try. "Mylita and Lemaeste are safe. No one will hurt them."

He gives the telepathic equivalent of a growl.

Kipper's voice comes over the comm. "Shut off your machines, or we will destroy them."

Gillis flips on the screen, and Kipper's long copper face fills the screen. At least, I can't smell him. "You are welcome to try," Gillis says.

I just have to add my two cents. "All you have to do is go down to the surface and turn them off. Good luck getting close enough without suffering a brain hemorrhage."

He sneers then laughs. "All I have to do is bomb them."
Journal Entry 47

"Good luck with that," I say. "Bet your pilots refuse to fly anywhere near the surface."

Kipper shakes his head. "I can bomb the amplifiers from here."

"Yeah," Gillis says. "With what?"

Kaylee grins. "We scanned your ship. You don't have a laser cannon."

Kipper scowls. "Why am I even talking to you. Go away, or I will blast you out of space, I don't care who you are. I can blame it on mechanical failure. No one will know."

Kaylee adds her bit. "It is funny how big space is. From here this system's sun looks tiny, but it is a huge sun. And, if you drop into normal space at precisely the correct coordinates, you can hide behind a system's sun."

Kipper doesn't look impressed.

A box appears in the lower left corner of the front screen. First, it fills with Cadorie text then a tracery of lines. Gillis and Kaylee look at each other. Now, I know they have some secret plan.

"Check your scanners, Kipper," Gillis says.

"Friends of yours," Kipper says. "Looks like a Jerel ship." He snorts.

Even I can make sense of the diagram. "Look again, you arrogant fool. There are four ships." Maybe I should show more respect, but he kidnapped me.

"Six actually," Kaylee says. "Jerel, Orisit, Doeoxiod, dekMakkel, Kleeplo, and Zoomeste. They all want to try out our machine -- experience telepathy?

I can't get the grin off my face. That is a great way to get support. Except for Jerel and Orisit, I don't know those other races, but I bet at least a few of those ships have weapons. Calvary to the rescue -- I hope.

Tenpel shouts inside my head, "Why are these ships here?"

Before I answer, I give him a piece of my mind. "I'm not deaf. Stop shouting at me. It hurts. If you want my cooperation, you'll respect my feelings?" All this space travel and nasty aliens seems to have given me a dose of chutzpah.

The pilots in the fighters surrounding our ship telepathically snicker and chatter amongst themselves, just out of understanding range. Tenpel comes back at a more reasonable volume. "Who are those ships, please."

Wow, he sounds contrite. I take a moment to think I might have some power or authority, then realize I don't, so I get back to business. "We invited several races to help."

That should work since he can't communicate with any of them.

On the front screen, Kipper's image disappears, replaced by Slazile and stars. Gillis and Kaylee take calls from the various ships heading our way. The Langon ship stays put, surrounded by two dozen fighters.

I hold my head in my hands. Why didn't I think about this sooner? Why didn't these super advanced people with all this technology at their disposal think of it? "Gillis, how hard would it be to translate Valeste written language into Standard written language?"

"Not hard, I suspect. But I'm not a linguist."

I laugh at that. He speaks seven or eight languages if I remember correctly. "Tenpel keeps asking me to tell him what is happening. If your conversations were sent as text, I wouldn't need to translate." And he wouldn't need to shout into my head so hard. "And you could talk to him the same way."

Gillis makes a deep sigh. "I don't type very fast."

Argh. He builds a machine to broadcast telepathic thought, and he thinks he has to type! "Make your computer print what you say. Geez, even my phone can do that."

"Voice to text is simple, but we don't know how to send it in a format the Valeste can receive," Kaylee says.

Gillis runs his fingers through the long fur on top of his head. "Ask Tenpel if he can receive image transmissions from other ships."

I ask, but he tells me to show him what I want him to see. While my mind is occupied trying to make Tenpel understand, the other ships arrive and wait in space.

"Where's your mothership?" I ask Tenpel. He tells me his mother is at home. "Where is the big ship?"

"We hide."

Several more fighters join those surrounding the Langon ship while all the new ships deploy shuttles. I tighten my seatbelt. Not that it would do any good. If they poke a hole in our shuttle, I'm dead no matter how well strapped in.

I keep telling Tenpel the new ships are friendly, but his fear makes thinking hard. I want to run, hide, scream.

Gillis makes an announcement to all ships. "Before any shuttle enters the planet's atmosphere, be sure you have a Hocalie pilot. At the first sign of distress, return to open space. Good luck."

Yeah, I see the Hocalie ship coming back into view.

"Not a one of those ships is permitted to land," Kipper says.

Gillis doesn't answer. He flies toward the Hocalie ship and cruises through the middle of the rotating cylinder. Before long, we are back in normal gravity. I don't make it halfway to my room before Mylita smothers me in a hug and Lemaeste perches on my shoulders, licking my ear. The feelings of welcome and love overpower me. Even her mudflat smell doesn't bother me.

Kaylee touches my shoulder. "Get settled. Langon reinforcements will be here shortly. It's the only reason Kipper hasn't done anything, yet."

Oh good, just what we need, more Langons.
Journal Entry 48

The Langon ships arrive, not what I expected, not what anyone expected. One is a military vessel the other a cruise ship. Apparently, the cruise ship was headed for Rosat and got diverted here to Slazile when the settlers complained.

Kipper sent fighters down to destroy the amplifiers, but two flew back right after crossing the telepathy barrier. Kipper ordered the third to bomb the amplifiers, but it crashed. So those poor settlers have been living with Gillis' amplifiers for two days now.

Gillis and Kaylee are really good at covert surveillance. We get to listen in on all the ship-to-ship transmissions. The military captain just told all the ships that they had no right to interfere with the Langon colony. They say they just got here.

So, after a lot of back and forth, the captain believes the new ships. But Kipper tells us to leave, or the military ship will destroy us. Then the military captain gives Kipper a piece of his mind. Kaylee translated the Langon. It went something like this. "You dumb ass idiot. The Hocalie ship is unarmed. Blast them from space if you want, but don't call the military to do it for you."

"You don't understand, I--"

"I understand that you conned these settlers into believing this is a government-sponsored settlement. I understand that you think you can get rich by selling what those settlers produce." The military captain raises his voice. "So, Kipper, what do they produce?"

Kipper stays silent, so the military guy starts in again. "Is it drugs, or booze, or what? We can manufacture most any fancy rock currently in style, so it isn't gems. You don't have a big enough ship to haul raw minerals. Is there some fancy food that only grows here? They don't have enough technology to build anything sophisticated." He pauses for a moment. I envision him tapping his fingers on a table. "Why do you care about these settlers?"

I've been asking that question myself for a while.

Kipper sounds contrite. "I just want to keep them safe."

That might not have been the best thing to say because the military guy shouts. "From the Hocalie, from unarmed singers and dancers. You were worried they might put on a musical and sing off key?"

I like this military guy. I wish I could see Kipper, but we only have audio.

"They are in league with the marauders. We have to protect--"

The military guy interrupts again. "You mean the Valeste, the ones who have instantaneous interstellar ships, a technology we could use? The race that claims this planet?"

I can hear Kipper sigh. "They are broadcasting annoying noise at the settlers. That is a kind of attack. I--"

He doesn't get to finish. A white-hot flash streaks from the military ship toward the planet, then four more in rapid succession.

"So much for the amplifiers," Gillis says. He doesn't seem to be upset.

Then the military guy puts out a general broadcast. "All parties will send representatives to this ship in two hours to settle this dispute."

Gillis keys something and Kaylee talks in the sweetest, little girl voice I have ever heard her use. "We would like to invite everyone here for a feast and a performance. We have room for four people from each ship plus four settlers, but we only have three free shuttle bays. Please, have all Langons travel in one shuttle, and all of our friends in a second shuttle. The Valeste can use the remaining bay."

A bunch of messages come in from various voices. Tenpel sends that he will go to his ship and return with representatives.

The Valeste mothership flashes into view.

Apparently, Gillis is still monitoring Langon ship to ship, because the military guy says something that sounds like, "What the hell is that?" He and Kipper yammer in Langon, but no one translates for me.

I hear dozens or hundreds of Valeste voices from the ship. Mylita puts her arm around me, and they go away. That's a lot more comfortable, but I'm tied to Mylita.

Gillis runs out of the room, and Kaylee talks into the comm in her language.

Jilliy takes my hand. "Why not go to your quarters. It will be several hours before anything happens."

I agree. I just wish I didn't have to spend them attached to Mylita. How long before you ship disappears?" I ask.

She doesn't know.

We get to my quarters and sit on the bed. After a quick knock, Gillis comes in and puts a headset on my head. Mylita lets go. I can't hear any telepathy. Peace.

"Jilliy and Kaylee are arranging the performance and dinner," he says. "You three can rest if you want." He grins. "Unless you want to sing or something."

Sing! Me? In front of an audience! I shake my head.

He shrugs and leaves.

###

Now that my world is quiet, I ask Mylita to leave so I can take a nap. I don't know how much time passed, but Mylita shakes my shoulder and Lemaeste jumps on me and licks my face. "Alright, I'm awake," I say and send.

Mylita takes the headset off me and voices come back along with feelings of fear and confusion.

"Big ship gone. Tenpel and two other Valeste are here," she sends. "The performance is about to start. We go." She heads for the door with Lemaeste on her shoulder.

Journal Entry 49

There're only about thirty people in the auditorium, but since it is a practice auditorium, it is packed. The Valeste's random thoughts and a myriad of smells assault me. The lights go down, and a spotlight makes a round circle in the middle of the curtain. Jilliy steps out. "Thank you all for coming tonight. We hope you enjoy the show."

A single drum beats a slow rhythm. The lights go off, the curtains part, and the rhythm picks up. Slowly light returns, first red, then orange, yellow, green, blue and finally bright white. A troop of Morris dancers, or the Hocalie equivalent, marches on stage.

They prance and wave colored hankies around as the stage fills with a dozen more performers. Other instruments join the music. Dancers in flowing robes weave in and out of the Morris dancers. Then the singing starts.

It only lasts about half an hours, but wow what a show. The lights go down, and the spotlight returns. This time Gillis steps out with one of his amplifier boxes. Jilliy runs over and hands me a headset. All of the Valeste are given headsets.

Mylita sends. Put hat on to stop hurt." And they do. Even Tenpel cooperates without complaining.

As soon as all us telepaths are protected Gillis starts. "I hope you enjoyed the opening act."

He gets shouts of approval and applause.

"This next bit is rather different. Hold your ears." He turns on the amplifier and watches the audience. The Langons jump up, holding their heads and telling Gillis to turn it off. The Jerels, dekMakkel, and Orisits also stand, looking puzzled. They all talk at once.

Gillis signals to the side, and someone hands him a microphone. "Please, sit and be patient," he shouts over the din. "You are hearing are the thoughts and feeling the emotions of others in this room. I'll turn the volume down." He fiddles with the amplifier, and the audience settles down.

"Both the Langons and the Valeste claim Slazile. The Valeste were there first. The Langons don't believe the Valeste own the planet because they don't have permanent settlements on the surface. The Valeste call Slazile the home of life forever. As you are aware, the Valeste are telepathic. So are many of the animals on Slazile." He motions to Mylita.

She brings Lemaeste on stage wearing her little headset.

"This is Mylita, one of the Valeste and Lemaeste, one of the animals from Slazile. If I can get the volumes set right, those of you who can hear the telepathy should be able to communicate with both Mylita and Lemaeste."

Mylita looks frightened. Lemaeste is downright terrified. She clings to Mylita and buries her head.

"Can you hear the telepathy?" someone in the audience asks.

He shakes his head. "That is why I have to rely on you to tell me when the volume is correct. Too loud and it hurts those with natural telepathy. Too soft and the rest of you can't hear anything."

He fiddles with the knobs and asks me to take my helmet off.

I lift it an inch or two. After a couple of tries, the telepathy is loud but not painful, so I signal Mylita to take her helmet off.

She does, and then she takes the helmet off Lemaeste. The little creature a nearly jumps for joy. She pats Mylita's head and runs around on her shoulders before settling in her arms.

The rest of the Valeste take their headsets off. Mylita and I explain the amplifiers telepathically.

Gillis calls me up. "This is Robin Mayfield, the human I told you all about. Since she knows Standard and is telepathic, she will translate for those of you who cannot hear the telepathy."

I scratch head. I wish he had warned me. But now that I have the stage, my new found chutzpa kick in. "So, Captain Kipper, is there anything you want to ask the Valeste?"

He stands. "I want to talk to that creature. Prove to me it is sentient."

I say and send, "Lemaeste, are you hungry?"

"What kind of question is that?" Kipper shouts.

"A simple one." What does he expect from a young animal, imaginary number theory? "Lemaeste want to eat?" I ask.

"Me hungry. Want jammas."

I translate explaining that I don't know what jammas means. Mylita says it is a fruit that grows on Slazile.

"Ask it to add seventeen and twelve," Kipper shouts.

"Lemaeste doesn't know how to add," Mylita says.

"Then it is not sentient," Kipper says as if that settles the argument.

One of the Orisits stands. "If I can hear them, how do I make them hear me?"

"Receiving is easier than sending," I say. "Only Mylita understands spoken language. To reach the rest of the Valeste, you must send your thoughts as language telepathically. That takes practice." I take a breath. "And you need to do it in Valeste."

The Langon general stands. "The issue here is whether or not that creature is sentient. If it is, both Langons and Valeste invaded a world illegally, if it isn't the dispute over ownership is just between Langons and Valeste."

Anger and conflicting emotions fly around the room. So does jumbled conversations. Lemaeste sends fear and clings to Mylita. I know she is doing her best to shield Lemaeste, but it doesn't appear to be working.

I want to put a stop to this. I take the microphone and shout, "You asked Lemaeste a question, and she answered. How much more evidence do you want? So, she can't do math. She grieves for her mother that you killed. She is homesick and lonely." I remember something from Star Trek. "She is self-aware."

As if on cue, Lemaeste points at the Langons and telepathically shouts. "Monsters go away. Monsters hurt televeste, kill mama." She buries her head and sends waves of grief.

I translate for those who can't receive. "Well, there's your answer. She knows her species. She knows who killed her mother. And you all felt it. She grieves."

Mylita holds Lemaeste and runs out of the auditorium. The other two Valeste follow her, but Tenpel hops up on the stage. I put up every mental block I can.

He scowls and lets fly. "We are not defenseless. We have ships surrounding the Langon homeworld. Leave Slazile, or we will flatten your home."
Journal Entry 50

I translate Tenpel's outburst with the same emotional force. I can't help it. He just threatened to destroy the Langon's homeworld. I hate them, but I don't want their world destroyed, or even attacked. My whole body trembles with his hatred.

For a moment the entire audience sits in silence, then the Langons let fly with threats of their own. They stand and shout at the Valeste. The telepathy amplifier intensifies emotions. My head is about to explode.

Gillis cringes. "I didn't expect that," he says under his breath.

Tenpel stands on stage looking at me. I'm sure he gets the emotions but not the words. "If you hurt the Langon world, they will destroy Slazile," I send. Then I cram the headset back on.

Underneath his white fur, Gillis looks a little pale. He turns the amplifier off. General sighs of relief fill the room.

Kipper shouts at Tenpel. I think they want me to translate, but I've had it. I keep the headset on and my mouth shut.

Kipper struts closer to Tenpel and raises his fist. Several Cadorie sprint between Kipper and Tenpel, little and furry, it takes quite a few to separate the two fools.

Gillis turns the microphone up. "Dinner is served in the dining room, down the hall to the left. We'll continue this after dinner." I take the headset off just long enough to relay the information to Tenpel. He shouts something at me, but I cram the headset back on.

Most of the audience leaves talking amongst themselves. Tenpel and the rest of the Valeste gather and walk out. But the Langon general comes on stage. Gillis' head only comes to his elbow.

"How much do you want for that amplifier?" the general asks.

Gillis' mouth falls open. "Um, it's not for sale."

The general bends his head down closer to Gillis. "Everything has a price. You sold the instantaneous intergalactic transmitter for your world's freedom from Langon entrepreneurs. I will guarantee the Langons leave Slazile in exchange for this technology."

"It's not for sale," Gillis says.

A Jerel and an Orisit join the general, offering to make competitive bids on the technology. Gillis says he will discuss it later. He stands in front of the amplifier as if protecting it. I want to turn it on to see if I can pick up any thoughts, but that would be too obvious.

Before they leave, I get my two cents in. "Why do you want this anyway? Unless you practice, you can't send words."

The general just smiles and ambles out of the auditorium. It makes my stomach churn.

The Orisit speaks next. "I do not know what the Langons heard, but I heard enough of people's thoughts to know that this would help with criminal interrogations."

"Or crowd control," the Jerel added.

I take the headset off and try my best to read their minds, but I only hear the Valeste. I wonder if there is some way to listen to them without them hearing me. There is something sinister about all three of them.

Gillis turns white. "It's not for sale. Now go eat dinner. I proved the animals on Slazile are telepathic and sentient."

I wait until they leave. "They want to use this as a weapon."

"Of course they do," Gillis says. "That's what I just did. Just think of the possibilities. You can project fear into your opponents; blast anything into people's minds, religious dogma, political falsehoods, or mentally beat people into submission. I just let them hear and feel each other."

The auditorium clears, and someone shuts the doors. Two Hocalie carry the amplifier out the back and to the lab, while Gillis and I follow. The amplifier could be used to communicate with the Valeste, help doctors better understand mentally ill patients, or discover who committed a crime, but that isn't what those buyers had in mind.

Gillis locks the lab door, and two Hocalie stand guard. One is a singer, and the other plays the qulute. Neither would fair well in a fight.

I don't want to eat dinner with all those people, so I go to Mylita's room. Tenpel and the other two Valeste are there. Before I even get settled, Jilliy opens the door. "Please, come to the dining room. This is your opportunity to force the Langons to leave."

The dining room has been set up like a conference room. Tables face a stage, well really just another long table. Jilliy seats us at that table. Everyone else serves themselves, but Jilliy brings food to us.

Once everyone is seated and eating, Kaylee starts. "Captain Kipper, Please, tell us why you brought settlers to Slazile."

The general stands. "I want an answer to that question. A great many settlers want to go home. They are being shuttled to the cruise ship in orbit."

Kipper takes a long moment to answer. "I didn't do anything wrong. I want to build a," he hesitates, "a pleasure retreat on this world. The climate is good."

The general looks down his nose at Kipper. "So these are prostitutes, not settlers?"

Mylita sends confusion, so I fill in the Valeste. Apparently, prostitution isn't part of their culture, so it takes a bit of explaining.

"It is not illegal," Kipper says.

The general snorts. "You should have found an unoccupied world."

"Everything I have is tied up in this investment," Kipper says. "Everything my family owns is mortgaged, and my investors are . . . " His voice trails off.

"That is not my problem. I am not convinced that this world belongs to the Valeste, but I am certain it does not belong to the Langons. The rest of the settlers will be shuttled to the cruise ship. If they are unable to pay passage, you will pay it for them," the general sits.

I translate for the Valeste. I can't believe it's over. Everyone hugs and smiles. Even the new people seem happy.

Kipper is mad as hell. He shouts at the general and then marched out of the room. Mylita won't let go of me. Even Tenpel smiles. Lemaeste hops on the table and eats from my plate.

I shoo her away and finish dinner. By the time dessert is served, my mind is focused on going home. I miss my parents and my friends. I miss coffee, hamburgers, burritos, pizza; I miss Earth. I even miss talking in English.

Gillis' comm beeps. He listens for a moment, then he and Kaylee dart out of the dining hall.

Jilliy stares at me, her eyes so big they might pop out. "Someone's been killed."
Journal Entry 51

Journal Entry 51

My heart pounds. I want to know who got killed. Were they Cadorie, Valeste, Langon? Do I know them? Mylita sends panic, which doesn't help.

I run with Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy to the lab. Both of the Cadorie left to guard the lab lie on the floor. Several Cadorie kneel by the qulute player. They lift him onto a stretcher and carry him off. The singer's wife, I think her name is Leannel, sits on the floor holding his limp body and rocking back and forth. I can't take my eyes away from her. People are talking. I know that, but I can't hear.

I must have sent the images telepathically because Mylita sends overwhelming grief and Tenpel blasts hatred into my mind, blaming the Langons. He may be correct, but I don't know who did it.

Jilliy pulls my arm, and we all head for the elevator. They keep talking in Cadorie as we ascend to the center of the ship. I should have put more effort into learning that language. Emotions blast into my head. I'm crying and trembling. I can't think, or see, or hear. "Get out of my head," I scream telepathically.

Jilliy puts her arm around me. "Are you all right?"

All I can do is nod.

The elevator opens to the shuttle bay just in time to see the Langon shuttle lift off the pad.

We bounce toward the airlock in the almost nonexistent gravity here in the center of the ship.

Gillis switches to Standard. "They took the amplifier." He yells, "Stop!" as if the ship could hear him.

Kaylee pats his pockets, reaches in, and pulls out a controller, fiddling with the controls. "I turned the amplifier on. Robin, tell them to come back."

In my head, Mylita and Tenpel screech at the pain. I wench and tell them to shield. As loud as I can, I shout telepathically at the Langons to stop. Once Tenpel understands, he shouts too. If I could plug my ears, I would, but the noise is in my head.

I can feel the Langons destress. They're in a panic to turn off the amplifier. Their anger and frustration slams into my head. My heart pounds, my muscles twitch. I think my head might explode. I jump up and down trying to free my self. "Do something!" I yell. "I can't take this much longer. I'm about to pass out."

Gillis grabs the controller from Kaylee. "There is a self-destruct." His hands tremble.

I blast that into the Langon's heads. "Stop or die." Then to Gillis, "Don't kill them."

"They must have damaged the antenna. I turned off the amplifier, but the controller says it's still on. If they open the box without--They could destroy this ship." He slumps his shoulders. "I wanted to be able to destroy the amplifiers because I didn't think we would have a chance to go back and collect them."

"They're coming in loud and clear." The monitor shows the shuttle drifting toward the opening into space. "Return or get blown up," I send. "Stop messing with the amplifier, or you will all die."

They scream at me to shut up.

The Langon's thoughts are jumbled. I see flashes of the box and hands with tools prying at the cover. "They're taking the cover off."

Kaylee talks into the comm while Jilliy bounces up and down wringing her hands.

"Is there really a self-destruct? Can they set it off accidentally? They're still in the middle of the ship. Will we blow up, too?" I can't stop gulping air.

Gillis gives orders in Cadorie.

The viewscreen shows the Langon shuttle getting closer to the exit, but still inside the ship.

I concentrate. Tenpel helps bring the Langon's thoughts into images. "They're taking a panel off the box," I say.

"Tell them to stop," Kaylee orders.

I send, "Stop." Tenpel and Mylita join in.

After a flash of white, the world goes black. Panic, fear, confusion, and surprise blast into my head, then silence. Like the end of the universe, a darkness beyond the stars. I fall into the void.

"Robin," Mylita's quiet voice calls me back. "You can't go there."

"Stay here," Tenpel sends gently.

This world comes back into view. On the screen, the shuttle gives a little shudder. The door flies off, and smoke puffs out.

From my point of view the Langon shuttle floats out into space, but I think the Hocalie ship moved away from it. Gillis and Kaylee hold each other and stare at the monitor. The shuttle just sits in space as a body floats out.

I send the images to Mylita and Tenpel. They send back sadness and relief. I hold back tears. No one should have died, not an innocent Cadorie singer, not even nasty Langons. Their last moments still hurt.

Gillis backs up to a wall and slides to the floor with his head between his knees. Kaylee bends down to comfort him.

Jilliy takes my hand. "Let's leave them alone."



Epilogue

Kipper was killed along with his goons. The Langon military ordered all of the settlers to go home. He ordered the Valeste to leave also, but they didn't obey.

Without the Langons, life on Slazile gets back to normal. We spend some time down there. Apparently, the Valeste evolved on this world. But they nearly overwhelmed the more primitive races like the televeste, so once they developed the technology, they settled on a different world and left this one to develop on its own. Every Valeste visits Slazile as a rite of passage into adulthood and as a last pilgrimage in their old age.

My world could learn something from the Valeste.

I'm back on the Valeste mothership, in the shuttle bay with Kaylee, Gillis, and Jilliy saying our goodbyes before returning to the Cadorie ship. Gillis and Kaylee had hoped to figure out how the Valeste pop from one place to another, but they refuse to share the technology. I can't blame them. If you could do that, you could send a bomb to another world and destroy it, or something. But I bet Gillis and Kaylee figure it out.

Since Mylita understands speech, they left a language teaching machine. Maybe the Valeste can learn to write in other languages and communicate with other races easier.

Gillis refused to share his telepathy technology. He destroyed all the equipment and said he destroyed all his notes and plans. But now that everyone knows it can be done, someone else will probably figure it out.

It will be strange not having Mylita's thoughts in my head all the time. I'll miss her, but I want to go home. I miss everything about Earth. I miss my friends and especially my parents. Never before have I wanted so much to hug my mom and dad and tell them how much I love them.

But first, I want to go to Hocalie.

The end