5) His Pestilency

A little while later, on the observation deck, they received communication that the Ambassadorial Representative of the Kultaki wanted permission to make an appearance on board the Firefly. Looming before them was a huge silver triangle. It was slightly concave, no outside features at all and at least a hundred times bigger than the Firefly.”It’s a mother ship for smaller craft,” Wave remarked.”Permission granted to come aboard,” Fabby said over the communicator.

A pulsating orb of energy appeared in the transfer station and out stepped two female Kultaki. They were bedecked in luxurious sheer gowns and fine jewelry. They were beautiful. Their soft irridescent blue green scales displayed streaks of changing color, reflecting flashes of emotion and light from the orb which continued to boil with wavering strings of energy. They had expressive red eyes with vertical slits and each held a peculiar musical instrument. They were shapely and moved gracefully.

The one on the left stepped forward and said in a very formal tone, “Hail, pilgrims. I am called Cobishandra … this is Anadia.” The other woman bowed slightly. “Welcome to our humble domain. At this time we’d like to introduce a man who is well known in this sector for his foresight and compassion, a man who, by his sheer strength of will, has brought civilization, order, justice, peace, and prosperity into a region originally populated only with primitive savages barely up from the slime. This man has exercised the wisdom of the ages to tame the wilderness and develop vast resources both material and spiritual. He has proven magnanimous with power and gives everyone willing to walk in his footsteps a slice of the pie.”

Cobishandra took a step back while Anadia stepped forward and continued. “This wonderful man loves all the little children of the universe.”

Wave stifled a laugh and the urge to say “with ketchup or mustard?”

Pheledra squeezed his arm.

Anadia continued but gave Wave a dirty look having picked up his thought. “I speak of a man beyond all question or reproof because his overwhelming success and impeccable record speaks for itself. His wisdom and cleverness in adroitly adjusting the spectrum of reality has brought untold riches for all those willing to enter into the glorious mainstream of unbridled competition and unlimited expansion of upward mobility … freedom. The very elements bow in awe before his presence.”

Cobishandra then stepped forward to join Anadia and both declared in unison, “Dear Pilgrims of the outer lands, we present to you His Excellency, Ambassador Treprestas Blastahdus Shaleedas Felance.” The two hit a high note on their instruments which reverberated with multiple overtones and feedback. Meanwhile the energy orb crackled and boiled and produced a cloud of smoke which quickly evaporated revealing the Ambassador. He was tall and very saurian.

He looks like a blunt-nosed lizard on two legs, Wave thought.

Anadia scowled at him.

The Ambassador was bedecked in a titanium embroidered red silk robe and wore a laced gold headpiece adorned with a winged serpent in front. He held a thick wooden staff capped with a silver cylinder deeply threaded like a screw. He stepped forward, looked directly at Pheledra and said, “You may call me Lance.” The rest of you will refer to me as Your Excellency.”

” “We are honored to meet you, Lance.” She bowed slightly. “My name is Pheledra. These are my companions, Nestingwave, Fabby, Inky, Ginger, and Boots.”

“Hello there,” he replied.

Wave brought forward the pale blue Galvernian crystal on the velvet pillow and said, “Your Excellency, we’d like to present you with this token of friendship to commemorate our historic encounter.”

“Thanks,” said the Ambassador and snapped his fingers. Anadia immediately took the gift and disappeared into the pulsating energy orb along with Cobishandra.

Boots, who was watching from the sidelines with Inky and Ginger, was facinated with the light pulsations from the energy orb. He hopped down, strolled right in front of the Ambassador and began jumping and swatting at the amazing waves.

The Ambassador glared at him and let out a shrill primeval roar that sent all three cats flying down the hole in terror to the control deck below. Everyone was startled and taken aback. Pheledra regathered her energy, slowed her pounding heart and tried to think of something to say, but the Ambassador smiled as if nothing had happened and spoke in a calm friendly tone. “Pheledra, let’s you and I kick off our shoes, sit down and chew the fat awhile. The metal man over there and Mr. Nestingwave may join us later for refreshments … and keep those damned cats out of here! They make me sneeze.”

Wave and Fabby exited gracefully while Pheledra and the Kultaki Ambassador sized each other up. Then, Pheledra motioned for him to sit at the head of the conference table while she sat to the side. The Ambassador made himself comfortable by kicking off his sandals, revealing scaly feet with sharp claws. He fiddled with his staff, tapping it lightly on the floor a few times.

“I assume you are planning to act lawfully concerning the limitations imposed by the Anadine Galactic Council.”

“Of course.”

“You know, Pheledra, it’s actually impossible for any entity to thwart the laws of Creation. The Kultaki are so misunderstood. We are always accused of being ‘outlaws’ … ha … all we’re really trying to do is learn more effective management techniques … and so we experiment.”

“At the expense of other beings?”

“Oh, it may appear that way for the short term, but in the long run you and I are trying to do the same thing.”

“I must disagree, Ambassador Lance. Why do you promote the destructive wars, death machines, slavery and mental chaos on Miraba?”

“Pheledra, Pheledra … the planet is highly overpopulated. It simply cannot sustain 10 billion hungry mouths. Many of Miraba’s own leaders see things our way. Before any progress can be made, pruning must take place. Those who do not contribute anything toward the advancement of civilization are taking up space and clogging the machinery. The useless eaters must be thinned out to make way for the creative contributors to fulfill their destiny. To be a slave is a great blessing for the weak because the sacrifice and contribution they make toward good, better, best becomes a lasting legacy, even though they themselves are not sustainable.”

“Yes, Lance, I’m familiar with your philosophy and I must say it appears to be highly deceptive since you yourselves helped the runaway population explosion by pushing your expansionist policies and encouraging big, bigger, biggest in every aspect of Miraban life.”

“As I’ve already said, in order to develop top management techniques we must experiment and find what works. There will always be a few bench embryos, so to speak. It’s a dog eat dog universe, Pheledra, only the strong survive, yet the weak make their contribution too … by becoming food for the strong. We all have a special part in the scheme of things. Through millenia of experience we’ve discovered the one right way to live. The tribal age is long past. The left over bush babies are on their way out by natural selection.”

“Natural selection?”

“We are the masters of nature, Pheledra and we always welcome those who see the light into our ranks.”

“And, if Miraba is destroyed?”

“So what. There are trillions of unclaimed worlds and, as you and your companions already know, we’ll just take what we have learned here and apply it elsewhere, like we always do. Little by little we’re getting the hang of it.”

“Oh yes Lance … I’m sure.” Pheledra felt sick and needed to change the subject fast.

“Oh, Ambassador Lance, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, Pheledra, I’m at your service.”

“I was under the impression that there was to be an exchange of gifts.”

The Ambassador chuckled. “Why, Pheledra, didn’t you realize? You’ve already received your gift.”

“What!? You mean … that roach?”

“Oh, just a little joke! Everyone needs a problem from time to time to keep ones muscles and wits in shape. You might call it a … test … to keep you on your toes, a priceless gift with lasting impact. I knew a smart girl like you couldn’t be bugged that easily.”

He broke up laughing. Pheledra didn’t think it was funny. It was all she could do to keep from slapping him in the face. Her obvious anger made him laugh all the more.

“You’re so much like us, Pheledra!” He wheezed and sneezed and coughed, laughing harder and harder to the point of almost rolling out of his chair.

“Cobishandra, bring me a tissue!” he cried between fits of hilarity.

“Darling, remember your heart condition,” said Cobishandra as she sexily emerged from the energy orb. She kissed him on the cheek, handed him a handful of tissues, then disappeared back into the orb.

“Damn cats!” he said under his breath.

The Ambassador wiped his face, sneezed again and regained his composure, still having little laughing fits whenever he thought about it.

Pheledra did her best to center and remain cheerful. “Ambassador Lance, are you ready for some refreshments?”

“Oh yes, tea and cakes will be fine” he said, lightly tapping his staff on the floor.

Nestingwave rejoined them on the observation deck and Fabby brought up the refreshments and sat down.

“Would Cobishandra and Anadia care to join us?” Pheledra asked.

“Of course not,” snapped the Ambassador, “it’s not their place.”

Pheledra smiled and nodded.

For what seemed like an intolerable length of time, Pheledra, Wave and Fabby made small talk with the Ambassador hoping he would get bored and leave but the Ambassador dominated the conversation with tale after tale of his cleverness and skill.

The three cats were huddled together below in an inconspicuous corner of the control room. Inky and Ginger were still rather upset and paced around. Boots was just plain bored. When no one was looking, he quietly ambled up to the observation deck and found a perch out of sight above the proceedings. The energy orb still crackled on the transfer pad. He wanted to catch one of those fascinating strings of light.

Finally, the Ambassador ran out of stories about his great accomplishments and began preparations to leave. As he slipped on his sandals he looked up with intense red eyes and said, “You know, there may be something unexpected on the horizon that you haven’t even thought of. All of this, from both your perspective and mine, may make little difference in the long run.”

“What do you mean, Your Excellency?” Fabby asked.

“Oh … only that … Mother Nature herself sometimes has the final laugh.”

Pheledra knew he was taunting them and wouldn’t come clean, so she didn’t question him further.

They got up and formally bid the Ambassador farewell. He snapped his fingers and the two females reappeared and escorted him over to the energy orb while playing recessional music on their instruments. Before departing all three turned, smiled and nodded. The Ambassador and his entourage took one step backwards into the energy orb.

At the same time, Boots, who had been secretly planning his attack, made a mad dash from the rear and leaped toward the elusive strings of light, disappearing through the pulsating energy field. Pheledra just caught a glimpse of his tail flying in.

She gasped as the orb vanished.

“Pheledra, Pheledra, what’s wrong?” asked Wave.

“What’s the matter?” Fabby’s scanners instantly fixed on the Kultaki ship in defensive reconnaissance mode.

Pheledra put both hands over her eyes and sighed. “Boots was trying to play with the lights from the orb and jumped into it.”

“Oh no,” said Wave. “Poor Boots. We’ve got to do something quick.”

Pheledra took a deep breath. “Fabby, raise the Ambassador and tell him what’s happened, if he doesn’t already know, and use lots of diplomacy. Tell him I wish to confer with him.”

“As good as done. I’ll whistle him up a snaky tune” said Fabby who was already sliding down the ladder to the control deck.

“Wave, I want to play back our conversation with the Ambassador. There’s something … a hint or clue … that we need to know.”

“Righto,” Wave replied as they slid down to the control deck to join Fabby.

Fabby tried and tried to get the Ambassador back on the monitor but only got a message: Ambassador Felance is in a meeting and unavailable.

They became more and more uneasy as they waited impatiently. Fabby whistled a soothing melody. Finally, the channel cleared and the Ambassador appeared on the screen. He was seated at the dining table. Cobishandra was draped across him offering sips of red wine from a glass chalice. He acted a little put out at being bothered but managed a political smile which was overtaken by a sneeze. Cobishandra immediately produced a tissue and held it for the Ambassador to blow his nose.

He resumed the political smile and said, “My, Fabby, that’s a lovely tune you’re whistling. What can I do for you?”

Fabby quickly finished the tune in a relaxed manner and said, “Your Excellency, I’m very sorry to bother you but it seems one of our companions, a cat named Boots, jumped into your energy orb and is now on board your ship. We would appreciate it if you would just beam him back to us so we can be on our way.”

“Why, Fabby, I’d be glad to do that, but I haven’t seen your companion and know absolutely nothing about him. He is not here. I’m sure you’ll find him hiding somewhere on your own ship. Get a scan on him. He couldn’t have gone far.”

Anadia entered with a covered tray and placed it in front of the Ambassador, removing the lid. The Ambassador took a deep whiff of the steaming aroma and dug in. “Ahhh, how I love baked mammal with carrots, onions, and yams.”

Pheledra was horrified at what was on the Ambassadors plate. Whatever it was, it had been beheaded, skinned, cooked, and four little legs stuck straight up in the air.

The Ambassador seeing her shock said, “Oh Pheledra, surely you don’t think … uh …” He turned to Anadia. “Just to be absolutely sure we didn’t miss anything, scan the ship to be ab-so-lute-ly sure the cat’s not on board.”

“Yes sir,” Anadia answered and moved out of view.

“There, you see Pheledra, I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

“Lance, I’m sorry we bothered you” she said. “Perhaps we made a mistake. We’ll scan our own ship more carefully.”

At that moment Anadia came back and shrugged her shoulders.

“Sorry Pheledra. No kitty,” said the Ambassador. “I’ve seen nothing of your companion and I’m very thankful for that. Those beasts make me sneeze and cough until my eyes swell shut.”

“Thanks” said Pheledra and Fabby almost at the same time. Fabby closed the communication.

“Boots is definitely not on board the Firefly,” said Fabby.

Nestingwave, who had been looking over Pheledra’s shoulder, could no longer restrain his outrage.

“I’ll kill that murdering son-of-a-bitch! That bloodthirsty bastard! Boots, my sweet friend, you will be avenged! This heinous criminal will be brought to justice! I’ll skin him! I’ll cut him into little pieces! I’ll burn him alive! If it takes the rest of my life!”

Pheledra, who had entered into meditation in spite of his tirade, opened her eyes and said, “Calm down Wave, your reptilian genes are showing. Boots is not dead and is definitely not on the Ambassador’s dinner menu.”

“Really!?” Wave said in disbelief.

“He’s in a glass cage on board the Kultaki starship. I’m in telepathic communication with him. He is well, but very angry at being cooped up by strangers. The Ambassador wants to keep him hostage as leverage over us.”

“You mean, all that was just a show?” Wave was somewhat relieved.

“Exactly” said Pheledra. “The Kultaki are subtle and very theatrical. Who knows, maybe we can come up with a little theater of our own. In the meantime, we must get down to business. Come on Wave, let’s review our conversation with the Ambassador.”

They watched and listened carefully as Nestingwave played back the meeting.

“Stop right there!” said Pheledra. “The Ambassador says there may be something unexpected on the horizon and then says, ‘Mother Nature herself sometimes has the final laugh’. I need to get back to the Akashic record of planet Miraba and make specific inquiry. Perhaps I’ve missed something.”

~
A live mouse! That scaly girl tried to feed him a live mouse! He’d only seen a live mouse once or twice in his entire life. Dry food was his thing. That rodent seemed almost as big as he was. When Anadia tossed it into his glass cage, Boots panicked. Instinctively, he pounced with all the clawed fury he could muster but the mouse charged with a demented chitter and took a bite out of his leg. Anadia and Cobishandra roared with laughter. It was touch and go as predator and predatee went round and round in a blur of hissing snorting growling fur. It was hard to tell which was which.

Boots tried to scamper up the four sides of the slick glass cage to get away, as the mouse furiously snapped at his heels. Finally, Boots snagged a claw on the top edge of the glass, just under the lid, giving him the advantage of height, then pushed off hard, zooming straight down into the enemy’s face, all four claws spinning like a buzz saw. A protracted bite to the throat and the bloodied mouse went limp as a dish rag. Anadia and Cobishandra gave an enthusiastic round of applause. Boots was trembling and exhausted but rather proud of himself. Still, he could not bring himself to eat it. Dry food was his thing. He just curled up in the corner licking blood off his paws and applying tongue massage to his injured leg.

Cobishandra giggled, lifted up the glass lid, reached in and happily popped the dead mouse into her mouth.

Boots shuddered as the last bit of tail slid down her gullet.

CONTINUE: 6) Brainstorm

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