The new character that you are about to meet comes from a society slightly different from those aboard the SS Sooloo. The character's society has a different set of ranks and is not use to the Rank Structure used by the crew of the Sooloo. Because of that he will call Lt. Commanders, Lt Commander instead of Commander. Also, he is accustomed to using the terms decks for floors, overheads for ceilings, bulkheads for walls and hatches for doors. There are other differences you will find as you read the chapter.
It was a fairly boring day in space, the Sooloo had been conducting experiments with their FTL drive. The crew were preparing to continue their journal to "New Earth," or Kepler 186f. Sensors had been tweaked and tested to their maximum limits and found nothing.
Zorn was slowly coming out of stasis and was clearing the cobwebs from his brain. His ship was a modified scout ship only lightly armed but equipped with the latest stealth technology. Quickly showering to remove the remains of stasis and to refresh himself as well, Zorn then headed to the bridge of The Golden Dragon which had been running on a pre-set course under full stealth protocol. Zorn was going to find out that there was a power relay problem to his ship’s stealth systems, causing it to flicker on and off.
On the bridge of the SS Sooloo, the crew were preparing to return to FTL flight. Captain Bowman stated, "I understand you're being cautious, Commander; however, we do need to get back en route. Helm…" The Captain was interrupted by Scott Trevor, the Assistant Chief in Tactical, "Sir, I'm reading a vessel approaching on an intercept course. We wouldn't have seen it, but while we were waiting, I was running a diagnostic on the new software we've installed in one of the sensor arrays."
Dave went over to the Tactical station and reviewed the data. "Computer, set Tactical Alert." He opened the ship-wide comm channel and announced, "Tactical Alert… Tactical Alert… All senior staff to alert stations. All crew to battle stations. This is not a drill."
"How long until intercept, Lieutenant?"
"She's really moving, Sir. I'd estimate no more than forty-five minutes."
"Communications, see if you can contact that ship. Let them know we're friendly." Dave ordered.
"No response as of yet, Sir. I will keep trying."
"Mr. Trevor, as soon as you can, I would like a visual on that ship. Mr. Robinson, can you find her through your telescopes?"
"I'm looking, Sir. If I am able to, I'll let you know."
Dave sat nervously. Jordan, Hal and Jace arrived on the bridge, followed moments later by Aiden, Randy Thompson and Ali Bakabazi. When Dave noticed them, he said, "Take your stations, Gentlemen. We have a ship inbound on an intercept course. I need an analysis as soon as you can possibly give me one. Commander Douglass, I need weapons at the ready as soon as you can do so."
"Lieutenant Trevor already has them available at your command, Sir." Aiden responded crisply.
"Well Gentlemen, you all know what to do. Remember your training… all we can do now is wait.
For information about the Sinocardian's, Zorn's race click here. ("<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The planet Sinocard was home to a race of humanoids that had reached space several centuries ago. Sinocard is a Class M+ Forest Planet with a Sub-Classification of a Swamp Planet. The major sentient species on Sinocard is a humanoid-reptilian based species called the Sinocardians. The gravity on Sinocard is 1.25% of Terra; combine this with the fact that the Sinocardians muscles were developed in water compared to air, the gravity difference is closer to 1.5%.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The Sincoardians started life as a crocodilian analog the <em>Carnifex sinocardinus<\/em>, similar to the Terran <em>Carnufex carolinensis<\/em>, that walked on its rear legs. The <em>Carnifex sinocardinus <\/em>was built more for land than water, but its long tail still gave it plenty of speed in the water.<img style=\"margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px; float: right;\" src=\"chapters\/Voyagers\/Sinocardian Ancestry 2.png\" alt=\"Sinocardian Ancestor\" width=\"175\" height=\"145\" \/> <em>Carnifex sinocardinus<\/em>' prey wasn't safe in water or on land. The <em>Carnifex sinocardinus<\/em> averaged nine feet in length.  Over the centuries, the <em>Carnifex sinocardinus<\/em> evolved into the hominoid Sinocardians of today, the <em>Carnifex Homonidus sinocardinus<\/em>. The evolution started with the lengthening of the forelegs and then that of the rear legs. Eventually, the trunk and tail were shortened; the tail continued to shrink until it was just a nub. As the Sinocardians' evolution continued, the snout shrunk until it was barely visible.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The most rapid changes occurred once the Sinocardians became mostly land-bound, however. Locomotion on land required massive changes to their rear legs and center of gravity. Movement on land was the main reason for the disappearance of their tail.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Over the centuries, the forelegs developed into arms and the front webbed feet developed into hands and eventually an opposable thumb developed. As a Crocodilian analog, there are slight differences in physiognomy. The claws shrunk and became retractable. The webbing between the fingers and toes remained but only became visible when a hand was fully splayed open.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The Sinocardians remained hunter-gatherers while relying on other species for any food they were unable to acquire. Although the Sinocardians can be classified as Omnivores, they are actually Facultative carnivores. Although Facultative carnivores can eat grains and vegetables as well, they prefer a meat diet. Sinocardians prefer a diet rich in organ meat, however they eventually developed a synthetic supplement for voyages where fresh meat was hard to store or find.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">As the Sinocardians adjusted to living on land, they didn't stray too far from a source of water for swimming. Their scutes<sup>1<\/sup> became much thinner and very flexible. They also worked as a moisture barrier preventing Sinocardians from dehydrating during normal tasks of living. Some of the scutes on Sinocardians' heads evolved into a different form of keratin and formed a fairly stiff ruff of hair that covered the scalp from the forehead to the rear neck ridge.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The Sinocardians developed the physical sciences rapidly with the discovery of ancient ruins and devices found in the interior of the planet. One of the things that they found was the port of a spacecraft. It still took several centuries before the Sinocardians were able to develop spaceflight which brings us up to several years ago.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">As their spaceflight abilities developed, the Sinocardians sent out both manned and unmanned probes. The manned probes mainly investigated the planets near Sinocard, while the unmanned probe explored a far wider range. Over the centuries the probes, both manned and unmanned, discovered several habitable planets and several other space-going species. By a strange coincidence, several of the unmanned probes were sent to the vicinity of what we know as Terra. The probes sent petabytes of data back to Sinocard, using the faster than light communication protocol developed by the Sinocardians based on some alien descriptions. Over the years, the Sinocardians amassed exabytes of data regarding Terra. The Sinocardians were perplexed that the Terran versions of crocodilians were still water-bound and non-sentient. They decided to send an Ambassador to Terra, one of their youngest and brightest, to try and discover why.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">The Sinocardians used two different methods of propulsion for their ships. They used a type of Reactionless Drive called the 'S' Drive and a Fold-Space Drive called the 'FSD'. Unfortunately, in order to use the FSD, the Sinocardians needed extremely accurate coordinates to travel fold-space. This basically meant that they could only use the 'FSD' to travel to places they had already been. While the 'FSD' could be used for very short intra-system hops it was a waste of energy. The 'S' Drive was approximately twenty-five to thirty percent faster than comparable Reactionless Drives. Their ships were also equipped with reaction type thrusters for increased maneuverability when docking.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\"><sup>1<\/sup>A <strong>scute<\/strong> or <strong>scutum<\/strong> (<a href=\"https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Latin\">Latin<\/a> <em>scutum<\/em>, plural: <em>scuta<\/em> \"<a href=\"https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Scutum_(shield)\">shield<\/a>\") is a bony external plate or scale overlaid with horn, as on the shell of a <a href=\"https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Turtle\">turtle<\/a>, the skin of <a href=\"https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Crocodilia\">crocodilians<\/a>, and the feet of <a href=\"https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Bird_anatomy#Scales\">birds<\/a>.")
Zorn is a humanoid approximately 6' 3" about 225 lbs. with Gold Cat Eyes and a Burgundy hair ruff/mane, like the crest of a Roman Centurion's helmet. His skin had a slight golden shimmer to it as it was actually made up of very small overlapping scutes. His fingers were also humanoid only slightly pointier with a slight downward curve to them. His skin was barely visible due to the uniform he wore. As a protective measure, Zorn had no external genitalia; it resided in a pouch in his body called a cloaca and only became visible when necessary. Of course, that wouldn't be known unless you saw him without a uniform on.
Due to Zorn's schooling and unique physical and mental skills, he was a consummate Communications Officer, Sensor and Scanning Specialist, as well as an Engineering Technician. These abilities and skills wouldn't become apparent until he was working with a crew.
Zorn's ship was only spotted because it passed in front of a large, dense and bright star mass and the Tactical Officers scanners were looking in the right spot… at the right time.
The Sooloo hailed the unknown ship continuously until they finally received a response; they were stunned when the main viewscreen lit up and showed... an obvious humanoid with vague reptilian features. Suddenly words in an unknown and definitely alien language accompanied the figure on the screen.
ņƃ ɰʑņʌ Ʀɥ ƛľįɰ ʑɰϰ Ʀ ʑņ ǜįľņ ɠʂʌ ʞɷʑɰʌɠ ɥƦɰľϣʑįϰ. (My name is Zorn and I am from the planet Sinocard.) Then a pause and some more alien language. Ʀ ϣľņʌ Ʀɰ ʞʌʑϣʌ ʑɰϰ Ʀ ʂľʞʌ ɠʂʑɠ ƃľf ϣʑɰ ʂʌɷʞ ņʌ. ņƃ ɥʂƦʞ ʂʑϰ ʑ ɥɷƦťʂɠ ǜʑƦɷfįʌ Ʀɰ Ʀɠɥ ɥɠʌʑɷɠʂ ɥƃɥɠʌņ ʑɰϰ Ʀ ʑƌľԀʌ ʌʑįɷƃ. Ʀ ʑņ ľɰ ņƃ ƌʑƃ ɠľ ʌʑįɠʂ).... (I come in peace and I hope that you can help me. My ship had a slight failure in its stealth system and I awoke early. I am on my way to Earth)....)
"I am Captain David Bowman of the Explorer Class Ship, the SS Sooloo. Unfortunately, we can't understand what you are trying to say."
"Sorry about that, I forgot to turn on my translator. I hope that you can understand me now." Stated the figure on the viewscreen. "My name is Zorn and I am from the planet Sinocard. I come in peace and I hope that you can help me. My ship had a slight failure in its stealth system and I awoke early. I am on my way to Earth....
"Ahhh, thank you, now we can understand you; so why are you heading to Earth and where exactly is the planet Sinocard? Also, what species are you?" A confused and concerned Captain inquired of the alien on the viewscreen.
"âz tö where the plânet ZynökârÐ yz.. ("As to where the planet Sinocard is..)Oops sorry, wrong language, as to where the planet Sinocard is located you need to have Megrez tell Kyle where it is. I am afraid that the coordinates or locations that I would give you wouldn't make any sense to you as we use different coordinates and location numbering/naming systems than you do. Eventually, my AI may be able to work with your Information Systems, Sciences, and Navigation Officers to come up with a conversion program. I am a Sinocardian and I speak Sinocardian and shortly will be able to speak your English as well. I hope that answers some of your questions?" Zorn replied to Captain Bowman.
A very stunned Captain replied, "Zorn I will be right back with you I need to confer with my crew before we proceed. Bowman out." The Captain then made a motion to close the viewscreen pickups.
"How in the .... does Zorn know about Kyle and Megrez and which Megrez? Do we have a First Contact Protocol and who is responsible for it?" A very perplexed Captain muttered out loud and then in a calm and controlled voice announced;
"All Division Heads Mandatory Meeting in the Officers' Conference Room in five minutes. Second shift to bridge immediately!"
Zorn sniggered to himself 'I don't think they expected to see any ships out this way; especially one with an alien aboard.'
Zorn went back to work trying to track down the problem with the stealth system that was interrupted by the hail from the Sooloo. In the hour that it took Zorn to identify the problem, things were getting interesting over on the Sooloo. Zorn was headed to the electronics parts locker when he received another hail from the Sooloo.
Zorn spoke to 'Aurix', "Receive and put on the main viewscreen, please.” The screen came to life with the image of Captain Bowman with several of his officers standing behind him.
"Zorn, we have a few questions for you before we go any further..." Captain Bowman was able to get out before Zorn interrupted him.
"Captain before you continue I have to let you know that I have a personal message for Lt. Commander Kyle Robinson that I do need to give in person. Please let me know when I can deliver it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my stealth system fixed before we go any further. Zorn out." With that, the viewscreen cleared and then went back to displaying space.
In the conference room, consternation and surprise reigned supreme. Everyone was talking over each other until the Captain regained control.
"Enough, only one at a time while we figure out what just happened," the Captain commanded sternly, in a no-nonsense voice.
Dave asked for opinions from each of the officers assembled. Aiden stood and said, "Sir, as Chief of Security, I would have to insist that until we can determine if this… um, person, or whatever, is truly friendly, we have at least two, but preferably four escorts with him at all times; two of them should be armed.
Jordan added, "I believe Aiden's suggestion is prudent, I would add that at least one senior officer be among his escorts. Once we've gotten a better feeling for him, we can decide if we should reduce the numbers."
Dave looked around then asked, "Kyle, do you have any idea how he knew about you… or your penguin?"
Kyle shook his head, "I have no idea, it's kind of weird if you ask me."
Dr. Tom then commented, "We would need to run a battery of tests to make sure there is no danger of contamination to us, and that we're not a danger to him. We would also need to see if our atmospheres are compatible."
The conversation continued for several more minutes before a consensus was reached and it was agreed that they would invite the alien aboard the Sooloo.
"Yes, Captain I am ready to bring the Golden Dragon aboard your ship now. Lt. Commander Martin and Commander Rivers, in conjunction with 'Aurix,' have determined that the Golden Dragon will easily fit into your Shuttle Bay with plenty of room left over. Your 'HMO', Dr. Tom and 'Aurix' have developed a decontamination protocol that will protect your ship and crew as well as my humble self. I estimate boarding in approximately 6.27 minutes of your timekeeping. Is that is acceptable to you and your officers, Captain?" Zorn inquired of the Sooloo crew.
"That is perfectly acceptable Zorn, and once you have completed the decontamination protocol you will be escorted to our main conference room by Commander Douglass and Lieutenant Kage from our Security Department. Do you have a Rank or a different name that we can use instead of just Zorn?" Captain Bowman asked his upcoming alien guest.
"My rank is ʞƦɷľɠ ϣľņņʑɰϰʌį Ʀɥ ʑ ɷľľɥʌ ɠįʑɰɥɷʑɠƦľɰ (Pilot Commander is a loose translation)which doesn't have a direct correlation to any of your military ranks. It loosely translates to Pilot Commander, that would be the Captain of a Ship and Chief Pilot. On a ship the size of the Sooloo, it would equate probably to a full Commander and Chief Helmsman. My full name is incredibly long and I normally just go by Zorn or Pilot Zorn. Since you asked though the short version of my name is: ƛľįɰ ľǜ ɠʂʌ ʂľfɥʌ ľǜ ϰįʑԀľɰ, ľǜ ɠʂʌ ɥʌʞɠ ľǜ ϰįʑϣľɰƦϣľ, ľǜ ɠʂʌ ɰʌɥɠ ľǜ λįʑɥʂƦį, ľǜ ɠʂʌ λʑƃ ľǜ λʌɷϰʑņʌ. ( Zorn of the House of Drakon, of the Sept of Draconico, of the Nest of Brashir, of the Bay of Beldame.) The rest of my name contains the names of the most honoured patriarchs and matriarchs and the names of the males who won important battles in our Nest's history. I am beginning my docking approach now." Zorn out.
Zorn piloted the Golden Dragon to within five hundred yards on impulse power and then switched to thrusters alone. As his ship approached within one hundred yards Zorn killed the thrusters and allowed the Sooloo's tractor beams to bring his ship to its resting place in the Sooloo's Shuttle Bay. Once the Golden Dragon had been secured, Zorn sealed his enviro-suit and exited his ship. As Zorn was sealing his enviro-suit, the Sooloo's Shuttle Bay doors closed and the atmosphere was restored. When Zorn exited his ship, he was met by the Howser Medical Hologram and escorted to the Decontamination Chamber. First Zorn was decontaminated inside his enviro-suit and then he removed his suit and clothing. His clothing was placed in a chute to be decontaminated as well. Zorn then deposited the vial of his blood that he had previously drawn and his organ meat supplement in the drawer that popped open for analysis. Zorn then blew a breath into the tube that dropped down from the ceiling. Afterward, his body underwent decontamination. While Zorn was going through the decontamination process, his blood and breath were being analyzed. 'The Howser' and 'Dr. Tom' were perusing the results by the time Zorn's decontamination had finished; he was air dried and his clothes were returned to him. By the time he'd finished dressing, 'The Howser' and 'Dr. Tom' had prepared inoculations for both Zorn and the crew of the Sooloo. They also prepared a series of inhalers for Zorn, as the Sooloo's atmosphere did not contain as much CO2 as Zorn was used to. The two doctors decided that Zorn would be able to get the nutrients he needed onboard the Sooloo by eating Frankfurters every other day and a Braunschweiger Sandwich on other days. An appetizer of mixed organ meat pâté would ensure no complications or weakness for Zorn.
While 'Dr. Tom' was working with Zorn to give him his inoculations, Lieutenant Vargas was giving Lt. Commander Douglass and Lieutenant Kage theirs. Lieutenant Vargas then proceeded to give the rest of the crew their inoculations. The two doctors, with Zorn's help, discovered that Zorn's armpits would accept a jet spray inoculation. 'Dr. Tom' left Zorn having a conversation regarding fungal infections while he went to help Lieutenant Vargas inoculate the rest of the crew. After a half hour of conversation, 'The Howser' escorted Zorn out of the Decontamination Chamber and turned him over to his escorts for his introductory tour.
Zorn's 'guides' introduced themselves and they began his introductory tour.
In addition to two armed-security personnel, Dave, Jordan, Jace and Kyle were going to show Zorn around. It had been decided that Zorn would be shown all but the most sensitive areas of the ship, the only exception to this restriction would be the bridge.
They started on the bridge, where Zorn was taken on a tour of each station, with the Chief of that department describing basic functions. Once finished with the bridge, Zorn was taken on a deck-by-deck walk-through so he could familiarize himself with the layout of the ship. Kyle had been pretty silent throughout the tour.
Zorn was seated at one of the Science Stations and was discussing the tweaks to the software that Randy had already applied to increase his scanner’s range and sensitivity. Zorn’s fingers then flew over the control panel, checking the resulting numbers and then making a few more adjustments. Randy, Kyle, and Aiden were intently watching the Scanner’s viewscreen and were amazed at what they were seeing as the range of the scanner kept steadily expanding. Zorn finished one last tweak and turned to the Sooloo crew and said;
"That is the best I can..." He was interrupted by a flashing Important Message on the Scanner viewscreen.
Randy, Kyle and Aiden were stunned by the message displaying on the screen. Their shock didn't last long; then consternation and condemnation set in. Lt. Commander Douglass quickly took command and pressed the comm button on the console and said;
"Captain Bowman to the Science Workstation, please. Captain Bowman to the..."
"What's the problem Aiden? Ahhh... hello, Zorn, did you do something to our equipment?" Captain Bowman demanded.
Aiden spoke up before Zorn got upset and said something that could cause an interstellar incident. "Zorn was extremely helpful and he helped us find this!" Aiden then stepped away from the console and let Dave see the message on the screen. The next thing everyone heard was Dave bellowing "WTF".
Zorn spoke up quietly "If I may suggest, we should check out the rest of the consoles to see if they all have the same software limitation."
Captain Bowman was stunned and surprised at the magnanimous offer from Zorn considering that he had basically discovered the 'problem' that Aiden had called him about. And here he is willing to help 'fix' it. Before Dave could answer his three officers responded for him.
"That is a great idea," they replied simultaneously. Aiden then spoke up; "Scott and I can handle Tactical. Between the two of us, I think we can remember everything Zorn did. If not, he can finish up for us after he helps Kyle at the Navigation Console. Will that work for you, Zorn?"
"Captain, would you like to accompany Kyle and me to the Navigation Console; that way you can see exactly how I was able to uncover that message?" Zorn casually inquired of the Captain.
While Aiden and Zorn were posing their questions, Kyle was wondering what to do. As much as Zorn seemed to be a nice guy, his size and species scared Kyle. So, when he heard Zorn's question to the Captain he was relieved and did a little dance in his head.
"I think that would be a wonderful idea, Captain, and I would appreciate it very much," Kyle responded to Zorn's question.
Unbeknownst to Kyle, Zorn was aware of Kyle's misgivings about him. He knew that his size and appearance could be rather frightening to smaller sized individuals.
The three moved off toward the Navigation Workstation and on the way the Captain asked the question that everyone was wondering about and either didn't know how to, or were afraid to ask.
"Zorn, how is it that you speak English so clearly and easily and you don't seem to be using a translator? Also, how is it that you are so proficient at using our consoles/workstations when we are still learning their nuances?" A perplexed Captain asked.
"Captain, the first question is the easiest to answer. I have been sleep-learning English the entire time I was in stasis during my trip here. While in stasis I was wearing a band on my forehead that transferred the information into my brain. I only spoke Sinocardian at first because I was still clearing out the cobwebs from my brain; due to being abruptly brought out of stasis instead of slowly, as is protocol. 'Aurix' will give me any words that I don't understand. The second question is partially tied into the first as we have been studying your Planet Terra ever since one of our probes began intercepting your radio and TV broadcasts. It has taken us years and lots of computing time to winnow out the usable items from all of the chaff. A lot of the knowledge I have comes from the Technical Specs and Information that your Space Fleet Office released into the airwaves. The information released on the Sooloo included Technical Manuals and the Sooloo's complete specifications. 'Aurix,' with the help of those specifications, was able to help me with the manipulation of your console/workstations.
"Also, I have been highly trained on a plethora of different consoles and workstations since I could first reach them. I also have an innate understanding of the hardware and programming for those consoles and workstations. Since we, and by that, I mean the Sinocardian species, have interacted with other interstellar species; I have experience with non-Sinocardian consoles and workstations. 'Aurix' was able to easily gain access to your onboard computer systems and learn the rest of what we needed to know..." Zorn had to stop as the captain began to bluster.
"Stop, Captain, we only accessed your systems, WE WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING without your or your staff's concurrence. 'Aurix' has offered to upgrade your Firewalls as they are basically nonexistent by our standards. He also says that there are numerous backdoors into all your systems left by different Space Fleet Departments," Zorn answered with as much calmness as he could.
Before Dave could reply, Kyle asked Zorn, "What were those things you put over your fingertips before you sat at the console?"
"I didn't think anyone saw me put them on; they are Capacitance Discharge Pads they allow my body's electrical energy to make contact with the sensors in the console's touchscreen. They allow me then to manipulate the screen as you would. My claws, or as you so politely phrased it, 'fingertips,' are densely packed keratin which are dead, so the screen wouldn't recognize them; all of our personnel have them. 'Aurix' can give you the information to make them if you want." Zorn answered Kyle's question and then began sitting down at the Navigation Console as they had arrived.
Kyle sat in the second seat and slaved his screen to the one Zorn was using so he could track the changes as Zorn made them. He hoped that way he would learn even more about his console.
"Captain, you might want to stand over here next to me and watch my screen; it will display the changes as Zorn makes them with only a slight delay. I have programmed this display to show exactly what parameters he changes, that way we can get a better idea of how he coaxes the performance increases out of the software and hardware," Kyle told Dave, as he made a few slight changes to his console.
"Thank you, Kyle, I couldn't have phrased that better. I don't have any problem with the Captain looking over my shoulder; this is his ship, as it were. But he will get a better idea with the way you have setup your console.
Ten minutes later Zorn and Kyle were finished and the Captain was shell-shocked at the improvements. Of course, they did trigger the supposed congratulatory message again; which pissed off the Captain all over again.
"Zorn, thank you very much and I wouldn't have believed how much you could tweak these systems unless I had seen it for myself. I thank you and I would appreciate it very much if you would forgive my early outburst that Lt. Commander Douglass so neatly aborted." Captain Bowman thanked and apologized to Zorn.
"No apology necessary, Captain. The situation came at you cold. Don't thank me completely, as of yet. I think that with a little contemplation and consultation with Lt. Commander Kanye and Commander Blackwell, along with 'Aurix' we can coax an additional fifteen percent more out of all your systems. Your hardware according to your specs, and my visual examination, is very advanced and I don't believe your software is getting every erg it can out of it. I will know more after 'Aurix' and I have a chance to speak with Commander Blackwell. If we may take a short break, I need to ingest some sustenance and use my inhaler to adjust my body's slight chemical imbalance..."
"Are you okay Zorn, I thought the Doctors said you were in tip-top shape after your decontamination physical?" a now worried Captain inquired.
"Sorry Captain, I didn't mean to alarm you; it is a very minor matter. My planet has a higher percentage of CO2 in its atmosphere than your Terra. Your wonderful doctors created an inhaler of highly concentrated CO2 that I must use every now and then. I am perfectly fine without it, I just have to move slower and not run off my mouth as much," Zorn answered as lightheartedly as he could to allay the Captain's apprehension.
"Kyle, will you escort Zorn to the Officer's Mess so that he can eat, you look like you could use a snack as well," the Captain politely ordered Kyle.
"Aye, Captain Sir, right away, Captain Sir, and thank you for allowing me to eat Sir," Kyle's usually well-hidden impish side appeared.
"Kyle, once you and Zorn have finished eating and Zorn has given your message, please Comm me. I would like to have a meeting of all Department Heads with Zorn so we can better determine how to proceed," the Captain asked Kyle and obliquely Zorn.
"Aye, Captain, as soon as I have received and discussed Zorn's message with him I will comm you. Will that be satisfactory, Sir?" Kyle replied like a perfect officer should.
Kyle and Zorn headed off to 'ingest some sustenance' as Zorn had put it. The trip to the Officer's Mess was fairly quiet as Kyle pretty much kept to himself except for pointing out features of the ship as they passed them. A few passing crewmen gave them some strange looks, but no one interrupted them. Whether that was due to Kyle's officer status or Zorn's imposing presence, no one said.
"Kyle, I have a personal and private message for you. Is there someplace with a view of the stars that is private where I can give you the message?" Zorn asked a slightly more confident Kyle.
Kyle hesitantly responded although he was still a bit unsure of his hulking new acquaintance. "Yes, there is an observation lounge on the port side of the ship that I go to be near the stars. Will that work?"
"That will work perfectly, can we go there as soon as we are finished eating as you so colloquially put it?" Zorn quickly responded.
Eating with a Sinocardian was an adventure for Kyle as he had never seen someone eat as much, especially meat as Zorn did. Kyle was relieved when Zorn did throw a few vegetables on his plate. Kyle's self-confidence got a big boost when Zorn asked for his help with the way he wanted his meat done.
"Kyle, how do I explain to the cooks that I need my meat a certain way? I don't need it uncooked but only lightly cooked. I am not proficient enough in English to portray my nutritional requirements to someone who hasn't met me. Can you help me?" A surprisingly vulnerable Zorn asked his smaller escort.
Kyle seemingly grew several inches as he realized that he could actually be of assistance to this imposing alien that he was beginning to like.
"Zorn, do you need meat bloody or just red?" A now more confident Kyle inquired of the alien that was rapidly becoming his friend whether he knew it or not.
At Kyle's question Zorn let out what to a Sinocardian must have been a belly laugh and it did take Zorn a few moments to recover. To Kyle and the others, it sounded more like a bray than a laugh and the motions Zorn's body was going through made Kyle momentarily think that something was physically wrong with Zorn.
Zorn realized that his laughter and subsequent bodily movements have slightly frightened Kyle; he dropped down to a knee and then looked Kyle in the eye.
"Kyle, thank you for your very polite way of asking if I needed my meat raw like a savage. I am sorry but I must disappoint you; we Sinocardians are civilized barbarians, not savages." Zorn's eyes twinkled in amusement and Kyle began relaxing a bit. Zorn then began answering Kyle again;
"Sorry to spoil your day Kyle, but we Sinocardians have been cooking our meat, only lightly that is true, for thousands of years. So, to answer your question, red all the way through is preferred but a little pink is okay as well. Does that help you?"
In response, Kyle turned to the crewman behind the counter and began giving Zorn's request, "Crewman, please have the following selections prepared as rare as possible and then have someone bring them to our table"
The crewman turned and barked out the requests to another crewman at the grill. "It will be done as you have requested, Commander."
After the two had put away enough food to feed an army, or at least that was how it looked, they headed to the observation lounge. It didn't take the two very long to reach the observation lounge although Kyle's shorter legs did make it a little hard to keep up with Zorn.
"Zorn, could you please slow down a bit, your legs are much longer than mine and I can't keep up with your long strides?"
"I am sorry, Kyle, I just want to see the stars again; I am not used to not seeing them all the time." An anxious Zorn explained why he was hurrying.
The two finally reached the observation lounge to Zorn's obvious relief by the huge sigh he let out. The two just stood there and soaked up the overwhelming majesty of space. The Observation Lounge's side windows were curved slightly lengthwise. It was truly an amazing piece of engineering and an awesome place to view and commune with the stars. While they were looking at the stars, Zorn was composing his thoughts and trying to figure out how to get Kyle to trust and believe him when he delivered the message. He finally hit on what he thought would work.
We want to thank Story Lover for writing Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen. We think he did a great job with creating our first life-form encounter and hope to see more of his work in the future.
TrueFan, Zarek Dragon, and Douglass DD
I would like to the thank the authors of Voyagers very much for allowing me to enter and expand their universe. It was an awesome experience and I truly hope that readers have as much fun with this collaboration as much I did.
'Til we fly again,
TSLI would love to hear your comments on my foray into the Voyagers Universe at The Story Lover