Finish the Science Fiction Story

In the spirit of the Finish the Western thread I am starting a science fiction story. Anyone is free to contibute to the continuing plot. But, like the Western, I’m hoping that as this thing develops we try and pay attention to continuity and, considering it’s science fiction, plausibility. Humor is encouraged. (Can you tell I was a Babylon 5 fan?)

The spread of humanity to worlds other than Earth was slow at first. Interstellar travel could take years, and suspended animation, the “deep sleep” claimed about one percent of all who submitted to it. But with the discovery and development of the Sorensen-Patel hyperdrive a diaspora began, as groups of all types, social, political, religious, ethnic, sought a place of their own. Journey’s that had taken years could now be accomplished in a few weeks or months. But, after finding that isolationism can be economically difficult, many worlds, although not all, formed the Confederated Alliance, similar to the old United Nations on Earth.

By the year 2603 Ceres had been settled for over a hundred years. As the name suggested it was primarily an agricultural world.

And a boring one at that, thought Kathy Swanson, as she entered her own little cottage on the school grounds. Teaching for three Terran years, on a backwater place was the payback she was making for having her way paid through the university back home. It seemed as if nothing ever happened to disturb the even tenor of passing time. When he came running she scooped up her cat Tobermory and tried to rub his ears, thinking again how lucky she was to at least have one reminder of home. But he struggled from her grasp and leaped back to the floor, hissing, and facing the bathroom door. "What is going on with you?she asked in puzzlement.

“They’ve come for me,” the cat hissed.

Dumbstruck, Kathy tried to make sense of what she just heard. Her cat talking.

But, in a split second, the door to her bathroom burst open, revealing an ariel view of a great chasm, unlike anything on the settled worlds. The perspective appeared to be from a mile up. And a power wind began blowing through the room, forcing almost everything through the bathroom door. In fear and awe she watched as her furniture plummetted down towards the chasm.

“This way!” Tobermary yelled from the kitchen.

Struggling against the maelstrom, she inched her way to where the cat was. Or should’ve been.

Because what she was looking at wasn’t a rather overweight example of a Terran domestic feline. Nearly two meters tall, it was a mottled green in color, with a skin that suggested feathering but wasn’t.

This being reached out a limb to catch her hand and pull her back from the edge of the whirling vortex behind her. She stretched to reach it and just managed to grasp tightly, when…

A deafening roar came from outside the cottage. A large silver ship was landing in the quadrangle. Trying to make sense of all this, Kathy looked out the window and exclaimed, “What the hell is that?”

“Xavvis ship. Friends of mine,” Tobermory replied. “I hope,” he said under his breath.

Three more feline-like beings emerged from the ship, their leader pointed a device toward the cottage. It was similar in appearance to a Terran WWII bazooka but its indended effect was something else entirely. With a pull of the trigger, eight feet of cottage wall was rendered noncorporeal.

“Oh, Isis Almighty!” , cried out Tobermory, the Revolution has begun!"

The cat sprinted off opposite from the phantom hole which the Felinoids began to “ghost” through. Kathy didn’t need to be told twice.

At the sudden movement, the felinoid’s eyes turreted at the form of the fleeing semi-furred ape, and spoke into the com-link:

“Ident-Pos; subject is aquired. Attempting to escape and evade…Proceed with containment protocol…”

Recognizing that Tobermory’s safety was essential to her own (not to mention her only hope of finding out what the hell was going on), Kathy sprang to action.

“Run, Tobermory!” she cried as she launched herself at the repulsive beings.

Her movement toward the alien caught it by surprise - in the split second it took to react, she deflected its weapon, slapped the commlink out of its paw, and aimed a kick at what she hoped was a sensitive spot. She dashed after Tobermory.

Kathy called after him, “I thought those were your friends!”

“So did I!”

Tobermory led Kathy down a flight of stairs and the pair hid in the shadows. It then dawned on Kathy that she had been having a conversation with a cat. “How can you talk? What’s all this about?”

“All in due time.” Tobermory rapped his claws on the wall then he and Kathy were bathed in a soft blue glow.

Somewere in the bowels of the building, a sentry computer granted them access. A portion of the wall slid into the ground and a soft voice called from inside, “Enter, friend Tobe.”

Bewildered to find that her little cottage had a secret passage (not to mention bowels) Kathy was reluctant to follow Tobe through the door. But, reflecting on the scene upstairs she knew there was little choice. The passage was long and narrow with a slight downward slope. The unnaturally smooth surface of the walls was clean and, once in the hall, the only sound to be heard was of their feet on metallic floor as they hurried forward.

To Kathy’s relief, Tobe wasn’t talking now. The pause gave her a moment to consider what was happening. How long had she known Tobermory? It was only 18 terran months since she left school on Laxis Prime. Professor Kenezr gave her Tobe as a parting gift. Could the professor have known about the cat’s unique talents. He’d always been so kind to her when all the others had persecuted her for the way she was different.

The end of the passage was drawing near.

“It’s an escape hatch,” Tobe explained. “Triggered to activate if the Xavvis ship ever came.”

Kathy groaned and shook her head. She had entered the land of the surreal, with a talking cat and her cottage disappearing.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“I know. You’ve been a wonderful human, and it’s time I repaid some of that kindess.” Tobe swiped at a switch on the floor and the door swung open to reveal…

The cockpit of an Exegesis II class star ship. Kathy had never been this close to such an expensive and high powered vehicle. As she and Tobe climbed into the form fitting seats a broad, dimly lit tunnel became visible through the forward windows. The ship straddled a launching rail that extended ahead in the center of the tunnel and ended abruptly at a solid stone wall about 200 meters away.

Kathy knew only the highest ranking members of the Federated Teachers Union could afford an Exegesis II. And, at least one piece of the puzzle was becoming clear when she saw Professor Kenesr’s emblem on the ship’s nose. He did know about Tobe. He had to!

“Tobe,” Kathy turned to the feline, “Professor Kenesr knew something bad was going to happen, didn’t he?”

“Don’t worry about that right now, Kitten. We need to get ready for launch. It won’t take the Xavvis long to find us down here.”

The walls around the escape hatch were beginning to shake.

And then, space pirates ate their skin.

tracer, I’m sure you were trying to make a joke, so if we don’t consider your previous post as part of the “canon” I’m sure you will understand!:stuck_out_tongue:

Even as these bewildering events were occurring, images of the incident were being beamed via satellite relay to a small space station in orbit around an uninhabited planet many light years distant. Astrid Vorpal, President-in-exile of the Novon Protectorate, leaned toward the huge view screen that took up one entire wall of his lush quarters, quaking with anger.

“Verless!” he screamed, his voice carried via the station’s communication systems to the considerably smaller and more spartan quarters of the station’s commander, Captain Wesley Verless, startling the man from a troubled sleep.

Verless sighed inwardly as he responded, “Is there a problem Mr. President?”

“There most certainly is! The lovely Ms. Swanson, so crucial to my return to the rightful seat of my power, managed to avoid the transport vortex with the help of a Xavvian shape-shifter. As if that weren’t bad enough, the blasted werecat appears to be on the run from members of its own race. Rumors of a Xavvian rebellion have been in the air for years now, but up until now nothings come of it. Has it finally begun, and if so why am I only just now finding out about it?”

Captain Verless sat up straighter, now fully alert, his mind racing. “I . . . That is . . . Er . . . I’ll get right on it, Mr. President! The flow of information has been somewhat slower since our spy in Alliance Intelligence was killed, but something this serious . . . There must . . . The information . . . I’ll see what I can do!”

“Very well, I’ll expect a full briefing in two hours.”

The small but powerful craft gave a final shake, and safety harnesses snapped around the figures of Kathy and her cat, no, her companion. They were pressed back into their seats as the Exegesis II hurled forward down the long tunnel. The “stone wall” at the end of it snapped aside and as the ship passed the former barrier, they were suddenly in deep space, with no Ceres to be seen in any direction.

Kathy took this sudden change almost in stride. With all that had happened in the last half hour, it might have been more surprising if something else strange hadn’t happened. Tobe appeared to be busy at the controls of the Exegesis II, but he finally leaned back in his seat and let out what, in a human, might have passed for a sigh of relief. He turned his head to look at her, and Kathy thougt it was odd how his yellow eyes, in that feathery green face, still reminded her of the eyes of what until a short time ago had been her pet.

“You’re wondering what this is all about, aren’t you?” he queried.

“You don’t have to be a mind reader to figure THAT out!” she riposted in a sarcastic tone. “Now that I’ve been torn from the joys of teaching elementary levels, maybe you will tell me why you were pressed on me by Prof. Kenezr!”

Tobe “sighed” again, and began. “Do you remember anything about your parents?”

Kathy pondered the question. What could her parents have to do with a talking, shape-shifting tabby? Her father was a second rate musician who never had the talent to make it to the big leagues. In his dotage he would spend hours just sitting in his room scratching through ancient audio recordings trying to find the inspiration for one last chance at stardom. He spent a lifetime collecting earth music. It was a religion to him. A quest. Kathy just thought of him as kooky old Dad.

Mom, on the other hand, had talent

Captain Verless was uneasy as he entered President Vorpal’s quarters. He barely suppressed a shudder of disgust as he glanced around at the room, its rich fixtures and opulent furniture. The value of this room’s contents could feed the settlers of Novon 12, his home planet, for years. But he was loyal to the Presidential line, if not the President himself, and knew it wasn’t really his place to make such judgments.

Vorpal barely even glanced up from the divan on which he lounged. “What do you have for me?” he asked. “It had better be good.”

“I had to call in some pretty heavy favors to get this information sir, and I’m not sure you‘re going to like it. Diplomatic negotiations between the Alliance and the Xavvian government over the division of Novon territories are still on track. I doubt they’d be worrying too much about diplomacy if they were busy trying to put down a full-fledged rebellion.”

“Perhaps,” Vorpal said, “Unless they’re trying to cover it up.”

“Doubtful sir. Such a deception would not hold up for long and would only hurt their position with the Alliance in the long run.”

“So who are these Xavvians? I’m especially interested in the one palling around with our Ms. Swanson.”

“No hard info on the Xavvian pursuers, but two likely theories. First, they may be a rogue faction, possibly connected to one of the various fundamentalist groups that have sprung up in the years since the war ended. Many Xavvians see the fact that their government will even so much as engage in talks with the Alliance as a dire threat to their way of life. They believe the Xavvis Empire should go to war to control the whole of Novon space despite the fact that they’re still recovering from the last war. I‘m still trying to work out what interest terrorists might have in Ms. Swanson or her companion, but we can‘t rule anything out at this point”

“And your second theory?”

“This one is connected to what I’ve managed to uncover about Ms. Swanson’s companion. As you know, the ability to shape-shift among Xavvians is extremely rare, and before the war was one of that species’ best kept secrets. It still isn’t common knowledge, though since the war Alliance Intelligence has been extremely wary of house cats, banning them from all Alliance government facilities. This Tobermary character is obviously former Xavvis Intelligence. I mean, he’d have to be, he’d hardly have been given any choice in the matter. My contact among the Xavvian’s was able to uncover records on several Xavvian spies whose whereabouts are still unknown, but the name Tobermary came up blank, so it‘s most likely an alias. As to how he came to be posing as a pet in Ms. Swanson‘s household, does the name Kenezr ring any bells?”

Vorpal sat up, looking at Verless for the first time since he’d entered the room, his face caught between extreme interest and deep loathing.

“It most certainly does Captain, it most certain does. By all means, do go on.”

Mom, Kathy thought, had talent. She was considered by all to be the best musician of her generation, and thought by many to be the best of all time. A composer, she had written the national anthems for many of the Alliance worlds.

It must’ve been hard for Dad, her thought continued. They’d met in college, fallen in love before her genius had manifested itself. By the time Kathy was born, his wife’s career had all but eclipsed his own. No wonder he was bitter…

“Hmm…” she said aloud. "Mom spent at least half every year travelling. She had a heavy concert schedule that took her to nearly every settled world in the Alliance.

“Wait! That must’ve been how she met…you?”

Tobermory nodded solemnly. “She was more talented than you know. She was also an intelligence agent. One of the best.”

“Now wait a minute,” Kathy interjected. “More about Mom in a sec. First, I want to know how a shape-shifting alien built a spaceship dock under my cottage - while eating Little Friskies and shredding the back of my couch! How long were you going to keep up this “domestic feline” routine?”

In the heart of Century City, in the northern-most province of Laxis Prime, a gathering was speaking with hushed tones in a shrouded chamber. It was large circular room, terraced in rings towards the center. The walls were draped in plush, velvet fabric. Intricately carved wooden beams arched overhead supporting a dome of iridescent opal.

Rumors were spreading like the stench of Novon flatulence. The Revolution had begun on Xavvis and the Professor had lost contact with agents essential to the Union’s survival.

The Federated Teacher’s Union had been created over three hundred years ago to standardize learning in Alliance territories. This was widely known. The teachers, once rising above the lower ranks and serving the poorer planets, were paid handsomely for their craft. What most beings never realized was that a large portion of teachers earnings funded a secret society. A fraternal order that groomed the greatest talents in the universe for a hidden cause and recruited the best from intelligence agencies in every galaxy.

Lights in the hall dimmed and all talking died down – the conference was beginning.

In the center of the chamber a pedestal rose from the floor. With a soft hum and a brief flicker the holographic head of a large being appeared. That is, one assumed it was a head with a face. There were eyes, sure, but the strange thing was…

. . . eyes is all there was. This was the public face of Teacher One, leader of the Federated Teacher Union’s inner circle, whose true identity was known to only a handful of people within the organization.

The hologram was modeled after Lanshin of the Many Eyes, the Yebeshim god of knowledge and awareness. This was not a surprising choice of masks as the Yebeshim, the first non-human species to join with the Alliance nearly 150 years before, are revered throughout the galaxy as scholars, philosophers, seekers and sharers of information. Everyone knows that Yebeshim make the best teachers.

Tobe sighed. “Long enough to escape from those I thought were my friends. It’s very complicated, Kathy, but we need your help.”

Kathy’s eyes widened. “How can I help? I’m just a teacher. Where is this tin can taking us anyway?”

Tobe laughed, a delightful sound somewhere between a chuckle and a full-throated purr. Kathy suddenly felt an unusual feeling deep inside her…surely she wasn’t becoming attracted to her former pet? For crying out loud, she cleaned out his litter box twice a day. How could she think of him as anything else? Firmly she squelched the feeling, where it retreated, biding its time.

Unaware of the turbulence in his former master, Tobe pointed to the display. “The Exegesis II is hardly a tin can. It’s built for speed and for a small crew. Since it’s just us, it was pre-programmed to go to one place, and one place only. We’re going to Laxis Prime.”