[prologue] The story begins on the planet Raui, homeworld of the koala looking Rauians, but now a toxic world under quarantine in the middle of the Brinrikian Empire. About four hundred years ago the Rauian Empire was in a long war with the Centurian Senate. At that time there still existed one last old Centurian nation that was not part of their planetary government, and that was the state of Messitar. Though not part of the Centurian Senate, they still very much didn’t want to see their race of terrestrial birds lose to aliens, and so they developed a biological weapon that was reverse engineered from biomass found on an ancient space station. This weapon, Hekate Kataris 34, was used on Raui, resulting in the deaths of billions as well as the destabilization of the planet’s entire ecosystem. The single celled parasites consumed all life on the planet, and then began consuming all the oxygen in the air, and turning the oceans acidic.
This did not win the war for Messitar, or the rest of the Centurians either. It just drew the attention of another nation that was even bigger and stronger than either of those two nations, the Brinrikian Empire, who ended up annexing both of them shortly thereafter.
Raui’s biosphere continued to degenerate for about two hundred years, but then suddenly the ecosystem began to come back into balance. There was rapid mutation and growth of life, turning the planet into a beautiful fungal jungle, though still toxic to everything else. That unexpected change drew the attention of the Brinrikian Empire back to Raui once again, though this time from the science department, not the defense department.
As such, an expert has been brought in now to analyze the planet, and try to determine what happened exactly. Psek Irani is a gifted biologist from the planet Perok, currently just a protectorate of the Empire on the edge of Imperial territory. Despite having come from a far away backward planet, Psek had still managed to gain recognition from Imperial doctors and biochemists for having worked hand in hand with them to engineer antibodies for his entire species, to immunize them to all known xeno-pathogens in the Empire. He was recommended to be given this opportunity to take a look at Raui, and has been living in a lab on the surface of Raui for nearly two years now, only leaving every few months, and only for a few days at most, to pick up supplies from Raui Station, the city sized mega space station in orbit.
Raui Station was also run by the last remnant of the old Rauian government, from before the Hekates, and before being annexed into the Brinrikian Empire. Commissar Kalling of that station did not like the fact that the Empire was doing science on his planet again. He thought of the Hekates as evil, and the planet as cursed, and that man terrified Doctor Irani. [/prologue]
Psek was a rather odd looking alien compared to the other races in the Brinrikian Empire, and since he was one of the very few Perok working off of his homeworld, people were never really sure what he was, or how to react upon seeing him for the first time. Perok came in shades of colour from navy blue to lime green, and everything in between. Psek specifically happened to be a dark blue that was just a shade brighter than navy, and had a few large nearly black spots speckled over his body. He had big long ovular black eyes, the left one of which had one of those dark spots around the bottom of it giving that big black eye a permanent black eye. His mouth had a short and thick set of pincers, behind which were two much smaller, thinner, and jointed mandibles for scooping food into his head in the same way that a crab would do to eat. Those mandibles also worked in place of a tongue and lips to make words, though they weren’t nearly as good for speaking the Brinrikian language as a tongue and lips would have been. His head was somewhat long in the back, having a long ovular cranial plate under thin skin a shade lighter than the rest of him. That cranial plate was not part of a full skull, with his brain encased in a big squishy bulge underneath said plate, and behind his neck. He had a pair of little arms, and a pair of very large legs, but they were both connected very close together at the shoulder, leaving the majority of his body to drag behind him like a giant tail. Three webbed fingers, or toes, were on each hand, or foot. He was an amphibious creatures as well, who breathed through his skin, and thus required his skin to be constantly wet. To help this, his species had evolved to perpetually sweat when the humidity wasn’t high enough, so he kind of perpetually smelled like an aquarium.
Perok also don’t usually wear much clothing, except for sandals, and sometimes a kind of bag around their long tails while on land, just to keep from dragging on a dirty floor or something. After being mistaken for a loose animal however, Psek learned to always wear clothes. When in the Empire, do as the Imperials. Psek actually hadn’t seen a lot of his very raptor looking Imperial overlords since coming into the Empire. He was by himself on the surface most of the time, but even when he was on the station he usually only ever saw Rauians. Usually the only non-Rauian on Raui station were the viceroy and his guards, and they stayed at the Chambers of the Viceroy, which was not a place that Psek ever needed to visit. As for these Rauians, they were short, thick, furry little apes with very big ovular ears, and tall flat noses on a their flat faces. Kind of adorable actually, until you see their temper, and xenophobia, and alcoholism. Then they become comical!
Psek’s work had been successful enough to continue gaining funding, but he hadn’t really discovered anything new, only further explained what had already been known. He had discovered how to stabilize, or destabilize, the apparently still somewhat volatile genetics of the fungal looking jungle. The biosphere actually wasn’t fungal, but the trees all resembled mushrooms, with giant turquoise caps that released spores atop of rubbery white stalks. The oceans had a thick coating over them, like the skin on a pudding, but alive, and with long roots that even sometimes stretched all the way down to outcroppings of growth around thermal vents on the ocean floor. The ground on dry land was covered in a blue moss, and fibrous orange roots that crisscrossed over each other in a tangled web, and connected all of the captrees together like a mycelium. Some parts of the biomass acted like plants, while other parts acted more like animal or fungal tissue, but all of it was in balance to maintain a perfect ecosystem for itself. Very interestingly, Psek had noticed that if he took a piece of tissue from the planet, and placed it in a container with adequate sustenance, it would try to grow back towards the whole, and the whole outside would try to get to the piece inside. So Psek had to mulch the growth surrounding his little outpost quite regularly.
It actually all looked quite beautiful. When Psek was in orbit, he could see the oceans glowing a dim pink at night, and during the day the surface looked blue and pink. When Psek was out for a hike on the surface, under the shade of the captree canopy, he walked past translucent sacs full of yellow goo that gave off a dim bioluminescence, and grew at the base of most captrees. Despite the wonderland looking scenery, there was still the eerie fact that this was all created by a plague that recycled the former biosphere, including about fourteen billion people, into what it was now. It was a very beautiful graveyard though.
Perhaps the planet was somewhat sentient and took notice of Psek, or perhaps it was coincidence, but after nearly two years of not seeing a single separate living body on the otherwise completely interconnected planet, Psek came back from a hike to find a giant purple centipede looking thing. It was crawling around the outside of the outpost, which was just a long metal trailer, and it was looking through the windows. Presumably it was looking for a way in.
Psek didn’t react well to this. He became paralyzed with fear, and frantically began trying to think of what to do. Just as soon as Psek had noticed the creature however, it stopped investigating the lab, and scurried straight over to him. Up close and personal, he could see that it didn’t have claws, or any other obvious natural weapons, but it was significantly larger than him. Psek wasn’t a big man at only four feet three inches, and this thing was almost that height while standing on ten feet. If it were to rear up onto its haunches however, then it might have been twice his height.
He was sweating heavily in his orange cosmonaut suit, and when the bug grabbed his arm, he freaked out. He bolted for the door, but of course the bug followed him. The door opened, and he nearly leapt in. Psek turned around to see the animal halfway through the door. He tried to push it back outside, but it grabbed his legs, and pulled them out from under him. He fell and hit the ground hard, and the bug came inside. The room was quite cramped for them to both be in, and so it did rear up onto only its back six feet. It was maybe seven feet tall like that, and it stared at him with six pine green eyes. The outside door shut, and the decontamination sequence began, dowsing the room with chemical, then water, then air dry. The whole time Psek stood nervously across the tiny room from the bug. Psek knew that he couldn’t go into the lab with that thing there, but he also didn’t want to make any sudden moves again.
Eventually the bug got bored of waiting, and got up close and personal with Psek again. Psek did not freak out this time. He let the alien investigate him, though he didn’t like it when it lifted up his tail, or when it put three of its dark green eyes right up to his visor to look in at him. He calmed down though, and decided to go back outside. The bug followed. Psek was thinking now that this creature could quite likely be intelligent. He made several attempts to try and make the bug stay outside, but the bug wouldn’t have it, and kept following him in. It was very persistent. Psek knew that eventually he would run out of oxygen, and have to go inside. In the end the bug won, and Psek was forced to risk contamination of his lab by letting it in with him, though he kept himself safe by keeping his space suit on. Oh well, his shuttle (which looked like a silver version of a stealth bomber) was sitting on top of the outpost, and that at least still remained contaminate free.
In the lab with this creature then, Psek looked around in dismay, realizing that he really lacked the proper tools to analyze this creature. He hadn’t expected to find any animal life like this, life that was separate from the rest of the living planet. The equipment he had was for analyzing much smaller samples taken from the planet. So he, for example, lacked proper medical grade scanning equipment to see the ins and outs of this creature better. He did love disection, but felt that the creature probably wouldn’t. Seeing as the creature was larger than him, and he was also very much a coward, that fantasy was thrown out the moment after it had come to mind.
Meanwhile the creature was looking over the samples that Psek had growing in various tanks and jars on the counters and shelves, and it was touching everything. This caused Psek’s obsessive compulsiveness, combined with his general lack of ability to deal with anxiety, to make him already dread what should be a monumental discovery. A monumental discovery that he realized he wasn’t excited about, but rather had been terrified of, and now annoyed at. So he did his best to ignore his nerves, and focus on studying this curious creature. He did have flashlights, a small hand held electromagnetic scanner (EMS) useful for everything from gamma rays to microwaves, a sound amplifier, and various other small utensils. Now if he could just get this thing to sit still, and let him prod at it for a bit…
Psek lined up his tools on the counter, which the creature of course picked up and inspected for itself one by one, until it came to the EMS. It turned the two dials, and pressed all the buttons, which caused colours and symbols to appear on the little screen, and it sometimes made beeps and pings. So that piece of equipment kept it occupied for a while. Before anything else however, Psek grabbed a datapad, and wrote down a detailed description of the creature.
The back, head, arms, hands, and feet are covered in exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is lavender coloured, except for on its back which is a purple periwinkle. The head is mostly one big smooth skull plate, with two large orbs on either side. From the front the orbs look circular, but from the side you can see that they are actually egg shaped, and they each have three eyes dotted close together on their fronts. The exoskeleton on its back is a series of partially overlapping, tear drop shaped, plates. Its belly and sides are not covered in carapace however, but skin. Its sides have some black bristles, or whiskers, coming out from under the sides of the back plates, presumably to help the creature know if it’s long body is brushing up against, or otherwise about to collide into something. Under the whiskers is a leathery strip of deep purple, and under that is a very smooth belly of soft lavender, more pale in colour than the exoskeleton. It has six pairs of limbs, with some extra space between every two pairs. The front two limbs end in three fingered hands, though it crawls around on them as feet often, and usually only uses its uppermost pair of hands as hands. I have seen it pass things to its upper hands with the lower ones though. The next three pairs ended at long feet that resembled fingerless mittens, but longer, and with stubby thumbs behind them. The feet and hands are a darker shade of purple than their lavender arms and legs. Finally, the back pair of limbs do not end at hands or feet at all, but are pointy pincer looking things. The mouth has what looks like four little blue periwinkle fingers for mandibles, two on each side of it.
Psek couldn’t really see what its mouth looked like behind the mandibles. So he carefully approached it, and gently brought it’s head closer to him. The creature cooperated, and wiggled it’s fingery mandibles. He saw that there was some kind of flat beak behind them. With his thumbs he pealed back those mandibles. It only took a moment to get a good look, and he quickly let the creature’s head go, afraid of getting bitten.
Behind its mandibles there is a round, almost flat, cream coloured beak that is quartered instead of bifurcated. Above the mouth are two narrow vertical slits, approximately an inch long, presumably nostrils.
After having written that down Psek remembered that he wasn’t on Perok anymore, that his datapad had a perfectly good camera on it, and that he didn’t need to make the creature stand still for minutes so that film could get proper exposure. So he then took some pictures as well. This should also give you an idea of the technological level that Perok was at upon becoming an Imperial protectorate. The Empire made first contact with the Perok when Psek was in his third year of med school. Things had moved along quite quickly from there. The Imperial model for governing aliens was simple, but effective. Simply select the most civilized race and culture, and give them advanced technology in exchange for keeping the lesser races and cultures in line for the Empire. Although Psek’s homeland was industrialized, most of Perok was still iron age kingdoms and empires, or stone age savages. Those kingdoms that were civilized, though not technologically advanced, were at least treated as people. Those who were savages however, were treated as animals, gradually losing thier natural habitat to civilized colonists whom they simply could not compete with in natural selection. So things had worked out rather well for Psek’s people.
With all his tools laid out, Psek grabbed the sound amplifier, which was a small black blowhorn looking thing. Psek put on the big square black headphones for it, and held it to the bug’s ‘chest’. He listened for breathing, or heartbeat, or anything really. There was a lot of anything going on though, and it was hard to discern anything clearly.
The creature felt that Psek was not a threat, and was not doing anything to cause it harm, so it allowed Psek to prod it all he wanted. It even stood up straighter, and faced Psek, to allow him to do whatever he was doing easier. Psek moved the amplifier further down its soft underside, where he could better hear its lungs, and even feel it breathing. He couldn’t feel any ribs though, or any bones for that matter, implying that its skeleton might mostly, or completely, be of the exo kind. Further down, almost leaning underneath the long body of the creature, he heard a second heartbeat. The breathing still sounded a bit odd to him though. He moved up and down the body of the creature, until he concluded that it probably had multiple pairs of lungs. Interesting.
Enough of that though, and onto the handheld EMS, which Psek cautiously took back from the creature, who did let him have it without struggle. X-rays revealed that it did have some internal skeletal structure, but just between where the limbs attached to the flesh, and where they connected to the spine that ran underneath the back plates. Six weird wishbone looking pelvises, and a spine were the extent of it’s non-exo-skeleton.
Infrared yielded little more information. The hot spots were things like the eyes and the mouth, and the cool parts were the extremities. The very long and large head of the creature was quite warm though, possibly from a very large and active brain circulating hot blood and fluid through a very complex processor. It also seemed that heat vented out from between its back plates. Upon closer inspection, sticking a hand underneath one of the back plates, Psek felt that it was soft and damp way back under those plates, because it was breathing between them somehow. A flashlight revealed two round nostrils on maroon coloured flesh under each plate, way at the back of each plate, on either side of the spinal lumps under each plate. Perhaps it didn’t breath through those slits on its face at all then? Did its nose only smell? Or were the slits on its face just a useless vestigial feature? Testing things that smelled delicious or disgusting revealed that it did in fact smell through its nose, and that it had a sweet tooth. Figuring out any more of its inner workings would need to wait until he had proper internal scanning equipment however.
There wasn’t much else that Psek could do with his tools now, so it was onto taking tissue and fluid samples. So he got his little flashlight again, a swab, and told it to say “Awe”. He had to open his own mouth and say “awe” a few times to get the creature to play along. Inside of its mouth, Psek saw no teeth, though there was a thin whip-like tongue. Inside it looked maroon rather than purple, just like the flesh under the back plates. Psek took his swab quickly, and then took that over to his microscope. The computer automatically searched the saliva for all bacteria, possible contaminates, and would highlight anything that looked even remotely like it could be related to the original Hekate plague that consumed the planet. The results came back negative for infectious foreign bodies. Just harmless kinds of bacteria, nothing that should give you an infection. In fact, the analysis of the saliva, upon having a closer look, looked like it should actually be a mild disinfectant, though nothing that would hurt things bigger than bacteria really. That trait was a fairly standard one for saliva among many species, and so not surprising. A little bit surprising though was that the saliva had a blood thinning agent in it.
Numerous swabs, tests, and scans were taken of the creature, and Psek had to refill his oxygen supply several times as this turned into an all day project. He couldn’t eat, since he couldn’t leave, but he did feed the creature. Mostly Psek was trying to figure out if he could safely remove his now turtle tank smelling suit or not. At the end of the day, and actually well into the night, it seemed that this creature was not toxic to him, at least to the best of his abilities to determine with his very limited equipment, and very limited ability to gather samples from the creature. Saliva, skin, skeleton, eyes, even a urine sample when it took a leak (and thankfully it padded at the door when it needed to do that). Everything Psek could get, and he even checked everything it touched. So when that was finally done, Psek took off his orange jumpsuit. The creature was already sleeping soundly on the bed in the living space behind the lab at that point. Psek was very exhausted himself, and hungry, and thirsty. Hungry and thirsty were easy to fix, but unfortunately there was an alien in his bed, and he didn’t want to go sleep in the shuttle while this creature remained here. So after nuking up a frozen fish dinner, and drinking two liters of water, Psek just took the long cushion off of his only comfy chair, and used it as a pillow and partial mattress to sleep on the cold, hard, white linoleum floor. Oh the sacrifices one makes for science!
Psek did not sleep very much, or very well, and woke up to the creature shaking his shoulder-hip. After he blinked his eyes open, the big bug went and padded at the door. So Psek quickly got up to let it out before there was an accident.
After it was out, Psek stretched, and yawned in a way that sounded more like a toad’s croak, and started brewing some high caffeine sludge tea. While the tea brewed, Psek considered contacting the station to let them know what he had discovered, but he knew that Commisar Kalling would probably accuse him of being a dangerous mad scientist, and demand that the creature be cleansed with fire. Kalling was already paranoid of anything to do with this planet, which was sort of understandable, seeing as this planet was his homeworld, and was now a deadly surreal wonderland. Really though now, that all went down three and a half centuries before Kalling was even born, but he acted like that attack on Raui was constantly still happening every moment. Regardless of any reassurance, or any amount of safety measures, this particular Commisar had always been vehemently opposed to anyone ever going down to the surface, ever, for any reason. It was as if he thought the planet was cursed. The only reason Psek was able to be here at all was because the Viceroy got a decree from the Emperor himself. So Psek did not tell the Commissar, and kept his work secret.
At a minimum, the creature was clearly a very smart animal, seeming to know what Psek wanted it to do whenever he wanted it to do something. It also had a sense of humor, clearly, since it liked to startle him (which wasn’t that hard to be honest). All that didn’t necessarily mean it was intelligent however, it could have merely been a very clever animal, but somehow, Psek knew that it must be intelligent. He had decided it must be. So his primary goal became trying to figure out how to communicate with the creature, verbally or otherwise. He continued making sure that he didn’t contract anything dangerous from the creature as well, still taking swabs and prods, and testing his own blood as well.
After about a month the creature seemed to be able to understand what Psek was saying to it quite well, even nodding affirmatively or negatively to questions. A week after that, it then suddenly started talking.
“Psek.” It said behind Psek. It knew his name from the multiple times he had tried to get a name from it.
Psek was sitting on a stool, looking through a microscope, but he spun around on his seat now to clarify, “Did you say something?”
“Psek.” It repeated, pointing at him. Then, placing a its hand on its chest, “Leta.”
“Leta?” Psek asked, pointing to it with a fat blue finger.
“Yes.” It confirmed.
Psek was very glad that what was probably the only animal left on Raui did indeed have a name for him to call it by, so that he wouldn’t have to call it creature, insect, or purple thing.
It didn’t talk in full sentences or anything, but it said things. ‘Out’, ‘in’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘hungry’, ‘thirsty’, ‘tired’, ‘play’, ‘give’, and ‘mine’, were its first words. It sounded very much like himself, with that croaky kazoo sounding accent. This was probably because Psek was the only person it had heard talk. It did sound somehow more feminine to him, even though it had a deeper voice than him (which isn’t to say that it had a deep voice, but rather that Psek had a high pitched voice). It fit for her to be a woman though, what with that purple complexion and all.
Before the end of that week, Leta had picked up a lot of Psek’s guttural version of the Brinrikian language. It probably could have picked up the language more quickly if Psek could speak more clearly, but unfortunately Perok do not have the most developed natural vocal instruments. Sometimes Leta would leave the lab to do… whatever it is a purple caterpede does on a quarantined planet, but she would always be back, apparently equally as eager to try and communicate as Psek, if not more eager now. It seemed that the name giving marked a turning point in her mentality, because she learned exponentially faster thereafter, and the desire to communicate better went both ways now, rather than just Psek pushing for more.
Teaching Leta to speak (and speak in a terrible Perok accent that would have offended, or at least disappointed, any Brinrikian) also gave Psek time to make up an excuse to bring down better equipment to analyze Leta with. His excuse would be that he had found and cut out a growth of animal matter from the planet. Leta understood Psek well enough for him to explain that he was going to be gone for two days, but that he would be back, and with new things. He didn’t want her wondering off while he was at the station. Even though it didn’t seem very likely that Leta would leave regardless, given her very curious nature, he still wanted to be make sure, as this would likely be the discovery of his entire career.
Leta understood, Psek’s excuse got him the equipment that he wanted, and everything worked out according to plan. The Commissar didn’t give him any trouble, and Psek returned promptly with much better equipment to perform a full inside-out body scan of Leta. He could finally get a clear picture of all that internal anatomical goodness. Leta was a little big for the machine that they gave him, but after some awkward and uncomfortable crawling, she did manage to fit. Getting out was equally as challenging, but that’s not important. What is important is that Psek had perfect 3D imaging of Leta through and through, which they could both look at on the blue monochrome holoprojector that Psek had on his little shuttle. Looking it over, she did indeed have two hearts, and a dozen little lungs. The slits on her face did not connect to any lungs, so they were just for smelling. Inside of her head there appeared to be three lobes to her brain rather than the usual two. Other than that there wasn’t anything too surprising.
Psek tried to figure out if Leta actually was female or not from those scans. Unfortunately, determining sex isn’t as easy as just looking at chromosomes under a microscope, because they aren’t actually X or Y shaped except during mitosis, and it was just as possible that Leta might use WZ chromosomes, or something weirder. There were internal organs that might have had something to do with reproduction, but it was unclear from the images whether they were ovaries or testicles, and either way they appeared to be tiny and underdeveloped. They connected to her rear only by a hardened shriveled tube that there was no way to get through for any sort of reproductive activity. A more invasive test, which involved a long needle with a minuscule probe at the end of it, extracted cells from one of those unknown organs. The cells inside appeared to be egg cells probably maybe. So that settled that as far as Psek was concerned, and Leta got icecream out of the deal for letting him stab her in the behind.
Leta had fun dissecting herself on the holoprojector while Psek searched the media network for anything indigenous to Raui, from before the Hekate plague, that was at all similar to Leta. He assumed that Leta was probably a mutation of some animal or another that lived on Raui before it was consumed by the parasite. Psek started with DNA comparisons, but her DNA appeared to be not of Raui origin. Most of the weird growths on the planet appeared to be not of Raui origin though, because they were too severely mutated, so that didn’t necessarily mean anything. All he had left to go on then was her anatomy, which he compared to that of various species, mostly arthropods.
Psek continued to study and communicate with Leta over the next month in this way, as well as take various fluid samples from her, to continue testing for anything infectious or toxic. He managed to finally and fully prove to himself that she was indeed completely non-toxic, but unfortunately made no ground in determining how she came to exist in the first place.
There was one very interesting discovery though. When Leta’s Brinrikian became quite good, she had something to explain to Psek.
“Psek, have you thought how I was able to… to… to know what you wanted, before I could speak?” Leta asked.
“Intuition?” Psek guessed.
“No, well, sort of. I can… feel you, and the forest too. I can feel what you’re feeling, and… usually I can guess what you want, or what you’re thinking.” She said. It seemed that Leta was also an empath, or had some other similar special sense.
“So, so!” Psek said excitedly, not doubting her, “But how can you feel the forest? What do those captrees and vines feel?”
“I don’t know how to explain. It doesn’t feel like we do, but… I get the feeling that it likes me.” Leta said.
Psek made some contemplative clicking sounds before saying, “I see. Care to put your head under the scanner, and try to hone this sense so that I can see how it works?”
“Well, I, umm…” Leta twiddled her thumbs.
“Don’t worry. I won’t stab you with anything.” Psek said.
“It’s not that. It’s that I can’t hone that sense very good. I don’t try to do it, it just happens.”
“Oh I see.”
“There is something that I can do though.” Leta said.
“And what would that be?” Psek inquired.
“Well, just as I can feel what you want, did you not notice that you could feel what I wanted?” Leta said.
Psek stroked his mandibles, and thought for a moment, “No, I didn’t notice.”
“You always gave me food when I was hungry, and came to let me out or in when I wanted. Did you think it was your own idea to stop whatever you were doing, and come to the door to find me at exactly the times I wanted?” Leta said.
“I just assumed that we got onto a routine.” Psek said.
“But I go in and out at… or I mean, there is no routine for that. I go play outside whenever I want, and I come back whenever I want, but I haven’t had to wait for you in a long time.” Leta said.
“So what you’re telling me is that you don’t just feel me, but you can get inside my head somehow?” Psek sought to clarify.
“Yes. I can put a feeling into you.” Leta confirmed.
“Fascinating. Well then do that for me under the scanner, would you please.” Psek should have felt slightly disturbed that Leta could instill her feelings into others, but he didn’t feel disturbed, because she was already instilling a calm mentality into him.
Leta nodded, and happily complied. She liked hanging out with Psek, and helping him do the science. She liked the captrees and vines too, but she liked Psek more.
The tests to figure out this sixth sense that Leta had went ahead quickly, and it appeared that third lobe of her brain, which sat on top and between the other two halves of her brain, took care of all that. At least that was where Psek detected a lot of electrical and chemical activity while she changed his mood back and forth like he had some strange case of bipolar disorder.
Leta told Psek more as he did his thing, “I tried to calm you when I first met you. I was less… awake, but I remember that you panicked when you first saw me. I could not calm you right away though, because you were too panicked. So this… this… thing that I do, it isn’t perfect, or… or…”
“It can be resisted, you mean to say.” Psek helped her.
“Yes. If your feeling is too big to cover up.” Leta said.
And that is what transpired during those few months after he initially found her. They did finally run into a problem however, and that problem was that Psek’s sponsor, a Rauian lady named Matsily Timor, was wondering why he was taking so long to actually give back new and coherent research. Psek was still very much trying to keep this hidden so that the Commissar wouldn’t hear about it. He couldn’t ignore his sponsor indefinitely though, and soon he had to go back to the station to get a message to Matsily.
Psek prepared his work, and prepared Leta. He intended to bring her with him, and hide her on the ship. Even though he was afraid of what the Commissar might think, he knew that his sponsor from the Imperial science board would back him. He just needed to get in contact with Matsily before the Commissar found out what he was up to. The only reason he needed to return to the station for that was, because he could only connect a long distance call like that from the subspace relay on the station. Matsily actually lived on Romal, which was in a completely different star system, and she didn’t exactly make trips out to Raui very often. Psek wasn’t the only person that she kept employed, and in fact Psek wasn’t even considered to be of any particular significance. The Empire didn’t exactly have a lot of faith that he would find anything really interesting or useful that they didn’t already know, and they didn’t exactly pay him that well either. He wasn’t poor, but he didn’t make as much as you’d probably expect.
As soon as Psek was anchored at Raui Station, he put his shuttle in an emergency lockdown, and put in a request for a direct line to Doctor Timor. It took about a half hour to make the connection. Only so much data could be sent through the relays at a time, and Romal, sadly, hadn’t built a new relay in about three centuries, even though they’d gained about two billion extra people since then, and they were trying to send higher quality modern data than centuries old equipment was built for.
Finally Matsily appeared on the holoprojector pad, a somewhat transparent phantom in shades of blue. Psek greeted her, “Oyo Doctor Timor.”
She seemed pleased to see Psek, “Glad to finally see you again Doctor Irani, and you’ve caught me at a good time. I’m at the university right now, using their holoprojector. The colour and quality of this machine are just fantastic. Of course, you’re blue regardless of whether or not I have a colour projector, but still. Anyways, since you’re calling, and since it seems to me that you’ve been holding out, which is very unlike you, I really hope this is because you have a surprise for me.”
Psek had been memorizing lines in his head to say, but they all left his head now. Perok had a terrible tendancy to become nervous and awkward, more so than other races, and Psek was no exception. Right now he was stuck on thinking, was it really that obvious I was hiding something? And now he was fearing that the Commissar may have also been forming ideas. Fortunately though, Leta was nearby behind him, just out of sight of the holoprojector. Leta could feel Psek’s distress, so she did what she could to give him confidence to speak. It helped a lot, and after a croak he did speak without stammering too much, “Yes actually. I’ve made a very big discovery, but, *clickclick* wanted you to hear about it first, before Kalling. I fear that it’s something he wouldn’t approve of.”
“Yes, I know how he is.” Matsily crossed her arms, and said, “Paranoid, stuck in the past, and I think perhaps even superstitious. Remember though, there is a reason why Raui is quarantined, and he does have a duty to protect his station and the Empire from breach of that quarantine. I’m excited now though. Sorry, please continue.”
“Yes ma’am. Now, *click* I really wasn’t expecting to find anything like this, and I don’t know the best way to say it, so please bare with me. I’ve… I’ve discovered an intelligent life form on Raui.” Psek said sheepishly.
This made Matsily pause for a second, not that Psek could tell since there was already a delay of a few seconds between them. Her unibrow became wavy as her eyes widened, and she had to double take on that, “I’m sorry, your accent can be hard to understand. Did you say that you found intelligent life on Raui?”
“Yes, yes I did.” Psek confirmed.
“Well, that is unexpected, and I’m not even sure what to think of that. How could there be intelligent life? Isn’t the whole planet connected? Oh lord, it’s not… it’s not Rauian is it?” She asked, ready to be horrified.
“It’s not Rauian. It doesn’t even seem to be mutated from anything native to Raui as far as I can tell. The genetics don’t match at all, and neither does the anatomy. I still have no explanation for it. Very good news though, I did determine it to be non-toxic and non-infectious. I could find no evidence of dangerous xenoplagues, bacteria, parasites, or unstable Hekates.”
“What about stable Hekates?” Matsily asked.
“Those are only in her bone marrow. I assume that they’re pooled there to affect her stem cells. This might be why she’s mutated in a stable way that didn’t kill her. Typical Hekate infection occurs throughout the body, and causes lethal cysts. No such cysts exist in her tissue, and her strain of Hekates don’t even put up a fight against anti-bodies. They can’t survive outside of her marrow, *click* or an artificial version of that environment. They seem to have become fully integrated into her anatomy, like the bacteria in our guts, or the red cells in our blood.” Psek explained.
“I’m sure that you tested that all very thoroughly. You were always the most meticulous of all my scientists, but still, how sure can we really be? What are the risks? I wouldn’t risk taking anything like that off of Raui unless I was absolutely certain of the safety.” Matsily said.
“I am absolutely certain that she’s safe. I’ve been living with this alien for these past few months, having her in the lab without any protection. If something bad were going to happen to me, then it would have by now. I am perfectly healthy though. No signs of anything out of the ordinary.” Psek assured her.
Matsily just shook her head, and said, “I’m not entirely sure how to react to that either. As a Rauian, I feel somewhat disturbed by that, but as a scientist, I feel highly intrigued.”
“If you’re intrigued, then please, allow me to take this alien to a better lab off of Raui, and away from the Commissar.” Psek said.
“Right, right, the Commissar. Yes, this is something that he would be very upset about. I’ll get protection from the Empire immediately; you just stay put. Send me everything you have on this creature, and I’ll do what I can for you.” Matsily said.
“Yes ma’am. I have everything pre-”
Matsily interrupted him, “And that’s it behind you, isn’t it?”
And there she was, creeping up towards the holopad behind Psek.
“Leta!” Psek spun around, and exclaimed.
“Oyo ma’am.” Leta greeted, and gave a single big wave with a stick bug looking arm.
“Oh dear. Wait, did it just speak?” Matsily said.
“Yes, I’ve taught her to speak.” Psek turned back around, and said.
“Well then, I guess I’ll have a talk with it.” Matsily said, and then properly introduced herself to Leta, “I am Matsily Timor. What are you called?”
“I am just Leta. Why are you ma’am, and Matsily Timor?” Leta asked.
“Umm, well, ma’am is a respectful title, Matsily is my first name, and Timor is my last name.” Matsily said.
“Oh, alright.” Leta accepted that.
“Leta, do you understand what is going on here?” Matsily asked.
“Psek is trying to take me away from Raui, but needs you to help him, and also needs to keep me secret from the Commissar. Psek has told me there are more people away from Raui, and so I would like to leave, because I like people like Psek.”
“Yes…” Matsily said slowly, considering Leta’s simple perspective, “that is pretty much the situation for you I suppose.” Then back to the blue one, “Alright Psek, you’re lucky that I was the only girl in school who wasn’t afraid of big bugs, but I still really wish you hadn’t brought it here with you. We will speak again soon. Keep Leta out of sight, and wait for me.”
“Thank you Doctor Timor, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.” Psek said with his hands together like he was praying, “I knew I could count on you.”
“Well I’m not about to let something like this go to waste now, Doctor Irani. End transmission.”
Almost as soon as that transmission ended, Psek received a call from the Commissar. Psek told Leta that she needed to vacate, and he pushed her out of the room. He then answered the call. The Commissar’s very dark hologram appeared. He had black skin, and black fur, which all appeared navy blue on this lower end holoprojector. It made features difficult to distinguish. The suit of his office however, a long grey coat (blue in the projection) with large buttons, was easy to distinguish.
“O-oyo C-Commissar.” Psek struggled to talk, and after that he only got out some nervous clicking before the Commissar interrupted him.
“Psek, why is your ship in emergency lockdown?!” Kalling shouted. He sounded angry, but then he always sounded like that.
“Oh! *Click* well, *click* there might be a contamination.” Psek said.
“You don’t say.” Kalling said sarcastically.
“Yes, a, *click* cracked sample case in the freezer. Should be fine, because it’s *click* in the freezer, and just a c-crack, but you can’t be too careful r-right?”
“Damn right you can’t be too careful. So then why did you bring back a fucking monster with you?!” Okay, now he was definitely angry for sure.
Oh shit, was all that was in Psek’s mind for a moment, until he had the impulsive thought to quickly say, “SorryCommissarendtransmission.” After which he just repeated a single expletive in his mothertongue.
The Commissar must have monitored his call with Matsily, which Psek wasn’t even sure that Kalling was allowed to do for calls to officials like Doctor Timor. Psek bolted out of the room, grabbed Leta, and took her with him to hide in engineering, since it had the thickest doors to get though. There they waited quietly for hours. Psek was terrified out of his mind, curled up in a corner. Leta was less frightened, since she was more aloof, but she knew that something was very not okay. Any time that she tried asking Psek about what happened, he just shushed her, and told her to not make noise.
After a few hours of waiting, and many missed calls, there was a bang on the engineering door. Psek jumped, and ran into a different corner. There was more banging, and the computer’s voice came over the speakers, telling Psek that he was receiving a call from a private device. He didn’t answer of course, and then whoever was on the other side of the door began to cut through. It was the longest fifteen or so minutes of Psek’s life. The doors were forced open just a few inches, and then someone called out to him.
It sounded like it was probably a Brinrikian voice, and it shouted, “Psek, this is the viceroy. Doctor Timor called my office as soon as she ended her transmission to you.”
A wave of relief washed over Psek. From that much terror, to that much relief, it was enough to make him dizzy.
The viceroy continued, “We’ve tried calling you dozens of times, but you refused to answer. I outrank the Commissar on this matter, and I’m going to take you, and the creature Leta back to the chambers of the Viceroy.” Then he paused for a moment before calling out again, this time with his frustration showing, “Psek!”
The little blue man came back to his senses, “Oh! Y-yes sir. Sorry sir. I *click* I panicked.”
“I am painfully aware of that. Now, open the door, and unlock the ship.” The Viceroy said.
“Yes sir.” Psek complied.
The door was opened, and the viceroy walked in with two Brinrikian soldiers wearing silver chest plates, short purple capes, and silver helmets with a purple pony tail on each of them: the uniforms of the royal guard. They also carried long rifles with woody patterns on them, and bayonets that resembled halberds, but smaller, so that they resembled spears as much as guns. The viceroy himself had a suede outfit of black, brown, and gold trimmed. His pantaloons protruded out from his thighs at sharp angles like he had a giant triangle in each pocket, and his shirt was poofy over his upper arms. The viceroy turned his grey scaled, and white feathered head calmly to survey the scene. First he looked to Psek, then to Leta across the room, looking each in the eyes with his own two yellow eyes, and their vertical pupils. You could see the predatory evolution behind the eyes of these upright standing, short tailed raptors, no matter how well they meant. They were a mildly intimidating race, though not in the savage kind of way, but rather the ubermensche kind of way.
“This must be Leta then.” The viceroy said, “That thing really is some kind of monster. I’ll let you handle it I think.” Then to the guard at his right, “Sascelli, you stay with them. Make sure that they make it back to the chambers unmolested.”
“Yes sir.” The other white raptor said, and saluted.
They all left engineering. Psek and Leta went to the bridge to unlock the ship, and as soon as they were done, they went to chambers of the viceroy. They were given rooms at the chambers, with guards posted outside. Leta was told that she had to stay in the room, and Psek was only allowed between the two rooms. Meals were brought to them. Very good meals by the way. When you eat at the chambers of a viceroy, you eat as if you were at the Imperial Palace in Marccitor. Red meat was not cheap in space where there are no pastures. This only lasted two nights though, and then they all had to gather to decide what to do about Leta. The viceroy’s conference room was very large and shiny, and acoustically perfect so that it was still easy to hear each other, despite being quite far from each other across a giant marble table. The Imperial sigil, which was a purple pillar with a diamond head and three pronged wings on either side, was spread across the table. It wasn’t just painted on either, but made of amethyst. The room itself too was extraordinarily extravagant. It was a tall circular room, with wood paneled walls at walking level, red granite pillars above that, and a golden domed ceiling that had paintings of various powerful men set into it. Don’t you just love where your taxes go?
Physically present at Raui station for the conference were Psek, Viceroy Accello, and Commissar Kalling. On holoprojector was Matsily Timor.
Accello was the highest authority there, and so he began the conference, “Gentlemen, lady, this conference is now recording. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I found Psek’s hundred and four page report to be…” Accello paused, and spun his hand as if he was aerating an invisible glass of wine to think for a moment before continuing, “mostly full of repetitive, and dry details, while also lacking in information on the parts which I did find interesting. More specifically, the report was mostly just proving Leta to be safe enough to bring aboard, while the empathic abilities were little more than a footnote. Then there’s the biggest mystery, the one of how Leta even came to exist in the first place. There aren’t even any leads to go on. Doctor Timor is the scientific authority here, so I want to hear it from her. Does all of Doctor Irani’s work prove that Leta is indeed safe to have aboard?”
Matsily gave her assessment, “I believe that Psek has done more than enough to prove that Leta is not carrying any dangerous xenoplagues. He has actually done at least ten times the normal amount of work than is typically done when examining life on any other planet, though of course, this isn’t any other planet. The strongest proof though, is the fact that Psek has personally been living with Leta for almost three months. If she was going to infect him with anything, then it would have at least shown up under the microscope, even if physical symptoms weren’t manifesting yet. And Kalling, I see you muttering there. Please tell the conference what you have to say.”
Kalling was uninhibited, “This creature is safe for now, but who is to say it that won’t change? The plague on Raui is still not completely stable. It changes, mutates, adapts. Why should we assume then that a creature pulled from Raui won’t change, potentially in a very disastrous way?”
Matsily said, “I must admit, that is a valid point. My personal prediction, based on what Doctor Irani has given us, is that Leta changing to begin producing some version Hekate Kataris, or some other such doomsday scenario, is incredibly unlikely. Irani’s genetic work was impressively thorough. He had some success in trying to trigger mutations in samples of her tissue, marrow, and blood, but they always stabilized safely, or reverted back to normal, or the Hekates he was using just died without affecting anything. Obviously she should still be kept under supervision, and somewhat contained to have minimal, or no contact with society, just to be sure. Tests should also be regularly done on tissue and fluid samples, as Psek had already been doing. With proper safety measures, this potential danger, which we may find out isn’t even a real danger at all, will not be a problem to worry about. It is only because Leta is from Raui that safety is such a concern here. If she was found anywhere else, anywhere at all, then a Viceroy and a Commissar wouldn’t even need to be here.”
Accello spoke next, “I was given the impression that this was some sort of monumental and controversial discovery, but it sounds like you’re saying this thing has just been blown out of proportions, because of where it came from.”
“That is exactly what I’m saying. From my perspective, I just see one interesting alien, but the galaxy is a big place. It’s full of things at least as interesting as Leta. She’s one of a kind, she’s got a mystery behind her, and that makes her interesting enough to keep around, but we can’t really say for sure yet how much practical knowledge there is to be gained from her. The Empire has much more important projects going on at the moment, with a lot more investment already put into them. She is but one little alien in a big, big universe, just like the rest of us.” Matsily said.
“Well, since you are the expert, I will have to take your opinion on this. Which brings me to having to decide what to do with her. I take it that you don’t want to keep her around here, eh Kalling?” Accello said.
Kalling grunted, and said, “I don’t care what the Empire does with it, so long as you do not keep it here, or on any Rauian world.”
“That’s not really your place to request, for her to not go to other planets that you have no jurisdiction over, but I think I can meet that request so long as Timor is fine with it. Doctor Timor?” Accello said.
“I also wouldn’t advise keeping her on a Rauian world, so I won’t be able to take her. I was considering Akillia, or perhaps just a station, or ship, unless for some reason there’s a university that really wants to take her.” Matsily said.
Psek jumped on that, “I represent the university of Meekmere, the second largest univserity on Perok. I will take her there if you permit it.”
There was a pause while the others considered it. Accello leaned back, looking at the decorated ceiling, and pondered aloud, “Let the Perok take care of it…?”
Kalling seconded the motion, just to try and get Leta as far away as possible, “I think this is the first good idea that Doctor Irani has had. The Empire has too many other concerns and expenses right now. Why not let the Perok take care of this? I know that it’s still a largely backward protectorate, but Irani has proven a capable scientist, so with the right resources supplied to him, I see no reason why the Perok couldn’t do this. If they discover anything useful, it will end up in the Empire’s hands anyways, but we won’t have to do the work. This option would probably be the most cost effective too.”
“One more alien around isn’t going to break the bank, Kalling, but I suppose that every Kronig counts these days, and Doctor Irani did seem very quick to take up this opportunity. Actually, come to think of it Irani, you seem to be someone who will take up a challenge, and pursue opportunities when they are presented to you. If you weren’t that type of person then you’d still be stuck in a swamp on Perok. You probably are actually the right man for the task. What do you think Doctor Timor?” Accello said.
“He has the knowedge and skills for this. He can take that back to his homeworld, and with a little technical support from the Empire, I see no reason why the Perok wouldn’t be capable of handling this. It’s definitely not a bad idea.” Matsily said.
“Well then, it looks like you’re going home Doctor Irani.”
Psek and Leta were delivered to Perok with minimal equipment, and that’s as far as the plan got. Shortly after they arrived, the Empire broke out into civil war. A large portion of the fleet was sent to restore Imperial order to the colony on Scantari where the local government had illegally announced its independence from the Empire. When the fleet arrived however, the admiral sided with the separatists, dividing the fleet, and in the confusion he managed to capture or route all ships remaining loyal to the Empire. It had been planned and organised from the get go to play out this way. With so much infighting in the government, and so much dissent from the plebs, a civil war was inevitable. The Empire withdrew all forces from Perok, and cancelled all aid and activity there to deal with this civil war that they now had on their hands.
Perok was still a very developing planet. Only half of the population had access to running water, and cities were powered by coal and natural gas. The aerospace industry there was made and run by the Brinrikian Empire, which is to say that the Perok hadn’t even invented heavier than air flight themselves. Ten years ago they still only had hot air balloons. So this developing planet was now isolated and alone again. Perok are an ingenuitive people though. Sometimes they have difficulty thinking for themselves, but they’re very mechanically minded, and learn quickly. Work continued without the Empire, not just in regards to Leta, but in regards to the development of the whole planet. Knowing that they weren’t alone in the universe, and that the Empire could return, Perok remained mostly united and strong. It did not degenerate back into petty nation states fighting to get a bigger piece of the pie. Though this was probably moreso because the Empire had made sure that one nation had the majority of the technology and guns, to keep the rest of them in line. Psek had no problems continuing to live with, and learn from Leta, while also making himself the leading authority on biology and chemistry on his world.
Psek published many books, but his last one before retiring was a detailed compilation of his work with Leta’s psionic and empathic abilities, titled Kazkeeks cru Leptan. Leta could make sure that thoughts processed in such a way that she could either share her viewpoint with others more clearly than could otherwise be articulated by words, or she could gradually undermine the perpective of others, and make them feel what she wanted them to feel. It made her a very persuasive caterpillar. A limit to her abilities though, was that they only worked on a relatively calm mind. She could do a bit to make, and keep a mind calm, but if a mind was not calm, then she couldn’t get anything through. Something about the way she connected to others, the clarity of mind that seemed to subtly radiate from her, just generally seemed to make everything go a bit more smoothly when she was around. This was tested in the university by having her live in residence with various students for periods of time, which seemed to result in higher grades for her flat mates. Psek went into many trances with Leta, practicing various types of hypnosis, and pioneering phsychology as a concept for the Perok.
When Psek died nineteen years after returning home, at the age of fifty five, he entrusted Leta’s care to his protige, Beto Amarel, in his will. Beto had been a student of Psek’s that seemed particularly adept, and also reminded Psek of himself in a lot of ways. Beto worked under Psek for ten years, and Leta also quickly took a liking to him.
Only a year after Psek’s death however, the Empire returned… sort of. It had been a total of twenty years of civil war for them, but they were once again united, though not as the Empire anymore. They were now a union of systems, the Union of Systems actually, with a senate that represented the worlds of the former Empire. Theoretically people would be represented equally, but realistically it was gerrymandered to shit. Their politics doesn’t really matter though. What does matter is that someone in this new Union remembered that they had left an asset, Leta, on Perok, and still intended to come back and get a report. They liked Psek’s books, and they offered a job with them and their funding to Beto now. It would mean leaving Perok, and sometimes travelling to distant worlds across the Union. Beto was a bit of a shut in, and not particularly fond of this idea, but the Union made it clear to him in private that they were going to take Leta with or without him. Abandoning Leta, who had built up a strong psionic tether to his brain, was not an option.
Over the next nine years, Beto managed to identify Leta’s origin. Before she became changed like the planet they found her on, she was a Scantarian. You could say she was the last Scantarian, since every other one of those red ants was exterminated by the Empire more than two centuries earlier, but she was so changed that calling her Scantarian wouldn’t really be accurate. It was still undetermined why a Scantarian was on Raui in the first place. Psek had recorded a dream that he and Leta had together, where she woke up from a pod, or capsule on Raui, but no one was ever able to find that pod to determine its origin.
Other than that, Beto continued running into as many dead ends as Psek had before him, until the Union released a big secret. During the civil war, called the Long War, the planet Akady had to be quarantined, and the largest purge and cover up in Imperial history took place there. It was kept secret for nearly ten years by the Union’s government, because the incident killed five hundred million people. Apparently the Empire had another set of scientists working with Hekates from Raui there, also trying to control the mutagenic properties of the Hekates, very similar to much of Psek and Beto’s work with Leta. With the truth about Akady coming out also came access for Beto to a previously hidden archive of information on the weapon that killed Raui, and made Leta. Everything from the Empire’s failed project on Akady, to the work of the Centurian scientists from Messitar in making their weapon, to even a few ancient Raanite documents translated by the Centurians, documents of the original xenoplague that consumed swathes of the long gone Raanite Empire hundreds of thousands of years ago. The old state of Messitar had apparently found the xenoplauge in frozen tissue on the derelict Raanite station of Aes Avie. All of their stories read like horror. Leta was certainly safe, but she was spawned from nightmare fuel. So her existence was sort of kept on the down low after the release of that information. Not that she was on the cover of the Rolling Stone or anything, but she had been mentioned in a few local science magazines, and had been out on enough planets, and met enough people that her existence wasn’t exactly a secret either. She did have a number to be emailed or called at, and you could find her in an online phone book beforehand. After this though, she went from being on the grid, to being off the grid. She became a lot more difficult to find.
More important to the continuation of the plot though, Beto was able to have a break through. It was small, but it was still something. He was able to clone an animal that he had altered with the Hekates in Leta’s spinal marrow, and the animal didn’t die horribly! Beto was able to create a few small mutations thereafter as well, and restabilise the lab rat’s DNA a few times before he had an unsuccessful test that killed it with super cancer.
This was enough to draw a lot of attention from higher ups. Now in the spot light, he was maintaining a careful balance of not becoming so interesting that too many other people, or powers, got involved to control Leta, but also not being so dull as to lose funding, or have Leta taken from him. He also had to meet with a more important sponsor than Matsily Timor, and more frequently, and Beto was by no means a people person. The best way to describe his social skills is as mildly autistic. While being pressured to take on more staff, an idea hit him: he should hire an assistant, one who is a people person, who can do the greetings, the meetings, the presenting, and the organising of reports. Basically someone to do all of the work that he didn’t want to do himself.
He had the idea while in transit in his little blocky grey vessel, that just had a new coat of Union paint over the old Imperial one. As soon as he had that idea, he stopped at the first outpost connected to the Union media network. He was basically in the middle of nowhere at the time, just stopped at an old outdated Imperial mining colony that was slowly dying out in some cold dark asteroid belt. From there however, he began downloading every possible qualifying resume, ordered by how close in proximity they were to him. Surprise, surprise, a Kathos DuPaillant had his resume out for any lab or office job, and was currently at an even smaller mining colony that was practically on the way to where they were going anyways. This DuPaillant’s skills and education looked good enough. Better than good enough even, though not as good as great. So that was Beto and Leta’s next stop.