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The Forgotten Ornament Awakens

 

The Forgotten Ornament Awakens

Leslie R. Lee

Published by Leslie R. Lee at Shakespir

 

Copyright 2015 Leslie R. Lee

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1

Something tickled her nose. Still asleep, she swatted at it. And slapped herself in the face bringing her instantly awake.

“Not again,” she grumbled, rubbing the red mark on her forehead.

Good thing no one witnessed the famous astronaut almost knocking herself out of bed. Shoving her arm aside, she rubbed her eyes with her left hand. Too awake now to try to go back to sleep, she stumbled to the bathroom, emptied her bladder, then washed her hand and face.

Peering at the bruise, she muttered to herself, “Good one, Captain Steffy.”

When she she’d received her promotion, she had acted appropriately humble. Then ran back to her hospital room so she could practice saying it. Of course, her full name sounded better but that battle she’d lost long ago. She didn’t care. And now her reflection grimaced back at her.

Captain Steffy. Hero to the Jyrn.

Captain Steffy. Hero to Earth.

Captain Steffy. The hero no more.

Time and meds had healed most of the wounds from the mission. Her hair had grown back though the length made her look like a pixie. Which she hated. Even her eyelashes and eyebrows had recovered. Now for the morning ordeal of trying to dress herself. Jeans and a t-shirt. No video interviews today of the savior. So casual was the order of the day. Besides, it had been a long time since anyone had requested her appearance. The media found more interest in her fellow shipmates from Charity than her now. After all, they were back on Earth with the crews of Hope and Faith. Whereas she still remained, far, far, away, on the home world of the Jyrn,

The Jyrn.

An advanced race. Powerful and wise in comparison to Earth, they possessed one fatal flaw: They needed Humans to survive. Specifically, a mission consisting only of Humans. The strange anomaly in their sun would kill any Jyrn coming close. But Humans were immune. Mostly. And Humans had operated the ships that had finally rid the Jyrn sun of the anomaly. Her ship had delivered the payload that had saved the Jyrn. And it was she in particular that had paid the price.

She shook her jeans out with her left hand trying to keep her other arm from snatching the clothing away.

“It would be easier if you performed your dressing duties with both extremities.”

She jumped and whirled around. The Jyrn did not have the concept of knocking. And they were very quiet. She realized, in her surprise, that she had thrown her jeans at him. He, Jorol, had caught the clothing easily and shook it out before offering it back to her.

“Nice reflexes,” he smiled. “Uh, uh, not your left hand.”

She took a deep breath. And reached out with the tentacle that was now her right arm. Her body looked very much like the Jyrn had just grafted one of their appendages onto her shoulder. Her right arm flailed at the jeans beating at it but not grabbing them.

“You’re thinking too much, Captain,” Jorol said smiling.

She tried again. And the tentacle slowly reached out and grasped the jeans. She pulled it towards her and tried to transfer it to her left hand. Instead, every time her left hand tried to take hold of it, her right… tentacle would dance the pants out of the way.

“Dang it!” she snarled, hurling them onto the floor.

“Better,” said Jorol.

“How the hell is that better?” she demanded.

“You just did it rather than over complicating it. Like throwing the jeans at me.”

She could tell from the way his tentacles coiled and his changing colors that he found her highly amusing. That did not make her feel any better. She calmed herself as much as she could then let her left hand and right tentacle slowly dress her.

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything about whether I am to be released.”

He took on an appearance she recognized as frowning. “You are not a captive here, Captain Steffy. You are free to move around as you wish.”

“But not to go back to Earth.”

The tentacles shifted again and his great eyes stared at her. He was a lot bigger than her. She recognized in his demeanor a bit of embarrassment and a tinge of what might be anger.

“Your superiors still want to conduct more tests. To make sure that all that can be done has been done.”

“Right.”

Her superiors. NASA was perfectly content to bring her home. But the politicians… They were afraid. Afraid of what she had become because of her arm. The radiation and heat of the Jyrn sun had so ravaged her right arm and hand, the meds decided they had to amputate after the payload drop. The Jyrn could easily regrow a lost appendage. And they were sure that they could stimulate regrowth in a Human. So they had. Except the appendage that her stimulated stem cells had differentiated into was not a Human arm, but rather a Jyrn tentacle. Everyone was fascinated, even delighted. They postulated that some sort of anomalous DNA had contaminated the procedure. But the more they investigated the more confused everyone became. And the more fearful. They decided to amputate and try again. Steffy had resisted but decided there was no other way. When she’d awoken from that procedure, she expected a couple of days recovery then to restart the regeneration protocol again. But instead of a stump, a small baby tentacle grew from her shoulder. From their faces, Human and Jyrn doctors alike, she didn’t need to ask if they had simply skipped ahead. Her right appendage had spontaneously started to regrow. Like a Jyrn. Only faster.

That was when the fear really ramped up. Quarantine and isolation “just to be safe” did not assuage any burgeoning panic.

The media turned their attention to other members of her crew. The media and the vast majority of their consumers preferred a pristine story. One without someone who suddenly sprung a tentacle out of their body. And it was better for her anyway, the media handlers had said, that they tone down the coverage.

Just to be on the safe side.

She had hacked the firewall separating her from the media on Earth to find out what was really going on. As usual, a vocal and powerful minority fanned the flames of fear. What if she were contagious? What if she had been replaced and she was nothing more than a replicant? What if she contaminated the purity of the Human DNA genome?

The trumpeting of what-ifs simply drowned out the voices of reason from NASA and the medical community. To put the stranger, the unknown, into the midst of their safe and petty lives, was something the right politicians and the audience hungry pundits could obsess over. They easily outfoxed the thoughtful discourse of science. She tried not to be so unkind but it was a struggle.

Punching out a doctor that called her tentacle an abomination had not helped her cause. Turned out that tentacles make fairly decent fists. At least he had been a Jyrn. The bureaucrat she had almost choked the life from was Human. He had suggested that she actually wanted to stay on Jyrn since she would feel more at home with “others like her”. It’d taken three people to unwrap her arm from around that pencil neck. She figured she must have Tourette’s of the tentacle. She hadn’t really wanted to strangle that idiot. Not really.

She missed Earth. She missed her ship. She missed her crew. But most of all she missed her beautiful mouse companion. That little body now rested in a place of honor on her ship, Charity, that circled the Jyrn sun, far from the Jyrn home world due to contamination from the strange radiation of the anomaly. And she had left the little blue ornament with the mouse so that Little Miss Mouse wouldn’t be alone. She was glad she had. Still, it would have been nice to hold that little blue orb as well. She’d not forget either one. Let them sleep there, she had thought.

“We have a tour of some of other cities planned if you would like.”

She suddenly realized that he must have been repeating the offer more than once. Exploring this strange new world both thrilled her and distracted her from her own thoughts.

“That sounds great.” she smiled.

The last time they had left the security of the hospital though had revealed that the Jyrn were as much at the mercy of politics as any Human. She knew there were Jyrn who did not like the Humans. However, she had always assumed this advanced alien race was smarter. Perhaps it comforted her a little knowing that Humans did not hold an exclusive patent on stupidity. She now knew why she had guards. The vast majority of the Jyrn loved her. But there were others who saw reliance on an alien species to be a dangerous precedent. Contacting Earth had bent Jyrn laws and the laws of the Interplanetary Agreement with other alien races at the very least. Broken them to be brutally honest. But the Jyrn government at that time had decided survival was more important than a philosophical discussion centered around engaging primitive cultures. And it had been right thing to do in her opinion. But with the danger gone, the critics had come out again. By bending the rules so completely, the Jyrn were now responsible for Earth. For better or worse, the Jyrn had signed up to be Earth’s mentor, their guide, their teacher. A nasty and impossible job, she thought. The demonstrations by the Jryn directly against her depressed her more than the mobs trying to keep her from Earth. The days of walking amongst this alien race were over. She was a political pawn now. Nothing more.

“I want to go home,” she said to Jorlor. She draped her right arm over her left shoulder and curled it around her back to hook onto her arm again. It felt right like that. And kept the restless squirming to a minimum.

“I know you do, Captain, but Earth…” Jorlor began.

“No, not Earth. Home.”

Jorlor paused. It was odd for a creature who seemed in constant motion. She had mystified him.

“Your meaning is unclear to me, Captain.”

“Charity. Charity has always been my home. There is nothing wrong with her. I will go live there.”

“First, The Charity glows with the type of radiation that destroys our flesh.” He reached out and tapped her right arm. She uncoiled her arm and entwined herself around his. The Jyrn touched each other constantly. At this point, she would let her desire for that touch overcome her Human manners. She needed that touch. “Second, The Charity does not belong to you. Third, what will you do up there? You will be alone.”

“I will take my chances with the flesh. Second, I claim salvage rights to Charity. In effect, it is abandoned. Third, what I do up there is my business as long as I do not harm anyone.”

“When will you leave?”

“Immediately.”

Jorlor drew himself up. If she could not convince him, she was doomed. The unwanted hero without a home.

“I’ll get you a shuttle you can pilot yourself, Captain. Best be quick about this before anyone can throw their tentacles into the works.”

Jorlor was good to his words. She hoped he wouldn’t get in trouble. On the other hand, maybe getting her off planet was something that benefited everyone. And it was not like she was stealing something. Jorlor gave her a real Jyrn hug almost engulfing her in his tentacles.

“Remember,” he said releasing her finally. “You are always welcome back here. You are a true hero, my Captain. The small minded will not deprive you of our succor.”

She smiled, “Thank you for all your help, Jorlor. You’ve made my joy real.”

Then she was away. A few small souvenirs, some articles of clothing, enough supplies until she got life support fully functional, and the little package from her family. Still cool to the touch, it had been the last piece of the puzzle she had waited on.

Docking was tricky, but since she had made a small truce with her right arm, flying a Jyrn shuttle proved quite easy. Piloting the small craft made her feel as if she could actually breathe again. With a satisfying clunk, the small shuttle melded with the much larger ship. She’d forgotten how big it was. All she could remember was how small it was compared to the payload.

She’d activated life support on the way to the ship and she set about resetting all the command codes. No need to tempt someone into thinking they could do something with her ship. Her ship. The ship her mother had designed. The ship that had survived and saved them all.

She placed the small package from her father on the table of the bridge then found the small memorial with her mouse friend still entombed. She popped the top off and removed the little blue ornament.

“Remember me?” she asked.

It beamed back at her.

She closed the lid of the memorial and put it in a drawer. She hoped the little mouse would not mind but having her body around was a bit morbid for her. Time to check one very important thing. The most important thing. With a little portable medical device, she scanned her right arm. Nothing. Her right arm was still her right arm. A tentacle, yes, but not even a tingle. She would have had to remove it if things had gone badly. But she figured her Human DNA would protect her. It was a hope based on no scientific evidence. But it was a good working theory. And so far, it was working for her.

Then she opened the lid of the package from her mom and dad. She set the controls in the box and set it aside to let it finish.

She unfolded the last story her father had written, smoothed out the wrinkles in the paper, glanced briefly at the tale which for the most part she could not recall, and turned it over. Blueprints. Her mother’s blueprints for the ship. Plans that she had forgotten about until she had stumbled upon the story in her belongings. She didn’t know if it was luck or coincidence or what but these were just what she needed for Charity.

Engineers had designed the ship so at least seven people would man the bridge and seven more at stations scattered throughout the vessel. If things were going well, then that was all the personnel needed. But according to these drawings, Charity could, in an emergency, be manned by fewer people. According to her mother’s blueprints, as few as one. At each station she rewired hardware and reconfigured software, transferring control to her command. The Captain’s chair.

When she returned to the bridge, she gently shook the box. And the four mice stretched and yawned and woke up from their cryo sleep. She gave them a thumb’s up. They returned it. Or she thought they did. She knew mice really couldn’t but she loved how they nosed around and unpacked their belongings. Funny that her father had put in these little odds and ends, furniture, and clothing to accompany them. She unwrapped a cookie for each mouse and handed them out, Then, she reached out with her tentacle to one.

It shrieked and cowered back.

Oh no.

She jerked it away blanching.

Then the mouse laughed falling on its back, and pointed at her. Another mouse came over to kick him. She shook her finger at the grimacing mouse, shoved him one more time, then held out her paws. The little mouse pointed to the tentacle arm, her arm. Tentatively, she held it out. The little mouse scampered up the tentacle to perch on her shoulder. Captain Steffy nuzzled the little mouse a kiss. Her tears that she had dammed up behind her professionalism so no one could see her damage, her pain, her disappointment, flooded out. She sobbed. She ached. She hurt. The little mouse held her. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. It didn’t matter. Finally, she was home.

She brought up the star charts on her console and pointed the ship in the direction of a new horizon. Something blue glinted. The other three mice were introducing themselves to the little blue Christmas ornament.

“I have not forgotten you,” she told it. She took it from them as they held it up to her. She hung it up in a place of honor. Things were going to become exciting again.

 

“Dad!” the little girl who wasn’t a little girl any more snapped at him. “Why are you crying? This isn’t a bad ending.”

“They treated you so mean,” he blubbered. “I should have armed that ship and had it go back and bring the rain down on those jerks! Treating you like that.”

His patient wife just sighed. “Why not simply have people behave more nicely in your stories?”

“It’s not realistic. I need to shine the harsh light of truth on the Human condition, revealing our inner failings and fallibilities, showing how flawed we are despite our self delusions for near god like powers.”

“I am not understanding,” said Jorlor, the engineer who still worked with his beautiful and patient wife on the last details of the ship, Charity, orbiting high above Earth. “Did you not write this story? You are after all, the author.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” he grimaced.

“Don’t worry, Jorlor,” said Commander Steffy, patting him on his tentacle. “No one understands writing. Now let’s get to the shuttle departure. I don’t want to be late for lift off. It would be bad for me to be tardy.”

They bundled themselves into the large SUV, part of the big convoy destined for shuttle departure.

“This is kind of strange paper, dad,” Steffy said, examining the story he handed to her.

“Your mother said I should hand write it on this. Some of her old blue prints, right, hon?”

“Yes,” her mother smiled. “Never hurts to have a few extra blueprints around.”

Commander Steffy shrugged and shoved the story into her bag. Truthfully, she’d been only half listening to the traditional Christmas tale. The mission dominated her thoughts.

Her dad sighed as his wonderful and precious daughter crumpled the paper up. At least she still allowed him to continue on with his little Christmas tradition of writing then reading her a story. Even all grown up now, she was still his baby and always would be. The big, dramatic sighing and eye rolling during the teen years had been hard though.

Commander Steffy’s little mouse perched on her shoulder safely zippered into a big pouch. She would be transferred to a cryo box when the time came. Far fewer media gathered for their lift off. Faith and Hope had already departed for the Jyrn system and had drained the media and the crowds of any excitement. Which was just fine. The President still attended though to give them hugs and make a little speech.

“I’m sorry that you have to leave on Christmas day, Commander,” the President had said after the official hoopla.

“When it’s time to go, Mrs. President, it’s time to go.”

They released her along with the rest of the crew. The crowd watched them stride across the red bricks to board their shuttle.

“We’ll see you soon, Steffy!” he yelled out to her, trying not to weep any more. He held up a box containing the mouse’s family so they could wave as well. He didn’t care that he must look like a lunatic. They needed to see off one of their own as much as anyone.

Commander Steffy gave him a thumbs up and entered the shuttle. She reappeared at the window and held up the small blue ball. It was proud and could not be happier. The mouse squeaked to it, bouncing with excitement. This was beyond anything either of them could have ever imagined. And the little blue ball gathered the light around it and shone back into the cabin and out into the world its message.

To everyone, everywhere, always, Peace, Love, and Joy.

 

Chapter 2

About the Author:

Leslie R. Lee writes fiction, takes photographs, and tries not to spend too much time on the Internet. You can contact him at:

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lrlee

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeslieRLee

Blog: http://leslierlee.typepad.com

iBooks: I’m there, just search for me, honest.

Please visit the following link to Shakespir to see other works by Leslie.

Shakespir: http://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/LRLee

 


The Forgotten Ornament Awakens

  • Author: Leslie Lee
  • Published: 2016-01-26 01:05:08
  • Words: 3577
The Forgotten Ornament Awakens The Forgotten Ornament Awakens