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Fanfiction: Part 1 (No comments please)

Started by Oxanna, Nov 07, 2007, 11:40 PM

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"Do not go up into the Mountains," said the adults of the Forest Wolves. "From the Mountains come the Bears, the Snow, and the Cold. From the Mountains come everything harsh and hostile."
   Tyrus, son of Tyranus, had never known the meaning of the word 'hostile'. It had always sounded so exciting and - and enticing.

When the year's snow drifted onto the ground, and the cubs all rushed out into the icy air to catch snowflakes on their tongues, or roll in the white powder, Tyrus could not help thinking what a scanty amount there was and how wonderful it must be in the Mountains where there was, so he was told, enough snow to build a little wall and have proper snowball fights, not snow-mixed-with-mud-ball fights, without forts, without teams, without any real objective. By the time rules had been invented, the snow had melted and frozen.
   Tyrus could not help thinking how wonderful it must be in a place where the ice over ponds was thick enough to slide on. However, had the land of the snow not been forbidden to him, he probably would have been freed of his fantasy soon enough and would have continued a normal life, planting and harvesting, hunting and feasting, building a comfortable little cottage in the fringe of the forest and spending lazy, hot afternoons lying on his back on a small raft on the big lake.

As it was, he was fourteen years of age, and the lust for adventure drew him like lodestone to iron and he could never forget the mysterious Land of Snow.

"Nessie, don't forget the honeyflowers, will you? Tyrus, take good care of Nessie!"
   "Yes, Mom." Whatever, sure, okay, let it go, Tyrus added in his mind. He was not in a particularly good mood that day, and having been ordered to an afternoon of babysitting his little sister did not, in particular, boost his morale.
   Yesterday, the village bully had picked on him. His hunting teacher had thought him lazy. Today he had overslept and his father had woken him by throwing ice water over his head. His eldest brother, Tyrnas, had called him slow and stupid. And now, at last, seeing a beautiful, free afternoon ahead - Nessie had been dumped on him like garbage in a ditch.
   She was going down to the lake to swim with her best friends, she told him excitedly - Lassie, Jessi, Tumnus, Linnaeus, Voltinus, Tessy...
   They reached the lake and she raced in, straight towards her friends. Tyrus was not in the mood for swimming. He sat on a mossy rock by the waterside and watched them dejectedly.       Oh, how he wished he could go to the mountains! And then an idea struck him. Next week was the Spring Hunt, and on the last day of the week was a great feast. Everyone would be in the Town Square - well, not quite everyone...
"Tyrus! Where are you going?"
   Oh, great. Just what I need. Champion Tattletale. Tyrus was - or had been - sneaking out of the village unobtrusively. That is to say, until Nessie came over to him. He knew, of course, he'd have to tell her where he was going, or she would bawl. "I'm going to the mountains. Don't tell Dad and Mom and please go away."
   "But I want to come with you! I'll keep up, really I will, and I won't cry! Not once!" she tried to look older and wiser than her eight years. This was so cute, Tyrus had to laugh.. "Oh, all right, you can come along. Just remember, its going to be very cold where we're going, get your cloak."
   And so, ducking under branches and jumping over brooks, Tyrus and Nessie steadily neared the mountains - as, unknown to them, a strange white vessel settled on the snowy hills...
"Brrrrr. Its a lot colder than it looks from the village!" remarked Nessie. "At least the snowball fight was fun."
   "You fought like a true warrior!" Tyrus praised his sister. Really, she had more grit than he had given her credit for. She hadn't cried once, not even when a snowball had hit her full in the face.
   He had to admit she was right with her first fact - it was much colder than anything in the valley.
   "Wait - what's that?" she said suddenly, pointing towards a mysterious, smooth white mound, untouched by snow.
   "I don't know," said Tyrus. "Lets investigate."


"Nessie, don't look now but there are three strange creatures behind us. When I say the word we bolt."
   "I can smell them," she answered her brother. "They smell - dangerous. Wait - there are two things in front of us, by the vessel!"
   Tyrus and Nessie ran for their lives.

   Z -zip - thock! One of the Humans's tranquilliser dart shot into Tyrus's shoulder.
   Z -zip - thock! The other's slipped just below Nessie's shoulder blade.
   Slowly, the world began swimming before Tyrus's eyes. Everything went fuzzy - then everything went black, like a lantern suddenly put out on a night when the clouds massed in front of the moon.
"Ugh - nnngh - where am I?" Tyrus woke up. He was in a completely white room with a strange light coming from the ceiling. Stranger still, he was on a flat surface which seemed to be floating around. Nessie was on another one, on the other side of the room.
   "What is this place?" asked Nessie.
   "I -" Tyrus would have gone further had a section of the white wall not opened. A slight figure with a chin bob of dark hair and a white coat stepped inside.
   "I can't be sure," said Tyrus breathlessly, "but - but I think that is a Human!



"Okay. Here we go..." Silently, Tyrus eased open the door to Jarmen's family sleeping quarters. Nessie crept behind him, carrying the ropes and tea towels. Tyrus himself was carrying a chloroform-soaked sponge. Steadily he approached Jarmen's bed. He hesitated for a moment, seeing the peaceful, happy face of his sleeping friend. Then he steeled himself and pressed the chloroform onto the Human child's face. Noiselessly, he took the tea towels and the ropes, bound and gagged Jarmen, and lifted him from the bed. As the two Morph and the Human left the room, Nessie glanced at the family who's life they were about to ruin... and thought nothing but, I hope we can get away before they wake up...
"What?" Jarmen woke up in his father's space ship, waist tied to the pilot's chair. Tyrus was sitting in the co-pilot's chair, a grim look on his face.
   "Tyrus, what are you doing?"
   "You mean what are you doing. You're taking us home."
   "B- but I - I mean, I can't -" Jarmen stopped short as Tyrus bared his teeth. "You're crazy!"
   "Maybe so. But I want to go home."
   "You can't force me to do this!"
   "Watch me."
   "I thought we were friends! Why didn't you just ask me?"
   "You know you would have refused. I would have been forced to carry out my plan anyhow, but you would have been forewarned. Face it, Jarmen - I'm in the position of power. This is the only way to save your life. Get me HOME!"
   "I - I don't know how!"
   "It is surprising how much one finds one suddenly knows with the proper motivation." Nessie spoke up, her voice cold and hard as steel. "And believe me, Human, you'll find you do have the proper motivation." She showed him her teeth - pearly white and sharp as a ceramic sushi knife.
   Jarmen gulped. He was all alone in an empty hangar with two morphed Wolves in the middle of the night. Wolves who, it seemed to him, were quite prepared to kill.
   Of course they were bluffing - but when one has no hope of help and is tied to a chair, one does not think twice about a death threat being real or only a bluff. Jarmen was certainly not going to take any chances, even if he had considered the possibility of a bluff. "But you're kidnapping me! I'll miss my family too, you know."
   "I know. But there's two of us, and only one of you."
   "You're stealing an entire spaceship!"
   "Where I come from, Jarmen, it isn't considered safe to back-chat someone who is currently in a more powerful position than yourself."
   Jarmen took another good look at two sets of ill-concealed fangs and sighed heavily.
   "You win. But if you think you'll come off this scot-free, you're mistaken."
   "On the contrary, my young Human, you will find it is you who are mistaken - about a great many things," Tyrus answered with a cold stare. He was alarmed to discover that he was enjoying himself. He had never had an idea that the 'bluff lessons' he had taken two years ago would pay off so well - or so badly. As to yet, he didn't know which...
   Reluctantly, Jarmen powered up the ship and it soared off the landing pad, through the clouds, out of the atmosphere, and away from Atlantis Prime - forever.


"So where is this planet of yours?" Jarmen's voice was as hostile as he dared make it.
   "It's not 'this planet', its Earth - the planet," said Tyrus. "And as to where it is, you can check the co-ordinates in the information section on the Science neural log page."
   Jarmen did just that.
   "Earth: Sol system, planet 3," he read its name, and the co-ordinates following it."
   "Then get going, man, before the whole of Atlantis Prime sets chase!"
   "That's exactly what I want them to do..." forgetting Tyrus's sharp sense of hearing, Jarmen mumbled the words. Tyrus, of course, heard exactly what he said.                            
        "And I don't," answered the Wolf. No more words were necessary.
For the rest of that night they flew on in cold silence. Jarmen was fuming at Tyrus as well as afraid, and Tyrus was half-angry at himself, half-pleased with himself. Nessie was not one to make conversation with a Human prisoner whom they were forcing to take them back home. It was probably the only one she would ever encounter, but she decided there and then to make it a habit not to talk to them.
   Anything she said might make Jarmen say something which would make Tyrus change his mind.
   It was a very fragile situation, like a thin china plate, with her as the shelf.

When the ship's clock said they had been flying for twelve hours, Tyrus checked their progress. They were about one-fifth of the way home.
   "So we'll reach it on Wednesday at twenty o'clock," Tyrus said. Those were the first words anyone had spoken since Tyrus had told Jarmen to hurry up. They were also the last of that day. Nessie opened a can of salted algae and emptied it into a plate for Jarmen, rinsing the can and filling it with water for him to drink from.
   She shared a can of beef and a carton of milk with Tyrus.
   The Wolves took turns going to bed and watching Jarmen, for fear he should turn the ship around. Of course, now twelve and a half hours from Atlantis Prime, he would never have dared, knowing he couldn't reach it before they woke up. Besides, he felt a trickle of curiosity about the Morph. He wouldn't really want to miss this opportunity of entering a completely new world. Especially considering the Human safety measures the Wolves were unaware about...

"Only three more hours." Once again, it was Tyrus who spoke. This time, unlike the previous two times, somebody answered. It was Jarmen. "From which country did you come?"
   "Yes - there's a list of countries here: Africa, America, South America, Asia, Australia, Antarctica -"
   "What are you talking about?"
   When Jarmen had carefully explained what he meant, Tyrus said he had no idea. "But the Science neural log said it was in a place called New Zealand. Here are the co-ordinates..."

~Author's note:
I know there's a lot of emphasis on Tyrus and Nessie's hardness and such, but I didn't know another way of going about to make you see Jarmen's POV.



"Hello, you two," said the Human, "I see you're awake."
"What? Her language resembles ours!" Tyrus gasped to Nessie.

   "I think she said something about 'hello' and 'see'," answered the little Wolf.

   "Here you go," continued the Human in a chatty, friendly voice.

Tyrus was so amazed at seeing a real, live Human he couldn't think of biting her. He only gawked and stared while she threw hard, dry pellets from a bag into a pristine bowl and set it on Nessie's platform. The latter sniffed at the pellets for a while, wondering what she was supposed to do, when the Human said, "You may eat them." The only word Nessie understood was 'eat', and she gladly obeyed. "Tastes like - well, I don't really know," she said to Tyrus as he received a similar bowl. "Its like - sheep, mixed with boar," answered Tyrus in a confused voice. "I don't think I've ever tasted it before. I like it."
   "Do you like it?" asked the Human. "Its beef-flavoured."

   "What did the Human say?" asked Nessie.

   " 'You', 'Like,' 'Its' and some strange words," said Tyrus, "I think she was talking about the food."

   "I'm so glad you've adapted so quickly," said Daphne Venn,for of course it was she who had entered and fed them, "usually specimens get homesick - or seasick!" Obviously Tyrus and Nessie didn't understand any of it, barring the odd word here and there, but her tone reassured them. "And what's your name?" asked Venn, scratching Tyrus under his chin, as one might do to a dog.
   Tyrus understood the word 'name', and he answered, "I'm called Tyrus."
   "Imcald Tyrus?" said Venn questioningly. She hadn't really expected the Wolf to answer, so when he did, she was naturally surprised. "I think I'll call you Tyrus."
   Whew. She got my name right, thought Tyrus.

   "And you?" Venn turned to Nessie.

   "Nessie," said Nessie, and as it was only one word, Venn took it to be Nessie's name. She was absolutely right. "Tyrus and Nessie," said doctor Daphne Venn, "rather nice names." She seemed about to say something else when doctor Jacobs endered the room.
   "So, Venn? Did you manage to talk to them?"
   "Yes, Sir. It seems the male is called Imcald Tyrus and the female is called Nessie."
   "Imcald Tyrus? What a curious name."
   "Could we call him Tyrus?"
   "Good idea." Jacobs approached Tyrus's platform. Two Humans! Thought Tyrus. Oh, to think that I should live to see them!
   Jacobs took a tube from his labcoat pocket and squeezed a paste onto his finger and offered it to Tyrus to lick. Tyrus took the finger between his paws and sniffed at it. He touched the paste with his tongue - it was delicious! From the corner of his eye he saw Nessie doing the same thing to Venn's finger. Now Nessie was licking the finger with relish. Deciding it was safe, Tyrus licked the scientist's finger clean and smacked his lips. "Oh, yum!" he said and licked his nose. Jacobs laughed and patted his head. "You're a perfect specimen!" he said. Just then, a bell clanged. "Suppertime, it seems," he sighed reluctantly. "These cooks have no respect. We'll have to wait until after supper to offer our strange guests a wash and a change of clothes."
"Here you go, Sir," said one of Jacobs's best helpers, Josie Kemp, handing him two neatly folded garments. "For the Wolves."
   "Very good. Blasted baked beans!" he added, attacking a tomato sauce stain on his coat with a paper serviette. "Why can't we just have supper in tubes, like in my father's time? Meals went so much quicker." He headed off to the Wolves' room.
   Doctor Venn was already there, helping Nessie onto the floor. "I think we should take Tyrus first," Jacobs contradicted her. "He's older and presumably braver, and will be able to tell her what its like to have a shower and wear a strange white hospital dress so she won't be too scared when its her turn."
   To Nessie's confusion, she was put back on the platform and Tyrus was helped down instead. Escorted by the two scientists, he left the room. As the door shut with a firm click, her eyes watered and she began to yowl, long and loudly. "Yowl, howl, arooooo, yip-yap-yip! Arooo-yowl, howl, yip, yip, HOWWWWWL!"
   "Shhhh!" Josie raced into the room, an apple wedge on her palm. "Would you like a piece of  apple, little Wolf?"
   Of course Nessie had eaten apples before, and she loved them. So when she saw a piece of apple being thrust towards her, she snatched it from Josie's palm and quickly nibbled it. Josie laughed and stroked her, and all the time Tyrus was having a shower, a blow-dry and a change of clothes, she tried to make sense of the words Josie was saying to her.

When Tyrus returned, he was wearing a white robe and looking a lot cleaner and fluffier. The two scientists lifted him onto his platform again.
   "Down you come, little Nessie!" said doctor Venn, lifting her off the platform. The Wolf eagerly stretched her limbs and fluffed up her tail, then walked towards the door. To her surprise, the door opened. She had seen the door open when a Human stepped in front of it, but hadn't expected it to happen to her. Amazed, she stepped into the corridor. It was white and spotless just like the room.
    Oh, I hope she won't be too scared, thought Tyrus, I wish I had had time to tell her what it was like...
Doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn had, apparently, decided it was better to get her washed while the geyser was still on - Miss Bellthram, the cabin maid, had been threatening to switch it off if they didn't hurry...
"This way, Nessie," said doctor Venn, taking her by the paw and leading her through another door. This time they were in a room even stranger than the first. There was an oblong, white tub and a strange looking, short glass tower. Doctor Venn touched a button on the glass tower's wall and water spouted from the ceiling. "Shower," she said slowly, pointing towards the strange glass tower. "Bath," she said just as slowly, pointing towards the tub. Nessie repeated the words, pointing towards the objects. "Very good!" praised doctor Venn, patting her head. "Do you want to bath or shower?" she asked, trying to show Nessie what she meant by her actions. Nessie chose a bath. Next thing she knew, doctor Venn was rubbing her fur with shampoo, rinsing her, and then drying her with a hairdryer. She was too surprised to do anything until she stood, clean and dry and wearing a robe, in the passage right outside the room door. She was ushered inside and lifted onto her platform which, in the meantime, had been furbished with some blankets, a thin mattress and a pillow. Her reaction was the same as Tyrus's...
"Morning, you two!" doctor Venn rushed into the room and woke the 'specimens'. "We'll be home in two hours, forty-three minutes and counting." The duo's reaction to this news was unanimous. "Ya-a-a-awn!"
   "Here's your breakfast," she added, setting two full bowls on their platforms. She seated herself on a chair to watch them carefully as they ate. Tyrus didn't seem to have very good table manners; he simply stuck his face right into his food and guzzled. Nessie's manners were better; she took a fistful of pellets and ate them carefully before dipping her paw in again. By the time both Wolves had finished, it was two hours, thirty-eight minutes before they would arrive on the ocean world of Atlantis Prime.

For the rest of the journey, doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn started teaching them the objects' names that were in the room. By the time there were only twenty-one minutes left, they had learned the name of bowls, doors, ceilings, lights, blankets, platforms, coats, robes, boots, hair, and quite a lot of other things. "I think we can take them to the control room," said doctor Jacobs to his apprentice. "They seem to be too well brought up to touch anything, and anyway I think the view will transfix them as it is." The two scientists led the Wolves through the maze of short passages and to the control room, the only room the ship with windows except for the captain's quarters.
   "Wow," breathed Tyrus. "Its beautiful.Hold on - what's happening?" They were going into a strange tunnel - you could still see everything outside it, but nothing except ships were inside it. Doctor Jacobs pointed out the window. "Planetary connective tunnel," he said slowly.
   "Planerarety concoctive tunnel," Nessie tried.
   "Planerarety connective tunnel," Tyrus had more luck. Doctor Jacobs shook his head. "Planetary. PlaneTaRy."
   "Planetary connective tunnel," said Tyrus.
   "Excellent!" Doctor Jacobs praised him.
   Nessie was determined to succeed."Plan-e-ta-a-ary, con-ec-tive tunnel," she pronounced.
   "Excellent!" Doctor Jacobs patted her on the back. "Ah - there's Atlantis Prime now."
   They had come out of the planetary connective tunnel, or, as it was called for short, the PCT.
   What the Wolves saw was one side of a huge, dark blue globe. Doctor Venn told them it was Atlantis Prime. "At Lantis Prime," said Tyrus and Nessie. It was actually quite easy.

Then the ship began to near the planet - and a strange-looking ring just outside its atmosphere.
   "Atlantis Prime, this is the ASS Vesuvius, requesting permission to land."
   "Vesuvius, you are cleared to land," said the docking operator over the comm, and the ship shot through the ring, down, through the atmosphere, and finally came to rest on a landing pad. The scientists led the Wolves out of the ship.



"Cool." It was all Tyrus could say.Grey, cone-shaped platforms rose out of a stormy, black sea. Tall, spired buildings rose up all around him, while an everlasting rain beat a steady rhythm on the resounding bridges which linked one platform to another. Buildings with grey outer walls and white doors stood on some of the platforms, while others were empty.
"Every place we get to is stranger than the last!" said Nessie. "And the last place wasreally strange."
   The strange quartet were wet through before they reached the reception building, but that was quite normal. Tyrus could see that everyone else in the building, except the receptionist and the guards, of course, was dripping water on the floor. He wondered why everyone stared and pointed at him and whispered to each other, but shrugged and began to survey the room. The floor and ceiling, walls and doors were all alike: smooth, white and hard as rock. Before he had time to ponder much, however, Venn and Jacobs ushered him and Nessie through a long series of white tunnels and round rooms until they reached a bustling, busy lab room.          "Laboratory," said Venn, and Tyrus and Nessie did their best to imitate the sound.
   "Whu -" began one of the apprentices. "Look! Doctor Renhaven!" everyone looked. Students, apprentices and masters alike began chirping about the newcomers.
   "My word, Jacobs," said doctor Figaro, his good friend and the chief scientist, "but you have made good on your threat to bring in the strangest specimens of the century! Why, you captured two MORPH!"
   "Yup." Doctor Jacobs was well satisfied with himself. "This one is Tyrus, this one is Nessie."
   "Amazing," answered Figaro. He held out his hand and Tyrus, who had been well instructed in greeting Humans during the trip, shook it.
   "Exceptional," said a student, pausing for a moment, then resuming his work of adding a green chemical to a tube of blood with an eye-dropper.
   "I think we should introduce them to the people," said Venn.
   "A capital idea!" answered Figaro. He turned to face the room. "Everyone!" he said. "Gather your families and meet us in the Hall of Learning tonight at eight past ten."
   "Yes, Sir!" they chorused.
At eight past ten, true to their word, all the teachers, doctors and scientists of the small town on Atlantis Prime gathered their families in the Hall of Learning. Doctor Jacobs, doctor Venn and doctor Figaro stood in the middle of the hall, with Tyrus and Nessie. "Everyone!" said doctor Figaro again."These two are Tyrus and Nessie, Morph brought here by doctor Jacobs and his apprentice, doctor Venn, for research. All though they look like cute, cuddly little dogs, remember that they are half Human. Therefore they are sapient and should be treated with respect - and with caution, for remember that they are also half wolf and are not to be trusted." Perhaps it was a mercy that Tyrus and Nessie did not yet fully understand the Human language.
"I say." It was well past midnight on Atlantis Prime and Figaro and Jacobs were in the otherwise unoccupied Library, on chairs by the fireplace. It was Jacobs who had spoken. "Do you think we should treat the Morph like they're unsual? They are, of course, but would you agree that we should keep them in the lab all the time? To prevent... awkward situations."
   "I should think not!" his colleague countered. "We want to observe normal specimens, and the only way we can do that is if we give those two normal lives - or at least, as normal possible under the circumstances. I vote we send them to school, where they can learn the Human language and alphabet, and also interact with other youngsters."
   "They'll start at the bottom class tomorrow, then."
"I shall arrange it this very moment with the head teacher." Figaro rose and exited the room, leaving Jacobs deep in thought, studying the shapes in the simulated flames as they leapt from log to simulated log.


Morning on Atlantis Prime. When Tyrus woke up, he was lying on the small, hard white bed he vaguely remembered sinking down on last night, after a meal of meat which Venn called 'beef', and milk which Venn said was produced by female beef - he couldn't remember her word for those - instead of sheep. He had also eaten a strange kind of algae which was yellow and had cheese made from the milk of female beef sprinkled over it. It also had pepper on it - it was a relief to have something familiar, even if it was as insignificant as pepper, in a completely different place.
   Venn entered the room and offered them each different clothes to wear. It wouldn't have been necessary to mention, had Tyrus not taken such a great interest in inspecting it. He realised they were a dark navy jersey and trousers and a pair of boots. He wondered why on Atlantis he had been given boots (thinking 'why on earth' didn't seem fitting to him at this point) and was greatly surprised when Venn demonstrated he was to wear them. He politely refused and they left it at that. Nessie had decided to wear hers.
   Tyrus and Nessie were taken to the Breakfast Hall. Everyone from the Science and Learning facility ate in one hall, he realised, and what strange meals they ate, too! Today there was more algae and a thin, floppy kind of thing called pancakes. They ate them with honey. Once again, something familiar. Or it would have been, had it not been dark, reddish-brown and very runny. When Venn said 'honey', he had been expecting bits of golden honey cakes or at least the white paste he was so used to. But not this weird stuff. Still, it tasted roughly the same and at least it was food.

That same day they were taken to the school. There were two rows of benches, on either side of the hall which Tyrus and Nessie entered, and all were occupied except one at the front. Tyrus and Nessie were motioned to sit on it.
   A teacher went to stand on the platform at the front.
   "Good morning, class!" she chirruped in a high, squeaky voice.
   "Good morning, Miss Haley," they chorused. Except for Tyrus and Nessie, of course, who didn't know her name.
   "Class, today we will revise out Alphabet," she said. "The Alphabet, as I am sure you all remember, is what we call the order in which the letters we read are arranged."
   Venn was in the class with the two Morph, and interpreted what the teacher meant by simple words and actions.
   "Now. How many of you know the Alphabet?"
   A little girl in the fourth row stuck up her hand.
   "Proceed, Anniha."
   "A, B, C, D, E, F, er... G, H, um.. J... L..." her voice trailed off.
   "Correct up to H," said the teacher. "Anybody else?"
   A small boy said he knew it.
   "Very well, Danjay."
   He knew the Alphabet up to N.
   "This is the last chance for anyone who knows the whole Alphabet," she said.
   Tyrus, who had up to now been studying the page Venn had given him (she had helped him pronounce the letters, too) decided to give it a shot.
   "Um... all right, er.. Ty.. um, Ty.."
   "Tyrus." Venn spoke meaningfully. How rude of the teacher to treat Tyrus like a completely different species! (Of course he was, but...)
   "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ!" Tyrus ran through the Alphabet without a mistake.
   "That's not fair!" protested Anniha.
   "Yeah!" agreed Danjay's sister, Jipsey. "He was reading from the chart!"
   "Remember that where he comes from, they have a different Alphabet," said Venn in a tone that might well have frozen the entire ocean. "I don't think you would have done half as well if you were suddenly in a completely new place, with completely new people all around you, reading a completely new Alphabet."
   Tyrus couldn't understand all the words, but he understood they were quarrelling about him. He tried to construct a sentence to stop them: "Do... not... attack...? on me," he said. The children would have laughed, had Venn not given them her special warning look, reserved for particularly tiresome colleagues and kitchen rodents who were pushing their luck too far.

Tyrus was greatly relieved when the morning's class was over. Numbers, the Alphabet, more numbers, and more Alphabet. And drawing, and building blocks... Nessie seemed to be on friendly terms with a certain little girl (he learnt later she was from the farming planet, Agri Kultur, and had moved to Atlantis Prime just a few weeks before his arrival) and they had once traded two building blocks. Besides, Nessie was only one year behind. She still found pleasure in building blocks. But for Tyrus, everything was different. Young children have a habit of not noticing each other's cultures or looks, but children of Tyrus's age are different. They form cliques and gangs and groups and, if you do not meet their standards, you cannot join their group. Frankly, Tyrus, being a different species from a different planet where technology was about a thousand years behind, besides being a scientific and medical curiosity, did not particularly meet anyone's standards, and was left to himself.
   Of course, during the building blocks and 'art' sessions, he had been expected to be left alone. All the better. But, during School Break, he had hoped to get to know at least one person. Not so.
   Naturally, he was relieved to be able to decide what to do for himself now. He passed the play-platform (the word 'playground' was not applicable) where the school bully, Yjo, and his friends were hanging around and looking for trouble. Tyrus was an easy target - or so they thought. When he passed them, deep in thought, Yjo pulled his tail - hard. In a flash, Tyrus spun around and nipped Yjo neatly on the hand. Yjo was really, really mad. He pulled Tyrus's ears. Tyrus gave him a hard kick in the stomack. He yanked at the scruff of Tyrus's neck. The latter head-butted him in the stomach. Yjo sprang. Tyrus reacted. A fight followed, of which Yjo came off the worst. Just then, a teacher and doctor Jacobs came onto the platform and pulled the two apart.
   The teacher made a cold remark about wild animals, to which doctor Jacobs answered with an equally cold remark about Rattus norvegicus in Homo sapiens sapiens clothing.



Tyrus and Yjo were now mortal enemies. To make things worse, the other children began teasing him - they put buckets of water on the rims of the few old-fashioned doors they had through which Tyrus was likely to go, so that when he opened the door the bucket fell on him. The prank fell flat when the Head Teacher himself went through one of these booby-trapped doors and the pranksters were all soundly walloped.
   Still they had other ideas. They put a thumbtack on Tyrus's armchair once, but the second time they tried it doctor Figaro happened to take that chair, and once again the children were punished. Yet all they could think of was pranks, pranks and pranks again. They put glue on his school bench and honey in his bed. They put rats in his pocket (that one fell flat because all he did was to eat the rat) and liquid soap on the bath mat. The younger, less creative ones pulled his whiskers, his ears and his tail, to which he bit them. And as time progressed, he grew less and less confident and finally refused to talk to anyone but Nessie.
   "How is our young patient?" asked doctor Jacobs to doctor Venn. "Will he see anyone yet?"
"Only his sister," she answered. "But I think I will go in anyway, and ask him what is wrong. At first I thought it was the pranks, but there were only two, after all."
   "Or only two we heard about," said Jacobs as an afterthought.

"Tyrus!" Daphne Venn knocked on his room door. "Can I come in?"
"Tough, because I'm coming in anyway." She entered and sat down beside him on the bed.
   "Tyrus, what's wrong, tell me."
"Not like you'd mind anyhow. You're all Human."
   Daphne Venn's patience was up. True, she'd helped to kidnap him. But hadn't she just been kind to him all along? "Tell me now!"
The sudden burst of anger was not like Venn, and Tyrus knew he must be exasperating her. So he sat up and said, "It's the children. They hate me! They put a thumbtack on my chair so it sent pain right up to my scalp when I sat down. Glue on my bench so my school shorts stuck. Liquid soap on the bath mat so I slipped when I stepped out. And the young, crude ones just jump and pull my tail and my whiskers and my ears. Yesterday I heard Yjo plotting how to catch me and throw me into the sea with a rope attached to my foot so they could pull me up again. Think how much it would hurt if that rope went taut!"
   "Tyrus!" Venn was shocked. "Why didn't you tell me all of this before?"
"I was afraid you'd tell the Head Teacher, and he'd lecture all the children to be nice to me. That would make it twice - if not three times - as bad as it is right now. What I want is to be treated like - like a Human. I know I'm not one. But that doesn't mean they can't accept me!"
He's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, thought Venn. If we don't do something quickly ... ! "Tyrus." She told him her thoughts. "We have to think of a way to solve the problem!"
   He shook his head. "Just let me go for a walk in the rain," he said. "Its so beautiful..."
It sounded as if he had stopped caring. About anything.
   "On one condition, Tyrus. Please don't do anything rash."
Without answering, Tyrus walked out of the room.
"All right."
"Prepare to be thrashed, my friend."
   "Y-JO! Y-JO! Y-JO!" the children cheered as Yjo and Jarmen, a newcomer to the planet, challenged one another to a fight. Jarmen came from the mining colonies on Sur Fascrat, the third of the planets on which the Humans lived. His father was a pilot, and he, Jarmen, was learning to be one.
   He was a head shorter than Yjo, and thinner, but looked to Tyrus, invisible in the heavy rain in his dark cloak, to be a lot more supple and determined. Jar-MEN! Jar-MEN! Jar-MEN! he silently chanted as the boys faced each other.
   Raindrops spattered on the platform and bounced up again, forming a kind of continual spray just above the ground. Tyrus was thankful for his waterproof cloak - how the children could just play and run and fight in the rain, acting as if it were a perfectly sunny day, he didn't know. But then, he supposed they were used to it. To think that most of them had never seen the sun, only the heavy black clouds. To think that they had never seen the moss on the rocks, a flowerbank, an old, overgrown bridge, to think that they had never smelt the sun-soaked grass, or the odour of the pines in the forest, nor felt the warm fur of an unmorphed rabbit as it sniffed your palm for treats.
   Lost in thought, he only came back to the heavy rain and the spray from the waves as they hit the platform when a wild cheer went up from the children. The fight was about to begin! The opening challenge had been stated. The leader of the cheering crowd, it seemed, was Dalkon, Yjo's younger brother. He yelled so loudly for Yjo the others did not dare to cheer Jarmen. Not as if they wanted to, anyway, thought Tyrus bitterly. Why, oh why did everyone always hate newcomers? With a pang of guilt, he remembered how stand-offish he had been once, when a new family had joined the Forest Wolves. But there was no time for brooding - the fight had begun in earnest.

Indeed it seemed as if Yjo would be the victor at first. He struck out heavily with his fists. But Jarmen dodged them and lashed out with his feet, slowly driving Yjo nearer and nearer to the edge.
   Suddenly, Yjo punched at Jarmen. His fist hit the smaller boy full in the jaw. That was the last straw: Jarmen was enraged. With all his might he shoved the other boy at a large dustbin silo.
   The dustbin gave way. "Oh, no!" gasped Jarmen. "I - I thought it was anchored!"
   With a scream, Yjo fell backwards and into the sea.
   "Nooo!" cried his brother Dalkon, trying to grab hold of him. Dalkon hadn't a hope of rescuing his heavier, larger brother. With a sudden gasp, Dalkon was yanked over the edge.

"They'll be killed!" cried Seth, Yjo's best friend as the children leaned over the railing and looked into the swirling waters. "If they aren't crushed against the rocks, they'll drown!"
   Not if I can help it, thought Tyrus. He slid under the railing and down the side of the cone-shaped platform.
   "Who's that?" asked someone.
   "I don't know, but he'll drown if he jumps in there!"
   The children wathced in silent suspense as the Wolf disappeared into the dark, swirling water.
"Ugh!" Tyrus spat a mouthful of salty water as far away as possible.
   Swimming down here was a lot more difficult than he had thought. Huge, ice-cold waves, saltier than anything he had ever tasted before, lifted him high into the air and it was all he could do not to get dashed against a platform or a rock. To make it worse, he had lost track of Yjo and Dalkon. No, wait - he could see something bobbing over there. With all his might, he battled the current and the waves until he reached the object. It was just a piece of plasic.
   But it was not entirely useless. It was a broad lid, presumably the dustbin silo's lid, thick and strong. Gingerly, he scrambled aboard - and it worked as a kind of raft!
It was, of course, very hard to steer, but it was better than swimming. He lay on his stomach, kicking with his legs to propel it, and paddling with his hands to steer it.

There! He could see something else. Hoping in wasn't just the dustbin silo, he paddled towards it.
   This time he had more luck. He had found Dalkon. He slipped off the lid and grunting, pulled the Human boy onto it.
   Where's Yjo? he wondered. There had never been any love lost between them, but Tyrus had never wished his rival's death.
   "Nnngh..." Dalkon was slipping off the silo lid. Tyrus pulled him back on - and the lid began to sink. It must have got a hole in it! thought Tyrus. If I don't get Dalkon back to the platform, this rescue won't result in two lives being saved, but instead three being lost. Reluctantly, he pushed the raft around and began working towards the platform. He hadn't noticed how far away it was. Long before he reached it, his aching muscles began to give in and a mist began to turn the world hazy.

When he reached the platform, doctor Venn and a few other scientists had thrown down two rope ladders. Doctor Venn's friend, doctor Renard, was at the bottom of one and doctor Venn herself at the other. Doctor Renard relieved Tyrus of Dalkon and, just as he was finally slipping away into unconsciousness, doctor Venn slid one arm around him and ordered the ladder to be pulled up.



"Tyrus! Tyrus!" Nessie was hugging her brother when he awoke.
   "Um - good morning," he answered.
   "Thank goodness, you're alive! You're awake!" she cried.
   "Dalkon - Yjo -"
   "Doctor Duncan - he's one of the head doctors - just gave the verdict. Dalkon will live, but he'll need new legs. His were dashed against the rocks."
   "New LEGS?!"
   "Apparently Humans can make new legs and arms. They call them 'robot limbs'."
   "And Yjo?"
   Nessie lowered her eyes. "They sent out search parties for him - they couldn't find him anywhere."
   "Jarmen must feel terrible." Tyrus recalled a time when he had accidentally dropped a rock on an injured bird. He had nearly cried his eyes out - but this was worse.
   "He does. Thankfully he's got his whole family here to comfort him, and nobody holds him to blame. Apparently it was Yjo who called him out."
   "Not surprising. Still, I suppose it doesn't make him feel any better."
   "I don't think anything will make him feel better. He nearly caused the death of three people! And he didn't even try to go in after you. Then again, I don't suppose he can swim."
   "No. Humans aren't all they're cracked up to be, I'm afraid," Tyrus sighed. "They might be very clever, and live on three worlds, but still - they can barely smell, they can't see well in the dark, and they can only hear so much. Why, when one of them made their pet bat cry, everyone thought it was so cute and said they wished they could hear it. My ears nearly imploded! And they're weak. And they don't walk anywhere, they have pathetic little vehicles called scooters to go around the corridors. Well, I suppose you know that. Yet the people at home nearly worship them! This will be quite a story to tell someday."
   "To whom?"
   "Our family, of course." Tyrus looked at her questioningly.
   "I - I don't know whether they'd let us go back," Nessie said quietly.
   "Surely when they've finished researching us? After all, we won't want to spend the rest of our lives here. We've found out all we want to about Humans and their technology."
   "I haven't," Nessie responded, "I want to find out why they abandoned us, and when they'll come back."
   "Do you think they'll want to come back?"
   "Of course! I mean, they -"
   At that moment, doctor Venn entered. "How's the hero of the hour?" she asked playfully. "Doing well, I see."
   "When will you let us go back home?" Tyrus's question was direct, earnest.
   "Poor Jarmen. He feels terrible! And Yjo..." doctor Venn appeared not to have heard. But for a fatal split second, Tyrus had seen her hesitate; double-blink; shoot the tip of her tongue over her lips. Her conversation was forced now, and her cheeks a shade of pink. "Well - I - I suppose you want to be together." She turned and left the room.
   "You're right, Nessie," said Tyrus in a shocked voice. "They won't let us go back."
   "What will we do?" her voice was nearly a sob. "I want to see the sun again, and the birds, and the flowers, and the trees, and the lake..."
   "The only thing we can do. We have to run away."
   "But how?"
   Tyrus swung himself out of the bed. "We came here in a space ship, didn't we?"
   "We don't know how to pilot one!"
   "Well, no... but Jarmen does."
   "You want to go home, don't you?"
   "It's settled, then. Here's my plan..."



Over the next few weeks, Tyrus and Nessie awaited the right moment to kidnap Jarmen and steal his father's ship.
   But during that time, something happened which nearly ruined their plans.
   At first it was slight, unnoticeable. Jarmen and Tyrus unconsciously sat at the same table during meals.
   Then one said something to the other. After that, they told each other jokes. During School Break in the mornings, they began to talk and laugh together.
   Jarmen and Tyrus had become friends.

"And the there are things called trees - they're like a long piece of wood -"
   "A material, its rather hard to describe - and there are more pieces of wood sticking out from the main trunk, the branches, and there are big leaves, a bit like grass, that grow from the branches."
   "You're making it up!"
   "No, I'm not. Really, I thought all the tales about skyplanes and going beyond the clouds was rubbish - but it wasn't!"
   Nessie shook her head sadly as she observed Tyrus telling Jarmen what Earth was like.
They were friends! How on Atlantis was she going to get Tyrus to go through with his plan? Jarmen was the only Human they could kidnap - they knew of no other child pilot who had access to the hangar.

That night, her fears were confirmed.
   "Do we have to go through with this? Do we have to kidnap him?" Tyrus asked. "He's not such a bad fellow, really, and won't he miss his family?"
   Nessie closed her heart to his pleas. During the five months on Atlantis Prime, she had changed, to become more like the Humans in her personality, able to switch emotions and feelings on and off as she pleased. And though it was hard this time, she forced herself not to take any notice of Tyrus's new found friendship.
   "Don't we miss ours?"
   "Of course we do, but it's all the same - I mean, whether we miss our family or he misses his. Only, we won't feel guilty."
   "No, isn't the same. There's two of us and only one of him. Besides, don't you feel guilty already? We disobeyed our parents and now look what its come to. You have to kidnap your friend or live a life of homesickness. You'll never see the lake again, or the mountains - you'll never feel the snow again, climb a tree, roll in the grass or eat a rabbit pie. Not to speak of our family."
   This time she had him. Mentioning a few of the things they had lost had convinced him.
   "All right. But we have to wait for the proper opportunity."
   "Yes... that's the difficulty."
Nessie was right. It was indeed a great difficulty. For with every passing moment, Jarmen and Tyrus became firmer friends. She realised her brother was very, very reluctant to go through with the plan. Once she even overheard him trying to make an opportunity to ask Jarmen to take them home.
   "Oh, I do miss my home!" cried Tyrus.
   "Yes... I am sorry about that. Sometimes these scientists can be so cold-hearted! You know, the other day they dissipated a bat..."
   The opportunity was gone forever. There was no way to avoid kidnapping Jarmen, except never to return to Earth. It was impossible to try to learn how to pilot themselves - all kinds of awkward questions would be asked, and the long and short of it would be that they would be placed permanently under Venn's watchful eye. And they couldn't kidnap her - she always carried a small scalpel with her, despite having a powerful voice and the ability to wake up at the slightest sound. No, she was quite impossible to kidnap. And, more importantly - she didn't know how to pilot a spaceship.

Meanwhile, Nessie and Tyrus got the Human language, Alphabet and spelling down pat. Tyrus, especially, progressed quickly through the grades, and was soon only two years behind. That was when he started doing Computer Science.         
   Nessie took a greater interest in reading than he did, though he was quite capable of reading something as complex as A Tale of Two Cities (though he would probably not know what some of the words meant). But he would not read something out of his own for enjoyment.

Sometimes at night, Nessie would go into the Library, choose a book and hide behind the chair at the fireplace. It was a most convenient spot, for you could hear and see and not be discovered. Behind that chair, she heard where the Head Mechanic, Hiram Golum, put the key to the Tool Room. She heard how to make a PCT-ring (though she forgot the method very soon, and didn't know what all the technical words meant, anyhow). She heard how to cook Yellow Algae to perfection (that information was hardly necessary)   .
   But most importantly, she heard the following six things:
1) Where the key to the Drug Room was kept
2) How chloroform could be used to put someone into a drugged sleep
3) What the bottles of chloroform looked like
4) Where the soft sponges were kept
5) In which part of the Tool Room the ropes were kept, and
6) Which cupboard in the Kitchen contained the tea towels

She gave Tyrus all her information. He had by this time quite got over his indecision.
   "Very good, Nessie," he told her, "all we need now is the right moment to carry out our plan."



Jarmen had been decreasing speed for some time. Now the ship was quite slow enough to enter the Earth's atmosphere.
   "Here we go," he said, and the ship began to get closer and closer to the Earth's surface. He dipped it beneath a swirl of clouds and gasped. They were above Africa. He could see the Victoria Gorge and, just a short while later, the Drakensberg.
   "They're beautiful," he gasped. "What are they?"
   Tyrus shrugged. He wouldn't have said "I don't know" for fear of having Jarmen think him ignorant.
   Jarmen turned the ship more to the East so it was facing the right way.
"Only a few more minutes!" cried Nessie excitedly. "Hold on - why are you going so slow?"

   "We're out of fuel," explained Jarmen.
   "Look!" said Tyrus suddenly.
   "We're flying over some sort of desert," said Nessie. "There's the sea again... and there - OH! That's it! That's home... I can see the North Island!"
   "Yes... your world," said Jarmen softly, steering the ship down. He studied the landscape below. "Oh, no..."
   "What is it?"
   "It's a lot rougher than I expected. Without fuel, we have to glide in to land, but I'm afraid there's no suitable site. Even the beach over there is all strewn with boulders. Wait, this looks good... get ready, we're coming in to - wait. No - I -"
A dark wall of green loomed nearer and nearer. Gravel spraying up from the ground relentlessly beat at the ship.
"I can't hold her! Brace yourselves!"
   Jarmen had done his best to keep them clear of the boulders and rocks which took up most of the small field. But he had not kept them clear of the forest - the thick, menacing forest, the trees growing too densely for a child to squeeze through.
   Jarmen did his best to stop the machine. Its bottom ground against the stones with a sickening screeching sound. The trees seemed a lot harder and stronger than they had before. Jarmen fell back into the pilot's chair, which deployed an emergency restraint harness.
   CRA-A-CK! The ship crumpled against a thick barrier of trees. "Anyone hurt?" Jarmen asked. Nessie and Tyrus rose groggily.
   "What's that noise?" Nessie enquired.
   "What noise?" Jarmen asked. "I don't... wait..."
   They listened. Suddenly Jarmen cried, "It's the reactor - it's run dry without fuel, but it didn't shut down! It's breaching - get clear!" The two Wolves flung themselves through a rent in the hull while Jarmen struggled to free himself from the seat harness.
   He was in a flat spin. Too panicked to try to calm down and unfasten it, he struggled harder and harder. Sweat poured down his face. If he couldn't get free in time...

KA-BOOM. Bits of metal, glass and plastic flew everywhere. Tyrus and Nessie were safe from the actual explosion, but not the debris. Not that that mattered to Tyrus. All of his indifference had melted as suddenly as butter on a hot coal. "Jarmen!" he shouted. "Where's Jarmen?"
   Nessie joined him as they ran towards the burning wreck. "Where is he?" cried Tyrus.
"Here!" Nessie called. Full of fear, Tyrus ran towards her voice.
   Jarmen was lying face-down not far from the wreck. A piece of cockpit obscured his legs and his arm was twisted at an unnatural angle. "Is he - is he dead?" Tyrus could barely choke out the words. Nessie placed her hand on Jarmen's wrist.
   "He's still alive," she said, "but I think we should get him out of here quickly."
   "Our tribe's over the mountains," said Tyrus. "And the Snow Wolves are hardly sociable."
   "But the Mountain Wolves live on these slopes," Nessie said. "Perhaps we can find them."
   Nessie found a piece of hull plating to use as a spade, and began to dig in the sand around Jarmen's legs to free him from the wreckage.
   Tyrus helped her, and between the two of them they soon freed him. Luckily his legs were merely bruised. The two Wolves found a deck plate to transport Jarmen on; they placed him on it and managed to lift their improvised stretcher. "Now to find someone who can help," said Nessie. "After all, we can't expect the Mountain Wolves to come to us."
   They looked up and down the beach. There was nobody in sight, though the moon was shining brightly.
   "Wait - what's that?" asked Tyrus, pointing. There was some movement on the white beach sands.
   "It looks like - some Wolves and a Mouse," Nessie answered, eventually.
   "Lets go."
   They carried Jarmen towards the four Wolves and the Mouse stopped what he was saying to turn to them.

"What's that?" it said.
   "Who are you?" asked one of the Mountain Wolves.
   "What's that?" asked another, pointing to Jarmen.
   "Please, questions later," panted Tyrus. "He's injured and we must get his wounds cleaned before they become infected."
   "Very well," said the largest of the Mountain Wolves. Then he addressed two of the other Wolves: "Tay - Plano - relieve the cubs."
   The two Wolves to whom he had spoken took the makeshift stretcher from the thankful cubs. The largest Wolf himself picked up Nessie. The Mouse followed them.



At a cave in the mountain the largest Wolf stopped. He almost had to fold double to get past the entrance, but thankfully it widened into a large cave almost at once.
   When the Wolves and the Mouse entered, all the Wolves in the cave stopped what they were doing to crowd around. Two cubs got beds ready for Tyrus and Nessie, while an older woman fetched the necessary things for treating Jarmen's wounds.
   She washed them all carefully and salved and bandaged them while Tay, one of the largest Wolf's sidekicks, made a splint for Jarmen's broken arm. They then rested him on a bed of heather and sheep's wool and presumed to ask the two cubs what he was.
   "In the meantime," said Faraday, the largest Wolf, who was also the head Wolf, "I see the boy cub has woken. If he feels well enough, I shall ask him a few questions."
   Tyrus did feel well enough. At Faraday's bidding, he told a condensed account of his and Nessie's adventures in the Human world.

"Unbelievable!" said Faraday. "What do you have for proof?"
   "Him," said Tyrus, pointing to Jarmen, "and all the debris on the field."
   "I shall just have to believe you. It's amazing!"
   Just then, Jarmen stirred. He opened his eyes and froze as he saw a whole cave full of Wolves, Tyrus among them. I am so dead, he thought. Thus he was surprised when Faraday came over to him and began speaking in an amazed voice.
   "You - you're a HUMAN?!"
   "Yes, Mister - um -"
   "Call me Faraday. Tyrus says your name is Jarmen."
   "Yes. Er - you're not going to - um - eat me or anything?"
   "Of course not!" Faraday was shocked. "You can tell us all about Humans."
   "Well -"
   "I expect you want something to eat," said Faraday's mother, Giaffen. "Here you go."          
She gave him a plate of sheep, peas, cabbage and porridge.
   "What's that?"
   She told him.
   "I think I'm brave enough to try some of that!" And hungry enough, he added in his mind.
   During the conversation between Jarmen and Faraday, Tyrus had slowly edged out of the cave. Now he was outside, in the breeze and the moonshine. It was good to be home. He wondered what it had been like for Jarmen, to live first on one planet and then the other.
   A wave of guilt and remorse swept over him as he remembered seeing Jarmen's sleeping family. What had happened to them? Where were they now?
I had no choice, he convinced himself.

*                           *                           *

"Doctor Figaro! Doctor Figaro!" Jarmen's younger brother, Thrax, hammered on doctor Figaro's door. "Jarmen's gone!"
   "Huh? Eh, what?" Doctor Figaro, still pulling on his boots and rain cloak, came out of his room.
   "Jarmen's gone!"
   "But, didn't he just get up earl -"
   "Doctor Figaro! Doctor Figarooooo!"
  Doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn raced up to his apartment. "The Wolves are gone!"
   "What? Jarmen kidnapped them?"
   Doctor Venn shook her head. "Oh, no - it's the other way round, I think. Oh, its all my fault! Tyrus wanted to go home, and I didn't tell him the truth!"
   "You are not to blame," said doctor Jacobs. "If you had, it would have been an even bigger reason for him to do what he presumably has."
   "Believe me, my dear," cut in doctor Figaro, "as you're no great actress, we can safely assume the truth came through."
   Doctor Venn blushed.
   "But what can we do?" shouted Thrax. "Where are they?"
   "Somewhere in space, on the way back to Earth," answered doctor Jacobs. "A ship, barely capable of the range, is missing. I'll quickly set up a team to go there and fetch him back."
   "Let me go, please, Sir!" Jarmen's sister, Kell, had caught up.
   "You and Thrax may come," decided doctor Jacobs, "and your father and mother can be the pilot and co-pilot. I shall go with doctor Venn in case our assistance should be needed."
An hour later, the team was all ready to go. A ship had been equipped for the round journey and everyone piled into it.
   Slowly, they surged out of the atmosphere, into space.

*                           *                           *

"Ya-a-a-awn," Jarmen woke up, once again in the cave. But this time the sun was shining in.
   "Ah! I see the Human is awake!" said the Mouse.
   "Who're you?" asked Jarmen.
   The Mouse puffed out its chest. "Kyle Honeyfoot is my name - dry goods merchant extraordinare is my game! We Honeyfoots have been the go-to Mice for all kinds of wonderful bargains for the past hundred years!"
   "H'm. It would be quite interesting to hear about the History of the Morph in this land," said Jarmen, "and to see what kinds of things they sold."
   This, of course, was a mistake. It launched Kyle into a long recount of everything he could remember (mostly about how wonderful his father, Kylas, had been with selling things and how he had inherited that talent) and then he showed Jarmen all of his wares and persuaded him to buy them. Especially this one, he said: "An ancient green gem which my father Kylas received in exchange for a gold ring from a Fox and his two companions: a Boar and an Elk. The Fox was called Rif, if I remember correctly, and he was on some sort of quest."
   "How much is that green gem? Where does it come from?"
   Kyle Honeyfoot was pleased. "It comes from a crystal quarry on the South Island," he answered, "and it costs fifty credits."
   "Oh, I forgot - Humans probably have a different money system than you do," Jarmen said, "but even if we didn't, I don't have any money with me. Only a silly little penknife."
   The mention of the penknife made Kyle's eyes shine with interest. Jarmen showed him the penknife and they agreed it was a fair trade.
   "Well, I must be going," said Kyle.
   Hahaha, he thought as he left the cave, Sucker! Its only a small gem, but this...
   Hahaha, thought Jarmen as Kyle left the cave, Sucker! Its only a stupid penknife, but this...



"We're nearly there," said Jarmen's father, Rishda. "Only half an hour..."
"Kyle! Where on Earth did you get that knife?" Kyle Honeyfoot was very, very happy. His first customer since Jarmen already wanted the penknife!

   "I got it from a Human," he replied.
   "A Human! Where?"
   "On the North Island."
   "Oh, I have got to tell the others!" the errand-Rabbit for the Sanctuary of the Orb of Storms raced off to tell the priest-Rabbits and Alarra, the Matron of the Orb and daughter of Elara the Old One.
   "Now," thought Kyle Honeyfoot to himself, "how to make money out of this...?"
"To hunt!"
   Friedel sighed. The leader of the pack of the Hunters of the Dark Claw, Lars, was really under the impression of himself. And, as the second heir to that position, Friedel himself was really peeved.
   "What's that?" he called suddenly, pointing to a large, bird-like silver object swooping downwards. "Its landed in the Mountains!"
   "We must find out!" called Lars. (Foolhardy as usual, Friedel mused.) "Perhaps it's something to eat or chase."
"Well, here we are." Doctor Jacobs adjusted the temperature system on his spacesuit as they got out of the ship. "Heh. The old 'land of snow'."
   "How can we find Jarmen?" asked Kell. "I mean, this just seems to be a place of fine powder - and there aren't any tracks to follow, like in the fables."
   "Frankly," said doctor Jacobs, looking very hard at her, "I have no clue."
   "Sir - what's that?" Doctor Venn pointed at a group of approaching figures.
   "I don't know," said doctor Jacobs, moving backwards, "but load your tranquilliser gun and stand firm against the ship."
   The Hunters of the Dark Claw came in range and stopped. "Fire your tranquilliser!" he shouted at Venn, and she obeyed. But the Hunters fell on their faces and the dart zipped harmlessly by.
   Now something was happening. The Hunters were putting something into long pipes. One of them lifted a pipe up to his lips and blew - twang - z-zip! He released a dart.
   "Aaargh!" cried Thrax as it skimmed over his shoulder and punctured his spacesuit.
   "Sir!" cried Venn urgently. "They have blow-guns!"
   "Fire your tranquilliser - now! DUCK!" The orders were well-given. The two darts hit Lars and he fell on the ground. For a moment the world swam before him; then he sank into a deep sleep.
   "Now," thought Friedel gleefully, lifting his dagger, "I shall be king of the -"
   Z-zip - thunk! Venn's dart zipped into him and he fell down as well.   
   However valiantly the Humans might have fought, there were more Hunters than tranquilliser darts and after some dart-shooting on either part, the Wolves surrounded them.
   "Put down your weapons!" the Hunters said. Doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn dropped their tranquillisers.
   "Come with us."
   The Humans had no choice but to obey.
"Look!" Nessie and Tyrus were standing outside of the cave, drinking in some of the morning sunlight. It was Nessie who had spoken. "Another space ship!"
   "They've probably come in search of Jarmen," said Tyrus.
   "Let's investigate!" a small voice at Tyrus's elbow piped up. It was Faraday's youngest son, Farad. "I can't wait to see more Humans!"
   "Oh, all right," answered Tyrus, "I suppose we'll have to tell them where Jarmen is, anyway."
   The three Wolves set off in the direction indicated.
"There's the ship, but I don't see anyone inside it," said Nessie two hours later.
   "Perhaps they're still inside," answered Farad.
   "No, they're not," said Nessie when they reached it.
   "Look at this!" exclaimed Tyrus suddenly. He was on his haunches in the snow. "Look here, Nessie." He showed her some shoe-prints and Wolf-prints. "They're all round-about and confused," he said, "which means there must have been some sort of fight. Here," he added and gave her a blow dart.
   "Further proof that there was a fight. And look here." He finally showed her the two tranquilliser guns. "The Humans must have been forced to drop their weapons - they've been taken prisoner!"
   "Over here!" shouted Farad. "They went this way!"
   "Good work," answered Nessie. "See - there were six Humans and fifteen Hunters."
   "The prints give us an idea of their formation," added Tyrus. "These ones are a little distance in front of the others - probably the leader. The others surrounded the Humans."
   "We've got to rescue them!" said Farad.
   "Of course," answered Tyrus. "Nessie, you and Farad go fetch some of the Mountain Wolves. I'll follow the tracks on for another thoupace1 and then wait."
   "All right," complied Nessie, and she and Farad disappeared down the mountain.

~Author's Note: I know there's some head-jumping in this part and the last, but its (sort of) in response to something Tyrus was wondering earlier.    -_-



A few hours later, Farad and Nessie had rejoined Tyrus, bringing the three best warriors of the tribe with them: Faraday, of course, his brother Dafaray, and another warrior called Crestop.
   "Er - aren't three warriors a bit - um - a small amount?" asked Tyrus.
   "We have no reason to want to annihilate the Hunters!" said Faraday. "I doubt if we could, anyhow - but we only want to free the Humans, not dispose of an entire tribe of Wolves."
   "H'm. You're right, I suppose -"
   "His idea's to sneak up to the Prison Cage, free the Humans, and hightail it back," said Nessie.
   Faraday laughed. "You hit the nail on the head. But now, Tyrus: what have you deduced from the prints? We didn't stop to look at them, just to follow the main gist."
   Tyrus explained what he had discovered.
   "Very good," said Faraday, "let's hit the road!"

It was a long time afterwards that they finally stood at the entrance to the camp of the Hunters of the Dark Claw.
   "There's the prison cage," noted Farad quietly.
   "Huh. The Hunters have really punctured those silly suits of theirs," said Crestop, "I wonder why they wear them...?"
   "I suppose they'll tell you - after we've rescued them," answered Dafaray.
   Quietly, Faraday slithered up to the cage. Stealthily, he removed a hunting knife from his belt.
   It was then that the Humans noticed him. Her mouth open in shock, doctor Venn looked about to say something, but Faraday put a finger to his lips.
   "I'll explain later," he whispered as he completed cutting the ropes. The Hunters' security certainly hasn't improved, he thought, can't get many prisoners around here.

"There!" he said, easing open the cage door. "Come with us."
   The Humans were inclined to think there was something fishy about suddenly being rescued, but they followed Faraday until they were two thoupace from the camp. That was when they caught up to Tyrus.

"Traitor!" shouted Thrax at Tyrus. "What did you do to Jarmen?"
   "Jarmen's safe," said Tyrus.
   Thrax flushed and fumed.
   Kell grinned. "He's like that normally," she said, "always trying to pick a fight or an argument and coming off the worst."
   Thrax glared at her.
   "Come, we've got to hurry," said Faraday, "before the Hunters set chase."
   "Won't they know where you are, anyhow?" asked Jarmen's mother, worried.
   "My lady," said Faraday, "no-one has ever attacked the stronghold of the Mountain Wolves."
When they reached the Mountain Wolf camp, the Humans were given hot chocolate, sheepsmeat, and vegetables and fruit.
   "Tastes pretty nice," said Jarmen's mother. "What's in it?"
   Dora, Faraday's wife, who was sitting next to her, launched into a recipe-recital. Jarmen's mother listened, spellbound.
   As to the others...
   The moment they had the chance, the two scientists nearly fell head over heels trying to inspect all the Wolves and making notes. When they had done, they asked Farad to show them sheep and trees and things.
   Needless to say, they were none the worse for wear. They peeled out of their mangled spacesuits, grabbed a moderately large bag each, and raced outside to take samples of everything and anything they could find.
   Jarmen's family were very happy to see Jarmen and, rather shamefacedly, Tyrus told Jarmen's parents what he had done. It was from that moment on that Jarmen's mother took a very dim view of the Wolf.
   Thrax's reaction was different... "You were forced to do stuff by some evil people?! COOL!"
   "I'm hardly evil," answered Nessie with a sniff.
That night (while doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn monopolised a corner of the cave for displaying all of their new samples) the other Humans made arrangements to leave.
   Doctor Jacobs and doctor Venn caught the general gist of the conversation from their little 'lab' and said they'd go back to Atlantis Prime only to round up a few other scientists so they could begin a research base here - if that was all right with the Morph.
   They said it was.
   The Humans would, thus, leave for Atlantis Prime the following day. Jarmen, Thrax and Kell were rather disappointed, but their parents were firm about it.
So, on the next day, Jarmen's family bade farewell and the scientists bade 'see ya!' to the Wolves after a huge 'Farewell Feast'.

Everyone had been up at the crack of dawn (when Faraday said that, Farad commented: "But dawn doesn't make a sound, Dad!").
   The scientists had rushed out to collect what samples they didn't have and thought was important. Jarmen, Thrax, Kell, Tyrus, Nessie and Farad had gone for a walk and a sad kind of chat. There was no way they would ever see each other again, they knew. Even if the scientists established a research base on Earth - Thrax and Kell would probably be freighter captains like their dad, and Jarmen was going into the peace-keeping force in four years.
   Jarmen's mother and all the Wolf-women cooked, baked, fried and barbecued for the feast.
   Jarmen's father and the Wolf-men hunted.
   The cubs ran around from group to group until they got bored and went to play on the mountain slopes.

When the feast began, all the food was set outside on a boulder. They ate and drank and danced and, in the scientists' case, talked about the research base.
   Sadly, all good things come to an end and the feast seemed to come to an end even sooner than most good things.
There were tearful good-byes to the family, cheerful see-ya's to the scientists, and generally, greetings all round.
   Then it was really time to go. The Humans got into the ship and, waving wildly to the Wolves down below, started up the ship.



Slowly, it rose. Up, up, up. The waving Wolves grew smaller and smaller. At last they were completely gone from sight and all of North Island seemed to shrink on the surface of the ocean. The ship soared through the clouds - higher and higher and into space -
   "Aaargh! No! Put... the... ship... dow... ow... down!" Jarmen gasped.
   "Noooooooooooo! Aaargh!" shouted Kell.
   "Oow! I - can't brea - breathe -" forced Thrax.
   "Rishda - put... it down..." struggled Jarmen's mother. Venn's body was convulsing from lack of air and doctor Jacobs's face twisted in agony.
   Struggling to breathe himself, and with a pain shooting all over his body, Jarmen's father sent the ship hurtling down. The moment they were back in the atmosphere, everyone could breathe again.
   "What... was that?!" gasped Jarmen. "I couldn't breathe... pain all over my body..."
   Kell and Thrax just that there, shocked and motionless.
   "We'll try again, then," said Jarmen's father, but exactly the same thing happened. This time, however, he got down into the atmosphere again double-quick.
   "It can't have been a leak," said Jacobs, "because up here I don't think there would be oxygen either."
   "And lack of air doesn't cause - pain like that," Venn added. "It felt like something was squashing me together and ripping me apart at the same time."
   "It seems to be some medical condition," said doctor Jacobs, "we'll have to inspect everyone for any signs of something unusual - a rash, mucus, bleary eyes, that kind of thing. I don't know what else it could be."
   Jarmen's father put the ship on 'inside-atmosphere orbit' and, while it orbited the planet, everyone carefully inspected themselves.

"I found some really bright orange freckles on my leg," said Kell when they gathered in the control room to converse.
   Venn looked at her strangely. "Did you? Because I found some on my foot."
   "That must be it, then," said Jarmen, "I have them too."
   It turned out that everyone had bright orange freckles somewhere.
   "So, somehow," said doctor Jacobs, "the freckles must be connected to the pain and lack of air. Did any of you notice it on Atlantis Prime?"
   No-one had.
   "And did any of you notice it before we left Earth?"
   "I did," said Jarmen, "during the feast I fell and scraped my knee. When I washed it with some water, I noticed a few slight orange spots. But I thought at the worst they were a rash or something. I never thought..."
   "Well," said doctor Jacobs, "seeing as we have obviously acquired our new and unpleasant bright orange guests on Earth, we can draw to the obvious conclusion that, thanks to them, we will never be able to leave this planet."
   "Um - actually," confessed Jarmen, "I was kind of hoping something would happen to make us stay..."
"Atlantis Prime, this is the ASS Helen..."
   Over the ship comm, Jarmen's father explained what had happened to them. Doctor Jacobs took a turn at speaking, and said he requested scientists who really wanted to come (and stay forever) to join him and doctor Venn.

"What? You can stay?" cried Tyrus in surprise and joy when the Humans landed. He and Nessie had been scheduled to go home that day, but perhaps, now...
   "You're right, we can stay," answered Jarmen with a big grin on his face. "I never want to go back."
   "You might be able to, someday," answered doctor Jacobs, "we're going to research these freckles. My theory at the moment is that it's a type of parasite or something which desperately wants to stay on Earth."
   "Parasite? Eeuurgh."
   "I may be wrong, of course..."
   His words were drowned in the excited and joyful torrent of Wolf-yowls, barks and voices.
(They had another feast that night.)
After that, all went well. Tyrus and Nessie took Jarmen's family down to their camp.
   The scientists began construction on a lab in the mountains and researched the freckles - and the zillions of other things they could find!
   They finally discovered a cure for the freckles and they could go to and fro whenever it was needed.
   Other families emigrated to Earth, and soon Morph began streaming by the hundreds to meet the Humans.

I can assure you, Kyle Honeyfood did find a way to make money out of it...



It was the 35th century, man's brightest hour...
   The whole of Earth was explored. Careful measures and rules were made to prevent the Earth from getting cluttered.
   Solar connective tunnels were set up between Atlantis Prime and Earth - but not many people emigrated after the first rush. Heh. There were actually still people who wanted to be on Sur Fascrat.
   A busy trader's firm, Honeygoods, was the leading company for dry goods, while Ferret Buildings inc. was the best place for building materials.
   The Feline Empire, a great Empire which stretched all over Eurasia, had some good business with the rest of the world - silk, palm nuts, spices...
   All over Africa, scientists and tourists paid the very content locals (who didn't allow industrial companies to chop down forests or mine or basically set foot on the continent) to research things or visit the jungles and beaches.
   South America: same story.
   North America was a good place for research and industrial zones, though large nature reserves, ranches and no-city areas were maintained to keep most of it natural.
   The Arctic and Antarctica were too boring for research, but good places for penguin farms.

That was eight hundred years ago, when we came here to expand the places we could go to during our lives. We've come a long way since then: we have grown, we have prospered, we have flourished. But we will never forget.
By the way, where did I put my glasses?

:mellow: Hey, you! You with the glasses! Come back here!


Special thanks to my smiley collection
:mellow: :huh: ^_^ :rolleyes: -_- :wub: :angry: :wacko: :ph34r:;)
for which I will hopefully find new 'members' soon.