The Impossible Dream - part 4

By Chakat Bluestripe (a.k.a Joe Prescott)

 

It has been a few weeks since the explosion and I have just been given orders to return to the Force in three days. My recovery is nearly complete. I am still a little stiff in the joints first thing in the morning and I have been experiencing a little phantom pain from the nerves that used to go to the end of my tail. I have noticed that I tend to have my tail a little higher than usual because of the missing weight. My fur has grown back to its original black on white pattern. I have been working out with Thunder and we are both feeling much stronger physically. The atmosphere around the house has returned to a much more pleasant level. We have all built a shrine within ourselves to house our pain and we can now channel our sorrows there for containment. Summer and Leona still check in on me and we have gone out for dinner a few times. Crystal has been working most days but is very supportive when we are together.

I have been looking forward to this morning for a few days. Crystal is going to give me a tour of the Oceanography Research Center. I have never been that far under water and I am a little excited.

I am waiting in the kitchen when Crystal comes in. "Are you ready to go?" shi asks.

"Yeah, I think so. I didnít plan to bring anything along."

"You shouldnít need anything. Weíll have lunch there. Letís go!"

It is a short drive to the pier, but long enough for Crystal to tell me that shi is happy that I can visit the Center. I can sense that shi is eager to show me what it is that shi does. This makes me even more excited to see whatís ahead. We park and walk down some steps to the pier. The submersible is near the end and we can see people already boarding it. They are all employees of the Research Center and this is one of three transport Subs owned by the Center. We climb aboard and find two seats together. Crystal starts introducing me to some of the others while we are waiting. It is no surprise that everyone knows who I am, and they are also excited to have me visit the Center. The trip to the Research Center takes about twenty minutes and my first sight of the center was enlightening. I had seen pictures of the center but, without a proper perspective, I had severely underestimated itís size. The entire Center has a footprint of about 20 acres and is, in several places, 16 levels high. There is a second structure set apart from the main, which I am told houses the power reactor.

The Sub docks and we disembark. Everyone has to walk through the recognition scanner before entering the main hallway. Crystal takes me to the security office and I am given a Guest Pass with Extended Authorization.

"Extended Authorization, huh? I must be special."

"Well you are special, but without that you canít see my project. Itís special too," shi says with a big smile.

We continue down the hall to the elevator and go to level 7, which is the top level in this area. As we leave the elevator, I notice a sign on the wall: "DELPHYS PROJECT" is all it says. Crystal sees me eyeing the sign and smiles, "The Delphys Project is what I want to show you. I have been spending almost all of my time on this lately."

We continue down the hall and turn right at a security door. Crystal instructs the door to open and we walk in. This room seems to be just an entry to a second room separated by a large glass wall. Crystal motions me to have a seat on some very generic looking cushions, and I oblige.

"As you know, I have been working in the hatcheries lately, and helping to preserve some of the most endangered species of fish in the area."

"Uh huh?"

"Let me ask youÖ what do you know about dolphins?"

"All I really know is that dolphins were infected during the Gene wars and died off rather quickly and quietly. The people were too busy trying to save themselves to worry about them or the many other species that became infected. Iíve seen moviesÖ What was that I saw on the Jurassic Channel that time? It had a dolphin in it Ö it was Flopper or Flipper or something like that? Oh wellÖ They seemed docile enough."

"Yes, thatís very goodÖ Well what I havenít been able to tell you until I finally got clearance is that last year a well-preserved "Tursiops Truncatus", or what was commonly known as a Bottle Nosed Dolphin, was discovered in an arctic icepack. I was one of the first people called to the scene and I helped to recover the specimen. My team and I have been working on developing a viable genome sequence since then. Although the dolphin specimen looked in good condition, it had actually been attacked by the Genetic Plague and the DNA had been corrupted. It was quite a task to try to identify the alien DNA sequences and replace them with the correct strands. I have spent months comparing the DNA strands of other species and trying to improvise what I think would probably be there. This approach had a very high failure rate in the simulationsÖ UntilÖ"

"Wow! You got it to work?!"

"YES!" shi says elatedly. I can sense hir excitement and pride and I canít help but join in hir excited frenzy of emotions.

"I had it mostly worked out for some time, but the last area had me stumped: I had to come up with a good genome for the brain. The dolphinís brain was proportionately a little larger than a humanís and in some ways more developed. Their cerebral cortex was far more convoluted, which is a measure of conceptualizing ability. It appears that they were highly telepathic and probably had some kind of collective consciousness within their pod. These were very challenging areas to reproduce. I was at a loss until I realized that with only a few minor changes, I could fit a "human" type brain into the sequence!"

At hearing this, I am overcome with an odd feeling of dread. What has shi done? Is this type of creation acceptable in todayís standards? To revive a dead species is one thing but to create a new intelligent species is something else. I know very well where chakats came from and that type of genetic engineering had been shunned lately.

Crystal is still very excited and doesnít notice my worried expression. "Come on! Follow me! Iíll show him to you!" shi says while almost dragging me through the next door.

I follow along still wondering what my feelings should be. Should I even be worried?

A few doors and hallways later I find myself staring into a large aquarium. The glass is actually one of the sides of the tank, and we are about 3 meters below the tank surface.

"Heís actually only 3 months old, but we have accelerated his growth to about 7 months," shi says while pointing into the glass.

At first I canít see him, but then he swims right up to the glass. Iím surprised and a little taken back by his size.

"We have a Telepath in our staff and hie tells me that heís very intelligent. However, since heís so young, the basics of communication havenít been developed and we canít really connect to him."

I smile, mostly to myself, while looking into the tank. "Does he have a name?"

"Oh yes! I named him Taranis. What do you think?"

Taranis? Ö Uh, okayÖ I guess?

Taranis is swimming around the tank but mostly staying on our end of it now. He seems playful and healthy but I have an odd feeling still. I feel like I am doing something wrong by just being in the area.

"You said that the Telepath couldnít connect, huh? Well some telepaths are inhibited by language. To hear someoneís thoughts in their own inner language can be useless if you donít know the words. Some of the best telepaths are fluent in multiple languages. They have to be or else they are limiting their abilities. When a telepath is dealing with a primitive or infant mind, they may have trouble understanding the thought processes. Telepaths and Empaths are sort of opposites. A Telepath can listen to your thoughts and even send words and sentences. They operate using vocabulary. When you think about anything, thereís a little voice in your mind that talks words. You see an apple and your brain says the word "apple". You are always talking to yourself inside your mind. You canít think of anything without assigning a word or a description to it. Your whole thought process revolves around words and that is what a Telepath works with. If you have an infant that has no language ability and who doesnít know what its own emotions mean, you would probably be better off with an empath."

Crystal has a thoughtful look but remains silent.

"Now Empaths, we think a little different. We operate at a different layer of understanding. We can think without words, we can picture an image and think of it as an image or situation and not a word. We can feel pain, the emotion and not think of the word "pain" We can feel joy and happiness without trying to give it a name or description. To do this, we have to be in touch with our own feelings and thoughts, and know ourselves completely. Only then can we try to understand the emotions and feelings of another. When we send emotions, we need to be as accurate as possible. We learn proper emotions through training and we can learn to filter and focus the emotions. Training helps us concentrate them in any given direction, but that is only half of it. It is also very important that we stay open to receiving the emotions of others. We can sense emotion and give it the meaning that is mirrored in ourselves. We learn how to better detect emotions that are not our own. This aspect is something that you can either do or not do; there is no way to teach this ability, only refine it. When an Empath is working with a primitive or infant mind, they can usually pick up on the raw emotion and associate with that. None of this assures that the other being is willing or able to actively communicate back, but at least an assessment of the situation can be made. The best combination for most situations would probably be an empathic telepath. Do you understand what I am saying?"

I notice that Crystal has a slightly bewildered look, and I can tell that she is a little surprised at my ranting. Maybe I was a little too firm in my tone of voice.

"I can understand what youíre saying, but what is your point?" shi mutters.

"Oh, Iím sorry. I guess Iím just a little strung out by Taranis. You see, heís relatively happy. I know this. I also know that heís hungry, and I know that he would like something different to eat. Heís tired of the same old menu. I also know that he feels that something is missing in his life and heís wondering if there is any world other than this tank. I know all of this with certaintyÖ because that is what he is feeling."

Crystal has a shocked expression and is speechless for only a moment, "You can link with him?!" shi exclaims excitedly.

"Well, I donít know if I can link with him, but I can certainly tell what heís feeling."

"Oh, please try to link with him, I know you can do it!"

"Okay, maybe Iíll try later after you feed him."

This puts hir in an excitedly hurried state "Iíll be right back!" shi says as shi vanishes down the hallway.

As I sit there looking into the glass I can see the half reflection of my face looking back. I subconsciously focus a thought of inquiry into my reflection. I am suddenly startled by a powerful acknowledgement. I look up and see Taranis staring straight at me from the tank.

I take only a moment to regain my thoughts. Taranis is still there only a few feet away on the other side of the glass and I can sense that I have gotten his attention. I am wondering what to do next when his attention shifts and he darts to the other side of the tank. I can see someone preparing to feed him and he is hungry. I watch for a moment before Crystal comes hurrying in. I can still see that shi is very excited and a little out of breath.

"We had to look around a little for something else to feed him. Donít ask where we got it." Shi says with an odd smirk.

I can see the attendant handing out some brightly colored fish as Taranis quickly swallows them down.

"I think that there might be a chance to communicate with him, but Iím not sure what I should try to tell him. He does have some strong empathic senses."

"We did try to include telepathy in our design. It was more or less copied from the same blueprint as the Skunktaur model. The engineers werenít sure about anything actually working, but they were hopeful."

"You know, Crystal, Iím not entirely convinced that you did the right thing in making him so intelligent. Are you going to school him? He will want to learn and heíll need some one to communicate with."

Crystal is looking a little more questioningly at me. Shi is surprised by my doubts. "When heís old enough, our telepath will work with him and heíll be taught how to survive and anything else that we think he will need to know."

"Are you going to explain to him that heís your creation and that heís the only one of his kind?"

"Weíve already been working on a female for him, but we want to let him mature a little first before we start the actual process in case he has some unforeseen complications. If he matures enough to understand correctly, then we will inform him of his origins."

"Crystal, what youíve done here is truly incredible. You have created a new life form and made it intelligent. I hope that nature and society has a niche for him in the grand scheme of things. I wonder if ignorance would truly be bliss in this case."

"You know, Blue, who can tell why any of us are really here. Who is it to say that something will or will not live over time. The future is only clear when it has become history and even history has different viewpoints. This project was to reintroduce an extinct species back into the ecosystem. Weíve done our best with what we had to work with. We made a few changes from the original model but they were done in the best interests of the species. When you will look at me and when look in a mirror, you see someone elseís creation looking back at you. We all do the best with what we have, and so will Taranis."

"Okay, you win," I say with a smirk and a desire to change the topic. "This is a big place youíve got here. Can I see the rest of it?"

Crystal looks a little relieved as shi points down the corridor. "Sure, Iíll show you the rest of my projects."

We walk through a few hallways and then through a door leading in to one of the hatcheries. There are several large tanks, each of them divided into several sections. Fish of various sizes and types are in the tanks.

"This is where I have spent most of my time up until the Delphys Project," Crystal says while pointing in general to the tanks. "These tanks hold some of the most endangered fish on the planet. These specimens in here probably donít exist in nature any more."

I laugh out loud when I recognize the brightly colored fish in the nearest tank. Crystal smiles sheepishly as shi quickly moves on to the next tank. The mood through out the rest of the tour is lighthearted and enjoyable.

We travel through some restricted areas where other genomes are being reconstructed, and then I get the whole public tour.

We pad into the cafeteria a little late for lunchtime. I have grabbed a few snacks along the tour but now I need a good lunch. As I look up at the menu, I am a little surprised at all of the seafood listed.

"You all work here to save the fish, but your whole menu is nothing but fish? I think Iím missing something hereÖ"

"Well, we do love fish hereÖ Especially the tasty ones!" shi says with a huge grin.

"OkayÖ I would like to try one of those fish that Taranis had," I say just to get a reaction.

"Oh, thatís a number four on the menu," shi says without hesitation.

I look up at the menu just as shi starts laughing. I immediately realize that my joke has backfired. All I can do is shake my head and order a number four. The crab salad is very filling. They do know how to serve a chakat here.

After lunch I spend a little time in the cafeteria talking to people. They know who I am and what had happened. I keep them off the topic and they get the hint quickly.

"Would you try to link with Taranis now?" Crystal asks.

"I think I would rather wait until he is a little older, I might not be in the best condition now anyway."

Everyone is a little disappointed but they understand.

Crystal and I decide to call it a day soon after and we head back to the sub. We have to wait a while to leave and shi enjoys telling me about all of the fish shi has had the pleasure of working with. I can feel that shi is using work as a place to hide from hir pain. Shi has some solace with the thought of creating a whole new species of beings.

We arrive back at the house around 3:30 pm. Thunder is waiting at the door as we walk in. "Welcome home! Did you have a good time?"

"Oh yes, I had a great time. Iím still amazed by Crystalís project."

"Shi never fails to amaze me still, and I have been with hir for eons!" Thunder says with a wink. Crystal smiles and winks back and all is good in the house.

As I give Thunder a quick hug, I pick up on some odd feelings in hir. It captures my attention and I instinctively try to focus on them. Shi wants to tell me something. I can tell that it has hir confused. I say nothing about it and walk into the living room.

Thunder waists no time and invites me into hir study. "Hey Blue, can you come in for a minute? I would like to show you something."

"Sure. Who can resist an offer like that?" I ask with a smile as I follow hir in.

Thunderís study is not very large. Its shelves are packed full of books, and on top of them are old magazines, and on top of those are piles of scattered old papers. The floor is cluttered with old stacks of computer media and reference books. Thunderís desk is well-ordered with hir computer on one end and plenty of open workspace on the other. I get the feeling that this is not the norm for the desk, and that it has recently been cleared off for the occasion. I recognize one of the cushions from the living room and Thunder gestures for me to sit. I can sense a sort of nervous pride from hir as shi gets settled.

"Artemis BluestripeÖ" shi says while looking me straight in the eye. I get an odd feeling at hearing hir call me by my full name. "ÖBlue, when we first met, you told us how you were raised on Amaethon and how your parents were killed. Youíve told us many stories about your life and how you came to Terra. Everything you have told us seems to spark new questions. Who are you? Who were your parents? Whereís the rest of your family? Why havenít they found you? These questions seem easy enough to research."

I just look at Thunder blankly and nod. Something about this conversation is stealing away all my strength. I have had these same questions, but I was never able to get very far in researching them myself. Eventually I just stopped thinking about it and became that much more independent.

Shi continues, "So I started researching your past. It was easy to place you at Amaethon and I know what day you were delivered there, and I know all about the meetings to find a family to care for you. I know about the requests for information that were sent to the Federation and I know about the lack of information that the Federation sent back. This whole situation starts stinking right about then. The lack of information on your ship is amazing. I canít tell you that the Federation has any records of a ship being attacked within the time frame of your arrival, and in the area of your planet. You are the only evidence. Your early life is shrouded by a total lack of information. This void must have been created. Nobody has this great amount of Ďnothingí accidentally. I am very suspicious of the Federation. I think that they must have run an eraser worm through the system to cleanse the information"

I am feeling even more drained as if Thunder is putting weights on me. Maybe it is a fear of my past. Maybe I donít really want to know what happened.

"Well I do have some good news and some bad news. First I started trying to locate any ship that was in your area at the time of your arrival on Amaethon. I located several military vessels, but the public information logs showed nothing. I then searched for any listening posts that might have heard a distress call. I found several, but they still showed nothing. I was finally able to find one piece of the puzzle that really proves to that something must have been covered up. Itís from the communications log of a deep-space research ship that was en route to a distant quadrant. It recorded an automated distress signal from a ship matching the time and place of your situation. It also recorded an acknowledgement from the outpost, Utgard. I think that this little bit of information was overlooked since the ship was almost out of range and was gone for four years. Well, I hadnít heard of the Utgard outpost, so I looked it up and found that it is the closest outpost to Amaethon. I also noticed that it was closed down for about three years starting about the time of the distress call."

I am in a mild state of shock. This proves that I didnít just fall thorough some crack in the system, and that my childhood fantasies of being in some great top secret cover-up were in fact beginning to materialize. "You have the name of my parentís ship"?

Thunder leans forward but doesnít smile, "I do have the name of the ship in distress. It was recorded as the ESV- R. Kipling; I also have the shipís registration number as AU673-B. Now you might think that this solves the mystery, but it gets a little deeper. I searched the registration records and found no listing for that name or registration. I didnít let that stop me though. Next I found that those series of registration numbers would have meant that the ship wasnít new at the time, so it must have been around a little. I made inquiries to some of the most likely ports in the main shipping routes and came up with a full description of the ship. Needless to say all of the records were dated before your arrival on Amaethon. The ship was a light transport vessel, nothing special. I have a picture of one here somewhere. So, that gives us a name, a registration number, a ship description, and positive proof that something very bad must have happened in the vicinity of Amaethon. I donít think that anyone would have gone through this much trouble unless there were other issues at stake. This whole cover-up must have been done by the Federation since it is their computers that are missing the data.

All I can do is just sit there and try to let it absorb into my brain. I feel so drained that I canít even focus my thoughts anymore. I have no energy for questions and I have nothing to say. Thunder comes around and hugs me tight. Crystal comes in moments later and holds us both. Eventually I make my way to the bedroom and collapse. My mind is filled with thoughts of what might have happened. None of it makes sense. Why would a common act of space piracy cause the Federation to erase the existence of a whole ship? If this was some top-secret military mission, why were children on the ship? Why wouldnít the relatives of a lost transport ship file a petition to launch a search and rescue probe? I decide to ask my commander to check this out for me when I get back to work. I try to sleep, but it avoids me.

*         *         *

I am running down a hallway. My perspective seems to be closer to the floor like I am crawling. I am jumping while running and I seem to travel a great distance before landing. I am playing? I am a child running and playing. I can easily jump up and touch the metal ceiling. I jump up and catch a ceiling fixture with my tail and hang there. I start crying and, as I gently swing back and forth, I hear someone calling my name. I turn my head and see a white chakat smiling and reaching up to me. My name is...

*         *         *

I am roused from sleep by the gentle prodding of a claw against my shoulder. As I open my eyes, I find Summer nearly face to face with me. Hir wide smile shows off a well-kept set of teeth. Shi leans in a little and gives me a quick lickiss.

Summer seems to be in a very good mood and shi is doing hir best to pass it on to me. "Wake up, Blue! I canít let you stay in bed all day on your second-to-last day here."

My sleepiness quickly fades, and my attention shifts from my dream and rises toward Summer. "Okay, Iím awake. So what do you have planned"?

Summer is now radiating excitement as shi continues, "Well, when I found out about you being called back, I scheduled some maintenance in the Colorado territory, and I can fly you back in my work shuttle! I already have the flight plan approved and itís a done deal."

I stand up and give hir a strong hug, "Thatís great! Now I can get a little stick time!"

Summer has a fleeting expression of thought, which quickly turns back into a big smile. " UhÖ Weíll see about that, but for today I would like to take you out for lunch. I know this place a little inland that serves some fine beefsteaks. We can look around a little in the town and then go eat. What do you think?"

"I think that a big steak would do me over just fine, I might just pass on breakfast and wait for lunch."

"Great! Iíll call Leona and see if shi can meet us there.

I decide to eat a quick breakfast after all. Crystal is at work and Thunder is nowhere to be found, so I leave a note on the comm. Soon we are on our way. The drive takes a while and I am getting Summerís opinion on the creation of Taranis. Shi seems to be in total agreement with Crystal, so I figure that I am perhaps the one with strange issues.

We arrive in a small town isolated by a hundred kilometers of open road. It is only about three kilometers from one end to the other. It has a distinctively different look to it. Many of the buildings seem to be small shops that are decorated to appeal to tourism. Many trinkets and wares are openly displayed in the front of the shops and on the sidewalks as well. There is a festive atmosphere and many people are happily shopping.

"This looks interesting. Maybe I just might find something to buy."

Summer smiles. "I used to come here a lot a few years ago when it wasnít so popular. Now they sell a lot of the more common things. If you look around you can still find some good quality local craftsmanship".

The restaurant is at the far end of the town so we shop along until we get there. "The Rest-Taur-Rant" is modeled with old nineteenth century western décor and all of the employees are taur-form of one kind or another. They have delicate halters on their heads with faux saddles on their backsÖ I canít help but laugh when a cute Quange filly trots up and says, "Howdy! My name is Wendy, if youíre a lookiní fer a good olí slab oí meat onna plate, you in the right place!"

I am still snickering to myself as Summer asks if Leona has a table. We follow the filly, whose trot has attracted both of our attention, and I can sense that she is perfectly happy to have caught our attention too. I halfway notice the "Reserved" sign as we go through some doors, but it doesnít hit me until I peel my eyes off of the filly and see the group in the room. "Surprise!!"

I am truly surprised. I had let my attention go to the filly who was now obviously set up to distract me, and had not sensed anything of the group waiting for me. I am happy but a little disappointed that I had so easily focused on the decoy. No one in the room needed to be empathic to see the look of true surprise on my face. Crystal and some of hir friends, Thunder, Summer, Leona, and a few of the neighbors had all conspired to throw a party on my behalf.

After the laughing dies off, Crystal steps forward and everyone settles down. "Blue, weíre all here today to wish you the very best on your return to work. Even though we have suffered a tremendous loss to the family, we are proud to have you as an important member. We know that you will continue to heal and we want you to know that our house is your house. Thunder and myself consider you as one of our own, and Summer is proud to have you as hir sister. We know that you will live to carry on the fond memories of Path, and that you have hir in your heart, as do we all."

Crystal, Thunder, and Summer all surround me in a big hug and I truly feel among my family. Tears fall freely from my eyes. This has happened all too often in recent weeks, but these tears are different: these are tears of joy.

 

To be continued in Part 5.

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