The Banga was lonelier and less eventful. Nidi had moved all the pups into the temperate rainforest. The one with a large population of Lutung monkeys. They lived in a primitive fashion in a den at its center.
Blunt was the only non-Mega Therion allowed to enter. Nidi asked that I not go there. She was teaching the young ones to defend their territory and felt it was good preparation for life on a new world. Blunt took the pack on hunting expeditions to the frozen sea.
He convinced Dixon that the existence of a top predator was crucial to every ecosystem. She turned a blind eye to blue penguins being eaten, but she was a long way from letting them eat any mammoths. Blunt suggested that when they went to the planet they would need to know how to stalk and kill a mammoth for food. Dixon wasn’t happy about it but she got the big picture.
Nidi gave birth to a litter of five. Three much-needed males came as part of the group. Blunt and Dixon were there for the birth. It was several weeks later before they all came to visit the whales in the internal-external communication port. Jonas, Henry, Veronica, and even Vronsky showed up to see Nidi’s puppies. They were white little fuzz balls, just like she was when X first brought her aboard. Except for one female that was brindle colored that Nidi named Cindy, much to the joy of the crew.
We had lost some members, but Nidi was putting the family back together on the Banga.
Charlie and Charisma brought gifts for our new crew members. They built a transport vehicle that could easily move twenty adult wolves. Its controls and seats were altered to accommodate their claws and body types. They also constructed a new model wolf space suit. It was based on the black metal armor suit the Vedma used but was made out of the same white metal alloy the Banga was made of. Harrv showed up wearing one. He looked like the white knight of the space werewolves.
“That’s almost too sci-fi.” Everyone looked at me. I was a man out of time making jokes X would have loved.
Blunt laughed anyway, I think he had read enough about Earth history that he may have actually got it. He was a good guy, that big Gila monster.
Harrv befriended Uzi, learned basic English in no time, and was given the rank of lieutenant. It turned out he was not only a serious soldier but also an ace pilot. He was working with Charlie and Uzi on designing a new Banga fighter, especially for Mega Therion pilots. He was Uzi’s new best friend. They both had red eyes.
Harrv was 10 years old. Just past the mid-life crisis for a Mega Therion. His mate had died two years ago in a space battle. His children were dead too. Probably, in the battles with the Banga, but that was only a guess. He didn’t hold any resentment toward us about it. Which was an amazing quality for such a ferocious looking animal. He did have a desire to return to Mega Therion and work to free his people from following the Vedma. He blamed them for everything.
He was an interesting man or wolf rather. We were together for hours on end learning to construct space suits, ships, and other mechanical marvels in Charlie’s workshop. Charlie was the teacher both of us had been looking for. We soaked up his lessons.
We helped take down the rust shielding from the central computer. We looked on as Charlie designed a miniature version of the entire unit and placed it as a mini five deck structure inside the chest of the Diamond-robo-combat suit.
In the event of a hostile takeover, he was now able to transfer complete control of the Banga to the indestructible suit. He built out living quarters in the stomach and thigh areas. It was designed to house a small Ursa Minor skeleton crew and their families. The suit was completely motorized. Charlie was planning a large-scale rocket pack attachment that could be used for short distance space travel.
We focused on the new Banga fighter. Bulked up the center with spacious front and rear seats. Added dual-stick manual control based on old world war II planes. I used the ship’s computer to generate images of Earth fighter planes and Harrv loved them. He wanted to put in a gunner seat, like the ones on ancient bombers. We added a small seat with a gunner dome over it and removed the top wing. The gun turret swiveled 360 degrees and utilized a long range turbo cannon with a huge ammo store.
No adult Mega Therion would fit in the gunner seat. Harrv told us the fighter was for the Banga and it was a mixed crew fighter just as the Banga was a mixed crew ship. The wolf fighter ended up being a crazy looking two winged gunship with twin cannon on each wing and a rocket launcher in the nose.
We tested out the ship together. We worked through the malfunctions. Harrv and I became spaceship gearheads of the highest order.
Around this time Taegu and Macrai returned. They hung out with Mox and Blunt exclusively. They filled us in on the Vedma. They had followed the ship as it limped back to the comet. They passed off the mission of tailing them to a team of Varan scouts they rendezvoused with en route. The Vedma were heading home and the Varan were making sure that was the case.
Taegu was a marvelous creature. Her skin was so completely devoid of color. She was pristine black and white. Even her inner mouth and tongue were black. She had no color on her body at all. Harrv said she made him feel colorful, at least he had red eyes and some pink in his skin. Macrai, in contrast, was near sky blue with bright red accents.
Blunt told me they were both legendary deep space adventurers. They’d been on several missions together and while Taegu had a somewhat professional sense about her, Macrai was a bit of a princess. Her great great great grandfather was once king of Varanidi. He was the one who built the diamond towered city. The Varan no longer had any kind of monarchy, but they still had a bit of respect for the descendants of the throne.
Where Mox and Blunt were extremely casual, Taegu and Macrai held themselves in a more formal sophisticated manner. I only once found them all caught up in hysterical Varan laughter and when I came into the room already smiling myself, the high pitched cackling came to an abrupt end. I played it off like it was no big deal.
“Uzi asked me to bring you to his command center,” I said in perfect Varan. Macrai smirked at me. At least she liked the fact that I spoke her language.
Uzi was back to his usual status of peering out the large window of his battle bridge. We were approaching the wormhole. I brought up our Varan passengers, the only four people on the ship who had been there before.
We pulled up to the thick blast doors. Uzi had two new Zero-G commandos stationed outside like nothing had ever happened. But instead of X bringing me there, I was bringing people. Nidi, Harrv, Charlie, and the four-armed Veronica avatar where already gathered at the front window. The control stations were manned by new pilot units. Uzi had completely reassembled his command team. I think in Uzi’s mind Nidi had replaced X and he wanted Harrv to be the new Dr. Death. We joined them all in looking toward the front of the ship.
The Banga stretched to a horizon line. Beyond it, the dark endless expanse of space had changed color. We were approaching what looked to be some kind of pink and blue nebula. It filled the space directly in front of our path. Above the nebula was a large space station. It sat like a beacon anchored in the sky.
Around the station were four large freighters. Three of them were standard haulers about a third the size of the Banga. The fourth was a huge ship nearly the Banga’s equal. She was an older model deep space cruiser made of a dark gray metal. The station’s bright lights stood out between the massive ships. It pulsed red, white, blue, and green with smaller rotating yellow and purple rings of light. It sparkled a rainbow of colors.
One of the freighters pulled away from the station toward the nebula. We watched it slowly tilt its axis and align itself with the anomaly. It glided forward into the gas. The color of the cloud changed. It all became a bright blue. I focused my vision in front of the ship and realized that the pink gases were being sucked in toward the center of the nebula. Only the blue remained. The freighter picked up speed and plunged into the blue gas. In a flash, the giant clunky old space freighter was gone and out of the center of the nebula the pink gas returned. It settled into a slightly different shape than it had been before.
Uzi cleared his throat. “That is the RokoVokor wormhole. Our next stop and the last place we will see for two years is right there. RokoVokor Station.”
The pulsating light faded from the station and the yellow and purple rings seemed to drift toward the top and bottom respectively.
“Mr. Mox, if you don’t mind doing the honors.”
Mox never minded taking center stage. He moved over next to Uzi, turned his head to look over his shoulder at the station out the window, then he turned back and looked at each of us individually before he spoke.
“The rokoVokor wormhole was first discovered by the Varan 12,000 years ago. We’d sent many a ship through and none ever returned. The wormhole it was assumed was a one way trip to nowhere.
“Ten years after the first ship had gone in, one finally came back. When it came out of the wormhole it brought pink gas from the other side. The wormhole was hidden by a pink nebula on one side and a blue one on the other. With the movement of large ships over the years the two ends now have both colors. They flux when ships go in and out.
“When our ship returned, it came back with a second vessel, unlike anything we had seen before. Small, primitive, simple in design, but space hardy none the less. The Kovo people to our great surprise where also the descendants of reptiles.” Mox looked to me and Uzi particularly here.
“Their carbon-heavy world was very similar to Varan and very similar to the Earth during its Mesozoic period. The Kovo when you meet them will remind you of dinosaurs from Earth. They call the Varan, Vokor. They look upon us as their distant relatives. We’re similar in size and body makeup. However, some of their people have feathers. They come in a variety of colors and many males wear the great horns they grow on their heads with pride. A complement to one’s horns or feathers is always a great way to win favor with the Kovo. For that matter, we Vokor are susceptible to comments on our scales.”
He took a moment to admire himself and the other Varans in the room.
“Anyway, our initial adventure to the other side of the wormhole and back revealed that it was a two-year journey that took you to the other side of the Milky Way or what we call oVo. Our two species began a trading, exploration, and education program that continues to this day. The Kovo culture advanced considerably with their interaction with the Varan. Like the Varan homeworld, the Kovo today live a simple back to nature way of life. The wormhole was known to them for millennia, but they hadn’t perfected the technology to pass it.
“It took our scouts several years to get them up to speed for the first crossing. They worshiped the great space anomaly like a god before they evolved enough to realize what it really was.
“Twin stations on either end monitor the wormhole and ships passing through it. The Kovo asked to be the keepers of the wormhole and it was named rokoVokor. The stations are manned and governed by the Kovo and at both ends. The Vokor or Varan keep an office at both stations.
“The ladies, myself, as well my faithful pilot Zandar will be attending a short meeting here at rokoVokor station and then we’ll be saying our good-byes. The Banga is now fourth in line for passage.”
Mox gestured to the remaining three ships parked around the station.
“They space out ships a week apart when voyaging through the wormhole. This practice has avoided any mishaps inside the wormhole for thousands of years. So you’ll have a few weeks to mingle on the station. It offers many delights from both sides of the galaxy.”
Uzi ended the meeting. “We could use a little R & R.”
I looked out the window at the glowing Nebula and the slowly rotating space station. The Banga was slowing down. We’d take up a position next to the other freighters. I looked at Uzi chatting with Nidi about her pups. I looked at Charlie sitting on her shoulder. I looked at Harrv discussing the Brick’s next move with Mox and Blunt. I looked at Veronica’s avatar listening intently to Taegu and Macrai, who were licking their lips talking about the amazing delicacies that awaited us aboard rokoVokor.
I didn’t know what the Brick’s next move was, but I would be part of it. I made a major decision and needed to talk with Jonas before we went over to the station.