“Chief, Krilore has a different physiology than ours, so yes, this is a somewhat painful hosting, but nothing that is too hard to overcome.”
“And he’s friendly?”
Lee mentally winced.
“Krilore is friendly and mainly curious,” was all he said.
“What’s its agenda, sir?” It was Collier, a fairly new lieutenant assigned to weaponry.
The voice was understandably suspicious.
Crane was uncomfortable, realizing that he hadn’t thought to ask Krilore that pointed question yet. He remembered that she had called her spaceships, scout craft.
<We are a star-faring race and very curious,
Lee. We have explored many
systems, mostly without the indigenous life forms even knowing that
“Exploration, curiosity,” Lee answered
aloud. “Krilore keeps
asking me questions, none of them security type questions, so for now, I
am accepting the explanation I have been given.” The finality in his voice precluded any more questions in that
line of thought. No one else asked anything. “Okay, let’s go get the admiral and the rest of the
That seemed to be the popular goal in mind, so
everyone quickly left the room.
In fact, Crane thought, more quickly than usual.
Then it came—the question.
<Why are there no females serving on board your submarine?>
she asked, her tone accusatory.
Before he could answer, Doc said, “I hear that
Cookie has fixed some good food tonight.
Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, veggies, the works.
I’m hungry. So let me finish my tests and by that time dinner
will be served.” Doc
looked absolutely ready to salivate.
Crane laughed softly.
He was feeling a bit better; the headache was just a slight
pounding, the relative warmth inside the boat had eased the aching in
his joints and muscles. Dinner
sounded pretty good after the day he’d had.
Then he felt something stirring and he remembered Krilore’s
question. Women serve in
many areas in the Navy, but not on submarines or combat destroyers.
There are a variety of reasons, but I suspect the main one, which
is incidentally the reason I proscribe to, is because a great many men
would be distracted by serving with females.
<That is an illogical answer, Captain, and
you know it!>
No, it’s not, Krilore! I may not have worded it exactly right, but if you understood the human physiology, culture and history a bit better, you’d not be questioning it. Up until recently, most men have considered women to be ‘the weaker sex,’ more vulnerable and more emotional. And before you bristle up again, let me explain. We don’t rely on ‘hosts’ for mobility. We do it all ourselves. Women, as the bearers of young, have always been considered nurturers in most of Earth’s cultures. He remembered his own mother and all the times that she had comforted and taught him, and in the last years up until her death, supported him. In that regard, she had certainly not been ‘weaker.’ He focused back to answering Krilore’s question. And as the bearers of children, women have also been considered a very precious resource for the future—of future generations. Men have traditionally been the protectors. It was the man’s role to protect his wife and children from all dangers, be it animals, environment or other men. It’s a tough habit to break after millennia of it being that way. Physically, men are stronger. It’s kind of hard for me to think of a woman hoisting some of the equipment we have here on the boat….
<Part of it is sexual, too, isn’t it, Lee?> Krilore was much calmer, but Lee still thought she was a bit irritated.
Crane hesitated in his answer, but not his
progress toward sickbay. At
least he was getting better at that.
I guess it is, he admitted reluctantly.
We have had female scientists on board and I have noticed that I
have been distracted at times—harder to focus on my job.
And I know for a fact that the men have, too.
Again, part of our physiology, I suppose.
<When she was feeling better, while we were
waiting for you to come, Dr. Crawford told me that this distraction, or
should I say attraction, is part of an almost instinctive function that
is part of the survival of your species.
Like our periodic stimulation urges>
Lee almost did stop in the middle of the
corridor when he thought of the girls who had stimulated him.
Or visa versa. He
felt heat rising in his cheeks and then he laughed softly. Doc and Chip glanced at him, but didn’t ask any questions.
I suppose so. You have to understand, though, that this vessel does engage
in combat on occasion and, uh, we have to be able to focus.
<On killing one another> Definitely an undertone of disgust.
They had reached sickbay.
At the door, Chip excused himself to return to his duties.
Lee walked in and sat in the chair next to Doc’s desk.
He knew what was coming next.
You know, Krilore, I think….
had just found a vein for the blood test. “That one hurt, Doc. Quit
thinking about food and focus on your job!” Crane said with mock
“You’re a fine one to talk.
Having a deep conversation with your guest?”
“Politics,” was all Lee would say. Krilore, I guess you have a good case for saying
we’re a bloodthirsty lot, but to be totally fair, there are a lot of
humans like Harriman Nelson who are also trying the best they can to
bring peace, too.
<Yes, I suppose so, but it just seems ironic
that a supposedly peaceful research vessel is armed to the gills, so to
speak, with missiles and torpedoes>
How do you know about our armaments?
And that brings to mind a question of my own.
Lee, your mind is so focused on your submarine, your Gray Lady,
you call it, how could I not know?>
Heaven help them if an enemy learned to read
minds, Crane thought sourly.
Doc put a band-aid on the inside of his elbow and took the blood
sample into his lab for testing.
<What is your question?> Her thought was heavily tinged with humor.
I thought you as much as said that my mind
was an open book.
<Your mind is, but there is so much to
consider, that you might as well be specific so there is no
Okay, then, what is your real purpose in
coming here? To earth, that
If Krilore were human, Lee would have sworn that
she had just sighed. <I
told you, Lee. We are
a curious race. Since we
have gained the capability of space travel, we have explored farther and
farther out. That is our nature>
He wasn’t quite satisfied, but Lee knew he
wasn’t going to get more.
“Okay, Skipper,” Doc told him. “Until I do the tests, there is nothing further we can do.
So should we return to the wardroom and pick up some chow?"
I think that would be fine,” Crane responded.
He stood up, feeling the joints protest slightly.
“Then a good night’s sleep is next.”
“No argument from me, Jamie.”
Doc again scrutinized him.
“Maybe we need to keep Krilore around.
You’re actually agreeing with me.”
“I’m just tired, Doc.
“I can imagine.”
He motioned Crane ahead of him and then headed toward the mess.
<Lee, why would you not tell anyone that I am
a female of my species?>
Why indeed, Lee thought.
He realized just how much mileage Chip would get from such
disclosure, but that would be in jest, mainly.
Chip would certainly not feel any differently about him.
But the men? He was sharing ‘space’ with a woman, albeit a female of
another species—how would that go over with the men?
He was the captain, for crying out loud! He was getting strange enough looks from everyone because of
his admission of hosting duties. Even
the word presented a somewhat strange connotation. Myriads of thoughts rushed through his mind, but there was
nothing concrete he could offer to Krilore.
<Your men would have less respect for you
because I am here?> She
I don’t know!
Humans and **vreestrich are different.
I know you haven’t told me about your people yet, but just from
physiological differences alone, I can see that. And each human is different to some small degree.
So I can’t really answer that one, not totally.
It’s just . . . awkward for me, Krilore. I can’t say
exactly why. Chalk it up to
cultural differences or to my own background. He
and Doc walked into the officer’s mess where the stewards were just
beginning to set up for dinner. While
he wasn’t currently feeling the same enthusiasm for the food that Doc
seemed to have, Lee realized that he was hungry.
you soon, Skipper, Doc,” Cookie called out from the galley.
rush on our account, Cookie,” Crane replied.
not bother you more on that issue, Lee.
I will think on what you have said and what I have seen.
I will leave you to your nourishment>
I suppose you will let me know if
something I . . .ingest isn’t compatible with your physiology?
considerate. Yes, I will.
Usually, whatever a host ingests is broken down so that
compatibility isn’t an issue, but there was something about your
drink—coffee, that seemed abhorrent to me.
As you said, something that I cannot explain>
It was at
that moment that a steward set a mug of coffee down in front of him.
“No thanks, Brady. Something a bit less caustic?” he asked with a smile.
“Doc has ordered sack time for me after dinner.”
take it,” Doc said quickly and pulled the mug toward him.
Brady nodded and then left.
As he reached for the sugar, Jamieson said out of the side of his
mouth. “Krilore giving
you some dietary advice? Maybe
he should let the admiral host him.
That might be the ticket to cutting out the smokes.”
to take a chance. “She.”
pouring cream into his coffee. He
turned to stare at Crane even as he continued pouring.
“Did I hear you right?”
cup runneth over,” Lee said with a wry smile.
glance at the heavily creamed coffee, Doc continued to study the
is a female?”
and returned the gaze, watching the gamut of emotions play on the
Jamieson grinned. “I bet
you’re getting a real education, Skipper.
Can I assume that the politics you were discussing had something
to do with….”
Jamieson, Krilore is a member of another species,” he hissed, trying
to keep his voice down. Junior
officers were now filing into the room.
“While there are similarities in our two species, there are
even more differences. And,”
Lee threatened, “I don’t have to tell you what we were discussing
you don’t have to. Some
of it was kind of plain to see when we left the meeting.”
With that Doc finally looked at his coffee, took a sip and then
shoved it away with a grimace.
right,” Crane growled.
you made your point, Lee> Krilore said, the thought bemused. <Melissa told me, when she realized that she would not
make it to the rendezvous site, that I would learn much from my next
She had a lot of faith that you would get
that host, didn’t she? Lee mused.
said that whoever came to the rendezvous would be male>
and Crane felt a slight current of hesitation.
Then it dawned on him. The
admiral had planned on him being the next host.
He didn’t specify that he come, but Nelson didn’t specify
anyone else and it was sent in their private code.
The admiral chose me, didn’t he?
hesitation. <Do not be
angry. You probably were
more correct than you could imagine, Lee, when you called me an
emissary. I hold a position equal to your own, actually higher.
I am the leader of this expedition.
My position is above that of the captains of the exploratory
crafts. Yes, Admiral Nelson
said that you would be the best choice, but we would not allow him to
give you any details, nor to ask you if you agreed to this.
He strongly protested, but finally sent the message you
nothing as he pondered what Krilore had just told him.
While he was pleased that the admiral had felt he could handle
this, he was still irritated that Krilore didn’t trust Admiral Nelson
enough to let him divulge information that would have made this
just the point, Lee. We
have learned through sad experience that we cannot totally trust anyone,
at least at the beginning. Our
exploration would have been totally clandestine had it not been for the
unforeseen problems that we experienced with our craft.
Your people’s scientific encampment just happened to be
Most likely it was a good thing for you
that there were people with the scientific knowledge to help you. By the way, why did you decide to divulge that information to
me at this point?
coming to the conclusion that you are an honorable entity, Lee>
I can be very suspicious by nature of my trade, but do also try
to be fair. I also trust
the admiral, whose instincts are usually right on the mark.
Now, while we’re asking questions, just what brought your
<It was a
bombardment of particles from a magnetic/radiation belt that circles
your planet. It had changed
slightly since our initial pass by a few years ago and it disabled our
Ah, so it’s doubly fortunate that you
met up with Admiral Nelson. He
has studied the Van Allen Belts extensively. Lee left it at that. He
saw Cookie dishing up the dinner and noticed that Doc was not sitting
next to him. As he started
to get up, muscles again protesting, Jamieson came toward him with two
Skipper. You were kind of
off, uh, into space, so to speak, so I took the liberty of getting your
Doc. I appreciate it.” He had practically done nothing this entire
afternoon/evening and he felt as limp as wet paper.
He said as much to the doctor.
Doc sat down
next to him, unfolded his napkin and began to dig in.
“Very good food tonight.”
tell Cookie this was my tray?” Lee asked, gazing at what seemed
to be a mound of food on his tray.
Half again as much as he usually picked out.
Skipper,” Doc said, his face deadpan.
Just before he took a bite of potatoes, he said softly, “But
you do realize that you’re eating for….”
say it, Doc. Don’t even
think it,” Lee interrupted, angrily picking up his fork.
looked innocent as he worked on his meal.
The two men ate in silence, then Crane got up, handed his
half-finished tray to one of the rates who offered to bus it for him and