Pug-Monkey and the Feline Menace

Cream floated in the crew washer as it rinsed away the dark dye from his coat. Good to be home, he thought. Good to be with the pack.

It had been a scary trip down into New Jy, but it was worth it. Janice now had the organic security system they needed. Future passengers wouldn’t be able to steal ship components.

Cream tumbled out of the crew washer and smacked into Bo.

*glad you’re back, glad you’re back* Bo sent as he sniffed all over the little pug-monkey. *glad you’re ok, glad you’re ok*

Cream gently pushed away from his big friend. I think I’m finally getting used to the galumphing oaf, he thought. It helps that he finally stopped slobbering all over me.

Cream made his way over to Janice. He was careful to stay clear of the huge pinkish purple mass of tissue forming in the center of the cargo bay. It had become enormous. Janice was feeding it high grade nutrients and the muscle shot through with primitive neural cells was growing fast.

Janice grinned at him. He used to think humans looked scary when they showed their teeth like that. Something else I’ve grown used to, he mused.

“This is the good stuff,” Janice said as she nodded to the tissue. “It’s already responding to low level commands.”

Cream started to snuggle up so she could scratch his ears again, but the com link chimed.

Janice nudged the sensor bot around so it would only pick up her face and a featureless patch of the cargo hold. “Captain Curain of the Interstellar Minnow speaking.”

A feral growl came through the link before the video flickered on. A black and white feline face appeared, fangs bared. “I am Sergeant Yol from Station Authority. I have come to inspect your ship and you will cooperate.”

Janice checked his credentials and they came up legitimate. She opened the airlock to the station.

He was larger than most felines. He had the same prehensile tail and pawger adaptations as Cream. His whiskers twitched as he glanced around the cargo hold. He snorted contemptuously and headed for the bridge.

Janice, Bo and Cream exchanged worried looks. Station Authority was a new organization devoted to enforcing safety regulations. Why was he so angry?

Bo heard a dull clanging at the airlock. It was so faint Janice and Cream didn’t seem to hear it. Was something wrong with the mechanicals? Was that the reason for the inspection? Bo grabbed a tool kit and went to the lock.

The noise was intermittent and sounded like metal hitting metal. Bo tried to open the lock but the controls weren’t working. He checked the sensors. Outer door was closed and the lock held air. Something was inside the lock, maybe it was one of those robo bunnies he liked to chase.

Bo tripped the manual override and put his face very close to the door. He yelped as the door opened and a magnetic wrench whacked him on his sensitive nose. A second large feline sailed past him into the ship.

The crew recognized Moma, Chief of Station Authority. “Where is he?” she snarled.

Yol came out of the bridge, ears back and hissing. He grabbed Cream from behind, sinking his claws in for better purchase. His bared fangs were centimeters away from Cream’s jugular and the threat was clear.

Yol and Moma stared at each other. Finally Moma moved away from the airlock. As Yol started to drag Cream toward the lock he turned his back on the mass of tissue in the center of the cargo bay. Janice gave a short stream of sub vocal commands and tendrils of tissue floated away from the main mass. Suddenly Cream and Yol were covered in pinkish purple cells. Yol was sucked back into the main mass. Cream was released.

Janice hugged Cream, she was shaking with relief.

Moma sailed into the bridge without a word. Bo followed her. She pulled a small dark object out of the console next to the deep space radio.

“He was hijacking your com system.”

*why?*

“Don’t know yet, but I’ll find out. Sorry about your nose. He messed up the controls on the lock too. I couldn’t do anything but hammer on it.”

*it’s ok, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me* He kept his distance anyway.

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Pug-Monkey Comes Home

Cream heard the whirr-click-silence whirr-click-silence of the atomic boomerang as he cycled through the airlock. He hovered at the edge of the empty cargo hold. Gravity was off again. Whirr-click the boomerang popped back into a solid state and continued on it’s trajectory with Bo in hot pursuit. Whirr-click and the boomerang dissolved into vapor.

Whirr and Bo caught it just as it was solidifying. Bo started toward Janice so she could reset the toy and start another game. Bo noticed Cream and changed course, dropping the boomerang in his joy.

Cream tried to avoid impact with the large reddish brown canine and failed.

*OOOO you smell good!* sniff sniff sniff

Cream tried to avoid being slobbered on and failed.

*so happy you’re back* lick snort lick

Just as Cream thought he would be crushed Janice rescued him. “Bo settle down.” She pulled the two apart. She gave Bo a gentle shove and sent the big dog tumbling. She cradled the little pug-monkey in one arm and took him over to the habi-pods.

“I missed you too.” She said quietly as she wiped the saliva off his face.

Bo came up behind her, quivering with excitement but trying to mind his manners.

“I got it.” Cream snuffled. He pulled the tube out of his pack.

“Good boy.” Janice scratched behind his ears. “Very good boy.”

Janice let go of him as she moved to the replicator unit they had salvaged from a failed colonial outpost on the surface of Jy. Bo gently started nuzzling him.

The replicator hummed gently as Janice inserted the tube. After a few moments she let out the breath she had been holding.

“It’s viable and it’s the one we wanted.” She smiled.

Pug-Monkey Hires an Escort

Cream tugged at his faux schnauzer mustache to make sure it was on straight and almost lost his balance. He felt awkward. His tail was tucked into his trousers and his fur was dyed dark grey. It was the best disguise he could manage. Hopefully it would fool Turmick.

He was grateful his escort was wearing an outfit that provided purchase for his pawgers. Shirley ambled along the private tunnel as if she were showing him off but even she was occasionally jostled in the small space. Cream kept slipping down her torso and catching his rear pawgers in her cleavage until he finally climbed up on her shoulder.

No one was giving them dirty looks and muttering about species mingling. A few beings in the public passageways had. Cream began to relax even though his grip on her was tenuous.

Not much further, he thought. The luxury liner is just around the next corner.

They were almost to the loading dock when they saw the crowd. A man was waving a space suit liner and yelling.

“Blown seals! The crew of Victoria doesn’t care about your lives! They only want to turn an obscene profit!”

A large man in uniform came out of the airlock. “Get out of the way you charlatan! He’s just angry because he doesn’t have the credit for a trip. There’s nothing to worry about gentlemen and ladies. Step right up, never mind the madman. That liner was never even on this fine ship!”

“We should be able to get past him and into the ship” murmured Shirley.

“I have a bad feeling about this” Cream whispered. “He doesn’t look like Turmick but he is about the right size.”

“Time for an alternate entry?”

Cream nodded. Shirley knew what she was doing, but if she had to move fast he would have a hard time holding on. He slowly eased the fly of his trousers open. He let his tail snake out and wrap around the sturdy collar of her outfit.

Much better, he thought.

Shirley strutted down a side tunnel until she found a small private bubble ship. A very pretty, very rich young man was leaving the airlock.

Shirley swiveled her hips and slid halfway into the lock. “I’ll leave the internal cams running” she winked.

The man’s eyes got big as he saw the tip of Cream’s tail running down Shirley’s neck. Then he smiled.

Shirley hot pulsed the ship, turned off the cams and slid out of the dock. She guided the ship around the station until they could approach Victoria from behind.

“I thought there was only one way to board.” Cream was confused.

“Oh, this is only one of Victoria’s secrets” Shirley smiled as the little ship kissed Victoria’s hidden airlock.

Pug-Monkey Does an About Face

Cream licked his nose nervously and made his way back to the main marketplace. Was Davy friends with Turmick or was he just taking on another passenger?

Doesn’t matter, thought Cream, I can’t go on that ship now.

Cream started checking other ship schedules on a public terminal. Only two that could carry passengers were leaving in the next week. He had four hours before the first one left.

He continued to query for everything from luxury services to personal, by the hour companionship. As he worked he let the soft pad of his dew clap brush against the touch screen of the terminal. It took the executable a few seconds to slide through the screen.

A small strawberry icon appeared at the bottom of the screen. “An identity scanning program aimed at pug-monkey chimeras has been running on Station Two network for one local year. Unknown author, unauthorized registry. I’ll take care of it for you, sugar.” The strawberry winked at Cream and disappeared.

I am so glad I didn’t accidentally eat Symix, thought Cream. I wonder if he knows I thought he was strawberry flavored gelly?

Cream headed to the address Janice had given him. Janice had friends everywhere so Cream had friends everywhere.

Pug-Monkey Goes Deep

Cream licked his nose and settled back into the crash couch. Bands of toxic gasses swirled around him as he descended into the depths of New Saturn. He was grateful he could ignore the real time sensors reporting atmospheric pressure increasing exponentially.

Suddenly everything went black. Then the cabin was illuminated by a pale glow.

“Sometimes it’s easier for a first timer if the sensors are just piped to the ship’s neural net.” Davy rasped.

Cream studied the spindly gas giant miner. He was folded on his crash couch lazily drinking a bulb of nutri-gel. He had been one of the first organic volunteers for deep dives. He was one of the last ones still diving. Not much to keep organics around now that self replicating robots could do the job faster and better.

Cream felt nothing as the bubble ship was sucked into the entry tube for Station Two. He watched their progress on a small monitor. Station Two was a bright spot of neon orange and luminescent white against the dull grey of the gas giant’s core. Layers of translucent pressure guards were laced with entry tubes. He didn’t realize he had been holding his breath until the last depressurization light signaled all clear and the bubble ship docked on the outer rim of the station.

Cream passed through the triple airlock and into chaos. Refugees from Satellite Station Alpha had set up temporary residences in the corridors. Cream was forced to wind his way through multiple bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens before he could reach the traders market on the inner levels.

The market was only slightly more orderly than the outer rim. Some goods were displayed behind force shields, some were heaped in piles, some vendors wore smart shirts which advertised their wares and some shops were merely enclosures with a name on the door.

Cream managed to make it to an enclosure named Fat Willy without being stepped on. He licked his nose and pushed the door open. A skeletal being looked up with large grey eyes and nodded at him.

Cream sniffed at the test tubes displayed on an old scratched countertop. None matched the scent Simix had given him. Maybe Janice got the name of the shop wrong, he thought as he stepped toward the door.

Withered sticklike fingers held a tube full of purplish goo towards him. Cream took a whiff and tried to contain his excitement. The scent was slightly off, but there was no mistaking it.

“How much for the whole tube?” he asked in his little barky voice.

“A story.” The being gestured to a spot on the rug.

As Cream sat down the being touched a small device over his head, then locked the door.

“What kind of story?” Cream squeaked.

“A happy story. Tell me about one of your friends.”

“A few weeks ago I ran out of sweet chicken biscuits and I just didn’t know what to do. I had tried to work on a ship but I didn’t have any real skills. I went to the canine section of Station One looking for work. I was so scared. That’s a bad part of the station for me. Then nicest man came up and offered me a job.” Could the device tell he was lying? Not lying, Cream reminded himself, just imagining an alternate history. Cream kept talking for a long time.

Finally the being said “Very good” and handed him the tube as it unlocked the door.

Cream stowed it in his carry pack and slipped out into the market. He followed his own scent back to the bubble ship. He was almost to the airlock when a commotion broke out.

“Hey! Stop that bugger! He sold me the sensors that failed in my life pod!”

“I don’t know who you are sir. Unhand me.”

“Catch him! He took off with my half witted sister then dumped her in a mining rig!”

“I’ve important business to attend. Let me go.”

Cream climbed the corridor wall to avoid being trampled on. His blood ran cold as he caught a glimpse of the man fighting his way toward the airlock where Davy’s ship was docked.

Victor Turmick had just presented himself for a retina scan and been accepted into the airlock. The slimy lowlife who had mistreated Cream and held a grudge against Captain Janice was now sitting in Cream’s only hope of leaving Station Two.

To be continued.

Pug-Monkey and the Alpha Male

“Damn it!” Janice slammed her hand against the wall of the cargo hold.

Cream and Bo held perfectly still. They were looking at the hole which used to hold Simix’s second backup jar.

“Scrambled sensor records, not enough crew to watch everything at once. We don’t have the resources to carry passengers. If they’re all like the last one, they’ll have the ship stripped in less than ten runs.” Janice was furious and a little scared.

“We have to carry passengers. Raw material runs are scarce and they don’t pay as well as passengers do.” Simix felt a strange uneasiness about having his backup jar stolen. He piped his feeling to a subroutine and continued. “We need to contain passengers instead of letting them loose in the ship. We need non-electronic surveillance. Bo needs help on the bridge.”

“I don’t know how we’ll put all that together.” Janice muttered. Her current crew was working for nothing more than banana-liver flavored cookies and nutri-gel. Why would anyone else sign up?

Two days later Janice and Cream stood at the internal airlock leading to the K-9 Corps section of Station One.

“Do we really want to do this?” Janice asked.

“We have to have non-electronic surveillance.” Cream licked his nose nervously.

They walked into the large assembly hall full of modified canines. All had zero g adaptations and some looked adapted for specific jobs. They calmly assessed the human and the pug-monkey as they walked between the various packs. Some pack leaders sniffed and turned away. Others simply stared.

Just as Janice cleared her throat to make a general announcement, Bo came bounding into the room.

*hey, hey, hey, alana found us a bunch of cookies and jerky for real cheap* he sent as he bounced this way and that.

Fur bristled and low warning growls started. Bo tucked his tail under and pressed up against Janice’s leg. Various dogs circled around to sniff Bo. One large black and white male with pointed ears cut through the crowd. He was followed by an almost identical female.

*you work on a ship?* he sent.

Bo peed on the floor, then moved over and crouched down.

“Yes, I’m the captain. Bo is our navigator and Cream is my first mate.”

*I am Kane, my mate is Tasha. we want work ship*

“We can only offer food for your services.”

*food and chance to run*

“Yes.”

Kane and Tasha gave Bo a polite sniff and followed Janice out of the hall.

Pug-Monkey and the Strange Passenger

Cream watched the thin, hairless man float across the cargo bay. He did not have a nose, but he had two sets of lips, one inner, one outer, both serrated. He had pale sensory organs where his eyes and ears should be. His skin was thick and dark green. He clamped a grip bar to one side of the bay and folded himself up around it.

*I can’t even smell him* sent Bo.

Cream licked his nose nervously. “Captain Janice said he paid in advance and he promised not to wander around the ship.”

“I have an adequate number of sensors trained on him. I will keep you informed if he moves.” Simix’s voice came from the nearest speaker. “Captain Janice is waiting for you on the bridge Bo.”

The trip was uneventful and Cream started to relax. As they approached the last planet of the system, the hairless man started putting on what looked like the inner layer of his space suit. Cream and Simix watched him closely.

As they made planet fall the Hermes station came into view. The habitation domes had been ripped open to the hard vacuum and the transmission towers had been damaged. They were so transfixed by the wreckage that they didn’t notice the hairless man enter the airlock.

After he cycled through the lock, they watched him on the external sensors. He was still wearing only the suit liner and was moving slowly in the low gravity.

“How long can he live in just that suit liner?” Cream was amazed.

“Almost one standard year.” Janice sounded sad. “That’s what his modifications are for; extreme cold and low oxygen use. He can even withstand hard vacuum for thirty minutes.”

“What does he want with that mess?”

“He’s supposed to salvage a receiver so that we can eavesdrop on earth.”

“Supposed to?”

“That’s the story.” Janice sighed. “Some of his modifications are psychological. He doesn’t need contact with other sentients. He’s meant to work in insolated conditions. He’ll feel better out here than he did on Station One.”