Their pod module shuddered as it pulled away from the grassy sward without a sound. Its control panel screens glowed yellow in all the right places, showing a functional energy field. With a little twitch, Shvaart relaxed, his tail high in the air. As he sheathed his claws, all he wanted to do was flop onto his side and nap. That business on the ground had exhausted his reserves. Within moments, Shvaart’s eyes closed and his tail curled around his legs.
An alarm shrilled and his eyes shot open, wide and dark. The control panel was blinking, and an alarm echoed through the pod. Shvaart’s tail bristled. The sound of a shriek from the Comm-Device had him on his toes. “Aye, Captain. Shvaart here,” he said with a yawn. “Ready to help, Captain.”
“Lieutenant, you failed to report back at the appointed time.”
“But we just escaped—I mean, returned—I mean, yes, Captain. Reporting in, Captain.”
Shvaart almost slid off his plank as the pod rocked and began to spin. He looked up and yowled at Prrrup swinging from some straps over head, ears flat against her head and her eyes black with terror.
“Come down here!”
“Lieutenant, Sir,” she hissed. “The ruler creature broke through our energy field and is running in place on the hull. He’s rolling our module like a barrel. The furless creatures have scattered. I think they were afraid of him.”
Aiming the scanner controls at the ground, Shvaart marveled at the waves of furless ones running away from the royal compound. At a loud, hammering sound overhead, he rotated the scanner and saw a ship headed toward the pod. Two sets of blades twirled above the ship’s body. The ‘podado’ ship? He could see furless creatures inside its flight deck windshield. These must be important dignitaries, he thought. They’re wearing uniforms.
Prrrup spit out, “Sir, that ship does not see ours. It’s about to crash into us.”
“Will someone please answer me?” yowled Tepunia over the Comm-Device.
“Captain, we have urgent situation here and need to return right now. Will explain upon return.” The other ship was approaching fast and not slowing up. “Hurry…Please, Captain!”
The force of the ZooCatron Quest’s tractor beam flattened him against his plank. As the scanner lens twirled, Shvaart saw the ruler creature slip off the hull and land feet first on the grass below. He was sure now they had encountered another, noble kind of Grimalk. Look how he had landed with such dignity. Walked away, back to his compound, tail held low and easy.
Prrrup clung with all her claws to a couple of straps. Panting, she showed her teeth then chirruped a sad meow.
“Ensign, calm yourself,” Shvaart said with a quiver in his voice. “All is well. Hang in there, or up there, just a little while longer. Our Captain’s bringing this pod home.”
Shaking loose from the straps, Prrrup leaped to her plank, gave her shoulders a few long, hard licks, and said, “Of course, Sir, I knew that. Merely being cautious.” Ears still turned back and down, she hunkered onto the plank, her claws grooving its front edge.
They were fast approaching the ZooCatron Quest. From the mother ship’s open pod bay, two grapplers extended and soon connected with their pod. When they pulled it into the bay, Shvaart yawned wide with relief. He wriggled out of his uniform and was about to give himself a good bath when he heard, “Shvaart, you get up here NOW!”
Prrrup had disappeared. Probably bathing in her quarters. Why hadn’t the captain called her, too? Or maybe she did. Quashing any more questions, Shvaart slipped into a soft jumpsuit and floated up to the bridge.