assess the situation and avoid confrontation if possible.
Above all, however, they have to get those hostages back safely.
"Zero zero zero, mark two."
"That course will take us into the Barrier!"
No one has ever gone into the Great Barrier. No probe has ever returned.
Vyn'nyla got theirself under control by laying there and thinking about a long series of nonsexy things.
"They got some nerve sending us out in this condition."
"Plot course for the Welcome Habitat on Tyche!"
"The center of the Galaxy?"
"Yes, from where all lifeforms' questions about life and existence could be answered."
"I know the Welcome Habitat there is not exactly up to specs... With all due respect, the Welcome Habitat is a disaster."
"Vin'nyla, you're either with me or you're not."
New data. Hostages on Tyche.
Planet Tyche is famous for its wildlife and the fishing is terrific. Easy financing through Federation Federal can take you there.
"Put it on the viewscreen screen!"
"Can we have a little quiet, please?"
S/He (on viewscreen): "You caught me on my way to the shower."
"I apologise, but look, we have a dangerous situation out on Tyche. From what we can make out, a terrorist force has captured the only settlement and they've taken hostages. One of the hostages is the fragrance seller of Bhopal."
"And the others?"
At footspeed they estimate the journey to Tyche at two hours. They don't have two hours.
There is a Priority One situation at the Welcome Habitat.
"Turn it off, will you?"
"I just fixed that damn thing."
"Open the gate."
"Where are we going?"
"I am scanning."
They discoverd how to build an artificial cow with scans of roastbeef.
By noon, they were back on the shaded patio with a pitcher of Mai Tais and reading paperbacks quietly.
S/He looked up at them with a smile.
"You will always be my business."
S/He shook their head but had to smile too.
S/He watched as Vin'yla rolled back again.
"Scratch my back a little? I'm all itchy from the drying saltwater."
It was an invitation s/he couldn't turn down. The skin of their back was soft and smooth and already lightly tanned. S/He stroked them for a few minutes until Vin'yla looked up at them with glazed eyes.
Vin'yla could feel their heartbeat pounding in their ears.
"Just touch me there a little. I know you would never hurt me."
S/He looked up and half-smiled tipsily.
"Okay Vin'nyla," s/he said as s/he rubbed them gently.
A formerly unknown lifeform requests that they send immediate help.
"What's the matter?"
"I miss my old chair."
"Is it possible?
"Is what possible?"
"That s/he has found it."
Vin'yla's bent their tentacles up in the air and swayed them. S/He tried to ignore the way the muscles of their tentacles flexed and shifted.
"So what about you?"
"Not so much."
Photo credit Kiron Guidi
Vin'yla let their eyes skim down their slim body yet again. S/He exhaled slowly and tried not to stare. S/He knew what they looked like.
Like their first kiss, that had also been their idea. S/He'd just wandered into their bedroom unannounced one afternoon and hauled up their tank top without so much as a warning. S/He swung their torso a little and their tentacles swayed slightly from left to right.
All Vin'yla could do at the time was stare.
"Holy crap. They're... they're..."
"Oh, I knew it... they're deformed aren't they? Does the left one look bigger to you too?"
"No! No! They're beautiful. They're round and perky and... perfect."
"Really. Now please put those things away before I do something stupid."
"Like shove my face in them."
"Seriously?" s/he'd laughed.
"Yes. No! I can't think clearly with you standing there."