In the Beginning
My name is Ted and for thirteen of my fifteen years I have been living on the planet Bethera. Thirteen years ago an unmanned survey probe from Bethera crashed into my home town of Bale, Vermont, subjecting the town and people to a deadly form of radiation. What was left of the town and people were transported back to the planet where the only cure could be found. Due to the radiation we were exposed to, return to Earth was not an option.
For us the saviors of Bale, Bethera was our new home.
Slowly, our population grew and we rebuilt the town with the help of our gentle alien hosts. None of us, I mean the children, never saw the Betherans. Though we had heard rumors. Rumors about giants.
It wasn’t until I was ten when I realized the full extent in what had happened and those that took care of us where indeed giants. Colossal giants. When I reached the age of fourteen and with many others from my town, we were brought before the Counsel of Bethera. For many generations they had been under attack by an aggressively alien race. So far the Betheran military had been successful in warding off the attacks with their advance bio-robotic fighters. However, increasingly the attacks by the aliens had becoming more savage.
The Betherans cannot travel in space or at least not for long periods of time. It has something to do with their brains. It was decided to fight the invading race, trained and living Betherans were needed. This is were we Earthies as we are called and with deep affection---came in.
The plan was we would be teamed up with Betheran teens. We would be their pilot Companions. When I heard the method at first, I was deeply shocked, as we all were. We were to be implanted with special neo-electro synapses which would enable us to interface with the brain of our giant counter part, yeah pretty strange sounding huh? You see, we would then be placed in a capsule that would be placed in our giant’s brain. Working as one, we would become fighter pilots.
The Betheran Counsel, left the decision up to us teens whether we wanted to join or not. If we didn’t they respected or decision. I and many others decided to help.
In the beginning we went through all sorts of medical tests, probing psychological profiling as did our giant counterparts who we hadn’t met yet.
I became curious six months into our training. We were told that time for meeting our counterparts was nearing. Strange, they were in the same complex as we were. And all this time we never once saw each other.
One day, a good friend of mine named Ed, he and I decided that we would sneaked our way out into a Betheran hallway. When out in that vast canyon of a hall we decided against it. Coming down the hallway was a Betheran attendant. We Earthie teens, as part of our training to acclimate ourselves to our giant counterpart, took classes that involved virtual reality simulators for us to grow accustomed to the size difference. Still, seeing one live was still an amazing experience. Keeping ourselves pressed up against the wall, Ed and I stowed away on the cart by running up to and grabbing hold to a material that was hanging over the cart.
As the cart rumbled its way down the corridor, I looked at Ed, "What the heck have we gotten ourselves into.?"
"Yeah, if they find out we could be dispelled."
I told Ed, "It was my idea. I will take the blame."
"No Ted. We’re into this together."
When the cart stopped, we were surrounded by the explosive sounds of greatly amplified voices and deep collection of pounding sounds. Covering our ears, both Ed and I screamed as we jumped off the cart.
Our Giant Counterparts. And My First Introduction To Kelp
"Ed, I screamed as I pulled him away from a descending huge black object. All around us were these black objects that crashed and pounded their way around. Running to a silver tower we sought refuge. Looking up past the dark objects we saw thick columns. Columns that resembled legs. Legs on a planetary level. We had entered the recreation room to our giant counterparts!
Leaning out a bit, both Ed and I said in unison, "Incredible." And incredible it was. As our eyes traveled the well formed thick living pillars, we saw they stopped at a pair of green shorts lined with white around the leg openings. And above that something that resembled a long green vest also lined with white.
Ed and I hid back and up against the metal tower. Two sets of black objects which we knew now were shoes came pounding toward us. We heard a settling sound of great weight coming from above us. Two well formed limbs moved around in back of us. One huge shoe came crashing down upon a gold rail running in front of a wall. "This must be a bar or place to sit and get food like at a diner back home," said Ed.
"And this tower we are under must be a stool." I remarked. I could see Ed was getting anxious. "What is it?"
"Everything There so huge. I feel like a bug." The noise and quaking vibrations took a toll on Ed who suddenly ran out from under the stool.
I ran after Ed, who could inadvertently get crushed to death underneath a passing giant shoe. Running after him and not thinking, I jumped over a moving colossal shoe. "Ed, Ed!" I shouted. He turned. I could see normality coming back to his face. A shadow came over him. I looked up, a giant holding a tray was just about on him. I ran and pushed him out of the way of the sole of death.
"Thanks Ted." Ed added, "What is it about me that attracts giant shoes?" I smiled.
My smile left me. Our troubled wasn’t over yet. Another pair was bearing down on us.. Pulling Ted up on to his feet, I found we were lost in the shadow of a another shoe. I thought we had it.
The shadow glided off from us and the giant shoe came, rather softly I thought, down next to us. Huddled together we wondered what was up. The giant voices slowly began to disperse. Both my and Ted’s hair was blown back as air current began to blow over us. Descending down, was a gigantic knee "BOOM" It sounded as it hit the highly polished floor. Looking up, past the knee, I could see the shorts and the bottom part of the vest of this giant who had knelt down.. Ed and I shook and vibrated violently from side to side as other giant knees came down around us.
"Look how small they are?" said one giant voice
Another remarked, "I think their scared." Looking at each other Ed and I let go of the other and straightened out or vests which by the way, is identical to the ones our giant counterparts wear.
Two huge fingers reached for Ed. I tried to push the my width fingers away as Ed kept backing up. When the fingers kept moving ,I tried a few of those fighting techniques we have been learning. I heard a deep chuckle. "Lively aren’t you?"
Another giant said, "Just like you kelp."
The two fingers turned and picking me up by my collar hoisted me high up into the air. I was placed in a small landmass. A landmass I now is really a hand. I looked up at the face that had a big smirk. As best I could judge being this close, the giant who was called kelp, had a round face. Big cheeks that seemed wider that his forehead. His eyes were dark round pools. Way above and covering his forehead in part, was a very, very thick forest of dark brown wavy hair. "What are you doing in here?" asked the giant.
Feeling embarrassed, "I said we-ah I was curious to see what you section was like."
"Isn’t it against the rules to make social contact till command authorizes it?"
"Yes, I broke the rules."
A even bigger smile appeared on his face. The giant I had heard before commented, "He does sound like you."
"What about your friend?" asked this Kelp.
"Oh-ah, he was trying to stop me."
"No that’s not true," I heard Ed shouting.
Turning around, I saw Ed standing in the hand of a sandy colored haired teen.
"Your very loyal to your pal," commented Kelp. "Or are you trying to impress me?"
I crossed my arms and thought, "Boy this guy is arrogant." I saw his thumb that was folded down near me. This gave me an idea. Maybe not a good one, but this Kelp’s arrogance was getting on my nerves, so I slammed down my foot on the edge of his thumb nail.
"Ouch," he said as his thumb jerked up flicking me off his hand……….
Falling, I past the expanse to Kelp’s green shorts and began to pass his huge upper leg muscle when I was swept up into something and landed face down on the warm surface. I felt dazed for a couple of minutes. Sitting up I saw the quizzical face of Kelp looking down at me as I sat in his hand.. His eyes were half covered by his thick black locks. "You ok?"
I nodded. From across I heard Ed shouting, "Ted!"
"Its ok Ted," I hollered back
"I can’t believe these tiny things are going to help us?" Kelp picked me up by the back of my vest and placed me across from his enormous face. "I have had pets bigger than these. I can see having one as a pet. But as a pilot companion?"
His friend replied, "Kelp, they maybe small but they are intelligent. Don’t talk that way about them."
"I attended all the glasses on Earthies physiology. And I still don’t know. Anyway, so you don’t get into anymore trouble in you go." Kelp dropped me into the pocket of his vest. I tried to crawl up and hang onto the lip of the pocket but Kelp jiggled it causing me to fall back down. I was really starting to hate this giant.
In the semi-darkness and warmth of the pocket, I thought, "I hope I hadn’t given the wrong impression about Earthies. And while Kelp was wrong about us, I really couldn’t blame him from his perspective, wondering if we could be of any help."
I sat in the pocket for a short while as it quivered slightly to Kelps movements. I wondered how I could explain all this.
When the movements ended, two fingers and it was so very weird to think they were fingers pulling me out of a pocket---a pocket, placed me back down into Kelp’s hand. "My friend Balax and I have brought you to a service vent. Just follow it straight and it will lead to a storage room in your Earthies residence. We hope you won’t be found out. I’m sure our pals will keep quiet" .
"Fine. But I still think your just a glorified pet."
I looked up at what I could see of Kelp’s face. I was trying to determine if he was kidding or not. "Whatever you think, thanks for looking out for us," I said. Kelp nodded.
The two giant teens placed us down before the vent they opened. Balax extended a finger to Ed. "Nice meeting you Ed. I had never met an Earthie before."
Ed and I entered the vent. After we were in, Balax placed back the covering. Slowly we made our way. "Ed that was different wasn’t it?"
"Yeah. And so those are our counterparts. Seem like really nice people."
"What’s wrong Ted? They are helping us."
"Yeah, but you heard Kelp. He sees us as glorified pets."
Balax doesn’t seem to think that," responded Ed.
For a couple of hours we walked. Coming to the end, we pushed out the cover. Luckily no one was around. After placing the cover back we left the storage room. We left the storage room right out to our drill instructor and his assistant who were waiting. Ed and I looked at each other. I don’t know about Ted, my stomach felt like it wanted to hurl.
With crossed arms, Instructor Sorenson said "You boys are in a lot of trouble.
We were brought to the chief of cadet training, a Betheran named Florx. On his desk along with Instructor Sorenson, Ted and I standing in attention. waited for the verdict. "I see you both have fine records. Explain yourself.."
"Sir, I take full…"
Instructor Sorenson cut me off. "It doesn’t matter who suggested it first. The fact is you both disobeyed."
"To put it simply curiosity got the best of me sir."
"Curiosity can be a very good thing. It also can be a very unintelligent act depending how you apply it," said Florx. "And who helped you to the vent?"
"We don’t know sir."
"I see. Cadet Ted and Cadet Ed. Should you be dismissed?"
"We broke the rules. I do respectfully request a second chance," I said.
Ed replied, "I’ll take whatever punishment that is due. Only, I too request a second chance."
"Instructor Sorenson speaks highly of you two. And he suggested a second and final. chance."
."I agree to a second chance."
We both thanked Florx and Instructor Sorenson.
For the next six weeks our training continued. News did get around about our meeting the Betheran teens. And our fellow cadets and buddies wanted to know all about them. We decided to let them find out for themselves when Instructor Sorenson announced that we would be meeting our giant counterpart that we have been matched up with.
We were brought to a special room where we would be meeting our pilots. This room was broken into smaller cubicles. I walked nervously around on top of a giant table. A young giant officer walked in, "Cadet Ted. I would like you to meet your pilot."
Coming through the enormous doorway was none other than Kelp. "I looked off to the side for a moment extremely disappointed." As he walked over, it did give a chance, before he came to close, to observe what he fully looked like. My first reaction was bit of a surprise. From my experience of Kelp, I thought he would be walking with a self-assured swagger. Instead, Kelp walked with an even relax gate.
Kelp’s appearance was slightly stocky. His upper chest muscles bulged slightly beneath the top portion of his vest. As I had observed before, Kelp had a huge round face with big, wide cheeks. And there was his two dark eyes that peered out from beneath his thick wavy hair. His lips were full and serious. As he came closer, Kelp’s serious lips pulled back and grew into a huge grin. Kelp kept extending higher into the air and kept expanding before me.
When he stopped, I in the interest of getting along, extended a hand. Kelp with both fingers carefully, placed them at the end of my arm where it connects to my shoulder and picked me up. I felt so scrawny before the towering teen.
His first words and this surprised me, "Sorry you were caught. Nether Balax and I knew there were cameras in the vent and in our hallway." Before I could reply Kelp added, "I hope my pet didn’t get into any trouble."
"I think this friendship is going to take some work," I thought wearily.
Holding me up before his enormous face, Kelp told me, "I ‘m surprised as you little one."
"Great, could you put down now," I asked feeling ridicules hanging by his two fingers.
Bringing me closer to his mouth, "Sure, anything for my pet." I was blasted with hot, moist air. I wiped with my other hand the few particles of water from my face. He moved me away from his face and lowered me into his vest pocket. I really somehow hoped I could get through to Kelp, that I was more than what my size suggested to him.
There was a special dinner thrown by the academy for us and our pilots. Next to the plate of our giants was a table chair and utensils for us to use. I had to wait for a spell in Kelp’s pocket before he took me out to have dinner. When he did, I told him, "Look, I don’t want to spend so much time in your pocket."
"Where else am I suppose to carry you? Up my nose?"
"How about your hand."
Once seated down, the chief of cadet training Florx said a few words. "Cadets we embark on a historic and monumental task. The preservation of our world. You are the first of Bethera and Earthies to combine together to fight a common enemy. I know many of you may feel it rather strange, if not abnormal trusting your life to one so small or large. I ask you to understand and go beyond the limitations of outward appearance. I know this is not easy.
In the past six months you all have been going through medical examinations, fitness tests. All matter of trying to test and prepare you for combat duty. The strength of any force is the commitment we have toward our comrades in arms. The next stage of training will be, the thought-personality-memory mind-merging. This will give both the pilot and pilot companion glimpses into the other. Now enjoy your supper.
A group of women from my town served at the dinner. Parents of both the pilots and pilots companion were present. I had a chance to meet Kelp’s parents. When Kelp had gone to the bathroom his mother said, "Please look after our boy."
"His life will be my life."
When Kelp came back, "Ted, when are your parents arriving?"
"I don’t have any parents. My family was killed in that accident on earth."
Kelp was silent for a moment. "It doesn’t matter. We are the ones working together. Like a family." That was the closet he has ever come so far, speaking to me like a real person.
The super was very delicious. There was a lot of fun talking and laughter. I mostly spoke with my fellow Earthies. I had a chance to speak with several of the giant pilots including a beautiful girl named Lauthra. And I also met with her pilot companion, a lively, stocky girl named Sally.
After dinner, I with the other Earthies moved into the giant cadet dorms. Each pilot had a roommate. Kelp’s roommate I found was Balax. And his pilot companion was a very studious looking boy named Mike.
My bed was in a recess in the headboard of the bed. It was equipped with a bed, dresser, lights and a private bathroom. Though, during the course of the day, we ate, showered and did everything else together. It was only during the evening we had a space to ourselves.
Just before lights out kelp changed into his light blue night clothes. "Oh, before I forget," said Kelp who climbed out of bed. He took something out of the pocket to his shorts. Coming back over, he placed on my bed a blanket. "My mother made this for you." On the top of the blanket woven in words: was: Pilot Companion. I was very touched and intrigued how someone her size could have woven such tiny letters.
A Time For Reflection.
The next week was spent in classes studying the Betheran theorem on extraterrestrial engagement.
We next spent several days on the theory behind the, Thought-personality-memory-mind-merging. The medical staff involved explained what to expect. In terms of physical reactions. And post emotional aberrations.
The night before it, I kidded Kelp, "If its me to go first, will I find anything there."
If I go first, will I be able to squeeze in?"
That morning for Kelp and I to have the thought-personality-memory-mind-merging. Kelp on this first session would enter my mind. We were told no one experience was the same. And what one person experienced wouldn’t be the same as the other.
Kelp and I were taken to the medical section as with ten other cadets and their pilot companions. Several metal probes were implanted into my temples as with Kelp.
Once all bio-indicators read secure, the process began. At first I felt dizzy. My mind began to be rushing with thoughts. Thoughts from just a few minutes ago to many years past. I too, felt an up surging of feelings. After that I went blank.
When I woke up, I was sleeping on a bed next to Kelp’s small hill of a pillow. An Earthie nurse came up, took my vitals and asked how I was doing. I replied, Tired but ok. How’s Kelp?"
"He’s doing well."
After several hours Kelp woke up. He seemed a bit spaced. Turning he said in Earthie vernacular, "Hey."
"Hey," I replied.
That evening we were pretty quiet.
It would be five days before I entered Kelps mind. Two days before the next session, sitting in the medical units virtual calming center, Kelp began to tell me what he experienced.
Picking me off the holographic grass, Kelp placed me on his knee. "I saw things that I wished I never have."
"Gee you make it sound so perverted."
"Ha, ha. No, I mean what happened." Kelp looked down and said softly, "In your town. I saw it all through your eyes. All the fire, death of that day."
I asked almost afraid too, "Kelp there are no photos of my parents what did they look like?"
Kelp looked at with those intent dark eyes of his. " I really didn’t see much."
"Kelp I must know what they looked like."
"I know they loved you. They carried you out of your burning home."
"Yes, but did they look like me?"
"Ted, I just saw fire. People screaming and on fire. I didn’t know. I’m sorry a kid had to go through that. I want to tell you that…"
I couldn’t hear anymore. Everything seemed to spin. The idea of my parents dying like that. I started getting sick all over Kelps knee. After a few minutes, I was able to control myself. Kelp placed me in his hand. Looking down at me he said with resolute in his voice, "You and I will be the best pilot and pilot companion there is. And I hope friends."
"Thanks Kelp. And sorry about the mess on your knee."
"Not a problem. But for a tiny person you sure can make the mess."
On the day I would enter Kelps mind, both our temples had metal probes as before inserted in. As the process began, I felt as if I was falling down a tunnel of light. I found myself in a grand park. Maybe one Kelp had visited or would like to visit? Running through the park, I saw a younger boy with dark wavy hair. A younger Kelp? The boy seemed disorientated The image flickered and the younger Kelp vanished.
I was entering a crowded area, from the perspective it was through Kelp’s eyes. I suddenly dropped. I was falling down a deep, dark hole. Through his eyes, I was scanning my surroundings. Strange shapes began to emerge from the muddy walls of the pit. Half human. Half aquatic. Others took on the shape of wild and far-fetched insects. I could feel the panic in Kelp. Anxious hands dug trying to escape the pit. I heard Kelp shout, "Why doesn’t anyone help me?" Digging his fingers deeper into the clay, Kelp began to pull himself up. Nearing the top, I saw distorted horrible manifestations of horror. The faintly semblance of human faces gawked at Kelp. A few with poles and blunt instruments jammed them towards him. I woke up.
I would as with Kelp, would be talking with a trained mind-merging expert who would try and explain what we saw. I did feel, that in this dream Kelp felt alone, sacred. It was interesting for me, because Kelp comes off so assured of himself and in control. I think it did what its purpose was---to let us understand the other.
As Kelp slept, I whispered in his ear, "I would never leave you alone."
"That’s good to know," he said.
"What! You’re a wake?" He chuckled. I took a swipe at his ear. I jumped off the pillow onto his chest. "You giant jerk! What am I going to do with you?" I sat down. Then the enormity of what Kelp and I were working towards hit. "Together Kelp."
With a groggy hand, he wrapped his little finger around me and in an equally groggy voice, "Together Ted."
Out and About
It took us a several days to get back on our feet after the memory-mind-melding process. During that time, in civilian clothing, though he did wear the badge of the academy, Kelp went into the Betheran city. From his shirt pocket or hand, I tried to observe best as I could this giant of giant cities. The swirling shaped structures rose to far into the sky for me to really appreciate them. Citizens on hover seats speeded by and on all the other type of fantastic flying crafts.
Standing on a bridge looking over a sea of a river and the majestic buildings in the background, Kelp commented, "This is what’s all for."
"Yeah," I squeaked in reply.
Later, we joined up with several of Kelp’s pals and cadets. They had their pilot companions with them too. We all ate at an out door café. The people who walked by, many would stop and say, "You are the pilots we have been hearing about?"
"Yes," replied the pilots proudly.
Others came and marveled at us Earthies. And especially the children who found us interesting. I guess they never had seen toy size living people before.
As our giant pilots talked amongst themselves, we talked about what we thought about our giant pilots. Everyone seemed to be getting along. And we understood, even if all seemed well around us, all was not well. Out in the darkness of space a grave threat loomed maliciously over our heads and we maybe what stands before life and death.
The next day Kelp and I went hand gliding with others from the academy . Kelp placed me in his shirt pocket to the red flight suite he had on and made around the pocket a special netting so I wouldn’t fall out.
When Kelp ran off hotpot the mountain size building, I yelled, "Free as an eagle!"
"What does that mean?" asked Kelp.
"It means we are free as the creatures the fly in the sky. We are soaring spirits."
"Cool," he replied.
"Cool? Where did you lean that Earthie phrase.?"
"From me buddy Balax’s pilot companion."
Man, it was beautiful as we fly over parts of the magnificent city and the large green and lush looking parks. Twenty minutes into our flight, Kelp said, "I think we have a problem."
"There’s a small cord that is suppose to drop when I steer. Its not dropping."
"How bad is that?" I shouted.
"If I can’t get it to drop, we can’t steer and we’ll plummet to our deaths."
For the next several minutes, Kelp tried several things. None solving the problem. "Ted, I hate to place you in this predicament, but I think you are our only chance."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I need you to get out of the pocket make your way along my right arm and try to reach for the stabilizing ring. If you can bring it down I then will be able to reach it."
"I’ll try." The first thing I needed to do was to cut myself through the netting Kelp had set up for my protection. I had a pocket knife with me. It was a present given to me from a friend back home. After I had cut through the netting, I tried not to look down. Grabbing firmly to Kelp’s flight suite I climbed up to his shoulder. I found a new dilemma. Kelp was wearing a short sleeved flight suite. His arm and muscles were to large for me to hang onto. I would be blown off.
An idea struck me. A radical one. Shouting I told Kelp, If I try to crawl along your arm I will be blown off."
"So what is our alternatives?" snapped back Kelp.
"I can use my small knife and use it to secure myself from falling off. Sorry, I can’t think of another way. At my size and the knife’s size you shouldn’t feel it. Not really."
"Just do it!"
Taking my knife, I dug in with the blade and grabbed hold to the slit with one hand, as I created another hand hold.. I had to do this the whole length of Kelp’s arm.
Meanwhile, Kelp’s flight path was becoming erratic. At one point, we flew over a building that had a roof top restaurant. The current of air created by the wingspan of the glider knocked the patrons out of their seats.
A hover craft from the academy was sent and flew near us. They called over to us a few times.
When I reached the top of his hand, Kelp told me, "If you can’t get it in one or two tries--- when we are over something you think you could survive the fall on, jump off."
"You heard me."
"No, I’m not leaving you alone. If we die it will be together. I’m your pilot companion."
"Ted, I appreciate that but you have suffered enough cause of my p…"
"Ok, and good luck," said Kelp.
I took a quick breath and stood up. I knew I had only one shot. If I miss, I would be blown away. I jumped! To my very real surprise, I took hold of the ring! Moving my body around, I was able to bring the ring down low enough for Kelp to grab.
After a few maneuvers, Kelp brought down the glider inside of a park. Kelp gave out a few loud hoots and shouts of joy. I jumped up and down on his hand.
Un-strapping himself, Kelp told me, "I need to relieve myself. What about you?"
My face went red, "I already have."
"Poor little Earthie."
When he was done, Kelp came over and stood over me. He smiled and shook his head that was far in the heavens, "Ted, that was beautiful." Not thinking cause he was excited, Kelp knelt quickly right down before me. The concussion of his giant knees on either side, caused me to fall down. Picking me up with his hand, "You ok pilot companion?"
I saluted, ""I’m ready for duty sir."
Landing a short distance from us, was the academy hover craft. A group of cadets and officers ran up to us; to see if we were ok.
We were brought before chief of cadet training Florx. "Cadets, I read your report. That was quick and brave thinking. You worked as a team and I am very impress."
"To be honest sir," I told Florx. "I was scared."
Florx smiled, "If you weren’t sacred I would think there was something wrong with you. Still, you over came your fears."
"One negative note to this otherwise fine piece of teamwork, Kelp you failed to wear your communication plug. Had you had with you, we could have sent a craft that would have rescued you in flight. That is worthy of demerit. Occasions may arise and it will, you will need the help of other pilots. We are all a team working together."
"Begging the Chief’s pardon. It was my responsibility too. And as pilot companion I should have checked."
"Yes you should have Cadet Ted."
For the next week, Kelp and I cleaned the latrines---blah!!!
The weeks that followed, training was in understanding the principle of the bio-electro-synapses we pilot companions will be implanted with. These will run the entire length of both sides our bodies. When we are placed in our control capsules, and inserted into our pilot’s brain, contact with both the pilots brain and computers will be interfaced.. Their thoughts will get re-routed through us. We had simulated exercises of what it will be like operating from inside the capsule.
The pilots whose pilot companions were undergoing the implantation attended seminars on the process and they were given special labs that took greater depth in the physiology of Earthies
I wasn’t looking for the process for I heard it was a painful procedure. And our bodies will be decontaminated shortly after removing any trace of foreign spores.
My head became light when I received an inner cadet, city telegram announcing the date for my implantation. I along with ten others will be under going the medical and bio-re-engineering of our neurological system.
Three days before the process, all the giant pilots had a special banquet for us pilot companions having the procedure All of us were of course nervous. It still was a new medical frontier even for the highly advanced Betherans
All around sitting at the colossal table were our giant pilots. A few had on their massive shoulders their pilot companion. Many entertainers from my town came and performed on the table. One women sang upbeat songs while sitting on the edge of a giant dinner plate. Kelp was regaling several of the female pilots with our adventure aboard the glider.
The food was good. And as the banquet progressed, we all were able more than we had been allowed before, able to let our hair down as it were. I threw balls of stuffing at Kelp. And at one point he picked me up and dropped me into his bowl of pudding. One pilot dropped his pilot companion into his drink.
Later, Kelp had a drink of water and placed it down near the edge of the table. As I continuing to wipe the pudding off of me, I was trying to figure how to use that water to get back at Kelp.
Somewhat cleaned up, I saw Kelp leaning back in his chair with his arms behind his head and laughing as he was shouting to another pilot. I slowly walked behind the blue plastic cup. I first wanted to test and see if I would be able to budge it. Pushing it slightly I found it was just about empty. Staying indirect line of his of the cup, so hopefully Kelp wouldn’t notice me, I moved away from the cup And giving myself a running start, rammed into it. As it began to tip over, I quickly moved back so not to fall off the table. "What the…" shouted Kelp standing up. All over the front of his shorts was a small dark stain.
I shouted, "Baby wet himself.!" Kelp narrowed his eyes at me. Picking up a giant cranberry dish, he sucked up the juice and sprayed me like a firefighters hose. A torrent of cranberry juice rained down upon me.
Yeah, it was rowdy. Yet, we all knew this might be the last chance for us to really be young teens again.
The day before the implantation, I was really getting anxious. Kelp‘s parents came and visited with me for part of the day. I was touched that they made me feel like part of their family. Though in away I guess I am. I will be playing a crucial part in the fighting missions with their son.
Late afternoon, the medical team came who would be performing the implants and gave me several injections to prepare my system for the ordeal to come. They gave me a tranquilizer they suggested I take in the early evening.
Kelp was, I think at a loss in what to say or do. Beginning to really stress, I took the tranquilizing agent. I began to really feel strange. I think an explosion could have gone off and it wouldn’t have phased me.
For a spell I sat on the side of my bed. Kelp staying with me, laid back on his bed reading a technical journal. His full black wavy hair created a wall before me. I put my hand to my mouth and started giggling. Taking hold of a strand I began to crawl up through his hair. I could hear him say trying to be patient, "Ted what are you doing?" I just kept crawling through the warm field of hair.
Coming out after a while above his forehead, I grabbed hold to one of his locks and lowered myself down onto the bridge of his nose. Kneeling, I looked at the two dark orbs that crossed inward at me. Two fingers hoisted me up, "That’s very clever Ted. Now try getting some rest." I was lowered into his vest pocket where I fell asleep.
In the morning I found myself still in the vest pocket. Seeing light coming in, I knew the day had arrived.
The preparation room had ten tables with a bed on each. Next to the giant tables was a giant recliner. Placed on a table kelp sat down in the recliner. I kept pacing back and forth trying to do breathing exercises to calm myself down. I wished I could have take another one of those tranquilizers.
Kelp placed his huge hand down before me, "Climb on." After I climbed on, he began making gentle circles with his index finger on my chest. "They taught us areas that relieve stress in you Earthies. Is this helping?"
"Actually it is." I felt as if I could go back to sleep.
When the Betheran doctor and Earthie doctor came, Kelp placed me in my bed. They had an apparatus they told me would be the first in a series processes in stabilizing my neurological system. At that point, I felt deep fear and wanted to run. Kelp told me, "Ted look at me. Just look." I looked into Kelp’s dark clear eyes. I felt a buzzing sensation. Kelp began to fade away in a dark tunnel.
My first impression of returning to consciousness was pain. I remember groaning. I heard a distorted voice tell me, "I’ll increase the pain reliever." The pain did weaken somewhat. I kept getting sick I remember and holding on to a large warm object. The side of my bed I assumed. I would feel the nurse wiping off my face.
When the pain began to subside and I felt better a doctor told me, "Ted now comes sterilization of any foreign microbes. There’s no way to entirely remove the discomfort that will occur. Do you understand." I nodded. The pain even with the sedations at times made me want to scream. In the distance, I heard the screams of my fellow pilot companions which was unsettling.
At several points in time, I remember being up against a green warm material. And I thought I would hear the voice of Kelp.
Finally after five days the pain decreased. I remember sighing in relief when I could sleep again. The screams from my other pilot companions slowly subsided also.
Becoming more alert, I had a shock which made me shout in surprise. It was the shiny silver contact points running up both sides of my body. At first I couldn’t even look at myself in a mirror.
I wondered about Kelp. At first I didn’t see him. I saw in the distance of the Betheran medical unit the giant pilots with their companions. I asked a Earthie nurse, "Where is my pilot, Cadet Kelp?"
"He’s resting Cadet Ted."
"Yes, your friend stayed with you the entire time. He cleaned you. The full round the clock care. The cadet cleaned and applied ointment to your implants. Kelp during your intense pain had to be slightly sedated for manifesting similar pains as yours. You must have a close bond. Do you want me to wake him?"
"No let him sleep. He has done above and beyond his duty as a friend." The nurse nodded in agreement.
When Kelp did return he was all smiles. "So my tiny pilot companion wasn’t so bad was it?" He said cocking his head slightly.
"Oh no it was a breeze. Though, I feel like a weird freak with these contacts running up and down my sides. "
Sitting up, I slowly climbed out of bed. And stood on wobbly legs. Kelp moved in his face filling my vision. "Anything I can do for you?"
"The pocket of friend would be the most welcome thing right now."
The pilot companions had to attend groups to discuss how we felt after the implants. I think like the others, I felt rather freaked at first seeing my body lined with those metal connectors.
Kelp during a lunch break asked me, "Would you like to see something really incredible?"
"More incredible than these things now implanted into my body," I replied jokingly. At least half jokingly.
Kelp said, "No I’m being serious. And I have authorization."
Placing me into his vest pocket, Kelp took a travel tube to the far end of our training complex. He next took an elevator down which to me seemed to take close to twenty minutes.
When the gray metal doors opened we found ourselves in a great underground complex. Even by Kelp’s standards it was vast. In the distance one could hear the movement and operation of machinery. And the echoing voices of the technicians that operated them.
Taking an elevator car, we moved even deeper into the cavern. After several minutes the car wasn’t allowed further access. It didn’t matter, I saw what Kelp wanted to show me. Taking me out of his vest pocket, I crawled to the end of his fingers. Standing in a row were the twenty fabulous fighting craft. These fighters were in humanoid form. On the back of their mighty robotic arms was the powerful propulsion fins that would carry the fighter into action. I believe the back of the legs too carried the powerful engines; Kelp would know this more than me being the pilot. Though, after Kelps implantation of the capsule receptacle, I will be acquainted to the fighter.
Pointing with his index finger from his other hand, Kelp said and he had a seriousness and even kind of affection in his voice, "See the fighter third from the right."
"That is going to be our fighter."
I looked upon the sparkling blue and white fighter. It stood so majestically waiting for Kelp and I to give life to its human like form. It was indeed a very powerful experience.
Before lunch time was over, Kelp and I returned to medical center.
The Implantation of The Capsule Receptacle.
Two weeks after my implantation it was Kelps turn as with ten other pilots to have the capsule receptacle implanted into the top of their brains.
There was as for us pilot companions a banquet. Kelp‘s parents along with his two brothers and one sister attended. I felt kind of odd. I know I’m part of their family still I felt as an outsider.
They were having such a fun time I didn’t want to distract so I went and talked to my fellow pilot companions. I was talking to a female pilot companion named Mary when she began to look up. I was wondering what she was looking at. Bending my head back, I saw a huge hand come descending down upon me. Wrapped in the darkness of the fingers I was elevated up. When the fingers uncoiled I found I was in Kelp’s hands. "Why did you walk off?"
"I saw you guys having a goodtime, I didn’t want to intrude."
Kelp gave me a weary and slight smile. "You’re family now. We are very close pals. Aren’t we Ted?"
"I love you just as much as I love my parents. Though, I have known them longer."
"So stop this foolish thinking mister. And as your pilot this isn’t just a friend asking its your commander."
I stood in attention and saluted.. I stopped the nonsense and enjoyed the celebration with his family over my pal.
The preparation of the implant of the capsule receptacle was different. Kelp would be admitted two days before the procedure. I as with other pilot companions was their with him. The first day of his admittance was the scanning of his skull and removal of his hair. They had placed markers at different parts of his head. I felt so bad, he was so embarrassed by it. He was told his hair would grow back and quickly with an accelerant they would inject into his scalp. The female pilots wore a scarf over their heads.
The day before Kelp was naturally nervous and full of anxiety. I did a several stress related muscle relaxants by pushing certain nerve points in his hand. A few times a spacey smile appeared on his face.
When the next day came, I stayed in the palm of Kelp’s hand. As they were wheeling him to the operation room I kept rubbing his little finger that contained certain nerves that in Betheran physiology, released endorphins. This relaxed Kelp.
I then was removed and with other pilot companions we waited. I felt like a expectant father. I paced around. When the procedures was finished, I went and stayed with Kelp. He looked well. Except on top of his head was a huge purple discoloration and a round metal plate. I asked the Betheran doctor how the operation went and how Kelp faired.
"The procedure went well. And Cadet Kelp is in fine condition. If you wish you can speak to him."
"Isn’t Cadet Kelp still under for quit awhile?"
"Yes. I meant by using a group of connectors on your right arm."
"Don’t you need the capsule for that?"
"Not for this." The doctor placed me on top of Kelp’s head. The doctor had to leave the room to get an instrument. I sat on the warm bald head. Funny I thought, "At first I saw Kelp as a giant arrogant guy. A guy I could never be friends with. Now we are close buddies."
The doctor came back. He attached a simple rubber pub to the top of the metal plate. The other end had a group of thin metal contact points that inserted into my right arm. Getting down on my side I closed my eyes. I began to call for Kelp. Floating in a dark bluish light I could hear Kelp’s replies, "Whose there?"
"Its me Ted."
A image of Kelp formed in this bluish light. And the form was that of my size. "Wow, what a strange dream," Kelp said.
"No dream its really me. I’m using several of my connectors. I just wanted to tell you it went well. Both the implantation and you are fine. And I just wanted to tell you buddy I’m here."
"Thanks," replied the image of Kelp that floated and spun around
Kelp was in the hospital for two weeks. The chief concern was motion control. Every morning and evening, I crawled up onto his bald head and applied the sanitizing lotion to his implant. I felt after his care of me, I wanted to try and as best I could help in recovery.
Near the end of the stay in the hospital, Kelp was getting very anxious in leaving. When he became grabby I would tease him about it. Or grab hold to his tiny finger and start pressing in on those nerve points that would mellow him out.
Being aware of this, Kelp would snatch me up in his fingers and with another finger rub the top of my head that would put me into something like a drunken state. And I would be walking around on his chest or hand like a demented toy.
That hair accelerant they gave Kelp, began taking affect. Near the end of his stay, Kelp’s head, minus the implant area, was covered with short dark bristles.
When he was released, Kelp started going straight to the cadet gym and worked out---worked out hard. It had drove Kelp nuts just to be stuck in bed. I sat their in the gym with other pilot companions and many times sitting between other gigantic teen pilots watching.
Kelp had a favorite player; a female pilot named Soyura. They played an Earthie game that became popular among the cadets. A game called Tennis.
I played games during Kelp’s sessions. It gave me an opportunity to know more of my fellow human pilot companions. It was interesting to see their relationships with their pilots. All had a form of close bond I think. Several appeared more formal. My friend Ed had a kind of stocky and serious giant. They were always talking about technical issues.
I was surprised to hear Kelp and I were considered the archetypical in a pilot to pilot companion relationship. I don‘t know why it happened. It just did.
When Kelp was done came back to the pilots and talked and did a little horsing around. He came later and sat down next to me. He wiped his face off with his shirt. A rush of that’s be kind a Kelp scent rushed over me. I didn’t move away for I didn’t want to offend him. Time he did mention, "I’m really ripe. Aren’t I Ted."
I shouted up, "Your beyond ripe. Your decomposing." Kelp would pretend to be reaching over for something thus putting me in direct line with his armpit.
Returning back to training and fitted with our implants it was now time to start our synchronization tests. This would be involving the capsule. All the giant pilots sat in a chair that had a complicated apparatus behind their heads. The pilots placed around the sides of their heads a communication ring that would enable them to hear and reply messages to their pilot companions.
Next, the pilot companions entered the capsules. Inside the cramp quarters that included a chair, monitor screens and a group of cables, I hooked myself up according to instructions over the capsule communication head piece and third dimensional imagery up on the screens. When giving the go, I was lowered in.
The plate in Kelp’s head wasn’t removed, instead, it had micro openings that expanded under specific signals to allow passage of the capsule into the receptacle.
Once in I was connected to Kelp’s brain. "Are you receiving me reply."
"Receiving you strength five by five."
"Kelp, I mean commander are you experiencing any physical sensations or discomfort?"
When the instructors were satisfied, the pilots were helped up onto their feet. Taking hold of several cables, watching a screen the had a schematic of Commanders Kelp nervous system, I began synchronization. I mimicked by use of the cables, Kelp’s movements When I received a green light from my bio-monitors I proceeded to the next step: manipulation.
"Commander Kelp I will be taking control of lower locomotion. On account of the three. On three I took over Kelp’s forward motion. "Commander Kelp how did that feel?"
"I had a sensation."
"Please confirm sensation?"
"Please identify and specify nature of sensation."
"My right leg felt heavy and sluggish. It took longer to respond than my right leg."
"Commander I am readjusting points to left leg. Resuming test on count of three."
Kelp reported, "Yes, both legs now in sync."
After the testing had been completed, I was ejected from Kelp’s head. The cadets returned to the lecture hall for comments and answers. Sitting on a chair on Kelp's hand rest, he whispered down to me, "We are getting closer Ted."
The next few weeks saw more exercises in synchronization. The practices became longer and involved other pilots. I would be talking directly with the giant pilots companion from my capsule. What Kelp and I, along with the entire twenty student cadet body was looking forward too, was simulation runs in our actual fighters.
After one particular long and trying session, Kelp and I at the end of the day just stayed in our room. Our roommate Balax and his Earthie pilot companion hung out in the room also. Kelp was stretched out on his bed and was thinking. I wondered around and found myself standing next to Kelp’s forty foot tall feet. I shook my head slightly thinking how strange and cool to be friends with such a being. And one, and this thought I couldn’t help thinking---could possible die with in battle.
Feeling still rather energetic even after the exertions of the day, decided to climb the side of Kelp’s right foot. He hadn’t any socks on, and to scale, I dug my hands into skin crevasses and bulges of veins on the side of the foot. "Hey what are you doing?" asked a deep rumbling base voice.
"I felt like doing some physical activity."
"You’re a tiny bundle of energy aren’t you. Hey, that feels funny."
Balax asked, "What’s going on over there?"
"Ted’s climbing the side of my foot. I guess drill after drill in synchronization isn’t enough for him."
Balax came over and watched for a minute. I was staring to feel like an idiot now. What was I thinking. Still, I had never had a brother or anyone to do stupid things with.
Scrutinizing me with his huge eyes, Balax turned and said, "This looks like fun. You try it Mike."
Nearing the top, I grabbed hold onto the little toe. Swinging myself around, I glided my legs over the rounded top of the toe and using my two hands pushed down on the sides of the toe propping myself on top. Swinging my legs back and forth I looked up the long expense of Kelp whose dark huge eyes regarded me with some curiosity.
Kelp began to wiggle his toes slightly, I had to hang on tight. "Don’t fall down tiny guy."
Placing his arms back behind his head, Kelp told me a story from when he was six. "I had an uncle who worked for Earthie reconstruction. I had overhead him talking about your tiny size. In my bedroom I looked at my toys and thought what it would be like to have a person as small as a few of my toys. My uncle did report of the suffering you Earthies went through, though I didn’t understand it at the time.
One day, I saw boxes being shipped to the Earthies sector. I stowed away on one. When it sounded quiet, I stepped out. At first I thought I was in a toy village. There were all these buildings that came just up to my shoulders they were a few larger ones. Down near my shoes were these transportation vehicles you call cars. I picked one up. I caught a glimpse out of my eye something moving. On the narrow street, I stooped down. Trying to get into a building was this tiny man, he kept looking up at me and back down at the door. I reached down and picked him up. I was so fascinated by his tiny size. He kept screaming. I remember telling him why are you so scared? It seemed to me at the time, he should be happy with one so big.
A short time later a woman in a uniform came by. And told me I shouldn’t be here. I told her I wasn’t causing any problems. The little man seemed very much in distress. I asked her why is he so afraid? She told me he had never seen a Betheran before.
Voices began. Voices of people my size. I became nervous I put the man down in the pocket of my shorts and afraid the woman might tell on me, I placed her with the man. I was able to stay out of sight, and hide in a cart that was being returned to our sector. In the semi-darkness I pulled out the two Earthies. I told them not to be afraid. And I was going to keep them. They didn’t like that idea. I was still puzzled why they would be afraid of me.
Once in the safety of my sector, I went home. I began to set up a place for them. I told them I was going to look after them. And they were going to be so happy. Still, they protested. I was becoming hurt that they didn’t believe me. I had them for two days and after which time, my parents found out. And took them away. All I wanted was to make them happy. And they didn’t understand. So after that I saw Earthies as irrational tiny creatures."
"Of course know you know better," I said. A big grin appeared on Kelp’s face. "Right?"
Kelp wiggled his toes more strongly. I found myself falling off the toe. I landed with a slight thud on his foot just below the toes and rolled down the warm surface; stopping between his ankles. Picking me up and placing me down in his hand, Kelp said, "Yeah, your not so irrational."
"While your working to save your own people your also working toward saving mine. So the circle is complete," I told him.
"I guess so."
Progress and Our Fighters.
Once a month all cadets have a progress report were we meet with our Earthie instructor and Betheran instructor. On the desk of chief of cadet training Florx, "Cadets we are pleased in the progress you are making toward pilots. One of the most interesting aspects is you apparent relationship. As the teaming has gone very successful throughout the entire cadet class, none shines more than yours. Different instructors from the training programs have reported similar findings. Cadets Kelp and Ted enjoy a close working friendship which includes kidding and good natured teasing. In actual training they show a high degree of initiative, seriousness and determination."
Instructor Sorenson commented, "They work as a model team. None is more important than the other. Its quit refreshing."
"Do you any thoughts on this Cadet Kelp?" asked chief of cadet training Florx.
"After my merging into Cadet Ted’s past memory, I saw the devastation inflicted upon his people. I saw the horror and smelled the burning flesh. It made me aware in what I am here to prevent. It did make me understand and appreciate my pilot companion. He had suffered a great loss in his life. A loss he can never recover. Yet, willingly volunteered to join our fight. He could have figured, he suffered enough because of our people and absented himself from the fight. He didn’t. I admire him for this. I think Cadet Ted knows while he can‘t bring his own family back, he has a new family in me. And always will."
"And you Cadet Ted?" asked Florx.
"The merging opened my mind and heart to Cadet Kelp. During training and during implantation, I found an individual of high loyal standards. Who will go the extra mile for his friend. That increased my loyalty to him. Both as a friend and pilot companion. I feel I have a brother not just a comrade. An individual and friend I will gladly follow into deaths face if I have too."
"Lets hope you don’t have to find out," responded Instructor Sorenson.
It wasn’t just Kelp and I that were excited, it was the entire pilot and pilot companion community. We would be introduced to our crafts. We were given a special flight suite to wear. It was nothing we had expected. The suite was made of one piece that you entered from the back. It came down from the neck to just above the knees and it was skin tight.
Kelp was rather embarrassed as we all were with these extra skin layer thin flight suites. All the pilots kidded each other about how they looked. We pilot companions did the same. When a female pilot came by, Kelp covered himself up and gave the pilot a huge embarrassed grin.
Our suites were the same color as of our craft; white and sparkling blue. The suites had micro environmental support units that during an explosive decompression would provide air and pressure for a limited time.
I sat on the edge of Kelp’s hand as the total group of forty of us took the hover cars to the twenty fabulous fighters. "Awe! Man! Breathtaking! There thy are!" Were a few of the remarks made as we approached our fighters.
Our giant pilots stood at the entrance ramp to their fighter craft. And we the pilot companions stood in their hands. Out side of the entrance to our fighters is a small control deck were a launch technician will be doing simulations and actual combat missions.
Betheran fighter instructors came and prep us for our first inspection of the pilot command center. There would be no insertion of the companion capsule. As with the access plate cover to the capsule receptacle on the top of our giant pilots head, entrance to the command center was through an opening made up of tiny micro holes. With a sense of elation we entered the command center. The pilots command center was very similar to pilot companions capsule. Their were a series of monitors, computers and other sophisticated apparatus. There was no cables to maneuver as in the companions capsule.
As Kelp sat in his flight seat for the first time, I could see a real joy cross his face. Kelp placed me on his shoulder, so he could grip with his own hands one of two control throttles. Kelp turned on the monitors from the launching bay, in order we could see the outer shell. It was esthetically a beautiful piece of engineering. As I had seen before, the fighter craft was designed in humanoid form. The face, though Kelp claims he sees no resemblance, looks strikingly like him. I had Kelp scan the features of the other robotic fighters. Indeed, there was a resemblance between the fighters and their pilots. The mighty arms to the fighters, acted both as weapons and propulsion. The legs too would propel the fighter craft.
After, what seemed a too a brief visit, our tour of the fighters ended. We climbed out of our skin tight flight suites back into our cadet uniform.
A Long Awaited Dream.
Before we begin classes on the enemy, we were given a weeks furlough. Kelp was going to his Betheran city where his family lived and invited me to come. I thought maybe of visiting friends back at Bale. Kelp, was cool in whatever I decided, though, he did stress how I was part of his family now. I told him I would think about it.
When I had mentioned Bale, Kelp told me, as he had before about his trip into the city when he was six. While he was turned off to Earthies to a certain extent, he never forgot as a boy hearing about what happened to my town and how, as a small boy and in the simplistic thoughts of a boy, how he wished he had saved us. This gave me pause for thought.
I spoke with Instructor Sorenson about an idea I had. He informed me he would have to clear it with the Betheran counsel.
A day before our furlough was to begin, I received word.
Kelp as easy going as he is, does not like surprises. As we traveled by hover bus, Kelp wanted to know where we were going. Before we drew near and before he would figure, I told him, "Kelp, I think you have a long awaited dream to be filled."
"Bale? I’m going to the Earthie city? Why?"
"I told you Kelp to fulfill a dream."
"For a giant your pretty dim."
Reaching into his vest pocket Kelp pulled me out by the back of my vest, "For such a very tiny, tiny person, you throw around your next to nothing weight."
"What are tiny pals for," I said with a cocky grin.
"Thanks. I think I know what you are trying to do. You a good pal. However, your town is safe."
Kelp gave me a stare of his thoughtful clear brown eyes. "Thanks. Don’t forget it’s a combined effort."
I was waiting for Kelp to place me back into his pocket. After a couple of minutes, he still had me hanging by the back of my vest which pulled up slightly giving me a comical appearance. Starting to feel foolish, "Ok, you can place me back down into your hand or pocket." Kelp didn’t reply, he just had a slight grin on his face.
A young couple walked by our seats and the man commented, "I must say Earthies are cute looking."
The woman, "As I child I always wanted one." The couple came closer.
"This is your pilot companion?" asked the man to Kelp.
Before Kelp could answer I replied, "I am. I’m cadet Ted."
"Ha (chuckle) what a funny tiny voice you have," said the man.
"Rasun," spoke the female, "He’s so brave. Aren’t you?" And the girl gave me a gentle tap on top of the head with her finger.
I was really feeling uncomfortable. I felt like Kelp’s pet. The couple bowed and moved on. "Your so cute," said Kelp in a baby kind of voice.
"Remind me not to do you a favor," I responded pretending to be mad.
Kelp slightly cocked his head slightly, "You know you are kind of cute."
"Can’t say the same for you."
Kelp nodded, "Thanks again Ted. There’s none better."
The city of Bale was surrounded by a dome. In this way we could still keep many of the wildlife that had survived, and remain part of our environment.
A portion of the dome opened and Kelp entered the Earthie city.
Kelp placed me down by his enormous feet which in motion can be very scary. He stooped down. I hung on to a light pole as not to be knocked down by the pressure of air he created. "This is your home." He said.
"Yeah, sure is."
The major and many other city dignitaries came out to us---- to meet Kelp. Using a megaphone, the mayor called up to Kelp, "Welcome young Cadet Kelp. We hear you have a special interest in our city." Kelp turned red.
Trying to think of something, Kelp replied, "Ah, ur, your city has really grown."
"Yes, thanks to your people we have made a home for our people. Come young Kelp many of our people would like to meet you," said the mayor. .
"Ted want me to carry you?"
"No, that’s ok I will follow with the others." Kelp slowly stood up. As he did, his shadow began to slide over the spectators, over the street and over the buildings. I saw many of the dignitaries bending their heads back that had open mouths as Kelp stood up to reveal his full size. I’m still filled with awe whenever I’ am down at his feet and try looking up at him. As Kelp took his steps, everyone and thing on the street shook.
Many people poked their heads out of the windows as Kelp slowly walked by. Even at a very slow pace I had to run to keep up with Kelp.
Reaching the city green, Kelp sat down. I could see Kelp trying not to smirk as crowds of people, many of whom have never seen or been near a Betheran, approached him. Many people commented on his huge and intimidating looking shoes. Kelp moved on to his side. A crowd of people went gingerly up to his giant fingers. Little children ran up between the colossal digits and began playing. A few crawled up into the pockets of his shorts and came back out. Citizens began to ask questions. To make it easier on himself, Kelp said, "How about stepping up into my hand? I can lift you closer to my ears which will make easier for me." People turned to each other discussing the idea. Once again it was the children who showed the greater trust.
The adults soon followed the children up into the giant hand. Lifting his hand up closer to his face, Kelp listened to their questions. One child, from a class at Bale elementary who had taken a special field trip to see Kelp asked, "So you are going to protect us?" Another child said, "You are so big I know you will protect us."
"I will do all I can. But, I will not be doing it alone. There will be many of us including your own people." When asked how we, the Earthies would help, Kelp’s answer shocked many people.
As the questions and answers continued. Many people began to sit on blankets and eat. A small circular object came and delivered a drink and sandwich down to Kelp. Kelp looked off gazing intently at couples, old folks and children. I think I knew what he was thinking. It was for these.
Before it was time to leave, Kelp took out from of a pocket a handkerchief that had the academy insignia on it and gave it to the children from Bale elementary. "Don’t worry. I didn’t blow my giant nose with it." All the children laughed.
I was going to stay for a few days, however when Kelp began to stand up I ran and jumped into his pocket. After he stood up, he fished me out. "What’s up? I thought you wanted to say?"
"Yeah, I thought but now it doesn’t seem like home anymore. I mean it does and it doesn’t."
"I think I know what your trying to say. Or path is different from theirs. And we are family. You and I. And all the other pilots and companions."
In Kelp’s hand I waved down to everyone below. Passing a few roof tops that had groups of giggling girls Kelp stopped. "Girls."
I gave the girls a salutation too, however, they seemed more enthralled by Kelp. Leaning up against his thumb, I thought, "Some guys get all the luck."
Passing a few words back and forth, Kelp gave them a wink and moved on. Looking down Kelp told me with a grin, "Some guys have it. Others don’t."
When we left the dome, Kelp went serious, "I know we have talked about this before, my resolve is stronger than ever to see that no one, especially children run with that look of horror as I saw you and others during the memory merge. And---thanks Ted."
One questioned I had and all the other cadets, why the humanoid fighters? When classes resumed, we would be given the answers. The instructors showed us and this was our first time, we had a glimpse of what our enemy looked like. They were a living organism. No one can be sure since no alien has been captured, if these giant organisms are products of normal evolution or a form of bio-engineering. They, in the scan-generated imagery, appeared black and dark purple and were reminiscent to us Earthies as Seahorses. Seahorses with five, scaly tentacle appendages. Despite the almost harmless features, these were highly intelligent and ruthless creatures. Part of our assault on these creatures would involve hand to tentacle contact.
One On One And Solo
Before more detailed simulations involving the enemy, we began a series of practices pairing up in fight tactics against other pilots. This would be in the form of wrestling, boxing and other hand to hand combat techniques. The goal, was to create a deeper contact between pilot and pilot companion.
We pilot companions were placed in our capsule and inserted into the capsule receptacle. First combat practice was wrestling. The pilot companion’s job was broken into three parts:
1) Monitor the progress of the pilot.
2) Give tactical information
3) Work in tandem
Being a strong, agile and a stocky built individual, Kelp made for a strong adversary. It was strange to be seeing what Commander Kelp was seeing. I studied Commander Kelp’s bio-rhythms. Interestingly, I picked up patterns just before he made moves against his opponent. I programmed a quick simulation. With the information I gathered from his opponent‘s moves, I worked out several projected maneuvers that should prove successful. However, I understood the opponent as with Commander Kelp had a pilot companion. And he would be providing the same strategy techniques.
I relayed through Commanders Kelp head set information regarding his moves and when to apply full force to particular muscles. As to be expected the opponents pilot companion had there counter measures. It made for a hard and interesting fight.
It really became interesting, when the pilot companions using their pilots fought each other. It was strange and hard as Commander kelp told me after one such session. "To totally let go and feel my body making moves out side of my will was very hard. I wanted at times to resist. Especially at times when I thought we were losing. I had to trust in my pilot companion."
During these exercises, I was learning more about my role as a pilot companion. And how even with the advanced technology I had at times to make spot human decisions.
Breaks in practice; the pilots and pilot companions took steam baths together. Of course, there were at times good natured joking around. There was no segregation because of size. Big and small we were a team. A team that would be holding each others lives in one another’s hands.
One of the final tests was a four day survival hike in a special reserve that the pilots and companions were flown to. As with the previous exercises, we would be in our pilot companion capsules. We would have no water and food till the fourth night. In my capsule was food that on sixteenth mode of the fourth evening, the container would automatically open. Commander Kelp had attached to his wrist a monitor where he could monitor my bio-rhythms. Kelp like to use songs he knew to keep his bio-levels at a equal pace. I could use my bio-transfer unit, to increases Kelp’s body environment if a situation arose. This would, though, deplete my environment. And reduce the amount of workable time/environment to live in.
On the second day, little strained from not eating and drinking, I found myself short fused. When Commander Kelp began to keep whistling the same tune over and over I said or lets say suggested very loudly, "Can’t you BLANK whistle something else?"
"What was that pilot companion Ted? Please explain yourself."
"Begging my commander’s pardon. I gave into my weaknesses. I respectfully apologize sir."
"I accept pilot companion. And---I will choose another tune."
At nighttime, we were allowed for causal conversation. During the evening Kelp made a fire and looked up at the night sky. "Hey Ted can you see the stars?"
"Yeah, both through your eyes and the monitor."
"Maybe the star your planet circles is staring down at us from among billions."
"I mentioned to my parents last time I saw them, how I really admired you joining in the fight. When you had lost so much."
"And much I have gained."
"True Ted. Do you or have you researched about your planet. What it was like?"
"Well, at the time of the accident Earth was at war with itself. From what books and computer data survived, sounds like a place with a history of constant suffering and cruelty.
"Do you wish you could return?"
"With a history like that who would want to return to Earth?"
"Your history is with (yawn) us. Night Ted."
A Matter of Life and Death.
The next day which was even harder for lack of drink and food found both of us fading in and out of sleep. We did in the middle of the afternoon met up at a central point with two other groups that had arrived before the others. The two other pilots looked haggard and worn out. We were told that during the solo, all twenty groups would be under constant surveillance. And the pilots were given a panic button for just in case.
As Commander kelp talked with the other pilot, I communicated with my fellow pilot companions. Many of them told me how they were having deeper conversations with their pilots. And feeling more bonded. Even though our introduction to each other wasn’t the best, Kelp and I have, using the parlance of the day---bonded. We all agreed on one thing the lack of food and water was slowing our bodies and minds. And to be expected we talked about food. One pilot companion named Tim said, "I’m going to have the equivalent of a Betheran steak. And I’m talking about a giant one." We all laughed and salivated slightly.
After a space of a time we resumed on our specific paths that we were given before the solo began. On the monitors I could see through Commanders Kelp’s eyes we were heading toward an outcrop of rock. Shaking my head to stay alert, I observed on a bio-monitor Commander Kelp was weakening visual and mental losing spatial coordination. "Commander Kelp, I read a decline in spatial visual operations proceed with caution."
"Thank you for alerting me---hehe."
"Commander Kelp are you ok?"
"Sir, you just chuckled to yourself. And I see a decline in your decision cognitive-operative points. I am giving you five of my points."
"Negative. Don’t expend your environment."
"I’m raising the points sir. You are in a dangerous surroundings. You need the increase in body response sir."
I increased the points which meant I lost five though at this point it’s well below the critical level.
As Commander Kelp climbed between two boulders, I observed his rate of ascent was to fast for the present condition of his neuro-electro impulses. In other words, his muscles weren’t tuned to the commands of the brain weakened by our present lack of food. "Commander Kelp, decrease rate of climb. At present bodily energy consumption there is a seventy percent chance of an accident occurring."
Commander Kelp began to slow down, when a great jolt hit us. Commander kelp had fallen. I couldn’t tell from the monitors what had happened. "Commander please report." Silence. "Commander?" I saw on the bio-monitors, Commander Kelp had lost conciseness. If the situation continues I would be forced to use the panic button, except only the pilot has the option to abort.
I began to think. I increased points to Commander Kelp‘s brain to begin revival. Slowly, I brought Commander Kelp back. Once fully revived, we discussed the situation. We both wanted to try and by working together get out of this. It would mean reducing my environment to increase Commander Kelp’s bio-level. I know he wouldn’t approve however, for him to make the necessary physical function, he needed the said bodily points. I gave him those points.
"I feel a little stronger. Please assist in appendage control."
I copy that." I gave Commander Kelp instructions on what arms and legs to use and how much force was to be applied.
"Oh great Betheran Moons we made it. I feel surprisingly fi…Ted?"
"You gave me additional points didn’t you?"
"Why? And why didn’t you consult me first?"
"I couldn’t. You were unconscious. To revive you I had to give you the points. Otherwise, we would have been trapped here before help would eventual come. In that period you would suffer more bodily damage. And additional points were needed for satisfactory motor control."
"How’s your environment?"
"It will be close."
"Thirty two seconds before the food and additional environment will be released."
"And how long for it to take affect?"
I told the commander, "Twenty eight seconds."
"No, please. We may face a problem like this without anyway to abort. I can hold out for the twenty odd seconds." Kelp reluctantly agreed.
I would be fine providing no more points were needed. Commander Kelp proceeded with extra caution.
When night came Kelp did most of the talking since he wanted me to conserve as much of my environment as possible. Even though I was in a safe zone, it still had a toll on me. I kept going in and out of a dream like state.
I found myself walking through a barren zone. It was gray. All gray. Around me stood huge jagged shapes. They were gigantic. I wondered if this was the remains of a Betheran city. I became anxious. Where was Kelp? I shouted. No response. Just the mocking echoes of my voice. A voice that told me I was alone. No, that was not right. I am not alone. Still, where was Kelp? Before me rose a strange kind of figure eight structure. It was shrouded by a mist. Moving closer, I saw it was a gigantic sole to a Betheran shoe. I moved around it and began the long walk up the side of the giant. I wondered who the fallen soldier was. As I drew nearer to the face. I stopped. The features. I knew those features. It was Kelp. I fell to my knees in agony of soul and body. I had failed him. "TED." thundered a voice.
"Kelp your ok! Oh thank God. I thought I had let you down."
Slowly the great form of Kelp stood up. "You did let me down. You failed me." The dusty gaunt face of Kelp accused. "You failed us all."
"You bug." The great bulk began to lift a foot up. "You failed me. And now I’m going to crush you."
I didn’t move. I had failed my adoptive people and I failed my friend. I deserved to be crushed.
"Ted-Ted. What’s going on? Answer?"
"Huh," I replied seeing I was back in my capsule. I still felt sorrow for failing Kelp. "I failed you Kelp. I failed you as a friend and soldier."
Kelp chuckled, "No, your having a nightmare. Probably from low oxygen."
"You are ok then?"
"Yes, now just relax."
"Kelp, Kelp you ok?"
"Yes, I’m fine. Just calm yourself. I’m ok. I‘m really ok."
The next and final day came. And yet, it felt like the longest. Both Commander Kelp and I talked gibberish. We had control; in kind of a drunken way.
The big test for me came when my air ran out and I had twenty minutes to wait. During those hard and strange minutes, I felt remorse in not having been able to know my parents. Parents who saved me. A calm came over me. Yes, a strange calm even though my lungs were aching. Beyond a region of darkness was a field. I staggered toward it. I stopped. I couldn’t go further. Out of the light materialized a figure. "Ted, come with me." The figure extended a hand down to me.
"Who are you?"
"Do you think being a brother is confined to one place or people?"
A coldness entered my lungs. My pains began to vanish. "Ted, do you read me?"
Basking in the beautiful air I replied, "Five by five."
My food was released, however, I abstained from drinking any water till I knew Kelp had his water. Shortly an academy craft appeared. My monitors were to weak for any visual contact. I told Kelp, "Tell me when you are about to drink. I then will join you."
"What? You haven’t had your liquid?"
"Not till you do."
"Ted, you are a sentimental fool at heart."
"Would you do anything different Kelp?"
"No, I guess we’re both sentimental fools at heart."
"No," I told Kelp. "We are brothers. And brothers in arms."
Feeling Like We Could Take On The Cosmos
Once we all were checked out by the medical team, we were given a day to rest in the medical unit. The day after that we would be all going out on a day of recreation followed by a banquet for the accomplishing of our solo. As I told Kelp, "I’m hungry now."
Kelp replied, "I think we all are."
We all were flown to a place called Mount Ijum. On this grand dormant volcano were lush forests and mineral pools. Everyone opted for the mineral springs. We had enough hiking for a while.
Before we entered the springs, the male and female pilots and pilot companions met and mingled. I met up with a pilot companion I had spoken to before named Sally. "Classroom instruction and even simulations are one thing, to be out on the field live is another. It really sobered me up in really appreciating the role I have," she told me.
"Yeah, I feel the same. And of course the actual battle where we will be fighting for the survival of our planet will be another experience that only when we are there will be another sobering experience."
Sally responded, "True" She smiled and looked thoughtfully up at the sky. "I think its rather beautiful and if not comical about us Earthies."
"About us Earthies?"
"Yes, don’t you wonder about it. Our town is destroyed. And the Betherans who are responsible even though it was by accident, give us a chance for a whole new life. And we who are no more than several inches in comparison to them now play an intrinsic part in their preservation. Somehow it all works together. Life finds away."
"I’m a pilot companion not a philosopher."
"Your right Ted. I ‘m just wondering about it all."
From high above the gigantic trees fell Cherry Blossom like leaves. Picking up several large petals I tore a few and dropped them over Sally. She laughed. "I guess I better be getting back. It was nice speaking with you again. I’ll see you at the banquet."
"Ok Cadet Sally. And I did like what you had to say."
Going back over to the pilots and pilot companions; I took up one of our Earthie games called Frisbee. As we played, we moved around giant feet and legs. A few times I had to climb up upon a foot to retrieve the blue plastic disc that I missed. Other pilot companions sat on the edge of giant toes talking. Others sat on knees shooting-the-breeze with their giant pilots. I guess Sally is right, there is a kind of beauty to it.
Once we all worked up a sweat, we entered the much sought after mineral springs. Kelp reclined against a smooth slab of stone. I swam over to him and leaned up against his chin. Kelp at one point brought his leg up and placed me on his knee. I slid down his wet leg like a slide into the water. I did this a couple of times. Soon the other pilot companions were sliding down their pilots legs. It did make for a fun water sport. One point Kelp asked, "Want to go for a ride?"
Kelp submerged himself till like an island, was just the top of his head. Crawling up through his wet brown hair I grabbed on. Rising his head back above the water, "Ok Ted now hang on." I jerked back from forward momentum as Kelp pushed forward. I was riding the waves! On either side of me rose and descended into a spectacular foam of water was Kelp’s powerful, muscular arms as they gracefully stroked and broke the surface of the water. Before me and to the sides of Kelp’s enormous head, was a fifteen foot wall of water that sprayed up and curled to the side as he moved through the spring. Standing up and taking a good grip to the strands of hair I hollered, "Yahoo! Come-on you monsters. Bring-it-on!" A spray of water flew into my mouth were I gagged for a second. I sat back down.
"Ted you doing ok?"
"Good, now I’m going to go under water for a minute. Are we green on that?"
"Five by five Kelp."
Feeling like a mythical character from mythology, I rode the great giant under the sea, well spring. The water was murky. Streaming before and all around me was Kelp’s hair. Great bubbles, from Kelp’s nose, came up over the top of his head and zoomed past me. Ahead of me stood a group of living colossal pillars. Kelp swam around the legs of his fellow pilots. One pair Kelp zipped right in between.
Returning to the surface, Kelp moved to the side of the spring where I jumped off of his head back onto dry land. Other pilot companions who saw this wanted their pilots to give them a ride. My fellow pilot companion and roommate Mike came up to me, "You both never cease to amaze me."
"Yeah, you both are models for what kind of relationship between pilot and pilot companion should be."
When the giant pilots wanted to became more active, we companions went to the other end to avoid the tidal waves. And their yelling was deafening to us Earthies. From the far end of the pool, we then had our own fun. And the minerals in the springs were rejuvenating.
By late afternoon, we were flown back to the academy. Back in our dorm room, Kelp and I put back on our green cadet uniforms. And I was back in his vest pocket.
Even before we entered the assembly hall were the banquet was to be held, I could smell the delicious food. The giant and Earthie instructors would serve us. Though, as before, volunteers from Bale would be their to assist.
I thought I was going to drool when laid on his giant plate a slab of meat that smelled of steak. Cutting a piece, and spearing it with his street light length fork Kelp brought it down before me, "Cut a piece off for yourself.." After I did, "To a great pilot companion."
"To a great pilot," I shouted up. Gentle we tapped each others fork. Even though Kelp was being careful, I was still pushed back onto my backside.
After that it was dig in time!!
We Are A Mixed Bag
We all really enjoyed our food. Going over to the buffet table I talked to several pilot companions. As best I could, I should say, over the din of eating sounds from the giants. Feasting my eyes on the tantalizing treats, Pilot Companion Sally came up, "Hello Cadet Ted."
"And a hello to you Cadet Sally. Hey, can I get you anything?"
"Oh, I think I’m ok. But thanks for asking."
"I liked what you said earlier."
"Thanks," replied Sally as she gave me a coquettish glance with the eyes.
After I chitchatted for a few minutes, I went back to Kelp. Walking my way along the many neighborhood block length table, I observed the different pilot companions with their giant pilots. One person ate their food from their table next to their pilot’s giant plate. Another sat cross legged with his plate on his lap as he sat in the hand of his pilot. Another stood with his plate patiently waiting for his pilot to fill it. One female pilot companion was fixing her hair up just like her giant pilot‘s. Another pilot companion paid rapt attention as their pilot spoke to a fellow giant pilot. The dynamics was fascinating.
Continuing to observe, I walked by one pilot companion who stood in attention as his pilot inspected his plate, I went up and introduced myself. The pilot companion put a finger to his mouth, "Quiet, Pilot Qwent is inspecting my plate."
"Inspecting your plate?"
"He is very picky in what I should eat. Now be quiet," replied the pilot companion. I patted his shoulder and moved on.
"Ah, Maximilian can you go over what you just told me about the whole point system to me again? I keep forgetting," asked the mountain size pilot to his teeny-tiny pilot companion.
The pilot companion began to explain. After his explanation, I went and introduced myself to the pilot companion and his pilot. "I’m Ted pilot companion to Commander Kelp."
"Hehe you speak very official like," said the giant pilot with a giant dopey grin on his face.
His pilot companion, looking somewhat uncomfortable remarked, ."He’s not much of a talker but a fine pilot."
"I’m sure," I responded.
The pilot sent a finger down and stroked the back of his companion’s back. "He’s so tiny but he helps me a lot. He’s my best friend. Right Maximilian?"
Maximilian leaned his head up against the car door size finger nail and as he placed an arm around the finger said, "I am." I nodded and went on.
A female pilot companion and pilot were in debate over the theorem behind the propulsion of the fighters. Seeing me, both in a very polite yet officious manner, offered me something to eat. "No, but thanks anyway." After my response both went back to their discussion.
Going up to Kelp’s plate, he smiled and said, "Have everything you need?"
I shouted up, "I think so."
"Take anything you need from my plate," responded Kelp spraying me with food.
I sat on the edge of his plate and as I ate I thought, "What a mix bag we are. A mix bag with one single purpose---survival.
After the main course there was desert. And entertainment too! As Kelp and I sampled ALL the desert we enjoyed the antics of the Betheran and Earthie comics.
As Kelp was listening to the comics, he took a huge bite out of something that looked like a cheese cake. Suddenly, Kelp coughed and sent a whole wet, gooey mess down all over him. I nearly brought up my desert from laughing. Pointing up at him, as he was cleaning himself off, I shouted, "Do you know how much of an idiot you look right now."
Looking down at me with his huge dark eyes, Kelp regarded me for a moment. "I don’t but I’m going to." He picked up between his fingers the moist topping.
"No-now loo…" Before I could finish, I was covered with the stuff.
"Whose the idiot now?"
"You both are," said a giant pilot placing a hearty hand on Kelp’s shoulder.
Kelp looked down at me and lifting his shoulders, "What do you know? We are the idiots."
Near the end of the supper Kelp and I were so stuff that we began to belch. Kelp’s belching sounded like that of an Earthie motor that had just blown a rotor. Kelp told me my belching sounded like the call of their equivalent to a cricket.
After the banquet, with heavy stomachs we went back to our dorm. Sitting on Kelp’s chest I just felt so bloated. Finally, after a few, "emissions" we began to feel better.
Placing me in my little cubicle Kelp said, "Goodnight my tiny Earthie."
"Goodnight my giant Betheran."
The Beast and At All Costs
Classes resumed and simulated battle drills now took top priority. We spent more time acquainting ourselves with the craft.
It had only been a month since our outdoor solo when during lunch, the academy alarm sounded. We immediately stopped eating. We knew something important was up when we were told to go directly to the assembly hall. The top academy personnel was present. Chief of Cadet Training Florx spoke, "Cadets a single aggressor has broken through our outer automated defense screen. Its predicted flight plan is this training facility. A fighter has to be launch. I know this means for one team jumping pass more months of training. It has been decided based on performance and computer predictability that Commander Kelp and Pilot Companion Ted have been selected. Cadets we call on your service."
Kelp and I were brought, in double time, to the launch bay. We suited up. Technicians were leading us to our craft, when all the pilots with their pilot companions came to see us off. There was no time for words. Though, both Kelp and I were greatly appreciative of their support. Kelp and I knew as we entered the fighter, even though we didn’t say it, our life has just changed. Once we entered the command center, Kelp strapped himself into his seat; a technician placed me in the pilot companion capsule.
I hooked myself up to all connector points and began to process information as it came from Betheran High Command. The alien was just entering the atmosphere.
The green light flashed. The capsule was inserted into the receptacle in Commander’s Kelp’s brain. "Commander Kelp are you receiving me?"
"Five by five."
"Commander due to time limitations I’m cutting bio-checks to level point six."
"I copy that."
"And I have green Commander. Please verify readings."
"I have go signals on all systems."
"Five by Five commander."
On my monitors I was bale to view the entire launch sequence from launch center, through Commander Kelp’s eyes and the eyes of our craft.
"Commander Kelp and Pilot companion Ted. Sorry guys for the quick lesson there isn’t any choice. I have faith in you both," spoke Chief of Cadet Training Florx."
"We will do our best sir," replied Commander Kelp.
I could feel a shaking as the robotic fighter was being moved into launch position. On the monitor screen, I saw all of our fellow cadets watching us. A few waved their arms. Commander Kelp flashed the fighters eyes several times as a signal to our friends.
On the screen and over our headsets I heard the count down. I took a few deep breaths. I could see an increase of heart and perspiration level on Commander Kelp’s bio monitor. My levels too had increased.
On zero, there was a loud roar. We lifted off!
The G-Forces increased as the great ship soared out of the underground hanging into the Betheran sky. On the monitor was the enemy who was now directly in our flight path.
I changed position of the robotic arms into a ramming arrangement. Our first attempt will be to keep the target away from the city.
On the screen was the target. I didn’t think it would be so huge. It was nearly twice the size of our fighter. A great jolt hit the fighter as a tentacle wrapped around the left robotic arm. We were flung off to the side. Spinning through the air, Commander Kelp executed a brilliant maneuver that stabilized the craft. Making a complete arch, I brought the craft in for a second attack. Coming from behind, we rammed our gigantic fists into the back of the creature. A dark purple fluid flowed out. We had wounded it. The creature maintained flight. I tried to dig in deeper to inflict increase damage.
Another tentacle wrapped itself around us. This time around our hull. I had to readjust inside pressure to composite for the exterior increase. Another tentacle around the hull. To avoid being crushed, we had to blast our thrusters at full to release ourselves. A high shriek came in over our sensors. We had wounded it further.
The target was still maintaining its flight path. It altered slightly making its target the center of the city.
"Companion how are the simulated assault strikes coming?"
"Commander I have three projections that are placed on your screens. I suggest number two."
""Yes," replied Commander Kelp. "That would be the most logical. We have weakened it. I just received communication the target area is evacuated. And ground forces are being called in."
"I copy that Commander."
The creature fly in low over the city severing the tops of several large buildings. One building the creature grabbed with a tentacle and flung it. I quickly calculated the trajectory of the debris. It was going to crash into a still occupied hospital. I relayed the information to Commander Kelp.
I saw flashing on a monitor that the right robotic arm’s neuro-interface was not in proper synch with Commander Kelp’s right arm. I increased the points to interface. The levels were corrected to optimum work capability.
Commander Kelp flew low over the city dodging the bigger structures. It was impressive flying.
As Commander Kelp flew, I was watching on my monitors the progress of the piece of debris. If we had been in an open area, we would simply blast it. In this congested public area that was not an option.
We landed down before the hospital, sending concrete, transportation vehicles and trees hundreds of feet into the air. We dwarfed the hospital. I programmed increase power to the arms and shields. We literally caught the huge jagged piece of debris in our gigantic arms. Commander Kelp had to use short bursts of the secondary stabilizing rockets to keep from falling on the hospital.
Over our communications we heard the creature was heading for the academy. Putting the debris down, we lifted off.
As we drew near, we could see the creature striking with its tentacles the academy buildings. Coming down behind it, we grabbed two of its tentacles and pulled it back. It began to fight us with its other remaining tentacles. It became a fierce battle. When we pinned it to the ground, I scanned for bodily weaknesses. There were three. I went for the one just below its neck. With one robotic arm I extended the laser blades. And working together, Kelp and I dug and dug into its flesh till all life signs ceased.
Sure it was dead, Commander kelp and I returned to the hanger. As we were being lowered down into the bunker, Commander kelp inquired on the safety of the cadets. No one was hurt. And structural there was little damage.
"Nice work companion."
"Thank you Commander. It was a pleasure. Commander Kelp, if I may ask."
"How are you feeling?"
"I don’t know if I’m going to vomit or soil myself."
"Yeah, same here."
When we emerged from the fighter, all our fellow cadets were there clapping. They ran up. Surrounding us, they made us feel like heroes. Kelp and I won the battle this time.
The Betheran Warriors and Out and About
Several hours after we returned from battle, we had a briefing which in reality was no briefing. It went on for several hours. "Sorry to do this to you boys," said Chief Cadet Instructor Florx. "While it is still fresh in your minds we need to go over the course of the engagement." We explained our responses. How the equipment functioned under full power and acceleration. They explained how the information recorded by the ship will be analyzed by the technical, tactical and science departments. And the alien, a portable dome is being constructed to study its anatomy we heard. We would be given later a review of our performance. We did ask about civilian casualties. They hadn’t received the data. They did say it was very low.
When we were done, Kelp and I went back to our dorm room tired. Balax and Mike, God bless them, had a light dinner brought in for us. "We figured you guys would be tired. Tomorrow the cadets want to take you out somewhere," said pilot companion Mike.
Balax picking Mike up said, "Looks like we have genuine warriors bunking with us."
Kelp bent over and picked up a pair of dirty underwear from off the floor and threw it at Balax. "Warriors my butt. We are cadets just like you."
Balax and Mike left to go to the cadet recreation room. Kelp said to me, "So Ted how does it feel to be a warrior?"
"I‘ll tell you when I am one.".
Kelp nodded, "For what its worth you did one heck of a job out there."
"I just did what I was taught. And I had the best pilot. Those were super moves."
We suddenly went silent. The enormity of what had happened began to sink into us. We defeated a monster and saved the city. I‘m not talking about a sense of glory. Nothing like that. Just what had happened.
Both Kelp and myself were concerned about the civilian causalities. They said at the briefing it was low. Kelp and I would prefer if it was zero.
We ate a little. After, sitting under Kelp’s chin we watched a little entertainment on the civilian band. There was a brief news special about what had happened and about the "Brave and untried pilots." Yeah, I guess it is fun to hear.
When we started to fall asleep I kept my place under Kelp’s chin. We survived the battle and I hope all that will follow. Still, we go as pilots and special friends never sure if we will return. And this was an experience and I’m just glad I still have my buddy.
The next morning Kelp and I had a medical as part of the evaluation of our first battle. My connectors were checked and studied. While I was examined by an Earthie doctor. A young giant doctor with rubber gloves picked me up and performed tests. Kelp’s capsule receptacle was checked and analyzed.
When the medical was over, Kelp and I had a need to see our fighter craft. It is in a very real sense an extension of the both of us. Kelp checked the hull. And when we entered the small oval shaped command center, we gazed about and checked the instruments. This was the heart of the fighter. And Kelp and I were its soul.
After we went and hung loose in the cadet recreation room. When different cadets came in they came and wanted to congratulate us. We tried to play it down.
By later afternoon, the cadets were given leave to go into the city. We were a sea of green vests and shorts that invaded the city streets. Of course, we were being monitored. All the cadets wanted to see the creature though for the time being it sealed off.
As we walked down the street; I with my arms dangling over the lip to Kelp’s vest pocket looked out. The citizens were, I think in awe of us teen pilots and pilot companions. They would say, "Those are the ones." And walk by giving us wide eyed stares. A few shook our hands. Others saluted.
A couple of the pilots trying to be funny would point to Kelp and I and say, "Those are the ones who saved the city." Kelp and I would have to say a few words about the fight.
I did hear certain groups of civilians say under their breath, "Some pilots. I lost my dwelling." Yes, we felt bad to hear that. However, Kelp and I understood.
Cadets who heard this wanted them to apologize. Kelp told them, "Look, they lost their dwellings they are naturally bitter. They are victims too." You got to love the Kelp man.
We passed several vendors who from their carts were selling tee-shirts that had a picture of our craft printed on its front. In big block letters above the picture were the words: Betheran Warriors.
"Betheran Warriors?" Kelp asked.
"Yes," replied a female pilot named Sonth. "That’s our code name."
"When did that happen?" I shouted up.
Sonth responded, "During the height of battle."
The city gave us cadets a complimentary dinner. We were taken to the top floor of this grand motel and restaurant. Patrons clapped as we all entered. Seated, a senior member of the cadets stood up and wanted to make a toast to Kelp and I. Kelp stood up, "Pilots and pilots companions please, both Ted and I are appreciative for your support, however, we are pilots doing what we are suppose to do. We all will very soon be fighting."
Pilot Kelner whose pilot companion Maximilian I had met at the recent banquet, tried to say, "We know ur…you did the first…"
Kelner stopped talking when his pilot companion taped on his finger. Kelner lowered his hand down onto the table where companion Maximilian jumped off from. "What my pilot is trying to say, we honor you as our cadet brothers who went and faced the enemy. And you faced it with all of us here behind you. Out there in space or here on the ground we are behind all of our brothers. We don‘t go out into battle alone."
"Huh? Oh yeah that’s what I meant. That is so great Maximilian," said Pilot Kelner who gazed down affectionately and admiringly at his tiny companion. Maximilian climbed back up onto his pilot’s hand. "I will order special desert Max."
"Then I guess Ted and I accept this dinner."
The battle Within Ourselves
Kelp and I had our review of our engagement with the enemy. Earthie Instructor Sorenson commented, "You both kept to the protocol. And made logical extrapolations from your onboard and external computers. I too was impressed by the direct and clear conversation between pilot and pilot companion. We have since analyzing the data, and based on the criteria, have commenced modifications of the bio-command synchronization ratio. We detected short delays from pilot companion to pilot. The craft with be modified for greater appendage flexibility. And the biggest reward is the actual remains of our enemy. This understanding of their anatomy could be a crucial part in our winning the fight."
Kelp asked, "What were the figures of the civilian casualties?"
"We know this weighs heavily on you and Cadet Ted," spoke Chief of Cadet Training Florx. "The numbers were one hundred and twenty three which considering the adversary and what he could have done without your help is extremely low. I know the death of any civilian is one to many. However, you must understand those figures were gratefully low." We were relieved in one way and in the other there still were one hundred and twenty three people whose lives had ended.
As modifications went on, Kelp and I continued with our courses and training. One early evening in the Cadets Recreation, while Kelp was talking to fellow pilot called Zadth, I was on a table leaning up against a nine foot tall salt shaker talking to a pilot companion named Eric. He was really interested in knowing as much as he could about how I performed during the battle. Eric took notes as I spoke. "It sounds that the simulated fight sessions and theories worked."
"Yes,, " I replied. "But you can’t just rely…" I suddenly stopped when two gigantic fingers came and picked up the shaker, I nearly fell over. Eric reached out and grabbed me.
"Sorry cadet, I didn’t see ya," said the giant pilot plainly.
Eric made a sneer, "I bet he is."
"Hey, of course he is. It was just an accident. These are the drawbacks of being tiny. " Eric I could see froze up. Trying to lighten up the situation I asked, "Whose your pilot?"
Eric pointed to the giant Kelp was talking to, That’s, ah--- Zadth." I detected part affection and conflict in Eric‘s voice."
"What’s Pilot Zadth like?"
"He’s very determined. Zadth is in the top percentage group. He does have a harder time understanding theorems and more abstract concepts. I have tried to help him."
"How did it go?" Eric put his hands in his pockets.
Thundering over in kettledrum sounding steps were Kelp and Zadth. "Did you have what you wanted or want anything before we go?" Asked Zadth.
Eric shook his head. His face though lightened up, as he shouted to Zadth, "I took notes on what Pilot Companion Ted said about the engagement. Maybe we can discuss it?" Zadth just reached down and picking Eric up, slid him down the pocket to his shorts. Zadth nodded and left.
"He’s going to be a fine pilot," commented Kelp.
I scratched my cheek, "I guess."
"Cadet Eric seems down. Its not my place. But I wonder how their relationship is going? I didn‘t like how Cadet Zadth didn‘t respond to Eric and just picked him up like an object."
"Not all of them will be as close as we are," replied Kelp thoughtfully. "And maybe it will take longer for them. Don’t forget in the beginning I saw you as an over glorified pet."
"Yeah---what? Oh sure."
"We have been in training together for some time now Kelp. Maybe I’m over worrying it. Just when they are in active duty together they have to have full trust and confidence in one another."
"I’ll see if I can say something to Zadth," replied Kelp.
For the next week, I hadn’t had an opportunity to run into Cadet Eric. Not all the pilots and their companions come to recreation. On one lecture session, Zadth came and sat down next to Kelp. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out Eric. Spotting me Eric called over to me, "Hey Cadet Ted.."
"Eric," said Cadet Zadth quietly yet sharply. Eric turned and sat down in his Earthie.
I shouted over, "Haven’t seen you for a while." Eric didn’t respond. He just stared ahead. I bent my head back and looked up at the stern face of Zadth. I wanted to tell him, "Ease up on Eric."
After the lecture, I asked Kelp if he had a chance to speak with Cadet Zadth. "I did. He says things are going well. Though, I did feel he wasn’t being totally honest with me."
A few days later I ran up with Eric at recreation. He looked tired and his hair was uncombed. "Hey, how’s it going. Haven’t seen you for a while?"
"Not bad ."
"Cool," I responded. "You know Eric if you ever want to talk I’m an open ear."
When Zadth came later over to the table he said, "Ok, we’re going." Eric didn’t respond. A few pilot companions looked both at Zadth and Eric. The immense shadow of Zadth’s hand glided over us toward Eric. As the giant fingers were about to curl around Eric, he bolted. "Eric," responded Zadth.
Eric went over to a bowl. I knew what he was going to do. Going over to the bowl I told Eric, "This isn’t the way." Eric just put his hand up in front of me. Reaching in the bowl, he picked up a red berry. And Eric threw it at Zadth where it bounced off his chin.
I looked up at Zadth. He had a rather surprised and maybe a little hurt expression in his eyes. Zadth’s face became harsh and he picked up Eric shoving him down his pocket. With hand still down his pocket Zadth left the room.
Two days later, to my sadness, I heard Cadet Eric was asked to leave the academy………
This was the first time anyone had been asked to leave. This was a shock and disappointment to us all. What really made it so sad was how far Eric had come. I have to trust in the decisions of the academy thought I felt part of the blame should go to Zadth. I asked Kelp if he had heard anything. "From what I could gather it was a case of incompatibility."
"I thought we were teamed up for our compatibility?"
"I guess nothing is foolproof."
When I saw Zadth at recreation he appeared down. And he did stay away from us pilot companions. Kelp with me in his vest pocket went and sat with Zadth. "Have they assigned another pilot companion to you yet?" asked Kelp.
"I haven’t heard. Near the end I know Eric was unhappy. I tried to look out for him. I kind of miss him. He was eager." Spotting my head sticking out of the vest pocket, Zadth said, "You both get along so well. It should have been the same for us. I took care of him. Made sure he ate correctly and followed the regulations. He was safe with me. Why wasn’t he grateful?"
Kelp commented, "It almost sounds as if you saw him as a pet. Maybe I’m wrong."
"No, not really. He was tiny. And we are a superior race both in size and science. I was helping him share in the noble task of protecting our world and he would have me to keep him as best I could, from harm both for his own good and the sake of our mission."
"Zadth," I shouted from the pocket. "Eric wasn’t a tiny fragile creature looking for an owner or protector. He was a highly intelligent individual who wanted to be a fully operative pilot companion. You have to get by the size thing. You lost I think a friend too. He tried out of duty and wanting to be a good soldier---put up with this humiliation you put him through."
Kelp added, "As a team we have to listen to each other. Did you listen to him? Really listen?"
Zadth just lowered his head. "I hope the tiny guy will be ok."
An idea struck me.
Chief of cadet Training Florx sat back in his colossal chair. "Cadet Ted seems not to long ago you came to me for a similar request."
"Yes sir I did. I believe this would be a good experience for Cadet Zadth."
"How so Cadet?"
"Regardless if Eric was truly unsuited for the job, Zadth will still need an Earthie pilot companion. And he needs to fully trust his comrade. If any doubt persists it will never be a fully successful team. And any form of arrogance on anyones part does not make up for good teamwork. "
"You make a logical case. What are your thoughts about Cadet Eric?"
"I respectfully ask, he be given a second chance."
"Cadet Ted, you must see it from our view point and experience. Eric let his feelings, no matter how warranted they may have been---acted irrationally. This has to be a situation we take seriously."
"I understand sir. Still, if Eric could know from Zadth it wasn’t personal, maybe it would help him live a more peaceful civilian life."
"Yes, maybe. I will think over your request."
I climbed up into the hand of a giant cadet would bring me back to the dorm. As we were leaving, "Cadet Ted, I have one more thing I forget to tell you."
Cadet Zadth sent me a letter taking responsibility in Eric’s failure. Seems the first step from arrogance would you say?"
"Yes sir. And thank you sir."
Cadet Zadth was anxious about his meeting with Eric and entering the domed Earthie city of Bale. Kelp along with me, would be accompanying Zadth. Zadth as he walked down the main street dwarfing many of the buildings looked around. Crowds of people under police supervision came out and cheered. Kelp looked down at the roof tops to see if any girls were there.
Zadth was brought to the central park. It was agreed that Zadth would have privacy with Eric. Sitting down next to a grove of trees waited for Eric. When Eric appeared Zadth said very softly, "I missed you."
It was strange to see Eric in civilian garb. And I also hoped this would work.
Eric approached Zadth’s left shoe. "Can I pick you up?" asked Zadth. Eric nodded. "Its great to have you back in my hand."
"Zadth, you didn’t have to visit me. It was my fault. I didn’t act appropriate fitting a pilot companion. I hold nothing against you."
"We all make mistakes I’m just realizing. But, do you really forgive me? Didn’t you want to be a pilot companion?"
"Why did you treat me like an idiot. I wanted to help you. I could have helped in your studies. I admired your fervor. If you had given the order, I was ready to die for our mission for you my pilot. Instead, I was a worm to you. A tiny pocket size little thing that you kind of needed and tolerated." Eric looked down and to the side.
"You? Are so much smaller than me. And you would have sacrificed for the mission and me?"
"I know that amuses you."
"No it doesn’t. Eric, I’m sorry. I saw you as tiny of no equal to me. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind, that my life could be spared by the likes of you. And I know now hearing me speaking, how that goes contrary to the principle and ideal of the pilot and pilot companion. And because of this, I’m not worthy or capable of being a pilot."
Kelp and I looked at each other.
"Zadth, no. I have seen the greatness of a pilot in you," replied Eric.
"I failed you, my fellow cadets and myself. I speak truth when I do tell you Eric as much as I saw you just as tiny, your life did matter to me. That’s why I always kept you tucked away in my pocket. In my arrogant mind, I was trying to look after you.’
"If its any consultation, my reactions were less than honorable too. Maybe I was caught too much up in being the Pilot Companion," said Eric.
Zadth placed Eric back on the ground. "Take care Zadth." Eric walked off into the depths of the park.
Kelp, Zadth and I left the city.
Upon our return, Zadth sent a formal request for withdrawal.
A week later Zadth had left. Both Kelp and I were saddened by the departures. I guess there is no escaping our inner-battles that sometimes conguer us.
Quiet Time and Our Purpose
With the departure of Zadth and Eric, we now were down to nineteen teams. Though several Betheran and Earthies had join. I am still crossing my fingers that Eric and Zadth will return.
A permanent lab dome was built over the remains of the enemy Kelp and I had destroyed and the entire cadet body was given tour of their opponent. In order for the pilot companions to get a clearer look, we viewed the creature on monitor screens. We did to view it first hand with our pilots. On screen or up close it was an ugly thing to gaze upon. The surface was a shiny dark purple. The head was reminiscent of a horse or seahorse. The front of the head had a thick purple and whitish greenish trunk that curled upwards with six rows of grappling hook shaped teeth and suction cups. The tentacles where equally hideous in appearance.
Standing next to Kelp and I was Cadet Kelner and his Earthie Pilot Companion Maximilian. "I hope your not frightened Max," said Kelner as he stroked Maximilian’s back with his finger.
Maximilian looked over at me and said, "He’s very protective."
"You’re my Pilot Companion. And we destroy the enemy together. And after we friends too."
Cadet Maximilian looked up from the huge, bulky hand and shouted, "We are friends." He turned and sat up against the thumb.
Our roommates, Cadet Balax and Cadet Mike told us, "And we thought you guys were ugly."
Cadet Florn came over and as she began talking to Kelp, I talked to her Earthie companion and friend, Cadet Sally. "That thing is enough to give you the creeps."
"Yeah, its an ugly brute."
Sally commented, "I’m looking forward in studying the readouts from your engagement with it. Might be insights for pre-striking assault planning. And well done---Ted."
When sufficient time for note taking had passed, the cadets returned to a follow up lecture lab.
During a steam bath relax period, Kelp was stretched out on the steaming coach and asked me if I would massage his lower neck muscles. I told him sure. As I always do. Getting on his back, using a long plastic curved humming scrap, I messaged his lower neck muscles with it. At my tiny size the steam bath becomes a task rather than a relaxation period. Sometimes, I slip on the moist skin as I walk over the two to four foot high back and shoulder muscles. Kelp is prone to placing his tension in his lower neck. In a groggy voice he always tells me, "Ah, that feels good." I always have to remind Kelp not to start moving his shoulders or turning his head otherwise I find myself in a minor quake and fall.
During this particular session Kelp told me, "Its family day this weekend. I really want you there with me."
Stepping over pools of sweat, I went up to his left ear, "Do I have choice?"
"Yeah, you have a choice. You have a choice to come or stay behind like a moron."
"Please Kelp," I told him. "Be honest with me."
He chuckled, "Seriously come. You know your family."
"I know and I will come."
"Glad to hear it horkbmaku ( ancient betheran word for adoptive soul brother ) Now back to work." I gave a yank to his ear and retuned to my sonic scrapping.
When I was done and I usually can tell when I have reached optimal relaxation, Kelp fires off one. Tired after my workout, I usually crawl up to the base of the neck and take a snooze. There are giant steam room attendants whose job is to attend to the pilots. However, as pilot companion its my job to see my pilot’s needs are met. More importantly, he’s my friend and soldier in arms.
In the cafeteria at dinnertime, on the giant table I sat down and had dinner with Cadet Mike. "Your welcome to spend the weekend with my family if you want."
"Thanks Mike. I’ll be spending it with Kelp."
For desert was my favorite, a rich tasting Betheran pudding. I was lifting the spoon to my mouth when startled by Kelp’s sudden appearance and loud words, I flung the tasty pudding up my nose. Under my voice I whispered an expletive. Once I removed the pudding from my nose I asked somewhat angrily, "What!?"
"I just heard Zadth and Eric might be coming back."
"Oh man that would be great. What else?"
Kelp leaning his face in closer began squinted his eyes, "Hey Ted, it looks like you have pudding smeared on your face. You have to improve your eating hygiene mister."
"I’ll try," I shouted up. "Now go on."
"Zadth and Eric have been visiting one another. I think this has been a maturing process for them. Well, I better get back over to my dinner." I was lifting another spoon full of pudding to my mouth when Kelp suddenly startled me again. "Oh, you did a great sonic scrapping job, my neck feels much better." I turned around and looked up at Kelp with pudding sliding off the top part of my nose. Squinting, Kelp shook his head. Licking his index finger he wiped my face off and told me, "Come on Ted, your eating habits are worse than my young cousin."
Kelp placed me in his vest pocket. Gathering up a duffle bag Kelp and I would be going to a complex of cabins in the country owned and operated by the academy. "My nine year old cousin Pechu will there. He has no siblings. So my parents thought this might be fun for him. I hope you won‘t mind. Pechu never saw an Earthie before so be prepared for many questions." We along with the other cadets were shuttled to our transportation.
The transportation craft landed on a launch disc out side of the complex of cabins. All the cadets went to the cabins they and their families were assigned to. Kelp’s parents and siblings came up to give him a hug. Before they did, I reminded Kelp, that I was still in his vest pocket. He took me out and placed me in the hand of his fourteen year old brother Sowee who gave his brother a half a hug. The family also welcomed me. The nine year old Pechu moving impatiently from side to side said, "Hey, I want to see the Earthie." Sowee moved his hand down before Pechu. "You are so tiny."
"No, I’m not tiny. You’re just too big."
Pechu narrowed his eyes, "Don’t try to fool with me. You are tiny."
"I’m not tiny. I’m normal. You are way too big."
"We are normal you are way too small." I shook my head.
Pechu’s face went into one of a question, "How come your not with your family?" I didn’t feel like explaining.
Kelp’s brothers were anxious in talking and playing sports with their brother. Sowee handed me over to Pechu who wanted to follow his older cousins. I figured I could keep the boy occupied while Kelp had fun with his siblings.
As the thunderous voices of the teen titans echoed about I spoke with Pechu He was silent for a few minutes as he marveled over my tiny size as I stood in his hand. "I heard about you Earthies and your dwelling you call Bale. And everyone is as small as you?"
"No Pechu their not small your too big."
"Ha-ha (chuckle) stop that your tiny."
I leaned up against the tip to his index finger that was slightly curled over. "You are just too quick. Yep, I’m tiny." A slight smile appeared on his face.
"I heard about your battle. Did you help cousin Kelp?"
"That’s my function as pilot companion."
"Were you scared?"
"Was my cousin?"
"You have to ask him that. Oh, there‘s something on your lowered lip."
I told Pechu, "I can’t see. You better flick your lip". After he did I said, "Nope still there. Try flicking it as you say something." Pechu did. "Its gone. But I just taught you a new language."
"Yeah Pechu. Its called wooowooo."
Pechu moved his head back and gave me a suspicious glance. "There’s no such thing."
"There is watch." I began to flick my lowering lip while speaking. "You see woowooo."
Giggling Pechu began speaking while flicking his lower lip. "I see you are making intelligent conversation as always Ted," said Kelp who came up and placed a hand on Pechu’s shoulder. "Lets go. Time for lunch."
"Cousin Kelp can I carry Ted?"
"Ask him yourself."
"Ted, can I?"
"Sure I’m not too heavy?"
"No (giggle) I can hardly feel you."
Sitting down in his palm, "Ok, lets go."
When we got back to the cabin, we all sat down for a family lunch. There was conversation about what was going on in Kelp’s family. And of course the big topic was the battle. I could see the talk about the engagement with the enemy made Kelp’s parents uneasy.
After lunch the family played several hours of games together. When Kelp’s two brothers and sister sat down to play a board game, I was able to take part. This game was played in teams of two. Right away Pechu announced to everyone, "Ted is on my team." One of the benefits of a team member my size, I can walk across the board and move the pieces.
When dinnertime came, the father said a form of grace. And said, "We of course welcome our newest and if he doesn’t mind smallest family member."
I looked up at Pechu, "Their talking about you." Pechu jokingly made a fist and shook it over me.
I was moved by this. And thanked them all. Kelp speaking to his brothers said, "Tonight we have to welcome Ted the right way."
"You guys be careful," remarked the sister.
When bedtime came Kelp and his brothers talked and fooled around for a spell. Kelp’s older brother Srta proclaimed solemnly, "Ted welcome to the family. Kelp do you have the sack of honor?"
Hitting his forehead with his hand Kelp replied, "I forgot."
I sensed something was being set up.
"What shall we do?" questioned Sowee.
"As a cadet we are trained to improvise," responded Kelp who began taking the sock from his left foot off. Pechu began giggling.
Srta picked me up. As Kelp held the sock, his brother Sowee opened the end. In unison the brothers said, "Welcome Ted." Srta let go and I fell in and rolled down the soft, sweaty sock. The bottom was very moist and warm. The air dank, smelling like wet earth and what you would expect---feet. I was left in there was several minutes. After which time the sock was turned upside down. I rolled out onto Kelp’s hand. I had stuck all over me, bits of sweat soaked lint. The brothers leaned in right over me and took a whiff. "Yes, he smells like the rest off us," spoke Srta.
For an hour we talked before going to sleep.
During the night we were unexpectedly woken up. When the lights were turned on, standing with the parents were two officers from the academy. "Cadet Kelp and Cadet Ted we must return at once. Kelp quickly said goodbye.
On the flight back we were briefed about the situation. Two enemy aliens were approaching the planet. Kelp and I were hurried to the ready chamber. In the chamber was another crew. Pilot Florn and pilot companion Sally. They were deemed the next team ready for action.
In our flight suites we were brought to our fighters. The entire cadet body came to see us off. Many cadets still in night clothing.
Commander Kelp and I entered the ships command Center. I was placed in my capsule. Once the go was given, I was inserted into the capsule receptacle. I began processing tactical information.
On my monitor I observed the positioning of our two great robotic fighters. "Companion Ted," please report your status."
"Five by five commander."
Through my head piece I heard the countdown. And in my body I could feel the fighter powering up.
Lift Off! Up into the starry sky we Betheran Warriors went.
On the monitors relayed by orbiting platforms, I saw our two huge fighters leaving the upper atmosphere. Mechanized Gods thundering into battle.
"Companion set up predicted flight plan of pursuit target one," spoke Commander Kelp.
"Done and on tactical."
"They are trying for the academy and launch complex again."
"Commander Kelp from fighter sixteen we are in pursuit of target two."
"I roger that fighter sixteen. God Speed Commander Florn."
"Commander Kelp, I have programmed in fighter appendage, possible variants of tentacle attack"
"Nice work companion. Prepare for reverse acceleration-gravity flux.
"I roger that."
As our fabulous fighter began to change attitude, I saw speeding and glowing like a comet on my monitor, fighter sixteen as it sped along the elliptical plane.
The fighter shook as we entered the atmosphere. On Commander Kelp’s bio-monitor his body was in early stages of g-force shock. I increased command center’s anti-g screen. The commanders levels returned back to a safe margin.
With target flight plan dispatched to ground command, the evacuation was in a affect. Commander Kelp and I knew there wouldn’t be any reasonable time for proper evacuation therefore time was of the essence.
Like a giant angel of death was the target as it flew over the clouds. And ahead of it the glow from the city. Our first attack was crippling as many of its four primary tentacles. Over my monitor I could hear the beast scream in pain and anger as we grabbed primary tentacle number one. Commander Kelp activated a series of high proton driven lasers at the tips to the robotic fingers. Within a pyh-second the appendage was severed.
In retaliation, the enemy whipped a third primary tentacle around the hull. In anticipation, I sent a current of high charge molo-cells to counter the attack. This was based on physiology of the first creature destroyed and studied. "Excellent work companion."
The creature began to lessen its hold. From an opening on the top of the creatures head a thin pipette emerged and sprayed a vapor. For several pvh second communications and monitoring was interrupted. Compensating Commander kelp and I where able to re-calibrate and bring sensors back online.
The creature within that small period broke free and descended rapidly for the center of the city. Power on full we dove down to intercept it from the front.
The sun had began to rise given a orange hue over the city. Based on the trajectory of our target the creature in an intelligent move, swooped down making a low approach.. We brought our fighter down just before the first layers of buildings. The weight mixed with the size of our fighter as it came down, caused several weaker structures to crumble into a heap of debris. High command informed us those structures had been evacuated.
Before us increasing in size rapidly was the target. We positioned the fighter in combat mode.
The target rammed us pushing us back into several buildings. The tentacles trashed madly above us. They came pounding down upon us. Using our right robotic arm, Commander Kelp severed a second primary tentacle. As the creature entered bio-shock, I sent robotic arm number two’s fist in a critical vulnerable point. The creature wailed in agony and released its grip on us. Wounded it hadn’t the power to maintain flight.
On my tactical screen, I predicted its course. It was heading toward the central bridge where thousands of people were crossing at this moment.
Bent on taking more life, the creature was in process of whipping its remaining primary tentacles down on the bridge when we flew into the river and using both robotic arms halted the savage attacks. As we protected the people, the land forces came in to finish the creature off.
The creature gave one last shrill scream before falling into the river. Portion of the bridge had been compromised. Commander Kelp instructed the people to climb into the fighters gigantic hands. Once they were all aboard, Commander Kelp brought the people to safety.
Civilian patrol requested our help in digging out people trapped under debris. Helping Commander kelp and I was the crew of fighter sixteen who we learned had successfully destroyed the second target in orbit.
As we carefully picked up large sections of metal and synthetic walling, the civilian rescue workers removed the trapped people.
Once we were given clear to leave the danger zone, working in tandem, fighter sixteen joined us in removing the creature from the river. It was placed in the new science dome that had been constructed over the first defeated creature.
Back in the launch bay, Commander Kelp congratulated Commander Florn and pilot companion Sally.
They in turn congratulated us. It was bitter sweet for Kelp and myself. It hurt us to see the damage inflicted upon the city. In a unusual show of emotion, Chief of Cadet Training Florx put a hand on Kelp’s shoulder and told him, "You were fighting an adversary six points stronger than the first. You and Cadet Ted did exceptionally well. And you both, as you have exhibited time after time, excelled in spot teamwork which had saved many people."
During our after engagement briefing, I mentioned in my report the chemical cellular structure of the vapor the creature had released. I hypothesized if this is one of the ways the creature have been getting through the outer blockades.
When we completed our briefing and medical, Kelp and I were given the day off. We went directly to our dorm room. After placing me on his pillow, Kelp’s head literal fell down upon it. I walked over to the colossal head, sat and leaned up against his cheek. "Great (yawn-yawn) job Ted."
Slapping his warm skin with my hand, "Yeah, you (yawn) too."
We then both fell asleep.
When we awoke, our roommates, Cadets Balax and Mike were in the room. "Can we get you heroes anything?"
"First," replied Kelp. "Don’t call us heroes and thanks but we’re ok."
"We have a surprise for you waiting outside the door," said Mike.
"Yeah, what kind of surprise?" I asked.
"Open and see," responded Balax.
When we opened the door, standing in his cadet uniform was Zadth and in his hand Eric. It was a wonderful surprise. Our fellow cadets and friends had returned.
The Cadet Warriors
Kelp and I were really happy. Fellow friends and brothers-in-arms had returned. Zadth put a hand on Kelp’s shoulder, "Quit a time you had last night."
"Yeah, and not just me. Ted is the one I give credit too."
"Nay, we are a team," I responded.
"I really understand that now," replied Zadth looking down at Eric.
I shouted, "So what happened.?"
We all went down to the cadet recreation room. On our way, Kelp and I stopped in the cafeteria to pick up a little food to take with us since he and I were getting hungry.
In the recreation room, Zadth and Eric explained. Eric talked first. "It was very hard at first being back home. I felt I let my town and people down. As I said when I saw Zadth that first time after I was asked to leave, I think I had become to wrap up in being the pilot companion. It was all about me. Yeah, I want to be the best and still do. Before it was for the wrong reasons. And reasons that would have not just gotten me killed but my pilot."
"I was wrapped up too in being ‘The Pilot,’ said Zadth. "I liked Eric. Yet, I couldn’t really accept him as a person. A person equal to me. And even after our memory-merging, I was the pilot and wasn’t going to have no several inch creature tell me how to fly. And later after Eric left and seeing him that first time in the Earthie city, I realized I wasn’t fit to be a pilot."
"When I heard Zadth had left the academy, instead of feeling happy about it, as I thought I would have---I felt sad. I knew in my heart this giant was meant to be a pilot. I got in touch with the Earthie liaison and explained how I felt. I was instructed to write a letter. After I did, I gave it to the liaison official. The letter would be sent to the academy.
Zadth chuckled, "While Eric was trying to put in a good word in for me, I was reading about the progress of the cadets. And it started making me see how much of a loyal cadet and pal Eric was. A few times when I saw children playing with toys no bigger than Eric. I kind of began to miss the little guy and became concerned about him. I received a letter from Chief of Cadet Training Florx. At the time, I had known nothing of the letter Eric sent. The letter recommended if I choose to, I could visit Eric again…and I choose to."
"I had mixed feelings when I received word that Zadth wanted to see me. Still, I went. Seeing him sitting on the hill dwarfing trees and buildings I began to feel sad and mad over lost opportunities."
Zadth cut in, "Yeah me too! I just felt mad everything became so very asaked ( betheran curse word) screwed up. Sorry Eric, go on."
"We started talking. And at the end, we found we were friends. Friends that got overshadowed by our own prejudices."
Kelp said, "It takes courage to do what you both did. And Eric, I think that was a noble thing you did in speaking up for Zadth regardless how you personally felt. You wanted to do the right thing." Kelp extended his index finger down to Eric. Taking hold of the tip with both hands, Eric shook it.
As more cadets entered the recreation room, louder was the joy over the return of the prodigal cadets. Soon we had a full flung celebration going on. Later two cadets came in carrying in a huge flagon of water. Zadth was advised to put Eric in his vest pocket. Lifting the large container over Zadth they both said in unison, "Welcome back cadet brothers." And they tipped the container over Zadth and Eric drenching them soaking wet.
We pilot companions greeted cadet Eric back. There was plenty of sincere sentiments and good natured horseplay.
I was able to talk to Cadet Sally who I really hadn’t had a chance to after our engagement last night. "I know I said it last night, and I’ll say it again--- fine job Pilot Companion Sally."
"Great battle job Pilot Companion Ted."
"So," I said. "How was it?"
"Scary at first. As I did my job I forgot about it, somewhat. And I really appreciated returning back to the hanger. I guess there was an element of excitement to it. When we destroyed target two Commander Florn and I were elated to say the least."
That night was a grand one.
Cadet Life, and The Inferno.
Over the next several months progressed in fighter prepared had now increased to fourteen fighters. During this period there hadn’t been anymore attacks for the moment. Two new teams have been accept. They were, and my heart does go out to them, in the process of connector point surgery.
Going down the hallway to class we passed Cadet Kelner who had a very tense face. "What’s the matter Kelner?" asked Kelp.
"Maximilian had to be taken to the medical center. I-I have to go and check on my tiny buddy," replied Kelner whose lower lip began to quiver. "I must go now."
"When classes are over we can go check up on Cadet Maximilian," suggested Kelp.
Both Kelp and I were concerned. However, we couldn’t imagine it being anything life threatening.
After our classes a large group of us went to medical center. We checked in at reception to get updated information on our fellow cadet. We were told he was in recover. Kelp asked, "What was the nature of his medical emergency?"
The giant nurse replied, "Its an Earthie bio-symptom called Appendicitis." .
"Oh, that’s is very common. Max should be ok," I shouted up to Kelp and the other giant cadets.
We were given permission to visit Cadet Maximilian. He was still in the main post operative room. In a chair next the special table that held Max’s bed was Kelner. When we gathered around, "Thanks guys for coming. He’s still sleeps from operation. I will get him a lot of ice-cream after he wakes up" Kelner took a special swab and wiped the sweat off of Maximilian‘s forehead. He pulled up between two gigantic finger tips the tiny blanket. "We team. I wish I could share his pain. He’s so tiny. I big wish help."
"You’re here and with him now. That’s what matters,." said Kelp. Kelner rested his head down next to the tiny bed.
After we visited with Kelner and Max, we paid our respects to the new recruits and their pilot companions who were still in considerable pain. The two pilots asked their fellow giant cadets, "Is there anything more we can do to help alleviate their suffering?"
Balax, as he looked down compassionately at the tiny Earthies, "All you can do is be here for them when they wake up. And being with your companion, I think in a subconscious way helps them endure it.."
"Their just so tiny and to hear their high squeaks of pain and when you really can’t do anything is so emasculating, " responded a new pilot cadet named Quso.
"Quso," I said, "Its like what Cadet Balax said. Just being with them is an important strength."
"If you feel you can, why don’t you hold your partner in your hand," suggested Kelp.
Very carefully, Cadet Ouso picked up his tiny pilot companion and placed him in his hand. "It may seem a hard concept to grasp right now that the tiny, frail person you hold in your hand will with his skills, hold you in his hand when your out in battle---but it is a very real thing.. And I’m not talking sentimentality." All the giant pilots looked down upon their pilot companions.
All at once red lights began to flashing red. Over the inter-com: "Pilots Kelp and Florn report to launch control. Kelp putting me in his vest pocket immediately left the medical center.
In the ready room, we slipped into our skin tight white and blue flight suite. We were briefed by a tactical officer on the situation. "A new target has appeared. And is emitting unusual emissions not before encountered. Commander Kelp you and Pilot Companion Ted will battle the creature as Commander Florn and Pilot Companion Sally stay within battle proximity in case of assistance. The rest of the cadet body will be observing the fighting on the main monitor in the assembly hall. Betheran Warriors, God speed.
We were shuttled to our great humanoid fighters. Inside the fighters command center, I was inserted into the capsule receptacle. ‘Companion Ted please report."
"Five by five commander."
"I am starting several computer simulations on the new frequency being emitted by the target as main control feeds them into my onboard systems."
"Very good companion."
We shook as the magnificent engineering masterpiece began its trip to launch position. Over my headset I heard Commanders Kelp conversation with launch control. "This might be a tactic to lure us out against a new weapons of theirs. I recommend two additional fighters be called into battle. One on standby. The second on ground protecting the academy and the city."
"I concur with Commander Kelp’s recommendation, " spoke Commander Florn
"Two additional fighters will be all operational."
Standing side-by-side on the launch platform, we launched into action.
The target was in orbit at the planets equatorial plane. "Companion how are the simulations reading?"
"Still collating. I am hypothesizing it is a jamming frequency weapon. It either will be toward the fighters systems or our neurological system."
"Fine work Companion Ted."
On our screens was the creature. This creature was different. It was fitted with a gray and black metal armor. "Commander I am…aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!!"
"Companion what is going on?"
My whole system was hit with a blazing beam that began to bake my nervous system. Trying to think straight, I told Commander Kelp to have Commander Florn to retreat to a safe distance. I tried to process the information. The pain increased and blood began to bubble out of my mouth. I felt as if I was dying!!!!
A Visit To Home
I felt as if I was thrown into a pit of fire. I had a vague sense of Kelp calling to me. As the pain subsided, I found myself in a room. The furniture was somewhat bigger. Not on the colossal scale that I had grown to accustomed to. It made me wonder if I was seeing things from the perspective of a child. I gazed upon the room. I saw a sofa, chairs and what appeared to be a babies crib. It was hard for me to discern real detail since everything was slightly blurry and the lighting defused.
Two pairs of legs approached me. "What are you up to Teddy?" said a woman’s voice.
I was picked up. It was still hard for me to see the face things were still blurry. I heard a child’s voice say mama. Was this my mother then?
A sudden crack of thunder exploded over head. The front door flew open. A strange glowing light streamed into our home. I felt an intense heat. Fire exploded around me.
"Take him outside!" hollered a man’s voice. "I’ll get Patrick."
I felt my body being jostled as my mother ran with me to the outside. Another shock wave came and threw us to the ground. I was hurt, scared and alone. My mother was no where to be seen. All around me was fire and people screaming. The air was filled with an ungodly stench.
"Teddy, Maureen!" I heard a man scream. Turning in the direction of the voice, I saw a man who was on fire. In his fiery arms he held a small object also on fire.
I cried and screamed, "Mama! Dada!"
A blue light appeared over me and everyone. I couldn’t move. In my mind I heard, "Earthies do not be afraid."
When I found I could move again, the fire was gone. And all the burning charred bodies A woman holding a little girl came up to me, "Come child."
"She‘s gone child. Your coming with me." I looked up at the sky that wasn’t dark or blue. It was a whitish light and through the light, I thought I saw an enormous face gazing down at me. The moon size eyes were sorrowful and empathetic.
"Ted-Ted do you hear me?" called a voice. And I knew this voice. "Your going to be ok buddy. Try and follow my voice. Ted its me Kelp."
"Kelp," I said to myself. I put my hands to my head, "My parents. Did I have a baby brother?" I was confused.
I turned in circles. For how long I do not know.
Stopping, I found myself in a park or field. Not far from me was a slide. On top was a small boy. The boy just sat there motionless. He began to slowly turn his head towards me. He lifted a small arm and waved. I slowly went over. Coming to the base of the slide the boy said, "Want to see me slide down?"
"Ah, I guess---yeah sure."
"Will you catch me?"
"Weeeeee!!" exclaimed the boy as he flew down the silver slide. I caught him in my arms. "I knew you wouldn’t let me hurt myself." I just slowly nodded. The boy took my hand. As we walked, he swung my arm back and forth. "I guess you have to go."
"I do?" I replied. The boy let go of my hand. "I guess I never knew you."
The boy smiled. "In other ways you do." He wrapped his arms around my waist. "I’m proud of you."
"I wish I could bring you back with me. I could be the brother I wasn’t able to be." The boy vanished.
I felt that burning pain again that I had felt in the fighter. I feel to my knees screaming. "Ted its over. What your feeling is a residual affect."
I heard other words:
"His life signs are fading."
"Bio-brain stimuli and identity patterns disintegrating."
"Ted please come back. You can fight it I know you can."
Within the pain I shouted, "I don’t know how?"
"Ted think of me. Think of all the fun and things we have been through. And will have."
"I had a brother. A brother I never new."
"Ted its Kelp. I’m your brother."
"His life signs are below point. We lost him."
"No, I won’t let Ted go."
The pain slowly left me. In the darkness I floated. A single light appeared before me. And a scent. The scent grew stronger. It enveloped me. An outline of gigantic figure formed. Within in its translucent shaped beat a heart. "What was your last thoughts Ted?" asked a distorted voice.
"The safety of Kelp."
"Do you still wish?"
"Yes.," I replied as I glided over the translucent giant.
"Ted create me to you."
Running up to my locker, I slapped Kelp on the back who was busy taking books out of his locker. "Hey their buddy."
"Man, I thought you would never get here. Classes are about to start." Kelp gave me a slight jab to the chest. "Look whose coming down the hallway."
Turning I saw Sally. "Hey," I said.
"Stop it Kelner," spoke Maximilian. Kelner had him in a head lock.
Kelner let him go. "Sorry little buddy. Just fooling. We friends still?"
"Yeah, I have none better."
The buzzer for class sounded. Kelp and I headed for class.
Walking over the bridge I stopped and put my arms on top of the safety rail. The sun had began to set and the entire city had been bathed in a bright orange light. "In that city is your friend who you saved," said the voice of a child. Looking down I saw it was the same boy I had seen earlier.
"I guess I should be getting going."
The boy nodded his head. "It’s your home after all."
I chuckled, "Yeah, I guess it is."
When I woke up, I was met with silence. Slowly, I heard the sounds of a communication device. And the sounds of conversation. I looked around the room with my eyes. I sat up. "How you feeling?" Next to me was another bed. In it was one of the new recruits who had connector surgery. "I though we were going to loose you."
I felt a smile cross my face I realized I was still alive. I didn’t understand how? From off of me came a scent. The scent was that of my friend Kelp
I tried to get out of bed. As I did, I became nauseous. I sighed and laid back down. "It sounded like quite a time you had," said the new recruit. "Oh, I’m Will."
"Your pilot friend should becoming soon I would imagine."
"Yeah. He was here round the clock. He has a bed on the floor. It got pretty intense when they thought you had died. Kelp refused to believe it."
"He’s a friend in every sense of the word. I‘m so glad he made it back. Oh man, what about fighter sixteen?"
"They made it back as far as I know."
"So Ted you feeling better?"
"I still feel a bit weak. My head is spinning still."
Noticing the red and blue blotches from the implantations I said "Will you made it through the operation I see. Not something you would want to go through again."
"Ha! No, not really."
"Welcome aboard Cadet Will." And I gave him a salute.
"Thanks. I only hope I can be half the pilot you are."
"I’m not a pilot yet. Just a cadet."
"I think Ted that’s pretty academic now."
I stopped talking and rested my eyes. Under my breath I said, "Thank God Kelp is ok."
I fell asleep. Later a minor tremor woke me up. Opening my eyes, my vision was filled with a giant face. A face I was so glad to see. "Kelp!," I shouted trying to sit up.
"Kelp," I said, "I’m glad you made it."
"Thanks to the data you programmed. I was able to set up a screen around the ship. To protect us from further damage."
"What about the target?"
"Fighter sixteen and I launched several missiles. We damaged it. Though, it still managed to get away. But don’t worry about it. Just get well. I can tell you. I was worried sick."
I put my hand on the tip to Kelp’s finger, "I want to say that…." I filled with emotion.
"Its ok. Me too." Kelp gave me a slight smile, "Now don’t get use to laying around here. I expect my pilot companion back on duty."
I nodded. I kept my hand on Kelp’s finger. I had neared death. And what a welcome and beautiful thing it is to be with my friend.
"Anything you need?"
"No. Well, can you take me outside?"
"Maybe later I will. Oh, my family had stopped by. And they have been thinking of you. My cousin Pechu is hoping to see you again. He was afraid for you. And all the cadets have been asking for you."
A giant doctor came in. "Cadet Ted. Your up. Very good. Later, I would like to do a few tests. Cadet Kelp if you don‘t mind I would like to examine the cadet."
"Yes doctor. I’ll check in on you in a while."
Later into the evening, I had my nervous system checked. And scanned. I felt like a scientific experiment with all the tests.
Near bedtime, Kelp came in. "I have been sleeping here while you have been in your coma. Since you are better, tomorrow I will go back to the dorm."
"Thanks for (yawn) being here for (yawn) me."
"I wouldn’t have done anything different."
Very gently, Kelp picked up with several fingers the bed and placed it down on his pillow. He placed his arm around the bed in a semi-circle. There was so much I wanted to tell him. However, that could wait till another day.
The Cadet Family
In the morning I was met with Kelp’s hot draught breath coming from his open mouth. Staring at the Olympian size face one can’t help thinking he and the others look like Gods. Still, there just like me just bigger. Though, Kelp is a giant in another way. I think because of the high esteem I hold him in.
When the great head began to stir, Kelp rubbed his eyes and gave me a groggy smile. Taking a finger Kelp lightly rubbed the top of my head. I started to sit up when a dizziness came over me. I was hoping this was a residual affect. A fear had entered my mind: I might have sustained neurological damage.
Kelp picked up the bed, placed it down on the table next to Cadet Will’s. Kelp‘s face looked haggard His eyes tired. "I have to get breakfast and off to classes. And I will drop in later."
"Ok Kelp. And thanks."
Looking over towards cadet Will’s bed I saw it was empty. I couldn’t imagine they would have released him during the night. Coming around a screen divider was Will. "Hey Cadet Ted."
"You can call me Ted. I think in here we don’t have to be so formal."
I wanted to try walking. As I stood up did I not only felt dizzy again I had a hard time moving my legs. I stumbled back onto my bed. For a moment I became frightened. "Ted you ok? You look white."
"Just having problems walking. I hope this is temporary."
Will replied, "You just came back from a highly traumatic situation you have to expect some set backs. You‘ll be back on your feet in no time."
"Yeah your right," I responded still feeling concerned.
Later in the morning, a giant cadet came in to see Will. It was his pilot. "Cadet Ted this is my pilot Cadet Yalor." Yalor was a stocky teen. He had short black hair with a group of long thin bangs. A couple shot straight up in different directions.. He was very reserved and quiet. Yalor took out of the pocket of his shorts several things that included study books. He spent a while with Will. Yalor applied sanitizing ointment to Will’s implants.
When he was about to leave Yalor came over to me. And from many stories above his huge green eyes looked plainly and silently down at me. Yalor nodded and left. "He’s different," I thought.
At lunch time a few cadets came by to see me. Cadets Florn and Sally. And Cadets Kelner and Maximilian.
"When do you think you’ll be leaving?" asked cadet Florn.
"I hope soon."
"That was great work Ted. Kelp told us even in the crises before you lost conciseness you relayed the information about the high frequency beam and requested we fly to a safety zone," said Cadet Sally. "Oh here is a six pack of that soda you like. I figured you would appreciate it more than flowers."
"We’ll let Cadets Kelner and Max visit now," said Florn who putting a finger to her mouth placed it on my forehead.
"We very nervous for you. You did a real heroes job," spoke Kelner.
"Thanks, but I’m no hero just did what I was suppose to."
From Kelner’s hand Max replied, "I guess that is the reply you would have to give. We’re proud of you cadet. And when it was touch and go, no one in the academy could sleep. When you came out of the coma it was announced over the inter-com."
"My tiny companion right. We happy we heard you better."
"I guess we better get back to class," remarked Maximilian.
"Ok Max," responded Kelner who put Maximilian in his vest pocket.
"You have good friends," said Will."
"Yeah, and so do you. You’ll find we are a kind of a family."
After classes Kelp came. "I talked with two of your doctors and I asked them if I could take you out for part of the afternoon tomorrow. And they thought that would be a good idea."
"Man, I really look forward to that. Kelp. Ah, I know you have been spending a great deal of time with me. If you rather have supper with the cadets and take in the night with them that’s cool. I think you need a break."
"Always the loyal pal and pilot companion. We will be spending most of tomorrow together. Yeah, maybe the change would be good." Kelp spend the remainder of the afternoon with me. He also visited an Earthie cadet who was recovering from mplantation. And several giant cadets who were in for different maladies You got to love the Kelp man.
Around dinnertime, roommates Cadets Balax and Mike came and visited. "We miss having our fellow comrade around. I guess everyone is telling you the same thing; how we all were cheering for you. And pleased when we heard you came out of the coma," said Balax..
"Yeah, the academy was on edge," added Mike. They had dinner with me and we talked. Mike met Will. And they also paid their respects to the other Earthie recovering from implantation too.
As I fell to sleep, at days end, I was looking forward in an afternoon out outside with Kelp.
Kelp and I
The next day being the start of the weekend, we had the day off. And given permission, Kelp and I could go outside. Since I had a hard time standing up, Kelp placed me in the side pocket of his shorts. It was roomy and warm. And filled with that Kelp scent. A scent when at death’s door touched my heart and brought me back. I know it is something I can’t fully explain to people. Its just something hopefully people in their own lives will discover. It is sad not to find the creative strength and healing that is in true friendship.
I grew up alone, well maybe not alone. I didn’t have a family I could really remember. And Kelp was the first person who made me feel my being meant something.
In the soothing warmth and darkness of the pocket, I could feel an upward ascent. Shortly, Kelp’s gigantic fingers brought me out. I sat in his hand. Kelp had climbed up a hill that overlooked the city. In the distance, I could see hover crafts bringing building material to the places that had been destroyed by creature attack number two. It was slightly muggy out and part of the city lay under wisps of fog. I could feel the warm flow of air rising up out of the valley. I looked up at the huge face of Kelp. A wind came blowing momentarily, his thick dark locks away from his eyes that looked intently outwards. The high green collar to his vest made a flapping sound as it waved in the wind.
A few minutes past and we began to talk. "Ted after they had ejected the capsule from my brain and I seeing you covered in blood laying limp in a technician’s hand I though I was going to break. And when I took you in my hand to help in emergency resuscitation and your tiny body barely responding, it nearly tore my heart." Kelp stopped and wiped his nose with his other hand.
"Its over now Kelp."
Clearing his throat Kelp asked, "What was it like? Do you remember anything?"
"I remembered something I thought I would never be conciseness of---the destruction of my town and parents. I think one of the painful parts of that was the realization I had a baby brother who died in the accident. Later this boy appeared kind of like a guide. I wonder if it was him. Ah, vadlutic (betheran curse word) I don’t know, maybe it was the mind playing tricks.." I looked up at Kelp. "One thing I’m sure of during it all, I felt your presence which I was glad for. I was worried about you…I" I put my hand to my face. "The thought something could happen to you." I stopped again. "I’m ---just so glad I’m here now sitting in your hand and your ok."
Kelp’s thumb was positioned inwards and down. I placed my arms over the top and laid my head down on the warm leathery surface.
Stroking my back with his finger, "Same here. Same here." He chuckled, "Anyone hearing us will think we are a couple of muschinicks. (betheran word for sissy ) I laughed.
We stopped talking and enjoyed the vista for a while.
Getting up, Kelp went down the hill. I stayed in his hand this time. "Zadth and Eric will be meeting up with us later"
As we walked down the street, people nodded their heads. Others gave us a few sneers. Mostly people were friendly. Several children came up to us holding toy replica’s of our fighters. "Look, his Earthie," said one boy.
His pal responded, "Its his Pilot Companion."
"Can we hold him?" asked another boy.
"No," replied Kelp. "You can shake his hand. Only if Cadet Ted allows it and you are careful. He’s still recuperating."
One boy with big olive colored eyes that were fixed on me, replied, "He got hurt?. In battle!?"
"Yeah, he did. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my friend."
The boy with the olive colored eyes extended a finger to me. When the finger tip which was dirty and the nail looked like it had been chewed off stopped in front of me, I grasped it with two hands and pushed up and down on it slightly. The boy smiled. His two other friends followed.
"We hope you’ll feel better tiny Pilot Companion," said one of the boys. I thanked him and saluted him. The boy exclaimed, "Did you see that! He saluted me!" They after ran down the street.
"Your pretty good with kids," remarked Kelp.
Looking up at Kelp I said, "Its easy considering who I have for a pilot."
Continuing down the street, we saw hanging in a few store windows those tee-shirts with a picture our fighter on it.
Kelp came to an out door café where we would be meeting up with Zadth and Eric. Kelp ordered a soft drink and reaching into his vest pocket pulled out an Earthie mug.
Two teenage girls came slowly up near our table and kept whispering. One girl looking directly at Kelp said to her friend, "He’s really a opentunt. ( betheran for hot dude) Kelp who was enjoying this, sat up straighter in his chair. He pushed his shoulders back, so his upper-chest muscles bulged further out from beneath the vest. Looking at each other, the two attractive girls came over. "We hope we‘re (quiet giggle) not disturbing you?" asked one girl with long red hair.
"Not at all."
Spotting me, the girl with red hair remarked, "Your Earthie. Isn’t he cute."
"Oh he is so adorable. I would love to take him home and baby him," replied the other girl who had short brown hair.
Putting his other hand over me, Kelp told them, "He’s very shy. Don’t want to spook him."
"I’m not shy!" I shouted.
From inside the darkened hand I heard Kelp being charming and impressing them with all sorts of military talk.
After a short while they left. Kelp removed his hand. "Hey, who wants competition," he said with a very big grin. I gave him a scowl.
Zadth and Eric showed up and sat down with us. Zadth placed Eric with me in Kelp’s hand. "Man, I’m glad you made it. I was worried sick" Eric placed a hand on my shoulder,. "I’m sorry I hadn’t visited you in the medical center. Since Zadth and I had missed a few weeks of training. We have been making it up."
"Not a problem."
"Yeah Ted," said Zadth. "I felt bad too. We did follow all updates on you. And even though we weren’t there, we were still thinking about you."
We ordered our food and dug in. As always anytime giants are eating they make a loud sound to us Earthies. Eric and I had to shout to each other. I could hear the hundreds of gallons of fluid roaring down Kelp’s throat. The sounds as his teeth tore at the bread. And a few stray droplets of water and food as he talked. You get use to it.
After launch we went and visited the reconstruction area. In a considerable short period of time, new buildings were rising out from were the others had fallen.
All too soon it was time to go back to the medical center at the academy. I would be happy when I could join back up with the cadets. And continue training with Kelp.
Getting Better, Set Backs, Always Learning and Back To A Little Crazy Fun
I was concerned about my legs. And the apparent loss of motor control. Discussing my sistuation with my Betheran and Earthie doctors, I was told damage had been afflicted because of strain to my cerebellum and nervous system. Thankfully, it was temporary. I began physical therapy. I would start it while still in the medical center. I was able to attend classes. Kelp would come and place me in the pocket of his shorts. He had in their for my connivance, an Earthie flash light, a box lunch and a note pad. Kelp did this because after physical therapy; done early in the morning, it would leave me weak. It was also very painful. When I tried to walk, it felt as if a knife was being pushed up both legs. It became very trying. Anyway, being in Kelp’s roomy pocket I could both rest and attend class.
Cadet Will would be leaving and start his training with the other pilot companion and I would be the only one in medical center. Though, I would be leaving shortly myself. Before he left, Cadet Will‘s pilot, the very quiet Yalor would come to the table where my bed was on and stick out his little finger. At first, I didn‘t know what he wanted. Not until he finally said something. "Companion Ted," he would say. Next, using his eyes would motion for me to walk to his finger. I would sigh but do it. Getting up on stiff legs that burnt with nerve pain, I would go to his finger. Each time Yalor came, he would increase the space. I knew what he was trying to do and I did appreciate it.
When he first started this, Yalor offered me candy from the city he grew up in. I wasn’t interested. "I heard Earthies like this treat. You will too Cadet Ted." That was the longest amount of words I heard Yalor use together. I shook my head. "Cadet Will my companion likes it." Will nodded his head. And I still shook my head.
All at once, Yalor picked me up by placing a finger on either side of my chest. He placed an index finger in front of me. For a few minutes I was held suspended in the air; between his fingers and with the tip of another finger right in front of my face. "What?" I asked. Yalor moved his finger up and touched an area above my right cheek. My mouth opened up. He removed his finger. A few seconds later two gigantic finger tips came back and dropped a small object in my mouth. I heard Yalor tell me, "Chew." And I did. It was very good.
After I was placed back on the ground, Cadet Will said, "Good isn’t it?"
"Cadet Yalor has special talents. I don’t understand him yet but hope in time I can," responded Will. I looked up at Yalor who looked down at me with his clear green eyes. There was a very thin line of a smile on his face.
After that, every time I was done taking hold of his little finger, Yalor would touch that spot; my mouth would open and he would feed me candy. I felt like a trained animal at first. Though, I didn’t think that was his motive.
I was sorry to see Will go. But another part of me was glad he was healed up now. We shook hands. Yalor placed him in the pocket of his vest. Giving me more of a broader smile, Yalor touched that area above my right cheek and after my mouth opened up automatically, popped his candy into my mouth.
I was in medical center for one more week after and joy---I was released home. Home to the academy.
My walking had improved though not as far as I wanted it to be. I still could only walk for short periods of time. I attended classes now, no longer in Kelp’s pocket, instead, back sitting on my chair on his arm rest.
Success was slow and it was bugging me. I tried not to show it. One day, Kelp put a hand to the back of his neck, "Man, this is acting up again." Turning and looking down at me, "Ted do you mind?"
"No, of course not," I replied. Part of me was dreading this since it is a rather large chore. However, did I have a choice? Kelp is my close buddy who has done so much for me.
After we had changed, we entered the steam room. Kelp held me in his hand along with the humming muscle scrap as he stretched out on the rubdown table. I rolled out of his hand onto the base of his neck. "Start below the left shoulder blade it seems really tight."
"Ok!" I shouted carrying the curved shaped humming scrape over my shoulder. I felt like a tiny-teeny grim reaper as I walked the broad expanse of Kelp’s shoulder down to his left shoulder blade.
I began to push and move it along the thick knotted muscles. Several areas, I got onto my hands and knees and rubbed and kneaded the muscle with my hands. "Yeah, that’s feeling better," Kelp said.
With that area done, I began to get back on to my feet when my legs gave out. I ran a hand of frustration over my face. Out loud I told myself, "No, think positive. And its for my pal." I had to crawl along the wide girth of Kelp’s back to get to his right shoulder. Using my hands that slipped on the skin slippery with sweat, I also tried as best I could, dig my toes into the supple flesh to move myself along. It made for a slow trek. Once there, I sat up and moved the humming scrape beneath the four foot high shoulder bone. When that was done, I rested my arms and head on top of the shoulder blade for a few minutes.
I crawled my way for the back bone. I thought the ridges and bulges would give me good hand and feet traction. As I was crawling up over the knobby bones, Kelp laughed and commented, "Ha-ha, hey that tickles."
"Yeah, it’s a million laughs," I said under my breath.
After a few minutes I reached the base of his neck. I leaned up against his neck where huge dark strands of hair hung down before me like vines in a tropical forest. "So now where!?" I shouted sharply.
"Ted is something wrong?"
"Ok, well the right side of my neck is killing me."
I mimicked under my breath, "The right side of my neck is killing me."
I pulled on one of the strands to hoist myself up. Suddenly, I felt a shooting pain not from my legs from my heart. I let my hands slide down the wet hair. I fell onto my butt. I started to shed tears of frustration and disgust in myself and I felt small, "How dare I get mad at Kelp." I thought. "He does everything for me. And I’m acting like a baby." I grasped my face with my fingers, "I will beat this thing.!"
I reached up and pulled again on the dark, wet strands of hair. Hoisted back up, I made my way around the titanic teen’s neck. And began to release the muscle. "Yeah Ted, that feels much better."
"Cool!" I shouted back. When I heard the release of gas from way down the other end, I knew another success was had.
As we were getting dressed, Kelp said, "I guess this was probably very tiring."
"If I can’t tire for a pal, I’m a sorry person," I squeaked up. Reaching over and pulling myself up by the leg opening to Kelp’s Cadet Shorts, "Kelp, I have to be honest. I was complaining as I was doing it. I began to feel sorry for myself."
"You completed the job right?"
"So you did your job regardless, you didn’t let it stop you. You still did a friends job."
"Thanks Kelp and I did it as a friend. Thanks for understanding."
"That’s why I’m the pilot and you’re my very, very, very tiny pal." Kelp picked my up by the back of my vest which he knows I don’t like cause it makes me feel like an idiot.
"Ok, you had you fun," I said. He grinned. "No Kelp not that." He nodded still with his stupid grin on his face. Kelp walked out of the changing room with his arm extended and me hanging by two fingers. Cadets that passed either smirked or chuckled.
Walking into the recreation room several cadets joined in the fun by taking a finger and tickling my stomach.
With one hand, Kelp picked up his tray and got our food. Sitting down at a table. Kelp put me down next to his plate so I could hang on and balance myself. I saw on his plate was what Earthies call mash potatoes which Kelp likes.
Reaching over to get something, I pushed hard on the side of the plate and lifted myself on. Turning back Kelp looked down and gave me a questioning look for a moment. "You better not. It will be hot," he said. I just grinned back. "Ted," Kelp spoke more sternly. I rolled myself into his potatoes and splashed around in them. Not the most dignified thing for a cadet to do. Kelp took his spoon and scooped me up. From the spoon, I made balls of potatoes and threw it at him.
He laughed and I laughed. Pointing at me with his hand, "My pilot companion."
Struggling, Fierce Combat and Regression
It was great just to be silly again even just for the moment. I wiped as best I could the mash potatoes off of myself. We proceeded after to eat.
My strength had returned, somewhat to my legs. I was able to walk around the table slowly. I talked and mingled with many of my fellow pilot companions. And a few of the giant pilots.
The two new teams were their. Cadet Will came up to me. "I really feel part of all of you now. And how’s the legs?"
"Slow. Their still weak. But I’m hoping soon they’ll be back to normal."
"You and Cadet Kelp really seem to share a close relationship."
I replied, "Yeah, we do."
Cadet Yalor came over to our section of the table. "Your searching’s are found with Cadet Kelp," Yalor told me out of the blue. I nodded my head.
"Yalor’s like that. I think he’s bit of a mystic," said Will.
Another cadet leaned over to me and whispered, "He’s full of something."
During the next three weeks my leg recovery was still slow. I still could only stand for a limited time. Doctors told me recovery was on the way. I hadn’t seen it. Good news, we now were seventeen able ready fighters.
It had been, so it seemed to me, an eternity since I last saw our fighter. I asked Kelp if we could go to standby launch bay. He agreed. As the hover platform brought us closer, we marveled at the sight of the great row of seventeen able body robotic fighters waiting for the pilot and pilot companions to give them life. Going up to our fabulous craft, Kelp ran a hand over the smooth metallic surface and scrutinizing areas that had been repaired or replaced. I just took in the atmosphere. Maybe I did this to forget my own impairment
Kelp was, as always, very supportive, I felt still unsettled inside. I don’t know if it was because of the legs or post operative blues?
During a class of flight simulations. The warning lights and sirens sounded. "All pilots report to launch ready room." The academy had created a new area that would act as briefing room and ready room.
Within minutes we stood in attention. Chief of Cadet Training Florx reported, "Six enemy targets are approaching. Eight fighters will be dispatched. Information gathered from Commander Kelp and Pilot Companion Ted‘s last mission, we have equipped the fighters with a new protective shield that under simulation studies will shield the craft from the enemies high frequency beam."
The names of the crew were read off which included Kelp and I. With lightening speed we climbed into our flight suites.
On the way to our craft Commander kelp asked, "You feel ready to face the enemy?"
"Yes sir. Five by five."
"Ha-ha what I want to hear." Kelp knew me well enough to know, whatever I was feeling would not interfere with my functions as pilot companion.
After placed in my capsule and given the go, I was inserted into the capsule receptacle. "Companion please report."
"Five by five. Commander, I am running diagnostic checks and simulations of the new anti-high energy frequency beam."
"Five by five companion."
Over my monitor communication headset, I heard Commander Kelp tell the new pilots, "Great to have you with us. God speed on your first mission."
"Commander Kelp displaying targets and predicted flight plans on tactical.’
"Five by five."
"Companion we are clear to go."
"Five by five commander."
On my monitor screens I witnessed and it stills brings goose bumps to the back of my neck--- the launching of the fighters. The eight colossal fighters were shuttled vie anti-gravitational platforms to the launching direct bay.
As my adrenalin began to surge, the power of the ship made its course to the great engines.
A sudden jolt and the eight fighters roared into the sky!!!!
Our targets were in orbit around Bethera. And I hoped they would stay that way. I didn’t want to see anymore civilian causalities. I plotted our course. An interesting and scary situation became clear. The targets were heading for the fighters whose first time it was in actual battle. Our fighter and that of fighter sixteen: Commander Florn and Pilot Companion Sally’s craft wasn’t on targets attack plan. I relayed information to all fighters and ground command. "Commander Kelp they must be correlating our attacks and vessels used in past battles. Have transmitted data to fighters and ground control."
"Good work companion."
Two targets were heading for fighter fourteen. We and fighter two came in for our attack. Fighter sixteen lead the others against the secondary targets. Several volleys of high energy frequency was launched against us. The new screens held. We came in under first target. It wrapped a tentacle around the center of hull and began to apply pressure. I compensated while Commander Kelp using left robotic arm, rammed it into a primary vulnerable region of the creature’s underbelly. A purple fluid flowed out.
Fighter sixteen was successful in its attack. I monitored on all tracks, our crafts were in green operative mode.
We were attacked by another target. Commander Kelp using lasers, severed all major arteries of the primary creature. Virtually, the creature was now dead. Using secondary stabilizing jets we wiggled ourselves free from the grip of the wounded target and fired missiles at new target. The new target slammed two of its main group of tentacles down on the ship. With its minor array of tentacles, grabbed our robotic legs and flung us out into space. I programmed a new flight path and Commander Kelp turned the ship and headed for the creature in ramming mode. We activated finger tip laser blades. The creature fired a volley of high energy frequency weapons at us. Our screens held, however, readings indicated a decrease in screens capability.
We shook as we rammed the creature. Our monitors were filled with the targets cries. Our attack was successful.
We picked up a distresscall from fighter fourteen which was Commander Kelner and Pilot Companion Maximilian’s craft. They were being attacked by two stronger targets. We zoomed in to help our comrades. On my monitor, I could see fighter fourteen’s hull had been compromised. The other six fighters were out of rescue range for the moment. We were all that was between fighter fourteen and death.
Grabbing the back of target that had a death grip on the fighter, Commander kelp and I tore away at the creature’s flesh. We aimed our slicing at its vital organs. We hurriedly clawed our way through the creatures bulk.
Commander Florn was coming into rescue range. The second target moved away and made an arching maneuver. I predicted it was going to launch a high frequency attack on the cripple fighter. Commander Kelp flew in between the fighter and creature. I estimated we under our depleted condition will have to suffer six seconds of the frequency. "Companion Ted can you hold out?"
"I will try Commander." I did lower my environment points by half. If something happens to me, Commander Kelp will need it.
The other fighters began to come in range. Just as we predicted it launched its frequency attack. We blocked the attack. That sickening burning pain traveled through my body again. I became aware of the taste of blood again. Before I blanked out and thinking this was my time, "It has been a real honor to serve under you Commander Kelp. And as a friend"
I vaguely heard Kelp reply, "I order you not to give up."
A strong ringing sound filled my head. I became aware of the sounds of voices. I was standing in a school yard where dozens of children played. I knew this pace. It was Bale Elementary just after it opened during reconstruction. I walked by the children, many I remembered. Leaning up against a wall was a small boy with short sandy hair, dark blue eyes and freckles around his nose. I knew this boy very well. It was me. I shook my head. I didn’t want to remember this again. I had in school been picked on. I was always left out of things.
As I began to walk away from there, a giant face filled the sky above me. "How long will you hang on to this hurt?"
"Then why are you here?"
"I don’t know."
The ringing sensation began again. I found myself on a artificial hill created by the Betherans for us Earthies. As a kid I use to climb it and look out at the town as it was being resurrected. Sitting was a teen around my age. Going up to him, the teen turned towards me. To my surprise it was Kelner. "I’m lost. Use to my buddy Maximilian helping me," said Kelner. "He small like toy. But makes me feel big. Funny, I am big. But he makes me feel big. You understand.?" I slowly shook my head.
Kelner stood up. "Can you lead me back to my friend?"
"I don’t know how."
"How soon you forget," said that voice I heard in the playground..
Going up to Kelner I extended my hand, "You miss Max your pal. Because somehow the friendship in part, completes you."
I began to remember the last time. I was about to say more when Kelner told me, "I hear him calling and others too."
I walked through the tall grass. I became conscious of a voice. A somewhat angry voice. It was Kelp’s. I began to walk faster through the grass. "I’m coming. I‘m sorry I have been away."
When I awoke, I found myself back in the quiet of another medical center recuperation room. Gliding over my vision was a face. As my eyes adjusted, I saw it was Kelp’s His bangs that fell on my face tickled. "Don’t ever again assume to walk out on life again. You here me mister?"
"I do," I squeaked. "Kelner and Max? How are they?"
"Cadet Kelner had gotten pretty banged up but he is going to pull through. And Cadet Maximilian was unharmed. He’s been with his pal around the clock." Kelp smiled, "I see once again you have seen your way in getting yourself out of work." I nodded slightly. Placing his hand over my chest, "I have to go now will be back later. I will have a few surprises later."
As his hand was about to move off, I grabbed hold to a finger, "Wait!"
"Yeah," replied Kelp with a gentle smile.
"Its ok Ted. Me too. Now get some rest you lazy quagnaus. (betheran word meaning bum)
After Kelp left, I slowly sat up in bed. To my right I saw the gigantic bulk of Kelner. Standing on his upper-chest just below his chin was the outline of Maximilian cleaning a wound.
Shortly, a Betheran and Earthie doctor came in to examine me. "We see you are mending nicely. You will be back on active duty in no time."
"He’s doing well. He will be returning to duty also."
I had to undergo several neurological tests. From what I could glean from their medical jargon, there wasn’t any increase damage to my nervous system.
Later, when Kelp returned his whole family was with him. At first it was overpowering to have all these giants leaning over me. The parents thanked me for looking out for their son. Kelp’s sister made a blanket that had written on it: The Family Hero.
I tried to tell them I was just doing my duty. Kelp’s sister replied, "Kelp told us how you increased the environment to his cabin. Even with the prospect of death, you wanted to make sure Kelp was protected."
I saw a giant object popping around Kelp’s family. It was another but smaller face. Pushing between Kelp’s sister and brothers was his younger cousin Pechu. "You going to live?"
"Pechu!" exclaimed Kelp’s mother. "What a thing to say."
"No, I mean---I was worried---ah. He‘s so tiny fragile…"
"Its ok Pechu. I am going to live."
"If they let you leave for a while. Maybe you can come over my dwelling. I’ll look after you. And we can play games."
"Thanks. I will have to see what the doctors think."
Pechu took out of his jacket pocket a folded piece of paper. Opening it up he said, "I made this for you.."
I had to have him step back so I could really get a good look at it. I was impressed. It was very good. It also made me want to laugh. Because it was so stylized. Kelp’s in the foreground with a determined look and standing on his head is me with my arm stretched forward. My mouth is open and the caption above reads: For the honor of the Betheran Warriors." I was very flattered.
"Thank you Pechu. It really means a lot."
He smiled shyly. Stepping over, he placed the side of his face down on me for a second, "Get well cousin Ted."
We talked for a while. Kelp’s brothers wanted to know in detail, how we dispatched the creatures.
"I think now Ted should get some rest," said the mother.
"We’ll visit you again tomorrow," said the father. Kelp gave me the thumbs up as he left the room.
I picked up the blanket his sister had made. And I silently said to myself, "The Family Hero---family."
Giants and Tiny People
I placed my arm behind my head. My heart was still glowing from the blanket Kelp’s sister had made. "Family," I kept repeating.
I was in and out of sleep when the steady increasing of a vibration kept me from slumbering some more. Coming into the recuperation room were Cadets Florn and Sally. Florn placed Sally down next to my bed. "Cadet Ted, are you going to end up in here every time you go out on a mission?" I moved my shoulders and arms up in a, well-I-don’t-know posture. "Here is another six pack of that soft drink you like." Sally put a hand on mine and leaned in closer, "My heart hurts every time I hear you are rushed to medical center."
I put my hand on hers, "Thanks."
"Thanks? Da. You guys and your limited vocabulary," she replied with a sparkle in her eye.
Pilot Florn told me, "The doctors informed us the damage wasn’t as severe as last time. And thanks for quick thinking pilot companion. We still have our team."
Sally interrupted, "There you go again. I say Ted, your just like one of those birds that repeat everything." And she gave me a slight push on the side of the head with her hand.
Trying to refrain from smiling too broadly I replied, "Its Kelp’s cool thinking. I just try to provide the data and he’s the one who implements it."
Florn put a gentle finger tip on the top of my head as she continued, "We still owe you thanks for the additional information on the beam."
I started to become dizzy. "We better leave our friend," said Cadet Florn.
"See you later. And mend quickly. We need pilots not heroes," spoke Sally.
"Gee, I didn’t know you cared," I responded with a tired grin.
Sleep came over me.
Feeling relaxed after my nap, I stretched my arms and gave out a satisfied yawn. Opening my eyes, instead of a yawn, I gave out a startled cry. Standing over me, was the gigantic face of Yalor. He blinked his huge clear eyes. I tried to sit up. Using his tiny finger (not so tiny to us earthies) he placed the very tip under my left arm and propped me up. For a moment Yalor just stared at me benignly. With two huge finger tips he pulled back my blankets, "How is your walking?"
Trying to muster strength to shout up I was finally able to say, "I guess ok,"
With two fingers he picked me up. I was pressed gently between his thumb and forefinger. The warmth penetrated my being. "Try walking," Yalor instructed. His fingers slowly separated. I gradually took steps toward his index finger that slowly moved away from me. For thirty seconds I walked.
A stabbing pain shot through me. I fell forward. I knew Yalor’s finger would be there for me to grasp onto. He wasn’t Kelp but I still trusted him. My two hands were on either side of his finger that was slightly taller than I was. Here was a great being caring for one so small. Kelp’s, Yalor's and other giants humaneness never ceased to amaze me. As Yalor placed me back on my bed, "You see the beauty don’t you?"
Reaching into his vest pocket, he pulled out Will and placed him down. Giving me a warm grasp of a hand shake, "Ted, I hate to see you here again. But I rather see you hear than… You know what I mean."
"I do," I replied thoughtfully and gratefully.
"People probably ask you this all the time; Ted, is there anything I can do or get for you?"
"No I’m all set."
Will said smacking his two fists together, "Next time, I hope we can be up there with you."
Picking Will up by his collar, "We will fly when ready," said Yalor plainly to his pilot companion.
"By," shouted Will as he disappeared down Yalor’s vest pocket.
Before leaving, Yalor touched above my upper right cheek with a finger tip which caused me to open my mouth. And he once again, popped into my mouth that delicious candy.
Since I was brought here, I hadn’t talked to Maximilian yet. And check on Kelner. I asked a giant nurse if I could visit them. She told me I could. I was placed down next to Maximilian on Kelner’s upper chest. "Ted," said Max, "I’m sorry I haven’t seen you. I did when they first brought you in.. Then I got lost in attending to my pilot. Thank you for rescuing us. And Commander Kelp too."
"How is Kelner?"
"Much better." Max looked down for a moment and picked at a rope size string sticking out of Kelner’s tee-shirt. He looked back up. "I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to him. Yeah, I would have gone on. Though, he’s my pilot. And I would have wanted to go with him. We’re a team."
As Max and I slowly rose up and down with the breaths Kelner took, "You both survived that’s what counts. And that’s what I have grown to realize to cherish. Not to cherish being alive, rather, cherishing being alert with your friend. That’s where the life is." I began pulling at the string myself, "I don’t know, maybe I’m being metaphysical here. Or talking trash."
"I think I know what your trying to say." We heard a deep powerful yawn. This was followed by a small explosive sound of Kelner smacking his lips. The living surface beneath us moved and Max and I toppled over each other. When it stopped we sat back down again.
Opening his giant eyes Kelner, seeing us smiled. "You two very tiny people funny on my chest. Max still here?" Kelner sent a finger over Maximilian’s back. "Cadet Ted you and Cadet Kelp saved us." Kelp began to sit up. Max and I began to roll down Kelner’s chest. A huge hand caught us. "Sorry."
"Its ok," I said as Max and I walked back up to the upper chest region.
"Max has been watching over me. Want do something special for him." Suddenly picking me up, "We hear because of you and kelp we live. You went into pain for us. Kelner grateful." Kelner placed me up against his cheek, "You special friend. Me respect."
As I was pressed into the warm skin of Kelner’s cheek I responded, "Yeah, sure." He placed me back down on his chest.
Max yawned. "Body you work too much. Me worry for my companion."
"Its ok Kelner."
"No, my tiny buddy. I care." Kelner picked Maximilian up and placed him down on his pillow. "You sleep. Kelner won’t take you off till you do." Pulling on the folds of the pillow case, Kelner covered Maximilian up. "You sleep." Speaking to me, "You doing better?"
"I am. Still need more physical therapy on my legs. Just wish results could come faster."
"Ted they will." Looking off to the side, "Hey, its Cadet Kelp." Kelner very gently picked me up. Placing me in Kelp’s landmass of a hand, "Earthies so very tiny but glad we know them." Kelner laid his head down next to Maximilian’s tiny form.
Once in Kelp’s hand I dragged myself over to Kelp’s thumb. I felt rather melodramatic as I did. I wasn’t trying to call attention to myself. For Kelp made a sigh and told me, "It really hurts me to see you like this."
After I grabbed on to his thumb and propped myself up so I could lean against his thumb, I called up to him, "Kelp its ok. My legs are on the mend."
"I know but still. I wanted to tell you, my family is having an early supper, I wanted to ask, do you feel up to it? I cleared with your doctors. Its up to you."
"Yeah!" Calling over to Kelner and Maximilian, "I’ll see you guys later."
Carefully Kelp put me into the side pocket of his shorts. The warmth felt good to my body and being. As he walked I took a quick nap.
I woke up when his fingers removed me. I was placed on a reclining chair next to Kelp’s plate. His older brother Srta was going to sit next to him, however, Pechu pushed him, "I’m sitting here."
"Ok, have it your way," replied Srta shaking his head with a smirk..
When I saw Kelp’s sister sitting down, I thanked her for the blanket and told her how it meant a lot to me.
There was much loud banging and rattling as the giant family began eating. Kelp’s brothers were curious about my home planet Earth. I told them, "I really don’t remember much. Just what I read in books and computer data that survived the towns catastrophe."
"Did people in your town hate us?" asked Pechu.
"Growing up Pechu I remember people wanting to rebuild. I guess there was those who were mad in losing people they cared about. But everyone knew it was an accident."
The father interjected, "This is a family time. And Ted you are now part of our family. Enough of the past."
I was enjoying this when I started to feel dizzy. Being tiny I had the good luck knowing they really couldn’t see my features unless they really looked.
Kelp’s younger brother Sowee was moving his class and it made a high pitch sound. For a moment it took me back to the capsule. I closed my eyes and put my hands to my ears. When the image in my mind cleared, I opened my eyes. I felt everybody’s stare. "Ted, are you ok?" asked the mother.
Kelp’s sister said, "This is a lot for all at once. But I think you have done well." Everybody nodded their heads. I felt like I wanted to hide under a rock.
"I not very hungry. I should be bringing Ted back," spoke Kelp. "Ah Mom and dad can I speak to you for a second." Kelp got up and left the room with his parents.
"Sorry guys," I said.
"There nothing to be sorry for," replied the sister.
Pechu looked at me with big soulful eyes.
When Kelp came back, he had a small bag with him. "I’ll see you all tomorrow," he told everyone. Kelp picked me up and placed me back in his pocket. I grabbed a fold of the inner pocket lining. My eyes began to fill with water. I wasn’t feeling sorry myself, its just I hated to be infirmed like this. Twice now I had to be in the hospital. And my mind just seemed so rattled. I hoped this rattled feeling wasn’t going to be permanent. Burying my face in the warm material I wept. I didn’t ever want to hear that sound again.
When we reached medical center, Kelp took me out of his pocket. "I’m staying the night with you."
"Kelp I’m ok. I don’t want to take you away from your family."
"I’ll be seeing them tomorrow. Anyways, we’re a team." Kelp set up his floor mat. After he was set, he placed my bed on his pillow.
In the blue light of the rooms night light, Kelp said, "Funny how trials can hit us. Sometimes, their not the ones we thought. Ted, I guess I’m saying its xulty (betheran for: cool) to tell me you feel messed up. I figure we’re close. And I hope you would."
"Yeah, I do. Sometimes I still can hear that sound. And I just want to-to-hide."
"I would want to hide too. And that’s the truth. But I hope you can hide with me."
I started sweating, "Kelp," I said with fear. "I hear that sound."
Kelp moved in closer. "How can I be of help? I’ll talk with you. Cry with you. Whatever you need."
"I don’t know."
"Ted look into my eyes. I know there isn’t much light but try. In my eye see a traveler. You are among many travelers. You have traveled from one planet to another. Traveled between life and death. Now travel with me to where that sound can never touch you. Can you hear anything?"
"Besides that ‘blank’ sound not really.
"I guess I can hear your heart beating."
"As that traveler walk to the beat. Breath to the beat. It’s a beat of one who cares. Its your friend, your comrade in arms."
I slowly faded off to sleep.
In the morning, I was more open to how I was feeling in my mind. They did tests of course and they had me talk to someone. I expressed my fear that I might not be suitable for pilot companion. They assured me, I was still fit for duty only I must be patient.
I must be patient. A patient traveler. A traveler not alone. One who travels with a friend. And what a fellow friend. A giant! I began to see again.
The next two weeks, I continued with my (would it ever end) physical therapy of my legs. Kelp came in everyday. As did many of my Earthie and Betheran pals. Kelner had been released a few days before. Slowly, we were on the mend. In more ways than one.
I was thrilled when the doctors told me I could be released back to the academy! I still would need physical therapy. Only now as an out-patient. Returning to classes there were many congratulations and ribbing. A great piece of news was we now were a fighting force of twenty fully operational fighters. Plus the two new teams still in training.
Sitting at my desk on Kelp’s arm rest Yalor came by giving me a nod.. He stopped and touching my cheek with his finger, my mouth opened and he gave a piece of candy. I don’t know how he does it.
Back at the dorm and was great to be home, Balax and Mike had kind of a welcoming party for me.
That night as we were about to go to sleep, I told Kelp, "Thanks, as always, for being there for me. And the talk about being a traveler. Also making me realize I had to face my fears."
"You’re my friend. It works both ways. Both times in the capsule when you were at the point of death, your main concern and last actions was to make sure I survived." Kelp’s voice became stern, "Don’t you ever in my presence again, suggest the end. The end will be there when it is and not before. You read me?"
"I do sir."
We at the academy were giving another several days visit to Mount Ijum and the mineral pools there. Around the perimeter were special crafts to bring us back in case of another attack. Joining us will be the families of the pilot companions. For the pilots this will be an experience. Being surrounded by many Earthies. And family members around the Betheran giants. Since I had no family to visit me, I would stay with the pilots. Not to be rude, I would meet my friends families though.
Enjoying the mineral pools, I found the pain had been subsiding almost to the point of vanishing. Kelp and I with a few other pilots were enjoying the pool when our friend Cadet Zadth said, "How did he get here?’ Running on fast tiny legs was an Earthie boy. Turning around in the pool, Kelp placed his hand down in front of the boy who ran into it. Gently Kelp closed his hand. With his other hand, Kelp plucked me out of the water and placed me on the edge of the pool. Stepping out, Kelp sat down on the grass and opened his hand. I came over. Kelp placed the boy on the ground.
Kelp asked, "How did you get here?"
The boy replied, "I hid in between the giant towels."
"I wanted to see you pilots.
"You would be seeing pilots at the visitor compound."
"No, I wanted to see you pilots as you are together."
I asked, "What’s your name?"
George. My brother Marc is a new recruit here. And I’m going to be a pilot companion someday."
Kelp responded, "Its not that easy."
"Ok, ok, I believe you."
"I better bring you back," I told George.
"Can’t I stay a while longer?"
"People will be worried about you."
The boy sadly nodded his head. "Kelp do you want me to contact the visitor desk?"
"Kelp!" shouted the boy. "You are Kelp!"
"Yeah, and that’s my pilot companion Ted."
"Kelp and Ted. Wow! I heard about you two. Awesome! This is so awesome!"
Both Kelp and I couldn’t help and crack a smile. "George," said Kelp. "Let your family know where you are. If they say its ok Ted and I will give you a special water ride"
Time was granted George. Seated on top of Kelp‘s head, I tied one of Kelp’s long strands of hair securely around George. I sat behind George as added security. "You ready to ride on the head of a giant?" I asked George.
"I’m ready. This is so awesome. Awesome-awesome!"
"Your enthusiasm is noted little cadet."
"Ready?" asked Kelp.
"George you respond by saying, five by five Commander."
Georges face lit up, "Five by five Commander."
"Ha-ha, very good Pilot Companion George. We are all operational." Kelp pushed off the side of the mineral pool. Fifteen to twenty foot high waves curled on either side of us. They made a loud hissing sound. Kelp submerged just under the water his hair became an alien brown seaweed. The bubbles from his nose bounced over and off of us.
Back on the surface Kelp made a few circles. Kelp even made a few streams of water with his mouth. George was suitable impressed.
Back on land, George thanked us both. His brother’s pilot, Cadet Odale came for George. From Cadet Odale’s hand, George waved goodbye.
Crossing his huge muscular arms Kelp said, "George is one of the reasons we must win this war."
Meetings, A Discovery and The Multiple Attacks.
Later, I went back to the visitor’s camp and meet with more family members of my fellow pilot companions. Cadet Will had a large family. His siblings were fascinated by Cadet Yalor. Not just his colossal size; his quiet manner. The younger children loved Yalor’s tree width columns of hair that shot out in several directions. Yalor placed them on his head so they could play hide-and-seek among these obelisks.
I met cadet Sally’s family. "Cadet Ted we have heard many fine things from our daughter about you," commented the mother
Sally’s sister Nora whispered in Sally’s ear and Sally nudged her sister while turning red. Nora kept whispering. "Stop that.," said Sally. Sally was now a bright red. I tied to cover my smirk by putting my hand to my mouth in a thinking type pose. "Don’t you have food you should be stuffing in your face," spoke Sally.
I was turning to a table when Sally ran up to me and grabbed my arm, "Ted!" she said with a warm smile.
"Don’t worry I’ll leave some food."
"No you idiot---your legs. You have been standing and walking around for well over an hour." Sally placed her arms around me. "I’m so happy for you!"
I didn’t know which was more exciting, my walking or her arms around me. Both were great!
Moving away and becoming more mannered, "Very good Cadet Ted," she told with a wink.
My excitement was only short lived. Warning lights began to flash. The pilots picked up their companions. Kelp rushed in and took me up in his huge hand. The waiting hover crafts took us to launch ready.
In the Briefing and Ready Room, Chief of Cadet Training Florx informed us, "Eight targets are approaching Bethera. Four to city of Elna on the far side. And four have a flight plan that is predicted to be this base. We are sending twelve fighters into engagement. Information is being relayed to your onboard systems. Pilots report to your fighters and good luck."
The pilots stood before the entrance to the command centers of their fighters. And we the pilot companions in their hands. It was as always a thrilling sight. Once our technician gave the go, we entered. Placed in my capsule, I began all safety and systems check. All fighters since the last engagement, have been equipped with a special energy booster to support the shield against the enemies high frequency attacks.
Strapped in and preparing for insertion, I ran a scan on the approaching targets. The principle target was of a larger size and configuration. I began simulations on its ability to inflict damage both to craft and civilian dwellings. I suspect they want to knock out this insulation.
"Pilot Companion report on ready status."
"Five by five commander."
"Companion run simulations on primary target."
"Simulations are in process and will momentarily appear on tactical screens."
With all green, I was inserted into Commander Kelp’s capsule receptacle. Commander all bio-feed are green."
"Five by five companion."
My body shook as our robotic fighter began its journey to the launch direct bay. On my screen I saw the twelve fighters each with its own unique colors. Fighter sixteen: Commander Florn and Pilot Companion Sally’s craft was orange and red.
"Pilot Companion we are clear to go."
"Five by five."
Simultaneously, the twelve fabulous fighters lifted off.
As we left the gravitational pull, I continued my study of the primary target. It gave out a larger power ratio than three that were trailing behind it.. "Commander Kelp I recommend ground control dispatch three additional fighters to protect the city and base."
On my screens fighter sixteen took the lead as it veered off to the far side of Bethera. With our fighter team of four was our roommates; Commander Balax and Pilot Companion Mike.
The principle target loomed menacingly on my screens. Its eight tentacles were enhanced.
"Companion ground control has dispatched three addition fighters."
"Five by five commander."
My warning lights blinked red. "In coming commander."
As predicted the targets launched a salvo of their high frequency weapons. Now we would see how will these new enforced screens worked. I watched with sweat beading on my forehead as the signal came closer and closer. There was a slight rumbling sound. Nothing. The shields had held.
"Companion I read an increase in pulse and emotional flux. Report."
"Momentary surge of adrenaline Commander Kelp. I am green for mission."
"Five by five companion."
Commander Kelp had to make this check. Too many lives are in the balance including the rest of the flight team. And I would not have entered command center if I felt in a weaken emotional state. However, fear had for a second passed over me, as I saw that high frequency signal coming closer. My fear is gone. All that matters is the mission and the success of my pilot. And yes---his life.
The four targets came in attack formation. I increased power to the robotic arms and shields. I scanned the larger target finding a vulnerable spot beneath the lower right tentacle. Commander Kelp and I would make our strike. Fighter Six would engage the prime target’s tentacles in order give us a clear shot at the vulnerable spot. The remaining two fighters would have to distract the three secondary targets.
Increasing full forward thrust, we rammed the target using our laser blades. A violent shock shook our ship. It was a thick mass. More denser than the previous targets encountered. We got hit severely by number two tentacle. The shields remained at maximum output.
Fighter Six was slammed around. It had to withdraw. Central command suggested we follow primary target into atmosphere where it will greatly have to reduce speed. The remaining targets would be dispatched by the three fighters remaining in planetary orbit.
Three fighters that were requested had been launched; two would meet us in the atmosphere and Fighter Nineteen standing guard before the academy.
Upon entering atmosphere. The target decreased speed. Based on my simulations its bulkier weight could be used as an advantage. Its path was for the city. The two additional fighters grabbed hold on either side to a primary tentacle. Commander Kelp drove the craft into the wound we had inflicted in orbit. Our second attempt was more successful. A stream of fluid poured out.
Thinking success was in grasp of our robotic hands, the creature sprayed two streams of plasma energy. And propelled itself downward. We followed close behind.
The target came crashing down just outside of the city. Its long and substantial tentacles smashed several buildings beneath their weight. Those dwellings had been evacuated. There were still, however, civilians fleeing for their lives.
Painfully propping itself up on a series of octagonal shaped muscles, the target began to move. It flung a tentacle toward a crowd of civilians. Commander Kelp came down over them and blocked the lethal appendage with the colossal robotic hand. Restraining the tentacles, the two addition fighters gave Commander Kelp time to pick up the civilians and move them to safety.
The target flung off the fighters causing them to crash into several buildings. "Commander Kelp I would like to implement fighting procedure In-tune. Simulations give eighty two percent probability of success."
"Five by five companion. Implement."
The fighter would be connected to the nervous system and brain patterns of Commander Kelp. And I would be connected to Commander Kelps bio-feed systems. The fighter would become a form of a living entity. Our plan was relayed and cleared by ground control.
I began In-tune synchronization. Our two companion fighters were informed.
Synchronization complete, our fighter was now Commander Kelp. The target waved its tentacles in the air in a display of strength. A purple pool of fluid had formed beneath the area of the target’s wound.
We began our assault. Over my monitor headset I could hear Commander kelp’s roar of contest. We began to make our charge. The two additional fighters returned to their, damaged, yet, still functioning robotic legs. They were to keep our path as clear as possible.
Realizing it was in a death match, the target gave out a deafening crazed growl. Commander Kelp picked up pace. Just before coming in contact with the target’s flesh, he activated the ships forward thrusters. I began the robotic finger tip laser cutters. We vanished into the bulk of the creature. Commander kelp kept roaring as we cut our way through the target.
Over my headset, I heard the amazed conversation of the fighter pilots as Commander Kelp broke through the other side of the creature. The target gave one last agonizing shout of defeat and toppled forward.
Standing with fragments of the creature oozing off the fighter, Commander Kelp and I couldn’t help and wonder why the brutality. What were these creatures so insistent over to face death. However, we had won another battle.
Commander Kelp stayed to help with removal of the creature.
Returning to our launch bay, we waited inside our craft till the return of our team who was still in orbit fighting the three secondary targets.
Upon their successful return we left our fighter. The three secondary targets had been destroyed.
We learned of fighter sixteen’s team success on the far side Bethera.
There were no causalities among the pilots. The only casualties were our craft and the two additional fighters that would need repair.
From this fight and our recommendations, on each future missions, two fighters would remain on standby in launching direct bay and one fighter out standing as ready sentry outside the academy building.
During Cadet Recreation Pilots and pilot companions greeted each other and congratulated one another. And the best part---we all made it back!
Handshakes and The Human Element
As we were celebrating, a pilot named Ranut came over and told me, "Glad to see you came back in one piece Cadet Ted. I was expecting to hear that you got killed this time."
Kelp who was sitting at the table and across from me, looked up. His eyes opened wide. I knew what was passing Kelp’s mind. I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, "He was just joking."
Kelp stood up and spun around grabbing Ranut by his vest collar. Shoving him till Ranut was against the wall, "What kind of tratult (a very strong betheran swear word) was that? Do you know what Ted went through? Do you?" Kelp shook him. Answer me, "Do you?"
Ranut’s pilot companion who was in his vest pocket stuck his head out and squeaked, "Cadet Kelp enough!"
Cadet Balax came and grabbed Kelp’s arm, "Let him go. It was just a stupid joke."
"Stupid? I nearly lost my companion and friend. Its no joke to me."
Everyone had gathered around. Cadet Yalor came up and with out saying a word gave Kelp’s left should a chop with the side of his hand which caused Kelp to let go.
"I’m sorry," said Cadet Ranut. "I wasn’t making fun of Cadet Ted’s injuries." Ranut came back over to the table. "Ted I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean the way it came out"
"Its cool." (earthjie phrase meaning: ok-no problem)
Cadet Florn came and placed a gentle hand on Kelp’s shoulder. In a gentle voice she told Kelp, "Your heated up after the mission. You’re tired."
Things slowly went back to normal. Walking past a giant butter container, I saw Cadet Sally coming my way. She lifted her hands up and began to clap. "Very good pilot Companion Ted."
I clapped my hands back, "Very good Pilot Companion Sally."
Sally chuckled, "I still see your making with the bright conversation. Seriously Cadet, that was great."
"I heard your mission was successful also. I kept your flight plan always on my secondary monitors," I replied shyly.
Sally came closer and gave me a kiss on the cheek, "Thanks." Looking up at Kelp and back at me, "Kelp really cares. You’re a fortunate guy."
Kelner and Maximilian were there. Kelner had black and blue marks still over his face and had a slight limp. "Me and Max wish we fought with you. Me sad wasn’t there. Next time will."
"Glad to see you up and around," I shouted up.
"My tiny buddy with me all time." Kelner stopped talking. He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out Maximilian and brought him down before me. The two colossal fingers that Maximilian was between separated and released him.
"Hey, I see your walking," commented Max. "I heard you ran into one pretty tough hombre."
Looking off toward the far end of the table, Maximilian squinted his eyes. Turning back and bending his head, "I see that pudding cake you love Kelner! I want you to help yourself to a big piece. You earned it after all your hard work in the rehabilitation ward."
Kelner’s gigantic face turned red. His head jerked around for a moment. "Thanks Max. I-I don’t know."
"Why not? You deserve!"
"Ok Max." Kelner thundered off.
Maximilian told me, "Next time, I hope to be flying by your side in battle,"
"I hope we don’t need to for a while," I replied soberly.
Thundering back over shaking the table with his steps which caused a few companions to fall down, Kelner told Maximilian, "I have the desert."
"I want you to have some before I do." Kelner placed his plate down before us. I had to use my arms to steady me from the shock wave the desert plate made as it was placed on the table.
Maximilian crawled up onto the plate. And taking a plastic spoon out of his vest pocket, digging into the pudding cake that rose above him by several feet, took a mouthful. Kelner looked down at me, "You want a piece Ted?"
"No, I’m all set."
Kelner proceeded with great joy on his face to eat.
Yalor passed by and stopped. He stared down at me with his very gentle smile. From way, way above I heard, "I hi Ted, nice time." Bending both my back and head, I saw Will standing next to and holding on to one of Yalor’s obelisk size hair columns waving down at me. Yalor then moved on.
Later, back in our dorm we all got ready for bed. Kelp came after washing up sat down on the side of his bed. He looked deep in thought. Traversing over the sand dune size folds of bedding, I came up to the side of my mountain size friend. I hollered up, "What’s wrong?" I didn’t know if he didn’t hear me or was lost in thought I received no response.
Climbing up the side of his blue boxers, I tried pulling on the top of the waistband. I couldn’t budge it. Pinching his side, I hope to get a response. Kelp turned and looked down at me. He plucked me off his side. "What are you doing you nut?"
"Maybe, I’m being nosey but you seem so far away. Anything I can do?"
"No, its just me. Guess kind of still irritated about what Cadet Ranut said."
"Oh Kelp, you have to let it go. It was a stupid remark but that’s all."
Kelp sighed, "After the second time you got hurt. I…"
He shook his head. "Its nothing."
"Can’t be nothing if its bothering you."
Giving out another sign, Kelp laid back on his bed. Placing me on his chest, "After that second time, I had a dream. A dream where I saw you dead."
"I’m no mental health specialist, but I think its pretty normal after a stressful time to have nightmares. I have had scary dreams involving you. Maybe its these things that help keep us alert. While I’m trying to protect the plant. I’m also trying to protect you. Maybe you more."
Kelp did touch upon a subject that is a very real presence in our lives especially when we go into battle. Isn’t it all about preserving life?
That night I crawled up under Kelp’s chin and slept in that depression under the Adams Apple. And thanked the God of creation for another day with my pal and brother.
Several days later Kelp and I wanted to see how our patient was doing. The patient being our fighter. We went to main maintenance. On its back with four other fighters was fighter three. Its shiny white and blue surface had been pretty messed up. Around our fighter was access scaffolding. The front quarter panel was removed. The right arm was being replaced. It was very assuring to see our fighter that you can’t help come to feel as your pal being mended.
Looking down the rows of fighters being repaired, I saw the bright colors of fighter sixteen. I couldn’t help and wonder if Cadets Florn and Sally were here.
When we returned to the academy proper, we were told an unscheduled guest had arrived for Kelp and I. "Pechu? What are you doing here. This isn’t a visiting period. And who brought you.?" asked Kelp.
"I came on my own," replied Pechu.
From Kelp’s vest pocket, "Do your parents know?"
"They think I’m at school."
"Pechu that’s not good," said Kelp pointedly.
I asked, "Is there a problem at home or school?"
Fidgeting for a moment, "I wanted to see you both. And you Cadet Ted. Last time I saw you, you were ill."
"Thanks, but I’m better now."
"I like rendat (betheran for hanging out) with you."
Kelp replied, "You have friends."
"Somehow, I don’t feel the team as I do with you two. And there’s something else…"
"What?" I questioned.
"I don’t know." Pechu scratched his head nervously. "When you left dinner early because you weren’t feeling well, later I had this feeling I wanted to send you energy to heal you. Its hard to explain."
"You don’t have too. And I’m sure your positive feelings helped me."
Kelp gently placed both hands on his younger cousins shoulders. "I always love to see you. As does Ted. But this is wrong. Traveling by yourself. Missing class. This worries me. And its not the way of a cadet."
"I know cousin Kelp."
Kelp took Pechu down to the cadet cafeteria for a late breakfast. Pechu’s face was beaming being around several pilots and pilot companions who were there. Pechu asked if he could take a couple of napkins that had the academy insignia on it home. Kelp let him take a few.
We were given permission to take Pechu back to his school. After we entered the metropolis tube that would take us to Pechu’s sector, he asked if he could carry me. "Sure you can buddy," I told him. Kelp placed me in Pechu’s palm.
During one stop, a group of teens from a minor adult education facility came and sat across from us. Seeing Kelp’s uniform, they whispered to each other. "A Betheran Warriors."
Another whispered, "In that kid’s hand is an Earthie."
As the rays of the sun poured through the large Plexiglas windows, the light reflected off of Kelp’s capsule receptacle shielding.
"Look you can see the plating at the top of his head."
Another teen replied, "I wonder if it hurts?"
"What are you doing?" questioned a teen as his friend stood up and went across the aisle to Pechu and me.
The teen with blond and brown hair bent over and asked, "I see you wear a cadet uniform. So you’re a pilot companion."
"Yes," I replied to the inquisitive teen.
"Have you seen any action?"
"Yes, my friend Cadet Kelp and I have been out on four missions."
The teen looked at Kelp and back at me. I extended my hand, "I’m Ted. Pilot Companion To Commander Kelp."
The teen made a very slight smile as he grasp my hand with two finger tips. "I’m Colud and these are my buddies.. I never saw an Earthie before. I have seen pictures. And we have classes about you Earthies."
Turning to Kelp. "It’s a really great honor to meet one of the first Betheran Warriors."
"Thanks," replied Kelp.
Colud’s buddies got up and soon we had a real conversation going.
One of Colud’s buddies asked me, "Aren’t you afraid you might get stepped on or something?"
"There’s a table for us Pilot Companion’s to use when we all get together."
Kelp added, "Funny you brought it up. First time I met Cadet Ted, he almost got stepped on. Ted and another Earthie snuck into Cadet Recreation Room before we all met each other. There they were dodging all the giant shoes just trying to survive."
Colud asked me, "Were you scared Cadet Ted."
"Where do you sleep?" asked one of Colud’s pals.
"Cadet Kelp places me in his sock."
"Yeah, now if Cadet Kelp is in a good mood, he places me in a clean one." The teen gave me a funny look. "Just kidding. I have a bed. Everything is arranged to meet our size."
When the tube stopped and it was their destination, the teens said good bye and wished us successful battles.
Continuing our trip, I felt very at peace in Pechu’s hand. It reminded me of Yalor. And the quelling affect he has.
"Pechu," I said. "You mentioned being part of a team. Don’t underestimate being part of a team with your friends. Right now their your fighting buddies---in a different sense." He nodded his head.
When Pechu’s stop came we left the train with him. At Pechu’s educational facility. Students gave Kelp and Pechu the wide eyes. Several of Pechu’s friends we past in the hallway, exclaimed, "Your with a Betheran Warrior! And holding an Earthie Pilot Companion!" Pechu began to walk with a qestran ( betheran word for: cocky strut).
Pechu began to lose the strut as we entered the principal’s office. Cadet Kelp and I explained a little to the principal. We both feel it won’t go to hard on Pechu. He’s a good kid with a very good school record.
Pechu was a little hesitant for a moment to give me back to Kelp. While I love my adoptive cousin, it was great to be back in Kelp’s vest pocket.
Before taking the tube back to the academy, Kelp and I went to a nearby lookout, where we could get a grand view of the city. Sitting on the ground, Kelp took me out of his vest pocket and placed me on his knee. In the distance, we could make out the destruction that occurred in the last battle. Kelp leaned back on the warm green grass and put his hands beneath his head. I turned around so I could talk to him. "Nice to have a little quiet time, " said Kelp. "Sometimes, its hard to believe we were up there in the sky fighting an intruder."
"Yeah, I know," I replied taking in the fresh air.
"Kelp I have a question?"
"Does your race have people who are healers?"
"Yeah, you little runt. Their called doctors."
"Very funny. No, I mean people who seem to have the ability just with their being to give peace."
"I really don’t know. Why?"
"Come on Ted."
"Just struck me Pechu has kind of a calming ability that Yalor has."
"I haven’t noticed."
"Hmm, I wonder if it only affects Earthies."
In a semi-sleepy state, "Ted what are you rambling on about?"
"Nothing just wondering."
"Yeah (yawn) for a runt you wonder over huge things."
"Runt!" I shouted trying to sound as if I was mad.
"Hehe," Kelp chuckled. His huge hand came and created a shadow over me. Picking me up by my vest collar, he brought me above his face. "Little runt."
"Kelp, glad you learned a new word today. Can you learn anymore? No, one is all you can handle."
"Funny little creature."
"Don’t know what an ape is?"
"Its too much for you to understand today Kelp. Just concentrate on your new word runt."
"Little runt." Kelp gently shook me so I moved back and forth. "You make a funny tiny toy."
"You make a funny giant idiot."
Still swinging me back and forth, "Whose being held by whose giant fingers?"
I couldn’t think of a response; putting my hands over my mouth as if I was going to barf,. I also made the movements with my neck.
"Whoa," said Kelp placing me quickly down on his chest. "You ok?"
I just remained hunched over with one hand over my mouth and making a hand movement with the other as if I was angry. "Sorry Ted. You sure you’re ok?"
I turned around and straightened up shouting, "I got you! Ha-ha!"
We Once Were Children. And Out of The Mouths of Babes.
"Yeah, you got me good," replied Kelp Picking me up, "Guess we better be getting back." Kelp deposited me into his vest pocket. I stood up and hung my hands over the lip. I chuckled. As Kelp headed for the tube station, "What so funny my tiny runt."
"I was thinking how I gotcha good.."
"Can’t deny it. I was fooled by a person less than a oculi in size. (in betheran terms: less than three inches)
I put my hand to my chin, "I sounded like a kid." I shook my head. I guess growing up in reconstruction and with no family, part of me never could just be a kid.
The Betherans removed the deadly radiation after the catastrophe. Many parents died years later leaving orphans. There might be a few even as young as Pechu‘s age. This lead me back to the thought and feelings I had of being in his hand. There was a calming affect. "Was there really?" I thought to myself. "Or was I feeling his need to show his concern for me? Or is there a void in me still?" Whatever the case, it gave me pause for thought.
"Let me repeat your suggestion, You would like to invite Kelp’s younger cousin Pechu to Bale to meet younger Earthies?" said Chief of Cadet Training Florx.
"Really have him meet younger orphans. Its hard to explain its just a hunch."
"Maybe Pechu has a skill still dormant. A skill of healing. And his basic good nature may give a sense of security to the orphans who while loved, never had that special touch of a parent." Hearing me speak, I told Chief Florx, "Sorry sir crazy idea."
Chief of Cadet Training Florx leaned back in his chair. "Cadet Ted. It has always been a sad part of our history what happened to your people that night on Earth. Your people are flourishing and creating a wonderful city. Still, there is residual suffering. And anything we can do to help I think is warranted." Leaning forward, "Cadet do you believe things happen for a purpose."
"I never really thought about it sir."
"If our probe hadn’t crash landed. Your people never would have been brought here. And possibly Betheran culture could have found itself being wiped out of existence. There’s another tale. A tale of Betheran’s given the special grace of touch from the creator." leaning back in his chair Chief Florx commented, "Maybe we are both crazy. I will present your request to the council. Cadet Ted."
"Did you talk this over with Cadet Kelp first?"
"I did. He didn’t really understand it. His trust of me was enough."
"I see. Dismiss Cadet."
I saluted, "Thank you sir."
The suggestion was approved. "Thank you for approving it Kelp."
"I don’t understand it. Your judgment I do trust.."
"I appreciate that. And are grateful."
Pechu was very excited about entering the Earthie city of Bale. Coming with him would be Kelp and I. It would be monitored both by Bethertan and Earthie Officials. "Are you sure you don’t have to go again?" asked Kelp.
"No cousin Kelp, I mean Cadet Kelp," replied Pechu.
Kelp told Pechu to try and not giggle when all the Earthies approach him.
A portion of the dome was opened and in we went!
Pechu looked around with wide intelligent eyes. I heard the sounds of my people. Coming near his feet were city officials. "Welcome young Pechu to our city," spoke the major over a loud speaker. "And welcome back brave warriors Cadet Kelp and Cadet Ted. Since your last visit we have changed the name of the park to Betheran Friendship Park." The major kept speaking.
Kelp whispering down to me as I stood in his vest pocket, "Will this guy ever shut up?"
Finally the major did stop speaking. At the park, Pechu sat down at a designated area. Coming out of a yellow bus was a group of twenty orphans. That swarmed around Pechu’s sandaled feet.
Kelp spotting a group of teenage girls on a roof top slowly went over. Sitting down and leaning up against the building, "Good afternoon ladies."
"We never met a hero before. A giant hero."
A girl with green and silver hair told Kelp, "Your very strong looking. And those muscles."
"Would you like to see them in action?"
The girls giggled. "Ok." Putting his hand down, several girls climbed up on. Kelp slowly moved his hand over his forearm. The girls jumped onto the muscle. Carefully Kelp flexed his arm. "Wee!" Screamed the girls in delight as they went up and down on the muscle.
After Kelp was done impressing the ladies, I asked him to put me down. Removing me from his pocket and once on the ground, I wanted to see how Pechu was making out.
There was a group of children sitting on his legs, on his lap. "I really think you are all great," said Pechu. "I mean you really trust me." One child who because of the radiation was born without a leg stood back. "Why don’t you come closer."
The child shook her head. Pechu leaned slowly over and placed his hand down before her. "It might be easier if you put down the crutches."
"I will fall," replied the little girl.
"Not if you take hold of my finger. If you do we are carrying each other?"
I was rather confused by that statement.. And also fascinated by Pechu’s almost adult depth responses.
The little girl questioned, "You are so much bigger than I. How?"
"Because as you grip it your life and mine are together."
The little girl dropped her crutches and fell forward grabbing hold to Pechu’s finger. Pechu lifted his finger. "I’m flying!" exclaimed the little girl.
"Pull on my finger."
"I am Pechu!"
With a big smile, Pechu responded, "You see. We are both carrying each other." Pechu brought her close to his face and whispered something to her. I wish I could have heard what it was.
A boy sitting on Pechu’s big toe shouted, "I’m scared of the night."
Pechu replied, "I use to be afraid of the dark My parents placed a small light to help me sleep. Sometimes, I still cried and my mother or both my parents would come in and sit with me which made me feel better since they were there.
"I don’t have parents," replied the boy who sat on Pechu’s big toe.
Reaching over, Pechu placed his open hand before the boy. Bashfully, the boy slip off the big toe onto the waiting hand. On hands and knees the boy marveled at the size of Pechu’s hand. Bringing his hand close to his face, Pechu asked, "Your laughing. I guess I look pretty funny to you." Pechu made a goofy face. All the children laughed.
"No," replied the boy. "Its you’re my age and you are so big."
"Your not scared?"
"Maybe, when at night you’re afraid of the dark you can think of me. Think of being in my hand. Since we have met we have entered each others heart. I know its not the same. Still, it happened, you were in my hand. A hand that would protect you."
As I was listening, it brought back memories when I was a kid and afraid of the dark. So much so I would wet my bed because I was too afraid to leave and venture out into the dark. I remember thinking after I heard about the Betheran Giants, I would wish and hope one could come and protect me. I turned and when I did---I saw Kelp. He was still putting the charm on with the ladies. He said something to them and came over.
The children gave out an astounding "Whoa," as they strained their tiny necks back gazing up at the much bigger giant. "Pechu I heard what you said to your you friend. (kelp gave the boy that was in his cousin’s hand a gentle tap on top of his head with his finger) "I would like to add, don’t let your size keep you from comforting others. My pilot companion Cadet Ted (kelp reached over and picked me up by my collar) here has helped me." The children looked at each other and murmured in conversation for a moment. "Yeah, to me Ted is less than an oculie ( betheran for: three inches) but this silly little guy and my closest friend has saved my life several times in battle."
I interjected, "What my big ape of a friend is saying (the children laughed) be giants to giants and to each other. And we have proved it isn’t just wish full thinking." Kelp nodded his head. Kelp placed me back down and went back over to his Earthie fan club.
I was still in awe over what Pechu was saying. Was it true? In what Chief of Cadet Training Florx had told me? Certain individuals are given the special touch from the creator to pass on peace to others?
Pechu slowly sat sideways on the ground and let his new Earthie friends play around him. Many kids tried to tickle Pechu’s toes. Toes as big as they were! There was a group picture taken. I laughed because several kids sat on top of Pechu’s head while the picture was taken.
The little girl who had the crutches slowly inched her way to the edge of Pechu’s index finger. "Pechu, lift me up again " Lifting the girl up,. "Weeee!!! I’m a giant just like Pecku!"
I went back over to Kelp. Standing next to his enormous feet I looked up. I heard one teenage girl tell Kelp, "I thought that was so sweet what you said."
Another, "He’s so wonderful.."
A couple of girls asked if they could ride on his upper-arm muscle again. He replied, "Why sure." I crawled up onto his shoe and the upper part of the tongue to the shoe and leaned up against Kelp’s green soft sock.
When time came for us to leave the children were very sad. Pechu took them all up in both hands and moved his face in gently against them. They all hugged his face. The boy who was afraid of the dark began to cry. "Take me with you. I want you to be (sob) my (sob) big brother."
"Maybe they will let me visit you all again. Or you can come to my dwelling."
The boy latched onto a giant finger, "I don’t want (sob) to feel alone any more. I love you."
Some of the other children grabbed hold on to Pechu’s fingers and began to cry. "It ok. It really is. Just remember what I told you. Nothing can change that." Tears began to form in Pechu’s eyes. Heck, in mine too. A few gallons of tears from Pechu’s eyes bounced off several of the children’s head.
A few of the older children came up and taking the smaller ones told them, "Its cool. We’ll try and be big brothers and sisters for ya."
Slowly the children dispersed. After they climbed into the vans they waved their hands out of the windows. Wiping his nose Pechu stood up.
Seeing Pechu coming over, Kelp told the girls he had to go now. A few asked if they could cut a few pieces of his hair off. He told them, "Go ahead ladies."
I ran down Kelp’s shoe and after I climbed down, I crawled up Pechu’s sandal. Feeling me climbing over his toes which to me were like climbing over the backs of baby humpback whales, Pechu picked me up. "I’m very proud of you Pechu," I shouted to him. And I was!
It was, as Kelp agreed, a very moving experience. Minus his showing off to the ladies. Pechu was sad upon leaving the Earthie city. No doubt he made many friends.
His parents came to pick Pechu up. I had a chance to meet them. They seemed like nice people. Before leaving, Pechu with one arm hugged Kelp. Standing in his other hand, Pechu shyly moved his cheek up against me.
As their transportation disc hovered away, I became curious. I wondered how this meeting with the Earthie children will affect Pechu down the road. Maybe there will be more contact between Earhies and Betherans. And Pechu will play a special part.
Repair work on our fighters were almost complete. As Kelp and I were reviewing the progress, Cadets Florn and Sally appeared making their own assessments of the work. Kelp placed me on a giant repair console and Cadet Florn placed Sally down also. "Repair work has come along nicely," commented Sally." I was rather transfixed for a moment on her face. I never realized Sally had such beautiful features. "I said repair work has come along nicely." She made a fist and gently tapped on my forehead, "Hello, anyone in command center?"
Lost for words, "Oh yeah."
"Oh yeah, oh yeah," repeated Sally shaking her head. "I’m glad we have such technical minded people like you flying our fighters." She moved in closer. "I heard about Bale and Kelp’s cousin."
"It was something. Pechu is a beautiful boy. I wonder where we humans and Betherans are headed. She nodded her head. We returned to looking out at the colossal fighters. I couldn’t help and look down at her hand. Her small beautiful hand. Not really thinking, I moved my hand up against hers.
Cadet Sally did I ever tell you…ah…"
"Tell me what?"
"Sixteen is my favorite number."
Biting her lower lip, Sally began to tell me, "I think your awkwardness is really…" The loud rumbling of an approaching giant technician drowned out her words. His giant hand came down between us. We both quickly backed away from the bulky mass.
"Sorry cadets. I hope I didn’t scare you?" The young giant became nervous. "I don’t mean you would be scared having flown on missions. Being tiny little things. No not things. I didn’t see you." He gave out a nervous laugh.
"Its ok…??? " I asked gesturing with my hand trying to signal him to tell me his name.
"Oh, I’m Fighter Technician Zeldt. I never have been this close before to Earthies. I have been curious about you all." He turned red. "I didn’t mean your curiosities."
Sally hollered up, "Don’t be nervous. It was strange for us when we first met you giants. I‘m Cadet Sally. Pilot Companion to Cadet Florn pilot of Fighter Sixteen."
"Hi Zeldt. I’m Pilot Companion Ted to Cadet Kelp pilot of Fighter Three."
Zeldt nodded his head. "I’m glad to meet you. And I heard about you Cadet Ted. And your pilot Cadet Kelp." I gave Sally a smirk.
Sally put her hands on her hips, "Men."
"Your fighters are almost ready for full operation," said Zeldt to both of us.
"Great," I responded.
Kelp and Florn came back. Sally and I gave each other a quiet smile. Kelp and Florn introduced themselves to the new flight technician.
Back in Kelp’s vest pocket, Kelp asked me, "Have a nice talk with Cadet Sally?"
"Yeah, it wasn’t bad."
As we were walking down the academy corridor going back to our dorm room, we ran into Cadets Yalor and Will. Cadet Will did most of the talking.
Cadet Yalor pointed at me, "You seem healthier." He next gentle touched above my right cheek where my mouth opened up and he dropped in that candy of his.
After they left, Kelp commented, "You looked like a bird being fed a worm."
The Requiem Signal
A quiet anticipation that is slowly building to celebration is spreading among the cadets.. Our graduation! True, many of us have graduated in true battle, still, there’s something about the upcoming ceremony that puts a special cap on it.
Our new recruits have settled in nicely with the rest of the cadet body. Three more teams have recently arrived. I do feel for them when I think of the implantation surgery awaiting them.
Our fighters have been fully repaired. And six more were under construction.
Kelp and I received communication from Bale. Surprisingly, it wasn’t from the orphanage. It was from the young boy George who had snuck in-between those towels when we were at that country spa. He told us he defiantly wants to be a pilot companion. While I admire his spunk, I hope when the time comes he is of age the threat will be over.
The academy decided the pilot companions should engage in a recreational joint team exercise. The exercise would be an old fashion Earthie balloon race! I had never seen or heard of one till now. The older members of Bale had discovered it in their town records.
We were teamed up with other companions. And to my surprise and joy my partner was---Cadet Sally. We were instructed in how to operate the hot air balloon. I was, though Sally was a little disappointed, the colors of our balloon was that of Kelp’s my fighter.
It was impressive if not a lovely sight. Ten colorful balloons moored out in the athletic field. And towering next to them our giant pilots.
I overheard Kelner telling Maximilian, "Be careful Max. And me be right under your balloon all the time." He lifted up a gigantic butterfly net. "If fall, will try and catch you."
"Don’t worry my friend. I will be careful," replied Maximilian who patted his friend’s thumb.
Climbing into our wicker basket, we stoked the fire. From many stories high, Cadets Florn and Kelp gave us the thumbs up. Sally moved closer to me as I adjusted the ascent and descent cords. "How high are you going to take me?" she asked.
"As high as you want."
"Cadet," replied Sally looking warmly at me. She went over to the side holding the mooring line.
We waited for the signal. A loud whistle type sound blasted. And off we went! We rose up past the colossal expanse of Cadets Florn and Kelp. As we rose higher, Florn and Kelp waved.
As we were rising another sound blasted. This was no whistle. It was the alarm system. "Oh you got to be kidding," said Sally.
On the ground were special discs that sent a signal to a piece of metal attached to our cruising basket that acted as a magnet. We were brought back down.
Swiftly we headed for the briefing and ready room. Eighteen targets were fast approaching Bethera. All twenty fighters would be called into action.
Once in our suites we were rushed to our fighters. Settling into his seat in the command center our flight technician connected me up. Reading green on my monitors I was inserted into capsule receptacle.
"Report on stasis."
"I have green on all systems commander."
"Five by five companion."
All the fabulous fighters were transported to launch direct bay.
"Companion we are clear to go."
"Five by five Commander."
With a mighty roar and with a technological majesty, the twenty fighters sped through the Betheran sky.
"Commander Kelp plotting our course and bringing up on main tactical.."
"Five by five."
"I track five heavily armed targets as encountered on our previous mission. Running simulations for engagement."
"I confirm that companion."
Ahead of us were the eighteen targets. Joining our team was fighter fourteen. Commander Kelner and Pilot Companion Maximilian’s craft.
"BANG!" The fighting became. Tremendous tentacles became to swing at the ship’s hull. I increased the screens. Over my communication headset I could hear the conversations of the other pilots.
"Commander Kelp. Simulations show the five prime targets are gathering for a joint attack. They must be planning an all out assault on the launch complex.
"Five by five.
All the fighters moved into gather to create a wall. Linking our shields together and our laser cutters we hope to create a lethal barrier. Ground control began excavating orders for the city and civilians to shelters. Ground support was called in. This is going to be bloody.
Creating a lethal field half the size of the planet, the assault began. At first success was achieved with the secondary targets. It was the five primary ones I was concerned with.
The fighter shook and rattled under the heavy strain. The primary targets released an increased frequency weapon. On my monitor Fighter Fourteen was losing power in its quarter quadrant. I relayed the fault to all fighter. We would compensate for the fighter.
The signals were increasing from all fighters, when Fighter Fourteen broke in two. A primary target had narrowed in on its fault. For a moment emotions rose. I quelled them. I had the city below to think of. Still, tears filled my eyes. I released the Requiem Signal. It was a signal that would indicate to all crews a fighter had fallen.
The primary target was entering the atmosphere. Six fighters based on trajectory positioning joined us in the pursuit. This included Fighter Sixteen. The other four primary targets were in combat with the remaining thirteen fighters. As we homed in on the target, I wished this was all some terrible dream. One I could wake from.
Anger was swelling up inside of me as the image of Fighter Fourteen breaking up kept appearing in my mind. All I wanted to do was tear that creature limb from limb.
"Companion! I see a high level of emotional waves. Snap out of it. We have a mission to complete mister."
"Five by five commander."
At first I wondered how Commander Kelp could be so detached. I had though, the answer---survival of the citizens below.
Over the city, the creature began to send showers of energy down on the center. Commander Kelp and I, with Fighter Sixteen flew in front of the creature to stop the volleys. We used our energy screens. The four remaining fighters latched on to the creature pulling it back.
Once the bombardment ended, we and Fighter Fourteen pushed the creature to a deserted area. Like a pack of wild dogs we descended down upon it.
After life monitors confirmed the creature was dead, we returned to space to rejoin in the fighting.
Out of eighteen targets only four escaped. Two fighters collected the remains of Fighter Fourteen to bring them home.
The remains of Commander Kelner and Pilot Companion Maximilian were in tact.
The return home was bitter sweet. All of us stood in attention as the two pieces of fighter fourteen were brought to the repair hanger.
Four days later was the funeral. Family and relatives of Cadets Kelner and Maximilian were present. Before the ceremony this was a period in which to view the remains. Pilot Companion Maximilian was placed in the casket with Commander Kelner. They were a team. And they would be buried as one.
During the ceremony, Chief of Cadet Training Florx told us that now we have fellow soldiers watching over us. I hope this is so.
Following the funeral there was a reception to express our condolences to the families.
After, Kelp went to the athletic field to think. In his vest pocket, I smiled when I remembered how Cadet Kelner looked to his tiny partner for guidance. And was so concerned for him.
Kelp said, "Even though Max was the one in control. He never misused Kelner’s trust. He sincerely looked out for his giant buddy."
"Yeah, and it was really something this big guy so immersed in the individual not the size. Sure, Kelner was aware and wanted to protect his smaller pal. But it was out of a genuine friendship."
We missed them so very much.
Feelings, Jesting and Visitors
The whole academy was still feeling the affects of Cadets Kelner and Maximilian’s going on. Kelp and I would have been sadden by any cadets death. With Kelner and Max it was just that more deeper and painful. We had been getting to known them. And the fact they were such gentle souls seemed so unjust. Why must goodness like that be blown away in seconds? Kelp and I will try in our own lives keep their memories alive and who they were.
It had been a while since Kelp and I did a steaming together. And I looked forward to be able to be with my comrade and pal. As I made my way around the back of Kelp’s neck by holding on with one hand a long strands of hair, I made several grateful prayers for the moment of being with Kelp. I proceeded to use the muscle hummer to relieve stress in several key neck muscles.
Kelp had been having headaches recently. Nothing major. Ones from stress. After I was finished with his neck, I told Kelp to turn onto his back. After he placed me on his nose, I would start with the central point between his eyes which is a focal point of energy. "Hey, little runt do a good job." I slowly crawled backwards on his nose toward the tip while keeping a good grip on the sides. When my legs were dangling over, I began rocking them back and forth into the nostrils. Hitting a few nose hairs, I began to tickle him. It occurred to me this wasn’t such a cool idea. If he sneezes, I could find myself blown of his huge nose. I stopped and crawled back up the bridge to his nose.
Coming to the central spot between Kelp’s eyes, I began to rub the area with my two hands. This can at times create a state not unlike drunkenness. Several giant cadets had entered the steam room. I asked Kelp to sing this song he told me about from when he was a kid. "Nah, I don’t think so."
"Come on," I said while applying more pressure.
In a sleepy goofy voice Kelp responded, "Ok." He began singing. The cadets present begin to laugh. "Stop Ted," spoke Kelp.
"No keep singing," I told him while keeping pressure on the spot. I knew Kelp was going to get me for this. When I released him, Kelp didn’t say a word which meant he’s thinking of something. I crawled up to his forehead to finish the job.
After I was down, Kelp placed me down on his leg. The warm moist skin was very soothing. Very gently, Kelp massaged my legs with several of his fingers. This still didn’t deter me from the thought Kelp was going to one prank better me.
After we dried off we were about to put our uniforms on. "Hey Kelp where’s mine?"
"I have it."
"Can I have it?" I asked knowing the prank had started.
"Later," he replied with a grin. Kelp picked me up and placed me in his vets pocket.
"Ok, very funny. You win. Now give me back my clothes."
"Did I hear a squeak coming from my pocket?"
I sat there at the base of the pocket in my natural clothing. At least the pocket was warm. As I heard Kelp’s booming footsteps, I was, with a little trepidation, wondering were he was going.
When movement stopped, two fingers pulled me out. I was placed on a table. I was in the cadets game room. This one was for male cadets which still didn’t make it any better. "Hey, what happened to Cadet Ted’s clothing asked a giant. Soon the table was surrounded by giants and pilot companion’s either in their pilot’s pockets or on the table. I saw a napkin. As I ran for it one of the giant pilots snatched it away.
"Ted," said Kelp from the other end of the table. "I have your clothing."
"Come on Ted. Lets see how fast you can run," said Cadet Will.
"I’ll augos (betheran word for: bet) he can run in six points one," spoke a giant cadet who placed a small amount of money on the table.
Another cadet, "I augus he will be a full point under."
Coming up to me chuckling was my pal Cadet Ed, "You were on track team back home. I know you can do it under six points too." He whispered, "Try, I have ten riding that you can."
Securing myself for the run, I waited for the signal. "Go!" shouted Cadet Balak. I ran across the full expanse of the table feeling stupid---not to mention cold. I was surrounded by the explosive sounds of the giant cadets cheering me on. As I was running, I realized my legs were doing well.
Coming to Kelp’s huge hand I slowed down. And finally stopped. From the other end of the table I heard Ed shout, "I won!"
Going over to stack of cards, I sat down. I began to rub my legs. I put one hand to my face. Cadet Balax remarked, "Man, I hope he didn’t do something to his legs."
"Ted you ok?" asked Kelp.
Removing my hand from my face I looked up at him laughing. Kelp dropped my clothing. Starting with my underwear which fell on my head. At that moment, Chief of Cadet Training Florx entered. Kelp and another pilot turned around and stood together blocking Chief’s Florx view of the table thus giving me time to get dressed.
I gave a punch to Kelp’s backside to let him know I was all dressed. Yes, this was silly and stupid I guess. In fairness, I think we all needed this bit of lunacy.
As part of a recruitment program, the academy invited interested teens from Bale and from several Betheran cities for an over night program: Get To Meet Us. First we would meet with the Eathie teens. This would be followed by the Betheran teens. After which both would have a chance to meet each other.
The Earthie teens even though having seen Betherans in the city and on their monitor screens were speechless at first meeting the Betaheran giants. Cadet Yalor who was present set many at ease with his silent and unique gentle ways. He even did his touching the upper right cheek routine that opened their mouths which was followed by feeding them a little candy.
Kelp’s straightforward manner won many over. Sitting at the main table in the Cadets Recreation Room, it was questions and answers.
Many questions that were asked were about our relationships. Getting over the size differences. Many of the pilots moved in closer with their pilot companions. I was sitting on a chair in front of the group answering questions as best I could.
One young teen with short reddish hair began to fidget in his chair. He kept looking up at the giant faces. I was tempted to pull him aside to see if anything was wrong. Indeed, something was wrong. The boy sprang out of his chair and started running toward the end of the table. His friends shouted after him. I ran up to the teen. "Calm down. What’s your name?"
"What’s the problem Cyril."
His face was contorted in fear. "Its these giants," he replied.
"What about them?"
"I feel like there closing in on me."
I told Cyril, "There’s nothing to fear. Their a great group of guys and gals. Their just big."
He pushed away from me. And ran toward the end of the table. I was about to call for help fearing he would jump off, when Yalor placed a hand down before him. Cupping his hands around the teen, Yalor picked him up. I heard Cyril’s muffled cry. Looking straight up, Yalor was whispering to the boy. It reminded me of Pechu at the park. And like that time, I couldn’t hear what Yalor was whispering. When the giant hand came back down, Cyril jumped off the hand.
Going over to Cyril, "You ok now?"
"I guess." Bending his head to look up at Yalor who looked down at us with his benign face, the teen replied, "Yeah, I feel better. I guess. I didn’t expect them to be so huge."
Putting my arm around Cyril, "You get use to it." I took a handkerchief out of my pocket and gave it to Cyril. "I think you could use this."
As he wiped and blew his nose, "Thanks. I guess that wraps it up for me as a pilot companion."
I stopped. Moving in closer, I told him, "If you plan to give up so easily then you shouldn’t be a pilot companion. And should just leave now. But if your still want to find out, I say keep pursuing. Its your choice. A real pilot companion won‘t run at the first obstacle that presents itself."
"I’ll stick it out," replied Cyril.
After the question and answer session. It would be the giant teens turn. First there was a break.
Getting a glass of punch, Cadet Sally came up to me. "I have been thinking about you."
"Me too. I mean, not about me about you," I replied trying to be amusing.
"Idiot," she replied giving me a gentle push to the side of my head with her hand. "I knew what you meant." Her face went serious. "Of course, I have also been thinking a lot about Kelner and Maximilian."
"Yeah, me too. Both Kelp and I miss them. I wish command hadn’t so soon had this Open House."
"I felt the same way. Maybe, though, they felt it was needed."
"Can I tell you a secret Ted."
"Every night I cry thinking about Kelner and Max before bed. Part of me knows its normal. The other part, the cadet says, stop being a baby. But I still see their faces."
"We all grieve differently. And isn’t our fight a human fight? Their our pals we should miss them. Yeah, I guess at a point we go on. But I hope with them in us still. I read a story where a guy‘s close friend dies. Another friend tells him if you loved and honored your pal you won‘t let the friendship be a waste." I looked at Sally with an understanding and loving heart.
She kissed me on the cheek. Sally than poked me in the belly with her finger. "We better get back. The session will be starting." I nodded.
During this session with the giant teens, my mind kept going back to Kelner and Maximilian. I also looked up at Kelp and over at Sally. These were two people who I loved above all else. And worshipped the ground they walked on.
Kelp sent a finger down and gentle slid it up and down my side. It was almost like he knew what I was thinking. Maybe it was just coincidence.
Gazing up at all the gigantic, eager faces, I wished we could destroy the enemy once and for all. In order that no more pilots were needed.
When the session ended, it was time for dinner. During the meal a few cadets kidded me about my "bare run." After our meal both the giant Betheran teens and Earthie teens would meet. I hoped Cyril would be ok.
The Earthie teens were both excited and nervous in meeting their giant counterparts. The giant teens when they came in quickly moved in around the Earthies. "If we become pilots we get to have an Earthie? said a Betheran teen named Jifi..
Another said, "I wish I could have mine now."
A prospective pilot candidate named Kristine commented, "They speak of us as if we were pets."
The Betheran teen named Jifi reached over and picked up an Earthie by his collar. And placed him down in his hand. "The Earthie almost looks lost in my hand."
Yalor came up to Jifi, "Little one not yours. Or friend. Put him down."
Jifi did as he was told. Looking around at the annoyed faces, he became aware of his wrongful action. "Sorry little Earthie. I meant no harm."
After the Betheran teens sat down, Kelp brought his hand down before me and I climbed on. "This is my pilot companion Ted. And my pal. Can someone tell me the job of the pilot companion."
A Betheran teen replied, "To assist the pilot on his mission."
"No," responded Kelp. "He works as co-pilot. He plots data, calculates all possible attack plans. Handles life support. Without him or her there is no mission. When I fist heard about the Earthies, I was amused by the idea. I liked them. However, at the beginning they were nothing more than glorified pets to me. Look at them. Their so small. We carry them in our pockets. Their just about half the size of our index finger. This tiny Earthie I call Ted, has on every mission performed above duty. I would not be here without him. And this tiny little creature is also my friend. A friend who I literally see as a brother." Looking down at me Kelp asked, "Anything you want to add Ted?"
I responded, "Its still hard not to gaze up at you giants with some awe. And yet, your lumbering size, the loud sounds you make as you talk and walk can be annoying. Not to mention how scary your shoes can be to us. And even the odor you giants emit." Several of the giant teens began to joke around and pretended to be sniffing their underarms. Those are all just superficial stuff. Though can be major obstacles if we allow them to be Just like our tiny size can be to you giants. When I had let go, I found I had a giant of a friend not in size but in deed. After my implantation, I heard Kelp was there during the entire time. When I couldn’t walk, Kelp carried me about. He even fixed up his pocket so I could go to class, take notes and rest if I needed to. I guess it comes down to if you want to be a team. You have to accept each other in who you are which can be a battle in itself."
After I was done, I hope I had been clear. And didn’t sound like some fool trying to talk wise. I have found and learned so much from Kelp.
A giant teen raised his arm. I thought he was going to ask me further on this subject of being a team. Instead, he asked, "Tell us about your missions. And that time when you were gliding." Kelp and I talked about our missions and that time in the hand glider.
There was a short break. Cadet Sally came over to me. She had two cups of punch in her hands. As she sat down next to me, "So I hear your quite the runner."
"Don’t play stupid. You know what I’m talking about nature boy." I could feel my face turning bright red. "Your blushing?" My collar began to feel too tight. "It sounded cute. And I bet you looked cute too."
"I’m trying to imagine that scene in my mind."
"Ha-ha your so innocent. That’s one of the things I love about you." A sparkle entered her eyes. "But cadet. Don’t get swell headed over it either." And Sally took an ice-cub out of her drink and dropped it down my vest.
"Hey!" I shouted standing up. As I was removing the ice-cub, Sally winked and walked away. She’s a tease. When I looked down at the ice cub in my hand, it had nearly melted away.
The session resumed. Other giant pilot’s spoke and pilot companions. There was a short talk on our deceased comrades, Kelner and Maximilian.
After the session it was time for bed. The giants would be teamed up with an Earthie. They would all be sleeping in the assembly hall on sleeping rolls. Naturally, pilots and pilot companions would be there as chaperones. During the pairing, I was interested to find, that Cyril was teamed with the brash Jifi.
The giant Betheran teens looked on wide eyed as their tiny counterparts climbed onto their hands. Many giggled as did the Earthie teens. I concentrated my gaze upon Jifi and Cyril. I slowly walked up and next to a twenty five foot tall napkin holder and observed. Cyril appeared still and rigid before the huge finger tips. Finger tips that were wider than his head. "Would you prefer I pick you up?" asked Jifi. Cyril shook his head. Jifi let out an impatient sigh. "Your so tiny. I would think you would be glad to be with me. I can protect you."
"Come on Cyril. Even if it turns out your not suitable for pilot companion, still , overcome your fear," I thought to myself.
The giants with the Earthies in their hands began to leave the room while talking enthusiastically and energetically to each other and to the very tiny humans. "Come on. Everyone’s leaving," said Jifi I could see Cyril was about to turn away. "Just my luck to get stuck with a cowardly Earthie." That comment made me wince for Cyril.
Cyril slowly looked up, "I’m not a coward. Can’t you understand how scary you look?"
"Gee everyone has always told me I was good looking. Not ugly like a monster. And I’m not a monster. And your not a scared puny bug are you?" Cyril was silent. "You’re a bug," said Jifi disdainfully.
Jifi was in the process of turning away, when Cyril shouted, "I’m not a bug! And lets go." Jifi turned back and lowered his hand down. Cyril ran and jumped on. Jifi lifted his hand up.
"Pretty good jump there Earthie. I should tell you about the awards I have won in track," said Jifi proudly.
"Ok," replied Cyril. And Jifi walked out of the room.
"Yes! Yes!," I exclaimed out loud sending a fist into the air. Man, I love to see a battle that is won!
When we all gathered in the assembly room the Betheran teens and pilots set up their bedrolls. I asked Kelp, "We are only maybe one or two years older than these teens yet I feel more like ten years older. Do you feel the same?"
"Yeah, I do. In our relatively short time here at the academy and our missions must have in many ways aged us."
The assembly hall was filled with conversation. I made my rounds walking past the openings to bedrolls that were the size of caverns. Many of the colossal heads that stuck out couldn’t resist smirking at this tiny Cadet. Others held in their hands Earthies they were trying to get to know. I wondered how many of these teens both Betherans and Earthies would become fellow warriors.
Kneeling down next to a group of female Betheran’s was Cadet Florn. Seeing me she said, "Nice responses at the sessions Cadet Ted."
"Thanks." Walking up to the Betheran teens and Earthies I told them, "Listen well to Pilot Florn, she’s a great pilot and comrade." Florn gave he a warm nod of her head.
One of the Betheran girls remarked, "He looks so cute in his tiny cadet uniform. Wouldn’t you like to keep him?" The other girls laughed. I smirked as I walked on.
As I continued to walk past the living mountains, I felt something pulling on the back of my vest. I began to descend high into the air. "Hey! What goes on?" I descended back down onto a very warm slightly sweaty palm. Gathering my hand legs back, I turned around and looked up. (side note: when you deal with giants your life is spent looking up) Two huge tan colored eyes stared down at me. "Can I do something for you?"
The huge eyes blinked. "My apologies Cadet Ted. I really wanted to meet you," responded the teen. I was always amused in a good way, anytime a giant apologized. I am so small compared to this guy, he could easily flick me off his hand into oblivion. And I suppose there are those who would cause they can’t get over the size difference. The boy continued, "I heard you and Pilot Kelp were the very first pilots to go into action."
"Yep," I replied.
"I know you have heard this question over and over again, but weren’t you sacred?"
"Were you scared of death."
"You just said you were scared. What scared you?"
"Three things. Scared to think of my friend and Commander Kelp dying. Being separated from him and other friends I love. And not protecting my planet."
"Your planet? You’re an Earthie."
"I know. But all I remember is being on this planet growing up in Bale which even though is an Earthie town its still here on Bethera."
"Ok. I heard you both were very brave."
I chuckled, "We like to think so."
What makes you want to fight?"
"Three things. My world. My fellow Earthies. And the friends I love."
A huge smile appeared on his face. "Those are similar to the reasons I want to join."
"Those are the right reasons. Oh, where is your Earthie you were teamed up with?"
"He’s gone to use the bathroom."
The giant teen’s face wrinkled up into a question, "I heard you nearly got killed. And had problems."
"I guess," I replied.
"You still wanted to be pilot companion?"
Same three reasons. "My love of Kelp. My friends. And world."
"I hope you don’t take this the wrong way."
"I’ll try not to."
"I respect you Earthies. But you amuse me. I mean, your so small. And you all look kind of cute in your teeny uniforms. A part of me would like to take a few of you home. My pals and I a few years back wanted to capture a few Earthies. Not to hurt you. Just to keep as pets. But I know now talking to you, you are much more."
"Thanks…ah what is your name?"
"Tiga, I wish you all the luck. And if this is what you are meant to do, be an honor to fight with you. I think whatever you do you will honor it." Tiga smiled shyly. He placed me back on the floor.
I was interested in seeing how Jifi and Cyril were doing. As I walked, a quake commenced. I knew what kind of quake this was. A shoe quake! I jumped out of the path to a pair of shoes that had quickly come up behind me. Landing on my side, I looked up and saw two towering teens talking intently to each other. I shook my head. That was close.
Once back on my feet I went on. Not too far ahead perhaps half a block was the huge form of Jifi stretched out on the floor. His hands were on the floor and grasped together. He had a smirk on his face. Climbing up his hands was Cyril. I approached closer. "Your not scared of me then?" asked Jifi.
"I’m still a bit I guess." Cyril lost his footing on a boulder size knuckle and fell down. Standing back up and rubbing the back of his head, Cyril resumed his climb.
Jifi asked, "You ok little Cyril?" Cyril shouted back that he was. Jifi nodded his head. "Glad to see your staying with me. Hey, you want to hear more about my awards I have won?"
Cyril replied wearily, "Ok."
Jifi did make a remark that gave me hope for the both of them, "Cyril, its funny. I want to tell you about my rewards."
"Yeah," responded Jifi’s whose face and eyes softened as he watched Cyril climbing up his hand.
I headed back. I hadn’t gone to far when two colossal shoes came down on either side of me. Looking up I saw the green uniform of a cadet forming an seemingly endless arch above me. I could see the face. The gigantic bulk stepped back and began to descend down from many stories. The huge thick legs expanded out wards several stories above me. I guess anything a giant does around you, even stooping down has a strange aura about it. Loving my fellow cadets it is an aura of a spiritual kind of acceptance. When I finally saw the bottom part of the face appear I saw it was Yalor. Without saying a word, a giant hand came down before me. I climbed on. When I was lifted up across the mammoth peaceful face of Yalor he said, "Long walk must make you tired. I too love."
What Yalor had said that about the love; it was freaky. Because I was thinking as I was in his hand how I have grown to love this rather odd giant. Yalor sent a finger tip over the top of my head. Touching my upper right cheek, my mouth at once opened up and he dropped in my mouth his trademark Earthie candy. Popping up out of Yalor’s vest pocket was Will. Yalor looking down commented, "My companion Will, I too love deep of soul."
After taking me back to Kelp I was lowered down into the hand of one I love.
There was more conversation and talking. I and the other pilot companions saw something of Bertheran life we hadn’t experienced. The pilots and giant teens stood up and formed a ring aound us Earthies. One girl had a reed instrument. And another an instrument that sounded like an Earthie clarinet. The teens putting their arms around the teen on either side of them began to dance. They moved counter clockwise. With each step their movements became quicker. For every three left steps they took, they returned by one.
One tall girl with flowing golden hair removed the scarf she was wearing and holding it at both ends lifted it up over her head as she sang moving counter to the central circle.
I laughed when of all people Yalor came out and joined her in the dance. Yalor slowly stooping down over us Earthies began moving his massive strong hands over us in very seductive and graceful movements. Sparkles of light fell from his hands. We all clapped with amazement. The lights as they fell upon us countered gravity and we began to float up into the air. Gently, Yalor glided his hands over each one of us and we began to make turns and spins. Spinning up in front of me was Sally. Floating around each other, we reached out and took one another’s hands. Yalor waving three fingers around Sally and I made us form an orbit around his head. "Man this is incredible!" I shouted out. Very soon all the Earhies like moons were orbiting around the giant heads of the Betheran teens.
Graduation and Beyond
Circling Kelp’s head with Sally made me feel as if I had entered paradise. I held her hands in mine and I was there going against the laws of nature circling the head of another who I love infinitely. As Sally and I circled around Kelp’s gigantic head, I caught a glimpse of Cyril making spins before Jifi’s face.
After a space of time and I couldn’t tell you the length, we all descended back down to the floor. Before the massive feet of the Betheran teens, we very tiny Earthies could not help and stare up at the many, many stories high giants with awe.
Following that truly magical moment, we all slowly headed to bed. I know speaking as an Earthie the experience left me stunned. Stunned in a great way. It was a celebration of friends. And a celebration of strangers who began the road to friendship.
Climbing into my bed clothes I took my place on Kelp’s bedroll across from his giant face. I thought I had known all there is to know about these giants. "Kelp," I said. "I didn’t know this of your race."
"I only had experience this once before. It’s something you can’t force to happen. When it does happen---look out!"
I moved myself closer to Kelp. I pressed up against his chin. I closed my eyes. And as I drifted to sleep, I began in a small way, to understood what heaven is about.
In the morning which was filled with much animated conversation, we said our goodbyes. Before the group left, Chief of Cadet Training Florx spoke to the prospective pilots and pilot companions.
A week later, Kelp and I went to the academy technical staff. We like seven others assigned that day, were getting fitted for our new uniform. One we would wear for the first time at our graduation!
Classes were suspended the week before the big day. Kelp and I asked both our Earthie instructor and Chief Florx if we could visit the remains of Fighter Fourteen. He granted permission. We decided to do this before graduation, in order not to let our joy make us forget for a moment the high coast that brought us to this point.
Kelp brought with him a bottle of Desno, a non-alcoholic drink which is traditional beverage of Betheran teens to consume before any major celebration. Our moods were conflicting when we entered the hanger and saw under the flood lights the remains of Fighter Fourteen. The whole place was quiet. Strangely it was peaceful. Kelp asked me, "Can you enter the command center?"
"I think so."
We both took a deep breath. Most of the command center was gone though the pilot’s seat was still intact. Kelp removed the bottle from a shoulder bag he had on. Opening the bottle, Kelp poured a portion of the drink on the pilots seat. Commander Kelner’s seat. "To you our buddies and warriors." Kelp took out a cup and an Earthie cup for me. Kelp filled the cups. In unison we both said, "We who continue the fight for our world salute you." We drank the contents of our cups.
I didn’t see Sally much leading up to graduation. It was a special time. One best shared with your buddy and comrade.
Putting on civilian clothing, the academy gave permission in this, Kelp and I ventured out into the city. With arms dangling over the lip to his shirt pocket we observed the life of the city. We passed on the street a few of our fellow cadets and comrades who too were sharing time with each other.
Kelp and I stopped at a sidewalk café. And had lunch. We got the usual stares when people caught sight of me eating off the side of his plate. Several people came over. And guessed we were Betheran Warriors.
After our lunch Kelp took a tube to the far end of the city. We or I should say Kelp, walked a few blocks to the small mountain park that over looked the city. After the climb, sitting down with legs brought up, Kelp placed me on his knees. For a while we just sat there in silence The silence wasn’t total. Insects buzzed. Birds chirped. And the wind through the long blades of meadow grass made a haunting, mournful whisper.
"Did I tell you what a great companion you are?"
"Having a great pilot makes it easy," I replied.
"Kelp I know I have mentioned it before. I’m probably repeating myself. And I don’t want to play the thousand violins."
"Its an Earthie expression for being overly sentimental."
"No---you Ted? Sentimental?"
"Yeah, ha-ha. No, seriously, until I became close friends with you, I didn’t realize how lonely I was. I guess family and soul wise. I had people bring me up after the cataclysm. But still, I wasn’t really a member of their family. And being kind of displaced never seemed to feel at ease enough with myself. So at school I felt awkward which made me the odd guy out. But life brought you into my life. I didn’t know relationships could be so sweet or life giving. And I didn’t think a person could be so noble as you. I didn’t realize a person could want me to give it all up in order to save that very life giving pal. I love your being Kelp."
Kelp in his usual style thought over what I had said for a few minutes.. "Ted, I wouldn’t have guessed a few years back that the tiny hands of an Earthie would bring me great security. I’m talking about you as a pilot companion. I honestly wouldn’t feel as safe as I do in your hands when in battle with anyone else. As a friend, I saw through you what a great gift friendship is. And the closeness it can give. And the impact I could have on another. And how this world is made more beautiful for me by letting you into my heart. If I could, I would like to keep you in my heart safe and secure from anything that could harm you. I guess in this life plane it quite doesn’t work that way. With all the skills and will I have, I hope I can always simply be there for you. When those two times you almost died---I almost died. Even though you’re are a very, very, very (kelp had a huge wide smile) tiny runt, I love you."
Suddenly, "Hey you guys!!" Balax and Mike appeared. "Funny running into you guys," said Balax. Sitting down next to Kelp, Balax took Mike out of his shirt pocket and placed him down next to me on Kelp’s knee. The four of us talked for a while.
Kelp and I in the changing room down the hall from the great assembly hall where the graduation will take place, removed the uniform of a cadet. Down to our underwear, Kelp took off the back of the door, our new uniforms. He handed me mine. We solemnly put them on. The uniform was similar to the cadet uniform in that it had a long vest and shorts. The vest, however, had sleeves that were opened at the shoulders and elbows. The colors of the uniform were blue and white---the color of our fighter. Instead of shoes, we now wore white and blue low rise boots. Placing me in his hand, Kelp said, "Are you ready Pilot Companion Ted?"
"I am Commander Kelp."
We left the fitting room to join the others inline for when we process in.
When the entrance hymn began all our hearts began to flutter. Entering the great assembly hall, all the families of the commanders and pilot companions stood up and cheered. I almost lost it when Kelp’s family lifted a banner up that read. WE ARE PROUD OF OUR TWO SONS.
The nineteen pilots and pilot companions stood before the governing leadership of Bethera, the academy and the Earthie city of Bale. "To begin the graduation ceremony," spoke Chief of Cadet Training Florx. "We have a special award to be given. This team from the very beginning supported our noble concept of Betheran and Earthie partnership. A partnership to protect both Betheran and Earthies right to survive. They proved size does not matter. Only the size of the heart is what truly matters. For without heart, size is ultimately wasted and meaningless. Their courage in the face of a brutal enemy and their courage to go beyond size barriers has been an inspiration to us all. Commander Kelp and Pilot Companion Ted please step forward."
Stepping up to the podium, the senior member of the governing leadership of Bethera as he placed the medals on Kelp and I spoke, "On behalf of the Betheran and Earthie people we applaud you."
Turning around, the entire graduating class clapped and cheered. Standing in the front row within a white light, were the spirits of Commander Kelner. And sitting on his shoulder, the spirit of Pilot Companion Maximilian.
As everyone was clapping the sirens began. Bethera was under attack! We all rushed down to the briefing and ready room.
Once changed into our flight suites, the nineteen giant pilots stood before their fighters. And in their hands the pilot companions.