Over one million years in the future, an alien spaceship returned from Earth to its home planet. Antaska, a young adult human, had accepted a job as assistant to M. Hoyvil, an eight-foot-tall Verdante alien. Antaska brought her telepathic cat Potat along on this exploratory journey to outer space.
On the two-month trip from Earth, exposure to the powerful Verdante telepaths had broken Antaska’s natural human barriers to telepathy. Staying in denial was no longer an option. Antaska could hear and understand the telepathic words of the Verdantes and even the mental speech of little Potat. But she hadn’t told M. Hoyvil yet. If the Verdantes knew, they wouldn’t allow her to travel with them. They valued humans as companions for their lack of telepathic abilities. It was uncomfortable for Verdantes to be around their own kind for long because they had to maintain emotionally cold mental shields to keep from reading each other’s thoughts.
Antaska needed time to think over some confusing things she had heard the Verdantes saying mentally to each other. For one thing, it seemed like this wasn’t a typical job. And she had often heard the word ‘pet’ when the Verdantes were talking about their human companions. Also, M. Hoyvil, although 650 years old, was only an adolescent, not an adult. And the Verdantes didn’t allow their females to travel in outer space for some reason having to do with mental telepathy.
“Don’t tell him yet,” advised the little gray and white cat. “Do you want to be stuck on one boring planet for the rest of our lives?”
“OK, I’ll wait, but I hate deceiving him like that,” said Antaska.
“You’re not deceiving him, you’re just waiting till the time is right--like as soon as we get moving into warp space,” said Potat, who had always been able to persuade Antaska to her point of view even before Antaska became telepathic.
Several hours later, Antaska sat engulfed in the deep cushions of an enormous blue chair. Three other humans sat facing her in similar chairs arranged around a floating polished-stone table. Flickering flames crackled in a huge stone fireplace nearby, muffling their voices. The chairs faced the far side of the large, cavernous room. There, ten-foot-tall, beautiful and pale green Mizz Bawbaw lounged on an enormous adult Verdante-sized divan.
The three resident humans kept their words soft and sparse, and Antaska took a cue from them, answering and speaking in the same way. The conversation moved at a slow pace. Many pauses to sip a hot brown liquid from delicate but hard plasti-mold cups. More pauses to nibble crumbly food items provided on small plates on the table.
“So tell me my dear, have you bonded yet?” Tabxi, an elderly human female, asked Antaska.
Antaska considered the question. ‘Bonded?’ She looked toward Tabxi and Vorche, an elderly man sitting next to Tabxi. On Vorche’s other side was a younger man named Zapop whose eyes focused across the room on Mizz Bawbaw. Antaska’s turned to look at each of the humans. Her slight movement swished and rustled satiny petticoats under a voluminous gray skirt.
She thought about her regulation tan spaceship suit with regret: ‘So comfortable, so quiet.’
But her telepathic cat Potat had insisted that she could not wear it. “No! You can’t go to this party in your ship suit!” Potat had said. “Wear the weird dress they left in here for you, or they’ll be offended.”
Antaska’s thoughts returned to the present question.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand what you mean,” she finally answered.
“Let me explain,” said Tabxi, leaning forward. “I’m talking about that mysterious bond that happens when two beings of two entirely different species meet for the first time and become so attached to each other that they stay together for the rest of their lives--the life of the shorter-lived one anyway. I mean that kind of bond.”
“Oh! I know exactly what you mean,” said Antaska with quiet excitement in her voice. “When I first met my cat Potat, right away, I felt so attached to her that I wanted to keep her with me forever. But I knew I was going to space, and it was best not to take a cat along. I kept planning to take her to the shelter, but for some reason, I could never do it, and we ended up staying together. So yes, I have bonded. I bonded with my cat.”
“She means, ‘have you bonded with M. Hoyvil yet,’” said Zapop in a loud whisper.
“M. Hoyvil? Why would I bond with M. Hoyvil?” Antaska asked in confusion.
She turned toward Zapop, again with a rustle of skirts. But his eyes were already back on the gigantic Verdante woman. Without removing his eyes from Mizz Bawbaw, he lifted his cup to his lips. He sipped and sighed, Antaska already forgotten.
Tabxi resumed the conversation. “Well, you did agree to be M. Hoyvil’s companion for the rest of your life didn’t you? After just one meeting?”
“Yes, I did, but…” Antaska began.
“But there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what all Earth humans do when they’re adopted by a Verdante, and that’s not a problem. The reason I’m asking you this is that sometimes some humans take the bonding too far, in my opinion.”
A small snort escaped from the long, elegant nose of Zapop, who sat with loose limbs draped over his chair on the other side of Tabxi. He pulled his attention away from Mizz Bawbaw for just a moment.
“Yes,” said Tabxi, “many humans become so attached to their Verdante Mizter or Mizz that it interferes with their forming a normal human relationship.” She looked meaningfully at Zapop. Antaska looked at him too. Zapop looked at Mizz Bawbaw.
“Zapop!” Tabxi addressed him sharply but quietly.
“Huh?” he asked, shaking his head as if to clear it.
“Doesn’t Antaska look lovely tonight in her becoming gray dress?” Tabxi asked him.
Zapop turned toward Antaska and looked her up and down.
“Why, yes she does. As you know, that dress is one of my favorites. She wears it well,” he answered before his eyes pulled back to the enormous green voluptuous sight of Mizz Bawbaw.
“So, Antaska, do you think you might be interested in forming a romantic bond with an attractive but lonely human male here on the Verdante planet before you take off into space?” asked Tabxi.
Antaska froze. Her gray eyes narrowed, and her kicking feet stiffened.
“Someone to think about on the long, tedious days of the voyage. What do you say?” Tabxi pressed.
Antaska looked at Zapop again. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the conversation. Antaska’s mind felt blank. She could not think of a good answer.
‘What is going on here?’ Antaska wondered. She felt uncomfortable. ‘I wish Potat were here; she would know how to handle this,’ she thought wistfully.
At that moment, the little gray and white cat was fast asleep on a round pillow on Antaska’s round bed in her round dome-covered room.
Just before going to sleep, Potat had complained to her telepathically. “Those annoying trees are sending me another message! It’s less of a bore to hear it from dreamland. That booming collective one-word-per-hour voice is too tedious! Don’t they know cats live and think at seven times the speed of an Earth human?”
A telepathic sigh.
“Oh well. I’m five hours short of my seventeen hours’ sleep today anyway. Sorry I can’t go with you, but I think you’ll be safe enough without me this time. Those evil reptiles I smell aren’t close by right now.”
Then Potat had curled up in a small furry ball, asleep in an instant.
Once again, Antaska pulled her mind back to the present to answer Tabxi. “Well, I don’t really know what to say,” she said lamely.
“Ah! That means you might consider bonding.” Tabxi’s soft voice held the satisfied tone of one who had scored a victory.
Vorche’s space-tanned balding head nodded as if pleased, and Zapop’s younger salt-and-pepper head nodded too, his attention back on the humans. Zapop crossed long legs and leaned toward Antaska.
All three humans looked at Antaska, as if waiting for her to say more.
“Well…well…,” she began, “actually, thank you, but we were encouraged in space prep school not to get involved romantically because I’ll be in outer space for the next hundred years, you know, and that kind of involvement would only result in a painful separation,” she finished in a rush, proud of herself for being so diplomatic.
“But maybe the Verdantes would let you take him along with you,” Tabxi pressed. “I’m sure M. Hoyvil wouldn’t mind.” Vorche smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Antaska.
“Well, of course he won’t mind. You know he’ll be out every night this week at the Verdante adolescent social events looking for his future life mate? That’s all he’ll be thinking about, believe me,” said Tabxi, and Vorche, Zapop and Tabxi all chuckled.
“That’s not what I meant,” said Antaska. “I meant I just don’t know about that.”
“Well then, what do you know about?” asked Zapop with an icy edge in his voice.
Suddenly, Antaska felt even more coldness in the room. Extreme coldness. Emotional coldness.
The other humans sat silent, waiting for her answer, sipping and nibbling. They didn’t seem to notice the coldness. Tabxi straightened her already straight dark blue fabricated-wool skirt. Her wrinkled hands, darkened almost black, evidenced a long-time spacer’s exposure to starlight. Smooth-skinned Zapop flicked a crumb from his silky jacket, grabbed another snack, and turned back toward Mizz Bawbaw.
Antaska looked across the room. Mizter Meeepp and another enormous Verdante man had entered the room and were storing large unidentifiable objects in compartments in the walls. They kept at least six feet apart, but they had raised the mental barriers that blocked them from reading each other’s thoughts.
Instinctively, Antaska rubbed the tawny skin on her bare upper arms, but it made no difference. The movement tracked Zapop’s eyes sideways from Mizz Bawbaw to Antaska’s toned arms. Then up to shapely shoulders and bright pink hair, lustrous in the fire’s glow, that brushed the shoulders. Small dusky mouth, pointy nose and chin. Just for a second or two.
Antaska, unaware of Zapop’s brief stare, looked at Mizter Meeepp, in brown work clothes instead of the bright red ship suit that adult Verdantes always wore on spaceships. Lethal muscles bulged under plain brown cloth. From this distance, she could see the sharp features in his deep green face, large upward-slanted blue-green eyes now hard and narrowed. For once, he looked less like an eleven-foot-high mountain and more like a humanoid--a dangerous humanoid.
The Verdantes far surpassed humans in technological and physiological advancement. But to Antaska, seeing them so silent, huge, powerful and brooding, tense with unspoken emotions, gave them the feel of humanoids at a barbaric phase of development. Raw, earthy and animalistic.
Across from Mizter Meeepp on her humongous divan, un-Earthly beautiful Mizz Bawbaw stretched perfectly shaped large pale green arms above her head. Alabaster statue-like sensuality in tints of green. Lips like slices of ripe avocado.
Antaska thought about her. ‘Mizz Bawbaw looks so happy and content, but is she really happy stuck on this planet, always waiting for Mizter Meeepp to return?’ she wondered. ‘Never to explore new worlds! Discover unknown and bizarre species!’ Antaska sighed, once again attracting the attention of Zapop.
Then Mizter Meeepp looked at Mizz Bawbaw, light green skin covered only where propriety demanded in filmy deep green fabric. An intense, unreadable look. Static electricity sizzled through the coldness.
The other humans were still waiting for Antaska to answer. Tabxi nudged Vorche, who was leaning back in his chair with eyes closing. Zapop covered a yawn with a long-fingered hand.
“Dear?” Tabxi prompted.
Antaska returned her attention to Tabxi. The tense chill remained. She tapped nervously at the hems of her petticoats with the pointy toes of black lace-up ankle boots.
‘I don’t really know to say without offending these people,’ she thought.
Her training in protocol for interacting with alien cultures had not prepared her for this situation. She crossed her arms and tried to hide her discomfort.
“I’m sorry, but must I decline your kind offer,” she said to Zapop at last.
“Tut, tut,” said both Tabxi and Vorche not quite in unison.
And Zapop said, “Did you really think I wanted to go to outer space with you? You’re much too skinny, and you’re much to short.”
“Now, now,” said Tabxi.
“I’m not short! I’m six feet tall!” Antaska answered, beginning to raise her voice.
“Whatever!” said Zapop, also getting louder.
“Shush!” said Vorche and Tabxi, and both made downward waving motions with their hands.
“OOOOh!” Zapop sucked in an offended breath. “Don’t you shush me!”
“You should know better, Zapop,” said Vorche. “She’s new, but you know we’re not supposed to disturb the Mizter and Mizz.”
“Now, now, it’s quite all right,” Tabxi said, patting Zapop’s arm. “They haven’t noticed, so there’s no harm done. But we need to drop this subject that’s getting everyone so worked up. We tried, but this young female has told us her preference, and we have to accept that.”
Zapop turned and snarled at Tabxi, and she removed her hand from his arm.
“Once again, you have tried, but you have not helped me at all,” he said. “I’m not sure why you keep trying to interfere in my life.”
“I’m sorry, my dear,” said Tabxi. “You know we’re concerned about you, and all we want is for you to bond normally with a person of your own species.”
“Now you’re saying I’m not normal!” Zapop criticized Tabxi in a whispery irritated voice. “You’re the one who’s abnormal. A freak of nature who left your Verdante Mizz for Vorche!”
Antaska’s almond eyes widened in surprise.
“Ah, that was an exciting time,” said Vorche, breaking into the conversation with his memories of the past. “The scandal--the tears--the eventual outcome of young love conquering all!”
Vorche and Tabxi turned to look at each other and shared a secret smile.
“You’re the ones who are abnormal,” grumbled Zapop, “and this woman is abnormal too. Bonding with a cat!”
“Don’t mind him, dearie,” Tabxi spoke aside to Antaska. “He gets a little grumpy when the Mizter is home. Unfortunately, as I was saying, the affection some humans feel for their Verdantes sometimes becomes more like obsession.”
Zapop muttered under his breath as Tabxi kept talking.
“But it only causes heartache for these humans. The Verdantes are only attracted romantically to other Verdantes. The affection they feel for humans is exactly what a different and very superior species would feel for a much lesser species they might adopt for companionship. Like what you feel for your cat, for example.”
Antaska didn’t reply. If Potat somehow found out that Antaska claimed to be a superior species, there would be trouble.
Zapop resumed his low-voiced rant. “Anyway, you two feel sorry for me because you think I’m bothered by Mizter Meeepp being here, but I’m not. Here’s only here for a few weeks out of every year. It’s Mizz Bawbaw’s other pets that bother me. You know, her ‘special creations’ she keeps down below in her personal chamber. She spends more and more time with those freaks and less and less time with me.”
“Well, they’re what worries us too, actually,” said Vorche. “In fact, we think it would be much better for you to get off this planet. And with those, ah…beings, in the mix, your relationship with Mizz Bawbaw is freakish by anyone’s standards.”
Zapop’s handsome face flushed with indignation. “Oh really!” he said. “What makes you the relationship expert, Vorche? Flying around in space with Mizter Meeepp for the past two hundred and fifty years is all you’ve done. What do you know about life and love? What do any of you know? You’re the freaks, all of you. So I guess this new one who claims to be bonded with a cat will fit right in. I’m the only one here who’s normal,” Zapop’s voice rose. “I’m the only normal human in a household full of freaks.”
Antaska and Tabxi both gasped, and Vorche muttered something incomprehensible.
Then Vorche spoke again. “What I’m trying to say is we don’t think it’s healthy for you here. Don’t you think that we old people might have developed some wisdom after 300 years? I’m an old, old man, and my gut feeling, intuition if you will, tells me there is danger here.”
“Oh please! Danger on the Verdante planet! Right. And so nice of you to care!” said Zapop, no longer trying to keep his voice down. He leaned forward on the edge of his chair and swayed toward each of them while he spoke to the group.
“For your information,” said Zapop, in an intense voice that rose louder and louder, “I will never run off to space and abandon Mizz Bawbaw in order to escape from any danger, real or imagined. Especially if there may be danger, I will stay by her side. She needs me! No one cares about her more than I do. Not Mizter Meeepp. He takes her to Earth sometimes, but most of the time he’s going back and forth to the space station where she can’t go, and she’s left alone here. He doesn’t have to do that. Most Verdante men his age stay on the home planet.
“And I doubt if those Eeeepps really care about her. They’re barely humanoid after all. But no matter what happens, I will stay by Mizz Bawbaw’s side. No matter what the danger. I would descend to the deepest depths of this planet for her, no matter what evil lurks there! I would lay down my life for her in an instant!”
“Oh, that is so sweet! So noble!” said Antaska, clapping her hands together and also forgetting to keep her voice down.
Tabxi sniffed and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Bravo!” shouted Vorche, pumping an elderly fist in the air.
“Darling, I think the humans are getting agitated,” Antaska heard a loud and powerful male telepathic voice say. She knew that voice; it was Mizter Meeepp. “Should we send them out of the room?”
Antaska looked over at Mizter Meeepp and Mizz Bawbaw. The other Verdante man was gone. Mizter Meeepp was sitting across from Mizz Bawbaw in a gigantic chair of fabricated wood slabs. The two Verdantes were staring into each other’s eyes, her body tilted toward him.
Mizz Bawbaw’s telepathic voice spoke. “No, I don’t have the heart to do that to Zapop. He gets so jealous of the time I spend with my other pets as it is. Let me handle this another way.”
Then Antaska heard Mizz Bawbaw’s voice again, but now it was speaking inside her head!
“You are getting very tired. Relaxed and tired. Your eyelids are getting heavy. Very heavy. They are closing.”
The telepathic voice was gentle, soothing and insistent. Antaska looked at the other humans. They were leaning back in their oversized chairs, heads resting against the upholstered wings, eyes closed. Small snores escaped from the noses of Tabxi and Vorche, and all three appeared to be asleep.
Antaska, so relaxed and comfortable, started to feel tired too. Her body grew limp. She leaned over sideways and rested across her chair’s ample side wing. Her eyes closed, and she saw darkness. Into the darkness, a pale green mist appeared and solidified. Sea green foam floated in the side of her mind nearest to Mizz Bawbaw. Inside the green foamy mist, a woman’s face formed and then pushed forward deeper into Antaska’s mind.
“You are tired. You are sleepy. Sleep now. Sleep,” said the face.
‘Mizz Bawbaw is using telepathic suggestion to put us to sleep!’ Antaska thought fuzzily.
She wrestled against the irresistible crush of sleep. But she fought in vain. Sleep was closing in.
“Sleep, sleep, sleep,” the face of Mizz Bawbaw repeated over and over in her mind.
‘Wait a minute! Something is familiar about this! Where have I seen this before?’ Antaska wondered. A suspicion began to form in her mind. Her mind sharpened and focused on the suspicion, and the sea green foam faded and vanished.
Antaska’s mind was wide awake! She jolted up out of the chair, but her body wasn’t fully awake, and she landed on the cushiony floor with a muffled whump. Now her body was awake too.
She didn’t look over at the two large Verdantes, but she heard their mental speech.
“There’s something odd about M. Hoyvil’s new pet,” said Mizz Bawbaw. “She didn’t seem to respond normally to my sleep orders.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’re imagining that, my dear,” said Mizter Meeepp. “She’s just very clumsy, constantly fainting and falling down. She probably fell asleep too close to the edge of the chair.”
Antaska got up and began to stomp toward the exit. The floor’s deep cushioning muffled her stomping. She stomped harder, but her swaying skirts rustled louder than the stomping.
“You’re right, she seems to have many flaws, and she makes a lot of trouble. Do you really think she’s the best human for M. Hoyvil to take to space?” asked Mizz Bawbaw.
“I have my doubts too about her, but it’s M. Hoyvil’s choice. We can’t make it for him, but of course, we can try to influence him,” said Mizter Meeepp.
“Yes, we’ll have to work on that,” said Mizz Bawbaw.
Antaska heard the fading voices as she stomped away down a long, curved hallway.
On the soft round bed in Antaska’s room, tiny Potat woke up grumpy from her long nap. Finally, after seven hours, she had heard the complete one-word-per-hour message the trees had insisted on sending: “WHEN THE TIME COMES, SEEK THE JALAPENO.”
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Potat wondered. ‘No sane cat would seek that cursed spicy vegetable! It figures the trees would send such a cryptic but nonsensical message, as if to awe me with their prophetic powers.’ She hissed and spat.
Potat thought about going back to sleep to ask for an explanation, but too much sleep made her feel almost as bad as not enough sleep. And she was already two hours over the ideal daily sleep time. Besides, her pet Antaska needed her. Left to her own devices for too long, Antaska got into all sorts of trouble.
Potat yawned and stretched--first low to the front, tail high, then low to the back, tiny nose pointed to the ceiling. Such a pity that Antaska and M. Hoyvil weren’t here to admire the cute stretching! Oh well, Antaska was on her way. Potat sensed her moving closer to their room.
Potat sat in the basic front paws-hidden-under-body cat position. She fixed her stare on a point on the curved wall of the bubble-shaped room. A seamless opening appeared exactly where she had been staring, and Antaska came stomping through. She marched to the edge of the round bed and glared down at Potat, hands on hips, bright pink head fur puffed out with static electricity and indignation.
Potat knew how to handle this situation. She flopped over onto her side. She lifted her head and yawned her biggest cat yawn until her small gray-topped white head was almost nothing but a C-shaped yawn wearing pointy ears.
“Did you hypnotize me and put me to sleep?!” Antaska demanded out loud.
Uh oh! Time for something more effective than the yawn. Potat rolled all the way over onto her back, showing her cute snow-white belly and lifting all four of her white-tipped gray paws. She waved her matching white-tipped gray tail hypnotically back and forth.
“Look at the cute kitty. Look at the cute belly. The tiny cat is cute and innocent,” Potat spoke the subliminal message telepathically to Antaska’s mind.
Even though Antaska was capable of telepathic speech, she almost always spoke out loud to Potat. “That’s not going to work. You know I’m telepathic now, so don’t even try that stuff on me, you cute little thing.”
‘Ah ha! She’s falling back under the spell of my cuteness,’ thought Potat. She batted at an invisible something with her front paws to amp up the power of cuteness even more.
With a sigh, Antaska sat down on the bed next to Potat and began unlacing the old-fashioned ancient Earth-type boots.
“Well, did you?” Antaska asked again.
Potat rolled back over onto her paws and padded to the edge of the bed. She peered down at the action happening near the floor. The fascinating shoelaces, so wiggly and worm-like, were squirming in every direction beneath Antaska’s hands. Just begging for attack by a ferocious cat. Potat’s tail, with a mind of its own, attempted to imitate the wormy wiggling. With effort, Potat pulled her attention away. ‘I’ll get you later, shoelaces!’ she promised.
“If you mean did I put you to sleep just now, then no I did not. That was someone else who did that, or tried to anyway,” Potat answered Antaska telepathically. All Potat could say out loud was “mew”--limiting but often effective.
“You know that’s not what I meant. Did you put me to sleep at any time, whenever that was?”
Potat paused to clean her teeth with her claws before answering. Good dental hygiene must come first after a nap.
Antaska remained calm during the teeth cleaning, so Potat decided she was ready to hear the truth without too much of an emotional meltdown.
“Of course I put you to sleep sometimes. Cats have always put their humans to sleep. Sometimes humans have too many things on their mind and can’t sleep, so we help you with that. It’s one of the many services we provide for you. It makes you happier and more content. It doesn’t hurt you--just a little hypnotic mind control. Even though you don’t realize we’re doing it, that makes us more valuable to you. It’s necessary for our survival. Otherwise, you might not keep us and take care of us.”
“That’s not true,” insisted Antaska. “I’d have taken care of you even without that stupid hypnosis or mind control or whatever you call it.”
“No,” said Potat in a small, sadder voice. “Don’t you remember we first met? When I broke into your human dormitory in the space school and found you?”
“I remember,” said Antaska. “You were so little that I thought you were a kitten, but you never grew any bigger.”
Potat gave a tiny telepathic chuckle, then spoke. “I was planning to move in with you, but you kept saying, ‘You’re such an adorable kitten! But I’m going to space in a few years, and I don’t think I should take a cat with me. I’m going to have to take you to the animal shelter.’ I had to keep putting you to sleep, or you were going to put me in cat jail!”
“So that’s why I was taking so many naps around that time,” said Antaska.
She lifted Potat up and hugged her gently. A single tear dripped onto Potat’s fur, but she didn’t complain. The soothing rumble of a purr grew louder inside her little cat throat.
Suddenly, Potat heard a loud telepathic shout: “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?”
She would have recognized that male adolescent Verdante voice anywhere. It was her other pet, M. Hoyvil!
“That’s M. Hoyvil!” said Antaska, who had also recognized the voice. “What’s going on?”
“Mizz Bawbaw and Mizter Meeepp are talking to M. Hoyvil about you,” Potat answered. “They’re trying to convince him not to take you along on the trip to outer space.”
“What!” said Antaska. “What are they saying?”
“Oh, some stuff about your sensitivity,” Potat answered with typical cat mysterious vagueness.
“Can you tell me exactly what they’re saying? I need to know this!” Antaska had heard M. Hoyvil’s loud telepathic shout, but she couldn’t hear the rest of the lower-volume conversation. Her telepathic hearing didn’t have the same powerful range as Potat’s.
“I can tell you exactly what they’re saying,” said Potat, “but I thought you said it’s wrong to listen in on people’s conversations.”
“Humph!” Antaska fumed. “Well sometimes it just has to be done, and this is one of those times.”
“That’s exactly what I told you, but you wouldn’t accept that,” said Potat.
“OK, OK, I accept it. Just tell me what they’re saying.” said Antaska.
“Very well,” said Potat, with a smug lick of one paw. “Right before we heard M. Hoyvil yell, Mizz Bawbaw said, ‘This human is just too sensitive. The slightest thing appears to upset her so much that she drops to the ground. Even here on the Verdante planet! What do you think will happen when she’s exposed to the strange places and even stranger beings of the far universe? I suggest you take one of my special pets along instead. They’re hardy and they’re a mixed breed, so they shouldn’t have that kind of sensitivity problem with unusual species and places. And the younger ones have expressed an interest in going.’
Potat continued. “Then we heard M. Hoyvil shouting, and then Mizz Bawbaw said, ‘Now, M. Hoyvil, I know you’re young and emotional, so you may be letting your emotions lead you instead of being practical. You’ve become attached to this Earth human, but she isn’t mentally fit to go to space. And she’s too flighty. She’ll probably run off with the first attractive alien she meets.’”
“Ooohh!” Antaska let out a shocked gasp.
Potat gave her a pointed look and continued repeating Mizz Bawbaw’s words. “’Please take the advice of someone older and wiser and take one of my Eeeepps along instead.’”
“Then there was a pause,” said Potat, “and now M. Hoyvil is saying, ‘I know you’re older, but this is my decision to make, not yours. You say you’re wiser, but what about Zapop? Do you think I would prefer a companion who acts like that? Following me around like a lovesick loon? And as for your Eeeepps, they’re barely humanoid. And from what I’ve seen of them, their mental fitness is highly questionable!’”
“So I guess you can relax now,” said Potat to Antaska. “And now Mizter Meeepp is saying, ‘Don’t talk to your primary female genetic contributor like that!’”
“And now Mizz Bawbaw is saying, ‘Oh, it’s fine. We were all young once. It’s a rough thousand years to go through.’”
“’I’m sorry for being rude,’ M. Hoyvil is saying.”
“’I’ll forgive you, M. Hoyvil,’ Mizz Bawbaw is saying, ‘if you do me the favor of bringing your new human to visit my Eeeepps down in my hideaway tomorrow night. You’ve insulted them, and they’re sensitive too. It will hurt their feelings if they find out she visited the native Earth stock humanoids but won’t visit them too.’”
“No! No way! Are you crazy?” M. Hoyvil’s shouted telepathically.
“I guess you heard that,” said Potat.
“Waaahhhh!” An even louder trembling telepathic wail.
“I guess you heard that too,” said Potat to Antaska, whose hands were squeezing her head, causing her shiny pink hair to mold into interesting lumpy shapes.
“Now Mizz Bawbaw is saying, ’Now look what you’ve done! You woke up M. Bomp! I’ll have to go check on him.’” Potat repeated.
“So I guess that conversation’s over,” said Potat. “Anyway, there’s something important I need to ask you. While you were with the other humans, were you able to hear what they were thinking?”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Antaska. “Why do you ask that?”
Potat explained. “Because now that you’re telepathic, there’s a good chance you’ll start hearing the thoughts of your own species. Like with the Verdantes. They can hear and speak to other telepathic species using mental talk, but they can only hear the thoughts of their own species. That’s usually how it works. Except for cats, or course; we’re special.”
“Special how?” asked Antaska.
“Never mind that,” Potat answered. “Anyway, you’ve just started to become telepathic. Maybe you’re not all the way there yet. So at any moment, you might start hearing the thoughts of your kind. And that will be very disturbing when it happens for the first time. But don’t worry, I’ll be here to talk to you about it. If I’m not asleep. Just wait for me to wake up, and then we’ll talk.”
“What? What?” said Antaska.
Then little Potat jumped off the bed, walked to the curved wall of the room, and patted it with a tiny paw. A small cat-sized opening appeared.
“Where are you going?” Antaska asked.
“M. Hoyvil is on his way back and in need of a cat psychiatrist. Since you adopted him, he’s my p..., responsibility too now,” Potat answered.
“Wait a minute! What about me? Are you going to just leave me at a time like this? I’m still very upset too!” said Antaska.
“You are very sleepy. You are tired. Go to sleep.” Potat projected subliminal suggestions.
“You stop that right now!” said Antaska. “I know you’re trying to do that hypnotism thing, and it’s wrong. I want you to promise never to do that again.”