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HF-01 Buried Treasures

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    HF-01 Buried Treasures

    When a family of alien anthropomorphic equines, along with their alien minotaur friends and alien moon dog friends, just barely escape their doomed exploding world, a course is laid in for the uninhabited 3rd planet in the Sol star system, while those aboard place themselves into suspended animation. 18,000 years later, five teenagers discover the star ship and their adventure really begins.

    Coming up next on Horse Force & Cattle Command!
    Horse Force & Cattle Command
    Episode One: Buried Treasures
    By Darrel James Vanwinkle

    The Friends:
    Chester Hill, the best friend
    Zachery "Zak" Reivax, the power of science
    Michael Hawthorne, the power of wizardry
    Christina "Crissy" White, the power of faith
    Ororo "Storm" Omikamiamaterasu, the power of combat

    The Aliens:
    The Gracious Lord, Mountasian Stallion
    Equus-Eight aka "Octavius", Starship Robot

    The Mountasians
    The Minotaurs
    The Moon dogs

    Bad Guys:
    None yet; stick around to see...

    Chapter 01

    "Good hit, Chester!"

    Chester Hill dropped the baseball bat, and ran for first base. Chester was of average height for a sixteen year old, having spiky brown hair, green eyes and fair skin. He wore a white long-sleeved shirt that had a red horizontal stripe around it's torso, blue jeans, and running shoes. Chester often had a set of mini-headphones around his neck that was hooked into his PDA that he kept in the upper pocket of the thoroughbred brown leather jacket that he always wore.

    The boy who had cheered Chester's hit was Zachery "Zak" Reivax. Zak was slender and short, wearing glasses over his blue eyes, had short black hair and tanned skin. For a sixteen year old, he appeared to be twelve. He wore a short-sleeved blue shirt with black diamond shapes, khaki outdoors shorts with deep pockets, hiking boots, and always wore a hi-tech backpack containing his laptop, PDA, mini-research equipment, and a visual scanner.

    The pitcher was another loyal friend of the pack. Michael Hawthorne was just plain weird. He had medium-length calico hair, grey eyes that looked an eerie green in the dark, and fair skin with a peculiar mark on the left side of his neck. He wore a golden stud in one ear and a silver stud in the other ear. While playing sports, he was often shirtless showing off his buff and well toned body, but he usually wore a white dress shirt with lacy cufflinks, over which he wore an old traveler's cloak with high collars. He also wore a thin black collar around his neck which had a pentagram pendant in the front. He wore jet black pants and heavy duty black boots, which he could run in better than anyone wearing sneakers. Though it was known that if Michael was ever barefoot, no one could ever catch him.

    Out in left field was Zak's friend, a girl named Christina "Crissy" White. She was about Chester's height, though tomboyish, having long brown hair in a pony tail, hazel eyes, and fair skin. She always preferred to wear a yellow jersey, blue jean shorts, and sneakers. Though if her parents ever forced her to, she'd very rarely be seen wearing a pink blouse and white skirt, with high heeled white shoes. The perfect, prissy, princess. "In your dreams!"

    The scorekeeper was seemingly paying no attention to the game. She had her eyes in a book of poetry. Ororo "Storm" Omikamiamaterasu stood taller than Chester, having very long, flowing, black hair, topaz eyes, and an oriental Asian complexion. She wore a black leather choker with an ornately crafted jade pendant upon it. She wore silk undergarments, a long though loose multicolored kimono and tall high heeled black boots, and long black gloves that came up to her elbows. Storm was known to have trained in all of the known martial arts, and was easily the best fighter in school. The bullies were understandably afraid of her.

    As Chester ran for second base, the baseball flew past Crissy's position in left field and crashed through the bushes in the back of the field where they had been playing.

    Chester stopped at second base and yelled out toward Crissy. "Did I hit it too hard?"

    Crissy replied in a yell, "I think you did, Chester! We'll need to find the ball to continue the game! Come on, guys!" Everyone headed off to look for the ball beyond the bushes.

    After much searching, the five friends entered the dark cavern who's entrance had been heavily covered by the thick brush and bushes. They quickly saw the baseball, but what was really catching their attention was the wall of metal at the back of the cavern.

    Chester said, "What the heck is this?" He tapped the metallic surface with his fist. It didn't make any hollow sounds, but did make the metallic sound.

    Storm came forward and examined the wall, as Zak scanned it with his electronic gear.

    Michael squinted his glowing eyes at the wall, then exclaimed, "It's alien in nature. I'd surmise that it's not even from Earth."

    Everyone looked at Michael.

    Michael opened his eyes again. "Sorry, I forgot that not everyone likes how I use my eyes. But anyway, this is an alien constructed piece of metal."

    End of Chapter 01

    Chapter 02

    Chester turned once again to the wall of metal. "I wonder what's behind it..."

    Crissy picked up the baseball, pocketing it. "Buried treasures? I think that would be neat. I could use a new set of jewelry."

    Zak and Storm rolled their eyes, as they continued to examine the metal wall.

    Chester leaned up against the metal wall with his hands behind his head. "So, what have you two figured out so far?"

    Storm replied, "If I had to take a guess, I'd say that this metal was over 12,000 years old."

    Zak nodded his head. "Despite it's new looks, my scanner program verifies that the age of this metal is easily 18,000 years old. Yet it seems to be a metal that never rusts. So, whatever is within is still in the condition that it was in when this thing was built."

    Everyone oohed and ahed.

    Michael said, "Well, it's not like we're ever going to get inside this thing, so who's up for some more baseball?"

    Crissy replied, "That's for me! We have the baseball, so let's go!"

    Everyone started to leave, when they heard Chester say, "Guys? I'm... I'm stuck!"

    The four turned around and saw a huge robot standing in the now open hatchway of the metal wall, and this monster had Chester in it's powerful grasp. The robot was in the shape of a grossly exaggerated equine humanoid. And it was trying to drag Chester into the hatchway!

    Chester yelled, "Do something, guys! Help!!!"

    Michael's eyes suddenly flared, as he yelled, "Let him GO!" A bright beam of energy flared out of Michael's eyes, hitting the robot in the head with a resounding blast!

    Storm had been in the middle of launching a martial arts kick attack at the robot's arm that was holding Chester, as she hit squarely, bouncing off without even making a dent.

    Zak yelled, "We have to do something, Prissy Crissy!"

    Crissy growled ferally! She HATED being called that!

    Chester cried out aloud! "MY WRISTS!!!!!"

    The four attacked the robot relentlessly, but nothing they did had any affect, as it dragged Chester into the hatchway. Then, the hatch began to close!

    Crissy growled, "OH NO YOU DON'T!!!" As she leaped forward, tackling the robot with enough force to knock it down on the floor within the room beyond. Though Chester had passed out from the pain that the robot had placed on his wrists.

    The others dashed inside the opening moments before it slid closed.

    Michael and Zak tried hard to get the robot's claw off of Chester's now bleeding wrists, as Storm and Crissy pummeled the robot repeatedly!

    End of Chapter 02


      Chapter 03

      Michael snarled, "We can't make it let go! It's time to unleash the power!" Michael's appearance suddenly changed, as he now appeared as a old world Salem warlock with the head and tail of a calico cat! "Chester! Shrink!"

      Chester suddenly shrank to one-tenth of his size, as both the robot's claw, and Chester's clothing, fell off of him! Michael picked up both Chester and the clothing, and moved him away from the robot, where Michael shouted, "Restore!" Chester was suddenly normal sized again, as Michael began redressing Chester in the clothes.

      The robot was beginning to regain it's ground, now that it no longer held Chester, and Storm knew it was her turn to act. "Everyone shield their eyes! Celestial Blast!" Everyone just barely got their eyes shielded, as Storm unleashed the inner power that was equalled only by the Japanese gods themselves, as the robot was sent flailing backwards at comet speed into the far back wall, where it exploded, falling all to pieces!

      However, the back wall wasn't even scratched.

      Crissy and the others came over to Michael. "How is he?"

      Michael sighed, as he reverted back into his human form. "Chester is unconscious and needs a doctor. But... the hatch is closed, so we can't take him to a doctor. We're in trouble."

      Zak exclaimed, "Can't you teleport us out?"

      Michael replied, "I'm not up to that level of wizardry, yet. So, no. I can't teleport us out."

      Crissy turned and walked over to the hatch door. "Isis, hear my plea... Grant me the power to open this hatch..." Crissy suddenly glowed, as she reached forth and grabbed the hatch wheel, and tried to turn it with all of her might... but nothing happened. Crissy sighed. "Not even my power of faith can get us out."

      Zak hummed. "We've tried powers, so now, let's try science!" Zak aimed his scanner at the hatch's keypad mechanism, and scanned it, while trying to decipher the devices lock/unlock mechanism. But after countless attempts, the hatch simply would not open. "This thing is just too advanced for the computer know-how that I possess."

      Storm smiled. "Perhaps it is best that Chester is unconscious so he can't see us using these powers. We wouldn't want him to feel like a peon, would we?"

      Michael replied, "He's hurt and you're being funny. I hope his arms aren't broken."

      Storm eyed Michael. "I am not making light of his condition, Michael. I am trying to lighten up our own mood so we don't despair and make mistakes. I am just as concerned about Chester as you are. So, what are we going to do?"

      Zak said, "We're tired, obviously. Let's take a break, nap, regain our strength, and our wits, then when we awaken, we can plan anew. Michael, bandage up Chester's wrists as best as you can. Try to be gentle. That stupid robot was just far too rough."

      Crissy nodded her head. "Zak has a point. We each used a lot of our personal power in this fight. We need to regenerate and recover our energy."

      Michael nodded his head, as he pointed toward an open area of the chamber they were in. As he pointed, a beam of light shot out of his finger, creating two large tents in the space provided. "One for the girls and one for the boys. And people, please try not to snore. I have sensitive ears."

      Storm and Crissy entered one tent, while Zak entered the other. Michael created a sleeping bag, and lay Chester out upon it, with a blanket draped over his body. "This will have to do, my friend. I hope you don't have any broken bones. It's too dangerous to move you. I'll see you in the morning." Michael then entered the tent with Zak, where he whispered, "I'm worried..."

      Zak whispered back, "I'm worried, too. But until we've recharged our power, there isn't much we can do about it. See you in the morning, kitty boy."

      End of Chapter 03


        Chapter 04

        When Chester next awoke, he wasn't on the sleeping bag. Nor was he near his friends. Instead, he was lying on an operating table surrounded by four large robots, and it appeared that they had just finished doing something to him. Chester slowly sat up, as he noticed the bracers on his completely healed wrists. The bracers were shiny and had some color in a pattern around a pulsing soft light. He was otherwise nude; his original clothing were nowhere to be seen.

        Another robot came forward, and held out a very space aged uniform for Chester to put on. He really didn't have a choice. It was either wear what they offered or go naked. And he wasn't in the mood to be a nudist among some weird robots, so he put on the clothing and boots. Then, one robot placed the set of mini-headphones around Chester's neck, then placed the thoroughbred brown leather jacket on Chester, allowing Chester to slide his arms into the sleeves. Finally, the robot hooked the headphones into the PDA, and placed the PDA into Chester's pocket.

        Chester was presented forth to a mirror, and he had to admit... "Damn, I look sharp! These robots are really nice... but why did that one almost kill me?"

        One robot turned to Chester and spoke in English. "Is this satisfactory, sir?"

        Chester blinked his eyes. "You can speak English!"

        The robot replied, "We analyzed your voice box and learned your language. It is now in our records as Language Number 98,275,108."

        Chester smiled. "My name is Chester Hill. But you can call me Chester."

        The robot exclaimed, "Name registered in database. Chester Hill. Shortened version, Chester. My designation is Equus-Eight."

        Chester said, "May I call you Octavius?"

        The robot quietly processed the request, then replied, "I am now Equus-Eight, shortened name, Octavius. You may call me Octavius."

        Chester smiled. "What is this place?"

        Octavius processed the question. "You are within the refugee star ship designation, Equus-Bova-Canus-One. It was the only escape ship to have survived the destruction of our creator's solar system."

        Chester arched an eye. "Who are your creators?"

        Octavius processed the question. "Come, I will take you to them. Perhaps you can solve their problem for which you were brought aboard. It is unfortunate that your friends destroyed the sentry robot that harmed you. They are still within the cargo hold where you had entered from."

        Back in the cargo hold, the others were upset that Chester had been taken while they were sleeping. And they weren't spending the time idly either... they were attempting to force open the inner doors, so they could search for their missing friend.

        As Octavius and Chester arrived within the cryogenic labs, Chester saw what the apparent problem was. The robots couldn't figure out how to awaken their creators.

        Then, Chester noticed a monitor showing what his friends were doing in the cargo hold. And he saw the powers they were using. And Chester did indeed feel like a peon. Chester sighed. "They can do all that and never told me? Octavius, how can I use the intercom to speak to my friends in the cargo hold?"

        Octavius processed the request and gave Chester instruction on how the intercom's worked.

        End of Chapter 04


          Chapter 05

          In the cargo hold, the four suddenly heard Chester's voice...

          "Guys, I'm okay. And I can see what you're doing... thanks for not trusting me with your secrets. It shows me what you really think about me."

          Chester wiped a tear away from his eyes, as he turned to the task at hand...

          ...and in the cargo hold, the four lowered their heads.

          Michael exclaimed, "Chester, we wanted to tell you... but Storm said it'd make you feel bad if you knew we all had powers and you didn't. I can't speak for the others, but you're my friend. Please don't shut us out..."

          In the labs, Chester turned to the intercom again, and pressed the button. "Michael... the robots weren't trying to capture me... they needed me to help them solve a problem concerning their masters. And I might not be able to do this alone. If I send a robot escort to the cargo hold, will you promise not to attack it?"

          In the cargo hold, Michael replied, "I promise. Chester, you have to believe me... I really wanted to tell you about this. Don't be mad at us..."

          In the labs, Chester sighed. "Okay... the robot that will show up has a name. It's Octavius. He will escort you to the cryogenic labs. When you get here, you'll see their problem first hand... and Michael..."

          In the cargo hold, Michael replied, "Yes Chester?"

          In the labs, Chester asked, "Are we still on for Friday night?"

          In the cargo hold, Michael smiled. "Yeah, we are. Thanks for not being mad. We'll be awaiting Octavius' arrival."

          Chester turned off the intercom, as he slumped down into a soft command chair. "They all have powers. Why do they need a nobody like me around?"

          Michael, Zak, Crissy and Storm were soon standing just inside of the cryogenic labs. The place was very futuristic and quite advanced. Chester was standing over near the main cryogenic tube, trying to figure out how to activate the awakening process.

          Zak exclaimed, "Looks like science. I'll see about lending Chester a hand." Zak then headed over to help.

          Chester couldn't bring himself to look at his friends. They made him feel less important.

          Michael walked over to the main computer, which was offline, and said, "Octavius, how does one turn on this computer mainframe?"

          Octavius processed the question. "Query unknown. It is not known why that terminal is not operational."

          Michael squinted his eyes at the mainframe terminal, and muttered, "X-Ray Vision!" A light shot forth from his eyes at the terminal, as Michael began to examine the computer, top to bottom.

          Soon, Zak had completely taken over the work at the tube. He was just better suited toward doing this sort of thing. Crissy and Storm were wandering around the labs, going from tube to tube. The beings inside the tubes were equine humanoids, minotaurs, and semi-morphic moon hounds of all ages and sizes.

          Chester quietly exited the labs, feeling about as useful as a rock, as he wandered the rest of the ship's corridors and chambers.

          End of Chapter 05


            Chapter 06

            Michael glanced around the room, then back to his work. (Poor Chester... I just knew we should have told him earlier. Now, he thinks he's useless... and it's our fault.)

            Zak suddenly held out his hand, palm-side up, behind himself, as he said, "Chester? Hand me a screwdriver, will ya?"

            Michael sighed, as he exclaimed, "Chester left the room, Zak. And I don't blame him."

            Zak looked around, then said, "Why did he leave? This is a two person job here. I can't do this by myself."

            Michael sighed again. "You know full well why he left. We make him feel non-existent. I told you that we should have told him about our powers."

            Storm came over and handed a screwdriver to Zak. Then, to Michael, she said, "You're right, Michael. If anyone is to blame, it's me. I convinced you all that having powers was a secret endeavor. I'm the one who said that we shouldn't tell Chester."

            Crissy nodded her head. "It's not like he can leave the ship, you know. I'll look for him."

            Chester was sitting in a darkened chamber, sitting in a row of seats, staring at a huge blank screen on one wall. Chester was very depressed. His friends didn't trust him enough to share their secret with him. And worse, they all had super powers.

            "I would find the only theater with no movie..."

            Of course, the chamber wasn't totally dark. The pulsing light from his bracers made him stand out easily. And that's exactly how Crissy found him.

            Crissy entered the chamber and quietly said, "He's not in here, either. I guess he hates us for hiding our powers from him." Crissy turned around to leave. "If only Chester knew how lonely being a super powered brat was... how it's necessary to have normal friends to help all of us feel even a little bit normal. I guess I'll never find him."

            Chester blinked his eyes at those words, as he glanced up, watching Crissy leave the chamber.

            Chester hadn't thought of it like that. Here he was being depressed and his friends had it off far, far worse. They needed normal people to help them feel normal. And they had chosen Chester as that help. Him.

            Chester whispered, "They need me. I hadn't thought of it like that. They really need me."

            Then, Chester felt a new urge. "Oh man... I hope Octavius can tell me where the bathroom is. I really need to go." He got up and headed out of the theater chamber.

            Back in the cryogenic labs, Michael and Storm had gained access to the internals of the mainframe, while Zak and Crissy were trying to track down the damaged power cable.

            Chester entered the labs, having found the bathroom... definitely a new experience... He felt a lot better. He walked over to the leader's cryogenic tube, and gazed down on the handsome stallion humanoid. "What is your name? Why was I chosen to help you? How can I wake you up?"

            Storm smiled when she heard Chester's voice. To Michael, she whispered, "Chez is back. Looks like Crissy did her job."

            Michael grinned, but didn't remark. He just resumed working on the computer.

            End of Chapter 06


              Chapter 07

              Chester glanced around and saw what looked like a helmet that would fit the stallion's head. Chester picked up the helmet and tried it on. The moment it was on...

              ...Chester was suddenly standing in an open field facing the stallion humanoid that he had been looking at. The stallion was wearing a uniform like the one Chester was wearing, yet seemed to be held in stasis. When Chester spoke, it was in the stallion's language. //I'm Chester.//

              The stallion replied, //I am The Gracious Lord. I beg of you, Chester. Release me.//

              Chester smiled. //My friends are trying to do that even as we speak. But the computers that hold you and your crew mates in stasis have been damaged. Is there another way to free you?//

              The Gracious Lord replied, //Yes, there is... but you'd have to be very brave. Are you willing to do this?//

              Chester nodded his head. //Tell me what to do.//

              The Gracious Lord exclaimed, //Press yourself against me from behind and push me out of the stasis field. It sounds easy, but the catch is this... once I am free, you will be held in stasis in my place. We'd literally be switching bodies. I would then be in your body where I would remove the helmet and assist your friends in getting the systems operational. Then, just before the stasis was to be lifted from my tube, you and I would switch bodies once again. That is the plan. Do you trust me enough to do this? I can only rely on you, Chester.//

              Chester thought about it, then smiled. //I'll do it, Gracious Lord. Just remember to switch us back at the right time.//

              Chester stood behind the stallion and walked forward, pressing the stallion humanoid firmly, as he felt the weirdest sensation... as it felt like he was sinking into the body before him as one would feel a finger being pressed down into chocolate fudge. Then, it was done. Chester was in stasis, while The Gracious Lord was free.

              The Gracious Lord exclaimed, //Even though you are not one of us, from this day forth, you are one of my sons, Chester. No one before has ever volunteered to do something of this nature. I bow to you, Chester. For you show bravery far and beyond anything you should ever have to endure. Now, let us repair the systems...//

              ...and with that, 'Chester' removed the helmet. He took a moment to examine his human body, then he spoke a command to the robots. //Diagnostics Mode! Full Report!//

              Michael and Storm both peered out from the mainframe at Chester when he spoke in the alien language!

              Zak and Crissy had also been distracted by this event!

              'Chester' then said to the others, "Your friend Chester has traded bodies with me for a temporary amount of time. I will return control to him as soon as the systems are operational. You may call me the Gracious Lord."

              Crissy exclaimed, "How do we know that you'll return control to him?"

              The Gracious Lord replied, "You can trust me as much as you trusted Chester to know whatever secret it is that he felt bad about not knowing before today. But in my case, I can honestly say that Chester can trust me more. Now, let us repair the systems."

              Even in stasis, Chester could feel the minds of the other crew members, though they were more than just crew members... they were family. Everyone aboard the star ship was considered family. All of them. No matter how small their contributions to the star ship was, they were family. Chester shared his thoughts with the others, and began to quickly feel more at ease with them, as they, too, accepted Chester into the family. They accepted him, regardless of his being human. He was one of them due to his contribution of sacrifice.

              End of Chapter 07


                Chapter 08

                Outside of stasis, The Gracious Lord and Zak, along with several of the robots, were quickly repairing the systems. Then, Michael and Storm both announced that the Mainframe Terminal was operational. This was an intense help in getting the rest of the systems online.

                With Octavius' help, Crissy was able to get the kitchens operational, as she began preparing meals and drinks for what was soon to be a full star ship load.

                Soon, the Gracious Lord set the controls on his stasis tube to awaken the occupant in five minutes. Then, he placed the helmet on his head, and...

                ...The Gracious Lord stood before Chester. //Your friends and I got everything running, Chester. You have a nice body, though I think you like mine better. You are my son, but now, we must keep our promises. I trusted you, and now, I return that trust to you. In a few minutes, you will get to greet me in person.//

                The Gracious Lord stood behind Chester and walked forward, pressing into Chester firmly, as he felt the weirdest sensation... as it felt like he was sinking into the body before him as one would feel a finger being pressed down into chocolate fudge. Then, it was done. The Gracious Lord was in stasis, while Chester was free.

                Chester smiled as he turned to face the Gracious Lord. //I am honored to not only be your son, but to be a friend you can trust with your life.// Chester lightly kissed the Gracious Lord on the nose. //See you in person, father.// Then...

                ...Chester removed the helmet, setting it aside on the table where he had gotten it.

                Michael smiled. "Are you okay, Chester?"

                Chester replied, "...yeah, I am. The Gracious Lord kept his word... and he has accepted me as part of his family. Were you worried about me?"

                Michael nodded his head. "Yes, I was very worried. You're my best friend."

                As Chester smiled to Michael, the cryogenic tube's timer went off, as the beeping sound filled the air, and the rush of rejuvenating energy began to revitalize the stallion humanoid within the tube itself. Then, a sudden blast hot wet air rushed out of the tube, soaking Chester entirely in what felt, and smelled, like horse sweat. Then, the final beep occurred, as the tube opened slowly... and the Gracious Lord slowly opened his eyes.

                The Gracious Lord moaned softly, then exclaimed in English, "Achy joints... I hope we still have some joint lube aboard the ship..."

                Chester felt icky and sticky, but he managed a smile to the Gracious Lord. "I am glad you're awake. But... how come you can speak English?"

                The Gracious Lord was slowly, and painfully, sitting up. "...Because you allowed yourself to switch bodies with me. I gained English out of the trade. And you gained the language of my people. We did what we did out of honor, respect, and freedom. Plus, you are my son, Chester."

                Chester smiled again. "I'd do it again, when ever you asked. Now, are we going to awaken the others?"

                The Gracious Lord nodded his head, as he slowly stood up on his solid hooves. "Yes, but I needed to be awake first, so I could allay any fears when the others saw the five of you. Or rather, the four of you. They know about Chester due to his volunteered sacrifice." The Gracious Lord then hugged and petted Chester, fondly. "I approve of your cologne, Chester."

                Chester blushed, yet it made him less likely to want to wash it off. His new father liked it.

                Thereafter, they began operating the systems for releasing the rest of the 'crew' from their cryogenic stasis tubes. In all, there were three stallion adults, two mare adults, four colt children, three bull minotaurs, two cow minotaurs, four calf children, ten moon dog adult males and females, and eight pup moon dogs.

                End of Chapter 08


                  Chapter 09

                  It was indeed a very large family, if one was to call it that. After the introductions ended, everyone was escorted to the dining hall where they had their first real meal in over 18,000 years.

                  The Gracious Lord finished his meal, then announced, //We have a new problem, my family. As you originally knew, we left our home world to come here to this world to colonize it, some 18,000 years ago. Due to a malfunction in the cryogenic stasis tubes, we were not awakened when we landed on this world all those centuries ago. In the eras of our sleep, Chester and his people have populated this planet, and they know not of our existence here. Colonizing this world is now impossible, and our star ship is imbedded in the very Teutonic plate of this planet. If we were to break free, our departure would completely end life on this planet as Chester and his friends have known it, and because we are not destroyers, we cannot do that to their people.//

                  One of the moon dogs spoke up at this point. //Surely these people have not claimed the entire planet. Is there simply no place we could colonize? Are we doomed to be outcasts without a home?//

                  Chester exclaimed, //You bring up good points, my moon dog brother. Yet... were you to set up a civilization in an available region, and the adult humans learned of your being there, they'd come to your new land to stick their noses into your business. And they'd be relentless in their dishonorable, uncaring mannerisms for disrupting your lives, until you retaliated. And on that day, because of your greater power and strength, the adult humans would wrongly say that you attacked them, and they'd, thereafter, seek to end your lives.//

                  One minotaur hummed. //Then, the adult humans have not achieved the advanced level of simple discovery that our people have attained. They are still the squabbling primitives that our own people were some 79,000 years ago. If Chester's words are true, and they seem to be true, then I would have to side with Chester in regards to the issue. Yet... we still need a land to colonize within. Our group family is huge, and would soon overrun this very star ship. We need space to expand peacefully. Is there simply no such land?//

                  Chester replied, //Well... there are four possible such locations... The first is a continent that the people of our world call Antarctica. Less than 10 humans live there, and they do not raise families there. The unfortunate part of this is that the whole continent is a frozen tundra of ice, snow and frigid winds. It is not an ideal location for a people such as yours.//

                  The Gracious Lord nodded his head. //It will be considered as a last resort, then. What of the other locations you know of, Chester?//

                  Chester exclaimed, //The next location is more of what I would call a series of islands in either the South Pacific Ocean or within the Mediterranean Sea. You could construct underwater tunnels connecting bases and/or domes under each of the islands you sought to claim. The danger in this is that these two location are under the nose of the humans who might discover your civilization, even if by accident.//

                  Another moon dog remarked, //Sounds dangerous. Yet, it cannot be a good choice. We are not an underwater species. What of the remaining two locations?//

                  Chester nodded his head, as he continued. //The next locations I'll mention though different have similar dangers. And that is the deserts and mountains of this world. Humans often prefer to live on flat soil. Therefore, the deserts and mountains have very little human populations. However, the dangers are this. The deserts are dry and extremely hot, receive little to no rain, are prone to sandstorms which can bury a civilization in almost no time, and are difficult to build upon. The mountains are prone to avalanches, extremely wild animals, a breed of humans who dislike civilization in any form. While it's possible that you could live in these places, you'd literally have to adjust to the extremes of the locations, not just of these, but of all the ones that I have mentioned, so far...//

                  The Gracious Lord exclaimed, //What of the last location, Chester?//

                  Chester smiled. //The last location is mythical among humans. It is a location known as Hollow Earth. I haven't been there, myself, so I cannot tell you anything about it. But what the legends do say about it is that it has it's own sky, it's own days and nights, and it's own continents and oceans. Humans dream about the place, but to date, no one has ever been there.//

                  End of Chapter 09


                    Chapter 10

                    It was then quiet in the chamber, as Storm asked in English, "What's up, Chester?"

                    Chester turned to his friends, explaining the concerns of the crew, and of his suggestions that he made. "And now, they're trying to decide where to go based on my suggestions."

                    Storm hummed, then said, "How about this, Chester? Suppose their people settle in Hollow Earth, and set up some form of transit between their new home and this star ship, and they could assign a research team to the star ship, and this research team could lend you and your friends aid, when necessary, and visa-versa. That way, we could likewise visit them in their new home by traveling through this star ship. What do you think?"

                    The Gracious Lord turned to Storm. "As you might have already forgotten, I can speak English, Storm. Yet your idea has merit. Let me relay this idea to my people." The Gracious Lord then turned to his people and repeated Storm's idea to them.

                    During the obvious wait, there came a thick and detailed discussion. It was while this was going on, that Chester and his four friends headed off to explore the star ship.

                    Zak said, "I rather like these people. And I can tell that Chester likes them, too. I really hope we can visit them whenever we like. I want to learn more about their science... but NOT in an annoying way... I am content toward being in one of their classrooms."

                    Chester chuckled. "I am glad you're giving them their privacy rights, Zak."

                    Crissy said, "I've never gotten so many nice remarks about my cooking before in all my life. They are a nice people. I'm glad we met them... and I am sorry that we destroyed their sentry robot... but it attacked Chester."

                    Michael hummed. "In retrospect, I think what we assumed was an attack, was actually the robot trying to invite Chester inside, and we four overreacted to the situation... and when we attacked, the robot tried to protect Chester... in other words, to the robot, we were malfunctioning."

                    Storm hummed. "Now that you mention it, the robot never really tried to hurt Chester until we attacked it. And then, it was only hurting Chester because we were trying to take Chester away from it. Human error. Though the robot is partly to blame, as well. So, no one wins."

                    The five explored as much as they could before an intercom voice message asked them to return to the dining chamber. As the five friends entered the chamber, they noticed how quiet it was.

                    The Gracious Lord exclaimed, "A decision has been reached. Storm, your idea had great merit. It has been decided that your idea will be performed. However..."

                    Storm arched her eye. "However?"

                    The Gracious Lord explained, "My people have agreed to do this, only if Chester comes with them. As you already know, my people have accepted him into our family because of the sacrifice he made to help us live again. And before you all go defensive, saying how he cannot go, remember this... you four have super powers, where Chester does not. Chester is the only go-between we have between humans and our people. If we encounter other humans in the Hollow World, Chester can talk to them. We cannot. One of the rest of you could be asked to take his place, but... none of you can speak our language..." //...can you?//

                    Storm knew she had been stymied.

                    Just then, Zak's PDA rang. Zak said, "Excuse me a moment..." Zak took the call to the hallway. "Hello? Hi mom. I'm fine... just got distracted by a new computer. You know how I am. What's that? The others...?" He peeked at them in the chamber. "...Yeah, they're around, too. What's that? Really?" There was a very long pause. "Right. Right away, kemosabe. Zak out." He turned off the PDA and walked back into the chamber. "Bad news..."

                    End of Chapter 10


                      Chapter 11

                      Crissy asked, "How bad was it?"

                      Zak had a very grim look on his face. "Storm, you're first. Your mom is looking for you. You didn't come home last night."

                      Storm placed her hands on her hips. "The hell I didn't! Of course I went home last night!"

                      Zak ahemed. "Actually, you didn't. We spent the night in the cargo hold. Remember?"

                      Storm's complexion seemed to drain.

                      Crissy's complexion was next to drain. "My parents will KILL me! Oh damn!"

                      Zak nodded his head. "Yes, your parents called the police when you didn't come home."

                      Crissy eeped! "I'll be grounded for a month!"

                      Michael said, "Can I use your PDA, Zak?"

                      Zak handed it over, as Michael went out into the hallway to make his phone call. Then, Zak said, "My mom was a little frantic until I told her that I got distracted by a new computer. So luckily, I won't be grounded. I'm just sorry that the rest of you will be. This blows the biggest chunks in the universe."

                      The Gracious Lord actually chuckled, "The hazards of having secret identities..."

                      Chester then asked, "Zak? Was there... you know... any word from...?"

                      Zak knew what Chester was asking. Chester's missing Secret Service parents. "I'm sorry, Chester. There's been no word on your parents. I'm really sorry."

                      The Gracious Lord inquired, "What about Chester's parents?"

                      Chester sighed, sitting down. "My parents are government special forces agents. They've been missing in action for over a month. I was just hoping for some word on them..."

                      Michael came back in, handing the PDA back to Zak. "I'm cleared, luckily."

                      Crissy pouted! "The boys aren't grounded! That isn't fair at all!"

                      Zak smiled. "Look on the bright side, Crissy... your parents should be glad you were with us and not getting laid someplace..." Zak then added. "...Prissy Crissy!"

                      Crissy's complexion returned fast, as did her guttural growl!

                      Storm said to the Gracious Lord, "Could you please open the cargo hold door so Crissy and I can go face the music with our folks?"

                      The Gracious Lord nodded his head. "Of course. I am truly sorry for any embarrassment that the two of you may have endured while aboard our star ship." He led Storm and Crissy off toward the cargo hold.

                      End of Chapter 11