A round-robin story
Part 8 by Gregg Anderson © 2006

Eduonda paused for a moment, then smiled as he nodded to her before he turned and reached back into the locker again to pull out a small sealed package. "To be honest, my dear ‘niece’, I thought you might enjoy sampling something I found at Starbase 16. There was this little Terran shop selling the strangest things, reproductions of ancient Earth artifacts, tools, weapons, and several food items. I was very tempted by the swords and something he called a ‘crossbow’ but the human said he wasn't allowed to sell even reproduction weapons to anyone not of ‘adult age’. He frowned for a moment. "You know, I am starting to get tired of that, being treated like a child all the time."

Isaut could only smile and nod in agreement. "I can't argue with that, ‘Uncle’, I go through the same thing even though I know how to take a scanner array apart and rebuild it as fast as any ‘grown up’." She paused a moment then looked directly at her slightly older ‘Uncle’. "So just what are you trying to pull this time? Another banana?"

Eduonda shook his head and showed her several identical packages in his locker. "No, the human suggested I try something different. He called it Pemmican or ‘beef jerky’. It's supposed to be a very ancient food that early humans used on their home world when they traveled, a mix of dried flavored meat, berries, and natural herbs. He even had it in several flavors. I tried one of them and it was very good. Better than seasoned Veldtbeast in fact. I've not tried all the flavors but I thought I'd give you one of the packages I bought. The Human called the flavors: Natural, Peppered, habanero, and Honey." He gave a somewhat theatrical sigh as he looked at the flask of honey Isaut had set next to her plate, licking his lips in envy. "Anyway, I haven't tried all of them yet but I thought you would enjoy trying them since you share my love of..." he looks at the honey covered plate with no little sign of envy, "unusual flavors. Consider it a gift and a gesture to my sweet, innocent ‘little’ niece." With that he handed the half-pound package to her, forcing himself to keep a straight face as he envisioned her reaction when she bit into the habanero package, having made that mistake himself. Still, he thought to himself, the rest of them were quite delicious.

As Isaut accepted the sealed meat he added in a concerned voice; "Do you know how long it will take for the Starwave to reach Chakona? I think the package has already been delayed rather badly."

Isaut looked the package over carefully, noting that the seals seemed original and still air tight before accepting and laying it next to the package. "My parents told me we're supposed to go on a research mission out between Earth and Chakona. There's a rumor about a dark nebula not too far from the Haley system but it's one that no one has explored yet. We're to pick up some so-called ‘experts’ on Chakona and escort them to this so-called nebula and play nursemaid while they poke and prod it with the stars only know what. It sounds horribly boring, not like what you got to do chasing that pirate and all."

"Don't say that, Isaut. Please, it was..." he paused, biting his lip for a moment before confessing the truth, "it was not fun. It was very terrifying to be honest. I wanted to help but they kept telling me I was too young and ordered me to stay with the little cubs and protect them. If it happens to you, then you'll be told the same thing. We were hit pretty hard and the ship was damaged when the pirate exploded. A lot of people died, most of them were on the other ship but we had three of our own die when the pirate ship exploded and the debris got through our shields and pierced our hull." He shook his head then looked back at his young niece. "Trust me, you don't want to have to go through that if you can avoid it. I just hope I'm old enough to actually help the next time. Babysitting a room full of kits is not my idea of being a hero."

Isaut laughed at his last comment, then hesitated. "Was it really that scary?" At his nod she sighed and held herself quiet for a moment. "Then maybe we should wish each other a quiet journey, with no surprises that aren't happy ones?"

Eduonda nodded and touched her shoulder. "For us both then, though we can still tease each other. Okay?"

The female Voxxan giggled and nodded, picking up her two packages as she headed towards the door. "True enough, ‘Uncle’. Though next time it will be your turn to eat the banana again. But I'll fulfill your oath and see this box to Chakona. Who knows?" she smiled. "Maybe it will be my turn to bring you something new to sample next time. That was the last of the honey or I'd have given you at least a taste. Till then, I guess we get to pick up some stuffy chakat and skunktaur scientists and watch them read lots of numbers to each other. You take care of yourself, ‘Uncle’. And I'll expect another offering from you next time to repay me for fulfilling your debt of honor."

With that, Eduonda nodded and quietly exited the room, feeling just a twinge of guilt as he again pondered how Isaut would react to the spicy flavored dried jerky. Then he smiled and guessed he'd find out at their next meeting, and was already plotting how he'd respond, half expecting that she would actually enjoy the spicy flavor.


Continued in The Package, part 9.

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