The Sedra Anomaly
Sstha stood on the bridge of The Farseeker. His captain was down on Sedra and would be gone for at least two more days and, for that time, the command of the ship was his. He walked over to sit in the captain’s chair, discovering at the last moment that it was already occupied. That cat! Not one, however, to be brutal to an innocent animal, Sstha gently removed the beast, placing it on the deck. That was the rightful place for a cat.
The cat disagreed, landing back on the seat before it could be forestalled.
Sstha evicted it again – firmly. Just as firmly the cat was faster to return to the chair than Sstha was to prevent it. He sighed. Oh, well, he should check the computer anyway, this planet was known for intermittent, and occasionally very, strange anomalies.
There’d been the episode of a captain who was found chatting to a wall in the ship’s corridor. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the fact that the wall was chatting back – or so the records said. It was a pity that humans could be so unstable. Sstha ,as an Eridau, was severely practical; his race would never have such difficulties.
He finished his checking-run on the ship’s computer, then returned to the task of persuading the cat to sleep on the floor. Eventually, he gave that up as a bad job. Who was the atomic-era writer his captain often quoted… something about never trying to out-stubborn a cat? Maybe that writer had had something there. He took up a position in his own First Officer’s chair. The cat remained where it was – the captain’s chair was the most comfortable on the ship.
An hour passed peacefully until a bell pinged quietly on Sstha’s board. He looked as surprised as it was possible for an Eridau to look. Odd! There was nothing on his board that made such a sound. The “nothing” pinged again – more urgently. He realized that, unnoticed by him, an extension had appeared, extruded from the edge of his work station. He reached for the signaling indicator; a bar of rainbow light that was beginning to pulse slowly. Behind him a voice spoke.
“I think that signal may be for me, but you’d better answer it.”
Sstha spun. Behind him, still in the captain’s chair, the cat sat casually washing a hind-leg . Sstha was not one to disbelieve his ears – if he thought that he’d heard the cat speak, then it had – the Sedra Anomaly perhaps? He reached for the bar of light and found it solid.
“First Officer Sstha here.”
A soft furry-sounding voice answered. “Meeaauagh here. Please depress the bar fully.”
The voice sounded surprised. “Because I wish it.”
Sstha failed to accept this as a good-enough reason to comply. True, the voice did not sound hostile, but he was in command and, Sedra anomaly or not, he wasn’t about to blindly obey a voice out of nowhere on a bridge panel that did not exist.
“I must ask your intentions.”
The voice produced a sort of giggling purr. “I want your crew member to visit me.”
“I am currently alone on the ship.”
“I want the one who is with you.”
Before Sstha could reiterate his absence of company, a nudge against his ankle brought his attention lower.
The cat sat there, staring up at him with a positive leer.
Sstha shuddered. Really, the expression! He turned back to the non-existent panel and pressed the bar again lightly. “Do you refer to the feline who sits beside me?”
Sstha turned to the cat, feeling at a distinct loss for words. Nothing in his long and practical life had prepared him for this. “Do you want to visit this one who names herself as Meeaauagh?”
The cat looked up. It nodded.
Sstha depressed the bar fully as instructed and the cat vanished in a haze of pearly light. So did the rainbow light bar and the panel addition. Hoping he’d done the right thing, Sstha left for the galley where he drank three stiff cups of tea. That would probably have been what the ship’s doctor would have ordered and for once he would follow orders – even if he hadn’t had them yet. It seemed wholly in keeping with recent events.
The cat had not reappeared by the time Sstha returned to the bridge and resumed his station. He hoped the animal would come back before the others returned. The captain was fond of the beast and the communications officer doted on it. There was no need to worry, however. With another quiet ping for attention, the panel and light control were back. Sstha pressed the bar and waited.
“Meeaauagh here. You may now depress the bar fully and your crew-member will be returned to you. My thanks for your cooperation.”
Sstha thrust the bar down, there was a faint prolonged ping, and the cat was sitting in front of him, cleaning its whiskers nonchalantly. He peered at the animal. It didn’t seem to be any the worse for its trip. If anything, its expression was that of an almost unbearable smugness. He wondered what it had been doing? Was this Meeaauagh an alien life-form wishing to investigate other life forms? He shrugged all four of his shoulders. The captain and crew would be back on the ship any moment now. Although – Sstha’s curiosity stirred, and he clicked his tongue until the cat looked up at him, two-eyed amber gaze meeting the cerulean four-eyed stare with equanimity. “Did anything happen to you, where you went?”
The cat nodded slowly, the expression becoming, if possible, even smugger.
“Are you undamaged by the experience?”
Again it nodded.
Sstha thought. The animal was apparently unharmed and clearly not distressed by events. A pity it was unable to tell Sstha what those had been, but Terran animals of this species could not speak – he had already wiped a previous and impossible memory that did not befit an Eridau. He nodded politely back to the cat before turning to check the settings on his panel.
“I spent time with Meeaauagh. She is like me.”
Clearly the anomaly was still working.
“She was willing to allow your return?”
“Indeed, once we had accomplished her desire…”
The panel chimed musically indicating that it was time to retrieve the first of the returning crew.
“Her emotions were somewhat mixed about my departure from her.”
The captain stepped from the platform, and as he advanced, Sstha heard a final comment from the deck. “Very mixed. “You could say she was having kittens.”
“Did you say something to me, First Officer?”
“No, captain.” Sstha looked hard at the feline. The entire episode had been horribly distressing to an Eridau. Relieved, he returned to his computer panel. The extra panel and control bar had vanished again so that all was as it should be. He considered. The Sedra Anomaly should be thoroughly investigated, obviously it produced quite peculiar types of hallucination. He glanced about the bridge. Such things could not genuinely occur, therefore they had not done so. Satisfied with his deduction, his gaze crossed that of the cat’s amber-eyed smirk. One of its eyes closed in an unmistakable, and very unsettling, wink.