Hailey and Candy were waiting at the big stone building that was called the Labs, in the clinic section for a checkup. Lynn wanted to make sure they were done before sending them out on any exploration missions. Hailey was itching to get out and explore the planet and Candy just wanted to spend time with Hailey and her new friends.
They were mostly alone in the waiting area save for the human receptionist who, herself seemed to be doing double duty as both a receptionist and scientist, and a girl with long, pointed ears who, every so often, covered her mouth and hiccupped. She groaned slightly after each one.
“I’ve been doing this for a week,” she said with a sigh and then a hiccup. “It’s embarrassing.”
“Did you try holding your breath?” Candy asked. The girl nodded.
“Drinking water, standing on my head, my partner even says he hears me doing it in my sleep,” the girl laughed.
“Awww, hmm.” Hailey said, “Try having someone scare you?”
“... Haven’t tried that,” she said and shook her head as Lynn came out.
“Hiccups suck. They hurt too.” Hailey sighed.
Lynn approached the girl and sat down beside her. She looked serious. “I’m sorry, Keradin. I’m so sorry.”
“What? What is it?” Keradin asked.
“It’s serious,” Lynn said. Keradin’s breath caught in her throat. She also stopped hiccupping. Lynn smiled sheepishly.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, trying not to giggle. “But I wanted to try scaring you first before considering more drastic measures.”
“I had a case of the hiccups once when I was 9, that they had to put me on oxygen.” Hailey sighed.
Lynn nodded. “Most people don’t believe they’re that serious, but they can lead to loss of sleep if the diaphragm refuses to stop twitching, which can lead to serious medical problems, and even internal damage.”
Keradin sighed, “My people never had these hiccups before, so it’s new to us. Thank you so much, Doctor.”
“You are very welcome.” Lynn smiled, “Tell Erick, that I have a late shift tonight would you?”
Keradin giggled slightly. “I will,” she said as she hugged Lynn and then stood to leave.
“You look really different this morning Hailey.” Lynn smiled and took them both to a room in the back.
“I feel different,” Hailey giggled. “But your theory about the water seems correct. The cravings stopped after I woke up this morning, although I had a bad withdrawal headache last night. I had one more glass just so I could sleep.”
“Me too,” Candy nodded. “I tried to resist it, but my head felt like a Delanian drum machine was going off in my ears. But I felt fine this morning.”
“Any other strange cravings?” Lynn asked.
“No.. well I almost didn’t get dressed this morning, and I wasn’t even the slightest bit embarrassed by the fact.” Hailey stated.
Lynn laughed. “That’s normal, especially in a temperate zone like this, not just for Furrens, but many races with natural fur, armor plating, or the like.”
“You’ll notice there’s a large section of the beach down by the docks where nobody wears clothes.” A younger girl said as she came in, “I got the results from that complete blood test you had me run.”
“I guess we could shave off our fur and really go natural,” Candy said jokingly.
“On Earth we have hairless cats.” Hailey smiled, resisting the urge to make a joke.
Candy tilted her head just slightly. It was imperceptible to the other two, but Hailey caught it. Candy was thinking the exact same thing she was.
“Ah, excellent,” Lynn said, oblivious to the subtle body language communication between the two as she looked at the report. “I think if Rebecca and the others want to take off this afternoon for a mission you two are perfectly capable of going.”
“The weather’s going to be purrfect for it,” Candy said. “My fur isn’t standing on end so there are no storms coming,” she laughed.
“I want to do one more check up on you both in about a week if that’s ok?” Lynn smiled.
Hailey nodded. “Sounds great. I doubt we’ll be gone that long, but we’ll let Rebecca know just the same.”
“If Rebecca had her way you guys would be gone months at a time.” Lynn laughed. “Tricia says smaller teams can only be gone for 24 hours. Tera’s boat can be out for 4 days since she has a full team.”
“Wow,” Hailey said. “How do they get anything done with such a short time window?” she giggled.
“The currents: Rebecca has figured out how to use them to her advantage.” Lynn laughed.
When they left they ran into Brie walking down the road, “Hey Brie.” Hailey waved her tail. Brie looked up from her computer. Hailey had seen Brie expertly avoid obstacles with her nose buried in the tablet-like device, but this time, the poor girl walked right into a light post. She stumbled backwards, fell on her backside, and stared at Hailey.
“Wow... I... Wow.” She laughed as Hailey and Candy rushed to help her up. “I’m okay. But... Wow. I didn’t expect the changes to be that fast. You look incredible.”
“It was all the water we drank.” Hailey nodded. “Lynn thinks the overseers wanted to show everyone that they could get the changes over faster if we drank the water like that.”
“I’m curious what happens if someone keeps drinking after,” Brie said thoughtfully. “May have to set up an experiment with myself as the test subject when we return.”
Rebecca laughed, “You’ll have to get the Science guild to agree to that.” she was studying her map, “Tricia was just telling me, since we’re only one person shy, the Explorers guild has given us the go to go out on longer expeditions.”
“Fantastic,” Hailey laughed. “We just need to be back in a week or so for a checkup.”
“Wait,” Ella said, “Shouldn’t that be two short?”
Rebecca grinned at Ella, “We have a new crewmember.”
“That’s good,” Ella said, looking distracted. She was watching the road.
“I’m sure you’d like to welcome her aboard personally Ella.” Rebecca grinned.
“Should I be jealous?” Karen spoke up, causing Ella to jump, spin around, and hug her.
“Nope I Was just telling them about our newest crew member, “ Rebecca grinned, “Everyone welcome Karen to our crew.”
“But I.. How?” Ella laughed, hugging her again.
“Tera yelled at me, and then went and replaced me this morning.” Karen laughed, resting her head on Ella’s shoulder briefly. “Now we don’t have to say goodbye every time one of us goes out.”
Rebecca laughed, “Brie and I are the only two single crew members.” she winked.
“No cosmic jokes there, either,” Brie giggled.
“Sure there are,” Ella laughed. “You both prefer the opposite sex, on a ship full of females, all of whom have dates.”
Rebecca almost cackled. “She’s got us there. But to be fair... I haven’t felt attracted to anyone since I got here so I don’t actually know where I stand there. All I have is the assumption that I still dig guys because I used to be gay.” She winked.
“Furren humor is contagious,” Ella laughed as she hoisted a crate of supplies in one hand and some kind of analyzer device in the other. The gangplank creaked, and the ship visibly dipped a bit lower into the water as she walked on deck.
“I want to bring up a vote actually.” Rebecca called out to her crew, “I want to sail the lip, and see if there’s anyway to get down it safely.”
“Safely having the meaning of ‘get back up again’,” Brie added helpfully.
Rebecca nodded, “Exactly. If there’s a way down there, then I’d like to have it documented, especially if we can get back up the same way.”
“Every problem has a solution,” Ella said. “I may not understand half of what happens on this planet,” she chuckled, “But I know for every problem, there’s an answer, and nothing on this planet doesn’t happen for no reason- that’s just good sense,” she teased. “I vote yes.”
“We can sail the entire lip in two days easily,” Brie said, “With Rebecca’s intuition for finding the currents. I vote yes.”
“I’ve always wanted to know what’s beyond the lip,” Karen said. “I absolutely vote yes.”
“I’m new to any of this, but I like the sense of adventure, so I vote yes.” Hailey smiled.
“Who knows what - or who - lies beyond the ocean’s lip? There could be another whole society like us that has no idea we exist,” Candy giggled. “I vote fuck yeah.”
“Ok that’s settled, we’ve done most of our exploration on the lip north, I say we go south this time.” Rebecca pointed to the map around the lip on the south end of the map there wasn't much there at all.
Once the ship was unpacked and supplies put away, they pulled out, there were people on the beach waving, Hailey didn’t notice it last time, but every time an exploration ship went out, people always came to watch and wave. Hailey giggled under her breath at something.
“What?” Rebecca asked, glancing at her with a chuckle.
“It’s silly,” she said and shook her head. “One of the first computer games I ever played was on my grandma’s PC, called Uncharted Waters. The main character was doing what we’re doing now basically,” she said, and then giggled again. “Anyway, every time the ship would leave port, if it was a port friendly to you, then the entire town of three non player characters would show up to see you off, like what I just saw on the beach.”
Rebecca laughed, “The people on the beach here that wave us off, are fans, mostly that like to hear the tales we bring home, some of them are shop owners wishing us luck.”
“That is deep, though,” Brie giggled. “More than once I’ve found myself questioning if this is just a simulation. If it is,” she added, “I don’t think I want it to end.”
“I have reason to believe it’s not a simulation.” Rebecca grinned. “And it the answer to that I think is on the other side of the lip.”
As Hailey looked out over the water, she spotted something in the distance that at first looked like a small, black island, and then the ‘island’ vanished beneath the water. A moment later it appeared again, a bit closer, and breached the water vertically. It disappeared beneath the waves again as a tail the size of one of their rowboats appeared above the water and slammed down with a tremendous splash.
“A Whale!” Hailey called out.
“I don’t believe it,” Rebecca said as she turned to look. “I mean we knew theoretically there could be sea creatures, but no one’s ever actually seen one!”
“How much do you want to be if we follow it, it could lead us to the pathway down the lip?” Hailey smiled.
“What have we got to lose?” Rebecca laughed. “Whales are incredibly intelligent creatures, only outpaced by the octopus.”
“Watch that one, you might send the two cats into a giggle fit.” Karen laughed.
“Only if there’s writing involved though,” Ella said, grinning innocently.
Candy smiled as she came up the stairs, “What was that about writing?”
“Oh,” Hailey giggled out, “Rebecca was talking about how the octopus is one of the only sea creatures smarter than a whale, but she left out Dolphins.” She pulled out her phone and watched the waters to see if the whale breached again, hoping to get a picture of it. Almost on cue, the whale rose up out of the water just off to the side of the ship, flipped onto its side, and disappeared again, making for a spectacular photo.
Rebecca and crew followed the Whale for hours down the lip, it actually was swimming rather close to it. As if it knew they were following it and why.
Candy’s ears twitched. “Great bargains at low low prices!” she announced, sitting up.
“Do what?” Rebecca asked.
“My earpiece just picked up some static, and then a man saying that,” Candy said excitedly.
“Sounds like an old Earth commercial,” Hailey laughed.
“Hailey think you can find the frequency with your app?” Rebecca asked.
“Sure, I can try anyway,” Hailey said as she took out her phone again. She had the battery charging during the lull, and so it had a full charge now, ready for action. She scanned through the frequencies until she hit on static intermittently mixed with Styx’ ‘Come Sail Away’.
Hailey pressed the transmit button, “Hello can anyone hear me?”
The music stopped, and a young woman answered. “Yes, hello! You’re on the air with Circle Sea radio,” the girl giggled. “Are you a lost survivor? We can send a rescue party.”
“Negative.” Hailey called back, “We’re an exploration ship, following a whale to find a way down the lip.”
There was a noticeable pause, and then she answered, “I’m sorry, did you say you’re following the lip?”
“Yes, we’re up on top, we’re looking for a way down.” Hailey called back.
“I don’t believe this,” she radioed back excitedly. “Just a second! Admiral Flaxi, if you’re listening please-Oh!” she squeaked. “There you are.”
“Did you say Exploration ship?” A Man spoke up. Hailey handed the phone over to Rebecca.
“This is Captain Rebecca of the exploration vessel Victory,” Rebecca answered.
“There’s other people out there exploring.” she heard the girl screech in the background.
“I’m Admiral Flaxi Darr of the intergalactic trade confederate,” he radioed back. “It is good to hear there are others out there beyond the rim!”
Ella spoke up, “Admiral Flaxi’s ship disappeared over 80 years ago, all but two crew members made it off the ship, Admiral Flaxi and a crew member name Jaxxana.”
“We’ve been probing the rim for years,” the girl said, “But we’ve never found a way past it. Just our small islands here where lost survivors occasionally turn up.”
“There has to be a way down and back up.” Rebecca spoke, “There is a whale up here leading us, as if it knows a way down.”
“I don’t believe it,” the admiral said with a laugh. “That big beast actually did it.”
Ella spoke up, “Admiral?”
“Yes?” he answered.
“Did Jaxxana live, if she’s alive tell her that the daughter of Chia is coming to see her.” Ella spoke.
“Alive and well,” he laughed. “It seems the water here by our best guess, extended our already long lifespan even longer. She doesn’t look a day over sixty.”
“Wow,” Ella laughed. “My people live to be about 150. Sixty is just hitting middle aged for us. Our Crew consists of 2 human’s, 1 , 1 , and 2 Furren.” she radioed the last part to the Admiral.
“Sounds like the same random assortment we’ve come to expect,” Flaxi laughed. “We’re mostly humans here, with a handful of other known races, and one we had never heard of before she and her ship appeared here. Unfortunately the engines were irreparable.”
The girl giggled again. “I had a large collection of catalogued radio signals I’ve collected in my travels, so I’ve been broadcasting music of various cultures since. My People don’t have a home in space, we travel the stars and try to blend in with the cosmic background noise, so to speak.”
“Admiral, how far has your colony come on Medical Sciences?” Rebecca asked.
“We’ve had some advances thanks to the work of the odd scientist that’s appeared, but nowhere near where we would like to be I’m afraid. Nano medicine is just too far out of reach for our resources, even with Liara’s ship’s fabrication modules.”
“Have your Scientists found the common marker yet?” Rebecca asked.
“The link between our species? Oh yes,” he said. “We had suspected as much for some time prior, but it’s all right there in our genetic code. We all share a common ancestor.”
“How close are you guys to the lip?” Rebecca asked.
“We set up our colony on the largest island, right at the heart of the crater.”
“We also took the same route, but I don't think you're in a crater at all.” Rebecca called back.
The admiral laughed. “Neither do we, being honest. We can’t explain it. You see the water poruring over the edge I’m sure? We see it coming down whenever we try to find a way out, but yet, the islands are never flooded out. In fact, I swear new ones pop up every so often.”
“I’ve had the same theory, this planet is massive, I think it’s 4x maybe even larger than the one I come from.” Rebecca responded. “My Theory is, this is just a drop in the ocean, there’s a flat area somewhere near our location has to be, that leads down to you.”
“If the large sea creature found you,” the girl said, “Then that means she found a way - a way that doesn’t involve building a submersible, at any rate,” she added.
“Speak of Submersibles, we have fuel, and we’re actually building one as we speak.” Rebecca laughed. “Well not my crew but the colony we live in is.”
“There!” Brie announced suddenly. “There’s an almost imperceptible dip in sea level there. The ‘whale’ is heading straight for it.”
“Jeez, you saw that?” Hailey laughed. “Remind me to never play darts with you.”
“You should be able to see it too take off those confounded glasses.” Candy giggled.
“But I can’t see a thing without-” Hailey started to say, but Candy reached over and snatched them away. Hailey blinked. “Woooow. I can see!”
Candy giggled, “I was wondering why you were having issues bumping into things then I remembered your glasses.”
Hailey giggled. “I’m so used to not seeing very well. I guess I was just used to wearing them. But to my credit I did see the whale,” she teased.
“Yeah but it was almost right in your face.” Rebecca laughed.
Candy’s nose twitched slightly. “I smell... Mmm, beer basted shrimp rolls dipped in honey.” She looked around for the source. “It must be wafting up from one of the islands.”
“Are you guys having a cookout?” Rebecca asked over the radio on Hailey’s phone.
“It’s a human tradition they call a ‘luau’,” the girl radioed back with a giggle. “How did you know? Oh, the Admiral stepped out to look for Jaxxana and should be back momentarily.”
“Our Furren’s smell it, and um guys, we’re going to see you shortly, the currents down here are the same up above, I can be at your island in less than an hour sailing them.” Rebecca radioed.
The girl laughed. “You just made a lot of people happy,” she said. “Expect a feast when you arrive.”
True to her word, it didn’t take the crew very long to get there at all, Rebecca had a knack for the world's current, she had no idea why, but she could just feel the ocean’s current when she was sailing.
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