Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bryght(2)

By: Cathryn Cade

“Oh, it’s necessary. The terrorists have gotten very tricky with their little bombs.” Dr. Tentaclar leaned forward, four eyes focused on Ogg. “They’ve discovered how to create organic explosives. Hide the devices right in their body cavities, so they can’t be detected by a holographic scan—just looks like something they ate. Then, when the ship is out in space—squersshhh!”

A few of them winced, and Craig held up one hand.

“Thank you, Doctor. I think we all know the results of a bio-bomb on a ship’s systems. Now, back to our immediate problem, please.”

“If we cannot proceed without our navigator, we must persuade him to resume his duties,” the Indigon said. “By my reckoning, we will enter the hazardous portion of the Cattarus system in seventy-two galactic hours. We have until then to deal with the problem.”

“But how will we reason with him?” asked the chief interpreter, a small Pangaean woman whose skin was pale and her hair green, the result of lifelong exposure to the rich vegetation of her home planet. “Everyone is afraid to go near him. He nearly frightened to death the young couple who chanced to be in the ship’s arboretum when he shifted.”

“We don’t reason with him,” the captain said. Then his eyes sharpened, as he looked at the Indigon. “Unless Commander Navos can assist us.”

“I cannot help you.” Navos shook his head. “It is his feline-enhanced faculties that enable him to do his job. Any attempt at mind control would result in disaster.”

They all looked at Craig, who sighed. “In that case we get him what he wants—a temporary mate.”

“Yes, he’ll have to have one in order to function,” Tentaclar agreed. “In the thrall of his sexual urges, if he’s not provided with a mate soon, he’ll hurt himself or others.”

“But—how do we procure him one? We can’t just order one of the crew members to submit,” Interpreter Mra protested.

“There are licensed sexual companions on board,” Navos put in. “Hire one or more of them to service him.”

“Yes, that should work,” Tentaclar chirped. “Tygean males in shift want a mate of their own kind, but in this case, I’m sure any attractive female would do.”

“Commander Jag, however, is more particular,” said the other woman at the table, a sleek, auburn-haired Serpentian with slanting eyes and a gold flight suit fitted to her lithe curves. “He tells me he requires a female who is not sexually imprinted by other partners—not recently, anyway.”

Ogg’s bushy brows flew up. “But, I thought Tygeans were known for their, ah, free and easy ways. And isn’t Jag quite popular with the ladies?”

Commander Sirena Blaze shrugged, a faint smile curving her lips. “Yes, but it seems he feels differently in his mating shift.”

“This could be a problem,” Ogg commented. “From what I’ve seen, our younger crew bunk-hop like deerbbits. Where we gonna find a Tygean female who’s, ah, inactive, yet willing?”

“Hmm, I’m certain there is at least one.”

Interpreter Mra frowned. “So we must ask a young, inexperienced female to volunteer? I am certainly not in favor of this. I understand Tyger males are quite forceful in their sexual demands.”

“They are also famous for their prowess,” Sirena drawled. “I would volunteer myself, but…”

She shrugged, and the other crew leaders politely avoided her eyes. Serpentians were also well known for their open sexuality—and she was practically a legend.

“I’m with Mra,” Ogg said. “This sounds like the ancient Earth practice of throwing virgins to the tigers. I don’t like it.”

“Actually,” Captain Craig said. “We need not ask for a volunteer. I have one. She is one of your new recruits, Interpreter Mra. Calla Fellura.”

Sirena Blaze laughed softly. “How … convenient.”

“Calla?” The Pangaean’s corn silk hair wafted up around her head in surprise. “But she is not—that is, she has refused the advances of both male and female crewmates thus far on this voyage. I keep an eye on my crew.”

Also By Cathryn Cade

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