Bruce McLoud had put it off as long as he could. He just couldn't avoid the issue any longer: he just had to go into interstellar space. He had let his conscience order him around so much that he had not had a vacation in years. Damn it, it was time he did what HE wanted to do. So there! He had been able to quench his initial enthusiasm for space travel back when he first got his ESP powers, but the desire had raised its head again and just would not back down. He was going to talk to Brenda about it right now!
He cast his POV around the house until he found her fixing supper. He mentally kicked himself; he should have looked in the kitchen first. Absolutely, Brenda had the strongest work-ethic he had ever seen. If she was supposed to be somewhere to do something, she was there!
He TPed into the kitchen and said, "Let's take a vacation. You can leave right now and get back to the hospital without missing a minute by time jumping. I need a vacation and you need a vacation! Let's go, right after supper."
"OK, where do you want to go?"
Bruce was taken aback; he hadn't expected Brenda to give in that easily. "I... uh... I want to go into outer space."
"OK, any place in particular?"
"I don't know, yet. I just thought of it. I just want to find space ships and such like they had on 'Flash Gordon.'"
"OK. Do you want me to help you look, or do you want to do the search all by yourself?"
"I'll need all the help I can get. With two of us looking, we can search a whole lot faster. Can we start right after supper?"
"Sure, and it's almost ready. You set the table while I finish up."
After supper, they went outside and looked up. Bruce pointed up to the right. "You take that side and I'll take this. I don't have any particular idea of what I want, except it should be something like 'Flash Gordon.'"
They both sent their POV out, light years in an instant. They searched for only a few minutes when Brenda said, "I've got something. Is this what you wanted?"
Bruce jumped his POV to hers and took a look. "Yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing I wanted!"
Brenda had found an angular box-like structure moving along at 3 times the speed of light. Inside were some creatures with two legs, two arms, and one head, but they looked in no way human. They were covered from head to foot in what looked like overlapping tiny scales. Their skin had a beautiful green iridescent sparkle to it, possibly as a result of the scales. The had two eyes and a sort-of nose, but no obvious mouth. They were about 5 feet tall, about half of that was legs, and their arms were long enough to reach their lower set of knees. Their chest seemed to have a diaphragm on it which may have been their speaking organ.
Bruce looked into the mind of the one who looked to be in charge and found that he/she/it was capable of mind-speak compatible with human thought. Bruce said, "I am sorry to disturb you, but may I speak to you?"
"What? Who's that?"
"I am an alien being many light years from you and am speaking directly to your mind. May I continue? I'll leave and never bother you again if you wish."
"No! No! Don't leave!. I was just surprised. I will go into my office and we can speak there."
The captain spoke to one of the people on the bridge and then walked into another room and shut the door. It went to a chair and sat down. "Now, we won't be disturbed. What do you want?"
"I only want some conversation and an exchange of ideas. I don't have much experience with meeting other beings and I have never seen a space ship before now. Do you have time to talk with me?"
"I will make the time. We arunde have not met many other beings in space and I am very curious about you."
Suddenly, Brenda's thought broke in, "Bruce, get out of there fast!" He broke the connection and turned to her, "Why did you have me quit talking to that being? I was just about to ask it some questions."
"I did a mind scan of the crew while you were talking to the captain. Those people are confirmed, fanatical xenophobes. They have wiped out three other intelligent life forms in the past 1000 years just because they were different. They would have done the same to us if they could have found us!"
"Oh, my god, I almost screwed up royally! I'm glad you caught me it time to prevent a catastrophe."
"Do you want to try somewhere else?"
"Yes, I'd like to try again before I lose my nerve! Let's go back to searching and this time I'll be more careful."
Bruce was the one to find a spaceship this time. He alerted Brenda and they looked in on a space ship which was moving quite slowly, less than the speed of light.
Brenda said, "These people are OK to talk to, but they may be too busy to bother with us. The are traders who were attacked by pirates and barely escaped with a damaged engine system. They are afraid that they will be found again by the pirates and they can't run until they can get their engine repaired. The repair will take about 7 hours. I think that they need our help."
"Let's try to help. Even though we can't do anything on the engine, maybe we can help defend their ship until they can return to FTL (Faster Than Light) travel. If an enemy shows up, I'll put TK armor on the surface of their ship."
These aliens looked like egg-shaped shiny metal balls about 6 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. They had four arms evenly spaced around their middle and moved around on a 3-wheeled dolly. Bruce couldn't see much else of their bodies.
Bruce picked out the one he guessed to be the captain and said, "I am sorry to disturb you, but may I speak to you?"
The creature whirled around a full 360 degrees and said, "What are you? Where are you?"
"I am another life form located many lightyears from your present location. I would like to talk to you and possibly help you to escape the pirates. May I talk to you?"
"Yes, of course. We will be happy to get any help we can. We will pay whatever you ask."
"We will not charge for our help, except to get some answers to a few questions, if that is acceptable. If so, can we go somewhere and talk?"
"Yes, we can go into my cabin. Please wait a moment." The being then waved his arms in a certain pattern and another being waved back. The first being went into another room and closed the door. It said, "We can now talk undisturbed. How can we talk since I cannot see you?"
"I am speaking directly to your mind and reading what you say to me. Don't worry, I will not delve into your thoughts beyond your speech center; anything else would not be ethical. Would you like to see what we look like? I must warn you that we may look disgusting to you, though you look very beautiful to us."
"Yes, I would like to see you. I have seen many strange creatures, so I do not think that you would look too horrible to me."
"OK, prepare yourself. Here we come." Bruce and Brenda encased themselves in cylinders of TK shielded air and jumped to the captain's office. He rolled back away from them so fast that he nearly fell over. "I'm sorry that we startled you; do you want us to leave?"
"No! No, please stay. I just didn't know what to expect. I thought you would have some elaborate transportation device which might take time to set up. I am very impressed with your system. Is it for sale?"
"No, we can't sell it for now; maybe later. By the way, my name is Bruce and this person is Brenda. What may we call you?"
"My name is Heartfullofjoy. I am very pleased to meet you both, Bruce and Brenda. Are you the same species; you don't look the same?"
"We are very glad to meet you, Heartfullofjoy. Yes, we are the same species. We are a mated pair, I am male and Brenda is female."
"That is very interesting. I am female and I carry my mate in a special pocket inside my body. I cannot show him to you; he would die if I removed him from his place. We..."
There was a flashing of lights and the captain said, "The pirates have found us and ordered us to surrender. Perhaps you had better leave before you are captured, too."
"We can help if you will let us. We can put an impenetrable shield around your ship if you will permit that. We can also make it impossible to see the ship."
"Please do. In my distress I had forgotten your generous offer."
Bruce applied the TK armor, with the invisibility aspect turned on, to the ship. He simply converted the first few molecules of the ship, itself, since there was no air to be used. "Heartfullofjoy, as far as I can tell, your ship is now invulnerable and invisible. Brenda, have you scanned the pirates, yet?"
"Yes, and they are as evil a we guessed. I have put a nerve block on them, so they are not going anywhere until we release them. They have several hostages and considerable valuable loot aboard their ship. Heartfullofjoy, would you like to take over that ship?"
"Oh, yes. That would be sweet revenge! I could put a prize crew aboard and they could deliver the ship to a port where I could sell whatever valuables she has aboard. The hostages could also be released then."
"Brenda, we need to recharge our air."
"OK, Heartfullofjoy, we are ready to do whatever else you need us to do."
"What did you just do to recharge your air?"
"We returned to our own planet and got a new air supply and jumped back here."
"All that in so short a time that I could not detect that you were missing?"
"Yes, we can do that. But we are not at liberty to discuss it at this time."
"Very well, I will be silent on the subject, no matter how much it pains me!"
"What do you want us to do with the pirate prisoners? We could kill them if you want us to, though we are reluctant to do so. We could also put them in their ship's brig, if you wish."
"Yes, Brenda, please put them in the brig."
"Heartfullofjoy, if you think that we are reasonably safe now, I will remove the shield from the ship. I am not sure that your FTL drive would work with my shield in place."
"Go ahead and remove the shield, though I will be very sorry to see it go."
"I think that we should leave now, but we would like to return. Will that be convenient and when should we come back?"
"Yes, I would like to see you again. Please come back whenever you can. I can say, with a great happiness, that you two have made this my most profitable trip, ever. Thank you very much."
"You are welcome, Heartfullofjoy, and good bye."
"Heartfullofjoy seems to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. I like her as much as I do the dinosaur people. Can you think of any way we could be of any lasting help to her and her species without converting them to ESPers?"
"She seems to have the most balanced and ethical mindset that I have ever encountered. I wish I could get my patients to be as calm and 'right with the world' as she is."
"Let's get some sleep and then go back to visit her, again. Maybe we can find something her people need after we have talked some more."
Heartfullofjoy was not on the bridge when they POVed to her ship the next morning, so they skipped ahead in time in short jumps until they found her back there. The pirate ship was gone and Heartfullofjoy's ship was zipping along at 4 times the speed of light. "Hello, Heartfullofjoy, is this a convenient time for us to return? We can come back at another time if you prefer."
"No, Bruce, this is a good time for us to talk. Would you like to go to my cabin?"
"Yes, Brenda and I would like to talk for a while and then meet some of your crew, if you don't mind."
"Excellent! Let me turn over command and I'll be with you." She spoke to one of the people on the bridge and walked to her cabin and closed the door.
"Now, we are free to converse. Would you like to show yourselves?"
Bruce and Brenda popped into the cabin and Bruce said, "We noticed that the pirate ship is gone and you are back to FTL travel. Is everything going well?"
"Yes, we Happytravelers like to keep moving. That has been our way since before we left our home planet and turned into space travelers. We have always been wanderers. Our written records and oral tradition don't show us any other way. We have over 50,000 years of history, and most of it is as traders. We operate all over this segment of the galaxy and have happy customers on all of the inhabited planets."
"Have you heard of the arunde? They appear to be a bloodthirsty race of xenophobes who destroy any being not like themselves."
"No, we haven't run into them, I'm happy to say. Where are they, so we can avoid them?"
"Brenda found them, so maybe it would be best for her to show you on a star map."
Heartfullofjoy brought up a holographic display of the galaxy and Brenda pointed to a section. "This is approximately where we ran into them. I don't know how much volume they occupy, but I suppose that we could find out if you needed to know."
Heartfullofjoy let out her version of a sigh of relief. "That is a volume well out of our operating scope, so we should not have to worry about them for a while. Here is our normal sphere of interest." She then lit up a far different section of the galaxy.
"Our species is still confined to one planet, but we hope to begin exploration of our moon in the next few years. As a species, we probably are not advanced enough to be of any commercial interest to you. Bruce and I do what we do with the power of our minds, not with machines. So far, only Bruce and I and our parents can do this, but we think others will be able to accomplish this before long. If everybody could move around like we do, there would be no need for space ships or traveling traders. Everybody could travel for business or for fun on their own; in fact, we are visiting you as a vacation. Back home, I am a physician and Bruce is a troubleshooter."
Heartfullofjoy chuckled to herself and said, "I think that there would still be need for traders; their methods would just change a little. What are the things you can do?"
Bruce then demonstrated TK and TP. "We also have a souped-up version of clairvoyance which we call POV, but it is too personal an experience to be demonstrated. We used POV to find you. Where are you going, now, and what is your expected travel time?"
"We are headed for a planet the natives call Xylloc, which means "home" in a local language. It should take us another two months to get there."
"Would you like to get there in a few seconds. We could TP your ship and its contents there with no detectable time lapse. We should talk to your crew beforehand, though; we wouldn't want them to panic by being shifted in space without explanation."
"A good point! Yes, it would be nice to skip the travel time, which can even get boring to individuals so placid as we are. We have a total of 22 crew members whom you can meet as a group in the mess hall. We are scheduled to eat in a few minutes; will that be satisfactory?"
"Yes, we are looking forward to the opportunity."
The mess hall consisted of a large room fitted with tubes which hung from the ceiling. There was a fitting on the end of each tube which connected to a orifice which formed near the top of each individual. While the crew was eating, there was a constant buzz of noise which the humans took to be conversation.
After a while, the captain moved to a dais along one wall and the lights flashed. Conversation stopped and everyone appeared to concentrate her attention on the captain. "We have some special visitors of a species you have never seen before. They are the ones who helped us with the pirates and will continue to help us during our voyage. I want you to meet them now."
Bruce and Brenda TPed to the dais and Bruce mind-spoke, "Hello ladies. Captain Heartfullofjoy has invited us to join you for a while, so we are here to introduce ourselves. I want to show you some of what we can do and tell you the captain's plans for us." They demonstrated TK and TP, and Bruce continued mind-speaking, "We can TP this ship and its contents anywhere the captain wants to go, so we will move you to your next port, Xylloc, with no time delay. In fact, we are there, now. Please look out to confirm this."
The crew rushed to the viewing ports and looked out onto a familiar planet close by. They were all amazed and pleased that they had avoided a boring journey. The captain said, "Please return to your duty stations and prepare to make contact with the locals.