Outward Bound - Book 2 of the Tufts Family Saga
Chapter 1: Citizen of the Confederation
"Eloise Valantrina Katherine Tufts, Darjee Citizenship is conferred upon your person as are full membership rights in the Confederacy. Would you like transportation at this time to join your Darjee kin?"
Ellie could remember those words from the three voices of joined Confederacy AIs as if they were just now being said. That wasn't the case, Ellie was snuggled in bed with her husband, Jason who was a mere mortal. Of course, until the testing AI became confused, misreading the results of her CAP test Ellie had been a mere mortal too. She loved her family and had come to love Tonto, the newest member as if he had been part of the Tufts family all of her life. Even though she was the youngest she was also the only human to ever become a Darjee citizen which made her totally unique.
The reality that she was also a member of the small Tufts family, the only human group to have Organic Linking Nanites and therefore their own advanced Observer AI made her doubly unique. Tonto could only exist using the mind power of his combined humans but with just five family members in Tonto's circuit his powers far exceeded the power of even grouped Confederacy AIs. And Tonto shared that power with his human counterparts.
While Ellie was pondering her fate and snuggling with her new husband, who also was her older brother, Tonto was busy tapping into Confederacy communications to determine how the Darjee were reacting to the granting of citizenship upon Ellie. He was also monitoring Earth side computer traffic of the U.S. Navy as well as that of the Earth First wackos. Any misstep by the family could put them all in danger from all three agencies.
Tonto's human family needed sleep, Tonto didn't and he would be busy on many fronts until they were introduced to both the human space forces and the Darjee, and were all safely extracted. He felt comfortable about his ability to master the Confederacy AIs and even the electro/mechanical nanites that they would inject into the family members. Neither the AIs or the nanites could be allowed to discover that the family was already part of a nanite based network. Tonto could handle those chores.
The Darjee were another matter entirely. Tonto had no direct access to the Darjee communication system other than that provided by the AI network. All Darjee deep space and fleet communications went through the AIs but when they met in person their discussions were an unknown.
"Sleep, Little One," Tonto thought toward Ellie, "Your life is going to be an amazing adventure and all whom you touch will be changed for all time. Soon you will wear brightly colored feathers."
Rob shouted at Tonto. "You want my daughter to grow feathers! Are you nuts? Over night you turned my eleven-year-old daughter into a sixteen-year-old young woman married to her brother and carrying his twin children in her womb. You are totally crazy if you think for one second I'll allow feathers!"
Ellie's mom, Katie, sat down in her husband's lap and snuggled in. There was no way Rob could jump up or lose his cool with his wife holding him down. The entire family was gathered in the Commandant's Conference Room at the mothballed NAS Hospital. Katie and her own mother, Val, both were bemused by the thought, what woman wouldn't love to be decked out in colorful plumage, at least for a special occasion.
Tonto took the floor, using Jason's voice to explain. "Ellie will need to have an 'in person' meeting with a Darjee representative. So far all communications have been by AI which allows the Darjee to keep their sanity. They simply cannot meet directly with violent humans without straining their stability. Peace is not a concept for them, it is their very essence."
Tonto went on to explain his plan. The meeting was required by Darjee custom and law, normally it would be a celebration welcoming a Darjee Youngling into the adult world. But, even though Ellie had tested as a moderately high functioning Darjee and had been granted citizenship as a Darjee and as a member of the Confederacy she was still HUMAN. All but one of the Darjee who had met beak to face with humans had gone quietly insane in a very short time. The one survivor was an outcast; the contact had tainted him.
AI contact had been instigated with humans but even then the risk was so great that two or three moderating AI links were installed as insulation. Most of the time the AIs made decisions without even informing the Darjee of the contact. Tonto went on to explain that the Darjee were holding a lottery to determine which of the qualified candidates would be sacrificed to comply with the letter of the law and meet with Ellie.
Tonto spoke again, "Ellie, we can grow you a set of fledgling feathers, brightly colored to infer the rank of Princess Three. They will not be full adult feathers but age appropriate. We should also extend your nose a bit to more closely resemble a beak to make your appearance palatable to them. I have no doubt that your every wish will be granted without hesitation, especially since we will make very basic, simplistic, demands that any Darjee Youngling would have received when only half way to maturity."
"Over my dead... !" Rob shouted before Ellie kissed him on the forehead and placed her fingers on his lips to shush him.
"No, Daddy, we like you just the way you are, we don't want you dead at all." Ellie smiled. "Besides, Daddy, I'm a big girl now with children of my own in the hopper. I get to make my own decisions with the help of my husband, and you do trust your son to make wise decisions, don't you?"
Rob let out a huge sigh and dropped his head on his wife's shoulder asking her, "Katie, what have we done to deserve this?"
Katie responded, "Well, you married your sister, slept with your mother and lovingly held her while your son, her grandson, planted identical twins in her womb. You also sexually exchanged sperm laden with nanites with your daughter and enjoyed it very much indeed. You've also taken on several concubines and impregnated three of them plus you have instigated an explosion that wiped out an Earth First terrorist that brutalized his step-daughter who is your son's concubine. You sneak the largest pre-pack in history into a closed Naval Air Station, which you illegally commandeered from the U. S. Government ... Do I need go on?"
Rob dropped his head from her shoulder to her breast, gave her a soft kiss and kept his mouth shut.
Ellie turned to her brother and said, "Husband mine, do you think I would look good in 'age appropriate' feathers?"
"Sweetheart," Jason replied, "you look wonderful in nothing at all so I don't see how feathers or anything else could be an improvement but I do have a couple of questions. Tonto, I trust that the feathers will be temporary just until the Darjee contact is completed. Also we need to know that growing feathers won't harm Ellie or the babies. Time is an issue too. It took about 23 hours to age advance Ellie and me to 16 years old and we only have a few days left before we have to complete our extraction from this base."
As Tonto began his reply, using Val as his voice surrogate this time, it struck both Val and Katie odd that Tonto's voice always sounded like the newscaster, Charlie Gibson no matter which family member was producing the sound and it held that quality even when he was speaking sub-vocally. Ellie and Rob had huge differences in their voices but when they were letting Tonto use them, each sounded like good old Charlie.
Tonto replied, "Time isn't a factor but energy is. We need a source of bright light as I don't want to use an IV connection if we can avoid it. If there is a tanning bed on base we can use that and the transformation will take 5 hours and 17 minutes. Yes, the feathers will be temporary and will be reabsorbed over a period of about a week once we are clear of Darjee space and start the process. Both Ellie and the babies will be stimulated by the process, not damaged. I have a computer simulation of the feathering of a Princess Three Darjee, would you like to see it?"
The large monitor lit up with a nude image of Ellie which began growing feathers as her facial features were also being modified. Her nose became quite prominent and her forehead sloped back reminiscent of some of the images from ancient Egyptian art in the tombs of the pharaohs. The feathers on her head were short and brightly colored in a rainbow cascade with every shade except red. Her neck feathers were iridescent green and quite broad. The body covering was a deep golden bronze on her back while the feathers on her stomach and breasts took on the look of down and was a very pale yellow with a slight tint of orange at the very tips. Her arms were covered with swept back flight feathers that were jet black and the tip of each flight feather was capped with iridescent gold in a lighter and brighter shade than on her back. Her legs were covered with soft golden-brown-toast colored feathers that were small and tight, almost like scales.
Katie gasped, "My god Ellie, you will be stunning. That is so gorgeous!"
In a whisper Ellie asked, "Can I keep them if I want?"
"Of course," Tonto said. "But you will be in them full time for the next three or four weeks until we clear all possibility of Darjee contact and you can make up your mind then. You and Jason may not be so fond of them by that time."
"Why?" Jason asked.
"Somehow," Tonto replied, "I don't think Ellie will want you to stand on her back so you two can share the joys of sex and any other position will be most impossible. The Darjee are an avian species, you know."
Jason started to protest but before he could get a full word out Rob spoke up. He had a very smug smile on his face when he said, "I think that's a wonderful idea. I'm sorry I didn't think of it myself."