The Perils of Dr. Laura Whitfield
by Channie Greenberg
Table of Contents|
chapters 1, 2, 3, 4
Chapter 1: Unexploited Relations Among Space Lobsters on Jupiter
Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls. Nenetl sighed.
It was not the first instance when Yaretzi had forgotten the pulse code used between them. The week before, he had mistaken his blues and reds and had beamed her a message that suggested that Nenetl fall into a black hole. He was supposed to have sent her a communication about their rendezvous on a moon in their world’s magnetosphere.
Presently, comparably, he had converted no information about meeting on hidden crags but had relayed lots of data about buying alien slaves at a forthcoming summit. Nenetl was interested in having her pheromones sniffed, not in owning outlanders.
Perhaps, considered Nenetl, if she could become similar to Xochitl, who flickered with infrared vibrancy, or to Yolotli, who knew how to retract completely all ten limbs, Yaretzi would find new interest in her antennules. However, she could not improve upon the limits of her particular chitinous carapace, no matter how much she tried; she remained a bland female.
Wishes, furthermore, morphed no thoracic cavities. Fantasies served as coin only in Professor Extli’s extraterrestrial cultures class. Rather, daydreaming, analogous to interplanetary explorations of uncharted systems, posed lethal dangers. Both unrequited love and unsupervised missions could result in radiation poisoning, asphyxiation, or worse.
Nenetl swam alone among ammonium hydrosulfide clouds while trying to accept that nowhere in the space controlled by her world’s belt of electric currents and ferromagnetics would her beloved Yaretzi recommence broadcasting to her. She assuaged herself by exhaling helium bubbles and by allowing herself to giggle as she watched those small aerial suds float away.
On balance, if she could find an asteroid-belt blaster with which to bribe her podmate Ohtli, she’d have payback. If Yaretzi wasn’t going to synch up with her, he wasn’t going to synch up with anyone.
Ohtli had proven himself expert at resetting frequencies. The lesson Ohtli had bestowed upon the bully Milintica had been so successful that other youths had filled Ohtli’s account with thousands of points and had filled his social media page with so much frenetic traffic that his site had gone bust.
After Jupiter’s subsequent solar orbit, during which Nenetl, like her fellows, gained sufficient weight to be classed as an “adult,” she approached Ohtli. She offered him the first right of refusal to the progeny of his pick. She’d pod soon as she was experiencing fissiparity. He merely had to modify Yaretzi’s beacon.
Beyond belief, Ohtli refused.
Recently, he had joined with Patli in creating a new pod. Ohtli had released his gametes into the molecular hydrogen layer of the planet’s atmosphere at the same time as Patli had released his. The resulting brood had qualities of both parents, the most persistent of which was constant hunger. Yet, Patli remained a ne’er-do-well. Consequently, it was Ohtli’s choice to feed their young or to watch them die. Wanting to become an ancestor, Ohtli elected to stick around to sustain them.
Nenetl offered to babysit.
Ohtli regarded her with all three pairs of his eyestalks. He shook his tail up and down before consenting. He was tired of being homebound. Without so much as a small hint as to what to serve his babies, he tottered away.
For twenty rotations of their planet, he stayed far away. When Ohtli finally returned, Nenetl was as gray as metallic hydrogen. Ohtli had failed to warn her that his wee ones’ favorite nutriment was viscera.
Considering all, Ohtli was calm. He was not surprised to find his nest in disarray and most of his offspring eaten. He hadn’t expected, though, that Nenetl would look peaked. He thought she had babysitting experience.
Ohtli tidied his home, cleaned up his remaining children, and plied Nenetl with thanks. Patli had texted once or twice to say he was “unavoidably” delayed on Themisto, so the break Nenetl had afforded Ohtli had been especially welcomed.
Exhaling many times, Nenetl insisted on receiving her due. Ohtli was, straightaway, to disable Yaretzi’s flash generator.
Ohtli shrugged. He pulled Nenetl to a peripheral device. Nearby, on a more essential machine, he uploaded data.
Nenetl stared stupidly at the screen in front of her. Nothing happened.
In less time than it took for two more of Ohtli’s young to become chow, Nenetl’s podmate finished his task. Smiling in a way peculiar to their species, he presented Nenetl with an appendage.
Dubiously, she shook it.
During their planet’s next rotation, Yaretzi was quickly overcome with a severe case of want. Inexplicably and entirely, the corporeal components he needed to generate bioluminescence had gone missing. No matter how frequently he tried to cull the small molecule substrates that ought to have produced a ray, nothing took place that he could detect.
On balance, suddenly, Xochitl and Yolotli were more interested in earning extra credit from Professor Extli than they were in engaging Yaretzi or his gametes. Plus, Yaretzi’s mother not only scolded him, but also tagged him with ribbons. He had embarrassed her in front of her peers; following Ohtli’s ministrations, Yaretzi’s only iterated signal had been a loud pointer to his mother’s failure with their world’s most popular olfactory cilia product. All of her podmates had pulled at her unkindly.
Yaretzi took the next starship to Uranus. He did not stop to apologize to Nenetl or to Mom. That youth, who had once promised to create a pod with Nenetl, was forever lost to her.
What’s more, as time passed, Ohtli “conveniently” forgot his indebtedness to her. Patli, who eventually returned home, with all but one of his feelers attached, had gotten Ohtli busy planning more babies.
Seeking diversion, Nenetl dusted off her father’s interplanetary observation instrument. She set her finderscope on the third globe from the sun. Perhaps, she could discover crustaceans beyond Jupiter. She could not know that a human named “Laura” was likewise aiming a device across the solar system.
Copyright © 2015 by Channie Greenberg