Phantasy Star Zero
Chapter 4: The Musk Cats
SC 337.01 / EY 1873 / BW 212
"Ohhhhh! Aren't they adorable!" were the first words Stephen remembered hearing after regaining consciousness. Everywhere he looked, yellow feline-like animals, some the size of a house cat, others larger than a tiger, were sitting patiently speaking with many of the colonists. Nobody was working anymore; everyone was coming to inspect their new neighbors. Actually now that he really saw one of the creatures he noticed only superficial resemblances to Terran felines. They weren't exactly yellow, but mostly a mixture of tan and white that made them appear that way. They had long, rabbit-like ears and bushy tails, and a strange odor tickled his nostrils... something smelled very good, like a kind of powerful unisex perfume that would encourage thoughts of insight and romance. Wait- was that smell coming from... the creatures?
"Ka...Kalewm..? Stephen looked around for the creature he had spoken to earlier.
"I'm right here Stephen Ossale," the mewling voice replied. It sat patiently about a meter in front of him.
"What are you?" was all he could think to say.
"We call ourselves Musk Cats. That's because we have such a nice pheromone. At least we think so."
"Well, that's our racial name translated into your language, of course."
"You do have a nice...umm....musk."
"Thanks!" The Musk cat jumped a little, and the expression on its face made Stephen believe that it just smiled.
"We do have genders though. I'm a male. You can stop thinking of me as an 'it,' if you want."
"Sure, Kalewm." Stephen stood up and looked down upon on the small creature. It made him feel a little superior.
"Be careful about that attitude. We can be very fierce enemies if provoked. Many of your colonists are already thinking of us as potential pets. We don't like that notion." The creature seemed to suddenly grow a little, and somehow became a little intimidating. Ossale noticed very long claws come sliding out of Kalewm's paws, and sharp teeth became apparent in its small mouth. There was something else about these little creatures that also frightened Stephen, although he didn't know what. Maybe it was that they were telepathic...? Well, he had to think fast. There were obviously a multitude of these creatures, and with the humans' weapons still in the lockers, they could probably harm quite a few colonists if they turned hostile. He glanced askew at the larger Musk Cats. Especially them...
Suddenly, in a rare burst of insight, that Stephen wasn't exactly sure was his, he had an idea.
"Hey Kalewm, I have a proposal for you, or your superior.... umm...," Stephen struggled to think what their leaders might be called.
"I'm listening. Also, in case you're wondering, I represent my entire species. Usually it's the larger cats, but this time it was me." Kalewm made a noise that sounded remarkably like a purr. His teeth and claws had disappeared, and he looked quite adorable again, "and our leaders don't have special titles. They just are. I assume you represent your species?"
"Yes, at least for now,” responded Ossale hastily. Whatever these things were, he did not want them as enemies, “okay, here's my proposal. Let us live here in peace, and we will treat you the same. You will be respected as the sentient beings you are, although bear in mind that due to our human nature, we will probably always think of you as 'cute.' So don't attack us, and we won't attack your kind, or attempt to keep Musk Cats as pets."
"Sounds reasonable," replied Kalewm.
"In addition," Stephen Ossale had several more ideas pop into his head, and this time he was sure they were his,” how about not reading our minds anymore? Humans don't really like that kind of stuff."
The Musk Cat merely glanced askew at Stephen, his head tilted slightly to the left
"In exchange," Stephen added hastily,” we need a name for our new colony. If the Musk Cats named it then it would be a permanent reminder of our friendship."
"Hmmmm.... That sounds good," Kalewm thought for a minute. "Then we shall name your colony Camineet! It means 'meeting place of friends' in our language."
"Just like that? Don't you want to see what your fellow Musk Cats think it should be called?"
"I already asked them. They all think it's a good name." Stephen mentally slapped his forehead again. Of course if they were telepathic, they could all read each other's minds too. Like one big communal organism....the thought made him quite squeamish. They could coordinate an attack with precision even the most well-trained Terran marines would envy.....oops. He was hoping Kalewm didn't take offense to that.
"Sorry," apologized Stephen.
"For what?" queried Kalewm.
"For what I just thought."
"What did you think?"
"You didn't read it?"
"We just made a deal. No more telepathy on humans. Unless you break your deal, of course." Kalewm stated with a sniff.
"Right, well never mind, it wasn't ill-intentioned. Humans sometimes think things they don't mean, or imagine things they would never do or say. I just would like to avoid a misunderstanding." Stephen was starting to feel quite self-confident. He had just negotiated the first treaty with an alien species in Terran history. Well, so far. He reminded himself back on Earth humans hadn’t achieved powered flight yet.
Kalewm raised a paw, “I understand in your culture deals are usually sealed with a ‘shaking of limbs’ or something like that, correct?”
“Correct,” Captain Stephen Ossale replied professionally, and extended his hand to grasp the small paw. It felt soft and warm, but he could feel the claws beneath their sheaths. There was something else too… something they were concealing. He just had a gut feeling, and usually these feelings were accurate.
He released Kalewm’s paw, and the Musk Cat strode away after saying goodbye. Stephen replied in kind, and went to spread the news to his fellow colonists. HIS colonists. He liked the sound of that. The administrator of the colony was supposed to be chosen democratically, but for now, he was in charge. He had to make sure he kept the peace with these “Musk Cats.” He knew now they were far more dangerous than even their teeth and claws revealed, if they wanted to be. They were hiding something, he just knew it. Could he really trust these Musk Cats? Best to be prepared, just in case.
Suddenly there was a cry somewhere to Stephen’s left. Quickly he turned to see a teenage boy doubled over in pain, clutching at his right leg. Ossale quickly ran over to inspect the colonist, and was joined by a number of his fellow humans. What he saw was sickening- the boy’s lower leg had almost snapped in half, and exposed bone was jutting through the synth-fabric of his jumpsuit leg. Blood oozed out of the wound with disturbing propriety. The kid had stepped into a small but deep hole accidentally while running, somebody explained. Someone yelled for a medic, and soon was joined by several others, their calls increasingly frantic. The teenager’s screaming was unbearable. Unexpectedly there appeared a puff of tan and white fur, and Kalewm ran to the side of the crying boy.
“GIRES!” The Musk Cat voiced loudly, and touched his paw to the boy’s broken leg. When the cat spoke there was a resonance of some sort of intangible power in the air that made Stephen’s hair stand on end. His peripheral vision told him he was not alone in this reaction. The boy’s leg glowed briefly, and when the light subsided, his leg was miraculously healed. Only the tear in his right pant leg betrayed any evidence of injury at all. The Terrans could do nothing but stare at Kalewm. For his part, the Musk Cat simply returned their gaze, purring.
“That is called a technique. You would most likely think of it as magic, but true magic doesn’t exist anymore. Well, almost. There is this….umm… never mind. The point is, you can do them to! When I contacted you telepathically, I could see your brains had potential. Maybe, if you can prove your race trustworthy, I could….”
Stephen cut him off with in a trembling voice, ”Kalewm, I don’t know what the hell you things really are or what this….thing… you just did is, but,” it was too much. Stephen stopped talking, staggered, and sank to his knees.
“What the F---?” was all he could force out. He looked around, dazed, at the other colonists. Some had fainted. Others just stared. One had wet herself. The boy just kept feeling his now-healed leg, as if expecting it to break apart again any second.
“Captain,” Kalewm spoke imperiously. “Gather your senior staff and meet with me immediately. I think there’s some things you need to know about this planet, and this solar system, the Algo Solar System. You were right. It is paradise, but it is also cursed. Now that you are apparently here to stay, there’s some things that need to be straightened out.”
Stephen just nodded. Then he laughed. A cat was giving him orders! The smile slowly slid from his face as he registered the imperious words Kalewm had spoken. Gradually, he stood up and brushed bits of grass from his jumpsuit. Slowly Stephen gathered himself, telling himself over and over he was not dreaming. He turned to look Kalewm in the eye.
“Give me five minutes.”