GOD ON MY LAWN
(A Tale of Erin Starfox)
Copyright © 2012 1 Picture 1000 Words Publishing. All rights reserved.
PART ONE: SOMETHING TECH
“Captain Shelly, Ambassador. Our sensors have picked up something,
“Yes, ThisOne senses it.” Starfox shifted on the bed, moved closer to
the intercom. “Something tech?”
“Right. And it shouldn’t be where it is. That’s what’s odd about it.”
“ThisOne is on her way.”
“I’ll need my NavOfficer. Is she...?”
“Your Nav is with ThisOne.” Starfox glanced across the room at Tama
Windwall who already had hopped from the bed and begun dressing. “She
will bring her.”
“Good. Thank you.” The crackle of the intercom didn’t filter out the
captain’s good natured grumble when she added: “Last time I had to find
her I think I had to call half the bedrooms on board.”
The ambassador laughed. “Siasl are polyamorous, Captain, not
promiscuous. You know that. We will be there directly.”
She switched off the intercom. “Our play will have to wait,” she told
the officer snuggling next to her in the bed. She got up, began
ferreting around for her clothes.
“You two are going to leave me alone. Now? Like this?” Reber Roarke,
the Engineering Second, looked down at himself, then up at the two
women. The ambassador pulled her official Cloak of Office, dark blue
with embroidered gold trim, over civilian raiment. Windwall finished
zippering her uniform.
“Does seem a shame to waste a good thing.” Windwall turned back
to the bed, kissed Roarke firmly on the mouth. Her hands roved over his
broad shoulders. “But this sounds important.”
“You may want to report to your post in Engineering.” Starfox’s
voice was as soft and musical as it had been when the three had gotten
together in the ship’s lounge an hour before, but she was in full
mode now; the voice was soft and musical, and commanding.
Roarke tried once more. “You — The two of you! – picked up me .
Remember? I’m off duty, so is Tama for that matter. We don’t have
“ThisOne is a Unisis ambassador. She is never off duty.” Starfox
addressed Windwall, who was struggling with her boots. “Come.”
Roarke shrugged. “If only I could.”
Starfox returned to the bed. Was that a gleam Roarke saw in her
eye? Some trick of the light?
No. It was light, bright and warm and rainbow hued, a swirling ripple
from Starfox’s left eye. “It’s not hypnosis,” Starfox’s gentle voice
told him. “It’s real. As is this.” And a warm joy spread through his
body as she touched him, her fingers resting lightly on his arm.
Roarke got up, began dressing. Slowly. Dazed, dreamy. “That... was....”
“It was wonderful. We all had a very good time.”
“Good time... had by all.... Right. Bye bye.”
Roarke, half-dressed, carrying his pants and boots, exited Starfox’s
suite, headed for the Engineering deck.
“That didn’t take much.” Windwall hugged Starfox. “I’m beginning to
wonder if we would’ve been too much for him.”
“ThisOne would have been gentle with him. Will be, if we bond again.”
“You never hold back with me.” Windwall smiled. “And I like it that
“Like ThisOne, you are Siasl. You can handle it.”
“But I’m not like you. I’m just Nav on a transport. I’ve thought about
training to be an agent, like you were, and dreamed of maybe being an
ambassador someday, but I don‘t know. I never seem to get around to it.
I’m not the adventurous type, I guess.”
“You are quite adventurous enough for ThisOne’s tastes.” Her soft, pale
lips touched Windwall’s cheek. “Now, we must go to the bridge.”
Ten minutes after exiting her suite, Ambassador Erin Starfox stepped
onto the bridge of the Miranda followed by Navigation Officer Tama
Windwall. “So, what have we found?” Starfox’s voice was excited,
Captain Trin Shelly briefed the Ambassador as Windwall took her
place at the navigation console, forward and to the right of the
positioned captain’s chair. The NavAssistant updated Windwall on the
current course and speed then withdrew to stand with other interns at
the back of the bridge. The ergonomics configured the station to
profile as she settled in and began studying the datastream on her
“That’s Promea, fourth planet of the Lansinl system, the only inhabited
planet in the system.” Shelly pointed toward the viewport that showed
a small yellowish orb near its center. “They have nothing transsolar,
not even rudimentary space flight.”
“Off limits, then?”
“Should be. One area is registering something considerably more
advanced than what should be there. At least compared to the last
we have of the planet.”
“Those reports are over six years old,” Starfox noted as she scanned
the datascreen near the captain’s chair. “Some species have been known
to make large techjumps in short periods of time.”
“This isn’t that,” interjected the Data Officer from his post behind
and to the left of the captain’s chair. “The anomalous technology is
advanced but also inconsistent with all other existing technology on
“Could one of the United Systems planets have violated the Accords?”
This from Windwall. “I’m just asking.”
“ThisOne will find out. She is going down. Please make the necessary
course corrections.” Her command issued, Starfox turned to leave. The
captain’s voice stopped her.
“Ambassador, that’s... not....” Captain Shelly was at a loss for words.
In Uni at any rate. She switched to Terran, her native tongue, which
none of the bridge officers could speak. Starfox, she knew, was a mix
of Siasl, Terran and something else, something that made her, well,
“Ambassador, we have to talk. Privately. In my office?”
The two descended a short flight of stairs to a small, sparsely
furnished room; the captain’s office.
The captain moved to sit, thought better of it. She was several
inches taller than Starfox’s five foot nine inch frame. Any edge, any
authority she could use would be an advantage. She faced Starfox, stood
directly in front of her.
“This isn’t an ambassadorial cruiser, Ambassador.” She had switched
back to Uni, more common to her, as to most races living in the Unisis
Cluster, than the language of their homeworlds. “I’ve been happy to
shuttle you back to your embassy after that incident with the Mentaki
without a ship. But at every opportunity, every little chance
you’ve used your authority to investigate, to explore, to get what you
She drew in a long breath, let it out in a huff.
“We’re tired, Ambassador. My crew is tired. I’m tired. We’ve been in
space fourteen months. That’s a long run and we’ve got another six
months to go before we get home. Siasl Prime is in our general
so it’s no trouble to take you with us. But these investigations of
where you go merrily blundering off into Goddess knows what, they’ve
caused too many delays already. Ambassador... Erin... we want to go
“ThisOne has children, did you know?”
Shelly watched as Starfox removed her cloak, took her private handheld
computer from a pouch affixed to her belt. Were her hands trembling?
“Two girls and a boy. She wants more than anything to be back with
them, to be part of a family again. Her heart aches every day she is
away from them.”
With the push of a button, Starfox displayed a holo image of her
children. Was that for her benefit, Shelly wondered, or for Starfox’s?
A few moments passed. Starfox put the handheld away. She looked
directly at Shelly.
“ThisOne is going down to the planet because she must. If you do not
wish to remain you do not have to.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know about your family. But don’t guilt me
into helping. Don’t. If you go planetbound, we’re staying. We can’t
leave you. Ambassadorial protocols and all that.”
“What did you expect ThisOne to do when you told her of the anomaly,
just let it be?”
“File a report or something, so you could send a full cruiser to
investigate after you got home. It doesn’t seem like enough to justify
The ambassador’s eyes were bright as she spoke, her hands animated.
“Whatever’s happening on Promea could be wonderful. We might make an
amazing discovery.” She locked eyes with Shelly again. “Or, it could
be terrible. The Promeans could be in danger from a technology they do
not understand. If that, we must help if we can.”
“If this were an ambassadorial cruiser you’d have the resources
to investigate. But we’re just an old, rickety transport and supply
ship out of Merrin Two.”
“And for such you have done remarkably well in aiding ThisOne in her
investigations, as you call them. You’re a fine captain, Trin. You
could command much more than a supply ship if you so wished.”
“I like what I do. Getting people and goods from one planet to another
is important. But it sure isn’t what our ancestors thought when they
started imagining what it would be like to go into space. It’s long and
boring and, after more than a thousand years out here we still don’t
have faster than light travel, so it’s always going to be long and
“Do you remember the stories of your Terran ancestry, stories of Old
Earth? There used to be a joke at the beginning of the twenty-first
century, back when time was measured that way by some, that the science
fiction stories of the previous century had predicted flying cars, and
the people who lived in the twenty-first century were disappointed that
there were no flying cars.”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a joke.” Captain Shelly moved to her
desk, leaned against it. She knew she was going to lose the argument,
had lost it already. “What’s it got to do with Promea?”
“They may have flying cars.” Starfox smiled. “ThisOne needs to know.”
Shelly stood again. She and Starfox hugged. They had become friends
during the time that Starfox had been aboard the Miranda.
“Okay. Will you need support staff again or will this be a solo
“ThisOne will take Windwall....”
“And Engineering Second Officer Roarke.”
“They will be at your disposal for as long as you need, Ambassador.”
“Thank you, Captain.” She turned to go, paused. “If ThisOne may
say, you could have not notified her of the anomaly. And, as she was
occupied with other matters, she might not have noticed.”
“I do my duty, Ambassador. Just like you.”
* * *
Telum saw the light.
At first he did not believe what he saw. The big red light at the
middle of the central panel at his monitor station had
never blinked during his shift, had never blinked during the shift of
anyone he knew. It was not supposed to blink. Not unless.... Telum
could not complete the thought. It was unthinkable. The light had
blinked only once before, for six minutes, fifteen years ago, back when
the Meching had begun. All machinists had been taught that as
part of their basic training.
It had not blinked since.
Now its blinking, pulsing, blinding red filled Telum’s field of vision,
filled his mind.
More lights began flashing, more reds. All of them reds. Claxons blared.
Warning? Danger? What was it?
“The lights! The lights are blinking!” Telum screamed and bolted from
the room. The other Monitor Room machinists were
simply staring, stupefied. None of them had seen this before.
Telum raced down corridor Seven B, turned left onto
corridor Six C, cut across Connector A3 to emerge in corridor One
Panting, stumbling, muttering about the lights, the
young machinist plodded down the corridor, gray boots clomping
on gray flooring. He burst through the steel doors of Control Central,
stumbled to a halt before Kelvirr, his superior, who was issuing orders
to several men around him. It took him a few moments to get Kelvirr’s
“Sir? Please, I must speak with you.”
“What is it? Why have you left your post?”
“Sir. The lights, the lights are flashing?”
“Lights can wait. Don’t you hear those sirens? We’ve got an emergency.”
“The light is flashing, Sir. The light. And lots of
other lights around it.”
“The light, you say? Show me.” Kelvirr, older, wiser, most
senior of the Machinists, was calm. There was only one light that could
worry him. This couldn’t be that one. Could it? The youth must be
“It’s the big light, sir. The red one. That came on
first. Then lots of others around it. We’re supposed to report it
to the Senior Machinist if it ever activated. Well, it’s blinking.”
“Show me,” Kelvirr repeated.
Kelvirr marched down the corridors to the Monitor Room, marched at a
steady pace, moving in the machine way, in the way
he had been taught. Telum marched at his side, trying to will the
senior officer to move faster. The march took four times as long as
Telum’s run had. As they approached, they could hear bleeps and bleats
and buzzes, and as they entered the room they saw that the bleeps and
bleats and buzzes corresponded to the flashing lights.
“Do you know what it means, sir?”
Telum asked the question, but Kelvirr could see that question in the
eyes and faces of the other technicians.
“The beginning of the end, I fear,” Kelvirr said softly, his worst
fears confirmed. “The beginning of the end.”
He turned to go. “I must speak with the Governors. Find Melvot. Tell
him he’s in charge until my return.” He looked directly at Telum. “And
find some way to turn off that noise.”
Nine hours after first receiving signals of atypical technology from
the planet Promea, with the Miranda just a few hours out from that
planet, Data Officer Noro briefed Starfox, Shelly, Windwall and Roarke
over breakfast in the captain’s office.
“Promeans are humanoid, bipedal, average height and
weight comparable to us. And, from all reports peaceful. These reports,
however, are from long range observation only. How they will react to
outsiders is unknown.”
He consulted a datascreen on the small table around
which they were seated. “And they are tan skinned, like the majority
of us in the Cluster. Most of our crew could pass for Promeans with
little difficulty. Has our albino ambassador considered what to do
about her pigmentation?” He grinned at Starfox.
It had become something of a running joke between Noro and Starfox,
friendly byplay. He had challenged her in this manner before other
missions. Shelly had tried to stop it at first but soon saw that it was
harmless fun. Humor was an important concern of space travel. The crew
required periodic relief from the tedium of the long voyages. Even the
rational minded Noro had found a way to find humor in his work.
Briefing the ambassador was something Noro looked forward to, though he
privately agreed with his captain that they had undertaken far too many
“ThisOne is not a true albino, DatOff Noro. This you know.”
“But you are pale of skin. And it is doubtful that even with make-up
you could pass close inspection by a Promean native.”
“A moment, please.” Starfox turned in her chair, away from the group,
looked out the small viewport.
The bright stars of the Unisis Cluster sparkled behind the planet
Promea. Sparkled most brightly in the area of the window that reflected
Starfox’s face. Too brightly, Noro noted. But it was not the stars, he
soon realized. It was Starfox. For a few seconds, faint multicolored
light radiated from or around her face.
A few more moments passed.
“Yes, Captain?” Starfox fluffed her shoulder length
hair with her fingers, once, twice, a theatrical gesture. She turned to
face the group again. Her formerly alabaster skin tone now matched that
of the amber hued Noro. Exactly.
“ThisOne looks like you now, DatOff Noro. All over.
Would you care to see?”
Noro laughed, followed by Shelly. “Ambassador, you never cease to amaze
me. I did not know you could do that.”
Windwall and Roarke had been expecting this, and laughed along with the
others. Starfox had outlined her own mission plan to them an hour
“Can all Siasl change skin color?” the captain asked. “Can you?” She
looked at her NavOff.
“My skin is already the same general hue as the Promeans,” Windwall
replied. “There is no need to change.”
“Typical Siasl response. Answers but evades.” Shelly grinned. “One of
these days, Erin, I hope you’ll figure out what other
race you’ve got in your ancestry that makes you look like you do and
lets you do what you do.”
“ThisOne cannot recall. Perhaps because of the Mentaki. Perhaps she
“Still, it’s pretty amazing, some of those things we’ve seen you do.”
“Captain,” put in the DatOff, “we must complete this briefing and
prepare the shuttle. Timing with the approaching meteor shower is
“Okay. What else?”
“The gravity of Promea is nine point six of....”
* * *
“This is terrible, terrible.” Governor Senior Lubek motioned for
Kelvirr to sit. The Machinist had stood before the three members of the
Governors Council to give his report. They had reacted as
he had anticipated. “What are we to do?”
“Hold on. Wait, think this through.” Palus, at Lubek’s right, took a
sip of water from the metal cup on the metal table in front of him.
“Are we sure this means what we think it means?”
“It can be nothing else, Palus. I was there when the Meching began.
Remember? That’s the machine that started it all.”
“I thought the one with the alien, that one.”
“No. That was the one that created the one around the alien.”
“This is all very confusing, very confusing.” Lubek
rubbed his temple with his fat fingers. “Does this mean the machine
makers are returning or not?”
“If they are,” said Kelvirr, “it could be the end of everything.”
It could be the end, but it's just the beginning of the Starfox saga.
Find out what happens in Erin Starfox, scheduled to be
published in April 2013. Available online or at a bookshop
| “No God on my lawn”, is a lyric from Longer Boats by
Cat Stevens on the Tea for the Tillerman album (1970); one of my
favorite albums. I thought it an appropriate title for this piece.
This is a draft of Part One of the story.