by Mary E. Lowd
Alistair’s orange striped tabby face appeared on the Jolly Barracuda main viewscreen. The entire crew had gathered on the bridge to watch his message. Alistair was wearing a navy blue suit that contrasted his fiery fur nicely, and two secret service greyhounds wearing sunglasses and wires stood coolly behind him. He looked very presidential, but to Kipper, he just looked like her brother.
“Congratulations and our sincerest thanks from all of us here on Earth to the brave officers on the Jolly Barracuda!” Alistair’s mouth moved, and Kipper wished she could hear his voice, but she had to settle for reading the captions beneath him.
The Jolly Barracuda was still filled with its oxo-agua atmosphere so it could fly back to Earth at full speed, escorting half of the remaining fleet of raptor vessels, now controlled and filled solely by octopi. The other half of the fleet that had survived the octopus uprising was on its way back to Jupiter, filled with the surviving raptors. They were not wanted on Earth, and by the sounds of it, they were sorely needed on their own homeworld. While octopus slaves had primarily been used in the raptor military, their mass exodus had left an entire strata of raptor society completely in shambles. The war had been swift and final. From what the octopi who’d been gifted to the Jolly Barracuda had explained, their uprising had been a long time in the making. All the octopi had wanted was to leave. Emily would be very busy, now that she was an oligarch, integrating all of the Jovian octopus refugees into Earth octopus society.
Perhaps, when the raptors finished clearing up the wreckage of their military and coming to terms with the mass escape of the octopi they’d enslaved for so long, they would find a way to reach out to Earth peacefully. Kipper didn’t plan to hold her breath waiting for it.
“Obviously, we are deeply grateful to all the otters and octopi who risked — or lost — their lives in this operation,” Alistair continued. “But today, I’m reaching out to you with a message for your one feline officer.”
The movement was too fast for Kipper to be sure, but it looked like Alistair winked at her.
“The Uplifted States of Mericka has recently approved a modest budget for beginning our own space program, and I can think of no one more qualified to lead the project than your own Kipper Brighton.”
Otter faces turned to Kipper, wide with grins, and otters all over the bridge swam in tight corkscrews, looping about with excitement.
“Congratulations, Kipper!” Captain Cod signed. “Of course, we’ll be sorry to lose you…”
There was only one sad face on the bridge. At least, Kipper was pretty sure that Trugger’s face looked sad. It was hard to be sure, since he’d turned away and wouldn’t look at her. He knew her too well to think she’d turn down this opportunity.
“Of course,” Captain Cod added, “this doesn’t have to mean that you stop being a Jolly Barracuda officer. I mean, if the Earth cats and dogs are putting together a space program… Well, it couldn’t hurt to have a spy involved, keeping me updated on it.”
Kipper held up her paws, signaling for Captain Cod to stop. “I’m sorry,” she signed. “I can’t be Ship’s Spy and also the leader of my country’s space program. I’m not a double agent. Though…” She looked over at Trugger. “I could probably use an otter consultant, and once I’m no longer a member of the Jolly Barracuda crew, I wouldn’t necessarily know who you handed my title off to…”
Captain Cod beamed and swam over to Trugger. “How about it, Trugger?” he signed. “I think our little tabby’s offering you a job as consultant in her new space program.”
Trugger started to object, signing something about how the Jolly Barracuda was the greatest vessel ever built and Captain Cod the greatest captain. But Captain Cod looked over his shoulder at Kipper and then conspiratorially turned his back so that she could no longer see his signing paws. The two otters signed furiously at each other for a few minutes while Kipper politely looked away, pretending not to know that Trugger was being handed the baton of her old job.
Finally, Trugger came swimming to her, gave her a big hug, and signed, “I gladly accept your offer. Let’s go make a space program!”
“Now,” Captain Cod signed. “If you’d like to call your brother back, we can try out this new doohickey that Jenny and Felix had us build.”
“I’d like that,” Kipper signed. It was going to be weird communicating with Earth without a time delay, but it would let her get started on making plans. The future was full of new possibilities for a tabby cat with a space program to run.
Otters In Space 4 is coming soon!