This is the start of a sequel to Cynthia the Invincible. Not so many ******* words (because they aren't needed for the story). A first draft, with all that implies. <> stands for some alien-sounding string I have yet to figure out.
They get described later in the book, but the Cataxi are definitely not humanoid. Sort of a cross between an Oyster, a Lobster and a squid.
Cynthia shouted at her ship. “What do you mean I’m grounded? This is Catelexit, it’s not in the Terran space. I can’t stay here.” She paused, “We can’t stay here.”
Chris calmly replied to her. “Madame Ambassador, what did you expect?”
“I don’t know. But not this.”
“You’re definitely pregnant and you cannot fly, at least not interstellar flight. Do you want to lose your child?”
Cynthia stopped for a second, then in a low voice said “No, of course not.”
“Then you’re grounded. For at least a year.”
“Chris, what am I going to do? I’m sure James will be happy, but the Cataxi?”
“Ma’am, if I might remind you why the Cataxi asked for you, specifically for you, to be the first permanent Terran ambassador. It’s a great honor.”
“Right, punishment because I stole the Xree.”
“No. It’s because they think it worked on you and Lord Wroxham. Because, although you stole it, you respected their religion in the end. In their eyes it wasn’t theft if you were using it for the proper religious purpose. They expect it to pull you here so that your first born can be part of the circle of Clix-at-ticth.”
“Do we know anything about their reproductive biology?”
“It doesn’t matter, Madam. They are going to be excited about seeing how humans reproduce.”
“Christ, Chris. I really don’t want my child’s birth on their television.”
The screen clicked into live. It was the Cataxi Prime Minister and his Gotha translator <>. “Madam Ambassador” <> said.
“Our sensors indicate that there are now three humans on Catelexit. That is one more than we agreed to.”
“I know. Can you explain to the most honored minister that I am with child?”
< > turned to his minister and with a series of clicks and whines translated what Cynthia said. The Minister bowed and her carapace turned bright green. < > replied to her, “Madam Ambassador, my honored minister expresses her deepest respect. She did not realize that you were in the breeding season.” There was a further stream of clicks. “She continues, do you need a nursery for your egg?”
“Can you tell her that I will carry my child inside me?”
“I will. May I add my personal congratulations? I hope that Lord Wroxham and you prosper. That your child is healthy and brings happiness to you.”
“Thank you.” The Gotha were one of the few truly honest races in the known galaxy. Physically, if they kept their clothes on, they could pass for human. Unlike humans, they had a well-earned reputation for accuracy and truth. As such they made excellent translators. You knew that if they made an error in translation, it was an honest mistake or an untranslatable concept. Galactic diplomacy, and for that matter the galactic police, depended on the Gotha.
< > turned to the Minister and explained as best he could what was happening within Cynthia. The minister clicked away and then < > expounded, “We are truly honored that your eminence chose to bear her young on our planet. May they enter into the cycle of the stars and live a proper life.”
Cynthia bowed, the minister used the formulaic greeting that implied an honored birth. She was really stuck here now. “I hope that he or she may be worth the honor you imply.”
The Minister clicked a few more times at his translator. <> turned to Cynthia and said, “My Minister would like to be a member of the party that delivers the T'cha to you. Would you be agreeable to that?”
“Can you give me a moment to decide?”
“As you wish.”
Cynthia hurriedly asked Chris, “What the heck is a T'cha?”
For once, Chris was at a loss, “I have no idea Ma'am. This is probably a ceremony involving birth or fertility, but that is a guess.”
“Can you raise James from the AR? I think I'll need him for this ceremony.” Her husband was being force-fed the things any educated man would know in 2350. It was rough for him, but necessary. What took Cynthia ten years of intensive training in the academy was being force-fed to him in the course of a few months.
Cynthia addressed <>, “I would be honored if your elegance would attend. Could you explain to me what is involved?”
<> clicked away to the Minister, then turned to Cynthia and said, “Madame Ambassador, the T'cha is a gem that signifies your status as a mother. There is a religious ceremony where it is presented to you.” Cynthia nodded, despite being a highly advanced civilization, the Cataxi embedded everything in religion and ritual.
“Please tell the Minister that I am truly honored. My husband is currently in the AR unit, but he could be ready at short notice. How long do we have to prepare?”
The Minister, who fluently understood Terran, but used the translator for protocol's sake answered directly, “Ch'tl ahul”
Cynthia replied,“An hour. That should be fine. If you would allow us to prepare.”
The screen went blank.
James, Lord Wroxham, entered the room. He was bleary and more than a bit disorientated. It was never pleasant to be pulled out of the AR unit mid-lesson. He said, “What's happening?” while he was trying to clear his mind.
“You know how we thought I might be-”
“I am, Chris just confirmed it and the Cataxi detected it. They're making an official call to celebrate.”
“Oh.” James stiffened. The Cataxi were so alien to humans, that he had nearly run when he first saw them. While his AR-training had filled in many of the blank spots in his knowledge, he still felt uneasy in their presence.
“It will be fine James. The Minister likes you.”
“I know, it's just that she still gives me the willies.”
“That will pass as you get used to them. I thought this would be a good time to trot out the formal wear.”
“Get your suit. I'll wear that dress.”
“Your wedding dress?”
“Why not? I never would have thought it, but it is comfortable. I've grown to like dresses, and I'm going to need something loose soon enough.”
The bell to the Terran residency rang. When Lord Wroxham opened it, he was greeted by ten Cataxi priests. They were all in their second instar and dressed in their ceremonial orange robes. They danced and chanted, while the aroma of a burning resinous incense filled the air. Two mature Cataxi priests, dressed in the green raiment of T'cha ceremony followed them, and finally, walking with a measured dignity came the Prime Minister and translator.
Lord Wroxham bowed and gestured for them to enter the room. The young priests split to make a passage and the three mature Cataxi entered. Then the young followed them. Cynthia stood before them and waited for James to stand beside her. She put her hand in his, and whispered in his ear, “It isn't that bad, is it?”
He squeezed her hand, and said, “They are an acquired taste. I am glad you're next to me.”
The Prime Minister took a package from one of the other adult Cataxi. After much bowing and what seemed an interminable chant, the Minister pulled a small necklace from it. Cynthia bowed her head and the three adults put the necklace on her. The green gem that formed the pendant on the necklace began to glow. Cynthia started, and quickly asked Chris “Will this harm my baby?”
“No. At least I don't pick up any radiation, so it should be safe for now. I'll check the chemistry later.”
The chanting stopped, and all but one of the priests filed out. Only the Prime Minister, the translator and the young priest remained.
The Prime minister sat and indicated with a gesture of the secondary arms that this was now an informal visit.
Cynthia and James joined her and pulled up chairs so that they could converse in comfort.
“My Lady,” she began, “Can I present one of my fry, only a male but one who shows some promise, to you?”
“Please.” Cynthia nodded her acceptance to the young Cataxi.
The young fry nodded back, but said, “Gracious mother, they are so ugly. How can you stand to sit so close to them?”
The minister clicked her mandibles, the way the Cataxi chuckled, and said, “I must apologize for his frank speaking.” She turned and addressed the child, “Son, it takes some practice, you may not believe this, but if you watch the tall one, he is equally out of ease with us.”
The fry intently studied Lord Wroxham and asked “He is? How can you tell?”
“See how his head keeps turning and his limbs are moving, that he doesn't simply look at us and sit calmly?”
“But his eye stalks, where are they?”
“If I may,” James said in his halting Cataxi, “When I first saw your kind in training I wanted to run.” He pointed to his eyes. “My eyes are here, not on stalks.”
“Ew, how odd. Honored Mother, may I rejoin my pod? I will be missing my lessons.”
“Not yet, young one. Watch and learn.”
The minister paused for a moment, then said, “We know so little about human life. Where is your egg?”
Cynthia looked at her husband, who nodded back. Then she put her hand on her dress over her lower abdomen, just below the navel. “Inside me, about here right now. It's not an egg, it's attached to me and growing.”
The minister looked shocked, “May I?”
She reached over and placed a tentacle on Cynthia's belly, about where Cynthia pointed. Then after a few moments she said, “Yes, I feel it. Another pulsing. Another 'heartbeat'? Did I get that correct?”
“Yes, honored minister,” James replied, “Our.” He stopped, out of words, then continued in English, “Our medical unit confirmed it this morning.”
“How did it get there?”
Cynthia blushed, discussing human reproduction with the head of the Cataxi council was not something she ever expected. James came to her rescue, “I think we can find a book on that, if you can read Terran?”
“Yes, thank you. I gather from your color that this is an embarrassing matter.”
“Not embarrassing, just private.”
“Private. That is an interesting concept.” She turned to the translator, and asked him, “Could you explain?”
They clicked away in High Cataxi. James looked at Cynthia and said, “Can you understand them?”
“Only a few words, I know the informal language, a smattering of the formal language, and none of the high version.”
The minister suddenly stopped and returned her focus to them. “This concept will take some study, but may explain why we have such trouble with your species.”
“Honored minister,” James replied, “You just exhibited it yourself, by using the 'high' language.”
She clicked in amusement. “So I did. I must be returning to my duties.” She started to rise, but was interrupted by her son. He lowered his carapace and said, “Gracious Mother, my honored teacher sent me a message. She said I must learn from these aliens. I was to ask how they came here. I must learn to overcome my fears.”
Cynthia filed away in her mind the information that the Cataxi were using embedded com-links. It was one of those little details that could save your life.
The minister sat back, “Yes that is worth hearing.” Then she waited for her son to speak. He stepped forward, lowered his carapace to Cynthia and said, “Honored Ambassador, how did you return from your planet.”
Cynthia looked at James who smiled at her and said, “You'll have to tell them. I'll help if you get lost, but much of what happened is still a blur to me.”
Cynthia said, “Well, it was like this.”