Blast From the Past: Challenge #00737-B006: Strange Nest-Fellows

in fiction •  2 years ago 

Imagine a life-preserving pod being picked up by a human vessel. Imagine it contains a Numidid keet (and possibly a dead parent or message from them). Imagine that keet raised by humans with no contact or knowledge of the Numidid people besides the pod remains. Imagine that keet as a young adult meeting other Numidid for the first time with no idea of Numidid society.

You pick up all kinds of weird things in the Greater Sargasso. There’s gravitational eddies where debris winds up and this one? Well, it it was pretty damn huge. All kinds of things wound up in there.

Including a survival pod.

There were two inside. Birds. Cogniscent birds. One adult. One little. The adult had clearly sacrificed itself for the little one. It had left a note. A recording.

"Stranger, should you find my little Pippit alive, I beg you to care for her as you would your own. If we are both gone by the time you find us… I bear you no ill will. My people may be looking for me… for us… but I suspect we have been declared as ‘lost’. I beg you, be kind… and cherish my Pippit."

Pippit was dehydrated and hungry. And cold. Three things I could fix, at least. And the data from the pod. The medical analyser on board declared her species to be super-fragile. At least, compared to human kids. A broken bone could mean death by shock.

I’d never even thought of being a parental, let alone a parental to a super-fragile birdlike critter.

"I can’t promise you I’ll get your name right," I said to the poor little kid. And she was a really little kid. Less than a quarter the size of the adult. "I’ll call you ‘Pip’, and log your genetic parental’s message. I’ll teach you everything I got about your kind which, sadly, ain’t much. And I’ll do all I can to keep you safe."

Pip just plain didn’t talk for a Standard Week. I could grok. She’d just lost her entire world. I did what I could for ‘mama’. I guessed it was a mama. Comp said she was a female, so I made her neat and plastered the pod with every known memorial sign while I copied every last scrape of data from the pod.

Then I asked the Powers That Be to care for Mama Bird’s soul. And sent the pod back into the Sargasso from whence it had come.

Poor tiny Pip followed me around, ever after that. Always at my heels. Huddling close.

I almost had heart failure every time I nearly stepped on her. Poor fragile little creature. I found out that a hoodie or a pouch had her feeling safe and me not fretting about breaking her.

Making her own bed-slot was a hassle. I fudged Mama Bird’s dimensions and cleared out a closet that seemed about right. Pip had a soft place to sleep, warm food, and a caring parental. All she needed was an education.

And -hell- when you’re a scavenger, what you got is either what you find or what you bring with you, so Pip learned her ABC’s from the Spacer’s Manual of Useful Knowledge, and lots of my personal library.

Which included Great Expectations. Don’t look at me like that. I read it to fall asleep. Pip was so excited to hear her name that I read it to her. Of course I told her how much society had changed in between the writing and the reader. And how some of the characters were just plain unobservant about what was clearly in front of them.

I kept talking, of course. Little by little, Pip opened up. Called me ‘tall-mama’, and generally took an interest in everything and anything.

Any answers I didn’t have, I showed her how to look up.

When we finally hit Cashport Station, Pip had almost finished getting her adult feathers. Her clothing was lacking. Fabricated things that sort-of-fit, made from recycled blankets. Nothing said ‘cogniscent’ better than clothing, and Pip needed better clothing than his fabricator could provide.

She rode on my shoulder, of course. Muttering to herself about this species and that species. What was good manners and bad manners. She even waved to a pack of Meeyahndans and said, "Hello! I am not prey! I am not threat! Good hunting!"

Bless her heart.

Admin gave us trouble. I had no paperwork but the stuff Mama Bird had recorded. Therefore she was registered as Pip Foundling, and I got a whole bunch of free educational material for our next long haul.

Getting her a life suit, ship skins and all the other stuff was expensive. I didn’t mind. She deserved to have some of the pretty things. And a set of serviceable work boots so her feet weren’t in danger. And by serviceable… I mean that she could also grip with them. The end result was ceramisteel armour with carbon-fibre and kevlar blend under-cloth.

And somewhere between the Sargasso and Rest Stop, our next port of call, Pip became my Pip. I didn’t have to look after her. I wanted to.

But Rest Stop was where we found her kind.

They stayed in the big trees, and hooted and whistled. Not cat-calls. Bird talk. Mama Bird had spoken a variant of GalStand in her message. I’d had no idea Pip had her own language.

Should have guessed, but there you go.

Pip swapped to GalStand Simple. The streamlined version of the unholy mess that is GalStand Entire. "No me knowledge, bird talk," she shouted up. "You come teach?"

The ‘dangerous human’ -me- had to go and sit far away while Pip discussed her origins. She was excited and eager, but her fellow feathered friends were far more cautious and spooked by her.

One of the elder Birds came to roost on my table. "You raised this keet?"

"Pip? Yeah. I found her in a life pod in the Greater Sargasso. It was that or let her die, and I’m not the mean kind."

"She will not have a good life among her own kind. She is only suited to be a scientist." That last word was pronounced like something a body would scrape off a shoe.

"Not good amongst your kind, eh?"

"No[1]."

"Well, if you don’t want her, I’ll take her in. That’s how we started. Family is more to me than just genes in a matrix. And maybe it’ll be more to her and her kin."

I passed him a copy of Mama Bird’s last message. So the family would know. But Pip? She was almost doomed to be that weird estranged relative to her gene-family.

Screw ‘em. She has all the family she needs with me and my tribe of scavengers. We do whatever we can to help her be happy.

[1] Of course, these events happen within days of Amity’s rediscovery by the Galactic Community

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