Mission Ryan
By: Gabriella Balcom

Siona's eyes widened when she saw her reflection in the hall mirror. Tilting her head backward a little, she posed like the most regal queen of queens, studied herself with an expert eye, and preened. She'd always taken the utmost pride in looking her best, regardless of which outward form she donned, but this time she'd surpassed herself.

Although her current shape was one she'd never assumed before, she couldn't have been more pleased with how it had turned out. Her long, downy fur—charcoal black in color—was highlighted by longer smoky-silver guard hairs, and her lion-like chest ruff, also silver, bushed out in majestic glory. She thought of it as a cloak of authority with the practical benefit of providing extra warmth. Golden eyes gleaming, she concluded she was perfect in every way, flicked her tufted ears, swirled her bushy tail around her body, and gloated.

If No'Tar could see her now, he'd soil himself or pass a karthok, one of the cratered rocks common to her planet, and roughly three to five earth inches in diameter. That worthless male with his bloated ego thought he alone possessed sufficient ability to fully capture another being's outer form and essence. His very belief was ludicrous, of course, and completely at variance with the innate skills and expertise she'd already demonstrated many times over!

She'd chosen her present form—that of a Maine Coon Cat—after careful deliberation, partly because she'd been intrigued by the animals' history and appearance, but more because she'd believed her choice could help assure a satisfactory mission. Her success had been guaranteed, and she'd known it! She always accomplished what she set out to. Always.

Command-One Zo'Ras had provided detailed intel about Ryan Webb's liking for animal companions—what earthlings called "pets"—but less common varieties. A chinchilla, python, and wombat were his latest, but Zo'Ras had wisely demolecularized and tranzwarped them to the Oryton ship, where they'd be way from Ryan and available for closer study. They had little to do with the current mission, of course, but getting them out of the way had been feasible. And Siona's people never passed up an opportunity to study and learn more. The animals' tranzing had been fast and painless, taking less than one-eighth of an earth nano-second, and their disappearance had provided Fe'Yah—now Siona—the necessary opportunity to be "discovered" by Ryan. And discover he had! Even while he'd been bemoaning the loss of his missing "babies," what he called his pets, his eyes had widened at the sight of Siona. Almost falling over his own feet, he'd made all kinds of weird 'ooh', 'lala,' and 'ahh' noises before whisking her straight into his home.


With Ryan's position as United States Secretary of Defense and his constant interaction with earth's government and military leaders, those of other countries' also, Siona had been assigned to gather as much military intelligence as she could. Her planet Oryton's own rulers not only wanted to know earth's defenses and nuclear capabilities, but how to crush them. Attacking was not the plan yet, but being prepared was always best.

Siona contemplated her next moves and smiled thinly, anticipating No'Tar's rage when she advanced to Oryton's Prime Directorate, the body working hand-in-hand with their Supreme One. They held all the power on their planet, although several leading families had a limited say in decisions also. She would have everything No'Tar had sought for so long, and she knew she deserved it more than he did. She'd been awarded this choice assignment to earth, despite his repeated requests—no, demands at first and near pleas after—he should get it because of his seniority. "Because of who I am" is how he'd put it. Siona sniffed in disdain, eyes contemptuous. He should have known better. Seniority assured nothing. Only results and superior achievement did, and she far outweighed him and his usefulness on those fronts. She knew it. Zo'Ras knew it. The Prime Directorate must have known it, since they'd made the final decision of choosing her over No'Tar and relegating him and his infantile whines to lesser duties. As long as she'd known him, he'd exuded contempt of her, and to her knowledge, of every other Oryton around him, believing his blood lines made him superior in every way. As such, he'd felt entitled, disdaining hard work and effort, the very things she'd used to surpass him at every turn.

Padding to the large windows in Ryan's front room, Siona sank to the floor, eyed earth's sun high above in the sky, and thought of the sun back home. It had prompted her mission in the first place.

Many millennia ago, her people had lived on a planet given light by a sun as equidistant to it as earth was from its sun. However, their sun had grown brighter and brighter before going nova. In the process, it had swallowed their planet and several others nearby. Fortunately, their scientists and leaders had anticipated the destruction and planned in advance. They'd chosen a new planet for their kind to relocate to, doing so before theirs was destroyed. Their new home, which they'd renamed Oryton, had worked out well. However, one and a half nars—equal to three earth years—ago, their Supreme One and Prime Directorate had decided it was prudent to find another suitable habitation. They'd worried about a repeat of the past and a possible need to move again. At least, that had been the official reasoning given to their people for mission ships being sent to scout out likely planets.

Siona personally thought the real reason was something different: overpopulation. Everyone knew resources weren't what they'd once been, although this was denied, and their population had multiplied well beyond the predicted levels. She had been prudent in keeping her views to herself. Trusting the wrong person could lead to banishment or, worse, relegation to an eternity in a despised form—for example, that of a sleer, which was akin to earth's slug but bright green and four times larger. At least one former military-man-turned-militant had ended up as a sleer, before he'd been smashed underfoot.

An initial report had claimed earth was a viable option for relocation, if needed. Siona had no idea what her leaders would decide in the end, but fully anticipated her role in this mission and the data she was tasked with aquiring would help her people a great deal. And, of course, she anticipated a promotion following very quickly.


Eleven earth days had passed, but Siona had learned nothing of import. The delay in making progress on her mission had been disappointing, but she'd accepted it was outside of her control. It hadn't really chafed at her, though, until a few minutes ago when visitors began arriving to Ryan's home. She didn't have to be an real earthling to recognize uniforms when she saw them. Military people coming here had to mean something, and she anticipated learning what—if she could just get into Ryan's office.

His last visitor had stepped around her, turned, and used one of his shiny shoes to shove her away from the doorway before rapidly stepping inside and shutting the door behind him. If she'd been in her true-form, she would've scorched him. As things stood, however, she didn't have her weapons and was trapped in this small, furry body. She growled menacingly from down deep in her chest. All she could do was glare, while imagining what she'd like to do.

Stalking back and forth outside the door twelve earth minutes later, she continued to fume. She'd gleaned from raised voices that two of the men who'd come were the Secretaries of the Navy and Army, but that was the extent of her knowledge. She needed to be inside with them, and didn't want to miss an earth second more of what was being said. But how could she get in?

Flexing her right front paw, she scratched the door on purpose, then did so again. Again. Again.

A creak sounded near the door, and she quickly moved a couple feet away, and began grooming herself.

"Are you making that sound, Siona, honey?" Ryan spoke from behind her, and she turned in his direction. "I haven't gone far, just into my office, and right now I'm kind of busy." He turned to retreat.

Siona's mind raced feverishly. What kind of noise do earth coon cats make, she wondered, and thought about the research she'd done prior to setting foot on this planet. Ah, yes! She'd read coons' sounds were a mixture of a mew and a growl, and they sometimes chirped. Thus far on earth, she hadn't bothered to make the effort, but this situation just might warrant–. Concentrating hard, she gave it her all, and uttered, "Meeowrrrrrr-ip!"

Ryan turned quickly. "Oh, what a sweetheart," he crooned. He picked her up, crushed her body to his chest, and planted a kiss on her nose. Fighting the urge to rake his face with her claws for the affront, she froze. It took effort not to gag at his nasty breath—reeking of rotten fruit and other things—which had shot up her nose. Trying to look forlorn and abandoned, she spoke to him again. "Meeowp!"

"Yeah, yeah, baby," he said, bussing her under the chin. "You're right. I wasn't thinking. I left you by yourself, but I promise I won't abandon you again. Of course Daddy's bootiful snookems can come inside the office with him!"

In her mind, she rolled her eyes. Sucker!

The End


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