In the gleaming white hallways of a gleaming black spaceship, a tiny turtle skulks. Strange and fabulous creatures fill the hallways. A stately lioness holds conference with a metal man over a plate of cheesecake. A large iguana wearing gold captain bars zips along every available surface, eternally busy. A white hawk soars in the space above, watched by a tattooed wolf. A grinning cat with unusually long claws and watchful eyes crouches over a little book of magic. Each creature holds an egg as varied as they are.
Doorways line the halls of the ship. Some are large and imposing. Some are small and narrow. Each sports a line of creatures waiting to knock and enter or knock and leave.
The turtle scurries from doorway to doorway, clutching something close to her chest. Head extended only enough to allow furtive sideways glances, she peers at the name plates on the doors or the line waiting to get in and scurries on.
A bump in the floor is an obstacle to be circled until it unfolds into a communications tower with a giant mass of dark hair at the apex.
The startled turtle freezes.
The bump-turned-tower leans forward. A long microphone thrusts from the mass of hair. “Whatcha got there, little turtle?”
The turtle gulps. “An egg.”
“An egg? Really? Lemme see.” The tower’s voice is low and sexy.
The turtle clutches the egg closer. “I’d rather not.”
The microphone grins, revealing razor-sharp teeth. “You don’t come here if you don’t want to show your eggs.”
The turtle gulps again. “I know. I’m not sure I’m supposed to be here.”
“You got an egg, don’t ya?”
“Yes. Yes, I have an egg.”
“Then you’re supposed to be here. Hand it over.”
The turtle extends the tiny egg to the big-haired tower. It turns the egg over and over, showing surprising gentleness for a thing with such scary teeth. “Oooh, this is nice. This is a nice egg.”
“Thank you. My family back at the swamp said that, but, you know, they’re family. They have to say things like that.”
“You should take this to the queen.”
“I don’t know a queen.” The turtle looks around for a door imposing enough to belong to royalty.
The ever-widening grin reveals even more teeth. The front two resemble Chiclets. “She’s not up here, but she looks at all the eggs.” The tower hands the egg back.
The turtle turns the egg over, searching for scratches. “OK. If that’s how it’s done…”
“Yep. That’s how it’s done.” The tower takes the turtle by the arm and drags her across the floor. They leave the gleaming hallway and enter a service corridor. “Right there.”
It’s a tiny door, more of a hatch, tucked away behind some ventilation pipes. A jet of steam hisses. The turtle jumps. “Um, shouldn’t I wait for an invitation? I mean, it’s rude to just barge in…”
The tower pounds on the door. “Your majesty! Got a turtle with a special egg here. Wanna see it?”
“Sure.” Except it sounds like shaw.
Before the turtle can scurry away, the door opens. The tower shoves the turtle through. The room beyond seems darker after the gleaming white of the outside hall.
The turtle’s eyes adjust.
Another tower crouches in the middle of a room lit only by the glow of multiple computer screens. Extra limbs and tubes protrude from this tower, connecting it to the machines. It turns a tiny, feathered head and clacks a long, pointed beak. “Kia ora. I hear you have an egg.” Oi heer yoo ave an eeg?
“Yes. Yes, ma’am.”
“May I see it?” Mae Oi see it?
Slowly, the turtle advances a few steps and holds out the egg.
A tentacle whips out from the electronic nest and snags the egg. The turtle scrambles back against the wall.
The alien queen examines the egg. “This is nice. Very nice. I can work with this.” Oi can werk weth thees.
“Yees, Oi ken. Of course, I’ll need your help.”
The feathered head nods. “It’ll hurt.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this is a nice egg, but it’s not ready to hatch yet.”
“How do I get it ready?”
“I’ll add a few special ingredients from my egg chamber here. Then I’ll shove it down your throat so it can incubate. In a short time, it’ll hatch, burst out of your chest and grow up to make its way in the world.”
The turtle’s eyes widen. “That will kill me.”
Another tentacle waved a shrug. “Just a little bit. You’ll get over it. In a few months, you’ll be ready to start on another egg and we’ll go through the whole thing again.”
The turtle retreats into her shell until only her wide eyes and large nose are visible. “I don’t like the sound of that.”
“It doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? But, it’s what you’ll have to do if you want this egg to turn into something other than a tiny special egg. Think you’re up to it?”
Only the very tip of the turtle’s snout pokes out. “Yes?”
“Um, when will you add your special ingredients?”
“Just added them. Come on out of your shell so I can shove this down your throat.”
The nose tip disappears. “OK.”
The alien queen chuckles. “Come out and I’ll give you some pavlova to eat first.”
The turtle’s head emerges. “Pavlova? What’s that?”
A tentacle whips out and wraps around the turtle’s neck.
The alien queen’s long beak manages to smile. “I’ll give you some pavlova after. Don’t worry. I do this all the time.” Oi do thees all the toime.
The steam vents hiss, covering the scrabble of clawed feet on the metal floor as the trembling turtle is dragged into the egg chamber. The big-haired tower closes the door and skips off in search of another supplicant.
* * *
In the event this is a little too obscure, I’m announcing the upcoming publication of my first novel Star of Justice by Splashdown Books. Yes, I’m a tiny bit terrified. I’ll get over it.