Author's note: I assume that humanity had faster than light space travel to found their colonies before first contact with the Andoreans and Kiwis although the Andorean hyperdrive is much faster than the human star drive. For details of the timeline I use, please see my profile.
Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc. This is a work of fanfiction, and I make no profit of it.
Beta Mountain, August 2086
His body still ached from the fight. He kept his mind empty of thought. Everything was empty and desolate. He was a hunter of his own kind.
Walsh listened to his report and told him to get rest. An unusual statement for the Commander but Shane did not care what it meant. He was too tired to think or care about anything.
Yet he could not rest.
He ate, took a shower, lay down, got up again, paced the room in different circles and looked through the messages on his computer for an excuse to leave his quarters.
Armor was dead. His mind had been destroyed long before Shane killed his body.
Although his body might survive if he got intensive medical treatment, Shane doubted that would happen. Armor would never get out of the cyrocrypt again. Even if Shane did manage to bring in the escaped Supertroopers alive, he killed them.
If not for Darkstar, he might be dead. If not for Whiner, they might all be leading different lives.
The messages flipped by. Training seminars he did not need, movie nights he never went to. One message caught his attention. A report from Q-Ball about Ikarus' and Winter's progress in communicating with humans. It was as good an excuse as any. He left his quarters to visit the dolphins.
She went over the interview in her mind again. The questions had been standard – her psychic abilities, her training, previous missions, why she wanted to leave the diplomacy corps and join the special force of the Galaxy Rangers. But something about the way Commander Walsh asked her how she handled foreign cultures or thought she would handle aggressive aliens seemed strange. Like he actually wanted to know something else.
She put down her food tray on an empty table in the cafeteria. There was no one around whom she knew and for once she was glad about it. It allowed her to concentrate on her own thoughts.
Niko wished she could have given Commander Walsh more examples of how she dealt with people not her own species, but Earth still had no contact with space-faring aliens and the Basuti whom the archeological team in the Sorcerer's system had met were considered a joke. And until Earth recognized there were other intelligent species out there who were humanity's equals it would be crazy to reveal her origins.
True, their had been rumors for some months now about secret transmissions from deep space and Ariel had confirmed that the Andoreans were discussing an alliance with Earth among themselves, but nothing had happened so far. At least not to her notice.
She sighed. After six years on Earth and its colonies only she was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Humans were her people, yes, and culturally very diverse, but she was used to different species and many different planets from childhood on. She missed traveling alien worlds and talking to people for whom it was natural that sentient life came in many different shapes, colors and sizes.
She hoped she would at least be able to get out of diplomacy soon. One more negotiation round with the managers of New Dubai space station about docking rights and fees for the Galaxy Rangers and she would go insane. Or shoot someone. Or cut their tea supply.
She finished the last bite of her artificially flavored soy sandwich. Different food would also be nice.
Her communicator beeped. The face of one of the scientists whom she had spoken to earlier about her psychic powers appeared.
"Ms Niko, if you are already here, would you be interested in helping us with one of our experiments with our telepathic dolphins?"
Niko hesitated shortly. She was always torn between giving no display of unusual abilities and not holding back so much that her inactivity would harm others.
Her curiosity won out quickly. She had never talked to dolphins before.
"So their speech neckbands translate their clicks and whistles into human speech but the more they use their telepathy the more new sound combinations they come up with," Dr Pohl explained.
The grey-haired scientist was not very tall but he always seemed to have a smile dancing around his lips, even when he was talking about technical matters. Dr Lee, on the other hand, dark-haired and slender, his features partly Asian, was the embodiment of serious in everything he did or said.
The two scientists were wasting no time in briefing Niko about the project with Ikarus and Winter, the two telepathic dolphins their genetic engineers had bred for marine research and – she suspected – reconnaissance.
The shuttle ride to Longshot seemed way to short for her to absorb all the information she was given.
"Language creation is a phenomenon that is known from some colonies of psychics. As their communities develop, standard English or Chinese does not seem to be enough to put the interactions of minds into speech and they rapidly develop new words, even new dialects."
Niko nodded understanding. Her own language, Xanad, had adopted and adapted words from over a 100 languages to accurately describe emotions and states of minds. Where English only had 'love', Xanad offered over 30 terms to convey precisely what was meant.
"Coming from Upavana, you might be familiar with this."
Niko hoped they would not ask too many questions about the isolated colony of psychics that she allegedly came from since she only knew the place from Ariel's descriptions.
"Unfortunately, there is not much linguistic research on how to translate psychic terms into standard English."
Given the prejudices and often discrimination psychics faced within the Federation of Earth, Mars and Allied Planets, Niko thought it was indeed unlikely that they would be inclined to make their language more understandable to outsiders.
"We've closely monitored the dolphin's emotional states and our neural network algorithms have defined basic translations but they are still very crude. So we were wondering if you could communicate with Ikarus and Winter and verify or improve our translations."
"Well, certainly I would like to try."
As soon as Goose entered the room with the pool at Longshot where Ikarus and Winter lived, the two dolphins swam up to him.
"Goose, my friend, you look awful." Winter sounded concerned.
"I've had a hard week, Winter."
"Do you want to swim with us?" Ikarus squeaked.
"Sure." Goose discarded his boots and blaster and jumped right into the water. Gills were among the few transformations he managed without external energy boosts.
Somehow he felt more peaceful under water. There were no humans to bother him, no orders to shoot someone.
"What have you been doing, my friend?" Ikarus asked.
"Ikarus, he cannot talk underwater," Winter chided.
"Sorry, Winter, I forgot."
Then there was silence except for an occasional squeak. Goose assumed that the two dolphins were communicating telepathically among themselves. It was fine with him as long as they did not mess with his mind. If Shimmerer was the only psychic he ever got to know close and personal, he would be very glad.
He started to relax as he drifted alongside Ikarus and Winter. It was Friday afternoon and there were not many scientists around. It suited him just perfectly.
"Iiik. Ik. Iii-iik." Winter nudged him gently. Shane turned around and looked at her. The dolphin tried again.
"You look sad, Goose. Did you lose a friend?"
It was too much to consider. He wordlessly hugged Winter.
Suddenly, Ikarus grew agitated.
"Dr Pohl and Dr Lee are coming. I think they have another psychic with them."
"They're trying to better translate our speech," Winter elaborated. "Apparently, their computers can't keep up with telepathy. They've tried with human telepaths but most can't even make contact with us. Our brainwaves are too different."
"This one is really good," Ikarus squealed excitedly. "She has already detected our presence."
Goose tensed. A strong psychic. Didn't this week already contain enough nightmares? He briefly considered staying underwater but it was becoming harder and harder to maintain his gills and he would need to go up for air soon anyway. So he would have to make a quick escape.
Winter seemed to notice. "Don't you want to talk to her?"
He broke the surface and allowed his nucleotides to reform into his normal human shape. Ikarus swam over to the edge of the pool where the group of scientists was standing but Winter stayed near Goose.
"I need to go, Winter."
"We could send them away, Goose."
"Don't be ridiculous. I need to go." With that he swam away and jumped out of the water. He tried to leave quickly but Dr Pohl stopped him. Of course the scientist could not really stop a Supertrooper but he was quick enough to make it impossible for Shane to leave in a way that would not seem completely rude even by the relaxed standards that people applied to him.
"Ah, Ranger Gooseman. I'm glad to see you. We're trying to improve the translator we use for the dolphins. Maybe you could help us since you know them so well. This is Ranger Niko. She has worked in psychic communication before." Dr Pohl indicated the brown-haired woman of medium size standing next to him.
Niko smiled at him. Goose stared at her. She seemed to sense his reluctance and did not draw closer to shake hands. It did not make him feel any better.
"Dr Pohl, I have to report to Commander Walsh. I really need to leave."
"We could call him. I'm sure he'd understand how important this experiment is," Dr Lee suggested anxiously. "Walsh is always open to advancing science."
"I'll be here for a whole week," Niko interrupted. "We could conduct the test some other time."
"I need to go," Goose stated sharply, turned around and left.
Politeness be damned. At least he would need to avoid Longshot only for a week.
Only after three corridors did he realize that he had forgotten his boots and his blaster at the dolphins' pool. The more advanced blasters were waterproof, but the standard equipment he wore now he needed to take off before he dived into water.
He quickly weighed his options between reporting lost equipment to Walsh or finding a scientist who needed a guinea pig and retrieving his belongings later. The guinea pig idea seemed far more pleasant.
"What was that about?" Niko asked perplexed.
"I don't know. Ranger Gooseman sometimes behaves like that. I'm sure it's nothing personal. Let's talk to the dolphins, shall we?" Dr Lee suggested, eager to start work.
"Alright." Niko didn't sound convinced. People sometimes reacted defensively when she told them she was a psychic but this had been extreme. Especially since the Galaxy Rangers had been recruiting psychics for about ten years now and Ranger Gooseman seemed certainly young enough to have been part of the basic training how to shield and communicate psychically. Well, there was nothing she could do about it now.
She turned to the dolphins. One had swum up close to the rim.
She could see now that the pool was at least 10 meters deep and turned around a bend, apparently to give the dolphins some privacy if they so desired. Dr Lee had told her that the two were regularly taken to the Pacific Ocean for extended swimming tours. That, together with the friendly psychic greeting she got from the male dolphin, convinced her that the two sea mammals were indeed allies and not prisoners.
She stepped forward to begin the introductions.
"Hi, I'm Niko. It's an honor to meet you. I've heard you are the first dolphins to have established contact with humans."
"Hi, I'm Ikarus and this is my friend Winter." He turned his head around in the direction of Winter, who was still swimming in a certain distance from them.
"Have you talked to dolphins before?"
"No, I haven't but I have plenty of practice with humans.
I'd like to establish telepathic contact with you so that we can translate the part of your speech that the computer has capitulated from."
"Well, that would be very helpful. They don't even understand 'iik iiik iiikii'."
Niko giggled. "They don't understand what it is like to be the only mammal among fish?"
"What does that mean?" Dr Lee asked.
Niko concentrated. The dolphin's mind was shaped differently from what a human one would be like, but many of the basic concepts were the same. She projected a map-like image of her own mind at Ikarus so that he could equally get an understanding of human consciousness.
She needed to understand the meaning of what he had said beyond the image. In Xanad it would have been close to 'the only thinking among stones' but her diplomacy training was too thorough to render it as that.
"They mean that it is hard to explain their gifts to people who don't have them and to be underestimated because of it. I think you could say 'the only one to have echolocation among people who are deaf but can see'."
Ikarus squeaked in delight. "That's good."
Dr Lee was busy taking notes. "to be underestimated – what else do we have?"
Suddenly Winter dived under water with a big splash, resulting in a shower for the humans at the edge of the pool. Niko instinctively threw up a thin psychic shield against the droplets only to dissolve it when she remembered how hard staying dry would be to explain.