Veldin. Kyzil Plateau.
Bright stars twinkled coldly in the night sky. It was chilly, a cold wind blowing over the Veldin wasteland. The Veldinite sitting huddled on a rock ignored it.
Ada was grieving.
After her husband had died, she had been alone, apart from her baby son. He had been all she had, her only company. Until a moments inattention...
She began to sob, burying her face in her hands as she remembered. A seconds distraction, that had been all, and her son had been taken, dragged off by horny toads, shrieking for his mother.
That had been this morning. Now, she waited in the desert to die. The elements, or horny toads, she didn't care which. There was nothing left for her...
And a roar split the silence. Despite her grief, she looked up, as a bright meteor streaked across the sky.
Or was it a meteor?
It was too large, too loud. The roar was the roar of an engine. Ada watched, stunned, as it grew closer to the ground. She hit the deck as it landed, the shock wave rippling her brown hair. She stayed where she was, waiting for the thunder to die away. A shower of pebbles struck her.
Then everything was still.
Cautiously, she raised her head. At the other end of the Plateau, a crater had been raised. Steam rose from its centre as something cooled. Slowly, Ada approached it, carefully peeking over the crater rim.
A tiny rocket lay in the centre, making little plinking noises as it cooled. Ada recognised it as an escape pod, though the design was sleek and unfamiliar. It was small, almost child sized. She carefully walked towards it. It had cooled remarkably fast, and she could approach it easily. It was warm to the touch as she gently placed a hand on it. And something went click. The rocket hatch popped open, and she reared back as the sickly sweet smell of cryo-sleep assailed her senses. She shook her head, fighting against dizzyness as the gas cleared.
Until a soft noise caught her attention. She peeked inside. The pod was lined with soft material of a type she'd never seen before. Carefully secured by straps, a small bundle of blankets stirred fitfully, making a soft squeaking noise. Slowly, hands shaking, Ada unclipped the straps and lifted out the bundle. She twitched aside a scrap of cloth, and found herself staring down into a tiny face wrapped in sleep. It was like no baby she'd ever seen. Soft, golden fur covered the cat like face. The ears were enormous, long and pointed, gold fur interspersed with brown stripes. A fluffy tail poked out of a gap in the blanket. A tiny pink nose twitched slightly, and the child yawned.
It-(she quickly checked under the blanket) he sneezed gently as he breathed in fresh air unlaced with cryo-sleep. Slowly, he opened his eyes, and Ada caught her breath.
His eyes were the deep green of river water, shining brightly up at her. He squeaked again, reaching out for her. His hands too, were different. Unlike her three fingered hands, he had five fingers. She knew only one race that had five fingers.
"You're a Lombax..." she whispered.
His ears perked up at the sound of her voice. She gently tickled his chest, and he wriggled pleasurably, gurgling. When she stopped, his little hand latched onto her finger, gripping it firmly. The child regarded her curiously, his deep green eyes never leaving hers. Slowly, she felt her grief lessen, washed away in a wave of love for this tiny creature. She gently cradled him closer, and he fell asleep again, lulled by the beating of her heart.
She knew just what to call him. The name of the child she had lost would be the name of the child she had found. Her son would live on in this one.
"Ratchet..." she said gently. "My little Ratchet..."