The Docking Station Story

Authors: Ashley Harmon, Mark Ashton

Date: Release date varies. The initial chapter likely coincided with the March 27, 2001 release of Docking Station. The final chapter likely coincided with the October 16, 2002 release of the Banshee Grendels.

Summary: The official story for Docking Station and the official DS breeds. These stories were originally released on the official Docking Station site.

The Story Begins

After years of working in isolation, and only straying from the task for tea and biscuits, the device was completed! The others had all laughed at his plan. Literally jump across dimensions and to a spherical world without leaving the comfort of Albia? Preposterous! He had persisted and those long nights of twiddling with DNA had paid off. Finally a device that would allow the Shee to explore the rest of their universe with ease, and it was all his own work. He couldn't wait to see the look on the others faces.

But that was where the problems started. Albia seemed to be deserted - not a trace of a single Shee anywhere. Norns, Grendels and Ettins were still running around the place but there was no sign of proper life forms. It appeared that a gigantic space ship had been constructed at some point and the planet evacuated.

Just how long had he been working? He knew that when he was sometimes hard to get through to, but surely someone would have come and told him that everyone was leaving! By the amount of dust it looked like they'd been gone for years. Hurrumph. Any fool could make a spaceship but only he had the vision to create holes in space -- or was it time? He wasn't entirely sure what the device did exactly. He'd even travelled through himself on many occasions. Come to think of it, he wasn't entirely sure that the here he was in now was the here he'd started in but he didn't consider that a great problem.

So he'd begun growing a ship for the voyage. It would be a long voyage, and he would need to take some distractions with him -- something to work on -- something to improve -- something to keep him occupied. A quick pop to the surface to grab a Norn or two would be okay.

The launch day was pretty spectacular and using the old dormant volcano to provide the initial thrust for his space ship was a work of genius, even if he said so himself. Of course there were a few small side effects, (the whole top layer of Albia was ripped apart by the explosion and tonnes of ash and molten rock wiped out nearly every life form on the surface) but he was sure it would recover with time. Still, it was fantastic launch method and -- he couldn't wait to tell the others! That was two great pieces of thinking now, he might even be able to get chocolate biscuits for this!

The Bondi Norns

One day in his never-ending search through the Warp for exotic teas and alien cookie recipes our friend the Shee stumbled across an alternate future version of Albia. The fall-out from his violent volcanic escape from the surface of Albia had settled millennia ago. The small two dimensional planet had been transformed into a tropical beach paradise!

Relaxing by (and indeed in) the shallow azure oceans, tickling and kiss-popping each other were some of the strangest Norns he had ever seen. Their baby-blue fur had a striking and somewhat metallic sheen! He wondered how such brightly coloured Norns could have hidden from the blood-thirsty Grendels...

On further inspection, the planet appeared to be completely bereft of Grendels - a great surprise! He postulated that perhaps they had succumbed to the deadly volcano... or maybe they were still trapped deep below the surface!

Due to the absence of predation the iridescent blue Norns appeared to have evolved to be lazy and complacent. They lounged around in groups a great deal - bouncing bright beach balls around and stuffing their faces with crab-like critters they called crobsters. He didn't blame them for it seemed that like the Grendels, this world was also missing cheese! A very un-Albian thing indeed.

Some of the Norns seemed to be playing a strange tubular musical instrument which made an eerie and enchanting noise. Listening carefully he heard them refer to it as a didgeridoo. An odd word - but very much in character with such an odd world!

But alas, despite a thorough search he could not find any new plants to make tea out of! And the tiny Ettin population appeared much too lazy to make cookies! With a small but significant sense of disappointment he gathered a few Norn eggs, a beach ball and quickly he mapped the crobster genome for future replication. After a bit of a struggle he also managed to grab one of the didgeridoos!

Before departure he scribbled a brief entry into his Warp diary. He named the world Bondi which was an ancient Shee word which meant, "Jolly nice place for a holiday, but not a sign of tea or cookies to be found!" He shut the diary, clutched his sack of Bondi souvenirs, tapped his portal device and disappeared once more into the Warp...

The Hardman Norns

He felt he was getting the hang of the warp now, but a little voice inside said that this is a dangerous thought to have. The only other time he had been confident of his destination he had ended up appearing a metre above a piranha pool! What were they thinking in that universe - Piranhas on-board the Ark indeed!

This time was different though and with each hop he felt more secure. He stepped through the shining blue and appeared in a familiar jungle but this time saw that the pool was full of beautiful trout rather than gnashing-teeth-of-death. This was an altogether more reasonable reality and closer to his own!

Ever on the lookout for new specimens he was pleased to see a small group of Norns foraging nearby. They were hairier than he was used to but the ruffs around the neck and large hair gave them a intriguing appearance that stirred memories from his past.

Momentarily lost in contemplation he was shocked when he noticed that a fight had broken out among the hairy ones, with a small male (easily half the size of the others) trying to throw its weight around. He stood and watched as the others in the group snarled and put him in his place - these Norns had a bit more fight in them than the kind he normally encountered! These hardmen would make an excellent addition to the specimens he was slowly collecting.

While he waited for the fracas to die down he collected some intriguing plants from the area and settled into the undergrowth ready to catch a Norn unaware and take it back with him for further study. Five minutes later he vowed he would never ignore that inner voice again...

Back on the Capillata the lone Shee held an icepack to his face in a vain attempt to make the swelling go down - who would have thought those cute fluffy Norns would have put up such a fight and punch a Shee! Still, he had managed to corner them and got them safely onboard ship but the scratches would take a while to heal. He definitely needed to concoct something to calm them down a bit, as he didn't want to have to wear protective gear every time he was near one!

The Treehugger Norns

Our Shee friend was growing tired of watching his Hardman Norns fight amongst themselves. His eldest Bondi Norn was getting too weak to play the didgeridoo, and even the compelling Mecha-Grendel didn't seem to amuse him anymore. He needed something new, and he knew exactly what he needed to do - he dusted off his portal device and punched in some random numbers. Clenching his teeth and closing his eyes, he activated the portal. In what seemed only an instant he was in a different place.

A rich, earthy smell permeated the air around him. Opening his eyes he could see he was in a forest, lying on his back in a small clearing. He was just about to get up when suddenly he heard a loud pop. And in only a moment he was surrounded by a whole load of fluffy white seeds that floated around him like soft powder snow, slowly making their way to the floor of the clearing where they seemed to grow like a weed. He grabbed a few of them and put them in his travel bag. His first souvenir from this strange forest world. With his eyes wide open he headed into the deep forest.

It didn't take him very long until he found a large tree that was surrounded by the greenest Norns he had ever seen. They blended so well with the forest it had taken him a while to notice them. He could tell these Norns were in very good health - their eyes were clear and sharp, their chameleonic leaf-patterned fur was sleek and well-oiled. But the strangest thing about them was what it seemed they were doing. They were hugging the tree. He blinked. Twice. Yes, they were indeed hugging the tree. How very strange!

Their bizarre behaviour had distracted him from something even more interesting - high up in that big tree was a rather large treehouse. No wonder they were hugging it - this tree was their home. He located a neatly carved set of stairs and made his way up the tree. Once inside he watched with amazement as the occupants hurried to activate a small pyramid-shaped teleporter device. Apparently, even just his presence was enough to make them feel too crowded. But once most of them had gone it gave him a good opportunity to look around the room.

In the middle of the room was a small, mostly inconspicuous machine of obviously Shee origin. He watched in wonder as an elderly Treehugger placed one of the popping plants into the device, and then activated it. An instant later a small cookie emerged from the bottom of the gadget. Not just any old cookie, this one actually looked a bit like the plant it was made from. He fumbled in his travel bag and brought out a few bramboo berries and placed them in the device. Upon activation he was presented with a delicious looking Bramboo Berry Cookie, which was quickly grabbed by a tiny baby Treehugger Norn. What a miraculous device - who needs Ettin cookie chefs when you've got a device like this?

Using his increasingly useful scanner he analysed the device so he could replicate it when he got back home to the Capillata. He also managed to coerce a broody female Norn into letting him have a few of her eggs. He surmised that with a few less Norns around the place, perhaps they wouldn’t complain of being crowded all the time. Placing his scanner, the Treehugger Norn eggs and one of the teleporters into his travel bag, he pulled out his portal device and vanished back into the Warp.

The Toxic Norns

The Lone Shee put down his genetic screwdriver and watched, fascinated, as the bacteria continued to grow and divide within his flask. This was unprecedented! He'd been to a lot of strange places recently but that last planet was just so ... well, alive. So alive, in fact, that every inch of the forest floor had writhed and slithered with the movements of a multitude of life-forms. The atmosphere had been damp and humid, and the air thick with the smell of a thousand digestive systems digesting.

As he cast his mind back he was struck by the link between life and death - wherever there is life in such abundance, death is not far behind. Maybe because of this the creatures of this planet had developed a resilience far beyond anything he'd encountered before. The remains of the fallen accumulate and feed the needs of the living, the fight for life goes on.

The Norns he'd collected from that world exhibited major digestive changes - they had grown up (and survived!) in that toxic environment and were capable of eating the detritus that carpeted the floors. Their immune system shrugged off infection that was normally fatal, and allowed them to eat the rotten foodstuffs they seemed to love. They actually showed little inclination to eat the 'normal' food on the Capillata, so he made sure that the plants, animals and other items he brought back from the planet all provided the necessary nourishment for these Toxic Norns.

The relatively sterile environment of the Capillata was no problem for some of the organic specimens, he found that without competition they soon took over and before long covered every surface. He was forced to adapt them for the sake of the other inhabitants, and it was at this point he made a mistake. It was while dissecting a particularly foul smelling plant that a bunch of small spherical things jumped out and bounced across the floor. He tried to capture them but they either disappeared into the solid ground or floated out of reach!

Ever since then these critters had appeared with blatant disregard for his authority and proceed to slink, slither, bounce or float around his ship! Would he ever be rid of these pointless squidgy things?

The Zebra Norns

Never being able to keep himself amused for very long, the Lone Shee needed something to bring a bit of excitement back into his life. He'd got a bit tired of randomly Warping around from world to world - and he'd had too many bad experiences that the thrill of it all seemed more of a chore than a game. He needed to find fun, and fast.

Desperately searching through his Gene Library, he suddenly realised that he had a load of genetic material which he had never done anything with. Sure he'd stolen Treehugger eggs, scanned the genomes of sunbathing Bondis, taken skin samples from Toxic Norns and fought with Hardman Norns for just a simple tuft of hair - but he also had a whole load of other genes lying around from other Warp adventures.

Throwing caution to the wind he randomly picked a few appealing genes from out of his collection. He'd always liked the stripes of the Bengal Norn, but despaired at its striking orange colouration - not one of his favourite colours! So he decided to do some mixing and matching with stripe and spot genes.

In the Gene Library he found the genes for the stripes of the Grazers, the Clown fish and the Wasp - all critters from onboard the Shee Ark. He took these genes and spliced them with the Bengal stripes, and for a bit of variety he threw in some Civet Norn spots too! He had no idea what would be the outcome, but it was that uncertainty which was what made it so fun!

Finally he thought he'd got the combination right. The genes looked a bit odd as he studied them under his microscope, but he was pretty confident that it would all turn out right in the end. Now all he needed was a female Norn to bring the egg to maturity - he chose a friendly ChiChi Norn that had been following him around recently.

After only a few minutes she squatted down on the ground, and laid a tiny little egg. It was so small and intricate - it looked like porcelain. He picked it up and placed it on the heat-pan incubator. Moments later it hatched and out popped the cutest stripey Norn baby he had ever seen!

This baby Norn looked like a Civet, but not. It was like a Bengal, but not. Okay, so it certainly wasn't much like a Grazer, Clown fish or Wasp either. He wasn't really sure quite what it was, but for some reason he couldn't understand, the word Zebra seemed to come to mind. He had no idea who or what a Zebra was, but it just seemed to feel right. As he reached down to pick up the baby Norn, he realised that after all this time he was finally smiling again.

The Astro Norns

The Lone Shee liked his new Zebra Norns very much, especially the striking stripe pattern he had created for them. The striped Norns were everything he had wanted them to be, and more. But for some reason they weren't quite as enjoyable as tea and biscuits, and that troubled him terribly.

With this simple fur pattern done and dusted, he couldn't help but think of what other patterns could be possible. Maybe he could actually get quite intricate with his genetic engineering - designing an ellaborate set of patterns using appealing geometric shapes - perhaps he could even make them change over time!

It seemed impossible for him to find a creature that displayed such a high level of fur pattern detail - even to Nature this kind of thing was unprecendented. Realising that made him even more determined to try and create something very special indeed. So he looked through his Gene Library, and started recharging his genetic screwdriver.

Soon he'd decided on the basic look he was trying to achieve. Combining his interests in both Genetics and Astronomy, he started his plans for the Astro Norns which would be liberally sprinkled with both moons and stars.

One friendly ChiChi later and soon he had another beautiful little Norn egg sitting on the heat-pan incubator. It took only moments for the tiny Norn embryo to develop deep in the warm insides of the tiny egg. Soon his first Astro Norn was there smiling in front of him, a cute male Norn with a half-moon pattern on it's tummy. Now he just had to wait and see what happened to that pattern as the Norn got older...

The Harlequin Norns

Oh how they laughed. The latest result of the Lone Shee's efforts in experimenting with the genetics of Norn appearance had caused quite a stir amongst his pet Magma Norns.

These new Norns were once again made by altering the genes of a ChiChi Norn. But these ones were ChiChis in wolves' clothing - or rather clown costume! For they were some of the most unusual Norns the Lone Shee had ever seen - their bright, whacky fur patterns were so unusual they were funny. And this made his pet Magma Norns laugh, much to the annoyance of the Lone Shee and the shame of his two new Harlequins.

Through his experimentations he'd been striving towards increasingly more striking and interesting fur patterns. He was very chuffed with his two previous Norn breeds but he wanted more. As he had got more familiar with the appearance related genes of the humble ChiChi Norn he had soon realised their potential for the dramatic. The genetic stage was set and waiting, he just had to move out into the spotlight and do the performance.

And what a performance these new Norns had been - especially in the eyes of his pet Magma Norns who would laugh at anything odd without hesitation. But the Lone Shee and his kin had hesitation, and it was quite clear to him that despite their freakish appearance these new Norns were all ChiChis on the inside. They needed the same respect that he gave all of his Norns - they were not mutated toys for his pet Norns to poke fun at.

He could try and teach his pet Norns otherwise, but he knew it would be in vain. They had no shame, for they were very much Norns and not Shee like he was. They could not see beyond first impressions, or even beyond their own noses. They were limited little creatures, lovingly so - and endearing in their simplicity. But they could be cruel as easily as they could be cute. This was not a welcome place for his new clown-like Norns and begrudgingly he knew something had to be done about it.

He took his time to decide on their fate. But soon the Lone Shee took his freakish Harlequins and solemnly sent them off through a Warp portal. The Warp was already filled with a mass of bizarre Norns and mutant creatures, they would soon find themselves a good home - so no need for the tears of a clown or of the Shee.

As they left he caught sight of two of his pet Magma Norns sniggering to themselves. He pointed at them menacingly and they soon went quiet. They knew what he was thinking: "Be careful or you will be next!"

The Fallow Norns

Every good Shee geneticist needs a break once in a while, and our friend the Lone Shee was no exception. For now at least, he'd tired of fiddling with genes. Feeling a familiar sense of dissatisfaction and more than just a tickle of adventurous spirit, the Lone Shee decided to head out into the Warp once more. You could always count on the Warp to break the monotony!

Without any further thought he packed all his usual travel accessories into his bag and jumped into a nearby Warp portal. The plasma tickled against him as he passed on into its bright swirling blue.

And there he was, standing right at the open door of a massive wooden building. His jaw lowered - this wasn't what he'd expected at all. Then slowly but surely a smile began to creep onto his face. This was the kind of uncertainty that he loved about the Warp - you never knew where you would go! You were at home on the Capillata one minute, minding your own business - next you were off in the middle of some completely unknown place and time. Finding out where exactly you were was all the fun!

He walked forward into the building. It was all one large room, like a big meeting hall - everything was quite plain to see as there were wide, open windows on all walls. He sensed creatures of some sort lived here. But as he looked around the room it appeared none were to be found. There were no sleek and hunky Bondis strutting their stuff across a golden beach; no timid Treehuggers hugging something large and arboreal; and none of his brightly coloured Harlequins to shake even the smallest of sticks at. If creatures were here, they weren't obvious.

And then he smelt it - the thick, musky smell of male Grendels began to work its way into his nostrils. He didn't know how far away they were but the stench was getting stronger. He'd handled a few Grendels in his time, but en masse they could be much more than just an annoying interruption. Hurriedly he looked around for something to grab before he made his exit.

What he found shocked him to the bone and beyond. He didn't know how he had missed them, but there were mounted trophy heads stuck to the back wall of the room. They had looked at first like Reindeer or some other type of deer-like mammal. But they were not - they were the heads of Norns. Mostly ageing Stags with tri-point antlers posing with pride, but also a few Does - fixed forever in a furtive smile which must have been forced into place by some very twisted Grendel taxidermist.

It was obvious to him what must be done. Without hesitation he took two of the mounted heads - one Stag and one Doe. He may not be able to resurrect these individual Norns. But with the help of a couple of faithful ChiChi Norns he could certainly produce a convincing clone or two.

The Grendel stench was becoming unbearable. Without further hesitation he threw everything into his travel bag and activated his portal device. And it was good he had hurried because two very large and powerful Grendels had just walked in and they did not seem to be smiling at him as he disappeared into the Warp.

The Magma Norns

The Lone Shee sat back engaged in a moment of quiet introspection and, not for the first time, wondered how long it would be until he finally caught up with the Ark. Keeping track of time was not his strong point and all this jumping through the Warp became a bit disorientating after a while. The thought crossed his mind that he still wasn't entirely certain that the reality he was in now was the reality he started in! This wasn't a new thought, but it still brought a shiver of fear and he couldn't shake it off.

Looking back the plan had been easy - simply make a ship and catch up with the Ark, he had so wanted to show-off the cool technology he'd been working on. He had been surprised to find no more Shee on Albia all those months ago (or was it years?) but things had been simple then ... there was no room for fear when there was a plan to hatch. Grow a ship, thrust out of gravitational pull by blowing up the old island, follow the trail of the Ark, and hey presto - instant reunion and tea and biscuits all round.

It was only during the quiet times like these that the Lone Shee had time for feelings like fear, but now that he had started brooding a pang of guilt started to creep in too. The old island on Albia had always been a popular place for meditation and hedonism - the lap of the waves on the beach and the serenade of the love horn made for a magical place - but he had blown the whole thing up.

He took solace in the fact that he had given clear instructions to the Ettins he left behind but it wasn't enough. With a flash of determination he decided that the only way to be rid of this malaise was to attempt to warp to Albia and check up on the old place. Fear and guilt were replaced by focus and excitement as he calibrated his portal and stepped through the familiar blue swirl.

Warping to places you already knew was always more reliable, but he still had to do a double take when he found himself standing in what he thought would be the sanctity of the garden, but was now a barren land with poor sand-like soil. He looked in sadness at great Yggdrasil - the huge tree that had been the cornerstone of his youth - it was blackened and had no new growth to show.

Travelling across the ocean he had a good view of the island - and the cone of rock that now pierced the once tranquil beach. He walked across, stood on the rim of the huge crater and stared down into the molten core of Albia. The scale of devastation took him by surprise but he was pleased to see that at least some of his plans had been acted on. He could see the core had been capped with the vent design he'd given to one of the more reliable Ettins, and the new lift network had been created to allow travel between the surface and the underground laboratories.

Descending towards the red glow with the heat and radiation washing over him he caught sight of movement below - a brief flash of red and orange fur and then it was gone. Excitement gripped him again - how could he have forgotten?! The majority of the detailed plans he had given to the Ettins concerned structural work to Albia; capping the core, replacing the lift network, sealing up the gene labs ... that sort of thing. But at the time he had been postulating the effect of this heat and radiation on unborn lifeforms and so had asked them to pile up a stack of eggs when they'd made the place safe. Could the movement he just saw really have been a Norn? If so there was no doubting it was a descendent of the eggs placed here by the Ettins!

He reached the bottom of the volcano cone and hurried in the direction of the movement with glee. He was so pleased with himself that he almost ran into the Grendel - how he hadn't noticed the smell he would never know. The shock of almost bumping into the Grendel took second place though to what he could now see - the Grendel had cornered a beautifully marked Norn against a solid steel door and was laughing menacingly as it flexed and unflexed its fists in preparation for fun. Without thinking, the Lone Shee quickly fiddled with his portal controls and zapped the Grendel off to who-knows-where. The Norn was almost skeletal but had the most amazing fiery red and orange fur. It was visibly shaking from its near-death experience and the presence of the Lone Shee did not seem to calm it down at all.

Taking in his surroundings the Lone Shee saw that the cavern at the bottom of the volcano was surrounded by steel and rock - the huge door was locked and appeared to be the only way into the underground laboratories. Scattered around the floor were broken shell and bones - but they weren't fresh. Instantly the Shee realised the poor fate of his experimental eggs ... they had been placed here but the hatchlings had no access to food ... the poor Norns had probably starved to death in this fiery prison cell. Was this the last one? How many eggs had been placed here originally? The bones on the floor spoke of not tens, but hundreds of wasted lives. Cursing the Ettins (and himself for trusting such a responsibility to them in the first place) he checked his pockets for food.

He was interrupted by a huge crash behind him, and spinning round saw a Grendel picking itself up from the floor and grinning. Looking up he saw something that made his heart freeze, even with the heat of the core burning his face. Piled up on a raised platform were what were undoubtedly Grendel eggs - and from this platform dropped another two adult Grendels, and there were plenty more on the platform itself grinning down at him.

He could not take on all of these Grendels at once, so with a forced calmness he backed towards the Norn and groped for his portal control. The Grendels were advancing menacingly as he found the control, and three more dropped down to the ground behind them. They weren't quite as big as the Grendels who lived where he found the Fallow Norns, but with so many of them they were quite a threat!

His heart raced as a he dialed in the settings to get him back to Capillata and stared at the meanest of the green faces approaching him. It was within arm's reach now and the smell was terrible - he could see spittle dribbling down the Grendel's chin as it bunched its muscles and pulled a fist back ready to strike! In a flash the Shee grabbed hold of the Norn, activated the control and fell into the blue safety of the Warp.

Crashing back into the Capillata, the Shee shed a tear for the generations of Norn who had spent their lives trapped with the Grendels in that heat-hole but took a small amount of happiness from the fact he had managed to save the last of their kind.

The Siamese Norns

It wasn't adventurous spirit this time, and he hadn't been compelled by boredom. The Lone Shee was hungry for more information on the nasty Grendels he'd encountered when he found the Fallow Norns. Something about them really scared him, and he didn't like that one bit. It was the power of the unknown, and so he felt he needed to seek the counter power of knowledge.

Following his nose - almost literally once he'd smelt that familiar musky stench - he found himself in a world of shadows. No blazing suns or moons in the sky, which only made the stars so much brighter. There were Grendels here, just like those he had met before. But strangely they did not seem to be at all interested in him; it was like they couldn't even see him! He made sure to take note of a few details that distinquished them from normal Grendels - things like what seemed like gilded plating on their backs. But it was hard to see too much with such poor lighting!

He found this world of shadows unnerving; but it meant that it wouldn't take very much effort to search around and see what was about. And what he found brought more than just a single tear to his eyes. A dozen cute but filthy siamese-patterned Norns trapped in a big cage like a frightened group of forgotten Christmas present kittens.

Not like pets, more like prisoners - trapped forever in a cage. The fluffiest, cutest things - but bedraggled, unkempt.. unloved.. What kind of monster would do this? A Grendel? Could a Grendel really go this far? He wasn't certain he was so sure anymore. Visions of Fallow Norn Trophies blazed in his mind. Grendels weren't known for making such things. Grendels didn't typically display such ability!

These timid Siamese Norns appeared to come in a variety of different colours. From those lightly blue and mildly green through to some that were a pleasantly warm red. The Lone Shee rather liked this, and he wondered if this quality was genetic - perhaps he could breed yellow, violet and cyan Siamese Norns by mixing the primary colours up?!

Now, just how predictable was his next move? He let them out of the cage. He couldn't bear to see them couped up in that nasty enclosure anymore, and their shrieking Nornish complaints of crowdedness were doing his head in. What kind of cruel being had locked these Norns up like this?! He just couldn't bring himself around to the idea that nasty Grendels were all that was behind this. Grendels could be cunning, and were well known for brutality. But they didn't have enough brain lobes and neurons to get so twisted in their heads that they'd treat Norns this way. Or did they?

It felt like the fur on the back of his neck had been permanently standing up on end since he'd rescued the Fallow Norn Trophies. The Grendels had worried him, and the thought of them had lingered on his mind. Just what were these Grendels up to, and why? And how exactly did they appear to be so intelligent - despite the Lone Shee knowing that they were just as likely to think beyond carrots and kiss-popping as their Norn cousins were. And the Grendels he'd encountered here seemed to care very little that he was there, which only made the plot thicken.

He shepherded the frightened Siamese Norns around him, and activated his portal device. None of the Grendels had tried to stop him. And it made him wonder if maybe the Grendels that had arrived when he'd found the Fallow Norns hadn't intended to stop him either. He wondered why they all seemed to be so used to having a Shee around. Grendels weren't typically subdued at the sight of a Shee, and as far as he knew he was the only Shee to have travelled through the Warp.

Once back on the Capillata the Lone Shee spent quite a while cleaning up his newly-found pets. He spent extra time gathering juicy lemons for them to eat. They seemed to respond well to his attention - and once they'd been washed and brushed, they looked a whole load more presentable. So for now they were safe and content, as were all of the Lone Shee's Norns. But for how long could he keep his Capillata free from this new Grendel menace?

Final Chapter of the Docking Station Story - The Banshee Grendel Story

So long had he travelled. So many great adventures, with hardly any time to write them all down. So many wonderful new Norns -- both those he'd made himself, and those he had discovered. Too many stories to record. Too many fantastic experiences now only kept alive and vivid as memories in the mind of our dearest friend, the enigmatic Lone Shee. Slowly, without him noticing it, time has ticked on steadfast. The preparations must now take place for his docking station's fated final act.

In his private laboratory deep under the surface of Albia, the Lone Shee had spent ages tinkering with technology both wonderful and weird. The other Shee had thought him a bit strange, and they'd regarded his gadget obsession with more than just a tad of suspicion. But he was certainly no threat, and they meant him no harm, so they left him to his own devices -- to the point where they'd forgotten to tell him before they left Albia for the round world of Sphericus! But once he realised they had gone, he mixed some of their own technology with his, added an ounce of genetic magic and created the fantastical docking station vessel, which he'd named Capillata. This same vessel now surrounded and protected him and his pet Norns from the frozen, empty void of space as they journeyed in chase of the Shee Ark and it's occupants.

Once he'd left Albia, he spent ages refining his devices and gadgets until he had fully harnessed their potential in the form of a Warp Portal -- a device that allowed him to travel through space and time via an odd realm of swirling blue energy. His journeying through the Warp had kept him so very busy throughout his voyage to Sphericus. But now at long last, he was closer than ever to arriving. Sphericus was only days away, and soon his long adventure would come to a close -- he would be reunited with the other Shee once more. He wondered what Sphericus would be like. And would he still be needing the Warp once he was there? Of course! He'd have to show all his old friends what he'd discovered! They may be a bit uncomfortable with it at first, but he was sure that they would soon see the advantage of such technology -- and finally he would be exonerated from all his years of anti-social experimenting deep underground in a laboratory, back on their home planet of Albia.

The Lone Shee sighed, and took another bite out of his freshly baked lemon cookie. He'd got a bit of a cold, and he knew that lemons contained helpful chemicals that would make him feel better. And then he heard it. It seemed so far away, and yet he knew the Capillata was rather small. It was such an unmistakable sound, and it sent shivers up his spine. It seemed that things were not at all right, and now he thought of it -- no wonder he had a cold! He'd been so sure to clean out all the bacteria from the Docking Station ages ago. Colds, bacteria, unmistakable noises -- there was a Grendel on board, and the Lone Shee was frozen at the thought of it.

The internal sensors of the docking station informed him that there was not one, but two Grendels in his Workshop area. Both were youths -- one male, and one female. Luckily the doors through to the Hub were locked so that Grendels could not enter. But still he was left to wonder what exactly Grendels were doing in the Capillata? And what kind of Grendels were they? He hoped they weren't the same nasty breed he had recently encountered in the Warp -- the ones that had hunted Fallow Norns, and kept the Siamese Norns in cages. This new breed of Grendel appeared to be more brutal than normal. They displayed some rather anti-social behaviour too -- very unusual indeed! But what was most sinister about them, was that they seemed to work with a purpose. Whether it was their own, or that of someone or something else -- he did not know. But thinking about it always made his neck fur stand on end, without fail.

He quickly snapped himself out of his reverie, and began thinking of what to do. He had to get them off the ship, but it wasn't in his nature to be aggressive. And anyhow, the very thought of physical contact with any kind of Grendel repulsed him completely -- even if it was in self defence! But perhaps there was another way to cleanse the vessel of these uninvited guests, without having to actually meet them face to face.

After much thought, the Lone Shee recalled the strange creature from which Capillata had been made -- a jellyfish-like animal which used a black ink-like spray to defend itself, and ward off those that disturbed it. It didn't take long for him to confirm that Capillata did indeed have a monstrous equivalent of this defensive ink, and with only a little effort he convinced her to spray it all around the Workshop area. But it seemed that although it obviously was causing the Grendels problems, the spray was not particularly effective in any way. Much to his annoyance, the two Grendels persisted -- no doubt madder than before, and covered from head to toe in sticky black ink!

What to do! He had no idea. Already his pet Norns had started to gather around him. They were hugging each other, and they seemed just as frightened as he did! All of them but his pet Hardman Norns who were strutting around -- they seemed even angrier than usual now they could smell the earthy stench of Grendel. With a sudden flash of inspiration, the Lone Shee knew exactly what to do. It wasn't ideal. It wasn't really his style. But it was a critical time for his long journey, and so he was under duress. He began giving his Hardman Norns important instructions.

The readout on the sensors showed that both Grendels had now aged to adulthood. The thought of two fully grown Grendels in the Workshop made the Lone Shee wince, but he hurried to finish his preparations. Soon enough, two of his toughest Hardman Norns were ready for their mission. He accompanied them through to the Hub, and right up to the door through to the Workshop. After that, it was up to them. "Push door!" he commanded, and with a proud and determined look on their faces, his two heroic Hardman Norns passed through to the impending conflict on the other side.

Unable to resist watching their progress, he went through to the Comms Room and viewed the skirmish via the camera system. It didn't take long to realise that these were indeed the same nasty Grendels that he'd encountered recently -- but these two were much bigger and nastier than those he had seen before! Perhaps this was his first meeting with the adults of this new and vicious Grendel breed. Whatever they were, they were definitely excellent fighters -- and were proving more than a match for his valiant Hardman defense force!

And then he saw it -- both Grendels were equipped with tiny pyramid-shaped devices -- random teleporters exactly like the ones the Treehugger Norns had used. Perhaps this was where the Treehuggers had got them from in the first place -- maybe they had survived a similar invasion from these new Grendels? Unlike their Fallow and Siamese brethren, unfortunately. It all started to make sense -- these new Grendels were an invasion force of some kind. They weren't just subversive, lawless brigands -- they seemed to be much more organised than that!

The battle continued to rage -- two were down already, one Grendel and one of his Hardman Norn pets. But the remaining two kept fighting, urged onwards by strong genetic survival instincts. He cringed in empathy as the Grendel smacked the Norn squarely in the chin, but the Hardman had been prepared -- she deftly undercut the Grendel with a whopping great thwack in the gut! The Grendel groaned in pain, and then he slumped to the floor to join the other two fighters in unconsciousness. The Lone Shee was so pleased that he clapped spontaneously, even though he knew nobody could hear him! He rushed through to the Workshop, and deftly tended the wounds of his two battle-worn champion Norns. He knew teaching them as children with the Grendel training dummy hadn't been in vain -- it had saved their lives!

After great effort, he and a team of pet Norns moved the unconcious, ink-covered intruders to the containment chamber. He warped them both off to the coordinates of the world of shadows where he had found the Siamese Norns on -- but not before he took some genetic samples from them both. And what an interesting surprise their genome had proved to be. It was very much like the Hardman Norns themselves, but it was peppered with distinctly Grendel genes too!

He managed to confirm his suspicions -- these brutes grew up through their life stages as relatively harmless creatures, but as soon as they became adults they started hating Norns, and they developed instincts to teleport all around the place and cause havoc. This didn't seem like a naturally occurring genome at all. It was definitely created artificially, but not by someone as experienced with genetics as he was. And the intention of this Grendel genome was pretty clear -- someone had created them to enact dark purpose. Someone who like him, had knowledge of the Warp and creation of devices. Someone that seemed to want to enact a brutal offensive on all things Norn. If it was a Shee, it was some kind of anti-Shee. And aside from childhood fairy tales, he had never ever heard of anything quite like that.

He carefully examined the Workshop, to make sure that all was now safe. He didn't know exactly how the Grendels had got on board, but he was determined to do whatever was necessary to stop them from invading again. Everything seemed as it should be, but then he noticed a new fixture in the upper level of the Workshop. It was a small and relatively innocuous stone. Like so many other parts of the Capillata, this stone was shiny to the eye, and smooth to the touch. But it had a strangely familiar mark on it -- a stylised symbol that was roughly the shape of the letter B. He knew he had seen this symbol before, a very long time ago in his childhood on Albia. But what was it doing here?

After an exhaustive search through his library of collective Shee knowledge, he finally found something that turned his stomach inside out. "Legend of the Banshee" was a scary story for children -- but it was regarded by modern Shee as purely a work of fiction. As a child he had shivered with fear while his mother had read the legend to him. He shivered now just at the thought of it.

The scrolls he read seemed to confirm most of what he remembered of the legend from his childhood. Apparently, thousands of years earlier a small group of Shee had separated themselves from the rest of Albian society. They turned their backs on genetics and Norns, and spent their time researching strange devices and contraptions -- and the other Shee had not been impressed. Unlike the Lone Shee, whose isolation hadn't really changed his opinion of his people, the Banshee -- as they called themselves -- grew to dislike and resent the other Shee. As a sign of their defiance, they chose Grendels as pets, rather than the cute and cuddly Norns. They even added Grendel genes to their own genomes, forever distinguishing themselves genetically from the other Shee. And at the height of their gadgetry prowess, these malcontent Banshee technologists discovered an ability to travel through time and space. The legend ended with them leaving Albia forever through a strange, swirly blue gate.

It would appear that like the Lone Shee, the Banshee had discovered the Warp.

The legend had seemed so amazingly unbelievable as a child. But now it appeared that after all this time, the strange and scary story had accurately recorded an actual historic event -- the Banshee were not just fictitious baddies in a fairy tale to frighten young Shee! Though they were no longer on Albia, they definitely were still around. Perhaps they were living somewhere in the Warp, or maybe on that eerie world of shadows. Perhaps they were also the ones who made the hall he'd found the Fallow Norn trophies in? Did they know he was out here? Or was he just unfortunate to be invaded by their Grendels, as the Siamese and Fallow Norns had been? Whatever the case was, he needed to try and put it out of his mind -- his journey was nearing an end and it was finally time to prepare the Capillata to dock with the Shee Ark.

For days now the world of Sphericus had been in the centre of his view screen, growing steadily larger and clearer. But now it was looming so close, he could even see the Shee Ark high in geostationary orbit. He'd soon discovered that the strange Banshee stone in the Workshop was actually some kind of device for making Grendel eggs. It was regularly creating eggs, always one male and one female -- and if it hadn't been for the beady eye of a pet Bondi Norn he may not have realised this until it was too late. He made sure to collect them all before they hatched, and he sent them one by one through the Warp to the world of shadows.

Finally the Capillata drew up close to the Shee Ark -- the Lone Shee made sure to park it in a similar orbit. Then he moved on to prepare the vessel for docking -- a rather violent maneuver which involved shoving the spike at the top of Capillata up into the main section of the Shee-crafted starship. It wasn't very elegant, but sometimes a little brute force is the ideal solution.

It occured to him that he really should probably try and make contact with the Shee Ark, before performing the docking station's final act -- if not only to be thorough! So he rushed through to the Comms room and attempted to establish a communication channel with the other vessel. He strongly suspected the Ark would now be empty -- the Shee hadn't come all this way, only to sit in orbit of Sphericus! But he thought it may seem rude if he didn't at least try and invite any residents to share in tea with cookies and biscuits. So when someone on board the Ark actually did accept his Comms signal, he was very surprised indeed.

But not half as surprised as he was when her image came through on the screen! At first she seemed somehow ugly, and yet somehow deeply beautiful. Her face was so much like a Shee, yet it seemed she had features that were very much that of a Grendel. He had seen faces like this only once before. Faces that as a child had haunted him in his nightmares. This was the face of a kind of someone he had thought to be nothing more than the purest fiction. The face of a Banshee was staring right at him. Her ruby-red Grendelish eyes burned deep into him, and she spoke with a voice quite unlike anything he had ever heard before. "Welcome to Sphericus -- I've been expecting you..."