Blackstar looked out at the city skyline from a balcony a good twenty stories up. Hir nose sniffed at the night air of the alien planet. It was moments like this that Blackstar loved, not worrying about fighting or defending some convoy, but just watching the glowing city below and smelling the unknown scents in the air. For that moment, shi was in total bliss. Just as quickly shi was brought out of it by a noise coming up from behind hir. Shi knew exactly what was about to happen when someone wrapped their arms around hir upper torso, and when a voice asked, "Why are you still up?"
Blackstar sighed, worried about telling the man who held hir the whole truth. Shi looked back at the Red Panda "I just have a lot on my mind. While Iím sure it would fit in yours, given its lack of use, Iím still trying to come to terms with it."
The Red Panda laughed. "Iím your denmate, evil genius, hot stud, and your mate. What canít you tell me?"
Sly looked around and asked, "Who exactly? I know you mated with Nightrose, but I thought you said that we would tell each other before we mated with someone else."
"I didnít mate with anyone else," said Blackstar. "Youíre the father." Hir ears picked up a large thud behind hir. "I know how you feel."
"You know, Sly, I thought this was supposed to be relaxing," teased Blackstar. Finally having a moment to rest, shi took a look around the abandoned alley. Shi and Sly had just barely avoided a group of gunmen who had burst into their room.
"I thought you freelancers enjoyed a little excitement," said Sly.
"Well, that doesnít include getting shot at," stated Blackstar. "We need to get off this planet before we get killed. We should head for the spaceport."
"What did they want anyway?" asked Sly.
"Clearly they wanted one of us dead," said Blackstar.
Sly was silent for a moment, until he realized his mate was staring at him. "I swear I havenít done anything to anybodyÖ" A spray of bullets just barely cleared their heads. "Ölately." Blackstar pulled a hand pistol out from hir vest and shot a single bullet at the enemy. Sly watched as a body fell limp from a roof-top. "Is he dead?"
Blackstar watched as the body fell to the sidewalk below. "Well, if the bullet didnít kill him, the fall sure did." Blackstar shrugged and walked towards the spaceport where hir ship was parked.
Sly, who hadnít seen the more callous battle-side of his mate, began following hir in silence. He stopped when he heard a moan from where the guy had fallen. "I think the guy is still moving."
A voice came from that direction saying, "No Iím not. Iím dead. Leave me alone." This did not deter Blackstar from approaching the limp form. "Would it help if I said it wasnít personal?"
Blackstar stepped on the masked figureís back. He was a human judging by the fact that the skin showing in between the sleeve and gloved hands was not covered in fur. Shi dug hir claws into the manís back, which only helped hir realize he no longer had feeling there. "It helps a little. Now who are you working for?"
"I donít know. Some old Rakshani guy. Now, could you call an ambulance?"
"Thank you for your help," said Blackstar, "but Iím afraid not."
"Are we just going to leave him here?" asked Sly.
"Of course not," said Blackstar, "I want to see what else he can survive. Got an anvil?"
"Thatís so cliché."
Blackstar nodded. "Youíre right. We need a road roller. Iíve always wanted to see if they go flat like in the cartoons."
Vega was engrossed in the schematics on her PADD that displayed the repairs needed on the Mystic and wasnít paying attention when a phaser shot missed her neck by less then a millimeter, actually singeing her fur. She responded quickly by throwing the PADD and striking the wolf that fired right in between his eyes. While he was dazed, she kneed him in the crotch. While the Wolf was doubled over, Vega grabbed him and shoved him into the bulkhead, knocking him out cold.
When Vegaís instincts gave her self-control back and she realized what happened, she tapped her comm badge. "Vega to the Bridge, security alert! At least one prisoner escaped from the brig."
Nightrose answered, "This is the bridge. Weíve confirmed that the brig has been broken out of. Miles Prower is in critical condition, and not likely to survive more then an hour or two. Report to engineering; we need someone with some combat experience down there. Skyís never been in a firefight."
"Roger that. Iím on my way."
Sly was standing next to his mate who was sitting in the Midnight Starís pilot chair, when he leaned towards hir ear and asked, "Just where did you find the road roller? Seriously, now.
Blackstar shrugged. "Just be satisfied that I didnít run him over." Shi was busy fiddling with the shipís radio, but was getting frustrated.
No matter what Blackstar tried, shi couldnít raise the Mystic on any communication channels. Given the fact that the Mysticís communication array was state-of-the-art and brand-new, there was no way shi shouldnít be able to contact it. It had even been customized for the Maelstromís unique environment. The only reason shi wouldnít be able to reach it would be that it wasnít transmitting, something impossible under normal circumstances. All the worst possible scenarios were running through hir head. "Layla, keep trying to raise anyone on the Blitz team. Maybe theyíve split up or something and we might reach a fighter or a shuttle."
"Or an escape pod?" suggested Layla.
Blackstar glared at the position where shi knew there was a camera, hoping Layla would get the point. "That isnít helpful. Get me the watchtower. Weíre taking off ASAP."
Sly put his hand over Blackstarís. "Hey, you trained them. Iím sure theyíll be alright."
"My worst enemy and her cronies are in my brig and thereís still an unknown spy in my crew. And half of my crew was rejected by a Star Fleet Captain who quote, Ďwouldnít trust this group of retards with a potato guní."
"Perhaps we should return to EVIL HQ. Youíd be a lot safer there." Blackstar glared at Sly for a solid minute before Sly sighed and said, "Somehow it seems like youíre less then thrilled with that idea." Blackstar nodded. "Weíre going to go make sure your crewís okay?" Blackstar gave a tilted nod. "And to make sure Nightrose is okay."
"Itís almost like youíre psychic," said Blackstar. Shi kept talking as shi began the pre-launch sequence. "Iíve invested too much of my time and money to let them die without fighting for them. I had to survive Sashaís attempts to assassinate me, Sergeís Ďaccidentsí in the engine room, and Tripís anger issues to start the team. Besides, Iím hoping the Mystic will pay-off before itís destroyed. So you gonna help?"
Sly shook his head. "Of course Iíll help. Itís just that I donít know how much help EVIL will be. The Federation hasnít exactly liked us since the Prophecy Incident."
"To be fair they were trying to kill us at that time. One of the few times you were totally justified in my opinion." Blackstar began taking off once they had received clearance.
"Well thatís the only one I care about right now," said Sly. "Speaking of old times, heard anything from Silverfox, Rainbow or Turk?"
Blackstar shook hir head. "No. Iíve only kept up with Rainy on the net. Turk is MIA, but Iím betting heís hanging out with Alteijra on her homeworld. I swear theyíre like a pair of rabbits on Viagra. That reminds me, I need to talk to Rainbow about adjusting the Angel-Guard control systems."
"I noticed the Midnight Starís alterations. You fitted the bridge with some parts from the Angel-Guard hunter shi gave you and grafted them to the Midnight Starís systems," said Sly. Sly was hoping to provide some distraction from hir crewís disappearance.
A small smile appeared on Blackstarís face, at what Sly was trying to do. Hir empathic abilities let hir see right through the attempt, but it was the thought that counted. "Youíre correct. The last bridge was heavily damaged. Long story short: Layla rammed the bow into a building to save me after I got trapped while saving a cub. A Chakat Shadowcrest I believe. Thatís the incident that cost me my left arm, and some of the original controls. The new systems can occasionally short out, resulting in a really bad headache." Sly frowned a little, he rarely thought about hir artificial appendage. It was so well blended in with hir natural body that Sly didnít even know where the replacement ended and Blackstar began.
Changing the subject, Sly asked, "just where is the Time Matrix anyway? I know from experience that you arenít actually hiding it in your sheath."
Blackstarís glowed and hir voice went deep as shi said, "I am the Matrix."
Slyís eyes went wide, "really?"
"No," Blackstar said with a smile, "Iím just screwing with you."
"How did you do the eye glowing thing?"
Blackstar shrugged, "Donít know. Itís just one of those things I can do on command, but I donít know how I do it."
The Midnight Star left the planetís upper atmosphere and was in now in high orbit. "Now Iím about to say something that I always wanted to. Iíve got a need, a need for speed!" On cue, the Midnight Star activated its Slipstream drive. With Blackstar at the helm, it was only minutes before the ship reached Quenxel. A quick scan revealed that the Mystic was nowhere in the area. Without a word, the ship reentered Slipstream, going along the course that the Mystic was supposed to take. It wasnít long before the Midnight Star returned to normal space again, this time right in front of the Mysticís bow. "That was almost too close."
"My bodyguards arenít going to be happy about this," said Sly. "Anything on the coms?
Blackstar frowned, troubled by the sensor readings. "No. The ship is in anti-invasion mode. All docking ports and the landing bays are locked down, transport scramblers will make transporting messy, and any type of interface will result in the automatic attempt to take over our computer."
"And this is one computer who might die from a hack," said Layla. "And the drill on the assault pole is still damaged from pulling out too quickly. Wait. That sounded wrong." Blackstar let out a half-grin and Laylaís poor sense of humor.
Blackstar began thinking hard about hir options. Shi clasped hir hands and positioned hir thumb and pointer finger in a rubber-band gun shape. Shi always did that when thinking hard about a problem. "Canít get through the ports, canít take them over, and canít punch a hole in them. But if we canít get through the defenses we need to get around them." A smile crossed hir face. "It could work. It has to work. Layla, is the RX4000 on board?"
"Of course. Why? Thereís no way that could penetrate the hull," warned Layla.
Blackstar leapt from the pilot seat and ran to the Midnight Starís weapon storage. Sly waited outside the door, until Blackstar walked out wearing the RX4000 assault unit. Its primary weapon was a machine gun with a Ďreplayí button. It also included several oldies but goodies: RPG launcher, trident, net, flamethrower, along with an ice gun. It had also been upgraded with a force field projector by Sky to increase its durability. The downside to the heavy weapon system was that it could only be mounted on vehicles or strong taurs.
Sly nodded in approval; after all it was he who gave the RX4000 to Blackstar in the first place. In fact it was when he made the measurements for the system that the two had first mated. And according to the scans that Dr. Oliver analyzed, when they first conceived as well. Blackstar shared this fact with Sly, wondering how they conceived before he began his experiments to make him compatible. "Any theoryís on how we conceived?"
Sly shrugged, not being too sure himself. "Itís possible one of my previous experiments may have an unintended side effect on me that made me compatible with Chakats. Or maybe there is Chakat-kin DNA mixed in you somewhere and you have some of their adaptability. After all, you are pretty unusual for a Chakat. The most violent one I know, not to mention a few other things."
"Oh, sure make this my fault," teased Blackstar. "Well whatever the case, we have a bigger problem. The Mystic is clearly in trouble and Iíve got to help."
"Great," said Sly, "but how are we going to board it?"
Blackstar gave a mischievous grin, grabbed Slyís hand and the hallway on the Midnight Star was replaced by one of the Mysticís cargo bays. A quick glace showed that Nightrose, Trip, Rys, Dr. Oliver, and 8-Ball had all been captured and being held by a pair of wolf guards, both armed with machine guns. Everyone except Blackstar was totally bewildered by the sudden appearance of Sly and a Chakat who was armed to the teeth.
A guard raised his machine gun and asked, "Who the hell are you? How the hell did you get in here?"
"Me? Iím your worst nightmare." Blackstar unleashed a fury of shells killing both guards before they got off a shot. Blackstar bit hir lip for a moment, holding back any tears. Shi hated killing someone without giving them a chance, but when it came to hir mates and crew Blackstar never regretted it. Shi just wished there was another way.
Blackstar took control of hir emotions and gave hir signature smile to the now freed crewman. "Canít I leave you guys alone for more then half a day without you guys getting into trouble?"
Nightrose leaped on Blackstar and gave hir a tight hug. "Iím so happy youíre here. I knew you would save us." It was a minute into the hug that Nightrose noticed Sly. "Who is he?"
Blackstar was really nervous about the two meeting for the first time. Mostly because Sly had a tendency to be jealous and was in many ways the opposite of Nightrose. "Oh, right. Nightrose meet Sly Wacoon. Sly this is Nightrose. I guess youíre co-mates."
Sly shook Nightroseís hand, "Itís nice to meet you."
"Likewise," said Nightrose. "So how did the two of you get here?"
"Well," said Blackstar, "I have limited Teleporter abilities, so I just used my empathy to lock onto you and I teleported here. First time Iíve aimed and landed right where I wanted to."
"That was Teleportation?" asked Sly. "Somehow I was expecting something more. So how did it get past the inhibitors?"
Blackstar shrugged, "Beats me. Teleportation is very different from transporters. They work on a totally different level. Theyíre like apples and oranges. If you came up with a drug to make it impossible for you to taste an apple, it would have no effect on the taste of oranges."
"I like oranges," said Sly.
Not quite sure what else to say, Blackstar said, "Me too."
"I hope you fight better then your mate pays attention," said Rys.
Blackstar nodded, "When it comes to protecting my family, friends, crew, and ship, Iím unstoppable."
"And what makes you so confident?" asked Rys.
"Iím the infamous Captain Blackstar. Savvy? Now whatís the situation?"
8-Ball, who had become the unofficial explainer on the team, began, "Well, Parishka has control of the Bridge, the main engineering room, and the hanger bay, but she hasnít restored main power. The rest of the crew is being held in cargo bay two. And Prower was killed during evil Parishkaís escape by one of our own sticky grenades."
"Sticky grenades? Wait that Kitsune is dead? Oh, man! I actually liked him." Blackstar was only a little surprised that one of their own grenades had been used. Given some of the events occurring over the past month, shi had suspected a spy on board. The Ďstickyí grenades were the brainchild of the Blitz teamís own chief engineer, Sky. When thrown, they covered themselves in an adhesive, a useful feature for taking out moving vehicles without having to throw the grenade through the window or use an unwieldy shoulder-mounted missile launcher. They had also produced interesting results in anti-personnel usage.
Blackstar walked over to the wall-mounted console in the cargo bay and began typing in the anti-invasion protocols override codes. Shi then activated the com unit mounted in hir arm, "Layla, begin taking back computer control. And bring up a diagram of the ship with the locations of all personnel. Blitz team and allies in blue, and invasion forces in red." Blackstar was confused when nine red blips appeared on screen. With two wolves dead there should have only been eight. Shi did a quick count of the blue blips and found all hir crew accounted for.
A switch to the security scanners in the hanger confirmed that both badgers and a wolf had secured the hanger deck. "I wonder how long they can hold their breath," Blackstar mused out loud. A few taps on the console and the main door of the hanger began opening. The badgers and wolf in the hanger never stood a chance as the sudden rush of air forced them out into the airlessness of space. A quick scan of the engineering section showed that only a Caitian male occupied it at that time. Blackstar opened the aft section of engineering, something normally reserved for ejecting the shipís unique warp core, sending the Caitian into space. Both the hanger and engineering were then sealed up again and re-pressurized. However cargo bay two had half the crew in it and Blackstar wouldnít sacrifice them for such a small gain.
Before Blackstar could order the crew in this cargo bay to start moving, the two blips in cargo bay two disappeared. A quick look through a security cam showed that both wolves were dead. One had a broken neck, the other massive head trauma. Shi opened a com channel, "Hey, guys!. Nice to see you saved me some time. Who did what?"
Serge answered, "Happy to hear your voice sir. Sasha broke the neck of one wolf, and Carl busted the other wolfís head open with a kick from his hind legs. It was awesome."
In the background, Carl shrugged it off, "The asshole was suggesting some stuff he was planning to do to Sasha and my sister. I did the only thing a brother could. But I couldnít use my hands, what else would I cook with?"
Blackstar noticed Sly whispering something to Rys and Dr. Oliver. Blackstar was certain hir mate was commenting on how he was sure Carl only really needed his right hand. Diverting hir attention back to the screen, Blackstar began giving orders, "Sky and Vega return to engineering. I already vented everyone not in the cargo bays or on the bridge, so donít worry. Sasha will meet me, Sly, Nightrose, and Trip on the bridge. I found an anomalous signal there and I want to check it out before we kill the big bad bitch herself. Everyone else, umÖ just do what ever you normally do I guess."
Even with the heavy RX4000 unit, Blackstar still managed to keep up with hir mates and sister. "Do you have a plan?" asked Nightrose.
Blackstar rolled hir eyes, "You and your plans. My plan was to use Msuaig style combat."
"Msuaig style?" asked Nightrose. She had never heard of the Msuaig style.
"Yep, making shit up as I go style!" exclaimed Blackstar.
At the entrance to the bridge, Blackstarís group met up with Sasha. When Sasha asked for a plan, she got the same response. Before anyone could say anything, else Blackstar ordered them to all stand back from the door as shi charged in. "Itís yipi-ki-ya time!"
A fox charged at Blackstar but jumped to his right, his fur being singed by the RX4000ís flamethrower. Parishka quickly fired several phaser shots at Blackstar, all of which were deflected by hir personal shielding before shi shot the pistol. The fox was now standing on all fours and tried charging Blackstar only to find that the deck plating had been covered in ice. This had barely registered when a net from the RX4000 wrapped itself around him.
Blackstar looked around the bridge, looking for the unknown enemy, but only found the Parishka clone standing in front of hir. Parishka reached for her holstered phaser, but her reflexes had slowed with age and Blackstar fired hir machine gun, but found that someone had knocked hir aim off just as shi fired and had missed Parishka completely. Then an impact to the side of hir head caused hir to almost black out, but as shi felt something begin to impact hir lower torso hir instincts kicked into overdrive and with near-impossible reflexes, shi swatted at what was hitting hir. Hir eyes didnít see anything, but hir hand collided with something covered in fur.
Parishka tried to fire a shot, but found hir phaser infective against Blackstarís personal shielding. Sasha leaped on Parishka in a second, and knocked the phaser from her hand. However the Wolftaur was somehow able to throw Sasha off of her despite hir slower reflexes.
Whatever or more accurately whoever had hit Blackstar, appeared briefly as a black mass of fur doing a single back flip before disappearing again. Blackstar fired the flamethrower in the general direction, and although shi couldnít see hir target, shi fired hir machine gun. Hir instincts were in complete control now, and were using any hint to pinpoint hir target. A slight distortion, a movement of air, the slightest sound, were all being processed at high speed to find the enemy. Even weighted down by the RX4000 unit, Blackstar still charged where shi knew the invisible enemy was.
The target moved fast as well, and was doing everything she could to avoid the enraged Chakat. Like Blackstar, she was operating on instinct and wasnít thinking when she took cover behind Parishka. The old Wolftaur hadnít even realized what had happened when Blackstarís machine gun tore up hir lower body. The shock from killing Parishka finally brought Blackstar back to hir senses. Shi took a quick glance around the bridge and saw that all the starboard side consoles had been burned or shot up by the RX4000. Hir attention returned to the Parishka clone as she was whispering something.
Parishka then turned to Blackstar and said, "You might have defeated me again, but death as you know it has no power over me. Defeat is but another step to glorious victory! I willÖ" She was cut off as Blackstar fired two shots straight into Parishkaís head.
Blackstar turned to hir jaw-dropped mates and said, "I just canít stand needless drama, so I fired two warning shots."
"Into her head? Hun, there are some days when you scare me," said Sly
"Would you really love me the same if I was any different?"
Sly nuzzled his mate and whispered, "I donít want you to change a thing."
Nightrose, who was feeling left out, interrupted. "If you two could pay attention, you might notice the black-furred fox girl over there." She was pointing out a small nude fox morph, hiding behind the cloneís body, kneeling in a submissive manner.
Blackstar studied the fox morph for a minute. At first glance she had an obvious resemblance to a fennec fox, but Blackstar had never seen a biped fennec fox much less one with black fur. Then a reference to an old drawing popped into hir head, reminding hir of the species. "Iíve never seen a Bat-eared Fox morph before, much less one who knew how to fight and turn invisible."
The Bat-eared fox nodded, "I am unique. I am the last of my species. My ears hear all, and my fur hides me from all eyes. All eyes that is, except yours. You have defeated me. I am yours to do with as you please."
"Captain, what is going on exactly?" asked Sasha.
Blackstar didnít really seem to hear her. "Are you saying that whatever I ask you to do, youíd do it?" The fox nodded. "So if I order you to make your own choices and not have to obey any one other than yourself, youíd do it?"
"Yes. I suppose so. But after attacking you, I expect youíll execute me. Please donít toy with me. Just get it over with." The fox closed her downcast eyes, bracing herself for death.
Blackstar looked around for a moment, looking around the damaged bridge. Nightrose showed her concern; Sasha was staring at the Bat-eared Fox and was baffled by her actions, while Sly watched everything like a concerned spectator who was uncertain what would happen. Shi then turned hir attention to the Bat-eared fox, who was still waiting for death.
Blackstar couldnít bring hirself to even truly consider killing the spy. She had been raised and trained for the purpose of spying, and possibly assassination. She had no more choice in it the Blackstar had. Shi knelt down to the spyís level. "Tell me your name."
"My designation is BSK-1."
"No formal name then?"
"Does it matter? My old name doesnít matter, the only people who know it are dead anyway. I wonít reveal it to someone whoís going to kill me anyway." The spy kept her eyes shut.
"Everyone dies. Itís only a matter of when and how. I donít know when, but I promise you it wonít be at my hand."
The Bat-eared fox looked up and was more than a little surprised when she locked eyes with Blackstar. The same eyes that only a moment ago had burned with desire for her destruction, now looked much kinder then she remembered. "But I tried to kill you and failed. I do not deserve to live."
Blackstar shook hir head a little, but kept hir eyes locked on the spyís bloodshot eyes. "You have barely begun to live. You werenít really alive. And if you arenít alive, then I canít really kill you now can I? Now Iím ordering you to make your own choices. Iím ordering you to live."
"So I can do anything I want?" Blackstar nodded. The fox smiled, "Then I want to sleep." The small fox proceeded to collapse from exhaustion.
Without hesitation, Sasha grabbed a tricorder from the medical kit and began scanning the fallen fox. "Sheís completely exhausted. Iím no doctor but it looks like she had little sleep, and was running on adrenaline."
Blackstar grinned, "I know exactly how she feels." Blackstar undid the straps that held the RX4000 unit to hir and followed the young morphís example.
Sly leaped over to Sasha and swiped the tricorder from her hand and began scanning his mate, paying close attention to hir lower torso. He then wiped sweat from his brow in relief. "Shiís alright. And so are the cubs."
"Cubs?" asked Sasha. "Shiís pregnant?"
"Cubs?" asked Nightrose, "as in more then one?"
Sly nodded, "Iím reading six heart beats. Either shi has twins or, three hearts is a really rare recessive trait that Blackstar and hir child both have."
Nightrose hid her shock by giving out orders. Once Trip took the helm and the Midnight Star was loaded into the hanger bay, the Mystic resumed its course to Quenxel. She also had Parishkaís body taken to the morgue, the captured male fox to the brig, and sent the spy and Blackstar to sickbay; just to be sure they werenít in danger. She and Sly stayed by Blackstarís side until shi awoke a few hours later.
Blackstar looked at hir two lovely mates. "I canít imagine waking up to a more beautiful sight. The cub, is shi alright?"
Sly held hir hand to calm hir down a little, "I had both the EMH and that Dr. Oliver character check you and them out. Youíve all gotten a clean bill of health."
It took a moment for what Sly had said to dawn on hir. "You said, Ďthemí, as in plural. Was that just a slip of the tongue?"
"No luv. We have two beautiful and healthy cubs on the way."
Blackstar began to tear up, and embraced hir mate in a hug. Shi then saw hir other mate, Nightrose leaning against the wall, a little distant but hopeful at the same time. "Nightrose, come over here. These are your cubs too." Nightrose began to tear up as well and joined the hug. "I guess the only question now is how this happened. Sly, didnít you say it would be a while before the adaptation therapy could be tested?"
A new voice joined the conversation. "That is actually your fault, Captain," said Dr. Oliver. "After some analysis I learned that you are 1/8 Chakat-kin. That was somehow enough for your eggs to be fertilized by a normally non-compatible species. It also could help explain your teleportation ability among other things."
"I never realized I was part Chakat-kin. I never did learn who it was that my grandsire mated with to produce my father, so I naturally never learned who hir parents were," explained Blackstar. "What else donít I know about myself?"
"Well youíre also 1/8 foxtaur if thatís of any interest," added the Doctor.
Blackstar giggled a little. "Thatís sure to come in handy. I wonder if I can do a DNA search to find out which village sheís from."
"Does it really matter?" asked Nightrose.
"Yes," said Blackstar, "It could be useful should 8-Ballís mother decide to create a problem. It will strengthen my position should we ever have to fight her mother in the Foxtaur court room."
"Always thinking five steps ahead but never paying attention to the one in front of you."
Blackstar turned to see that the Bat-eared fox was awake. "Just what do you mean by that?"
She gave a small shrug. "I suppose an example would explain it best. You had a lot of long-term plans, or at least goals with Sly, but you never looked one step ahead to see that youíre very pregnant. Even I knew it before you did."
"Well Iíve been busy," said Blackstar. "Iíve fallen from one planet to another, been shot at several times, killed my worst enemy twice, and had to retake my ship all in a relatively short amount of time. I think missing a thing or two is more than acceptable given the circumstances."
"Iím sorry," said the spy
"Attacking you the way that I did," said the young fox. "It wasnít right of me. I let my orders to kill you override my own personal code that normally prevents me from putting a child, even an unborn one, in danger." A tear rolled down her cheek.
Blackstar got up and walked up to the vixen, put a hand on her shoulder and said, "What you did was forced on you by orders from the clone Parishka. You canít be held responsible for those actions. Now what are you going to do now that youíre free? Personally I would recommend getting a proper name first."
"Well, I never thought of naming myself, and it wouldnít be proper to use my old name seeing as Iím a different person now." The fox shrugged, "I wouldnít know where to begin."
Nightrose stepped up. "Well, you could do like what the Chakats do and come up with a descriptive name. What are some of your traits?"
Dr. Oliver stepped into the recovery room and asked, "Didnít she try to kill you? First of all what makes you think she wonít try again, and secondly what are we going to do with her now that sheís here?"
"Itís up to her," said Blackstar. "Sheís free now and she can do what ever she wants to do."
"And what is that exactly?"
The fox raised her head up for the first time since her former mistress died. "Iíd like to stay on board. Life on this ship is all I know. Only from an observational view, but Iíd like to be a part of the crew."
"Are you sure thatís not from some sense of obligation to us freeing you?" asked Blackstar.
The fox shook her head. "Itís just that itís all I know. Like why you wanted to fight pirates. You were raised fighting off pirate boarding parties on a regular basis. I know this ship and crew as well as you do. Iíd like to try."
Blackstar looked at the nude vixen giving it some serious thought. Shi might have a professional counselor take a look at this vixenís psyche to make sure there wasnít something more sinister or forced going on. However the fox had made an interesting argument and had tried to kill hir, joining the ranks of the many crew members who had done so on occasion. "So just what name should I add to our crew roster?"
The former spy thought about it for a moment. "I suppose Sonar will work until I come up with a more appropriate name. It suits my unique abilities."
"Just how good are those abilities?" asked Blackstar.
"I can see better with my ears then my eyes," said Sonar. "Does that give you a clue?"
Blackstar laughed a little. "Thatís good. Iíll assign you quarters, then we can teach you a job on the ship."
Sonar smiled and said, "I actually know all bridge functions, although youíll probably have to replace the bridge module considering how much damage it took. I can also help with security, to make sure that the holes that let me through are covered up."
"But first you both will go to bed," said Dr. Oliver, "before you two do anything else. Both of you are tired from running on adrenaline. Blackstar has two cubs to worry about and Sonar drained most of her energy from being Ďcloakedí during her fight with Blackstar."
"Youíre right, Doc, Iím exhausted. Iíll try to get some sleep," said Blackstar.
"Awww, but he said go to bed. He didnít say anything about sleep," said Sly.
Blackstar ruffled Slyís hair. "Donít worry. Thereíll be more time for that later. Iím very exhausted right now and we got our cubs to think about."
Nightrose put her hands on her hips and grinned, "Iím impressed. All go, no stop, freelancer Blackstar is going to stop? Youíre growing up so fast."
Blackstar rolled hir eyes. "Nightrose, get Sonar a room and see that sheís settled in. Sly, Iíll show you to the quarters Nightrose and I have been using." Blackstar led Sly out of the room.
Nightrose looked over the nude Bat-eared fox before saying, "Follow me."
Sonar leaped from the bio-bed, landing almost cat-like on the ground. Walking digitigrade, she was near-silent as she followed Nightrose. Now that she wasnít trying to hide from the crew, Sonar felt completely exposed, but felt comfortable as well. "Nightrose, I was wondering if you could answer something for me."
"Well, seeing as my mate seems to trust you, Iíll try to answer as best I can," said Nightrose.
Sonar gave a single nod. "Itís not much really. Something Iím sure Iíd eventually get anyway."
"What is it?" asked an increasingly annoyed Nightrose. Sonar Ďeepedí at Nightroseís sterner tone and reflexively cloaked herself. "Sonar?! Where are you?"
"Iím still here," said Sonarís disembodied voice. "Itís a reflex. Iím going to have to learn how to control that." Sonar breathed slowly, trying to regain control of her emotions, and slowly faded back in. "Sorry about that. Now, about the Ďextraí stuff, itís not so much money, but... how do I phrase this?" Sonar didnít want to say it in a way that offended Nightrose. "I was hoping youíd be willing to consider me a friend?"
Nightrose was taken aback a little. She didnít trust this little Bat-eared Fox, yet she was asking to be her friend. "After spying on the crew for so long, and knowing way more than anyone should about most of them, and having lived a pretty secluded life itíll be hard for me to make a friend. I also noticed youíre fairly distant from everyone except Snowfall, who isnít really part of the permanent crew."
Nightrose was torn between hitting Sonar or hugging her. Sonar was right about Nightrose not being close to the crew, which made Nightrose want to rip the invisible girl a new one. On the other hand she did seem fairly innocent, other than the whole spying thing. Nightrose debated it for a minute before answering. "I will try to be your friend but you have to understand itís not something that can happen overnight."
Nightrose was nearly toppled as the now opaque fox hugtackled her, wrapping her legs and arms in a hug. Nightrose found her muzzle in one of Sonarís ears. Trying to whisper so that Sonarís eardrums didnít rupture, Nightrose said, "Weíre not friends yet."
Then Nightrose found herself embarrassed as the Quange cook, Carl, turned a corner and spotted Nightrose being embraced by a black fox that he didnít recognize. He looked from Nightrose, to Sonar, then back to Nightrose, before he finally said, "You know a week ago, this would have seemed really weird to me." He then continued down the corridor as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
Sonar eventually let go of Nightrose and followed the Caitian down the hall, skipping as she went. Nightrose showed Sonar around the quarters, and showed her how to activate the doorís locking mechanism and use the replicator and computer. As Nightrose began to leave, Sonar gave her a salute and said, "Donít worry, I wonít let you down."
Nightrose shook her head at the girlís spunk. She returned to the quarters she shared with Blackstar and, for the time being, Sly Wacoon. Nightrose wondered if her sister had to deal with anything like this with her unusual co-mates. In her quarters, she found Blackstar and Sly chatting away, catching up on everything they had missed. When the two had taken a break from catching up, Nightrose asked, "What exactly happened when Sly Ďkatnappedí you the other night?"
Blackstar shrugged it off. "Just the usual stuff: making love, making huge explosions, making Sly wear a dress."
"You said you wouldnít tell!" said Sly.
"I didnít know that meant Nightrose. Honestly this time," said Blackstar. Shi would occasionally forget things like that on purpose, just to tease hir mate. This time shi had honestly not thought of that, shi didnít think not to tell Nightrose a secret. "Anyway, nothing out of the ordinary."
"And what about the explosions?" asked Nightrose.
"It was chili night at the restaurant," Blackstar said flippantly. Nightrose wasnít sure if shi was actually telling the truth or if shi was making it up. "Anyway, I was thinking of taking some time off. Sly was thinking I should take a few months off until the cubs are born. Or at least take a romantic vacation with him for a while. Iím thinking a week tops."
"I see," said Nightrose. "If you two need a vacation with each other, Iím fine with that. Itíll take a while to repair the Mystic anyway, and for the Midnight Starís new drill to come in. Iíll try and keep the crew out of trouble."
"Youíre invited along too, you know," said Sly. "The more the merrier! Right Blacky?" Blackstar nodded in agreement.
"Sorry, Sly. Iíd rather that one of this teamís leaders stay back and oversee the Mysticís refit." Nightrose smiled and asked, "Are we going to talk about this all night? Personally Iíd like to have my first threesome tonight."
Blackstar was woken up by the buzzing off hir commbadge. "If this isnít a beautiful woman, Iím hanging up."
"Well, many men and women have gone out with me for just my looks," said Parishkaís voice.
Blackstar, having been used to being on alert for Parishka for so long, was fully awake before shi remembered that it was the original Parishka. The original Parishka had begun calling herself Parishka Prime, and changed her legal name to such. "What is it?"
"Sky says weíre having trouble from the damage."
"This is Sky. Micro-fractures in some of the injectors are expanding. Weíre gonna lose main power soon," said Sky.
"How long do we have?" asked Blackstar.
"Twenty minutes if the manifolds hold," said Sky. Then what sounded like tearing metal and the noise a teapot makes when itís ready were heard in the background. "Better make that five!"
"Red alert! All hands to emergency stations," barked Blackstar. Shi ran to the bridge as the ship shuddered around hir in a spin turning to starboard, the port engine being shut down from a failed power conduit. When shi got to the bridge, shi found the already damaged bridge in disarray with wires and panels being strewn all over the place. Parishka had her wrist sprained by the helmís force-feed back system. A glance at the view screen and the helm station confirmed that the Mystic was spiraling towards a planet. Blackstar grabbed the stick to try to arrest the spiral and began pushing power from non-essential systems and the port engine into the thrusters. The Mystic groaned in protest as she came back under control.
Although the Mystic did stop spiraling, it was still losing altitude. "Blackstar to Sky, canít you give me any more power to the engines?"
"Are you kidding me?!" Sky yelled out over the sound of a fire extinguisher. "The core is in emergency shutdown mode. Just pull something out of your ass! Youíre good at that."
"This is Blackstar to all hands. Hang-on to something. This is gonna be hot!" Blackstar pushed forward on the shipís stick, pushing the shipís nose towards the planet, the Mystic beginning to pick up speed. "Computer, switch to atmospheric maneuvering mode."
When the computer gave a long irritating beep, which indicated that the computer didnít recognize the command, Parishka Prime ran to one of the few, still functioning terminals and activated the shipís ailerons manually. Though the Mystic was a starship, Blackstar and Sky had seen the possibility of the Mystic flying though an atmosphere for any number of reasons, and built in ailerons to enhance the Mysticís atmospheric maneuvering abilities.
Nightrose and Sly stumbled into the Bridge. Nightroseís mouth hung open. "Youíre flying us straight at the planet?!"
"I know," said Blackstar with a smile, "Thatís the idea!"
"Blackstar, hun, you need to pull up! UP!" screamed Sly.
Blackstar laughed maniacally as the bow of the ship plunged into the atmosphere like a sword into an enemyís guts. Unsecured objects began to fall towards the bow as the planetís gravity began to win out against the shipís failing environmental systems. Just when it seemed like the suicidal ride was never going to end, Blackstar pulled back on the stick andÖ nothing happened. The feedback system stuck the stick where it was, just like the ailerons. The air was running past the hull so fast that the ailerons were pinned down. "Oh crap, I think I found a design flaw! Push power to the aileron systems."
"Theyíre already at 105%," yelled out Parishka, who was busy holding onto her console for dear life.
"Push them to 115 then! The manufacturers are too cautious with their safety recommendations," said Blackstar. Blackstar pressed a few controls to raise only the dorsal air brakes to assist the ailing ailerons. Blackstarís muscles burned from the strain of pulling back on the stick, the ailerons finally pulling the Mystic out of her suicidal nose dive. Blackstar retracted the air brakes and locked the ailerons once the ship was level with the water below. The shipís auxiliary drive kicked in and kept up the speed and momentum necessary to get the Mystic up to orbital velocity. The Mystic slipped into orbit of the uninhabited and unnamed planet. It was a rather humid planet with an environment similar to rainforests.
Blackstar collapsed as the shipís automated systems took over orbiting control. Spotting the rest of the Mysticís normal bridge crew, shi said, "That was more fun then I ever want to have again. I want a report on all systems."
"What was that?" asked Sly.
Nightrose explained, "Blackstar dove the ship to pick up speed, pulled up, and used our momentum to get enough speed to get the ship into orbit."
"So, basically the Coyote-Road Runner thrust move?" asked Sly.
Nightrose shook her head and sighed as Sly made an Armageddon reference. "Yes, yes the Coyote-Road Runner thrust move."
Trip interrupted with a damage report. "Weíre almost dead in the water. Weíre barely holding orbit above the second planet in the system. I can keep us in orbit but the engines are losing power. Probably an EPS conduit or some other power system exploded, knocking out one engine, sending us into that spiral."
"During that maneuver, our sensors picked up some type of energy signature you might want to see, sir," said Serge.
Blackstar looked over the beat-up sensor station, when hir eyes went wide with shock. "No, it canít be. Someone else shouldíve picked this up by now."
"Not necessarily," said Serge. "Most ships donít actively scan planets as they pass them, and there is a good amount of interference from the sun at this distance. Itís possible it was missed. Why is this signature important anyway?"
Blackstar turned to the rest of the bridge crew. "Itís one of a kind, like this ship, the Midnight Star, the Folly, or the Torrin. This signature belonged to my grandfatherís ship." Blackstar visibly sagged. Shi had thought the whole Time Matrix thing had ended with the death of the last Parishka clone. Now shi was not only involved with it again, but shi was going into the center of it. "Here we go again."
Yet another Parishka clone has bit the dust, but is it truly the last of the clones? And what will Blackstar find on hir grandfatherís vessel? Will Sonar turn out to be friend or foe?
To be continued in Episode 7.
Story and Characters are copyright of Alex Wiegerling unless otherwise stated.
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove.
The Quange were created by Roy D. Pounds II.
Skunktaurs are copyright Bob Reijns.
Sly Wacoon is used with the permission of his player.
If Iíve managed to step on anyone elseís toes (or paws, claws, tails, or other various appendages) let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and Iíll either give you credit or change my 'tale'.
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