The Mystic was parked in orbit until a rescue ship could tow it to Quenxel drydock. The most recent damage was contained, however the impulse drive could not be operated without increasing the damage to the power systems. Without the impulse drive it would be near impossible to pull the Mystic out of orbit. Since it was unable to leave for almost a day until the tow came, Blackstar decided to find the Glorious Fox. Shi assembled a team for finding and boarding the old warship.
Parishka, Tex, and Vega all knew the insides of the old vessel fairly well. Sasha was ideally built for jungle environments. Dr. Oliver came along, in case there were injured survivors. And Nightrose came along to keep Blackstar from getting into to much trouble. It was either bring her, or bring Sly, and Blackstar knew Sly could get in the way. Not that shi minded him being a little overprotective, but shi didnít need him to do something stupid.
"Why couldnít we have parked closer to the ship?" asked Dr. Oliver as he was hit by a branch for the third time.
"Because there was no clearing large enough that was closer to the ship," said Sasha.
"Thank you Miss Obvious." Dr. Oliver shook his head. "What about transporters?"
Vega replied, "This close to the sun, the interference makes a beam-in difficult, and the Mystic canít maintain a geosynchronous orbit. If there is an emergency, it could be hours before we got beamed up. This way Layla is only a few minutes away. Now stop whining or Iím going to kill you, slowly."
As they approached the old cruiser, Blackstar shook hir head in amazement. "I wonder how that thing was able to come down, intact, and belly down. It was hardly designed for this type of landing except as a last resort."
"The ground is soft," said Vega. "The ground appears to have a soft spongy layer just beneath the dirt. Somehow I doubt the ship landed here by chance."
When they reached the base of the ship, Tex pointed to a group of stones. "There are only nine graves. There was a crew of ten when they left. Someone must still be alive."
"Or there was no one left to bury number ten," Sasha pointed out. Blackstar nodded in agreement.
Nightrose looked around with her eyes before she decided to ask what seemed like a stupid question. "How are we getting in there? I canít find a door at ground level."
"We climb," said Blackstar. Shi pointed upward to the forward section of the hull. Just above them was a pair of large doors leading to the auxiliary entrance to a hanger bay that was normally used for transferring fighters while at spacedock or other types of space station facilities. The doors were slightly ajar, possibly from deteriorating hydraulic systems that operated the doors. The ship was leaning at an upward angle and prevented them from seeing what was inside.
Dr. Oliver gave it one look over before saying, "Oh, crap. I donít suppose this is a good time to mention that Iím afraid of heights."
"Ya, so am I," said Blackstar.
"True story," said Prime. "Remind me to tell you a story about an evil super computer, a horde of undead zombies, and a very tall building sometime."
"There's no such thing as zombies."
"Oh, of course there ain't, Sugar," said Prime. "There's also no such things as ghosts either." Blackstar snickered at Oliver's confused look.
"Will you two grow up?" asked Vega. Both Parishka and Blackstar stuck their tongues out. "I'll take that as a no."
The crew followed Blackstar up the massive trees and plants that had begun to overtake the massive vessel. Once they were all inside the ship, they made their way from the hangar bay to the launch bay. Blackstar took a nostalgic look around. Three of the old prototype Blades were still partially on the catapults, some partway off from the crash impact with a fourth one upside down on the deck with several scratches from bouncing around the bay at some point. The prototypes had their cockpits closer to the fighterís nose due to the larger engine size.
Blackstar snorted and began walking down the hallway connected to the aft of the hangar. "Iím going to check crew quarters and then check the bridge. You guys check if this wreck has any power." Blackstar left, hir shoulders slumped.
Nightrose moved to follow, but was stopped by Vega. Nightrose gave Vega a dirty look. "I think you should let hir alone. Blackstar was almost killed because of an unnecessary risk shi took. Blackstar is wondering if shi could have made a difference if shi had been aboard. Shi likes to be left alone, when dealing with stuff like that."
Nightrose looked down the corridor where Blackstar had disappeared to, then looked back to Vega. "Itís been a long time since you were hir partner. You may have left hir alone, but thatís not how I do things. Not since I learned how to be a friend. When I met hir at the academy a while back, I wasnít the nicest person. I didnít care what happened to others. Later on, I learned what it meant to be a true friend. The person that taught me that was Blackstar. Shi helped me when I needed it, and now shi needs me. Thatís part of being a mate, and a friend." Nightrose then disappeared down the same corridor.
Vega shook her head and led the way to engineering. The rest of the away team followed in silence, not sure what to say. The main engineering section seemed large and empty; the center was void of the warp core that would normally occupy the space. "Well, I think itíll be impossible to restore main power considering the core is gone." She walked over to the auxiliary power manual override and struggled to pull down the lever control. Although she was able to pull it into the Ďoní position, the rusted handle broke off. "Well, I hope we donít need to turn that off any time soon."
Oliver shone a flashlight down the void where the core used to be. "Well that's your problem right there."
Tex studied the readouts before saying, "We should open all hatches, so we donít need to run the environmental systems. Save on power."
"What good will that do us?" asked Sasha. "Can we produce enough power to fly?"
Vega shook her head. "No. Well, maybe if we can pump a full charge into the batteries, then throw everything we have into the engines, we might be able to get into orbit. But considering that this ship has been here for a few decades and it was already heavily damaged, I doubt it'd hold together while trying to get up there." Taking a look at one of the damage control displays, she nodded. "Definitely not. I'm seeing red lights on several lateral beams. She broke her back. This old girl won't fly again except in theoretical discussions and simulations. In any case, we should have running water in a half-hour or so should we feel the need to stay for an extended period of time for whatever reason. Letís get to the bridge."
Blackstar found hir way to the captainís quarters. Shi looked around the disheveled room. Shi picked up a broken picture frame, with a torn picture still inside it. A much younger Chakat Starfox was there, arm draped around Admiral VíLes, with a younger Blackstar standing in front of them wearing a flight suit and a pair of sunglasses on hir forehead.
Blackstar didnít even turn as shi sensed hir mate walking in. "Starfox was more of a father to me than my own father. Now I loved them both, but my father was always busy on some job. And to be honest my father is a butthead. I often found myself with my mother on one of hir digs or with Starfox on hir flagship. Then during one of my times with my mother, I found myself trapped in a room with a small object on a pedestal, some ancient booby trap. I touched it, wanting to be somewhere other than there. I never worried about the when. I showed up sometime later on Earth. I found myself looking for my parents, who thought I died in a cave-in years earlier. I ended up with a group of freelancers, and when the leader was killed during a mission, I was the only one thinking clearly. I led them out of there and became the leader by default. I didnít find my parents for a few years. They had split up after I died. My father didnít like that I was leading my own team of freelancers. Then the mission to hide the Time Matrix came up and I ended up in stasis, just like the rest of the freelancing group. The only people I trusted were those freelancers, and Starfox. Finding the Glorious Fox was never about the Time Matrix for me. Partially because I knew it wasnít here, but also because it was about finding hir. I hope shiís somewhere on board."
The crew watched the main screen readout, a report on the approaching battle cruiser, which had weapons bordering on the level of illegal. The Mystic would be overpowered by it even at full power. "They must have known half our crew would be on the planet right now," said Trip.
"More then half," said Sonar, "unless you donít count Layla and do count Sly Wacoon. However she is helpful and trained in combat, he is not. Unless his company can send reinforcements."
The Firefox shook his head. "The soonest a ship could be here is in one hour, but thatís the Heart of Glass. Itís not heavily armed. However my three main bodyguards could help fight off any boarding parties, but I locked them out of the Glassí systems so they couldnít interrupt me and Blackstar."
8-Ball interrupted, "Now is not the time to be worried about what we want or wish we had and what we canít have. What we need to do now is figure out what we do have. We must hold them off for at least two and a half hours until reinforcement arrive. The enemy will be here in less then a half-hour. Sky? What do we have to work with?"
Sky looked over the bridgeís damaged engineering console. "A dozen photon torpedoes. Impulse engines have minimal power available. Batteries are dead. Warp core is off line, weíre working with fusion power only. We have maybe a handful of shots with the forward cannons, and our shields will only be able to take a few hits, and the Vegaís cloak might work for a few minutes. Fighter bay took a hit, we canít launch. Repairs there will take two hours, with parts and a full crew. We canít run, we canít fight, we canít hide, weíre gonna go out with a whimper." The Skunktaurís tail dragged on the deck behind hym.
8-Ball grabbed hys collar."Damn it, we arenít going to give up. I didnít run away to join this crew, just to die a month later. Weíre charged with defending this ship, and we are going to do it. Do you understand me?" Sky nodded. "Good. Now bring up the shipís entire inventory on main viewer." The shipís inventory, covering everything from weapons to toiletries was listed. 8-Ball noticed something odd. "What are those holo-emitters for?"
"The shipís holodeck," said Sky. "We launched earlier than I planned so I never got around to installing them. Why?"
"Weíre going to play a little funhouse game," said 8-Ball. "Trip, the planetís magnetic pole combined with the primary sunís radiation will cause interference on their sensors right?"
Trip shrugged. "Theyíll have trouble detecting us. Why?"
"Plot a course for the north magnetic pole. I want ECM systems ready. Move the holo-emitters to the torpedo bay. Sky and Carl, get down there, and start installing the holo-emitter on the empty torpedo casings."
"But the casings donít have warheads. They wonít even be able to dent the enemyís hull," said Sky.
"Who said anything about using them to attack the enemy?" asked 8-Ball.
The enemy Captain was a Wolf male named Lance Rothman. "Ready weapons, target the Mystic."
"Which one sir?" asked the weapons officer.
"I am in no mood for joking, Kenny," said Rothman.
"No joke sir. Iím reading twelve Mystics," answered Kenny, the husky morph.
The collie helmsman spoke up, "The sunís radiation, combined with the planetís magnetic poleís interference combined with an ECM system could be creating the readings on Mr. Kenny screen."
"Very well," said Rothman, "target it visually then. On forward screen." There was a moment of silence as the bridge crew looked in shock. "Impossible!" Rothmanís heart was beating at what felt like two thousand times a second. On the main screen were a dozen Mystic-class ships. "It must be an illusion of some sort. Only two Mystic-class ships were built and the other was reported destroyed. Where did these other ships come from?"
"I have no idea. Holograms maybe?" suggested Kenny.
"I want all shield power to the front deflector screens, just in case. Target the ship furthest from us, target all guns and fire!" ordered Rothman. He was only half surprised as the beams simply passed through the targeted Mystic. "That would have been too obvious a hiding plaÖ" he was interrupted as his ship shuddered. "Report!
"The Mystic! Itís behind us!" said Kenny. "Iím redirecting shields to aft." The shields went from being all forward to all aft, but not before the Mysticís guns did severe damage to some of the weapons and disabled the engines. Kenny was so busy with trying to target the Mystic with the few remaining aft guns that he never noticed the small objects moving in.
There was no warning as the photon torpedoes smashed the now unshielded front of the ship. Normally there would be a heads-up as the torpedoes locked their sensors on target, but the Mysticís crew had chosen to use their recall command instead. The enemy bridge crew was being flung around from the first few hits when a torpedo struck their bridge. Those that werenít lucky enough to be killed in the explosion were sucked out into space. The ship slowly fell out of orbit and crashed into one of the oceans on the planet below. The shields had failed long before it fell out of orbit, and the outer hull was burned black when the ship slammed into the water. The hull was an unrecognizable mass of metal by the time it reached the ocean floor, having been blown open by the torpedoes, burned up in the atmosphere, and shredded by the impact.
8-Ball patted Sonar on the back. "That hidden torpedo trick of yours really sealed the deal on this attack."
The bat-eared fox shrugged. "After spending so much of my life hidden, I guess it was only natural that I could create a sneak attack." While 8-Ball had begun the idea of using the empty torpedo casings and holo-emitters to create holo-images of the Mystic, it was Sonarís idea to hide the loaded torpedoes inside the holo-projections. It had been a true team effort as Sky and Carl had to fit the empty casings with the projectors and the batteries necessary to create the illusion. Then using the cloaking device that Vega had left on the ship and operated by Tyria, the Mystic cloaked and snuck in behind the enemy ship with the graceful piloting that only Trip could perform. Then while they were trying to counter the attack by the Mystic, the torpedoes slammed the enemy ship. It was a gamble that the enemy shipís sensors would only warn that the torpedoes had locked onto the ship, so the torpedoes locked onto the Mystic, and struck the ship in-between.
The plan had gone even better the 8-Ball couldíve hoped. The enemy made the mistake of focusing all their shield power in one area and left the target spots exposed at exactly at the right time. 8-Ball had figured it would still descend into a shoot out, but on more even grounds.
Sighing, Sky said, "I don't know about you, but I need a drink. This has been like a long bad dream."
"What makes you so sure this isn't a dream," teased 8-Ball.
"If this were a dream, you'd all be naked with D-cup breasts," Sky said as the bridge doors closed behind hym.
Sly, who'd been silent through most of the battle finally spoke up. "Do you think I was included in that dream?"
Blackstar pulled a staff-shaped weapon off of hir grandfather's wall, showing it to Nightrose. "This was Starfox's favorite weapon. It can be wielded like a quarter-staff for close quarter combat. It also can emit a blast similar to a phaser for ranged combat, and reduce in size to a more compact form for easy storage." Shi demonstrated the staff shrinking till it was only a foot in length. "I'm not much for staff combat. However I know you were something of an expert back at the academy," said Blackstar as shi handed the weapon to Nightrose.
Nightrose experimented with the weapon a little, testing its weight and balance. "Interesting, how does it change its size like that?"
Blackstar shrugged. "Some sort of polymer that responds to an electric charge, I think, although I'm no expert. I just know what it does and how to make it do it."
"Fair enough," said Nightrose.
Blackstar looked through the drawers and storage units of hir grandparents, giggling at some of the stuff shi found. "Is there an expiration date on edible underwear?"
"Okay, weirdness alert," said a very disgusted Nightrose. "I never understood that one, edible underwear. Now furry handcuffs on the other hand," she said holding up a pair of handcuffs. "Your grandparents were surprisingly kinky. Want 'em?"
"Nope. Those are way too flimsy to hang a guy from the ceiling with," Blackstar said almost casually.
Blackstar grinned, "Why do you think Sly really left us alone last night?"
"Oh, I see," said Nightrose. "You wouldn't do that to me would you?"
"Only if you ask nicely," Blackstar said with a wink. "Maybe I'll even show you the Gasm-gun."
"I'm afraid to ask."
Blackstar explained anyway. "Well, you know how there are torture devices that stimulate all the pain receptors in your body? Well, it's like that but it stimulates the pleasure receptors or whatever in the same way. It's great for practical jokes too."
"Torture in its own way I suppose," said Nightrose. "I'm afraid of looking in your quarters."
"I had barely entered puberty when I left," said Blackstar, "so just typical games, a few models, a handful of projects I was working on and a few hidden porn caches."
"Hey, Hun. Got any pictures of your grandmother having sex?"
Nightrose handed hir a box and said, "You do now."
Blackstar grinned as Nightrose went out in the hall. "I've been a bad influence on her." Then Blackstar looked at the pictures. "Whoa... I didn't know Grandma liked it doggy style."
"I do not miss this," said Vega as she fired her pistol a few more times expending the clip before replacing it.
"Who is that?" asked Dr. Oliver referring to the powered armor units attacking them.
Tex, whose body was essentially a powered armor unit identical to the assaulting ones explained, "The ship's auto defense can control unmanned powered armor units for defending the ship against perceived threats. Since they have a system designed to assist the wearer with stronger movements and greater speed, they can move without a wearer as well. That's why I'm still alive in this suit even though 95% of my original body is gone."
Tex, Vega, Prime and Dr. Oliver were hiding at the end of a hallway that split into two short dead end corridors, each leading to areas meant purely for maintenance proposes, having been forced to retreat from the unmanned combat suits. Tex pulled a pair of small submachine guns from their holsters, diving into the corridor, hitting the deck and shooting away until he ran out of ammo. He then rolled to the other side of the corridor and hid behind the other wall. "I should've brought more ammo packs."
"You're out?!" asked Prime. "I thought you had ammo up the you know what."
Tex flipped the birdie as he said, "sure, the big guy who's a suit of armor has all the ammo. I love how you always assume that."
Vega turned to Dr. Oliver. "Oh, my goddess. It's twenty years ago. My time machine worked!" Turning to her old teammates shi said, "For the love of the goddess, were you two always this annoying or am I just that much older?" Before anyone could answer there was a massive explosion down the hall and the sound of a strong energy weapon being fired, and then the weapons fire from the powered armor units ceased.
The formerly trapped crew looked out from their hiding place to see Blackstar with a large minigun and Nightrose with her new staff weapon. "Whatís up?" asked Blackstar.
Over the next day or so, Blackstar loaded several of hir childhood items, while other Blitz team members salvaged what few items they deemed still useful to them. Most of the equipment hadn't been maintained for several decades, and most of the equipment was even older, the ship having been in service for decades with ship-to-ship firepower making up for its outdated technology. The age of the equipment meant that most of it would be incompatible with the Mystic's more recent technology. However the generous finder's fee for the Glorious Fox more than compensated for the lack of valuable spoils. It would be enough to make repairs to the Mystic and replace the aging Blade-class fighters.
Blackstar mined the Foxís last records for a clue as to what had happened to hir grandfather. "Damn," said Blackstar
"What?" asked Nightrose. "Whatís wrong, hun?"
"The Fox took some bad damage so Starfox abandoned it, leaving already dead crew members on board. One of the on board robots was programmed to make those graves after landing, but thereís no data whatsoever on where shi went from there. Iím back to square one."
"Look on the bright side," said Nightrose. "At least shi wasnít dead yet. Shi could still be out there."
Blackstar sighed and looked down as if to admit defeat. Before shi could say anything, Nightrose slapped hir. Blackstar looked dumbfounded. "Damn it, Blackstar, you better not say youíre going to give up or start being a big depressing ball of fluff because then youíre not the herm I mated with. Now youíre going to keep searching for your grandfather."
"NoÖthere is no Ďor elseí," said Nightrose. "Now get optimistic again, put on a happy face, and come to bed and make sweet passionate love to me. Do you understand me?"
Blackstar grinned and chuckled, "Yes, sir!" Shi swept Nightrose off her feet and carried her to the bedroom and proceeded to do as ordered.
For the next two weeks, the Mystic underwent repairs. Meanwhile the slack was picked up by the three newly refitted freighters that had been captured some time ago. They had been converted into small carriers, some of the cargo space being converted into small hangers. Each ship had been rigged with a robotic pilot that could be controlled by the Mystic or commanded from the bridge of any one of the ships. The three ships had been named the Umbra, Penumbra and Antumbra.
The Mystic was refitted with a more reliable fire control system, something that had plagued the ship throughout its last mission. While the original system was more advanced, it was more fragile when put into the field, so Sky removed the whole thing and replaced it with an older but proven fire control system in a dramatic way that became something of legend in the years to come as hy literally tore out the system and proceeded to beat it to death with a sledge hammer, swept up the remaining pieces and dumped them in an incinerator before ejecting the ashes towards the system's primary star.
The heavily damaged bridge was completely replaced. The new bridge had the taur-form captain's chair in the center, with the helm console directly to the front left and the tactical station directly to the front right, giving the captain an easy view of hir ship's status. Secondary stations were along the bridge's walls and could be easily reconfigured for most bridge operations such as sensors, engineering consoles, and environmental controls. The back wall had a video display that showed a map of the locations of all Blitz Team ships within communication range. The single front screen had been replaced by three view screens showing a front view by default, but each could be used for tactical information, ship status, or visual communications.
Blackstar nodded in approval as shi inspected the new bridge. Shi sighed as shi sat down in the captain's chair, hir belly now showing signs of being gravid. "Being pregnant sucks," shi said to no one in particular.
"Then why did you get pregnant?" Blackstar's fur stood on end as Sonar made herself visible. "I thought Chakats had better control over getting pregnant."
"Dammit, what did I tell you about sneaking up on me? How do you do that anyway without doors opening? Is there a big gaping vent or something?" asked a glaring Blackstar. "And I didn't know Sly could get me pregnant. Now could you say something to warn people when you sneak up on them?"
Sonar shrugged. "Alright." She jumped down a ventilation shaft screaming "Fear Me!"
"Not that!" said Blackstar. Shi turned around and almost jumping out of hir fur when Sonar was there. "How did you do that?"
"You were right. It was a vent," said Sonar.
"I'm gonna put a damn bell on you," yelled Blackstar.
Sonar jumped down a ventilation shaft screaming, "IĎll kill you all!"
"And learn to use the stairs!" Blackstar sighed and shook hir head.
The former spy was helping with repairs, and when combined with her spy-like nature, she'd taken to traveling around the ship through maintenance tubes, ventilation shafts, and crawlways. Sonar also preferred not to wear clothes around the ship as it compromised her camouflage abilities, making it impossible to track her. Although some of the non-empathic crew members were still cautious about her, most of the crew had gotten to know her the past few weeks and found that she was almost child-like in nature.
Sasha was in the ship's gym when the ship's Quange cook, Carl Sarkin, walked in with some food items of Rakshani origin that he knew would help get her energy back up. "I thought you might be hungry after beating up most of the equipment in here."
"Thank you," said Sasha, taking some of the items. "How did you know I was here?"
"Layla was keeping an eye on you, monitoring how many calories you burned and whatnot. I usually just use the information to monitor the crew's diet. Although you seem to have a personal grudge against that punching bag," explained Carl. "Why exactly are you beating it for?"
With a hint of a growl in her voice, Sasha said, "Just a bit frustrated, that's all."
The Quange snorted before saying, "I've been around a long time and I know the difference between a bit frustrated kitty and a pissed off Rakshani. What's up?"
"Who died and made you ship's counselor?" asked Sasha.
"Tex," Carl said deadpanned. "He thought I'd be good at it. And he is technically dead."
"I miss the good old days when I was the weirdest member of the Blitz team," said Sasha. After a cough from the PA system, Sasha added, "Not counting Layla of course."
"How are you weird? I know you wereÖ um..." Carl trailed off not sure how to put it delicately.
"Barren?" Sasha growled a bit. "That's just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know I still have a standing contract to kill Blackstar?"
Carl was silent for almost a full minute before replying. "That may be the most unexpected thing you could possibly have said. Does Blackstar know about this?"
"Ya, why wouldn't shi?"
Carl sighed, "And I thought talking to the dead guy was weird. You're going to have to back up and explain this just a bit."
Sasha considered it for a minute. "I'll tell you on the one condition that you don't tell anyone about it or that you know about it."
"I used to be a Star Fleet Marine, until the incident that cost me my... left me barren. After that I left the service, becoming a hired gun of sorts. I didn't do too well as far as getting jobs though, eventually having to ask for my father's help. He hired me to assassinate an old enemy of his: Blackstar."
"Why were they enemies?" asked Carl.
Sasha glared at Carl. "Let me tell my story my way. Okay?" Carl nodded a little sheepishly. "Good. Now let's see, where were we? Lost my ability to reproduce, turned mercenary, hired to kill Blackstar... ah right. Anyway me and Blackstar went at it for a bit, until shi got the upper hand. I should've died, but instead of killing me, shi offered me a job." Carl raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. "That's the end of my story."
"I see," said Carl. "So you're in love with Blackstar."
"Am not," said Sasha defensively.
Carl gave her a smirk. "Riiiiiiight. Then the thought of Blackstar's cock going inside Nightrose's tight little pussy, their hot sweaty bodies intertwined..."
"Shut up!" Sasha was covering her ears and closing her eyes. She slowly opened one to find that Carl was smirking. "Okay, fine. I'm in love with hir. So what?"
"Have you tried telling hir?"
Sasha looked down at hir feet. "Shi's already got two denmates, one of whom is relatively new, and has what seems like a half-dozen companions."
"Actually it's only two regular companions. The rest are just really good friends." Carl noticed Sasha glaring at him. "I'm not helping am I?"
Sasha sighed. "Itís not that I want to push hir into something shi doesn't want or anything like that. I guess it's just that shi's probably my best chance for a mate. No Rakshani male will find me a suitable mate. I can't bear children, and my House has collapsed."
"Oh, right. Rakshani families often form official Houses. It usually a matter of prestige and whatnot." Sasha looked out the window. "My house was once very prestigious, but it has slowly been losing power over several decades. My father wasted the last of our power and with most of our remaining members leaving for other Houses as fast as they could, we were at bare minimum for being a registered House. I was one of the last ones to stand by my father, but after I failed to kill Blackstar... well killing Blackstar would've been my House's last chance for redemption. When I failed, it was only a matter of time before it became official." Sasha paused. "I have no children to bear, and no House, so that means no Rakshani mate."
Carl looked out the window with her in silence for several minutes. "I take it that you aren't close to the rest of your family either?"
"No," said Sasha. "My choice to support my father despite the bad decisions he was making sort of put them off, to put it lightly. I could ask them for help but I don't want it. I want to make it on my own. You know what I mean?"
Carl nodded. "I know exactly what you mean. You want to earn their respect right? Not their pity."
"Exactly. Not the first time you've heard the 'I have nothing' story?" asked Sasha.
"Lived it actually," said Carl. "My wife and unborn child died a few years ago. The pity I received from my family drove me insane."
"That explains how you ended up here," joked Sasha. Then she looked down ashamed of herself. "I'm sorry that was rude of me."
Carl grinned. "Itís alright. I learned to not be consumed by it a long time ago. Of course the only one who seems to understand that is my sister, Tyria. She got me the job at the military base, and now here as a cook. But, sometimes I get lonely all by myself."
"Are you trying to make a suggestion?"
Carl smiled. "No. I'm just saying that my shoulder will always be around for you to lean on if you want. And I'll always keep a spot open in my bed should you want to share it. Birds of a feather should stick together and all that. Sometimes just sharing a bed for a snuggle can stave off the loneliness." Carl paused while Sasha took it in. "Of course if you ever want more than a friendship, I certainly won't object to trying."
"Thank you, Carl. I'll give it some thought," said Sasha.
Carl nodded. "I'll give you some room then."
Sasha stared out the window, listening as the doors closed behind the departing Quange. Thinking she was alone, she talked out loud. "He's not even my species. Hell, he has four legs and is... what was it Serge joked about? Ah, literally hung like a horse. Although that isn't too much of a downside really. And he is about my age. I just don't know why I'm hesitating." Sasha barely noticed as a song started playing over the gym's PA. Her ears twitched as shi caught the last verse.
"Do you want your boy tonight?
Just give in and you'll win the fight.
Kiss each other and you'll understand.
Now you know the battle plan."
Sasha glared at the P.A. "Layla? Shut up. Stop eavesdropping on me talking to myself."
"Talking to yourself is the first sign of mental instability," said Layla.
"Only in Terrans," countered Sasha.
"You should go for it," Sonar said appearing as if from nowhere, laughing as Sasha's tail fluffed in surprise.
"Damn it, what have we been saying about that!" yelled Sasha.
Sonar thought about it before remembering. "Oh... warn people when I sneak up on them. Sorry. But I've been observing this crew for weeks, and I know you and Carl are the perfect couple...other than the species thing. But when has that stood in the way of love? Or pointless one night stands? Look at Nightrose. She's a Caitian, the Captain's a Chakat. They couldn't be any happier." Sonar shrugged.
Sasha nodded. "Hold my calls until further notice." Sasha left the gym and made her way to Carl's quarters. When he answered the door, she just said, "I'm not sure what I want."
"Well typically when I visit someone's quarters, I want to go in. Maybe stay for a bit, chat, see where it goes from there." Carl gestured for her to come in and set the lock and comms for privacy mode.
At some point, she wasn't sure when exactly, Sasha had fallen asleep. When she woke up, she almost attacked the form next to her, just stopping in time as she realized it was Carl and that she was in his bedroom and that it would not be polite to kick his ass while she was a guest in his bed. She tripped as she tried to untangle herself from his sheets, landing with an unceremonial thud on his floor, waking him up. Finding his guest on the floor, Carl asked, "Are you alright? Are you sore?"
"That's two different questions entirely. And I just hurt my pride," said Sasha. As she stood up, she couldn't help but notice that he was giving her nude form a good looking over. She smiled as he realized he was staring and tried to look away as though he wasn't guilty of anything. "I hope you don't mind, but the Captain expects me to see hir off."
Carl nodded. "Of course. Feel free to use my shower, and help yourself to any of the shampoos, or I'm sure Layla can transport yours down here"
"Thank you." Sasha made her way to his bathroom, finding the shower and bath to be massive compared to even the taur-sized shower that was standard for most rooms. "Hey, Carl, did you know your shower could clean a platoon of Rakshani?" She heard Carl laugh in the next room.
As Sasha tested out some of Carl's personal care products and got cleaned up, shi reflected on the previous night. For the first time in years she had let herself go. She had all but given up on finding a man after her accident. But in none of her weirdest, wildest fantasies had she considered a Quange male for a mate. "I suppose there are benefits. He goes in knowing we can't have kids even if I weren't barren. And there is a certain attractive quality that I never realized. But best not to get my hopes up, just in case."
Sasha finished up with her shower and walked into the kitchen where she was met by the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Carl poured her a cup, "I thought you might want a little something to eat and drink. Got any requests?" He noticed as Sasha hesitated and look away. "What's wrong?"
"What you said last night, about trying to be more than friends," started Sasha. "I thought maybe we could try it. It's just that I haven't been with someone in years and I'd prefer if the rest of the crew didn't know."
"Oh, thank goddess," said Carl. "Don't get me wrong, you're a beautiful woman, it's just that my sister might get upset about me getting over my wife like this or something stupid like that. They were pretty close actually." Carl frowned. "Sometimes I thought too close. But anyway, we can keep it a secret for now. Better hurry up and eat if you're going to see off the Captain."
Sasha couldn't help grinning as she entered the Mystic's hanger deck. The first to notice the grin was the youngest member, Trip who was helping Sky install the new dual-thrust vectoring system on the fighters. The smirking cub excused hirself and walked up to Sasha. With a grin, shi said, "I know that look from just about every time Sly spends the night with my sister when shi's in heat. Someone had a good night."
"Too bad you're too young to talk to this about," said Sasha.
"All you adults are the same, thinking we kids don't know what you're doing when you make the bed go squeaky-squeak," said Trip.
Before Sasha could think of something to say, Sonar popped her head up between them. "Hey, what y'all talking about?"
"We're talking about Sasha having some procreational recreation with herself," said Trip. Sonar tilted her head in confusion. "She was making a night out of masturbating," explained Trip.
"Oh, so she didn't have sex with Carl?" asked Sonar.
"Since when are they dating?"
"I think they were going to just have sex and slowly build a secret relationship that no one knows about and neither of them will admit having deep feelings about until one of them does something incredibly romantic and asks the other one to be mates with them," said Sonar.
Trip snickered, "I think I've seen that movie." Sasha growled to catch their attention. "Oh oh," said Trip. "I think we're either dead on or dead wrong and she made a night out of masturbating."
Sasha grabbed the two by the scruff of their necks and dragged them behind a set of cargo crates. "If either of you breathe a word about this to anyone, I will tear out your intestines and eat them while you watch."
The two looked at each other before Trip finally broke the silence. "I think you're right about them having a secret relationship."
Sasha sighed before interrupting the two. "What's that Earth phrase Serge once used? In for a penny in for a pound, whatever that's supposed to mean. Me and Carl are having a relationship, and we are trying to keep it quiet for personal reasons. Now could both of you shut up about this?" The two nodded. "Thank you." Sasha shook her head and walked away.
Sonar looked at Trip and asked, "Aren't people supposed to be nicer when they have sex?"
Trip shrugged and said, "That's what usually happens but whenever I think I have the adults figured out, they go and do something unpredictable. That's why I usually keep to myself."
"I noticed you were a loner... compared to the average chakat cub that is. Come to think of it, why are you talking to me if you don't like talking to adults?" asked Sonar.
Trip thought about it for a moment before replying. "I guess you seem more child-like than the other adults. Not in that you act childish but that you seem... young I guess is the best way to describe it. How old are you anyway?"
"Hmm... in standard Federation years? About two years old," said Sonar. "My natural growth rate was greatly accelerated."
"Oh? So no childhood?" Sonar shook her head in response. "I think I need to give you a few lessons in fun then. Follow me; I have an idea." Sonar was confused by the child's attitude but decided to play along anyway.
Less than an hour later, Blackstar blushed as a farting sound came out from under hir. Shi leaped up and saw a pink balloon like object labeled "whoopee-cushion" . Blackstar was certain that wasnít there when shi went to lay down. Shi held up the whoopee-cushion and said, "The irony of the name is that it actually makes it less likely for whoopee to happen. Now who did this?" Sasha looked back from the tactical station at the front of the bridge and shrugged. Looking back at Serge who was behind the map display at the back of the bridge, Blackstar found him shrugging. Neither of them were fast enough to get to get the device under hir and back before shi had looked around the bridge. "Well items donít just appear out of thin air do they?"
Serge looked out from behind the display to get a good look at Blackstar. "You mean other than you or Sonar or anyone who has access to the transporter?"
"AhÖ good point," said Blackstar. Blackstar was about to ask for the last usage of the transporter, as that would narrow down who put the whoopee-cushion under hir, when shi was interrupted by the communication panel.
Serge ran to the panel and checked. "Looks like weíre getting a request for a job. The QDF wants us to participate in a massive escort mission. Theyíre calling up every mercenary squadron in the sector. So far theyíve gotten yeses from Mobius Squadron, the Alpha Cats, Black Eagle Squadron, The Black Diamond Corp. and the El Dorado Gang. They say that our fee has already been approved."
Blackstar looked at the communiqué. "Tell them Iíll rent out the escort carriers but the Mystic stays put until weíve completed diagnostics on all ship systems, estimation for completion is in two weeks."
Serge nodded and began typing the reply. "Aye aye, Captain."
Sasha approached the captain. "Why are we lying to them about the ship status, and why arenĎt we sending in our best ship?"
"Donít you think itís odd that every mercenary force is being called up for a mission that takes them out of range of Quenxel?" asked Blackstar. "Especially when that terrorist group known as the Grey Knights has become more and more active. Snowfall told me that a high-ranked member of the Knights is inside the government. This could be part of their plan to pull every military force they can away from Quenxel, which means they have something planned to happen here. Hopefully we can handle whatever theyíve got, at least long enough for reinforcements to arrive."
"And if we canít?" asked Serge.
"Then we go down with the ship, fighting to the last breath," said Sasha.
Blackstar made a horizontal waving motion with hir hand. "Actually I was thinking weíd abandon ship first with the auto-destruct on and blow up as many terrorist bastards as we can, then live to build a new ship."
Serge nodded and pointed at Blackstar. "I like that plan better. Letís go with that plan."
Five days later a massive fleet comprising of hundreds of ships and fighters, left escorting a classified cargo aboard a fast cargo ship that was not noteworthy in any other way. Three of those vessels were the three robotic escort carriers that the Blitz Team had, with fighters and crews from other groups temporarily taking shelter aboard them. This left the Mystic, her small complement of fighters, and a handful of fighters of the Quenxel Defense Force as the planetís only possible defense. Three days later, the call for General Quarters was sounded on the Mystic as a new threat was made against the planet. All fighters were launched, but not all would return.
What is this new threat? Will the Blitz team keep rising to the challenges set before them? Join us next time as the Blitz Team fights in their largest battle yet where they fight the greatest threat theyíve yet to meetÖand where one of them will die.
To be continued.
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 forget anyone, or if you have any criticism good or bad, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and Iíll either give you credit or change my 'tale'.
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