The Chakat Universe:
The Starship Lexington series, part of the Frontier Group Stories, is the intellectual property of the authors. Use of Characters or Ships is allowed after notifying the group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chakat Silkpaws d/o Blizzardrunner and Dunewind is Copyright hir Player.
Chakat Byrna Arcticswift d/o Sevron and Calico is Copyright Sevron Arcticswift
Chakat Unity Blacktail d/o Coldeyes and Calico is Copyright Derrick Williams
All other Characters are by their respective creators.
I would like to thank Silkpaws, Deirdre, Sevron, and Derrick for letting me play with them and their characters. I would also like to give special thanks to Chakat Goldfur for giving us all a wonderful playground to play in.
Written by Maria Roberts and Jason Staats
With Chakat Silkpaws and Derrick Williams
On October 21st, 2333, the Star Fleet of the Stellar Federation suffered a serious setback at the conclusion of the Stariionae War, having lost a number of starships to an equal number of Stariionae raiders. Three of the ships were lost with all hands aboard. All Star Fleet had to show for it was the destruction of a single Stariionae Raider, disabled and being towed by its wingman at the time. The same Stariionae squadron then launched an all-out attack on Starbase Chakona Gateway and Repair Station Sigma 17, both orbiting the Planet Chakona. Sigma 17 was destroyed along with significant number of Chakona Defence Force fighters, while Chakona Gateway was seriously damaged.
The next year, the Goldfur clan emigrated to Chakona to escape the political and social turmoil of old Earth, caused by Humans First militants conducting terrorist attacks across the planet.
The next two years saw serious changes as Star Fleet planners called for several Jules Verne Class exploration ships being built for the Star Corps to be refitted as sensor ships for Star Fleet to detect attacks further out. That, however, created even more problems.
There was a serious lack of suitable escort and defence ships in Star Fleet. Should the new Argus Class starships enter service, there was only older cruisers and frigates to defend them. These ships were seriously lacking in the field of defensive and offensive capabilities. For example the cruisers escorting Task Force Sceptre were taken completely by surprise. None got off a shot during the battle before they were destroyed.
In 2335 the Frontier Group accepted the responsibility of closing those gaps. Comprised of personnel unknown even to the Federation Council, this black project used technology acquired from even blacker sources to design weapons and starships to defend against future attacks by hostile races.
In 2337 the Excelsior Project was the first to come off the board as a proposed replacement for the Changi Class Heavy Cruiser. The prototype ship was begun at Syria Planium Shipyards orbiting the planet Mars and was designed to include advances in warp propulsion, shielding, and weapons technology. However, later that year the project was halted.
Research into several samples of technology turned over by the Furrderation, salvaged after several attacks against their outposts, came to several startling conclusions. This caused an immediate panic amongst the members of the Frontier Group who pushed for production of their weapons to be increased and even put forward a crash program called "The Valiant Project." Resources for the Excelsior Project as well as two other starship development projects were diverted to the design and construction of this new starship, which had originally been slotted for development in the mid 2340's.
On December 7th, 2341, after numerous setbacks and problems with research & development, an advanced escort ship was launched from the Syria Planium Shipyard's Utopia Planitia Facility on the surface of Mars. Measuring 170 meters long and only 5 decks thick, the F.S.S. Defiant pushed the limits of theory and technological advancement to the limits. She had a new warp drive design, new weapons, enhanced sensors, regenerative shields, and even an experimental ablative armor hull. Another ten ships of the Defiant Class were ordered to defend strategic positions within the Federation and to escort vital convoys... especially those that included Argus Class sensor ships.
With the prototype escorts developed and entering service, the Excelsior Project was resumed. The project was delayed as problems that crept up in the Defiant were discovered in the prototype ship which was finally commissioned on January 7th, 2343, as the F.S.S. Lexington. She was named after an advanced battlecruiser from the early 20th Century on Earth that was finished as the United States Navy's first class of aircraft carrier, which was in turn named for a famous battle near the end of the 18th Century. Later that month she was placed under the command of a dedicated, fast-track officer; Captain Chakat Calico, Daughter of Blackhawk and Cayne.
Her first mission, to probe beyond the Delphic Nebula to investigate the disappearance of a colony supply ship, ended three months later without a problem nor a solution. Still, having been proven capable of exploration duties as well as a military mission, the Lexington underwent an extensive refit in orbit of Chakona to bring her to full operational status with the registry number NCC-4000. While there, she served as a diplomatic platform, hosting an ambassador from the Polaris Empire who offered assistance in completing the ship as well as recommending changes in further Frontier Group designs.
In May she was briefly rushed out of dock to respond to a pirate attack in a nearby sector. She was boarded, but the crew successfully repelled the boarders using small arms developed by the Frontier Group, and destroyed the pirate ship.
After repairs were finished in June, she was given a 2-week training cruise in preparation for a one-and-a-half year long exploration mission beyond the boundaries of the Federation into dangerous territory. She left orbit of Earth on August 3rd, 2343...
She never returned...
< 37 Years later >
Federation Star Ship Pegasus, Stellar Federation Space Services NCC-2121-B
First Officer's Personal Log; August 25th, 2380
I've looked over this assignment again, and again, and I'm still slightly disturbed by it. Apparently Star Fleet has known of this nebula out toward the galactic core for some time, and only now are they sending an explorer in its direction; namely, the Pegasus.
I'm told the final two Mission Specialists will be arriving shortly to complete our Star Corps complement. Whom they are, I'm not sure. However, Captain Miral will be meeting them shortly in the Transporter Room. Meanwhile, I have the Bridge.
Chakat Unity Blacktail, Daughter of Coldeyes and Calico, sat on hir haunches in the middle of the large bridge. Hir tail twitched back and forth, flickering across the beige carpet that dominated the center of the large two-tiered room atop the 650-meter starcruiser's primary hull.
Blacktail was a chakat, a felitaur - that is, a centaur made of feline components - genetically engineered in the early 22nd century. All chakats had only a few things in common other being their overall design. These included a chemically balanced disposition, the ability to survive considerable injury, and that they were hermaphrodites.
Being a herm species necessitated an interesting set of mating rituals and family structures - none of which really applied to Blacktail. Shi was a confirmed bachelor (or is that bachelorette?) which meant shi wasn't really interested in settling down. Yet. Shi figured shi'd have time when shi retired from Star Fleet. Being a chakat included a 150-year lifespan, and shi'd have another 75 or so years when shi retired to have cubs.
Claws of Blacktail's right forepaw scratched at an itch in the fur of hir left foreleg as shi finished the log entry on a data pad. The air's recycling system didn't even disturb hir coal grey fur splotched with black stripes that covered hir back, flanks, and all but covered hir tail. The same tail that gave hir the name shi chose when shi came of age.
"Commander, the Grissum reports, 'Transport complete'."
Blacktail signed off the data pad and nodded. "Excellent. Signal that we are breaking formation." Shi turned and tapped on hir console to the right of the Captain's Chair before the large Tactical Rail that dominated the Bridge, separating the upper deck from the forward lower deck. "Helm, plot new course; Zero-Four-Four, Mark, Zero-Five."
"New Course: Zero-Four-Four, Mark, Zero-Five, Aye." The human at the helm responded.
Blacktail nodded and tapped hir combadge. "Bridge to Captain Miral, we're clear of the Grissum and ready to get under way."
Blacktail frowned, the normally serious Chakat (if there ever was one, Blacktail was hir) noted something in the Captain's tone. "Captain?"
[Please meet me in the Observation Lounge.]
Blacktail glanced at Tactical. "Danny, you got the Bridge."
At the Tactical Station a Cheetah Morph, Lieutenant Daniel Thomas, nodded.
Blacktail turned and padded up the starboard ramp toward the rear of the Bridge, ducking through a set of doors into a large, rounded room across the back of Deck 1.
Before the set of large windows, a pair of 'taurs stood with the Caitian Captain, M'Rosa Miral.
"Commander, I'd like you to meet our two final Mission Specialists. Chakat Silkpaws, and Lieutenant Commander Byrna 'Frostbite' Arcticswift. Shirs, I believe you know my First Officer; Commander Blacktail."
Blacktail noted the first chakat had a shock blue mane and black splotches that dotted hir smoky grey fur. The other, also a chakat, had an icy blue fur with shades of an offset white in a fox pattern with black tips and face markings. Hir ears were pointed, and hir tail was bushy.
Shi recognized the second, which gave a clue to the identity of the first. "Sister." Then to the former; "Aunt Silkpaws... Itís been awhile."
Silkpaws nodded. "Indeed it has, kitten."
Blacktail frowned. "I've never figured out why you insist on calling me that. I'm about as old as my father was when shi disappeared."
"And that's the reason why I insist on it. Your father called me 'kitten' even though I was grown up and a mother." Shi grinned.
Blacktail shook hir head. "So, you two are the Mission Specialists for this journey."
Silkpaws nodded as the other Chakat grinned.
Blacktail sauntered up to the other. "Any why did they think we need a Technician on this assignment, hmm?" sshi asked hir half-sister.
"Because Star Corps asked for the best, and I'm the best there is." Chakat Byrna Arcticswift, Daughter of Sevron Arcticswift and Chakat Calico, answered.
"Only because your mother happened to be one too." Blacktail prodded, crossing hir arms.
"Well, DUH!" The vulpine chakat stuck hir tongue out with a grin.
Captain Miral cleared her throat. "I take it you all know each other really well already..."
The three Chakats stopped to look at her.
The Captain continued. "Well then... Commander, would you show them to their Quarters? We've got a mission to complete."
Blacktail nodded, and motioned to the door. All three padded out, giggling to each other.
"Children..." The Captain grinned, knowing that she was only a few years older than Blacktail and Byrna. She shook her head and headed for the bridge.
Federation Star Ship Pegasus Stellar Federation Space Services NCC-2121-B
Captain's Log; November 18th, 2380
The Pegasus is due to arrive at the Mazara Nebula tomorrow. The crew are well prepared, as is the ship for this dangerous exploratory mission. As far as we know, we are the first ship to be in this area of space. We're breaking new ground here, and I have high hopes for this assignment.
"I'm not sure what this exactly means." Chakat Blacktail set hir cup down on the table.
Sharing the dinner table in hir cabin were both Byrna and Silkpaws, as both had joined hir for dinner every other night for the first part of the voyage.
Silkpaws sighed and looked at hir empty plate. "I'm just saying I did some research before volunteering for this assignment. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of your father's ship are quite questionable. Even with my numerous contacts in the Diplomatic Office and the Space Services Corps of Engineers, I didn't get the answers I wanted."
"I figured your contacts would get you the answers you wanted." Blacktail returned. "Two of your mates are connected out the wazoo there."
"And another your father introduced me to." Silkpaws frowned. "Admiral Roark was quite tight-lipped about what she did before she retired."
"Why would her involvement be significant?" Byrna finally spoke.
Silkpaws looked back at hir. "Admiral Roark gave your father the assignment..."
Everyone was silent for the moment. Finally Blacktail spoke. "To be honest, I don't know what to think. Father wasn't there for my birth, nor yours Byrna."
"Only because shi vanished on a deep-space mission!" Byrna snapped.
"Which shi shouldn't have been on in the first place." Blacktail wiped hir mouth with a napkin. "Being a chakat means more than doing your damn job. It means supporting your family as well."
"Which I suppose you know about, Miss Bachelor." The temperature in the room actually dropped as Byrna's eyes narrowed. Only a select few knew that when Chakat Byrna got cold-hearted... so did everything around hir.
Blacktail glared at hir half-sister.
Silkpaws stepped in to defuse the situation. "Blacktail, Byrna... I knew your father. Perhaps not as long as a lot of other people, but I knew hir heart. Shi would have been there for you both if shi could've, but duty called hir away. I saw it in hir eyes when shi boarded that shuttle for the Lexington that final time. Hell... I served on the Lexington briefly. I saw hir at work and I know damn good and well that shi was a good person."
Before Silkpaws could say more, Blacktail stood and pounded a fist on the table. "It doesnít change the simple fact, Aunt Silkpaws: Our. Sire. Abandoned. Us. All to fulfill hir desire... hir self-conceited idea that shi had a duty to Star Fleet over hir family. Shi left us... and paid the price." Hir hackles were raised. Shi turned toward the door to hir cabin. "Excuse me..." With that shi stormed from hir cabin. Both Byrna and Silkpaws looked at each other, having seen the chakat's eyes turn from green to gold before their eyes.
Outside, Blacktail turned toward the nearest translift. When it opened, a startled crewmember jumped out and out of the way. Blacktail sat in the center and snapped: "Deck Four," as the doors closed.
On Deck Four, the angry Chakat turned in a certain direction and paused before a set of blast doors. Shi tapped a control by the door. "Computer... load program Baker-Three-Seven..." She rattled off the name at random.
[Program Complete. Enter when ready.]
The doors scrolled open, and shi stepped inside, pausing to retrieve a TP4 Dynasty Gatling Phaser on a rock just inside the entrance.
The doors closed behind hir and vanished. Shi slung the strap over hir shoulder, hir quadrupedal body easily accepting the weight of the heavy weapon. Scanning the planet-side compound before hir, she identified the first Toshigan stormtrooper and squeezed the trigger - the six barrels spinning up before unleashing pure energy upon hir target.
Shi walked forward, squeezing off 2 to 3 second bursts on anything that moved. Hir analytical mind identifying targets and selecting them at pure random. This happened for the next hour as shi worked hir way clockwise around the compound. At the end of the cycle, nothing was left. Not even the hostages the person running the program was supposed to rescue.
A set of large doors appeared and scrolled open in Blacktail's peripheral vision. Shi immediately turned to identify the movement. Hir mind selected a target and shi engaged with a 3 second burst from the weapon. Then shi paused, confused at the lack of apparent damage to the target.
Shi was finally stopped when the figure said softly; "Blackie..."
Blacktail blinked in shock, recognizing hir Captain... "... Captain... I..."
M'Rosa waved it off. "Itís okay, Blackie. I know..."
"Know what...?" Blacktail shook hir head, the strange look clearing from hir eyes as shi was startled out of what had come over hir.
M'Rosa walked forward, stopping beside a park bench. Draped over it were the bodies of two Caitian children, their torso's ripped open by the violence the TP4 dealt them. "I know why you can do things like this."
Blacktail dropped hir weapon, staring in horror at what shi had done. "I..." Shi began to shake.
"Come here..." M'Rosa placed an arm around Blacktail and turned away from the gory scene. "I talked with an old friend of your father before we left. I know that Silkpaws had looked up the Lexington's final mission, so I asked. You sire's friend confided a deep, dark secret in me. One that explains a lot."
"Such as?" Blacktail asked, finally calmed down.
M'Rosa looked at her longtime friend and confidant. "Your eyes for one."
"What color are they?"
"Green." Blacktail replied, confused.
"They were gold when you tried to shoot me." M'Rosa said without missing a beat. "They change color when you become angry or agitated. You had a violent history as a cub, didn't you?"
Blacktail nodded, still in shock.
"Its a sure-fire sign of this secret. Whenever your adrenaline starts flowing, you turn into a cold being. No remorse. No regrets. You do the job with almost robotic efficiency. Your father did the same."
Blacktail just looked at her.
"When I was six, my family took a ride on the Qantas Conveyor, from Cait and Chakona. We were disabled by an onboard accident with the warp core. A pirate ship decided to take advantage of the accident and boarded us." M'Rosa looked down, remembering that fateful day. "My parents tried to hide me and my sisters in a closet, but wewere spotted. My father died first, then my mother. The pirate responsible paused, deciding whether we were worth taking or killing. That was his last mistake." M'Rosa looked at Blacktail. "He was shot through the head by a Federation phaser pistol wielded by your father." M'Rosa had a far-away look in her large golden eyes. "Hir eyes were a glowing, pure gold. Shi just stood there, looking at hir kill, then at me and my sister. Shi handed my sister to a Marine, then took me up in hir arms, turning down the corridor."
M'Rosa paused, shaking her head. "Any normal Chakat would've mauled the pirate then stopped to coddle two frightened children. Your sire instead picked us up and continued to clear hir area, shooting down any pirate who got in hir way." She sighed. "The way shi coolly worked hir area, issuing orders and leading from the front was the inspiration I needed to join Star Fleet, to become the Commander I am today. But deep down I always wondered just how a chakat could grow up like that."
"Like a killing machine..." Blacktail finally said.
M'Rosa nodded. "Your sire was only half-Chakat."
Blacktail frowned at hir Captain.
"Project GRAPPLE." M'Rosa said finally.
"That's only a myth..." Blacktail frowned.
"It was real. A project in the 2200's to design a military-spec chakat. One without the gentle disposition hot-wired into their brains. One with the designed survival traits and chemically-balanced personality but with a killer instinct as well. The perfect soldier." M'Rosa looked around the shattered compound. "Your grandfather, Chakat Cayne, was one."
"How...?" Blacktail looked confused.
"I don't know. Those that do took that knowledge to their graves, including your grandparents. Not even Admiral Roark knows how, only that it is true." M'Rosa placed a hand on hir X.O.'s shoulder. "Blacktail, Silkpaws called me when you left your cabin. Shi told me you believe your sire abandoned you, Byrna, your mothers, your families. I can't believe it, knowing what I do now. It would be against hir nature for hir to do such a thing. Your sire promised Silkpaws to return, and even return a locket Silkpaws lent hir to ensure shi returns."
"Then why was shi gone all those times?" Blacktail now seemed like a sad child; ears drooped, tail tucked. "Why do the only memories I have of hir are hir scent?"
"Hir sense of duty." M'Rosa replied quietly, looking into hir eyes. "Your sire made a promise to Star Fleet and it was ingrained into hir very DNA to fulfil that duty. Even when it went against hir chakat nature to care for hir family. I believe that deep down, if shi had the chance to tell Star Fleet to go fuck itself, shi would have stayed for you and your mother, and Byrna and hir mother." She paused. "But it was fate itself, not your father, that kept hir from being there for you. If shi's still alive, somewhere somehow, shi's fighting to come back for you. I'd stake my life on that."
M'Rosa removed her hand and twitched her tail. "Now... I believe you should go talk to Silkpaws... Byrna is also quite worried about you. Neither of them know about the Chakamils."
Blacktail nodded. "Thanks, M'Rosa..."
M'Rosa smiled. "You can make it up to me. Tonight. My cabin?"
Blacktail smiled, then nodded.
M'Rosa looked at the compound. "Computer Ė end program."
The shattered compound vanished to be replaced by the yellow grid work on a black wall, then both turned and left the room.
Blacktail sighed heavily as shi glanced either direction both up and down the corridor. Part of hir deep inside was upset. Shi had tried to kill M'Rosa. In an absolute rage, beyond anything shi had ever experienced, shi had tried to kill the only person shi felt deeply for.
Hir tail lashed back and forth. M'Rosa did say to come to her quarters, and here shi was, standing before a door labeled 'Commanding Officer - Captain M'Rosa Miral' in simple letters. Building up hir courage, Blacktail touched the chime.
"Enter!" came from beyond the doors, unlocking them.
Blacktail stepped inside. The room was dim. As hir eyes adjusted, shi spotted the Caitian reclining on a couch under the large windows with a smile and a robe. Nothing else. Shi purred heavily, seeing M'Rosa in such sexy clothes, waiting to be taken off.
"Come here, Blackie." The Captain motioned for the Chakat to join her by the couch.
Blacktail sauntered to her, coming to the feline's side, hir troubles momentarily forgotten.
M'Rosa turned, sitting on Blacktail's lower body. Her claws gently rubbed into the Chakat's uniform top. "Still tense about what happened in the Holodeck?"
Blacktail dropped hir head the pain coming back. "Uh huh."
M'Rosa leaned close and purred softly into hir ear, massaging gently. "Itís okay... I told you that." She nuzzled lovingly. "It was only natural for you to unleash all that pent-up anger. You're still angry about your father not being there."
"Yeah. The more I try to tell myself it's part of risks, not my father abandoning us, the more it makes me so mad..."
"Just remember, it's your genes talking." She continued to nuzzle reassuringly. "Your sire would've been there for you had the Lexington not vanished. I know it. Silkpaws knows it. Deep down you know it. You feel the same call to duty, don't you?"
Shi looked down at hir forepaws, nodding slightly. "Of course I do, but..."
M'Rosa nipped at an ear. "But what, Commander?"
"I forget what price I might have to pay one day in the name of the Federation."
"That's definitely not your genes talking then." M'Rosa smiled and kissed her lover full on the lips.
Blacktail kissed hir back, only with more intensity. "Could I tell you a secret?"
"You know it." M'Rosa smiled, petting hir gently. "Its okay, Blackie. I understand..."
"You're the only one that makes all of this worth it." There was a momentary pause before M'Rosa smiled even more and kissed her lover again, her tail lashing behind her.
Captain's Log; November 26th, 2380
We have reached the Mazara Nebula; a massive energy cloud cutting through local space near the Galactic Core. Here in the depths of the dangerous energy discharges and turbulent clouds, stars and planets are being born while at the same time other stars and planets are dying slow deaths. We have reached a narrow point in the cloud tentatively called "The Lion's Gate" by the scientists who have been studying this cloud from long range.
As soon as the shields are fine-tuned, we will penetrate this narrow point to allow our Star Corps complement to get a good look at what's on the other side.
"Yellow Alert!" Captain Miral called from the center chair.
Lights flashed yellow around the Bridge as the crew assumed their stations; those sitting strapped themselves into the chairs.
Blacktail glanced up from hir console to the Captain's right, staring at the swirling red cloud on the viewscreen. Lightning crackled from one cloud bank to another. "I wonder if anybody else has been this close."
"We may or may never know, Commander. Danny, are we ready?"
The cheetah morph at the tactical rail behind the captain nodded. "Shields are reinforced, Security and Damage Control Teams are in place."
Byrna turned from the science console, the starboard of the three on the back wall. "The modifications to the shields have been implemented, Captain."
"Engineering, monitor the Warp Core levels. I don't want any surprises for us." Blacktail called out.
A Raccoon at the portside, rear console, called back. "I'm keeping a close eye on them and the antimatter containment fields as well. If it looks like there's a breach, I'll give them the ol' heave-ho!"
Blacktail and M'Rosa smirked at each other before the latter called back; "I hope it never comes to that, itís a long walk home..." She nodded to her helmsman; "Ahead 1/2 Impulse."
"Ahead one-half, aye Captain."
The Pegasus surged forward, heading into the thin red and white clouds of the nebula. There was a brief flicker of the shields adjusting to the impact of the dust particles, and then the ship vanished.
Inside the cloud, electrical discharges crackled through local space.
"Sensors are reading a class 6 metreon nebula, Captain," the Operations Officer reported. "Intense electrical activity... I'm reading static discharges directly ahead."
"Itís a form of energy I've not really seen before," Byrna said from Sciences. "Get me a tighter focus," shi told the officer beside hir.
The ship shuddered slightly.
"What was that?" M'Rosa glanced over her shoulder.
"Concussion from gases reacting to the electrical energy... we could see a few bumps..." Byrna reported.
"Fluidic space..." Blacktail muttered from M'Rosa's right side.
The Captain nodded. "Let's see what we can stir up in our wake. Ahead: three-quarters."
"Ahead three-quarters, aye Captain," replied the helmsman.
The Pegasus moved forward faster, the gases of the nebula spreading out in a wake like a ship moving through the ocean.
"Hydrogen, Helium... Boron?" Byrna frowned at the readings from the aft sensors breaking down the basics of what the gases were. "Neon... this is one strange nebula."
Blacktail stood and walked up the side ramps toward the science console, looking over hir half-sister's shoulder.
The Ops Officer called out. "Energy buildup; directly ahead!"
"Hard a-starboard!" M'Rosa replied, bracing herself.
The ship slowed, banking right, as energy coalesced and a bright, white lightning bolt struck the Pegasus' shields, rocking the ship hard.
Blacktail helped Danny back to his feet. "Damage report!"
"Direct hit to forward shields," the raccoon-morph replied from Engineering. "Deflectors down to 60%!"
"There is thermal damage to the outer hull, decks six through nine, port-bow," Ops reported as well.
"New course: zero-five-three mark zero-one-two. Full impulse," M'Rosa ordered.
The helmsman complied and they accelerated away from the site. Over the next several hours, they continued to scan and study, but were wary of another lightning strike that the shields would not have been able to hold up. Finally, the other side of the gateway loomed into view.
"I have some form of spatial distortion, forming directly ahead!" Blacktail called out from beside Danny at the Tactical Console. "Massive tachyon buildup..."
"Steady as she goes," M'Rosa ordered. "Full sensor sweep."
On the viewscreen, the gases swirled into a fine mist.
For a moment Blacktail thought shi saw another starship... hir father's starship...
Then, a star field appeared. "We're through, Captain." Blacktail glanced down to M'Rosa who sat calmly in the center chair of the brightly lit Bridge.
"Stand down to Condition Green. Get our bearings, Helm." The captain's tail flicked. "Where's that distortion?" She turned to Danny at Tactical.
He shook his head. "Itís gone."
"That was... interesting..." Blacktail chuckled lightheartedly, shaking hir head. Shi tried to get the image of the Lexington out of hir mind. That ship vanished 37 years ago!
"A fun few hours if you ask me." M'Rosa glanced at her XO. "One I'm not too keen on trying again.
Blacktail nodded as a beeping came from the tactical rail. Shi glanced back to Danny as he frowned.
"Captain... I'm detecting an automated distress beacon. Bearing... three-two-zero... mark zero-five. Real weak, but itís there." He paused, accessing the database. He then looked up in surprise. "Itís a Federation starship..."
Blacktail frowned, hir throat dry. Hir tail flicked back and forth. "I.D...?"
Danny frowned, checking his readings again. "... En-Cee-Cee... 4000... F.S.S... Lexington..." He glanced at Blacktail.
Blacktail leaned on the tactical rail. Hir mouth worked.
"Plot an intercept course. Maximum warp!" M'Rosa snapped, then stared at the viewscreen. "Let's check it out."
After ten minutes of warp, the Pegasus entered the Mazara Gamma star system, moving over a damaged Lexington class battlecruiser drifting in an eccentric orbit of the system primary, emerging from the inner system near the third planet. Immediately, scans are begun.
"It's the Lexington, all right. She's intact." Ops read the report. "No Life Signs. Extensive thermal damage to her outer hull. A hull breach on her primary hull - looks like decks five, six, and seven are exposed to space. Slight buckling in her starboard nacelle. Warp core is dark, but emergency batteries are being charged by her fusion reactors; looks like they're also powering the emergency distress beacon. Life support is at minimal, but still functional." She looked up at the ship on the viewscreen. "She's derelict."
"Her course has taken her through the system, straight from the Nebula," helm reported. "At her current speed and drift, her course will take her out into deep space. I recommend adjusting her drift to take her into a stable orbit of the third planet."
Blacktail nodded, staring at the image of the damaged Battlecruiser. "Good idea."
"Several escape pods have been jettisoned." Danny reported from his tactical scan. "Shuttle bay doors are open, and I'm only reading one... no, two small craft inside."
"They carried four fighters and three runabouts," Blacktail muttered. Shi'd only seen that ship from a view port, and then from hir mother's arms while hir father was leaving for duty in deep space. Shi'd never been aboard it. But now... "Captain, permission to take a salvage party over? We may find a clue to where the survivors got off to," shi asked hopefully.
M'Rosa looked thoughtful, then nodded. Before Blacktail could reach the translift, she put a hand on hir shoulder. "Be careful, Blackie," she said softly. "And good luck..."
Blacktail nodded, and entered the Lift.
< Main Bridge, F.S.S. Lexington >
Blacktail materialized with Danny, Silkpaws, and several others on the bridge. It was dim, with many burned out consoles and a dim haze in the line of the emergency lights. Relieved that there wasn't the body of a chakat on the center 'taur couch, shi made a slow circle, looking over everything. Hir eyes finally rested on the skeleton of a human slumped over the operations console. Shi padded down into the center pit and rested a gloved hand on the figure's shoulder. "I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner..."
Danny nodded, pistol in his hand, light panning into the dark corners.
Hir chakamil nature took over. "Ensign Chalis, see if you can access the computer." Blacktail ordered, then turned to the other chakat of the party. "Aunt Silkpaws, you've been on this ship before. How can we divert the impulse reactors from emergency standby back to supplying main power?"
The snow leopard chakat looked thoughtful. "The main energizers are gonna be the big problem. I'll need a team down in Main Engineering to see how bad the damage is."
Blacktail nodded. "Do it." Shi then moved toward the engineering station in a small alcove aft. The master situation display flickered briefly before the engineer got it steady.
"The status board is busted out. Got a body here pretty badly burned up." The Caitian male frowned, before stepping over the skeleton and tapping away at a free-standing console. "I'll try and get power to the Mission Operations Station." He indicated a station to the right of the main viewscreen.
Blacktail nodded and walked all the way around the bridge to take in the damage, wondering what hir sire must've been doing in those final moments, and wondering what hir sire did. Shi knew hir father would not have abandoned hir post on the bridge. Maybe shi was one of the survivors? The logs should give a clue.
As shi reached the station, power flickered back to life on it. The computer cores needed a rebooting, but the station memory nodes may have held the last data the console processed. Yes... there was a log entry entered into the computer core. Shi hit the play button.
A eerily familiar voice wafted from the speakers. It was sad, hurt, and desperate. [Captain's Log; November 12th, 2343 - 0105hrs. We have entered the Mazara Nebula. The result was catastrophic. Our shields held up to the radiation as planned, but the electrical discharges in the nebula have overwhelmed them. Our radiation detectors are off the scale. An electrical discharge has breached the crew areas on decks 4 and 5, and we are venting plasma from the starboard nacelle. That was what I got before the damage control board exploded, killing Ensign Niles. Lieutenant Commander Sata is dead as well, her console exploded in her face, killing her instantly.] There was a pause. [After limping toward a nearby star system, all our damage control efforts have failed. I have no choice but to give the order to abandon ship. The fires in the primary hull are now out of control and our antimatter stores have to be ejected... we're now essentially dead in space. I have given the order to vent the affected decks into space, and hopefully that should give enough time for the survivors to reach the escape pods. Long-range sensors have detected a class M world in this star system. I can only hope the escape pods can get us there...] There was a burst of noise, and the voice went silent.
Blacktail touched hir combadge. "Blacktail to Pegasus..."
[Pegasus, Captain Miral here. Your report, Commander?]
"Captain, the ship is definitely salvageable. Silkpaws is working on restoring main power. I've also located a log entry from..." Shi paused. "From the Ship's Captain, stating shi had given the order to abandon ship. Their sensors detected a class M planet in this system."
[Yes, long-range scans have confirmed the second planet is habitable.]
"Captain, I'd like to check out that planet. I know itís been forty years, but I'm sure if itís hospitable, survivors or their children could still be there."
Blacktail cut her off. "Captain, it is our duty to rescue survivors if they are there. Need I remind youĖ"
M'Rosa cut hir off as well. [I'm aware of the regulations, Commander. I'm assembling a salvage party right now. Return to the ship. We're headed for Mazara Gamma II.]
Blacktail glanced at hir away team, and nodded.
Ensign Chalis was still standing at the engineering station. He flicked his tail and nodded as well. "Good luck, Commander." He offered a warm smile.
"Thanks. I'll need it." Shi tapped hir combadge and was beamed back to the Pegasus.
An hour later, the Pegasus arrived in orbit of the green and blue world.
Engines whined as a dropship slowly manoeuvred over forest-covered hills. In the drop bay, Blacktail was clad from hir neck down to the tip of hir tail in a black battle suit. Articulated armor plates protected hir vital organs and flanks, along with multiple pouches around hir joint and over hir upper torso within easy reach of either hand.
"Listen up!" shi addressed Lieutenant Joshua Lambert and his Platoon of the Pegasus' marine detachment, all dressed similarly and brandishing rifles. "We've detected debris from a crashed Federation fighter in this sector. We're going in to scout the area before sending in engineers to salvage the fighter and determine where the other escape pods fell to. We've been unable to detect caitians, humans, or other morphs so we're going in warm. Lock and load, gentlemen! It's time to earn our pay!" Hir eyes glared golden from under hir helmet.
The assemblage of wolfmorphs, foxmorphs, and humans loaded their Model 10 enhanced-compression phaser rifles. There were three squads of nine soldiers each, all armed and trained for this.
The crew chief of the dropship gave a shout and the troops prepared to deploy. The moment the skids hit the ground, Blacktail was leading the way out the rear door and into a clearing.
The patrol took cover, waiting for the engine noise of the escaping dropship to die out before they emerged and began moving to the crash site.
Breaking through a brush-filled tree line, they found a long, narrow clearing covered in saplings and young trees. Lambert appeared at Blacktail's side, tricorder open on his wrist. "There... that mound." The human indicated a large brush-covered mound in the center of the clearing.
Approaching it, peeling grey paint showed that it was clearly artificial. Blacktail used a gloved hand to pull some vines aside, revealing rusted metal. Some markings were faintly visible on the side:
Blacktail nodded. "Looks like an engine nacelle from a Peregrine."
Lamber pointed. "Second Squad on far side security, First on near. Third, break out and check this area for more debris." He motioned to the squad leaders, and soon nine soldiers began plotting large chunks of debris. However, it didn't look good, nor bode well for the two-person crew aboard the Peregrine.
"She exploded on impact," a Seargent determined. "High-angle descent, she was probably out of control. The cockpit section is missing, so itís possible they ejected."
[Echo Six, Echo One One. CONTACT! Three-One-Seven, Two-Hundred Meters, Over?]
Lambert tapped the side of his helmet. "Nature of Contact, Over?"
[Squad-sized element. Moving in line formation toward your location. Two hundred meters and closing north-north-west of my position. Primitive locals - canids, apparently. Armed with spears and some short blades. Possibly a blowgun on the trail element.]
Blacktail nodded. Shi was about to give new orders when another report came down.
[FLASH! Change to SALUTE report. I have new contact in native formation. One human female. I say again: one human female. Middle of formation, apparently under escort. No visible weapons, but one spear-armed canid is keeping close to her. Native clothing. One large pouch hanging from her waist on her ... left thigh. How copy?]
Lambert frowned at Blacktail, then responded, "I copy, squad-sized element of local canine-humanoids escorting human female toward my location. Armed with spears, short-blades, and possibly a blowgun."
[Roger. One-One out.]
Blacktail thought for exactly three seconds. "One-One, this is Pegasus Five, stay down. We'll confront them here." Shi then motioned to the Third Squad Leader and hissed, "Take cover!" before ducking for cover behind the engine block and drawing hir sidearm. The remaining Marines vanished into the tall grass. Everyone watched the northwest tree line.
The canids emerged. They were about six-foot average, covered in coarse brown fur, and wearing loincloths. There was a female among their number, but she too only wore a loincloth and a pouch hanging by a leather strap over her shoulder. The human female was dressed the same way, looking around the clearing.
She appeared to be in her middle-to-late forties, long black hair and shocking brown eyes. She moved from the group toward a chunk of debris and began sifting through the vines.
After only a few moments, one of the guards yipped at another, and one of the spear-armed ones grabbed the women, pulling them back as the guards moved out, forming a perimeter.
Blacktail tapped the side of hir helmet. "Echo Six, this is Pegasus Five, stand slowly. Third Squad move forward once we've been spotted."
Blacktail stood and slowly inched forward, pistol in both hir hands aimed low as shi crept forward in full view.
Lambert appeared off hir left side, rifle at the low-ready. Behind him, Third Squad appeared, taking up new positions.
The Canids were nervous now, spears levelled forward. Things quickly got tense right then and there.
Suddenly, the woman stepped forward. She held up a hand and Blacktail froze.
"Doma'ha Achee?" she asked.
Blacktail said nothing.
"Who are you?" the woman tried again.
"Commander Blacktail, of the Federation Starship Pegasus," shi replied softly, slowly.
The woman's eyes went wide.
Blacktail had a sudden idea and pointed to one of Third Squad. "Remove your helmet, Private."
The Soldier lowered his weapon and removed his helmet - revealing herself to be a human female of similar description to the stranger.
The woman in question suddenly rushed past her confused guard and hugged Blacktail. "OHMIGOD-OHMIGOD-OHMIGOD!" She began to cry, as Blacktail glanced at the canids before putting a tentative arm around her.
"Itís okay... shh... itís okay." Blacktail pulled her back. "Who are your friends?"
The woman blinked, then glanced back. "Pre-ta, Jay'ta. De'ma ha." Her guard moved forward, and she took his hand. "These... they are hunters of the Bratus Tribe of Wolva. This is Jay'ta... my husband..." She blushed.
Blacktail gave a polite nod to him, who returned it.
"I... see you found my fighter..."
"This was your fighter?" Blacktail glanced back at the wreckage.
"Yeah... Lieutenant Amelia Kataska, at your service. Me and Skyblade, my RIO, were doing maintenance when the alert sounded. When the order to abandon ship was given, we launched. We were hit by... something... which crippled our drives. We managed to limp here, but the damage was so bad we couldn't land. We ejected... and I never saw Skyblade again..." She looked sad.
Blacktail nodded. "You don't know were the other survivors are?"
Another shake and Amelia clung to Jay'ta who hugged her, giving Blacktail a glare.
Blacktail made a conscious effort to droop hir ears, making it seem shi was saddened by some news she had.
Blacktail then glanced back and motioned for everyone to relax, shi then sat on the ground before them. "Let's talk."
Amelia nodded and pulled up a log. As she relaxed, the rest of the Wolva relaxed as well, Jay'ta sitting beside her. Amelia explained something to him and he looked at Blacktail in surprise, nodding slightly.
"I told him that our people are allies against a mutual enemy who may have been responsible for the attack on my hunting party. Hence, why I lost my memory after ejecting."
Blacktail nodded. "Not far from the truth. Our ship took some damage passing through the nebula."
"You don't know where everyone else is?" Blacktail asked. "No clue?"
Amelia shook her head. "No. I haven't seen anyone else from the ship after landing here. We've have heard rumors over the years about the Felan tribes, to the east of here. That they've got some strange allies and some strangers among their number. We haven't been able to confirm it."
"I take it the Wolva and Felan arenít the closest of friends..."
Amelia shook her head. "Jay'ta suspects it was the Felan who attacked my party..."
"dosh-Tah Bara'akt na Felan..." Jay'ta growled.
"De-secht barowar hekt na Felan." Amelia returned, patting his hand reassuringly. She then regarded Blacktail. "He says the Felan are enemies. Doesnít trust us considering he doesnít know Standard."
"I thought so." Blacktail frowned. "Our only clue is the Felan..." Shi growled softly for effect.
Jay'ta seemed to relax, sensing that Blacktail didn't like the Felan either.
After a few moments of discussion, Amelia began drawing in the dirt. "There's a river here... and along this line, thereís several clearings along this ridge. Rocks through them. You can't miss it. There are three major settlements just on the far side. The Royal Clan, the Chypyah Clan, and the Ferryahal Clan."
Blacktail nodded and looked up. After a few moments of silent contemplation, shi glanced up; "You don't want to go back to Earth, do you?"
Amelia frowned. She looked at Jay'ta and sighed. "No. I can't leave here."
"Tell him... I won't dare take you. I have to go fight the Felan, to see if they are holding more of our people."
Amelia translated and he nodded, standing and walking to Blacktail. He looked hir over, and took a small item from his pouch and offered it, saying something. Amelia nodded to Blacktail to take it.
It was made of bone, sharpened on one end, about 40 centimeters long overall. A dagger. Blacktail looked up.
"He says, if you have to, you can use that in your battles. He wishes you luck."
"Tell him, thank you. I will use it honorably."
When Amelia translated, he smiled.
They said their goodbyes and Blacktail stood, watching Amelia look over her shoulder before vanishing into the trees.
Blacktail sighed and tapped at hir wrist-mounted Tricorder, copying orbital photographs down as Lambert walked up. "We need to report in to the Pegasus."
Blacktail nodded. "I've marked the Borderline. We leave now."
"You sure, Commander?"
Blacktail frowned, glancing to the east toward Felan territory. "Yeah... My sire crashed out there somewhere. And I'm gonna find out what happened to hir."
The Patrol entered a forest clearing where Blacktail held up a hand. They halted immediately, crouching low. Shi motioned Lambert forward, who quickly slid up to hir side. "I think we've hit the border.
He nodded, covering the far tree line with his weapon. "Yeah. Me too."
Blacktail's tail twitched gently as shi scanned the edge of the tree line. Cover was remote here. A few rocks denoted the clearing from the others, making this a natural border between warring tribes. The trees moved gently in the breeze, however shi could only feel it on hir face, the only part of hir not covered in body armor.
Shi tapped the headset on hir right cheek. "Pegasus Actual, this is Pegasus Five. We've reached the border. We are proceeding."
[Roger. We will continue to monitor you.]
Shi motioned with hir hand, and the patrol moved out, rushing in pairs across the clearing quickly with no incident. However, just to be sure, shi halted them on the far side, just inside the wood line. Lambert met hir again.
"What now, Commander?"
Shi flipped open hir tricorder and checked the map. "There are supposed to be three major settlements within range. One of them is the Felan Capitol. We can..." Shi paused.
Shi cut him off with a motion. Hir ears were erect, whiskers sweeping forward as shi looked into the wood line. Shi closed the tricorder slowly and stepped forward, scanning with all senses. Finally, shi slowly drew hir pistol. "People..." Shi thumbed the control to charge the weapon. "Prepare to defend yourselves," shi said softly.
The Marine Lieutenant put two fingers to his eyes before extending a fist toward the direction Blacktail was looking. He then pointed to First Squad's heavy weapon crew: "Gun!" He hissed to them quietly before pointing to a spot by Commander Blacktail: "Here!"
The crew hopped into action, the Gunner unfolding a bipod from an AM-17A3 Automatic Phaser Rifle, the Assistant Gunner dropping to the prone beside him with his own Phaser Carbine. The rest of First Squad dropped into the prone, and in line, weapons up.
Blacktail glanced back to see the two other squad Leaders assigning sectors of fire for their squads, giving 360-degree security from the imminent ambush. Shi glanced forward again to see movement before a line of feline-forms appeared brandishing spears and hooting loudly in challenge repeatedly.
As the phaser crew sighted on the approaching natives, Blacktail readied hir pistol.
All were female and quite similar to Caitains except for pointed ears and more angular faces. They wore only loincloths and leather belts with daggers, along with decorative beads braided into their long manes.
The leader, obviously because she wasn't hooting and appeared to be the calmest, stepped forward and planted her spear at her feet, tilting her nose up at the Patrol. Her beads made her more decorated along with an ornate knife on her belt crossed with a large belt pouch.
Blacktail glowered equally, showing no fear. Shi then nearly gasped, eyes going wide.
Around the neck of the leader was a Star Fleet commbadge. Black and silver of a Commander First - Blacktail's rank.
Blacktail held up a hand and stepped forward.
The leader held up a hand and the hooting stopped. She then stepped forward as well, eyes falling on the patch on Blacktail's body armor, identical to the medallion she wore.
She spoke softly. "I am Sucha. Daughter of Belar, of the Arryah Tribe. Guardian and Keeper of the Secrets of the Lexingcon. Who are you, who wears the badge of the Keepers, and trespasses in the sovereign territory of the Felan?"
Blacktail immediately noted her accent was noticeable, but was easily understood Terranglo. Federation Standard. Shi cleared hir throat and responded.
"I am Blacktail, Daughter of Coldeyes and Calico, Commander in the forces of the Stellar Federation. I come on a mission of peace." Shi motioned to the medallion. "We come to find what is rightfully ours."
There were several hoots in response, but Sucha motioned for silence. She frowned. In a low voice, she said something that startled Blacktail. "You are a Chakat..." It wasn't a question.
Blacktail frowned. Then deciding honesty was the best policy here, slowly nodded. "Yes."
"You are a daughter... of Calico..." This time more a question than a statement.
"Yes." Blacktail responded again, a bit more anger in hir voice. Sucha's question hit home with hir. "Where is my father?" shi finally demanded.
"I will take you to the Sage." She turned. "Follow." She held up a spear. "Bela Ta Lar! Ta Homa Chee!" With that command, she led the hooting Felan into the woods.
Blacktail holstered hir pistol and motioned for the Patrol to move out. "Pegasus Actual, Pegasus Five...." Shi spoke quietly into hir headset. "We've made contact with the Felan. One is wearing the badge of a Star Fleet Commander. She's leading us to their base."
[Observe and Report.]
"Captain... she speaks Standard."
A pause on M'Rosa's side. [Interesting. Continue mission.]
The response 'Continue mission' echoed in Blacktail's ears for several moments before shi replied. "Understood."
Blacktail followed the Felan Patrol at a brisk pace before heading down a hillside and into a wide clearing. "Hold on. We've reached their settlement. Tents mostly. More than likely nomadic compared to what we've heard of these people. Hunters most likely. We're approaching the head tent. I'll report in later. Five out."
In a clearing just through the tree line by the border, a cluster of circular tents were erected around a large tent in the center. The camp was settled in the morning shadow of a cliff. A handful of males were spread throughout the camp performing routine chores and protecting cubs who looked on the strangers with avid curiosity but did not approach the as they were being escorted by the warrior females.
"Matriarchal?" A marine asked curiously, looking down at a pair of female children who pushed their brother behind them.
"More than likely. This is the first batch of males we've seen, and they're at the camp." Blacktail replied, following Sucha closely. "Tell the patrol to remain outside the camp. First Squad over there aimed outward, Second same here. Have Third spread out but don't interfere."
The Lieutenant nodded and whispered the orders. The patrol dispersed, Felan guards following.
Sucha led Blacktail up to the large tent in the center, which was under armed guard. The two males glared at hir suspiciously before speaking with Sucha, who seemed to remind them of their place.
"Enter..." Sucha glared before ducking inside first.
Blacktail glanced at Lambert. "Stay here. Stay frosty."
The human nodded before turning about, his rifle clutched in his gloved hands.
Blacktail ducked inside to find an elderly Felan couple sitting on pillows before a fire, talking with Sucha. Beside them was a chakat.
Shi wasn't elder like Blacktail expected, hir coloring was all wrong as well. Shi appeared to be half as old as Blacktail, perhaps even younger. Shi had soft, cream-colored fur with a black mask, eartips, and a tail tip. Hir eyes were a sharp crystal blue. Hir tail twitched as shi looked at Blacktail somewhat confused.
"Becha' no ama'tor?" the strange chakat asked Sucha.
"No'ama na tal. Sheecha vrey." Sucha responded, then seemed to stand at ease beside the elder couple. She then rattled on for a minute or so, seeming to explain how she came upon the stranger. Finally, she glanced at Blacktail. "Aryla, daughter of Pren, Queen of the Arryah Tribe," she announced. "Bre'quen Blacktail. Devan Coldeyes, Del ... Calico..." Her ears drooped.
Three sets of eyes stared at Blacktail. The Queen began speaking before the chakat cut her off and sat up on hir hindquarters. "I am ... Chakat Katra. Daughter of ... Calico... and Skyblade," shi spoke softly. Hir voice was obviously accented, but the words were also chosen carefully.
Blacktail bit hir lip a moment, ears going back slightly. "I greet you, Chakat Katra." There was a pregnant pause, before shi continued, in a much lower voice. "Where is shi?"
Katra understood the question easily, and answered calmly. "At the temple, with the others. Shi will return this evening." Shi glanced at Sucha and the others. "Bren, Chel natch na'vor te na val'nar yeh. Becha tal na'ven." The Queen nodded and stepped outside with her consort and Sucha. When finally alone, Katra turned to Blacktail. "Why are you here?"
"For your mother... my father..." Shi shook hir head and got serious. "How old are you?"
"Twenty seasons. My father was the only other chakat among them... Shi... died before I was born. Upset Mom greatly."
"I bet... There are others... back home. Many who have already given up hope father was still alive."
"Shi is. There are only forty-six left. Many have children." Shi motioned to the door. "Sucha, for one, is the daughter of Joshua Burns and the Queen's second."
"How is it you know more of where your mother comes from than she does?"
"I am a Sage." Shi smiled. "Mother confided in me after Father died."
Blacktail nodded slowly. Finally, she tapped the headset. "Pegasus Five to Pegasus Actual... Contact Established with the Leadership of the Arryah Tribe..."
"Captain... one of them is a Chakat..."
A pause. [Who?]
"Chakat Katra... Daughter of Calico and Skyblade. Apparently my half-sister."
[And your Father...?] There was worry in M'Rosa's voice.
"Alive. From what I'm told. Better get down here. Things might get a bit interesting."
Katra smirked. "You have no idea." Shi stood and stepped outside, looking over the patrol who looked back with equal surprise.
Blacktail suddenly had an idea. "Stand-by on that, I'm gonna get a landing zone for you. Five out." Blacktail stepped out behind hir. "Which way is the temple?"
Katra pointed south-east. "At the top of the ridge," shi whispered softly. "From what Mother tells me, itís a part of the Lexington; a lifeboat."
Blacktail nodded. Shi pointed to Lambert. "Check on the perimeter. I'm taking two from third squad with me thataway." Shi pointed in the general direction of the temple.
The lieutenant nodded and began barking orders to his squad leaders. Meanwhile, Blacktail turned to Katra. "Lead me there... please."
"I have to see for myself," Blacktail whispered softly.
After a moment, Katra nodded and took a satchel from just inside the tent. Shi began talking to the queen. "Brech te 'tal no ne vor. Temprea hav nu Lexingcon."
The queen nodded and hugged Katra before motioning to Sucha who led the way out of the Camp.
Blacktail pointed to the two closest marines. "You two, with me." Shi jogged to catch up to the two locals.
When shi caught up, Katra leaned close to Blacktail. "Josh is her father. Strange things happened when they all came here. As a result, Josh was able to father her. Because of that, Sucha is the rightful heir to the Lexington's legacy. She's been taught almost everything I have, and is still learning at a rapid pace."
"Learning things such as our language?"
Katra nodded. "I'm more privy to the important stuff, because I'm the daughter of the Sage."
"Now how did shi end up with such an important job?" Blacktail flicked an ear.
Katra smirked. "For one, shi was the leader. And two... well... we don't exactly appear to be local. But when one who looks like a local is showing deference to hir, you don't think shi might be important?"
Blacktail nodded. "I understand. From what my aunts told me, Father always had a way with words." Shi frowned, deciding not to talk about the genetics they all shared that allowed such a trait.
The Felan guide headed right for what appeared to be a sheer rock face.
Sucha suddenly turned at the last moment and slipped into a hidden passageway that led up the cliff. The climb wasn't exactly steep, but the handful of travelers had to watch their step and balance, even the chakats.
They emerged into the open on the edge of the cliff between two trees that leaned out over it. Passing around a row of bushes they emerged into a clearing looking out over the valley. Standing atop a rock were a pair of what Blacktail was beginning to think of as Felan 'amazons' who blinked in surprise at Sucha's appearance with a Sage, a strange Sage, and two strangers.
"Breecha!" one trilled.
"Te'chu na'vul?" the other challenged.
"Ta'hee Ne'chu na 'vu," Sucha returned and waved them forward past a wall of hanging vines.
On the other side, staring at the newcomers, was a large group of Felan. There were a couple of humans of both sexes, a wolfmorph, and by the hatch of an escape pod camouflaged with local vegetation, a rakshani female who looked like a bouncer at the entrance of a club.
All wore a medallion around their necks: a Star Fleet emblem. Most were enlisted with a handful of officers. The rakshani wore only a loincloth and a sheathed dagger on her belt.
Blacktail stepped forward and looked over them all. About that time, three more figures emerged from the escape pod. One of them was a large, late middle-aged chakat in a calico pattern.
Blacktail stared at hir for a few moments. Their eyes locked, and both seemed to know it instantly.
Finally, deciding to break the silence in a very dramatic way, shi tapped hir headset. "Away team to Pegasus. We've found them. I repeat: we've found them!"
The crowd broke out into cheers.
One of the marines called over his radio. "Echo Six, this is Echo Three-Two! We've located survivors! We've located survivors! Numbering about three dozen, all alive and well!" He paused as he was hugged and kissed by what appeared to be a group of Felan women.
The calico chakat padded forward, hir large body making a wake among the hugging and cheering. Finally, shi stood before Blacktail.
"I am Chakat Calico, daughter of Blackhawk and Cayne." Shi extended a hand in greeting.
Blacktail took it, but before pulling into the traditional greeting hug, shi announced: "I am Chakat Unity Blacktail, daughter of Coldeyes... and Calico." They embraced for the first time in forty years, Blacktail closing hir eyes and purring in the hug. "Hello, Father."
"Hello, my Daughter." Calico finally pulled back and caressed Blacktail's cheek, then patted the combat helmet, shi giggled drunkenly. "My God... when I last saw you, you would barely fit into that helmet," shi smirked.
Blacktail nodded with a faint smile. "Mother told me it was 'family tradition' to wear armor and carry a weapon..."
Calico smirked and motioned for everyone to calm down. Shi then turned to Blacktail. "I think you better talk to them. We've been here a long time."
Blacktail nodded. Shi stepped forward. "I am Commander Blacktail, First Officer of the Federation Star Ship Pegasus."
More cheers erupted. Blacktail motioned for silence.
"I've been told a number of you have families here. The Federation can't fault you for that," shi said seriously. "I've yet to contact my ship on the specifics, which I will get from your leadership here." Shi motioned to Calico, then continued. "I know Captain Miral well, and she will give each of you who wishes to stay whatever you want before we break orbit. More good news is that the Pegasus is a Frontier Class Deep-Space Explorer, and I'm confident we can take every single one of you who wishes to leave along with whomever wishes to come with us. We can get you home in three months, tops." Shi held up three fingers to be answered by more cheers.
[Pegasus to away team.]
[I'm standing by with a relief team.]
"My coordinates." Shi smiled.
A few seconds later, the cheers died out as the familiar hum of a Transporter was heard just as a number of pillars of sparkles appeared off to the side. Captain M'Rosa Miral appeared with several personnel including a Vixentaur, several Humans, and assorted morphs.
M'Rosa walked for Calico and Blacktail. "Captain Calico, I presume?"
"M'Rosa Miral, Captain of the Starship Pegasus."
"Glad you made it through the nebula."
"That what happened to the Lexington?"
Calico nodded. "We were struck by one of the electrical discharges. Polarized the shields, and they went kaput. We barely survived coming through the nebula."
M'Rosa nodded. "We found the Lexington drifting in the outer edge of the system. We've stabilized her drift and left a salvage party aboard to try and get her mobile."
"I doubt we could go through the Nebula again."
"That remains to be seen. Right now, we have to tend to your crew."
Calico sighed, looking out at everyone as they chatted amongst themselves, waiting to be seen to by the rescue party. "This is all that's left."
"Just the Caitians?" M'Rosa asked.
"They're not Caitians. They're Felan." Blacktail frowned.
Calico nodded. "There's something in the nebula Ė a form of radiation. We were all exposed to it. There have been a range of changes, from becoming a Felan, to no changes at all." Shi motioned to a Felan male who stepped over. "Unity, Captain M'Rosa, this is Commander Josh Burns, my First Officer."
The Commander nodded politely.
"He was human," Calico said flatly.
Burns nodded again. He then indicated toward Sucha. "You met my daughter, I presume?"
Blacktail nodded. "I have. She's a good person."
"I'm not sure I could leave her or her mother here," he said, obviously worried of the prospect.
"You don't have to," M'Rosa said. "You've been here long enough, and have obviously ingrained yourself into their society without breaking any regulations. We've already left a human on the Wolvan side of the border."
He blinked. "You have?"
Blacktail nodded. "She was picked up by one of the less hostile tribes after arriving. She's been with them a long time and is respected by their leadership. She's the one who pointed us in this direction."
The rakshani, still standing by the escape pod hatch, growled.
Calico glanced at her to calm her, then explained. "Zhan has been fighting the Wolvan a long time."
Blacktail nodded. Then to hir captain; "We can take them all back to the village. Whomever wishes to come with us can say their goodbyes there and come back here. Whomever wishes to stay, can say goodbye to them there and remain behind."
M'Rosa nodded. "Sounds like a plan. You agree, Captain?"
Calico nodded. "Itís time to go home."
The entire group, with the second away team, headed back to the village where a celebration was quickly organized by the tribe.
With Calico translating, an explanation was quickly brought up and the queen nodded, giving the elder chakat a farewell hug.
Josh talked for over an hour with his wife and their daughter before they came back to talk to Calico. When he walked up, he took a deep breath; "I'm staying." He finally said, "These people need one of us... and I know you have family elsewhere who need you."
Calico looked sad for a moment, then shi nodded and hugged him. "Good luck, Josh." Shi smiled, then turned and stood beside Blacktail to be beamed back to the Pegasus.
In the Transporter Room, Calico faced another chakat. They looked at one another for several moments before Blacktail stepped in between them. "Dad... I'd like you to meet Chakat Byrna... Aunt Sevron's daughter... and yours."
Calico blinked in surprise, then stepped down off the Transporter pad. "Byrna..." shi rolled the unfamiliar word around on hir tongue. "I often wondered what you'd look like."
Byrna gave a weak smile. "I've inherited... a few things from Mom, but this is my natural form."
"I thought you would." Calico then embraced hir second child in a tight hug. When they separated, shi looked at Byrna's uniform. "Star Corps?"
"Technician. At the rank of Lieutenant Commander. I'm here as a Science Officer."
"With a few other skills," Blacktail smirked.
"I can only imagine. Good God this seems like a dream," Calico sighed.
"It gets better, Dad." Blacktail flicked hir tail. "Aunt Silkpaws is on the Lexington."
Calico looked dumbstruck.
"Shi's leading the salvage party," Blacktail finished.
Calico nodded. "Let's get back to the Lexington. I promised I'd get my crew home. It would only be right to do so on the Lexington." Shi smiled.
"I couldn't agree more." Blacktail smiled, then glanced at the Transporter pad. "Now where's my wayward captain?" Shi tapped hir combadge. "Blacktail to Miral."
On the surface, M'Rosa smiled, standing beside the center tent. "Yes, Commander?"
[What's the holdup?]
"Something I'm checking out." She glanced at Josh, looking thoughtful. "I'll be up in a little while. I'm making some last-minute agreements with the locals."
Josh chuckled and led the Captain back to his tent, his Mate and Sucha standing in the doorway smiling.
There was a pause from the commlink. [Understood...]
"Meanwhile, ensure our passengers are resting comfortably. I'm sure they have a few things to re-learn about being aboard a starship."
[No doubt... ]
M'Rosa stepped inside. It was like a Native American teepee, with a large pad of fur skins making up the floor, small items, bowls, and other trinkets around the outer edge or hanging from the supports. She sat in the center with the family. "Now Unity, this is something we've talked about before."
There was a sigh. [I understand... We'll talk when you get back. Blacktail out.]
M'Rosa smiled and looked up at Josh. "Now... where were we?"
"You sure you want this, Captain? I am quite familiar with Caitian custom."
M'Rosa paused. "I know. As Captain I'm restrained... but this is the chance I've been looking for since my husband died." She looked at Josh's mate, then back at him. "If your family holds no objections...?"
He nodded. "Your assumptions about the Clan are true."
The female placed a hand on M'Rosa's shoulder. "We will help you make this as comfortable as possible."
M'Rosa smiled. "Itís now or never."
< The Next Morning >
M'Rosa entered Blacktail's cabin and smiled. "Captain. I hope you're finding my ship comfortable?" She smiled at Calico who sat at the breakfast table with Blacktail and Byrna.
"Indeed I am, Captain. Thank you for your hospitality. However, I do look forward to getting my ship back up and working."
M'Rosa nodded. "I've gotten a report from the salvage team. Main power has been restored, but it may be some time before the warp core can be restarted. We may have to tow you to the nebula to distill some hydrogen for antimatter from the gasses."
"I'm not too thrilled with going through the nebula," Calico frowned.
Blacktail drummed hir claws on the table they sat beside. "It'll take years at max warp to go around, and I doubt the Lexington could make Warp 6 in her condition."
Calico nodded. "Good point. We'll see what we can do."
"It all depends on the Lexington's condition. She really wasn't looking up to spec." Blacktail twitched hir tail.
"I have a good crew working on the issue. We'll be breaking orbit momentarily to return to her and see what we can do to help." M'Rosa smiled reassuringly.
Calico nodded. "I'm grateful for your help, Captain."
"An honor to help you, Captain." Miral smiled. "You helped me once before."
Calico tilted hir head. "How so?"
"The Qantas Conveyor. I was the cub you picked up and carried across C Deck, shooting your way through the pirates."
Calico blinked and looked M'Rosa up and down. "Well I'll be... Small universe. " Shi smiled. "You've done well for yourself then. I'm sorry I didn't arrive sooner to save your parents."
M'Rosa nodded, placing a hand on hir shoulder. "No need, Captain. Your daughter has proven to be my best First Officer... and one of my closest companions. As I said before, it is an honor to help you in any way possible."
Captain's Log; November 29th, 2380
This mission has gone a lot differently than I had anticipated. For one, we have discovered a long lost starship orbiting one of the two moons of Mazara Gamma III. We have also discovered survivors on the second planet, including the long-lost father of my First Officer.
I have decided to bow to the requests of some of the survivors there, and leave them behind, as they now have families with the locals. I, for one, will not come between family. I will certainly miss knowing them more.
We have returned to the Lexington to continue repairs. The survivors have joined our repair parties, and I've sent some more engineering specialists to help them re-learn how to use their ship. Once the Lexington is warp-capable again, we will break orbit and head for home.
Transporter wash materialised into Calico, M'Rosa, and Blacktail on the Lexington's bridge. As the effect faded out, Calico looked around slowly, taking it all in. Shi paused, looking at the Ops console. "What did you do with the bodies?"
A familiar chakat turned from the Engineering station, grinning. "We moved them to Cargo Bay 1. We're already planning a memorial service. Perhaps you'd like to attend?"
Calico looked back, then smiled, walking to meet hir. "Silky..."
Wary of all the eyes on them, Silkpaws just took hir old friend in a tight embrace. "We've got a lot of catching up to do, Shir Calico..."
Calico chuckled, holding the younger chakat tightly. "Don't I know it." Shi pulled back and looked down, fumbling the locket around hir neck. "I kept it with me," shi muttered.
Silkpaws looked down and smiled. "I see. You promised to give it back once you got back to Chakona. We're not there yet."
Calico nodded. "I keep my promises."
"I know." Silkpaws frowned. "Blacktail..." shi paused.
Calico frowned as well, glancing toward the Science Console where Blacktail was talking with a Caitian Engineer. "Shi feels I abandoned hir?"
Silkpaws nodded. "Yeah. Perhaps when we have time, you can talk to hir?"
Calico nodded. "I did last night... but shi didn't say anything..."
The snow leopard chakat frowned. "Shi may have realized hir mistake. But right now, we have work to do."
Two distinct groups of people appeared on the Lexington over the next week. One group wore Star Fleet uniforms, well groomed and with a good balance of Federation species. They supervised repairs, and instructed the other group on how to use the replacement parts and how to use the starship effectively.
The other group, wore parts of older Star Fleet uniforms. Mostly loose field jackets, black trousers, and belts with phaser pistols and hand-made knives of varying sizes. All but a half-dozen were Felan.
They remembered much of operating a starship. There were a few younger ones who never were on a starship, but they learned procedure quickly from their parents.
One who caught on quickly, was Katra.
"Are you sure you didn't attend the Academy?" Byrna asked hir in Engineering.
"I spent most of my time at the temple, going through the database. Chakats are more mentally stable than Felan, so I was trusted over Sucha to learn the important stuff."
Byrna nodded. "I see. You'll still need to know the intricate things about repairing a starship."
"Such as?" Katra looked at hir older sister.
"The difference between a hydrospanner and a fusion cutter." Byrna reached past the Siamese Chakat and picked up a tool. "Most of the little things like that arenít covered in information manuals."
"Oh." Katra looked confused for a moment, looking at the tool chest. After a moment of flicking hir tail back and forth, shi looked up. "You're special, arenít you?"
Byrna frowned and looked down. "Come again?"
"You're special. You hide it well." There was a pause before Katra picked up a tool and examined it. "Something Mother didn't teach me, but the Queen of the Arryah Tribe. How to sense such things."
Byrna sat on hir haunches, unsure of how to take this.
"Blacktail has part of it too. It angers hir. Shi isn't aware you know of the other half of your power. The part that keeps this big piece in check." Katra looked into hir eyes. "Itís okay, Sis. I won't tell anyone." Shi took Byrna's hand. "Will you teach me?"
Byrna shook hir head, clearing the thoughts from it. "Wh-wha?"
"These little things." Shi held up a spanner. "Will you teach me? I want to be in Star Fleet some day."
Byrna gave a weak smile. "Sure, Sis. I'll teach you."
Eight days after the Lexington's crew returned to her, Calico stood in an empty cargo bay, looking over hir 36 crewmen. Shi turned and looked over a dozen torpedo casings with the Stellar Federation flag draped over them. Shi sighed and glanced to one side of the bay, where hir daughters stood with officers from the Pegasus.
"Itís been a long road. Thirty-eight years since we left Earth. Since that time, we've taken losses... found new friends... new lives. Well over three-quarters of our family is gone. Where they went... we may never know. We are gathered here today to remember them, to remember those who will never go home."
Calico picked up a pad from a console and began reading the names. Lieutenant Commander Eliza Sata... Ensign Edward Niles... Lieutenant Chakat Skyblade... all of those who were known to be dead.
"We commit the bodies of our fallen comrades to the openness of space. Where we hope that some day... they will finally find their way home." Calico stood at attention.
The rakshani did the same and barked the command.
At Calico's nod, a Pegasus officer touched some controls, and a tractor beam lashed out from the ceiling of the bay, picking up the casings, and gently pushing them out into open space.
After a long moment of silence, Calico sighed. "Now that that is done with..." Shi motioned to the rakshani. "Zhan, come here."
The Rakshani stepped forward. "Yes, MĖ" She caught herself. "Yes, Captain?"
"With Josh remaining behind, I need a new First Officer."
The rakshani frowned. "But... I'm not an officer."
"Not a problem. I checked the rules with Captain M'Rosa. Zhan ap Narishni na Zhul, my old friend, I'm hereby giving you a field promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Second. Itís your job to watch my back." Shi placed a hand on her shoulder. "Think you can do that?"
Zhan looked thoughtful, then gave a weak smile, taking the hand and giving it a gentle lick. "Of course, my Mistress," she purred.
After the ceremony, Blacktail found Byrna in Main Engineering. Shi walked up to the power display where Lieutenant Zhan was watching hir. "How's it going?"
"Well, for the most part. I'm gonna have to remain on the Lexington during the transit to monitor the output."
Blacktail frowned. "Okay... I'll have Lieutenant Rhees do the same from the Pegasus." Blacktail then smirked. "Its Katra, isn't it?"
Byrna blushed slightly. "Shi's a good kid. Shi'll need a lot of teaching before shi can exist in our society."
Blacktail nodded. "I'll let Captain Miral know."
Byrna nodded, tapping away on a data pad. "The modifications to the shield grid and the primary energizers should compensate for the distortion effects they had the first time going through."
Blacktail nodded, then glanced at Byrna then Zhan. "Just what are our chances of surviving this?"
To Blacktail's right, Byrna looked thoughtful. "I'd say about a hundred-to-one... against."
To Byrna's right, standing at parade rest, Zhan tilted her head as well, then to Blacktail's surprise, raised an eyebrow with a smirk. "Better odds than I thought..."
Blacktail smiled as well. "You're starting to warm up to me, Lieutenant. Perhaps there's hope for you yet."
"You are my Mistress' daughter. How can I not like you?" The powerfully-built rakshani female smiled down at Blacktail.
Blacktail and Byrna exchanged looks. "You still cling to that oath?"
"I am rakshani, Commander. We take our blood oaths seriously. Until I am returned to Mistress Deirdre, I am responsible for your sire's safety." She raised an eyebrow. "Logically, shi is my Mistress until then."
Blacktail nodded, giving up. "I understand. I'm heading back to the Pegasus. We'll be breaking orbit in an hour." Shi looked at hir sister. "Good luck, Byrna."
"You too, sis." Byrna smiled as Blacktail turned, heading out of Engineering.
Aboard the Pegasus, Blacktail entered the Bridge and assumed hir post to M'Rosa's right hand. "All systems report ready, Captain."
The Tactical station beeped. "Captain, the Lexington is signaling."
Calico appeared on the viewer, sitting in the center of hir bridge. "I'm still uncomfortable with the shield modifications. I'd like the Pegasus to stand ready to extend your shields around us should this not work."
"You'd have to tie me down to keep me from trying, Captain." M'Rosa returned. "You do know I could order you to abandon the Lexington and have me ferry you all back home."
"How? I've got 40 years service on you, kid." Calico returned with a raised eyebrow.
"In tactical situations involving two or more starship captains, command goes to the commander of the ship with tactical superiority." M'Rosa smirked, having verified the regulation earlier. "I'd say the Pegasus has 40 years of tactical superiority over you, Captain."
"Somehow, I know you won't force me to leave the Lexington behind," Calico called the younger Captain's bluff.
M'Rosa nodded, submitting. "She deserves to go home too, Captain. We'll be right behind you."
"Thank you. See you on the other side. You too, Unity."
Blacktail nodded. "Either way, Father... we'll see each other again. I know it."
"So do I. Lexington out." The screen returned to a view of the Lexington holding station below and in front of the Pegasus. Her impulse engines began to glow, as the ship began to turn away.
"The Lexington is changing course. Now heading One-Eight-One Mark Three-Five - right for Federation space. Speed is one-quarter impulse power." The Operations Officer reported.
"Match course and speed," M'Rosa ordered.
Once clear of the system's heliopause, the two ships jumped to warp.
Blacktail checked hir console. "Time to nebula perimeter?"
"Five hours, fifteen minutes," came the response from Silkpaws at Science.
M'Rosa nodded. "Stand-by shields. Let's go home."
< Five Hours later... >
The Red Alert klaxon sounds. Crew rush everywhere as M'Rosa makes one final entry: "Captain's Log: Supplemental. We've reached the Mazara Nebula, and have slowed to impulse to prepare to penetrate it. The Lexington has performed a few last checks. They are ready. They've waited forty years, and I doubt they'd wait any longer."
"Shields to full. Lexington's are being reinforced," Tactical reported.
"Minor energy variants on their Engineering hull. No discernible problems. Shield integrity is holding," Operations chimed in.
"Helm, move us to within five kilometers of the Lexington. Auxiliary power to the emitter array. Prepare to extend shields around the Lexington," Blacktail called out.
"Now within five kilometers of the Lexington," Helm responded.
"Nebula perimeter in thirty seconds," Danny called back.
"I'm reading an energy build-up on the Lexington's shields."
"Is it the modifications causing it?" Blacktail looked back.
"I don't know..."
"Energy coalescing in the nebula. Could be static build-up due to our presence..." Silkpaws looked confused as shi touched some more controls at the Science Station. "It looks like the static build-up to a lightning strike."
M'Rosa wasn't gonna take a chance. "Auxiliary power to the shields. Extend them around the LexingtonĖ"
There was a flash on the screen. The Lexington's shields flared brightly.
"Lexington has been hit! I'm reading an energy build-up on their hull!" Silkpaws called out.
"The residual radiation in the damaged areas!" Blacktail stood. "Itís reacting to the radiation in the nebula!"
"Abort the attempt!" M'Rosa shouted to Danny. "Signal the Lexington to break off!"
"Energy building increasing exponentially! Reaction imminent!"
"Extend the Shields! Now!"
There was another flash. Before Blacktail's shocked eyes... the Lexington vanished.
As the flash dissipated, the Pegasus continued forward. The ship's Registry Number 'NCC-2121-B' visible on the underside of the primary hull.
"Report!" Captain Miral yelled, her golden brown fur bathed in the red glow of the alert lights.
"The discharge has dissipated. No damage." Operations replied.
"Lieutenant, where's that ship?" The Captain turned to Tactical.
"The silhouette was definitely of a Federation starship. Lexington-Class Battlecruiser... " He growled softly. "It appeared when the static build-up discharged across our forward shields, holding position less than 5,000 meters off our bow for approximately 4.5 seconds, then vanished when the lightning dissipated." The cheetahmorph frowned, tail flicking back and forth angrily.
"Any sign of debris?" M'Rosa asked.
"I don't see how." Blacktail frowned, sitting on the pad at hir station. "There's no other ships out here, not this far, or ever have been." Shi looked back toward the Mission Operations Station. "Aunt Silkpaws?"
The elder Chakat shook hir head. "Nope. None that I can recall." Shi continued analysing the data collected from the lightning strike.
"You'd be surprised," came Byrna's voice as shi turned from the Science Station, compiling data the Pegasus had been collecting over the past week. "I talked to Dad before we left Chakona. There was a Top-Secret mission shi took out this way."
Blacktail frowned at hir half-sister. A sudden realisation came over hir and turned toward the viewscreen. "Dad...?"
M'Rosa placed a hand on her belly and frowned. Danny looked down at her concerned. "Captain?"
"I remember... " She started.
Blacktail unsheathed a bone dagger from her belt and examined it. "Time travel! Shi went back in time!" shi yelled.
Danny blinked in surprise. "Commander?"
"Temporal Prime Directive, Lieutenant." Blacktail stood and leapt over the railing to check the tactical display. "We've just experienced a temporal incursion... that ship on your sensors... really was there... It was the Lexington, my sire's first command."
He checked the sensors. "I'm not detecting any engine emissions. No tachyon particles... no evidence of a rift..."
"I doubt you'd detect anything with the interference from the nebula." Blacktail finally sighed, twirling the knife in one hand. "So..." shi muttered, sorting through the memories that made it through the change in the timeline. "You did make it home." Shi smirked at M'Rosa as shi walked down the starboard ramp to the command pit and resumed hir seat.
The Captain was looking thoughtful, tail twitching between her legs as she looked at the star-field on the viewscreen. "Well, Commander?"
Blacktail paused a moment, then began to chuckle. "Took hir long enough."
The Captain smiled, rubbing her belly softly. "We need to talk."
Copyright © Bernard Doove
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