ECHO LANCE
By Dax
Chapter three - Ghosts of the Aurora


 

Sher-

I was awake but I wanted to be asleep. The dull roar of this ships engines had woken me much earlier than I wanted. I ended up staying with the ships tactical officer, she was asleep beside me, and for the life of me I couldnít remember her name. Her quarters were less cluttered than the others and the empty room was being used for storage so this is where I was to spend the night. She didnít seem to mind having someone she barely knew share a room with her. Maybe it was because Iím a chakat. I only remember seeing another member of my species four or five times, and now that I think about it I donít know much about how other chakats act at all.

My thoughts were interrupted when the vixen beside me started stirring. She appeared to have just woken up although how she could sleep with all this noise was beyond me. She rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, my eyes cracked open, still not accustomed to the light. Like the rest of the crew and I she slept in only her fur, which was nothing special but I wasnít really used to it. For some reason I wasnít able to take my eyes off her as she walked about the room; her fiery red fur looked gorgeous.

She stopped about two feet from the bed and started looking for something. She still hadnít noticed that I was awake. After she found whatever it was she was looking for she turned so that her back was mostly facing me and stretched to get all the kinks out of her joints. I could see all her muscles flexing under her fur. She was heavily built for a female, and very sexy indeed. I was a bit surprised when I began to feel aroused by this display. I had been brought up as a female and this was new to me. I pulled a sheet over my hindquarters. Iíd be so embarrassed if she saw that.

"Well good morning, I didnít wake you up did I?" she asked, like everything was normal.

"No, I uhÖwas already awake," I replied still trying to cover myself up.

"Is something wrong?" she moved a bit closer,

"No, Iím fine, just a little cold," I said and started to curl up a bit. She then sat down beside me on the bed and began to rub my shoulders. I started to purr.

"Looks like you have the opposite problem Sylver does," she chuckled. This was not helping my situation, I wanted to get out of this without seeming rude, but I was having a hard time resisting her touch. I was thankful when she relented and continued getting her things together for when we landed. After combing out her hair and fur she put on a casual uniform and headed for the door,

"You coming?" she asked,

"Iíll catch up with you," I said. She nodded then left. I was finally able to get her out of my head; that was something I had never felt before. I got out of bed and put on my vest. I didnít need to do much in the way of grooming because my fur was so short. Still I went to the bathroom and straightened out my slightly less than shoulder length hair. I was told that we would be meeting on the bridge so I could be introduced. I just hope I remembered how to get there.

I started down the main hallway that spanned most of the shipís length, right above the main hanger. Most of the rooms I passed were maintenance areas. At about the midpoint of the ship there was a large cylinder that the corridor wrapped around on both sides and on one side of the cylinder was a door. As I approached the door it opened automatically revealing a chair with a set of controls in front of it. All kinds of tactical displays lined the inside of the small space, I recognized Sylverís scent on the seat. This must be some kind of weapons control station. I then continued down the corridor, which was fairly featureless except for a few symbols on the walls. I finally came to the lift that would take me to the main deck where the bridge was, if I remembered correctly. I was surprised when there was no real sensation of movement as the lift dropped one deck, artificial gravity and inertial dampeners were something else I wasnít used to. I finally got to the doors that led to the bridge, the doors slid open and I entered to see the ships crew waiting for me.

"Good morning," said James, the ships captain. "I trust you slept okay?"

"Yes, I slept fine thank you."

"I think you already know most of the crew."

"Yes you introduced yourselves when I first got aboard."

"I didnít catch your name though."

"Sher."

"Right sorry," James apologized, then gestured for me to have a look around. Everyone was happy to answer any questions I had. I had never been on a ship before so there were many things I wanted to know. I was also impressed with the view from the bridge. Earth looked beautiful from space, but Mark assured me that the novelty of it soon wears off. I ended up getting a tour of the ship from Lara as we waited for landing clearance. I found the main hanger to be particularly interesting. I was amazed at how something as big as a Battlemech could move about.

We soon landed in Boise where Duncan Sylver and I got on another shuttle bound for the northern territories of the GNA. I was continuously asking about everything because I hadnít known much about anything outside my home. But eventually it was Duncan, who asked me a question,

"Why was it again that you though your real name is Nightfire?" That caught me off guard, I had completely forgotten that I had told him that.

"Well, when I was very young, Shaman told me that he had found me with this around my neck," I said and pulled a gold locket on a thin silver chain out of my vest. I was a circle with a small ring on the top where the chain was attached. The name ĎNightfireí was inscribed on the back.

"I think there used to be a picture inside but Shaman took it out," I said as Duncan examined the locket.

"Do you know who your parents are?" he asked,

"No, I never met them, I only ever remember being in that group of thieves. I really donít know anything about where I came from."

"Well a chakat family wouldnít just forget that they have a child. Something must have happened," said Sylver. I tried hard to remember a time before I knew Shaman, but I could only draw a blank, I wish I could at least remember my parents. My feelings must have been showing because Duncan spoke up again,

"When we get back maybe we can try to find out who your parents are. Donít worry,"

"Thank you. Youíre very kind, but why are you doing this for me?"

"I could tell you needed help, and I think Iíll be able to help you find what youíre looking for." Sylver chuckled as I gave Duncan a big hug. It was nice to have someone who cares.

The rest of the flight passed rather quietly, I was still wondering how things would work out. I couldnít get my mind off whom my parents might be now that Duncan had brought up the subject. Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried I couldnít think of anything that might help.

My thoughts were interrupted when the captain announced that we would be landing shortly. Everything inside the small spaceport was very decorative. There were many small pieces of art on the walls. What really got me was when we stepped outside, I was almost immediately hit with a rush of cold air. I jumped back inside as my fur was cut short because I lived in a warm place all my life and cold weather was not something I was accustomed to.

"You okay?" asked Sylver as he saw me inside shivering. Now I knew why his fur was so thick. Itís freezing up here. "Right sorry," he said as he realized what was going on. "Here, take this I donít need it." He handed me a thick jacket. I quickly put it on and followed them outside and across the parking lot to a forest green truck. I assumed it was Sylverís as his name was written in small white letters on the tailgate. The truckís cab wasnít built for 'taurs, so I was helped into the box of the truck where Sylver had installed some retractable 'taur style seats. Luckily there was a heater back there and the box had a canopy so I was relatively comfortable for the trip to Duncanís home, where I would be staying for a while. On the ride into town it started to snow a little, the little white crystals mesmerized me, it barely even rained let alone snowed where I came from. The light snow looked like a shower of diamonds in the light of the street lamps.

Whiteriver was a quaint little town, far different from the crowded streets of Delhi, however everything was closed for the night as it was getting very late. We soon came to Duncanís house that was on the edge of a residential area that bordered a forest. I waited in the truck until Duncan had the door open, then after saying goodbye to Sylver I dashed inside to get out of the cold. Duncan chuckled,

"If this weather bothers you, youíre going to have a tough time getting used to living here."

"Itís just my fur, itís to short for this weather," I protested and started to look around the house, "When it gets thicker Iíll be fine. Until then would we be able to find a place that sells winter jackets for Ďtaurs?"

"I know where we can look," he grinned. I was given a short tour of Duncanís house, it only had one story so there wasnít much to show, but it looked nice anyway. I was then led to the guest room where I was gong to be sleeping. The bed in there was far better than the pillows I used to sleep on. I climbed into bed and pulled the covers over myself to keep warm, Duncan then bid me a good night and left for his own room. It took me a while to get to sleep but one I did I was dead to the world.

 

It was only 8:30 in the morning but Duncan was already up and about. He was cleaning up his house a bit even though it was already fairly clean. He had tried to get Nightfire out of bed but shi was completely out of it. He guessed shi was still suffering from jetlag. They werenít in a hurry to get anywhere so Duncan just left hir alone. When Duncan was satisfied with the state of his home he sat down in the living room and started to read. He had about a dozen unfinished novels on his bookshelf, he had trouble finishing a book before he was interested in another one.

After about an hour or so Duncan saw Nightfire wandering aimlessly about the house until shi came into the living room and dropped to the floor.

"Did you sleep okay?" he asked as Nightfire made a half-hearted effort to get back to hir feet.

"Just fine," shi murmured, and rolled over into a more comfortable position,

"Weíll be visiting some friends of mine today. I think youíll like meeting them,"

"Ten credits says that theyíre chakats," said Nightfire as Duncan got up from his chair. He smiled,

"Iím not a betting person, but youíre right. They should have a coat for you until your fur grows a bit." Nightfire liked the sound of that. Maybe once shi was able to get a proper job shi would be able to buy something to wear other than that green vest.

Nightfire remained more or less inert for about another half hour until the smell of breakfast cooking reached hir nose. Hir ears perked up,

"What are you making?"

"Just some bacon, eggs and toast, and whatever you can find to drink."

"That sounds great Iím starving," shi said and headed for the kitchen. Duncan wasnít an incredible cook but he was handy enough around the kitchen. Nightfire was just happy to be having a cooked meal, something shi hadnít had much of on the streets. Shi looked through the fridge to see what there was to drink and found a pitcher of orange juice.

"Do you want some?" shi asked Duncan.

"Sure the cups are in that cupboard," he replied then when back to the pans on his stove. Nightfire set the table and Duncan soon brought the bacon, eggs and toast to the table. Nightfire practically inhaled hir meal, as it had been some time since shi had been able to enjoy a good breakfast. The plates of food were soon empty. Duncan gathered the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, while Nightfire looked for the coat Sylver lent hir. Shi put it on over hir vest then met Duncan at the front door,

"I hope they have something in my size, this thing is way too big for me." They then made their way along the path to Duncanís garage through the freshly fallen snow. Despite the cold Nightfire had to stop and look around, the tiny crystals covered everything in sight making the whole landscape sparkle. Shi stood in awe for a moment until the cold got to hir and shi hurried to Duncanís PTV. There was enough room in the back seat for a Ďtaur but it was still a little cramped. The two of them where glad to get out when they reached Rivermaneís den. Before Duncan could knock on the door a chocolate coloured chakat with a single blue stripe running down hir back opened it and greeted them warmly.

"Welcome back Duncan," Rivermane grinned and reared up a little to give him a proper hug. "We werenít expecting you, but come on in! We already have some visitors." Shi then noticed the young chakat who was standing timidly behind Duncan. Shi looked quite uncomfortable in the jacket shi was wearing. "Why donít you come inside so you can take that off and we can introduce ourselves," offered Rivermane, Nightfire nodded mutely and followed hir inside. Rivermane hung up Sylverís jacket then motioned for Nightfire to make hirself comfortable in the living room where several guests were already sitting.

As Rivermane was putting Duncanís jacket away, he put his hand on hir shoulder to get hir attention.

"Shi has not been around other chakats before. Maybe we should try to take it slow so shiís not overwhelmed." Rivermane looked skeptically at Duncan,

"What do you mean shiís never been around other chakats before?"

"Shiís an orphan, as far as we know. Shi grew up in the streets of Delhi in a gang of thieves. Weíre trying to find out who hir parents are so we can find the rest of hir family."

Rivermane stood stunned for a moment, shi had never heard of a chakat orphan before, and certainly not one who had come of age without knowing anyone in hir family.

"Thatís terrible," shi said finally, and then looked to Nightfire who was wandering into the living room, Rivermane moved quickly to catch hir before shi got there. "Maybe you could help my mate Sunrise in the kitchen first," shi suggested, Nightfire looked a little confused,

"Uh, okay if you want. Didnít you want me to introduce myself?"

"That can wait, we might need your help first" said Rivermane, shi then looked over hir shoulder at Duncan and waved hir hand telling him to come along, there was some explaining to do. Sunrise was standing over several steaming pots when they found hir in the kitchen. Shi had a much brighter coloration than Rivermane, stripes of orange red and yellow covering her pelt. Hir and Rivermaneís two cubs, Brook and Rosepetal where chasing each other through Sunriseís legs when the presence of a new chakat got their attention. As far as fur pattern, each of the cubs seemed to resemble one of their parents. Brook had rather odd blue fur covered by dark brown spots. While Rosepetal was mostly bright red with small patches of orange here and there. The two of them looked and sniffed curiously at Nightfire, while Rivermane went to get hir mates attention. Shi padded up behind Sunrise and put hir arms around hir waist. "We have a guest Iíd like you to meet," shi said while trying to pull Sunrise away from the stove. Sunrise reluctantly left the meal shi was preparing.

"Oh? And who is that?" shi asked returning Rivermaneís embrace. Rivermane turned Sunrise to face Nightfire, who had just become the cubsí newest playmate. Duncan grinned as the three of them chased each other around, then Rivermane looked to him

"Well it seems shi has Brooks and Rosepetal's approval." Duncan took this opportunity to explain to Sunrise and Rivermane what happened in Delhi. Sunrise looked at Duncan in disbelief,

"How could no one know that shi was alive?"

"I have no idea but Iím hoping that we will be able to find out with what little information we have." Sunrise nodded and looked over at Nightfire and the two cubs that were making their best effort to pin hir down. Sunrise let go of Rivermane and went to help Nightfire with the cubs,

"Iím sorry about that dear. Theyíre just excited about seeing a new face."

"Itís all right. Theyíre fun to play with, and cute too." Nightfire giggled as shi fuzzled Brooks ears. Brook purred and Rosepetal tugged at hir motherís foreleg, also wanting some attention. Sunrise smiled and scooped up Rosepetal and then turned to Rivermane.

"Would you take care of the meal while Nightfire and I tend to the cubs?"

"Of course," replied Rivermane and gently kissed hir mateís cheek. "Youíre going to help too arenít you Duncan?"

"Iíll do what I can," he grinned.

 

Nightfire-

I was quite surprised at how quickly the cubs had taken a liking to me. Their parents also seemed to be very pleasant people. As Brook rode on my back I started to wonder if all chakats were this friendly. As we were heading upstairs Sunrise looked back at me,

"Is there something on your mind? Donít be afraid to ask me anything." I stared blankly for a moment, then it occurred to me that, being a chakat, shiíd have the same empathetic abilities I did.

"I was, uh, just thinking to myself. Nothing important,"

"Alright then, we should get these two to bed" shi smiled. It was then that I noticed that Brook had fallen asleep on my back. They had probably been playing all day and had just used up the rest of their energy when they met me. I didnít mind at all, I was feeling a bit tired myself.

We got to the cubsí room and Sunrise placed Rosepetal in a large crib then carefully lifted Brook off my back and placed hir beside hir sister in the crib. Shi then led me quietly out of the room and closed the door behind us. Then shi smiled at me,

"You know, youíd make a good cub sitter. They seem to get along well with you." I smiled a little nervously.

"Thank you, but I donít really know much about taking care of cubs,"

"Donít worry. Iím sure youíd learn quickly." With that we went back down to join Duncan and Rivermane. Whatever they were making smelled good.

 

Andrea-

"I canít believe Sylver didnít tell me he got a new project to work on!" I thought to myself as I drove up the path to his cabin. Luckily for me the thickly grown trees kept most of the snow off the road. I had just heard from Rocco that Sylver managed to get his hands on an old military vehicle before he left on his last mission and he never invited me to come and see it. We were both mechanics but it was my profession while he just did it in his spare time. We often end up working together on one thing or another and it was a great deal of fun.

I finally rounded the last switchback and pulled into the gravel parking area in front of the cabin. To my surprise I didnít see the vehicle anywhere despite the fact that I was informed that it was huge. Where the heck was he hiding it? I turned off my PTV then slipped the keys into one of the pockets on my overalls and walked over to the front door. It was surprisingly warm outside, considering it had just snowed, and every so often Iíd hear the wet slush falling from the trees around the cabin. I looked into the window next to the door where the kitchen could be seen, but no Sylver. My guess was he was still asleep, so I rang the door chime and waited. It took a minute or two but then I heard someone moving around inside, then mumbling, and then Sylver appeared in the doorway, not surprisingly, in the nude except for his hat. I giggled and smiled at him,

"Gímorning Sylver, sleep well?" He looked down at me with a slightly dazed expression.

"Ann?Öwhat are you doing here?"

"I found out you had something new that you didnít tell me about."

"What? Oh, that I uhÖsorry."

"Well next time I want to find out from you instead of Rocco okay?"

"Alright," he said then started lead me to where he kept the vehicle before he stopped and went back into the cabin. "Maybe I should get some pants on first."

I chuckled to myself and followed him inside.

 

Nightfire-

Well I donít think this turned out as bad as anyone thought it would. Luckily there were only four other guests besides Duncan and I so I wasnít overwhelmed by questions. However the introductions were a little awkward as chakats also state who their parents are and I didnít know mine. The rather lively conversation was complemented by a delicious lunch of a homemade stew and several different salads. It was a while before I actually got to ask Duncan the question that had been bothering me for a long time,

"How exactly do you plan find my family when all you know is my name? Weíre not even sure it is my name."

"You still have finger prints donít you?" He smiled. I never thought about that, I started to feel a lot more confident about finding my family now.

"We can use the computers down at the station," offered Rivermane, who was a member of Whiteriver's police force. "Theyíre equipped with print scanners."

"Thank you very much," I exclaimed and hugged Rivermane tightly.

"Before we go Nightfire needs a coat. Would you happen to have one for a Ďtaur?" asked Duncan.

"Of course," replied Sunrise, "but youíre not going anywhere until you finish your meal" shi added pointing a finger at me. I smiled and sat back down, the conversation picking up again as we finished lunch.

 

James-

I sat in my model-filled study, pouring over reports for our last mission when Sarah, my mate, came in to look over my shoulder.

"Iím sorry your birthday plans didnít work out. Iím sure we can come up with something else," she said as her arms wrapped around my shoulders.

"Itís fine, a quiet night at home will do just as well,"

"I hope so. You need some relaxation. Youíre always working."

"And you arenít?" I asked, leaning back from the computer and looking up at her.

"Thatís what a school teacher does. I canít leave assignments unmarked, but even I get vacations," she smiled and rolled my chair away from the desk a little.

"True. I just have a few more things to look over then Iíll take a break."

"Well donít take too long. Jasonís waiting to spend some time with his father before you have to leave again." She then gave me a light kiss on the cheek and left.

I was just about to shut down the computer when I noticed something about the reports that didnít quite seem right. After further inspection I realized that the heist we broke up at Chakona might only be the tip of the iceberg.

"Sarah, come look at this," I called. I had to show somebody this.

"What is it?" she asked as she hurried into the room.

"Look at all the dates on which the attacks occurred. For the most part it looks like the whole thing could be done with only two ships right?" Sarah didnít actually know how to interpret the numbers on the reports but she nodded and listened intently just to humor me. I continued.

"But right around here," I pointed to a set of reports on the list, "Something became uncoordinated. Because according to these figures the fewest number of ships Star Storm could have and still pull this off is six." Sarah understood that part and looked at me with concern,

"You mean thereís more of them?" I nodded grimly.

"If Iím right thereís a lot more. But where the hell can they hide six ships, along with the facilities needed to service them?"

"Maybe somewhere in the non-allied systems." she suggested.

"Maybe, but we have bigger things to worry about."

"Like what?"

"Well, if they have these kind of resources at their disposal, Echo Lance might be in serious trouble."

 

Sylver-

This had turned out to be a more eventful afternoon than I had planned. Andrea, a very close friend of mine decided that she was going to pay me a surprise visit. However while she was happy to see me, she was more interested in having a look at the old military vehicle I pulled out of the scrap yard.

It was a Landmaster Mk.2, a big six wheeled military transport. It was about 25 feet long and so wide it could barely be driven on highways. This would have made it impossible for me to get it up to my cabin except for on interesting feature. It was able to turn all six wheels, enabling it to make very tight turns of even move diagonally.

Andrea found it to be a joy to work on, even though she usually works with things the size of PTVís. The Landmaster wasnít really damaged, only in a state of disrepair, so by early evening she and I had it in almost complete working order.

"Itís a very nice piece of equipment Sylver, but what are you going to do with it?" she asked me as we took a rest on the back porch.

"I have no idea, Iíve just always liked old military things, and it seemed like the best shot I had at getting something like that."

"Well you could have found something a little smaller."

"I suppose," I said, then glanced at my watch. It was getting late. "Iím not sure youíd want to stay for supper Ann. I havenít gotten any groceries yet so thereís probably not much to eat." Andrea smiled playfully,

"Are you trying to get me to leave?"

"Of course not, I just thought you might want a meal that included hot food. I donít think I have any,"

"Alright then," she sighed, giving me a tight hug. "But you at least owe me one dinner sometime for the help I gave you with your new toy." I chuckled and returned the hug

"Deal." With that she left, and gathered up my tools, locked the Landmaster and went inside to see what I could find for supper.

 

Nightfire curiously examined almost every bit of equipment in the police station, having never seen many of the devices before. Rivermane smiled and let hir look around for a while before guiding hir into an office in the back of the station.

This was Rivermaneís office. It wasnít anything special and didnít have much in the way of decoration or memorabilia as shi spent most of hir time doing fieldwork. Shi sat hirself down in front of hir desk and switched on the computer then turned to Nightfire,

"You havenít had any serious injuries to your hands have you?" Nightfire thought for a moment then shook hir head as Duncan walked in and took a seat across from Rivermane.

"So you canít remember anything at all from before you met this Shaman character?"

"Iím afraid not," Nightfire replied. "Iím sorry I canít be of more help."

"Oh itís alright," Rivermane assured hir then started up the search program on hir computer. Rivermane then pulled a small white pad with a cord attached to it out of one of the desk drawers and plugged it into the back of the computer.

"Now," shi said, handing the pad to Nightfire, "just put your hand on there for a moment and Iíll scan your prints into the computer." Nightfire did as shi was instructed and after a few seconds the pad glowed a faint green then turned off.

"Is that it?" Nightfire asked, wondering how the scan could be done so quickly.

"Yup, now Iím just going to check the Starfleet database to see if thereís a match."

"Soon we will have all we need to know," Duncan reassured hir. Nightfire padded around to Rivermane's side of the desk to watch a huge array of pictures and profiles flash across the screen. The roulette finally stopped and a picture of a young chakat cub appeared on the screen, baring a striking resemblance to Nightfire.

"ThÖthatís me" stammered Nightfire as shi looked in disbelief at the screen. Rivermane nodded and started to read the profile,

"Chakat Nightfire. Age: 2years 3months. Born: 01/24/2316Ö.. died: 04/16/2318." Nightfire felt hir mouth become very dry,

"Died?ÖThey think Iím dead?" Duncan seemed relatively unfazed by this information.

"That is to be expected. If there was a chance you were still alive, you would have been searched for."

"My parents, does it say anything about my parents?" Nightfire asked, still very interested in finding out who they are.

"Yes it does. Theyíre chakat Nightshade and chakat Firedancer. Iíll find their files." Rivermane started typing and soon two more pictures appeared on the screen. One was of a solid black chakat and the other had coloration similar to Sunriseís but paler. "It looks like youíre a mix of their colours and names Nightfire," commented Rivermane as shi looked over the profiles. Nightfire said nothing, as hir eyes remained locked on the computer screen. Rivermane and Duncan remained silent as shi slowly reached out to touch the pictures. Shi ran hir fingers across the screen as if trying in some way to touch the people within the images. These were hir parents. Shi had never really known them and now here they were smiling at her, as though they were proud to see how shi had grown. Nightfire finally spoke.

"Are theyÖalive?" Rivermane shook hir head solemnly.

"Iím afraid not. They appeared to have died on the same day you were thought dead." Shi then looked curiously at the screen, "But still, how did this happen? If people were so certain that you were dead, how are you still alive?" asked Rivermane to no one in particular. The three of them sat silently for a while, completely stumped, until Rivermane realized something. "Wait a minute, that date, when you supposedly died, it sounds familiar," shi started to type rapidly on the keyboard. A second window came up on the computer screen, displaying a newspaper archive. After scrolling through the archive Rivermane found the paper that was dated one day after Nightfire's Ďdeathí, and all across the front page were pictures and reports about a horrific crash in Agra India. Nightfire started to read one of the articles.

ĎYesterday at 7:47pm local time, the commercial passenger ship the FSS Aurora crash landed at the Agra Interplanetary Spaceport after suffering a catastrophic engine failure during its final approach. Of the 536 passengers that were onboard, 421 died, 42 are in critical condition and 73 have sustained only minor injuriesÖí

Shi stared at the screen in disbelief

"This is terrible, but what does it have to do with me?" Rivermane started doing a cross check between Nightfireís profile and the information on the crash as she spoke,

"Well, you said youíve spent your whole life in Delhi right? Well considering that Agra isnít too far from Delhi and that this is a situation in which you would be presumed dead if there wasnít substantial evidence to prove that you were alive. Iíd say that there was a good chance that you might have been pulled from the wreckage by someone. And I think this proves it," shi said pointing to a new bit of information that appeared on the screen.

Cause of death: died in crash of FSS Aurora; body not recovered; presumed dead.

"So, I was just taken away as a child, butÖwhat about my parents?" Rivermane frowned and gently put hir hand on Nightfireís arm,

"Iím afraid, that their deaths were confirmed."

Nightfireís heart sank. Shi leaned into Rivermane who was trying hir best to comfort hir. Nightfire wiped hir eyes after a while, then looked up at Rivermane,

"W-where are they now?"

"Iím not sure," Rivermane replied, "but Iíll do my best to find out. In the mean time, youíre going to be staying with Sunrise and I. Youíd be a great help with the cubs. You wouldnít mind would you?"

"Not at all. I think that would be very nice," said Nightfire, as shi started to feel a little better.

"Shi is under my custody. Iím not sure you canÖ" Duncan was cut off as Rivermane raised hir hand.

"Donít worry about it, Iíll do the paperwork, you just go home and relax. Youíve had a hard mission and we could use a little help around the house."

"Well, if itís alright with you,"

"Of course itís alright Duncan, besides, the cubs love Nightfire" shi grinned as she gave the smaller chakat a warm hug. Nightfire smiled.

"Iíll be fine Duncan. Thank you so much for your help. I just hope the others will manage as well as I have."

"Iím sure they will. They seem like a pretty resourceful group," he reassured hir.

 

Nightfire-

After sending most of my personal information to hir home computer, Rivermane shut down the computer in hir office and we headed outside. The coat I was given was, like all of my clothing, a little too big for me. It dragged in the snow as we walked through the parking lot. Rivermane and I hugged Duncan goodbye and he started for home. I found Rivermaneís PTV to be far more comfortable than Duncanís as it was made to carry Ďtaur passengers as well as bipeds.

Rivermane was trying to keep the conversation from getting too serious. I was thankful for that. It helped keep my mind from wandering back to my parents. What frustrated me the most was that they were nothing but pictures to me. I couldnít remember anything about them at all. I know Rivermane was trying hir best but I couldnít help but feel miserable for most of the trip.

My spirits were lifted a little when we returned to Rivermaneís den and I was warmly greeted by Sunrise and the cubs.

"So, did you find out what you wanted to know?" asked Sunrise after Brook and Rosepetal gave me a chance to talk.

"Mostly. I know who my parents are now, but we donít know yet where the rest of my family is."

"Weíll find them soon enough," said Rivermane as shi put a hand on my shoulder. "But first we need to find a place for you to sleep." I nodded in agreement then I was led upstairs and shown where everything was. I ended up in a spare bedroom across from the cubsí room. I was also given fair warning that I would probably be Brook and Rosepetalís first target should they wake up early.

After becoming familiar with my room, the five of us settled into the kitchen for supper. This also became a time used to plan what I was going to do here.

"Is there anything in particular that youíre supposed to get started on in Whiteriver?" asked Sunrise as shi filled my plate.

"Well, Duncan said it would be a good idea for me to try and find a job, so I could eventually live on my own."

"I donít think you should be too worried about living on your own just yet, but weíll see what we can do about getting you employed," Rivermane smiled.

"You need some new clothes as well," added Sunrise. "That vest of yours is a mess, but Iím not sure we have anything that will fit you." I grinned.

"Thatís alright, the vest doesnít fit me either. This is all very generous of you."

"Oh donít worry about it," Sunrise reassured me. "Itís the least we can do, and itíll be nice to have someone to help tend to the cubs."

The rest of the evening went without much conversation, while Rosepetal and Brook continued to chase each other around, not having settled down enough to be fed. I was surprised that by the end of my meal I was already tired enough to go to bed. It was suggested that I get some rest for tomorrow. I was escorted to my room by the pair of excited cubs, who even made their best effort to tuck me in for the night. They both gave me a goodnight hug then turned off the light and closed the door as they left.

I laid awake for awhile, thinking about how I would manage living on my own. Rivermane and Sunrise said I could stay for as long as I needed to but I didnít want to be a nuisance. I really did envy Rosepetal and Brook, they play with their parents all the time. They seem so happy. I stared at the ceiling and tried as hard as I could to remember my parents. Nothing. All I could see was their faces. I could feel my eyes start to tear up and I turned over to punch my pillow in frustration. I then laid on my stomach, stifling myself with the pillow. Iím not sure how long I was like that. The pillow was damp when I finally pulled myself together. I rolled onto my back again. Trying to hold the pictures of my parents in my head. After putting that thought aside, I started imagining my parentís pictures in my head. The warm smiles they gave me were comforting, almost as though they were in the room with me. With that in mind, I soon fell into a peaceful sleep, dreaming of what it would be like, if they were still with me.

 


 

Continued in chapter four.

 

Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creations of Bernard Doove and are used with permission.

All else is copyright © 2004 to Dax.

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