Life quickly settled into a steady rhythm for David: classes three days a week, lunch with Oceansong and Sitsi on three of the weekdays, and his required counseling on Wednesdays after his schooling. Through the counseling, the nightmares were becoming less frequent, but they were still very much a part of his evening life. His classes, on the other hand, were going quite well. Working through the University Success class with ‘the girls’, as he thought of them, was easier to him than trying alone. He was also finding he had a real talent for his basic biology class, as well as an interest in it.
He was also having fun with the Interpersonal Communications class he shared with Oceansong and Sitsi. For the most part, the class consisted of small group work with one major speech to the class being their final. The three of them usually worked together, for no other reason than Sisti panicked at the thought of someone else working with her in group, and also that the other students in the class seemed to think that David was too old to understand them.
"You know," David commented one day at lunch. "They’re probably right. I probably *wouldn’t* understand them if I worked with them in group. Most of them spend most of their time worried about things like who is going out with whom, what the new hit music is, and if they’re in fashion. I expect that out of the humans in the class, but I didn’t expect it out of the ‘taurs."
Oceansong grinned and swallowed part of hir sandwich. "Hey, we’re young! And you humans are a bad influence on us, making us think that’s all that’s important." Shi ducked a thrown napkin and a mock glare from David.
"Actually, in a way you’re correct, Ocean." Sitsi blushed slightly as she spoke, but continued. "I’ve noticed that when others of my clan left, they still held the traditional values of our people closely. If they stayed amongst human populations for a long period of time, some of the more acquisitive and vain traits came out more strongly."
"You can’t say that it’s entirely the humans’ fault, Sitsi. After all, both of our species have vain and acquisitive sorts. And that is before any interaction with humans in their environment."
"I know, I know… but it seems to magnify when they stay in human areas. When they leave, yes they may be vain about their appearance, or wanting to have more than others: but when they come back, it’s like they find everything that they were used to beneath them. Where they were happy with a linen shirt, now they want nothing other than silk. Where they were happy having a nicer den, now they want to have the nicest den plus more of everything than everyone else."
"I’m afraid that’s the human coming out in both of your species." David’s look was thoughtful. Sitsi’s speech was somewhat out of character for her, but he could tell that she meant everything she said. "I know that all of the furs were engineered with at least some human DNA. Unfortunately, we humans tend to be highly competitive amongst ourselves, to the extent where we seem greedy. We want things to impress others, to make ourselves seem part of a ‘pack’, for lack of a better term. We tend to always think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’."
"If you look at our history, it’s always been full of fights of one group against another for the strangest of reasons. Some of the reasons were basic survival: we need more land, we need more resources, that sort of thing. Others of the reasons were just not fully rational: you don’t think the way I do, you look funny and do things differently. Ultimately it boils down to ‘us’ against ‘them’, and we always find a reason to be ‘better’ than the ‘others’. Is it rational? Nope, not at all. Then again, who ever said life was rational?"
David took a drink from his glass then looked at his friends. They were both staring at him, seemingly a bit overwhelmed. "Sorry, ladies. That’s one of my buttons you pressed there: the idiocy of human idiosyncrasy for finding reasons to kill someone or something."
"But… you’re a Marine, right? Doesn’t that mean that you support war for resources and such?" Oceansong’s head tilted slightly, her own empathic senses feeling his disappointment, then a brief burst of anger at her question.
"Oceansong, you’re a bright person, but at times you can be rather dense. Just because I happened to be good at killing, or good at fighting, doesn’t mean I prefer that method of interaction. Quite frankly, no one prays for peace more than a warrior of any stripe. We see the devastation, the bodies, and the blood. To you, these are abstracts, pictures on a vidscreen, things you will never have to face in your day-to-day life."
Sighing, David lowered his gaze to the table, his voice soft. "For me, they are memories that I will never forget. Memories I don’t ever *want* to forget. I’ve seen things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, much less friends such as you two. If I forget the memories, forget those who died on any side of any battle I’ve been involved with, I would feel that I lost a bit of my own humanity. Yes, some of them tried to kill me; but they did it thinking they were in the right. Does that make them any more wrong than I was?"
It was several minutes of mutual silence before David became aware of the sensation of calm seeping into him from his left arm. A black hand rested on his arm, and following the arm attached he faced Oceansong, and the warmth radiating from hir.
"David, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you, or bring up bad memories. I guess those of us who aren’t in the same situation can’t realize what you went through. All I can do is let you know that I, that *we* are still your friends."
Oceansong’s heartfelt look of support made David smile slightly. Looking from the chakat’s face to hir wolftaur Companion, he was heartened even further. Sitsi was obviously concerned, her gaze focused on his face, her ears tracking his every move like little radar dishes. "I’m sorry too, David. I shouldn’t have said anything. I…."
"Sitsi, you were perfectly correct in making a comment. Don’t think you have to keep quiet about something you obviously take very seriously. I’d be more hurt that you felt you couldn’t speak your mind around me."
Patting Oceansong’s hand gently, David looked between his friends. "Thank you, both, for being here. I know I’m an old fossil," both of the ‘taurs blew raspberries at him, "but with folks like you around, I won’t be quite as old."
"Now, I don’t know about the two of you, but I’m planning to make an acquisition of more potato skins. Is anyone with me?"
David tried to get there first, but it didn’t work. There was no way a simple human male could outrun both a hungry wolftaur and a hungry Chakat. Fortunately, they took enough pity on him to let him have some of the skins.
August eventually became September, which rolled into October. Saturdays were lazy in the little house that the two ‘taurs shared. Oceansong was playing away on hir computer, doing some idle physics modeling while listening to Sitsi sing.
Sitsi’s clear alto voice rang out as she did laundry. The song she sang was one of her favorites, though Oceansong did not understand the words. The one time shi asked about the song, the wolftaur bitch had explained that it was an old Scottish waulking song, used for beating out wool after it had been soaked and rinsed before spinning. The song itself, Coisich a’ Ruin, was apparently a song of a young lady convincing a lover of hers to take a letter to a different lover, and trying to butter him up at the same time.
What was even more amusing to the chakat was that Sitsi usually could be found humming the same song after lunch with David. I wonder if she knows how smitten she’s becoming. I’d better not mention it to her, she might start avoiding him. Oceansong even had to admit to hirself that shi was becoming more attracted to the human as well. Shi wasn’t worried about the species thing, far from it. Hir only concern was what Sitsi’s reaction would be if shi mentioned an interest in him.
"Ocean? I've got a question for you, if you don’t mind." Sitsi’s voice broke the chakat out of hir reverie.
"Sorry, was daydreaming a bit. What’s up, love?"
"Well, I was wondering… do we have any plans for Halloween?" Sitsi was nervous, Oceansong could see that much, but the way she was practically bouncing on her feet let hir know she had something she wanted to do.
"I hadn’t really thought about it, Sitsi. Why do you ask?"
"I… well… that is… uhm… I thought that maybe… uhm…." Sitsi’s ears were tinted a scarlet, so Oceansong was fairly sure what hir Companion wanted to ask.
"You want to have David over for a party, don’t you?" Sitsi’s blush deepened and she tried to look away, at the ground, anywhere but at Oceansong. That response got hir to grin even more. "I actually think that’s a good idea, but maybe we should ask a few more people over, or move the party to a different location, don’t you think?"
"Sure, that’s okay. But where would we be able to go, I mean, we can barely afford here."
Oceansong reached over to her bags and pulled out a flyer and handed it to Sitsi. "I saw this on campus, and I was already sort of thinking the same way you were. It’s the campus Halloween party. We could invite him here first, and then go there, sound good?"
Sitsi didn’t answer with words. Instead, she pounced her Companion and peppered hir with lick-kisses as she hugged hir. Oceansong laughed and hugged her back. "I take it that’s a ‘yes’, silly one?" Sitsi nodded with a wolfy grin and bounced away, a different song coming forth from her, this one more modern and jazzy.
"Sitsi? What do you think of me going as Lady Godiva?"
Sitsi waited nervously outside of the door to David’s class. Normally she and Oceansong would meet him at their normal lunch table, but Sitsi wanted to do the invitation herself. When she had asked Oceansong if shi would mind, all the chakat said was, "Have fun, dear."
She had been looking forward all day to inviting David to the party, but now that the time was near her shy nature was starting to push forward again. What if he says no? What if he says yes?! Oceansong would have been better at this, maybe I should just head to the table and…
"Sitsi, what are you doing here?" The young wolftaur looked up and saw that David had already come through the door, and was grinning at her. Feeling her ears start to flush, she glanced down and away.
"Uh… David? Do you have… uh… plans for Halloween?"
"Nope, nothing planned for me. What about you girls?" David gestured for them to start walking towards the commons and their normal lunch table. Looking up at him again, Sitsi could tell that he was amused by something.
Swallowing hard, Sitsi pushed forward with her plan. "Oceansong and I would like to invite you to a Halloween party, if you want. Seeing the surprise in his face, Sitsi hurried to continue. "I mean, it’s not a private party, it’s the campus party, but we’d like you to come over to our place first, andyoudon’tneedtocomeifyoudon’twanttoImeanit’dbenicebut…."
David grinned more as he stepped around in front of the babbling ‘taur and gently closed her muzzle with both hands. "I’ll be there." Sitsi blushed once more, and nodded, attempting to look away again.
Letting her muzzle go, David started walking towards the commons again. "Well, are you just going to stand there like a statue, or aren’t you hungry?"
"I assume from the fact that Sitsi isn’t moping," said Oceansong as they approached, "that her question got a positive response?" The chakat had bought drinks for everyone and had them set out in their normal places.
"That was mean of you to ask her to ask me. You know she gets embarrassed doing things like that." David picked up his drink and winked at Sitsi before turning a mock glare on Oceansong.
"Hold on there, partner. She asked to do it, I didn’t make her do anything. As a matter of fact, she approached me about inviting you in the first place."
"Well, as a matter of fact I did say I’d be there. I guess the next question is when I should be there. And where is the campus party, anyway?"
Oceansong pulled out the flyer and handed it to him. "That’s got the location of the party on it, not that you’ll need it since we’ll be bringing you. As for when to show up at our place, I’d say about five in the evening. Sound good to you, Sitsi?"
Sitsi nodded to hir. Oceansong grinned and looked back to David, "Five it is then. I know it’s only about a week and a half away, but do you think you have enough time to get a costume?"
"I should be able to whip something up. It’ll be interesting to see how you two manage a costume. I would assume it’s fairly difficult seeing as you’re both ‘taurs." David was already thinking of some of the things he had in storage that would work for the party.
"Oh, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, my bipedal friend. If anything, you’re going to be at a disadvantage." Sitsi’s giggle caused Oceansong to grin wider. Will he ever be surprised. I just hope he is up to the challenge.
David looked up from the order screen and smirked. "Well, we’ll just see about that. All this talk of parties, though, is not helping with getting our speech class work done. Give me your orders so I can send them in, and let’s get to work."
It was still somewhat light when David rolled up to the small house in Seaside where Oceansong and Sitsi lived. Though small, the place practically burst with life in the form of a small window box garden as well as a small front yard garden. He could clearly hear a female voice singing, and figured it was Sitsi.
David reached in the back of his PTV and picked up his carrisak with his costume, but also opened his jacket for a little bit of a prank on his two friends. The sound and smell of the surf could still be heard from the house, if faintly. Stepping onto the porch, he took a deep breath of the sea air, set down his bag, and rang the doorbell.
The first person to see him was Sitsi. She had her hair back, and cocked her head at David when she saw him, but gestured him in. "I thought you were wearing a costume tonight?"
"I am, didn’t you read my shirt?" David opened the jacket wider and placed his hands in his pockets to keep it open. Sitsi looked at the shirt, then did a double-take and started giggling.
"Oh… that’s a good one David. Let me get Oceansong, I think she’ll enjoy it, but she’s going to want to beat you with a pillow first." Still giggling, she turned and headed out of the living room. As she went, David took a moment to admire her retreating figure.
Moments later, Oceansong walked in with a grin on hir face. "Sitsi said you had an interesting cost… ume…." Hir jaw hung slack as shi read his shirt, while David was equally surprised by Oceansong’s costume.
The black-furred chakat was wearing a long, blonde, straight wig which covered hir upper torso. The fact that shi was wearing nothing else was obvious from the fact that he could see the white ventral fur between hir breasts running clear down between hir forelegs. He was saved from embarrassment at the time, however, because shi had made sure that the wig was rather thick in the front, though how long that would last, David was unsure.
"’Official Halloween Costume’, cute David, very cute." Oceansong planted hir hands on hir hips and gave him a lopsided grin to match hir lopsided muzzle coloration. "I assume you have a better costume somewhere, or will I need to make you ‘Adam’ today?"
"I doubt you could find a fig leaf big enough to cover," laughed David. "Let me get my bag from the porch, and do you have a room I can use to change in?"
"Sitsi’s in our room, so you’ll have to use the bathroom I’m afraid. When you’re done, dinner should be ready as well. It’s just heating now." Oceansong pointed off to one side, "That’s where the bathroom is."
"Thanks. Be out in a moment or two." David stepped into the bathroom with his bag and closed the door. Several minutes later he stepped out and tried to sneak into the living room.
Pulling a steel rapier from its sheath, David launched into his best Hollywood pirate imitation. "Arrr… surrender yer booties! Err… wait… that didn’t sound good. How about ‘surrender your treasure’?"
Oceansong laughed, and Sitsi blushed. The wolftaur had gotten into her costume as well. She was dressed as a sorceress in a deep crimson robe that covered both her upper and lower torso, a crystal-topped staff, and even a golden chain woven through her hair. Oceansong was still dressed as shi had been when David opened the door.
"If you’re asking us to surrender our booties, does that mean we need to prepare to be boarded?" Oceansong fluttered hir eyelashes at David while Sitsi blushed and lightly punched her companion in the arm.
"Nah… that’s later." This time, David blushed slightly as he had been surprised by hir sally. "I believe someone mentioned something about dinner?"
After the dinner of beef stew, and after using wire to peace-bond David’s weapon, they all piled into the PTV that the two ‘taurs shared. The conversation was lively, though David was hard pressed to look into Oceansong’s eyes rather than hir chest. Oceansong wasn’t helping his attempts in the slightest, doing hir level best to cause him to look at every opportunity.
It was pitch black by the time they reached the campus for the party, which was being held in the gymnasium. A typical party for degree seeking students, the music was loud, the conversations animated, and the dancing ranging from sweet to near indecent. Several hours passed at the party as it wound into the night.
Sitsi tended to stay close to either Oceansong or David, shying away and declining offers from people she only knew casually. Oceansong, on the other hand, was diving into conversations with others, and even going out on the dance floor with several partners. David just sat and watched, though he did dance with Sitsi a few times, and Oceansong on a few other times. Having never spent time with the two outside of lunch or class, David started to get a real insight into how the two interacted with others.
The wolftaur bitch didn’t surprise him much, knowing how shy she was. It was more watching Oceansong that was a fascination for him. He had never spent any time with a hermaphrodite before, but he had spent time with people of all sexual persuasion. Even so, it was a slight bit disconcerting when Oceansong would flirt playfully with females as well as with males. It was even more disconcerting when she started making comments about some of the others present in a way that he had previously only heard from males, and not even from bisexual females before.
It was obvious to him that Oceansong was slightly interested in him, and he couldn’t read Sitsi’s perception at all besides the fact that she trusted him. Considering his own feelings, David knew that he was fascinated with them both, but was that enough to consider taking the next step past the friendship they had? No, it’s not. Not while I’m still messed up like I am. I don’t want them to have to deal with my problems, it wouldn’t be fair to them.
Oceansong came back from hir latest dance partner and flopped down between Sitsi and David. "Well, that was fun. I think the party’s winding down though. Think we should get on out of here?" Shi draped hir arms over both David’s and Sitsi’s shoulders. "I think someone mentioned something about preparing for boarding?"
David started to reply, to let hir know that he needed to refuse for the time being, but he never got a word out. A cry of "Fire! Fire on the commons!" caused him to leap out of his chair and run for the door, followed closely by his friends. On the grassy hill facing the gym was a large circle of fire with something burning in the middle. In front of the fire, there were things silhouetted by the fire. One of the things was moving, and for a moment, David was back on that hell-hole he had left.
"Oceansong, call the medics. There are people on the ground out there." David didn’t wait for a response, instead he ran for the nearest body, a male skunk. He was battered and bloody, but alive. Dragging him back from the fire, he noticed other students running for some of the other bodies.
It seemed like hours, but the paramedics did arrive and start to treat the furs that had been lying on the concrete. The ones that were still conscious described humans in leather jackets, all wearing full face masks, so they could not be visually identified. The one thing they all had in common were the large ‘H1’ on the backs of the jackets. The police arrived shortly after the paramedics did and started to interview everyone. David even added his statement as to what he had seen when he stepped out of the gym.
After that incident, no one was up to anything but going home. The two ‘taurs were subdued, but did fill David in on the Humans First movement that had become rather prevalent since he had left Earth years prior. Rain had started falling when they left the campus, and somehow he had found that appropriate for what had happened.
That night, David had nightmares stronger than he had had in weeks. A nightmare of a village burning, him unable to enter the fire to save the innocent. Who had set the fire, he never found out. His suspicion was that it was set by his own forces, not the forces of the enemy. The cries of those trapped inside haunting him that night, as they would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Monday was no relief for Oceansong, Sitsi, or David. When they returned to the campus they did find out that everyone that was attacked in the commons did survive, even if they were badly beaten. Burned into the hillside was the symbol for the Humans First, a reminder of the terror. To make matters worse, their first class was cancelled as their instructor was one of those injured.
While they took breakfast, David turned on the news feed to find out what was going on outside of the campus. The first news item caused him to growl, causing Oceansong and Sitsi to look at him. Oceansong even felt his anger spike, and shi knew something was wrong. "David, what is it?"
"Saturday wasn’t the only thing those morons were doing. Last night, on the new moon, they attacked the Cascadia Starport in Portland. Thirty dead due to them using explosives and beam weapons. Most of the dead are furs, though there were a few humans. It appears that if the humans associate with furs, they’re valid targets."
Sitsi looked frightened, and Oceansong moved to calm her. Noticing this, David tried to calm himself, at least outwardly. "I won’t let that happen here. No way, no how. You have my word on this."
Sitsi started crying, and Oceansong shifted to a full hug, then looked up at David. "Why can’t they just leave us alone? First that riot in Australia last year, then that bombing at the Star Corps spaceport in Australia back in April, now at Cascadia? What did we do wrong?"
"You did nothing wrong, Oceansong. Nothing at all. I can’t understand it either, but I can tell you this, I will fight tooth and nail to keep others from harming my friends. This sort of terrorism cannot be allowed to stand." David got up and wrapped his arms around the upper torsos of his friends. "You’re too dear to me to let that happen. Having true friends is worth anything."
Later, as he walked to his biology class, his phone rang. "McKenna."
"Son, I’m glad I reached you." The male voice on the other end was one he had not heard in quite a while.
"Father? How did you get this number, and more importantly, why? You and mother said you weren’t going to speak with me after I made my decision to enlist."
"We may have been, hasty, in saying that. I understand you’re working on a degree?" David’s parents had been after him to go into a degree program prior to his entry into Star Fleet.
"Yes father, but I don’t know what in yet. Why are you calling?"
"David, we need you to return home and complete some paperwork for us. Plus we would like to see our eldest son. Do you think you could return home for Thanksgiving?" His father’s tone was one more of command than question, and immediately David felt obligated to answer in the negative.
"Sorry, Dad, I have plans with my friends. Maybe later."
"It can’t be later, it must be Thanksgiving. Besides, what friends are more important than your family?" Condescension was something David was very familiar with from his father.
David’s grin was not one of mirth. "A very nice chakat and wolftaur pair that I met here. Friends who have been a *hell* of a lot more supportive than you or mom."
"I… see. Very well, David, have it your way. If you change your mind and decide that your family is more important than your… friends… you know our number." With a click, the line went dead and David shoved his phone back into his pocket.
It took a few moments before David felt calm enough to continue to class. He was late, but wasn’t bothered by that fact. Indeed, he had far weightier things on his mind, things that were perhaps starting to make sense after many years.
To be continued Part 3.
Copyright © 2007 Adrian Nunenkamp
The Chakat Universe is the creation of Bernard Doove and is used with his permission.
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