Part Three
By Adrian Nunenkamp

The second week of November was finals week, and it proved more hectic than the rest of the first ten weeks combined. With the attack on Cascadia Starport the week prior, everyone seemed to throw themselves into their studies even more, perhaps in a vain attempt to forget.

David and Oceansong had three finals each, in addition to their speeches for the Interpersonal Communications class, due to the University Success class having just a final paper that was due. Sitsi, on the other hand, had a grand total of two finals in addition to the speech, but she also had a recital with her voice instructor to take the place of a final.

Wednesday found David over at the house shared by Oceansong and Sitsi once again. They were studying together, and trying to polish up their speeches prior to the Friday event where they would each present their subjects. Sitsi was cooking again, as was her wont. Oceansong was diligently typing away on the comp, having almost waited until the last moment to finish hirs. David, however, was neither typing nor writing, though he had his pad and pencil in hand.

The counseling session earlier that evening had not gone very well, neither had the one prior. His anger at the events, and his father’s reaction to his friends, had been boiling. The counselor tried all the standard sayings: It’s okay to be angry. At least it didn’t happen here. I understand what you are going through.

The last had irritated David the most. There was no way the counselor could know what he was going through, not from the same level. Sure, he could understand it academically, but he could never understand it from the same standpoint until he lived through it.

Oceansong looked up from hir typing. "Will you please calm down, David? I’m sure he realizes he’s not as close to the issue as you are. He’s just trying to help."

David blinked blankly at Oceansong. "Pardon?"

"The man you just mentioned. I’m sure he knows he doesn’t understand the situation as well as you do. He’s probably trying to help you put it into perspective… whatever ‘it’ is." Oceansong’s tail lashed slightly, "Your getting worked up over it isn’t helping my concentration, nor is it helping you with your speech."

"Sorry, Oceansong. It’s just irritating to hear the standard platitudes." David sighed, then stood and stretched. "At least I was just working on the fine polishing of my speech, unlike some others I could mention."

A chuckle echoed out of the kitchen at David’s remark, causing him to grin at Oceansong who mock-growled at him then turned back to hir speech. "At least I don’t know how human tastes, otherwise I might tell Sitsi to put you in the pot too." Shi then glanced back up at David, mirth and something else in her expression. "Then again, maybe I’ll get a taste, then make a decision."

David noticed hir behavior and tried to laugh it off. The fact that hir eyes were not on his, but rather significantly lower was not lost on him. The implications were something he was just not ready to deal with at that time, so he turned it into a joke. "Nah, you’d ruin your dinner."

Oceansong snorted and returned to hir speech, but David did not miss the flash of disappointment in hir eyes. It amazed him how much that simple glimpse had affected him, he felt that he had let hir down somehow. To hide that discomfort, he wandered into the kitchen to grab a drink.

Sitsi was bustling away at the cooktop, her concentration seemingly locked on what she was doing. As she was rapidly slicing and moving meat from one point to another, he was sure she was totally absorbed. The fact that she enjoyed it was obvious from the way her tail wagged slowly.

David watched quietly, not wanting to startle the wolfess as she worked. Shifting towards the refrigerator a bit, David was able to see Sitsi’s face. A slight grin had worked its way across her muzzle as her hands fairly flew from one point to another in a dance of sharp blades and skill. She was, apparently, treating herself too. From time to time a morsel of meat would flip up into the air and she’d snap it up before it started to drop again.

Once she put the blades down to wipe her hands, David reached over and stroked her tail from base to tip as he reached for the door to the refrigerator. Sitsi yipped, jumped slightly in place, then turned to look at David, her ears a deep scarlet. "David!"

David grabbed a can of soda, closing the door and grinned at her. "Boo. At least I didn’t do that while you were cutting."

"True, but you still… surprised me." David only grinned in response, then stepped out of the kitchen, only to get popped in the rear with a spun towel. Flopping back down on his improvised couch, David picked up his pad and pencil to start work again.

"What was that about?" Oceansong’s fingers were still typing away, but a simple glance showed that hir ear was focused on him.

"The yip? Oh that was just me teasing Sitsi. She was so wrapped up in what she was doing that she didn’t hear me come in. I then ran my hand down her tail while I was getting a soda."

"You did WHAT?" Oceansong’s emphasis caused David to look up, afraid he had done something wrong, but instead saw the Chakat looking at him as if he had pulled a priceless joke or something on that caliber. "Do you realize what you did?"

"Apparently not. What’s so weird about stroking her tail?

"David, what do you know about fur physiology?"

"Not much, really. I know that, in general you’re a combination of human and animal genetics, and that most of your responses could be considered human in the physical arena. That’s about it." David cocked his head curiously. "Why?"

"Well, for one thing, we have a few more erogenous zones than humans do. One of which, for many furs, is the tail. This is especially true around the base of the tail. Sitsi happens to be one of those furs, so what you basically did was the same as if I were to walk up and…."

"I get the picture! Okay, so I’ll apologize to her. I didn’t mean any harm." As he started to stand up, Oceansong waived him down.

"You didn’t do any harm. She knows you didn’t intend to touch her like a lover, just as a friend. But that’s not all you did." Oceansong got up and moved to sit next to David, hir muzzle up near his ear. "You can’t tell it, because you don’t have the senses available to a fur, but Sitsi’s on heat right now. All you did was put more fuel on her fire."

David started blushing a brilliant red as he turned to look at Oceansong to see if shi was serious. Shi was. To hide his confusion, David shooed Oceansong back to hir paper. "If that’s the case, then I’ll leave it for you to deal with."

"Leave what for hir to deal with?" Sitsi was just coming out of the kitchen with two trays laden with food. Jumping to his feet, David went to help her carry everything in and arrange it on the table.

"Oh, just something shi brought to my attention, that’s all. The food looks wonderful as always, Sitsi." David plopped down on his chair as Sitsi went over and firmly placed Oceansong’s computer into sleep mode so shi’d come to the table.

The dinner conversation naturally revolved around the upcoming speeches, as they were to be given the next day. Only Sitsi was feeling any worry about her performance. Though she was used to the people in class, she still fretted that she would not be able to give the speech. "It’s just so many people at once!"

David got a sly smirk on his face. "I think I know a way that might help you be relaxed enough for the speech tomorrow."

Both the chakat and the wolftaur looked at him curiously, and it was all David could do to keep from laughing at the near identical looks they were giving him. "Well, back in the early 21st century there was a test done regarding the reduction of stress before public speaking. They did claim to have found a way that would help in the reduction of the stress, but it would take two people to do it. The two people in question being the person who needed the help, and the helper."

"And just what, might we ask, is this method?" Oceansong was picking up a large amount of mirth and anticipation from David as his smirk deepened.

"Oh, nothing much. Just that the person who needs the help should have a good session of therapeutic sex about half an hour or so before the speaking engagement, that’s all."

Sitsi’s deep blush, and Oceansong’s dropped jaw was enough to send David over the edge into laughing. "You should see your faces… priceless!"

Oceansong was the first to recover. With a grin shi looked over to hir Companion. "You know, that has possibilities." Sitsi’s blush only deepened more.

"Just don’t be late tomorrow. I’m not going to explain to the professor what kept you two if you’re late!" David was unable to duck in time to avoid the thrown napkins.

It turned out the ‘taur pair were at the final speeches on time, if just barely. Surprisingly, Sitsi went first and seemed very relaxed while doing it. David glanced at Oceansong who merely grinned and winked. It amused him to no end to see that his idea had apparently worked.

With the speeches over, David decided to stay around the campus. Oceansong had hir final and Sitsi had her recital that same day. Lunch was one tradition the three of them were not going to give up. While he waited, he found himself feeling an emotion he hadn’t felt for a while: loneliness.

The break between periods was fast approaching and his two friends would soon be returning home to visit their families. In addition, they would not be sharing any classes during the next period. David knew they would still be there, yet he had grown so accustomed to their presence most of the time that he missed it already. His thoughts turned from his current friends to friends he had left behind when he returned, and from those friends to the conflict they still fought.

It was in that depressed state that Sitsi and Oceansong found David. When shi focused on him, Oceansong got a sense of conflict. Flashes of energy beams, sounds of explosions and screams, the smell of blood and something else was filling hir nostrils. "David, are you… okay? You don’t need to describe the fight in such detail."

David blinked and looked up. "Was I talking to myself again?"

Sitsi shook her head, her eyes on Oceansong. "No, you weren’t talking to yourself David. What fight are you talking about, Oceansong?"

"Didn’t you hear him? He was talking about a fight in a jungle." Oceansong’s ears lowered as shi looked from David to Sitsi. "Wasn’t he?"

David also looked to the wolftaur as she shook her head again. "No, he wasn’t. I don’t know why you think he was talking about something like that, but he wasn’t."

"I was remembering something that happened. It was a war in a jungle somewhere other than here." David’s voice was quiet as he turned his gaze back to Oceansong. "What you described is the incident I was thinking of. I didn’t know you were a telepath."

Oceansong’s look was one of shock. "I’m not! I’ve never had a T-rating, and I’m only an E-3. Even if I were T-rated, I would never pry… I mean, you were depressed and I wondered why, but I wouldn’t have just jumped in. I was going to ask, but then the images and the sounds and…."

David stood up and walked over to Oceansong. Gingerly he put his arms around his friend in a comforting hug. Hir arms wrapped around his torso in response, and he could feel the confusion and fright that spun through hir being. "Its okay, Oceansong. As they say in sports, ‘No harm, no foul’." Seeing Sitsi standing off to the side, looking worried for her Companion, as well as a bit left out, David lifted his arm, silently inviting her to join the hug.

After a few minutes the group hug broke up. David resumed his seat while the ‘taurs took their accustomed places around the table. "Well," started David as he tried to put on a cheerful front, "enough of this depressing stuff. How long are you going to be at your parents’ places?"

"We’ll be gone for about a week and a half. Five days at Sitsi’s and five days at mine." Oceansong looked keenly at David, hir empathic senses not fooled for a moment by his expression. "You can come with us, you know."

"No, that’s okay. The two of you haven’t seen your parents in a while, and I don’t think they’d appreciate you dropping a human in on them. Especially with all that weirdness going on right now."

Oceansong just shook hir head, still not fooled but deciding not to push the issue with him. "Okay, we just thought we’d offer. What are you doing Wednesday night?"

"I didn’t have any plans. My last final is that day, so I was just going to relax that evening. Why?"

The two ‘taurs looked at each other, they then both looked to David. "We would like to have a ‘Finals Celebration’ with you." Sitsi blushed as she continued. "I was going to cook, but Oceansong wants to go to this seafood restaurant shi had heard about right on the mouth of the Columbia."

Oceansong reached out to place hir hand on David’s arm. "It would mean a lot to both of us if you’d come."

David smiled and nodded, "I’ll be there. I can’t think of anyone else I’d want to celebrate with." Their answering smiles were infectious, and soon David was smiling broadly as well, his dark mood forgotten.

The intervening days and finals went quickly. Being ever the quick study, David breezed through his finals even though his mind was only half on them. His counseling was done soon after his last final, he wanted nothing to keep him from the party he had promised to attend. Oceansong had sent him the address, and after programming it into his PTV, David was rapidly there.

The restaurant itself appeared to be an old, run down cannery, but the smells and sounds coming from the location showed that it most definitely was a lively place where good food might be found. Straightening his jacket, he stepped through the door into the melee that was the Blue Buoy Restaurant and Bar.

The inside was just as lively as the sounds had suggested. Central to the location was a large circular bar, the kitchen within. Many of the tables were in the open, where sound carried, and the live band near the dance floor could be heard clearly. In the back, along the wall of the old cannery were booths that were semi-enclosed to provide some sound protection and also to provide a sense of privacy. It was a friendly atmosphere where both fur and human mingled without any conflict. Not seeing his friends right away, David ambled over to the bar for a drink.

It wasn’t long after he had settled in to a scotch on the rocks that he was lassoed by a long tail and gently pulled away from the bar. After the initial surprise, David recognized the tail, and the owner when he finally saw hir. "When did you two get here?"

"When did we get here?" Oceansong grinned and punched David lightly in the arm. "We’ve been waiting thirty minutes for you. C’mon, we grabbed one of the booths." Shi dragged the willing human through the morass of bodies and into one of the more secluded booths, though it was hardly as intimate as many restaurants that David had been to.

Sitsi was already there, guarding the drinks that both she and Oceansong had been sipping on while waiting for David. For once, Sitsi was actually rather upbeat and girlish, rather than her normal shy and withdrawn demeanor. Noting her slightly glassy eyes, and neon colored drink, David was fairly sure that she had had a few drinks prior to his arrival.

"Well, now that our late arrival is here, I think we can get the party started." Oceansong grinned and raised hir drink. "To the end of finals!"

"Hear, hear!" David reached over to touch glasses with his friends, and grinned as they all took a sip. "Now how about some food? I know I’m hungry, and I think Sitsi needs some too." Sitsi just nodded, her eyes half-lidded.

The seafood, as reported, was quite wonderful. All of it was freshly caught, and prepared perfectly. Dessert was even better, as it meant David got to watch Oceansong and Sitsi get silly with whipped cream.

The party lasted long into the night, with David dancing with his friends, and them dancing with each other. Just as on Halloween, David sometimes just sat and talked with Sitsi as Oceansong danced with someone else who caught hir eye. Eventually, the party wound down and the three made their way out of the bar. After giving parting hugs, David started to make his way to his car, only to be stopped by someone grabbing his sleeve.

Turning, David saw that it was Oceansong that had stopped him. "David? Would you… like to come home with us? We’d really like to continue the celebration with you." Through hir touch on his arm, David could feel hir desire for him, as well as the feeling of truth in what shi said.

Perhaps it was the alcohol, but at that point David almost said ‘yes’. Stepping up, he placed his hand on Oceansong’s cheek, and simply looked into hir eyes. A moment later, he made his decision. "Oceansong… I want to say ‘yes’. I am, however, a bit intoxicated and I don’t think I’m in any position to make a rational decision on taking things past where they are now."

Oceansong sighed, and let hir hand drop, hir ears and head drooping as well. "I… I understand. I’m sorry David, I won’t ask again." As shi started to turn, he moved his hand from hir cheek to hir jaw to turn hir head towards him again, startling hir.

"That’s not a permanent ‘no’, Oceansong. It’s an ‘I don’t want to make an important decision while intoxicated’. I will admit I’m attracted to both you and Sitsi… attracted quite a bit." Feeling hir hope starting to rise again, David chuckled. "Just give me time, and we’ll see where it goes, okay?"

Oceansong grinned and pressed hir cheek into his hand, hir hand helping to hold it there. "Okay. I think we can deal with that. Would it be okay if we call you when we get back?"

"If it wasn’t okay, you wouldn’t have gotten my number in the first place. Now get on out of here and take care of Sitsi, okay?" Oceansong nodded with a bright smile and bounded off to hir Companion, leaving David to climb into his PTV and set it to autopilot for home. As he relaxed in his seat, he thought to himself: What have I gotten myself into now?

The next week went rather slowly for David. Having nothing better to do, he spent most of his time reading, when he wasn’t working on his home. Even with these activities, as well as the activities he was unable to get away from even when his classes were not occurring, he still found himself feeling restless around lunch time. It was as if something was missing, which it was.

It wasn’t just the lack of the lunches he shared with his friends, but also not having them to talk and joke with. He also missed the fact that the two of them would often cheer him out of his depressions and memories. Indeed, as the days wore on he found himself thinking more and more of what had happened in the past, and how it related to the recent experiences with the attack on the campus.

It was the following Saturday when he received a message on his computer letting him know that they would be back on that Tuesday. Included in the message were some pictures taken of the two of them as they played around at their respective homes. Some of the vistas in the shots made David smile. Hopefully he would get to see them himself someday.

Late Tuesday evening, David received the call he had been waiting for. "McKenna."

"Hey David, its Oceansong. Weeee’re baaaack!"

David chuckled softly, "So you are. It sounds like you’re exhausted though. Shouldn’t you be asleep?"

"Probably. In fact, I think Sitsi has already crashed. I just wanted to call and let you know we’re back safe. Mind if we see you tomorrow? We’ve kinda missed our lunches we’ve had."

A warm glow lit in David’s chest as he nodded, even though he knew that Oceansong couldn’t see him. "Of course we can get together. Just give me a call when the two of you are ready, okay?"

"You’re on. Good night, David."

"Good night, Oceansong. And tell Sitsi ‘good night’ for me if she’s awake, okay?"

"M’kay." Oceansong’s voice faded as David heard hir put the receiver down. His sleep, for the first time in a week was uninterrupted.

The next morning, David heard a knock at his door. While he was already awake, having gone for a morning run on the beach, he was not expecting company. Curiously, he opened the door to see two smiling faces.

Sitsi and Oceansong were slightly taken aback by David answering the door clad only in a pair of running shorts, but neither was bothered. Indeed, Oceansong purred hir approval, and Sitsi’s tail wagged slightly. "Um…. Good morning?"

David chuckled at Oceansong’s purr and Sitsi’s uncertainty. Oceansong was dressed in a bright red, form fitting, long sleeved blouse and a leather jacket that was fringed, appearing to be of wolftaur work. Sitsi was dressed in wolftaur leather as well, though in her case it was a leather top as well as the fringed jacket. Gesturing broadly, he invited the pair in. "Welcome to my humble abode. Sorry it’s not much, but it’s what I could afford. Have you two eaten yet?"

Sitsi noticed that Oceansong was already poking around the room, so she took it upon herself to answer. "Yes, I already fixed us some breakfast. Oceansong figured you’d be up and about by now, so we thought we’d drop by rather than just call. Is that okay?"

David nodded, "More than okay. Just give me a few minutes to shower and get changed and we can head out, or whatever, okay?"

Oceansong looked over hir shoulder at David. "Need help getting cleaned up?" Hir grin was wide and hir eyes playful. Sitsi blushed, her thoughts had been running the same direction but she hadn’t dared say anything.

Rolling his eyes, David shook his head. "No thank you. I prefer to actually get clean, rather than waste the water getting clean, then dirty, and then clean again." Motioning to the small kitchen, David then headed for the hallway. "Feel free to grab something to drink while you wait. I shouldn’t be long. I’d say ‘make yourselves at home’, but I think you’d probably start trying to clean the place!"

After getting cleaned up and changing into a white t-shirt, black denim jeans and a black leather bomber style jacket, David rejoined the duo. They had each grabbed a glass of juice, and were looking through some of the books he had laying about. "Well, are we just going to stay here and read, or did the two of you have other plans?"

The rest of the day was spent wandering the towns and the beach of the northern coast of what was once Oregon. Occasionally they would stop and look in a shop, perhaps purchase something, then continue on to the next point of their travels. When they stopped for lunch, Oceansong cleared hir throat. "David, would you mind coming to the campus with us tomorrow? The Harvest Festival is going on, and we’d like you to come along. It will have crafts, food, music… just a general good time." Even Sitsi was looking at him with pleading eyes.

"Okay, okay… I’ll go. No need to twist my arm with those eyes, you two. You should know by now that if I don’t have anything really serious to do, I’ll go. The only reason I’ll be leaving today is so I can go to a meeting." David grinned at the two of them as they grinned back. This is how it should be. I hope that we can continue to have lunches together once classes start. He would have been surprised to know that his friends were thinking the same thing.

Once lunch was over, they continued their wandering, eventually making their way to the Boardwalk where they indulged in the usual Boardwalk games. On a whim, David turned in all the tickets he had earned and purchased a stuffed cat for Sitsi and a stuffed wolf for Oceansong, which earned him a lick-kiss from both.

Eventually, David had to head off due to his session with the counselor. The two ‘taurs pouted, but knew he had to go. After they each gave him a parting hug, they watched him drive off. "Do you think he’ll survive tomorrow?"

Sitsi looked at Oceansong and grinned. "Oh, he’ll survive. I just hope he doesn’t get worn out. He’s probably going to be slightly frightened you know."

Oceansong shook hir head, "Nah. I don’t think he’ll be frightened at all. It’s not going to be that bad. After all, we both survived it."

Thanksgiving Day dawned clear as David got himself ready for the promised outing. Throwing a denim jacket over a plaid shirt and jeans, he hustled out the door after grabbing a light breakfast. If what he had heard was true, he wanted to have some room for the foods that would be sold throughout the day.

The event was just starting as David arrived, and it wasn’t long before he saw Oceansong and Sitsi standing outside the entrance, waiting for him. Though there was an entry gate, there was no entry fee. There was only a collection box that they each put some money in to help fund the next year’s festival.

Once through the gates, the campus was transformed. Rather than being the normal collection of buildings and open space that marks almost any university campus, the commons and any other open area was a riot of color and sounds. Tents had sprung up everywhere, and just about everything that could be made, traded, or otherwise sold was being sold. To David’s mind, it was a mix between a farmer’s market, and a Renaissance Faire gone awry.

Grinning broadly, Oceansong grabbed David’s arm and started dragging him along, with Sitsi following behind, a rare grin on her face as well. "Okay, obviously you have a destination in mind. So where are we going?"

"We have some people we want you to meet," answered the Chakat. Shi turned and unleashed her grin upon him. "And we’re not going to let you explore until you meet them."

David started to slow slightly at that. "People you want me to meet? Are you sure that’s a good idea?" Oceansong rolled hir eyes and pulled, and Sitsi added a prod to the ribs with a clawtip to get David moving again.

"Yes, we’re sure." Sitsi pouted slightly at him. "You don’t want to meet them?"

"No… that’s not what I meant. I just, you know…."

"You’re not sure you’re ready to meet more people yet because of your problem?" Sitsi reached up tentatively and ran her hand across his back. "We think that you’ll be fine. Besides, they’re people you really should meet."

David sighed and nodded. "If you say so. I’ll meet them, just don’t expect them to warm up to me immediately. After all, you two are absolute anomalies when it comes to people getting to know me."

Oceansong’s grin widened. "I think you’ll be surprised to see how fast they warm up." Looking up the path, Oceansong’s face lit up and she called out, "I brought him!"

Turning to look the same way, David saw a group of three Chakat and two wolftaurs. The wolftaurs and two of the Chakat were definitely older than his friends, the other Chakat seemed a bit surer of hirself. Groaning, David looked at Oceansong, "You set me up, didn’t you?"

Unrepentant, Oceansong snickered. "Yup. David, I’d like you to meet my sire, Chakat Clearbrook."

One of the older Chakats, one with the markings of a lilac point Siamese, stepped up to hug David. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. McKenna. I am Chakat Clearbrook, daughter of Sweetsinger and Emerald. This is my mate, Redtail." The other older Chakat stepped up to hug him as well. Redtail was slightly larger than hir mate, and bore a tortoiseshell coat pattern, except for the dark auburn fur that ran down hir spine and completely enveloped hir tail.

"Oceansong has told us so much about you, Mr. McKenna. I’m sorry you didn’t come with hir when she came home this last time. You simply must come along next time. I’ll not hear ‘no’ for an answer."

Clearbrook laughed and pulled Redtail to hir. "Hush, love. He’ll come along when he’s good and ready. There is no reason for you to be scaring him off now." Redtail stuck hir tongue out at hir mate, but subsided, a twinkle of merriment in hir eye.

David laughed as well and grinned at Oceansong. "Well, at least now I know where shi gets hir enthusiasm… and hir tendency to babble on from time to time." Turning his head he grinned at the last Chakat as shi stepped forward. "I’m guessing you’re either a sister or cousin."

The grey and white striped Chakat stepped up and gave him a strong hug. "Sister. I’m Chakat Snowshadow, currently on leave from the Star Corps. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, since Ocean has been sending me some rather interesting letters."

Oceansong’s jaw dropped, looking at hir sister. "Snow! You weren’t supposed to mention those!"

Giving David a wink, Snowshadow snickered at hir sister. "Oops."

"So, this is the male you were telling us about, daughter?" A new, deep voice brought David’s attention around to the other set of ‘taurs present. The male wolftaur was a fairly impressive specimen, though not as large as some he had seen. The black fur only relieved by the glinting amber eyes and the white leather vest that he wore added to the impressive display. Next to him stood another wolftaur bitch, this one much smaller than the male. Her coloration was almost exactly the same as Sitsi’s, but her expression was more one of curiosity rather than concern or quietness.

David nodded and stepped up to the wolftaur. "Gunnery Sergeant David McKenna, Star Fleet Marines. I am pleased to meet you, Mr. …?"

"I am Nastas. This is my mate, Yazhi. What do you intend with our daughter?" Nastas stepped forward, trying to loom over David a bit, but the human was not intimidated.

"Well, right now to be the best friend I can. Anything else will be up to her."

"Oh, do back off, Nas. He’s a Marine, he won’t be pushed around by a forester like you." Yazhi stepped forward and grinned at David. "Pardon my mate. He tends to think he can throw his weight around and get anything he wants."

"Absolutely not a problem ma’am." Smiling, he turned to Nastas. "I’m sure you’ll see that I mean no harm to your daughter. As a matter of fact, I’m sure you’ll have a chance to see us all together today."

Nastas nodded shortly, and stepped back. Yazhi and the Chakats on the other hand were all grinning at Sitsi. At David’s comment, she had started blushing again, but her tail wagged slowly behind her. Oceansong stepped over and gave her a hug, then reached out to grab David again.

"Well, folks, we’re going to head off and enjoy the Festival. Do you want to get together around dinner time at the food tent?" With a chorus of affirmatives, the trio headed off to their own entertainments.

By midafternoon, all three were well relaxed and enjoying themselves. They had all bought new things. Oceansong had bought hirself many new tops and jackets. Sitsi had bought herself a reed pipe and was playing it softly as they walked. David had had to return to his vehicle briefly to store his denim jacket, since he had bought a wolftaur-made leather jacket at the urgings of his friends.

Slowly they made their way to the grass amphitheater that was the main commons. Below, a mixed band of wolftaurs and foxtaurs were setting up to play some of the folk music of their peoples. David sat in front of Ocean and Sitsi, letting them cuddle together, and definitely not wanting to intrude on some private time for the two of them. As the music opened, David leaned back on his hands and let the music wash over him.

The primal music of the wolftaurs blended seamlessly with the more naturalistic sounds of the foxtaur music. So lost was he in the sounds that he barely heard the whispering behind him, moments before a weight dropped down on each leg. Startled, he opened his eyes only to find that Oceansong had dropped down upon his left leg, pinning it to the ground, and Sitsi had done the same on his right. Together, the two of them wrapped him in a hug and had him lean against them both.

As the set wound to its conclusion, Oceansong leaned over to whisper into David’s ear. "You’re not escaping now. Relax, and enjoy yourself. We’ll see about after the Festival later." Shi then gave him a quick lick-kiss before the music started up again.

Two hours later, the peace and relaxation David was feeling was shattered by a sound he knew only two well. The high pitched whine of energy weapons being fired cut through the sound of the music, leaving a brief eerie silence coming from the direction of the tents. Moments later, the sound rang out again and the screaming started.

David had just started to turn in place when one of the musicians down on the stage shuddered and dropped, a gaping hole suddenly appearing in his chest. Mass panic erupted around the trio. "What…?" Oceansong started to get up, but David wasted no time to press both Oceansong’s and Sitsi’s upper torsos to the ground.

"Pretend you’re dead. Don’t move. Hopefully they won’t fire on you." Sitsi was shaking, and Oceansong was wide eyed, but both followed his directions right away. With a jerk, David pulled his legs from under them, and started to combat crawl towards the sounds of the weapons fire.

Through the gaps in the crowd, he could see at least five humans, all carrying pre-phaser energy weapons, likely high-energy lasers. All were wearing the masks, and the jackets he remembered hearing about from the attack during Halloween.

Without warning, rage and memory boiled up within him, and David was transported once more to the jungles. The humans turned into the morphs he had fought there, the civilian furs were the ones he had fought to protect as best he could.

Slowly, agonizingly slowly, David crept towards the trunks of one of the many trees. The forest was thick, so dense in places you couldn’t see through the trees, except in the odd places. Once in position, he snaked an arm around the tree and grabbed the nearest fur with a weapon by the throat, and pulled him around the tree.

With practiced ease, he drove the tips of his fingers into the solar plexus of the fur, depriving him of air and stunning him momentarily. Slipping his hand between their body and the weapon, he turned the weapon to fire into their knee, then freeing his hand from their throat, tore the weapon from their grasp and fired one shot into their chest.

Moving with deadly intent, David maneuvered his way around the tree to the opposite side, trying to find cover and a clear firing path. The civilians would make things difficult, but not impossible. Finding a felled tree trunk, he lay behind it and started firing at the aggressors.

It took three of the furs being downed before the rest of the cell had realized they were being fired upon. Like most who were not trained soldiers, they did not have the coordination he did. They did, however, have numbers that he did not. For some odd reason, his squad was not answering their communicators.

Fortunately, the aggressors seemed to lose heart after facing someone who obviously knew what they were doing. It was odd, they normally fought to the death, but this time they retreated. Maybe they were learning tactics, but David wasn’t going to take chances. One he had wounded fell, the injury to the leg causing that leg to finally give out.

David cautiously left his cover and made his way to the wounded fur. The rage against someone that would attack civilians, and may have helped kill his squad fueling him as it never had before. As he stepped up and lowered the barrel of his phaser rifle, the fur looked up to him with pleading eyes and a raised hand. "Mercy! Please, mercy!"

David’s laugh was eerie, even to himself. "Mercy? Mercy for someone like you? Mercy for people who attack civilians for trying to live their life as best they can? Mercy for people who blow up children just to get at us? Why should I grant you mercy, you piece of filth? You know what I will grant you?" The terror in the eyes of the fur caused David to smile a rictus grin. "Yes, you do. I’m going to grant you a quick death."

Calmly and precisely, David shot the fur right between the eyes. Slowly, David felt the rage starting to fade from his body. The adrenaline starting to wear off, but he still did not let his guard down. With cautious speed, David made his way back to cover and started to survey his surroundings.

The civilians were starting to move slowly from where they were hiding. Some were staring with horror at the body, some with pity. Others were staring in the direction David had moved, with the same level of horror. He understood their horror, he had felt the same way the first time he had seen someone die, the same way he felt every time he came back from a mission and realized how many he had killed. They were safe, and that was all that mattered.

Suddenly, the sound of running behind him caused him to whip around. A black and white fur was advancing on him at a run. Arms outstretched, mouth open. David brought his weapon to bear, his body reacting instinctively to the threat.

With a flash of light, the pulse laser he had taken from his opponent in the fight fired. As he fired, the look on the fur's face went from one of worry to one of fear. As shi dropped, a voice he vaguely recognized screamed out, "Oceansong!"

"Ocean?" Dawning horror crashed in upon him and the forest faded into the university campus once more. "Ocean, NO!" With the vision of Oceansong lying on the ground near him, David's world suddenly went black.


To be continued .

Copyright © 2007 Adrian Nunenkamp

The Chakat Universe is the creation of Bernard Doove and is used with his permission.


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