Faera slowly opened her eyes. She recalled that she and Blackstar had been falling through several glass floors, the first being shattered by her target, an old wolftaur bitch named Parishka who was wanted for several crimes in the Stellar Federation. After a fall like that she expected to be in a hospital, assuming she wasnít dead and wasnít in the afterlife. As she opened her eyes she didnít see the sterile environment of a hospital, or any doctors or nurses, or even a ceiling. What Faera saw was an open sky and the tops of several trees. Maybe I am dead, she thought to herself, the closest forest was over five kilometers from the space port.
Faera checked herself over for injuries and found that she had a few shallow cut and scrapes that looked like they were treated with a dermal regenerator. She was startled when a voice said, "I see youíre finally up." Faera whirled around. "Iím sorry. Did I startle you?" Faera nodded.
"What happened? Where are we?" asked Faera, "What happened to Parishka?"
Blackstar looked like shi had just washed hir waist length hair and had hir vest slung over hir arm. "Iím not sure what happened to Parishka, however, just as I woke up I could see the stars of the Orion belt, and the North Star. There is an abandoned farmhouse about half a mile from here that I used to hang out in as a teenager occasionally, and own as of my last trip to Earth. You know, like when you just had to get away from your parents for a while."
"So where are we in relation to the space port, and how did we get here?" asked Faera.
Blackstar was reluctant to explain, "We are about 30 light-years away from Quenxel. Weíre in Wisconsin, on Earth."
Faeraís jaw worked up and down for a moment, "Thatís impossible."
Back on Quenxel...
Nightrose had a mystery on her hands. The Caitianís partner and the wolftaur shi was working with had literally disappeared into thin air. She was talking to local security about the incident, "no! Blackstar doesnít carry a personal transporter. If Faera had one it would have beamed her back to the Torrin which is at Dock 94, and if Faera where there she would have collected the bounty on Parishka. Iím done answering your questions." Nightrose was fed up with this second rate police force. They didnít know a damn thing about solving a mystery.
She returned to the crime scene were her partner had fallen and disappeared a day before. A hole was where a glass floor had been. At the bottom of the newly created shaft was where the wolftaur that had caused the Blitz team so much trouble in the past had died. If Nightrose hadnít seen the body she wouldnít have believed that Parishka was finally dead. Now if she only knew where her partner was. Trip, Blackstarís little sister, was there as well. Trip had a fox like pattern with what some described as a fire red color, earning hir the name Firefox. Hir nickname of Trip was given because shi had traveled reportedly more the 5,000 light-years by age 10. "Shiís not dead," said Trip. Shi hadnít even looked at Nightrose, "two years ago shi revealed that shi could Teleport under certain circumstances."
Nightrose shook her head. No matter what crazy thing Trip said, nine out of ten times it would turn out to be true. Nightrose remembered when she bet that Trip was exaggerating when shi said that shi could perform the Starburst maneuver with hir eyes closed until Trip did it when shi was piloting a shuttle they were using. "Are you going to tell me where shi is or are you going to tell me the story first?"
"Two years ago when Dad stormed into the academy with the headmaster, Commodore Starfox, and Admiral VíLes, shi panicked. Shi teleported half-way across earth," said Trip, "Shi was found two days later in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Shi was picking up a plasma converter."
"Why Sheboygan?" asked Nightrose.
"It was the closest a place every came to being hir home," answered Trip, "my question is, what did shi need a plasma converter for?"
Nightrose ignored the question, "can shi control where shiís teleported?"
"No," reported Trip, "if shi tries to control it shi could land up anywhere from China to Nova Scotia."
"Really," asked a skeptical Caitian.
"Yep, beautiful country up there," replied a very serious Trip, "but Iíve never known hir to travel intergalactic distances. Theoretically itís possible. VíLesís ship should be arriving in Earth orbit in two hours."
Nightrose nodded. It was time to call in a favor. She immediately went to work on contacting Admiral VíLes. Half-way across the Federation VíLes had just woken up to find the news file of Blackstarís disappearance. "Itís going to be one of those days," she said to herself. "VíLes to bridge, how long until we reach Terra?"
The night watch officer, a human female, shook her head. She was one of those humans who preferred the name Earth to Terra. "Weíll be reaching Earth in twenty minutes. Is there a problem Admiral?"
"Maybe," said VíLes, "prepare my personal shuttle for launch and inform Commander Chekov that Iíll be leaving the ship in his hands for the duration of the duration of the refit." After receiving an aye, sir, VíLes put on her civilian clothes and went down to the shuttlebay. She was surprised to find Commander Chekov waiting outside her shuttle. "I know what youíre going to say."
"Your impulse drive only has a million miles left before the next recommended overhaul," said the commander.
VíLes held back a smile, "Okay, I didnít know you were going to say that. You think Iím going to search for the FSS Great Fox, donít you?"
The Commander shook his head, "No. Youíre going to search for your lifemate, who happened to be in command of the Fox. Am I right?"
"No," replied the Caitian, "Iím to Terra to find a friend of mine. My granddaughter is missing and I think I know where shi is."
A confused Chekov asked, "When did you have kids? I thought you were only mated to Commodore Starfox, and you two arenít compatible. Are you?"
The Caitian smiled at the humanís ignorance, "I guess thatís just one that youíre going to figure out on your own. Now if you excuse me, Iíve got to go find my granddaughter."
Chekov shook his head as the Admiral boarded her personal runabout. Just when you think youíve got her figured out she plays another card. When he reached the bridge he relived the night watch commander, and gave the Admiral permission to disembark, which was only a formality then anything. "Lieutenant Harrington, what is the Admiralís flight plan?"
The ox morph checked his console, "sheís heading for a spaceport in Wisconsin. Thatís weird."
"Something is weird about the flight plan Lieutenant?" asked Chekov.
"No. I meant Wisconsin is weird," replied the ox. Chekov shook his head. Being from one of the colonies he didnít understand the joke. Seeing his commanderís confusion he explained, "Wisconsinís oddities have made it a popular subject of jokes."
"Lieutenant, I believe I can honestly say, I donít really care."
The Admiral pushed her runaboutís impulse drive to full power until the spaceport ordered her to slow down. After she set down she quickly rented a PTV and headed toward Sheboygan, more specifically Blackstarís safehouse. If there was anything to be known about hir location VíLes would find it there.
Blackstar had finished explaining what had happened to Faera. "So where did you go last time."
Blackstar thought for a moment and then pointed towards the rising sun, "about ten meters in that direction. Thereís something about this location that keeps bringing me back." Blackstar put hir vest back on. "Letís get going. I converted the farmhouse into a safehouse. We can figure out what to do there. You know youíre going to be the fifth person to visit it since I took it over. Oddly, youíre the second felitaur."
"Who were the others? Friends, enemies, lovers?" asked Faera.
"Sometimes they would be all three," joked Blackstar. "Seriously though, the people who know about this place are, Nightrose, Admiral VíLes, Vega Griffin, another Felitaur named Ileah, and yourself." Faera stopped dead in her tracks, "Whatís wrong Faera?"
"Did you say Ileah?" Blackstar nodded. "How did you know her?"
"I met her at School," explained Blackstar, "we were both on the Chess team. We became good friends. I even considered asking her out on a date, but she dated this annoying human wrestler named Brandon Vreeke. He got annoyed way too easily, used the lamest comebacks, and I donít care what anyone says, I still say he was gay."
Blackstar smiled as shi thought back to that. As a way to disguise hirself she used fur-dye to create a red five pointed star around her left eye. Shi also had used another name at that time, calling hirself, Sundancer. Shi thought about how shi acted differently. Shi was more confidant about hirself "I guess since Iím not pretending to be Sundancer anymore Iíve taken a more upbeat personality," shi said to hirself. "So whatís your story?"
"I occasionally worked on some art projects," said Faera, "but, I gained ownership of the Torrin after a game of chance. Unfortunately the former owner had some cargo on board that still needed delivering, and I made the mistake of accepting responsibility for it. I made one delivery and I found myself hooked on it. The shipís cargo capacity, speed, and the money drew me in like a moth to a flame."
"I meant the fake name."
Faera explained, "oh, that. I was kind of worried that my family wouldnít approve. I think Iíve developed a split personality syndrome. I donít expect you to know what thatís like."
Blackstar paused, "actually, I know exactly what you mean."
Faera then realized what Blackstar said, "How did you know that I used a fake name?"
Blackstar smiled, "I didnít."
As Blackstar walked away Faera said, "Chakats, canít live withíem, canít get rid of them." Faera followed the Chakat, and let her mind wonder. Faera returned her attention forward when she realized that she was looking at Blackstarís tail. No way. Weíre from two different worlds and shi is a shi. There is no way I can be attracted to a herm. It must be curiosity.
Blackstar noticed that Faera was falling behind, "is something wrong?"
The startled felitaur said, "no, no, not at all. I was just preoccupied with something. How much farther?"
"Just over that hill." Blackstar paused for a moment and signaled Faera to be quite. "Someone is coming. Itís a standard PTV from Sheboygan, piloted by a middle age Caitian."
"How can you tell that?"
"Big ears and a lot of experience," explained the Chakat, "You can tell a lot by an engine hum. I have it down to an art; I can even tell the species by the hum. Letís find out whoís out here." Blackstar took off at speeds that Faera thought would normally be impossible, but it was just a quick sprint allowing for a greater burst of speed.
She reached the rather large, and dilipated looking house and saw Blackstar hugging, who did turn out to be a Caitian. As she got closer she recognized the annoying Fleet Admiral VíLes. Lucky guess. She made it difficult to get anything around customs. "Well, well, well. If it isnít the biggest pain in the butt in StarFleet. What did I do this time?"
VíLesí face turned into a snarl, "I didnít come here for a second rate scrap merchant who couldnít smuggle anything past a class 9 sensor post." While Faera counted backwards from 100 to calm down, VíLes did a 180 as her face turned into a pleasant smile as she turned to Blackstar. "Anyway, as I was explaining, we need your help to apprehend an old friend of yours." Blackstar gestured for her to continue. "Parishkaís personal ship was spotted heading towards this solar system. A resupply station in orbit of Chakona has video of Parishka being on board last week."
"Thatís impossible!" exclaimed Blackstar.
Faera nodded, "that does seem to be todayís theme."
VíLes looked back and forth between the two taurs, "werenít you two both heading for Quenxel?"
Blackstar nodded, "you knew that but yet you came to my safehouse. Why?
VíLes explained, "I saw the news article about your disappearance. I know you keep a list of contingency plans incase something ever happened to you, no matter what the situation. I figured I find it, tell Nightrose, and..."
"And sheíd be in your debt," finished Blackstar. "Did you have something in mind?"
"Possibly. How is your relationship with her?" asked VíLes.
Blackstar raised an eyebrow, "sheís still my partner. What does that have to do with anything?"
VíLes shrugged, "nothing. Now letís start tracking down Parishka." VíLes began walking back to the PTV.
Faera stepped forward, "Wait a minute; you still havenít explained how Parishka survived the fall."
It was VíLesí turn to look confused, "what fall?"
"Iíll explain on the way to the Mead Public Library," answered Blackstar.
It was a tight fit but all three felines managed to fit in the PTV. While they headed to nearby Sheboygan Blackstar explained what had happened to hir and Faera. "Even if Parishka did survive the fall, sheíd have to be a teleporter to be on earth in less then a day." Blackstar considered the possibilities, "that means that she could be a clone, an alternate universe version of her, or a transporter duplicate. None of those are likely, but until we catch her we wonít have any explanation."
VíLes nodded in agreement, "I suppose so. Now why are you taking us to a library?"
"Iím going there to find an old friend who may help us. Hopefully shi still works there."
Blackstar, Faera, and VíLes finally arrived in historic downtown Sheboygan, which included the Sheboygan Theater, Mead Public library and Armory among other things. Most of which had been rebuilt at one point or another. Blackstar, who had taken the time to explain the history of the now mostly furred community, parked in front of a place called Baxterís. "Okay, here the thing," explained Blackstar, "You two go in there and wait for me. Tell the bartender to put it on my tab. If he argues with you tell him that Iíll be in tonight before you leave and that Iíll pay for it."
"What are you going to do?" asked the ever cautious VíLes.
"Iím going to try and get some information, and a possible ally," explained Blackstar. Shi walked away before the other felines could ask anything else.
"Well, I donít know about you Admiral, but Iím going to get drunk on hir tab." VíLes shook her head in disapproval but followed the felitaur anyway.
Blackstar actually walked past the Library, taking a moment to admire the water fountain and the stand-alone clocktower behind it. Iíve been gone too long. They were still working on this last time I was able to enjoy my visit. Shi continued on the place shi usually got hir hair styled. As usual, when on assignment shi let it grow just past hir shoulders, and felt it time to have it cut again. The bipedal vixen was surprised to see Blackstar so soon after hir recent departure. "This must be a record. Why are you back so soon?" asked the vixen
"If Iím correct Nightstorm should have an appointment today, and shi might have information that I need," explained Blackstar, "plus I wouldnít mind getting a hair cut."
The vixen grinned, "I donít know how you do it. I actually had a cancellation from a taur and Nightstorm is the next appointment."
"Just lucky I guess."
The vixen shook her head. She guided Blackstar to a taur seat where she and one of her assistants worked on trimming hir fur, even trimming the face fur, revealing a black crescent to the lower left side of hir left eye. Blackstar occasionally hid the crescent with fur die, it made hir more difficult to recognize. Shi stood up to let them work on hir lower belly fur.
The vixen left to deal with a new arrival as the assistants continued their work. The new arrival was given the seat next to hir. "Somehow I doubt this is coincidence. What do you want?"
"Information, of course," replied Blackstar, "about Parishka. She seems to have appeared in multiple locations at once. And maybe why she is so obsessed with getting her daughter back and with killing me."
The taur nodded, "Parishka has created duplicates of herself via the Transporter. Sky should be able to explain how. As for why sheís after Snow, the rumor is that while the child was in the womb Parishka did something to hir for some unknown purpose. But I do know this; it has something to do with finding the Time Matrix. Thatís all I know."
The vixen informed Blackstar that she was done with hir. Blackstar paid the fee. "Thank you, Nightstorm. Your information was most useful. Your debt is paid."
The other taur nodded, "of course. You know if you learn of anything that might be useful to me or my clients and tell me about it I would be in your debt again."
Blackstar paused for a moment, nodded and left. The last thing Blackstar expected was to hear was that someone was searching for the Time Matrix again. Shi thought that it was destroyed four years ago. In the wrong hands the power of the Time Matrix could be devastating. Now to find a Slipstream navigator. I just hope sheís forgiven me by now.
Nightrose was pacing back and forth on the Mysticís bridge, growing more and more frustrated by the fact that there was nothing that she could do to speed departure. She reached for the comm. panel on the captainís chair, "Sky, how much longer?"
"Weíre still working on some final adjustments to the advanced flying unitís programming," replied the irritated Skunktaur, "It would go faster if you stopped bothering me. Sky, out."
Nightrose resumed her pacing. How did I let this happen? Iím supposed to be Blackstarís partner and shi was almost killed. Nightrose stopped pacing when she realized someone else was on the bridge. "How long have you been there?"
"Only a minute or two," answered Trip, "weíre ready to try the new modifications, on your command."
Nightrose nodded. She took her usual seat next to the captainís chair and activated the shipwide comm. system, "This is acting captain Nightrose to all hands: report to your stations for Skimdrive launch. I repeat prepare for Skimdrive launch." She flicked it off and waited.
Sasha and Neal Serge took their usual stations on the bridge, while Sky stayed in main engineering.
"Speed is at .5c, launching advanced flying unit."
"Sensors read all systems nominal, and we have a clear flight window of about 5000 kilometers."
"Advanced flying unit is now at warp one, spreading the warp barrier. Engaging Skimdrive, now."
The normal black and white vista of space quickly changed into the multi-colored randomness of hyperspace. Unlike most ships, the multi-coloredness of hyperspace was spinning in a clockwise pattern. It was one of the Advanced Flying Unit (AFU)ís side effects.
Trip reported the shipís speed as it increased. Nightrose nodded in approval as they surpassed Warp 8. She allowed herself a grin as the ship continued accelerating. Nightroseís sensitive hearing overheard Neal Serge muttering something about "unusual acceleration patterns." She walked over to his console, "is something wrong?"
Serge nodded, "our rate of acceleration is faster then the increase of power to the warp nacelles but that could be a result of the modified AFU. Power increase will cease in 10 seconds mark." Nightrose waited for those ten seconds to pass. When she thought those ten second were up she simply assumed that she had miscounted. Caitians had a tendency to think in a base of eight rather then the ten used by most Terrans. Then Serge reported, "Speed is still increasing. We are at Warp 8.6, 8.7. This is impossible. Power to the nacelles is steady but we are still accelerating. We are at Warp 9 and accelerating. I donít know how but our acceleration rate is increasing." He activated the comm., "Sky, can you figure out why weíre still accelerating?"
"Negative. Weíll need to stop soon or else weíll fry the sensors from overload, and the ship will be torn apart by the stress." Down in main engineering the male phased Skunktaur was hard at work trying to figure out what was going on, or at least get the ship under control. Hy tried to cut power to the nacelles but that failed. Serge reported that speeds were off the scale and that sensors were overloaded. "I got it! We can try reversing the warp coils reaction. In normal circumstances we would be warping in reverse. Not recommended because we donít have a navigational deflector facing that way. If weíre trapped in some sort of subspace wake thatís pulling us along, we should slow ourselves down enough to break free of it. But it might get a little bumpy. And we might lose the AFU, and we could tear ourselves into a million pieces."
"Does anyone have any alternatives?" The response was all negative, with the possible exception of Sashaís Ďgo with the flow statementí which wasnít very helpful. "Do what you have to Sky. I hate flying at impossible speeds with no idea of where weíre going."
Sky went to work programming the necessary programs into the computer to execute hys unusual plan, which was continually hindered by the computer stating: "that procedure is not recommended." Sky slammed hys fist against the console, "Iím not asking youíre opinion. Just do what I tell you." After several more attempts at a non-recommended procedure hy finally turned off all of the shipís safety protocols. Iíll have to remember to put that on my to do list when this is over. "Computer, execute program, Sky 9-2a."
The ship began to shudder. Serge said, "Donít worry. This is normal.
"How would you know?" asked Sasha.
It slowly increased until Nightrose could barely make it back to her chair to strap herself in. "This isnít normal," said Serge.
"What do you mean this isnít normal?!" asked Sasha.
"This is way worst!"
The ship shook so violently that everything that wasnít secured was being tossed around. Luckily the crew knew from experience not to leave fragile objects unsecured except when in use, because they would never know when theyíd find themselves in violent situations.
The main viewscreen began to light up so brightly everyone except Trip looked away. Then just as the ship was reaching its structural limitations the shaking stopped and the viewscreen showed that they had returned to normal space, a sun located in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
"All hands, report."
"Tactical is operational, and I have nothing more then a few bruises."
"Primary sensors arenít operational. Switching to secondary, but itíll take a few minutes."
Over the intercom, "this is Sky; warp drive will be offline for about an hour while I make necessary repairs and while the computer reconfigures the nacelles. Warp cores 2-4 are off-line. Reserve power is at 64%. Estimated recovery at current power levels in 8 hours. Full impulse is available, but the SIF fields were weakened and I wouldnít recommend going past .2c until power is back to normal."
"Acknowledged. Work on repairing the warp drive." Nightrose realized that Trip hadnít reported helm status, "Trip, report. Trip?" She looked to the helm station to find the young Chakat covering hir eyes and whimpering. "Trip, are you okay? Whatís wrong?"
Shi replied, hir voice barely a whisper, "my eyes feel like theyíre on fire. I canít see a thing. Iím blind."
Nightrose tried to comfort hir, "come on, weíll get you to the medical bay." She guided the blinded Chakat off the bridge. She stopped for a moment, "Sasha, you have the bridge. Serge, try and figure out where we are."
Nightrose guided the stumbling Chakat down the main corridor to the medical bay, taking it slow for Tripís sake. "Donít worry Trip. Weíll figure out whatís wrong with your eyes and fix it."
They entered the medical bay, which was over equipped for a crew of the Mystic, as demonstrated by the four bio-beds, one of which now had Trip lying on it. Luckily it was equipped with the latest in medical equipment including an advanced holo-system with the still experimental Emergency Medical Holographic program. "Computer, activate the EMH."
A female human appeared seemingly out of thin air, "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
"Over here Doctor. Trip has been blinded some how. Shi says hir eyes feel like they were burning."
The EMH picked up a medical tricorder and began scanning the patient. "Hir corneas have been burned. I can give you something for the pain, but the eyes are severely damaged. We do not have the proper equipment to repair it. Iíd recommend putting in a facility with the proper equipment. All I can do is reduce the pain."
"Do what you can Doctor," said Nightrose, "Iíll be on the bridge. Report to me if hir condition changes."
She was exiting the medical bay when Trip said, "donít go, please. Iím scared."
Nightrose walked over to Tripís biobed and took hir hand in her own. "Itíll be okay. I wonít let anything happen to you."
The EMH administrated a hypospray to Tripís neck. "How do you feel now?"
"The burning sensation is gone. Iím still scared, though."
The EMH returned the hypospray to its proper spot. "Shi may go with you. There is nothing more I can do for hir."
"Thank you Doctor. Computer, deactivate EMH program." Nightrose slowly escorted Trip back to the bridge with her. "Donít worry Trip. Iíll help you through this"
"Iím not worried. You are the only person other then Blackstar that Iím willing to put my complete trust in. Youíre almost like another sister to me." Nightroseís pause got Tripís attention, "is something wrong?"
Nightrose resumed walking, "no, I just was surprised. I admit, I never realized you thought of me that way. Itís been too long since Iíve felt that close to someone other then Blackstar." They continued their way to the bridge in thoughtful silence.
When they got there Serge was eager to report their position, "Iíve figured our position, and I think we broke most records. The system that weíre in, our position is in orbit of Earth. We are now in geosynchronous orbit above Wisconsin. Right above an old farmhouse as a matter of fact. We just got a call from a very pissed off traffic controller."
The odds of that happening are next to impossible, thought Nightrose, just what is going on here?
Blackstar made the short walk to the library. Hesitating as shi walked through the door. Shi made hir way up to the second floor and went past rows of historical books till shi found hirself in a corner of the library. Shi found hirself by a bank of windows, and a zoom scope, that shi choose to look through. Shi found that the landscape had several changes made to it since the last time shi looked through it.
When shi stopped looking shi found a feline morph standing next to hir. "I did not expect to see you here again, after you slept with, three of the other librarians I believe it was."
"That was only one night," said Blackstar, "And I donít bail out when things get tough, unlike some people I could name."
"At least I donít sleep with other people when I promise someone that theyíre the only one for me."
"At least I donít destroy my friendís ships."
"Hey, I replaced it remember? Now why are you here?"
"Parishka is looking for the Time Matrix. And youíre the best slipstream pilot this side of the Maelstrom," explained Blackstar.
"Um... correct me if Iím wrong but didnít Starfox take care of that?"
"Shi was supposed to, but we havenít found any trace of hir or hir ship. It was last spotted running into the Maelstrom, a good hiding place. And you know that territory better then anyone else alive."
The feline thought about it for a few minutes, "alright, but realize that I still havenít forgiven you."
"Alright let me go introduce you to some new friends."
The feline left the library with Blackstar and followed hir down the street to Baxterís. Baxterís was a bar catered to taurs and other furs. Along one wall were cushioned areas with retractable curtains. At the back of the place there was a small stage where people could try to perform. Some of the drunker attempts were quite comedic, but the bartender, a todtaur, was very strict about drink limits, and keeping trouble makers outside.
When they walked in the feline looked around for Blackstarís Ďfriendsí. "So where are they?"
Blackstar walked to the bar against one wall where Faera was sitting. "Faera, this is my former partner, Vega Griffin. Vega, this is an associate of mine, Faera. Sheís a freighter captain, and the only other person I know with a slipstream drive."
"A pleasure Iím sure," said Faera. Vega shrugged it off.
"Sheís not the most sociable person," explained Blackstar.
"Reminds me of someone I used to know," jested Faera.
"Funny," replied Black, "whereís the admiral?" Blackstar looked around and didnít see the old Caitian. "Did you kill her?"
"Just wait." Faera pointed to the stage.
A dressed up VíLes appeared on stage and began singing a song Blackstar didnít recognize. "What the hell did you do to her?"
Faera shrugged, "I gave her a dress."
"And a lot of liquor," added the bartender, "this is her third song today."
"Wait here. I need to go save whatís left of the admiralís dignity."
"A little late for that," said Faera. "So how do you know Blackstar?"
"We worked together a while back. Letís just say I owe hir my life, unfortunately. How about you?"
"Hir crew saved my transport once, and we have a tendency to run into to each other a lot."
Faera looked over the feline, getting a good look at just who Vega was. Faera didnít recognize her species, a rare situation. Vega had short fur, just enough to be noticeable. Her face fur was striped in a tiger-like fashion, while her body fur was spotted like a jaguarís. Her ears and tail were clearly feline-based, but despite all her experience Faera just couldnít place it.
Meanwhile Blackstar was talking to VíLes about the Time Matrix, "Do you have any idea where Starfox took the Matrix?"
"If I had any idea I would have had half of the fleet searching for hir. And hir crew," VíLes added as an afterthought. "If Parishka gets her paws on that device then itís over. You, me, everyone whoís pissed the psycho bitch off, all wiped out in a matter of seconds. As if we never existed. Our only lead is that itís somewhere in the Maelstrom. Thereís only one person I know who has a chance in finding the Great Fox in there. And you pissed hir off, because you canít control your damn heat."
"Sheís sitting over by the bar with Faera."
"I hate it when you do that. How do you do that?" asked VíLes, "itís like you know exactly whatís going to happen."
"Not exactly," said Blackstar, "the futureís always shifting. No one can predict exactly whatís going to happen. If they knew what the score was there would be no reason to play the game."
VíLes blinked twice, "at some point Iím going to need something explained to me."
"How your crew puts up with you. Now what are you going to do?" asked VíLes.
"I believe the saying goes saddle up. Lock and Load." Blackstar barely resisted the urge to smile. "But this mission will require all of Blitz teamís resources. Iíll need to recruit more crew members. You know you have a very competent crew," Blackstar wiggled hir eyebrows suggestively.
VíLes smiled and said, "No. Donít even think about it. No way."
"Baxter, weíre going to need to set up one of these booths for an interview, and you need to post a one week ad on the net."
"And what makes you think Iím going to do that," asked the todtaur.
"Because I own the lease on the bar and I gave you a very generous payment plan."
Baxter nodded, "thatíll do it." He went working on his assigned tasks.
Two hours and ten interviews later Blackstar turned to VíLes, "I used to wonder why the Blitz team was so small. Then I interview these people. One guy is wanted in Australia. Some of these guys have been charged with robbery, assault, arrest, resisting arrest. Thereís a former collection agent for the mob. Two of these guys have done serious time. The fate of the universe is at stake and all Iím getting is a bunch of retards I wouldnít trust with a potato gun."
"It could be worse," said Vega, "on second thought, no it couldnít."
Blackstar simply raised hir middle finger in response.
A Blackstar was then surprised when a young female taur walked up to hir, "excuse me. Is this where the interviews for the Blitz team being held?"
"Yes," said Blackstar. Shi looked over the taur who had the build of a Red Foxtaur, but the fur of a White Wolf, "and who are you?"
"My name is Selina."
Blackstar waited a moment before saying, "Okay. Um, letís see, we need to go over a few standard questions. First of all, what is your age in earth years and what is your species?"
"Iím about 20 years old. Iím a cross between a Wolftaur and a Foxtaur."
Well that explains her odd appearance, thought Blackstar. "And what position are you applying for, what other skills do you have any previous space flight experience, and if so, to what extent, and what are your reasons for joining the Blitz team?"
"Thatís a lot of questions at once," commented Selina. "I donít have a specific position in mind. Iím a jack of all trades. I have some mechanical capabilities, I have medical field training, and I can pilot small ships, but I should warn you I canít navigate. I have some experience in a simulator but... well thatís not really important. As for the reason Iím joining the Blitz team, well that my personal business."
A grin spread across Blackstarís muzzle. Hir empathic senses could tell that this odd cross-breed was quite nervous and seemed to be hiding something. Shi could only guess at what it was, but shi decided that shi should take a chance on this oddball. "Thatís what I wanted to hear. Please give me you contact information."
Selena got even more nervous, "I donít have any contact information. All I have with me is some personal stuff in my backpack."
Blackstar sighed, "Alright, go sit with Vega over by the bar. Order what you want and tell Baxter to put it on my tab."
"Thank you, I wonít let you down." She gave a salute and walked over to the bar.
Well thatís one position down, Blackstar thought to hirself, at this rate itís a good thing I invested in auto-control systems. Otherwise we wouldnít have a chance.
Continued in Episode 3
Story and Characters are copyright of Alex Wiegerling unless otherwise stated.
Faera is copyright of Ileah Pankratz and used with her permission.
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove.
Boyce Garald Kline Jr, Rosepetal, Zhane and family are copyright Boyce Garald Kline Jr.
The Folly and her captain are copyright of Allen Fesler.
Skunktaurs are copyright Bob Reijns.
If Iíve managed to step on anyone elseís toes (or paws, claws, tails, or other various appendages) let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and Iíll either give you credit or change my Ďtaleí.
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