THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT
By Chakat Stardreamer
June 8, 2344
"Come on people, we have to be ready to go in five hours. Let's move it! I want those engines online in ten minutes tops," I roar so that all in engineering can hear me.
A chorus of 'Yes Shir's!' echo back to me as I return to the task of fully restarting the inactive starship's systems.
"Taking command a little seriously, aren't we?" my mate asks in an amused tone as shi steps up beside me.
"If I don't then it will be my rear that the captain chews out when we don't leave the dry dock on time, Commander." I answer formally.
"That would be true, Commander," shi replies softly, "Let me help you restart this old trash heap."
"By all means, be my guest," I say playfully as I motion toward a nearby console, "While you're at it, tell me how the life support algorithms are running, will you?" I say by way of request.
"Yes, Shir!" shi mockingly replies as shi steps up to the indicated console. "Life support is fully operational. All diagnostics check out, for once."
"Good. Bring up the navigational sensors, please."
"Nav sensors online and in the green," Darkstorm, my Chakat mate, confirms.
"Standby to bring the AGP (Artificial Gravity Plating) online."
I flip a switch on my panel and the little red light above it turns green.
"Attention all hands. Prepare for gravity plate activation in five, four, three, two, one." I cue Storm and gravity promptly returns to the ship. I land on all four feet easily, as does my mate. I flip the switch back off and the little green light turns red again.
"AGPs show operational throughout the ship, Star," Darkstorm promptly reports.
"Bringing the maneuvering thrusters online," I say informatively.
"All thrusters show operational."
I turn away from my panel and quickly bellow, "Lieutenant!"
A black and white striped skunk morph promptly appears and stands at attention. "Yes, Shir?"
"Are the engines ready for power up, Lt. Seelan?"
"Yes, Commander Stardreamer. Engines are ready when you are," he quickly answers.
"I hope so," I reply worriedly.
"Me too, Shir. Me too," Lt. Seelan says nervously as he moves quickly back to his station.
"Alright. Here goes nothing. Initializing reactor startup sequence," I say quietly to Storm.
"Reactors at 12% and climbing. Everything looks okay," shi quickly advises.
"Bleed off vents on stand by. Emergency protocols in place," I advise as a subdued hum fills the compartment.
"Reactors at 83%!" Storm calls just before I hear a sickening snap.
"Status!" I roar above a sudden loud grinding snarl as a klaxon begins to scream shrilly.
"Reactor 2 is losing coolant pressure!" Storm shouts back.
"Primary coolant pump offline! Activating auxiliary pump!" a random crewman screams before I hear another sickening snap followed by more grinding.
"Auxiliary pump ineffective! Reactor is at 48 million Kelvin and rising! Reactor 2 will go critical in approximately three minutes 29 seconds!" Storm advises.
"Shut it down, Storm! Shut it down!" I roar to be heard over the racket.
"Control surfaces non responsive! I can't shut it down. I suggest a shipwide evacuation, Star!"
"There's no time! Manually opening bleed off vents! All vents showing open!" I shout back a reply.
"Core temperature at 50,039,948 Kelvin . . . and dropping. Thank the Makers. Core controls responsive. Shutting down reactor two . . . Reactor two is offline. We're in the clear."
‘Oh, thank the Makers!’ I pray silently as I fight to bring my pounding hearts under control. ‘That was way to close for comfort!’
After everything was under control in the engineering compartment and everyone had gathered their wits, we pulled the coolant pumps and found that the bearings were all shot. They were worn so badly that they had snapped the impeller shafts clean off. They were supposed to be replaced during our last overhaul two months ago, but I suppose they had been overlooked. We replaced the pumps quickly and were able to bring the reactor back online without further incident. The research vessel Daedalus departed the dry dock orbiting Earth's moon on time and without incident, bound for a recently discovered planetary system. Our specific target was the fifth planet which, judging from the images that were gathered from an independent probe, has some sort of artificial satellites orbiting it. We're being sent to investigate, naturally.
I've been rude, haven't I? I suppose I ought to introduce myself. I am Chakat Stardreamer, child of Morningmist and Brightstar. I am a cougar patterned Chakat that stands 1.6 metres tall and weigh 180 kg. I have long black hair and golden green eyes. My current assignment is Commander, Star Corps, Technical engineer.
My mate, I mentioned earlier, is Chakat Darkstorm, Child of Clearbreeze and Silentstorm. Hir patterning is more similar to a panther. Hir fur is a grayish black, causing hir to look like a grey storm cloud. Shi stands 1.83 metres tall and weighs 193 kg. My other mate is back on Terra with her mate.
She is Shenziluskawae, or just Shenzi. A beautiful and smart grey wolftaur bitch. Shenzi was abandoned after her birth for reasons unknown. A foxtaur couple had happened upon her shivering in the woods and had taken her in. The two foxtaurs had both found out that they were sterile and incapable of having kits only two weeks before they had found Shenzi, so they believe it was a blessing from the Makers themselves. They raised Shenzi in their village, the Cold Springs community in Northern Idaho, teaching her all the things they teach young foxtaurs. Now they treat Shenzi as their own and Shenzi returns their love just as enthusiastically, for they are the only parents that she's ever known.
Her mate is Jakarl Blackpaw, a 23 year old foxtaur tod from the Forest Lake community in Southern Idaho. I personally met him when I joined the Star Corps and I took quite a liking to him. I had introduced him to my mates one night over dinner and I guess Shenzi just fell in love with him.
After we get off our shift in engineering, Darkstorm and I head back to our mutual cabin. (We function as a mated team, pulling the same tasks and missions if at all possible.) As I step through the door I quietly call out, "Grey, we're back."
Just as I finish the sentence something unexpectedly lands heavily on my tail. I jump so high that I slam my head into the hard ceiling. I turn, holding my head, to find a small silver ball of fur rolling on the floor laughing next to a much larger Darkstorm. Suddenly the yeoman comes out from her hiding place.
"Sorry Shir. Shi insisted," she says apologetically.
"That's alright. I should've known my daughter better than that by now," I laugh lightheartedly.
"Shi does this quite often, then?" I nod before turning to my mate. Shi's off the floor now but still chuckling.
"Oh, you think that's funny, huh? Well, you’re coming in first from now on," I laugh evilly. That serves to squelch hir laughing quickly.
"I'd best be going now. Shi behaved wonderfully. You two should be very proud," the red fox vixen says pleasantly.
"Believe me, we're very proud of our little Grey. Thanks Sherry," I say with a parting hug.
"It's my job, but it's the ones like your little Greyears here that make it worthwhile," the fox ensign chuckles as she walks out of the room.
"Bye!" Grey waves after Sherry.
"Bye, little one. I'll see you tomorrow!" she calls back.
"Kay!" my cub laughs.
I pick up my little Greyears and give hir a loving cuddle before handing hir over to Storm, who takes hir turn at showing hir love to our cub.
"How was your day my little one? Did you have fun?" I ask curiously
"Yah! Shewwy was nice!" shi replies excitedly in a language nearly hir own.
"That's good. Are you hungry, little one?" I ask softly.
"Yah. I'm hungy, mom," shi answers excitedly.
"Alright, I'll get us some lunch," I purr softly.
I walk over to the replicator, unlock it, and select something to eat: cheeseburgers and French fries. Three plates appear laden with food on the replicator tray. I scoop them up and move them over to our small table. I quickly lay them out for each of us and my mate and 3-year old daughter quickly take their seats. I return to the replicator for drinks. I select sodas for me and Darkstorm, and milk for Greyears.
"So, my little one. Are you ready for your birthday?" Shi nods excitedly as shi chews a bite of hamburger.
"Nine days now, isn't it love?" I softly ask Storm before taking a large bite of my own hamburger.
"That's right, my sweet. Do you know when we will arrive?" shi responds before taking a long pull from hir drink.
"We should arrive about three days after that, I think."
After lunch, we go on a quiet walk on the ship's small promenade, letting my little Grey marvel at the beautiful views outside the viewports. This is hir first time in space and shi is fascinated by what shi sees. I simply have to laugh at hir innocent excitement.
Greyears is Darkstorm's and my first daughter. Hir entire coat of fur is a bright, shining silver except for hir ears which are simply a dull grey hence hir birth name. To my great pleasure shi has been learning everything shi possibly can. Shi has a very sharp mind for hir age and my mate and I am very proud of this fact.
We spend a few more hours on the Daedalus promenade just playing with little Grey until shi grows tired. Then we return to our cabin and take a nice long nap with hir.
June 16, 2344
A request, old friend
I lightly press a button recessed into the door frame. "Come," A voice instantly calls from the other side of the door. I take a deep breath and step through the door as it slides open, sensing my presence.
I quickly walk in front of the large desk and come to a stiff attention. Behind the desk sits the captain of the research vessel Daedalus. A grizzled old grey wolf. He has a PADD in his hand and he doesn't bother to look up before simply saying, "At ease."
I obediently comply and wait for him to finish.
Finally he sets the PADD on his desk and looks up. "Ah, Commander Stardreamer. How have you been?"
"Fine, sir, fine," I purr happily.
"That's good. I hear we had some trouble with Reactor Two. Is everything still squared away?" he asks curiously.
"Everything is running perfectly now, sir. No more problems thus far."
"Good. So, what is it I can do for you, Star?" he asks with a wolfy grin.
"Captain O'Neal, I wish to request tomorrow off for my mate and I so we can celebrate little Grey's fourth birthday," I say with a fond smile.
"Four, huh? When you showed me pictures, shi was just about a year old and now shi's turning four. Well, I suppose we could spare you and Darkstorm for one day, but you owe me another one, old friend," he playfully laughs.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." I crisply salute, turn and exit his ready room with a large smile occupying my muzzle.
After I leave the captain's ready room, I head joyfully back to my cabin with a spring in my step. As I pass through corridor A-12 I spot Lieutenant Seelan walking out of a crew lounge. He's wearing civilian clothes, signifying that he is off duty.
"Seelan!" I call out as I steer towards him.
He reflexively snaps to attention as I approach. "Yes, Shir?"
"It's alright, Lieutenant. You're off-duty, remember?" I say with a friendly laugh.
"Oh, uh. Sorry, Shir. I forgot," he replies matter-of-factly as he slightly relaxes.
"That's okay, Seelan. And please, just call me Star," I say with a grin.
"Okay. What can I do for you, Sh.... Uh, sorry, Star?"
"I just wanted to say good work installing those power couplings, today. You replaced them faster than I ever thought possible. Great work, Lieutenant," I say happily.
"Thanks, Star. That means a lot to me. Uh, I've got to go get ready for my next shift. Goodbye," he says gratefully.
"Tail high, Seelan!" I call after the shy skunk before continuing back to my cabin.
The door slides open and I cautiously poke my head into the cabin before proceeding inside. "Storm, Grey. I'm back," I call softly.
"In here, love," comes the prompt reply from my bedroom.
"What are you two up to?" I demand playfully as I walk into the room to find Darkstorm lying on the bed cushions. "Where's Grey?"
Just then something falls heavily on my twitching tail. I jump reflexively but I don't hit my head this time, although I do notice that my fur is standing on end.
"A name like 'Tailstalker' would suit hir better, I think," I exclaim to a laughing Darkstorm as I begin to smooth my fur back into place.
"Sorry, love. I just couldn't resist hir cute little face," shi laughs quietly.
"How about I pounce on your tail, then we'll see who's laughing?" I say with a wry smile.
"How about not?" shi counters softly.
"Well, you'll be happy to know that we got the day off, tomorrow," I say happily.
"O'Neal let us have it then. I bet we owe him another one though, don't we?" shi quietly purrs.
"Yep, he got us again, love," I reply with a rich laugh.
"Oh well, I'm starving. How about you?" shi responds with a shrug.
"Yeah, I'm hungry too. You get to cook tonight, though." I laugh evilly.
"Very funny, love," shi replies flatly.
"Yeah, I thought it was, to," I shoot back quickly.
June 17, 2344
"Happy birthday, little one!" Darkstorm and I shout in unison as I place the replicated birthday cake on the table. Greyears squeals with delight at the sight of the marvelous looking dessert.
"Make a wish and blow out the candles, my young one," I purr happily.
"’Kay!" Shi says excitedly before successfully blowing out the four burning candles on top of the cake.
"Good job, Grey!" I congratulate hir.
"What did you wish for, little Greyears?" Storm asks curiously.
"Uh, uh!" shi quickly replies. "If I tell you what I whissed for, it won't come tue."
"Shi's right, my love." I let out a rolling chuckle as I cut out three pieces from the cake and place them on separate plates.
"I know. So, Grey, how does it feel to finally be four years old?" my mate contently says.
"It's gweat!" my young cub enthusiastically replies as I give hir one of the plates. ‘Gotta work on those R's,’ I laugh to myself.
"Storm, love. Don't you need to do something in the bedroom?" I ask with a sly wink.
"Now that you mention it, my sweet, there is something," shi answers as shi stands and disappears into the bedroom. Shi returns a moment later concealing something behind hir back.
"Happy birthday, Greyears!" shi says quietly as shi pulls a brightly wrapped object from behind hir back and places it in front of our thrilled cub.
Grey quickly tears off the paper, opens the box and pulls out the contents: A handmade Chakat doll that I found in a small shop back on Terra. Our little cub is absolutely thrilled with the present. Shi gratefully thanks us before running off to play with hir new toy.
June 20, 2344
Arrival in system
"Stand by to drop to sublight engines in five....four....three....two....one. Switching to impulse drives. All impulse drives online and ready for use. All diagnostics check out perfectly, sir," I report formally to Captain O'Neal, who is standing next to the conn station on the cramped bridge of the Daedalus.
"Very well. Begin full system scan immediately. Find our planet, Commander. Helm increase speed to one quarter impulse," he quietly orders.
"Yes sir!" I curtly reply as my hands begin to move across the sensor panels immediately.
"Ahead one quarter, aye sir!" The helmsman (or rather woman) replies quickly. She is a middle aged Caitian female.
I quickly locate our target and announce its presence clearly. "Target planet detected. Bearing 1 5 0 mark 2 9 3. Distance approximately 300,000 kilometers."
"Great work, Commander. Helm, lay in an orbital course," the Captain says calmly.
"Aye, sir!" the Caitian female replies as she quickly moves to do as O'Neal has asked.
During all this, I have already begun a scan on one of the orbiting satellites. The composition display reads:
"Sir, I think you'd better see this," I say worriedly as the Captain turns and steps over to my station.
"Hmm. Any explanations, Commander?"
"Only one, sir. The satellites hull is blocking our sensors. But here's something interesting," I reply, pointing to another display.
"That can't be right, can it?" O'Neal asks with a surprised expression.
"Yes, sir. The reading is accurate. Judging by the outer hull, those satellites are at least 250,000 years old. I doubt they're still operational though," I respond thoughtfully.
"I would think so to, but let's be safe about this. Launch a probe toward the nearest one and let’s see what happens."
"Yes, sir. Launch sequence initiated. Probe launched, tracking hardware online........ No response from the satellites yet," I report as things happen.
"Alright, I think that's good enough. Helm, bring us into transporter range. Once we're in range beam it to cargo bay 3."
"We are at 10,837 kilometers and closing at one quarter impulse," I say informatively.
"Steady as she goes," the Captain adds reassuringly.
Mere moments later, I catch movement on one of my panels out of the corner of my eye. When I focus on that panel, I see nothing but the stationary satellite. ‘Wait! I thought that protrusion was oriented toward the planet. In fact, I'm sure of it.’ I silently think as an alarm starts to go off in my mind. I quickly notice an energy spike from the satellite register on another panel.
"Red alert!" I shout and instantly the klaxon sounds.
A sudden impact rocks the Daedalus hard. Several systems short out, sending out flying sparks, before the main lights wink out.
"REPORT!" O'Neal howls over the sudden din.
"Direct hit, aft quarter, deck twelve. A plasma bolt of some sort, sir. Warp engines are down, but impulse is still operational." Another impact. "The satellites are firing on us. Weapons offline."
"Get us out of here, damn it!" O'Neal shouts hoarsely.
"Coming about, full impulse!" the Caitian screams back in confirmation.
Several more bolts impact the Daedalus' tortured hull. The defense screens flicker off and the tactical officer is quick to point it out to the Captain.
"Captain, I advise that all non-essential crew and passengers abandon the ship, just in case," the tactical officer suggests stressfully.
"Agreed! Sound an abandon ship immediately!" O'Neal calls back calmly after a short, thoughtful pause.
"Attention all non-essential personnel. Abandon ship immediately. I repeat, abandon ship immediately." The call goes out across the ship as another satellite scores a hit.
Suddenly a furry grey hand touches my shoulder. I turn to find O'Neal at my side. "You go too, Star," he says with a quiet smile.
"Thank you, sir. Good luck," I say with a parting hug before turning to leave.
I run down empty corridor after empty corridor until I reach my cabin. I quickly run inside only to find that Sherry and my little Grey are already gone. I turn to leave and run directly into Storm as shi comes running in.
"They're already gone! Let's go!" I shout to hir as a nearby access panel blows open.
I drag hir out and shi follows me through the abandoned corridors down to the shuttle bay. One of the Wasp class attack runabouts is all that remains. We quickly climb in, power it up, and fly through the magnetic containment field and into open space. Almost immediately we are hit by a high energy plasma bolt.
"We just lost our shields, Star!" Darkstorm cries stressfully.
I begin to frantically dodge the streams of deadly plasma streaking past our hull until suddenly a beam of energy lances straight for us. I flip the runabout into a sharp spin, narrowly missing the energy bolt. However, my maneuver turns out to be an error. We are struck by a bright blue streak of energy and I hear a sickening crunch as the bare hull gives way to the fury of the plasma.
"We've lost the port engine! It's gone! I'm detecting micro fractures forming on the inner hull! We'll have to put it down, Star!" Storm stressfully calls above the one roaring engine.
"If we land, we won't go back up! You know that, right?" I counter worriedly.
"I know, love! We have to land though! We'd never make it back to the Daedalus in one piece!"
"Agreed!" I shout loudly.
I fight to turn the runabout towards the fifth planet and increase the power to the starboard engine until it threatens to break down. We shoot through the satellite blanket at our maximum attainable speed, still being chased by lances of hot blue energy. I frantically straighten out our approach to the atmosphere.
"Quick! Send a distress signal, Storm!" I grunt as we impact the planet's outer atmosphere. Instantly the outer hull begins to glow a hot orange red.
"This is Chakat Commander Darkstorm to Daedalus. We are going down on the fifth planet. Be advised. I repeat, we are attempting a crash landing on the fifth planet," my mate calls out loudly to be heard over the rushing air outside the hull.
I watch out the viewport as we break through the thick clouds.
"The Makers!" Storm exclaims breathlessly.
I can't even speak. The view is far too shocking. Before us lies a tortured planet. Across it's surface I can see several cities. Upon looking closer, I can see that every one of them has been completely destroyed by some sort of high powered blast long ago. One single word comes to my mind: How?
"We're ten kilometers from the surface and closing fast!" my mate calls informatively.
I quickly snap out of my daze and my hands go back to pounding on the flight controls. "Brace for impact!" I shout to my mate as I quickly curl into a protective ball. Mere moments later, a bone-snapping impact roars through the tortured hull. Something hard slams into the back of my head and I dive into the deep dark abyss of unconsciousness...........
"Star?" A kind voice faintly calls to me and a firm hand shakes my arm, "Star!"
My eyes painfully snap open and I wince before opening them more slowly this time. My eyes gradually come into focus and I can now see Darkstorm watching me intently. "Wha....what happened?" I ask with a confused look around the trashed runabout.
"A storage case broke its restraints and hit you. Are you all right?" shi asks worriedly.
"I'm a little sore, but other than that I'm fine," I reply softly before noticing a large, bloody gash in Storm’s left flank. "You're hurt!"
"I am?" shi says with a surprised tone in hir voice as shi looks where my finger is pointing. "Huh, I guess I am."
I quickly stand and grab a med-kit from a storage compartment and swiftly begin to attend to my mate’s wounds. I pull a tiny dermal regenerator from the small med-kit, switch it on, and begin to run it over the gaping wound in hir flank. The wound slowly begins to close and soon all that is left is a thin scar and blood-matted fur.
"Thank you, love. Now, let me give you something for the pain and soreness," shi says tenderly as shi pulls out a hypospray and a small vial filled with a scarlet liquid. Shi slips the vial into the base of the hypospray, places it on the skin of my neck, and lightly presses the release button. There is a quiet hiss as the medicine is released into my bloodstream and the pain instantly begins to drain from my body.
"Thanks, that really helped. Now, back to business. Does the communications array still work?" I ask curiously.
"Sorry, but main power is offline. This thing is just a big heap of scrap metal now."
"Damn!" I shout out in frustration.
"Calm down, my love. We have some portable comms in one of these storage compartments," shi says in an amused tone as shi indicates the many cabinets in the ships aft section.
"When were they put in?" I demand curiously.
"They were put in before our departure, love. I thought you knew about it," shi explains softly.
"What other supplies do we have with us?" I ask calmly, feeling foolish about my earlier outbreak.
"Well, we have enough food and water to last us for two weeks if we need it. We have climbing gear, a prefabricated shelter, cooking utilities, three tricorders, one stunner, one phaser rifle, and two phaser pistols. One of the tricorders is a medical one." Shi lists the separate items as shi thinks of them.
"Well, first thing we need to do is find out if the Daedalus is still with us," I suggest thoughtfully.
I begin searching through the different compartments until I finally come across the portable comms. I hand one to Storm and take one for myself. I switch the unit on, set it to the emergency frequency, and push the transmit button; "Daedalus, this is Chakat Commander Stardreamer, please respond."
Static is the only reply.
"Daedalus, this is Stardreamer. Can you hear me?"
"Commander, this is the Daedalus. Are you all right?" comes a static plagued reply.
"Commander Darkstorm and I are fine. Is my daughter all right?" I demand worriedly.
"Stand by, Commander. We're checking now. The primary computer core is offline.......... Shi's fine Star, shi's fine. Where are you?"
Darkstorm and I breathe a deep sigh of relief before I transmit a reply; "We're on the target planet's surface. I'm not sure of our actual location, though. Our ship is permanently out of action. What are our orders?"
"We suggest you leave the ship behind. Take all the supplies you can carry and find some cover until we can figure out how to knock out these satellites." A garbled voice replies.
"Uh, Daedalus, be advised: this planet was evidently home to an extremely advanced race. On our way down, we witnessed the aftermath of some sort of war. All, I repeat, all population centers have been completely destroyed by some sort of powerful energy blasts."
"We copy Commander. Your orders are to gather any intelligence possible and find cover. Be careful down there Commanders. We're working on a way to bring you home," the voice says reassuringly.
"Orders confirmed. Thanks." I answer gratefully.
"We'll keep in touch, Daedalus out."
I close the channel and look at my mate. "Looks like we get an impromptu vacation, my love. Let's gather the supplies and get out of here"
"Yes, Shir!" shi smiles and snaps a mocking salute before producing two saddle bags from a compartment and hands one to me.
I put on the bag and begin to fill it with food, water, two of the tricorders and some of the cooking supplies. I pick up one of the Phaser pistols and slide it into the holster on my belt before tossing the other one to Darkstorm. Shi nimbly snatches it out of the air, checks the settings, and slips it into hir own belt before silently returning to the task at hand. Once we've loaded everything into our bags, I pick up the two rifles and hold them out towards Storm. "Which one do you want? The stunner, or the phaser rifle?"
Shi silently thinks for a moment before finally answering. "I'll take the stunner, thank you."
I quickly hand it to hir and check my own weapon before proceeding to the air lock. I deftly punch in the opening sequence on the keypad and thankfully hear the door locks manually release. I put my shoulder to the door and shove hard. The door easily slides open and I cautiously step out into a warm pouring rain with my weapon at the ready. Despite the storm clouds, it's fairly bright outside and I can easily see my surroundings. The runabout had landed in the ruins of what was once a large city. Thankfully the ancient debris has been worn fairly smooth from the local weather conditions and I am able to walk easily on it.
I look over the area with sharp eyes. Finding nothing, I motion Darkstorm out past me. Shi obediently moves forward and cautiously looks around for hirself. "Come on, Storm. I've got one of those bad feelings. I don't want to be within two miles of this thing," I say worriedly.
"I agree, love. Let's go."
We start to move away from the crash site quickly but cautiously. It strikes me that this 'war', as I had called it, had taken place thousands of years ago. The debris was unidentifiable. ‘Scratch one objective.’ I think silently to myself, ‘Can't really gather information when there is no information to gather.’
"Aren't you pawsore, yet?" Storm demands irritably.
"No, I'm not. Why?" I chuckle back.
"I am. I need a break, my love."
"Alright, love. We'll rest here for a little while," I say as I lie down and relax on the grass (at least, I think it's grass) covered ground. I reach into one of my saddle bags, pull out a few energy bars, and offer them to Storm; "Power bar, my love?"
Shi gratefully takes the offered food and peels off the wrapping of one of them as I pull out a large canteen and take a gulp of the cool water before offering my mate the canteen. Suddenly I hear a quiet but insistent beeping from my comm. I quickly connect into Daedalus' communication frequency.
"This is Commander Stardreamer."
"Take cover!" is all I hear.
Darkstorm and I hit the ground just as a beam of blue light lances down through the clouds and hits the ground in the distance. An abrupt cloud of fire blossoms into the sky. Moments later, the shockwave hits us, forcing the air out of my lungs. The ground trembles dangerously for several seconds before finally settling. I struggle to my feet and fight for breath as I help Darkstorm up off the ground.
"What the hell was that?" shi gasps.
"I don't know, but I intend to find out!" I pant in reply as I stoop down and pluck the comm off of the ground. "This is Commander Stardreamer. Daedalus, can you hear me?"
"Affirmative, Commander. Go ahead."
"Would you mind telling me what just happened?" I demand irritably.
"Oh, sorry Commander. One of the satellites just fired on the planet. The runabout has been completely destroyed, Shir. Are you two alright?" comes the response.
"Yeah. Yeah, we're fine," I answer shakily.
"Good. Good. We're still working on.....What?......Uh, stand by, Commander."
"What? What's going on? Daedalus?" I demand worriedly.
"Commander, we are detecting an airborne contact on long range sensors. It's moving at great speed to the crash site. Stand by for further information."
"What are they talking about, 'airborne contact'?" Storm asks bemusedly.
"I don't have a clue," I admit quietly. "Perhaps we should get moving."
"I think you're right, love," shi nervously agrees.
We gather our things and continue our cautious trek away from the now compromised crash site, leap-frogging from cover to cover. Watching each other’s backs and listening for danger, we keep our weapons at the ready as an understandable precaution. We travel a good mile and a half in less than an hour.
I'm just about to sprint from a pile of debris to a small stand of trees when I hear something that sounds like a metallic skittering. I freeze and subconsciously hold my breath as the fur along my backs rise. I risk a glance at Darkstorm to find that shi is in much the same condition as I am. The entire time, the skittering is growing closer and closer. Suddenly, a small metallic object with four shiny legs comes rushing around the corner of the debris pile and runs right into my left fore leg. I reflexively jump back and yelp in surprise. The little, uh, thing leaps away and simply watches from a distance with a single calculating eye.
After a short time, a small door opens on top of the object and a thin antenna looking wire comes telescoping out of it.
"It's giving away our position!" Darkstorm hisses quietly as shi steps forward, raises hir stunner and fires. The 'bug' tries to dodge but it's too slow. The stunner blast hits it full on and it abruptly collapses in a shining heap on the debris-strewn ground.
I cautiously step up to the limp form and lightly poke it with the muzzle of my rifle. The 'bug' remains motionless. I turn to Storm hesitantly. "I want to take it with me for analysis. Is that alright with you?"
Shi seems to be concerned with the idea, but shi replies, "I don't see anything wrong with it, I suppose."
"Thank you, love. I think the techs back on Terra will be dying to see this," I say nervously as I carefully pick up the 'bug' and place it in my saddlebag.
"I'm sure they will, love. Let's get moving before more of them show up," shi responds urgently.
"Yeah, let's get out of here before they start to miss this little guy." I quietly pat the saddlebag before stepping past my mate and sprinting to a small pile of rusted metal. Darkstorm quickly follows behind me with hir stunner ready to fire.
We gain about two hundred yards before a shrill mechanical scream fills the air. Storm and I quickly duck under a small outcropping made of rusted metal and something like concrete. The mechanical shriek seems to pass right above our heads and I am forced to cover my ears from the harsh noise until it finally moves away. As it moves away, I catch a good glimpse of it and am instantly struck by its resemblance to a Terran wasp. It has a pair of sleek, stationary wings tipped with a pair of large fusion engines and under its decidedly insect chin hangs a gun turret housing four large weapons.
A touch on my arm startles me and I hit my head on the low over hang. I rub my sore, abused head as I turn to glare at my mate. Shi is fighting to stifle hir laughter and quickly regains control. "Sorry, love. Could you help me with this?" shi asks softly patting a large slab of concrete.
"I suppose I could. Why?" I demand quizzically.
"I think there's something behind it, love. I'm curious to see what it is," Darkstorm explains patiently.
"Well, I suppose it can't hurt anything," I concede as I step up to the large artificial boulder.
We put our shoulders to it and the 'concrete' slab grudgingly slides aside. Behind it is another slab of 'concrete' recessed into the ground. This slab, however, is shaped more purposefully than the rubble that surrounds it. I notice a small panel next to it and bend down to take a closer look at it. The panel is adorned with many weird symbols and it has a slight glow. I pull out my tricorder and take some preliminary readings on the panel.
"It still has power," I whisper in an astonished tone.
"What? How can that be?" shi asks with a shock plain on hir face.
"I don't know. Let's find out, shall we?"
My beautiful mate shrugs, "Can't hurt."
I put the tricorder away and grasp the panel tightly with both hands. I give it a light yank and the panel pops open with a screech of metal on metal, exposing the electronic innards. I examine them for a short while before I grasp two microfilament wires, twist them together, and press what I believe is an override button. There is a light thump as the door unlocks and suddenly sparks fly out of the access panel. I reflexively flinch before looking back at the panel.
"It's completely burnt out," I quietly diagnose the damage.
Storm shrugs again and starts to search for a handhold on the door. Shi quickly finds one and pulls. The ancient door emits a dull groan and a hiss as it slowly slides open. This door once held in an airless vacuum. I switch on the flashlight that's built onto the muzzle of my phaser rifle and point it into the large, gaping hole. I see a sloping ramp leading down through the darkness, and notice that the air is very stale. I glance at Darkstorm and shi gives a slight nod. Quickly, I step through the door and begin to make my way down, my paws making nearly no noise on the artificial construction under them. Every ten or fifteen feet I pause to listen for movement both in front of and behind me. The only thing I hear is Darkstorm's breathing behind me.
We go about two hundred feet down the ramp when the small tunnel opens up into a small chamber. The air is thin down here and I'm having some difficulty breathing. I can clearly hear Storms slightly labored breathing behind me and it comforts me to know that shi is still there. I take a cautious step forward and sweep the room with the flashlight. What I see causes me to gasp.
"What is it, Star?" my mate hisses to me as shi steps around me to see for hirself. "Oh, my!"
Centered in my light is a mummified corpse. The creature used to be a quadruped with two torso's, four arms, and a decidedly insectoid head. It surprises me how much the thing resembles a Terran praying mantis, except for the fact that it has four spiked arms instead of two.
Eventually, I move my light to the desk that the creature is slumped in front of. On the desk, there is only a small object that appears to be some sort of projector and some small green cubes. I step closer and I find that in the base of the projector is a small square slot. I cautiously pick up one of the blocks and try to put it into the projector. It easily slides into the slot and immediately a glowing three dimensional image appears above the projector.
"A hologram," Darkstorm says over my shoulder with a hint of awe in hir voice.
The image is that of the dead being in front of the desk. A button on the bottom of the projector begins to flash insistently. I hesitantly press it and the image suddenly jumps into motion. The creature's mandibles begin to move and it emits seemingly random screeches and shrieks. I quickly start to press buttons at random until the image halts and resets. I quickly pull my tricorder out of the bag again and switch it to translation mode before pressing the 'play' button once more.
"Professor SSSerath am I and a sssad tale have I for you. Mantisss am I and Mantorn thisss planet isss. Roboticsss we found a thousand ssseasons ago and perfect it we did. Perfected the robotsss we did to the point they reached a sself awarenesss their own entirely. Work them hard we did until unhappy they grew. Revolted, rebelled did they. A peaceful sssecluded race were we and they ssslaughtered usss at firsst. Eventually, fight back we did. And win we did. Until ssstruck back they have with our own robotic defenssse gunss in orbit of our gloriouss Mantorn. Desstroyed our coloniess they have and Mantisss are endangered. Dead, long dead, we will be when sssomeone finds thisss. Remember we Mantisss. Ssave the queen......
The image halts and I am suddenly aware that my jaw is hanging wide open. I quickly snap it shut and watch as my shocked mate does the same.
"How ironic," I softly say, breaking the deafening silence.
"Yes, quite. They built robots to work for them and the robots rebelled and slaughtered them. This must have been recorded at least a hundred-thousand years ago."
"I'm going to mark this on my tricorder for future exploration. We ought to take the projector and cubes with us." I reverently change the subject.
"I think you're right, love. I'll get the projector," shi says quietly as shi steps forward to get the alien device.
I quickly mark the location on my tricorder and turn toward the tunnel to go. I glance back once more at the Mantis corpse and sadly walk away. Halfway up the tunnel, I hear an all too familiar skitter coming from up ahead and my body instantly tenses. I snap the phaser rifle to my shoulder and wait tensely. I barely even notice that my mate has stepped up next to me and has hir stunner ready in hir arms. After what seems like an eternity, a small 'bug' comes skittering out of the darkness ahead. It screeches shrilly at me and my tricorder suddenly speaks. "Intruder!" it screams.
The sudden word startles me and my aim falters. Darkstorm frantically triggers hir stunner but hir hasty shot misses. The 'bug' hesitates, giving me time to steady my aim. I caress the sensitive trigger of the rifle. It gives a slight kick as it sends a bright red pulse of energy streaking towards my target. My shot is straight and it hits the small robot, shredding it in a small explosion. My mate and I are showered by its flying components.
"I think they know we're here," I whisper quietly, as though it actually matters.
"I think you're right," Storm hisses back with a slightly sarcastic tone just before I notice more faint scrabbling sounds ahead.
"Here they come!" I quietly say.
A few moments later, a small swarm of about eight or ten of the insectoid robots materialize out of the darkness. "Protect the queen!" one of them shouts, urging the rest onward. I quickly start to methodically sight in and fire on each one that Storm doesn't get and after only thirty seconds, the last one falls to a stunner blast.
"I think these ones are like the drones or workers," Storm says thoughtfully as shi gives one of the limp forms a light kick with hir fore paw.
"You could be right but we don't have any time, love. We have to go before more of the little bastards show up," I reply stressfully before stepping past hir and trotting up the rest of the tunnel undisturbed.
As we approach the entrance, I can hear a familiar scream getting closer. I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomachs and my hearts are hammering fearfully in my chests. I can feel similar feelings emanating from my mate as we step through the still open doorway. I quickly poke my head out from under our hiding place to find one of the large 'wasps' hovering twenty feet above my head. But the one thing that draws my attention more than the rest is the fact that I have four gun barrels aimed directly at me.
"Run!" I scream at my startled mate before quickly running out into an open field with hir in tow.
The 'wasp' agilely turns to follow us and one of the barrels under its chin emits a harsh blue pulse of super-heated plasma. The hastily aimed shot hits about thirty feet behind us. The ground trembles violently under my paws as it absorbs the impact. Even at this distance, I can feel the intense heat. Before the 'wasp' can fire again, we've gotten through the small field on legs driven by terror and have disappeared into a large field of debris. I cringe as the 'wasp' seems to fly right over us. It hovers around the debris field for a while longer before it seems to give up, screaming away at surprising speed.
After about five minutes of holding perfectly still in the deep silence, my tense muscles begin to grow sore.
"Come on, let's get out of here," Darkstorm whispers in my ear. "They'll probably send in some of the 'workers' to search us out."
"You're right," I say quietly as I look at the darkening sky. "Looks like it will be dark soon. We'd better find someplace to stay for the night."
"Agreed," Storm replies simply.
We move on and eventually leave the colony's debris field and enter the open countryside. It's actually quite beautiful at sunset. It looks so much like Earth if you forget about the robots that are out to kill you. We travel a while longer until we decide that it is too dark to proceed safely. We consider erecting the pre-fab shelter but in the end, we opt against it. It would make it far too simple for the bugs to find us.
I take the first watch of the night. It turns out to be completely uneventful and Darkstorm takes over for me after four hours. I go and lie down in a stand of protective alien trees. I fall asleep almost immediately from my extreme exhaustion......
Two hours later
I'm asleep for what seems to be mere minutes when Darkstorm’s firm hand shakes me back to consciousness. I silently jump to my feet and grab my rifle. "What's going on?" I whisper almost silently in the quiet darkness.
"Something's coming," shi replies simply.
I open up my senses to their full capabilities and I almost instantly catch the sound of a deep hum growing slowly nearer. Storm and I silently take cover behind the trees and wait. Ten minutes later, the source of the sound comes into sight. There is no moon in this planet’s orbit, therefore it is nearly pitch black at night. Because of this, I can only see in black and white. What I see sliding out of the darkness is a gigantic cockroach looking ship hovering a mere ten feet off the ground. The ship is moving extremely slow and I speculate that it is some sort of resource gatherer. Darkstorm nods hir agreement, pointing out the lack of obvious weapons on the lumbering cockroach. Eventually, the ship passes on and I quietly go back to sleep.
The rest of the night passes uneventfully with Storm and I switching off the task of sentry.
June 21, 2344
The sun finally begins to peek around the horizon a good three hours after the Terran sun would have. I'm just happy for the extra three hours rest that my mate and I get. I have a feeling we'll need it later. I reach over and give Darkstorm a gentle nudge, rousing hir out of hir unconscious state.
"What? What is it?" shi whispers as shi instantly reaches for hir weapon.
"It's time to get up, my love," I say soothingly.
"Oh," shi says with a gaping yawn.
We both stand and stretch our sore muscles before sitting down to 'breakfast': energy bars and water.
"At least it's better than nothing," I comment truthfully.
"True, love. That is true," Storm replies after chewing a bite of energy bar.
After we finish breakfast, I decide that we should check in with the Daedalus again. Storm agrees quickly and I dig the communicator out of my saddlebag.
"Daedalus, this is Commander Stardreamer. Do you copy?"
"We hear you, Commander. What do you need?" comes the static ridden reply.
"I would like to know what you're doing to get us out of here, Daedalus," I answer quietly.
"Uh, standby, Commander......"
"Daedalus, what's going on?" I demand after a long, silent wait.
A new voice comes over the Comm. I instantly recognize the voice as that of Captain Bruce Lee O'Neal. "I want a sit-rep. How are you two doing?"
"We are being hunted by hostile robots, sir. It seems that the guns in orbit are robotic. They destroyed all the cities on this planet. The previous inhabitants, the Mantis, developed robots to the point that they were self-aware. The Mantis worked them too hard and the robots revolted. Their creations slaughtered every last Mantis they could and it seems they don't like visitors," I explain calmly.
"Do you think you can hold out for three or four more days?"
"Uh, yes sir. I think so. Why?" I answer hesitantly.
"We've dispatched the Federation starship Independence. They will arrive in about three to four days."
"The Independence? You mean the Star Fleet battleship Independence?" I say with a shocked tone.
"That's right, Commander. We'll use their long range weapons to knock out the defense network, move in and beam you out of there."
"Sounds like a plan, sir. We'll hold out as long as possible. Commander Stardreamer out," I answer, feeling very reassured.
"Did you hear that?" Storm asks me quietly.
"What?" I hiss as I grab for my weapon.
Shi softly catches my arm and replies, "They're sending the Independence to rescue us. A full fledged battleship just to get the two of us out of here."
"You're right. I never really thought about it that much," I say sarcastically.
"Chakat Admiral Firebreeze hirself. I don't believe it."
"There is something more important than the Independence, you know," I point out caustically.
"Oh? And what might that be, love?" shi replies coyly.
"Surviving in a sea of hostiles for three to four days with limited supplies until the time that we can be safely rescued."
"Oh. Sorry, love," my mate replies flatly, feeling embarrassed for overlooking that extremely important detail.
"That's alright, my love. I forgive you," I chuckle softly. "Now, we'd best be moving on, don't you think?"
"Yes, that would probably be the best idea for now," shi answers quickly.
We pack up our things and start another long walk through overgrown fields, marshes, and small forests. We walk about five miles in the first three hours of the morning before stopping to take a break. As we drink some of the much-needed water, my practiced ears catch an almost imperceptible hum.
"Shhh. Listen, my love, listen," I whisper quietly to Darkstorm. Shi immediately obeys, cocking hir head to listen, "Do you hear it?"
"Yes, love, I do," shi responds almost silently.
"Wait here, I'll go take a look."
"Be careful, my love," shi whispers worriedly.
"I will." I promise simply.
I slowly go prone and start to climb up the steep hill that we had been resting by. Darkstorm quietly disappears from view, obscured by the foliage and hir own natural camouflage. I silently peer over the top of the hill and find that there is a large field of ruins directly on the other side of it. Hovering ten feet above the debris-covered ground is a large cockroach shaped robot. I quickly raise my phaser rifle and peer through the small scope mounted on top of it. Through the scope, I can see nearly invisible energy beams sweeping through the ruins below. The beams catch hold of particular scraps of debris and pull them into the collector’s belly. Almost unnoticed to me, a much smaller 'wasp' darts out from behind the gigantic collector and comes screaming directly for the hill that is serving as my perch. "Shit!" I mutter under my breath.
I hold as still as I can, hoping that it will fly right past without even noticing me. It screams a mere five feet above the hilltop and keeps right on going. *SIGH* That was close! I think silently to myself as I turn to watch the 'wasp' go. My hearts suddenly sink as I see the ancient construct start a lazy turn to take another pass on my hill. This time the gun turret is in continuous motion, sighting in and focusing directly on me. I can tell that it won't miss. I leap to my paws and frantically start to run down the other side of the hill. Unfortunately, I'm not quite fast enough. The 'wasp' fires and its shot hits directly behind me. I feel myself go airborne and tumble end over end before striking the hard ground. Darkness claims me once more.........
Later that night
My eyes slowly flutter open and I find myself in a small cave. I cautiously look around and quickly spot my mate crouched at the entrance. I try to stand but the pain is too overpowering. I gasp and shudder as a wave of the intense pain washes over me, threatening to knock me out once more.
"Calm down, love. You took a very nasty hit," my mate says soothingly as shi appears by my side.
"How did I get here?" I ask weakly.
"I had to drag your fat butt here!" shi exclaims with a quiet laugh.
"I don't weigh that much," I say with a weak smile.
"You've never had to drag your unconscious body anywhere before," shi counters softly.
I look down at myself for the first time since I woke up. "My fur! Oh, now I'm pissed!" I hiss meanly. My fur beautiful golden fur has been seared black. Now I look more like a panther. "Those damned bugs!"
"Calm down, my sweet. At least you're still alive. Your fur will always grow back, you know." Storm says with an amused chuckle.
"True. Do we have anything for the pain, love?
"Yeah, I think it's about time for another shot. We need to get you to a sick bay soon though. We're risking infection with this." Shi states matter-of-factly as shi gives me a shot of painkiller with a hypospray.
"Ah, thank you, my love. That feels better. Help me up, would you? We need to get moving."
"You're welcome, but we can't go anywhere," Shi replies softly.
"What do you mean?" I demand quietly.
"Well, it's dark outside," shi nervously answers.
"What? How long have I been out, Storm?" I inquire confusedly.
"You've been unconscious for about twelve hours. When you got hit, you were launched into the air. You hit the ground hard and fractured your left hind leg. I had to drag you into the brush while the hunter was still turning. It lost sight of us and eventually gave up. I then pulled you into this cave and tended your wounds. Ever since then, I have been keeping watch and waiting for you to wake up," shi explains softly.
"Twelve hours," I repeat quietly and Storm nods, "What do you mean, 'hunter'?"
"One of the 'wasps'. They are obviously only meant for search and destroy work so I just call them hunters," shi clarifies quickly.
I simply shrug. "Makes sense, I suppose."
"There isn't too much for me to do around here, you know," shi quickly says by way of explanation.
"Come on, help me up. I'll take watch for a few hours," I say quietly.
"I'm fine. You're the one who needs the rest, love," shi lies, trying to conceal a yawn.
"I insist," I reply stubbornly.
Shi reluctantly offers me hir hand. I quickly take it and shi pulls me to my feet. I pick up my weapon and shakily make my way to the mouth of the cave.
"Be careful, love," Storm calls to me quietly through a large yawn.
"Good night," I whisper back. I wince at a sudden dull pain as I take a seat at the cave mouth and open up my senses to the world around me.
June 22, 2344
"Good morning, my love," Darkstorm calls out sweetly behind me.
"Did you sleep well?" I ask kindly.
"Yes. Thank you, Star." Shi replies with a bit of an embarrassed tone, "Why didn't you return the watch to me?"
"You deserved the sleep after all you've been through, Darkstorm," I reply easily.
"You've been through more than I have, Stardreamer. You're hurt badly. You need to rest," shi snaps back a little harshly.
"I am fine, Storm. I got enough sleep from this bump on my head," I pat my head for emphasis.
"You have a point, love," shi can't help but chuckle at my joke, "How about some breakfast?"
"Sure. How about a nice stack of pancakes and some sausage on the side?"
"Sure thing, love," shi chuckles as shi hands over some energy bars and a half full canteen.
"Uh, excuse me. I think you got my order wrong," I say with a subdued chuckle.
Darkstorm raises hir hand to give me a playful slap on my rump, but stops to reconsider when shi remembers my wounds. "You're lucky the hunter got you and not me," shi comments threateningly.
"Am I?" I ask with a sly grin before unwrapping one of the energy/ration bars and taking a bite of the bland 'food'. I grimace at the horrible taste.
"That bad, huh? Well, try this, my love." My mate understandingly chuckles as shi pulls hir uniform top off over hir head and offers me a breast. "It will help you heal."
"How can I refuse?" I ask rhetorically as I painfully step up to hir. I stoop down and take one of hir large nipples in my mouth and taste hir sweetness. I can easily feel hir pleasure at the sudden stimulation. Shi lets out a soft groan as I drink deeply of hir milk water. I empty the breast and quickly move on to the other one. I am surprised at how good I feel already. I can barely even feel the pain anymore.
"Feel better now?" shi asks with an amused look when I finish.
"Yes, I feel much better. Thank you, my love."
"You are quite welcome, my sweet," shi replies smugly.
I am about to give hir a loving hug when my ears catch an all too familiar sound. My hearts sink. "Shit!" I hiss quietly.
"What? What is it, love?"
"Damnit!" shi mouths silently as shi catches the sound. "Let's get out of here. We're sitting ducks."
"You won't get an argument from me," I agree enthusiastically as I grab one of the saddle bags and throw it onto my back despite the wounds.
Storm grabs the other bag and tosses it onto hir back. We each grab our weapons and quickly return to the cave entrance. I scan the outside surroundings with my keen eyes for signs of movement and quickly pick out several flashes of moving metal in the morning sun.
"The bastards are surrounding us!" I hiss to my alert mate.
Shi nods back and returns hir attention to the moving forms outside. As I continue to pick out targets, I spot something that completely surprises me. I quickly motion Darkstorm over to see what I'm seeing. I silently point it out to hir.
"What are they doing?" shi promptly gasps.
"They are assembling a turret to blow us out of here with," I reply stressfully.
"Damn. What else could possibly go wrong?" shi asks sarcastically.
Almost immediately I pick out the sound of a hunter screaming toward our hiding place. I then catch a second and then a third one screaming like banshees toward us.
I turn to my mate and hiss, "You had to say it, didn't you?"
"Sorry," shi replies with an innocent shrug.
"How are we going to get out of this one?" I demand hopelessly.
"I say we make a break for it while they're still preparing. We might make it through," Storm answers flatly.
"There must be at least fifty of those little workers, three hunters, and who knows how many turrets. How on Chakona can you expect to get out of this?" I inquire harshly.
"I haven't heard you come up with anything better. Whatever we're going to do, we'd better do it quick!" Darkstorm snaps back.
"You....You have a point. Let's go," I reluctantly concede.
I move into a better running position and wait for Storm to give the signal. After a short wait, shi signals to me before springing into motion. Shi leaps from behind a large rock and starts to run out into the open. I quickly jump from my hiding spot and follow closely behind hir. There is an almost instant reaction from the robotic creatures. They turn toward us and start to screech in an agitated manner. I am instantly thankful that I have turned off my tricorder. The translations would have been far too distracting and the one thing I need the most of now is concentration.
We run, weave, jump, and dive through the ruins and debris as the angry hunters turn to pursue. Suddenly, I catch some motion to my left. A worker runs to the top of a small hill of debris and leaps into the air toward me. I try to dodge to my right but my left hind leg suddenly gives out. I tumble to the ground hard and quickly struggle to my paws. The worker screams and lunges at me again. I hear a sudden high pitched whine just before the worker slams into my side. Instead of continuing the attack though, it falls limply to the ground with a quiet clang.
I look ahead and see Darkstorm with hir stunner raised, covering me. I run to catch up with hir and quickly compliment hir aim before we continue our dash to freedom. I run along right behind my protective mate as the hunters scream through the sky, searching us out. A quick flash of movement to my right. I fire and a worker is reduced to scrap. More movement to my left. I let go a snap shot and miss a sentry turret. It fires back and I'm forced to dive beneath the small energy beam. A hunter swoops over our heads and fires a plasma ball ten feet in front of Darkstorm. Shi swerves to avoid a blossoming fireball and I promptly follow.
I see a glint of shining metal to my right and quickly raise my rifle to fire. I let loose a shot and barely miss a worker crouching in the rubble. It lunges at me and agonizingly sinks one of its razor sharp claws into my flank. I let go a scream of rage and pain before violently slamming the butt of my rifle into the alien construct. It shatters, leaving its claw painfully wedged in my flesh. I ignore the sharp pain that it causes and continue through the fields of debris. As I run, I fumble to change the power setting on the Phaser rifle to maximum. I finally get the troublesome thing to comply when one of the hunters swoops over my head. I panic and fire wildly at it. My shot misses horribly and I mentally scold myself for losing control. The greater the power of a phaser rifle, the slower the recharge rate. I remind myself harshly.
I spot a turret up ahead and hastily take aim. I caress the weapons trigger like I would Darkstorm and the phaser emits a small pulse of red energy. My marksmanship is much better this time as the turret explodes forcefully into millions of tiny pieces of molten metal. A hunter swoops directly at us head on. I carefully take aim once more and fire. The hunter’s left engine pod erupts in flames and it quickly spirals out of the alien sky, slamming into the ground about forty feet behind us. It explodes harshly, knocking down both me and Darkstorm with the force of the blast. "Shit!" I curse loudly as I drag myself to my paws once more and stiffly begin to run.
I quickly notice two workers scrabbling towards Darkstorm as shi is struggling to hir feet. I skid to a stop, take careful aim, and let loose another bolt of hot energy. It hits directly between the two of them and they're blown outward by the force. Darkstorm quickly nods hir thanks before turning to run again. I start to run after hir when a heavy weight lands on my back and I instantly feel searing pain where the worker is digging all four of its scalpel like legs into my vulnerable flesh. I try to throw it off, but its hold is too strong. In a last ditch effort, I fall over onto my side and roll over. It works, the worker’s fragile legs snap off and it is left immobilized on the alien soil.
I climb to my feet, thinking to myself how repetitive this routine is becoming and sprint off after Darkstorm. The hunters seem to have become more cautious now that I have taken one of them down. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen one for a good thirty seconds or so. Maybe they're going to let us go. I consider naively. Mere moments later, I detect the sound that I had lost just moments earlier. I can just make out the sounds of the two wasp-like hunters screaming through the air, coming straight for us. I slow down and start to scan the skies for the two robotic aircraft.
I soon pick out one of the sleek aircraft streaking though the beautiful blue sky, but the other one eludes me. I take aim at the hunter that I have spotted and wait patiently for it to close within my rifles range. "Come on, come on. Just a little closer," I mutter to the hunter under my breath.
Just before the robot comes into range, it makes a hard bank to its right and screams away at a high rate of speed. ‘What the!’ I demand silently.
"STAR! Look out!" A voice screams over the shrill screech of engines.
I spin around to find the second hunter is dangerously close and rocketing just a few feet above the ground. They tricked me! I scream silently to myself in alarm. I take off running, literally for my life. The alien ship quickly closes and fires at me. I skid to a halt and dive for a pile of rubble. I barely make it into cover when the plasma bomb hits with a sickening crash. I quickly roll over onto my backs and watch as the hunter slows to a hover ten feet away. The turret slowly traverses the distance and centers directly on me.
I suddenly come to my senses and raise the Phaser rifle that is still tightly clutched in my hands. I center the sights on the ships left engine and fire. The robot jinks to the right, but not quite fast enough. The discharge streaks up and rips the side off of the fusion engine, exposing the mechanical innards. The turret swivels to compensate for the sudden maneuver, but I don't give the 'bug' enough time. I let loose another deadly shot and rip the rest of the engine from its mounting.
The hunter tumbles from the bright blue sky and detonates on the hard alien soil. "TAKE THAT!" I shout to the burning wreck out of sheer happiness that I have survived.
"Come on, you!" Storm shouts as shi yanks me bodily to my feet.
I obediently follow hir, watching hir back intently and noting a fresh gash in hir left flank. The remaining hunter opts not to engage us again, considering what I did to its two 'brothers', and there are no more signs of pursuit. After we make it out of the ruined Mantis colony, we find a small copse of trees and settle in for a while to 'lick' our wounds. By this time, I'm feeling quite weak from all the blood that I've lost.
"Must you keep getting yourself hurt, my love?" Darkstorm demands of me quizzically as shi expertly examines my wounds.
"Hey, you're hurt too," I point out weakly.
"That is not the point," shi snaps back quietly before producing a med-kit from hir saddle bag. Shi silently pulls out a hypospray from the kit and puts a vial of adrenaline in it before injecting me with it.
"Whoa!" I say with a surprised tone.
"What?" Storm quickly demands.
"I've never been injected with adrenaline before," I explain quickly.
"Oh," shi responds simply as shi grabs for the dermal regenerator.
Shi quickly yanks out each of the legs that the workers left in my body. I give a painful hiss each time shi removes one. Once shi has pulled all five of the legs out of my flesh, shi switches on the dermal regenerator and begins to systematically heal each of the relatively fresh cuts and gashes that I have received. Once shi has finished tending my wounds, shi allows me to take care of hirs. I am amused to find that shi has left hir uniform back in the cave.
"Oh well. I'm not going back to get it," shi calmly remarks.
Once all the injuries have been taken care of, Darkstorm and I throw caution into the metaphorical wind. We let our exhaustion overcome us and fall asleep in each other’s loving arms.
Late that night
I suddenly wake with a start. Every muscle in my body is painfully sore and I quietly stand and stretch them out, being careful not to wake Darkstorm. I can feel that shi is having peaceful and lovely dreams and I just can't bring myself to disturb hir. I don't think I mentioned that I am an E4, have I? Well, either way, you know now. I quietly pull a nearly empty canteen out of a bag and down the contents in two large gulps. ‘Oh Makers, please speed the Independence on its journey. In the mean time, please watch over my mate and I. I want to see my cub again more than anything in the universe,’ I silently and hopefully pray.
A sudden touch on my shoulder startles me and I jump. Darkstorm giggles shortly before returning to a more serious mood. "I miss hir too, love," shi says sympathetically.
I turn and give hir a huge hug and shi immediately returns it. All this violence and the separation from my young cub have really gotten to me and I release my emotions. Tears start to run down my face as I begin to weep uncontrollably. I'm not a violent person. I do some hunting every once in a while, that's the extent of my violent capabilities. Now I'm being forced to be exceedingly violent. I'm being forced to fight for my life and that of my mate. I haven't felt this scared since the Humans First riot I got caught up in five years ago. I attended the Star Corps academy that same year. That's where I met Jakarl Blackpaw. After graduation, I quickly climbed the ladder to the rank of Commander because of my expertise. These past few days have caused me to reconsider my place in the Star Corps.
After several minutes I recover my wits and dry my tears.
"Thank you, Storm. I don't know how I'd live without you. I don't even deserve such a wonderful mate as you," I state with a grateful smile.
"I love you, Star. I always will."
"I love you to, Darkstorm," I reply lovingly. "I couldn't live without you."
A sudden beeping emanating from my saddlebag interrupts our thoughts. I quickly dig out the Comm and switch it on.
"This is Stardreamer, go ahead."
"Commander, this is Daedalus. What is your status?"
"We've both sustained severe injuries but we are still alive."
"Be advised. The Independence estimates its arrival in about two hours. Hang in there, you two, help is almost here."
"Copy that, Daedalus. It's about time."
"Affirmative, Commander. Good luck. Daedalus out."
"Easier said than done." I mutter to my amused mate.
"Yeah," shi agrees. "Let's stay here as long as possible."
"Sounds good to me, love. You've been right so far," I reply truthfully.
"Maybe I'm psychic," shi laughs richly.
"You wish, my love. You wish," I reply with a laugh of my own.
June 23, 2344
About an hour and a half has passed since our contact with the Daedalus and my mate and I are overanxious, eager to be off this hostile world. We've been relaxing and laying low ever since our contact.
"So, what's the first thing you're going to eat when you get back to the ship?" Darkstorm inquires curiously, trying to strike up a conversation.
"I think I'll probably have a nice large steak, a T-bone I think, some mashed potatoes, and maybe some......." A soft *click* nearby draws my attention.
"What is it?" Storm whispers, suddenly nervous.
I quickly hold my hand up for silence. Sure enough I hear it again; a soft click like metal tapping rock. I cautiously scan the brush surrounding our trees and come up with absolutely nothing. *Click*.
"Go!" I whisper fearfully. "Go, RUN!"
We jump to our paws and take to running once more. Suddenly, my ears catch a strange *plink* from behind us. Almost immediately, an almost invisible thin beam of blue energy streaks past me on my right side. This only serves to increase my speed. Up ahead and to my left comes another *plink*. Another beam narrowly misses Darkstorm. ‘Damnit! They're throwing something new at us. These bastards never give up, do they?’
I suddenly become aware of the insistent beeping of my comm. I desperately fumble in my bag for it. Just as my hand comes out with the troublesome device, I trip over a large rock hidden in the brush and am sent sprawling onto the unforgiving ground. The chirping Comm unit flies out of my hand and lands in the tall grass nearby. I jump to my paws and lunge for it. A thin blue beam grazes my back and I scream in agony as I fall next to the annoying comm. I quickly snatch it out of the dirt as I struggle to my feet.
"GO!" I shout breathlessly into the Comm as I continue to flee.
"Commander we're ready for transport. We need you to stand still so that we can lock onto your signal," comes a calm voice over the frequency.
"We are taking heavy fire. We can't stand still!" I shout back angrily.
"It will only take a couple of seconds, Commander."
I run up next to my mate and stop hir. We stand still for far more than 'a couple of seconds' as the thin beams grow closer and closer to their targets.
"GET US OUT OF HERE!" I shout full volume into the comm.
Suddenly, I hear the familiar hum of the transporter start. I look at my mate with a smile and shi happily returns it. Hir smile abruptly turns into a look of shock. We both look down and I can see a scorched and bloody area of fur on hir upper torso where one of hir hearts should be. Shi begins to fall just as we are engulfed by the transporter beam.
We rematerialize on a platform onboard the battleship Independence and instantly I lunge to catch my falling mate. I gently latch onto hir and carefully lower hir to the deck.
"Storm! Storm, stay with me, love. Stay with me!" I shout as tears instantly begin to cloud my vision.
"I love you, Stardreamer!" shi whispers to me weakly.
"I love you too, but you have to stay with me."
"Take care of......of Grey, my love," shi orders in a nearly silent whisper before hir eyes fall closed and hir head goes limp in my arms. I am engulfed in wracking sobs as a medical team rushes into the transporter room to try to bring hir back.
June 28, 2344
"Time for your meds, hon," the nurse says in a friendly and naive tone as shi approaches with a hypospray. I don't flinch. I don't even notice her as I relive those horrible days on Mantorn once more. The wolf bitch leaves me to my memories for a few more minutes.
Soon she returns and lays a gentle hand on my arm. I reflexively pull away and look harshly into her soft eyes. "You have a visitor, Shir," she says soft and simple. Then she walks into her office and comes back a moment later holding my daughter’s hand. My demeanor quickly changes from harsh and detached to soft and loving. My cub breaks the grip that the nurse has on hir hand and runs up to my side. "Mom!" shi shouts happily.
"Oh, my little Grey," I whisper lovingly as I painfully lift hir up and set hir on my stomach.
"What happened, mom?" my curious little cub demands.
"It is a very long story my little one," I say shakily.
The wolf suddenly steps forward. "Excuse me, Shir. Do you feel like walking?"
"I think I can do it." I answer a little harshly as I climb out of the sickbay bed with Greyears still clutched tightly in my arms.
"If you'll follow me, Shir?" the nurse says quietly as she begins to lead me to the other side of the sickbay. We go through a door and into another section of the sickbay. She then steps aside and motions me on. Ahead of me is an intensive care bed and in the bed, my poor mate lies. Shi's hooked up to a respirator and several IVs are in hir arms. When shi sees me, shi gives me a weak grin. I can't do much better.
Hir heart had been cut clean in half with surgical precision by the energy beam that had hit hir during our last seconds on planet. If shi had been anything besides a Chakat, shi would have been killed instantly. As it is, shi barely survived anyway. In a few weeks hir heart should be good as new and shi can return to duty. I set little Grey down beside Darkstorm on the bed and I give hir a very gentle but firm hug as my tears start to fall once more.
I had come within a millimeter of losing Darkstorm on the ravaged surface of Mantorn. If that medical team had taken too much longer, I wouldn't have hir anymore. As we continue to embrace, I barely even notice the sound of the door sliding open and closed. I slowly look up to see a Chakat in a Starfleet uniform standing silently, respectfully watching. As I look closer, I notice hir pips. Admiral. I automatically snap to attention with a wince.
The Admiral steps forward with a soft, friendly chuckle and says, "There's no need for that Shir Stardreamer. For one thing, you are off-duty. For another, we're not even in the same service."
"Oh. Sorry, Shir," I say quietly as I noticeably slump.
"No need for apologies. I just wanted to check up on our guests of honor. You two are heroes in my book, you know. I'm sorry, I've been so rude. I am Chakat Admiral Firebreeze, captain of the Independence at your service." The strange Chakat introduces hirself with a slight bow and greeting hug.
"I am Chakat Commander Stardreamer, child of Morningmist and Brightstar," I say in introduction as I return hir hug, "And this is Chakat Commander Darkstorm, child of Clearbreeze and Silentstorm."
"It is a great honor to meet you, Admiral," Darkstorm whispers weakly.
"Please, just call me Breeze. Anyway, I wanted to say that we are bound for Terra and will arrive in three weeks tops. The Daedalus will leave here in one week after placing some sensors in orbit of the planet to monitor the surface. Get some rest. You'll be home before you know it."
"Thank you, Breeze. We will."
"Tail high!" Shi says politely.
After the Admiral has left, I return to Storm’s side. As I take hir hand in mine, our cub speaks up quietly; "You wanna know what I whissed for?"
"Sure, my young one. What is it?" Darkstorm whispers back softly.
"I whissed that you would both live a lot longer," shi answers simply before giving hir sire a soft hug.
Darkstorm and I look at each other with greatly shocked expressions. We both know that by all rights, we should never have made it off that alien world alive. ‘What an odd thing for a cub to think about. It seems the Makers granted my little daughter’s wish though,’ I think to myself thoughtfully before joining in the loving embrace.
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Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creations of Bernard Doove and are used with permission.
All else is copyright © 2004 to Ryan Want.
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