Jo beamed up to Chakona Gateway Station and walked around the corner to the main station hospital. Her boss, Chakat Sungold, met her as she was coming in.
"Hello Sun," Jo said, pulling her PADD out of her pocket to check her schedule for the day.
"Hi, Jo. Have a good weekend?"
"Will and IÖ." An all-black foxtaur turned toward her with a hungry grin on hir face. "Oh, no. Thatís not scheduled until next week."
"By which time you will find something important to do," said the foxtaur, Astra Starwalker, "and it will have to be rescheduled. Greymist is staying to cover the first part of your shift so you donít have any excuse."
"You wanted to see me?" asked Will as he came into Slirparton, House of Redpawís office. Hys mates and business partners, Quontiale, House of Bluepaw and Chakat Powertracker, were there as well.
"Have a seat, William. Congratulations on getting the production line running ahead of schedule."
Will shrugged. "Itís just a matter of getting a good team together, letting them know what we need, and getting out of their way."
Quont gave him a surprised look. "What? I know a lot of Ph.D. engineers that could never do what you just said."
"Yes, Doctor Quontiale, and hopefully most of them will spend their careers teaching undergraduates without doing too much harm."
"You two must have been real pests when you were in graduate school," said Track.
"You should have seen Professor Jamison when Quont walked into the class on the third day. He spent ten minutes trying to figure where hy had gone and who this female was who showed up out of nowhere."
Slirparton stepped in at this point, "I hate to break up this class reunion, but we do have some business to transact. When we hired you, William, we said that there would be an opportunity for you to have a stake in Cargo Engineering. Considering what you have done for us both in the mechanical system design and getting our production facilities going, we have decided that this is the time."
Will nodded, not looking at all surprised. "But that isnít the only consideration."
Slirparton smiled. "And I thought I was the only telepath in the room. You are, of course, correct." Hy transferred a contract to Willís PADD. "In addition to services rendered, we would also ask that you turn over your patent rights for bonding Boronike to steel to the company. In return, you will receive an equity share in Cargo Engineering Ltd. equal to what each of us have."
"I am not the only one with patent rights for that."
"Yes, and Dr. Oxendine and the University will retain their rights."
Will looked over the contract. "These things are a lot simpler on Chakona than they were on Earth. Iíll need to talk to Jo before I agree to this."
Track said, "I told them that. Take whatever time you need."
The comm on Slirpartonís desk buzzed and he answered it, "Yes, Brun."
"Hello Slirparton. Could you ask Will to come down and meet me in the grinding department when you get done?"
Hy glanced at Will who said, "I think weíre about done here. Whatís up?"
"Weíre having some problems with contamination of the Boronike waste with diamond dust from the grinding wheels. I think we need to go to a stronger binding agent or switch to crystalline grinding wheels."
"Iíll be right down, Brun." Slirparton turned off the comm and Will continued, "In production doesnít mean no problems. Iíll see you all later."
Astra led Jo and Chakat Softpurr to a holosuite that the hospital used for training. Astra leapt up to the ceiling and bounced from wall to wall around the surgical equipment that was fastened firmly to the floor. Softpurr took up hir station where shi could monitor the equipment and assist Jo. Jo tried not to think of her stomach as she floated across the room and strapped into the brace to keep her in place, saying, "Wish I had hands on the ends of my legs."
She deftly used the foot controls to adjust her position as Astra settled next to her, thankfully right side up. "Turn on the stasis field and Iíll transport the patient onto the platform."
Softpurr turned it on and Astra moved out of the way as their patient appeared before them. Jo looked at the human who was still wearing most of his space suit. His lower abdomen was torn open, the suit shredded and his intestines in a shambles with blood covering everything. Jo reviewed the recorded telemetry from his suit monitors as she asked, "Where is the object that caused this damage?"
Astra replied, "It is attached to the station and is too big to bring in here."
Their patient had already lost a lot of blood and the last recorded BP was 40 systolic with no diastolic reading. Scanning confirmed that the veins in his arms had collapsed and they could not get an IV line in there. The descending aorta was intact, but the left femoral artery was severed. She looked up and saw that Softpurr had already brought up the life support unit. "Putting the line in the jugular vein would require removing his helmet and that would take too long. Program it to tap into the right pulmonary vein. When I turn off the field you will need to open his suit with a vibra-knife. I will seal the severed femoral artery. When Iím done, place a suppression field over his abdomen."
Softpurr moved the suppression field generator into position and then picked up the vibra-knife. "Iím ready, Doctor."
"Computer, shut down the stasis field on my countdown."
"Acknowledged. Awaiting your count."
"Start count, five, four, three, two, one, now." Blood sprayed across the room, most of splattering against the far wall but some floating around in blobs. Jo plunged her hands into his abdomen, found the artery and sealed it in less than two seconds.
Softpurr sliced open the suit from the opening to the shoulder line and then across between the shoulders. Shi then discarded the knife, which turned off as soon as shi let go of it, and moved the generator over the patient. The life support unit fished the lines for the IV between his ribs to gain access to the pulmonary vein and started a low power tractor field as the knife was caught floating through the air by a small robot. Jo held up both hands and said, "Iím clear," and Softpurr turned on the generator.
They both ignored the robot as it flew around the room cleaning up the blood. Jo watched her patient as Softpurr read off the monitors, "Blood pressure and oxygen levels increasing. Heart massage has started and brain activity is normal. Iím adding 60 micrograms per minute of Surezorol to keep him under."
"Prepare a synthetic artery; I want to get blood flow started to his leg so he doesnít lose it."
"What about the return?"
"Just suction it for now. The life support unit can make up for the loss."
Jo, Softpurr, Astra, and Sungold gathered in Sungoldís office. "You and Softpurr both did excellent jobs," said Astra. "Your patient has excellent prospects for recovery."
Jo scanned down her PADD, looking their patientís medical record. "The patient went into diabetic shock as we were finishing. There is no record of any routine physical for this patient for the last five years. How could this happen?"
Sungold answered, "You know that these training scenarios are taken from compilations of actual cases. The contractor was falsifying the medical records because of the shortage of workers."
"What happened to that contractor?"
"Shi was heavily fined and hir license was permanently revoked. That happened about twenty years ago and weíve put in protocols that are supposed to prevent that sort of thing from happening again."
Jo snorted and looked at hir. "We know how effective those can be."
"Which is why we have these sessions," said Astra. "You are both certified for freefall work for another twenty four weeks. Congratulations." Shi hugged Jo and Softpurr. "You know Jo; your reaction to freefall really is all in your head. If you and your family would come and visit us for a few days, you would be over it and this wouldnít be so traumatic. I know it doesnít bother Will or Teri, and Peter loves to bounce around the house with our kits."
Jo gave hir a cross look. "Thank you for the offer, and if I need to fast for a few days, I will consider it."
Sungold stood up, saying, "Letís get back to work; we have real patients that need us."
Dinae asked Teri to step into her office when their unarmed combat class was finished. When Teri got there, hir Rakshani instructor tossed hir a card and said, "Donít let it go to your head."
"I thought this was going to be for a stunner!" Teri looked up at Dinae. "This is a concealed carry permit for a phaser!"
"We both knew that you wouldnít have any problem with the competency portion of the test. Your examiner must have been very impressed with what hy saw during hys telepathic scan."
"But Iím only eight!"
"You are nearly ten standard years old. Lots of kids on Raksha get permits at that age." She adjusted her PADD. "How many laps this morning?"
Teri looked down at the card in hir hand. "Twenty five."
Domi stuck hys head in the door and asked, "Teri, are you sure youíre a fox morph?"
"I think youíre a funny looking seal." Domi turned to Dinae. "When I stuck my head in there this morning shi was doing every third lap underwater."
Dinae growled at hym. "Youíd better start putting your body in the pool instead of your head in the door. Now get! Iíve got another class to get ready for."
When they got outside, Domi grabbed hys friend. "Yoo hoo! Teri!" Hy waved his hand in front of Teriís face. "If I tell Dinae that you broke your nose by walking into a lamp post, sheíll bump you all the way down to the little kids group and youíll have to have bouts against my brother."
Teri looked up at the post, then around hir. "What was that about Jomat?"
"What have you got in your hand?"
Teri handed hym the permit and walked around the lamppost.
Domi ran up to hir. "Do you have a phaser?"
Teri snatched the card back. "No, why would I?" Shi put the card away. "Now donít go blabbing to everybody about this."
"Do you think I want Dinae to use me to sharpen her claws? What are you taking this quarter?"
"Calculus, Early Federation History, Yatta, Physics, and Chakonan Lit."
"How come you got out of gym?"
Teri glared at Domi. "I swim every morning before school."
"Why Yatta? Youíre already taking Katang from Dinae."
"Katang Low Tongue."
"Low, High, whatever. Two languages is too much of a hassle."
"Chakonaís last colonial governor was a Voxxan. Lots of people take Yatta."
"But what about Katang?"
"My dad speaks it." Shi grinned at Domi. "We work on my calculus in Katang Low Tongue."
"Teri, you are one nutty, funny looking seal morph."
"No, Iím a nutty fox morph. If I was a seal morph Iíd only breathe every five laps. Star Fleet Academy likes for candidates to have two foreign languages plus Terranglo."
Domi just shook hys head.
At the end of the shift, Sungold approached Jo. "Letís go down to Bobbyís and get a cup of coffee."
Jo smiled and said, "Sounds good."
They left the hospital and started toward the B-shift residential area. Sungold said, "You know, Yapur agrees with Astra."
"Donít you start on me, Sun. Iím surprised you didnít fire me when I puked all over my patient in my first freefall simulation."
"A lot of people react that way to their first exposure to freefall. You do very well once you get started with your patient and forget about your stomach."
"Iím just glad that the ORís have independent gravity and power systems."
They walked into a coffee shop as the last of the breakfast crowd from B-Shift was clearing out. There was a Quange behind the counter. As they got to the counter he set a large mug down and said, "One giant-sized cappuccino."
Sun put her hand on the scanner to pay for it and said, "Thanks Bobby."
"And what can I get for you, Dr. Jo?"
Jo looked up at the board behind the counter. "Youíve got a green tea on your specials board."
"Yes, imported directly from China. Iíve got a friend there."
"Bobby, youíve got a friend everywhere. Let me have one. How is Sandy doing?"
"She just got promoted to Lieutenant Second Grade."
"So sheís happy with the switch from Star Fleet to Chakonan Defense Forces?"
He set a cup and saucer, a metal tea ball, and a pot of hot water on a tray. "Very much so. Iíll tell her you asked. Cream or sugar?" Jo just glared at him. "Jo, you make it worth all the hassles to bring the good stuff in. Enjoy your tea."
"Thanks Bobby," she said, paying for her tea.
They sat down in their usual spot next to a large view port. Jo could see that there was a storm over the northern half of Nova Belarus and said, "It looks like youíve got some interesting weather."
Sun snorted and licked the foam off of hir lips. "Tell me about it. My mates told me to stay up here tonight."
"What? The bold, intrepid explorer of the north staying here because of a little weather?"
"Cold and snow I can handle, but two degrees, pouring rain, and a hundred Ďklik wind combined with a two kilometer walk to get home? I donít think so." Shi shivered and took another sip of hir drink. "Of course, you live in nice, tropical Curtisport, so you donít have to worry about these things."
"It gets cold in Curtisport!"
Sun took another drink. "What, minus five? Thatís not cold. Why donít you and Will come visit us in Osov for First Week next year? Find out what cold really is."
Now it was Joís turn to shiver. "Will doesnít have any fur, and there arenít enough clothes on the planet to keep him warm. At least you donít have to worry about typhoons."
"True, and having that one sit on you for three days last summer played hell with my schedule."
Jo smiled. She understood Sunís problems, but hadnít really minded the unexpected three day holiday, especially since Teri and Peter were off with their Grandma Andre. There were certainly worse ways to spend three days than cooped up with Will.
Sun grinned at her and said, "You keep thinking of that mate of yours like that and it wonít just be chakats who are turned on. Anyone with a decent nose will be wondering who the lucky guy is."
Jo grinned back. "We donít mind spectators."
"I think you two spent too much time in the foxtaur den. Willís got as much modesty as a vixen in heat. Thatís just weird for a human."
Jo just smiled as Sun pulled out hir PADD. Shi said, "Speaking of vixens in heat, take a look at this," passing the PADD across to Jo who started scanning the article.
"This Dr. Springstep is helping infertile couples, but they are all of the same genotype."
"Her research is headed toward helping mixed couples."
"In two years."
"Lots of fox morphs and humans are interfertile. Besides, I already sent hir a message. Shi says shiís interested."
Jo rubbed her belly as she read the rest of the article, her tea slowly cooling.
Sun said, "Go home to Will. Youíre going to wake up all the sleeping chakats on the station!"
"Everybody on B-shift is already up and working."
"Iím talking about the ones on C-shift on the other side of the station. You sure youíre an E-0?"
When Jo got back that night, Will and Teri were sitting in the living room, working on hir math homework. Jo smiled as she went back to check on Peter, kissing him goodnight as he clutched his stuffed skunktaur. She stopped in the master bedroom and dumped her clothes in the hamper. When she came back out, Will and Teri switched from Katang Low Tongue back to Terranglo as Will answered Teriís last question. Teri was wearing only hir fur, like hir mother, and Will had on a pair of sweat pants and a tee shirt. They were both sitting on the floor, with Teriís oversized PADD on the coffee table in front of them.
Jo sat down next to Will and Teri got up and said goodnight to both of them, giving each of them a hug and a kiss. Shi turned off hir PADD and carried it back toward hir room. Jo kissed Will, and he gave her a brief grope before they broke off. He smiled at her. "Do I have time to take off my clothes, or are you going to rip them up again? Usually when Teri takes off like that itís because shi thinks that you smell Ďfriskyí."
Jo smiled back and said, "I do feel frisky. If youíd just stop wearing clothes at home, we wouldnít have that problem."
"True, but you two like it a little cool for my taste."
She kissed him again. "Well, I guess that I can put up with your artificial fur. Take a look at this."
She smiled at him and handed him her PADD.
Will scanned the article. "I thought we decided not to do that."
"That procedure involved replacing your testes with cloned testes from someone, probably another fox morph that would be compatible with me. There wouldnít be any of you in there."
"Teri and Peter are as much my children as yours. What do we need this for?"
"You know that all morphs, even chakats and skunktaurs, or Quange, for that matter, still have a great deal of human DNA in their genes. What Dr. Springstep is doing would keep the required human part of your DNA the same as it is now. It would still be you. Shi would just change the parts that are not compatible with me, and in doing so would make it so that your immune system would still consider all of it to be you. It is not uncommon for humans and older genotypes of fox morphs, like me, to be interfertile. It just happens that we are not."
"Maybe I can try harder."
"If you tried any harder, your balls would turn inside out and fall off."
"Youíre a doctor, you could sew them back on. I thought we were going to ask Sean when we visited Australia."
Jo smiled and kissed him again, reaching down between his legs to stroke him. She wasnít surprised to find him partially aroused. She said, "I loved Marcus, and I like and greatly admire Sean, but I want your baby."
Will picked her up and carried her to the bed.
To be continued in Chapter Two.
Copyright © 2008 Tim Rumph tarumph AT gmail.com
Chakats, Chakona and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.
Skunktaurs were created by Bob Reijns.
Quange were created by Roy D. Pounds II
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