Just a Quick Snatch-n-Grab
The human male walked with a noticeable limp, courtesy of a couple pebbles at the toe of one boot. Unshaven, a wig and some makeup helped to make him look far older and darker than the person currently being hunted by a growing number of others. Quietly he shuffled his way down an alley he never would have risked in the uniform he’d previously worn.
No one seemed to take note of him, just one of many moving from where they were to where they thought they wanted to be. It came as a shock to him then that a passing clawed hand suddenly reached out and yanked him into a new direction. His assailant’s other hand grabbing his other wrist – preventing him from reaching for the phaser in his pocket.
“Don’t bother,” his assailant growled. A green with yellow striped Rakshani male, larger than the human but not yet to his full adult size. “You will come with me.”
The human made to speak, but the Rakshani bent enough that their hazel eyes were at the same level as he growled, “Now.” He was released, turned around, and firmly shoved to stumble in the requested direction.
They went on and off the public transportation several times in the next two hours in what appeared to be a roundabout trip towards the spaceport. They were a little over an hour into their journey when the human realized that he and the Rakshani were following – or being led – by a small dark furred Caitian in a hooded cloak. She seemed to sense his eyes and turned, dark fur framed green eyes that blinked at him to suddenly reveal hazel eyes that then stared back at him. He wasn’t quite sure that she hadn’t winked at him before her eyes again appeared to be green and she turned away.
She finally led them to the spaceport, and onto a small shuttle bus to take them out to a landing pad. On the pad sat a medium-sized nondescript shuttle, which they boarded.
A bit before all of that …
The tones sounding off in the sleeping chamber warbled in such a way to get your attention through any possible distraction, and the volume was rising to something that might in fact be able to wake the dead.
Captain Zhane ap Nashene na Zhane’s sleeping mind managed half a curse before the type of attention tone snapped her fully awake. What was most disturbing to her was that it wasn’t a Star Fleet alert – but one she herself had set in case a certain mailbox ever received anything marked critical or above.
Accessing her terminal silenced the alarm and she quickly opened the message.
To: Captain Zhane ap Nashene na Zhane; Commander Rosepetal Silpurr; Commander Chakat Midnight; Doctor M’Lai Saarath
CC: Chakat Forestwalker
From: Captain Neal Foster
Subject: About that idiot husband of yours …
Okay, yes, not really an idiot, and I can fully understand him not warning the rest of us of his plans – less chance of leaks or of others trying to stop him.
And I also understand him not using any of you or his other Star Fleet resources after ‘retiring’ from Star Fleet.
But he’s left himself out in the open and far too vulnerable. Some of my friends report having already stopped two attempts on his life, and he’s fought off or otherwise escaped at least two others that we are aware of.
And stubborn little shit that he is, he’s not going to let those friends haul his ass off to safety (I know this because they’ve tried.)
I know none of you are in a position to go out and fetch him in a timely matter; therefore I am going to send his son out to collect him.
I will allow any of you two hours to veto this action before the operation begins.
Captain Neal Foster
Zhane frowned, wondering how Captain Foster thought he was going to get Kernos out of his pre-classes at Star Fleet Academy without her approving it. Her frown deepened in the thought of why he thought that this was the best way to do whatever it was he had planned.
She glared at the terminal before nodding once and hitting the ‘reply to all’. She typed a single word and hit the send key, hoping she had beaten any of her co-wives in replying.
Star Fleet Academy
Kernos ap Boyce na Zhane didn’t even have time to look up from the PADD he’d been checking as he headed for his next class before his arms were grabbed and he was forced towards a restroom he had been passing. His assailants were both older and much larger Rakshani upper class students, their House sashes bore the colors of Blueclaw and Thorn.
Already inside the restroom was one of the academy’s chakat instructors. Shi slapped a comm badge on Kernos’ chest before waving the upperclassmen to release him.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” shi told the two. “Back to class and not a word.”
“Your father needs you,” was all shi told him before tapping the comm badge, and a transporter beam took him away.
Wherever Kernos had expected to be, a transporter pad in what appeared to be a small break room hadn’t been it; and then he started noticing other things and his eyes opened wider in surprise and shock. He knew this room, that door – no hatch – led to the airlocks, that one to the fresher, that one to a four bunk sleeping area, and the remaining one led to the ship’s tiny flight deck – and beside that hatch was a word – a name.
And she knew him, her display panels coming to life as he dropped into one of the command seats, a message already up.
He softly growled at the message Captain Foster had sent his mothers, but he noticed that Zhane’s reply of ‘Approved’ had been sent less than two minutes of the message reaching her – in the middle of her night no less. More surprising was that not only had Rosepetal agreed, she had added ‘Take Kayla if practical’, and on the assumption that they might in turn see the messages asked them to be careful and to safely get their father out of harms way. He noticed that nowhere had any of them tried to suggest what they were to do with their father once they caught up with him.
A flash on the display and a hum deep in the little ship told him that the transporter had again transported something or someone and he made his way aft.
His Caitian sister, Kayla, was staring about in confusion as the door between them opened. “What in the Goddess’ name?” she demanded on seeing him.
“Old Man Foster’s up to his tricks again,” he told her. “It seems that we’re going to go get Dad – and your mother wants you to back me up.”
It had required little prompting to get her into the seat he had just vacated, the messages raising an eyebrow.
While she had been reading and thinking, Calypso had quickly gotten herself clear of Earth’s gravity well and gone to warp.
Plan of Attack
“We have a few hours to plan how we’re going to do this,” Kernos suggested as Calypso sped towards their objective.
“Anyone recognizing either of us will simply follow us to catch him,” Kayla pointed out. “And from what you’ve shown me, this craft won’t blend in particularly well either,” she added, indicating the display showing the status of the four fuel pods and the eight baby Zulus strapped to their current means of transportation.
“About that,” her brother said with a grin. “She’s either been upgraded or was hiding it before, but it seems Calypso here can project holographic images to appear to be a wide range of ships and shuttles. As for us, I was wondering if there might be some fur dyes in the replicator memory …”
“Hold still!” his sister snapped yet again as he tried to turn away from the tint brush that felt far too close to his eye. Her transformation had been easy enough, just a rubdown in a dye and a quick rinse; but while now a uniform dark green, her Rakshani brother needed just a few stripes.
“No funny symbols!” he growled – which she had done to him two years ago when they had attended a masquerade party. He also remembered the discomfort of the contact lenses they had worn to hide their hazel eyes.
“None, Brother,” Kayla replied as she carefully completed a line. “We don’t need anything giving us away. Speaking of which – how do we tell Dad without giving ourselves up to others searching for him?”
Kernos smiled carefully to not move where she was working. “I found we have the option of color changing contacts – which have a transparency mode. Flip it once while he’s watching should clue him in.”
“Mom’s got to be going nuts,” she murmured as she applied the last stripe.
“The others know how to sit on her. And if she tries to pull rank M’Lai can always put her in a medical timeout,” Kernos chuckled.
“That’s right, you were there when she wanted to go after Foster – even with Dad and Hal telling her ‘no’,” Kayla laughed. “M’Lai picked her up like a child, told the admirals she was going to prescribe bed rest and carried her kicking and screaming out of the room.”
“Now now, your mother was just struggling a bit and muttering curses at them,” he replied as she put away the fur dyes.
“For her that was a full blown screaming tantrum,” she replied. “They were both asleep in a cuddle when I checked on them later. M’Lai called it all therapeutic, but it scared me a bit.”
“Mother Zhane takes it out on the equipment – claws slicing away,” Kernos replied. “Their jobs can be stressful, they need to be able to vent.”
“Especially when Foster is involved.”
“Especially,” he agreed, “but I think this time he’s helping more than he’s stressing them.”
“How about you? Are your stress levels up?” she half demanded.
“Up a bit,” he allowed. “Can we get there in time – and will Dad let us rescue him?”
“Up here as well, for those reasons and a bit worried he might be angry we ditched the academy to do this,” she admitted.
“I’ve been thinking about that,” he told her. “I was already seeing people looking at me funny and questioning what type of officer I’d make with him for a role model.”
“A damn fine one,” she shot back before saying, “I was seeing it too. What are your plans for a future if they don’t involve Star Fleet?”
“I don’t know yet,” he admitted. “But we both know there’s a lot of good we could do out here, even if it isn’t through Star Fleet.”
“Night Watch maybe? Don’t you even think of joining one of Foster’s merry bands – Mom would never stop raging!”
Kernos just smiled and one clawed finger made a sweep to indicate the ship around them. “Oh, I think she’d forgive even that – though it may take her a decade or two.”
“We’ll be there in less than an hour. Any battle plans?”
“You’re on point. You see a problem I can divert him without anyone knowing we’re working together. I’m muscle. He’s a package I’ve been sent to collect – whether he wants to be collected or not.”
“We’ll both wear personal shields, I’ll amp mine up to contain him if needed. Stunners as we might be in a crowd when trouble strikes, phasers in case we have to fight our way out.”
“So, any ideas how we find him?”
“Foster’s letter to our moms said some of his friends have been keeping an eye on – and apparently protecting – Dad. Let’s wait and see what we have to work with when we get there.”
Back to the Snatch-n-Grab Already in Progress
The shuttle they led him to had seen better days; multiple patch jobs warning that previous pilots had badly abused the poor beast, or hadn’t been in their right minds as someone had named the poor thing: Three Sheets to the Wind.
He stumbled as he’d read the shuttle’s name; he’d judged the ramp to be just a step away, but it was suddenly still over a meter in front of him.
“Hologram,” his herder advised at him as they continued on to the actual ramp; which led to nothing like what he was expecting.
Though he was expecting the hard hugs from the front and behind once the outer airlock had closed. He accepted the hugs, but frowned as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Wait,” came the growled command from behind him – and it impressed him how like the young man’s mother that one word command had sounded.
“Calypso, when’s the next departure window?” Kernos demanded.
“There is an open window in two minutes, Captain,” the semi-mechanical ship’s voice informed him.
“Take that window and lift under current parameters,” he ordered.
“Requesting the window; lift under current limits,” the ship replied.
“Welcome aboard the Calypso, Father,” his daughter told him. “We have something you might want to read before you read us the riot act.”
He read the brief messages as the non-shuttle lifted off the pad and headed for space.
“How did you find me so quickly?” he finally asked after thinking over what he now knew.
“Foster’s friends have been watching out for you,” Kernos told him. “They vectored us directly at you once we were down.”
“I didn’t notice anyone following us.”
“That’s because they weren’t following,” Kayla replied. “The ones I spotted were either holding their position to make sure we hadn’t picked up a tail or coming at us as part of the traffic.”
“I was trying to keep the rest of you out of this.”
“While putting yourself in danger. It seems you have friends – and family members – that disagree with your actions, Father,” Kernos pointed out. “When even your firstwife is willing to let Foster yank us out of our academy pre-classes to come after you …”
“Yank is the right word,” Kayla said with a smile. “I had some House Blueclaw brute push me into an empty classroom, stick a comm badge on me and here I was.”
“Blueclaw, Thorn and one of the instructors did about the same thing to me,” Kernos agreed.
“All friends of Foster,” their father agreed. “Now, what do you have planned?”
“We actually had an escort into orbit, and will have one out – which is why we’re pretending to be a shuttle and not a warp capable ship,” Kayla told him. “We’re pretending to be one of Delusion’s shuttles while she transfers cargo. If anything goes wrong we’re to run and warp out, otherwise we link back up to her and ride her out in a few hours.”
“That’s kind of fast for most freighters making a stop.”
“From what the Delusion’s captain told us, Foster requested they declare an engineering casualty right after your little speech hit the nets – the supposed repair of which delayed them two days while your favorite crazy person cooked up this rescue and got us there to be ushered in. So Captain Zette and his crew are pretending to rush things to make up for lost time.”
“So, barely started the pre-academy and already a captain now are we?” his father asked with a raised eyebrow.
Both youths snorted lightly while smiling at each other. “Already locked in when we came aboard,” Kayla replied. “And remind us again just how experienced you were when you took over your first command?” she half-taunted.
“And she’s my first officer,” he said. “We tried to get Calypso to tell us your position or rank, but the best we could get out of her was a cross between passenger and cargo. Sorry, Dad.”
“Your full name just won’t come up in her systems, best we could figure it was so even if Star Fleet tries they can’t get that information out of her,” his daughter added.
“So, if all goes as planned, we meet up with Delusion and they take us clear of the system?”
Kernos nodded. “They’ll get us clear and top off our consumables before we head out on the next leg.”
“Which is to where?”
“That’s the funny part,” Kayla informed him. “It seems that not even Foster is brave enough to tell you where you should go from here!”
There was a tone from the console and Calypso’s voice said: “Incoming comm laser pulse from Delusion. Message reads: ‘Several Star Fleet ships are now scanning outbound traffic. Do not respond or react.’ Message ends.”
“Looking for you,” Kernos dryly commented as he switched his displays to passive tactical to get a better idea what traffic was flowing where.
“Should we put him in the food storage and turn the stasis field on?” his sister suggested with a grin at their father.
“No, I think they’d be watching out for someone trying that old trick,” her brother replied. “I wonder if Calypso can fool their sensors into not seeing him as human?”
Their planning became moot when another shuttle seemed to panic as it tried racing away from the ship that had just scanned it.
“You’re under arrest Kline! Stop or be destroyed!”
“Star Fleet has no warrants out for me!” a voice sounding amazingly like their passenger shouted back as the racing shuttle changed course and put on even more acceleration.
“Drop your shields or we will fire on you!”
“Tell your Humans First friends I will never stop hunting them!”
The shuttle managed to somehow avoid the first phaser shot, but the second sliced through its shields and hit the small antimatter core powering it. There were no remains large enough to identify – and no organics to sample.
“And now they have reason to think they just killed you,” Kernos said with a half grim.
“I’ll wait a bit to send a note to the family that they didn’t,” Kayla replied.
“Just say you picked up that package they wanted at a bargain price,” said package suggested with a small grin of his own.
“Agreed,” Kernos said just before they received a comm call from Delusion.
“Three sheets! Screw your flight plan and get your tails up here before they start shooting at anything else!”
As every other craft was also ignoring the rules and flight paths to get away from the Star Fleet ships, Kernos had Calypso quicken her approach to Delusion.
What appeared to be a large cargo hatch opened on Delusion, and Calypso slipped in and settled down in a marked off area. On a pad next to them sat a personnel shuttle named Three Sheets to the Wind, and while it was the same class of shuttle as Calypso was pretending to be, it looked to be almost brand-new.
A hatch opened to the ship and a female teen Voxxan only a few years older than Kayla stepped through carrying a small package.
The three of them met her at Calypso’s airlock, she smiled and nodded to them without stepping in. “I am Auresia Zette. I’d welcome you to the Delusion, but our records will show that you were never ever here. Despite not being here, Captain Zette thought you might like this,” she said as she offered them her package. As Kayla took it, Auresia added, “Unless something goes very wrong we will be breaking orbit in two hours and releasing you twelve hours after that. My father suggests you rest while you have the time.”
“Thank you, Ms Zette, and thank your father and crew for us as well,” Kernos replied.
“I will – but I won’t – as you’re not here and I didn’t see you,” Auresia told them with a grin before turning to retrace her steps.
“Any more stunts from Star Fleet?”
She momentarily turned to reply, “They seem to be having some problems in their ranks – enough that they’re now fighting amongst themselves and not shooting at any more civilians.”
“They seem confident that they can handle anything that might come up,” Kayla commented as the ship hatch closed behind Auresia.
“I think they might just be able to,” her brother replied. “No one ever looks up,” he added, causing the other two to look up to the ceiling, where there were several dozen objects secured – objects that looked a lot like the Zulus attached to Calypso.
Indicating an area of empty connection points their father said, “I wonder how many of those ships and shuttles out there aren’t.”
“Enough that Captain Zette is comfortable risking his ship and crew getting us in and you out,” his daughter replied. “Do you want me to take the first shift, Captain?”
“No. We’re all going to take a sleep shift while we have others looking out for us,” Kernos told her. “Besides, until we’re a little better trained on her, Calypso will only take suggestions that don’t counter her current programming.”
“So, not quite as in command as the title suggests?” she teased.
Her brother shrugged. “No more so than any captain whose crew won’t let them do anything too boneheaded. And there are indicators that both of us will gain more control over her as we progress in our training of Calypso and her systems.”
“So if I get ahead of you in training?” she suggested with a grin.
“Then I’ll arm-wrestle you for her,” he laughed. “Or we let Old Man Foster decide.”
“Not sure I’m ready to go up against him.”
“He’s not as bad as your mother makes him out to be.”
“Actually he can be much worse than even her mother knows,” his father corrected. “But you have to be putting others at risk to get him to show you just how bad he can really be.”
“That night he ended up with more mates and companions,” his daughter said eyeing him curiously. “You never told us what happened that night; you were both so angry, but not at each other.”
“A Star Fleet admiral illegally killed some of his people,” her father replied. “He gave me a sample of just how far he can and will go to protect others.”
“Including you it seems,” his son pointed out.
“Including me,” he allowed. “And I agree with this ship’s captain, let’s get some rest and then see where we go from here.”
He slept better than he had in a while, and longer as the tiny ship’s ‘crew’ was long gone by the time he finally got up. And they weren’t in the break room, having already broken their fasts and moved on to other things. He was not surprised to find the replicator had several of his preferred breakfasts in its memory, but first he opened the package from the Delusion, and fired up the coffee maker. As he ate, the aroma of the Chipinge coffee filled the room. Meal complete and coffee now ready, he filled three cups before making his way towards the flight deck.
“Permission to enter the bridge?” he asked once the hatch had slid open for him.
“For a cup of that coffee, we might even let you play with the controls,” his daughter informed him from one of the forward consoles as he stepped in.
He set a cup in front of each of them, noting that both their consoles had training lessons displayed. Setting down his own cup he settled into one of the aft seats before saying, “So, where are we bound?”
The captain had just finished a sip of his coffee and replied, “On a tangent of Delusion’s planned course, she released a dozen Zulus going different directions to help confuse anyone trying to track us. We should be close to one of Foster’s FTL relays in another two hours. It seems that someone expects us to wish to communicate.”
With time to kill, he keyed on the display – and was not at all surprised that Calypso’s systems thought that he might like to look though her engineering briefs.
His kids grinned when they heard him growling, the chit Zhane had been given having been just the tip of the iceberg of what Calypso was and was capable of.
So engrossed was he in his reading, he didn’t even feel them come out of warp. It therefore came as a bit of a shock when the engineering diagram he was studying was replaced by what appeared to be a grinning chakat.
“Hello stranger,” shi told him.
“Hello yourself,” he replied, trying and finding himself failing to remember having ever being introduced – or even having caught a glimpse hir before.
Shi had the same basic cougar colored fur as Goldfur, but with dark red hair and blue eyes – blue eyes that looked back at him much too smugly.
But shi knew where and how to find him, that limited the numbers significantly, that and that damn grin made him say, “Annoy the wrong deity did we, Foster?”
“You might say that,” the still grinning chakat replied. “Though it may have been more than one deity – and far too many of my family members!”
“I do hope you don’t plan to turn me into someone else, I think Rose would hunt you down and hurt you no matter where you’re hiding.”
“No plans, though Calypso’s transporter does have the Oceanwalker mods, and a good selection of critters you could become.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on it for now.”
“Just an option if things get too hot for that face you’re wearing,” the chakat agreed. “Before we get too deep into things, I need to have a quick word with your ship’s crew.”
The two forward displays now had the still grinning chakat on them as well. “First off you two, well done getting him out of there so quickly, though to be honest we had hoped to have our little show of him trying to escape well before you’d recovered him to help take some of the heat off of your own departure. And your extended family has been told that despite any news they might hear, you were in fact successful in collecting the package.”
“Now, we’re down to your options. As of this moment in time, Star Fleet Academy records are unclear on if you two are still on campus, or if you were called away for some type of family emergency. Either or both of you can return to your classes if you wish to do so, or you may continue your training to command your present craft. While your parents might think they have a say in this, it’s actually more on whether they can convince either or both of you to do things their way. So, do I need to give you a little time to find out their wishes?”
“The academy will still be there after things settle down,” Kayla replied. “Now, if my brother goes back and I stay – do I get a promotion to captain?”
“Sorry, Sis, I’m sticking around too,” her brother chuckled. “It’ll take both of us to keep you-know-who out of trouble.”
“Somehow I thought you’d say that,” the chakat said with a return of hir smirk. “Now, does you-know-who have any plans?”
“Confusion to our enemies,” was you-know-who’s reply.
“Enemies which we are already confusing,” shi agreed. “Your rather questionable escape ousted three Star Fleet ships with command crews more loyal to the HCKNA than to Star Fleet and the Federation. There was a fourth, but it seems they were actually attempting a rescue and not an attack. For added confusion I’ve authorized some of my people to use your voiceprints in the background of their communications, or solo as bait – but only those that can handle anything that might then try to come after them.”
“Delusion was a special case. She was at the right place at the right time to do what I thought needed doing. It didn’t hurt that she’s better armed than anyone would expect an antimatter fuel hauler to be – and that her captain and I have a bit of a history between us.”
“Enough to help us?”
“Enough to know that if I was asking him for this type of help, it was only because I had no one else I could call on. Calypso was supposed to just use Delusion to sneak in and then leave on her own in the confusion I had planned, but I was told in no uncertain terms that you and yours were not going to be placed in that much risk by Captain Zette – who I have reason to believe was having his arm twisted by his mate and kids. So instead we had Calypso played shuttle with an option to run if things went wrong.”
“But things went right.”
“Things went very right, for the cost of one of the old-style baby Zulus – which we sometimes use for target practice – we got everyone away clear.”
“That’s up to you. I don’t know what you and your wives had planned, but removing any or all of your family from public and Star Fleet attention can take under thirty minutes of you or them giving the word. As to the places I could hide you, they include a space-based school, or one of our manufacturing centers – like the one rolling out more Zulus and what’s now known as the ‘Calypso’ class fast transport.”
“To think on. And if they already know we’re free and clear the rest of the family will understand us staying silent for a couple more days.”
“Completely understood. Don’t be afraid to give me a call if something comes up – or comes to mind. Calm seas and fair winds to all of you,” shi said before the display screens went back to what they had been viewing.
“So, where to?” his son asked.
Beyond his son’s head, a star seemed to wink on the main view-screen.
“That way,” he replied. “Second star to the right – and we’ll see where we are come morning.”
*** EOL? ***
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