The Impossible Dream - part 1
By Chakat Bluestripe (a.k.a Joe Prescott)
Mark was sitting next to the console reading the News on the monitor while gently stirring his fresh cup of coffee. All systems were working within parameters and there was nothing urgent that needed to be done. The logbooks had been filled out early by copying the same entries from the previous weeks. The computer was actively scanning through most of the communications channels searching for any calls to the outpost. The other five members of the Team were off sleeping or working out in the Gym. Mark had been stationed here for sixteen months and was certainly looking forward to the arrival of the relief Team in 60 days. The only redeeming part of this assignment has been the weekly tour of the area and the chance to have a little fun in the cockpit of a fighter.
Outpost Utgard was anything but a bustling hub of commerce. It was only built to fulfill contractual obligations to protect shipping lanes and this one only serviced two Agricultural planets. These planets were sparsely populated along their equator where the climate was favorable for growing crops. Only the long distance to the nearest planet had made this outpost necessary. Mark had visited the planets a few times for fresh supplies and a change of scenery but he never spent more than a day or two there. The people were always friendly and some even remembered his name.
Mark raises his cup to drink then realizes that the coffee is cold. He puts the cup down and continues reading. The lights in the watch room turn to full brightness as the computer starts the Emergency Alert Tones. Mark is momentarily startled but then reaches over and acknowledges the alert. The tones stop as the screen displays the information.
Automated Emergency Transponder Actuated.
Ship ID # AU6733-B. ESV – R.Kipling. Class – LT
Registration: AusTech Research
04:34:06 GWT 06-23-2310.
133-43-55 / 62-73-175 – 2.543 SECT.
Location - Verified.
Flight Plan – Verified.
Voice Channel – No Response.
COMP-LINK – Active
Main Engine – Unknown.
Main Power – Off Line.
Reserve Power – 31% - Decreasing.
Atmosphere – 84% - Decreasing.
Fire Suppression – Active.
Bulkhead Seal – L2/F – Fail.
Bulkhead Seal – L3/F – Fail.
COMP-LINK – Connection Lost.
Automated Emergency Transponder – No Response.
"SHIT!" Mark hits a button sending an Activation Alarm throughout the Station.
"Computer, ready Probe!"
"Computer, load coordinates of Emergency Transponder to Probe and launch when ready."
Within seconds the computer responds, "Probe launched. Estimated time to destination, 15 minutes 23 seconds"
Mark leaves the watch room and hurries down the corridor to the locker room. Everybody is suiting up as Mark grabs his suit. "Marcus, Jake, you two stay here but keep the fighters ready"
"Aw, man!" they say in unison. Tony is the first to ask, "What is it?"
"Says it's a Light Transport ship, Looks like it burst its bubble in a bad way. Might already be too late. Probe will be there in a few."
"Man, I hate it when that happens… Can mess up your whole day..." Martin says as he grabs his helmet and heads out to the ship. Johnny wrinkles up his nose, "That sounds kinda messy to me…" Mark finishes suiting up and joins them in the shuttle.
The Probe is built to travel great distances quickly without the added mass of a cockpit and life support systems. The single seat fighters are quick and agile but are not designed for deep space travel and can be very uncomfortable after a few hours. The Shuttle is not nearly as fast as the fighters but can hold a few dozen passengers. It has also been equipped with emergency supplies and rescue gear.
Tony locks onto the coordinates and the shuttle pulls away from the station. As soon as the shuttle is clear, the FTL drive engages. "49 Minutes to Destination" Tony reads on the display. Mark is sitting in the co-pilots seat and looks back at the rest of the men. They are getting rescue suits ready and checking the MedPacs.
With all systems on auto, there is nothing to do but wait. After several minutes the computer displays "Probe at Destination. Receiving Data."
Mark starts accessing the information. Page after Page of data goes flying by on the monitor. "SHIT!! It's an ATTACK!!" He practically screams. Everyone else just stares at him. The Comm Channel pops up on the monitor and Jake appears, "We're already on it! We should be passin' you up in a few of minutes." Mark acknowledges and closes the channel. A deafening silence fills the ship for a few moments. "DAMN! I blew this call." Mark says as he continues to read the information coming from the probe. "I can't tell what kind of ship is attacking. It looks kind of like a modified transport ship, but… it has some substantial weapons."
"Computer, plot intercept course, Probe to attacking ship."
"Computer, override safety protocols and accept imminent destruction of property."
"Computer, load course into Probe and engage, maximum acceleration"
"Lets see how they like a Probe shoved up their ass at light speed!" Mark says with slight smile.
The computer screen pops up a message, "Loss of Probe Recorded"
"Computer, did Probe contact attacking ship?" Mark asks.
"No. Probe was destroyed 92.43 Kilometers from Attacking ship."
"Damn!" Mark sighs, his body seems to turn limp and he just sits there for a few minutes.
Tony Speaks up, "Hold onto your lug nuts, here they come!"
The Radar shows two targets overtaking the ship at maximum warp deflection. They pass the ship and continue on course. "They will be there in 5 minutes, we still have 10 to go." Tony says as he reads the screen.
Marcus and Jake arrive at the scene just as the attacking ship engages its FTL drive. "We're gonna chase them down, shouldn't take too long." Marcus says on the comm. "Ok, go teach um a thing or two about pain for me." Says Mark as he perks up a little.
"5 more minutes…" Says Tony.
The FTL drive disengages and the shuttle approached the damaged transport ship. The R. Kipling is an older model transport, which is still common in many smaller companies. It roughly measures 125 meters in length and has a wingspan of approximately 75 meters. The main body of the ship is approximately 20 meters in height. This type of ship does not normally have any weapons and is not designed with any armor. It is capable of flying through atmosphere and landing on most types of surfaces including water.
Mark assesses the damaged ship as they circle to access the docking ports. Overall the ship doesn't look too badly damaged. The attackers had precisely targeted the power conduits to the engines and the plasma had vented to space. The front cargo hatches had also been targeted and forcefully opened. The cargo bays were empty. The shuttle docks to the transport but the hatch won't open. It takes a couple of minutes to mechanically open the hatch. The atmosphere in the transport is reading dangerously low and the men put on the helmets to their pressure suits. Artificial gravity has failed in the ship and the weightlessness makes searching slower. They engage their Mag-Boots and spread out to search for survivors.
Marcus comes up on the Comm channel, "Ok we have caught up to the ship… it is a little faster than it looks… We still don't know who it is but we are preparing to engage them… I'll let you know how it goes."
"10-4," says Mark as he turns down a hallway that leads to the main bridge. The door to the bridge has been forced open and the scene within is not pleasant. The whole bridge crew and Captain have been killed. Their gently floating bodies show signs of a violent struggle. Mark tries to open the ships log but the panel has no power. "This can wait," he thinks to himself.
Marcus comes up on the Comm Channel again, "Hey… these guys are putting up a bit of a struggle… their ship has heavy armor and it might take a while to chisel our way through it… how is it there?"
"Everyone is dead here… killed at close range… we are almost finished" Mark answers solemnly.
"Ok… uh, do you think you could head out this way?… We are running a little low on fuel and we might not have enough to make it all the way home…"
"Ok we'll be leaving here shortly" Mark says as he closes the channel.
Tony is searching the living quarters door to door and so far has found nothing but floating death. Humans, Morphs, and Taurs all killed at close range. He is expecting nothing less when he opens the next door. His expectations are proved right, two chakats, both killed at close range. He is turning to leave when he sees a third. It is a baby chakat, white and black, about 1½ to 2 years old floating in the corner. Tony's heart falls as he walks over to it. He doesn't see any injuries as he gently catches it. Shi twitches as he touches hir. Shi is alive! Tony quickly opens up a rescue suit and puts the unconscious Chakat inside. The suit quickly pressurizes to a safe level as Tony hurries back toward the shuttle.
Mark has finished his search and is about to call all of the others back when he sees Tony hurrying toward the shuttle with an inflated rescue suit. Tony sees Mark and shouts, "I found a live one! … A baby chakat! Go check the last few rooms! There might be more!" Mark turns and rushes down the hall. Once on the shuttle, Tony adjusts the oxygen level a little in the rescue suit as the baby starts to regain consciousness. Johnny and Martin come back having found no survivors. They are surprised to see Tony holding a dazed looking baby chakat in his arms. Mark hurries in, "I couldn't find any more. Lets get out of here." Tony hands the baby to Johnny and takes the pilots seat. Mark takes his place as the co-pilot while the shuttle undocks and heads toward Marcus and Jake. Mark opens a channel to Marcus, "How are you two doing with the battle?"
Marcus answers, "We are not doing too great… we seem to have disabled their engines somehow but their guns just won't quit. They've got a weapons guidance algorithm from hell! It can track us at high speed and as soon as we get in range it opens up the fires of hell on us. I've had way too many close ones and Jake already lost one of his cannons. Right now we are kinda hanging back a ways, catching our breath and waiting for enlightenment from God, or some other great idea."
"Ok, We have a small issue to take care of and then we will be there directly." Mark closes the Channel and looks at the navigation screen. Amaethon and Dagda are the only two inhabited planets in this sector; Amaethon was only 15 minutes away at full speed and not entirely out of the way from the battle. "Set course to Amaethon, Engage FTL at maximum warp."
May 5, 2332
My name is Artemis Bluestripe. I am a Chakat and I am also a Sergeant in the Federation Special Forces (FSF). I have a partner named Redstripe and together we are a "linked Pair" on a Fast Response Team. This is a fairly new position and I will explain it a little.
The FSF has been working on a technique to enhance the empathic abilities of chakats for use in covert operations. They train the chakats to use their empathic abilities to detect the enemy's location and then move close enough to collect further intelligence. They would then relay the information back to another chakat through that same empathic ability.
To help with the project, the FSF had requested that all new chakat recruits be tested for their empathic ability. Chakats with a higher than average test score are sent straight to the FSF for further testing. Chakats have always been desirable in the military for our ability to be a formidable fighting machine without extra training. Our sensitive hearing and olfactory abilities make us some of the best trackers. Our Taur form is quite capable of carrying heavy backpacks and supplies and our immune system is unsurpassed. Our genetic makeup was engineered to make us intelligent and that has given us the tendency to be relatively pacifistic, much to the dismay of certain fighting forces.
Although I don't have the formal education required for many of the Starfleet or Star Corps positions, I still dreamed to be in a position where I could get a chance to travel the stars. I had always been a little on the aggressive side so I decided to try the Police Force.
When I enlisted in the Federation Police Force they performed some preliminary tests including an empathic aptitude test. They found that I met certain criteria and sent me to the FSF special training program for an interview. Once there, I was subjected to many tests and my empathic ability was thoroughly documented. They rated my ability as an E4+ on their scale. I wasn't sure what that meant but they assured me that it was very good. I had always assumed that all chakats had the same ability and I was a little excited at the news. I was then given a complete psychological examination. Those results were kept from me but I must have passed. I was finally interviewed and given full details about the training program and what was expected of me. I was given the chance to refuse the assignment but I jumped at it enthusiastically. The next step was to match me up with a partner. There were several Chakats already in the program and I was matched to Pathmaker through a combination of ability and compatibility. Shi goes by the nickname of Redstripe or just Red now that we have been working together for a while.
Red and I have made great progress together and have surpassed the Project expectations. The empathic training drills have helped us sharpen our abilities and we can even project thoughts to most non-empaths. We have proven our link to be reliable at a distance of 500 kilometers, but that was under strict test conditions. We have also spent months training in the more conventional skills required by Special Forces Agents. Most chakats prefer not to give into all of the specialized combat training needed for this career but I know that I must be able to handle any situation that may arise. I do admit that there were a few times that I felt a little uneasy while training to kill with my bare hands. This is a skill that I hope I will never have to use. I have been certified in Zero-Grav Suits and have passed the basic shuttle pilots course. I usually sign up for all of the shuttle stick time that I can, but then again, so does everyone else.
After quite some time in training, Red and I were assigned to one of the Fast Response Teams stationed near the Rocky Mountains. I have always wished that I could join the team that had saved me. I had never expected to be selected by the FSF immediately but I am very happy that I was. This is a noble profession and I feel in a position to help prevent my parent's fate from happening again. This is my way of honoring them.
Our Team covers quite a large area and is responsible for more general population than any other team stationed in the Greater North American Alliance, but this includes some overlap areas with other Teams.
We have been deployed 5 times and two of those ended peacefully. The other times earned us commendations. Luckily the world is at peace and it is only the occasional crackpot that gets us called into action.
Our Fast Response Team prefers to use the cover of night if possible therefore we do most of our training in darkened buildings. That leads to how Redstripe and I got our names. We have both dyed our fur black to help camouflage us in the night. My true color is mostly white with scattered black patches…and I have had it up to HERE!…WITH COW JOKES!
Well any way, Since Red and I look the same at night we have to help the humans on our team tell us apart. We both have a small stripe in the front and back of our body armor. It is only visible through the night-vision goggles. I have a blue stripe and Red has a red stripe and since Bluestripe and Redstripe seemed like fine Chakat names, we took them for ourselves. It also helps keep the training easier. My human name is just "too human" according to Red so I use Bluestripe now. Red goes by hir given name around hir family.
Red and I have been linked for almost four years now. While we can't actually talk empathically, we can send each other emotions and impressions that we can understand easily. We spend time every day linked so that we stay tuned in to each other. We also practice impressions such as "go left", "stay back", danger ahead", etc… This is our career and we are happy to give it our best every time. It has been almost a year since our last callout and the only civil unrest was the occasional "Earth for Humanity" demonstrations. Our position requires us to maintain the highest state of readiness, therefore daily workouts and drills are the norm.
Tonight we have been scheduled for extraction exercises. We usually do this once a month and it is a full deployment, live-fire confrontation.
The Team has all gathered at the night training compound for the drill. It is scheduled for 23:00 hours but we all get there a little early to suit up into our gear. The chakat body armor is not too easy to get into and hinders our movements quite a bit. It is designed to protect most of our body from light to medium power weapons fire. We also wear a full-face helmet with an internal communicator.
We are all set to begin the drill as the Captain sets the scenario for us. "Terrorist A has taken a woman hostage and is threatening her with a high-energy laser pistol. Terrorist B is armed with a large caliber Ion rifle. All three are in the back room of an office building and we have no communication with them. Check all of your weapons to be sure that they are set to mild stun."
"John is playing the hostage tonight and he is wearing pink." I hear some muffled snickers from the men. "Jeff and Scott are the terrorists. They have their weapons set to stun also." Everybody takes turns playing the terrorists so we must keep this safe and only moderately painful
Red starts mumbling something about getting stunned in the butt last time that Scott was a terrorist. I suggest something about turning the other cheek. Red smiled and sends me a mental picture, which makes me laugh.
The scene is set and we are turned loose to devise a plan of attack. Since there is only one door to this room, we decide to let Red sneak around the back wall and get a bearing on the situation empathically. Red is absolutely silent as shi creeps around the back. I soon pick up an image of Jeff standing against the wall to the left of the door, holding John close in front of him. Scott is in the far corner with the rifle aimed at the door.
Red is sensing that Scott is planning something and shi is trying to gain insight on his thoughts. The link is suddenly broken and we all hear a painful cry from Red. Everyone jumps into action. They fan out and flank the building. I reestablish the link to Red just as Shi comes limping around the corner, hir hind legs looking very unsteady. I am picking up a flood of impressions and they all focus on Scott. There is a muffled laugh emanating from the building. I shout back toward the building "What are you laughing about, we've got you surrounded!" With that, the laughing stops. Red limps up and grumbles, "How come they always get the ion weapon and all we get are these laser pistols". True, they usually give the ion weapon to the "terrorists" during training and it does shoot through non-metallic walls. I watch as Red limps around trying to shake off the numbness. After a few moments shi is starting to feel better and is aching for revenge. I hug hir tightly and whisper, "I will go behind again and try to get Scott's attention while you stage a frontal advance." Red says, "It's worth a try. I'll get Bill and Fred to follow me in and take out Jeff."
I sneak around the back of the building as everyone gets in place. Red signals me that shi is ready and I start projecting toward Scott. He is turning to fire through the wall again when I signal Red. Shi bursts in like a freight train, tearing the door it off its hinges and slamming straight into Scott. Even though it's dark in the room shi can sense exactly where he is. Bill and Fred lunge in and stun everything to the left of where the door had been. Then they rush over and tackle a moderately stunned Jeff. The rest of the team is in the room by now and have secured John. I rush around and leap in as quickly as I can. It is at this moment that we start noticing a painful groaning back in the corner. We turn on the lights in time to see a smiling chakat holding an ion rifle exit the room. Scott is moving very slowly as he starts picking himself up off of the floor. I can sense his pain so I help him up. "You aren't laughing now, huh?" I say jokingly to him.
"Well I would if it didn't hurt so much." he says with a trace of a grin. Jeff is shaking off the last effects of being stunned and says, "What's up with Red? Can't shi take a joke?"
I give them an evil grin as I answer, "Oh shi can take it well enough, but as you can see, shi prefers to dish it out!"
We have just arrived home at our pad after spending most of the night going over the training exercise and taking Scott to the hospital. Red is emanating pure satisfaction. Shi keeps sending me the image of Scott in the hospital bed with a broken collarbone and two broken ribs. "I think you overdid it a little that time, love. You aren't supposed to put us in the hospital" I jokingly say to hir. "I can't help it if humans are brittle." Shi says with a smile. Fortunately Scott doesn't hold a grudge and looks at the humor of the whole thing. He appreciates the opportunity to catch up on his reading. He also knows that there will be many more training sessions to come. Everyone on the Team knows that they are working with the best and trust is absolute. Our Team has had its share of minor injuries, but luckily it has never suffered a casualty.
While Red and I have been 'linked' by career, we have also become the closest of friends. It would be hard to share your deepest thoughts with someone you only worked with. Red is the typical Chakat, born and raised in a loving family atmosphere. Shi has had a happy childhood bathed in the joy of a large extended family. Hir decision to join the force had been met with a little skepticism but that was soon transformed to pride when shi was accepted into the FSF.
I had been raised by humans since my early childhood. We lived in a small town on a mostly unpopulated agricultural planet. I was the first and only chakat in the town up until I left to follow my destiny. I had been placed there only out of necessity after my parents were killed by thieves who boarded their exploration ship. A Special Forces Team had answered the ships distress signal and found me as the lone survivor. They had quickly dropped me off at the nearest colony as they continued their pursuit of the killers. That little bit of history is all that I know about my past. I have long forgotten what my parents looked like and rarely have dreams with faint images that I presume are them.
Artemis was the name given to me by my adopted parents. They were good to me but strict when it came time to do the chores. They tried their best but raising a chakat cub is challenging enough for chakat parents. Ultimately they just let me run loose all day while they worked their farm. That might have been their inspiration for my name. Nobody in the town knew anything about chakat customs and I had never seen the need to give it any thought. My childhood was spent mostly alone and I was considered an outcast or some kind of pet through my adolescence. My "sister" Zephyrus, is a little older than I am. She was very jealous of me when we were young but she finally grew out of that and became a good friend. I made a few friends in school but only the closest neighboring kids ever took the time to know me. I had some very tough times as I entered puberty. The hormones nearly drove me insane and nobody could understand. Eventually I had to learn to suppress most of the urges or be shunned by my classmates. As I grew older I spent many hard days working the fields and tending the crops. Eventually I gained a reputation for being able to revive failing crops. They said that I "Had a feel for the crop's needs" but I never really had a "feel" for farming. By the time I was about twenty years old I had had enough of farming. I surrendered to the persistent pull of the unknown and the dream of joining the Federation in some capacity. I decided to catch a cargo ship to Terra and that was the beginning of my enlightenment
When Red and I had first been introduced I was a little surprised by hir formal Chakat greeting. It was something like "Hello, I am Chakat Pathmaker, child of Thundercloud and Crystalmoon" followed by a big hug. I simply said "Hi, I'm Artemis." I didn't understand the odd expression on hir face at that time. Since my new life with Red, I have leaned many of the chakat customs. Most importantly, I have discovered love. This emotion had been nothing but trouble throughout my childhood and I had considered it an impossible dream. I was both surprised and overjoyed that Red was able to open up a lifetime of concealed desires and needs. I have discovered a whole new dimension within myself. I will probably never be as open to the world as most chakats but at least now I am happy. We are Denmates and live in our own pad but we must leave the pet names at home while working.
Red has introduced me to hir family but I never feel like I really fit in. They do consider me as part of their family and treat me exceptionally nicely, but the whole concept of being in a close family is a little alien to me. I can't seem to completely open up around them. I can sense their emotions and I know that they are eager to know me better. Red's younger sister Summerbreeze is very interested in me. Shi expresses hir interest openly and I think shi is very attractive but when I am alone with Red, I couldn't be more content. Red and I have considered becoming Lifemates but it would compromise our status on the Team. The FSF considers everybody on the Team as equal and being Lifemated would tilt that status. We eagerly look forward to the future when we can pledge our never-ending love and become Lifemates. We do plan to raise a family after we have saved up enough wages for a good home, until then we are inseparable and we know it and that will have to do.
Red and I like to take every chance we can to get away for a little fresh air. We know very well that life must not always revolve around work. We like to go for long hikes in the local mountains, often staying out for a few days. This is the time of year that makes for excellent hiking and Red and I want to make the best of it. We plan to explore the Grand Canyon and if time permits, then travel over to check out the west coast. The Grand Canyon is quite a busy tourist attraction. Its beauty holds an undeniable attraction even with some of the scars from a long ago war. Although Red and I usually prefer the solitude of some remote valley or hidden glade, we want to see the Canyon and the crowd is just something to be expected. We have been granted a three-week leave, with the condition that we both have communicators on hand at all times. That is no problem since we usually do anyway. We started packing a few days early so we wouldn't be rushed. I have also secretly packed a little something extra for Red.
The day is here at last and we are excited as we board the transport to the Old Arizona region. Red is smiling openly and hir happiness is shining in hir eyes as shi hugs me and gives me a quick lick-kiss. The Love I have for Red is the driving force behind my smile. To be empathically linked to a true love is a wonderful existence. We have the ability to share emotions that can't be spelled out in words or seen in the eyes. They can only be felt at purest level of understanding. I can't think of any possible way to be more content.
After arriving in New Phoenix, we take a shuttle over to the rim of the Canyon. It is early evening so we check into our room. We eat a quick dinner at one of the local restaurants and head back to the hotel. I pick up some literature on our way through the lobby then we settle down in our room for some light reading. I am interested in the history of the area and have taken a small booklet about the "Grand Battle" that took place in the Grand Canyon.
Way back in the mid-21st century, when some of the humans first tried to "cleanse" their society of "Furs", a lynch mob had almost surrounded a number of morphs in the northern part of what was then Arizona. They had tried to escape but having no other direction to go, they fled down into the Grand Canyon and dug in. They were nothing more than a mixture of house servants, laborers and human sympathizers. They were severely out-gunned and outnumbered but they were determined to stay alive. They called out for help and as word of the fight quickly spread, reinforcements for both sides started to converge on the site. They brought with them larger and more destructive weapons. Eventually there were air strikes and limited carpet-bombing by both factions. Much of the canyon had been turned into battle trenches. It finally resulted in an all out battle to the death. The numbers of casualties were tremendous on both sides but unfortunately the human bloc won the battle. The issue escalated quickly after that and led to the planet-wide factorization of parties. The racism had reached just about every corner of the planet. There had been demonstrations and street fights before this but the "Grand Battle" has been accepted as the catalyst for the beginning of the Gene Wars. A large memorial is located near the area of the final battle. It praises the strength and determination of those trapped in the canyon. It also serves as a brutal reminder to the hatred of the past and a warning to the future that we must never let this happen again.
The trailhead is located near the memorial and I am looking forward to seeing it first thing in the morning. Red and I plan to be on the trail at first light so we decide to get to bed early.
Although the room was said to accommodate Taurs, the shower leaves much to be desired. It would be difficult for an Equitaur to even get through the bathroom door. I have to exit the shower and walk in backwards just to wash my hindquarters and tail. I finish my shower and turn it over to Red. Shi sends me the same thoughts about the shower size. I go over and pick up the fur dryer and turn it on. Nothing happens. I turn it off and on a few times and still nothing happens! Red senses my frustration and asks what is wrong. I send hir the image of the broken fur dryer. Shi is silent for a few moments then sends me a happy image of us giving each other a good rubdown with the towels. Shi always tries to see the good side of everything and that is one of the reasons that I love hir so. The rubdown is just the beginning of an enjoyable night together.
I wake up about five minutes before the alarm clock is set to go off. I reach over and disable it. I sense that Red is still dreaming so I decide to have some fun with hir. I start projecting some erotic thoughts and I am pleased by hir reaction. Shi is getting quite aroused in hir sleep. I keep projecting until shi reaches orgasm, at which point shi wakes up suddenly. I am acting like I am asleep and I can sense hir embarrassment at soiling the sheets. Shi quickly senses my restrained laughter and rolls over and hits me in the arm.
"How many times have I told you not to do that!" shi hisses. I can't hold back any longer and I start laughing uncontrollably. Ultimately the pain of several more punches brings me under control and we get out of bed.
Red and I quickly get our things in order and are out the door in half an hour.
The night is just starting its transformation to dawn as we head down the road toward the trailhead. We are both too busy soaking in the smells and sounds of the waning night to speak a word. At this hour we are alone on the street as we walk happily along side by side with our tails entwined.
We arrive at the Battle Memorial just as the sun is cresting the horizon. From our position we are given the balcony view to the opening scene of the most wonderfully beautiful symphony of colors and sights that we have ever had the fortune to witness. I have no words vivid enough to describe the sight unfolding before us.
We have lost track of time… My brain has finally caught up to my senses and I nudge red to gently bring hir back into my time frame. "Lets get to it." I say quietly as I gesture toward the trail. Shi takes my hands and while looking deep into my eyes, shi says "Thank you for being here with me. I will always be able to share this moment with you and the emotions that flow with it". Shi kisses me and I return it with interest. The adventure is laid out before us and now we are taking steps toward it.
The trail is almost entirely down hill at this point and we rest often. I am trailing a little behind Red. "If It's this hard just going down the trail then I don't want to think about the trip back up the darn thing!" I complain.
With hir usual flair Red says, "Well, we can stay down here. We could just never go back. They will forget all about us in a year or two." That notion doesn't seem all bad, especially if I won't have to walk back out of this big ditch." I am having fun but I don't look forward to the climb back up to reality. We continue down the path until the sun catches up to our descent. We decide to stop for our first meal of the day where we can soak up a few rays of sunlight. We stop just long enough to grab some trail mix out of our packs and then we head off again.
We continue along the trail for a couple of hours until we meet up with some hikers heading up the trail. Their group includes a man and a woman, and one todd and one vixen fox-morph. We greet each other and I jokingly asked how far it is to the Canyon floor. They are eager to sit and talk (and rest) but we soon bid them "fare-thee-well" and continue down the trail. We are a short distance away when we hear the vixen say, "Mikael, do you think they are twins?" The todd answers, "I don't know, they are both certainly black but they don't really look like twins to me."
The trail levels out a little and we are now at the bottom of this part of the Canyon. The trail forks off in several different directions at this point. I get out my map and choose the trail that we have marked out. The immensity of the canyon walls towering above us is very humbling. I find myself feeling small and insignificant. The beauty of the Canyon is handed out in small portions at this vantage point and I am craving for more. Every turn of the trail gives us another feast of visual splendor and heightens our craving for more. The day goes by quickly and before we realize it, we are at out planned campsite. We must let the rest of the unseen beauty wait until morning. We go about setting up the camp and I pitch the tent. Red makes dinner while my thoughts are lost in the hypnotic warmth of the fire. I hardly remember eating dinner when Red reminds me that it is my turn to clean up the dishes. I am finally coaxed out of the warm hypnosis of the flame and start cleaning up. With the dishes cleaned it is time for bed and I head for the tent. We sleep under the stars sometimes but the mosquitoes are out and nobody likes those little bloodsuckers. The bed is calling and I must obey. We quickly fall asleep happy and serene in the comfort of our combined warmth.
The morning finds me waking up in the gentle yet muscular arms of Red. Shi gives me a gentle lick-kiss and hir smile marks the start of my day. Our large chakat packs have plenty of room to carry enough food for several days of moderate eating. This morning I make breakfast with my own hunger being the gauge. I mixed up a generous amount of scrambled eggs with bacon, and tea to wash it all down. After we finish eating, we break camp and continue our journey through the canyon. The rest of the day is spent with our senses at near-overload from the beautiful scenery. We meet up with a few groups of hikers, most heading the opposite direction. We pass some hikers traveling our direction but after saying hello to them, they are quickly left behind.
Towards the end of the day we locate the campground and setup camp near the edge of the grounds. There are a few other hikers already setting up so we will settle for the third-rate site. Tonight Red offers to make dinner but I easily talk hir into letting me do it. There is a reason for my wanting to keep my mind busy. Red can too easily pick up my thoughts and there is one thing that I don't want to think about just yet.
We sit around the campfire talking about our trip and letting our dinner settle in. I notice that Red is drifting off to sleep and I help hir into the tent. Shi quickly falls asleep. I am very proud of myself for being able to successfully keep my little secret away from Red for the last few days. Having a partner who can sense your thoughts makes for very few secrets.
The morning finds me being awakened by a long gentle kiss from Red. This is one of the most pleasant ways to wake up especially when compared to a loud alarm clock. As I drift into full consciousness I can't help getting excited about today.
Red quickly picks up the emotion and sends me a confirmation, "Yes, I know that it's my Birthday," shi whispers.
"I just have to say it though," I tell hir and then I do. "Happy Birthday!!!" I say loud enough for everyone in the camp to hear. Shi sends me a minor scolding for saying it so loud. I reach over and get one of my packs. Shi watches as I open my pack and dig way down and pull out a moderately sized bag. Shi is looking at me sternly and I can sense her probing my thoughts. Shi wants to know what is in the bag and I am trying my best to think of something else while I'm opening it. Out of the bag I produce a handsomely wrapped package. Red is still looking very sternly at me but I can sense hir excitement at seeing the package. I hand the package to hir and give hir a long sensuous kiss. Shi can't hold back hir smile any longer as shi starts to unwrap the gift. I can sense hir excitement as shi finally sees what I have given hir. A full set of chakat moccasins and a leather vest. It is all decorated with early American-Indian style beadwork. Shi enthusiastically starts putting on the moccasins and rushes out for a quick jaunt around the camp. Shi comes back and gives me a strong hug and quickly puts on the vest. I am picking up hir pleasure quite strongly and I know that shi is truly pleased. Shi then struts around the campsite getting the feel of the vest and the moccasins and showing off a little to the other hikers. They are all eagerly inspecting hir gifts and commenting on the beautiful beadwork while shi is radiating enough pleasure to lighten up everyone at the campsite. I again make the breakfast and after eating and breaking camp we are off for more adventures. Red is bounding ahead, enjoying the feel of the moccasins on hir paws. I stay back a short distance enjoying the sight of hir and feeling joyfully content.
The next few days seem to pass overnight and we are still having way too much fun. We are sitting on a rock with a fantastic view of the canyon below us. Red has just handed me some trail mix and we are starting in on lunch. A high-pitched alarm starts to chirp from inside Reds pack. We just sit there and look at each other for a moment then the same alarm starts to sound in my own pack. "You answer yours, it was first" I joking say to hir. We both open our packs and pull out our communicators. I disable my alarm while Red answers the page. The familiar voice of the Captain responds to the page acknowledgement "It's good that you answered so quickly Red, is Blue with you?"
"I'm here" I speak up so the Captain can hear me.
"We have a situation developing and I need to have you two back with us immediately. The rest of the team has been paged and we will be meeting in the New Angeles area." The Captain paused for our response.
"This better be real and not just a show-n-go drill," Red answers.
"I have contacted a shuttle in your area and it will be picking you up shortly I have already forwarded your communicator coordinates to the pilot. I will have more information for you once you have boarded the shuttle. Contact me when you're onboard." and with that the communicator disconnects.
Again we just sit there for a moment until I pick up a comical image from Red of two hands strangling the Captain. "We better find a good place for the shuttle to land," Red mutters disappointedly. We hike up to the top of a small mesa and wait for the shuttle to find us.
We are munching on some of the treats that we were saving for later days when the shuttle arrives. It makes a quick landing sparing the time for a gentle touchdown. The door was opening even before it had landed. "This might be the real thing." I say as we climb into the shuttle. The pilot doesn't wait for us to get seated and we are pulled to the floor as the shuttle quickly gains altitude. I send Red an image of slapping the pilot around a little and shi smiles back to me. Soon we were seated normally and I call the Captain on the comm. He is obviously in the Team shuttle when he answers the page.
"Hello Blue, This doesn't look too good for us. We will have to be very careful with this one. We have is a terrorist situation in the lower New Angeles area. They have taken four hostages and are now making demands. The local police force is negotiating with the terrorists for a peaceful solution however we have evidence that indicates that they may want to become martyrs for the Earth For Humanity movement. If this is true, then we will have to neutralize them before they have the opportunity." The Captain was not looking optimistic as he continued; "So far they have demanded time on the local broadcast stations and are currently engaged in a propaganda campaign. The hostages are a family of chakats, two adults and two children. The youngest child is thirteen months old. We will discuss this in detail on site. See you there, out." At hearing "Thirteen months old", Red and I started to tense up a little more than we had been. The age of the child prevents us from using some of our "safer" techniques. If the hostages were all adults then we have the option to heavily stun the entire area from outside of the building. This could be fatal for a small child. Even at the maximum safe stun level for a thirteen month old chakat, the gunmen would not be distracted enough for us to make a safe entry into the room. It could also startle them into a brash action. Red and I both discuss our options during the flight.
The shuttle lands near the command post and we are met by a couple of guys on our team. "Hey John, hey Joe" I say as they point the way to the briefing area. We all walk quickly over to the building being used for the command post. Red and I drop our packs in the corner and join the crowd. Everyone is gathered around a broadcast viewer watching a man preaching the supremacy of the Human race. Although he is talking eloquently, his logic is skewed in a most distasteful way. The Captain sees us as we enter and announces the briefing will begin in one minute. We all gather around the large tactical view screen and the talking in the room slowly drops to a low murmur as the Captain prepares to speak.
"I have told all of you the basic details of our situation. As you can see, one gunman is still being interviewed by the news media in the front room of the City Unemployment Office." He gestures toward the tactical viewer where the floor plan of the building is displayed. "The building is a small single story office complex housing the local branch of the City Unemployment and Health Services. The family of chakats had been in the Health Services office for their child's checkup when the gunmen burst in." "They are now being held at gunpoint in this second room by two gunmen" The Captain points to the room directly behind the front room where the interview is taking place. "There is both a front and rear entrance to the room as well as three windows. The hostages are tied up in the center of the room. We know this because the camera crew was allowed in for a moment. What we saw were assorted handguns and high-powered laser rifles. The gunmen have demanded the release of three Earth For Humanity leaders that were arrested a while back. The local police are still trying to negotiate around that but the gunman seems set on that provision." The Captain turns a little graver as he continues, "The information that we haven't released to the press is quite distressing. The police have identified the gunmen and have searched their residences and computers. What they turned up is a series of communications, which closely outlines what they have already done. It also indicates that after they have negotiated the release of the three leaders, they intend to force a firefight in the public view and kill all of the hostages. They hope that it will cause a public outcry and put the blame on us. These communications also included at least two other individuals who for now are unknown. We know that they have been planning this for at least five months. There is no clear-cut way to attack this situation and guarantee the safety of the hostages. I am open to input". The Captain stands there looking at the room full of his best agents and waits.
Scott is the first to speak up," I think we could lock a transporter onto the gunmen and hold them in stasis while we secure the hostages. That would give us more than enough time to disarm them."
Joe quickly refuted "The transport beam takes about two seconds cohere and that is plenty of time to squeeze off a shot!"
"That is true," I added "but what if we can distract them at just the right moment and then lock on the transporter beam?"
Jeff is the next to speak up," Well that might work but I wouldn't bet my life on it. Those rifles can go right through us even with all of our gear on. Can we get a position to snipe them? That would be my choice"
The Captain speaks up," We have every news crew on the continent here and I would like to bring this to a peaceful conclusion if possible but that may not be the best option. We may just have to take them out that way."
Scott speaks up with a confident voice "I think I have an idea. Let's give'em the works. We can set the stun projector for the most we can get away with. Then we get the transporter to lock onto them and then maybe a small explosion outside for a diversion and followed up with a perfectly timed assault. We can disarm them and bring everyone out walking." We all discuss this for a few minutes and nothing better can be devised.
This seems like the best solution since our time is running out. The Police force was beginning to lose ground in the negotiations and the situation was deteriorating into the gunmen's plans for martyrdom. We decide to do it and nobody has to be told twice. The arrangements are made with the transporter chief and the stun projector is set within the limits of the child's tolerability. Several Flash-Bang grenades are prepared for the diversion and I have the honor of following the "Mule" into the room. The Mule is a small self-propelled and self-guided battering vehicle. It can be programmed with the buildings floor plan and desired destination. Once it is turned loose it will quickly ram through almost any door or wall to complete its program. It is equipped with a camera and sends the images back to be recorded. It can also be remotely controlled at one of the shuttle terminals. Everybody on the Team has a small camera mounted inside of their helmet and all of the images are also recorded for analysis.
The gunman has completed his interview and returned to the second room. The Police are still trying to keep the dialogue open and have agreed to bring the three leaders of the Earth For Humanity movement to the site for further negotiations. It is early evening and we don't have the time to wait for total darkness. We must move now. We quickly suit up in our protective armor and are issued weapons. The news crews are quietly ushered away and told to stop broadcasting live pictures of the area. We prepare to move into position. Red will be in the group entering through the rear door while I will be entering through the front door with the Mule. Red walks up to me while I'm programming the Mule and stops me. Shi looks into my eyes and gives me a long tender kiss. I can sense hir apprehension of the situation and I feel the same way. I give hir a strong hug and whisper "Stay Safe, Love". Red sends me an image of our fun rubdown from several days ago. I send hir the images and emotions from our first sunrise at the Canyon. I hug hir one more time and send hir off with a quick lick-kiss. I can sense that shi feels better as shi puts on hir helmet and leaves to get into position. With the Mule programmed and the satellite positioning locked and verified, I signal that I am ready. I slowly move into position and wait for Red to signal that they are ready. Red is in position and I tell the Captain we are set. From my position the Mule will take four seconds to reach the front door. The grenades and the stun projector will need to be timed for 1/2 second before that with the transporter locking on immediately afterward. This whole sequence is programmed into and initiated by the main computer on the Team shuttle. The computer radios us a quiet countdown and then it begins.
The Mule takes off and quickly reaches its top speed of about 40 kph. I am running hard behind it and three other men are running behind me. I am nearly at the door when the grenades on the sides of the building explode. I am close enough to feel the percussion and the tingle from the stun projector. The Mule goes through the door without losing speed and adjusts its direction for the door to the hostage area. I have my weapon drawn and set to one click below "kill". As the Mule bursts through the second door I get a quick view of Red and the others charging through the rear door.
I am suddenly hit by something and thrown to the wall. The wall yields and I am aware of myself sliding down the alley next to the building. I can't move and I can't keep my eyes open. There is a ringing in my head and I feel detached from my body. I feel no pain but then again I feel nothing. I try to link to Red but I am having difficulty maintaining a thought. I try to concentrate on the link and I can sense Red somewhere in the distance. I can't form a link but I can sense hir presence. I try to call out to hir but my body won't cooperate. I try to link to hir again but I can't get any response. I am desperate to link to hir and that disrupts my concentration even more. My mind is in a panic and yet my body is calm. I try to assess my physical condition but I am too upset. I try again to reach out to Red but shi doesn't respond. I can sense hir presence but shi seems to be moving away from me. I cry out to hir empathically but shi is moving further away. I am having trouble tracking hir and I am also having trouble focusing my thoughts. I feel the most primal need to link to hir and nothing else is important. I finally sense hir presence but only to feel hir slip out of range. I try again and again but I have no luck. Shi is not there anymore. I need hir. I need hir love to live. The ringing in my head is starting to become unbearable and I give up. My thoughts fade away…
The path along the rim of the Grand Canyon passes effortlessly under my paws. The sky is a shade of blue bordering on purple. The canyon below seems to radiate light for I can see no shadows. There is a light breeze warmly blowing in my face and Red's hair is blowing beautifully in front of me. I trot up besides Red and stop hir walking. Shi looks at me and I lean over to kiss hir. As I start to kiss hir a dull beeping starts to emanate from my pack. I try to ignore it but it is steadily getting louder. I open up my pack to quiet the communicator. I can't get it to stop beeping. I repeatedly push the acknowledgement button but the beeping continues and is still growing louder.
I look over to Red but everything is fading into a bright light that seems to surround me. I close my eyes but the light is still visible. I open my eyes and the unfamiliar view of a ceiling begins to come into focus. I am puzzled and disappointed at not seeing the Grand Canyon. I feel very heavy and I have no desire to move. More of my surroundings are starting to come into focus. I can see a machine on the table next to me, which is beeping loudly. It has many wires that lead in my direction. A woman nurse walks in hurriedly and pushes a button on the machine and it stops beeping. She looks closely at me but doesn't speak. She hurries out of the room and I am alone again. A few minutes later a security officer looks in to the room then is gone. I start to look around then I notice the bandages covering most of my lower torso. I find that my right arm and my right hand-paw are also wrapped in bandages. I have wires attached here and there on my body and tubes running from some less-than-encouraging areas. I think my head is bandaged but I can't see it. I am still assessing the damages when two people walk in. The first is a man in Federation uniform and the second is a chakat dressed as a doctor. The chakat leans over me and looks me in the eye.
"Hello, I am Doctor Windsong, can you understand me?" I do my best to nod affirmative. Shi turns to the federation officer, "Shi seems to be coming out of it now. The drugs should wear off very quickly with hir metabolism."
The officer steps close and speaks slowly "Sergeant Artemis Bluestripe, can you hear me?"
I am having trouble talking. It seems to take all of my strength to speak a feeble "YesssSir."
"I have been waiting for quite some time to debrief you. It is very important that we get this done. Can you remember the events leading up to the explosion?" He was standing very close while he continued, "There are a number of questions that we need answered. You are the last member of your team to be interviewed."
I'm puzzled and a deep feeling of dread starts to energize me. I don't remember any explosion. What does he mean, "he's been waiting quite some time?" I find energy to start speaking then I can't stop, "Where is Red? How long have I been here? I want to speak to Red! There was an explosion? Tell me what happened!" I am starting to feel a little panicked but I still can hardly move.
The investigator was looking very stern, as he spoke "I can't give you any information until after you tell me all that you remember I can't influence your answers."
I am trying to remember what he could be talking about but I realize that I couldn't remember too much about anything. "My memory is not helping me, I can't focus my thoughts." I tell him.
Dr Windsong speaks up "You have suffered a heavy blow to your head. We have held you in a drug-induced coma for nearly three days while we repaired your injuries. Your memory will start returning shortly."
"I want to speak to Red. Is shi waiting out side? I need to tell hir that I am all right. Shi wasn't injured was she? Was anybody else hurt?" I can't stop my thoughts. The questions are coming a mile a minute and I don't have any answers. I am feeling more and more panicked "I need to see Red!" I shout feebly. Where is Red?!" I am trying to get up and I am met with numerous points of pain. "I can't remember anything! Let me see Red!" I am still trying to sit up while the investigator is looking worried and holding me down. I am feeling more and more panicked.
"I'm sorry but Sergeant Redstripe didn't survive the blast," he says.
The words are still sinking into my sluggish brain as I see the doctor approach and inject a fluid into one of my tubes. "What do you mean shi didn't survvv…" and the room starts spinning as I close my eyes.
I slowly wake up and I am alone. I can remember where I am and I can remember quite a bit more than I could before, then I remember what the investigator had said about Red. My heart sinks and I start crying. The thoughts of Red and hir love swirl around in my brain gaining speed and increasing my sorrow until I am painfully bawling loudly. The pain of my sorrow completely overwhelms me and the pain of my wounds is insignificant. I am helplessly drained of all strength and all I have left is sorrow. If I could roll over and die right here and now then I would but I am forced to live and endure this pain. I cry for Red and I cry for myself and I cry because I am helpless to change anything.
Exhaustion has taken my strength and I can't even cry anymore. The nurse had brought me some food an hour ago but it's still untouched. The door to the room opens and I am somewhat encouraged to see Jeff limping in to see me.
"Shit, you look like hell, Blue," he says as he pulls up a chair. "I guess you heard about Red huh?" I nod affirmative. "Well it hit the fan on this one. Red wasn't the only one, There was Scott, John, Frank, and Bill. Not to mention the family of chakats and two of the terrorists."
"Damn! What happened?" I ask weakly.
"Well, it looks like they had a bomb in there with them. The investigators have been looking at all of the helmet videos and the video from the Mule and they can see one of the pricks drop a detonator just as we entered the room. It looks like the mule shielded you from most of the blast, and… well for me, I can't run near as fast as you and I was just goin' through the first door then it went off. I got knocked on my ass but here I am, a little leg-bone mending and I am walking again. They all say we were lucky but I sure as hell don't so feel lucky."
"Yeah I know…? Wait a minute? One of the terrorists survived!" I say in disbelief.
"Yup. One of those assholes was protected by the transport beam containment field and was walked into custody. He already has a fancy lawyer and now they are talking it up how HE is the victim! They are keeping him in isolated custody, unfortunately!"
I feel a sinking feeling in my chest. I would be furious if I had the strength.
Jeff looks at all my bandages and says "Well at least you came thorough it almost intact."
"Yeah…huh?…What do you mean by that?" I ask.
"Well I mean at least it wasn't one of your arms or legs or somethin' important," He answers.
"HUH! What are you talking about!?" I demand.
"You mean you didn't notice! I figured they would tell ya if you if you didn't notice!… it's just your tail!"
"MY TAIL?!" I pull off the blanket covering me and strain to look down toward my tail. I try to move it and it does move but… something is wrong! It doesn't look right... HALF of it is missing! "AWW, CRAP! My tail!" I say loudly.
Jeff cracks a smile but it doesn't last long "You know that we put on quite a show for the whole galaxy?"
"What do you mean?" I say irritably.
"Well there was a news shuttle covering us from 2000 meters up and they recorded the whole mess. They zoomed in on you flying through the air and sliding down the street. They have been broadcasting that several times a day since. Hell, they even showed me crawlin' away like a friggin' coward! They've been usin' it to stir up everybody's emotions against the Earth For Humanity movement. It seems to have excited both sides though."
"Well isn't that just wonderful!" I moan sarcastically. "How come they let you tell me all of this? That investigator wouldn't tell me anything until he interviewed me."
"Well your doctor is a chakat and shi was a little surprised that you could fill up the whole damn hospital with enough misery vibrations to upset most everyone here. I told hir a little about your empathic training so shi sent me up to see what I could do. You still have to be debriefed later and until then you can't see any non-Federation visitors. There are a few people waitin' to see you, ya-know."
"Oh hell, who would be waiting to see me? Fans from the "Flying Chakat Show" or what?" I can't stop looking at my half-tail and it irritates me more and more.
Jeff looks at me with a stone cold expression and says, "It is Red's family. I have already talked to them and they are very upset and concerned for you. They tell me that you are part of their family. I didn't know that you and Red had vowed to be Denmates. I guess I shoulda' seen that though, considering how close you two were."
"I don't want to see them. I can't see them. What do I say? What can I say to them?"
Jeff stands up and turns to leave "I don't know what to say. You just open your mouth and you might be surprised by what comes out… I was."
Jeff closes the door behind him and I am alone again. My thoughts are immediately with Red again and the memories of us together won't stop pouring through my brain. The happy memories of hir contrasted with the reality of hir death create a misery, which pulls me apart, and I start bawling again. I slowly fade into a tortured sleep.
I am awakened by a gentle tapping on my arm. It is the nurse and she has brought me some food again. "You will have to start eating now. We have stopped feeding you intravenously and you must eat to continue your recovery." She says as she opens the containers of food. I guess that some of the pain in my stomach could be from hunger so I start eating without saying a word. The food is quickly finished but I am still hungry. "Could I have some more?" I ask and she answers "Sure." She then adds as she walks out, "I will wait until after your meeting, they will be in here shortly."
A Federation investigator soon walks into my room and sits down next to me, doctor Windsong follows him in but shi waits near the door. The investigator starts by introducing himself," Good afternoon, my name is Mr. Jones and I will be asking you some questions about your last assignment. Has your memory improved today?"
"I can remember some of the details but I'm not sure just how accurate I can be."
"Just tell me what you can remember starting from the briefing in the command room. Please include any details that you can remember" He starts a recorder and I start telling him everything that I can remember. The more that I tell him, the more I start to remember and I stop many times to add details to events that I have already covered. Eventually I get to the point where I burst through the door and my memory prevents me from reliving the last moments. I won't go there. I can't go there. To feel Red dying again would be the end of my sanity but to forget that moment would be disrespectful to hir. I have no answers, only pain.
The investigator sits quietly for a while writing notes and then looks at me and says" I think this will do. You are free to leave when the doctor thinks you're ready. Please don't discuss this in public. We are trying to conduct an investigation and deter lawsuits. The relatives of the chakat hostages have been flooded with lawyers trying to get them to file a wrongful death suit against the Federation and the Police Department."
"What are they thinking! Don't they realize that we did everything possible to prevent this! We died to try to save them! And now they want to sue us! That makes me sick! What about the terrorist that survived! Does he want to sue us too? HUH!" I am upset by now and the doctor comes over.
"You must calm down or I will have to sedate you again. You have some serious injuries and they are not quite ready to be stressed." I do my best to calm down but I am shaking from anger. I can't believe that they would sue us.
The investigator leaves quietly and the doctor stays with me. "I can feel your pain." Shi says, "The whole hospital can feel your pain. I understand that you have had special training to enhance your empathic sense. I don't quite understand how you achieved this but you seem to be able to project for quite some distance. I can sense you from a block down the street and I have no special empathic ability." Shi is looking sympathetically at me and I feel a little better. Shi continues, "How did you train to do this? Could you tell me, I am interested in the technique."
I look at the doctor, the chakat next to me, hir beautiful golden eyes are looking straight into mine. I can sense hir serenity and I try to match it. I send hir a picture of the Grand Canyon in all its splendor and beauty. Shi shuts hir eyes and smiles. "That's wonderful! How do you do that?" I send hir thoughts of Red looking across the wilderness toward a beautiful sunset in the Rocky Mountains. "That's beautiful" shi says again "Who is that with you?" shi asks.
"Shi is Pathmaker, my friend, my partner, my Denmate and my soon to be Lifemate. Hir nickname is Red."
At hearing this, the doctor gets a remorseful expression. "So, shi is Red, I have been sensing your anguish for hir but now I know. I am very sorry to bring it up." I can sense that doctor is truly sorry and I send hir a happy image. Shi smiles a little, "You have a wonderful talent, to be able to send joy directly with no loss in the translation. It is a beautiful feeling. I wish I could do that. Well anyway you do have visitors waiting to see you if you are up to it. I told them that you would probably be able to see them soon."
"I don't know if I am ready to see them, I don't know if I can take the pain right now" I say as my mood changes for the worst.
"They have been waiting for the last few days to see you and I know that they are worried about you. We have all seen the terrible sights of the explosion. Most of the galaxy was shocked and horrified by those sights. We were all glued to the monitors in numb disbelief as they broadcast the Medtechs feverishly working to save your life before they transported you here. All of those images are burned into peoples memory for life. These people waiting to see you have seen all of this and they are desperate to see you. They are chakats, and like me, they have been sensing your misery. They are here for you because you need them. They know you do… and they need you. They have also suffered a great loss and only you can comfort them now." The doctor is silent for a few moments then asks, "Should I send them in?"
I don't know what to say. I cannot hide from the pain. I do need them… I nod in the affirmative and shi walks out.
To be continued in Part 2.
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