A round-robin story
Part 5 by Bernard Doove © 2006

Hyjinx poked disinterestedly at hir banana split. Half a day spent walking around the shopping and recreational areas of Starbase 16 had failed to find a solution to the problem of forwarding the package that shi had so naively promised to deliver. Hir parents had been of little help. "This will be a good lesson in responsibility, and also of your ability to deal with problems," hir sire had said. Sure, eventually they'd get to Chakona, but that delay had stretched out even more since their ship was subcontracted even further to distribute some of the medicines that they had transported. There had to be some way of getting it there sooner. The problem was that the starbase was primarily a military port, and the only cargo that regularly went through there were supplies for the base and the Star Fleet ships docking there. It wasn't on a normal shipping route at all, so there weren't any ships heading out to Chakona.

"Is this chair being used?" asked an unfamiliar voice.

Hyjinx looked up to see a male foxmorph... no, a voxxan by his accent. He looked to be about eleven years old, and he was carrying a huge ice cream sundae.

"It's free," Hyjinx replied.

"Thanks." He put down the treat and seated himself, then enthusiastically started eating. After a while though, he paused and said, "I've never seen a chakat cub so gloomy. What's getting you down?"

"I made a promise that I might not be able to keep," Hyjinx said disconsolately.

"That's bad. I know how you chakats take things to heart. What happened?"

Hyjinx prodded the package next to hir banana split. "I told a friend that I could deliver this to someone on Chakona, but my ship has been diverted and we will get there months late. I can't find anyone else who is going that way either."

The voxxan boy finished swallowing a spoon laden with ice cream before replying, "Chakona? My ship is going there very soon."

The chakat cub looked up with sudden hope. "Your ship? But I was told that there weren't any cargo ships going that way."

"Who said anything about a cargo ship? My father is Commander Anasti ne Khenota of the Federation Starship Ripclaw. Our ship patrols the Voxxan sector that overlaps the Chakastra system. My name is Eduonda ne Khenota by the way. My friends just call me Ed though."

"I'm Hyjinx, child of Tippytoe and Jasmine. You can call me Jinx."

"Okay, Jinx, tell me what's the story about this package."

While Eduonda finished his sundae, the chakat cub explained everything shi had been told, and how hir parents had made hir officially responsible for the package, showing the voxxan the ship's seal on it.

"Sounds like an interesting challenge," Eduonda said. "Tell you what, trader cub, I'll make you a deal. I'll arrange to deliver your package to Chakona, and in exchange you can give me that banana split that you seem to be ignoring."

Hyjinx almost leapt at the offer, but forced hirself to be reasonable about it. Shi trusted hir empathic senses though, and they were telling hir that he was intrigued, sincere... and lusted for hir treat! The last bit made hir smile. "OK. Will you promise to do that for me?"

Eduonda held up his spoon dramatically. "I swear on this sacred spoon and my honour as a Star Fleet brat that I will make sure that your package gets to Chakona."

Hyjinx giggled. "I'll settle for getting your ID and contacts for the record, but it's a deal!" Shi pushed over the treat, and the voxxan wasted no time in sealing the bargain by starting to eat.

Bringing goods onboard a Federation starship was a lot more strict than a cargo ship, and everything was routinely scanned. Although organic material was detected, it was identified as being harmless, and the package returned to Eduonda without delay. He requested that they put an inspection ticket on it though, just to be sure. When he got to his cabin, he added, "Forwarded by Eduonda ne Khenota of the U.S.S. Ripclaw" to the growing list before stowing it in his room.

The starship departed on schedule, and Chakona would be only six days away after making one other stop. The voxxan youth was well pleased at how things were going. That is until the yellow alert sounded over the public address system.

"All hands, this is the Captain speaking. We have detected the ore raiders that have been plaguing commercial traffic in this sector, and we are now in pursuit. Off-duty personnel are advised that they are on stand-by until further notice. We're going to catch those garndaks this time!"

Eduonda was dismayed. That would mean a delay that could mean many days! When his father returned to the cabin for dinner, he questioned him about the pursuit.

Anasti replied, "We're headed into the Bokora sector, a place where they have previously given Fleet the slip. This time they made a mistake and we're a lot closer and won't be so easily eluded. It might take some time, but we're certain to get those pirates this time."

His son wasn't as thrilled though. The Bokora sector was off at nearly a right angle to their original course, and with the lengthy pursuit and probable capture of the raider ship, that would mean not only a long delay, but a strong possibilty that they would return to Voxxa rather than their original destination of Chakona. With the Ripclaw being otherwise engaged, another starship would be assigned to finish the patrol of the Chakastra system. Now how was he going to keep his promise?


Continued in The Package, part 6.

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