A round-robin story
Part 11 by Allen Fesler © 2006

What had started off as an easy task was starting to seem impossible. After a sudden priority dispatch had come up, Matthew and Sandra had thought it would be a simple matter to find someone to take the package down to Chakona for them. Unfortunately, most of the traffic seemed to be going the wrong way. They had settled into an almost deserted dessert shop to ponder their limited options.

"We could always use the mail service," Matthew pointed out, more than a little unhappy as he dragged his spoon through the remains of his dessert.

"No," Sandra said, not liking the idea any more than her brother. Pointing at the package and its label, she added, "it's gotten this far by cub express, it will get the rest of the way there... somehow." But she knew that time was ticking away, and they only had a few more hours before they would have to leave.

Their moping was put on hold by the arrival of a familiar muzzle. Isaut was leading a small and very unhappy chakat into the shop.

After getting them each a treat, Isaut turned and spotted the twins. She led the chakat to their table before saying, "I was going to ask if you had managed to deliver it yet, but I see you still have it."

Matthew grinned as he said, "We’re working on it."

Having nothing to add, Sandra just nodded in agreement.

"If I had known what was going to happen, I could have saved my replicator allowance," Isaut grumbled before looking down at the chakat. "But I would have paid twice as much if it meant we would not be here for the reasons we are."

"And why is that?" Sandra asked, just as a large group of furs walked in.

Isaut looked up as a large group came in, and then shook her head at the twins. What she had been about to say wasn’t for public consumption.

A blur of fiery colored fur drew their attention back to the group. A small chakat appeared to have escaped hir keeper, and was now running around the group. A Rakshan tail suddenly blocked hir path. When the chakat started to go around, the tail moved to again block hir route. After dancing with the tail for a few more dodges, the little chakat looked up and gave a playful growl before shi started climbing the thick tail.

Isaut and the twins watched this with a growing curiosity, Rakshani were not known to tolerate this sort of behavior by cubs other than their own. As the cub reached the base of the tail, shi was grabbed, tickled, and passed to a very large chakat who also tickled the cub before passing hir to a copper colored chakat deeper in the group.

A trio broke off from the group and made their way to a nearby table. The only thing similar between the chakat, foxtaur and Caitian was that they were all concentrating on the PADDs they were carrying.

The Voxxan’s ears twitched when she heard one of them say ‘torch’. Isaut’s eyes grew wider as she listened to them discuss options for upgrades that could be slipped into someone’s repairs without jeopardizing the original systems.

"What do you know about a torch ship?" she asked the trio.

"There’s a rather fishy looking one that a couple of tugs were docking as we came in," the Caitian replied.

"Port warp engine looked totaled," the foxtaur added.

"Since we are interested in ship engineering, our captain suggested we treat it as a training exercise. As in what to try to fix, what to replace, and what to upgrade while those systems are torn apart anyway," finished the chakat as a rabbit doe and a Rakshani female joined them with enough desserts for the five of them.

"You sound like you think you could repair her," Isaut said accusingly. She was sure the chakat and foxtaur weren’t any older than she was.

"It wouldn’t be our first," the chakat assured her.

"Of course that one didn’t take any battle damage. This one might have other problems that would need to be ferreted out," the foxtaur added, also meeting Isaut’s glare.

"While we did have some help, the two of them did the initial design and supervised the job through to completion," the Caitian said with a smile.

"You helped too!" the foxtaur exclaimed.

The Caitian choked back a laugh. "Helped? Helped slow you two down so the others could keep up maybe! I’ve still a long ways to go to get to your level of understanding these systems and how they interact with everything else."

Isaut was about to voice her doubt again when the Rakshani caught her eye and nodded. Instead Isaut asked, "Who would let cubs do such dangerous things?"

It was the rabbit doe that replied, "Someone that believes that letting them learn and then letting them apply what they learn is the best way to keep them busy and out of trouble."

"So you are here because this ‘torch’ ship was damaged?" Matthew asked Isaut.

There’s your answer," his sister told him as she pointed her muzzle at the entryway. Their parents were talking with a pair of chakats and three other furs in Star Fleet uniforms.

Isaut also looked towards the entrance and spotted her mother in the group. "Hir parents are coming for hir. I was hoping to cheer hir up a little before I had to leave."

A dark gray cougar colored chakat cub from the group had stopped next to Sandra to listen to the conversation. While they talked about the broken torch ship shi noticed the package and its label. "Are you taking this to Chakona?" shi asked.

"We were trying to," Sandra admitted.

"But this is as far as we can go," Matthew added with a frown.

"Would you be willing to take it the rest of the way for us?" Sandra asked hopefully.

"We would be most appreciative," Matthew put in with a grin.

Turning to a chakat teenager at the next table, shi asked, "Can I help them?"

"I can’t think of anything that would stop you. Are you sure you want the responsibility?"

Shi nodded. "I can do this, but I might need a ride."

The teen grinned. "Ask nicely and maybe Moonglow will give you a lift."

"On hir motorbike? Yes!"

Before the chakat could get any more excited, Sandra asked, "May we know the name of our next delivery cub?"

"Shi is called DarkStreak, because that is all you will see when shi is in a hurry," a skunktaur advised them as DarkStreak carefully wrote a new line on the label.

As shi went to pick it up, an equitaur cleared his throat. "What are you forgetting?" he quietly asked.

"Oops, sorry," DarkStreak said before tapping hir badge. "Tess, scan please!"

"Scan is clean," Tess informed hir a moment later.

Matthew and Sandra almost bumped their heads together trying to see what the chakat had written. ‘From Starbase 2 to Chakona by DarkStreak of the Folly’. DarkStreak looked up at them and said, "I don’t know which shuttle we will take, so I can’t put it in yet." Looking back down the list of ships, shi frowned. "Blowfish? Is that the pretty one that’s broken?"

Hyjinx had been ignoring the discussion around hir, but the name of hir crippled ship brought hir out of hir despair long enough to look around. Shi now stared at the familiar package in DarkStreak’s paws. "How did you get that?" shi asked, surprised to see it again.

"From us," Matthew said.

"And we got it from her," Sandra added, indicating Isaut.

Isaut nodded. "I got it from Eduonda, who had told me that he had received it from a chakat who just happened to have the same unusual name as you. In all the excitement I had forgotten that the Blowfish was also listed on the package."

Hyjinx just stared at the package that hadn’t gotten to Chakona any faster than shi had. DarkStreak finally picked up the package, and walked around the table to offer it to hir. "Would you like to take it the rest of the way?" DarkStreak asked.

"I can’t," Hyjinx replied, almost ready to cry. "Our shuttle was damaged too, so I’m stuck here until it’s fixed.

"We have a shuttle," DarkStreak pointed out. "Would you like to help me deliver this? There is room enough for both of us in Moonglow's side car."

The Caitian grinned as she asked, "Are you volunteering Moonglow's services without seeing what shi has planned?"

DarkStreak grabbed the package and wrapped hir tail around Hyjinx’s arm as shi said, "Come on!" half dragging the other cub into the group.

The others watched DarkStreak have an animated discussion with a coffee and cream-colored chakat before rushing over to where they had seen their parents sit down. A human male had joined them. Shi spoke to the human for a minute, before talking to Hyjinx’s parents. Hyjinx and hir mother then exchanged a few words that seemed to cheer up the young chakat immensely.

"We’re gonna get the Blowfish fixed!" Hyjinx happily proclaimed as they returned to the table.

"And shi can help me deliver this package," DarkStreak added with a grin.


Continued in The Package, part 12.

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