By Chris Gilman & Jimmy Lawhon

Chapter 2


Goliath and Saber look from the wolf to the chakat and then back at each other. What was so funny, they want to know. But before they can ask, a beeping sound catches their attention and they look at the two security furs bracketing them. The chakat and the wolf each put a paw to an ear and nod their heads as they listen to the voice over their com links. The chakat's face takes on a worried look and the wolf steps back from the pair of felines a bit. Putting a little more distance between them and him.

Goliath notices that the wolf also raises his gun up a little, assuming a more ready stance. "I think something's up," he whispers to Saber who nods in agreement.

"Think it has anything to do with the ship, or us?" he answers back.

Goliath nods his head, but before he can say anything more the chakat speaks up. "Explanations will have to wait for later. Will you gentle furs please follow me?" Turning, shi continues down the hallway with the rest following her in order. When they come to a junction in the corridor the party turns right and walks about fifty meters before they stop at a heavy, thick door with a touch panel beside it. The chakat puts her hand on the panel and the door opens. Shi then turns to Saber and Goliath and motions towards the door with one hand, "Please go in and make yourselves comfortable, someone will come and talk to you in a few minutes."

Saber and Goliath just look at the chakat and then at the doorway. They reluctantly walk in since they don't really have any choice, and as soon as they are in, the door closes again with a heavy thud. The room is about ten feet by ten feet. The walls, floor, and ceiling look like they are made of metal. The door is also made of the same material and has some kind of hazard symbol on it in. In the middle of the room there is a metal table with benches on either side that are welded down to the floor securely.

"Might as well have a seat while we wait," Saber says as he sits on one of the benches. He rests his elbows on the table, resting his head on his hands.

Goliath just grunts and begins to pace back and forth in front of Saber like a caged animal. "I don't like this. There's something up. Why put us in here and not some holding cell?" He stops briefly to look Saber in the eye, "And did you see the look that chakat gave us after shi got that message over hir comm? She was worried, and part of that was for us." He starts pacing again. "And the wolf, he stepped back like we had some contagious disease or something. I don't like this one bit."

Saber makes calming motions with his hands, "Hey Goliath, settle down. It's not like we can do any thing about it, so just relax and see what happens."

Goliath just shakes his head, "I can't do that, you know better. I hate being confined, I don't like it one bit in here. I hope someone comes real soon." He looks over at the door, "Before I try to break through that door."

Saber just looks at his friend with concern, "For both your sake and theirs, I hope so too buddy, I hope so too."

Meanwhile out in the hallway the chakat looks at her wolf partner. "Hey Ken!"

The wolf turns to face hir, "What is it, Dustcloud?"

"What do you make of these two we have in here?" she asks as she pats the door behind them with her tail tip.

Ken just shrugs his shoulders, "Don't know Dustcloud. There's something not right about those two, that's for sure. Almost like they aren't from around here, though the markings on their ship seem to indicate it's from Mars."

Dustcloud just shook hir head, "Something's wrong for sure. The way they looked at us when they opened the hatch. It was like they weren't expecting morphs to be there. The surprise in their eyes was something else, and the way they looked at your stunner. It was like they never seen one before. Then there's that tattoo thing on their right biceps, with a name and number... what's with that?"

Ken just looked at hir with a blank face, "I have no clue. We'll just have to wait for the commander to come down to find out about them. In the meantime, try to relax. I know chakats can sense some things, especially emotions, but getting upset will not help anyone."

Dustcloud just shakes hir head and thinks, "He's right. Getting upset won't help anybody. But something about those two makes me want to give them both a big hug, and tell them it's going to be alright. To reassure them that they are safe here and we don't plan to hurt them." Shi can still feel their fear and wants to fix it. Maybe shi could help later. "Okay Ken, back to work," and shi turns to face the other way but in the back of hir mind shi is still thinking, "I will help these two."

Inside the room Goliath is still pacing back and fourth, a worried growl coming from deep in his throat.

Saber has been watching him pace and is surprised there isn't a rut in the floor yet. "Goliath why don't you sit down and relax, pacing back and forth isn't helping, and it's not going to make them talk to us any sooner. So sit down already."

Goliath stops and looks at his friend, "Yeah, I guess your right, it's not helping." So he walks over and sits down on one of the benches. "I just hate being cooped up like this." He looks nervously around at the smooth walls, "I feel like a real cougar in a cage."

Suddenly a look of surprise crosses his face. "Saber, doesn't this room remind you of a room back on Mars?"

Saber looks around at the blank walls and thinks hard. Then he shakes his head, "Not really."

The big cougar turns to his friend, his ears lowered in worry. "Saber, this looks like a small version of the ordinance test rooms back at the labs. Think about it." He points over at the door, "I saw how thick that was when we came through, that door is over a foot thick. And the hazard symbol on the door, which could mean that they put volatile things here."

Saber suddenly sees his reasoning, "You think they put us in here for a reason?"

Goliath gets up and walks over to the wall opposite the door. He runs his hand along the wall and feels the almost hair-thin line on the edge of the panel. "Yes, they did, and it worries me why they would put us in here."

Out in the hallway three more people join the two who are there. "Good afternoon Ken, Dustcloud," says a female coyote wearing commander's tabs as she walks up with a male ferret and a female rabbit morph behind her.

"Good afternoon Commander Stormcloud," Dustcloud and Ken answer.

Commander Stormcloud turns back to Dustcloud and asks, "How are our two guests doing?"

"They're doing fine, sir. No sound out of either of them. They've been quiet since we put them in there."

"Good, I believe you know Doctor Ferris," pointing to the ferret, "and Doctor Jennifer," pointing to the rabbit. "They will be joining me in talking with our guests. I want you two to stand guard right behind us, but don't assume anything even resembling a hostile posture, am I clear?"

"Yes Sir," they both answer at the same time with a salute.

She nods and motions for Dustcloud to open the door. Shi steps aside and places hir palm on the reader.

In the room Goliath, standing by the far wall, and Saber, still sitting, turn towards the door at the sound of it opening. They watch the small entourage enter, taking note of the five morphs entering. The female coyote is wearing a similar uniform to the two security personnel, but the other two are wearing lab coats.

Goliath glares at the two lab coated morphs, noticing the small medical insignia on their collars. Mumbling under his breath, "Great, doctors!"

The coyote nods to the felines, apparently not hearing Goliath's mumble. "Good day gentlefurs. Sorry to have kept you waiting. I am Commander Lydia Stormcloud, commander of this base."

Saber gives her a nod but Goliath crosses his arms over his chest and leans back against the far wall, not even grunting a hello at her.

They take note of his actions, but don't make any hostile acts. The coyote, the ferret and the rabbit all take a seat on the bench opposite Saber. The coyote rests her hands on the table and gives a comforting smile as the lab coated figures pull out pads and start to make notations. With a thud the door closes as the two security furs take up positions on either side of the door.

She motions to the two doctors, introducing them as she points at them, "These are Doctors Ferris and Jennifer. Doctor Ferris here is a surgeon and expert in morph physiology, while Doctor Jennifer is an expert in psychology."

Saber nods politely to them, but Goliath makes a grunt from where he leans against the wall, mumbling, "Great, a shrink!"

Jennifer gives a polite laugh, "Well, yes I am. And it's hard work, I mean, shrunken heads takes lots of work."

This gets a grin out of the big cat, and seems to make him a little more at ease. "My god, we must be in heaven, a head shrinker with a sense of humor."

The rabbit gives him a gentle smile, "I try to, and it helps to set the shrinkee at ease a little more."

Again he gives a slight smile, though his face takes a serious look as he faces the coyote, "Something that would really set me at ease would be to know why we are in a hazard room with panels designed to blow out if there is an explosion powerful enough to damage the inner hull."

The coyote gives him a funny look, "You mean you don't know?"

Saber turns to look at Goliath and then turns back, "Know what?"

Doctor Ferris hands over the pad he had and Saber accepts it. He briefly reads the information then drops it, a look of shock on his face as he looks down at his own chest. "Those sons-of-bitches!" he exclaims.

Goliath gives him a wondering look, "What's wrong Saber?"

Saber turns to give his friend a glare of hatred, "Those bastards back home put the ultimate failsafe in us. If we'd ever gotten out of line, they would have set off the explosive charges that are implanted right next to our hearts."

Goliath's face now has a similar look of surprise mingled with hatred as he looks down at his chest. "Well, talk about going out with a bang."

The coyote gives them a concerned look, "You mean you had no idea that you contained such devices?"

Both of the big cats look at her and shake their heads. "And I would be most appreciative if you could get them out of us," says Saber.

The ferret gives them an understanding nod, "I can see to that if you two would like, as soon as we are done here."

The commander gives a nod, "Yes, let us ask you a few questions please. First of all, who are you?"

Saber moves his right arm forward and points at the markings, "Captain Saber Storm, Mars Morph Corps, serial number four-six-nine-seven-five."

Goliath makes a similar gesture, "Lieutenant Goliath Wildcat, Mar Morph Corps, serial number four-six-nine-seven-two."

Commander Stormcloud reaches cautiously and takes Saber's arm to get a closer look at the markings. "How was this done? It doesn't look like dye or paint. It looks like the fur is actually colored to make these words."

Saber nods, "That's because it is. Part of the transformation process was that the nanites are programmed to change that area so that the fur will grow that way. It's permanent, better than any dye for our old bosses."

Doctor Ferris looks up from jotting some notes down, "What transformation?"

Goliath grunts before Saber can answer, "We were human once. We were both changed against our will to these forms. Saber there was already military, so not as big a change for him. But I was a civilian engineer."

The ferret scratches his right ear, "Well, we can try to turn you back..."

Goliath is shaking his head, causing his ponytail to wave back and forth, "No chance of that."

"Why?" asks Jennifer. "Wouldn't you like to be human again?"

Goliath shrugs, "First, I've gotten used to this. If I was human again I would have to learn my body again. Second, unless you can get rid of every single nanite in our bodies, even if you transformed us back, the nanites would do their job again." Doctor Ferris tries to say something and Goliath halts him by raising his hand, "And before you think about trying to filter our blood or anything like that, wouldn't help. Several organs produce them, as well as the fact that some of them are imbedded in our tissues."

All five of the morphs have looks of shock combined with regret on their faces. The commander lets go of Saber's arm, "I'm sorry to hear that."

Saber gives her a confused look, "Does the fact that you believe that mean that such transformations take place here?"

Doctor Ferris gives a nod, "Yes, in fact there is a new process being perfected that is cheaper then traditional methods. But I have never heard of doing such a thing by use of nanites."

Saber gives a shrug of his shoulders, "Well, that's how it's done where we came from."

Commander Stormcloud gives a cough, "Yes, about where you come from. Between your ship, and what you have said here. I'm guessing that you two are not from around here, where are you from?"

Goliath answers with one simple word, "Earth."

Again she gives a polite cough, "Ok, let's try to ask this another way. How did you two get here?"

Saber looks over his shoulder at Goliath, "You're the engineer Gol, why don't you answer the nice lady."

Goliath takes a deep breath and starts to relay their trip here. "We launched from Mars Base-One and headed for orbit using conventional gravitational drive. Upon reaching space we engaged the new warp drive we were supposed to test. We entered warp easily enough, but only seconds into warp speed there was an explosion from the engine room. We were shoved through a tunnel of light and dumped of the dark side of the moon. Took a few hours to get the reactor back online, but the warp engines were slag. We came around on conventional engines and when we tried to hail the station we were supposed to land at we got nothing. So we tried our emergency frequency, and got this station."

"What kind of reactor does your ship use?" asks Commander Stormcloud.

Goliath shrugs as if it's nothing, "Standard cold fusion reactor."

She gives the big cougar a shocked look, "Cold fusion?"

"Yeah, you know, basically uses water for power, next to impossible to destroy. But something went wrong this time since we are here, and not where we should be." Goliath mutters under his breath, "Stupid under-qualified maintenance techs."

The commander motions to the wolf behind her and he comes forward and bends down so she can whisper in his ear. Goliath shakes his head, "Commander, I wouldn't play around with our ship till you get a bomb disposal unit in there."

She gives him a puzzled look, "We detected explosives, but we figured that was just weapons."

Slowly he shakes his head, "That is about a ton of high explosive. A little something they put in there to keep us from running off with their projects. Where we come from, we're property of the government. Their special project, if you will. Few outside of our corps even know we exist."

They all seem shocked by his statement. The commander turns back to the wolf and doesn't try to whisper any more, "Get down there and get a team on it. I don't want any more explosions on this base."

Ken gives her a nod and quickly runs out the door. His footfalls are already disappearing as the door thuds shut again.

The coyote now appears a little shaken by the news of the explosives. "Well, I think that has explained enough for now." She turns to the ferret, "Doctor, why don't you see if you can safety these two. Before something none of us wants happens."

Saber gives her a look of disbelief, "You're just going to trust what we tell you?"

She looks back at him with a smile, "Of course not, that's part of the reason she's here."

She points at the rabbit next to her as she holds up her data pad, "Had sensors in it to detect voice and other variations, I'm ninety percent sure you're telling the truth."

Goliath chuckles with a quiet, "Figures."

Commander Stormcloud stands up and walks over to the chakat, giving her orders. "Dustcloud, I want you to stay with these two. When they are done down in medical removing the devices, escort them to guest quarters. They aren't prisoners here." A look of pity flashes across her face that only the chakat can see. "They will be guests till we can figure out what to do with them. I need to report this."

"Yes, sir," says Dustcloud as shi snaps a salute.

The commander returns the salute, "Carry on," and leaves the room.

The chakat looks at the two felines, "Okay, how about we get you down to medical and get those devices out of you?"

Doctor Jennifer speaks up, "Mind if I tag along Shir Dustcloud?"

The security officer looks at Doctor Ferris, "It's your show doc, your call."

The ferret bows to the rabbit, "Gladly my dear, it might also be comforting to our guests here to have you tag along."

The lab coated ferret turns towards the open door and motions for the others to go first, "After you."

Dustcloud takes the lead with the two felines filing after her. The two doctors then follow the door closing behind them with a soft thud.

The trip to medical is strangely devoid of others in the hallways, but before Goliath or Saber can ask why Dustcloud answers. "The hallways are empty as a precaution. I'm sure you can understand the dangers of having two walking bombs on our station."

Silently the two felines nod their heads in agreement, knowing just what they could do if those small charges were to blow. In the confines of the hallways, they would be lucky if any of them survived.

Soon they enter the medical section of the station and Dustcloud stops to look at the two following felines. "Who wants to be first?"

Saber starts to speak and raise his hand, but Goliath quickly steps forward and gives her a nod. "I will." He turns to look at his friend, "At least if this doesn't work, I won't have to explain things to those in charge."

Saber grips his much larger friend's shoulder, "Everything will be alright. At least now we're free."

Dustcloud watches the exchange with intense worry for what they are about to go through. If anyone can do this though, the doctors at this base can.

An hour later in the medical wing of the station the doctor is shaking his head over the predicament before him. The large cougar is unconscious on the operating table after a massive dose of drugs, lethal by normal standards, but he has been unable to do the necessary cutting, the openings almost seeming to close as fast as he can make them.

He turns to his assistant and shrugs, "I'm at a loss. How do we get something out of them if we can't get into them in the first place?"

The rabbit who has remained quiet during the attempts to perform the surgery finally speaks up, "Doctor, if I may be so bold. I remember a little procedure that was examined, but never tested for removing growths from previously unreachable places in the body. They would actually lock onto the growths with a teleporter and beam it out. The reason it was never done was that there would then be no way to stop the bleeding that results."

The ferret's face lights up while listening to her, "Ahhh, but with these two's abilities, they could easily live through such a procedure. I just hope we can do it with the facilities available."

He turns to head for the door with Jennifer in tow. "Mazer, keep that cougar under," he yells to his assistant. The human at the sensors nods and keeps his eyes tightly focused on the screens in front of him.

As the doctors run through the waiting area Saber sees them and tries to ask what is going on but they don't stop for even half a second to answer him. He and Dustcloud exchange nervous glances before they try to follow. Dustcloud pulls up and turns to stop Saber though, "You can't go. You need to stay here."

Saber points after the retreating doctors, "They're the only ones who know what is going on, and they just ran out on him."

Shi relaxes a little, but holds firm on the point, "I understand, but I'll go with them. Trust me, I'll let you know if anything is wrong."

Saber watches the door out of the medical wing close behind the chakat and prays that everything is going to be okay.

Ferris and Jennifer storm down the once again crowded hallways, bumping into furs and humans as they go. Finally they tear through the door into the main teleporter room and run up to the control panel. Ferris grabs the tech and starts explaining, "I need you to target a very small object."

The human at the controls nods his head as if it's nothing, "Okay sir, that can be done, but what's the rush?"

"That's classified. The target is in the main operating theater, in the medical wing. Look for the bio-signature of a cougar on the table."

After a few minutes of tapping controls he gives him a nod, "Found him."

The doctor nods, "Now, look for a chemical signature near his heart, should read as about a quarter pound of high explosive."

The man gives him a skeptical look, but commences his scan. He lets out high pitched whistle, "Wow, right where you said it was sir, what do you want me to do?"

Ferris looks the tech straight in the eyes, "Beam it out."

The tech gives him a shocked look, "But sir, that will kill him. If I'm off by only a tenth of an inch, I'll graze his heart and he'll die in seconds."

The ferret lowers his head, "You just have to trust me this time. It's the only way to save him."

The doctor's com unit starts beeping and he opens it to receive the excited voice of his assistant, "Sir, he's coming up. I've tried everything I know to keep him under and nothing is working. I estimate you got less then five minutes to do what you were thinking of."

Ferris gives his assistant a nod and shuts his com unit. "You heard him; it needs to be done now. If he starts moving, you'll never be able to hold a tight enough lock on that mass."

The transporter tech turns back to his control, his hands sweating as he punches in the lock-on sequence. He closes his eyes and activates the teleporter. There is the familiar hum and glow of light on the pad. When it clears, there is a small blood covered device sitting on the pad.

Jennifer steps forward to look at it and gives a small smile, "Looks like it worked, doctor. One down, one to go," she says as she hands the device to Dustcloud who places it in a bomb disposal package.

Ferris opens his com unit again. "Mazer, get Saber ready, it looks like we succeeded with Goliath."

"Roger that, sir," says Ferris' assistant as he cuts the link.

The doctor turns back to the nervous looking man. "Well lad, ready to go a second round of that?"

The tech swallows nervously, "Not really sir, but I don't have a choice, I guess."

The ferret shakes his head, "Afraid not."

Twenty minutes later the ferret stops pacing as his com unit starts beeping, "Sir, he's ready."

"Alright, monitor him closely. Hopefully this one will go faster."

As he closes the unit he nods to the tech, "You know what to do. Look for the signature of a panther this time, but the same chemical signature as the last one."

The tech wipes the sweat from his brow and starts tapping on the controls. He's murmuring to himself, but the ferret isn't going to ask what he said. Not going to risk breaking the nervous tech's concentration.

Finally he closes his eyes and taps on the activate key. Once more the sequence goes through its routine and within moments the second device is resting on the pad and soon joins the first in the satchel.

Dustcloud places the satchel on the pad and steps back. "Send this to containment room six."

With a relieved look he nods and in moments the satchel is safely tucked away where it can't do any damage until it can be disarmed.

Doctors Ferris and Jennifer thank the tech and leave, followed by Dustcloud who gives the young man an energetic chakat hug.

After they have gone the man sits down and wipes the sweat from his brow again, "I hope I never have to do that again."

Story and characters are © 2002 Christopher Gilman & Jimmy Lawhon
Chakats and Commander Stormcloud are the creation of Bernard Doove.

To be continued in Part 3.

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