The Bonds That Make Us
by Oceanrider © 2019

Running the final checks in the hanger and ensuring everything is in place for the trip back to base for resupply and refuel, Chakat Oceanrider taps hir com badge. “Ocean to hanger control – lock it down.”

The hanger deck lights flash and klaxons sound as the massive hangar doors on the ship begin to move to enclose the hanger from the harshness of space.

Flying a shuttle is one thing, but flying a starship is on another level.

The mission was to establish the first base on the planet Silvania. The tour was to develop a starting base of operations where scientists and researchers could study and form a core of services to the planet then return to gather the second group and bring the first group back. The mission changed when Chakat Swiftwalk revealed hir talent of teleportation, simplifying the task like a cheat code and pushing Endeavour's mission ahead to Phase Three base expansion.

The ship now provided protection and oversight over the planet, being the only ship in orbit above the world while also keeping watch from the dangers of space.

With no long-range communications yet established, the only connection back to Earth at this moment was Swiftwalk hirself.

Four days later—


( Picture 1: Artist MehndiX )

The lift doors open onto the bridge of the Endeavour and Oceanrider walks in, giving a nod to Captain Blackwood, a silver fox morph, as shi relieves the human acting-helmsman on duty. Shi gives a playful grin as shi gets a view of the helm once more, a row of panels adorning the console crowded with many buttons and sensors.

The only issue is the seat. After logging into the terminal and with the press of a button, the entire station starts to shift into hir presets.

The seat shifts down to the ground leaving only the backrest suspended by an adjustable arm. Once shi takes the position, the backrest presses snugly against hir back.

The deck lifts the chakat's lower chest to a proper height as shi tucks hir tail along hir hind legs as they rest on the ground. Shi can keep hir tail in check, at least most of the time.

Hir console no longer looks crowded, each button and reading in its familiar place as shi looks below and places hir paw hands onto smaller panels with grips much like actuators that shi could press down or pull up, and simple toggles that can change the settings just with hir paw fingers.

All in position, the last thing shi grabs is a headset with a small holo display over one of hir eyes. The screen provides a constant visual display of hir data feeds and information from the sensors while also granting the ability to view outside of the ship, a feature shi tries not to use often because of the disorienting feeling it causes.

“Helm ready sir,” Ocean announces to the bridge, waiting for Blackwood to give the order.

“Steady as she goes, Ocean, we will wait until our departure time to see if we receive word from Shir Swiftwalk. Let’s hope we do.”

The entire bridge crew waits at their stations at the ready, some idle chit-chat the only thing breaking the tension of their delay as an hour drags by. Finally, one of the lift doors opens up and the authority of the ship, the male first mate Caitian, walks onto the bridge with a PADD in hand.

“Sir, a report for you to look over,” as he hands the PADD to the captain with a nod. A few moments later, the captain looks up, meeting the gaze of his first officer.

Blackwood addresses the crew, “Well, we can't wait any longer… let's do it; take us out.”

The first officer then speaks to the bridge crew, “Set a course for Starbase 32, Copernicus Station. Let Silvania Base know we are departing.”

The bridge bursts into activity, the comms officer begins transmitting as the navigation officer starts routing the path through space. Moments later, Ocean's eye displays a route with a navigation point awaiting the order. Closing hir eyes, the room around hir fades from hir consciousness, the noise and distractions falling silent as shi begins, pressing a few keys on the console with hir paws. Shi wills the ship to check all thrusters and propulsion, almost like the starship is an extension of hir, not by any psychic ability nor a physical one, but a connection a pilot shares with the vessel, the feeling that it becomes part of you.

Blackwood issues the command, “Helm – take us out.”

Feeling like a swimmer gliding out into the water, shi opens hir arms and begins to ride out into the vast star ocean, opening hir eyes and engaging the engines.

Pressing a few buttons and breaking orbit of the planet Silvania, Ocean can feel the tug of the planet's gravity in hir paws slowly recede away.

The Endeavour's engine hums louder as shi lines the starship up for FTL trajectory. The corridor begins to form around the ship, then like a bullet, the ship departs the system as the stars start to blur as they pass in view, a light hue of the shields giving the background a distinct blue tint.

“FTL achieved. E.T.A. 20 days 5 hours to Copernicus Station,” Ocean calls out as the first mate confirms the status of the ship.

A few hours later, Ocean is still sitting at hir position filling the final reports from the events and flights on Silvania and is about to go off duty for the night. At which shi would need to go and introduce hirself to the new chakat recruit on board for this leg of the trip seeing that the others decided to take the Swiftwalk Express, but there is a small feeling shi picks up on looking back over hir shoulder. Focusing in on the captain's feelings, shi can tell something is either off or wrong.

Ocean begins to double-check sensor readings, seeing everything in the green and sensors are good, nothing in range or anything. But what could it be, shi thinks.

The captain stands up and speaks, “You have the bridge, R'Trarsk.”

The Caitian replies with an, “Aye, sir.”

The captain takes a few steps before speaking, “Ocean, join me in my office.”

Ocean's ears perk at the mention of hir name, a quick “Yes sir” in response, pressing a few keys as the console reverts to normal as hir paw hand panels sink into the deck and disappear, allowing hir to rise and follow the captain to his office.

The silver-furred captain stands by the door to hold it open while shi walks in, feeling a sense of dread for a moment as shi passes by him. He closes the door as shi stands at attention, being the obedient crew member shi is, all the while thinking that shi is in trouble.

He walks around hir speaking “At ease, there is no easy way to say this Ocean but...”

Shi interrupts “I'm sorry sir, I know I was a little rough with Jordan. I do not like to be late and...”

The Captain raises his hand, quieting hir. “It's not about that. We know this mission changed significantly with the reveal of Chakat Swiftwalk's ability, and the Endeavour ended up sticking around longer than expected. According to Silvania Base, all crew exchanges were completed for the ground crew, but the Endeavour’s was a few days later, Swiftwalk was scheduled with a resupply run and brought with it a few crew members for the Endeavour’s trip to Copernicus Station and back. With no contact with Earth or Swift, I had to make a call; it was either leaving you on the planet or take you with us.”

Ocean interjects, “So, a single chakat on the ship is what you are telling me?”

He nods. “I made the call if something happened to Swift and shi never returned, you would be stuck on that planet until we returned. Being on this ship is the fastest logical way.”

Shi tries to interject again, but he refuses.

“No, I tried to wait for word before leaving. We will arrive at Copernicus Station just slightly dipping into emergency supply and could not risk the ship any longer.”

Ocean's ears pin back a little. “I understand, sir.”

He continues, “I need to ask, are you able to make it to Copernicus Station?”

Ocean looks to the ground a little, “I do not know, sir.”

He leans back a little “Then I need you to explain why.”

Ocean nods “It started with the announcement that we are entering Phase 2 of the Silvania base and outposts mission, I was confident that the shuttles could handle it. I was wrong. Shuttle two ended up having a severe breakdown and the emergency landing on the planet probably made the damage worse. Luckily there were no injuries. But it compressed the schedule to the remaining ships and me as well. The ships were getting overtaxed, and I made the call to run shifts longer until shuttle two could get repaired.”

Shi looks slightly uneasy, “This made it where I could not partake in dining or being social with the other chakats. Granted, I had some vid conversations with them from time to time, but that's over the coms. This situation was constant for three weeks until shuttle two repairs were completed, and the schedule was able to normalize again. Granted, a few heat sink modifications to all shuttles and they were lasting a little longer on the planet.”

“When the schedule settled down, the others were becoming just as busy, and the social meetings were becoming less frequent to nearly nonexistent. Swiftwalk was busy with hir teleporting schedule, and shi and Chakat Dale were showing signs of really getting to know each other, and if not tending to Swift, Dale would be out as a team leader and unavailable.”

“Goldfur, on the other hand, had more of a schedule lined up where we could meet up. Hir family, in this case, needed hir more, especially Garrek. He was going through some troubled times. I didn't quite get what had happened, but all I know was that Goldfur was helping him through it and seeing his mood improve over time showed it was working.”

“This pattern continued, I was feeling more and more isolated from the schedule and the others, we all had our jobs to do and we kept the schedule going even with every twist and turn this planet challenged us.”

Blackwood nods and asks, “So to my understanding; it's been how long?”

Ocean lets out a small blush as shi brings a hand to hir mouth and nips it lightly thinking.

“Last time Swift and I...” shi trails off. “Before we reached Silvania, last social gathering was before phase two. Outside of those small moments of passing in halls or a hug here or there but no real connection with that.”

As he listened, the captain took a small sip of a drink before almost spitting some of it up upon hearing such a long time. “Wait…” he punches up a file on a holo display. “Are you telling me that you're almost two months?!” He asks, “Your species gets a sickness over something like this, does it not?”

Shi nods, holding hir stance but feels a little beaten down by his words.

Blackwood sets down his cup and asks, “Why did you not pursue while they were on the ship? You're well aware of the rules and procedures.”

Shi sighed, holding out a hand as to count to the first finger. “Again, sir, Goldfur was out of the picture because I was not going to come between hir and family.” Pointing to the second finger, shi continued, “Dale could not have been a good pair, because throughout this tour shi was coming to terms with hir change at hir speed. Shi accepted this new life and was still learning how to adjust. The way I see it, Dale would need to come to me first. It was also why shi paired with Goldfur; due to the nature of the unique situation.” Bringing hir finger to the next one, “Swiftwalk was always either out for the count or resting on Earth due to hir schedule, and any time I did see hir around, Dale was getting very close to hir.”

Blackwood asks, “Why not when Dale and Swift were together?”

Shi slightly deadpans. “Question for a question. If you were courting a female, would you be ok if I took hir or her aside for a length of intimate time, or attempt to wedge myself into that picture?”

Blackwood nods slightly. “Point taken, continue.”

“Phase 2 was nearing completion. I would find that most of the chakats were taking trips to be back on Earth.” Shi pauses a moment knowing shi may have messed up, spilling the beans on that subject. Blackwood makes a few notes but continues to listen, “A few weeks ago when Phase 3 was about to get underway, I got word that Dale and Goldfur will be taking leave of the ship and going back to Earth. Seeing that officially, Swiftwalk is now not listed as ship personnel and Earth stationed now, we formally requested a chakat replacement as per the policy. I more or less made myself scarce to not be in the way of the others, waiting for when the replacement would arrive. I got to see the majority of them off for a moment but that was more of a wave from a distance, and last I saw Swift was when I dropped off a late survey team, almost causing them to miss their trip back to Earth. A small hug, and that was the last time I saw Swift, and that was only a few days ago.”

“I was starting to feel a few headaches here and there, I was sure I could make it until I get to meet the replacement chakat and explain the situation over a drink or two, and everything would be fine, sir. But if what you said is true, then something must have happened to Swift.”

The captain sighs for a moment, “You made yourself vulnerable,” he gets up to move around the table to stand before hir, “and now you will be almost nearly what, three or four months before we reach Copernicus Station?”

Shi bows hir head down, ears pinned back as small tears well in hir eyes. “I... I'm so sorry, captain. I put the needs of others and my duty before my own.”

Blackwood quickly takes a hand and raises hir face before he gives hir a hug.

Ocean is given a small shock that the captain would do such an act, but embraces it all the same as a short moment passes and shi wipes a tear out of hir eye. “Sorry sir… thank you”

He grins before saying, “Don't go spreading any rumors now. I have an image to keep.” He adjusts his uniform while shi does the same with a nod. “With what you said, right now, you are currently relieved of your post unless an emergency arises. Daily checkups with the doctor are mandatory and we will do whatever we can within the ship's ability to keep you healthy.” Shi firms up, standing at attention, “Therapy sessions will be on medical’s recommendation and I will have medical see if any other empath is on the ship to assist. Until then, we are to keep you from stressing out to keep your mental status healthy.”

Shi responds with an “Aye sir!” as he continues, “We need to make do with the situation… or do I need to ensure that the assigned by federation pairing keeps you serviced.”

Shi winces slightly at the low blow but as an adult and knows better than to voice it. “No sir,” shi replies.

“Then off to medical with you, dismissed.”

Ocean about-faces and takes a few quick breaths before leaving the door and heading right for the lift off the bridge.

Back in the captain's office, R'Trarsk enters and asks, “How did that talk go?”

“Shi is a tough one, and I'm the only one around here that can chew hir head off and live to tell the tale, honestly.” The captain smirks slightly.

“What about hir?”

“I think shi will be fine, I did get to see past that wall of hirs and nearly cried…ended up giving hir a hug.”

R'Trarsk looks a little shocked then smirks at the captain. “I know shi's not mated to anyone... thinking of making hir your wife? Lifemate Blackwood has a ring to it?”

The captain gives R'Trarsk a good dirty look, “Shi is not my type, but I will do what I can to help hir if needed. As they say, happy chakat, happy ship.”

The Caitian replies, “I will advise team leads that our chakat crew member will be under some stress and to monitor their teams for any reactions.”

Blackwood agrees, “I will keep an ear to medical to see just how bad it could get.”

//// 17 days until Copernicus Station ////

The shower cuts off and a mass of blowing air rushes past to help dry hir fur until Oceanrider exits the shower stall with towel in hand, getting the last little bit of water off and walking in the nude through hir quarters, pausing to take a quick peek in the mirror and giving hirself a look over. Beside hir bosomy white chest, hir sight is drawn to the out of place medical devices attached to hir, one just over hir heart and another one on the temple of hir head.

They are officially allowing medical to keep watch over hir from a distance. Shi stares at hirself for a moment, running hir hands slowly over hir bust, feeling the sensitivity, “When it rains it pours...” shi says to hirself before reaching for a brush to make hirself a little more presentable.

Down in medical, with hir lower body lying across the exam table like a pride lion on a sloping rock perched high so shi could see hir territory, shi waits until the chief medical officer suddenly makes her presence known, a human female fair and average with curly red hair and an Irish look and accent to boot as she introduced herself as Ciara Lynch.

Holding a little more sophisticated medical PADD, she walks over to the chakat and presses a few buttons having the table lower to a more presentable height for the large feline.

“Well, Ciara, what do the monitors tell you?”

She begins, “Comparing yer data with yer current condition, I say nothing to be too cautious about right now...but by the end of the two weeks we will be seein’ signs of the empathic sickness your species can display.”

Ocean pins hir ears back a little while the doctor reaches over and rubs hir arm. “Cheer up lil kitty cat. The good news is that yer most likely will only be in the moderate to severe cat-egory.”

Ocean’s eyes just deadpan from the pun as the doctor chuckles

“Accordin’ to the database, your empathic nature is like a needy handshake with others, it also helps you form bonds as well as...”

Ocean interrupts the doctor, “Sorry, doc. I don't need a lecture, and before you go there, it's not about the sex. I know it's the bond from one to another. Just let's say that it is convenient to have sex with another for a more firm bond.”

The doctor gives the chakat a look as she sets the PADD down and starts to unzip her uniform.

Ocean leans back with a blush and a small flail, “S-sex with another empath… another chakat at best.”

The doctor pauses, bra on display covering a modest chest before she shrugs and zips back up with a “suit yourself.” “But based on yer vitals, you are only a few days away from yer cycle, and the way things are looking, it's gonna be a heat.”

Ocean nods, knowing full well hir natural cycle and places a hand over hir breast, able to feel the slightest movement from hir fingers even through the clothing, “Yea I'm feeling overly sensitive in some areas that prove that.”

Ciara continues, “Ya do know this event will accelerate the condition of longin’ by a margin.”

Ocean rolls hir eyes, “I'm not a cub. Look – last mission was just a little complicated and how the events that played out.”

The doctor reaches up, startling the chakat slightly with a hand to hir cheek, “Hun, did you even ask them?”

Ocean merely sits in silence.

“Good golly, ya have got to be the only chakat that I know that is not trying to form a colony of mates or thinking with your sex.”

“Our sex does not drive us, chakats just don't... don't...” shi mumbles.

Ciara jumps in with “Orgasms keep yer head clear?”

“No, it's not like that.”

Ciara offered, “A heavy need to breed often.”

Ocean gives a frustrated sigh as Ciara asks, “Why was this mission so different? We have not had a problem like this in the past...”

Ocean looks down in a defeated way before letting out, “I was afraid of getting in the way.”

Ciara makes a few marks on the PADD “Afraid? Have ya seen yerself? Big cat like you afraid, that's a good joke.”

Ocean looks back up at the doctor, hir expression revealing that she might have pressed the wrong button.

Ciara was quick to reply “Easy girl, I get it, emotional… Do ya want to talk about it?”

Ocean looks a little uneasy before speaking. “Goldfur, hir family came with hir. They have a loving family, the longer I spent with them in sharing stories and a few drinks the more and more the thought crossed my mind, then I think about all the advancements I have made to get this far... I mean, I made it all the way to command on one of the most advanced ships in the fleet!”

Ciara nods as she listens and offers, “So ya got some butterflies in yer belly about a family, that's nothin’ to fret over… look let's not talk about it now, I can schedule ya to talk in a more relaxing area about this subject another time.”

Ocean nods, feeling that it may help hir work something out. Another perspective can usually help and seeing shi does not have a mate to turn to...

Ciara continues, “On another subject, here is some information.” She taps her PADD and flicks her finger across the screen, sending some information to Ocean.

The PADD on Ocean's belt notifies hir that shi has received a message and, upon opening it, shi finds a list of a few names and faces, “Um, ok. Who are they?”

Ciara replies as Ocean begins with the first one. “The only ones on the ship with any empathic ratings. Sadly, we do not have something at yer level but anything to extend a clear mind. The only question now is… how good are ya at courtin’ humans?”

Continuing to look over the names, the question takes a moment to register, hir head popping up as shi responds with a “Wait, for what?!”

//// 15 days until Copernicus Station ////

( Picture 2: Artist MehndiX )

Shi dawns hir flight jacket, something shi can only wear while off duty due to its green academy color, but at least it has a patch for the Endeavour on its arm. It covers hir arms and chest, but that's it, leaving hir upper belly exposed as it stops just below hir upper ribs. Command is rarely seen around in the lower decks, let alone off duty, but shi is on a personal mission looking for someone specific.

The lift opens onto the lower decks and almost immediately shi spots the human shi wants to see.

“Jordan, there you are!” Shi voices down the hall loud enough that crew in earshot starts to dive into a room to get out of the way.

Jordan Miller, a human science crew member, was one of the scout team leaders back on the planet Silvania. He was a plant nerd, like really into plants, and also one of the science department’s underlings whenever samples were delivered to the Endeavour or something is found in space. This dark-skinned black-haired male practically turns white from hearing Ocean down the hall and starts making a mad dash out of the common area and toward his quarters, Ocean in pursuit as he ducks into a room and closes the door behind him.

“Oh come on, Jordan, don't be like that… I just want to talk.”

On the other side, Jordan works quickly removing the door panel in an attempt to shut its power down but is too late as the door starts to open just as the power cuts out from the door. Yet the powered down door was no match for a Chakat and shi easily opens it the rest of the way using hir powerful forelegs.

“Something wrong with your door, Jordan? I could call a repair team to fix it.”

Jordan backs away a little bit. It's only now that Ocean can pick up his actual fear, and here shi thought shi was being playful.

Backing away from him, arms out and palms raised. “Easy Jordan, I only want to talk… you owe me one from down on the planet, and I came to get your help.”

Jordan slowly eases down seeing that the chakat is no longer trying to eat him alive as he feared before he breathes a sigh of relief. “For a moment here I thought this was about that complaint I filed.”

Ocean blinks a few times before a slight roar of a “You what?!” echoes down the halls.

In response, Jordan faints.

“Oh great.” Shi rubs a hand along hir neck, looking around. “Well, others down here could listen in on what I want to talk about, so...” Just as shi finishes formulating a plan, a distracting noise chirps from hir jacket.

“Tyson to Ocean,” hir com piece blares.

Grabbing it from hir jacket, shi reports, “This is Ocean go ahead.” Shi knows full well that shi is speaking to the chief of security Tyson Williams.

“I'm getting reports of an angry chakat in the lower decks, you are good, aren’t you?”

“What angry? Me, no, I thought I was friendly.”

“14 reports in say otherwise.” Comes the curt reply.

“Oh… I'm sorry.” Shi leans down and picks up the human and plops him onto hir back like shi is giving him a ride, even draping his limp arms over hir shoulders and a leg on each side of hir body so shi can control his fainted state better, “I will just gather what I'm here for and leave the area.”

“Please see that you do. Tyson out,” the com chirps.

Ocean adjusts a little to the passenger and heads for the nearest lift, hir com chirping to life again as the doors to the lift begin sliding closed, Tyson asking, “What's this about a kidnapping?”

“Not a kidnapping, just taking a crew member to medical for fainting. Ocean out.”

Back in hir quarters, shi sets Jordan down and using hir tail gives his face a few soft taps, nothing too hard but enough to be sure to wake someone up and it works.

Jordan comes to instantly, checking his surroundings before remembering what was happening right before he fainted. “Wait where...? Did you take me from the lower decks?”

Ocean heads over to the large couch and sprawls hir lower half across it so that he can feel a little safer knowing there is some space between them. “Jordan, please, I am only cashing in a favor.”

He looks at hir skeptically, “Really, a favor? What is it?”

“I need some assistance in courting some human males.”

He busts out laughing almost instantly, yet hir serious expression causes him to calm down after a moment. “You’re serious?”

Shi nods.

“That's a good joke, ok, where is the other chakat on the ship… it’s policy.”

Shi interrupts, “Something happened and I'm alone for the next two weeks, and it's gonna be close.”

He relaxes a little before asking, “Ok, ok, I can help, I do owe you but I don't think it's enough on my end.”

“You made me late for dinner, and there was nothing left. I had to have…” Shi pauses and backs off. “No, off duty, and I need your help.”

Suddenly shi gets the feeling that he is going to try something or barter.

“I know you're in this position, but you came to me for help, I don't know if I can help wingman you with another morph.”

Shi looks confused, “Wingman?”

“Yea, you know, help you look more attracted to the others. I mean, we are talking about girls, right?”

Shi shakes hir head.

“Hold up. You want me to help you bag and sex up another dude?”

“It's not like that” shi slowly gets up and moves a little closer to show him the pad with a list of names. “They are the only targets I need to focus on. They have low empathy readings, but something is better than nothing.”

Jordan looks over the list, “You sure, because two of the ones on this list are, well, let's just say fur-tolerant, they will only be in your presence but asking them to sleep with you...”

“It's not about the sex, but if it keeps them interested longer then ok, ultimately the rating is so low unless they are focused on me and only with me, I may as well just suffer until we reach the station; it needs to be natural and not forced in any way for them.”

Jordan scoffs at Ocean, “You have it easy.” “Do not.”

“Yes, you do. Command ensures you have someone to be with, I don't have that.”

Ocean narrows hir eyes eyes at him. “Now you are just pushing this on my genetics and the policy of the Federation… You know what, forget it. If you don't want to help me, I will find another way to cash in my favor.”

Jordan stands up and takes a few steps toward the chakat, getting a good look at hir as all he can typically see would be a very aggressive chakat and probably threatening to throw him out of the door; he looked hir in the eyes before speaking, “Trust is a two way street. If you trust me then turn around,” he says and holds up his hands, “and put your tail in my hands.”

Shi looks at him confused, almost borderline desperate as shi maneuvers to comply, laying hir tail across his hands. “Is that good?” Shi looks away for a second before feeling his hand slide up hir tail to the tip, inspecting it then sneaking a quick photo of him and hir tail in his hand.

Shi looks back, bewildered, “What are you doing?”

He grins, “What, I see it all the time and finally got to touch it. And may have also just won the betting pool on it with the other guys.”

Shi yanks hir tail free, “You're like a cub.”

He puts his hands together, “Ok, where should we start?”

“And here I thought I would need to bribe you with contraband liquor.”

“Oh, we can talk about that as well.”

Shi smirks, “No, we shook on it; you made your deal.”

“No, we did not shake hands.”

“Yes you did.. And you even took a picture of the occasion.” Shi says with a sly smirk.

Later that evening in the crew bar, Thirty Aft, the area is alive with crewmembers carousing, music playing loudly, and quite a number of crew on a dance floor in the middle with tables and chairs lining the outer regions. This was very much unlike the upper bar Seven Forward where it felt ritzier and quiet with classical music; this one was like a pub meets DJ dance party, and with so many people here, shi will most likely trample some toes or make many patrons mad if shi even attempted the dance floor.

As Ocean and Jordan walk in, quite a few eyes can be seen darting around; quite a little mingle for the support staff and off duty crew to unwind and forget for the moment they are in a can flying through space.

Jordan leads Ocean to the bar and he leans against it. “Ok, well, my area is on the females, but speaking as a male, be forward, be direct just not too direct.”

Ocean nods to Jordan as shi gets a little twinge in the back of hir mind but thinks nothing of it.

“Ok, look at me and tell me what your opening line is. Let's just say you walk over and introduce yourself.”

Ocean clears hir throat for a moment before speaking to him. “I am Chakat Oceanrider, daughter of...”

He interrupts, “Ok stop. Humans don't have formal names like that. For tonight, you are just Ocean.”

Shi nods then starts again “Hello, my name is Ocean, would you like to mate?”

Jordan puts his hand to his face, “Dammit girl, are you just looking for a quicky or you want to take him back to your room all night.”

“The 2nd option has better chances. Just one question, what is a quicky?”

Jordan, if he could blush through his dark skin, this would be it. “Man if I need to explain that… you do know how to make love, right?”

Shi nods, “Yea, all the time, just don't know what you mean by quicky?”

Jordan, “It's when you make love, but you have a 5 min clock, get off or get out.”

Ocean blinks, “Wait, what is the point of that? That sounds more like one-sided teasing with extra steps.”

Jordan leans back and looks at the bartender signaling for two but Ocean fails to catch that he points to hir for the tab. Once he turns back around to hir, “Way WAY too much on the direct...tell me you don't do that with other chakats?”

Ocean says, “Well in a way, yeah, but ultimately we can feel each other's feelings and needs, so there are no words, but there are lots and lots of cuddling… oh wait, should I go over and rub on him? Is that enough of a clue?”

Jordan downs both shots quickly. “You do that, and you're going to get thrown out. What is wrong with you, you don't seem to be thinking straight?” He notices something is very wrong with the way shi is acting.

Out of the corner of hir eye, Ocean spots one of the guys down at the other end of the bar as Jordan tries to keep hir attention.

“Ok, try this. Go over there, introduce yourself. The guy will most likely ask a few questions, so answer them, then when you have his attention lean in a little, let him know you're interested in him and feel him up to get the point across it happened to me, and it worked on me.”

Shi nods. “Intro, questions, interested then touch him, got it.” Shi departs and heads for the other end of the bar, making hir way around carefully over to a human male, listed as Mike, a simple white-skinned male who notices hir heading over.

“Hello, my name is Ocean.”

He responds, “I'm Mike.”

A long awkward pause as shi waits for a question.

“Don't you normally hang around the upper decks? I mean, command is not usually down here.”

Shi responds, “You're right, though I was hoping to run into you,” shi says before that pulse feeling flares up again in hir head for a moment before fading away.

“Run into me? Why is that?” Mike asks.

“You want to go somewhere a little quieter?” shi asks, leaning in a little.

David leans back slightly as shi moves closer to him, the room is so loud that shi can't pick up on his feelings; shi practically feels a little blind and somewhat overwhelmed. Then the thought that shi should touch him comes to mind through the noise and commotion clouding hir concentration and the hope that shi can maybe salvage this.

Shi leans forward a little more. “If you’re interested...” hir paw hand lifts, attempting a subtle grope but without looking and misjudging, shi makes contact with his groin not knowing how fragile human groins are.

“Oh, makers are… I'm so sorry,” shi can quickly tell that shi hurt poor Mike as he moves away from the bar bowlegged making his way out of the area.

Jordan was unable to see what happened. When Ocean returns, shi explains what happened. He gives a huge laugh. “You know what… a new plan; let's make it simpler. You have a second shot over in the table area completely devoid of all life around him.”

Ocean looks to him. “Alright, I will go talk to him.” She begins to move off toward the table where the target is. It's not until shi gets closer that some smell invades hir senses; it's sharp… it's almost burning hir nose, shi aborts and heads back to the bar where Jordan is, covering hir nose. “There is a gas leak over there, and that crewman is dead.”

Jordan looks around, sniffs the air and nothing. He takes a few steps towards the table and gets a whiff of the man's cologne as he returns to Ocean. “Ok that guy is a full-on chemical hazard for that sensitive nose of yours right now. Who in the galaxy needs to smell that strong?”

The chakat slumps slightly, causing Jordan a sense of worry. “Whoa, Ocean, are you ok?”

Shi staggers before slumping, bringing hir body to the ground with a hand to hir head; that pulsing feeling is back, stronger and not letting up.

That's when Jordan notices the monitor flashing yellow and red colors in hir temple.

“Ocean, you need to stay with me.” He chirps his comms. “Medical to Thirty Aft, it's Oceanrider shi…..”

The noise and world around hir fades from hir awareness as Ocean passes out, collapsing to the deck.

Ocean arrives in medical on a hovercart while Jordan is filling Ciara in on the situation.

Jordan asks, “What happened to hir? Shi did not even get a drink. I know the cologne was a bit much on that one guy but...”

Ciara, while running over to grab some equipment, replies. “Ya brought a chakat into Thirty Aft. Hir empathic sickness was feeding off of everyone in the room. Ya may have been at a party but hir senses entered a mosh pit that any healthy chakat would have managed easily.”

Ciara moves over to Oceanrider and checks hir responses with a light in hir eyes as a deep blue Voxxan nurse starts reading out the data coming from the implants to the doctor.

Ciara grabs a device and presses it against the chakat's head, tapping a few buttons before Ocean passes back out, hearing what little hum the machine is giving off.

Jordan questions, “Wait, sick!? I thought shi wanted to mate.”

Ciara stops and looks to Jordan before pointing to the chakat, taking a moment to process, but Jordan is partly correct. “Yer right, had no idea. A whole lot of the ship just really does not either, but all the morphs on board would line up for hir if it could help hir just a little, but the reality of the situation is we are headin’ home and the only thing to fix hir right now… is one of hir own kind.”

Jordan replies, a touch of concern in his voice, “Then you're telling me I made things worse when shi came to me?”

The chief medical officer responds, “If yer the one person on this entire ship shi came to, then ya must have some bond with hir.”

Jordan looks taken aback by that. “Me and hir, no way, shi was calling in a favor... that I still owe.”

Ciara scoffs, “Well, then the door is behind ya if you don't care and this is only a call-in.”

Jordan looks to the door then back at the chakat. “Just so we are clear, and it's not just the morphs that would line up for hir. Shi may be a hard ass on the field, but shi still earned the respect of hir teams.”

Ciara looks to Jordan. “Good. So friends then; shi needs that.”

Jordan tries to speak up, but the doctor waves him off. “Shi is asleep for now, just come runnin’ when yer called, but if ya truly want to help hir, go study Chakat Empathy sickness so ya know what is happenin’.”

//// 11 days until Copernicus Station ////

Ocean naturally wakes up with a uniquely unpleasant feeling of a throbbing headache as Vera, a Voxxan nurse, rests a hand upon the chakat to try and calm hir a moment then goes to tell Ciara that shi woke up. It's not until the slightly dark figure enters hir vision that shi speaks.


A small giggle “Ah not quite,” Fayola a dark-skinned human female and bridge crew navigator smiles down at the chakat

Shi is taken back a moment before shi regains more of hir senses, realizing shi is in medical, “What...?”

“Shh, it's ok, the crew knows about the situation, the captain informed the crew,” Fayola says calmly.

Ocean leans back, “How long until we reach the station?”

“We are now about 11 days out from the station and at least seven from emergency comms.”

Ocean takes a moment running the numbers as hir ears catch the heightened engine sound. “We are at full throttle?” followed by a small pause, “I was out for five days?”

Fayola giggles in surprise, “You know your ship well. It's an acceptable risk, the captain ordered it. Also, you're banned from large gatherings until you heal up. And you have only been in here for a night, the shaved time was from going faster.”

Ocean leans up, only now noticing a few devices lying about the room, even the one on hir head still, “What did that crazy doc try to do?”

Ciara enters the sickbay and Fayola stands up, squeezing hir paw hand. “If you need anything, just ask, ok?” Ocean gives a little nod.

Ciara walks up, “Looks like yer finally up, and the cat is out of the bag.”

Ocean grunts slightly, “How bad?”

“Not going to lie, I used a neural inhibitor to try and calm ya senses down. While ya were asleep, I decided to update your physical and, well, seeing that it's coming anyway, gave ya an herbal cocktail that should help a little with that imminent heat problem.”

“And the pain?” shi asks, pointing to hir head.

“Apparently what happens when yer empathy is a little taxed and workin’ overtime... looking at the readings, yer going to start showing signs of the sickness any day now; its unavoidable. Since ya missed it, the captain did make a speech over the entire ship so now everyone also knows. Tyson has locked yer privileges away from high traffic areas, he will know the moment you try to go anywhere dangerous for your health.”

“Later today, we will have our talk, for now, ya need to go get some food and get yerself cleaned up.” The doc begins to remove a few of the monitors but keeps the two monitors shi previously had on hir as shi gets up with a feline stretch and makes hir way back to hir quarters.

Cleaning up and a shower was uneventful though hir hunger reminded hir that shi could use a meal. Shi makes hir way to the mess, crew members giving hir distance and hir glances go completely unnoticed until something catches hir eye for a moment. Walking into the mess hall, shi spies a chakat flank bearing black and white markings walking into the room and out of sight. Ocean quickly sprints around the corner and into the room, calling out, “Swift?” Shi looks around, finding no sign of Swift or any other chakat for that matter. Just the usual crew complement causing hir to let out a defeated sigh for the moment, and heads off to get hirself a meal.

Hir ears pivot a little, picking up on some of the conversations from tables nearby to catch some of the gossip around the room and from the sound of it, lots of talk about hir.

Taking a plate, shi looks around until a small group of crew members flags hir down to join them. Knowing full and well that being alone is not ideal, shi makes hir way over to join them. There is little conversation about hir and the situation, and the outpouring of sympathy going around the small group did help hir not feel so down in the dumps spirits wise. They even get hir to smile a little.

Between conversations, hir ears pick up gossip and looking around now and then seems to catch almost everyone stealing glances hir way more than they should be. With lunch over, the few crew members that joined hir offered hugs that were welcoming, and they made their way out. Ocean began to clean hir tray and put things away when a very peculiar voice made itself known.

“Why should we be kind to hir, not like shi is kind to us.”

Shi looked around, trying to zero in on the sound and who was speaking, “Why is it the ship's problem to deal with hir situation.”

Ocean eyes two humans off on the side trying to cover their mouths as they speak; shi blatantly makes hir way over to them, the two crew members looking slightly shocked at the chakat approaching them as shi gets in one of their faces, “You got something you want to say to me, ensign?”

“No, ma'am, not at all.”

Shi backs off a little, shi was convinced that it came from him. Shi looks around the room, all eyes on hir as hir ears scan for any signs of the voice.

Then again from behind hir, “Shi must be going crazy. Just one less kat in space after this.”

Shi turns quickly putting hands on the ensign, practically lifting him out of the chair and deals one good punch to his face. With the clear intentions looking like shi means to continue hurting him, a lot of the remaining crew in the room quickly move in to get between them and subdue the chakat, bringing hir to the ground as many of the ship's crew held hir until security arrived.

Laying on both of hir backs eyes closed with the sound of waves hitting a beach, the sound so soothing and calming to hir, filling hir mind with pleasant thoughts of the past, the sound of the waves lower but not dissipating before opening hir eyes and turning hir head to see the doctor relaxing in a chair.

Ciara asks, “Want to start by talkin about what happened in the mess hall?”

“He deserved it, talking behind my back like I was a risk to the ship... in some way talking down about me and my problems.”

Ciara calmly returns, “Ocean – many were in that room and nothing like that was said out loud.”

Ocean leans up, “No, he was saying my condition was a problem to the ship, I know he did.”

“Either way, we need to talk a little more about ya. From our interactions and your charted history, it's becomin’ evident to me that ya don't see anyone outside of your kind.”

Ocean sighs, “It's just easier, the tours, the missions...”

“So, you're complacent.”

Shi shakes hir head. “If you think I don't care, I do.” Shi holds up hir hand. “Goldy, Swift, Star, Spots, Black, Silver, Moon, Jade, Sky, Sandy…” Shi holds up hir paw hands and continues counting on their fingers “Sunny, Opal, White, Spark, Softy, Astra, Strike, Stone, Z and Fire.” holding all four of hir hands up. “I could keep going, but I'm out of fingers.”

The doctor then asks, “What about back home when ya off duty?”

“Well, there is...”

“Not includin’ yer family.”

Shi pauses and maybe holds up one finger.

The doctor looks shocked for a moment. “I think I see a pattern here, but I want ya to tell me about that one.”

“So in the off-time between tours I would have some downtime when the ship was under maintenance and I would stay with my parents down in Monterey, a town south of San Francisco, but the beaches are a tad bit nicer up North, anyway, one day I decided to go into a little tea house on the outskirts of the USF campus. And just before I open the door...”

The door smacks Ocean as someone behind it yelps in surprise and starts to apologize profusely. Shi shakes hir head and gets a look at just what happened as a calico- patterned chakat eases the door open and pokes hir head out.

“Oh, my goodness, are you ok!?” shi asks. Ocean just laughs. “This is why I like to fly,” shi says with a smirk.

Looking over the other chakat, Ocean noticed that shi ended up dropping a drink that shi must have just purchased, some of the evidence running down the bottom of the door.

“Oh no, please let me buy you another drink,” Ocean insists.

“But I hit you with the door…”

Ocean interrupts hir, “No, no, please, I insist for an attractive kat like yourself. It is the least I can do.”

A moment later and they are inside placing an order, Ocean ordering a Caramel mocha and shi a peppermint twist. After a moment, the calico chakat turns to Ocean and shi sensed an introduction coming. “My name is...”

“Peppermint Twist” Ocean interrupts but continues, “Mine is Caramel Mocha.” It must have worked because shi blushed a moment. “Please, it was just nice to meet you.”

Peppermint Twist kind of fidgets a little before shi remembered, “Oh no, I need to run. I will be late for class!”

Ocean raises hir cup and says, “Tomorrow then, same time?” Twist nods and runs off.

The next day a little later than before, the door to the little shop opens up and to Ocean’s surprise, the calico chakat walks in, pausing to look around and, meeting hir eyes, Ocean motions hir over holding up a cup of the same order from yesterday and offering it to hir as shi sits down.


( Picture 3: Artist Araivis-Edelveys )

“Oh wow, two free cups! I better keep my cool,” shi teases Ocean.

“Naw, besides, it's more of a social action anyway. So you said you have classes? You're going to USF?”

The two talked for some time, the conversation flowing smoothly as Ocean got to learn that shi was attending medical school with the goal of becoming a nurse, and hir big family back home that will make use of hir work. Ocean shared a few stories about flying a spaceship out amongst the stars and how shi keeps touring the galaxy and even the possibility of going out to a new planet.

A few hours go by; they both walk outside and share a hug. One that they both enjoyed a little longer than it should, neither one quite content to end the warm embrace.

Ocean went back a few more times but Peppermint Twist never really came back around the same time. Shi even arranged with the store runner that has seen hir before to relay a message that shi wants to buy Twist one more drink before shi has to depart again, hoping to meet with the calico one last time.

The next day, Ocean says farewell to hir parents and swings by the small shop one last time in hopes for a chance encounter or word from the runner, but finding nothing, shi heads back into space.

“How long was that?”

Shi pauses, “Maybe like six or eight months. It’s been a while.”

“It will do ya some good, what was hir name?”

“I did not get it.”

The doctor then rolls her eyes. “Then ya better put yer finger down because that is what we call in the business, a chance moment; one moment ya share, the next ya moved on. It seems like you had a possible connection.”

The doctor makes a few notes on the PADD then asks, “Before ya said that ya were afraid. I need you to explain that to me when it involved the individuals you named Goldy, Swift, Dale, and Garrek.”

Shi lets out a small breath. “Things only got complicated the more that I learned. Much of the ship think we walk up to each other and ask for sex whenever we need it. Some of the time just sharing a bed with another is all it could be.”

“As time went on Dale was embracing hir new way of life. It was gratifying to learn of hir story and the new ventures shi was willing to experience but Dale chose Swift, and in-kind Swift did the same; there was just that feeling in my head that if I just stayed out of it, their bond would grow so much more.”

“Goldfur and Garrek, well, I did not know much until I was able to get Garrek to play his instrument, then it became painfully clear that the tod needed some healing. I know from the conversation that Goldy and Garrek were a mated pair, not to mention the children they brought along, between the family and Goldy working to fix Garrek’s situation and healing, what was needed. I could tell with time they both left here feeling stronger together.”

Ciara asks, “So ya were the 5th wheel?”

Ocean smirks. “No, from all of them I got to experience new perspectives, challenges, growth, healing, and even family. It gave me some heavy things to think about... I truly love this career but after meeting them, I...” shi hesitates, “I may be missing out on so much more.”

Ciara then clears her throat. “So let me see if I got this right. Yer devoted to yer work that ya have gone tour after tour makin’ yer life this career and the only main interactions ya get based on the crew, but yer only connections to yer own kind is when they are assigned to be on this ship.”

“Sounds a little bad when you put it that way, doc.”

“Well, ya don't really have a home life, you just explained that ya really don't have anyone back home, in fact it's almost like this ship is your home yet ya have such a defense that ya don't let a whole lot of others into your life. In a way, yer like the captain but at least he has contacts back home and takes time off.”

Oceanrider turns to look away, ashamed. “So, based on the others you have seen, I'm just a screw-up. Is that what you're trying to say?”

“No, yer not. It just shows how much drive ya have in the goal of yer career, but what I'm tryin to say is that ya can have yer career and still find time to make a home for yerself, not just on a ship. Yer taking this illness very well, except for that little part back in the mess hall; I will make my report to the captain but, for now, ya should think over what we talked about.”

The chakat slowly rises and gets up, giving hir fur a quick brush with hir hands.

“Ocean, would it just be easier for me to… how should I put this? Assign someone to ya?”

Shi looks a little mortified, “You are going to order someone?!”

“No, no, think of it like a... blind date. It means ya have no idea who ya will be seeing but I assure ya it will be fine. I will be willing to do that for ya.”

For the first time around the doc, shi gives a light-hearted smile, “Ok I will give it a try. Send any message to my PADD for details I should need beforehand.” Shi takes a few steps to leave the room before pausing for a moment to turn around to look at the medical officer, “Thank you, Ciara.”

The door opened into the hallway and shi nodded in greeted to the two stationed security officers. Shi freely walks down the hall, the detail shadowing hir as a small repercussion for the event in the mess hall.

Later that evening, Ciara heads up to the bridge with PADD in hand. The moment Captain Blackwood spots hir, they make for the captain's office along with R’Trarsk, the First Officer standing off to the side.

“I'm here to update ya on our pilot's condition. The incident in the mess hall must have been the first symptom of paranoia starting to show. And they will only get stronger from here. If shi has been hallucinating, shi has made no report or mention of it.”

Blackwood asks, “Can shi hold out? The current symptoms are not much, but we are going right up to the safety limits.”

“The scans of hir empathic patterns show very erratic behavior, an’ honestly I am getting’ a lot of data, but ultimately I have nothing to compare this to. It’s new to me, and I'm wingin’ it as we go but, from comparing the healthy scans at departure and more recent ones, I can see the erratic spikes it seems to be displayin’. Officially, it's not a concern of life but it is a concern for mental wellbeing. I have no data to tell me if this will permanently alter hir mind in any way if it gets worse.”

The captain looks to R’Trarsk “How long until...”

He responds, “Just about 12 days, Sir. Navigation keeps scanning for other vessels we can reach using a slow burst subspace message, but it will only arrive about the same time the ship makes it in range of the network.”

“And how long until we reach the network?”

“That would be about six days. From there, we can issue emergency coms for assistance and see who can help us. A ship could be closer than the starbase, but any real diverting will put us in danger of the ship’s fuel resources.”

Blackwood turns to look at the doctor, “Have any of your tests been helping?”

Ciara shakes her head, “The chakat immune system is very resilient, an’ everythin’ I tried just ended up failing or hir body eliminated quicker than expected. The common database records of Chakat medicine have been the only thing helpful to help make hir more comfortable, but nothin’ has yet improved hir overall condition.”

The captain thinks for a moment and agrees, “It is what it is. The odds are against us and we are doing all that we can. If anything drastically changes, I want to know but, for now, hold the course.”

Ciara and R’Trarsk both give a “Yes, sir.”

//// 10 days until Copernicus Station //// 4 days until network

Stirring to the sound of a buzzing coming from hir PADD, Ocean looking like a mess lying in bed and sleeping in. Not like anything can be done about hir situation anyway and shi just might assault another crew member by accident. Shi just feels like wanting to turn over and let the universe continue without hir after being broken down by the doc, the emotional impact from the conversation fading from hir mind as shi begins drifting back to sleep.

The PADD buzzes again, refusing to let hir and causing hir to turn over, hir arms and forepaws grabbing and pulling close the other chakat sharing the covers as shi snuggles up into Swiftwalk’s neck who speaks, “Just five more mins… just snooze it and stay here.”

Ocean purrs from Swift's response until the PADD is silenced. Ocean's ears swivel before shi turns to see a golden cougar, Goldy no, Goldendale standing near the bed, practically over them. Hir presence makes Ocean jump, enough to kick hir from sleep, awaking to an empty room and the sound of hir PADD still buzzing. A quick look around confirming shi is alone.

With a finger pressed to the PADD, shi curls up a moment as a tear runs across hir cheek into the pillow.

A little time later and a quick shower, hir PADD alerts hir to a message from Jordan that reads:


Subject: You’re down but not out

Hey, I rounded some people up for a small poker game. How about I bring some entertainment. You supply the drinks. Maybe this can help cheer you up. Let me know.



Shi grins, saying out loud, “You just want my booze…” Shi fidgets. “But I will go even crazier if I have no distraction.” With a look around hir quarters, shi shakes hir head. “No way in hell a bunch of guys will be coming here.”

Shi puts on hir top and heads for hir door where two security officers stand guard as shi asks, “Hey, you think Tyson would let me use one of the empty guest quarters for a poker game tonight between friends?” The two guards exchanging a look for a moment.

After reporting in for the daily medical checkup, shi made hir way back to hir quarters, sending Jordan a message confirming tonight’s game session. And now to the other issue – how to sneak a few bottles of contraband past hir assigned security detail? As the door to hir quarters opens, an idea comes to mind causing hir to smile as shi walks into hir room, the guards remaining behind outside.

Shi moves over to the end of the bed and rolls it up and away, revealing there to be a very sturdy metal box below, secured to the deck that keeps the extra thick mattress up off the ground by a few inches. Shi brings hir PADD up and opens up a small RFID app and punches a code in and rubs the PADD across one specific spot before hearing a magnetic click, “Got you.”

Lifting the metal plate top reveals a small treasure of things shi keeps from prying eyes, and seeing security has yet to find hir hiding place, it is a good one. It’s got a bit of stuff ranging from personal adult toys and hidden effects, letters from parents, a few photos that shi keeps around, and a few odd-sized bottles of liquor because sometimes old things are way better than what they materialize at the bar.

“So, you always keep yourself locked away like that?” A voice startles hir, causing hir to whirl around to find the source, finding a golden cougar chakat standing in the room.

Ocean's eyes widen, “Goldfur?! Goldy, it's you, but how did...”

“Well? Judging by how basic this room is, you have hidden all your actual personal effects under your bed.”

Ocean attempts to reach out to Goldy but is ignored as shi walks over and looks over Ocean’s things.

“Everything that could make you a little happier is locked away… behind some wall that you put up.”

Ocean just weakly responds with a pleading, “Goldy?”

“No wonder you are alone. Guess the job is just that much more important.”

Ocean balls up hir fist slightly at that comment, “No, it’s not true. I can't believe you would say something like that.” Shi reaches out to grab Goldfur's shoulder only to watch as it travels through hir and the image of the golden cougar wisps away into nothingness and the lonesome confines of hir quarters.

Looking around slightly panicked, shi breaths a little quicker as hir heart races. “Oh no…” shi chirps hir comms. “Ocean to medical,” Ciara responds and shi continues, “I... I just saw Goldfur…” hir voice trailing off as a panic starts to overtake hir. “Doc, help...”

Ciara returns, “I'm on the way.”

It takes a moment before realizing hir bed safe is open, closing it quickly and waiting for the doctor to come as shi fidgets in distress.

Not moments later, the door opens and Ocean moves over to Ciara and hugs her quickly, “Good real… real is good” as the doc starts to scan the chakat, “Ok, tell me what happened.”

“Shi was just here… but shi talked down to me, not like hir at all.”

“So ya were convinced shi was here?”

Ocean nods quickly. “I tried to touch hir. That's when shi vanished.”

The doctor begins a scan of hir. “Is this the first time?”

“Yes, unless you count dreams?”

The doctor thinks on that for a moment, “Well maybe but depends.”

“But, why Goldfur?”

“My money is if ya had a mate, it would probably be hir. I guess that the trio Goldy, Dale, and Swift were the last ones to connect with ya. Yer empathy could be foolin’ yer senses to believe they are still here. There is still a lot we do not know about this sickness, Ocean.”

Shi starts calming down the chakat with the scan complete, rubbing hir arm and coaxing hir down to the ground. “Do ya have plans tonight?”

“Yeah… a poker game.”

“Ok, good, somethin’ to keep yer mind active will be a nice change of pace for now.”

The doctor stays with hir for a little bit before needing to head back to medical.

A little time later, Ocean emerges from hir room with a large bag slung over a shoulder.

The security detail looks at hir, then the bag. Shi opens it to show a selection of board games, “I got the approval for a game night in guest quarters D6 214… unless you want a bunch of guys hanging out in a room that is just ripe with the smell of heat...?”

The security detail gives no response and shi leads the way to the guest area, almost on the other end of the ship and enters a room to find Jordan and a few other crew members from the lower deck.

Jordan stands up and introduces the two other humans. “This is David and Chris with science, and Sly from the mess hall.”

Sly, the black and dark grey fox morph speaks up. “It's Sylvester, but they gave me a nickname.”

Shi enters the room and sets hir bag down carefully, waiting until the door closes and the security outside decided to leave them be before taking a position at the table and opening the bag and pulling out an old board game and placing it on the table.

David speaks up, “Not the kind of game night I was expecting, Jordan. I thought you said shi was cool.”

Ocean takes offense to that, “I'm telling you, you have not played this game.” Shi opens the box to reveal that it was just a hollow box inside containing a few Earth bottles of alcohol marked with contraband labels across and some material to keep them from making noise, a few ales, a whiskey, and tequila.

Everyone lights up as David responds, “Ok, you know what, this game looks awesome but is this contraband?”

Shi smiles pleasingly. “I will consider this my buy-in for the evening, and let's just say bridge crew gets its perks. Granted, I was supposed to take them off the ship last shore leave.”

Chris clears the boxes as Jordan gets a few glasses. Next thing, Chris starts sending out chips and begins dealing the cards.

Many hands of poker and shots later, the evening continued. A hard limit was set with plastic chips and value and it seemed Jordan enjoyed more of the drink, affecting his ability to bluff and ended up being the first one out for the night. But he could not leave or the party would have ended early, so he took refuge in the guest quarters bed being that it was much larger than the one he was assigned.

It was Ocean against the others, David making a call for all in with Chris and Sly folding, but Ocean challenges him. Shi lays down a hand three of a kind, David’s a full house busting Ocean out of the game.

Sly suggests, “Guys, shi did share the stash... give hir some more chips.”

They are all completely under the effects of the drinks when Ocean looks around through all hir boxes to find they are out of bottles for the night and a good thing too. Unable to find a proper buy-in, shi begins to take off hir flight jacket and sets it on the table, “This is worth double compared to what you all have on.”

Chris grins a moment watching the chakat disrobe as he nudges Sly to snap him out of his stupid stare at hir. David accepts the garment. “So clothing counts then,” and gives hir a small stack of chips to continue playing.

The night continues, and multiple articles of clothing removed as a further currency. The hand limit buy-in is getting steep and Sly ends up folding a high hand when Ocean’s tail intentionally brushes along his own, distracting him and busting him out of the game, Ocean topless by game’s end and others basically down to underwear. Ocean leans over and makes a move on David and things started getting a little heavy after that.

Meanwhile in medical, Vera, a nurse, brings a PADD to Ciara. “Um, Ocean’s levels are looking off.”

Ciara glances at the data feed, tapping a button to pull up additional biometrics. “Well, accordin’ to this, shi's showin’ signs of toxicity so shi must have had a few drinks. Shi must be good and buzzed accordin’ to this. Hopefully, today's event did not bring hir to drink?” Her attention is drawn to a small spike on the chart. “Hmmm, endorphins on a little high, and shi seems to be running a good heart rate.”

It takes a few seconds before both of them realize what the data means before shutting off the displays.

The fox nurse brings a blue hand to her face hiding a small blush before breaking the silence, “So… tomorrow then?”

Ciara nods. “Yes, thank you for your work today.”

“Not turning in yet?”

The doctor walks out and preps a cart with some medkits, and hypo sprays as if ready to go.

“Not until I see that data fall into slumber… to make sure shi does not hurt anyone and call in with a medical emergency.”

Vera giggles while exiting medical.

//// 9 days until Copernicus Station //// 3 days until network

Oceanrider wakes up clear headed thanks to the beautiful immune system of a chakat, leaving hir with no signs of a hangover but mentally unsure of who is where due to hir senses being dull; some of the events that happened last night coming to mind and causing hir to just cover hir face in a quick flash of embarrassment before shi leans up, the movement allowing hir to feel matted, dried, and sticky spots along hir body, matting hir fur in more or less in sexual areas. A survey of the room finds the couch in a slightly broken and clawed state and shi can see Chris curled up under a rug meaning the one snuggling cushions must be Dave.

Shi slowly gets up, stealthily as a cat can be, and walks around looking into the room to find Jordan asleep snuggled against Sly. Ocean holds hir hand to hir muzzle to keep from laughing, really wishing shi had hir PADD to steal a photo. After a quick survey, shi finds hir jacket but not hir top.

The chakat, annoyed, attempts to sneak into the shower of the room, only to find the room not activated, so no water. Shi rolls hir eyes, taking one last look around, still no top.

Shi thinks to herself, “If I have to, all you will too.”

Shi quietly gathers all of the others’ clothing except Jordan’s since he slept in his, then rears up and lifts a ceiling panel and hides the garments behind it then prepares to make for the hallway.


( Picture 4: Artist Inkwell-Arts )

The door opens up and a fully nude chakat exits with not a care in the world, hir flight jacket draped across hir lower back. The two security guards panic a little.

“Umm, Shir Ocean… you need to cover yourself.”

Shi smiles and waves them off, “It's fine – just a little stroll back to my quarters. I would be more worried about them inside.”

One guard motions to the other to go check out the room as the one with Ocean comms Tyler at security, who just happens to be on the bridge so that all of the bridge hears security calling in saying, “Our pilot is taking a nude stroll in the hallway.” It elicits quite a few different reactions across the bridge, even the captain, who just closes his eyes and places his fingers to the bridge of his nose.

R’Trarsk speaks up, “Let hir go to hir quarters and not to leave until I speak with hir, bridge out.”

Ocean’s ears pick that up as shi walks with hir head held high and not a care in the world. At this moment passing a few crew members whom shi gives a more than friendly wave to as they try to avoid staring or trying to keep from laughing as shi passes. Not much longer of a walk to reach hir quarters and the first stop there a much needed shower.

Emerging out of the shower, shi is slightly stunned to hear R’Trarsk speak from the other room, “Be decent when you come out.”

Typically shi could sense a presence but shi feels blind, unable to detect others and with a shrug, shi exits into the common room to see only the Caitian sitting on hir couch. Ocean continues to do what shi needs to do, clearly making no move to cover hirself, having to wait for fur to properly dry before putting clothing on. “It must be terrible if you came down yourself.”

The Caitian smirks, “Yea, it's bad; any idea how that contraband made it into that room?”

“I know how you work, you know me well enough already but are just testing me, so I'm just going to admit outright it was mine, and now it’s all gone. It does not take an intelligence gathering mission to figure out how the bottles made it into the room.”

“This is not going to look good on your record, but at the same time, your current condition will most likely allow your actions to go overlooked, but the contraband...”

Shi retorts, “A lot of this would not be happening if...” shi quickly turns and slams hir hands on a counter, “Forgive me, you’re right. It’s like I'm riding the highs of highs, and then suddenly I'm in the lowest of lows and I don't feel right at all, and I'm trying to hang onto anything to keep me grounded, sir.”

He does not push the subject but asks, “So last night...”

Shi sighs, “That was just sex… they all had no empathic ability.” Shi grabs hir arm slightly, a little embarrassed. “I was taking care of a need, sir, an itch that needed scratching, nothing else.”

“Did you eat their clothes, or are they to walk the crew decks naked as well?”

“Center room panel in the ceiling, but one of them has my top, that's why I was hiding them.”

He stands up and makes his way toward hir, “And the booze, anymore of it?”

Shi asks, “On the record, it's all gone...” shi opens a cabinet and pushes aside a few things, “Off the record this is all I have left.” Shi pulls out a small bottle that's already half empty and pours two shots, he picks up on the notion and walks up to hir taking a glass in hand.

Shi asks, grabbing hir own shot glass and looking up to him, “When could I get another resupply?”

“You were to take them home,” He looks down to hir as he holds out the shot glass.

“This is my home,” shi flatly replies, moving hir glass to his and clinks the glasses in a toast.

“To your health,” he says before they both down the shot and, setting it back down on the table, grabs the bottle and pours one more shot in hir glass, then makes for the door keeping the bottle.

Shi lets out a small feline whine, “On the record it's all gone,” is all he says as he exits hir quarters.

Ocean grabs the other shot glass and downs the second drink before shi heads into hir room to get dressed for the day.

Ocean makes hir way into the mess hall early to avoid the crowds. There is a moment of recognition when shi spotted Sylvester, the fox was clearly a little embarrassed but comes over to help hir anyway. Seeing that the mess was not open yet, he walks along and keeps hir company while shi eats.

“Sylvester, sorry if things got out of hand the other night.”

“Don't worry about it. We are all adults and maybe the booze pushed things along, for sure.”

They share a laugh before he asks, “How are you feeling?”

Shi is somewhat taken aback by the question, thinking it over as shi nibbles on some of the roast beef.

“I'm doing ok, and it seems my demons are beginning to haunt me. Outside of that, almost all of my laundry is on display, which does suck.”

He leans in slightly and asks, “This empathy sickness, I don’t quite understand it… that is if you have the time to explain?”

Shi pauses for a moment, “Well, it's more a feeling… well come sit over here.”

The fox gets up and moves to take a seat next to hir where shi then instructs him to turn away from hir and close his eyes, which he does.

“I'm not going to try and push my empathy into your mind to feel something, I'm too weak to do something like that but I can explain it like this.”

Ocean takes hir fingers and lightly grazes the black fur line on the back of his neck just enough to make the fur react and send a small shiver through his body in reaction.

“Let's call that a connection, we chakats share this feeling.” Shi does it again to Sly, “Every time we meet, talk, and just be with a group, it keeps our empathy balanced and flexing just like any other muscle in the body.”

Shi then takes hir hand and tickles the hairs on his neck, but runs it up to his ears and getting a little more reaction, “When we take the time to bond and get to know another. It makes the connection even stronger.”

Shi grins, knowing this is going to be the best part; shi leans in close and whispers into his ear, “But if we mate...” shi says in a sultry tone while raking hir fingers through his fluffy grey tail, causing him to squirm feeling that shiver run up his spine from tail to head. He gets up, taking a few steps before turning and having what clearly would be a massive blush if not for the fact that most of his face was already dark in color; but his ears were a dead giveaway. “Is it that intense?”

Shi settles down, enjoying that reaction shi was able to draw from him and replies, “Well, officially we don't need sex. I have had many parings on ships that did not include sex. But if you want a real raw dose of that empathy, it's honestly the easiest and most fun way to do it.”

“Ok, try it like this. You need five coins a day. If you get them, you can do whatever you want for the rest of the day, worry-free. You can sit here with me, and every hour I will give you one coin, or I can give you all five coins right here, right now if we mate.”

Sly thinks on it for a moment. “I see, every time you play this game with every chakat, then logically sex is the better answer, but you said you been with chakats that won't take that option?”

“Yes, sex does not happen, but we will most certainly share a bed, and an evening of rest with another is enough to feel balanced. You have a pool of coins. Your body requires five a day, but you can stack and bank them to last you a few weeks.”

Sly takes a moment to sit back down, “But you don’t feel like that right now.”

After finishing hir meal, Ocean shakes hir head, “No, I can see you, feel the ship under my paws, breathe the oxygen...” shi looks off to the side, a distant look in hir eyes. “It's like I'm standing on the earth and can see the sun, but I can’t feel its warmth.”

“Normally, if I were to focus or make a connection, I would be able to feel you on just your emotions, tell if something has changed. But now it’s like everything is static, and I yearn for that connection, and my body is attacking me much like it went cold turkey on some drug.”

“You can't just get rid of it can you?” he asks.

Shi shakes hir head in reply. “It developed while I was still inside my mother. We are all born with it or some other gift pending genetics and other things.”

They are both alerted to a small crowd beginning to make its way in for the lunch rush.

“Well, I need to get back to it. It was a good talk,” Sly says while offering to bus hir tray.

When he gets close to pick up the tray, shi stands up and draws him into a hug, whispering, “Thank you, my friend.”

He pats hir side, “I do hope we are friends now, especially after last night. You take it easy, ok?”

Shi smiles and lets go of him and makes hir way out of the mess hall to not cause a scene and heads for medical.

The door to medical opens up, and a human with jet black hair and average features enters the room. “Um miss Ciara? You asked to see me?”

From across the room, the doc welcomes the man into medical. “Well, for once, someone visits and I'm not goin’ to run a checkup. I take it this is about that message I sent ya, Zack?”

He nods, “Yeah, about that date.”

“Wonderful.” She is about to bring Zack into the office to talk when the door opens and Chakat Oceanrider walks in for hir check-up. Ciara quickly pivots and brings Zack to one of the medical beds near the back, “Let's get that looked at,” she says kinda loudly, hoping Ocean would not catch on.

Zack protests, “But I'm only here to talk.” The doctor shoves a monitor into his mouth, silencing him. “Ya be quiet and follow my lead.”

On the other side of the room, Ocean is taken in by Vera, the Voxxan starting hir daily physical that begins with taking down questions and readings.

Ciara, then in a lower tone, “Ok, so ya, I would need to ask ya this anyway, but are you allergic to cats?”

Zack thinks on the question then eyes Ocean across the room, then back to the doc, and back and forth once more eyeing the Doc. “Hir?!” he shouts.

Ocean’s ears swivel towards the beds in the back, picking up on the sound, but not sure what was said. Looking over, shi just saw the Doc and some human, the doctor looking like she is having some struggle with a patient in the bed, the weak human flailing as the doctor holds him down.

Ciara whispers, “If ya talk too loud, shi will hear ya and the blind date will be lost.”

Zack then nods, hoping the doc can stop holding him down and then whispers, “But shi is the one the captain is talking about.”

Ciara grabs a device and sticks it to Zack’s temple then shows him the PADD. “Look, very faintly ya register in a shallow Empath Rating, call it a .7 or .8.” He notices tiny blips barely moving on the reading.

“This is hir.” She shows the monitor data, it's low fluxing between E2 and E1 and many irregular spikes. “Shi is normally up here an E4 and hir mental health should normally look more like a flowin’ and stable line, the constant jagged look is hir sufferin’.”

Zack looks over to the chakat and the data, then up at the doctor, “So… is shi going to eat me?”

The doctor puts the PADD away. “No, just spending time with ya is ultimately all we are asking for, ya are like a lifeboat and shi is drownin’.”

Zack nods quietly to the doctor who claps her hands a little with a smile. “Ok, just wait here a moment. When shi leaves we can talk.” The doctor moves off, working on getting a few vials for a hypospray before bringing a tray back with her.

Ocean in the background finishes up hir checkup and gives a wave over to Ciara before leaving the room.

Zack then leans up. “So if I get this straight, just spend some time with hir and see if it helps?”

“Right, although if it's working, shi will most likely get cuddly with ya. Physical contact seems to help increase the empathy handshake in that regard.”

“What about that crew member shi punched?”

“Nothin’ I could not fix… just stay on hir good side, which should be easy but ya need to be willin’ to do this. It’s not an order, and ya need to agree to what yer up against.”

Zack was always fond of the morph crew members, but this felt like an easy in. He sat around thinking for a moment before giving the doctor a nod and saying, “I will. I can only hope it will help in some way.”

“Very good.” Ciara walks over to the desk and grabs another tray of hypo injectors and a PADD. She first shares some information to him on the PADD containing a meeting location and a few articles of interest.

“Now, as the doctor, I'm going to give you the talk about interspecies copulatin’. Ya did say before you were not allergic to cats?”

“I don't think so... Whoa, doc – did you say copulating?”

She injects him with a spray and begins to reload on to the next question. “Hir species, and yours are not a match, and most sexual markers are incompatible, so if anything gets that far, just have fun.”

“Doc, I don't know if I can, I mean I just saw hir for the first time.”

She injects him again and goes to reload. “Shi is a real softy when ya get to know hir.”

“But shi could crush me.”

“Shi won't if shi likes ya,” she says as she injects him again.

Zack flails and finally asks, “What are you injecting me with?!”

“Everythin’ yer gonna need for tonight, I can't mix them all into one vial, it just would not work that way but it's a range of painkillers to bond, somethin’ to clear yer head so you are more open to empathic reception, a whole lot of B12 for energy, and just in case, allergy relief. This is what shi will need from ya. Again I'm preparing ya for anything and ultimately, as a doctor, I need ya to try and stay with hir as long as you can. Any problems or shifts ya call me and one message to the captain later and yer clear of duty, no harm, no foul.”

Zack then nods and lets her do her thing as she finishes injecting three more rounds.

“Ok, so in a few hours yer body will have adapted to the cocktail and it should be in your system long enough that by the time you get to see hir tonight, the lightheadedness and slight numbness will fade. It's just a side effect, so keep that in mind. It is well inside what ya can handle.”

Zach gets up and begins to make his way out. She also adds, “Oh, go eat somethin’… like right now, and hydrate!”

The moment Zach leaves Vera walks over and asks, “What did you inject him with, we don't have anything that can do what you said.”

Ciara grins. “Well, it was a combination of testosterone, painkillers, herbal mixes, allergy meds, and a whole lot of B12. The captain said to try anything; a little white medical lie won't do any harm. By this time in a few hours, that boy will be calm, feeling good and clear-headed and hopefully, if I did it correctly, if the numbness kicks in, he could last maybe longer than six mins in bed if it works out.”

They both laugh for a moment before the Vera speaks, “One day, this will come back to bite you.”

The doctor responds, “It's a valid medical treatment, I just altered the delivery method.”

Just before shi makes it back to hir quarters, shi notices a message on hir PADD from the doctor saying, “Clean up your quarters. Blind date in a few hours.” Shi blinks in surprise, “Awesome, I have a date!” shi says to no one in particular as she rounds a corner with a little more bounce in hir step and enters hir quarters, giving the guards a cheerful wave of hir tail.

Like any chakat getting ready for a date, shi goes right into picking out some clothing from hir bedroom, looking at the selection and seeing four pairs of uniform, eight under tops, two formal outfits, hir off duty jacket shi is currently wearing, some workout sports tops, and a single blue shirt.

Shi scrunches hir face at the selection. “I did this to myself.” A slight moment of pain in hir head that fades as shi shakes the pain off.

“Finally, you admit it.”

Ocean quickly turns around to see Goldfur again standing near the bed, peering into the clothing selection that seems to be lacking anything personal.

Ocean rolls hir eyes. “Oh hello, Pride.” Shutting the dresser, shi turns to face hir.

Goldfur folds hir arms like a disapproving mother.

Ocean retorts, “Ah I see, I'm on to you, I can just ignore you.”

Goldfur maneuvers to get between Ocean and the door, “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes, I'm positive.” Ocean walks forward only to be shocked and surprised that Goldfur has mass and can be touched as shi bumps into the cougar chakat.

“Wait?!” is all Ocean can say before Goldfur pushes hir slightly and the ground beneath hir feels to have suddenly vanished.

Shi suddenly feels hirself tumbling a little as shi falls down a mountainside covered in foliage.

By the time Ocean stands up to get hir surroundings, it's unmistakable, the lush plant life, the shielded pillars, shi is back on Sylvania. With a slight panic, shi reaches for hir coms but it is not there.

“Dammit, must have fallen off.” Shi looks around, being on the outskirts of one of the survey bases away from the main base, but some tools and equipment huts are around and a little bruised from the tumble, shi limps hir way over to one of the shelters.

Shi grabs some equipment and opens a frequency, “Hello, mayday! This is Oceanrider. Anyone read?” Shi looks at the display that reads signal connected as shi waits for a response. Shi tries again on other bands not reaching anyone so shi leaves the panel and starts to look at what shi can use. Everything shi grabs or touches seem to be malfunctioning or not working.

Shi stops hirself and looks around, starting to put together that all of this is feeling wrong. Time began to pass as Ocean feels to be deserted on the planet, hir pacing around has started to make track marks. Shi lays down and ends up watching the sunset on the planet, something shi never got to do before. Minutes became hours and hours became days. Survival became a focus as shi gets some food and keeps hirself busy trying to repair a few things until one day shi starts to thrash and destroy one of the huts, angry at everything and yelling as loud as hir lungs can produce hoping anything to hear it.

“What do you want?”

Ocean turns to see Swiftwalk just standing in the middle of an open field

“I want to go back to the ship,” shi stated, but Swiftwalk stands there and repeats the question.

Ocean starts to walk toward the black and white chakat. “I want to go home.”

No answer from hir, even when Ocean shakes Swift getting no reaction from hir, shi starts to break down and lays down before Swift’s paws looking up to hir. “I… I don't want to be alone anymore… please take me back,” shi pleads to the chakat.

Swift moves and looks down to hir and places a finger to hir forehead and everything goes dark for a moment.

Ocean then wakes up, breathing in deeply as shi flails, realizing shi is in hir bedroom next to hir dresser and back on the ship, still not quite altogether, shi gets up and rushes for the door.


In a small dressed up outfit and a little flower in his hand, Zack approaches Oceanrider's quarters, seeing the guards standing near hir door. He stands before the guards and looks a little embarrassed. As one says to him, “good luck.” He reaches for the button to signal someone is at the door.

Before he has any chance to touch it, the door opens and Ocean pounces, grabbing onto Zack, bringing them both to the ground, not knowing who shi is latched onto, shi cries into his shoulder saying, “Please, I… I can't be alone… I can’t take it anymore,” shi sobs weakly into Zack's shoulder as he looks up at the guards as they put away the stun weapons and call for Ciara as the chakat openly cries in the hallway.

Ciara ends up taking Ocean into the bedroom so shi can explain the event that happened as Zack practically sweats bullets sitting next to R’Trarsk.

Zack, looking like a kid awkwardly sitting in a room with a father watching his reactions like he is waiting for the daughter to come out, R’Trarsk finally breaks the silence, “So, you up for this?”

“Yes...yes, sir.”

“Easy, everything right now is to help hir, at this rate a little over eight days. I don't think shi can make it the way things are going.”

Zack looks concerned for a moment before Ciara emerges from the other room, Ocean following along slightly behind her.

“Well, with nothin’ else, we will leave ya two be,” Ciara says, motioning to R’Trarsk to come along.

Ocean pins hir ears back as everyone exits, leaving hir alone with Zack. There is a slight pause before Ocean speaks, “I am so very sorry about earlier.”

“No, it's quite alright. If anything, the whole ship kinda knows about the situation.”

Hir reaction to that statement tells him that was the wrong thing to say.

Shi steps up to him and holds hir hand out, offering a handshake while saying, “My name is Ocean…” shi pauses for a moment. “I hear humans don't like long introductions.”

He looks at the hand for a moment, then steps forward and hugs hir saying, “And chakats like to hug as a way of welcome. Zack, by the way.” Shi just slowly embraces him.

Just outside the door, everyone is watching the monitor readout, looking to see if anything changes for the better. Almost like they are watching in on what is going on in the room.

Ending the hug, he attempts to step away only to be pulled back tightly into a hugging embrace again, and not in the right way either, like he almost tripped and is trying to be polite, but shi is holding his face to hir chest unknowingly, “Wait… just a moment..” hir eyes closed as shi concentrates on the faint feeling elicited from the embrace.

Outside the room, they watch the number go from a -0.6 to a -0.3, the doctor being the only one that dances a moment as everyone looks to her for a moment. “Ok, as long as they are together hir rate of decay has slowed down, not stable but shi should be able to make it to the station at this rate.”

Zack’s eyes dart around a little as he feels a bizarre sensation in his head.

A few moments pass and Ocean lets out a small sigh. “Ok, I'm sorry, I can almost make something out. I just must be too weak.” Shi lets the human go so he can stand on his own

There is a slight pause before shi asks, “So, was there a plan, or are we just to stay here tonight?”

Zack shakes his head a moment. “No, um just well, I was asked to see what you wanted to do tonight.”

Ocean laughs. “Just tonight? Are we not staying together for like a week?”

Zack's expression changes to a look of surprise, “A whole week?!”

Ocean blinks, “Wait… they did not tell you the whole picture did they?”

Zack shakes his head.

Shi blinks, “So no plans at all, just do whatever and then gone for the night?”

Zack looks a little confused “Is that not what a date is?”

Ocean shoots from the hip. “Well, do you want to have sex? It might just make that connection stronger.”

Zack blinks and shakes his head, blushing so hard you would swear he could be a part red fox.

Shi sighed, “Ok, I won't push that then. I will pick Jordan apart later because he told me human males were easy, yet I beg to differ.”

Shi walks up to Zack and begins to unbutton his shirt. “Whoa, I said no thank you…”

Ocean retorts, “You said no sex, if physical contact is off the table then this is useless, look let me explain it to you. Right now, I sense nothing, but when I touch you…” Shi places a hand to his shoulder. “I can sense something very faint. I let go and nothing.”

Shi then goes on to explain that regularly, empaths can share a space or physical contact that helps improve the shared bond.

“All I ask is let me hold, lay, or hell, cuddle. We can watch a vid stream or listen to music, I don't care but the more contact, the better. And if you truly want to leave, I can call over a friend to release you, and hopefully, I will see you again tomorrow.”

Zack nods a moment and begins to remove his shirt.

A moment later, they are on the couch. Zack sitting between hir forepaws and leaning back against hir like shi is a backrest. Shi happens to be topless and pressed against him like some lizard on a heat rock.

“You needed to be topless as well?”

Shi hushes him as he watches a vid stream and honestly, shi couldn't care less what is on the screen.

In hir mind, shi is back standing on the earth as shi is trying to protect a small candle of flame as it emits a warmth shi knows and loves, protecting it from winds and things that blow by, at the moment hir world is to protect this little flame.

The night continues uneventfully, at one point Ocean attempts giving him a little nuzzle to his neck and he allows it but not wanting to push it any further and Zack wanting to leave for the evening, Ocean messages one of the guys to stay the night.

//// 8 days until Copernicus Station //// 2 days until network

The next day back in medical, Ocean glares at the doctor, “You didn't even explain it to him.”

“It’s the whole point of a blind date, givin’ ya two the ability to talk about it.”

Ocean scoffs, “Maybe about hobbies and things we can bond over. It was awkward at best. I'm pretty sure I may have pushed the poor human away from not only chakats, but even pet cats as well.”

Ciara resumes hir scan, “Well, either way, at best it delayed yer condition and if we are lucky it will stave off any adverse effects.”

The chakat sighed slightly, about to make a comment when one blink shi spotted another vision only to blink again and it to vanish. Shi gives hir eyes a little rub, chalking it up to a possible déjà vu moment.

Ciara puts aside the PADD and gives the chakat a pat to hir shoulder, “Overall, the best thing for ya now is to keep yerself entertained and calm.”

“Easier said than done. You have not been cooped up in quarters for almost two weeks.”

“Ya, but yer almost to the finish line.”

Ciara and Ocean share a small hug before shi departs medical, heading down the hallway to the nearest lift to head for the mess on crew deck. Walking in, shi hears the lift chime, “Crew deck forward”, as the door closes and the hum of the mag lifts engage.

“You should have just been a little more direct and taken what you needed from him.”

Ocean was alone in the lift for sure, at least shi still thinks shi. But when shi looks beside hir, Goldendale stands there like shi is trying to make small talk.

“I'm not like that. I have enough control over my urges. In no way am I going to do something I'm going to regret for the rest of my life.”

The lift stops, and the door opens Ocean exits and turns the corner seeing Dale again in the hallway before hir.

“But you know it would have helped your condition. Besides its just one crew member, he knew the risk.”

Ocean passes Dale without a second thought as shi turns another corner again to find Dale posed next to the door to the mess. As Ocean approaches, shi speaks, “It would have only been a condition for survival, something necessary.”

Ocean halts and turns, raising a finger in Dale's face. “In no way am I like that. I would rather you consume me than for you to try and talk me into what would have practically been rape on a human.” Ocean shuffles slightly in front of the door to the mess. “No, you need to leave me alone. I need them, not you,” shi vents in hir frustration.

“Dammit, I'm talking to myself in the hallway.”

Dale grins for a moment, “Are you sure about that?”

Ocean gives Dale an aggravated look and enters the mess hall, taking a good hard look around for any more visions. Thankfully Sylvester was there and fixed up a tray of food for hir.

Shi heads over and takes a seat watching as Sly makes his way toward hir, the vision of Dale deciding to join as well.

“That one can't help you, besides he seems timid and shy,” mocks Dale.

Ocean attempts to ignore the golden chakat, but hir own ears are thinking that something is there and shi can’t help but focus on Dale from time to time over the tray of food before hir as Sylvester takes a seat next to hir.

“So, rest ok last night? There have been some rumors going around that mail day is coming up when we reach the network,” Sly says, making some idle conversation.

“Yea, seemed like Zack was nice but he was ill-informed, yet was able to help slightly. As for network connection, that's great. Maybe we will be able to pass a ship that can help.”

Sly adds, “Or maybe a pairing; you could use some time in the middle.”

Ocean nearly chokes on some food for a second, hearing what the fox just said.

Dale remarks, “I take back what I said – I like him.”

Ocean closes hir eyes trying hard to make Dale go away, but Sylvester notices the slight face scrunching and asks, “Headaches or did I go too far? Or is this what you call bad connections?”

Shi looks to Sly and nods, “Yeah, and it's a bad connection right now. The worst part about the visions is that they don’t even act like the ones I know. It just feels like my head fills in the blanks and tries to push my buttons. That or it's just a part of me that I don’t like.”

Sylvester rests a hand onto hir shoulder, “That sounds terrible.”

“The worst part is that I have times when I know they are not here, that it is all in my head, but because it is all in my head, there are times when I don't… no, can’t realize it, that I believe what I see as real,” shi says as shi takes a few more bites of hir meal.

“So, like a dream.”

Shi nods. “That's a way better way of saying it.” When shi looks back over by Sylvester, Dale is sitting on the other side of him.

“I think I’m starting to see what you could like about him. He seems very open-minded with that last comment.” Dale then acts like shi is about to lick the fox’s face.

Ocean grabs and pulls Sylvester away from Dale, drawing him closer to hir as shi eyes the vision of Dale will ill intent and a threatening hiss. Sylvester, a little shocked for a moment, gives a look in the direction shi is looking before reaching up to grab at Ocean’s face, drawing hir full attention to him. “Nothing is there. It's just you and me.”

The fur on Ocean’s backs begins to show signs of calming down as shi realizes there seems to be no threat against them. Only hir own mind messing with hir as a tear wells up in hir eye.

“Are you ok? I did not hurt you, did I?”

“It was surprisingly quick, and no, I am fine. Look – everyone is busy and they don’t need me right now. All I know is a friend needs me right now, unless you have plans?” Sly asks.

Ocean hugs the fox with tears of relief. “It sounds better than just hanging around medical.”

He smiles. “Besides, if they say no, I can just sick Ciara on them.”

They share a small laugh.

The afternoon came and went. Ocean was able to play a little board game with Sly and only a few times did shi get distracted by a vision or two, but Sly kept hir focused and, if needed, just grabbed hir face to keep hir anchored.

Shi was putting the game away, rearing up in order to place the game on a high shelf with a little lip so you really can't see it from the ground. “Next time we can play one of the farming games, there is so much you need to control and you will never be able to achieve everything, so you need to pick and choose your strategy.”

“That sounds awesome actually,” he gives a smile watching hir put things away. He may have been staring a little before he asks, “Um Ocean?”

Shi lowers down onto all fours again but gives Sylvester a questioning look “Yes?”

“I was kinda thinking about something… and well, I wanted to ask if...”

The door chime interrupts as the chakat’s attention is drawn away to answer the door and finding Zack there, welcomes him inside.

Ocean turns back to Sylvester and asks, “What did you want to ask?”

“It… it’s nothing. I can... can we do this again… like tomorrow or something?”

The chakat smiles. “I hope so. It was nice playing and keeping distracted like that.” Shi turns slightly, asking Zack, “You're not staying the night, correct? Just the evening like yesterday?”

Zack nods a moment as shi turns back to Sylvester. “Well then, I guess there is after he leaves. I should try and find something to do...”

Sylvester interrupts, “I can.”

Shi giggles a moment. “Ok fine. I will send you a message near the end of Zack’s binge-watching.”

Sly, excited for tonight, heads on out with a spring in his step. Usually, a chakat would have picked up on the feelings, but the sickness prevented hir from picking up on the emotions correctly.

Turning to Zack. “So just like last time?”

He nods, “Oh, and before anything else comes up, the doc made it clear to be here every evening willingly or not. Some choice.”

Shi laughs. “Yeah, that sounds like her.”

Time passes with no issues. As long as Zack was there, shi neither felt nor witnessed any visions of any kind. It was relaxing in a way. When Zack was nearing his last show, Ocean sent a message to Sylvester saying that he had about an hour until he gets to change with Zack.

The time flew fast and next thing they knew, it was over, Ocean begrudgingly trying to keep that physical contact as long as shi can even as he gets dressed, the human playfully pushing the chakat away. “I get that this helps you, but I need space.”

Shi pouts, “I can’t convince you to stay longer… or the night.”

He finishes buttoning up his shirt to turn to look at hir, forgetting that shi was naked again, looking down on what would be the sexiest pose that no chakat would ever ignore, a chest down rear up pose, tail flicking behind hir as shi leans forward, looking up at him. Being a biped, this left hir head ever so close to his pants as shi looks up at him with pleading eyes.

But Zack was a human and missed the obvious feline invitation, “Not the night, no.”

Shi sighed in defeat and stood up as Zack makes for the door, only to bump into Sylvester. They both apologize to each other as Sly enters the room and freezes as he sees the chakat in all hir glory, the fox standing frozen for a moment by the sight.

“Hey…. nothing you have not seen from the poker game… I lost hard on that table.”

He attempts to be as modest as he can, looking everywhere but at the nude chakat before him.

“I normally can destroy a poker game, then again. It's considered cheating for a chakat on the table with others due to the fact we can read your emotions,” shi says as shi begins picking up a few things around the room.

He politely asks, “Um you’re… you’re naked?”

Shi pauses a second. “I'm like 85% naked while I am at work as well. You're all covered in fur. I hope you don't sleep with clothes on either.”

He just realized what's going on as shi turns to notice him facing the wall. “Hey, are you ok?”

Shi can see him kind of fidgeting and, based on his tail, is a little frazzled.

“Hey, Sly?”

He simply blurts out, “I like you.”

Shi tilts hir head questioningly, unable to pick up his feelings and walks over, and, as shi did before in the mess hall, runs hir fingers over his neck fur, sending a small shiver through him as he turns around and looks to hir face.

“I mean it, I like you.”

Shi lets out a small blush, “Look Sly, let me make a promise to you right now, I will not give you an answer right now. Only because I am sick and have no idea what it will do to me long term, not to mention if you're serious about this. You need to know the real me. Healthy me.”

He silently gives a nod.

“Now, when this is all said and done and if you still have feelings for me, then let's explore what this may become,” shi says, giving Sly's forehead a small kiss.

Shi could even see his tail wag a little.

“Good. You’re here for me tonight and probably the next few days as well, but I promise you I will return your answer, ok?”

He nods. “Thank you...that was hard to say.”

Shi smirks. “Normally, I would see it coming a mile away and probably would have made that a thousand times easier for you and probably more heartfelt. Just being honest, this sickness sucks.”

He nods. “I just can't begin to picture what it could be like for you.”

Shi ruffles his head fur playfully pads hir way toward hir bedroom, hoping his eyes were still on hir as shi walks. “Should I put a top on or should we find a way to help both of us unwind?”

He watched and mumbles, “Well… I just... well...”

Shi interrupts. “It's a yes or no question, or you can get your ass in here.”

“Right.” He blushes as he makes his way into the room.

//// 6 days until Copernicus Station //// Network Reached

On the bridge, the comms officer watches the countdown to Network range. “Communications with the network estab…” a sudden pause, “Sir, priority one message from Starfleet; it’s marked Captain’s eyes only.”

Captain Blackwood stands up and makes his way to his office, moving around to sit at his desk and inputs his personal code into the holo screen before the screen displays, “Securing Channel.”

The screen lights up showing one of the Starfleet admirals as Blackwood smiles. “Admiral Brooks, it's good to see you again, how has it been?”

Brooks holds up a hand, “As much as I do wish this is a social call, I have some troubling news for you and need to bring you up to speed.”

The Admiral goes into detail about what happened to Swiftwalk, the earth Transfer facility, and hir family, how the organization Humans First targeted hir family and how close they came to losing one. More protections were now in place to prevent this from happening again.

“Which leads me to why I need to tell you all of this. A few of the captured members of the Humans First movement had some disturbing intel, intel that could have only come from within the Endeavour, meeting patterns someone Swiftwalker talked to or conversed with. It's without a doubt that you have someone on board that leaked intel to the Humans First movement.”

“Any leads?”

“We know they had intel on both Endeavour and the base camp. So someone that had access to both.”

“How did they smuggle this intel?”

“A data PADD snuck into the cargo transported by Swift, security was not as tight as we wanted, but now all cargo going in and out is scanned to ensure the safety of everyone involved including bases and ships.”

“So any crew that was down on the base camp and never returned to the Endeavour is cleared and crew that stayed aboard the Endeavour the whole time are clear from not having access to the smuggling area. It's still a big list, sir.”

“One final piece of detail – they went after Swiftwalk’s family. Our records indicate shi last paired with Oceanrider. I am not saying shi is in danger, but the Federation wants to take no chances.”

“Yeah, about Oceanrider, shi currently is in a medical emergency on the ship. Without a chakat pair, shi is showing severe signs of Empathic Sickness. We need assistance to help hir.”

“I will forward this up right away. We will contact you directly if we can have a ship meet you or not, until then continue on course and find out just who leaked that intel. Dismissed.”

Upon ending the secure connection, he checks up the bridge crew and senior staff. Indicating that only one bridge crewmember that both had a presence on this ship and planet being the pilot, Oceanrider.

“Finally some good news,” he taps his com badge. “Captain to Ansible and Ciara, I need you two on the bridge now.” They both respond in kind and begin to make their way up to the bridge.

The captain emerges from his office and announces, “All non-senior staff depart the bridge.” Only a few crew members leave their stations and head for the lift and depart the bridge as the remaining members await with a concerned pall cast upon the command deck.

Upon the arrival of chief medical Ciara and chief engineer Ansible, the ferret morph, the captain addresses the situation. “Swiftwalk was late for hir check-in due to a Human First attack. Shi is ok, but the situation is troubling. Starfleet just told me that intel from this ship and the planet made its way back to Earth. The only way that is possible is if someone on this ship documented, watched, and recorded, then sent them back to Earth. Everyone in this room was only aboard the ship the whole time, even while transports were happening.”

“This attack happened about eighteen days ago and we just made it in range of the network. Everyone clear your houses, vet your crew, and find this leak. Tyson, double security on Oceanrider because I don’t want to take any chances and neither does the Federation. If associated with hir and not cleared by someone in this room, they are not allowed to see hir until this situation is sorted out. There is a good chance a sleeper message was waiting in the network for whoever it is. Find them before they can do something to the ship or any of its crew.”

The entire deck salutes with a “Yes, sir.”

“Let's do it, people.”

Ciara speaks up, “I need Ocean’s list, Priority one.” She pulls out a PADD and flicks it to the viewscreen, with Jordan, Zack, David, Chris, and Sylvester’s pictures and names appearing on the display as the crew starts looking them over, checking all logs associated with those crew members.

Fayola speaks up, “Sylvester is clean. Mess hall staff never left the ship, and the rest have been planetside and ship side many times.”

Ciara taps hir Coms, “Medical to Sylvester?” as she makes her way to the lift, he responds. “Drop what you are doing and meet me at your quarters, now.”

After a short time, Sylvester and Ciara are walking down the hall towards Ocean’s quarters, the fox carrying a bundle in his arms as they round a corner and see the increased security detail guarding the chakat’s door. R’Trarsk had ordered the detail to prepare for the worst, the guards prepared against all threats, not just standard stun weapons.

Ciara walks into the room and, seeing Zack and Ocean snuggling on the couch, makes both of them jump with a loud order, “Zack shirt on and head outside.”

Ocean can’t sense anything going on but can tell something is wrong. “What is with the doc block?”

When Zack leaves the room and the door shuts behind him, she looks to the chakat and informs hir of the situation while Sylvester stands beside her. Ocean can't do much other than cover hir face hearing the news.

“For now, Mr. Sylvester and yourself are confined to quarters until the internal threat passes. Anything you need will be through me or security that's cleared. Hopefully, this will only be a simple situation. For now, I need to go help with the efforts on the bridge.”

When Ciara exits, Ocean grabs hir PADD and on a holo display, attempts to make a call, the display says Swiftwalk with a small animation like it's trying to connect, the chakat just watching the screen for what feels like an eternity until the call ends, timing out.

Sly places a hand on Ocean’s shoulder, “Shi could be busy. Give it time.”

Back on the bridge, the crew begins systematically clearing more crew members as well as forming a list of the possible crew that matched the descriptions until the crew ends up with a handful compared to the ship’s complement.

The captain asks the bridge, “Is there away way to reduce the number again? Rounding up 45 crew members is a tall task without alerting our culprit.”

The bridge remains silent.

“Ok, then list them by priority. Let's start securing the ship. Start with the ones that work in high-risk areas, like the core engineering, then work our way forward from there.”

There is a sudden shudder through the ship as warning klaxons sound off followed by a second shudder vibrating through the starship, causing it to lurch.

Helm calls out hitting emergency comms across the ship “We are losing the FTL corridor, emergency stop engaging! Brace! Brace! Brace!”

The crew across the ship quickly grab onto anything as the Endeavour exits FTL uncontrolled, gravity systems taxed at maximum as sparks fly across the ship. Those unfortunate crew members that were unable to find a sturdy hand hold are flung forward, some into walls. As the event passes, everyone on the bridge picks themselves up and begins assessing the situation.

Captain calls out, “Damage report.”

Ansible replies, “Primary and secondary EPS to the engines… sir, they are gone.”

Blackfoot is quick to reply, “We entered this game late, hunting this person down for only a few hours while they had weeks on the ship to be ready. How long until we can get back up and running?”

Ansible replies, “Fully a day, enough to limp to station, 6 hours.”

Captain nods. “Do it. All staff that you need are yours.” He turns saying, “Coms Navigation, tell me we are alone.”

Both stations report zero signals in the sensor range.

“Tyson, round up the suspects. I'm willing to bet the ones you can't find are going to be the ones we need.”

Tyson heads out to grab the security crew and begin hunting down the list.

“Everyone else, if you're not on repairs or assisting medical, you are to remain on task.”

After the crash, Ocean leans up from the corner of the room as a security team member enters the room checking on them.

“Nothing but the hazards of space travel.” Shi gives a thumbs-up, checking on Sylvester a moment, the fox sustaining nothing more than a few bumps.

On the bridge, security teams report crew members being rounded up until a unit checks in declaring that they found a com badge but no crewmember with it.

“All teams be on the lookout for crewman Tyler.”

The Captain asks, “Do we have internal sensors?”

R’Trarsk replies standing behind the Ops station, “Half of the internal network is down, removing life signs with assigned badges... Captain, I can safely say that the sections of the ship we can scan are clear.”

“Blackwood to Ansible, can you patch power to the internal sensors? We may have a way to find who did this if we can get them back online.”

Ansible, being the ferret that he is, quickly scurries through the internal tube network with alarming speed, popping out into engineering, grabbing a few power cells and some cable before he rushes to the damaged section to begin his patchwork; about ten minutes later, “Engineering to Bridge. The power cells can only give you about 15 mins of power for the entire array, right...” He says as he connects the cables, the power cell humming to life, “…now.”

R’Trarsk begins scanning deck by deck. Clearing lower sections as they come online first. Deck after deck until, “Life sign, Deck 8 crew quarters tube section 17….16….15.”

Tyson opens Coms “Bridge to security team 2, possibly hostile to emerge from tube connection Aft of your current position. Another team is on the way.”

Coms officer reports, “Every other crew member accounted for except for crewman Tyler.”

It was very by the book. Crewman Tyler was extracted from the ship's tubes and taken to the brig. They found him armed and confiscated his weapons without incident other than a well-placed stunner shot. The captain stands down the alert status as repairs to the Endeavour are resumed.

A little while later, R’Trarsk, the captain, and the other senior staff excluding Ocean were having a meeting with an open channel back to Federation and Admiral Brooks, the 1st officer outlining the events and details of the sabotage and their suspect in custody.

“The investigation later found encrypted messages from an unknown sender, the most recent one saying, ‘Automated message control failed, eliminate anyone close to it. Upon success, your problem will cease to be.’ shortly before the detonations.” He clears his throat a moment, “Without further information, we are only to guess that they promised his family something in return for his sacrifice.”

“On crewman Tyler's person, we did find a weapon and a crude bomb. It's without a doubt he did not mean to come back alive. With that, he had plenty of time to rig explosives to bring heat away from him. But thanks to our engineer's quick actions and thinking, we were able to apprehend crewman Tyler and defuse the situation.”

The admiral is proud of the report asking, “What of the others and your ship?”

Ansible replies while looking over the most recent updates. “With the core offline, we are making progress, the ship should be back in FTL in about 2 hours. With the best speed.”

Tyson speaks next, “The remaining 44 crew members have been interviewed and confirmed by other crew members or part of their teams concerning their whereabouts on the planet. We are sure that crewman Tyler acted alone.”

The admiral speaks, “That’s great, Endeavour. For now, continue to Copernicus Station. I will have details of any other ships in the area within the next few hours, I have also alerted the station of your medical emergency. If anything else changes, then report back. Earth out.”

A few hours and a small priming ritual in engineering later, the Endeavour’s engines kick back to life, after which Ansible alerts the bridge that everything seems ok. With that confirmation, they begin to throttle up until they return to the previous speed.

//// 3 days until Copernicus Station ////

The sounds of the waves hitting the beach and the smell of the ocean fills the air on a warm summer day, the feeling of the sand crushed and pressed into your paws, the unmistakable feeling when the sea rushes up and envelops your paws only to retreat back.

The buzzing sound of the PADD so out of place in hir idyllic dream world that it rouses hir from slumber, reluctantly leaving the warm comfort of the beach, hir longing for that sensation causing hir to envision dashing the offending device to bits against the bulkhead until shi feels the warm body of Slyvester snuggled up against hir. Shi leans up, propping hir upper body on an elbow as shi looks down at the fox currently snuggled between hir forelegs, taking a moment to admire his fur and gently running hir hand along Slyvester’s cheek, trying to stir the sleeping fox but to no avail as the fox remained stubbornly nestled in his current position.

“He does like you, doesn't he?”

Ocean’s head turns to see Goldendale lounging on the other side of the bed, shi attempts to speak only to be silenced by Swift and Goldy suddenly entering the room as well, a moment of confusion seeing all three chakats here.

Shi attempts to wake up the fox as the trio begin to approach the chakat slowly.

Just as they near, things go black for a moment before Ocean wakes up again, awakening from a nightmare with a half panicked yell that wakes up Sly causing him to flail and tumble off the bed as he backed away from the sudden noise.

He quickly gets up and turns the lights on, checking on the chakat, “What… what's the matter, are you ok?”

“Is this real? The three of them, they… you, argh!” Hir hands reach up and grab hir head as shi clenches hir teeth hard as Sly watches helplessly as hir tauric body stretches and paws at nothing, the fox unsure of what to do other than place a frantic call to medical on his com badge.

About fifteen minutes later, Ciara arrives at Ocean’s quarters along with Vera. Sly leads them to the bedroom where Ocean continues to flail in pain, clutching hir head as hir body tenses and relaxes, trying to find some way to alleviate the throbbing pain in hir head. Ciara quickly pulls out a hypo and pounces the poor writhing chakat, pulling a vial out of her pocket and loading the injector just as it makes contact with hir neck. It injects what sounds like a few times, each press practically stunning the chakat as hir body slowly becomes more and more relaxed.

Ciara pets Ocean’s face calming hir in a soft voice, “Shhh, good kitty, relax. Yer safe.” She watches as the last of hir weakened flails of protest fall limp and the cougar passes out.

The doctor stands over the chakat and tosses a vial to the nurse saying, “I need ya to make more of that; we are goin’ to need it. Go down to hydroponics for the needed plants.” The nurse nods and heads out to collect the necessary materials to synthesize more doses as the doctor turns to face Sylvester and sits down on Ocean’s tauric shoulders.

“Ah… don't sit on hir,” he pleads to the doctor.

She merely smirks and lifts one of Ocean’s paw hands, giving it a little shake and lets it go, both of them watching as it plops down onto the bed limp as could be. “Shi is out cold and won't feel a thing, now tell me what happened.”

“Shi woke up, like violently, and tried to say something about is this real? Then something about the trio?” he recalls, the concern evident on his face.

“Well, sad to say, this kitty is gonna need to be hospital bound for the remainder of the trip.” She chirps her coms, “Transport control, medical emergency target Oceanrider and myself directly to Medical please.” A reply from Transport control confirms and counts down from five, the moment it hits one Ciara finds herself back in medical with the knocked out Ocean on the deck. She looks at a clock in the room, thinking aloud. “If I did it right, shi should be waking up in about seven minutes...”

Nine mins later, Ocean starts to stir again as Ciara starts talking to hir, explaining that shi is now in medical and not to move too fast because of the drugs. Then again, any cat drugged never listens as shi wobbles unsafely, trying to stand or even take a step. It takes some assistance, but they manage to have hir move to a larger medical bed as she begins to go over the data from the monitors and scans from the medical bed.

        A few hours later…

Ciara sits in front of Captain Blackwood in his office giving him an update on her patient. “Shi is in critical condition, even with the network and askin’ other ships, we just do not know what will happen if this continues to run its course. Shi is currently restin’, but I have to keep hir sedated now.”

He sighs. “We are just a little under two days from the station, and in that time, we could lose hir.”

She agrees. “It’s because we don't know the long term effects of this sickness.”

Blackwood looks uneasy, “We have reports all over the ship stating that crew morale is down, not as cheery as they could be. Many think it’s because of the Taylor situation, but I believe it’s because our empathic battery is dying on us.”

“Captain to the bridge,” R’Trarsk’s voice interrupts the conversation over the comms.

Upon exiting the office, R’Trarsk gets up from the captain's chair, speaking, “Sir, we have an incoming hail from the starship Nightingale.”


Suddenly another ship bridge of the federation with a Kangaroo morph captain appears on the screen as Blackwood addresses her. “This is Captain Blackwood of the Star Corps exploration ship Endeavour, how may we be of assistance?”

The kangaroo morph on-screen replies, “Captain Ava of the Nightingale, and it is us that are here to assist you; we are carrying precious cargo.” She motions to the side as a familiar chakat walks onto the screen, the fur pattern and likeness confirm that it is Swiftwalk. Shi salutes and addresses the captain, “Sorry I'm late captain. It also seems like I can't hit a target moving faster than light nor a place that has seemed to have moved a greater distance from its origin.”

“Should we slow down then?” he asks as the crew answers, “The Nightingale will arrive in a range of transport in one hour.”

Ciara speaks up, “Swift, shi is in critical condition. When you come over, do not just appear before hir.”

Swift looks worried and nods. “I'm here to bring hir safely home and get hir the help shi needs.”

The captain smiles, “Then we will see you on the bridge in one hour.”

The two captains say their farewells as they sign off.

Down in medical, Ciara starts slowly weaning Ocean off of the drugs, explaining that a ship is on the way to help hir, that Swift is coming. Ocean may have just been under the influence of medications, but in no way does shi believe her, the chakat still clutching to Slyvester for keeping hir company.

With a sudden power-down and a very controlled drop into standard space, Ciara takes a medical PADD and begins copying all the data on Chakat Oceanrider into it, even all things used and attempted in treatment as the door opens into medical and the captain enters, causing the doctor to look up from her work.

The doctor gives a nod only for her expression to change to surprise as Chakat Swiftwalk enters behind him. Ciara quickly gets an idea and walks up to the black and white-furred chakat and places a monitor into hir temple, “Just curious… please go ahead.”

The captain steps aside as Slyvester gets the hint as well and moves away from Ocean slowly. As Swiftwalk approaches Oceanrider, they lock eyes, and almost painfully, Ocean reacts thinking shi is a vision from within hir head.

The doctor stays focused on the monitor readouts from the two chakats, watching for any change in Ocean’s poor vitals as Swiftwalk slowly moves closer to the cougar chakat. Swift reaches out and touches Ocean’s hind leg a moment, Ocean looking confused at the touch for a moment as Swift calmly and slowly draws closer. “It’s me Ocean, I'm only here to help.” It’s only when shi reaches up to touch the cougar's cheek and leans over, slowly resting hir forehead to Ocean’s tears streaked face that the tension in the room breaks and Ocean breathes a shuddering sigh of relief as the pain subsides.

Ocean’s world, cold and dark like a storm blowing in the harsh wind suddenly calms down, the sun parting the ominous clouds and peeking out, bathing Oceanrider in its warmth again.

Ciara watching the data can see Ocean’s pattern go from jagged to calm before it becomes almost a flat line, much like Swiftwalk’s readings. Granted still weak but reverting what looks to be a couple of days’ worth of damage just from one touch.

The moment passes and Swift attempts to lift hirself as Ocean reaches out and hugs hir weakly asking, “Get lost in space?”

Swift is pleased to see shi still has hir sense of humor, “You just did not fly fast enough,” shi banters back before turning to the other three.

“I will be taking Ocean back to Earth to make a full recovery, most likely knowing how stubborn shi is, we will be returning by the time you return to Silvania. In light of the events, we have added a paired policy to my transports for safety reasons. I’m calling it the rider policy.”

Ocean smirks, giving a fake laugh, “Oh, ha...ha…”

Swift continues, “I will need the data on hir just so the doctors on Earth can look it over. If you would like to take your monitors back…?” shi says, motioning to hir own head.

Ciara was already ahead of hir, PADD ready and handing it over as she collects the monitors from both chakats.

Slowly, Ocean slid off the medical table and stands up, using Swift’s lower back to steady hirself from the effects of the drugs shi was given and looks to Sly. “We will talk when I get back.” Then to Captain Blackwood and Ciara, “I will be back before you know it. See you all in a month.”

There is a slight pause when Ocean’s nose picks up on something, a smell about Swift and not wanting to sense with empathy, shi leans over and sniffs Swift’s shoulder before recognition dawns on hir. “No way, Swift?!”

Swift's fur rises as shi realizes what Ocean is about to say and just as quickly places hir hand on Ocean’s shoulder and they both instantly vanish from the medical bay.

Zero time passes for Ocean as they are now suddenly on Earth as shi finishes the sentence “You’re pregnaOOoo MY, what the hell just… what?!” Shi looks around seeing the trees, the feel of the wind, and the gravity of the planet under hir paws.

Swift laughs at Ocean, having been the first time experiencing what hir porting is like, Ocean noticing they are not at fleet medical but in the backyard of some house.

Swift laughs a moment, “Well, if you want, I can take you to a cold, unfeeling hospital room… or you can get better here with my family.”

Ocean takes a few steps back a moment. “I, you don’t, I mean everything you have been through?”

“It's the least I can do for the trouble you endured.”

“Ciara told me a little. It was not your fault. Besides, I can't impose just like that. I mean is this normal you just bringing others here like this?”

“I'm sure the moment we fill in the others, they won't let you leave.”

“I'm kinda afraid of that,” Swift playfully baps Ocean with hir tail giving Ocean a few moments thinking it over before shi gives in. “Ok fine, a few days until I recover.”

“Great! Well, you already know Dale and Goldfur, so friendly faces should be welcoming.”

“Friendly… yeah, they haunted me for the past two weeks, including you.” Ocean begins to walk along with Swift keeping hir close as Ocean still feels the effects of the drugs to use hir body to stabilize hirself.

They enter the large house, making their way toward the kitchen area. “In the back here, is Forestwalker,” pointing to a golden jaguar as shi gives a wave in return as shi introduces them.

Ocean felt hir hearts nearly skip a beat as shi lays eyes on a calico patterned chakat as Swift continues.

“This little one is our resident nurse who should make things easier to help you recover.”

It's at this moment that Quickpaw stands up and turns to see Oceanrider and shi is similarly astonished.

Swift continues “Hir name is...”

Quick interrupts with a “Caramel... mocha?!”

Ocean responds, smiling and finishing, “Peppermint twist?!”

Forest’s jaw drops for a second comically.

Swiftwalk looks slightly confused, pointing between Ocean and Quick, “H-have you two met before?”

*** End of story ***


Chakat Oceanrider, Ciara Lynch, Tyson Williams, Jordan Miller, Sylvester, Zach Green, Vera Amherst and Ava are creations of Robert Flaven.

Chakats Goldfur, Forestwalker, Goldendale, Swiftwalk, Quickpaw and all other characters and locations are used with permission and © 2019 Bernard Doove.


Link: Return to the Forest Tales main page.


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