tagCelebrities & Fan FictionSurefoot 12: Caitian Holiday

Surefoot 12: Caitian Holiday

bySurefoot©

Caitian Sector, Passenger Liner SS Rhapsody of the Stars, Deck 7, Passenger Quarters:

As interstellar cruises went, this one had all the fun of a warp core refit.

Though as Kami sat on the balcony she shared with her husband, overlooking the Promenade below, where people shopped and drank and dined, she had to admit, it wasn't the fault of the ship or the crew, but who she was travelling with now. She listened to various conversations below, heard the cheery invites from the ship's crew about various events. "Hey, they're having a sale on Caitian fashion in the boutique below."

Captain Esek Hrelle sat opposite, his own drink untouched, his body language stiff and uncomfortable, and his eyes not really staring at the holographic sky on the roof above, with its aquamarine overlayed with wisps of white cloud. "Yeah, I heard."

"Maybe I should pop down and get something for the wedding?" She grinned at him, her tail twitching playfully behind her. "Or maybe something just for Captain's Eyes Only?"

"Sounds good," he muttered.

Kami regarded him. As the liner drew nearer to Cait, she could sense the increasing anxiety in her husband, and understood already: it had been decades since he left for Starfleet Academy, against the wishes of his father, who had responded with the absolutely insane declaration of R'Nesikith: making him a Traitor on the Caitian Clan Registry.

It was something that was still technically done by clans, but only for extreme cases such as murderers, paedophiles and terrorists - not young cubs who choose a different path for their lives than what their fathers wanted for them.

Now, he was returning, albeit to meet her own clan, and to attend the wedding of her cub from her first marriage - and Kami had convinced Esek that, after all he had been through in his life, maybe now was the time to at least try and rebuild something with his father. The old man couldn't still be holding a grudge after all these decades. Could he?

And, as if wanting to imitate him, Sasha was wrapped in her own moping. The human stepdaughter from Esek's first marriage had been expecting her lover and fellow cadet Giles Arrington to join them on Cait, but at the last minute decided to return home to his family for his extended leave, rather than accompany her to Cait as originally planned.

It was a reasonable decision, at least to Kami, given the tumultuous events in his family of late. But it didn't keep Sasha from being disappointed. And she had spent the last four days of the journey from Starbase 154 to Cait mostly in her cabin, sending text and video messages to Giles, and generally soaking in disappointment like a cold bath and ignoring repeated offers to come out and partake of some of the ship's activities.

"How about some food?" Kami suggested. "We'll grab Sasha and head up to the Starjammer Cafe."

He grunted. "Not really hungry."

"Right, that's it!" She stood up, reached out and grabbed him by the ear. "Get up!"

Hrelle made a noise - but did get up, allowing his wife to drag him along to the door connecting their room to Sasha's; she opened it without knocking.

The enclosure stank of body odour, unwashed clothes, and the sickly-sweet remains of various cocktail drinks and snacks half-devoured in the midst of bouts of self-pity. Sasha had been sitting at the desk in front of the communicator, clad in nothing but underpants, but now sat up and grabbed a shirt to slip into. "Shit, don't you knock?"

"Not if I can help it." She guided Hrelle to an adjacent stool. "Sit down." She glared at Sasha. "You too." When the girl remained stubborn, she snapped, "NOW!"

As she complied, Kami started pacing, the pleats of her orange skirt a contrast to the dark brown fur on her limbs and tail. "Now let's get something straight: tomorrow we'll be on Cait, on my Clanlands, where I haven't been since my husband died, where I'll see my family again and witness my beautiful baby cub getting married. It's going to be stressful. And glorious. Mostly glorious. So I don't need you two dispirited boob punches ruining things!"

Hrelle looked to Sasha. "Boob punches? Is that bad?"

Sasha winced. "They're not enjoyable."

Kami looked to Hrelle. "Boob Punch Number One: you're a grown man, a Starfleet veteran, you've been through the Seven Hells and came out baring your teeth at those who tried to break you. You are the strongest, bravest, most wonderful man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

You can face your father. You're not the same soul who left home decades ago. Maybe he's not the same soul who shunned you for your decision? You will never know if you don't at least try to see him. And if you don't try, you'll regret it it later. You'll certainly regret not enjoying your time with my family. Especially my Dad and his husband - they like food even more than you."

Then she turned to Sasha. "Boob Punch Number Two: snap out of it. I know it's disappointing that Giles didn't accompany you, but it's not the end of the Universe. He's going to have enough to think about reconciling with his family, he doesn't want to think you're being miserable while you're separated. And a little distance between you two can be good, you've been inseparable since you first let him dock in your shuttlebay."

Sasha's face screwed up in disgust. "Thanks."

Kami looked between the two of them. "Now here's your choice: you two can either forget your troubles, come on and get happy about the next tenday, or you can continue to generate negative energy... and hurt me. I'm sure you don't want to hurt me."

Her expression changed, grew concerned, fearful. "Unless... unless you do want to hurt me? You want to see break down?" Her chin wobbled and her eyes widened with the growing realisation. "You do, don't you? Oh... Great Mother, you do!" She dropped to her knees, wailing, her face in her hands. "P-Please- Please don't do this to me! I beg of you! I BEG OF YOU!"

Hrelle and Sasha never moved, just glanced at each other, before Hrelle spoke over the sobs. "Her father is a better actor."

Kami suddenly stopped sobbing, and started scowling. "Fuck you! I'd have won a S'Ralcha for that performance!" She returned to her feet, straightening out her blouse and skirt. "I would have been nominated at least." She looked at each of them. "Well? Do you agree, or do you need to go to Sickbay first to get the sticks removed from your asses?"

Father and daughter looked at each other again, before shrugging, Hrelle declaring, "Okay. At the very least, I can go say a prayer at my mother's Marker. I'm a big boy, what's the worst that can happen if I see him?"

"Exactly." Kami looked to Sasha expectantly.

The girl sighed. "Okay. I mean, I've wanted to visit Cait a lot longer than I've known Giles. Be a shame to ruin it now. And he and I can always come back together, and I'll know all the great places to go."

Kami smiled. "That's my girl." At a knock on the door, the Counselor turned and swished up, opening it. "Rrori?"

The cadet, the only other Surefoot crew to accompany them to Cait, stood there, wearing... nothing, just a plush red towel hanging like a snake around his shoulders, and a smile on his face. "Hey, who wants to join me on the sundeck to get acclimated to the Caitian heat?"

"Whoa," Sasha muttered, looking away. "You're gonna get arrested for indecency, Meow."

Hrelle smirked. "No, we're in Caitian space now." He glanced at his wife, and then shrugged - and stripped out of his own clothes. "Okay, Mr Rrori, let's go."

Sasha's jaw dropped. "Dad!"

He looked over his shoulder, his tail wagging as he enjoyed her chagrin. "What? Better get used to it, Runt of the Litter. I'll go get us some towels."

"He's right, Sasha," Rrori confirmed. "Nudity is..." But then the young cub was distracted as he looked down at Hrelle's groin. "Um..."

"Something wrong, Mr Rrori?" Kami asked, amused.

"Hmm? No, not wrong, Counselor. I just didn't realise that the Captain was so... gifted."

"You have no idea." Kami began undressing herself. "You're not feeling inadequate, are you? We don't judge on such things. Yours is... cute. Like a furry cocktail sausage."

"Oh my God, enough about their schlongs." Sasha shook her head and turned away. "I'm putting on a bikini."

"You'll be overdressed," Hrelle informed her, carrying a towel for himself and his family. He noticed Rrori staring again. "Are you coming, cub?"

"Um, yes, sir." Rrori managed to discreetly slip his own towel off his shoulders and coincidentally carry it in front of him.

*

The liner arrived on schedule in orbit around Cait, and the only real delay of note was at Customs, when there seemed to be a question between the Customs officials when Hrelle was identified. He clutched his shoulder bag strap anxiously as he watched their reactions, and knew what was causing it.

Kami, standing behind him, leaned in and put a hand on his forearm. "Calm down, your tail is smacking Sash and me."

"Sorry," he muttered, feeling himself blush beneath his mahogany fur. It had been overwhelming at first, being back on his homeworld: the gravity, the atmosphere... and especially the collective scents of hundreds of his people together in the spaceport. Having grown sensitive over the years in their absence, it put him on edge.

And now there was this... he knew it would be because the Clan Registry would have flashed up his Status, and now they were probably checking to make sure he wasn't a spy or a fugitive on the run or-

"Captain Hrelle," one of the young officers, a male with russet-brown fur and rounded ear tips, said, approaching. "You're Captain Sherresek Hrelle?"

"Yes," he snapped in reply. He was going to have to explain himself here, wasn't he? In front of all these people, he was going to have to explain what his status was all about. Damn you, Dad, for putting me through this shit-

The young cub drew up, his eyes filled with... adulation? "Captain! Thank Mother I was on duty when you arrived! It is an honour to meet you, sir!"

Hrelle blinked. "Excuse me?"

The cub was almost gushing with excitement. "I can't wait to tell my father! He was a Second Engineer on the Calpurnia when the Orions attacked! They were almost destroyed, but you swooped in with the Furyk and saved all their lives! And you've been an inspiration to so many of us ever since!"

Hrelle couldn't have been more stunned if he'd been hit with a phaser beam. He almost expected it to be some sort of elaborate prank being played on him - until he felt the buzz of excitement from the surrounding Caitian passengers and spaceport personnel as word of his identity spread. "Oh, uh, it was my pleasure. I remember the Calpurnia, she was a tough ship, and crew. Hope your father got through it okay?"

The cub nodded, beaming. "Retired last season, but he still talks about it-" His bronze eyes lit up. "Can I get an image with you to send to him? It'll only take a second!"

Feeling self-conscious and embarrassed by the attention, he almost politely refused - but Kami beat him to it, leaning in and replying, "He'd love to!"

*

The next fifteen minutes were spent near a colourful mural wall in the spaceport, as the cub was joined by others, Caitians of all ages, looking for images to take with him, or just to shake his hand.

The ones with the young cubs were the most irresistible, the little ones with the wide eyes wanting to be picked up and imaged with him by their proud parents.

Meanwhile, Kami, Sasha and Rrori stood with their bags nearby, looking thoroughly amused.

Finally he joined them, growling good-naturedly at his wife. "Thanks for that."

"My pleasure." She smirked. "Did I see one female get a clipping of your tail fur?"

"Uh, yes." He coughed. "I thought it'd have been rude to refuse her."

"Well I must say, that level of attention was most envious," Rrori noted. "I hope to achieve something approaching that amount of admiration for something other than my remarkable good looks and sex appeal."

"I still don't get it," Hrelle admitted, bemused. "Why such hero worship? I run a little cargo ship and train some cubs. My glory days are long past me."

"That's not the point, sir," Rrori pointed out, smiling. "If I may be so bold. You're one of the few of us to make it to command a ship in Starfleet: you, M'ress, Sa'Rahn, Hnoaw. Representation matters. And speaking for myself... I count myself among the most fortunate ones to be serving under you."

Hrelle was in danger of getting overwhelmed by all the unexpected praise. "Thank you, Mr Rrori."

Kami moved in and hugged the young cadet. "Awwww, you're not just a pretty face, are you?"

Rrori extricated himself, looking embarrassed by the show of affection. "No, Counselor, I'm an exceptionally attractive one. And my subshuttle arrives in five minutes - if you all will excuse me, please?"

Hrelle waved him off. "Go on, cub, give our best to your clan! See you back here in a tenday!"

They watched him depart, before Hrelle noticed Sasha standing there grinning. "What's up with you, Runt of the Litter?"

"It's good to see some of the rest of the Universe agree with what I always thought about you. Now, are we going by subshuttle or transporter?"

They chose the latter; the lines for them were longer, but they wanted to arrive at their destination before nightfall, local time. As they waited their turn, Hrelle thinking internally how spoiled he was having a transporter at his disposal whenever he needed it onboard the Surefoot, Sasha asked, "Dad... why did that Customs guy call you 'Sherresek'? Did he say it with an accent or something?"

He shifted in place. "No, 'Sherresek' was my birth name; it's probably still on the local Registry. I changed it to 'Esek' for the Starfleet records when I joined the Academy."

"I thought it was the diminutive," Kami noted. "Why change it? 'Sherresek' is a lovely sounding name."

He bristled. "It's also my father's name."

"Really? That's unusual for Caitians, causes too much confusion in the Registry."

"Yes. It was part of his overall desire for me to follow in his footsteps and take over the clan's shipping business. Let's forget about it; I've answered to Esek now for decades." He wanted to keep thoughts of his father out of his head for as long as he could.

*

Hrelle didn't realise that though he'd been on Cait for an hour, he hadn't stepped outside until they beamed into the local transporter station in the Csirl Province in the Southern Hemisphere, where it was mid-afternoon, and they walked out for an autotaxi. Their sun was small and white but strong, burning bright as it began its descent into the southwestern horizon. The air was thin and dry, though not to Vulcan standards, and it made him pant, and wish once again that he could sweat like humanoids.

He glanced at Sasha, clad in baggy shorts, vest, boots, shades and a baseball cap. She wore a canteen at her side, and he knew she had taken a course of Nanites on the liner before disembarking, ones that would regulate her body's intake of UV, but still he had to ask, "You okay, Sash?"

She nodded, glancing around. "This is lovely. Where does your clan live, Kami?"

"Thirty minutes' ride from here, near the ocean; you think this is lovely, wait 'til you see it out there."

Her boasts proved to have merit, as the autotaxi took them along a deserted road, the transparent bubble offering an unobstructed view of endless savannah, occasionally broken with trees, cultivated crops, rock croppings, and the main houses of other clans, while in the distant, craggy mountains hugged the horizon, looking more ephemeral than real.

Hrelle stared out in longing. He had forgotten how beautiful his homeworld was. He talked longingly about it for decades, but never once thought about returning even for a visit, knowing what awaited him up north, in the R'Trerah Archipelago- no, don't think about that now...

Kami's clan's house was large, sprawling, with smaller buildings flanking it, interspersed between large, elaborate gardens, colourful displays, fountains and an area set aside for the Clan's Memorial Garden, the place where the ashes of their dead were scattered and markers raised to honor them. He watched Caitians sitting or lying about, sunning themselves, eating, or playing in and out of the water sprays from the fountains - most naked or wearing just belts.

A group of adults were sitting on the shaded veranda by the front door, but now rose and approached as the autotaxi pulled up and deposited its passengers. One of the adults, a tall, stout male with ash-grey hair and huge arms, quickened his pace, his tail swishing excitedly from under his lime-green kilt as he boomed, "MY LITTLE NOVA! SHE'S HERE!"

Kami dropped her bag and raced up to him, and Hrelle immediately recognised the man from years before, watching the actor fighting Ferasans (or at least, other Caitian actors in Ferasan makeup) in such popular action vivids as the Clawback series, before moving into more dramatic and comedic roles, and then retiring entirely.

He forced down his own hero worship as Kami squealed like a cub and cried out, "Papa! Watch your heart!"

Another grey-furred older male, less bulky but with a wicked glint in his eyes, followed up. "She's right, you old cat, put her down, I'm your stunt double, remember? Besides," he added, holding out his own arms. "She's my Little Nova, too."

Kami embraced him as well, beckoning Hrelle closer. "Esek, this is my Papa Mi'Tree, and my other Papa, Bneea."

They all hugged, Mi'Tree lingering as he murmured to Hrelle, "So... you're the one who's been defiling my sweet innocent daughter?"

"As much as possible, yes, sir."

"Good, good! She deserves it!" He patted Hrelle's muscular arms and asked, "Now, which one was your favourite?"

"Sir?"

The older male winked knowingly at him. "Come on, I've never met one your age who didn't have a favourite Clawback vivid."

Hrelle felt himself blush under his fur as he admitted, "Clawback 5: Caitian Justice."

Mi'Tree chuckled. "Good choice! An underrated entry in the series. It gave me a wonderful soliloquy towards the end-"

"Before you start stroking yourself, Papa," Kami butted in, "Maybe you'd like to meet Esek's daughter Sasha?"

Mi'Tree stepped back, brightening as he turned towards the young human. "Oh yes, indeed, I-" Then he made a show of scrutinising her. "Hmm, it's a good Caitian name, but she's rather furless - and very tailless too. Was she in some sort of accident?"

Kami smirked, her arm still around Bneea as she explained to Sasha, "That's his way of being funny, pretending he doesn't already know you're human." She nudged her other father. "You still explaining his jokes?"

"All the time."

Mi'Tree ignored them as he approached Sasha, extending his right hand. "A pleasure to meet you, young lady."

But Sasha frowned and stared at it. "Are you trying to insult me?"

He dropped his arm again, confused. "W-What? I don't understand-"

Then she rushed into his arms, laughing and hugging him tightly.

He looked over his shoulder at an amused Hrelle and Kami and chortled, "Ooh, I like this one!" Then he nodded past Kami. "Shouldn't you say hello to your mother, Little Nova?"

Kami brightened, turning along with Hrelle at the approach of a large-frame older female with ash-white spotted fur and the dark blue uniform of someone from the Caitian Planetary Navy. Kami raced into the woman's arms. "Mama!"

The females embraced, as Hrelle stared with a growing stupefaction. No. No, it couldn't be... As he drew closer, confirming the rank on the female's uniform, he realised that it was true. He knew the woman's name, but just assumed it was a coincidence. Wouldn't Kami have warned him beforehand that her mother was-

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