tagCelebrities & Fan FictionSurefoot 24: Snakes on a Starship

Surefoot 24: Snakes on a Starship

bySurefoot©

Hovian Cluster, Maxia Sector:

The Nausicaan Raiders swarmed around the crippled cargo ship, the beetle-shaped attackers taking their time and taking turns to strike at the failing shields of their prey. The built-in nacelles of the Raiders glowed a bright lime green as their power was diverted to their plasma cannons, ensuring a steady, relentless assault, wanting to leave the cargo ship vulnerable without destroying it.

The lead Raider, meanwhile, kept back, watching and listening like a mother predator teaching its offspring on their first hunt... watching and listening...

Then the local subspace channels were flooded with a wail and a fast-throbbing pulse of electric music, as a human voice declared, "We come from the land of the ice and snow / From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow / The hammer of the gods..."

The Shipmaster of the lead Raider had expected this, understanding the tactic of the incoming Starfleet vessel: a tactic meant to instil confusion, fear, and to prevent them from coordinating a counter-attack via subspace channels. So he launched three small flares, attracting the attention of the rest of his raiding party, and alerting them to stand ready...

*

Deck 2 Fore -- Bridge:

Captain Esek Hrelle's tail, sticking out from the back of his customised chair, kept slapping the floor with anticipation as he sat there, eyes fixed on the forward viewscreen. The dilated starfield of warp speed had returned to a normal view, providing an instant tactical assessment of the situation, as his First Officer, Commander T'Varik, provided commentary from her station. "On full impulse... Six Neeth-Class Nausicaan Raiders attacking the J-Class vessel SS Nagaina-"

Hrelle's claws popped out with excitement, though he kept them hidden in his fists as he announced, "Lieutenant Shall, remind the Nausicaans of my personal feelings towards piracy in my territory."

"With pleasure, Sir." The young, black-furred Caitian female C'Rash Shall let loose a volley of photon torpedoes and phaser beams on the nearest Raider, the phasers reaching the target first and disrupting its shields enough to let the torpedoes achieve maximum effect, turning the Raider into an orange-white blossom.

"Draw the others away, Lieutenant." Hrelle smiled. "Give them time to regroup. Mr Darcy, what's the status of our ventral arrays?"

From the Engineering station, the crewman looked up -- and grinned, knowing why he was being asked. "All systems fully operational, Sir!"

T'Varik knew why, too. "Sir..."

Hrelle ignored her for now. "Ready to increase power to ventral shields, Structural Integrity and Inertial Dampeners. Helm: pick a prey."

Behind Hrelle, Operations Officer Lt Neheru's Kelpien threat tendrils fluttered from the back of his peach-coloured neck. "Sir, with respect, it's an unnecessary stress on our systems!"

Hrelle didn't respond, but at the Helm, Cadet Meow Rrori's white-furred fingers moved eagerly over the controls. "Already got one, Sir!"

"Captain," T'Varik continued. "It's an ostentatious display."

Now he glanced at her. "It's our signature move!"

"We don't have a signature move, Sir."

"And we never will that kind of attitude, Missy. Now make the announcement, and hurry!"

The Vulcan turned back to her controls and opened a shipwide channel. "This is the Bridge! All Hands: Brace for... Pouncing."

Hrelle grinned, hearing the reluctance in her voice as he faced forward again. "Mister Rrori... Pounce."

Outside, the unlucky subject of the Surefoot's attention dodged and dove as best it could, trying to lose it, even as the Starfleet vessel ignored the plasma beams from the other Raiders. The Surefoot dropped down suddenly... and then swooped back up from behind again, slamming down on the aft dorsal side of the Raider. The Raider was larger in size, but the Surefoot's engines were stronger, forcing the Raider down, down... towards two more Raiders who had drawn back to regroup.

Inside the Surefoot, various systems protested the unorthodox manoeuvre, while Hrelle's crew worked to compensate, while his eyes remained fixed on the image of the screen. They were getting close- very close- Mother's Cubs, Rrori, are we gonna have sex with them or what?

But before he could give the order to do so, Rrori pulled them away at the last second, letting the Raider's momentum carry it fully into one of the other two ships, which in turn made it strike the third. All three became a necklace of fiery gems.

The protests from the systems were eclipsed by the cheers and whoops from various bridge crew members, before T'Varik restored order with, "Return to your duties, cancel Red Alert, prepare Medical and Damage Control teams... and cease Immigrant Song. Captain, the remaining Nausicaans are retreating. Shall we pursue?"

"No, the Nagaina and her crew need our assistance more than the Nausicaans need another ass kicking; alert Starfleet Command of their details and heading." As his crew moved to comply, he finally relaxed his grip and spared a glance at the guest who had sat quietly at the Auxiliary Science Station. "All in a day's work."

The stocky, grey-furred Caitian female, clad in the heavily-decorated red-black uniform of their people's Planetary Navy, grunted at him. "So why are you looking at me like a cub expecting a treat for performing well? Or do you want a scratch behind the ears? Or maybe just a rub of your belly?"

"Oh, could I get one of those, please?" he asked, lifting up his shirt to reveal his furry stomach, which with some considerable effort on his part he had been managing to reduce in the weeks since the birth of his cub, wanting to get as healthy and fit as possible. "Just do what you normally do with people, only rub me the right way."

"Oh, I'll rub you alright, you fat-" The rest of her words were lost as she intentionally switched to Old Caitian, a dialect deliberately left out of most Universal Translator matrices -- and from the guffaws from Rrori and C'Rash, it was probably for the best, at least in this instance.

But Hrelle kept a straight face, waiting for her to finish before replying with, "Okay, I'll just take the scratch behind the ears, then."

Fleet Captain Ma'Sala Shall, his mother-in-law -- and also his kin-mother, which prompted explanations to non-Caitians whenever the subject arose -- narrowed her furred brow... and smirked as she stood up. "Thank you for the opportunity to watch your ship and crew at work, Captain Hrelle; I might have to introduce the Surefoot Pounce to the escort ships in my fleet. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been too long since I've seen my grandson... the only reason for coming here."

"Of course, Ma'am."

She winked at him as she departed.

Hrelle couldn't stop grinning, even as he dove into the necessary work required following an engagement. Having more Caitians come to visit little Misha and the rest of them was so invigorating -- even on a physical level, with their added musk -- and though he wouldn't have wished an attack on the cargo vessel, he was glad for the opportunity to show off his ship and crew to someone of Ma'Sala's stature and experience.

He listened to T'Varik and Neheru organise the beam over of the Nagaina's crew and cargo, and studied the damaged vessel, wondering what they had been transporting that piqued the interest of the Nausicaans...

*

Deck 5 Fore -- Cargo Bay 5:

The two cadets were passing the tricorders over the large, long crates. Neraxis Nemm, a Bolian Security Specialist, frowned, her bald blue head creasing. "Multiple life forms, large... reptilian?" She glanced at her friend and squadmate, the lizard-like Kitirik, a Science Specialist. "Buddies of yours, Kit?"

Nearby, standing next to T'Varik, Captain Koulev spoke up, offering, "Aldebaran serpents, actually. Three-headed Aldebaran serpents." He was a short, slight human in his early forties, with a bushy moustache and the casual air of a man who had spent most of his life eking out a living in deep space. He held his left forearm conspicuously as he nodded to the rest of the crates beamed over from the Nagaina. "Not buddies to anyone."

Kit looked to him, the wattles beneath his jaw puffing and flaring red with excitement. "Indeed, Respected Guest Captain! And they are exceedingly rare!"

Koulev nodded bemusedly at the young Qarari's enthusiastic reaction. "Uh, yeah. Rare and valuable, and as a result almost extinct on their homeworld because of poaching. So the Federation has rounded up a bunch of them, put them in stasis and hired us to relocate them on a classified planet in the Tyree system, which is already under protection because of a pre-First Contact planet there. Obviously the Nausicaans had heard about it. And now I'm without a ship."

"Your vessel remains intact, Captain," T'Varik reminded him, "And can be salvaged, once we deliver you, your crew and your cargo to Deep Space Five."

Neraxis slung her tricorder over her shoulder, having cleared the last of the crates. "Three heads? Holy Hraxor, how does it make up all its minds what to do or where to go?"

Kit looked to her, his zeal for the subject obvious. "Good Friend Neraxis, although they are not sentient creatures, they remain singular entities, with each of the brains controlling a separate function: cognitive deliberation, aggression and territoriality, and limbic functions and sexual drive." He wheezed with delight. "Oh, if only we could revive one of them! The paper I could write for my Biology Final!"

"Hey!" Koulev piped up. "No one's reviving any of them! They're venomous, dangerous!"

"I believe the cadet is merely expressing scientific exuberance rather than planning an actual breach of regulations," T'Varik noted dryly.

"Yeah, well, I'd really like this room sealed and undisturbed, make sure no one enters."

"Such additional security requirements should not be necessary. However, I believe we can accommodate your request. Cadet Nemm, ensure the room is sealed on our departure at the earliest possible time. Cadet Kitirik, I suggest the subject of your Biology Final paper remains the life cycle of the Type-6 Rigelian flu virus; you are less likely to end up inside its digestive tract."

She turned back to Koulev. "In the meantime, I will escort you to Sickbay, where you can see to the rest of your crew... and to the treatment of your hand."

Koulev blinked, glancing down at the arm he held. "Oh, uh, it's nothing, I just sprained it getting flung from my chair when the Nausicaans attacked."

"That should not overtax our medical facilities. Afterwards you and your crew will be billeted in our Evacuation Barracks on Deck 4; you will be restricted to that area for the duration of your stay, but there are replicators and recreational facilities on hand. If you'll follow me?"

As the officers departed, Neraxis turned back to Kit, who was still gazing longingly at the crates like a child desperate to unwrap birthday gifts awaiting him, and smacked his rear. "Come on, you little bug eater, I've got to lock up."

He turned to his squadmate, straightened up and declared, "If I possessed your facial features, I would seriously consider learning to walk backwards to spare others the unpleasantness of seeing me." Then he asked, "Was that an acceptable retort, Good Friend Neraxis?"

She smirked, leading him out. "Not bad, but a bit long-winded. Next time, just tell me to kiss your ass; Less is More, and it works so well for the Captain."

*

Deck 3 Aft -- Security Suite:

C'Rash sat alone sipping coffee and reading through some PADDs, when she caught the scent of someone familiar entering. "Evening, Aunt Kami. If you came to collect me for the party, I've got work to do."

The Counselor sat down opposite her, the brown-furred Caitian rubbing her eyes. "You think I want you there, fighting with Esek over the smoked sleekfish pate and listening to Papa Mi'Tree's thousandth retelling of the Dohlman of Elas?" She reached out and took the coffee mug from her niece and sipped at it, appreciating its flavour but noting, "You should have something to wind you down after the engagement tonight, not keep you awake."

C'Rash grunted. "A little early for our Counseling session, don't you think? I thought we were scheduled for 1300 Hours tomorrow?"

Kami smiled. "We are, but we can always get it over with now." She glanced around the empty room. "And we won't be disturbed at this time of night." She set the mug down between them. "You operated the ship's weapons systems under Captain Hrelle's orders, which resulted in the destruction of at least one Nausicaan ship. How does that make you feel?"

C'Rash let her tail smack distractedly against one of the legs of her chair. "I am sorry that circumstances forced me to take action against another vessel which resulted in its destruction and the loss of all hands onboard, although I also recognise that I was under orders to do so, and that the circumstances did not allow for a non-lethal resolution to the encounter."

"Very good. You have the expected answer to the question memorised." She leaned in. "Now... how did it really make you feel?"

C'Rash stared into the older female's eyes. "I.... I hated them."

"Why?"

"Because... they forced me to kill them." She shook her head. "Why... Why in the Seven Hells do people have to kill? To steal and to enslave and to hurt others, and force others to hurt and kill them to defend themselves or other people? We could all get along, cooperate, it's not like we don't have the technology now to meet our basic needs, or-" Then she stopped. "Sorry, I sound like a naive cub."

Kami smiled. "There's nothing naive about feeling that way. Everyone does. Even men with Beasts inside them. Speaking of which: let's talk about your fears about my husband."

C'Rash started. Weeks before on the planet Skaros, she had witnessed Captain Hrelle, her uncle, slaughter a group of criminals. Admittedly, it was to help Hrelle, C'Rash, Rrori and a group of abducted Federation children escape the criminals, and there had been no other option. But the savage glee which she witnessed in Hrelle's demeanour, the savagery he had dubbed The Beast, had frightened her, and made her concerned for the safety of Kami and her new cub Misha. But a private conversation with their clan's Matriarch Ma'Sala had ended with Ma'Sala declaring her personal trust in Hrelle, and an order for C'Rash not to raise the subject again. "I- I have no fears about Uncle Esek-"

"Liar." Kami took a sip from the mug again, grimacing slightly. "Needs more sugar. Esek told me everything about what happened on Skaros. So did Rrori. You haven't. You had a private conversation with my mother, and since her arrival with the others, you have minimised your contact with her, which suggests she warned you about saying anything to me."

C'Rash's hackles rose with anxiety. "Um- Aunt Kami, I swear I would never- I don't want to-"

Kami reached out and touched the younger female's hand reassuringly. "When I was last on Cait, and I met Mirow's mother-in-law Jnill, she had made a remark about Esek being a potential abuser of cubs. And I smacked her across the room for it. But she said what she said because she was a nasty, stuck-up bitch -- and I'm so delighted that her daughter is nothing like her -- but I have no doubt that any fears you might have about Esek and the safety of myself and Misha would not be out of malice.

I understand how you might feel about him. But Esek tells me everything he's done, everything he's felt... and I remain unafraid of him. In fact, after I'd killed someone, I think I understood him even more."

C'Rash frowned. "You've killed? When? Who?"

"Before you came onboard, on the old Surefoot. A Ferasan. Sasha and I had been imprisoned, one of them was holding me, another had just broken Sasha's arm. And I... I killed the one holding me, before going after the other, ready to kill him too. Kill him with the same savage zeal I'm sure you saw in Esek on Skaros. All Caitians carry it within us: guilt at the taking of life, guilt at the ferocity we unleash -- but tempering this with the knowledge that in the defence of cubs, of Clan, of crew, even of oneself... it's necessary.

I share your wish, that the Universe would allow all of us to work together without violence, without the need to bring forth the Fury of the Great Mother. But we both know that it's just a wish, nothing more, and it won't come true. Just as I wish you will never have to feel that same Fury, that you will never have to kill with your claws and fangs... I think you probably will. And I'm sorry."

She patted C'Rash's hand once more before rising -- taking the coffee with her. "Forget about the party. Go have some fun with T'Varik. Tell her you need to unwind after tonight. And no more coffee."

*

Deck 2 Mid -- Officers Mess Hall:

Mi'Tree Shall laughed with booming delight as the infant on his lap clamped onto his grandfather's finger and bit down, growling. "Yes! That's it, my darling cub! Don't let go!"

Then his chuckles ebbed, and the discomfort on his elderly face became obvious. "You can stop now, Misha. Please. Let go now, sweetheart. Ouch. Ouch!" He looked over to his husband. "Some help here, please, if you don't mind."

Bneea set aside his plate and rose, approaching and gently but firmly unlocking Misha's mouth from Mi'Tree's finger, before lifting the infant up entirely. "What did I tell you? That sets a terrible precedent! How's he supposed to know that biting people is wrong if you encourage it?!"

"He's a clever cub," Mi'Tree justified, licking his wounds. "He knows the difference. He just doesn't know how sharp his teeth can be."

"Oh, so he was biting you on purpose, was he? Well, I can hardly blame him for that." He sat down, Misha on his lap now, and stuck a reinforced Caitian pacifier into the cub's mouth. "There; chew away, even if it isn't as tasty as your Idiot Grandpapa."

Mi'Tree continued to lick at his wounds; he was a slightly older, slightly stockier male compared to Bneea, but their resemblance remained striking, from the days when Mi'Tree had been a famous star in the action vivids, and Bneea his stunt double. "You never mind nibbling on me from time to time-"

The doors slid open, and Kami entered with her firstborn Mirow and his wife Ptera, who had accompanied the grandparents on the visit. It took less than a heartbeat for Kami to assess the situation and scowl. "Papa! What did I tell you?"

Mi'Tree's eyes widened. "It wasn't Misha this time! I... bit myself."

"Of course you did." Kami bent down and rubbed her muzzle against her infant's own, making him purr. "I'm going to spend weeks correcting all the bad habits my family is imprinting on him."

Mirow walked up to the buffet table with Ptera, laughing. "Hey, don't lump us in with those reprobates, Mama!" Still smiling, he asked, "I assume that Red Alert we were on went well?"

The Counselor smiled. "It gave Esek a chance to show off to the Matriarch; that'll get his fire going. I might have to ask one of you to mind Misha tonight."

Mi'Tree raised a wounded finger. "We will be both honoured and delighted to-"

"-To get him overexcited with irresponsible roughplay, all night long."

Mi'Tree's voice boomed. "It is the divine duty of parents to be responsible... and grandparents to be irresponsible!" He chuckled. "Speaking of which, where's our Tailless Cub? She doesn't get enough doting... or food! She's too skinny!"

"Sasha's a busy girl onboard," Kami reminded him. "She'll be by later before she retires for the night... no doubt sporting the gift Ma'Sala brought her."

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