No Way Back – Chapter 1 – Updated 08JAN2010

As I’ve said before, the working title is still No Way Back.  We’ll see what I think about it once I’ve gotten it finished.

And, because I don’t want to miss a chance of actually doing what I set out to do, here’s chapter 1!

Chapter 1

I woke up lying on my back. That wouldn’t have been strange, had it not been for the hard, unpadded feeling that came from it… Or the lack of my soft pillow. Or the unusually-shaped black light positioned over me. That’s what startled me the most. I closed my dark blue eyes, thinking it was just some odd dream I was having, that, if I passed back out, I would wake up again in my room. But the air around me moved, cold, and told me this wasn’t a dream. I opened my eyes again to the same, oddly-shaped light that was positioned only inches from my face. I turned my head to see if I was trapped, finding that, whatever it was positioned over me, it wasn’t affixed to the dark, metallic slab that passed as my resting place.

Just outside of that slab stood … something. From where I’m laying, all I can see is the glowing of the black light off of some kind of fabric, but it’s moving, slowly, folding in some places, stretching taut in others as they seem to be leaning over whatever is over my body. I hear a gasp, then a loud yelling, something I can’t understand, nor do I think I want to. Then, a hand comes into the gap and lands on my shoulder. At least, I think it’s a hand. The same voice, now gentle, kind, feminine, comes through the gap, spoken in English, a strange accent tingeing the words that sound almost forced into existence, almost like someone speaking a language they had only learned yesterday. “Please, do not panic. You are safe now,” she said. Her voice, though obviously not used to speaking the language, was gentle, reassuring. But, the feeling of her hand made me nervous. It didn’t feel right. A strange shape, blurry-looking, and long, black nails that pressed against my shirt. When she realized I was looking at her hand, she withdrew it quickly, and yelled again in that strange language. A hiss came from behind her, and a stronger, deeper, more gravelly voice sounded from behind her in the same language. The sound of that voice made me more nervous, and I began to feel around with my hands and legs. My feet were bare, but I was still clothed otherwise, which did little to console me in my growing panic. I discovered at that moment that, whatever it was over my head and chest was not over the rest of me, and that I was not restrained. I bring my hands up to try and force the fixture over me away. No sooner had I done so did a loud buzzing begin from outside the device. I heard the deeper voice cry out in its strange language, followed by seeing a flash from the fabric as its owner turned quickly, being partially hidden by something that seemed just as blurry as her hand, but pushed through the cloth itself. As I pressed on the hood, I heard her yell, much clearer, “No! Don’t! He doesn’–” That’s all I remember before the light above me becomes dazzlingly bright, and a wave of searing pain courses through my arms. Then, silence. Darkness.

Was it all a dream?

I wish I could say that it was. But it wasn’t. That’s how I came to live here. Away from all I had known.

— —

“How do you know he wasn’t going to kill you?! They are vicious! They can’t even live with their own peacefully, let alone deal with someone new in a friendly matter!” The commander’s voice, his deep, throaty growl obviously angry about her attempt to countermand his order. “I understand very well that you are the medical officer on this ship, but it is MY job to keep everyone on this ship ALIVE and SAFE, and that includes our chief of medical staff! You intentionally kept him unsecured, and you were standing next to the gurney! What is it, your desk safely across the room couldn’t show you the vitals and scan data?” He licked his lips, his grey eyes glaring, daring her to challenge his logic.

The problem was that she was just as capable in combat as she was in the medical bay, and his concern, she felt, didn’t apply to her. “The problem, sir, is that this ISN’T a combat room! There’s absolutely nothing here he would have been able to use as a weapon! What could he have done, hit me with the scanner? You and I BOTH know that it wouldn’t have moved! What else could he have done, sterilized my non-existent scratches? He’s not a warrior, he’s barely an adult! His pack is going to be looking for him soon, and we needed to get him taken care of quickly.” At this point, she began to settle down, her golden eyes beginning to lose their flash of aggravation, and turned to mockery, turning and giving a dismissing hand gesture. “Besides, if your men had done their job, we wouldn’t even have been in this situation. He’s supposed to be sedated and checked for any weapons.” She stepped back to the scanner, looking at its readouts. “What did you find on him, anyway?” She casually looks over her shoulder, throwing her long bronze hair back as she does.

The commander, still fuming, stormed across the medical bay, snatched up a bag, and returned, dumping its contents onto her desk. “See? He was armed,” he snapped, the growl finally leaving his voice, pointing to a round object with several slivers of metal attached. “It’s primitive, but it’s definitely a weapon of some kind. And this,” he gestures to a black leather square, “Must be a trophy of some kind. It’s made of an animal’s skin.” He grabs a thin, silver object, running a claw through an opening. “Is this some kind of tracking device?! Get it off my ship!”

The doctor reaches over and grabs his hand, taking the device from him. She sighs, and then flips it open. “Mergrayne, this is a communications device. They use these all the time where he is from.” She turns it to show his cell phone’s numeric pad and graphical display. “We have our own versions of these,” as she points to his uniform’s collar, the small, matte black device almost blending into his clothing.

“Well–” he starts, but she barrels on.

“And this,” she lifts the ring of metal between claws, speaking matter-of-factly, “is their version of this…” She reaches into the folds of her close-fitting outfit, and pulls out her touch-card. “They use those … What are they called… Oh, yes, keys, much like our own datacards, but they only work for opening things, or locking them down. And this,” she points to his leather square, dropping the key ring loudly to the metal desk, “is what they use to hold together their currency, identification, and other materials, just like what is all stored on our datacards. He’s safe. He’s not going to hurt anyone. Least of all me. Last time I checked, Mergrayne, I was able to best you in the combat ring.” She smiles as she finishes her last statement, her feline ears twitching as her tail follows suit, its white fur finally laying smooth.

The commander tries to continue to glare at her, but can’t. He sighs, finally relaxing. “I’m sorry, Nishka, I just worry about you sometimes. You don’t keep your guard up around them. And how many times do I have to ask you to call me Commander Greyguard when we’re on duty?” He smiles, his jet-black fur settling again, his tail wagging slowly. “Or, at the very least, sir…”

Nishka stands slowly, walking up to him with an exaggerated gait, letting her tail playfully whip behind her, and stops dangerously close to him, a flirting smile crossing her maw. “The day you don’t consider me yours is the day I’ll stop, Mergrayne…” she whispers, and gently kisses his cheek, pressing her lithe body to his. She starts to say something more, but hears the auto-door open, and quickly steps back. “Now, Commander, I want to know why this rescue wasn’t properly sedated. I find it rather haphazard that such a creature–”

“It’s only me, doctor; you don’t have to hide your pawing, against regulations, might I add, of the commander…” The artificially sweet and melodic voice coming from behind the lupine commander’s body. “I’ve only come to let you know that the scan was complete, and they hadn’t had a chance to put a recruit marker on him yet. I’ve also come to remind the commander that his wife is waiting for him back home, with their pups, and, according to regulations, I am supposed to report this to my superior officer.” She comes between them and presses the thin sheet of plastiform into Nishka’s waiting hands. “But, seeing as you are my ranking officer, doctor,” she turns to let her accusing, yet soft eyes fall on Mergrayne, “and you are the ship’s superior, I don’t think it would do me much good.” She continues to turn, then nimbly jumps into the doctor’s seat, her dark-purple fur and soft pink stripes along her large, bushy tail settling against its texture.

The two officers embarrassedly step apart, looking at anything other than each other or the younger skunk who had taken an unneeded seat in their company. They knew that she was well aware of them, having stepped in on a moment of passion before when they had neglected to make it to either of their quarters, nor had they locked the med-bay doors and disabled the cameras. They also knew that she wouldn’t say anything, so long as they made the attempt to conform to their stations.

“Was there anything else that you wanted to mention, Dharcia?” Mergrayne quickly added, clearing his throat and straightening his navy-blue uniform, pulling at its mandarin collar and adjusting the row of polished black buttons. He absently ran his claws through his tail’s fur as he watched with a barely hidden longing as Nishka returned to the table and adjusted a few settings, each one sounding its own tone.

“Well…” Dharcia started, spinning in the chair. “There is one major issue of protocol.

“We know about the protocol, Dharcia!” hissed Nishka, glaring over the sensor hood.

“Not that protocol, doctor.” Dharcia quickly added, not letting her superior bully her into silence. “Didn’t he wake up?”

“Well, yes…” answer the commander slowly.

“According to protocol, he’s not allowed to return home then.”

“Wait, what?” Commander Greyguard asked, obviously confused. “You mean to tell me that we rescued him from that “recruit transporter” only to make him a prisoner here?”

Dharcia jumped up from the chair, and tapped the holoscreen on the desk, pulling up a link she’s forwarded to herself for just this purpose. She waited for the officers to step nearer, and then tapped the display to bring it standing off the desk, so they would be able to read it without stooping over. “Universal Federation Order, designed as both collective rules, and to not let alien species know we exist until they are deemed safe for merging with the galactic community, makes it where we can’t interfere with their race.”

Nishka puzzlingly chewed on one of her extended claws as Mergrayne furrowed his brow, looking over the document he’d half-read before. “I know about this, what does this have to do with our “rescue?” His spat the word, and Nishka looked at him, troubled by his irritation.

The skunk pressed another button, and the pages rolled forward, much deeper in the document than the commander had ever gotten. “It seems that the UFO has a ‘you break it, you bought it’ clause. We broke it by not ensuring that the specimen was properly sedated. He’s witnessed something. Even though it could easily be dismissed as a dream at this point, he’s seen at least some of our technology, and I doubt that control-shock didn’t burn his skin, since he doesn’t have the natural protection that most of us have. There’s no way to return him without the existance of some kind of evidence.”

“So, what you’re saying is, because I hit the button too soon, and the wrong one at that, he’s our… prisoner?” Mergrayne looked at the slab, irritation returning to his cold, stony eyes.

“No,” Nishka quickly interjected, “he’s our guest, whether he wants it, or not…”

“Great.” The commander grunted, looking back at Dharcia and hiking a clawed thumb over towards the table. “Now, how do we explain it to him?”

No one responded.

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