No Way Back – Chapter 17 (Happy Independence Day!)

First thing’s first, Happy Independence Day to all my American readers!  I know that it’s not for a few more days, but the odds of me having another chapter up or something specific that I want to chat about in the next few days is rather slim.  So, I’m saying it now because I want to!  I’ll be spending mine home with my family.  I think anyways, since I dunno if my lovely Kikat has to work on Monday or not. 

Anyways, the main reason for the post is because I’ve got Chapter 17 ready!  YAY!!!  I guess that means that I’m posting new work today.  Ready?  Good, because here it is!

Chapter 17

A long night was putting it lightly. At least with the alien beings in the room it felt more like a quicker flow, but time moving faster is still time moving on. In the end I’d gone through six different pads with each one having different images and qualities. The third pad was the most interesting in my opinion. That’s when we switched to numbers and counting. When I picked up the pad, the only thing that was displayed on it was a single red dot. Not so much a dot as it was supposed to be a ball, but the image was rendered in two dimensions instead of three. When I looked at the skunk girl, and then to the feline, and back to the pad with the only word I could think of, “dot,” the device did not shift. It acted as if I’d not done anything at all! I remembered in the last pad that it had shown a dot and a rotating ball, so this should have been correct. After the third or fourth try, the device emitted a high-pitched tone, to which the feline responded by taking the plate from my hands and flipping it so she could see the screen contents itself. I could tell that she was trying to decide how best to proceed by the slight furrowing of her brow. After a moment, she pressed the pad back into my open hands and looked at me with a determined smile.

“Shrah.” She lifted her hand-paw with the word and extended one digit and claw into the air, keeping her smile steady and reassuring. She’d learned quickly not to over-bare her teeth with the facial gesture, and it somehow seemed much more peaceful that way.

I raise my hand in a fist, the enclosed palm facing to her, and lift one finger. “Shrah?”

She shook her head but kept her smile. “No, I Shrah. You?” She jabs the claw into the air as she speaks to try and signify that it was her intention.

However, I was only listening to her words as she spoke and didn’t notice the movement. “I thought you said your name was Nishka?”

The white and triangular ears that jut out through her hair twitch in mild irritation, but Nishka holds her composure otherwise. She leans in to me, and with the outstretched claw, she taps the dot on the screen. “Shrah.” Quickly straightening herself, she points to the ceiling with the singular claw and announces again, “Shrah! I ‘shrah’, you?”

All I can do is shake my head in confusion. It looks like a dot to me!

Nishka turns to the purple skunk and starts speaking in her own harsh language, and the younger looking female responds in a far more polite tone. Before the cat-like alien can speak again the skunk girl is on her feet and moving towards me quickly. She closes in quickly to my still seated person, then takes one of my hands and removes it from the pad. Her fur is amazingly soft and her pads are smooth as I feel her gently curling my fingers down into a fist. Once it’s shaped she then gently lets a dulled claw and digit slip into the opening around my index finger and lifts out free.

“Aona. I word ‘aona’. Nishka word ‘shrah.’ You word?” Her soft, sweet voice is almost hypnotic as she holds my attention. She finishes the question, looking into my eyes with her face leaned slightly downward. The angle caused her pink hair to flow down past her shoulders, and a slight smile still curled the edge of her lips.

Without realizing I had said anything, I manage a response. Her eyes are so deep! They sparkle in her exuberance and give me a feeling of warmth and willingness, a feeling so very lacking from the cat-woman’s cold glare. “Whuh-One?”

“Wawun?” She giggles at me as she repeats my stutter, and I feel a hot blush catching my cheeks.

“No. One.”

I feel my hand being placed on the pad and her warm, furred paw retreating. I shake my head quickly to clear out my thoughts and look at the white-furred feline who is shaking her head and is obviously less than pleased. She sighs, then makes a tapping motion with her paw, then glares at the girl who had returned to her spot silently. I notice, though, that she took those steps with a definite air of accomplishment, or at least that’s what I think I see.

I tap the screen and repeat the word. “One.” It chimes the acceptance tone that I’ve learned and moves on to two dots. “Two.” We proceed in that fashion for what feels like a half-hour, answering mathematical equations and counts. The whole time I feel Nishka’s uninterested gaze and the skunk’s excited and willing stare, which leaves me somewhere between anxious and perfectly at ease.

The rest of the pads went by with minimal interruption and confusion. Once I’d completed the last of the pads, the feline collected it and handed it to her assistant, which is what I’ve decided that Dharcia is. As they stand to leave, Nishka stretches and looks to me. She points to the bed and then to me. Then she brings her hand-paws together and puts them to the side of her head, then closes her eyes for a moment.

All I can do is roll my eyes and mutter, “Yes, ma’am. Not like I can go anywhere.”

Dharcia laughs as she walks out the door. Then they are both gone and I am left.

Alone.

– –

Dharcia places the stack of pads into their respective readers while taking in her superior’s angry words. She knew that she had violated a strict order for her protection, but she wanted to help.

“I warned you about keeping your distance! You’re not a fighter, Dharcia! You’re a medical officer! What would you have done if he attacked you!”

The mephit turns and looks directly at the chief medical officer and snaps her response off in defiance. “All due respect, but that boy was shaking! You come off too hard! He doesn’t understand that we’re trying to build a translation matrix so that we can understand him! And, really, was the claw necessary?” She pulls out a chair loudly and sits facing her boss who had taken her place at her own desk. “Simply put, the first time you pulled them on him, you threatened him with, I’m assuming, a lot of pain! He’s going to remember that!”

Nishka opened her mouth to respond but bit it off before she could start. Her golden eyes almost appeared to be inspecting the desk, but she was more thinking about the fact that the girl was right. What she was doing was important for the human male to integrate with the ship’s crew as a whole. They needed to be able to translate his words and he theirs, and since his language wasn’t in the ship’s databanks, this would take a long time. Time that they would need to hold his trust, which, she feared, she might have already lost.

Her feline eyes looked up from her desk and back to her irritated friend. His trust, she thought to herself. It seemed Dharcia had managed to, in one unthinking moment, captured the entirety of his trust. He was much more at ease because of her quick action, and that would make the whole task much easier to work through.

“You’re right.”

The purple-and-pink striped skunk cocked her head in surprise and confusion. Had she just heard the doctor correctly? She searched her superior for some kind of trick and found none. “What do you mean, I’m right? You aren’t going to argue this one with me?”

“No,” answered the white-furred alien, a smile returning to her face. “I was a bit aggressive, and that’s never a good way to start inter-species communications.” Her left paw fell to the desk and collected the next translation matrix pad, which she then slid across the desk towards Dharcia. “Your one act of patience may have saved us hours of work. So, you’re taking charge of this assignment.” Nishka made an exaggerated motion and spun her chair to the right, stopping with her gaze perpendicular to the girl’s. She smiled as she folded her hand-paws together just beneath her chin. “Is that acceptable?”

Dharcia brought her hand down on the pad with her mouth agape. She slid the pad closer and looked at it as she leaned back in her seat, the stunned expression still over her face. Her eyes shifted from the tablet to the doctor, and then back to the now blank display. “B-but this is first contact! I can’t do this! I’d need at least a bodyguard, and a witness, and a-”

“Dharcia, please.” Nishka looked back at the mephit without turning her chair. She chuckled as the girl’s eyes snapped up to look directly into her own, wide with excitement. “A bodyguard? Really? That human wouldn’t be a risk to you. Remember, he trusts you. And a witness? You mean someone to be there when you break more violations?” That remark elicited a slight darkening of Dharcia’s cheek furs. “I’ll be in this office monitoring everything that happens in that room.” The feline finally brought her chair around, swinging her feet back under the desk, satisfied that she’d shocked her assistant out of her argument. “If he moves in a way that I find to be dangerous, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. You’ll be safe. You’ll be watched and recorded. And, you’ll get to enjoy the excitement that I know you’re trying so hard to control.”

The purple skunk sits, stunned and her jaw still slack. She really was being given this opportunity to do what she has wanted to do for years: to learn a new alien species. Granted, humans weren’t exactly a new species as much as they were undocumented. The only thing that was officially known was that they were a primitive and savage race that was not to be interacted with under penalty of law. But this human, this boy, seemed to be neither. He just seemed confused and lost, and she wanted to be the one who changed the history books forever! Imagine the discoveries that this human knows about! Dharica pushes her thoughts aside for a moment and realize that Nishka was looking at her across a large smile that had found a resting place on her folded hand-paws. “Alright! I’ll do it,” she burst out as she jumped from her chair. “I’ll give you a full progress report as to what I learn!”

Nishka tried to respond but found that she was already pretty much by herself. The mephit had already made a full sprint to the door and was half-way out before she could even begin to chuckle at the youth’s enthusiasm. She closed her eyes for a moment and remembered herself at that age, wanting to find the next cure, the next miracle healer, the next anything. As she re-opened her yellow eyes she sees a flashing icon on her desk. She taps a claw to it, causing a holodisplay to show directly above her hand.

“Doctor, this is communications.” She knew the deep, gravelly voice that belonged to one of the few lemurs onboard.

Her smile hadn’t dissipated at all, so she allowed herself to use it. “Go ahead, Mwa’atu.”

“Ma’am, I’ve an order for you to cease and desist.”
“From whom?!” She caught herself in the enraged outburst. She knew that he was just the messenger, and anything he said wasn’t something he’d wanted to. “And for what?”

“Universal Federation Fleet Command. They claim that you’ve activated an illegal translation matrix. I decoded it three times just to be sure. The commander told me that he–”

The door hissed open behind Nishka and the feline swung around quickly in her chair to see who was entering the room.

Commander Grai’Gahrd stood directly in front of her, having crossed the facility in a few quick paces. A pair of armed security soldiers, one raccoon-looking creature and the other an Eil’phae, stood just outside the doors as they hissed shut, and Nishka heard the entry of a security code to initiate the lock-down of the medical bay. “We need to have a little chat, Doctor.”

Nishka blinked up at the officer who stood sharply in attention before her. “Of course, Mer–,” he shook his head, “–Commander, anything you need, you know I am ready to hear it.”

The wolf leaned into her and whispers into her ear, his words sharp with rage “Why couldn’t you just have waited a few more hours?” He snapped back up to see his lover barely holding back her own emotion. He’d never spoken to her in an angered tone, and now she’d upset him without even trying. Mergrayne took in a deep breath to clear his mind, then continued louder. “Communications officer, please put through Secured Line 3.”

The display behind the feline shifted to the wrinkled lines of an age-worn yellow-furred tigress. Her long silver hair was unkempt and her uniform disheveled, making it was obvious that she had been pulled from her sleep to deal with a security breach in short order.

“High Commander Dionne Skrinesti, it’s a surprise to hear from you.” Commander Grai’Gahrd smiled cordially at the display.

The tigress’s ice blue eyes glared back at the man, and an unguarded grimace made the head of UFO security look much older than she actually was. “Skip the niceties, Commander! I want to see the person foolish enough to violate the orders that classified the humans as not to be communicated with! I want them charged with insubordination, violation of the Multi-Galactic Treaties, and marked as a traitor!”

“We can’t do that, Ma’am.”

Dionne’s voice went from the cold and measured tone that spoke of anger in depths to a snarling yell at the rebuke. “What do you mean, you CAN’T! I’m ordering you to do it!”

By then, Nishka had managed to turn her chair around and looked directly at the High Commander with a passive glance. “We can’t because we’re currently hosting a human on-board. As such, I submit that I am in violation of the Treaties, but only within the confines of the UFO acceptable actions clause. Therefore, I am neither a traitor, nor am I acting in an insubordinate manner.”

“How are you hosting a human,” the larger cat-woman growled her question, her eyes narrowed in an attempt to cow the medical officer. “Your only contact is supposed to be returning the “captives.”

“Which is exactly how we came into contact, High Commander. His sedation was underestimated, and he woke up in transport.” Commander Grai’Gahrd stood straighter than Nishka had ever seen her love, and that spoke volumes about how serious her error in judgment had been. She should have asked him before initiating the search and comparison. “In fact, as soon as the human was determined to fall under the subsection that declares forced detention and assimilation due to his detection of our technologies, I sent the report. You should be getting the filtered-up version shortly, if you haven’t already.”

The yellow-furred tigress reached over and lifted her personal datapad just out of view from the holodisplay. She thumbed it on and began sifting through her messages. Her eyes light up within seconds as she finds the message and begins reading the report. “He attacked you, Doctor? And you survived the experience? I’m impressed.” She turned to look at the slightly smaller feline, her features softening with understanding and concern. Her voice now carried the sweet yet thick tone of her species, “Why not simply euthanize such a dangerous animal?”

Nishka glared at Mergrayne about the blatant lie to the officers, but allowed herself to answer. “Of course that could have been considered, ma’am, but the young male was acting out of fear, not simply a display of aggression.” Her eyes met the now respect-fulled blues of Dionne’s. “We do have him secluded, but that can only hold so long. We need to explain to him what’s going on, and soon.”

“I’ve advised against it, ma’am. They are dangerous creatures. The doctor, however, seems to think they have some redeeming qualities and wants to treat them as sentients.”

The tigress looked over towards Grai’Gahrd with a scowl. “However primitive they are, they do posess sentience. If he can be communicated with, then we will begin with determining whether or not he is a risk to the rest of the crew. That is an order. And I want direct updates from now on.” She turns back to the doctor. “Until he is cleared as non-violent, this is to be top secret classified. Codename Castaway. If he turns out to be more than what the current intelligence reports say we have, then we may have a basis to finally include the Sol system in the UFO. I trust I can expect detailed reports?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” Dionne tapped on the datapad a few times as she spoke. “I’ll be sending what language matrix we do have to you to aide in your endeavor. Good luck.” The display went dark, then the image shifted back to her desktop.

Nishka growled up to Mergrayne, her eyes filled with disgust at his intentional skewing of the facts. “Attacked? You lied!”

Mergrayne smiled at his lady, an unusually predatory grin. “We don’t actually know if he was attacking or not, now do we?”

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