No Way Back – Chapter 20

Woo-hoo!  It seems like I’m back!  Yay! 

It’s very exciting to be able to write again.  To be honest, this would have been done monday, but I wound up witt a really nasty ear problem that I had to deal with before I could do anything else.  But, it’s done!  It’s postable!  And, it’s right here!

Chapter 20

The ship’s tour has been over now for the past hour or so. It’s much easier to register time when there are chronodisplays all over the ship. Granted, the time is translated into a form that I can understand, however the Organization’s day lasts an additional ten and a half hours from what I’m used to, but only in space. Once the ship lands all times would become relevant to the planet we were on and are simply be coordinated to times on the ship. So far, though, there was no immediate correlation to Earth time, so there was no way for me to know just how long I’ve been in space.

We find ourselves sitting in Dharcia’s quarters while we wait for the message to her datapad with my own billet. It had taken nearly a half-hour to enter her room as it was since there was no back-door for security entrances and I could not yet be seen by the general populous. Now that we were in the room, the skunk-like girl across from me in her bed had become an insatiable question box. She wanted to know everything that she could and was recording our conversation for her own notes and documentation. She started with the basics: my age, my “rank in social standards,” even what my name meant. I answered every question as honestly as I could, but there are just some questions that I can’t answer. One such question was “What exactly is the make-up of your planet’s atmosphere?” I know that our air has hydrogen and oxygen and other things, but she seemed discouraged that I couldn’t list off everything.

After answering the ninth or tenth question, I finally raise my hand to stop her. She didn’t notice at first. “Okay, so you know a little about your planet, but what kind of plant and animal relation… “ She looks up and sees me trying to get her attention without vocally interrupting. “Uh… Is something wrong?” She smiles again and I notice a bright gleam in her eyes. She was so excited to be talking to me now that she understood me a little more.

I clear my throat and ignore her enthusiasm for a moment. “Hey, Dharcia. I understand that I’m a new creature and you want to dissect me and all, but why–”

Her eyes grow in surprise as she cuts me off. “I don’t want to cut you, Robert!”

I shake my head, hoping she’ll understand the gesture. “I don’t mean actually dissect me, more ask me everything you possibly can.”


“Anyway, why are you asking me? I’m barely an adult, and not exactly a scientist brainiac kind of guy. Why don’t you just send an exploration team to Earth?”

I see the excitement in her eyes diminish quickly as her eyes dart away from me for a few moments. Her head and ears droop slightly and her tail, which had been wrapped around her and sitting in her lap, drifts back behind her. Finally, she looks at me with the impassive features of a stone wall. “That’s something that I am not authorized to discuss with you.” Her voice was sharp and final as the words left her mouth.

My brow furrows and my head tilts slightly to the left as I look at her in confusion. This was the first time she’d held something from me. Whatever her reasons, she felt it strong enough about it to try convincing me that it wasn’t important with her voice. “Why not? Dharcia, is something wrong?”

“No, no. I just can’t talk to you about that. Not yet. You’ve got clearance to be on-board, but not that kind of clearance.”

I let myself laugh openly, which is only made worse when I notice the mephit’s jump from my initial laugh. “Clearance? Security? Dharcia, you’re the only person that I’m really comfortable talking to here! It’s not like I’m going to spill some kind of secrets!” I stand and walk past her and around the softly-padded bunk. I come to a stop in front of what passes for a sink on the ship. “Hey, fine, then can you at least show me how to get water?”

In a moment, I feel the air behind me move as she steps in close to me. She takes the back of my hand in her paw and guides it to what looks like a gloss-black bar. As my fingers brush it, the control mechanism lights up in a flurry of symbols that I don’t immediately recognize. I blink, and they change to a more understandable format. “You… There you go… You touch that bar, then you control it by moving your finger along the slider.”

I feel her moist breath bounce off the hair of my neck, sending a shiver down my back. That’s the very moment that I become self-conscious and realize just how close the girl is to me. The image in my head plays along with what I feel, her left hand-paw on my hip, her chin lifted and resting on my shoulder, her stomach close to my side, all while her right paw still held my hand to the control device. I whip almost completely around in an attempt to slide away from her but am stopped short against the wall facing her. She looks into my wide eyes as if she had done nothing unusual and, in fact, was confused by my reaction.

“Is something wrong?”

“I…” My mind is racing with things to say. Why did you touch me like that? You shouldn’t be that close to me!

Maybe she doesn’t understand that humans are used to personal space.

 “It was nothing, Dharcia. I… Humans just tend to give each other a bit more personal space. When you came close… I guess I just got nervous.”

I watch the girl’s eyes bulge as she tries to bite her lips shut to clamp in a snicker. It fails, as does the attempt to hold in more chuckles, then an outright laugh. “You thought I was trying to be close to you? Oh, Robert, you really don’t understand my kind yet. If I was trying to be affectionate with you, I would be.” Dharcia smiles yet again as she straightens her white jacket and dark purple pants. “After all, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too very different. Most of the species on the ship interact physically in very similar ways!”

I gather myself enough to turn the water on and get myself a glass to drink. I use the moment to force my body to relax as I feel my heart pounding in my throat and my heavy breathing slowly subside. I take down the liquid, which is strangely salty and sweet in a good way, then turn to face her again. By the time I did, she’d returned to her bed and was holding her tail in her lap again. The smile hadn’t left and I felt unusually watched as I returned to my seat slowly.

“It’s okay, Robert. A lot of first contacts in history were a little rocky.” She sounded calm and sincere, but I could hear a hint of tease in her words. “I’m sure that this isn’t easy for you. I’m also sure that you talking with a female is making you uncomfortable, too.” She lowered her eyes for a moment to take a breath, continuing from that position. “I volunteered to be a first contact member. That means that it’s my job to learn about new species that come on-board for any reason.” Dharcia quickly looks up at me, the smile not waning in the slightest, but the motion causing her to jump slightly on the bed. Even through her clothes, her gently curved form followed suit. “I just happen to be the only member on this ship, besides the commander and Doctor Nishka, who’s allowed to introduce cultures both ways.” She stopped there, satisfied with her explanation.

I sat and waited for a few moments for more from the girl. When it never came, I spoke up. “Alright, then. I get it, you’re part of the welcoming committee. What I don’t understand is, why is it that there’s only three of you?”

“I…” She started with a happy tone but came to an abrupt stop. Her face scrunched in what I took as a thoughtful appearance as she considered my point. “I don’t know,” she began again. “I guess there’s not much expectancy for contact in this region.”

That answer suited my thoughts. Why would you supply a ship with first contact crew when you didn’t anticipate it. “So, then, now what?”

Before she could respond, the datapad that remained in her paws as long as she was seated began toning. She flipped it up to look at, then tapped the device several times. “It looks like our conversation is over. The Commander is requesting us on the Conference Deck B.” She looked confused by the order but began to slowly rise anyway.

“What’s wrong with B?” I ask her politely.

“It’s the one used to address the entire ship…”

– –

Mergrayne Grai’gahrd, Commanding Officer of the Conquest’s Dawn, looked over the crew that had gathered. There were several thousand of them in the center already with more gathering. He knew that there would be roughly seven hundred members that would not be in the hall as they were actively running the ship, but he had ordered the crew to skeleton operations and ordered everyone else to gather in the hall. The last thing Mergrayne wanted to do was what he was about to but he had little choice. It was either this or go against the High Command’s orders. That would cost him his ship, and he’d die before surrendering the Organization’s largest flagship. He’d worked too hard to earn this privilege and was not going to simply lose it.

Especially not over some overgrown ape.

The lupine turned away from the small stage and stepped closer to Doctor Nishka. She stood in her freshly-pressed midnight blue dress uniform, a stark contrast to her pure white fur. She was excited, and he could tell by the nearly upright tail. The energy she gave off, the quiet purr that filled the air, and the appearance of her in the unusual garment for her made him want to call off the meeting and take her to his quarters for the night and pray he woke up with this nightmare being over. He ignored the thought as he addressed her directly. “Nishka, are you sure we are ready for this? This could rock a few more berths than we need right now.”

The doctor admired him for a moment before speaking, her feline voice still laden with her purr and excitement. “Commander, we both know this is absolutely necessary. He will be turned in by the security detail that doesn’t recognize him as a stowaway if we don’t.” She took a step closer and dropped a perfectly-manicured hand-paw on his shoulder to gain his entire attention. “Besides, the sooner we do this, the sooner we can…” Her feline lips lifted in a wicked smile as she paused, “Enjoy ‘dinner’ tonight.”

Grai’gahrd nods, loosing a sharp sigh as he does so. His gaze heads behind Nishka at the doctor’s subordinate, Dharcia, who looked amazingly sharp in her dress blues, and him. He stood there with his hair straightened out but he still remained in his human attire, the thick faded blue fabric that made up his pants and the thin, single layer shirt of bright red. He looked more out of place by the minute, which only served to anger him further. Couldn’t he have at least been fitted with a proper uniform? He shoved the thought past himself and looked back at his lover. Her twinkling eyes lifted his spirits and he actually smiled openly from it.

“I guess we can start now.”

Grai’gahrd spun on his heals and began to make his way onto the stage and, more specifically, the podium centered on it. As he came into view, the room fell into a hushed silence. But when the medical officers followed him onto the stage, the voices picked back up. There were already rumors of an alien virus sweeping the ship and killing off shipmates in a flash. The appearance of the medical personnel with the Commander served only to make the rumors worse.


The room silenced almost immediately.

Mergrayne looked back past the stage to see the human still standing where he was told. Good. At least he follows orders.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve called this emergency attendance.” He took a sip of water from a glass resting on the podium. “I’ve heard that some of you believe there to be a medical emergency. This is far from the truth. There is no medical concerns on-board this ship at the present.” At least not ones you’re expecting. “There is, however, reason for a meeting.”

“As some of you know, there was a mission outside of system Sol, the local terminology for their system. Our mission was technically successful in that we rescued an attempted abductee from the system.” He paused as some applause quietly rolled into the chamber. Once it subsided, the dark wolf continued. “There was, however, a complication. That abductee had an accidental resuscitation before we could return him to his location of origin.” The room suddenly became alive with murmured discussion. He raised his hand-paw to gain their attention once again, and the room returned to silence. “To make it clear, he is alive and well. So well, in fact, that, due to the ordinance of UFO regulation, he is being inducted into the ship’s crew effective immediately.” Grai’gahrd turned to Nishka as he spoke the the remaining piece of this part of the briefing. “Medical Officer Nishka will be explaining the race of this special case. Doctor?” He offered her the podium as he stepped back and took a seat behind her.

The white-furred feline woman walked up to the podium with her raised tail flicking slightly at its tip. As she took the spot where the hidden microphone would pick her up the best, Nishka cleared her throat and nodded towards her lover and started. “Thank you, Commander.” She looked back at the crew to continue. “As Commander Grai’gahrd has stated, there is no cause for alarm. We have on-board…” She paused as she gauged the crew assembled here for signs of too much anxiety. When she was confident that the news would not cause unneeded panic, she continued. “A human.”

The crowd began confused rumblings amongst themselves, but there were a few yelled comments in regards to “Barbarians,” “Primitives,” and “Animals,” but she allowed them to speak for a moment. Forcing a silence would not be the best way to quell the concerns and she knew it.

After a few moments, the noise died down on its own, and the Hishaern woman pushed through the remaining rumblings. “There was an error in handling his rescue, and, as such, is now a member of the Dawn‘s crew at the rank of Ensign Third Class. He has been closely monitored and is neither a medical nor physical threat to anyone on-board. He is also not the lower-intelligence concept that is the generally-accepted understanding of their race. He is of at least average intelligence for Organization purposes, although his full intellectual capacity has not yet been tested.” She stops to drink from her own glass of water, then looks over the crew. She could sense a myriad of emotions from them, but the overwhelming feeling was of confusion and uncertainty. “I know that this is a shock and a surprise. There isn’t much more I can tell you other than he is fit, healthy, and seems to be house-trained.” That got a few laughs and she could sense the looming tension drift away, even if only slightly. “With that, though, I would like to turn over the floor to Dharcia Adali’ayna, junior medical officer and UFO inter-species liaison for the Conquest’s Dawn. She will be responsible for his cultural integration and adaptation to ship life.” Nishka then lifted her left hand-paw towards the younger mephit, then stepped back and to her own seat next to Mergrayne.

Dharcia stood at the podium, then closed her eyes and released a heavy breath to calm her nerves. The sound of that breath broadcast over the crowd, drawing a few laughs from those who were closest to the loudspeakers. Her pink eyes opened, as did a completely unforced smile. “Good evening.” It’s afternoon! Keep going… “As you are aware, my name is Dharcia. You’ve all had the chance to meet me as a part of ship indoctrination. As most of you are aware, I also act as a ship’s counselor as well as a medical officer. As it was stated, my job in this is to introduce Robert,” she stressed the name as she looked over at the officers, clearly unimpressed by their lack of information, “to the ship as a whole. First contact scenarios were followed, and a language matrix was put into place. He will be understandable to you as a whole, so long as you keep your matrices active. There will be the occasional cultural clashes between members, but these can be easily worked around.” She feels a warm return to her cheeks and swallows hard to try to mask it, although no one really would be able to see it at that range. “He is reasonably friendly, and I feel many of you will warm up to him if you give him a chance.”

A member of the crowd yelled loud enough to be heard by everyone in the hall. “Have you warmed up to him?”

The Daranni woman smiled in the direction of the sound. “Yes, I have. He’s been nothing but friendly, thank you very much. I’ve spent the past few hours with Robert, and I feel that he will blend in reasonably well, so long as he is given the chance.” She looks over her shoulder at Commander Grai’gahrd, who nods, then looks back to the crowd. “Now, I would like to ask that there are no questions at the moment, but I am going to bring him on-stage now…”

– –

What do they mean on-stage? I look over at Mergrayne to see him not quite glaring at me, but definitely motioning me to come into the visible area of the stage. I comply and walk slowly out onto the platform, squinting as I adjust to the light from the darkness. The crew becomes noisy as the discussion about this “alien creature” picks up. Commander Grai’gahrd stands and glares at the crew to silence them, and I stop a few feet from the podium in time to hear Dharcia continue addressing the crew.

“As you can see, while we had generally accurate physical descriptions, the details were skewed in regards to dress, intellect, and abilities. He is very capable of interacting with the crew, our technologies, and the ship as a whole. I would like you to, if nothing else, treat him as you would any other member of the crew. Feel free to speak to him if you like.” She smiles as she watches me shift uncomfortably, then looks over to Nishka. “Is there anything else?”

Grai’gahrd stands up and walks to the podium, but instead of walking in front of it, he presses a button on his shirt, connecting his voice to the audio broadcaster. “As of this moment, you are all under orders in this regard. The hu– Robert is classified as Level Five Top Secret. There is to be no discussion of him outside of members of this crew or members of High Command, should they ask you, under codeword secrecy. The codeword has been transmitted to your personal tablet for security reasons. As a Class Five, violation of this codeword secrecy is considered a treasonable act, punishable by the most severe options available. Understood?” When no one responded, he continued. “Good. Now, I will open the floor to ask questions that are directly applicable to this classification.” No one stood or spoke. “Alright, then, for the officers?” Still no one. He sighed loudly as he shook his head. “Anyone?” When no one spoke, he glared at me as I stood silently next to the podium. “And, for Robert?”

Several hands shot up and Dharcia brought me to the podium’s audio receiver. She then pointed to a slightly heavier rabbit-like member of the crew about half-way up. He stood and a light shown directly on him. His tan fur was covered with darker brown spots that I could barely make out between the distance and the uniform he wore. His paw touches a button on his seat and his question broadcast over the loudspeaker system for all to hear. “So, your name is Robert, right?”

I clear my throat and speak at him, not sure of where to look to be heard. “Yes, sir.” It rang clear and true.

“Robert, did you remove your own tail?” The majority of the crowd snickered audibly.

This was going to be a long night…

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