A Long Twilight Journey

Chapter 1

By: Athirne

Well, today was the day Star Corps was going to assign me my first command. While I am not the first chakat to be given a command, for me it is a big thing. From what I have been able to get out of some of my friends, it is going to be some kind of a deep range exploration mission. If this is true or not, I have no idea.

I think I have been in the PTV for about half an hour trying to figure out if I should go in or not. If I do not, then my mate will never let me hear the end of it, even if it might separate us for a few years. I might as well go in. Remember, just like in a job interview, exit the PTV calmly and look collected. Walk into the building at a normal pace and don't wet yourself.

"Hello, I am Chakat Softstride, I..." I began before being interrupted by the ‘secretary’.

"Yes, they're expecting you. They are down the hall in the main office," hy said.

"Thank you," I replied, deciding not say any more or else I may not be able to keep this calm state of mind going much longer.

Moving down the cool hall, I walked down to the large doors. They were false wood, and were not too large. I walked up to them and knocked on the door.

"Enter!" came a voice from the other side.

I walked into a rather unique room. An old human male sat behind a desk; some people in the Star Corps like to call him fearless leader. Next to him was an old gray furred wolf morph in a Star Fleet uniform. On the desk was an assortment of fossils and rocks from alien worlds. There was a shelf to his right filled with some old books. From across the room I could only make out two titles: The Art of War and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Only the latter I was familiar with, having been in a philosophy course back when I was in the University of Chakona. But I digress. To his left was a meeting screen with a shelf to either side, this time with alien artefacts of varying shape, size, and origins on their surface.

"Hello Softstride," the man behind the desk began. "I would like you to meet Admiral..."

"Just call me Gray. Everyone does," the Admiral interrupted.

"Mr. Adams," I said giving a nod in the human’s direction. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Gray."

"Yes... well, we have a command for you. I understand this is your first?" the Admiral asked.

"That is correct... Gray." I replied uneasily.

"Well I suppose you will have to do," he stated.

"May I ask what for?" I was quickly becoming impatient with this rather interesting situation.

"Allow me to explain," Adams began. "We intend to place you in command of a joint Star Fleet/Star Corps mission. It is a very deep range exploration and mapping mission. You will also be given a prototype ship."

"Since this is an exploration mission first and foremost, it was decided that the captain of the ship be from Star Corps. As the ship does have a defence and weapons system, your first officer will be from Star Fleet," the admiral added.

"But why me? This is my first command; you must have someone more experienced that is qualified for this job," I stated

"Actually, no," Adams responded. "First, you are a good and honest person. Second, your first-contact training was flawless; you had no problems with any of the simulated situations. Third, even under a great deal of stress, you will always do what is right and you will do it well. Four, you are a quick thinker. Fifth, as a chakat we believe that you could also act as a second counsellor and be able to deal with your small but diverse crew more efficiently than, say, a fox morph."

"I see. Can I choose any of the crew, or have they all been pre-assigned?"

"Yes and no. You may choose your head doctor, communications officer, translator, and xeno-archeologist. Everyone else has been selected for balancing issues or due to the ship’s special needs."

"May I see the ship schematics and current crew listings now?" I asked hopefully.

"I don't see why not," the admiral replied.

Mr. Adams gave me a PADD and a small disk. I inserted the disk and began by looking at the specs for the ship.

"This is slightly beyond prototype. I was expecting maybe being given a new class of Star Corps ship, but this looks unbelievably different from anything I have even seen before. This is more like a small warship than one of exploration," I said shocked.

"Yes, it's going to become the base hull design for a new breed of Star Fleet gunboats. However we believe that the Star Corps could do a better stress test than we could. While it is designed to be able to go up against any modern Stellar Federation starship, it also has the most scientific instruments of any ship. We know that Star Corps can and will be able to push the non-military elements to the limit with ease," the admiral began.

"And since you will be exploring space that we have no knowledge about, you may need weapons. Though whether you need them in a potential combat situation is open to interpretation," Adams finished with a smirk on his face.

Prototype was such an understatement when it came to this ship. The hull design is more curved than traditional and I don't even want to try to pronounce the alloy they made it out of. The normal drive system was anything but normal. What is a gravimetric engine? The two FTL class drives were interesting. A modified traditional FTL drive and something called a hyper drive. Next to the hyper drive in red letters were "early prototype" letting you know that using it may be like Russian roulette.

Now let's talk about the defensive system. The armor was supposed to be able to refract some energy damage. Next the four flack cannons (to take out fighters?). Then we have two interceptors. Finally there are the countermeasures. Why do I have this odd feeling that this was based off of alien technology?

Finally the offensive system, I hope I never have to order its use. Four fusion cannons, an impressive sounding particle beam, and (get this!) five fighters.

"Fighters?" I asked.

"Yes, we are moving away from the larger ships engaging each other. Using modified shuttlecraft or battlemechs are fine, but nothing can go up against a true space superiority craft. It is just simply more cost effective then retrofitting while increasing killing power simultaneously," Gray replied.

I think I will skip on the rest of the ship for now. The crew listing is odd...

"Why is it that there are hardly any humans on the ship?" one of those questions I thought I would never have to ask in my life.

"We believe that it would be best to avoid having too many humans on the crew. With all of those Human First riots and problems that are springing up across the Federation, it is safest to try to avoid the possibility of having them in the crew," Gray responded solemnly.

If my mate was here, he would probably say something along the lines of "well, it's good to know that Star Fleet is still bowing before the sepulcher of idiocy." He always had a way about him with words. Wait... they say I can choose my translator? I quickly scribbled down a few names for the people I was able to choose and handed it to Mr. Adams.

"Here is the list of people I want," I began calmly. "Also I would like Jason Denton to be the translator for this mission."

"Absolutely not!" Gray practically yelled.

"You said I could choose who my translator is. He is the best translator in the Stellar Federation. Since we are going into a corner of space that has been relatively uncharted, we should have the best translator with us. Furthermore, I believe that he has been out that way before. He did spend the first twenty years of his life as a wanderer." But most of all I wanted my mate with me for this journey. I don't think that I could stand being apart from him again.

Adams just leaned back in his chair enjoying the arguments.

"He... is mentally unstable, and he would still be of little use to you." Gray responded.

"He is my mate. I know very well his tendencies of being a manic depressive and occasional schizophrenic. However, he can translate the basics of a new language in a few hours after first encountering it. Writing or speech. Not even our universal translators work that fast."

"But can you deal with your unstable mate for a few years, alone out there? Can you control him? And... he does have some form of psychic abilities."

"Is that it? You're afraid of having an unstable human telepath on board of a ship? I must have him on this mission, even if he was not my mate, I would request him because he is the best."

Adams took that moment to add his thoughts.

"He is the best, we all know that. I have had him working on some Star Corps projects for several years now and I have yet to find one mistake in his translations. While he is not entirely consistent with his work, he does get the job done and with few problems. As for behavior... well let's just try to make it so that he is not alone with some people with a different point of view than he. I have had to deal with quite a few people who barely survived his verbal lashing."

"I am not going to stand in your way then. However, remember that I warned you." Gray stated solemnly.

Well, that meeting went different from what I thought it would. Now all I have to do is talk Jason into coming. Okay this is bad. I am just outside the house and I can hear his music blasting from his study.

When I opened the door, everything was as I left it, his half of the house a mess of papers, PADDs, and books. Mine was nice and neat. Well at least I will not have to worry about him messing up the house again for a while. I think I can clean this up before we have to leave, let him pack for the both of us, and let my sister live here till we come back.

I began walking to his study, trying to come up with a plan of attack for cleaning this mess up. Remind me never to leave him alone for a few weeks ever again. Okay, I can hear at least two different songs playing from his study; he is manic again. Time to try to slow him down enough so he can understand what I say.

Reaching the door, I decided that I may as well open it. What greeted me was four songs playing at once, one of the largest messes I have ever seen, about a hundred PADDs added to the ‘done’ pile that were not there when I left, Jason siting at his desk slightly rocking back and forth to the music while working on about three different translations at once, and a piece of pizza that was almost gone. I don't think Gray quite understands how manic he can behave.

"Ahem, could I interest you in me?"

"Hello Softstride, back for me already? I knew that you chakats could never stay away from bed for too long," he replied with a smile on his face.

In a few steps, I traversed the room and wrapped my arms around him. I rested my head on his shoulder.

"You know I never do like staying away from you," I added with a lick-kiss.

"Enjoy the decoration I did with my half of the house?" he asked with another of those odd smiles on his face.

"No, because I am going to end up cleaning it up. What are we listening to?"

"Song one: Radiohead’s The National Anthem. Song two: The Soviet National Anthem. As you can tell I feel rather patriotic today. Song three: In-A-godda-da-vida by Iron Butterfly. What better than a song with a nearly half-hour drum solo? And last but not least Engle by Rammstein. As you can tell, I am trying to go for old diversity today."

"You know your taste in music becomes dangerous when you are manic. Now turn it off and come to the living room. We need to talk."

With that I left his study before I was able to actually isolate one of the songs like he can and switch between at will. He keeps telling me that it is a skill stronger telepaths develop to be able to isolate one thought or mind. On the way to the living room the music turned off... then on again, replaced by Celtic music, Enya perhaps. He has a very odd taste in music.

By that time I was seated on the floor next to his chair. Luckily the family room is on the side of the house that he cannot trash, so it was still very clean. From my spot I could see just through the door into the entertainment room. It was like falling into the figurative pig-sty. I believe you can tell from the mess which rooms I rarely use.

Just then he walked into the room wearing his long black coat. When he reached the middle of the room he gestured for me to sit next to where he was standing. I complied and made my way next to him and sat. He laid down next to me and wrapped his arms around my waist and placed his head on my back.

"Comfy?" I asked.

"Well I could think of a better place to rest my head."

I just had to chuckle at that. He chose that moment to begin to fall asleep.

"Hey!" I said, moving my body a little to get him up. "We still need to talk."

"Talk, me sleep."

"Remember that this morning was that point in time when I was to go over to the Star Corps offices and get my first command?"

He shot up and looked straight into my eyes. I gave him a smile and winked at him.

"You're coming with me," I added.

"But Star Corps won't be able to get me to translate things for them. While I don't like working for our employers, I do like being able to work at home and at my own pace. Did they agree with it?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes, he did agree with it, despite them going to miss your antics."

Now I should probably tell you why he is a necessary for the survival of the pencil pushers in the Star Corps offices on Earth. Every Monday he brings pizza, Wednesdays they play games over the corporate networks over lunch breaks, and every Friday is what they have begun to call Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is not to be confused with the Pagan holiday, instead it is a complex game of using modified laser guns to create a type of laser tag. In this game there are four teams: accounting, secretaries, interns, and the sciences/translations department. Naturally his side wins most of the time.

The ironic thing is that just recently the sciences department has begun using robots with lasers to pick off the accountants. The interns have created this odd laser grenade type thing they call an aurora. It emits a bunch of laser beams in different directions. The only way to ‘beat’ it is to use your gun around a corner or send a few robots in on a suicide mission. Accounting was working on some kind of a mirror system to create a shield protecting their flag. Finally the secretaries have created a comm jammer. We believe it came from Star Fleet.

"What is the mission? And can I abuse the crew?"

"Exploration around a area of space you might be familiar with. And no." I took out a PADD with the plan of what systems to visit and gave it to him.

"Hmm, I remember some of these systems. However this flight plan still does not take us as far as I have gone. Also I would avoid some of these systems you will be running into."

"Why is it that you never have told me much about before you came to Earth? Don't you trust me?"

He sighed and got up from next to me. Using his right hand he rubbed his left wrist. "There are things that you should not know about me. Things that would just complicate our relationship. Things... I do not want to remember."

"Like your parents?"

"Yes," he said sadly. "However this star chart appears to be Star Fleet. Are they involved?"


"And they let you draft me into the mission?"

"I simply stated that they would need to find another person to command the mission if they refused to have you. Why are they so... afraid of you?"

He took that moment to finally sit in the chair. I moved in front of him to look deep into his eyes.

"When I was eighteen I was found by a Star Fleet ship. I don't remember the name of the ship, but the captain was later involved in that Starionii situation. At any rate they found me in a small vessel, clearly not the one my family left in. I was in some form of stasis, suspended in the middle of the only room on the damn thing." He rubbed his temples, trying to remember what he had tried so hard to forget.

"I know that you have had a hard life before we met. I just want you to know that I will always be there for you. There is nothing that you can do or say that will make me not love you. Remember that always. Now you better start packing while I do some cleaning. The shuttle is scheduled to leave in three days."

Well it's Monday, the day we leave for my new ship. My sister and hir family (a male lion morph, a female skunk morph, and a skunktaur) came last night. It took me about a day to clean the place up (Jason still will not let me clean up his study, naturally). My sister and I get reacquainted last night; it had been almost a year now. We are even thinking that we may want to join our families together. Jason and I are not always around and it would be easier if hir family lived here. Even with both of us here (he is my only mate) there are still plenty of extra rooms. The real problem with this is having to convince Jason. Usually whenever we talk about it, he thinks that we will convert his study into a nursery or something along those lines.

Speaking of Jason, he did a better job then I would packing (I just throw stuff into the containers and I always forget something). He had all of the bags ready the night before and went about his ritual of cataloguing every single thing in his study to make sure everything was still there... and have a record in case anything was damaged or broken when we came back. Though I could not blame him, his study contains at least a hundred million credits worth of alien artefacts and other items. That is to say, it is beneath the mess and on the shelves. So if you ever drop by and enter that room, remember to use the few paths he has created or else you risk stepping on something.

Speaking of Jason, here he comes, followed by everyone else.

"Everything is packed and loaded on the PTV. I'm ready to leave whenever you are," he said with a dumb smile on his face.

"Well then, sis, I guess this is time to say goodbye again," I stated sadly.

Shi padded over and gave me a big hug. Jason and my sister’s lion mate walked to either side of us and began staring at our... close bodies. Then both of them slightly tilted their heads to the same side.

"You like?" Jason asked him.

"I know I like," the lion replied with a grin on his face.

"Now don't forget a top, love," Jason replied among a few laughs.

After almost going to my ship for the first time topless, the day went up from there. Jason behaved himself on the trip to the ship and we both settled into our rooms quite nicely. Another interesting thing about this ship is that the rooms were actually rather large for a starship. I suppose that could be thanks to the fact that it was designed for long range and constant engagements. The replication system was state of the art (it could even replicate all known blood types in case of a medical situation). There were two holo rooms on the ship. The first was actually used to control the weapon systems. A truly ingenious system that allowed a rather fit two-legged person enhanced control and targeting of the offensive systems. The second was a much smaller version (and more complex) of the holo facilities on Earth and a few other planets.

Well, it's almost time for me to address the crew, minus one as Jason has made himself disappear again. Somehow he has hid himself from the ship’s computer and no one has spotted him since he threw the last of our bags into my room and ran off. I can now only hope he has not been playing with the transporter again. Last time he did, he turned it into a replicator and made himself the largest pizza ever. Now you know why he ended up doing his job at home.

"Now that everyone who is here that going to bother showing up," I began, "Let me introduce myself. My name is Chakat Softstride and I am mated to Jason who just happens to be the one that is missing. I like to think of myself as fair and reasonable and I hope that this mission goes smoothly."

I took a deep breath as Jason walked in and up to the front.

"Sorry I'm late," he began. "Just wanted to put some stuff into my new little office. They actually had the audacity of making it clean! How can I work with so much... order?"

There were a few chuckles among the crowd. In Star Corps, Jason is infamous. He is perhaps the most messy person in the Corps. Yet if you ask him for anything in his piles, he will walk over to one of them, stick his whole arm in and pull what you wanted out in a second or two. There are many other things that he is known for, but that is one of the most astonishing.

"Better late then never," I said with a slight smile. "At any rate, while this is a joint mission between the Corps and Star Fleet, I am still in command and you will have to obey my rules."

"Now that everyone is here, the command staff can introduce themselves," I stated.

An old female wolf with gray fur and wearing a Star Fleet uniform, stepped up.

"You all may call me Commander Rose," she began with a stern glance. "I am not as lax as the captain is and do not expect leniency."

I heard something along the lines of "bitch" come out of Jason’s mouth. I do not believe that it was used to state that she was a female canine. The commander gave a quick glance at him and Jason got behind me. This could be a long trip.

Her speech went on for a little bit longer. I was utterly surprised at how she could bore someone to death and instil pure fear at the same time. Luckily she finished before everyone fell asleep of fear. Next went the tactical officer, navigation specialist, com officer, head researcher, and the head doctor. A skunktaur with a patch identifying hym as being of the telepathically gifted was next.

"Everyone calls me Skuks, and I don't mind if you call me that. It will be my job to make sure your don't go nuts. However for some of you that may be too late."

Hy looked back and saw Jason smiling back, giving hym a thumbs-up. This action resulted in another wave of chuckles from those watching.

"If you ever need to talk, just find me and I will be happy to listen. However some people will have to wait or else I would not have any time for others."

Hy walked back into the crowed and Jason replaced hym.

"I am known not as a genius, not as a thinker, not as saint, not as translator, not even by my own name... known only as Jason," he said and went back to my side.

"Tomorrow we leave for deep space, so we all better work hard to get this ship running and ready by then. Dismissed."

Continued in Chapter 2.

Chakats, Chakona, etcetera, were created by Bernard Doove. Also everything else I borrowed is copyright to whoever made it. The two or three original things are all mine! Do not even think of taking credit for my inspired lunacy. Feel free to distribute unedited and just make sure that the author (me) is credited.



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