The ShadowFall Project
Prologue: The Rendezvous
By J.F. Eskew

The bipedal lynx morph growled to herself while looking at the info on a PADD sitting on her desk. She took the cup of coffee into her hands from the desk top as she turned in her chair to face the large window behind her. With a short cooling blow, she brought the cup to her thin black lips and sipped the hot drink with much gratification before returning her gaze to the rainbow of multicolored lights that passed by the window.

As she gazed at her own reflection, a sandy-tan Canadian Lynx with all the black stripe markings and ear tuffs, looked back at her with a tired look. She pushed a strand of stray, mid long hazelnut brown hair that curled lightly, out of her face as she watched the window.

"So Suzan, what you think we should do?" she asked the reflection which just mimicked her. She let out a long drawn sigh and then let her mind begin to wander in thought as the light show of sub-space seemed to hypnotize her while passing by the window of her freighter ship, the Rendezvous.

A beep from her door caused Suzanna to bring herself back from wandering thoughts. She called out for the person to enter as she just kept her chair facing towards the window.

A young, solid snow-white, chakat then walked through the doorway. The soft sounds of metal padding along the floor with the sound of moving mechanized joints could be heard. The doors closed behind the chakat as shi moved to the center of the room, stopping just before the desk, Suzanna could hear the light whirring whine of gears and pistons settling as the young chakat sat down.

"Panzer reporting as ordered, Captain Cortez," a twelve years old voice spoke as the lynx began to turn in her chair to face the chakat.

A left pale gray eye looked at the chakat while a red glowing cybernetic right with a yellow slitted pupil shifted to focus. The lynxís eyes were met by a pair of bright emerald green eyes which stood out like beacons against the young chakatís snow white fur while a warm, cheerful smile sat upon hir muzzle.

The hard expression of captain soften into a gentle smile on Suzannaís face when she gazed into the happy eyes of the Chakat as she set her cup of coffee back on the hardwood finish of her desk.

"Is there something you needed of me captain?" Panzer asked in a humorous tone while the smile turned into a grin.

"Yes there is," Suzanna replied. "I need someone I can talk with who can also give me a hug." She finished with a grin of her own forming on her muzzle. The chakat gave a mocking look of surprise with a teasing gasp at the captain.

"Thatís not appropriate behavior for a captain to ask such things of her crew!"

Suzanna just raised an eyebrow. "Smart ass," she hissed almost laughing. "Get over here and give your mother a hug, I could really use one!"

The giggling chakat just wrinkled hir pink nose pad while shi was all too happy to respond to the captainís request. As shi stood back up, the whirring sounds started up again from hir four lower cybernetic legs. The metal and wires made it to where one could not see the real legs underneath it all. Shi padded over to Suzanna who turned in her chair to greet Panzer with a warm hug.

"I needed thatÖ." Suzanna said with a long sigh. Panzerís look turned more serious when shi eyed the PADD sitting on the desk as she parked hir rump on the floor beside the desk.

Shi adjusted hir purple t-shirt and then picked up the PADD. Shi brushed a stray bang out of hir face as shi read the PADD over. Hir look then turned grim when shi placed the PADD back down, shi looked over to Suzanna.

"Theyíre trying to get you hooked into a contract again arenít they?" shi asked as Suzanna nodded somberly while replying in a low growl. "Yes, they areÖ and theyíre doing a damn good job of keeping us from turning a profit. As it sits we barely get enough after each run to keep the Rendezvous in space. "

She picked the PADD up and glanced at it. Suzannaís look hardened again to that of a stern captain. Her eyes narrow into a fierce look of anger before she slammed the PADD back down on her desk, the white chakat jumping as shi was startled by the slam.

"Damn these shipping companies!" Suzanna said in an almost yell. "Theyíre forcing independent freighter captains into signing their contracts with the false hope of better pay but then make it so impossible for them to complete the damn terms that they bankrupt decent, hard working people and then take everything they own for failing to finish."

Placing her elbows on the arms of her chair, Suzanna began to rub both of her temples with her brow furrowed and eyes shut. "Just last week I got news that both Jack Mahoney and Lindsey Verve lost their ships to a company after they couldnít afford to keep up with the demands of their contracts."

Panzerís eyes widen in surprise as shi looked to her. "You mean the Windsor and the Eleanor were taken from them?!" shi asked with a gaping jaw.

"With everything else they owned," she replied with a long sigh. She then picked up her cup of coffee from the desk and downed the now mildly warm drink. Suzanna then leaned back into her chair, looking thoughtful at the empty cup in her fingers with her daughter looking on.

"Theyíre slowly killing us, taking us out one by one, so they can replace us with their mindless idiots and ship their illegal goods without questions or suspicionsÖ." Her voice trailed off at the end, still looking at the cup in her hands.

" Thatís not whatís bothering you, is it?" The chakat spoke up, breaking her gaze of the cup and up to Panzer.

The Lynx gave a wry smile to the chakat before giving a chuckle. "Is there anything you canít pick up on?"

Panzer just gave a wide grin with hir reply. "Nope, so spill it Ė whatís up? Does it have to do with the shipment we got?"

Suzanna held up a hand with her index finger pointed at the chakat, "Bingo!" she said with a grin before her look turned more somber. Suzanna leaned forward as she brought a pair of clasped hands to her lips, her eyes lost in thought before she continued.

"Itís been bothering me since we left. I mean I can understand the reason for them wanting to ship an emergency medical re-supply first class priority one, but they wonít give me the detail of whatís inside, nor am I or any of my crew to open any of the containers. When I ask, they tell me it will damage the goods inside." Suzanna let out an annoyed sigh as she leaned back in her chair, turning her gaze to the chakat who was listening quietly.

"Is there more?" shi asked with a quirk of hir head.

Suzanna nodded. "Yes there is. The payment and deadline are by far the most puzzling. We have less than two weeks to get the shipment to its destination and weíll barely have enough time to get it there."

The chakat youth looked towards the ceiling as shi furrowed hir brow in thought. "What of the payment?" shi piped, while thinking about all thatís been said.

"Thatís the one that has been bothering me the most," she answered. "They gave us an upfront advance that could pay for this trip five times over and then promised the other half upon completing the run. With the catch I sign a contract to exclusively ship only their cargo! The money theyíre promising me could turn the Rendezvous into a luxury liner!"

The whirring of gears sounded as the chakat stood again, hir face in deep thought, trying to piece it together. Suzanna was right, this didnít sound right at all and now Panzer could see why the captain was worried. Shi paced a bit to the front of the desk and then looked at her. "You donít think the shipment is something illegal?!" The young chakat exclaimed with wide eyes.

Suzanna just shook her head. "I donít know and Iím not going to pry open the container to see. It passed the scans before loading, thereís nothing explosive or hazardous in it, so as far as Iím convinced itís medical supplies and nothing more."

She said it with an expression that made Panzer think she really didnít believe that. Hir look had turned somewhat grim and angry at the same time from what shi had heard hir mother say. Shi had known this woman for only a few years but shi probably knew her better than most.

Although hir face was young, Panzerís bright green eyes showed a great deal of maturity as shi looked the captain square in the eye. "Are we really that desperate for creds?"

"Iím afraid so. This has been the only paying job Iíve been able to get in the past three months," Suzanna said as she shifted back into her chair, bringing clasped hands back to her lips while her expression became somber again.

"I just canít keep up anymore. The Rendezvous wasnít built to handle large loads and I canít lower my prices like some of these other captains have been doing. How they manage to keep their ships with such low fare is beyond me," she said lastly with a sigh while shutting her eyes. She then felt a head bump into her shoulder and arms wrap around her for a hug.

Panzer rested hir head on hir motherís shoulder. Shi could feel the tension and frustration emanating from her. Shi knew how hard hir mother had been working and the stress she was under but still put on face for her crew and daughter so they would not worry as well.

Panzer knew the burden she was carrying and wished there was something more shi could do, purring softly trying to ease some tension off the lynx, when hir eyes snapped open as shi had been awakened from a daydream. "The new warp core interfaceÖ" shi whispered to hirself. Suzanna started to shift when she heard Panzer whisper something only to have the chakat bound up from where shi rested like a spring on a mouse trap being released.

"The new warp core interface Iíve been working on!!!" shi sang out, startling Suzanna half out of her seat. "Itís the answer! If it works like I think it will, we can cut our fuel usage by a third!" Suzanna sighed at hir comment and looked over to now bouncy chakat youth with a flat look.

"Iím sorry Panzer, but Iím not going to let you plug something into the warp core youíve never tested before!"

"But momÖ!" Panzer began to protest when Suzannaís com badge started to beep. With a look, Panzer bit down on hir bottom lip, knowing better than to interrupt a com call. Suzanna then tapped on her com to open the line. "Cortez here, go ahead."

"Captain, this is the bridge, weíre leaving Federation space. Shall I set course for the nearest star base?" a young femaleís voice asked.

"No, stay on our current heading, Iíll be joining you shortly."

"Understood Captain. Miski out."

With the com line closed, Suzanna began to lift herself out of her chair as she ruffled up Panzerís hair. She walked over to her large red, high collared, leather duster hanging on a coat hook on the wall near her desk and pulled it off the hook to wear.

Panzer followed hir mother and was about to start hir plea again when hir mother cut hir off before shi could speak as the lynx put on the duster. "Iím sorry dear but we donít have time right now and I really donít need another incident right now!"

"That was just a simple mistake, I mean itís not likeÖ."

"You made every replicator in the ship spew out pea soup like they were some sort of science fair volcanoes!" the lynx said scowling.

The chakat just huffed as shi pouted. "I crossed one wire and now nobody lets me forget it!"

Suzanna was laughing at this point when she looked at Panzer. "Well maybe if half of the crew, including myself, hadnít been standing in front of a replicator when they went offÖ so no, thatís going to haunt you to the grave!" she said teasing her daughter with a big grin.

She signaled for her daughter to join her by the door and when shi did, Suzanna just gave the small chakat a big hug. "You know I love you right?"

Panzer just smiled and looked up to hir mother. "Yeah mom, I do and I love you too."

The doorway slid open with a quiet hiss as Suzanna stepped out with Panzer right behind. The door closed when both were out and into a large oval shaped room that was the bridge of the Rendezvous.

"Captain on bridge!" a male voice said.

"As you were," Suzanna replied as she and Panzer made their way to the center of the room where a big, finely made, leather captain's chair stood with a smaller chair to the right that a Wolf morph sat at and a seat pad on the floor to the left. The Lynx then made herself comfortable in the chair as she sat down in it and looked forward at the large view screen that had open space displayed on it.

"Panzer, report to engineering and help Dekend with the forward sensor array, we're still having trouble with them," she said to the chakat in her captain's voice.

The white chakat just stood at attention and then nodded, "Understood Captain," shi said before shi turned and headed to a lift to take hir down to engineering.

"All stations report. Miski, what is our course?" Suzanna called out after Panzer left in the lift for engineering.

"We are currently in en route to the medical space station Helios on course heading 2-1-0-0, E.T.A is six days and thirteen hours at present speed of warp six captain," a female biped Husky called out from her semi-enclosed helm console, that lay directly straight ahead of the captainís chair just thirteen feet away, which faced towards the view screen of the room.

"Increase to warp seven and stay on heading Miski."

"Aye captain, going to warp seven," the husky yipped back in a petite voice.

"Zonus, weapons?"

"All weapon and shield systems are functioning normally captain. We have a full payload of torpedoes, the interceptor system is showing no irregularities, and the ships laser banks are all operating within specs."

A deep and rough male's voice said from behind Suzannaís seat. A large black and grey Rakshani with white stripes stood at a computer tactics panel that sat in a railing that made a curved shaped wall right behind the captain's chair, separating the higher deck that ramped down to the lower floor.

"Very good Zonus. Lonna, how is it looking out there?"

"The forward and long range sensor arrays are still malfunctioning but all seems clear for now, captain," a red Voxxan female with long silver hair replied in a lush, sultry voice from her seat, while watching a display screen at her navigation station that sat at an angle to the left of helm just a few feet away.

"Very well, keep a watch out for any pirate ships the best you can till the sensors are repaired."

"Aye captain," the Voxxan responded back as she went to watching her screen.

"Lightwalker, keep your ears open and communications lines clear for distress signals, we're going into an area with heavy pirate sightings."

"Understood captain, all lines are clear and open," a young, medium brown furred, Caitian female spoke to Suzanna in a soft voice as she monitored the signals from the communications panel that sat to the right of helm, in an opposite angle of the navigation.

"Very Good. Commander Marcus, anything you'd like to add?"

"Besides having trouble with the sensors captain, everything is running smoothly," a male biped timber wolf morph, with a British accent, said from his chair to the right of hers. His head hair was short and spiky with a medium brown color while amber eyes showed a look of someone who was laid back but not to be taken lightly when needed.

His clothing was a bit odd Ė a brown leather bombers jacket over a white tee with dark baggy pants and a pair of old good olí work boots, it looked like he almost stepped out of the 1950's.

He then looked to his side and picked up a PADD. Marcus held it out to Suzanna as he looked to her, "This came for you just a little while ago,", he said as she took the PADD.

Suzanna gave the PADD a quick scan over and then sighed. She rose slowly to her feet as the wolf just watched.

"Captain?" he asked quizzically.

"Commander, may I see you in my ready room for a moment? There are a few things we need to talk about," the lynx just said in a flat monotone voice before heading back to her ready room.

The others just looked at Marcus who just slowly got up as well. Everyone aboard this ship knew that if the captain addressed you by rank and not by name, it meant you were in deep trouble! The wolf didn't look too worried though as he just looked back to Zonus. "You have the bridge Zonus", he said before moving for the door of Suzanna's ready room.

"Aye sir!" The large Rakshani said while giving him a nod.

Marcus just sighed as the door to the ready room closed behind him. The 32 year old wolf hated being called sir, but Zonus was very respectful to higher ranked command and took his job a little too seriously. Marcus had often told the Rakshani to just call him by his name, but Zonus never did.

He walked into the room while rubbing his head, looking back at the door then to what was in front of him. As he turned, Marcus was about to complain about Zonus but was soon forgotten when Suzanna grasped the wolf tightly and pulled him in for a deep and passionate kiss.

They both panted for a bit after breaking the kiss as a grin broke out on the wolf's muzzle. "Well, I would've asked for permission to kiss freely but it seems you beat me to the punch, my beautiful captain. You got some stress to blow off, dont'cha love?" he said more in a statement and not a question as he held her close to him. He had to look down only a little as Suzanna only stood at five foot six while he stood five foot eight.

Suzanna was purring in Marcusí embrace as she nuzzled at his chest. She gave a sigh as her eyes looked to meet his. He could see the strain sheíd been under from all that has been happening of late and knew that any more undue stress could send her over the edge.

"You have no idea how badly I need you right nowÖ" Suzanna started to say, but let it trail off a bit while she breathed in the wolfís musky scent.

"You need to relax, love. All this stress is going to kill you, literally!" he said softy as he broke her grip of him. As he moved over to the door to hang his jacket, he could smell the lynxís hormones filling the air and even for her age, were still quite strong. His arousal was clear at this point and when he turned back, he found that she was gone.

"Suzanna? Where ya go love?" he asked moving to the inner door that led to her bedroom and got quite an eye full when her sleek nude form moved into view. Suzanna stretched an arm over her head as she leaned on the doorway. A cheesy smile now sat on his face as he stood admiring her body. "I was going to ask if you wanted a drink to help unwind but I see you got other things in mind!"

A sandy tan paw reached out and slid up the wolfís chest a bit before grasping a fist full of his shirt at the collar while she retorted, "Forget the damn drinks and get in here!" There was a quick yank as Marcus gave a yelp while being pulled into the room with a grin.

Panzer strode down the corridor at a haphazard pace. The occasional crewmember would pass hir by in the corridor and greet the chakat as shi passed on by. Everyone on the ship knew Panzer, being something of the shipís mascot. While making hir way to engineering, a small voice called out from behind hir.

"Sis? Hey big Sis, WAIT UP!!!"

The young chakat stopped and turned towards the voice. Panzer smiled when she saw a young Caitian boy and a younger Caitian girl running up to her. The boy looked to be about seven, the girl five. They both wore simple clothing, the boy just wore a simple grey long sleeved shirt and matching pants, the girl wore a plain white dress with sleeves that went about a foot past her hands.

"Hey you two, why the big hurry?" Panzer asked as they trotted up to hir.

The boy held up a metal ball about the size of a small melon to the chakat as he spoke. "Lilly broke my hover ball!!!"

"Uh-uh!!! I did not, Michael, and you know it!"

"You did so!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!!"

"I did not!!"


The two kids jumped a bit before both looking to Panzer who had heard enough. With a sigh, shi gave hir calm face before shi began. "OK now, I get the fact itís broken and Iím guessing you want me to fix it right?"

The boy gave a quick nod in agreement as did the girl. The chakat then just gave a warm smile to them both as shi leaned hir upper body down a bit to look at them in the eyes. "Alright then, Iíll fix your hover ball for you, but no more fighting and be nice to Lilly, ok?"

Michael nodded with downcast eyes while Lilly stepped up to him and tugged on his shirt. When he looked to her, the little girl gave him a sad look. "Iím sorry I broke your ball brother," she said in her small voice.

He just smiled at his sister and gave her a hug. "Itís ok Lilly, I shouldnít have thrown it so high anyway."

"Thatís more like it. You two run off and go play, I have to get to engineering before Lillyís mom has my hide!" Panzer said to them with a laughing smile.

"Oh hey!" Michael said to Panzer has shi started to leave. "My mom wants to know what Dekend wants for dinner tonight. Sheís cooking up a storm again."

"You got it. See you two after I get off duty, later!" The young chakat gave a nod and a wave to the kids has they began to head back the way they came as shi started back towards hirs.

As shi came to the end of the corridor, Panzer made hir way towards a pair of steel gray doors that led to the shipís engineering room while looking over the broken toy, rolling it over the palm and back of hir right hand. The young Chakat stopped just to the right and pushed a button sequence on the keypad next to the door with hir left hand while twirling the ball on a finger with hir right.

Dekend hated unauthorized personnel in her engineering room and the only way in was with a pass key number given to a select few, Panzer being one of them, though Dekend had threaten the chakat that sheíd remove hir pass key code if shi didnít stop trying ĎTuningí things up. The chakat knew Dekend would never do that and the two were really good friends. With hir mechanical fore paw tapping the floor, Panzer smiled as the code finally cleared , the dual doors shi had been waiting for finally slid open.

The whirring sounds of hir mechanized legs were drowned out by the low pitch hum of the warp cores as shi entered the room. Four mid size reactor warp cores with the large main one in the center of the four, all in perfect sync with each other. The dark gray steel of the inner room was bathed in the soft red glow of the warp cores while the other, more well lit, outer room was separated by a large transparent aluminum view panel with a built in lower display panel with work stations.

Panzer padded over to the main workstation where a Caitian female was working over the com panel in front of the view panel that looked out at the warp cores and before the chakat could get out a word, the Caitian spoke out first as she continued to type in data without looking back.

"Youíre late, kiddo!"

Panzer just grinned while shi stuck out hir tongue. "Sorry, got caught up with Michael and Lilly. Didnít mean to keep you waiting, Dekend," shi replied before stopping at the main work station next to the felinoid.

"Itís alright, I hope they werenít getting into trouble again."

"Nah, Michael just wanted me to fix his hover ball, thatís all," shi said while gazing at the main work stationís readout display. "I see weíre running the cores at full power eh?" Panzer asked as shi logged in.

"Yes, the cargo weíre carrying is pulling a heavy load on the shipís running systems." Dekend replied. " So I had to boost the towers from 50% to full so other areas wouldnít be without power."

"Thatís a lot of power!!!" Panzer exclaimed. "Oh, before I forget, Silent Song wants to know what her first wife wants for dinner!" shi quickly added.

"Yes it is, but from what I understand, the cargo is very sensitive," she said while continuing to work. "Hmm, beef tips with rice sounds good, Iíll call her once we get these sensors fixed."

Dekend had the average build, long and slender with an athletic build, medium C-cup bust and long tail with a tuft at the end. Yes, she was a perfectly normal save for the fact that she was the rare solid jet black fur colored Caitian. She wore a solid olive drab khaki uniform with matching cap. Her long mane was pulled back into a tight ponytail that stopped just shy of the base of her tail. Like all of her kind, she wore no boots but she did sport a golden anklet on one leg.

Her real name translated into ĎShe who walks in the light of the night mooní but got her nickname ĎDekendí when Captain Cortez tried to pronounce her real and botched it horribly. She turned to look at the chakat with an ivory white smile and soft golden eyes that seem to glow against the beautiful black fur that shined in the light.

"Alright, letís get to work on those forward arrays. Iím sure Lonna must be getting quite aggravated by now," Dekend said as she rolled her Rís and hissed the Sís.

Panzer gave a quick nod and then padded off to hir work area. Hir work station was off to the far left corner cubby hole and was quite large. On hir desk was a rather odd-shaped object about the size of an average PTV motor with a white cloth that completely hid it from view. Panzer felt the itch to lift the cover and tweak hir latest project as shi placed the broken toy beside it. Instead shi grabbed a pair of work goggles and a large pen shaped work tool before heading back over to Dekend.

"OK then!" Panzer said as shi padded up to Dekend. "Do we have any idea where the malfunction is?"

"Iím thinking itís down in sector twelve, corridor three, sub panel A-25."

"You think?!" Panzer said, almost shocked as shi looked away from the PADD shi had picked up to read. "Thatís not like you to make a guess, Dekend!" Shi looked up to the display screen Dekend was working and gave it a quick glance before shi asked, "Why are you having so much trouble finding the problem?"

"Because I think that sludge you got the replicators to spit out seeped down into the hard wiring!" the Caitian said without missing a beat of her work.

"Hey, itís not my fault that the panel in front of that replicator was off!!" shi spouted off before continuing in a grumbling tone. "I donít understand how I could have. I was nowhere near the main replicator supply lines, how was I supposed to know my wiring would affect them?"

Dekend had stopped at this point and was laughing. "You tell me, youíre the genius around here! It took Light Walker almost a day to get that stuff out of her fur!" She spoke between heaves of laughter. "Has she forgiven you yet?"

"No!" Panzer pouted while giving Dekend the ĎEyesí. "In fact, just about half the ship still reminds me about it. Just because Iím a genius doesnít mean Iím perfect!" shi finished with a huge sigh.

Dekend just ran a black-furred paw over the chakatís head and ruffed up hir head hair. "Get going kiddo, Iíll see what I can do with my third wife at dinner tonight, but for now, lets get the sensors fixed before we run into something we donít want to!"

Panzer just returned the smile that Dekend gave before placing hir goggles on hir head and disappeared into the nearest access tube. The sleek black Caitian returned to her work at the station and didnít have to wait long before her com beeped at her with a page.

"Dekend here, go ahead," she said after tapping on her com affixed to the left breast of her shirt.

"Dekend, itís Panzer. Looks like you were right. Looks like the AR-3 circuit shorted out. All and all, itís not as bad as I thought it would have been!" Panzerís disembodied voice sounded through Dekendís com badge.

She tapped her com when Panzer finished to give her reply. "Alright then, Iím sending a Rover with the new circuit to you."

"Roger that, Panzer out!"

With that, Dekend then walked over to an engineer grade replicator and punched in her request. In a sparkling blue light, the new thick shaped octagon circuit formed and was ready to be delivered to the chakat crawling around in the tubes.

She picked up the circuit and headed for the open access tube. She looked down just inside the door and smiled at the odd little robot sitting there. It looked like a mini tank that had a sleek design and no turret. She gently placed the circuit on the little botís gravity holding plate as she spoke to it.

"Sector twelve, corridor three, sub panel A-25. Release for Chakat Panzer."

It gave a confirmation beep and as quick as a flash, it darted off down the tube with barely a sound. It wizzed along the metal deck plates of the tubes, its gravity treads keeping it firmly glued to the floor, walls or ceiling, depending on where it was going.

Shi had been looking over the damaged circuit with brow furrowed. The damage on the circuit didnít look right for a short. The little bot arrived in just under a minute, beeping at Panzer as it stopped right beside hir. With a smile, shi took the new circuit off the little tank and then placed the old back on it.

"Return to engineering," shi told it in a firm tone. The bot beeped before it took off, heading back the way it just came from, leaving the chakat to hir work. Panzer had the circuit in place and ready to go in just a few seconds, seeing as it was not that big a pain to get to in the first place, then tapped hir com. "Dekend please," shi announced as shi sent out the page.

"Dekend here, go ahead," the voice replied over the com.

"Dekend, Iíve got the circuit in place and ready for power test."

"Ok then, stand by for power check!" Dekendís voice called back

"Roger that!" shi said as shi turned hir eyes to the circuit. The circuit came to life with a flashing of colored lights before it went a soft blue to match the power lines. Panzer ran hir pen-shaped tool barely over the new circuit and watched the readings. Shi smiled to hirself and closed the panel back up before tapping hir com again. "Looking good down here, Dekend. Whatís the stats on the sensors?"

Her hands glided over the work station as they typed away on the board. Dekend glanced up at the display and nodded with a grin as she answered Panzerís question. "Green lights all the away across. You got it kiddo. Head on back up here. Iím going to need a hand with recalibrating the forward arrays."

"Roger that, Iím on my way. Panzer out."

A soft purring stirred in the sleeping wolfís ears, causing him to grin as he awoke from a small nap. Marcus lay on his back on the bed with her cuddling close to him as he looked down to gaze at her. Suzanna nuzzled at the wolfís chest while she ran her fingers through his fur.

She then shifted her body up, her disheveled hair hung in her face as she looked down to Marcus, whose smile just widened as he looked right back into her eyes. Suzanna then moved herself over the wolf and then rested her body on top of his, giving his nose a quick kiss.

"I think itís time we got back to the bridge," Suzanna reluctantly said in an almost whisper. Marcus smiled and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips, all the while he could feel her erect nipples rubbing through his fur.

"I think they can handle it, Captain, no need to spoil this moment eh?" he said in response to her while she could feel his manhood becoming erect and pressing against her body.

Suzanna gave a smile as she tapped his nose pad with a finger. "Save that energy for later. For now, I need to get back on the bridge and so do you!" She then lifted herself off of Marcus while gracefully sliding out of the bed and headed for the bathroom.

Marcus just shifted to his side so he could watch Suzanna walk. He loved the way her body moved as she strode into the other room. Suzanna had a nice build, she was stronger than she looked, working out on a daily basis and the undefeated Arena champ for the Rendezvous 18 years running!

She had curves in the right places, he didnít care about her age or the slight sagging to her large size C-cup breasts. All he saw, well to him anyway, was as goddess that he loved with all his heart and soul. Marcus sometimes wondered what heíd done to win the affections of the lynx but was nonetheless glad he had.

Suzanna emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, dressed and brushing out her light curly head hair. Marcus just sighed as he lifted himself out of the bed haphazardly, stretching out when he stood up.

Suzanna smiled when he bent over to pick up his clothing, admiring his butt which she thought was cute, then held out her brush as he passed and goosed him when he took it as he headed for the bathroom. Her ears perked up and her gaze snapped to the view port to see the ship leaving rainbow hues of sub-space and entering normal space while the ship slowed down to a stop.

"They must be recalibrating the sensor arrays. Good, one less thing to worry about," Suzanna said aloud to herself. She started to lean down to get her specially made boots when a loud crashing was heard three times that rocked the ship fiercely.

The lynx was knocked off her feet and sent flying into her bed as red lights started to flash and the Red Alert sirens started to wail. No sooner had she hit the bed, Suzanna was back on her feet and moving like a ghost across the room to look into the bathroom. There she found Marcus half way dressed in the bathtub holding the back of his head.

There was blood on the tiled wall behind him where his head hit but he just waved Suzanna off as he spoke through gritted teeth. "Iím fine, just go!!!" He didnít have to say it twice, she was already gone and flying through the door leading to the bridge.

Dekend hissed in anger as she scrambled back to her feet. Her blood-stained teeth bared in a fierce snarl of rage as she began to work feverously on the com panel before her. It had not been a few minutes earlier when she and Panzer where helping Lonna recalibrate the sensors.

Dekend had been viewing what Lonna was seeing when she noticed three objects appear off the port of the Rendezvous and had only realized what they were when it was too late!

Both Dekend and Panzer, along with almost of all of the engineering crew, were sent hard down into the steel deck plates when the first hit rocked the ship. Blood oozed from the gash over Dekendís right eye and her lip.

She could taste the blood flowing into her mouth but what was making her angry was the fact that she did not react faster when she saw the ships. ĎDamnit, damnit, DAMNIT!!!!!í Dekend cursed at herself mentally as she noted Panzer getting back on hir feet, the gears and servos in hir legís protesting loudly. The chakat gave a sigh of pain as shi gingerly touched the gash on her forehead that sent blood running down either side of hir nose ridge.

"PANZER! I NEED YOUR HELP!!!!" Dekend yelled over the wailing sirens for the chakat to hear.

"RIGHT!!" Panzer retorted as shi wobbled hir way over to the Caitianís side. "Oh noÖ" Hir eyes went wide when shi saw the displays but quickly somber up as hir hands began to type away at hellish speeds across the com board. Hir head began to bob a bit as shi tried to fight from passing out.

"ALL STATIONS REPORT!" the lynx yelled out in a strong authority command for all on the bridge to hear as she quickly took her place in the captainís chair while the three attacking ships loomed in the view screen.

They were all the same, long and narrow with a cylinder type body, looking like sea-wolf class sub-marine. Their bridges sat a top the round bodies like a navy air-craft carrier while four warp nacelles, that were attached by large swept back wedges at the rear of the ships in a cross pattern, held out 76 meters away from the main body. About half way back from the nose of the ships, were three sharp swept back wings, one under the body while two on either side at a slight downward angle. The wings held the main lasers of the shipís while eight torpedo launch tubes were carved into their round noses.

Five more shots rocked the Rendezvous that made Suzanna growl in her seat as she stared at the screen as her eyes narrowed and lips pulled tight in a snarl as her crew began to fill her in on the shipís status.

"Captain, three enemy ships appear to be Arrowhead class, heavily armed!" Lonna called out from her seat.

"Their first three shots were direct hits! Weapons, engineering and the main launch bay were damaged!" Zonus saying right after Lonna finished. "Shields are at 88% and dropping, all torpedo tubes are offline and our lasers are barely affecting their shields!"

"Damnit!" Suzanna said to herself before asking. "Is there enough power to fire the Flash cannons?"

"Negative Captain." A foxtaur tod called out. He sat at a large reverse facing com panel that sat behind where Zonus stood with a good spacing between them. With his back to the large view screen, the foxtaur tod turned to look at the captain. "Main warp core is at 83% and holding. Cores one and four are down! Core two is holding at full power but core three is at 55% and falling!"

When he finished, an identical looking foxtaur tod to his right spoke up. "Captain, we have a hull breach on deck three, injuries reported but no casualties! Life support systems are still operating at 100%"

Suzanna sighed. "They caught us with our pants down," she said under her breath while kicking herself mentally before the deep voice of the male Rakshani spoke out behind her. "Theyíve stopped firing on us, Captain!" She looked up to him and then back at the view screen.

"Captain, weíre being hailed by the enemy, audio only!" Lightwalker said while working her station controls.

"Put it through!" Suzanna calmly said to the Caitian. When she nodded back to her captain, Suzanna stood up as she spoke out. "This is Captain Suzanna Cortez of the Rendezvous! I can only assume you want my cargo seeing as youíre no doubt pirates but why are you contacting me?"

"Very astute of you Captain Cortez and to the point, I like that," a maleís guff voice with a Scottish accent replied over the com link. "Iím Captain Amadeus of the Dark Rift! I have no interest in your ship or crew Captain, all I want is your cargo. Surrender it with no resistance and weíll leave with no further complications."

"And what word do I have you wonít destroy my ship, Captain Amadeus?" Suzanna retorted with a stern look.

"Captain, Iím hurt!" he replied with a mocking tone. "I give you my word that no further harm will come to your crew or ship."

"Fine. Give me a minute to activate the release clamps on my cargo pods, you can pick them up," she said in a dry and unemotional voice.

"Glad you see things my way Captain. Youíve got five minutes, Amadeus out!"

With that the com link closed and Suzanna took her seat. All eyes on the bridge were on her and before anyone could protest, Marcus shot out the door that lead to captainís ready room and took his seat to the right of the Captain.

All eyes were now on him and it wasnít because he had just shown up but because of the pink bra he had on over his plain white tee shirt. "Alright, what did I miss?" He asked before noting all the odd stares aimed at him.

"WhatÖ is my head still bleeding?" The wolf asked while looking over to Suzanna who just looked at his shirt with a cocked brow. When Marcus looked down at his shirt, he found that he was wearing one of the Captainís pink silk bras over his tee shirt.

"AH! Right then!" he said as he quickly removed the feminine undergarment and placed it under him. He just looked dead at the view screen with a straight face but ears burning a deep shade of crimson as he said in low voice. "Iím sooo going to hear about this later."

"Yes you are!" Suzanna replied without missing a beat. Miski then started with the protest, "Captain, youíre not seriously going to hand over the cargo are you?" Suzanna just glared over at the Husky.

"Not a chance in hell, as soon as they have our cargo theyíll destroy the Rendezvous. Just because Iím not a chakat doesnít mean I canít tell when Iím being lied to! Zonus! Ready the interceptor system!!!" Suzanna said in a cold and somber tone as her expression took on a wicked look, making the lynx look as if she were a demon straight from hell!

Captain Amadeus sat in his command chair with a smug grin upon his aging face. His hands lightly touched the others finger tips before he leaned off to one side and began to stroke his thick salt and pepper beard in thought. "Where have I heard that name before?" the human asked of himself before one of his crew broke his thoughts.

"Sir, the Rendezvous has just released what appears to be five large cargo containers from its outer hull."

"Ah, I see she kept her word! Tell the Shadow and Darkstar to move in and use tractor beams only, no transporters! The contents are delicate and will have to be loaded by hand. Once they have the containers, lock on to Rendezvous with torpedoes and destroy her!" Amadeus said to that crewmember who only replied with an ĎAyeí and began to relay the orders to the two other ships.

Amadeusí grin grew wider as he watched the other two ships on his view screen as they began to move out pass the Dark Rift and towards their target. "Point, set, and match lads. Weíll meet up the client exchange point, collect our money, and be home in time for dinner! I have to admit, Iím a little disappointed they didnít try to fight bÖ." The captain was cut off when an alarm chime went off and the crewmember at the helm snapped out a quick reply.

"Captain! Sensors have detected high output energy spikes coming from the containers!!!!!"

"WEíVE LOST CORE THREE!" a female raccoon morph yelled to Dekend from across the bulkhead. Dekend hissed, infuriated that not only did she let another core go down, she could not get the other two back online. Her black fur made it only hotter and the Caitian felt like she could melt while she tried to keep the main warp core from going critical.

"Itís no good!" Dekend said to Panzer who was looking a little out of it. "Core three just went offline and now core twoís power level is dropping! If this keeps up the Rendezvous is done for!"

Panzer just tried to wiped the blood on hir forehead away. Shi too was feeling the heat, while working alongside Dekend in hope of restoring power to the cores. The young chakat then just slammed hir hands on the console when hir latest attempt failed. "Itís no good," shi said to Dekend. " The systems took too hard of a hit, Iím surprised they lasted this long!"

Panzer then looked up at the ceiling when the shaking stopped. Shi looked over to Dekend who was also looking up. "Theyíve stopped firingÖ why?" the black-furred feline asked, to which the white chakat replied, "The Captain is going to use the interceptor system!"

"Thatís going to buy us some time but not much. Any ideas?"

Panzer just shook hir head; hir thoughts were getting fuzzy and getting harder to think straight. Shi let hir gaze wander back over to hir work station and hir eyes lit up when shi saw the covered object on the table. "Thatís it!" shi whispered. "Dekend, help me!" Dekend gave hir an odd look when shi started to wobble hir way over to the workstation before following.

"Panzer, you ok?" she asked as she came up on the chakat who pulled the cover off the object. The object in question looked like an inline four cylinder motor with a valve cover on it. A pair of dinner plate size turbines sat in a molded cylinder housing, that ran the length of the block, on either side of its base.

The whole thing was molded into what seemed one piece and had four plasma coil tubes that came out from the top of the block and wormed their way down, two coils going to either side and hooking into the top of the turbine cylinders.

Dekendís golden eyes widened a bit when she looked over at the object and knew exactly what the chakat youth had in mind. "Oh no way kiddo!!! Iím not going to hook that thing up to the main warp core!" she said in a disconcerting tone to Panzer, "Itís untested and you donít know what it does!"

"Like to hell I donít!" shi retorted back sharply at the Caitian who was shocked by hir outburst. "I designed this core interface to put out three times the power with a third less fuel than our current set up! We donít have much time, core two is at 92% and dropping fast. When it goes, the main warp core goes into shutdown and weíre all dead!"

Panzer kept hir gaze at the floor, hir bangs hiding hir eyes from Dekendís view, but she could see tears hitting the deck plate. Shi began to speak while trying to choke back hir emotions.

"Two years ago, the crew of this ship saved me. Back then I thought I was alone, my family dead and gone, nothing I could do about it. You have no idea how much I wanted to die that day alongside my mother and sire as I sat in that medical bed, drowning in my sorrow, and just when I thought there was nothing left for me, Captain Cortez saved me again."

Panzer then locked her gaze onto Dekendís, who was a bit taken back.

"She showed me I was not alone anymore, that I didnít have to bear so much pain by myself! This ship became my home and everyone on it, my family, even you Dekend. So Iíll be damned if I just sit by and watch the people I care about, my family, die again!"

Dekend could see a great amount of fear in the young chakatís eyes but at the same time, a fierce determination burning in hir bright green eyes. "Please Dekend, itíll work, I know it will. Just believe in me, just this once."

The Caitian sighed heavily before giving a soft smile and a reassuring hand on hir shoulder. "Alright kiddo, get it ready while I get an anti-grav lift," she said while heading off to quickly grab the lift before finishing just out of ear shot. "I only hope this works, for all our sakeís."

"What in the bloody hell just happened? ALL STATIONS REPORT!!" the old human captain yelled out as the poorly lit bridge was now bathed in red flashing lights while an alarm screamed.

"Captain, it was a surprise attack, the cargo containers were decoys to lure us in!" a young human male at a helm station said first.

"Sir, The Shadow has been lost! The Darkstar has been severely damaged and dead in space. We have taken minimal damage from the Shadowís debris! Warp drive is offline, impulse only!" a woman at an engineering station said.

Amadeus just shifted in his chair, gritting back a small snarl, as he watched what was left of The Shadow drift in a broken heap of metal debris while the Darkstar drifted in space as he spoke to himself, "Next time I should be more careful of what I wish for." He then looked away from the screen for a moment to collect his thoughts and plan his next move.

His thoughts were broken when the young helmsman spoke out in alarm. "CAPTAIN, Fast moving energy signature on a collision course with the Dark Rift. Looks to be a probe fired from the Rendezvous! The probe is about 72 meters and closing fast!"

"Mr. Elise, lock on and destroy that probe!"

"Aye, Captain!" the older human male spoke out from his tactics station. "Lasers locked, firing!"

When the laser shot out and hit the fast moving silver rectangle, which was now 43 meters away, lit et out a huge explosion that broke forth with great force as a thousand phase torpedoes went off at once from inside the container. The ship was rocked as blast rippled across the shields and sent more debris flying into its hull.

Captain Amadeus lifted himself back into his seat, his face red with anger, as he said aloud, "Dam those corporate pencil pushers!!! They didnít tell us that they were this well armed! Iím going to be charging them triple for this! STATIONS REPORT!"

The older male at the tactics station started first. "Forward shields at 50% and holding. Port side lasers and torpedo tubes four through eight are offline as well was the aft tubes!"

"Hull breach in decks two and three, transporters are down but life support is operating at full power," a woman at the engineer station spoke out again.

"Transfer all power from aft shields to forward shields. Give me everything you got for weapons. I want that ship destroyed!"

"Aye Captain!" A number of crew men chorused as they set out their tasks.

Amadeus kept a stern look on his face as he watched the view screen while staring at the ship that just destroyed one ship, disabled another, and almost disabled his while he spoke under his breath. "Iím ready for you this time. Letís see what other tricks youíve got, shall we?"

Moments earlierÖ

"Captain, the interceptor pods one thru five are armed and ready!" Zonus said down to Suzanna, who just watched two of three enemy ships start to make their way towards the Rendezvous.

"On my mark, Zonus!" Suzanna said in reply as an evil grin crossed her thin black lips. "Letís see how you like this, Amadeus, FIRE!"

From outside the ship, the semi-trailer sized cargo containers, moved as if being stood up on their ends as they stayed in position above the Rendezvous. Green lights flashed in the center of the silver rectangular pods, opening up at either end, the doors swung away from the main body to reveal the payload of five hundred phase torpedoes in the two holding spaces of each container.

When Zonus gave the fire command, the lights went solid red on each pod as the attack began. Pods one and two released their payload without any problems, sending a 2000 torpedo barrage at the unsuspecting Shadow, ripping the ship in two as it exploded into a bright ball of fire.

Pod three failed to launch as its firing trigger was damaged in the first attack. Pod four only let out half its payload, crippling the Darkstar before it shut down. Pod five failed completely, its doors only opening half way and its safety override shut it down, as it settled back down on the hull of the Rendezvous while three was left hovering over the ship.

"Damnit, Report! What happened?" Suzanna asked has the mayhem unfolded on the view screen.

"Pods three, four, and five malfunctioned. Pod threeís trigger system is offline but is still armed, four got half its payload out and five shut down completely." The large Rakshani spoke out has he continued to monitor the podís.

Just then Lonna spoke out right after Zonus finished. "We have a confirm hit captain! The first ship was destroyed and the second severely crippled. Minimal damage to the third ship, but their warp drive is down."

Suzanna thought for a second before speaking out. "Zonus, is the propulsion system on pod three working?"

"Aye Captain!"

"Good. Authority code override, Zonus! Set pod three on a collision course with the third ship and ram them when you have clear path. Letís see how Captain Amadeus likes my little toys up close!"

"Target locked, path set, pod launched!" Zonus said as he pressed a button on the panel before him.

The doors to pod three closed as a large single engine booster fired from the back, making the pod shoot off like a rocket, flying through space towards itís target. Small thrusters, at each corner of the pod, kept it from hitting anything in itís path. The pod spun and danced around debris of the one ship before it came into view of the third.

Now that itís path was clear, the podís main booster increased power, making a beeline for the shipís hull. When it got within 43 meters, a laser shot out and hit the pod, making it explode into a brilliant flash of light and fire. The resulting blast and shock wave weakened the shields of the Dark Rift, allowing shrapnel from the pod to rain on the ship.

"Pod was intercepted by enemy laser fire," Zonus reported after the signal was lost.

"They felt that one, Captain! Enemy ship was affected by the blast of the pod, it weakened their shields and set half their weapons offline!!" Lonna yipped out to Suzanna as she continued to monitor the enemy ship. "Unfortunately theyíre still able to move and are charging their remaining weapons for an all out assault on us, captain, but they seem to be diverting power from their aft shields to strengthen their forward!"

"So, he plans to make a stand," Suzanna spoke has the gears in her mind furiously worked on a strategy. "Whatís the status of the shields and weapons Ė do we have enough power to withstand a pass and get a shot at their flank?"

"Negative Captain! Shields are down to 67% and still dropping!" one of the foxtaurs spoke out.

"Core three is down and core two is at 83% and steadily dropping, main warp core shut down is imminent!" the other foxtaur called out after his brother.

"What about the launch bay? Can any fighters get out there?"

"Thatís a no go Captain. The launch system is down and bay doors wonít open!" the other foxtaur spoke again.

Suzanna slammed her fist against the armrest of her chair. "Damnit! This canít be how it ends!" she hissed under her breath. Her expression lightened when she felt a hand being placed over hers. "Weíre out of options, I have to give the order to abandon ship!" she said while meeting the wolfís gaze with a grim one of her own. "If this is where Iím to die, then Iím not going alone! Iím going to ram the Rendezvous intoÖ"

The lynx was cut off when the bridge com sounded and Panzerís voice began to fill the room. "Captain! You need to hold out for just a little bit more, weíve almost got the new drive interface up! Have the flash cannons prepared to fire when the power levels return! Trust me, this will work, Panzer out!"

Suzanna just looked to Marcus who just gave a nod with a smile. An ease came to the lynxís mind as she looked forward with her will renewed, she looked to the view screen as she took a firm tone with her orders.

"You heard my daughter! Grakkar, Mickos, get all available power to forward shields! Marcus, let me know when the warp core comes back online! Zonus, ready the flash cannons to fire! Lonna, make sure they donít try to get behind us! Miski, keep us on course with enemy ship! Lightwalker, open a hailing frequency, Iíve got a message for Amadeus."

"AYE CAPTAIN!!" her crew chorused in unison before Lightwalker turned to face Suzanna.

"Com line opened, Captain!"

The lynx just sat in her seat with back straight and head held high as the face of an old human male came onto the view screen.

As his crewmen set about preparing the Dark Rift to fight, Amadeus sat in his seat, getting ready to send a hail to the Rendezvous. He wanted to see the face of the captain that was being a real pain to take down when a young woman wearing a headset turned in her chair to look over at her captain as she spoke out. "Captain, incoming hail. Itís from the Rendezvous!"

Amadeus just looked over at the ensign and nodded. "Make it so, ensign!" When the face of Captain Cortez appeared, he went wide eyed and stood straight up as he yelled in a surprised tone. "COMMANDER SUZAN SANDTAIL, THE RED-EYED LYNX?!"

All the crew on the bridge stopped for a moment as they looked to the view screen upon hearing the name. The picture of the lynx was just as wide eyed when she recognized the humanís face.

"Lieutenant Jerald Redfield!!!" Suzanna said with equal surprise in her voice. Her eyes narrowed as her expression turned somber as all emotion left her voice. "I always wondered what happened to you after you were dishonorably discharged from Star Fleet!"

"What happened to me?" he asked in a sort of disbelief tone. "I was humiliated!" Amadeus said in almost a whisper. "I had every right to be a Captain back then, but they gave it a Voxxan and told me I had to wait another three years!" he now yelled at her, obviously hitting a nerve.

"So you thought it justice by killing him and your field sergeant, eh Redfield?"

"Thatís Amadeus to you, Sandtail! They deserved to die for denying me!"

"Iíve been married since then Jerald, itís Cortez now, and Iíll thank you to address me by it!" Suzanna clasped her hands before her face before continuing, "Besides, it was my recommendation that kept you from that spot, not them!"

His face went blank when he heard this. Amadeus just looked at her picture on the screen, trying to talk but it seemed he couldn't find the words, until he was able to muster out a few. "You? But why?"

"You were too power-hungry! I thought leaving an Exodus class battle cruiser in your hands would have been a mistake and I was right."

Amadeus fell back into his seat. His gaze fixed to the floor while his hands balled into fists. "I respected you," he said in a low tone before he looked back up to the screen, eyes burning with hate. "I would have marched into the fires of hell if you had ordered it! I was your most loyal in the unit! I did every thing you asked of me and more only to find out that it was YOU who betrayed me! How could you do that to me?"

"Youíre right, you were my most loyal in the unit! You showed high promise, no one doubted your abilities, Jerald, not even me. You were never the same when your wife left you for that male rabbit. Your hate for furs started after that and even more so when I rejected your marriage proposal. You were not fit to be a captain then and youíre still not now! I should have done something to help you back on Star Base 5, but at the time I never thought youíd sink to this level. You were my responsibility then and it seems you still are. It ends here Jerald!"

"I see," he said, his eyes locked with a furious glare at the picture. "You're right about one thing, Cortez, it will most certainly end here, but Iíll be the one to leave this battle alive!"

"Donít count me out just yet. I still have a few more tricks up my sleeve, Jerald!"

"Youíre outgunned and outclassed!" he snapped back at her. "Even if you were at full power, you still wouldnít beat me!!! Once this is done, Iíll have your lifeless body pulled from space, stuffed and mounted in my ready room for all to see that I defeated the great ĎRed Eyed Lynxí!"

He gritted his teeth as he leaned forward in his seat. "Ready or not Cortez, here I come!"

"EIGHT MINUTES UNTIL CORE TWO SHUT DOWN" A male Zebra yelled to Dekend and Panzer from his station as red lights flashed and sirens wailed all round the engineering room.

Dekend just looked up from where she worked as the chakat finished hooking up the interface up to the main warp core. Panzer gave Dekend the thumbs up as shi started to work hir way back when shi stumbled and fell to the deck.

"Panzer!!!" Dekend called out as she rushed to Panzerís side. "Are you okay, kiddo?" she asked while hurriedly helping Panzer back to hir feet, seeing hir head wound. With a hiss of discontent, she moved Panzerís bangs aside to look at hir head. "Youíre hurt pretty bad. I need to get you to sick bay."

"ItÖ itís nothing, DekendÖ Just aÖ scratch. Thatís allÖ" the chakat protested as shi moved Dekendís hand out of hir face. "BÖbesides, thereísÖ thereís no timeÖ have toÖ get the powerÖ back up." It was becoming harder for hir to speak while the blurriness in hir eyes continued to get worse.

Dekend could see that Panzer was fighting with all hir strength to keep from succumbing to hir concussion as she helped the chakat back to the computer control station. As Panzer gently slid hirself to the floor in a loud groan of gear and servos, the black furred hands of the Caitian began to fly across the panel as she brought up the program for running the interface.

Panzer was starting to pant heavily now as hir head just weaved and bobbed about as if shi were about to fall asleep. "Still with me kiddo?" Dekend asked as Panzerís head just swung over to look at her. The chakatís eyes drooped heavily as shi tried hir best to talk and not to sound drunk.

"ItísÖ getting hardÖ to stay aÖawake," shi slowly said while sounding out hir words.

"Just try to hang on a bit longer," the Caitian replied as she finished up her work on the com panel. "Ok, that does it, weíre ready on this end!"

"THREE MINTUES AND FORTY EIGHT SECONDS!!!" the Zebra tech yelled out again.

The black-furred Caitian then entered the command to start up the interface. Her golden eyes lit up when she saw the device light up and begin to work but quickly faded when a coil on the interface started to leak. With teeth bared, Dekend gave a Ďtskí of disgust as she shut the unit back down.

"DAMMIT!" she yelled. "ZANDER, I NEED YOU TO FIX THATÖhuh?" Dekend looked down to her side to see Panzer tugging at her uniform.

"ThÖthereís no timeÖ YouíreÖ clÖcloserÖ"

"I have to activate the program!"

"NoÖ I canÖ" the chakat said as the servos in hir legs whined as shi struggled to get to hir feet. "Wonít sayÖ itÖ twiceÖ Go."

"Panzer," Dekend whispered as she watched the chakat youth find the strength to stand on hir feet. With a nod, Dekend grabbed a work tool and sprang into action, making her way to the interface.


Dekend could no longer hear the warnings or sounds as she pulled out her tricorder and began to scan the interface. The Caitian knew this was no time to panic and had to keep her wits about her. It only took a few seconds but she found it, a premature crack in a coil welding.

Dekend quickly pulled out a mini arc-welder from her utility belt and began to seal the cracked pipe. She winced from the bright light given off by the tool but she had no time to worry about it, all the Caitian cared about was getting this fixed and fast!


Dekend set the welder off to a side table rather roughly as she grabbed her tricoder and scanned the weld. She forced her eyes to focus at the tiny screen, still seeing spots from the welding light, as all went green. Dekend turned back and gave a thumbs-up to the chakat watching at the workstation.

Panzer could barely see Dekendís signal as she narrowed hir eyes to see. With a slow nod, shi looked over the com panel and view screen with the core shut down still counting. 30 seconds flashed on the screen as the milliseconds steadily counted the seconds away.


The message read under the countdown. Panzer looked at the enter key on the panel and gave a grin as shi went to push it but hir grin quickly disappeared as a look of horror stuck across hir face. Hir eyes looked down to hir hand that was frozen in place. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as the realization of hir body shutting down hit hir mind.

The chakat couldnít make any sounds or move any part of hir body as shi felt the final effects of hir concussion. Shi could feel hir mind start to lose itself to the darkness while fighting with every fiber of hir being to make hir hand move and press the button with only 10 seconds now left.

"NoÖ.no no no NO!!!!" Panzer screamed inside hir head. "Not now, not when Iím this closeÖ Everyone is in dangerÖ Everyone is depending on meÖ I have to press that buttonÖ I must!" The chakatís hand failed to move as shi felt hir lower body start to fall to the floor. "NoÖnot like thisÖ I canítÖ I wonítÖ GIVE UP!"

With the last of hir fading consciousness and strength, Panzer somehow managed to push hir hand just a bit as hir upper torso began to fall. Shi lost sight of the panel but felt hir hand hit the panel before shi hit the floor and succumbed to the silent darkness on the metal deck.

"PANZER!!" Dekend yelled when she saw the chakat drop out of sight. Like a flash the black Caitian shot off like a bolt for the control station as panicked thoughts began to flood her mind. "Oh god, shiís gone unconscious! I wonít make it in time!"

Dekend was only half way between the warp core and station when the sound of the main warp core coming back on-line stopped her in mid-stride. "WhaÖ?" escaped her lips dumbfounded while turning back to look at the warp cores. A small smile started to work its way across the black-furred muzzle as the familiar red glow began to fill the room.


A very relieved and laughing Caitian looked over her shoulder to the tech on the second floor above at his monitoring station as all the crew cheered. Her laughter stopped when Panzerís name was said. Dekend quickly turned and hurried over to where the chakat was now laying. She kneeled down beside the unconscious chakat and checked for a pulse.

The Caitian gave long sigh of relief when she felt Panzer had a strong pulse and was able to tell that shi was still breathing. She looked up to the control screen and gave a half-hearted laugh when she saw the timer had been stopped at one second!

Then she softly spoke to the chakat while gently stroking hir head fur. "You did it kiddo! The interface works and you saved us all, but next time, try not to cut it so close!"

She tapped on her com badge while looking towards the ceiling, still feeling relieved after facing a sudden death situation, as she called out for sick bay.

"Engineering to sick bay."

"This is sick bay, go ahead engineering," an older femaleís voice spoke out.

"I need a med team to engineering, I have aÖ." Dekend stopped in mid sentence as a look of concern began to replace her look of relief.

"Yes? Engineering? Are you there? Please respond engi-Ö"

Dekend shut her com off as she gently laid Panzerís head back down to the floor before standing up. Dekend got an itch in the back of her mind and that usually meant something wasnít right. Her golden eyes focused at the warp core setup as the humming they made slowly started to grow louder.

The Caitianís eyes grew wide as her words barely escaped her lips. "Oh noÖ" Her hands began working on the control and yelled out right when the alarms went off. "CORE OVERLOAD!"

A renewed sense of terror swept over her as she began to try and shut down the interface system. The screen went red with alerts and warnings of multiple system failures, while screaming at the top of her lungs to be heard over the sirens wail.


The other techs in the room were totally caught off guard and began to scramble back to their posts amidst the chaos. A male Shepherd jumped over second floor railing to the first floor below, hitting the ground running, and up to the station beside Dekendís.

"Dekend, the system's in overload and all our shut down codes have been disabled!"

"Tell me something I DONíT know!!" Dekend let out a growl of rage as she slammed her fists against the control panel, the systems not responding to any of her commands.

"Damnit!!! Why are the shut down commands and the fail-safes not working?"

The black-furred Caitian spun around and grabbed a tool pack sitting on a work table. Making sure not to step on Panzer, Dekend equipped the tool pack to her belt, as she rushed for the nearest access tube.

"Miles, keep working on those shut down codes, Iím going to try and shut them down manually! Thereís not much before the whole thingÖ"

Dekend got cut off quickly has she reached the access panel to the tubes, the male Shepherd yelled back at her.


Dekend froze in her place as her heart skipped a beat. She turned back to look at the tech with eyes wide in fear, "How much time?" but she already knew the answer for it was plain as day on his face.

"None," he mouthed out with a look of hopelessness.

The humming now at a deafening tone as Dekend turned to look at the warp cores. She wanted scream out but couldnít find her voice as thoughts of what had been and what could have been raced in her mind. Tears raced down her cheeks as she tightly shut her golden eyes, the sound of the warp engines kicking in could be heard, as the cores continued to grow brighter and brighter. The room began to fill with a white light, everyone shielding their eyes from the light, until the room and everyone in it disappeared in the pure white light.


To be continued in Chapter 1, The Danger Zone!

The Rendezvous is about a medium-sized freighter ship. It's an older ship, considered by most to be a relic, dating back to a time just after the Great Reconstruction of Earth. Its original design was to be low atmosphere military drop-ship, with the ability to enter a planet's atmosphere and capability of landing planet-side if needed. The forward hull is shaped like an elongated oval that comes to a point at the front end, and sits on top of the lower body. At the rear of the oval is a small cargo bay door for holding the ship's shuttles. The cargo bay cut into the back of the oval which curves and melds into the main lower body, making the ship all one piece, with no detaching saucer sections like some of the newer ships in Star Fleet and Star Corps. The lower body sweeps back from where it connects to the upper about halfway back as it extends out and gives the ship its width. The warp nacelles sit parallel with the lower body and are held out by a few metres. They have an odd, rounded, triangle shape opening on both ends that, when looking at the ship dead on in the front, curve inward with the oval shaped deflector array in the lower body. A larger stabilizing bar connects the top of both warp nacelles toward the rear, curving in unison with the lower body and nacelles. Directly under the lower body are three, boxy and bulky looking cargo holds, that run almost the length of the lower body and seem as if they were just tacked on. With all said and done, the Rendezvous was not a complex nor fancy ship, just a simple sleek design with a purpose that was never realized.

Story, characters and the Rendezvous are copyright © 2007 J.F. Eskew

Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.

Special thanks to Allen "Red bear" Fesler and Roy Pounds for all the help and ideas.

Any comments, questions or butt kicking for stepping on someoneís tail, E-mail me at


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