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|Akirstala is just another engineer working for a living on a foreign planet in the middle of nowhere. Her calm lifestyle would soon change, however, upon meeting a particular captain and his crew.||
The morning had been slow which always seemed to put the young Verran on edge. A morning with no problems usually meant an influx of people at the end of the day. She enjoyed keeping her hands busy, which is why she did not complain overly much when she was called upon for a few too many tasks. What bothered her about slow days was that she was stuck with her friend whom she had been apprenticed with. She loved her companion dearly, but he drove her absolutely nuts with his constant jabber.
Rising from her seat, she came to stand on her large paws, which were lined at the bottom with pads like that of a dog. The cold floor set little tingles through the sensitive nerves, but she had long ago learned to ignore it. The slant of her legs naturally made her look slightly crouched when relaxing.
Her companion rose with her, continuing to talk in their gutteral and throat based native tongue. His long mouth revealed sharp carnivore teeth as he spoke.
With her back turned toward him, she yawned quietly, letting her long pink tongue roll out of her mouth in order to help open her airways, as she moved out of the office into the main bay repair area, where only a few trashed ships remained. The long blunt claws on her feet scratched the ground as she walked. She kept one ear cocked to look as if she was listening, while she entertained herself by releasing and retracting the sharper claws on her paw-like hands. Pausing at an old ship, she reached her hand forward, touching the cold metal with the pads on her palms and finger segments. Her thumb-like extension tapped on the metal quietly.
“It will be so great when we get back home!” he continued to rave, creeping close enough to brush his long black tail against her leg. His dark yellow eyes grew further alight with excitement as he spoke about it more and more. “We’ll be able to have real cooking. Not the fake stuff from the food court, not the crummy imitation from replicators, and not the sad versions that we cook.”
If it were not for the fact that the female was not paying much attention to his words, she may have gotten offended by his saying that her cooking was so lousy. “Yeah,” she replied in a quiet pop from the back of her throat. “You know,” she said, looking up at him, “I think it’s time for me to take lunch. So I’ll see you when I get back, okay?”
“Huh?” He glanced at the empty bay area, before responding, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Have a good lunch then.”
Ever since he heard about the ship stopping to port on its way to their home planet, Verra, he would not keep silent for even a moment. It was hard to be around the excitable male during such situations; although, she supposed it was better than when he was in a depression. She dipped her head in greeting as she passed creatures of all shapes and sizes on her way to the mess hall on one of the lowest levels of the facility.
The cold metal beneath her feet made her ponder wrapping her feet to protect them from the chill. Her pads often suffered blisters from the strange pressure and temperature the ground caused her; however, she steeled herself to ignore it, as if it were simply an annoyance, like the flitting bugs on her home planet. Despite the people that came through this station, day-in and day-out, the halls smelled incredibly sterile, which was something she had no choice but to get used to. When she had first come here, the smell had bothered her enough to make her sick to the stomach. For a while she had taken some pills to help numb her sense of smell just enough so that she would not panic at the smell. Eventually, she forced herself to get over her fear and face the smell like she would any of her other.
She snuffed as a vent blew warm air across her head, sending loose hair up. There were so many things she disliked about this place, but after being stationed here for so long, it did not seem to be such a bad place. Her ears flicked with impatience after pushing the button for the elevator to come for her. Before she had come to this facility, she found the use of elevators only for the lazy. On her home planet, there were never building much taller than three or four stories since each floor had to be so tall because of their large average height. This place was nearly thirty floors, the bays being the uppermost floors.
Just as she heard the sharp noise of the elevator slow, the belt at her side sounded with the voice of her boss. The tenor voice came up, “Ifphang!” he demanded, calling her matriarchal family name. After plucking up the radio from the pink belt hanging off her hips, she answered, her voice vibrating with clear irritation, “What?”
“Don’t give me that attitude, Ifphang. I need you back here, now,” he ordered in the universal common language.
She rumbled in her own language for a few moments, vibrations so low that only those of her own kind could even recognize them. She returned in common tongue, just as nastily, “I’m on break. Get Jhish to do it.” She knew she would have no chance of winning this. If she was being called, it was obviously something Janine could not do.
“Don’t even give me that attitude! Get up here now!”
The tone for the elevator sounded, a neutral tone that had been agreed upon by most races. Again she rumbled her misgivings, but she answered, “Fine.” As the doors opened, she slipped the radio back onto her tool belt and headed back down the cold hallway to the bays.
Upon her arrival, she found her boss, a terran, standing near a newly arrived ship. “’Bout time you showed up,” he stated as she came into hearing range.
“Yeah, well what d’ya expect?” she retorted, wrinkling her nose and tossing back hair that had fallen over her shoulder, despite the pastel pink bandanna holding back her hair. “I went to lunch and then you just call me back, like it’s nothin’ to ya.” Her steps were purposely heavy. She let her weight fall completely on them before taking another step, which caused her to appear hunched over.
He laughed at this comment, reiterating what she had just said, “It’s nothing to me.” He waved her closer to where he stood. The ship was a modified version of one of the older models; one of the good older models.
“That’s what I think it is, isn’t it?” Her voice was filled with a certain amount of awe. This was hardly ever seen any more, simply because the upkeep was expensive because of how it was put together. Professionals had to work on it to prevent further damage.
“Oh yeah, it’s what you think it is,” he said chortling in his throat. “You’re not working on anything satisfying though.”
“What d’ya mean?” She quirked her ears in separate directions, showing her anxiety over his words. She followed her supervisor, who slid beneath the vehicle. One of the hatches was open. Knowing this model by heart, her tail and ears immediately drooped in disappoint and slight anger. “I’m working on that?”
“You got it!” he said with a grin, his untrimmed whiskers making him look even more satisfied with his reaction. “The main crystal burst. You need to do a full replacement, but even before that,” he paused to gaze at her.
“What?” she groaned, afraid to move any closer because of what she might see.
“Before that, you’re going to need to remove all the shards, fix wires, and all manner of things.”
She gaped at him, her ears both turned completely sideways. Her hair, even beneath the bandana, seemed to flatten before puffing up in resentment, “Are you serious?”
“Would I kid about something like this?” he countered. “This is serious. Jhish can’t do something like this. He’s a bit too clumsy with his claws to pull this stuff out, and I certainly can’t do it because I don’t have the natural tools.” He stated this while holding up his hands as if to prove the point. “You’re the only one who can get this done to how it needs to be.”
“Fuela na iccata!1” she coughed.
“What was that about fate?” he asked. She could swear she saw a curious ear quirk from his head even though he had nearly unmoving terran ears.
“1Fate is cruel,” she translated in a mumble out of habit. “And you know that one, you little imp!” she accused, as she heard him crawling out from beneath the ship.
He slid a box to her from the outside. Peeking at her, he spoke once more, “Get it done quickly. They need to be out of here. They’re paying extra.”
She pulled the box closer, before looking down her muzzle and snapping back, “Yeah, that’s all you care about anyway. You can keep your money. I just want to live.”
“Pff,” he said, dismissing her last comment as he walked away.
“Yeah, whatever to you too,” she mumbled, scooting herself and the box to a good position beneath the open hatch. She stared in utter mechanic’s horror at the mess. Focusing her eyes, she found that the shards had cut holes into the metal case in which it was held. Wires had been cut completely through, which left her to wonder how in the world they even managed to pull it into port. She unsheathed the claws on her hands, which were retractable, unlike the ones on her feet. She first removed what remained of the shattered main crystal. With careful precision she began removing the shards stuck in the metal within the cabinet. As she did, she recalled her first lessons about how it all worked. Fossil fuels had been the most common forms of energy on almost every planet; later came electricity, and many more beyond that. Almost all creatures needed light, which led to the thought: why not utilize light for energy. It had taken an amazing amount of work, but there were a group of scientists, collectively called the SLER: Scientists for Light Energy Research who had managed to make it work. Because light was so quick in comparison to nearly everything else, it was finally utilized.
She snorted quietly in irritation over a particularly stubborn shard, stuck in the corner of the cabinet. She grumbled a few curses as she tried to get a better angle; however, because it was in a corner, she did not have much luck. She finally wedged it free. After staring at the annoyance, she threw it into the box, saying in her native tongue, the equivalent of, “Mom said there’d be days like this.” The use of crystals drove most technicians crazy; in fact, as technology grew, they were being used less and less. It had been discovered that they could easily distribute lights between different cables, which also contained a like substance, easier than an artificial small cable split being made from the synthetic substance. As technology grew, however, the crystals were becoming less and less, in favor of something that could possibly be less destructive. As it was, several of the shards had sliced straight through some very important power routing cables.
“Hey, Akirstala,” called the voice of Janine from outside.
“What?” she snapped back, her irritation clearly heard.
He peeked beneath, coming down to his knees and elbows, tipping his head enough to see her. “You coming?” She paused, keeping her claws on the shard she was fighting with at the moment. His pose was comical to her, but as she noticed the bag sitting on the floor beside him. “To where?”
He tipped an ear to show his disapproval of her feigned question. “You know where. There’s a ship leaving for Lyallto: our home.”
She sighed loudly as he continued to mention things that she could see and feel if she were to return. Retracting her claws from the shard, she looked at him, giving him her full attention. “I’m not going.”
“What do you mean you’re not going?” he demanded incredulously. “I thought you had been waiting for this!”
“You were waiting for this, not I,” she replied, raising her voice just as he did.
“I can’t believe you aren’t going to…”
“You know,” she said in a quiet and sweet voice, which was actually an expression of her sadness. He stopped as soon as he heard her words. “I don’t want us to leave each other on such bad terms.” She looked into his yellow eyes with her deep brown ones. “You need to do what you feel is right. I know you want to stay with me, but you don’t belong here. And I don’t belong back on Lyallto.”
His ears drooped low as she spoke these words and his tail fell so it hit the ground with a thump. “You mean it then?” he asked, a whine in the back of his throat as he spoke.
She released a sigh before crawling out from beneath the belly of the ship, her back grazing the metal above. When she comes nose to nose with him, she stops. “I mean it. I will miss you though. Stay safe while you are out there. I don’t know where you’re headed, but I’m sure you’ll find whatever it is that’s got you searching.”
He looked at her strangely. His eyes showed sadness, yet his ears posed in hope, while his tail swayed just slightly. “I found what I need,” he said, looking her straight in the eyes.
She broke eye contact, pulling her wet nose completely away from his. Her ears turned down in heartbreak for him. After sighing, she placed a single finger on a spot behind her ear, scratching twice before looking back at him. “You don’t need me. You need to find something else. You aren’t happy here and I am. That’s a clear indication.” Crawling out from underneath, she came out into the open, where she stood up, dusting off her long dark gray fur. She ran her hands down each of her arms, taking care to rub the dust out of the brown lines running down her shoulders and over her elbows, as an excuse for distraction.
He rose. Dropping his bag, he embraced her tightly, placing his muzzles right up against hers. While he remained there, the female felt a strange shiver of dread. She let the feeling pass through her though; instead, wrapping her own arms about him, as well. Finally, he spoke, “I will miss you.” The words were spoken in the low tones of their native tongue, so many emotions carried by the rumbles as he spoke it.
“I will miss you too,” she rumbled back, her vocal chords forming it so he knew it was simply the emotions for a dear friend.
After a few moments, he finally pulled away. “The ship doesn’t leave out of here for a few hours. Maybe you’ll change your mind?”
“Maybe,” she admitted. Although she was certain that she would not leave this place, there was always a possibility. “Finish anything else you need to do,” she said with a sad smile.
He nodded, turning his back. His tail hung limp and his ears were folded back with hurt. There was nothing more she could do though. She pulled the light pink bandana from her head and then gave herself a good scratch on her scalp. The sweat accumulating there from her frustration was making her itch. After a moment, she tied her braids and loose hair like a ponytail with the cloth, rather then slipping it over her head.
She slipped back under the vehicle. Although her actions were completely focused on the task at hand, her mind wandered to Janine. It had been a long time coming, and now he knew. For his sake, she felt sorrow; however, it felt good to her to finally having that said.
“So, you’ve got one of your best working on her, eh?” asked a terran male in the traditional tongue of his planet.
Her boss answered, quickly, “Not one of the best. The best.” He answered back in the same language. “All said, it should not be more than an hour before it’s done, unless it has any further problems from the power backup.”
Although she could not speak the native tongue of the terrans, she could understand it fairly well, which gave her a distinct advantage over some she knew. She continued working, while eavesdropping on three that stood near the ship, which she identified by their footsteps.
The third voice sounded young and inexperienced, as if he had graduated not too long ago. “So we’ll be out of here before lunch?” he asked, hope clearly pitched in that question.
The two older ones laughed, while she snorted with amusement quietly, at the question. Lunch? She had been called off of lunch in order to attend to this ship. Finally, who she assumed to be the captain, answered with authority, “We’ll be off whenever they get her done. Don’t be so anxious to leave. This isn’t a bad port.”
“It isn’t a good one either,” mumbled the other in reply.
“Ifphang!” her supervisor shouted, knocking on the outside of the cruiser.
Her ears instantly pinned back when the clang hit her sensitive inner hearing; it resonated through her eardrums, leaving her cringing for several seconds. When she had recovered, she shouted back in the universal common tongue “You know I hate it when you do that, man!” She knew he could easily understand most of the Verran tongue, but she thought she should speak it in a tongue their clients could understand. She slid out from under the belly of the vehicle, annoyance still clear on her ears. “What?” she snapped.
She gazed up at a captain, who was easily identified by the old, faded hat he sported on top of his head. He only smirked at her with a slight bow of his head.
When she looked to the other unfamiliar man, it was quite clear that he was new. His skin had not yet begun acquiring wrinkles or graying hair, which was common in terrans. The other reason she clearly marked him as young was the fact that his eyes were wide as he stared at her six breasts, even though they were mostly covered by the dark gray fur. That same color fur covered most of her body, as well.
Rolling her eyes, she chose to ignore him; instead, deciding it was best to address the captain. She rose to her large feet, the cold of the metal ground on her pads, sending shivers through her. She gave a polite bow of her head as she stood, leaning against the ship. Even with her slouching, she towered over the terrans, who stood in front of her. The younger one nudged his captain, whispering in their native language, obviously certain that she could not understand his words, “What the hell is that?”
“Would you watch your language?” snapped the captain in their native tongue, as well, giving the younger one a smack on the head with his cap.
With a huff of breath, she answered the younger one in the universal common with her brown eyes focused on him, as if he were prey, “Our kind are called Lyallton; Verran in the common tongue.”
The pupils of the boy grew wide, taking up nearly the whole of his bright blue iris in sudden fear at her speaking to him. He inched a step backing, slipping slightly behind his captain, asking incredulously in his native language, “It knows Terran English?”
“Would you stop embarrassing me?” the captain demanded speaking with the same language, taking a step away from him. The captain chuckled, covering his mouth for a moment. He raised his blue eyes to her brown ones, saying in the galactic tongue, “I’m sorry. He just graduated and he’s new to all this.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” she answered with a slight huff, showing her annoyance. Just for fun, she gave the kid another threatening glare, which rewarded her with him looking helplessly at his captain.
The captain shook his head. Extending his hand in formal greeting of his planet he said, “I am Captain Gregory Barlow.” The large werewolf-like creature extended her hand, taking his smaller one in hers gently. “I am Akirstala of Ifphang, maternally, of course,” she stated, while shaking his hand, wanting to make it clear that her name was inherited from the family of her mother.
“Barlow paternally,” he explained with a nod before releasing her hand.
She knew that terrans, like many other species, inherited their family name from the father. It was lesser known, however, when a species inherited the family name from the mother.
Captain Barlow nodded to his apprentice to make a proper greeting.
After a moment of hesitance, he extended his hand in greeting, stating, “I am Jonathon Tyler.”
She took his small hand in hers and shook it warmly. “It’s good to meet you.” After releasing his hand, his eyes went back to her chest. She attempted to read his expression, but the expressions of terrans still mystified her in certain ways. Not knowing how to say it politely, she finally stated, “I’m a girl, if that’s what you were wondering.”
“Huh?” he asked, looking into her eyes. “Oh!” he laughed, bringing his hand to his head and scratching. “That explains the pink, eh?” he asked, pointing to the pink utility belt that hung off her hips.
“Pink is a boy’s color on my planet,” she rumbled with a twitch of her tail.
“Oh,” he said, bringing his hand down, unable to say anything else.
The captain shook his head at his friend. “Anyway,” he said, bringing attention back to whatever it was he wanted the conversation to be. “Ifphang,” he addressed, attempting to pronounce the hissing sound with his vocal chords like she had pronounced it, “when do you think we can get this thing going?”
She nodded to her superior, letting him know she could handle this. He nodded back and walked back toward his office. She shrugged, an unnatural gesture she had picked up after being around the terrans for so long, “I need to check the other power bases to make sure nothing backfired and caused a more serious problem. Some of the cables are also cut straight through from the shards, so I’ve got to replace some of those completely, just to be safe. Also…”
The captain gave a wave of his hand to ward off whatever else she was going to say. “I understand all that. We’re in a hurry though.”
“Aren’t we all?” she asked, tipping one of her ears slyly.
“Really, though, how long are you expecting this to take?”
She glanced down at her thick claws, as she considered his question. “Well, long enough for you to sit down and enjoy a meal. Or maybe a drink, if that’s what you like.”
The captain sighed. After a moment, however, he nodded. “Okay. Get it done as soon as you can though. I’ll be down at the bar. I don’t know where this shrimp is going though,” he said, pointing to the younger one. “Thanks.” He gave a wave before turning back toward the main hallway with his friend following quickly behind.
She shook her head at the both of them. “People are always in such a hurry,” she commented to herself in her native tongue. Since she was already on the outside, she decided that she would go ahead and retrieve the rest of the materials she needed in order to continue the repairs.
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