Welcome to the 21st Century


Brian W. Antoine

Bob Kirkpatrick

Jan 8th, 1996

Chapter One

Finality (part one)

"GET DOWN!" I screamed. Kalindra rammed into me with enough force to knock us both to the floor. Brian stood in the doorway holding a bottle of champagne and a confused look. I repeated the command: "DOWN! God Dammit!"

Brian stood for a millisecond looking at me and at his Kalindra, splayed across me like a rumpled blanket. Then he was all motion. He dove in the door, kicking it closed with his foot. He ignored me and pulled Kal up and into his arms. "My Beloved..." he whispered.

I rolled over and stood, crouching. "Jesus Christ, they shot her."

"Who?" asked Brian. His voice was ice. "Who shot her?"

I didn't know where to start. "There's a few groups of people out there, they... I, uh. They... shit." Brian just stared at me a moment.

"We have to get her some help." My boys were already in motion. Ficus was bringing a sheet he'd pulled from the couch --his bed for the last 26 days that the standoff at my house had been going on. Aron was headed for the kitchen to get the first aid kit and some water. Even in my shock at what had just happened, I felt a tinge of pride at the boy's level headedness.

"We'll help her, Brian."

"You? She needs real help. We've got to get her back to the gate, we have to get her to Velar..."

"Step outside that door again and neither of you will be going anywhere except to a morgue." My voice was firm. Brian carefully laid Kalindra's head on the floor and stood to face me.

"You think you can stop us?"

I stood to face him. "No. I think the law enforcement and the other jerks out there will. You have no idea what you just stepped into."

There was a brilliance as Brian's shields flared to life. "Someone is going to pay for this." he said. "Someone is going to die."

"Turn it off, Brian." I barked. "You aren't in your element now. You've been gone a long time and seem to have forgotten about how things work on this world. You go out there and start vaporizing things, and a lot of people --people with families-- are going to get hurt."

"I just want whoever's responsible." he growled.

"Yeah, well, we all want something. Now why don't you chill out and let me tell you what's going on."

Brian's shield flickered and faded. "Suppose you do." he said. "And it better be good."

"Don't lay that crap on me, Antoine. It's one thing to make a surprise visit to someone you saw yesterday, it's another thing to show up a few years after the last contact. Don't they have telephones over there?" Brian gritted his teeth noticeably, then turned his attention to where my boys were carefully opening Kal's cloak. They needed to get to the hole in her back. When we saw it, all of us sucked in a heavy breath. "Christ, they must have hit her with a 50 caliber."

"It went straight through her." said Ficus. He was looking at his blood-soaked hand. "The exit wound is big enough to park a car in."

"We need pressure on this." said Aron. "Knot some of that sheet and put it on the holes, then we can wrap her with strips of the rest of it."

"Do some of that magic shit, Brian. A sheet isn't going to do a lot of good." But Brian was already in action. His eyes were closed, and I felt something I hadn't for a long, long time. Brian was 'pathing hard --sort of using every level of link there was. He knew that Kalindra needed energy, and she needed to keep her identity focused.

Kalindra seemed to relax a little, and murmured something unintelligible. "Ok, your turn. Start talking Kirkpatrick." said Brian. His voice was stone cold. "Explain what you got me into --and if I don't like it, you won't either."

There was an echoed metallic ratchet noise. Ficus and Aron each put the barrels of their pistols to Brian's head. "Hasn't there been enough for you yet, Brian?"

"This is what I get for visiting a 'friend,' eh?"

"I'm sorry, Brian." said Ficus. "But nobody's gonna hurt my dad." Aron nodded.

Brian relaxed a little, but the boys stayed poised. "Alright Bob. Let's hear what's happening. We can decide who owes who what after we get my mate to safety."

I started to explain.

* * *

"What is it about you that attracts this sort of thing?" asked Brian when he was updated. "I've never seen anything like it."

I shrugged.

"So, that cat of yours dipped you in shit and left you to dry, eh?"

"It wasn't intentional. He didn't orchestrate the assassination of Jasm, he just dealt with the situation handed to him. By tradition, he became the next logical choice for leadership --Meenzals are big on family responsibility."

Brian nodded. "I guess so. So, what do we do?"

"Well, I agree we need to get to the gate --that's the best way to get her home. But to do that, we're going to have to get the attention of those buttwipes in the woods focused elsewhere... long enough to get to the portal."

"Any ideas?"

"Maybe, where's the gate at?"

"The dock."

"Good, then we only have to worry about a 180 degree field of fire. Can you just shield the four of us while we run for it?"

Brian got a funny look in his eyes --which he averted from me. "No."

"NO? Mr. Planetary ArchMage, Mr. Builds-a-ship-with-songs? What the hell has been going on in YOUR life?"

"We retired. Both of us did. It was time to pass the responsibilities to a new generation of protectorate. This seemed to be the right time to do it."

"So, what does that mean? You're not an ArchMage, but you're still a freaking magician."

"A magician does slight of hand."

"Whatever --you still have powers, right?"

"I have some powers, yes. But they're not nearly as powerful anymore. Both Kalindra and I can shield ourselves, but we can't shield others."

"Can you project an image --make those guys think someone is..."

"No, that was Penny who could project holograms. I thought you knew that."

I sat feeling consternated. There was an answer to this, but it was eluding me. "Crap."

"What was that?" asked Aron.

"What was what?" asked Ficus and I simultaneously. Then we heard it too. Outside, there was some sort of commotion.

"Turn on the radio, kiddo." I told Ficus. See if we find out what they're up to out there."

"...nothing like it. What the HELL is going on? ...the moon and star..." Whoever was talking couldn't keep a straight thought. I was about to ask Aron to get our night vision binoculars, but then noticed the beams of many flashlights outside. Looking from the window, the groups in the trees out there weren't paying any attention to staying concealed. There were clusters of men by the trees and in the yard.

"Something has them going. I suggest we take advantage of this and get the hell out of here through the back door."

Brian lifted Kalindra gently and cradled her. "Stop talking and get moving." We all headed for the door.

Aron paused with his hand on the knob. "One... two... three!" We all dove out the door at a dead run. We got about ten steps each before all of us stopped cold in our tracks.

"What," said Brian with obvious awe, "is THAT?" He was pointing at the sky. He didn't have to point, all of us were looking skyward.

There was a feature to the heavens we'd never seen on earth before. Nobody had seen it. Clearly visible in the night sky we could see that earth had a ring. It glowed and fluoresced with electric blues and golds.

We stood there trying to decide what it meant, and realized after a few moments that we weren't alone. Members of the groups that has kept us cloistered were now all around us, but we weren't what they were concerned with. All of us wanted to know what it was that the change in the millennia had brought us, and we didn't have long to wait. The radios of the SWAT and ATF teams all spoke in unison, and the message was too clear.

"Your planet has been surrounded by a superior force. All of your artificial orbiting bodies are now being destroyed. You are directed to lay down all arms and surrender. This world is now within the directorate of the Meenzai Empire. Comply or die."

The message was repeating.

Chapter Two

Finality (part two)

"You and your cat." said Brian. There was a confused quality to his voice. "I thought you said he went home to fix *his* world."

"He did. I mean, yeah. He did." I wasn't all that clear-headed myself. I had no idea why the Meenzai Fleet was in orbit above Terra, but they sure as hell were, and the amount of free plasma they were emitting to destroy the satellites and other orbiting bodies was like using an atom bomb to kill a gnat.

Aron tugged at my coat. "Dad, look at the moon."

Luna was a full disk in the sky, but it was blood red. Two groups of ships were positioned at the north and south poles. To the south they made a cruciform style formation, and to the north they were aligned vertically. The picture made the unmistakable symbol of the Meenzai Empire. A Blood Planet, speared from below by a sword.

"I don't suppose this is some sort of joke..."

"No, Brian. Think back to your history. They always do this when they mean business. If earth doesn't comply, the ships near the moon will destroy it as a warning."

"Ohmigod." said a BATF agent nearby. "If they destroy the moon we'll have floods and god knows what else. ...What do you people know about this?" I tried to explain it, but I could see the reception was uncomprehending. "You're trying to say that this is a bunch of cats up there?"

"More or less. But I wouldn't think of them like you do a housecat."

"You need to come with me. You may be a crackpot, but we got here because some cats attacked citizens and you were harboring them."

"Sorry, Officer, but I'm not going anywhere with you. I have to help do something about this. But I strongly suggest that you get hold of whoever will listen and urge them not to respond with resistance. They have the power up there to lay this planet waste."

"More than that." said Brian. "They can vaporize it." The Agent was saying something about us having the lights on with nobody home, but Brian, I and my sons were headed for the dock. If we were going to have any part in trying to make sense and order of what was happening, we had to get off the earth and into our element.

At the dock, Brian stopped. "What?"

"What's wrong?" I asked him.

"The gate ...it's gone."

I should have known. Meenzals have never been subject to magic, and magic was the basis of the gates. Their resistance to it was the reason that the Velans didn't like the cats, and that distaste --coupled with an imperial attitude-- was why the Meenzals didn't like the Velans.

"What do you suggest now?" asked Brian. There was no disguising his anger.

"We need to communicate with them. It's the only hope. If we can talk to them, maybe we can work something out and keep them from sterilizing the planet."

"I don't care about the planet. That's not my job anymore. I care about Kalindra. She still needs help --and she's in more trouble than anyone else."

"Maybe we can take her to the hospital." suggested Aron.

"Maybe," I said. "But we'd spend way too much time explaining ourselves. She could die while we were trying to get them to understand."

"Possibly. But we have to do something."

"Ok." I looked around. The sleds were bobbing gently by the dock. "Let's use those." I said.

* * *

The Kootenai Medical Center was pandemonium. The cynical side of me felt contempt for my fellow people --and the way they always would panic instead of thinking things through. But the other side of me felt compassion for them all. They were frightened out of their wits.

"We need a doctor!" yelled Brian at the throng. It went ignored. At least, it did for about ten seconds. Then Brian conjured an energy ball of some sort and tossed it at a uniformed resident. It made the target stop short, unmoving. Brian strod to him and stood in front of him. "You're needed doctor."

"What the... how did you..."

"I said you're needed. Now where can you help my mate?"

"Mate? What?" The resident was obviously confounded. Brian had none of it and propelled him with a well placed foot towards an examining room. Inside was a man. He sat on the table holding his hand over his nose. It was bleeding gently past his hand to drip on his shirt.

"What's the matter with you?" demanded Brian.

"My nose, I was pushed down and trampled."

"Is that it? Get out of here." The man objected, but Ficus had the man in hand and pulled him off the table.

"You heard him, get lost." The man showed displeasure, but seemed to have a moment of clarity that made him realize staying would be a mistake. Brian laid Kalindra on the examining table and then pulled the doctor to her side.

The doctor looked at the prostrate form and probed behind her neck, and then pawed at her chest. "Where's the fasteners? How do we get this off?"

Brian tugged at the cord securing Kalindra's cloak, and gently slid it from under her. "There."

"No, no." said the resident. "I mean the costume."

"That's not a costume."

"What? It's --hey, wait a minute. I'm a doctor, not a vet'narian."

Brian grabbed him by the lapels of his lab coat. You're whatever you have to be to help her. Do it now or I swear, I will kill you --right now." There was no questioning Brian's resolve, so the medico turned to Kalindra and began to probe the makeshift bandages.

"This wo.. --she's been shot."

"No shit, Sherlock." said Aron. "Why do you think we brought her here?" Ficus snickered.

"That was cool." he said. "But hey, doc. I suggest that you start being a doctor now."

"Yeah. Yeah, ok." The doctor went to the door and hailed a nurse from the sea of people in the hallways. "I need a crash cart, a shaver, and a suture kit --four-oh silk. Stat, nurse." Then he returned to the bedside and began to remove the sheet bandage. As soon as the pressure was off, the wound started oozing blood. It ran across her fur and started to pool.

"You!" said the doctor, pointing at Ficus. "Come here. I want you to help. We have to hold this wound open and find the bleeders and a close them off. You hold the wound open and I'll find the vessels."

He was all business now. Even though Kalindra was Velan, she was now just a trauma patient. A patient who needed help immediately. The nurse arrived and brought the cart. When she saw what lay on the table, she gasped.

"Is that one of the invaders? Why are you helping?"

"Shut up and do your job. In here, she's a patient. Get me?" The nurse nodded. "Good. Now, I need suction and an IV started. We have to replace the fluids she's losing."

"Replace them with what?" asked the nurse.

The doctor looked at Brian. "Anything from you? Do you know if we can give her plasma?"

"I wouldn't if I were you."

"We have to get her pressures up. Is she -uh, is she --I don't know how to ask this."

"Ask what?"

"Can we use a saline solution? Will salt water kill her?"

"I doubt it."

"Nurse, start an IV. Four percent saline solution. Wide open drip."

Brian saw that things were in hand, and steered me back from the table. "Time for us to talk." he said. "You and that fuzzball are two stains on the same tablecloth. I can't help but think you had some idea that this all was coming. Suppose you tell me about it."

"I have little to offer, dude. Actually, you know about as much about this as I do."

"Why should I believe that?"

"Because I'm telling you, that's why."

"Ok, suppose --for the moment-- I believe that. What do we do now?"

"We need to find out exactly what the Meenzai's goal is --and how they plan to get to it."

"Ok, and how do you suggest we do that?"

"I was thinking about just asking them."

Brian stepped over to a phone on the wall and lifted the receiver. he held it out. "Ok, ask them."

Bob shook his head. "Have you gone senile since the last time we saw each other? A phone. Right. I don't suppose you happen to have the area code for the invasion fleet up there, do you?"

Brian hung up the phone. "Then how?"


Brian nodded and said that they'd all go --once Kalindra was stabilized. The doctor was working hard, and the beads of perspiration on his face were clearly visible. "How about it doctor? Are you helping her?"

"I think so. I've found a number of bleeders and am sealing them off now. But there's some organ damage here, and I don't even know what these organs are. All I can do is close the tears and hope."

"Do the best you can then."

Chapter Three

Back in the saddle again

"What now?" asked Brian as we heard the peace officer. I don't think either of us were thinking about the cops that had been surrounding my house since we ditched them to get help for Kalindra. Now they were an obstacle to our plans once again, and a mutual sense of immediacy between Brian and I told me that something had to be done. There was no time for a self-righteous cop with no concept of who (what?) he was dealing with.

Our skies were filled with Meenzai, just above the thin layer of atmosphere and beyond the sight of people on the ground. In the night they could be seen as a Saturn like ring stretching away from us towards space. But now light was beginning to press the darkness away, and veiled the dreadnoughts from us.

I was going to ask Brian to do something about the annoying cop, but he didn't give me the opportunity. Swinging his staff, Brian built a wall of some sort separating the cluster of police from us --and from everything else. "Can they breathe in there?" I asked.

"Who cares?" came Brian's reply. I shrugged. As Brian was often known to say, 'don't fuck with the Mage.'

"You understand the idea in play here?" I asked him.

"Yeah, I'm going to skin that damn cat of yours."

"Well, uh, wait on that, will you?"


"Because we don't know what his plan is, and the last thing we want to do is get the earth crisped into a cinder."

"I'm my own master of another planet. This one belongs to someone else."

"Ok, but I happen to be standing on it at the moment, and so are my kids and your mate."

"I'll take care of my mate, I suggest you get off."

I was instantly angry and wasn't sure why. "Look, butthead, let's not take the bull in a china shop approach to this. I do give a rip about that damn cat and I'm sure he isn't planning something that will get me fried. Besides, we need to work together on this. As much as you can do, you can't do it all. Plus, you screw up and it could cost you dearly." I nodded back towards the hospital. Brian glared at me for a second then softened.

"You have a plan, I take it?"

"Well, no more than we talked about. We need Naldantis to stabilize Kal, the medicos in there are going to be too damn confused to do any real good, and knowing them, they'll try to make her comfortable figuring she'll die."

Brian nodded. "and they no doubt think she's some sort of animal instead of understanding she's probably smarter than all of them put together. So, what do you suggest?"

"That you get your butt onto whichever Dred that Jab is on and get him to permit you to first get Naldantis down here, then get all of us the hell out of here. Besides, whenever those cops get loose they're going to be madder than hornets and I'd rather not be nearby."

"They aren't getting out." said Brian, then he vanished. I would have said something else, but the opportunity was gone so I turned and went back to the hospital.

* * *

Inside, something had changed. There was still a crowd by the door to the trauma unit, but it had thinned. What wasn't there was the kids. I went to the door and looked in, there were two doctors standing by Kalindra's bed. They were holding some large stainless instruments of some sort, and the sheet which had covered Kal was up over her head.

"What the hell is going on here?" I demanded. One of the doctors looked at me for a second, then went back to playing with the device in his hands. "Where are my kids?"

Again I got no response, this time neither doctor acknowledged my presence. There's an old zen or buddist expression that says that to enlighten one, you must get their attention with a two-by-four. With this in mind, I shot the doctor who'd glanced at me. I hit him in the thigh with a nine mil from a beretta tucked into the small of my back.

"I said, what the hell is going on?"

The doctor I didn't shoot started talking like a tobacco auctioneer.

"We had to move your boys to another room because they were getting in the way and we had to act quickly because the ...it... died and we need to get inside and get the organs for inspection before death causes..."

He didn't get to finish. I shot him in the leg too. He screamed at me asking why I did it. "Stupid people shouldn't breed. Now where the hell are my kids?"

The doctor pointed with a shaking hand and I followed the point to a door. It was locked. A third round unlocked the door and Ficus and Aron trooped out. I was trying to think of a way to get me, Kal and them the hell away from the hospital, but knew that Kalindra shouldn't be moved, and Brian wouldn't know where to find us. I didn't have to think long; a familiar pop noise announced that Brian was back. I turned and came face to face with Jab. I punched him in the nose.

"You shit wad!" It was all I could think of.

"Not what you think!" he said. There was a hurt tone to his voice.

"You're going to just love this." said Brian. He and Naldantis were over by Kalindra's bed, they'd appeared when Jab did.

Since Nal was taking care of Kalindra, I looked at Jab. "Well?" The cat just stared at me. "Brian? What's happening with Kalindra. The doctor on the floor there said she was dead, and he and his pal on the floor over there were getting ready to dissect her."

"She is very much alive and will recover nicely." said Naldantis. Brian was staring at the doctors.

"Dissect? Did you say dissect?"

"That's exactly what I said. The bozo across the room there said they wanted to get her organs out before death screwed 'em up." Brian took two steps towards the cringing doctor, but Naldantis stopped him.

"We must leave. I need my instruments."

Brian's eyes closed and both doctors flew out of the room. One went through a window, the other through the door. Those of us left in the room found ourselves elsewhere, and not too sure where that was. At least, part of us weren't. It didn't last though.

Chapter Four

Look What Dragged the Cat In

Maybe that old Mage had known what he was talking about after all. He'd spent some time reading through the public versions of the stories Kalindra and I had allowed to be published, then contacted me and told me I really needed to learn how to control my temper. "You react first, then have to sit down later and think about how to solve the problems caused by your first reaction," he'd told me. "Might it not be easier to think first and then react? At least if you have to resort to violence, you might have thought of an effective form instead of hoping for massive overkill."

I'd never been real sure if he meant that last remark as a joke, or if he was serious. What mattered now was that he had indeed made me stop and think about how I approached problems. It was also the reason that the area around Bob's house wasn't a mile wide smoking crater.

Even as Kalindra had been thrown into Bob's arms by the force of the impact, my training had kicked in and my defenses had snapped up. By the time we'd dove through the door and closed it, the sniper looked like a bad transporter accident. Privately, I hoped he'd lived long enough for his friends to find him and figure out that "doesn't look like us" did not mean "harmless".

Then the Meenzals had decided to crash the party.

Maybe I've been around Kalindra too long. The side effect of her being a Mage is that she seems to attract trouble, mine is that I tend to enhance other peoples abilities. We've both wondered in private what would happen if we failed to watch close enough and I happened to enhance her ...

Maybe we were finding that out now.

At the moment though, standing in the middle of that hospital room, feeling my mate getting weaker, I had better things to worry about. "Bob, I have to get Kal to somebody who can get her straightened out before she slips away from me. I'm feeding everything I can down our link to hold her stable, but it isn't enough." Looking over at her and the two idiots who were more interested in figureing out what she was than helping her, just flamed my anger hotter. Focusing on that anger, I pushed harder at the damn anti-magic field the Meenzal fleet was generating and managed to pour a bit more energy down our link.

"We need to talk to my fucking cat also," growled Bob after he yelled at one of the doctors about something.

"Tell me about it. When I get my hands on that furry little bastard I'm going to take him apart one joint at a time, assuming Jean doesn't figure this all out and get to him before me."

"You picked one hell of a time to retire," snorted Bob in disgust. "Now we've got a whole crew of clueless idiots running around the moon with just enough power to cause trouble."

"Don't ever underestimate Jean and the rest of the people I've trained. When she's motivated, she's almost as strong as I am. This retirement party you've arranged for me is gonna be motivating as all hell." Wincing, I tried to work the knot out of my shoulder where the muscles were reacting to the phantom pain I was feeling from Kalindra. "One thing in our favor though is that she isn't as big a hothead as you or I. She'll be planing for awhile before she does anything and I should be able to get to her first."

Aron muttered something to his dad, and Bob turned and started yelling at the doctors again while I tried to push against the field that was screwing with my magic. All I had to do was push a single thread through to the master gate at Tycho, and I'd be in business. Then I could use it as both a focus and a source of power to get myself back the the moon. "You picked a hell of a time to finally figure out why Mages hate Meenzels, Nahn ..." I muttered under my breath as I took a chance and used what I was feeding Kalindra to force my probe further. Both she and I gasped about the same time. She because of the momentary loss, and me because I managed to contact the gate.

"Got it!" I growled as I began to feed energy to Kal again to try and stabalize her. "You want to talk to your fucking cat?" I told Bob with a grin I was certain had to be unpleasent to look at. "I'll be back with him in a little bit. Make sure those idiots don't kill Kalindra while I'm gone."

Bob nodded slowly, remembering what I'd done years ago to people who even threatened my mate, and I focused on the Tycho gate and vanished.

* * *

The scene around the gate wasn't as bad as I'd figured it was going to be. In fact, it was was almost serene, do mostly to the fact that almost everyone was gone. It didn't stay quiet for long because Jean was waiting for me.

"You took your damn time getting back here!"

It didn't make her happier that I ignored her while I was yelling for Naldantis. *Nal! Grab your stuff and MOVE it!* I 'pathed to him as I sent him a mental picture of what Kalindra was looking at. I didn't get a reply, but I heard him scream in the distance as he took off at a dead run for the building we'd setup as a small hospital.

"Are you listening to me!?!" yelled Jean from about six inches away as I contacted Smaug next.

[ Staff, bring, fast, hurry, staff, now ]

"Damn you! Pay attention! You can't dump this in my lap then ..."

I think about then she finally noticed that I had blood spattered all over my clothing and that it wasn't the right shade of red to be human blood. While she stood there with her eyes going wide, realizing that Kal wasn't with me, Smaug *popped* in next to me and dropped my staff into my hands. "Hello to you too Jean ..."

"Kalindra?" she asked hesitantly.

"Shot by some idiot who thinks different means inferior. Said idiot is now a random collection of body components."

"You've seen the fleet and heard the ultimatum?"

"I heard bits and pieces of it while I got Kal someplace to try and stabalize while I fought my way through that damn damping field" I replied. I watched as she thought about it for a moment.

"Those are Meenzels, right?"

"Yep, and they finally figured out why magic and they don't get along. They also appear to have figured out how to project that effect as a field. It's almost like working inside a void planetside now."

Jean waved her hand at the surroundings. "It hit us here also. When they appeared, the environment field actually flickered before the gate stablized it. Every person outside when it happened about died. When we got things semi-quieted down, I stuffed everyone I could back through the gate to their homeworlds and the staff is all indoors."

"Where is the Meenzeii Ambasador?" I asked as I caught a look in here eyes.

"Missing, I've got a search party looking for him."

"When you find him, kill him. He either knew about it, and was here to string us along, or he's a clueless idiot would was sent here as a sacrifice. However what I'm about to do turns out, the Meenzals will take it as a sign of weakness if we let him live."

"Are you serious?" she asked looking just a bit pale.

"Very. Unless I miss my guess, we just got invited to our first interstellar war. I assume you used the access codes in the back of the book?"

Jean nodded her head towards the gate, where the Book of Mages lay open on the small shelf below the main terminal. "I ordered about half the Oort Fleet inward, cloaked, and the rest are now arranging to either follow, or _distract_ the Meenzals if they actually try and go through with this."

"Distract?" I asked.

"I'm considering sending them and however many of our allies that care to join us, towards Meenzii."

"That won't be much of a fleet" I mentioned with a grin. Meenzels only react to superior force."

"I'm sending along a couple of those things you have locked in stasis" she said with an even bigger grin.

"That would do ..." and Naldantis came tearing up the path to skid to a stop beside me. "Excuse me, I have to go see a fucking cat about his trip to the vet to be nuetered." I knew Nahn well enough to locate him in whatever ship of that fleet he was in. When I found him, and saw in my mind what was going on, I started to laugh.

"You can't take off!" sputtered Jean. "Send Naldantis down to ..."

I cut her off in mid word. "Somebody is trying to beat me to it," and I grabbed Naldantis by the arm and 'ported us into Nahns' stateroom.

* * *

We came in shielded, so the blaster bolts coming through the melted remains of the cabin door just deflected off and continued destroying parts of the cabin. It still pissed me off, and I focused that anger on making the shield stronger, because everything I did was taking ruinous amounts of power and concentration. I almost lost that concentration when I got a firsthand look at what was going on.

"Your crew object to you playing around on duty?" I asked Nahn in a calm voice as he took a snap shot over remains of a table at someone who had stuck their head around the remains of the cabin door. Maybe our arrival had been silent, but when I spoke up, Nahn yelled a distinctly Terran curse, the Meenzals in the hallway began firing directly at me also, and the young male and female Meenzels hiding behind the remains of Nahn's bed screamed.

"Let me guess, the Captain was taking a friendly nap while his fleet threatened to destroy my world? Your crew must not ..." and I did a double take as I saw some of the stuff scattered around the bed.

"I wonder who used what on whom" muttered Naldantis as he winced from the flare of a particularly close blaster bolt.

"If you look close, you'll see the Captain there is still wearing a leather cuff around one arm. I believe that means he was the one being tied to the bed while the young ones ..."

"Mage not damn funny! Save Nahn or planet dead!" yelled Nahn as Nal and I stood calmly by and watched him fighting for his life. The next shot from his blaster just fizzled and I saw him start to panic.

"I believe that was the sound of a weapon on empty" I said out loud to nobody in particular. "I see somebody else agrees with me" I said with a laugh as I heard several screams of triumph from the corridor outside. I'd promised Bob though, so the Meenzal Guardsman who tried to pour into the room ran face first into the forcefield I'd moved from around Nal and I to the doorway.

"Nahn, you have two choices. You can come with me willingly, just as you are," and I winced with the strain of holding back the blaster fire that was now trying to destroy my forcefield. "Or I can leave and you can try to reason with your crew."

"I'll just tell Bob that I didn't kill you myself, I'm sure he'll understand" I added as an afterthought. "He'll be dissapointed, he'd had his mind set on kicking your furry ass all over the room, but he'll get over the dissapointment."

It took Jab all of three seconds to toss his empty weapon on the bed next to the rest of the junk there, and walk over to where Nal and I stood waiting.

* * *

The moment we all appeared in the hospital, Naldantis rushed over to Kalindra while I held Jab by the scruff of his neck and smiled at Bob.

"You're gonna love this ..." I told him as I watched him punch his cat in the face with everything he had.