.Snow Kitty

BY : Keith
Category: Star Trek > Star Trek
Dragon prints: 404
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, settings or props of the Star Trek universe. I make no profit from this fanfic.

Thelira stepped onto the transporter pad and placed her duffel on the next one over.  The officer in charge of the replacements checked his information pad to compare her name to the assignments.

She knew it was a formality.  The Vulcan was certain to have the entire roster memorized, along with the physical placements of the Janus IV envirotherapy sites.  He could probably mentally chart theUSS Implicit's orbital position for optimum transporter range.

But she remained silent, even forcing her antennae to be still.  "Lieutenant Ceksan, Tidal Filter number 345.  You'll be relieving Lieutenant Jose Tyler.  He's to be ready for transport at 1325, Ship's Time."

"Understood, Commander," she replied.  He nodded to the transporter chief.  She felt the familiar, surreal experience of the transport effect.  Then she was someplace else.

The temperature dropped about thirty degrees as the beam faded.  She opened her nostrils and filled her lungs with wonderfully chilly air.  The oppressive heat of a Federation vessel leaked off of her body in a gentle steam.

It was warm enough that food wouldn't freeze solid but cold enough that food wouldn't spoil quickly.  She couldn't wait to change to her summer uniform.

"Andorian?"  She opened her eyes to turn to face the voice.  There was a brief view of a flat grey tundra on a lovely day.  The sun shone, glinting off patches of frost and a few small, hardy-looking plants. 

A slow, flat river ambled across the plain.  Icy patches marked the shoreline.  The officer she was relieving stood between her and the water.

The human wore the bulky overcoat of the heat-challenged.  She couldn't help but smile, but at least she thought she made it seem like a smile of recognition.

"About time," he said.  The words were judgmental but his tone and his smile were friendly. 

"I'm sorry," she said.  "The replacement schedule was transmitted ahead of time and we-"

She paused at he raised his hands, mittens towards her.  "No, no, no," he said.  "I mean, Starfleet finally sent someone who's going to be well adapted to the local conditions."

"Probably by mistake," she said with her own smile.  She stepped forward to shake his hand.  "Lieutenant Ceksan," she said.  "Call me Thelira."

"Tyler," he replied.  "Call me whatever you want if you'll come inside for the turnover."

"You have seven hours left to control the thermostat," she said in her most officious tone.  The one she learned from serving with Vulcans.

"Then I'd better make use of them," he said.  He turned and led her towards a large water filter that stretched across the river's mouth and an attached water processing plant.

The tour was fairly straightforward. She'd been briefed on the envirotherapy effort in general and the tidal filters in detail. 

A Federation cargo ship carrying pergium from Janus VI had exploded while passing Janus IV's orbit.  Investigation into the casualty was still in progress.

The sensitive cargo had rained down on Janus IV.  It wasn't immediately lethal to any of the life forms there, but it could build up to toxic levels over time. 

The Federation immediately sponsored the use of terraforming technology to recover the radioactive material from the Janus IV biosphere.

Thelira was relieving Tyler as the control and maintenance officer for a tidal powered filter that cleaned a river on one continent.  That land mass had received the greatest amount of pergium.  Many such filters were in place to catch the runoff.

"It's mostly automated," Tyler told her.  "You're here for the once-in-a-dozen-years hardware breakdown, or the once-in-a-lifetime software error."  She nodded.  "You might want to catch up on your reading or your technical qualifications."

"That and a lot of time out on the beach," she said absently.  He shivered from the idea of a snow tan.  "Oh, come on, Lieutenant!  You'd look good with blue skin!"

The Earthling laughed.  He shook his head as he cycled the door for the living quarters. 

Just then a small creature ran out from under a hazmat locker along the top of the filter.  Thelira had a moment to shout a warning and it struck the Lieutenant's leg.

Literally, in fact.  The furry figure slapped at Taylor's ankle, shrieked, and ran off across the catwalk.  The Andorian took a step forward to give chase, her warrior-reflexes honed for the hunt.  Her antennae locked onto the moving figure and her vision swelled.

"That's okay," Taylor was saying.  She listened but didn't stop watching the retreating figure.  "That's okay!  It's a native life form."

"The fur does seem to match the natural color of the tundra," she said.  The figure was a little less than half a meter tall.  The bipedal primate ran towards a thick bush just across the beach from the living quarters.

"They're harmless," Taylor explained.  "Every so often one of them runs up and slaps me.  I don't know why."

"Have you investigated?" she asked.  The figure went behind the bush.  Most Federation life forms would have found that to be out of sight. 

The Andorian's semi-insectoid antennae gave her quadroscopic vision that penetrated the branches and leaves.  She couldn't directly 'see' what was behind the plant, but her brain could sample glimpses and shadows to construct a useful image.

Several life forms that matched the height and shape of the runner waited for it.

"I've scanned a few that come close to the station.  Their brains are too small for intelligence, so the Prime Directive doesn't apply."  He was still holding the door open.  She moved a bit on the catwalk to better sample the hidden primates.

The runner presented itself and one of its paws.  The others bent to look at or smell it.  Thelira felt the shock of recognition.

Tyler stepped into a corner of her line of sight, looking in the direction she had.  "You see it?  They disappear almost instantly."  He shrugged.  "Or, you can make them your project while you're here."

"I might," she said with a nod.  "So.  Living quarters?"

"You're gonna love the sauna," he promised.  He led the way inside. 

"I hate saunas," she snarled.

"This one's broken," he said.  "It coats the interior with a layer of frost."

"Sweet talker," she purred.

----------

Tyler's files on the primates were limited.  He and a few other personnel on the continent had noticed them.   One officer had dubbed them 'snow-monkeys,' and no one had offered a better name.

They looked like proto-Andorians, except for only being as tall as the tops of her battle-boots.  A very short gray fur covered their bodies from top to bottom, except for feet, paws and faces.  The heart-shaped countenance was the color of the fur but entirely hairless.

And they slapped.

All the native-initiated contacts had been a running attack that consisted of exactly one slap on the officer, then a mad dash for freedom.

There were no biologists assigned to the pergium recovery sites.  Speculation among the engineers was that there was some unknown creature that the snow-monkeys hunted by taunting them and leading them into a trap.

The Andorian shook her head.  "Coup," Thelira muttered.  "They're counting coup." 

She'd done the same thing at her rite of adulthood.  On leave from her first year in the Academy, she'd stalked and touched a Kill Striker on the Ice, then escaped unscathed.

Her off-father had sniffed the Striker's scent on her hand and declared her an adult shen.  On-father and both her mothers had cheered and accepted her into the tribe in the ancient manner.

The fact that two of them attended the ceremony by electronic telepresence hardly mattered these days. 

These primates were practicing something similar.  They showed their skills as a hunter by getting close enough to touch a frightening monster, their bravery by facing the monster unarmed, and their fitness by escaping.

Well, Thelira thought, no one was going to get an easy pass into adulthood on her watch.  Next little monkey to run at her had their work cut out for them.

-------

She took long walks along the riverside each day.  At the end she would sit and face the ocean.  Her back was to a nearby bush, her eyes out to sea.

Her antennae roved the area.  The vision wasn't as clear without her actual eyes, but it was easy to track movement.

Two weeks after she started setting the daily trap, a warrior monkey braved her apparent situational blindness.

Tiny feet whispered across the gravel.  It got closer and closer...  Thelira threw herself to the side.  The feet slapped past her ass across her sitting position.

She spun on all fours to face the back of the native.  It spun around, too.  A betrayed expression was clear on the almost-Andorian face.

It was a female.  Small breasts were visible in the curves of the fur.  A few lines of lighter fur marked some scars on her arms.  And she had pointed ears.  Frankly, she reminded Thelira more of a former roommate's cat than a monkey.

"You want it, shorty?" Thelira hissed.  "Come and get it!"  She popped to her feet and ran.

There was a shriek behind her.  Thelira refused to look back, with any eye.  She passed her living quarters and ran next to the stanchion of a perimeter scanner. 

In a maneuver practiced since childhood, she grabbed the pipe and let her inertia spin her around it.  The native was loping after her, bent over nearly horizontal with speed.

The sudden view of a giant coming back at her made her eyes wide, but didn't give her pause.  Thelira smiled as she recognized the dedication in the little warrior. 

They ran at each other at full tilt.  Just before they met, Thelira leapt up into the air, planning to pass over her opponent.

That warrior jumped up at the same moment Thelira did.  Tiny hands slapped at the toe of her boot, there was a very satisfied cackle, and the successful sneaker ran off to the bushes.

 Thelira landed and slowed.  She thought about the jumps as she tracked the movement to the horizon. 

The little weasel had jumped just as Thelira committed herself to the action.  Almost like it had expected her to do it.  Expected her to tease...  Either the natives were psychic, or they teased each other, too.

"This is going to be fun," Thelira murmured.

-------

She logged her contact with the aliens but kept the files on her local drive.  She didn't want to offer idle speculation from an engineer until she had enough information to convince a xenobiologist.

If the natives were intelligent, the whole envirotherapy approach would have to be rethought.  That would require sound judgment, which demanded sound data.

So she kept quiet, beyond a small announcement that the snow-monkeys were probably better termed snow-cats. She referred to their ears and their 'sense of play' without going into details.

Snow Kitties was what they finally adopted.  Humans.  If it wasn't lethal, it was cute.  She sneered but didn't try to correct anyone.

None of the Kitties approached the station for several days after the big chase.  She hoped they hadn't decided she was too dangerous or difficult.

Thelira detected surveillance after a week.  A Snow Kitty behind a bush, two flat across the top of a dune. 

They tracked her walks but avoided the area around her usual stop.

So she stayed inside.  Scanners picked up a growing population of watchers over the next few days.  She offered a few glimpses of herself toiling on things on the roof or along the top of the filter.  Nothing on the beach.

When there were about forty life forms in the vicinity, she went outside.  She stripped naked in the vestibule and drew cobalt lines like on her arms and thighs with a training marker.

She glanced one last time at the display in the vestibule, set to mimic the life signs scanner.  She marked the locations of the biggest collection of natives.  Then she nodded to herself and opened the door.

Ten steps out, she stood and took four deep breaths. There was no movement in the vicinity.  She could imagine everyone staring in her direction.

"You all wanna see how a warrior counts coup?" she shouted.  Then she took off running.  She went straight towards the largest bush in proximity.

With a yell and a mighty leap, she jumped over it, twisting in the air to stare down at the very, very surprised aliens.

Knee high figures shrieked and tried to scatter.  She flashed the marker left and right, dotting and striping as many as she could reach.  Then she was running again.

The next group ran before she reached them so she didn't jump.  She circled the bush, tagging retreating alien butts and backs.

The next collection of aliens were zig-zagging across open ground as she reached them.  She only managed to stain two, one of them falling over as she pushed the marker against his back.

She spun on her toes to grab him up from the ground.  "If I was a predator, you'd be DEAD now, little man!"  He twisted and kicked as she showed him her sharp teeth and the back of her throat.

"Then again," she muttered, "I am working up an appetite."  She licked her lips.  The Kitty looked properly terrified.

Then there was a whistle.  Thelira turned to see her first alien contact.  The Snow Kitty that had touched her boots stood in a clear spot on the beach. 

As Thelira watched, she turned around, clearly showing that she had not yet been marked.  Then she slapped her ears in the giant alien's direction...and turned her back.

The Andorian laughed as the worthy opponent walked negligently down the beach...without a glance backwards.

She dotted her captive's face, chest and back, then let him gently down to the ground. "Oh, as my first captain would say," she whispered, "it is ON!"



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