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Welcome to PeaceKeeper Headquarters

Chavenlink, Quorta III

Part One

By Lyla Toomney

The morning dawned gloriously, the sun a mighty blaze over the hills and dunes of the Chaven wastes. The sky burst into brilliant golds, reds and pinks as the last cool breezes scuttled away and the sun began to heat the landscape.

PeaceKeeper Sergeant C'aga smiled grimly to meet the new day, stretched his massive, pearly-grey wings and headed back to the compound. The big Lousin strode inside, his long, catlike tail sweeping gracefully after him. The day's orders for his file buzzed like nervous bees behind his eyes and he tried to shake the vague feeling of caution that seemed so much stronger today than it had in the past.

"Incoming officer!!" someone shouted as the sergeant reached the file quarters and his file leapt to attention beside their bunks. The source of the alarm, the human file second, Howard Brimlex, was the last to reach he place. "Next time," C'aga growled teasingly. "Do more preparing and less bellowing."

"Yes, sir," Lex replied crisply.

"At ease." C'aga chuckled to himself when he spotted his second corporal. Merc Schell, a short-tempered Rramackrof blushed in embarrassement when the sergeant used a huge foreclaw to tap her unbuttoned blouse. "You're almost out of uniform, Corporal."

"I know, sir. Sorry, sir," she said quickly, her chitinous wings twitching. "Sunrise came earlier today."

"Or Ho'hie was slower than usual," C'aga teased and Merc blushed again, but grinned. Ho'hie d'Marca, the Fili-gin file third and Merc's significant other, grinned in embarrassment. "How close am I, Private?" C'aga asked him.

Ho'hie shrugged eloquently and fanned his own wings. "I woke up late, sir," he smiled. "My father would have been proud."

"I'm sure he would have," a low voice chuckled acidly and C'aga couldn't resist the laughter that boiled out of him. Jesse Blackshoulder smiled slightly from across the aisle. The Onyx Stonecat has a sharp tongue and a razor wit to match, but more often than not, he came across simply as an annoying file first with the bad temper of his species. "Good morning, sir."

"Good morning, Jesse," C'aga chuckled. "You need to watch your tongue, Private, before someone--"

"Cuts it out," Merc suggested threateningly.

"Good choice of words, Merc."

"Thank you, sir."

C'aga moved on to study Cejay Graniteclaw, the file rear guard. "Good morning."

"Hi, sir," Cejay piped cheerfully. "Did you sleep well?"

"Suck up," Ho'hie muttered and Merc laughed while Cejay's ears swept back in embarrassment. The young Granite Stonecat embarrassed easily, C'aga noted for the millionth time.

"I slept well, thank you, Cejay," the sergeant said, pointedly ignoring Ho'hie and Merc. "What about you, Eve?" He turned his sleek, pointed muzzle at his second-in-command, a female human with fiery red hair and eyes like the good, rich soil that didn't exist on this barren planet. "Did you sleep well?"

Eve O'Brien smiled slightly and inclined her head. "Very well, thank you, sir." Then, she hesistated and added, "Save for the snoring."

This brought on a few snickers from several other file members as C'aga's eyes flickered in amusement, "Snoring? Really..."

Eve nodded and C'aga could see good-natured joking in her brown eyes. "Lex was clear cutting a forest."

"I was not!" Lex cried indignantly. "Was I?"

"YES!" Merc, Jesse, Eve and Montia--the file fourth--chorused. Lex made a face and returned to attention while Eve and C'aga exchanged soundless chuckling expressions.

"Good morning, sir," Montia^vi chirped quickly when C'aga moved toward him. The lanky Kickran file fourth was always eager to please...perhaps overly so. He always managed to put C'aga on edge with his subservience. Now, he was grinning nervously and C'aga managed to force himself to smile back.

"Everyone, have a seat," C'aga finally called. "Let's run over today's agenda." He waited until they had all settled down before beginning: "Okay, Port Control is expecting some action today. Just a few legit freighters and a passenger cruiser. Nevertheless, they asked for a presence, just three or four. I talked to Sergeant Moore about sending four each and she thought it would work. She's sending her 2nd corporal, Mif^ca and her file second, Fi'kin. Any volunteers?"

"I'll go," Cejay said quickly, but deflated when C'aga shook his massive head.

"Sorry, Cej. Not this time. One of the freighters has a seasoning female on board who isn't interested in spending the next three years on inactive duty." Cejay's ears twitched in embarrassment and he started to protest, but C'aga went on, "I know you've got better control than that, but they specifically asked that we didn't have any male Stonecats in the docking area. Sorry."

"I guess that disqualifies me, then, too," Jesse grumbled. "This will be the third season I've missed, boss."

C'aga chuckled and shook his head. "There's a colony about three miles out, if you get desperate."

Jesse snorted, "I'm not that crazy."

"Some might beg to differ," Merc grinned and Jesse hissed at her.

"Enough," C'aga chuckled. "Both of you. Okay, anyone else?"

"Can I?" Montia^vi smiled hopefully.

"Sure, Montia. How about you, Merc? Interested?"

"Mildly," the second corporal replied guardedly. "What are my options?"

"Patrol duty, idle on-call." C'aga grinned.

"I'm in," Merc said quickly, snatching the chance before anyone else could even groan. "Anything's better than idle on-call."

"I agree," C'aga grinned back. "Okay, you're all dismissed for breakfast. We'll regroup afterwards and move out."

"Idle on-call," Lex muttered angrily into his milk. "I hate idle on-call."

Eve snorted and replied, "Don't complain, Lex. You could have volunteered for port duty. Cej, will you pass the salt, please? These eggs are like eating paper."

Cejay passed the salt and pepper shakers to her just as Jesse sat up suddenly, nostrils flared. He sat staring at the door for a second, then subsided into irritable grumbling. Cejay sniffed curiously and grinned when he picked up the alluring scent of a female Stonecat in heat. She smelled about three or four miles away. No wonder Jesse was in a bad mood. "You could make her, if you ran," he teased.

"You've got no balls at all, have you?" Jesse snarled back. "You act like you can't smell her at all."

Cejay just shrugged. "Not interested, I guess."

"Not..." Jesse trailed off, a look of utter amazement on his face. "What are you, neutered?"

Ho'hie gagged on his mouthful and Merc had to slap him on the back while Cejay tried not to look too embarrassed. "No," he mumbled, his ears twitching. "I just...I'm not ready."

Jesse blinked once. "How old are you?"

That hit a nerve.

"None of your damn business!" Cejay bellowed and lurched up from the table while Ho'hie collapsed into hysterical laughter.


The angry rear guard stopped by the door to the mess hall and whirled to face Eve, whose brown eyes were cold. "Sir?" he hissed, barely restraining his rage.

"Walk with me, Private," Eve replied calmly and walked toward the gym. Cejay followed warily. Once in the weight room, she stopped beside a weight bench and pointed. "I'll spot for you. How much can you lift?"

Speechless for a moment, Cejay lay on the bench before asking, "Cold? Ninety, but I can work up to about one-seventy."

"Huh," Eve grunted as she loaded the weights onto the bar above his head. "I'm lucky to bench-press the bar." Cejay chuckled as he started to press the weights while Eve watched.

After a few reps, he started to struggle. "Sir..." he grunted. "Um..." Another pained rep that made his muscles scream. "Sir?" No sound from Eve. Cejay struggled to lift the bar once more, but found that he could barely budge it from his chest. "Corporal Eve!" he begged weakly. "Help..."

Eve let him suffer and struggle for a few seconds before she lifted the bar off his chest and onto the rungs. "Look at the weight, Cejay."

Confused, Cejay sat up, looked and almost gagged. She had loaded almost 180 pounds onto the bar. "I thought it seemed heavier than normal," he muttered.

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