Rocket Fox: Part Twenty
The Lionid’s Pride was the first of many ships launched from the fifth planet in the Lupine planetary system. Canin was host to two species; the Lionids and the Pantherans. The Pantherans had made a name for themselves already in space, and their actions, in combination with the actions of the Vulpine, forged some of the greatest treaties in the history of the system. The Lionids were much different, though they did share similar features.
The Lionids were much more peaceful, and they valued wisdom and discovery among several of their virtues. It was because of this, the Lionids vowed that any space faring fleet they would sail would be one of peace. That has survived to this very day. For the longest time, the Lionids ran cargo cruisers and science vessels that carried no compliment of weapons. But after a few attacks from Pantheran and Jackai pirates, and the head of the Pantheran fleet urged them to arm their vessels with at the very least, low yield photon torpedoes. Nothing that would destroy an attacker, but enough to make them think twice. The Lionids, after all, valued life the greatest of all virtues. Even when they killed game for their own meat, it was done in a very respectful manner.
The Pride, as she had come to be called, was a generational ship. Much like the Jayna tribe ship the Sifter and the Vulpine cargo cruiser the Barrow’s Revenge, the Pride had been a constant in a family of Lionids, always passed down from parent to cub. The present holders of the Pride were well respected among the merchant guilds throughout the system. Urial and Nadia, along with their children, had made many friends from Canin to Critainia. Often, they would shuttle cargo which included fine wines from the Ice Field Monastery on Canin, or rose petals from Critainia. On this day, the Pride’s cargo was tanned leathers from the northern Lupine tribes of Lupinia bound for Critainia. This particular day also gave the Pride one passenger.
Her name was Snow Fall, a pure white Felanus, born on her home world of Vulpinia, and raised in a monastery on Canin after her parents wished to explore. Snow Fall was much like her parents, with her own exploring nature, which was why she was on her way to Critainia. She didn’t consider herself a passenger, though. No, she worked as hard to pay for her way to Critainia as if she was a regular crew member, and with some help from Nadia, she made sure that the sensors and navigation arrays were working properly. And she also made sure the entire family was fed, as she was an expert cook. More of a hobby, but something she prided herself in.
That was her tasked on this day, as she stood in front of the counter, cutting up thick pieces of rye bread, lightly cooking slices of bubka meat, and fixing up a salad for herself. There was tea, and juice for Marina and Calder, the two cubs to Urial and Nadia. She hummed as she busied herself, smiling as she sensed a presence come up on either side of her. “You know, you guys aren’t as quiet as you’d like to think you are.” She looked to either side of her, winking to the two cubs. They had taken it upon themselves to play hide and seek with Snowy as much as they could. Snowy got very good at listening for their padding feet across the floor of a deck.
“We almost had you,” Marina said with a whine, trying to defend her abilities to hunt and capture. Even if it was playfully.
“How come you get to cook an’ me an’ Marina don’t?” Calder said as he tried looking over the counter. Both cubs were only eye level with the counter, still too small to do most tasks on board the vessel.
“Because I’m the passenger and I have to cook as part of my pay for your mom and dad taking me to Critainia,” Snowy replied as she finished the last of the sandwiches. “I’m also the adult, and you two shouldn’t try this until your mom and dad teach you how to do it.”
“But, you’re not much taller than me an’ Calder,” Marina pointed out.
“I also happen to be standing on a box so I can do this,” Snowy explained with a nod. “Now, I have something that you two can do.” She handed each cub a tray, both containing a cup of tea and several sandwiches. “Take those to your parents and I’ll bring your food out too, okay?” The cubs smiled, said ‘okay’ as cheerily as they could, then carefully carried the trays the short distance to the bridge. Snowy gathered up a few other plates of food, along with juices and tea, her own meal and the cubs, then stepped carefully off the box and followed the cubs to the bridge.
As she entered the doorway to the bridge, Urial and Nadia were already sitting down to eat at a little table area by the workstations. Marina and Calder were both waiting patiently, or as patiently as they could, for their own meals. Snowy smiled as she set down the large tray and first handed Marina her meal and then Calder. Both children happily said ‘thank you miss Snow’ and began to eat. Snowy moved over to her own workstation and began nibbling at her salad.
“Thank you, Snowy,” Urial said with a nod as he sipped his tea. “I must admit, at first I was worried when you said you would take care of the food details for our trip, but I can see that my worries were not warranted.”
“He means that he was worried someone would mess up his kitchen,” Nadia explained to Snowy with a chuckle. “He’s very protective of that kitchen.”
“Of course,” Urial said in a shocked tone. “It takes a certain art to cook, and to let just anyone use the place where you create art can be rather… invasive. But, I have put aside my doubts and your time here with us on this journey has given me other opportunities.” He looked to his children who sat across the table from him. “Such as spending time with my daughter and son,” he added as he smiled. The two cubs grinned back at the compliment.
Snowy only smiled and continued to nibble her salad. This family was perfect. They worked together, learned together, and even played together. It helped that both Urial and Nadia had this fascination with space, with ships, and they wanted to share that with their children. Her attention was diverted as a read light on her navigation console began blinking. She flipped a few switches and carefully looked over the read out. “Incoming ship,” she announced. “Looks Vulpine, but I’ve never seen the registry number before, not the configuration.”
“Oh?” Urial said with great interest. “Are they within visual range?” He looked to Snowy, who nodded and began putting in the combination of commands to display the ship on the main view screen. “Amazing,” he said with some awe. “She appears to be one ship, but has the look of three to her.” He sat back in his chair and smiled. He loved ships, but his passion was the old space vessels that were powered with solar sails. “Perhaps we should hail them.”
“I can open up a channel,” Snowy said and began sending a hail to the ship. They waited a moment and finally heard the response. “She’s received and sending a message back. I’ll put it on screen.”
All five of them turned to the view screen as the image of the interior of the ship came into view. Three Vulpine sat at work stations, one who they presumed to be in command, faced the transmission. “Thith ith Left-tenant Thenia Felix of the RVA Nighthawk.” She paused a moment and cleared her throat. “Excuse my thpeech impediment. That’th Thenia, with an ‘Eth’.”
“Lieutenant Felix,” Urial announced in a bold voice. “I am Urial of the Lionid’s Pride. We just saw you on our sensors and just wished to say hello.”
“Thank you,” Senia replied with a nod. “I apologize if I may theem brief, but we have been called to an urgent athignment on Critainia. Again, thank you for the hail. And may the Great Mother bring you luck on your journey.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Urial said with a smile. “We won’t keep you any longer. Good luck. Lionid’s Pride out.” The view screen switched back to the display of the ship as the communication ended, and the five watched as the Nighthawk began to vanish in the distance. “Very fast ship,” Urial said as he watched her grow smaller and smaller. “Those Vulpine are marvellous in their craftsmanship.”
Snowy chuckled and went back to eating her salad. One thing she learned about Urial, he would research that vessel as much as he could just so he could learn about her designs. It wasn’t for any technology to take back to Canin, but for his own interest. It was his hobby and passion.
As Snowy ate, another sensor reading came in, and the light on her console began to blink again. “Traffic is getting heavy,” she said as she began to inspect the readings. “There’s another ship out there.”
“Ah, maybe one of the other cargo vessels,” Urial suggested with a nod. “Vulpine and Lupine cruisers often travel this route.”
If Snow Fall’s expression could have been anymore white, it would indicate her sudden worry as she inspected the read out. “It’s neither of those, Urial. Nadia.” Her voice grew filled with worry as she looked between the two, then to the cubs. Finally she explained her worry with one word. “Jackai.”