Teilhaber

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Chapter 3: Friends Are A Great Thing

With Friends Like These

Thomas welcomed consciousness back with much reluctance. It welcomed him with the buzz of his alarm, well two alarms, his and M’Sara’s. Sitting up he crawled slowly to his ladder to climb down. His alarm resetting as soon as he had sat up. She had returned to her sleeper sometime after he had drifted off to sleep. He looked over to her sleeper while still on the ladder and she was rubbing her face with the back of her hands, licking them, like a feline would. With a grin on his face now, he hopped down to the floor and walked into the refresher room, closing the door he entered the shower after removing his clothes.

After he had turned off the water jet after he had got himself wet, he heard the door open just as he started to get some soap on himself. M’Sara called to him, “Wait for me, I will help you conserve water.” She typed in her code into the water ration pad by the door.

The opaque shower door slid open and Thomas turned to see a disrobed M’Sara step inside to join him. He blinked still holding the soap dispenser to his chest, his brain was slow in the morning before he had some coffee. “Wait, what are you doing?”

M’Sara was looking at her brush while her ears twitched slightly up and to the sides, while her tail curled and uncurled as she answered, “We are going to conserve water so we can shower more. This will help us both. I’m glad I thought of it last night. You did not object, in fact you agreed, so here I am.”

Thomas went back to doing his best to get back to washing himself as he realized that M’Sara probably did not understand sarcasm very well. He did his best to ignore her with a shrug. If she wants to help him, why should he stop her. With that in mind he agreed, “Alright, we will try this, as an experiment.” He moved to the back of the stall, it was not really designed for multiple occupants, but it was the width of the room so they were able to share it without too much difficulty because of her small size.

M’Sara entered the stall without another word with her brush in one hand and adjusted the nozzle so it pointed as far down as it could with her other hand. She had to get on her toe tips and stretch as far as she could to reach it, but she was just able to. She did not worry about slipping; the shower floor was coated with a nonslip surface. She used just enough water to wet herself down before turning it off again then turned to face Thomas. With her hand out palm up she told him, “You give soap now.”

Thomas waited by the door as M’Sara found her clothes she wanted to wear for class while she was in her underwear shorts, she did not use a bra. The unpacking of last night left her in disarray. Even with half her street clothes on the floor she found them, and quickly put them on as he watched with a smirk. Today she chose her tri-blue T-Shirt from Terra with Raptor Rainbow Dash on it.

M’Sara quickly walked past Thomas, her other clothes left in a pile, neither of them had time to spare. As she walked by she commented, “You did not need to wait for me.”

When Thomas followed M’Sara out the door he answered, “No, but I wanted to walk with you.”

They walked down the hall and M’Sara glanced out the port to the Mars surface before she informed Thomas when he caught up to her, “We are not going to the same class.”

“That is correct, but all the classrooms are in the same section of this complex. We can walk together that far at least. It is nice to walk with someone, instead of being alone, don’t you think.”

“Yes, I agree, we can watch each other’s back at least that far.”

Let’s Do This

Thomas was almost to the cafeteria where he was to meet M’Sara when he ran into his friend Mateja. She had almost run him right over as she left an adjoining hall. She helped him off the floor with what he knew was a smirk, one of her ears was partly to the side. He could not help but be sarcastic as he told her, “Thank you so much for your help, I’ve been feeling so far from the floor today.”

With a huff Mateja let go of his hand and as soon as he fell back to the floor again she sat on his waist with her feet at either side of his head. “How is this? Feeling better now, are we?”

Thomas chuckled and looked to either side of the hallway from his view on the floor, and people were just walking around them, ignoring them both. Did the general population know us that well already? This kind of thing used to cause a fuss, he thought to himself. He looked back up at Mateja, she was wearing her old “Kill all humans” Bender V-neck shirt today. Katzen had digitigrade feet so they usually wore shorts or short pants that ended at their knees and they only wore shoes when they had too since their fur covered padded feet allowed them to walk barefoot most places, and do so very quietly. He gave her fur covered calf a playful pat and admitted, “I am feeling better, thank you. Glad to see you are in high spirits today. I’ve not seen you be this playful since we left Terra.”

Mateja stood up, stepped back to give him a hand up, for real this time. After he stood and brushed off his clothes she said to him with mischievousness in her voice, “I’m happy because you have a mate now. I’m sure by now you have forgotten all about that human female that was stalking you back in your hometown before we left together.”

Thomas stopped in mid brush and gave Mateja a sideways look before he informed her, “I had just about forgotten all about that awful ‘person’ until now, thank you. One more thing, M’Sara is not my mate. We are just friends; we barely even know each other. Oh wait you are just teasing me, and I fell for it. I fell for it again. So tell me, why were you in such a hurry?”

Mateja grabbed his arm with hers around it she started off towards the cafeteria, and Thomas was pulled along with her, she was much stronger than him after all so he stumbled to catch up. After a few steps she answered, “Oh I was not in a hurry, I just wanted to run into you. I am hungry though, let’s grab a bite to eat, I’m hungry for some meat.”

With a sigh Thomas allowed her to drag him along with her, after a moment he informed her, “M’Sara is meeting me there, I hope you did not intend to have me for lunch.” He was used to her rhyming double entendre puns so he tried to roll along with her, but he usually failed at it.

Mateja did not slow, she did chuckle he knew when he saw her ears as they dipped to the sides a bit when he looked over at her.

Thomas spotted M’Sara right away in the far back with M’Lar on the left side of the room after Mateja and him entered the cafeteria together. It was his turn to take Mateja by the wrist and she let him lead her to the table M’Sara was seated at. She followed along silently and they passed by two empty tables to get there. When he sat opposite M’Sara at the table, he came to the realization that he had two friends he could count on with him on Mars now. He did not know M’Lar at all, except that she was M’Sara’s friend. In the middle of the table was a sliced roasted turkey soaking in gravy. There was one bowl of broccoli covered in melted cheese covered with a transparent lid, he assumed it was for him though he had not even told M’Sara he liked that. It looked like they had just got the food, it was still steaming hot, and they had yet to dish themselves any.

Thomas and Mateja took their seats, Thomas sitting in front of M’Sara, and Mateja in front of M’Lar on the rectangular table for four.

M’Sara started her introductions after they took their seats, “Thomas, Mateja, I want you to meet my good friend M’Lar. She is from the same colony as I am, we grew up together. M’Lar you met Thomas briefly already.” M’Sara nodded to Mateja, “This is Mateja, a close friend of Thomas’, they go back years. I did not know she was joining us, but I have no issue with it either.”

Thomas looked at M’Lar again and noticed she was only a few centimeters taller than M’Sara, that was when Mateja with a look of mischief, one ear was off to the side a bit, decided to say, “M’Sara, how was your first night with Thomas? Does he still snore?”

Thomas turned to face Mateja quickly, and gave her a look that would make a laser blush. At the same time M’Lar turned to M’Sara to ask, “What is she talking about?”

Mateja did not give time for M’Sara to answer, “Oh she did not tell you? Thomas and M’Sara are living together in the same dorm room.”

At this point M’Sara was looking flustered, her ears down on the sides of her head in embarrassment. She only got out, “I… We…”

That was when Thomas decided to kick Mateja under the table, or at least he made an attempt but failed as she moved her leg out of the way. He was getting frustrated so he firmly told Mateja, “This is why I don’t take you anywhere.” He turned to face M’Sara and added, “You will have to excuse her, she loves to cause trouble.”

M’Lar was looking from Thomas to M’Sara back to Mateja before she asked, “You and Thomas are old friends, Okay that I get, you say M’Sara and Thomas are living together? How did that happen?”

All cool and collected Mateja suggested, “How about we eat first, I’m sure Thomas is more than happy to explain it but I’m starved.”

After Thomas had placed his fork gently down on the table, and wiped his face with the napkin, M’Lar made sure he did not forget that he had been volunteered to explain the situation as she caught his eye and asked, “Well, let’s hear it, explain why you and my best friend are cohabitating, and you better make it good.”

He carefully folded his napkin, attempting to not look like he was stalling, but he knew he likely failed as he looked at M’Lar again he noticed her ears were slowly folding. So he cleared his throat and started, “Well after we traded blows, we learned much from each other, things one cannot learn from words alone. We discussed our situations and decided that her moving in with me would suit us both. You see, I had my room to myself.”

This is when Thomas stopped and M’Sara took over without any signal from Thomas, “As you know M’Lar, I was not getting along with who I had to share a room with, and so we decided that we would like to share his room.”

Thomas was watching M’Lar and noticed the look on her face change as she turned to face M’Sara when she took over for him, though he could not read it, if he had to guess he would have said it was confusion mixed with surprise.

M’Lar leaned over to M’Sara as she laid her hand on hers, and quietly said, “What is going on? Do you realize you just finished for him as if it was the normal thing to do?”

M’Sara turned to face her and blinked a few times, “Oh, did I?” She paused a few seconds to collect her thoughts before she continued, “Well I wanted you to know that it was not something he thought of, or to think he was in any way taking advantage of me. I’ve grown to be found of him in this short time.”

M’Lar leaned back, her mouth agape before she blurted out, “What, but you are not a human! Why would he even want to share a room with you?”

M’Sara calmly patted M’Lar’s hand that was still on top of hers as she explained, “Neither is his mother, so what?”

M’Lar regained her composure a little before her eyes turned to Thomas, giving him a sideways glance before looking back at M’Sara when she exclaimed, “No way. He is ‘that’ Thomas.”

M’Sara clapped her hand over her muzzle and gently removing it as she quietly said, “Quiet. He does not want anyone else to know, we need to keep this just between the four of us for what should be obvious reasons.”

M’Lar just nodded before she turned to look at her plate, poking the pool of gravy with her spork utensil as she absorbed it all.

Mateja leaned over to add in a rare instance of seriousness, “You know Thomas has been through some very rough times, we met when we were freshmen at high school and cohabitated down on Earth since. We became very close friends, some say like siblings, even though he is only human. In fact, he is the only friend I have on Mars. I hope M’Sara will become one too, she is on her way there now.”, she said with one ear turned to the side, the equivalent of a smirk, “I’m so very happy for him, that he found M’Sara. I think she is very good for him. She will keep him in line, I’m sure of it.”

Thomas cleared his throat before adding, “Well now that was probably more than she wanted to know about me. The main point is, M’Sara and I are not only in the same field, but we are both specializing in warp physics. It is better for us both if we team up, take the bull by the horns, as it were.”

Mateja leaned over closer to M’Lar with her muzzle cupped with one hand pretending for it to be private, but he heard her anyway and softly said with a wink, “He may even show her some new delights.”

At that point Thomas punched her in the shoulder and she just sat back while she made that strange sound she claimed was a laugh before she turned to him with her tongue stuck out he could only sigh and roll his eyes before he placed his palm on his face and slid it down and back to the table top.

M’Sara looked embarrassed, but she quickly regained her composure and cleared her throat with her fist on the front of her muzzle before she suggested, “Why don’t we all go to the common room, end the evening with a bang? It’s late twentieth century rock music day.”

M’Lar started to gather the now empty plates and glasses onto the tray while she said, “I’ll clean up the table, and meet you there.”

Thomas grinned and added, “Music my grandfather listened to, some of my favorite tunes. I’m in.”

Mateja nodded before she said, “Thomas often listened to classic 1980s and 1990s Rock of that era while we lived together, and it grew on me. None of us have morning classes right, so why not? I would enjoy the company.”

M’Lar made a short sound similar to Mateja’s laugh before informing them, “None of my classes start before mid-day. Sure I’ll join in.”

At that M’Sara and Thomas stood, followed by Mateja and left M’Lar there to clean up after them. As each of them stood, the seats folded and lowered into the floor.

Was that the Two Step

Thomas let go of M’Sara’s hand when the door to the Common room came into sight. He stepped ahead and swiped his ID card over the card reader it beeped, he waited for M’Sara and Mateja to do the same then opened the door for them. It was one of the few manually operated doors in the Colony mainly because it had a security door.

Inside was a large room, for a colony on Mars, about a thousand square meters. The room was the shape of a hexagon and on the right side from the door was the dance floor, on the left were tall round tables with two stools each. The walls were display screens, with no windows. On them now was an animated ocean beach with palm trees and white sand.

As then entered with Thomas following them, he noticed a few people dancing, but the night was still young.

Mateja padded over to the mid back side table, and moved it next to another, moving the stools after. The Thomas and M’Sara stood nearby and watched until she was done. They took their seats, Thomas and M’Sara shared one table. Though M’Sara did need to climb up her stool as it was almost as tall as she was.

M’Sara touched the center screen, and ordered the Katzen equivalent of an alcoholic drink, something like a beer. Thomas ordered a dark beer, and Mateja used hers to order something as well.

Everyone there had an entertainment allowance, and Thomas had yet to even use his, so he had what was not small amount saved up.

M’Sara looked up at him with her ears half folded after he had ordered and mentioned just loud enough to be heard over the music, “This is the first time I’ve used my entertainment allowance.”

Thomas just grinned and patted her hand softly, “How about we hit the dance floor after we finish our drinks?”

Mateja interjected before M’Sara could answer, “I’ll keep M’Lar company, I may join you too, who knows maybe we both will”

M’Sara took a second after Mateja was done before answering, “Alright, but I don’t know anything about Terran dancing.”

Thomas chuckled, “Well for casual dancing, you just move your legs and arms about to the rhythm using a few patterns while you face each other. It should be easy enough for you. You could teach me some Katzen dancing too, if you like.”

M’Sara looked at the table with her ears down when she answered, “I never did any dancing actually, so I don’t really know how. From what I’ve seen, I think I would rather learn yours, it sounds easier.”

Mateja did that laughing sound before adding, “Casual Terran dancing is fun, I think you’ll like it.”

Just then a little more than a meter-high hex shaped robot with a flat rimmed top, arrived with their drinks. It had blinking blue LED lights at each top corner and when it stopped beside their tables it beeped, a very high pitched beep, repeating once a second, like an old wrist watch.

Each in turn reached down to retrieve their drink, all in clear chilled acrylic mugs. With the last one removed it stopped beeping and returned from whence it came.

Thomas took a sip of his, he had not had a drink since he left Terra. He said in a surprised voice, “It is surprisingly good, considering.”, so he took another sip.

M’Sara nodded, “There is a complex just for hydroponics, and we brought people from Terra to make food and drinks for you humans. That includes recreational drinks, that may be why.”

Thomas looked sidelong at M’Sara, “I knew that.”

M’Sara in turn just “humphed” as she turned her head away from him, making a human like sound, and took another drink of her beverage.

Thomas grinned and followed suite with his own.

It was then that M’Lar found them and sat opposite Mateja. She looked around at them and said, “Well, the party started without me, just as I expected. Don’t worry, I’ll order myself something.”, She had started to enter in her order before she was done talking.

Mateja looked at M’Lar with her ears perked up while she gestured to M’Sara and Thomas to tell her, “Don’t worry I’ll keep you company while these two love birds set the dance floor on fire.”

M’Lar was done with her order, she looked up at Mateja with her eyes wide open, and her ears fully erect to exclaim, “What birds? And why would they set it on fire?!”, she looked back and forth at M’Sara and Mateja waiting for an answer.

M’Sara just drank the rest of her drink with a few gulps while she attempted to not look anywhere in particular.

Mateja was making that laughing sound again.

Thomas in the meantime had covered his face with his hands while shaking his head.

M’Lar noticed their reactions and just stared at Mateja and asked, “What?”

That in turn caused Mateja to laugh even harder, she was really enjoying herself. Oh how M’Lar is going to be fun to mess with.

Thomas shook his head before he stood up. He walked around the table behind M’Sara. As he got behind her she had lifted her arms up without a word, he gently picked her up, and lowered her to the floor where she now stood. As he did that, he informed them, “We are going to do some dancing now, please enjoy yourselves.”

With that discarded to hang in the air M’Sara took his hand in hers, her ears up and forward as she led him to the dance floor.

M’Lar and Mateja watched them leave, it was odd, almost like they could read each other with little or no words. Mateja had seen something like that before, it was with Thomas’ parents.

M’Sara let go of his hand, and he stopped to wait for her. She turned to face him and held her arms out and up so he could reach them, hands open.

Thomas smiled down at M’Sara, and took her hands in his, holding them gently, the fur that covered them soft to the touch like that of a house cat’s. Her pads that were on the top of her palms, and tips of her fingers, soft like pillows and warm. It was both an odd, and pleasant feeling. The top of her head at the bottom of his chest as she stood on her toes as high as she could. She looked up at him with the same look, her ears up and forward, a look of confidence, with a bit of nervousness. It would be nice if she was taller, but she was full grown, so this is as tall as she was going to get.

Over the audio system a new song had just started. It was by Duran Duran, a song called, A Matter of Feeling. He knew it well, one of his mother’s favorites, his father’s fault he was sure. It was one of their romantic songs, he wondered if Mateja had something to do with that? She knew about that as well. His father played it for his mother often while she lived with them.

M’Sara was waiting for him to start, so he swayed from left to right, putting his weight on each foot in turn. She popped him, and he smiled wider down at her. He could see her tail swaying to the rhythm, slowly curling left to right opposite her body.

By the time the song was half over she switched from holding his hands and moved closer to put her hands around his waist.

When M’Sara switched positions he moved his arms as well, to drape behind her, his hands softly on her back. He could feel her purring softly against his belly. It was oddly stimulating. Like that they slowly swayed from left to right in a slow dance.

When the song ended they separated. Thomas smiled down at her, and M’Sara looked up at him with her eyes half shut, her ears still facing forward, but now they were relaxed.

She slowly took his hand into her hand and softly rubbed his hand on the side of her muzzle and along her cheek. After she was done, she let go of his hand and told him softly, “I’m marking you as mine.”

He kept smiling down at her and would ask what she meant by that later.

Suddenly Thomas felt himself be turned violently around to face a stranger, it was a large Togartz who told him loudly, “What is going on here, are you fraternizing with a Luchs human? How dare you corrupt this poor Luchs!”

He was the same Togartz that was watching him in the lab just the other day.

The next thing Thomas knew is that the Togarts fist was caught by another just centimeter from his face. He looked down that arm to his left that saved him some pain to see it belonged to Mateja.

In one smooth move, using both hands, and her leg beside his foot between his feet she twisted his hand around, spreading it open while she pressed her thumbs to the back of his hand with it bent down and locked. He roared in pain and surprise while he fell to his knees. His eyes wide to see another Togartz protecting his intended target. He was about five centimeters taller than her, but she did not let that bother her. She used a move they had learned in class together.

M’Sara was on his other side and she was not happy, or relaxed, she looked around the room to see if he was alone.

Mateja gave him a few seconds to realize his situation before she informed him in a flat tone, “Kind sir, if you ever bother my friend again, even talk to him without his permission, you will find yourself on the next shuttle to your place of origin. If you so much as hurt either of them, you will find yourself working the mines in the penal colony. Do I make myself clear?”

He looked defiant as he answered, “You take this human’s side? What authority do you have to order me around?”

Mateja’s ears lowered with a low growl she answered, “The house of T’vork does.”

The Togartz on his knees huffed, his eyes grew wide before he lowered his head, his ears drooped and his tail went slack, “I understand, I am sorry, I did not know. If I offended, you in any way please tell this lowly being how I may make amends.”

Mateja let go of his hand, “First give me your full name, then apologize to my friend Thomas, and his mate M’Sara for upsetting there evening. Follow my previous orders and I will overlook your transgression this one time, but it will not be forgotten.”

Still on his knees he rubbed his hand, sore from the strained tendons, he huffed again and looked at Mateja before he said loud enough to be heard over the music, “My name is B’Larrin S’vatz.”, He looked over to Thomas and M’Sara and said, “I am sorry for disturbing you, please forgive me. I will not bother you again.”

Mateja also informed him, “Your entertainment credits are going to be unavailable for one month as well as you will not be allowed into the Commons during that time as well.”

Everyone else who had been on the dance floor and a few others had stopped what they were doing to watch, so they had a small crowd of five others not including M’Lar who was behind Mateja around them.

With that he nodded, stood and turned to leave. Those around them parted to let him through and he strode out.

Thomas watched him leave until the doors closed behind him.

When the door was finally closed, Mateja turned and gave Thomas and M’Sara a hug. Thomas smiled and hugged them both. M’Sara joined in on the group hug after a few seconds. Mateja released them, to put a hand on each of their shoulders and with a concerned look on her face told them, “See friends in security do come in handy. Don’t worry you two, I’m not going to leave this sit and fester. I’m going to monitor him, and see if he was working alone and it was just a one off thing, or if it goes deeper. It gives me a really bad vibe, what he said sounded rehearsed, and scripted.”

Thomas nodded then added, “Not just that, that is the same guy who was watching us work in the lab the other day.”

Mateja patted them both on the back before she took a step back to turn to M’Lar who was now standing beside M’Sara, the other people dispersed now that the excitement was over. She informed her, “I’m sorry to cut the night short, but I need to go report this to security right away, and get the investigation open and started.” She turned back to M’Sara and Thomas, “Take care you two, I’ll be in touch.”

Thomas gave M’Sara a side hug as he nodded and with a smile answered, “We will keep an eye on each other’s back. Thank you for everything.”

With that Mateja turned and left with a quick stride out the door.

Without a word M’Sara grabbed Thomas’ hand and pulled him with her, as she passed M’Lar she took her hand too and they both followed her back to their table.

When Thomas took his seat, M’Sara took his hand. He turned his head to look at her and she had M’Lar’s as well. She looked into his eyes and softly told him, “I’m not leaving your side unless I need to. I am so glad we are living together already.”

M’Lar gripped M’Sara’s tighter to get her attention. When she had it she sounded concerned when she asked her, “We have been friends a long time, we lived together on our home world, we came here together. We both shared a dream to sail the stars together. You never gave me any indication in all those years that you would drop all that for a man, let alone a human man. What happened to those dreams?”

M’Sara squeezed M’Lar’s hand in return as she answered, “I still have that dream, it is the most important thing in my life, that has not changed. You are still my dear friend who I know shares that dream. I’ve only added to it, incorporated another person into it who wants to share that dream with me as well. I have grown close to him in this short amount of time, it is kind of scary, but overall I feel good about it. He is as much a part of my life now.”

This is where Thomas took over, “As she is a part of mine. I have the same dream. When I consider it has only been a couple days it kind of blows my mind. Put your feet in my shoes, if you can. A human and a Katzen becoming friends in less than a week. That is one reason we wanted to go out and spend time together in public. To see how that would work. I think we complement each other nicely don’t you think?”

M’Lar looked at Thomas with her eyes slightly wider for a moment, “That has to be the oddest thing I’ve ever seen.”, she said softly before she answered “I suppose you do, I have a feeling it will take some time for me to adjust. What is important to me is M’Sara, and by extension you too it would seem. As long as she is happy, all is good.”

M’Sara patted M’Lar softly on her hand before she suggested, “How about we have some more drinks, I’m feeling a bit stressed from that encounter.”

Before she was half done Thomas had already started the order for them. He looked over to M’Lar and asked, “What would you like?”

M’Lar’s ears twitched before she answered, “I’ll have what M’Sara is having.”

He finished the order, and gave M’Sara a soft pat on the arm, “We should do our best to have an enjoyable evening, in spite of the interruption. I would like to get to know your friend a little better anyway.”

In turn M’Sara reached over to him and pulled his head over and he did not resist so she could rub her cheek on his before letting it go. Turning to M’Lar she started, “I want to also thank you for being so patient with me. As you can see for yourself, it is just as I told you earlier, that everything I thought I knew about him was false. In fact, it was just about the complete opposite of what I was told.”

She nodded as she looked from Thomas to M’Sara before she said with surprise, “You have no idea how surprised I am about this situation.”

It was at that time when the robot server showed up with their drinks.

The Perfect Start

Thomas woke up with a warm, and moist feeling on his chin, it was M’Sara waking him from slumber by rubbing his chin with her lips. He grinned as her whiskers tickled his cheek and her toes tickled his calf. It reminded him of what his old house cat used to do wake up him for food. She hardly used her bed anymore, the only time she had is if she came home after he was asleep, or vice versa. She started sleeping with him in nothing but her fur that night a month ago after he was assaulted at the Commons. It was like they had become even closer to each other after that. He rather enjoyed sleeping with a cat person. He turned down the heat at night and saved energy points he could use for other things such as the shower. She was a great bed warmer, that was for sure. Only a few times did she wake him as her body jerked from a dream. One time her claws extended a bit on her feet, and gave him a good scratch on his upper thigh. It woke him with such a startle that it woke her too. She helped him see to the wound and told him she was dreaming she was in the wild hunting prey animals and they went back to bed like nothing had happened.

They had got a perfect four points on their lab project they had worked on together. The instructor was impressed with their creativity, and how they worked together as a team. Ironic, how it all started, and how it worked out.

Mateja had been keeping an eye on things. She had been unable to make any connections to the incident, and suspects he was just letting out some built up stress. She was however not letting it go just yet. She still thought there could be more to it.

Even though M’Sara had woke him and removed the covers from them, she was still lying beside him. With no covers he was getting a little chilled. He looked at her when she nuzzled him again in the chest and asked, “Why did you wake me if you don’t want me out of bed?”

When she tilted her head to look at him while she played on her side with her leg draped over both of his, her eyes half closed and her ears half laid on her head. With a purr she answered, “I want to have some fun to start the day before we get out of bed. We have time, as it is our free day.”

The Day Started So Well

They sat together at a table for four, M’Sara and Thomas side by side on the bench seat. They looked to be eating enough for four when Mateja sat across from Thomas and laid her tray of food in front of her. They were shared what looked like lasagna, and they were wolfing it down pretty well by themselves. Mateja chuckled before she asked them, “Did you two have a busy morning? That meal is more than enough for the three of us. Did you two work out already?”

M’Sara looked up at Mateja when she started talking, and when she was done, she looked away, her ears out to the sides, with a look of embarrassment.

Thomas looked up and said with a grin, “Workout, yeah, you could say that. Yes, we are eating lasagna for breakfast.”

Mateja gave an abrupt laugh at his answer, then leaned in to say with a grin in her eyes she and attempted to impersonate an English accent, “Right, say no more.” She switched back to a normal voice to say, “I was wondering why you guys were eating breakfast kind of late. I just got out of my morning class, and I’m about to have an early lunch.”

Thomas chuckled and pushed her playfully back to her side of the table and said, “Why did I show you Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Show her some good culture I thought. My father recommended it of course. Oh I should show it to M’Sara when I get a chance.” He paused about a second then continued, “Why don’t you join us Mateja?”

With a grin she answered, “Oh I would love to see some MPFC again.” She grinned as he just stared at her before she continued, “Of course I’ll eat with you guys, I’ve been so busy I’ve had little social time of late.”

The three of them strolled down the hall from the cafeteria when at an intersection Mateja stopped, turned and gave M’Sara a hug, surprising them both, next she took Thomas into her embrace while still holding M’Sara. She announced to them while keeping them prisoner, “I have to go back to security, I need to check on my contacts there for more information. I’ll check with you two later, I’m not doing anything on the next rotation, while don’t we hang out.” When she was done she let go.

Thomas answered for them both with a chuckle, “Are you getting clingy in your old age? Also, sure, why don’t you bring a date this time?”

In answer Mateja made a barking kind of laugh before she replied, “Yeah sure, we will see.” She then turned with a wave and went down the hall.

They stood in the hall and watched her leave, not many others were using them, so they did not feel the need to move right away.

After she was out of sight Thomas turned to M’Sara and gently placed his hands on her shoulders, to turn her to face him before he suggested, “How about we go back to our room and relax for a few hours, play some video games before we go to the gym to work out? Our time slot is not until five right?”

She smiled up at him and nodded, and without a word led him to their room. When they made it to the hall outside their room she said with a challenging voice, “I’ll kick your ass in Mortal Kombat this time.”

M’Sara and Thomas were on their way to the gym, it was set on the far side of the complex on the other side of the medical center. They turned the last corner and Thomas made a comment, “You really are improving on your game. I assume you have been practicing?”

In answer she bounced up to playfully punched him in the shoulder without missing a stride before she answered, “Of course, not like I ever played the game before I met you. Nice of them to make a smaller game controller for me.”

He chuckled to that, and added, “It is for children, but yeah.”

Just as they reached the door it opened and a Togartz was standing on the other side, and he blocked their entry. They had been too distracted to notice they had been followed but found out when everything went dark. Bags were put over their heads from behind.

Thomas started to panic when the cloth bag went over his head, though not for long, as he started to lose consciousness, the bags were drugged was his last thought before all went dark.

Oh No, Not Again

Thomas woke up slowly, at first he thought his cat wanted into his room, and it was crying outside the door. Soon he realized that was not the case as he slowly to remembered what had just happened. He opened his eyes and all he could see was darkness. The sound he had heard was M’Sara somewhere near him. He could smell her cinnamon like scent, so he thought it was her moaning. He tried to move, and he was held fast in a chair, he could not move his arms, or legs. He also felt a chill, it was cold, about twenty he guessed.

He called out, “M’Sara, is that you? Wake up, please. I need your help.”

He heard her moan softly and he heard her stir off to his right. He turned his head in that direction and called out again, “M’Sara, please wake up.”

M’Sara felt the world return to her, it was slow, she was on something hard, and cold. She rolled over onto her back, and slowly felt around while she opened her eyes. She could see someone off to her left, she heard Thomas calling for her. She waited until she got her bearings better and sat up, turned her head to the faint shape of him. She could barely make him out, there must be very little light in the room. Finally, she called to him, “I’m here. I’m unhurt I think. What happened?”

He sighed with relief and softly with a troubled voice answered, “I don’t know what happened, I seemed to be secured to a chair. I’m unable to move my arms or legs. The last thing I remember is that Togartz blocking our way into the gym.”

M’Sara walked on all fours to Thomas, she was still felt a bit dizzy so she did not stand up yet. She used his legs to crawl up and put her head in his lap and grabbed his waist before she softly said, “I seem to be unbound, I’m so glad you are here. I don’t know what I would have done if someone took you from me. I would never have thought that a Katzen would go so far as kidnapping either. I don’t know what they used on me, but I’m not feeling well, what are we going to do?”

Thomas let out a soft sigh then with an almost whisper he said with some concern, “As soon as you can, if you could find a way to release me from this contraption they have me in, that would be great.”

Just then from a source in the wall they heard, “I see you are conscious. Don’t bother feeling upset at being held against your will, as it is all your fault that you are here. Get comfortable, you may be here for some time.”

Thomas turned his head and looked towards the voice, and he felt M’Sara do the same, her head still in his lap. He could only see darkness of course. The voice sounded as if it could be human, it even had just a bit of a Southern accent.

M’Sara slid back down and sat on the cold floor on her haunches. She felt around the arm rests while she commented, “That did not sound Katzen. I’m as worried as you are, and I can just barely see, I imagine you are in complete darkness. We are in a room that is not very large and all but us and this chair, an empty room. Not enough light in here. There is a very small amount emitting from the door behind you.”

Thomas looked around and sighed, “I can’t even see you, it looks pitch black in here to me.”

She patted his leg and softly said, “Worry not, I’ll work on getting you free, then we can plan our escape. Good thing we are engineers. They have no idea who they are messing with.”

She had moved around his chair examining it for what seemed like hours. He heard a click just before she whispered, “Now we are talking. I found the wiring hub, the chair seems to be operated remotely, but I should be able to hack it.”

Thomas could hear M’Sara working on it, he sure hoped she figured it out soon, the chair he was in was cold, and felt like it was made of flat pieces of sheet metal. He wondered why they left her free, and grinned, their first mistake.

There was a spark, it lit the room like lightning. She gasped, and softly said, “Oh I think I’m making progress.”

It was not long after that they heard voices on the other side of the door, Thomas heard some of it, but M’Sara could hear it well enough.

“Why did you bring a Katzen with him? You were supposed to just bring him? What good is it if we bring our allies into this?”

“She was with him, I followed them for days, they never separate. I thought it would be better to bring her too. To keep her quiet.”

“You incompetent oaf. Why can I never find good help these days? Now I have to go do some damage control. Do you know who she is?”

“A student sir. A Luchs.”

“Great help. At least it is not a Togartz you brought with him. As soon as I’m gone, make sure they are drugged again. I don’t want them gaining consciousness until I get back.”

“Yes sir.

“I’ll be back when I get done cleaning up your mess. Don’t fail me again.”

“Yes sir.”

It grew quiet again. So now he knew why there is just one chair. What did they have planned for him? Why was he targeted? After a some more minutes, he had no idea how much time passed, there were more sparks, and this time they were followed by clicks. He felt the clamps on his wrists and ankles release.

He left his arms and massaged his wrists before he stood. Just then he was grabbed, in surprise he yelped. M’Sara had him in a bear hug, or at least as close as she could do to someone much taller than her. He let his arm go, and reached down to pat her on the back softly as he softly said, “Alright, let’s get out of here, then we can celebrate.”

She let him go and took half a step back answering in kind, “Right. We wait on either side of the door, and take whoever comes through the door by force and quickly. If he is alone, we combine our attack, if not, you take whoever is left. Watch for the drugs, I’ll go for that first, but if I miss, you grab it.”

“Understood.”

Without another word she took his hand and lead him to the right side of the door and left him there. She took the other side.

It was not too much later when the door made a noise as it was unlocked. They got ready and when the door opened, they flattened themselves against the wall, Thomas behind the door. When the Togartz padded into the room and noticed no one was in the chair, it being lit from beyond the door. As soon as he stopped in in tracks is when they acted.

M’Sara leaped onto his back, her arms around his head, scratching at his eyes.

Thomas at the same time went for a round house to the back of his knees, and he collapsed.

M’Sara did not sit idle while he fell to the floor, using his head as leverage, she twisted and bent over so she could wrap her legs around his neck with her body covering his face. She then bent over backwards and reached out so she could grab the cloth in his hand, and with a smooth motion was able to stuff it in his mouth that was open in surprise at the time.

Thomas put his knee into his solar plexus as she was doing that. The poor guy never had a chance. He was out like a light.

Not waiting to see if he was alone, M’Sara got off him and ran on all fours into the hall.

Thomas applied more liquid onto the cloth and held it over his muzzle to make sure he would stay out for at least a few hours. When he was done he pocketed the lidless cloth and covered the bottle with his hand. He did not have time to find the lid. He went out the door at a jog to catch up.

M’Sara was strolling back down the hall shaking her head while she informed him, “We are alone, I’ll lock the door, wait for me in the room ahead.”

They passed each other and as they did they gave each other a fist bump. He put his hand quickly back over the bottle before he asked her, “See if you can find the lid for this before you lock him in there.”

She nodded and trotted back in while he walked on.

Thomas walked into the only room at the end of the hall. Looking around he could see it was a mostly empty room with one console. There was a window, and it was dark. He walked to it and looked out, he could make out the surface of mars. The door beside him was connected to a room that had a door on the other side that led to a ramp that was on the mars surface.

He looked around the room again to see if he missed something. There on the side wall was a small door. He walked over to it and opened it, it was a closet full of supplies by the looks of it. Nothing but shelves with boxes. The ones he could read said rations, and on the other shelf he spotted some water. The room had another small door at the end. He walked to that and found the toilet and sink. That was the end of it.

Turning around Thomas found M’Sara standing behind him holding out her hand. He took the lid and put it on the bottle, sitting it under the sink.

While he did that, M’Sara did not sound happy when she said, “We have a little problem.”

Thomas chuckled, but not in a happy way, before he agreed, “You could say that.”

She took his hand and led him back out, “I need to relieve myself, wait out here.”

Without a word he walked over to the console that had a terminal on it. He activated it, and worked on finding out what it was connected to.

After a few minutes M’Sara padded up beside him, “What are we going to do now? I looked in the storage room, no pressure suites. Just food and supplies.”

He was reading some information he had found, “It looks like we are in a future area of the colony. It seems they put this area together inside of that. There is nothing but vacuum on the other sides of these walls. We are not far from the colony, but we have no way to get there. I could use some ideas about now.”

M’Sara put her arm around his shoulder, with him in the seat their heads were about the same level. She hummed for a few seconds before she suggested, “They must have a communications system right?”

Thomas explained, “Of course!”, before he started digging around the system. After a few seconds he found it, “Here we go. A wireless feed into the colony network. But we would need one of our tablets for the encryption key. I’m going to see if we can hack our way in the hard way.”

She patted his shoulder and wondered off, “I’m going to see if I can find our stuff.”

M’Sara pulled boxes off the shelves and opened each, and found their stuff in one labeled, “Supplies” just like some of the others, like they used an old box.

She dragged the box behind her back out to the main room where Thomas was waiting and left the box beside him, “I found our stuff, if we could connect one of our PCDs into the terminal we could easily establish a full connection and get our location from the GPS.”

Thomas nodded, “That is the plan.”

M’Sara smiled, “I knew I could count on you.”

Thomas got down on his knees and removed the panel under the terminal. He then grabbed the box with their stuff in it, and took out his PCD. He was going to have to jerry rig a connector for its com port. A PCD was basically a specialized hand held computer, like smartphones of decades ago only much more powerful, can communicate with other CAW members and the battery does not run out in less than a day either, in fact with normal use they would last at least seven cycles.

M’Sara sat on her haunches, like a cat, beside him so she could give him a hand. When she got her head beside his she gave it a nuzzle, and softly said, “We are going to make it out of this. We have friends, and you have me. This should be no problem, we helped design these, but they use Terran standards.”

Thomas had already started removing panels from boxes that covered the electronics that ran the terminal. Everything used bolts with finger grip heads to keep it together. He found the one for the bus from the board the SoC was on, the panels were all unlabeled of course. He pointed at the panels along the wall while he said, “See if you can find me some wires.”

She left his side with a nod to do just that. He took off the back cover from his PCD and used it to strip the insulation from the points that he planned on connecting the three wires to. After he was done with that he sat it down and turned to check on her progress and she was padding towards him with wires in hand.

Thomas smiled up at M’Sara as he said, “Right, this is the hard part. I need you with your very dexterous hands, to hold the wires to their contact points. This is while I’m using the PCD to hack into the system.”

She nodded and sat down with her knees out and feet apart enough for the tablet to fit between them beside the open panel, “Use my feet to hold the tablet steady, you can use it like that and I’ll connect the wires.”

He sat in front of her, facing her with his legs crossed, and rested the tablet between her feet.

She clamped her very feline toes and helped to hold it, the side edges fit nicely between her digit and metacarpal pads. It was held very steady indeed. He was free to use his hands so he could use the PCD tablet. She had already stripped the wires with her teeth and twisted the strands together on each end. With each hand she held the three wires to the contact points, her arms held out with one on the tablet, one of the innards of the console and made sure the same colors were at the correct points on the back side of the tablet where the data port connected to the board. It also helped that her hands were small.

He nodded to signal her that they had a connection, and started typing on the onscreen keyboard. As fast as he could while being careful he set up the connection, and got through. With a huge smile on his face he typed out the message to Mateja. “We hacked our way into the com system, I’m sending you our exact GPS coordinates after this message. Let us know when you are on the way. We have one assailant locked in the room we were being held in. The other is not here, and his location is unknown. We suspect he is a human too. We did not see him, but we heard him talking. The only way in or out is open to vacuum. They must have brought their own airlock. We don’t have any EVA suites either. M’Sara is holding wires to the back of my PCD tablet to keep this connection open so a prompt reply would be appreciated. I owe you.” He followed that with a command to send the coordinates from the GPS. With a warm look and smile at M’Sara he said, “Message sent. Now we wait for a reply, I asked her to make it fast.”

After what seemed like hours his PCD chirped. He had to stop being lost in M’Sara’s eyes and looked down at the display. It was a message from Mateja, it read, “We were already on your trail, your disappearance was noticed hours ago. Hold tight we are on our way with an ETA of about one thirtieth of a rotation. Over and out.”

Thomas looked up at M’Sara and smiled even wider, and happily said, “They will be here about an hour, you can let it go now.”

She let the wires drop as well as her arms to her sides, and spread her feet apart, and sat that way as she said, “I’m glad she got back when she did, I don’t know how much longer I could hold those wires on, my arms were getting tired, even in this low gravity.”

With a nod he put the PCD back together, and put his stuff into his bag, then helped her put her stuff into her bag. It looked like they just took all their stuff and put it into this box, he had found everything including their ID cards.

Just Another Day at the Races

It was Thomas’ turn to watch for the rescue vehicle. It had been almost two hours when he noticed a Mars Surface Transport with the passenger and airlock attached to the rear. They had eight sets of wire mesh wheels with a joint in the center of the two main parts that enabled it to bend so it could navigate the terrain on Mars. The front was the engine and driver and navigator, and the rear was a place for multiple types of attachments that could be mounted on it. He jumped to turn to tell M’Sara the good news, and she was getting up off the floor to stand next to him by the time he told her, “I think they are here.”

They walked to stand in front of the door that led to the Mars surface, and he watched through the port. After there was a thump followed by a hiss he let her know, “I can see Mateja with a couple humans.” They took a step back and waited for the door to open.

When the airlock gave the door the signal that it was pressurized, it opened. Out sprung Mateja tackling Thomas to the ground. Thomas blinked a few times and she came back into focus. That was when she informed him, “We are here to rescue you. Get into the airlock, then we can leave this place.”

She got off of him and walked back into the airlock, and they followed. Thomas was dusting himself off and grumbling about how she will never change. As they entered, the two humans walked past them into the room they just left.

When Thomas got inside he thought he saw a light out the side port, when he looked out onto the Mars surface he saw another MST with the same setup as the one they were currently in, and it was turning around beside them. It looked like they were getting ready to dock after they left. With a shrug he sat in the seat beside M’Sara, Mateja had sat down opposite them, and strapped himself in. The door to the compartment had just shut before he heard the vacuum activate with a hum to remove the air from the airlock.

Before long the airlock detached from the door with a thump as the mag seal released and then it hummed again when the motor retracted the airlock where it would go during transport. With that done they slowly started to get on their way.

Thomas turned his head around to face Mateja, he had been watching the slowly retreating building. It was mostly a skeleton structurally of what it would become, except the area they had been held in not long ago. He could see ground cleared off a large area some ways to the side that would be connected to it, and he assumed to the main complex when it was done. It was some distance from the colony, no doubt because it was going to be the main landing port for a future part of the colony when it would be more than just a school, but a trading port for the Coalition of Aligned Worlds. This was because it was much easier to trade and store goods and supplies in a world with both low gravity and very little atmosphere. Not to mention that it was close to a member homeworld and did not have thousands of satellites and debris scattered in orbit. There were plans for an interstellar space ship construction facility that would be in orbit as well. It would be years before there was any sign of the space station as it was years in the future before they would even start working on it.

Mateja sighed before she leaned forward against her harness and started, “Time to get down to business. I need any information you may have been able to gather. We have very little to go on, finding out who was behind this and why. We don’t think we will learn much from what was left behind either.”

Thomas gently laid his hand on M’Sara’s thigh before he explained, “It is thanks to M’Sara that we got free at all. We overheard the person in charge yell at his lucky that I was the only one that was supposed to be kidnapped. M’Sara was not being restrained as I was. He was really upset that they brought a Katzen with me. They did not know who she was from what we could tell from the interaction.”

M’Sara laid her hand on his just before she continued for him, “The person in charge was Terran and sounded like he was from Terra recently too, he had a Southern accent and sounded like he recently learned Terran Common. We never met anyone on the base like that either.” She lifted her hand up when she was done.

He gave her leg a gentle squeeze and continued, “The Togartz did not sound like he had much interaction with humans either. His accent was very heavy like a recent learner of Terran Common. That operation was either ran by amateurs, or they wanted us to think that.”

Mateja gave Thomas a look before she blinked and looked back and forth at the two before her gaze rested again on Thomas. “I would leave any speculation up to the professionals. You know, the way you two do that has even started to weird me out. I’ve known Thomas and his family for years, and it seems like every day you two are more and more like two halves of one, kind of like how I remember his parents but much more so. I thought I was used to that kind of thing. Anyway, you two will need to come in to security for a debriefing and to have you guys listen to some tapes of male Terrans that have arrived recently. Just show up as soon as you are cleaned up, have eaten and got some rest.”

In unison they both saluted sarcastically to Mateja as they said with a flat voice, “Yes mam.”

Mateja huffed before she placed her paw over her face with a sigh she said, “You are even starting to act like him. This is serious.”

M’Sara stuck out her tongue before she replied, “We have to release our stress from being held hostage, better it be with humor, no?”

Mateja in turn just glared at M’Sara while she hissed out, “Yesss.”

For the rest of the ride back Thomas and M’Sara held hands silently looking at each other while Mateja used her PCD. Just as they slowed to make the turn to dock with the Colony Mateja looked up and grumbled, “I’m starting to feel like a third wheel here.”

M’Sara chuckled and gave Thomas’s hand a squeeze before she told Mateja, “Don’t worry, you two can still hang out together, I’ll make sure of it.”

Mateja humphed, “I feel a bit jealous, of having someone so close. You are so lucky M’Sara.”

M’Sara gave the Katzen equivalent of a smile to Mateja, her ears up and forward, whiskers out, and eyes half closed before she said, “You are right, I have you and Thomas as good friends. I feel very lucky.”

Mateja slowly changed from tense to relaxed and returned the smile, then replied, “I just can’t stay mad at you. I feel lucky to have you as a friend too, thank you. One more thing, your size difference, how do you deal with that? He is almost twice as tall as you, and you are mostly legs.”

Thomas gave M’Sara’s hand a squeeze and held it firmly while he answered, “That is only a slight exaggeration, she is almost one point three meters tall, and I’m sure not two point six. We are learning to deal with it though. Besides, now I can reach the high places for her. Sure she is as shortest adult Katzen on record, but we think it has something to do with the colony she grew up on. It has on average shorter people on it than any other. She used to be really sensitive about it, but she is getting better about it. I explained how awesome being small can be, and how she should use it to her advantage. For instance, she can easily be a second pair of hands for me, reach things in small places I cannot, things like that. In exchange I reach high places and stuff for her.”

At the end of Thomas’s speech M’Sara made grabby hands at Mateja with a grin in her eyes.

In reaction to M’Sara’s hands Mateja rolled her eyes.

Thomas just chuckled at the antics.

It was soon after that, that the MST started its preparations to dock with the Colony. When the maglock of the airlock engaged they removed their harnesses, and stood to wait for the door to open to let them finally go home. Mateja stood behind them and patted them both on their shoulders, “You guys did great getting free on your own, I want to hear about that in detail when you make your way to the security office.”

When the process was done they walked into the airlock together without another word. M’Sara took Mateja’s hand and Thomas’s hand.

Thomas took Mateja’s other hand with a grin, they formed a kind of three sided circle, “See you are not a third wheel. You are the third and fourth wheels.” Thomas ended that with a chuckle. Mateja in turn squeezed his hand until he yelped, “Ouch!”

Drinks For Everyone At The After Party

They walked out of the airlock and into the station still holding hands, only Mateja was in the middle, and M’Sara and Thomas had let go of each other so they could all walk together.

Just down the hall were security officers that were both human and Katzen, they seemed to be waiting for someone. They watched the trio approach and behind them was Mr. Wendal the head of the school. Mateja let go of their hands and stepped forward and greeted one of the security officers who stood in the middle, she talked to her in a low voice while she showed her PCD to her.

Thomas and M’Sara patently stood together while they waited as everyone else watched them.

Mateja turned back to the two who waited, took a step towards them with the Lehpparr security person she had been conversing with and announced, “This is sergeant K’Ehleyr Ritter Lursa, she is going to be the officer in charge of this case, and wanted to meet you.”

Lursa nodded in greeting, she stood about average height of just over one point six meters, “Please just call me Lursa, good to finally meet you two in person. Mateja has told me so much about you. We have something in common you know; my husband is a Terran.”

Thomas and M’Sara looked at each other before M’Sara started, “That is so…”

That was when Thomas still holding her hand, took over, “Unusual.”

Lursa blinked and gave Mateja a look when she asked, “You were not kidding.”

Mateja chuckled, “Yeah, they do that more and more every day. Once they did a conversation like that, back and forth on the way back. It still weirds me out. I’m starting to think that is why they do it.”

M’Sara glared at Mateja and growled, with an undertone of humor, “We are standing right here you know.”

Mateja in reply stuck out her tongue.

Lursa gave Thomas a long look with her ears up and forward, her whiskers pointing right at him, “I wish Sam and I had that kind of rapport. He even spent his later childhood here on Mars while they built the school.”

Thomas smiled warmly at Lursa as he told her, “Ah, he was a child of one of the work crews, and is he still on Mars?”

Lursa nodded.

Thomas looked at M’Sara and she was watching him with her ears down a little and her eyes glowed with warmth, then he looked back to Lursa before he asked her, “We would love to meet him too, we should make it a double date.”

M’Sara nodded then looked down, her ears half turned to the side and down while her tail twitched with a little nervousness as she added, “We would indeed, the more people we know here the better. Maybe we will be able to become friends, I would like that. Until I met Thomas I only had one friend, M’Lar the Luch I grew up and came to Mars with. She has been very busy though as she is in the medical program.”

Thomas added, “As I only had Mateja.”

Lursa’s ears perked up as she listened to her. She gave them both a look before she asked, “Why don’t I meet you at your dorm rooms after you have rested, say in a tenth a rotation? Sam will be free by then; we can have an informal dinner at the cafe. Give you guys a chance to relax and eat before we head to security. How does that sound?”

M’Sara brought her hand in a fist up to her chin and tapped the end of her muzzle with her index finger; a very human gesture, while she thought for a few seconds before she suggested, “Make it one point five and you got yourself a date.”

Lursa took out her PCD and after a few touches and swipes on the screen announced, “I’ve informed Sam to meet us at the cafe. I’ll see you two later.” With that she turned on her heel and walked to rejoin the rest of the security personnel that waited for her. When she signaled to them they all turned and walked down the hall.

Mateja gave M’Sara and Thomas a quick wave before she turned and followed Lursa. Her ears were upright, and her tail waved slowly behind her with her stride, she looked so official in her uniform too.

Thomas turned to M’Sara when they were alone and got down on his knees.

When M’Sara turned to face him he opened his arms and she fell into them, wrapping her arms around him, she then moved her muzzle next to his ear and whispered, “I’m so glad we are back and safe. Now we should retire to our room, and take a quick nap.” With that she stood up and started down the hall.

Thomas watched her leave, as her tail waved slowly behind her with her hips as she walked. After she got about four meters down the hall from him, he got up himself. He trotted to catch up, and when he did M’Sara turned her head to look at him with her hand raised and open, for him to take. So he gently grasped her hand, and she gave it a gentle squeeze. They walked all the way back to their room like that, side by side, hand in hand.

Thomas was dragged to consciousness, he kicked and screamed all the way back, it was a hard fight, but ultimately he lost. Their door beeped again. The weight and warmth of M’Sara did not help him wake. It was the insistent beeping that forced him awake. He looked down at her, head on his chest, leg over his and it looked like she was still asleep. He hit the intercom button beside his bed and softly asked, “Who is it?”

After a short pause he heard, “Lursa here, you two ready?”

Thomas did not bother to answer, instead he reached over and tapped the button that would open the door.

The door opened and revealed Lursa standing beside it by the intercom, she looked startled, her head was turned and she looked at doorway in surprise. She recovered and walked into the room, she was not in her uniform, she wore Terran jeans that the legs had been cut short to fit and a dark red v-neck short sleeve knit shirt. As soon as she was past the doorway, it closed behind her. Just inside past the refresher, she stopped and looked around. When she spotted Thomas still in his bed she put her hands on her hips and asked, “Where is M’Sara? I see her bed is empty.”

Thomas pointed at the lump on his midsection and softly explained, “She is still sleeping, the door chime did not wake her.”

With ears off to her sides a bit Lursa told him at the same soft volume, “Well Sam may already be waiting for us, we need to wake her. I feel for her, but we need to get this ball rolling.”

At that point M’Sara stirred and a kind of wildcat like noise escaped her lips as she poked her head out from the covers and yawned.

Thomas chuckled and playfully patted M’Sara on her rear beside her tail as he said, “Speak of the devil.”

M’Sara mumbled something in her native tongue before she said, “I thought I heard voices.” She spotted Lursa standing still on the other side of the room and all she said was, “Oh.”

Lursa gave M’Sara a silent Katzen welcome by raising and folding her ears while looking at her.

M’Sara returned the gesture a little slower, as she was still a not totally awake before she turned her head to face Thomas and asked, “What is she doing here?”

Thomas smiled and pat her head softly, “She came to take us to our date, remember?”

M’Sara still laying on Thomas as she was when she was sleeping looked back at Lursa when she noted, “We are still in bed.”

Lursa chuckled, “Yes I noticed. If you two would be able to get ready, that would be great. I’ll busy myself on your terminal while I wait.” She sat down at M’Sara’s terminal and started typing on it, to log in no doubt.

M’Sara in the meantime moved and laid on Thomas and did her morning stretch with a soft murr, her chest on his tummy, her legs going beside his, and her arms on either side of his.

Thomas chuckled, “That feels good and tickles at the same time. I hope I never get used to that even though you do that just about every time.”

Lursa committed without turning her head, “None of that now, we don’t have time. Good thing I came to get you two, or you would have left us waiting all day for you.”

When M’Sara was finally done, in one smooth motion she jetted out from the covers and landed on all fours on the floor not far from Lursa. Wearing only her fur she stood and strolled over to her dresser beside Lursa and ruffled through her street clothes and finally grabbed something to wear. The clothes they had worn earlier were dirty and in the hamper. She picked a black t-shirt with what looked like a black cartoon cat. With that she put on her slim fit, black, knee high jeans. With that done she watched Thomas finish getting dressed.

Thomas freed from M’Sara climbed down off the elevated bed and ducked under to open his dresser with his street clothes in it. He felt like his Bass Hammer band t-shirt, so he wore that with some loose fit blue jeans. He walked over behind Lursa and asked in a snarky tone, “Watcha duin?”

In one smooth motion Lursa logged out with a key combo, and stood and turned to face him after she noted that M’Sara had been standing beside her before she answered, “Just responding to a few messages. Nothing important. Ready? About time.”

Thomas did a mocking small bow and swept his right arm across his chest, “Lead the way your majesty.”

As Lursa approached the door and it opened she committed, “Mateja was not kidding about you.”

When they arrived at the table Sam was sitting at, and he stood when Lursa greeted him, “I hope you have not been waiting long, these two were not ready and I had to drag them out of bed. This is Thomas and M’Sara.” She gestured at Sam, “This is Sam, my husband.” He looked to be just a centimeter shorter than Thomas, about the same build but with red hair cut in a crew cut. He had a very average looking face too. He wore a knit, dark grey, v-neck short sleeve shirt and black slacks.

Thomas gave Sam a small wave before he told him, “Huh, you seem a little over dressed. Nice to meet you Sam.”

Sam chuckled and gestured at the seats opposite, “Please, join us, won’t you?”

Lursa gave Sam a hug from behind before she sat beside him.

M’Sara padded over beside Sam and patted his shoulder, “Nice to meet you Sam.” After that she hopped over and took the seat opposite Sam as Thomas was already in the other seat.

Sam waited until everyone was situated before he looked at M’Sara and asked, “That is an interesting shirt, it looks like an Earth cartoon cat. Kind of ironic that you are wearing it.”

Thomas answered without a word or response of any kind from M’Sara, “Funny you should ask that, I got that for her about five days ago. The shirt is made of hemp, one of Earth’s contributions to CAW, and they love it as it grows just about anywhere, and it is grown here on Mars too, and the artwork is by a human on Earth. The artist earns CAW credits that they can spend on CAW goods and services.”

Sam grinned at Thomas, “Do you always answer for her?”

M’Sara did her best to imitate a human grin and answered with amusement in her voice, “No, but sometimes we answer for each other, it is this thing we do. It amuses us both watching the reactions of whoever we are talking to.”

As she answered all Thomas did was grin back at Sam.

Lursa committed, “You two make an odd, but fitting pair, no doubt about it.”

Sam chuckled then with gusto said, “I’ll agree to that.”

By this time Lursa had out her PCD and looked up to announce, “I’ll take your order, and go get it, as I was the one who this idea was.”

One thing Thomas noticed was Lursa had the same kind accent M’Sara had. Unlike Mateja who spent years on Earth who could also speak English with a North Western US accent. As that is where she learned it.

Tapping her fingers on her chin M’Sara started with hers, “I’ll have a hamburger with cheese and ketchup, and Thomas will have one too with mustard on it as well.”

Sam started on his, “I’ll have…”

That was when Lursa put her fingertip pads over his lips to stop him so she could interrupt, “You get a surprise.” After she said that she took her hand back so she could complete the order.

When Sam was able he quickly said, “Yes dear.”

Anyone nearby could hear Thomas chuckling to himself, as he was not trying to hide it.

As he did M’Sara turned to look at Thomas and after a few seconds she elbowed him as she said in a hushed voice, “Hey, I know that you think it is funny, but you are being rude, stop it.”

After a few minutes Lursa used the lull to announce, “I’m going to go pick up our order, be back in a few.” With that she got up, and padded to the pickup area in the back to wait for their orders.

By the time Lursa was gone Thomas had a grin on his face so large it looked like it would split asked, “She sure has you on a short leach Sam, why you put up with that?”

Sam coughed into his hand before he answered, “It just so happens I like it that way.”

That was when M’Sara who sat on Thomas’ left side turned slightly to face him and placed her open left hand on his leg, grabbing it, and used her right hand to motion for him to move his head closer to hers. When he did she put her muzzle against his ear and whispered very softly, just loud enough for Thomas to hear, “Stop it. I know what you are doing, but this is too soon. Rope it in, would you? You are getting out of hand. Remember we talked about this before? Mind yourself, these are people we hope to be friends with. Playful banter at this time is very inappropriate. I think that you may be learning the wrong things from Mateja.”

Sam looked worried as he watched them.

He did not even flinch when her whiskers tickled his ear and cheek. When she was done he turned his head so his mouth faced the side of her head so that his mouth was next to his ear she had turned to him now and whispered even softer back, “You are correct in your assessment. I got carried away. Too much stress still built up inside me. Thank you for pointing out my inappropriate behavior. I’ll apologize to him at once. Love you.”

As soon as he was done with his response she let go of his leg and faced forward again. She gave Sam a somewhat forced pleasant look, her ears forward and relaxed as she explained, “Sorry, just a little private discussion. Don’t mind us.”

That was when Thomas cleared his throat, “I’m sorry about that Sam, if you could excuse my behavior, I am not good with interacting with others, and I’m still stressed out about what happened to us today. We hope to become your friends. No hard feelings eh?”

Sam waved his hand in the air as if to brush it away as he said, “No problem, no foul. I’ve already forgotten about it.”

Sam watched M’Sara’s expression actually become relaxed, her eyes opened to a more normal state as she put her right hand on the table flat and palm down when she asked him, “We would love to hear how you met Lursa, do tell.”

Sam looked to his right towards the food pickup area, and Lursa was still waiting. It had only been a few minutes by now. He turned his head and looked back at M’Sara with a smile and shrug before he told her, “Not much to tell. I’m a computer tech, and we were still working on the security computer systems. I met her there, she seemed nice, yet strong. She had just started her training then. We talked now and again, and I found out we shared some ideals, and a few interests. She asked me if she could court me. That took me by surprise at the time, but I did not mind. I moved into the engineering field so we could get on a ship together. So now here we are. I did not even know there were any other human Katzen couples until now.”

M’Sara started to say, “Yeah, Thomas has…” caught herself then continued, “I mean, I had to drag Thomas along too.”

Thomas patted her leg as if to say, “Good save.” He chuckled then with humor said, “Yeah it was pretty violent really. There were blows exchanged. I had bruises all over. She is much stronger than she looks. Not to mention very feisty. Just my type.” He ended that with a huge grin that had grew since he started talking.

M’Sara patted the table softly a few times before she added, “Yeah, it was actually a huge misunderstanding on my part. We have been a couple for just over a two dozen rotations now, about the same amount of time we have been sharing a room.”

Sam looked surprised by that news, and blurted out, “Only a two dozen rotations?”

Thomas was about to comment when Lursa arrived with the food. She placed two trays of food on the side of the table, then gave each of them their order of food. After that she gave everyone utensils and napkins before she finally sat herself down. Sam was digging hungrily into his mushroom cheeseburger by that time. Lursa chuckled as she told him, “Don’t wait for me to even sit down before you start eating mate of mine.”

Thomas clapped his hands as he cheered, “Oh very well done, love that sarcasm.”

Lursa turned her head to face Thomas and winked, her ears were turned to the sides and down about half way.

With that Thomas lifted his left arm and placed it over M’Sara’s shoulders, and she reached around his back at the same time. Neither of them had started to eat yet. They gave each other a warm, slow side hug. It was a ritual of theirs. Their own way of showing their mutual gratitude of being alive and able to share another meal together that they had just started about a dozen rotations ago.

With that done they started eating their meals.

Lursa paused after a few bites, and waited for M’Sara to get done with her chewing when she asked, “M’Sara, I heard what I assume was the end of the story of how Sam and I met on my return to our table. I assume you learned what you wanted to know?”

M’Sara answered as soon as she swallowed the food in her mouth, “Correct on the first, and somewhat on the second.”

Lursa replied, “I see.” After a few seconds she started eating again.

Sam took a short break from his food to ask Lursa, “Hey, did you know they have only been together two dozen rotations?”

Lursa put her plate back on the table and nodded as her ears rotated from forward to the sides and back, giving him a double affirmative.

Sam put his left hand on his hip and committed to himself, “Well isn’t that something.”

Thomas having completed his meal explained, “Yeah, it was like being swept up in a whirlwind. My life until I met her was very mundane. Then one day I think she hates me, the next I find out she did not. I had never been so confused in all my life. Flash forward to now and I’ve never felt so composed, not including the recent incident of course.”

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