Shadows of the Kat 2:

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"Hay Sheir," a black tipped silver Foxen poked his head into ExCRU Alpha's leaders office as the regal tigress Felsin looked up. "We have a new assignment. Some high muckity-muck on Draconea had his mate kidnapped."

"On my way, Joshua." She stood and followed the significantly shorter canine to their main briefing room after putting the paperwork she had been reading in a locked cabinet.

Most of her eight-person team was already present, with their security specialist the only one missing. She was only just taking her seat at the large, crescent moon table when the German Shepard Canem trotted in at a good clip and nodded his apologies to her.

She nodded back and turned to her computer specialist. "What's up, Terry?"

The nearly vibrating black-marked silver Ferret nodded at her and began. He brought up a picture of a strongly built orange-tan Felsin tom in Phys-Med Medic Officer Whites. "This is Colonel Nathan SolGardin of the Medic Corps, he and his LifeMate of record, Rhymar SolGardin, an aerospace engineer with ExoFrame Development, were en route to Alphard Sector Command Station aboard the Canem cruiser 'Winds of Rozar'. Last recorded communication was at 18:30 Alliance Standard Time six days ago, just before the cruiser entered hyperspace. The cruiser was due to arrive at Command Station Vandred four days ago. It has not been seen or heard from, and now the Dracons have filed an official request for an ExCRU investigation on the basis that Colonel SolGardin is the consort-mate to Prince Morin Kar'dranor of Draconea."

He paused. "It should be noted that there are no Alliance records of this mate status. However, the powers that be deem it politically unwise to question a request countersigned by Queen-Mother Starfire herself."

"That's at least as good as any official document." A decidedly playful female voice chimed in from the empty seat at the table.

"True, Agrementh," a black winged silver Dracon nodded, "her word is all but law."

"Anyone else of interest on that ship?" Joshua Camdenorin requested.

"Nope," a large black Lupo shook his head as he started to scan their lightslate reports. "The ship was otherwise merely a cruiser being assigned to the Alphard Sector Fleet."

"Friends, enemies, estranged lovers, bad blood for either of them?" Marsa piped up, wondering to some extent why she was here, with no body or expectation of one.

"The most notable estrangement would be between the Colonel and his father, Doctor SolGardin. Next to that, Colonel and Rhymar were estranged from each other for nearly a year. Which is unusual considering records show that they're an empathically Bonded Pair."

"It's difficult to say with certainty on the Colonel given the level of security on his personnel jacket," Joshua injected, "though documents provided by Dracon Intelligence indicate that he's been kidnapped on several occasions by the Shadow Government, and it appears Alliance Command has ordered memory blanking to cover those occasions. According to Dracon Intelligence, the Colonel is in fact close to 50, when his personnel jacket says he's not quite 30."

"And anyone specifically interested in harming Prince Kar'dranor?" Agrementh asked from inside the main computer.

"Prince Morin Kar'dranor is the youngest son of the third house of Draconea." Sindar FireWind replied. "He's not terribly important politically, except that he's one of the favorite grandsons of Queen-Mother Starfire. He's generally well regarded on Draconea, and not well known elsewhere. The only likely result of harming his mate would be conflict with Draconea."

"Reasonable way to start a war, if that's what you wanted." The Artic Foxen commented.

"How much of a profile do we have on the Colonel and Rhymar?" Sheir Kahn turned her attention to their Profiler.

The striped Hyena Taur nodded and rescanned her lightslate. "Rhymar is a brilliant aerospace designer with a fairly impressive list of credentials, but otherwise fairly inoffensive. His most recent work has been in the area of ExoFrame Design. He has a low acceptance of other species quotient, and is known to not get along with Prince Morin. He mostly does consulting work with the Medic Corps, though this doesn't correlate well with his low acceptance of other species."

"Colonel SolGardin is the son of Ebon SwiftClaw and Nareena Moonstone; adopted at age 13 by Dr. SolGardin; silver pilot wings by age 15; offered admission to Tygrenor Academy age 16 which he turned down, personnel jacket states personal conflict with training methods, despite trying very hard to get in prior to that. Full Medic status by age 19, and Medic 1st Class by age 24. All ages are the official ones, and subject to reconsideration.

"He has an extensive history of high-risk hobbies, test pilot for ShadowBox including only pilot to test the DCL prototype fighter and what many consider a warped sense of humor, given those hobbies were mostly taken up to spite his CO's when they forced him on vacation.

"He Bonded to Rhymar at age 23, adopted son Patrick Storm SwiftClaw at age 25, who died approximately two years later due to genetic malformation, one year separation from Rhymar which included the death of the Colonel's son.

"He's listed as a top flight medic, gifted surgeon, including neurosurgery and is also a weak empath and reasonably gifted psychometrist."

"Off hand, I can think of way too many folks that would want him missing, or for themselves." Joshua quipped seriously, his small, round ears twitching unhappily.

"Since we don't have a series of crimes to profile, I suggest we start with profiling Colonel SolGardin." Sheir Khan rumbled, glancing around the table for any dissenting opinions. She nodded when there were none and scanned a list in her lightslate.

"Marsa, please see what you can get from Dr. SolGardin.

"Sindar, Lyrra, go talk to Prince Kar'dranor.

"Nick, tackle what you can find of Rhymar's family.

"Agrementh, you and I are going to pay a visit to StarLion Station.

"Terry, Josh, Andy, find out what you can on everyone involved, and concentrate on his SG connections for the time being. Also see what you can find on the NightBlades ... off official channels."

Morin received the ExCRU agents in a luxurious suite of quarters near the medical wing. It was clear that Dracon Prince was more than a little agitated. When they arrived, he was holding a gold starburst medallion, which Sindar recognized as a Gold Arena Crest.

The Dracon looked up at them. "You wished to speak with me?" He said in a deep, tired voice.

"Yes, Prince Kar'dranor." Lyrra bowed respectfully from her forelegs. "We are investigating the disappearance of your consort-mate, Colonel SolGardin, and it would be of great assistance to us if you could tell us about him, and answer a few questions."

Morin gestured to the various empty seating in the room. "I will assist in anyway I can, of course. I think the questions will be more helpful, since I expect ExCRU all ready knows a great deal of what I would tell you on my own."

A young male Black Lion in Medic whites came in and offered large crystal glasses of water to the three. Morin nodded. "Thank you, Sam."

He turned to the investigators. "This is Samuel Coldrin, who was supposed to be Nathan's aide de camp, but the Medic Corps has assigned him as my assistant for the time being."

The Lion bowed politely. "Will there be anything else, Sir?"

"Not unless I need you to get records or something for the investigators. I'll page you if you're needed, you're dismissed otherwise."

"Yes, Sir." He saluted, and left.

Morin smiled. "An excellent assistant, Nathan would have been pleased."

Lyrra nodded and settled on a large, low couch that she doubted had existed before he was informed she was coming; Taur comfortable furniture was exceedingly rare in Alliance space, as they had no native ones. "Can you think of anyone who would want to kidnap him, either on the Colonel's own merits, or to get at you?"

Morin nodded. "My personal suspicion is that the Shadow Government has kidnapped him again, as they have before. Why they do, I'm not sure since Nathan's ideals and beliefs are opposed to everything they are."

There was a low rumble from the Dracon Prince. "Whoever has done this has made a serious error in judgment ... I will not stand for this, and there will be retribution ... as soon as I have the correct party identified." The Dracon's deep gold eyes turned fire red for a brief moment.

Sindar was briefly taken back by the Prince's statement. He wasn't sure if his teammate realized it, but Prince Morin had as good as declared war on the responsible party.

The gray striped Taur female nodded, keeping her mouth shut about this being a legal, not personal, matter. "Has anything happened recently that is out of the norm? Something that may have triggered this? Did he give you any indication he may have been more concerned than usual for his safety?"

Morin sighed. "The only change is his recent promotion to Colonel, and his assignment to command the Medic Affairs in the Alphard Sector. Nathan has never been particularly concerned for his own safety, he's always busy worrying about the well-being of others. His primary concern had been over how well Rhymar would take the new posting, given how few Felsin are posted out to this station."

He spoke softly. "He told me a few days before the ship left, that he'd had dreams of Rhymar's death and of finding a new mate." The red dragon paused. "In all the years I've known him, he's never mentioned dreaming before, never."

Lyrra quirked an eyebrow at that, and took a moment to phase her next question carefully. "It is my understanding that Nathan is an empath, and you are a TechnoMage. As consort-mates, do you have a psychic bond with him?"

Morin hesitated. "The consort-mate relationship is legal, but we haven't had an opportunity to complete the bonding process. We share a lesser bond as Cordraki, and I can tell you that the bond is intact, but that it doesn't help to find him currently, Grandmother tried that already."

The ExCRU TechnoMage raised an eye ridge at that statement. He had heard that Morin was favored by the Queen-Mother, but he hadn't realized it was this serious. She must truly approve of the relationship to be supporting this actively, he thought.

"I understand," she nodded. "What I was interested in knowing was if you knew if he dreamed at all, and if they ever came true. He may never mention it, but that is not uncommon for those with certain gifts to avoid speaking of such things, even when the social climate is fairly accepting."

Morin thought back carefully over his long friendship with Nathan. He nodded quietly. "When I first met him, he didn't ever. He was curious about dreams because he didn't have them. But after the Jocandra 6 mission disaster he was missing for over six months. When he turned up, they claimed he'd been 'hospitalized' which I don't believe, but shortly after I remember 'hearing' one of his dreams ... it concerned a teammate dying in boating accident ... three weeks later exactly that happened." He sighed. "But he stopped talking about dreams, never mentioned them, tended to walk away when others talked about them. I think there were other times, but I think he started leaving his shields up when he slept."

"Do you remember how accurate the details were in the accident?" She pressed carefully. "And if he ever changed his behavior based on one ... or just changed his plans for no apparent reason, refusing to say way?"

"Reasonably accurate as I recall. The boat, the species of the teammate though the detail of the collision itself weren't perfect. He saw the boat being struck amidship by a silver grav-foil, when it actually was struck by an accidental missile discharge from another patrol craft.

"He always had a reason when he changed his plans, usually duty related. One I do remember though, he was supposed to leave Storm with me for a few days while he met with General Ransen concerning a viral outbreak on a small colony in the sector. When I came to pick up Storm he was home, said the meeting had been delayed. The next morning Storm got very sick ... he never truly recovered." He paused as the gold in his eyes dimmed a little. "I found out later that he'd cancelled the meeting with the General, citing 'personal reasons'."

"Please do not take this the wrong way, sir," Lyrra chose her words carefully, "but is there anything you would not do to recover Nathan, and do you know anyone else who has similar interests in getting him back?"

Morin looked directly into the Taur's eyes. "I will do whatever I have to, to get Nathan back." He paused and looked away. "As for others, I can't be sure. As I said the SG seems to have an interest in him, and if the scattered rumors about Mephit involvement with them is true then those little bastards may have an interest as well.

"I'm certain the Medic Corp wants him back, but I don't think they'd go to the same lengths. Nathan makes friends sparingly, and not easily. In all the years I've known him I can't think of anyone I've really heard him call a friend, other than myself. So there aren't many he's close to, such that they go to great lengths for him."

Lyrra stood from the couch and put a comforting hand on the Dracon's shoulder. "We're doing everything in our power to find him, and ExCRU Alpha never gives up a case. Never."

Morin nodded appreciatively. "Thank you. I'd heard that, it's why I asked Grandmother to make an official request. I wanted the best this time."

"I understand," she lay back down on the couch and took a sip of the water. "Tell me about him ... the things that won't be in his file. What kind of person he is and was, his interests, quirks, anything you can tell me will help me understand him. Right now, he is the only link we have in this case. I don't have a serial crime to profile here, so I need to understand my only victim."

Morin smiled quietly. "The strange thing is that Nathan is very much what you see in the file. He's absolutely devoted to his patients and to saving life in general. He dislikes violent solutions, but can apply them when he has to. Despite the fact that he's professionally compassionate, he's not comfortable dealing with emotions on a personal level, except with me, Rhymar and of course, Storm.

"His interests were all related to his career; medicine and healing. He kept up on all the latest developments so that he'd have the latest information to heal his patients.

"His biggest quirk, if you can call it that, was that he took responsibility for far too much. He held himself to standards no one could meet, and was hard on himself when he didn't meet them.

"You've probably read in his personnel jacket that he turned down Tygrenor for personal reasons. The 'reason' is that he can't accept a gunner, not that he won't but can't. I don't know why, but he won't trust anyone's judgment that far.

"If he was less of a medical genius, he'd probably have been discharged for insubordination by now because he takes orders poorly at best. He resists any attempt by anyone to control him, which is why he takes up dangerous hobbies when forced to go on 'vacation'. It's his way of saying that he's still the one in control.

"I know he's still in mourning over his son, Storm; and I don't think he'll ever forgive Rhymar for leaving him alone when Storm was sick. Nathan wants to be a father again ... but he can't trust Rhymar that way anymore.

"If they weren't empathically bonded I'm sure he'd have left Rhymar by now, but even as angry and betrayed as he feels ... he can't hurt Rhymar by breaking the Bond, it's not his way.

"Oh, there's something that probably doesn't show in his personnel jacket: Nathan is incapable of killing, not just unwilling but actually incapable. With one exception: he'll kill to protect family and friends."

The Dracon paused and took a sip of water. "I'm not sure what else to say, but if what I've said raises any questions please feel free to ask. All I care about is getting Nathan back safe, everything else is expendable."

"You said 'you wanted the best this time'," Lyrra considered what he had said. "Who was involved before?"

"The first time he 'disappeared', Medic Corps Intelligence handled it. They 'found' him in a hospital on Melakon 3, claimed he'd been there all along.

"The second time it was handled by Alliance Intelligence Counter-Espionage division, and he ended up being recovered by a team of Medics who 'happened' to find him.

"This time I asked Grandmother to push the issue with Alliance Command. I'm tired of this being swept under the rug."

"It won't be this time, at least not from you." She nodded, then asked quietly. "Has he ever talked about wanting to get away? Given any indication he was dissatisfied with his life, maybe wanted something more, or just different?"

Morin nodded. "Get away? No, he never mentioned that. He's too committed to duty, to the lives he's responsible for.

"Dissatisfied? Yes, he hasn't been 'happy' with his marriage since Storm died. He loved being a father, and he wants to be one again but he doesn't feel he can with Rhymar.

"He's caught between his desire for a 'real' family life, and his commitment to Rhymar. He feels that to have a family he needs to leave Rhymar, but he won't because of the pain it would cause his LifeMate.

"I know he feels trapped by Rhymar, but he can't do anything to hurt him either. He'd be a lot better off, if just for once he'd think of himself first ... instead of everyone else."

Lyrra took a deep breath and nodded. "Have you ... felt ... any indications of a second personality in Nathan's mind? One he may not even been aware of." She shook her head slightly. "I read a few things in those official reports, and more than a few in what the our team has already dug up, that makes me ... uncertain ... that Nathan SolGardin was in charge his entire life."

Morin nodded hesitantly. "I'm not all that good as a bio-path, and Nathan's mind is strange to start with, but occasionally, when he was asleep I thought I sensed a pattern of thought not his. But I never could be sure, it was very good at hiding ... if it was even there."

"Thank you for the time, Prince Kar'dranor." Lyrra stood slowly and offered the Dracon an encoded datacard. "If I can be of assistance to you, or you think of anything else that may be useful, please do not hesitate to contact me."

The Dracon accepted the card and stood. "Of course, and if I can be of any further assistance, do not hesitate to ask." He said politely and saw them out.

Marsa stood in the luxurious waiting room of Dr. SolGardin, Chief of Surgery for the Felsin Medical Academy, trying to get past his very steadfast secretary.

"I'm sorry, Medic Ringold, but Dr. Solgardin has nothing to say to anyone on the subject." The young female snow leopard secretary said politely.

"Very well," the calico nodded as she turned to walk away. "I understand."

Nick stood outside a middle-class suburban dwelling in one of the more isolated regions of Felsinor, where he was being stonewalled by a middle-aged Lynx who was not really interested in talking to him.

"I always said mixing with high and mighty types would lead that boy to a bad end, but he never did listen. Always had to go dating those rebellious bad kit types." The lynx said firmly. "I don't know nothing about any of what you're interested in. I haven't spoken to that disrespectful kit in almost five years."

The black Wolf Lupo nodded and turned back to hirs aero car. After the door shut and course set, he called for an uplink to Agrementh and recorded a message for her. "Sheir, we missed something damn obvious ... Rhymar is xenophobic because his family is. If we need to talk to his family or friends ... and I don't think it's worth it ... send a Felsin. I'm heading into the capital to catch up with a couple contacts."

The station chief at StarLion gestured at Sheir to be seated. "So how can I be of assistance, Inspector?" The heavily muscled Husky Canem asked politely from behind his ornately carved wood desk as the organic metal holoform of the DS appeared next to the tigress.

"We're trying to assemble a list of those who had the means, capability and interest in making the Winds of Rozar disappear." Sheir Khan inclined her head. "While the assumption is that it has to do with Colonel SolGardin, I will not rule out other ideas."

He typed rapidly on his desk console bringing up a display schematic of the cruiser on a wall screen. "The Winds of Rozar was a heavy cruiser originally constructed during the Second Mephiston War, and refitted twice since then. The most recent refitting was three years ago to bring the weapons and armor up to spec.

"As a heavy cruiser, the Winds was designed to hold her own in a fight, and therefore anyone seeking to waylay her would need sufficient force to overcome that. It should be noted that the commanding officer, Colonel Tracdorn, has an extemporary record as a line officer.

"This would tend suggest either a major SG undertaking, though a risky one, or possibly a Mephit operation. Officially, of course, we're in a state of neutrality with the Mephiston Unity. But I, for one, don't really think that would deter them.

"The Winds was a updated cruiser which would make it ideal for tech pilfering, or possibly even encryption stealing. Both of these would be entirely in the Mephit line of operation.

"I do wonder about the reasoning behind thinking that Colonel SolGardin was the target, it seems a bit risky to engage a heavy cruiser to steal one surgeon." The Husky asked curiously.

"Assuming it was engaged and not taken from within." Sheir inclined her head. "The assumption that the Colonel is the target comes from the fact that ExCRU was brought in, and we don't work espionage or military hardware cases. However, there are so many angles to this, and so little information, we are trying to cover all the possibilities, even what we consider unlikely ones."

Holoprojection spoke up. "I am Agrementh, ExCRU Alpha's DS, sir. I request permission to enter the station directly, and in conjunction with the team TechnoMage, Sindar FireWind, when he arrives, to conduct a completely facility interrogation as this was the last known true contact with both ship and crew."

The station chief nodded reluctantly. He wasn't thrilled with the idea but Command had made it quite clear that ExCRU Alpha was to receive full cooperation. "Of course, will this have any effect on station operations?"

"Unless the base can not sustain a 1% or less shift in attention, or you can not afford the loss of a handful of personnel at a time, you should not see any effect of my investigation in-system." Agrementh assured him before disappearing and uploading herself into the base system.

The big Husky nodded. "That will be acceptable, I've just never had such an investigation here before. Is there any thing else I can to do assist your investigation?"

"Just keep an open mind, and see that the personnel involved know to cooperate with us." Sheir Khan nodded. "Do you know of anyone on board this station with the skills necessary to sabotage the Winds?"

The Husky nodded. "My staff has already been instructed to cooperate with ExCRU investigators." He thought for a moment. "Depending on how the sabotage was accomplished probably more than a few. This station also houses several engineering consulting firms who provide weapons and engine design consultants to the military. I would think any qualified engineer could manage some sabotage.

"As for Alliance Military personnel, obviously the head of Station Engineering is qualified though I've known her for almost 15 years and I find the thought ludicrous. She probably has one or two assistants who know enough about the Winds engines to arrange something.

"I can give you access to the personnel system so you can run it over for whatever criteria you're using, if that would help."

"Yes that definitely would," Sheir smiled at him in her best friendly manner, "and please have a list assembled of the most value components on board that ship. Mostly what may show up on the black market, Mephit and other. If this is an espionage case, that should show up fairly quickly. Whoever is in possession of that cruiser will eventually look to either use it or sell it."

"Of course, I'll have my assistant run over the ship's composition immediately with an eye to black market value. But if they're going to sell piecemeal I think the big thing to look for will be the twenty pounds of TC-180 from the hyperdrive core, assuming they don't sell the core intact.

"Since I wasn't sure how long your investigation would take, I had you assigned the VIP quarters. Anything else you need for your investigation, please feel free to ask."

"Thank you," she nodded and smiled as she stood. "I would be surprised to have our stay be less than several weeks. If it is available, it would be of a great deal of assistance if a suet of interconnecting quarters with a class 7 data link to the StarAgre could be block assigned to my team. The rest of ExCRU Alpha will be arriving over the next week or so, as we are centering the main investigation here until a solid lead sends us elsewhere, or we have exhausted all leads here, and return to headquarters to work."

The station chief nodded. "Easily done, the VIP section can be blocked off, and we don't get many through here anyway. I'll have security set up the datalinks, and I'll get you a dedicated class 7 link into the long-range communication grid so you'll have secure off-base communications. I'll have someone show you to your quarters if there's nothing further." He stood up from behind his desk, tagging an intercom. "Lieutenant Sytan, please have a crewperson show Investigator Khan to the VIP quarters."

He paused for a moment and went back to his computer, and typed rapidly. "You might find it useful to talk with Captain Cerise Compton, one of the station's counselors. She helped patch Colonel SolGardin's marriage back together, and I believe she also knew him unofficially as well."

"Thank you, I definitely will." The tigress inclined her head in thanks.

The door opened and a young female Greyhound Canem wearing corporal's stripes was shown in by the Station Chief's male Lion Felsin assistant. "Corporal Syzarki reporting as order, Chief."

"At ease, Corporal. Please show the investigator to her quarters and give her a hand getting settled. That'll be all."

"Ma'am, if you'll follow me." The greyhound said very respectfully.

"Sheir, we missed something damn obvious ..." Nick Farcall's distinctive drawl greeted her when she checked her non-critical messages as she unpacked. "Rhymar is xenophobic because his family is. If we need to talk to his family or friends ... and I don't think it's worth it ... send a Felsin. I'm heading into the capital to catch up with a couple contacts."

"I don't believe I missed that," the tall tigress groaned and rubbed her eyes and started to sort through the other mission logs coming in and shook her head. "It's a sad day when COs care more than family."

She paused as she read though the breakdown of the Winds of Rozar's values, than called up the specs on the ship itself. With several extra security measures routed through the StarAgre she contacted one of her more specialized employees in Sha'Khar'Fi Industries.

"Yes, ma'am?" A very nervous gray tabby Felsin answered almost immediately after the protocols were verified.

"See this ship?" She sent the specs along the line. "I want her."

"Ma'am?" He looked like he wanted to faint. "That's an Alliance cruiser."

"The Winds of Rozar to be precise." She nodded as if it was the most reasonable request in the universe. "She was stolen this week, and she's to be my new flagship."

"Isn't that very risky?" He fidgeted.

"No," she growled softly. "Acquire that ship. Crew is a plus, but not necessary."

"But Sha'Khar'Fi Industries ...."

"When did I say it was for the corporate fleet? I want that ship. When you have her, send it to Brambery for reconfiguration."

"It's going to be expensive." He tried to get her to back out.

"Not half as expensive as expensive as that Mephit Command Carrier you got me two years ago. This is just a cruiser, and an already stolen one at that." She hissed. "You have a six million credit commission waiting for you upon delivery, plus reimbursement. If you need to pay cash, you know who to talk to."

"Yes, ma'am." He quivered in a mixture of fear, greed and excitement as the line went dead.

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Captain Compton." Sheir Khan sat down in the counselor's comfortable office and smiled at the blonde Puma Felsin as Lyrra did her best to make herself comfortable on the couch.

"Not a problem, Investigator Khan. The Chief made it quite clear that this investigation was to receive full cooperation. How can I be of assistance?" She relaxed a little as she sat down.

"I understand much of what you know is protected by counselor-patient privilege," Lyrra began, "but anything you can tell me of Nathan SolGardin may help us find him."

The counselor sighed. "I spent a fair amount of time helping Nathan and Rhymar put their marriage back together about a year ago, and Nathan's talked to me occasionally since."

She leaned back with her eyes closed. "If it had been a Joining without an empathic bond, I would have had to suggest that Nathan not take Rhymar back. There are several very significant areas of irresolvable conflict between them, not good ground to build a relationship on.

"However, it was an empathic bonding and Nathan didn't want to hurt Rhy, despite how hurt he was. So I helped them work past the hurt and the past."

She sighed quietly. "I don't think Nathan ever got past it, I think he just tried to ignore it. It worked for a while, but by the time he was assigned to Alphard Station ... the marriage was in critical condition."

"I want to help as much as I can, can ExCRU keep what information I provide confidential, with no one beyond ExCRU having access to it?"

"Of course." Sheir Khan spoke with the calm certainty. "Everything we are told in an investigation is considered confidential. There are only two exceptions to this, and both have the same legal right to force us as to force you. If this goes to trial, and the information is critical, a court order will bring it into the open in a closed session. The other circumstance is if another team, whether it be another ExCRU unit or from another agency, is brought into the investigation under true joint authority. The first I would be wary to speculate on, but the second is unlikely, considering why we are here in the first place."

"That's acceptable. I suppose I should clarify what I meant about the marriage being in critical condition. It doesn't appear in any file, because Nathan insisted on speaking to me off-the-record. He didn't want anyone getting wind of what he was thinking about until he'd come to some decision.

"The night before the Winds left, I met with him in a small night club planetside. He told me that he needed to know just what a divorce would entail, including how it would hurt Rhy. That was very important to him, because he was very unhappy about having to hurt his mate.

"It was very clear that he was miserable and in all likelihood bordering on clinical depression. If he'd told me any of it 'officially' I would have had to order a psych eval for him which would have delayed his departure. But as he told me, as a friend ... it was my call on what to do ... but to take official action would have seemed like a betrayal to him.

"Given what the cause of the depression was, it seemed unwise to add another betrayal. I did, however, quietly brief my counterpart at Vandred. She's very good with marital problems, and was going to talk to him quietly, unofficially."

She sighed. "I wish I had forced the psych eval, so he wouldn't have been on board when the Winds disappeared."

"If the basic assumptions in this case are correct, it would not have mattered." Sheir placed a gentle hand on the Puma's shoulder. "Whoever was after him would have just waited for the next opportunity."

The Puma looked up. "Then you think they were after him, and not the ship?"

"It's why we were brought into this investigation. ExCRU doesn't usually handle crimes that aren't against people."

She nodded. "He's certainly talented enough, but I'm not sure how much longer he'll be stable enough to be useful to anyone ... I think if he does come back I'm going to have to require the psych eval ... that marriage is hurting him more than he'll admit.

"Quite frankly, he needs to look after himself once in awhile." The puma seemed a little angry. "And to be honest, Rhymar doesn't appreciate what he's got."

"Do you know if anyone else may have been aware of this?" Lyrra asked gently.

"Know which? That he doesn't look after himself, or that his LifeMate is clueless." She said sarcastically. She looked at Sheir apologetically. "I'm sorry, that was very unprofessional of me."

Compton sighed. "Anyone looking at his personnel jacket can see he doesn't look after himself. He refuses to take time-off unless ordered. He spends vacations in high-risk activities, including test-piloting for ShadowBox. Counselor Marynda at Gildenfire thought that his becoming a father was the best thing that could have happened. He was actually taking time off, and simply enjoying himself.

"Mary had her hands full, trying to patch his mind back together after the kit's death. Though Prince Morin was probably the one really responsible. If Nathan knew what was good for him, he'd take that big hunk of Dracon up on the marriage proposal."

"As far as the Dracons are concerned, he did." Sheir Khan sighed deeply. "That Nathan is the consort-mate of Prince Morin Kar'dranor is the grounds they used for calling us in.

"As for his personnel jacket being a clue ..." She regarded the other Felsin critically. "I'm not sure why you think that's unusual. He takes more time off, and actually didn't stay at work when forced on vacation, than anyone I've worked with in six decades."

"But back to the point," Lyrra spoke up in the brief pause, then hesitated herself. "I'm asking you to keep this very quiet ... but did you ever get an indication that Nathan might not be the only one in his body ... or that he had prophetic dreams?"

The puma looked surprised. "Prophetic dreams? Not that he ever mentioned to me, but then we usually talked about his problems with Rhymar and his wanting to be a father again. I don't think he'd quite managed to deal with his son's death ... he still would refer to him in the present tense and in reference to current event relevant things ... what Storm thought of a new vid-show, that sort of thing.

"As a telepath, I could feel conflict in his mind certainly, but I think a lot of that was internal due to his problem dealing with Rhy. I also know there are one or two 'official' healing mind-blocks installed to remove excessive trauma. It's possible that some of the conflict I sensed might have been with the second personality, if that personality actually disliked Rhymar. However, I never saw any of the clinical signs of multiple personality disorder." She added, clinically.

Lyrra nodded without challenge. "It was a possibility that came up. Suspicions that he was not always responsible for his actions, or even thoughts."

"Did he ever speak of enemies? If he was afraid for himself, or someone else?" Sheir spoke easily in the break.

"Enemies? No one, other than what would be normal for a ranking Alliance officer. He never seemed afraid for himself, his only worry was for Rhymar. At first, how Rhymar would handle the very multi-racial environment of Vandred Station and then later, how Rhy would take the divorce."

"And in your opinion, just how would he take it?" Sheir asked smoothly.

"Honestly, I've never been sure what Rhy thinks about the relationship. He went to the trouble of going to Nathan to patch things up, but then again it was his abandonment of Nathan that caused the problem in the first place. Rhymar was never as open with me as Nathan was, he seemed committed to making things work again, but his reasoning was unclear.

"This might have caused a problem, but Nathan never pushed the issue, he just accepted it ... at least initially. I'm not entirely sure Rhymar understood the empathic bond part of the relationship. He was mind-blind, in addition to his other qualities."

"Now did that get together in the first place?" Lyrra frowned, but kept her muzzle shut, opinion-wise. "And more importantly, do you know what Nathan was looking forward to in his future, if anything?"

"How they got together is actually simple, Rhy was the first person to actually make the attempt to get intimate with Nathan. I think he got caught up in the newness of it all, and it happened."

She sighed. "As for what he was looking forward to ... professionally, he had the new assignment, new duties, new responsibilities and Nathan can go along way on just duty. But personally, I don't know, I think he wanted to be with Prince Morin but couldn't figure how to get Rhymar out of his life, gently." She shook her head. "That Dracon would be much better for Nathan, and I think Nathan knows that ... for one thing, it would allow him to consider being a father again."

"He wanted that a great deal?" Sheir prompted gently.

The puma sighed. "Yes, Storm had brought such joy into his life, and he wanted that again. Of course, given Nathan's strong protective instincts it's hardly surprising that he has strong paternal instincts. In my professional opinion, it would do him a world of good to be a parent again."

Lyrra nodded. "Besides Prince Kar'dranor, was Nathan close to anyone you know of?"

"Not really, Nathan was extremely reserved on a personal level. The word 'friend' was one that he used rarely, though I think I heard him use it in reference to one other person. Someone named Xander, though I know little about him save that supposedly he saved Nathan's life at one point, and that Nathan considers him a friend. Supposedly, he was also with Nathan the night before Storm died."

Tiger and Taur glanced at each other before Sheir nodded. "That should narrow down the possibilities some in tracking him down. Can you think of anything else the might be useful in understanding him?"

"Nathan never said much, and I'm not sure he knows that much. Which is very strange considering how much trust he puts in this person. Nathan gave me a full name but I'm sure he was making a joke; he said Xander's full name was Xander E. Nygma.

"When he actually bothered to try, he had a very strange sense of humor. Based on something else he said, I think Xander is either human, from Earth, or both. Something about meeting Xander in 'New York City' in the shadows of the 'Eyrie Building'. I don't know anything about an 'Eyrie Building', but I do know that New York City is major metropolis on the human homeworld Earth."

"The Eyrie Building is the home and headquarters of Xanatos, industry and family." Sheir nodded easily. "I've been there a few times when I was more involved with the corporate world. We'll check it out."

"Is there anything about Nathan that might help me understand how his head works?" Lyrra asked. "Sometimes even small things are valuable ... like his sense of humor."

The counselor chuckled a little. "Complicated subject, and one that's frustrated CO's and counselors for years." She paused to organize her thoughts. "Nathan can, and often does, function on two separate levels, one professional and one personal. These can be two very different thought processes, and often is done because his personal self is still somewhat poorly developed; I think perhaps traumatized would be a good word, though I have no idea what the cause of the trauma is.

"It's important to understand that he almost always puts everyone else first, and often forgets about himself when looking after family and friends, and even patients sometimes.

"He's also an adrenalin addict, he gets edgy if he doesn't get some sort of excitement regularly; whether it's combat, or test-piloting, or dangerous sports isn't important. I think part of his attachment to Rhymar is that Rhymar is his first in almost every romantic sense you can name."

"First love can mess you up," Sheir sighed softly, remembering hers, and her daughter's, first ventures into love, and the fallout of it crashing.

"If you think of anything else, please, let one of us know." Lyrra stood a little too quickly and handed Cerise a datacard. "Anytime."

Sheir Khan raised an eyebrow at her Profiler but didn't question her as she rose as well and offered her hand to the counselor. "Thank you for you help, Captain."

The Puma rose to see them out. "Of course, I will. I do hope you find him."

"We will." There was the determination behind Sheir Khan's words that spoke volumes of her years in the corporate world.

"Okay, why'd you bolt?" The tigress asked almost immediately as the door to the central room of ExCRU's block of rooms shut.

"I've got a very bad feeling about this."

"Oh bad?" Sheir arched an eyebrow.

"This-isn't-a-mortal-crime type bad." She shivered. "Like the Kessner case."

Sheir sighed, "I hope you're wrong this time. We still have to keep trying ... at least narrow it down to the mortals involved." She chuckled softly. "Somebody's going to catch dragonfire for this, and it's not going to be me, or this team."

"Okay, let's start narrowing down the likely causes here." Sheir Khan rumbled as the last of ExCRU Alpha sat down in the main meeting room aboard StarAgre, still docked alongside StarLion Station, nine days after her meeting with StarLion's Station Chief. "Can we definitively rule out any possibilities?"

The Canem security officer growled in frustration. "Rule out, no. There are still those with various grudges against the NightBlades and we can't rule that out as possibility. The SG is still clearly a major possibility, but since with there move away from Felsinor they will be more difficult to find.

"Given the strong leads on Mephit involvement in the SG we can't rule them out either. Our investigation into unofficial NightBlade records cross-referenced to Colonel SolGardin's recorded did turn up an interesting correlation." He place a datacard into a display slot.

The first image was a grainy image of a Black King Cheetah Felsin in NightBlade gear. "This image was captured by the Darzon II mining facility during a NightBlade attack over 60 years ago, this individual is not part of the original nine genetic creations.

Several additional images of the Black King Cheetah Felsin appeared as a collage. Some of the images had Nathan in them as well. "These images were taken approximately five years ago in several locations. Analysis is 85% certain that the Cheetah in both time frames is the same individual. In the second time frame we have an ident: Medic Ashley Terrell, psych-med counselor. She served closely with Colonel SolGardin for several years. Her present location is unknown, though my sources are trying to locate her."

"Lord Morin confirmed one of my suspicions, one I believe should see a good deal of effort." Lyrra picked up easily. "Nathan is very likely to be one of two, if not more, personalities to share his body. If one of the others gained control, this may actually be a case of the Colonel 'kidnapping' himself."

Sindar spoke quietly. "StarLion confirmed that the Winds did indeed stop here for refuel, resupply and to take on new personnel. Of chief note, is that between all the accounted for arrival, departures, births and deaths during the period of the Winds presence there is a net discrepancy of ten persons. These are lifeform readings that were present on the station during the Winds stay, but were gone after it left ... and they were not listed as personnel transferred to the Winds.

"This discrepancy was not reported by the intruder detection system because it did not meet the system criteria."

"Somebody's gone to a lot of trouble to eliminate NightBlade info." The arctic fox muttered. "I managed to confirm the fact that there were in fact eleven NightBlades, maybe twelve, with this new Ashley person.

"Nine of them were created using Matrix Zero genetic creation technology stolen from the Advanced Genetics Design Lab facility. The other two were a smaller than average Lion who's tentatively been identified as Mark Taliesen of the Cordera 2 colony, and a exceptionally attractive and memorable Healer/Telepath named Nareena Moonstone.

"The ident on the Lion is considered dubious as he's believed to be the group's espionage specialist, and that probably isn't his real name. I was able to cross confirm the Colonel's bio-parents as being Ebon SwiftClaw, one of the genetic creations, and Nareena Moonstone.

"Available data has the NightBlades being massacred by the SG forces not quite fifty years ago on Felsinor near the shores of Lake Maxwell. Information retrieved from the planetary defense grid logs, as well as the civil aviation controller net suggests that there was an unidentified ship that entered the battle zone and then departed."

"Any idea what, or who, it might have been?" Lyrra asked as the back of her mind twitched, accessing what was beyond training and knowledge.

Josh looked through some additional data that had come in. "According to what I've been able to get, it fits the parameters of a Carrier, but the design has elements of Mephiston and Canem design."

Andy looked over the fox's shoulder. "That's an old Mephit carrier converted by a Canem shipyard, probably one of the border colonies I'd guess. Probably captured by a small commando unit and converted to anti-Mephit activities. Let me have the data, I'll run it past my merc contacts on Canidera."

"Sure, Andy. Here you go." He handed him a datacard.

"I don't suppose we actually have proof the NightBlades died?" Sheir arched an eyebrow.

"Official story is that extensive use of plasma weapons by the SG forces eliminated the bodies, except for genetic residue. Of course, I don't consider that to be evidence of anything." Josh said quietly.

"However, in fifty years there's no evidence that they've made any contact with the Colonel. This is highly irregular considering how tight knit the NightBlades are known to be."

Lyrra opened her mouth, then shut it and worked her jaws, trying to sort out and translate what her mind gave her into a still slightly alien language. When she spoke, it was slowly, and very carefully, still clearly working though what she was saying. "This is assuming they know he was alive. His name was changed, he clearly spend significant chunks of time with the SG and that is assuming the NightBlades have any real contact with Alliance space." She paused and shifted uneasily. "They may also be trying to protect him ... by not making any contact." She shuttered, then smoothed the long, rough fur along her spine. "And they may be the ones to have claimed him."

"Okay, how about our other wildcard," Sheir Khan nodded. "If we accept the assessment that the Black King Cheetah NightBlade is Medic Ashley Terrell, then she clearly survived the attack, and may well be the NightBlade in contact with Nathan all along. What do we know of her? Fact and speculation."

Andy and Josh reviewed notes for a moment. "Medic Terrell's official existence started five years before she entered the Corps when she showed up at one of the Alliance embassy's and requested asylum. She's a trained medic and counselor. We also know that she was presented on one occasion when the Colonel was 'recovered' from a disappearance. Despite the 60-year gap between the photos, there's no change in her appearance, which is not easily explainable, except that her asylum application lists her race as 'genetic creation - Felsin base'. Her alliance record simply stops one year after Nathan Joined with Rhymar. She didn't resign, wasn't lost in combat, missing in action ... she simply disappeared."

"Technically, she's still AWOL from the Corps. Actually, we don't know that she was present at the attack on the NightBlade camp. The only record that mentioned personnel only mentioned one female, the Healer-Telepath. So possibly she was AWOL from them at the time, again within a short time of a change in Nathan's status ... in this case his birth.

"Since she was seen on Gildenfire, it might help to see if Prince Morin knows anything about her."

"I'll talk to him about her." Lyrra nodded as she felt the familiar sensation of a floodgate open in the corner of her mind that connected to what she understood as the universal memory.

"You had one of your 'insights'?" Marsa spoke up for the first time, looking directly at the stripped gray HyenaTaur.

"I think so. The images aren't making a lot of sense yet." She chuckled, a harsh sound given her fine bones. "I need to meditate on it, likely for a while."

"Then inform us when it can be but into understandable sentences." Sheir nodded easily, long since comfortable with dealing with Profiler quirks. "I have my contacts out trying to get Winds back, and that should give us a lot to work with. She wasn't a DS, but I'm sure you can get a few things from her, Sindar."

"Nick, did you have any luck on Felsinor?"

The Lupo shook his head. "Nathan hasn't spent too much time there since joining the Corps, and I think this was due to a growing estrangement with his adopted father, which culminated in him disowning Nathan when he Joined with Rhymar. His last long period on-planet was when he worked as Corps Liaison to the AGDL Matrix 0 project. After he 'rescued' the kit who would become his adopted son, Storm, the Corps relocated him to Gildenfire for 'security' reasons. Apparently, there was concern over AGDL retaliation for the Colonel's interference. The Colonel was transferred to StarLion after he reconciled with Rhymar because he requested a transfer away from where his son died.

"It took some digging to find the only two personal contacts he appears to have; Dr. SolGardin's two biological offspring who didn't take their father's disowning of Nathan very well, but given that the oldest is now 19 and the youngest 15 there wasn't anything for them to do at the time. They weren't any help on the case I'm afraid, though the sister did mention that Nathan had difficulty at times reconciling his career as a Medic with his heritage as Ebon SwiftClaw's son.

"She also asked if we could let her know if we find Nathan ... I felt it best to defer that answer for the time being." He said calmly.

Sheir nodded acceptance of his judgment call. "Okay, just how badly was StarLion messed with?" Her questioning glaze took in Terry, Agrementh's holoform, Sindar, Joshua and Anders.

The Dracon spoke up. "The most notable thing was the reconfiguration of the sensor system to ignore who was really coming and going, unless specifically asked. It also appears that the weapons and explosives sensors between StarLion and the Winds were put out of commission. Other than those, the station itself was not heavily involved.

Anders looked at Sheir. "Well, we did discover that there are now a half dozen missing persons cases that likely relate. It'll take a while to track them all, but I think there'll be a connection, probably either to Winds, the Colonel, or both."

"Lovely," the tigress muttered softly. "Pull in extra personnel if you need it. We have a lot of clout on this one. The Medic Corps, Alliance Security, and Dracaena's government are all backing this investigation. Anything else to add?" She swept the room with an open gaze.

Nick looked uneasy. "I'm not sure if this is useful or not, but according to the Colonel's adopted sister he used to mention speaking to Felsira, Keltin and Caito ... the members of the Felsin Triad. And not in the prayer/religious sense ... he actually claimed to see them as real, physical beings. Apparently, he hasn't mentioned an encounter in years, but in her opinion that was because of Dr. SolGardin's harsh words on the subject."

Lyrra scrunched her long muzzle in confusion. "You mean they aren't?"

Nick looked at the Profiler confused. "Who aren't what, Lyrra?"

"The Triad." Her deep brown eyes locked with his. "I could have sworn they were quite real ... but the Felsin don't believe so?"

"Oh, they believe they're real all right. They just think it's damn arrogant for a kit to claim that they just stop by to talk to him. Which appears to be what Nathan used to say happened. Dr. SolGardin, I'm told, was of the opinion that it was simply a bid for attention."

"Oh," she nodded. "Rather arrogant of him, but that matches what I understand of him."

"Anything else?" Sheir raised an eyebrow at them, rather hoping to avoid another in-depth psychological examination of Alliance, and Felsin in particular, social faults.

Each of her team shook their head as her gaze fell on them. "All right then, follow your leads and unless something requires it sooner, we'll meet up here again in three weeks."

Lyrra Sunin settled in her quarter's onboard StarAgre as the ship sped back to Vandred Station and allowed her mind to drift through the jumble of facts, images and feelings the universal memory had dropped on her.

Two 'realities' backed the entire block, from two separate sides.

On of a business-like desire for revenge against an embracing loss, the other an equally agitated desire for control.

The first belonged to a Draconian creature, but she doubted it was a Dracon ... it didn't feel like one. Older, more powerful, and much, much too focused on the multiverse. It reminded her a great deal of the Celestions back home, including the distinctly female feel.

The other was much smaller, focused on getting what was his back. Getting the body back. His power back. Stopping the weak one.

A deal between them to destroy all who opposed, and a betrayal by circumstance and old knowledge.

"I hate it when greater powers get involved." She groaned, then shuddered as she tried to understand how all the other characters fit it -- Lupo, an Avian unlike any she knew of, mice, two dragon-types, a Felsin Black King Cheetah she was sure was the one the team marked as Ashley Terrell, a bizarre dolphin-creature and others -- and the words, possibly names, that meant nothing represented -- Jedi, Arymah, Patrik, Amerith, Black Phoenix, Cathedral-but-not-a-church.

Through it all was the spiraling thread she had long since learned meant it was interconnected.

"Thank you for seeing me again, Prince Kar'dranor." The HyenaTaur smiled at him as she settled. "What can you tell me of Ashley Terrell, the Black King Cheetah? She was a Medic, a councilor, and from what we've gathered, rather important to Nathan at one point. She also vanished without a trace roughly a year after he Joined with Rhymar."

Morin nodded. "I remember Medic Terrell, from several occasions on Gildenfire. She served with Nathan on several occasions, but my instincts tell me her interest was something more than professional." He paused for a moment. "No, I think it was professional, but not of-the-Corps professional ... someone else I think."

He stopped as he tried to put his perceptions into words. "There was something 'unfocused' about her, when I looked at her it was if there was a crowd behind her but I couldn't see them clearly. There was also a smaller figure ... male, I think ... standing between her and Nathan. I couldn't see him any closer, but somehow I feel that he will be closer to Nathan than any of the other 'shadows' I saw around her."

He stopped, poured water from a crystal pitcher into two crystal goblets, offered one to Lyrra, and when it was accepted sipped at his quietly. He fell quiet as he let the impressions drift back out of focus for the moment.

"Do you know what that 'multiplicity' in her may mean?" Lyrra asked quietly.

"It isn't 'multiplicity', it's connectivity. Like most Dracon Nobles, I have a special gift. Each 'gift' is different, mine is the ability to sense the connection between people either deliberately, or if the connections are strong enough, casually.

"Those 'shadows' were people Ashley was connected to somehow. Normally, shadows are connections to significant dead people, but this wasn't the case. It seemed as if they were neither strictly alive nor dead.

"What was truly strange was the small male figure 'ahead' of her. It seemed as though he was both part of her future, like the shadows were her past and yet he already existed. It was very strange, but I didn't think her a threat at the time.

"What was very strange was that I could see a connection to Nathan's father, Ebon ... a romantic connection in the distant past, or at least it felt like it was, or maybe Ashley had simply wanted one."

He shook his head. "All I can be sure of is that looking at her gave me a headache."

Lyrra suppressed a smile at that. "You mentioned you are a limited bio'path. Could you 'see' an image I hold to the fore of my mind?"

"As long as you keep it focused and outside of any shields I should be able to." He smiled quietly.

"I'm curious if you recognize any of the faces I saw associated with this as part of Ashley, or in any other context for that matter." She paused. "I should warn you, some of them have less than pleasant ... connotations, for Nathan."

"I would be surprised if some of them didn't. After all, if the Triad takes an active interest in him it stands to reason that other forces might as well. But I have Grandmother's support in this, and I will deal with any hostile forces as needed." The Dracon said with an almost frightening surety.

Lyrra nodded a little uneasily at the flashbacks from her days as a pup and reminded herself again that this was a Dracon and not one of the mindless, reptilian killers of her homeworld.

"Okay," she nodded and focused on the sharp image of a leather-winged white tiger Felsin, probably in his late twenties.

Morin smiled sadly. "I'm sure that's an older Storm, Nathan's son, but he's only 8 and not likely to be any older unless things change for Nathan."

She frowned and dug through the mess that was still that data was. "Well, I'd say they probably will then. I don't get 'shown' things unless they are real ... 'set' so to speak ... in the fabric of reality."

Morin sighed. "You don't understand, Storm doesn't have a physical body any longer. He's living inside Nathan's mind, as a disembodied soul for lack of a better word. And as long as Nathan is with Rhymar, he can't bring Storm back ... Rhymar never did like the kit ... no matter how nice Storm was to him." Sadness and anger tinged the Dracon's scent.

"I understand Storm's state, sir." She inclined her head in submission. "Do you know who this is?" She focused on an image of a lean not-quite-Felsin tom with cinnamon fur and amber eyes sprawled lazily in the back seat of a fairly primitive, black, two-seater aero-fighter jet.

Morin leaned forward as if trying to look closer. "By the First Egg! That's the male I saw between Nathan and Ashley Terrell." The Dracon rumbled slightly. "Rather attractive actually." He shook his head. "But I let my attraction for felines distract me. He bears a strange resemblance to someone I've seen somewhere before, though I can't remember where at the moment."

"When you remember, please let me know." There was an important in her voice she rarely showed. "I'm certain he's central to this somewhere in the timeline."

He sat back. "I don't know his name, I'm afraid, but I can tell this much ... Nathan would take a liking to him almost immediately, I sense a strong mind behind those eyes." He said cryptically.

"That matches with what I got." She nodded again. "Do you even know this species?" She pulled up an image of a dark purple-black skinned humanoid with gloss black hair, tattooed leather wings and the glow of tremendous power behind her eyes. "I haven't had much luck in the databases."

"My best guess would be some sort of Gargoyle variant, though the tattoos are unfamiliar and there's something I don't like about her. However, she wasn't one of the 'shadows', of that I'm certain. If you could find a way to contact the Gargoyles on Earth, they might have a better idea who she is." He suggested.

Lyrra nodded and made a mental note to detour to Earth on her way back, no matter how much the planet creeped her out, and get Sheir to meet her there if possible. "Does 'Xander' mean anything to you?"

"It's the name of a mysterious individual who Nathan calls a friend, which is in itself quite strange given how unwilling he is to use that word. Nathan told me that Xander visited him the night before Storm died, and showed him how to protect Storm's soul so that he could be restored when a new body was available.

"I'm not sure of his species, but when I saw his connection to Nathan I thought he looked human, though I couldn't be sure ... he was cloaking himself, though I'm not sure from who."

"Considering who is apparently running around this case, and Nathan's life, it may not be a bad idea." Lyrra sighed and pulled up another image, a dual one -- one individual with two forms. One was a short, stout Felsin lion, the other a similarly built calico tom of the same not-quite-Felsin race as the cinnamon male. "He seems centrally connected to the immediate future of this mess as well."

"Shards and Shells, that's my clan-cousin Cazimir Sunfire ... who also happens to be Nathan's biological father ... and a NightBlade. The calico's most likely him too; he's a very adept shapeshifter with an unlimited form library as far as anyone knows. But he supposedly died fifty years ago on Felsinor." The Dracon looked truly stunned.

"Well, if he died, he came back." Lyrra stated firmly. "He is definitely involved in the current cycle of happenings." She paused, considering. "Please tell me about him, and the NightBlades. Someone did a very good job a removing most available data."

Morin chuckled. "The missing data is a weird sort of joint operation between the SG who would prefer people not know too much about one of their better units, and the Alliance Government who are kind of embarrassed by the fact that they never could stop them.

"Cazimir was not a NightBlade originally, he joined after he started dating Ebon and became a full member when they became LifeMates. Cazi is half-Dracon/half-Felsin, though his Dracon father never acknowledged him because of Cazi's non-Dracon appearance. If he's alive then he's ... wait a minute, scratch that he is alive.

"I don't pay nearly enough attention to the doings of the lesser clans. I'd overlooked the name of the title-holder of that family, Cazimir Sal'Dranor. He's never used that name anywhere else, so I missed the fact that it was him."

The Dracon turned to computer and pulled up a file, in Dracon, before closing it down. He turned back. "Sorry, I needed to check something. Looks like Cazimir's been missing for well over a year now, nobody knows where he is.

"I'd be willing to bet a great deal he is where Nathan is going to be shortly." The HyenaTaur switched her longish gray tail in true irritation. "And that we mere mortals are not having much to do with any of this." She shook her head. "Sorry, I get irritated when it becomes obvious that I'm investigating a game the Higher Powers are playing, not an actual crime."

"Fortunately, the Higher Powers are acting through mortals who can be dealt with, once identified. Higher Powers, I'll leave to Grandmother ... more her level."

"I'd aim at the SG, through the Mephit." She grumbled. "Unfortunately, I have no proof. My gifts aren't exactly considered acceptable in court yet."

"Right now, I'm more interested in locating Nathan. Vengeance will wait until there is no longer hope of recovering him. Premature action against the enemy might provoke them to unfortunate action." The Dracon said with quiet patience of a people known for waiting centuries to achieve a desired end.

Lyrra nodded her understanding. "It's nice to deal with someone willing to give us the time we need. Most who lose their mates aren't nearly so cooperative with the concept that we can't just show up, look around and give them all the solutions."

The Dracon nodded. "I can be patient because I know he is still alive, and that being patient may increase my chances of seeing him again. Besides, if looking around would reveal all the answers ... Dracon Intelligence would already have found them, this is more a matter for ... specialists."

She nodded. "A specialist who has a first rate headache at the moment." She smiled apologetically. "If we could continue this at a later date, perhaps tomorrow? I'm still trying to get the data dump sorted out into something that makes sense, and it is not being cooperative." She shook her head. "It does mean one thing though, it'll be quite an interesting report."

Morin smiled. "Of course, barring something unexpected requiring my presence at court I will be remaining here for the time being. We can reconvene when your data is being more cooperative. Perhaps I will have figured out who that individual looked like by then. Sleep well."

"Thank you." She bowed from her forelegs before heading for her quarters on the StarAgre.

The stripped HyenaTaur sighed as she fidgeted again, far too late for her good and finally gave up and rolled out of the specially designed bed.

"Computer, bring up what you have on Prince Morin Kar'dranor." She ordered as she pushed her unruly hair into a loose ponytail and grabbed a brush to deal with the worst of her rumpled fur.

"On main data screen." The female voice of the default commuter on board replied.

"Okay, Dracon, let's see if I want to insult you terribly." She started to seriously digest both general Dracon social standings on physical contact, and Morin's personal ones, grateful that the weirdness in her head drifted to the background for the time being.

By the time she'd gotten to brushing her tail out and the end of the files she was muttering under her breath. "Figures one of the few folks I can actually talk to in the galaxy doesn't go for it, never mind being scaly." She set the brush down and pulled a simple swath of cloth around her neck, crossed over her breasts and expertly tied below her shoulder blades, leaving the rest of her body bare.

"Well, Morin, I hope to take me at face value when I say it will help me understand this to ramble about it around you." She sighed softly and fingered a small, burnt silver pendant just under her throat. "I still miss you, Rath. I wasn't meant to work like this."

Lyrra smiled and nodded at the curious looks she always drew, that were now significantly more frequent that she was baring so much fur, as she trotted towards the observation lounge, where the computer said Morin was, with a mixture of anticipation and uncertainty.

She hesitated a second at the door, then walked into a world that could easily overwhelm her senses. It didn't take long to find the short, red Dracon and she weaved her way up to him with a hesitant smile.

"Please excuse the interruption, but I have a rather ... unusual request." She met the soft golden eyes on level with her own with a certainty she didn't quite feel.

Morin smiled politely. "You aren't really interrupting anything." He said, meaning it sincerely since he about decided to leave the lounge anyway. "What request?" He said simply, looking at the attractive HyenaTaur with mild interest.

"I would like your assistance ..." she cast an uneasy glance around at the amount of attention she was at the center of, "with the case, in private."

The Dracon nodded politely. "Of course, where did you have in mind?" He asked quietly.

"My quarters on StarAgre, if you wouldn't mind."

The Dracon looked slightly curious. "Acceptable." He said simply.

She nodded and turned to lead them in through the halls, resigned to her mistake in clothing, and the fact that a Taur and Dracon Prince walking side by side just would attract more attention than she did alone.

"I read through your profile," she began almost at ease as the boarded the almost empty starship, "and I understand that you have little liking for anything but straight-forward talk."

Morin nodded. "I grew up in the Courts and I quickly learned that indirect speech often is used to hide half-truths and misdirection. I don't need to play the games personally, so I simply don't. There's a reason I don't play the diplomat like most of the younger Princes ... I once informed a Canem General that his plan was something worthy of a first year cadet, who had gotten admitted on the basis of his family's wealth. He didn't take it well." He grinned broadly.

Lyrra chuckled and relaxed as she opened the door and ushered him in. "I can truly appreciate that approach to life."

Morin took a glancing inventory of the unusual room, and understood very quickly why she probably asked to be here. His guess at what a comfortable sitting place for her was not too far off, though not as good as what she had. Mostly, things were wide, low and lightly padded, and the floor was cushioned enough to be a little awkward for him to walk on, but likely comfortable to lie on, especially for her. Almost all the working surfaces were clearly designed to be used standing up, by someone his height, or more correctly, hers.

"I mentioned earlier the information is this case isn't settling into an understandable format very easily ... I would like you assistance in speeding the possess up."

"How can I be of assistance?" He asked quietly.

"Mostly by listening, talking back, being a sounding board." She settled on the bed with her legs tucked under her and patted a spot next to her forelegs. "It's been a long time since I've found someone who actually makes thinking through this stuff easier. Unfortunately, it also means you have to listen to me ramble, talk in circles and probably sound like those court-types you don't like until I have it figured out.

"It's just how I sort though that much information and try to place it in some kind of order," she smiled a little hesitantly, "and, umm, physical affection is optional."

Morin sat down next to her and smiled. "Your talking in circles serves a purpose of which I approve, and to a certain extent caused. So it's not a problem, and more importantly I did say I'd do anything to get Nathan back ... what you ask is no great burden."

He looked at her appraisingly. "You say the physical affection is optional; does it help the process and are you at all interested?" He asked calmly without indicating any preference on his part.

"Interested, yes." She nodded, sure of the answer even if not sure why. "And yes, it has helped in the past. Sex, extreme arousal is good for winding down, but being close, physical contact, helps me think." There was a touch of loneliness she couldn't eliminate in her voice.

He quietly unfolded a wing and draped it over her in a friendly comforting manner. "Sounds like right now closeness is best, and I have felt the hollow knock of loneliness myself lately." He said quietly, sitting near and offering as much closeness as she wished to claim.

Lyrra closed her eyes with a sigh and let her mind unwind as she leaned against his sturdy form, then let her head roll along his shoulder to rest against his neck. Another deep breath and she put all concerns away, letting her mind flow where it willed and tossed her concerns to the psychic wind.

"Mortals are irrelevant here ... neither instigator or prime target. Tools, side effects ... Target is V'Feri ... betrayer.

"Target is Jake Clawson Razor killer Marauder-Marquis-Nathan dead but not.

"NightBlades returning ... failure of the kill brings war, success rips the universe apart." She visibly shuddered as the images rattled even her depravity-toughened mind.

Morin found the words disturbing and yet meaningless, with the exception of Nathan as killer. Then he considered the target Razor when it hit him that that name was from his limited info on the NightBlades that he had. "Lyrra, Razor that's frighteningly close to one of Ebon's form-names, he had a smaller feline morph form that looked almost identical to the small male you showed me before ... and the form's name was DarkRazor."

"By seduction trap," she shook her head. "Marquis lets Marauder loose in bed." She frowned. "But maybe his brother, Ebon's son.

"No ... there's only Nathan for now. No ... kin ,not son, but not else ..." She growled low in her throat before relaxing again with a little difficulty. "A Darshar servant turns on his master, walks away from slavery with the power to keep himself free. For he is a we, that seeks only to live quietly somewhere.

"A kitten of prophecy is stolen from his family and gods by the shadows, but they do not know what they have, and can not control him.

"They hurt him, warp him into something he can not accept.

"That one makes a deal with evil for control of their life. The price of power is a single kill and shattered bond." She closed her eyes. "Oh gods ...."

As Morin held the 'Taur close he was grateful that Grandmother had promised her support in getting Nathan back. It sounded as if he was going to need her. He decided to let her ramble a bit more, since there was no real response to what she had said.

"I hate these cases." She shuddered and squirmed to put as much of her body in contact with him as possible. "I'm sorry, Morin. I'm sorry this is going to be ugly, and not much in our control. "And thank you, for getting that week work of headaches out of the way." She looked up, her distress clear in large brown eyes. "I won't get him back, but you will."

He gently moved so as to give her the contact she wanted and nodded. "I understand the case is unusual, and I can't really claim surprise. Any help you can give me in finding where he is would be appreciated. Then I'll get him back." He said as though there was no question of it happening.

The Taur sighed and pressed against him. " The world is called Aristal locally. It's historically important to Felsinor somehow. He's not there yet, and he'll be in real pain when he does. If Rhymar survives this, he will be changed ... Nathan will have a chimera for a mate before he leaves." She shifted to look at Morin closely. "Please understand this isn't how Profilers normally work. I only get this level of information when greater powers are involved and it's not actually my job to 'fix' anything."

Morin focused on his link to Nathan and his ability to sense connections and the carefully accessed the ancient Dracon archives. As the knowledge surge through him his body stiffened.

His voice was distant and hollow for a moment, almost as though another far more ancient voice was speaking through him. "Aristal is the Felsin world of beginning, the place from whence they began. Sometimes to be renewed you must go all the way back."

The Dracon sagged and shook his head. "That was exhausting and unproductive, I didn't get anything from the Archives ... except a major headache."

"Perhaps not." Lyrra cocked her head at him. "There is all that missing time and possible second mind in Nathan ... from what I've gathered, it must have started when he was quite young, so 'going all the way back' may reference a personal journey as well as a physical one."

He looked off into the distance. "My sense of connection says Rhymar won't survive this ... and as much as it will hurt Nathan, he'll probably be better off." Morin said wondering if the new Chimera would be more receptive to a third than Rhy had been.

"I get the same impression." Then she chuckled a little sheepishly. "Sorry, I tend to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when I'm relaxed."

Morin chuckled. "At least you didn't blurt it out with Nathan in the room. At one point, he commented about Rhy being absent and I said the first thing that came to mind which was ... 'And how is this a bad thing?'" He shook his head. "I was just lucky that Storm chose that moment to walk into the room."

"I can guess how well he'd take that." She chuckled softly.

Morin thought quietly. "I guess if Nathan's going to be on Aristal, then I'd better make plans to acquire a Mephit Capital Ship, I'll need the Trans-Luminal Drive to get to him." He said matter-of-factly, as though he was discussing shopping for new clothes.

Lyrra blinked. "I don't suppose there's a relation to Sheir Khan somewhere?"

The Dracon looked confused. "The tigress investigator? Hmmm, I thought I saw a tigress connected to the little tom, but it seemed to be both Sheir and not Sheir ... as little sense as that makes." He chuckled. "It's rare that the connection images make a lot of sense, if there's any serious distance involved."

"I meant to you." She licked the lower edge of his jaw and chuckled. "I hear her say things like that ... she's getting the Winds back that way. Just told one of her employees to get the ship for her."

Morin chuckled. "I'd heard ExCRU had few limits on what it could do, so I'm not surprised. But actually I was thinking more along the lines of borrowing some troops from Grandmother and 'liberating' one." He smiled. "No relation as far as I know."

"Then please don't let her family know that." She smirked with distinct amusement in her rough voice. "She's grumpy enough about this assignment without having to justify not breeding again." She chuckle-woofed softly and slid one hand up his thigh as she nuzzled his neck and snuggled close.

Morin smiled. "As long as no one lets my family know. My father would see all sorts of advantages in such a union, as if his repeated attempts at throwing Princess Carina at me weren't bad enough." He rumbled in amusement, while nuzzling her gently. He ran one strong hand absently in patterns on the fur of her lower body, while his wing held her close.

"Small furry males more your style?" She grinned and rolled to her back, pulling him on top as her spine straitened as brushed their lips together.

Morin grinned. "They don't have to be small, and not always male. But definitely furry." He said as he pulled her into a passionate kiss.

"I don't suppose you really have a clue how to do this?" She murmured deeply as their mouths parted. "I haven't really been with a two-leg before."

Morin shook his head. "I was rather hoping you knew, since I've never been with 'Taur before." He considered. "And I don't believe I've seen any instructional videos on the subject either." He quipped, grinning.

She laughed deep in both her chests, sending a pleasant vibration through his body. "I guess we'll just have to wing it then," she grinned playfully at him. "Though getting you off shouldn't be too hard. Two legs or four, that doesn't change much."

He chuckled, amused. "No, I suppose it doesn't." He looked her over considering the mechanics of four legs, a little disconcerted to realize that laid out like this, she was a good thirteen feet 'tall'. "I guess you'll just have to give me some pointers though, I've always found it easier to ask female partners then to guess."

"A gentleman as well as understanding and entertaining?" She arched an appreciative eyebrow at him and smiled. "Someone raised you well."

Morin chuckled. "Growing up in a largely female led society will do that."

"As for pointers, I'm not sure I have any to give." She frowned slightly. "The only real way I know, you honestly aren't tall enough for. I wasn't all that active before I came here, and less so since."

Morin truly looked surprised. "Hmm. I guess we really will have to improvise." He smiled calmly. "That can be fun though, assuming we manage to avoid anything requiring Medic attention." He said with a deep rumbling laugh.

"I can think of few better things to be doing to need such help." She smiled up a little lecherously and played her long, fluffy tail along his inner thigh. "I'd like you to lead ...."

Morin bowed his head smiling. "As the lady wishes." He considered for moment, thinking through what had worked in his encounters with other non-Dracon females. He leaned forward to gently caress her breast with his hands, before teasingly licking a nipple with his long agile tongue.

He earned an appreciative growl for the efforts as her hands wondered over his shoulders, caressingly, and her forelegs wrapped around his chest.

"What's erotic for you?" Her voice gave credence to her increasingly aroused scent.

Morin rumbled in pleasure as his nose drank in the Taurs aroused scent. "Such a wide open question." He murmured in amusement. "But truthfully, I've always found fur on scales erotic in itself, everything else is an enhancement."

He responded in kind as she flexed to put a little more movement between them and continued his exploration. He blinked as his shoulders came even with her forelegs and felt what he could swear was a arrow-headed penis begin to slide against his leg. Morin gently moved a hand to caress it, to see if it responded like what it felt like, and felt her deep groan as it twitched under his fingers like any male.

"Feels good," Lyrra's gasp held as much surprise as pleasure as her spine arched her hindquarters up a little.

Morin continued caressing Lyrra's breast with hands and tongue, while his tail caressed her penis. The Dracon was feeling more than a little confused since his understanding of sex didn't include partners with both male and female characteristics. He'd certainly had never been with one, and couldn't even be sure that he'd met one before. He knew for certain that it didn't happen in his species, or in the Felsin, his favorite species.

She squirmed, "okay, easy on the tail," she gasped between breaths. "That's starting to not feel good."

Morin nodded and eased off on the tail. "Sorry, got carried away." He said breathlessly apologetic. Of course, he figured eventually he'd figured out the next step ... at least he hoped he would. But he was not feeling terribly confident ... an unusual experience for him with an enthusiastic partner.

"Hmm, how strong is your tail tip?" She twisted to catch a good look at the smooth, finely scaled appendage. "I have an idea ... if it won't hurt to use it as a dildo."

Morin smiled. "Quite strong, and I've done that with a number of partners, though not all care for it."

"Worth a try," she breathed, "I need to roll over."

He nodded and moved off the taur and watched as she righted herself, lying on her belly with her legs under her and patted the middle of her lower back. "This is how Taurs mate ... male on top, chest to back, and hold me." She was nearly panting.

Morin gently rested on the indicated spot and wrapped his wings and arms around her, accepting the guidance to her breasts before she reached between them to stroke his penis with one hand, and his hip with the other. He started gently touching with the tail, hoping she give some indication when he found the right spot ... since he couldn't see where the tail was, and hadn't used the tail this way with a female partner in a long time, his male partners were more interested in it ... and more frequent.

A low, hungry growl greeted him as the tip slid across a spot that felt different and he pushed in gently, feeling muscle give way to a slick opening.

He gently pushed in and out of the opening, using the Taur's responses as a guide. Slowly he gained more confidence, and began using the same sort of speed and rhythm techniques that work so well in more 'normal' encounters. What rather surprised him was that he was finding this unusual approach very arousing, he made a note to try this more often.

He smiled as her breathing changed and pressed against her upper back. His attention was equally divided between her breasts, licking her neck, shoulder and jaw and moving his tail inside her body in a pleasing manner.

With a low whine her jaw jerked down to her chest as her entire body stiffed, pressing her back against Morin, and pushing him over the edge and began coming in forceful muscular spasms, until he was spent; at which point he rolled off and on to his side on the floor. He gently extended his near wing to cover his mate in a considerate manner, as though it had been a mating flight outdoors.

Lyrra took several deep breaths and rumbled in approval before scooting off the low bed and carefully flopped down on top of Morin so her nose rested just below his jaw and chuckle-woofed softly. "If we were back home, I'd be asking your mother for you as a consort." She sighed happily.

Morin smiled happily, a low rumble indicating amusement and some measure of acceptance. "I think my mother would find that most interesting. She's been trying to get me with a female with reasonable connections." He grinned. "ExCRU qualifies. Of course, I have a consort so you'd have to share." He said chuckling in amusement.

Her head shot up to stare him in the face as she braced on her arms. "You would accept being my consort-partner?"

Morin considered the question seriously for a moment. The union made a certain amount of sense; certainly the political angle was good. Physically, they had found compatibility. She had a most interesting 'talent', which he found fascinating. And most importantly he found himself liking her on a personal level, a distinct improvement over the arranged marriages his mother kept trying to provide.

"Were there no other considerations at the moment, yes. However, according to the customs of my own people I need the agreement of my present consort to accept a new one. I don't think Nathan would object, but I can not presume his agreement. However, I think that would be the only concern, I think mother will approve." He said in a quiet serious voice.

She stared at him, utterly stunned for a moment before kicking herself to her feet and walked carefully around him to pure two glasses of a shimmering blue liquid and walked back to him. She settled with her back resting against the bed before handing one of the glasses over, her expression deadly serious.

Morin accepted the glass and waited to find out what was on Lyrra's mind. He certainly meant what he'd said, though any intention of his was subject to both Nathan and his mother's approval.

"Chimra'shen," she pronounced carefully, "it's as close as I've come to the thinking-drink back home." She took a long slip before facing him, and tried to put this into words. "I really need to know what you just said you would agree to. What 'consort' means to you."

"What consort means depends on exactly what was intended. For some it's little more than a political arrangement. I was in one of those, and it ended badly so I have little liking for that. What I meant, was the same thing I offered Nathan, consort-LifeMate. It is not uncommon to have both a male and female consort, especially when one enjoys the company of both as I do. Somehow I think you want more than words though. Is that correct?"

"Words ... words are enough for now, from you." She was barely breathing. "Hope is a very dangerous thing, sometimes." She closed her eyes and tried to order her thoughts. "A consort-partner is more than that for a Profiler. My teacher called it a mind-match. It's when a non-Profiler reflects and enhances our thoughts and gifts, makes it easier to sort through what we're picking up and make sense of it.

"I knew when I walked into your office that you could do that for me." She looked down into her drink. "It is a very rare thing, and enough of a reason to override rank, status and previous commitments where I come from. It is also an incredible draw; to see that clearly, feel that intensely.

"What I just did in bringing you here is very much against the rules, unprofessional to the extreme, and I can't care. You are my mind-match." She took another sip. "I never thought I would find my mind-match when I was stranded here. That you might actually be willing to stay with me ... it almost too much."

She looked at him with unguarded, terrified eyes. "Tell me no now, and I will leave you be. Otherwise I will court you."

He looked at her steadily. "To tell you no would be a lie, because I too feel there is something truly right between us." He paused as she slumped slightly, a tremendous amount of tension draining from her body. "I can't explain it anymore than I can explain the way I see the connections between people. If you wish to court me, I would welcome the attention. But as I said, I won't be able to answer you until either I can ask Nathan or I feel his death."

"I understand," she nodded, relaxed. "His return is my case until he is with us, alive or not."

"It is only fair to warn you, that you may find yourself attracting attention if you court me. Royalty is always in the spotlight to a certain extent, and even as minor a royalty as I am, it's still true. Nathan always called it the price of loving above his station, he has a very strange sense of humor. Not that station means much to me, I love who I love ... rank is secondary at most, not really something I consider."

She smiled. "You consider it annoying enough to warn me, and I understand being in a spotlight. I'm a Taur Profiler after all." She chuckled, slightly giddy. "I've probably attracted more attention than you. So just what are the rules until Nathan's return?" She cocked her head. "Obviously spending time together, intimacy, is acceptable."

"Yes, what we've done so far is acceptable. Largely because Nathan has told me that he doesn't care if I'm intimate with females, as long as he gets a say on whether she becomes permanent or not. And that really is the big 'rule', I can't do anything of a permanent nature for now. As long as we're both aware of that, there aren't any other real rules."

"I understand," Lyrra nodded easily, "and I accept that."

"There is something you should think about before you court me too seriously. If Nathan returns, I'll be encouraging him to make a new body for his son, Storm. Storm is very important to me, like a son even though he's not. However, he is a genetic creation, and many aren't comfortable with that. Storm is a strong telepath and empath, and picks up on how people feel about him very quickly. Nathan won't be able to accept anyone who doesn't accept Storm.

"I don't know how you feel about genetic creations, but it's something you should give serious thought to." He nodded quietly. "I'm not trying to scare you, but Storm was hurt once before by someone close to his father who refused to accept him ... I will not put him through that again."

Lyrra blinked, then thought about it, her brow wrinkling into a frown. "I've never thought about it before." She regarded him curiously. "How would I even tell?"

"White Tiger Felsin do not have Dracon wings normally, Storm does." Morin said casually. "It's usually what people react to."

"Oh," she leaned back and rolled that thought around her mind. "I don't think that would be any stranger than that I've gotten used to working with two-legs. Honestly, that I can accept you is much stranger." She shook her head. "Dragons hunt Taurs back home. I was raised to be a Dragon-Hunter." She sighed sadly and looked up at him. "When I have time, I will seek out a few genetic creations, and see if they feel any different than anyone else."

Morin nodded quietly. "Dragons? Really, you mean actual all-the-time Dragons? The last of the that sort was banished from Draconea eons ago." He asked curiously. "I've only seen them in the Natural History museum, as archeological exhibits."

"Yes, real all-the-time Dragons." She shivered. "Big, nasty, highly aggressive and quite intelligent for animals. I've lost more kin to them than any other cause."

Morin put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "My sympathy for your loss. For a Dracon, that sort of dragon is considered a warning, it's what we could become without Honor and the Code to guide us. So, they still generate a certain morbid curiosity, but I did not mean to be insensitive to the pain they've caused you."

"It's okay," she rolled her head to rub against his hand. "They are a fact of that life, and one you should know about. For all I try, many of the prejudices I was raised with still come to the surface at odd times."

The Dracon nodded. "I suppose it's better to find out now. I guess its just fortunate that I chose to stay out here, rather than back home. Winged, quadruped Dragons are a rather common sight there, but they're Dracon shapershifters, not real Dragons. Of course, that isn't something that occurs to everyone. Some people think there are still 'real' Dragons on Draconea. There aren't though, Grandmother banished them along time ago for various offenses ... most of which amounted to 'behaving in a fashion that caused her great embarrassment.'

Lyrra nodded, then smiled slightly and kissed him, licking his muzzle affectionately. "I got over an extreme hatred of felines enough to follow one and work with them, I can deal with Dragon-look-alikes when I know what they really are."

Morin kissed her gently. "As much as I would like to ask you to stay longer, I don't want to do anything that will interfere with the search for Nathan. But when your duties permit, you'll always be welcome." He said quietly.

Lyrra blinked. "We know where he is, just not how to get there."

Morin looked at her. "You have actual coordinates? The how to get there is more a strategic problem. We'd simply need to acquire a Mephit starship of at least Cruiser size, that also happens to be equipped with their Trans-Luminal Drive. That isn't easy, they're pretty careful with those ships."

"I don't know the coordinates," she shook her head, "but they can't be too hard to dig up. The Felsin world of origin must be fairly traceable."

"I suppose you could try some ancient history or theology types on Felsinor. I'm not sure how much they have in actual information from that time period. I know the Dracons have never actually found it, so it must be a far distance away, and we're the oldest race in the Alliance." He chuckled. "We've got individuals older than some the other races' written histories."

"Humph, sounds like something else I get to dig up." She regarded him levelly. "I don't suppose you'd come to Felsinor with me?"

Morin nodded. "Just make sure I don't head for the Medical Science Academy. I have a book of choice words I've been dying to unload on Dr. SolGardin." He said with a look that quite clearly said he wasn't joking. "I'll just have Nathan's assistant look after things here."

She nodded, looking rather irritated with that one herself. "So do I."

"Tell me about Draconea." Lyrra asked softly as she curled her lower body around Morin so their heads rested even with each other as StarAgre cruised for Felsinor.

Morin closed his eyes as he rested close to Lyrra. "It's a very mountainous world as they go, but the valleys contain some of the most beautiful places I know of. There are the glade valleys, pockets of green and blue amongst the gray of the great mountains; wonders like the valley of laughing starlight, just below my home, Castle Kar'Dranor. But the one constant is the winds that blow, and the thermals that make it possible for all of us to glide for days hardly trying.

"Most of the water is in the great northern glaciers and many rivers that run from the high peaks into deep blue lakes. Unlike many worlds we have nothing that anyone would call an ocean, which is probably why our starships resemble warplanes or great castles, rather than water vessels like many races.

"Our cities are carved out of the great mountains themselves, and consist of streets and thoroughfares so wide you hardly realize that you're indoors. The main plazas are in the great domes, carved by skilled stone architects and reinforced by our mages. Stone work is truly an artform on Draconea, carved as elaborately as wood is on other worlds.

"Unlike many of the younger races, we did not forsake magic to pursue science. We have kept both, and in recent times we have learned to merge the two creating the TechnoMage discipline. Other worlds have their own variations, but we didn't have to rediscover our magic since we never lost it.

"The oldest of our cities go back over 50,000 years, and archaeologists have recently discovered evidence of settlements that are older still. Archaeology is something of a hobby of mine, when I'm actually home. Some of the carvings in the ancient temples are truly breathtaking in both skill and scale."

Morin smiled. "I could ramble for some time, perhaps there is something more specific that interests about my homeworld?" He paused. "Or if you don't mind speaking of it, I would be interested to hear of yours, since I know little of Taurs, though I know more than I did." He grinned impishly.

She smiled, absently tracing the subtle shifts in color and texture on his wing. "My homeworld doesn't have a name as you understand it. We haven't reached the social stage of needing to do that. Most live in hunter-gatherer gangs or clans; each dominated by a Queen Bitch, the strongest female in the gang, and rank is based on a combination of strength, fighting skill and special talents.

"I'm not a particularly good fighter or hunter, though I could get by, and I'm rather small and delicate, but I could 'see' which dragon had taken one of us, and could lead others to its den. I could walk around sterile ground and 'know' what was wrong with it, or what had happened to leave blood. That is worth a great deal towards that clan's survival, much as Healers also get a great deal of respect, even if they are old and infirm, something that is not usually tolerated.

"It gave me rank equal to the Princess, the Queen's daughter and heir, though I would never be in line for the leadership, I was one of the few who was allowed to breed should I find a male I approved of, and unless he was consort to the Queen or Princess, his mother or sister would give him to me without question. It is quite an honor to have your son accepted by a Seer.

"I found a few females I didn't mind mounting me, but never really found the males attractive, and none of them were my mind-match.

"As for the lands I am from, they are savanna. Wide, tall grasslands with flat-topped trees scattered about. There is a great lake to the north boarder, and a wide river that feeds it to the east. It was a rich land, with enough that we rarely clashed with the other races that hunted there. The price was that it was near the mountain homes of the dragons, and the open land which made hunting good for us, also made it easy for them to swoop down and grab a large target.

"I've been on four Dragon-hunts, and all I really remember was wishing they were smart enough that we could make some kind of arrangements with them so they wouldn't hunt us. Even leaving kills for them wouldn't be bad." She sighed softly. "That was a bit of a ramble, is there anything you wanted to know?"

Morin smiled. "Not specifically, but its been my experience that people who ask about others homeworlds, usually want to talk about their own. Though, if you don't mind my asking, how did you end up here in the Alliance, since your world hasn't reached spaceflight, or at least it doesn't sound as though it has."

"No, they are just above the stone age tech-wise." She sighed. "It's not a simple life, but it is uncomplicated. I was on a vision quest to find a clue about where my mind-match was. I had many visions I did not understand, though a few make sense now.

"When I stumbled down from the plateau, I was no longer on my homeworld.

"The first person I saw was a two legged tiger warrior as tall as me. I'd never seen such a beast, but she wore clothing finer than any I had seen and had tools of great quality. I did not understand her when she spoke, and I tried to back away when her companions tried to surround me.

"But I was weak and dizzy from the fasting and herbs of my vision quest, and one of her clan caught me. Then another tigress touched me and the dizziness faded, and I understood their words.

"The leader said her name of Sheir Khan, and after hearing of my position, she took me into her clan. When she understood my Seer gifts, she forged the ExCRU division around me, then set out to find others who could do the same.

"I have seem so much ... sometimes I still wish for that simple life where I knew everything." She sighed softly, her fingers never stopping their random exploration of his finely scaled body.

He absently began running his fingers through her fur, though it was more of a soothing motion than anything. "A simple life, I could see how it might hold some attraction though I've never had one. I've been part of court life for as long as I can remember, though I've done everything I can think of to give me distance from it. I even joined the Alliance Military, in a non-Dracon unit. It's something almost unheard of for a Dracon Warrior Noble."

He smiled distantly. "I'm glad I did though, it's how I first met Nathan and how I discovered the one I knew was destined to be my LifeMate. Of course, it took almost 20 years to get him to see that."

"That 'the small male must make the first move rule'?" She chuckled lightly. "I think we may have evened that ratio out."

He chuckled. "Yes, that rule. Though it only applies to relations between males. The females of my world rarely wait for a male they're interested in to approach them. My problem has always been that I prefer furry males, and with few exceptions they're all smaller than me. I've had to get good at subtle hinting.

"But actually, it was more complicated with Nathan. When I first met him he wasn't interested in anybody, male or female."

Lyrra raised an eyebrow at that. "That's just not healthy."

"You'll get no argument from me." Morin nodded. "As far as I can tell, and Nathan doesn't talk about his past, so I have to guess a lot. Nathan lost a lot of people close to him before he was 12 or 13. I guess he just decided to avoid that kind of pain, by simply not involving himself. He was totally focused on his career, duty and responsibilities. His job was him. With a little work I got him to understand the concept of 'friendship.' That took over three years, and he still doesn't use the word easily."

"Seems I'll have my work cut out for me, making friends with him." She spoke softly.

Morin nodded quietly. "I sincerely hope that you get the chance." He said, part of him still not sure whether he'd see Nathan again.

Lyrra and Morin stepped out of the climate-controlled starport facility in the heat and humidity of summer in Felsinor's tropical zone. Natalia Station was definitely low-class as starports went, having only the minimal facilities necessary to handle off-world traffic. The town of Natalia had a backwater feel to it, not surprising for a place that been backwater, prior to the recent discovery of 'Landing'-era ruins.

The buildings were constructed from pre-fab kits dropped in to create a 'town' out of the small village that had existed there previously. Several large buildings, which the electronic guidebook said were 'hotels' were visible towering several stories over the rest of the town. The closest business to the starport was a transportation rental business, specializing in hovercars. Close to it was a General Outfitter whose sign made the claim to carry everything the well-equipped archaeologist would need.

The ground was muddy, not surprising given the high amount of rain the area received during the summer months. All things considered the town had a very 'unfinished' or even 'temporary' feel to it. The inhabitants were largely transient, being members of one dig team or another, and were composed of a wide range of Felsin racial types. Among the locals, Jaguars, Leopards and Tigers seem to dominate.

Morin looked around with great interest, though his interest was clearly more in all the varied furry males present, than anything else.

"I am now very grateful we bring our own gear." Lyrra said softly as she tapped Morin's arm to follow her to where the StarAgre was unloading a rather unique hovercraft, loaded for an extended stay in the field.

Morin raised an eye ridge as he climbed in the passenger side.

"It's specially designed for me to drive." She chuckled as she settled on the thick matt that took up both the central driver's seat and the seat behind it. She settled her forepaws on the textured levers near the floor and powered the vehicle up and began setting up a course and orders. "The most important thing to remember is that if I start to zone, you need to stay calm. The computer is programmed to pull over and stop at the nearest safe place when I hit that state, and call for help if I remain in it for more than half and hour, or there is danger." "I can handle that," he nodded, though he hoped it wouldn't happen.

"I hope you don't mind 'roughing it'," she smiled a little playfully, "but I like to stay on a site until I'm finished with it."

Morin smiled. "I happen to enjoy camping. Nathan, Storm and I used to do so fairly often on Draconea ... at least before Storm got sick." His eyes misted slightly before he forced himself back to calm. "At any rate, I also served some time in the military, so I'm used to 'roughing' it."

"Good." She chuckled. "I seriously doubt it'll be that 'rough', the few luxuries we've figured out how to convert for my use I'm rather attached to." She smiled at him. "So tell me about Storm. If it's not too difficult, that is. I'd like to know about a possible son."

Morin thought for a moment. "It's a strange sort of difficult. I know he's 'alive', but I still remembering him 'dying'. Especially those last six months." He shook off the past as they left the town and headed into the brush. "Storm is bright, curious, and very perceptive. He'd be three shortly, at least by how long he was alive, though his physically body was more like eight. Mentally, he was brighter than most eight year olds, sometimes a lot brighter. It was really hard to say, because he could go from a very immature eight-year old to a teenager very quickly. He's both a strong bio-telepath, as well as being a high potential TechnoMage.

"He also one of the most genuine, loving kits I've ever known. He always tried very hard to get along with everyone, and took rejection very hard. It's why I was glad they were living on Gildenfire, since the Dracons who met him took to him quite quickly. It really was hard not too."

"A family of orphans." Lyrra spoke softly. "Some of the strongest clans were created when individuals gathered around a leader, not bound by blood."

Morin nodded. "I was the odd one of the three of us, since I have family and connections to spare. After Rhy left and I could spend more time with Storm and Nathan, I formally adopted Storm as my nephew. I could tell it meant a great deal to both of them, though what it meant to me was that should anything happen to Nathan I'd take Storm as my own son."

He chuckled softly. "Funny thing is, in a way I'd like Nathan to find the second father for Storm he's been looking for. That would let me stay 'Uncle' which is a lot more fun anyway. I get to spoil the kit, generally be a close friend without having to deal with things like discipline.

"Besides, if he finds the second father, that'll be another furry male I get to 'play' with." He grinned in a lusty fashion. "Could get very interesting if Nathan brings another LifeMate home with him."

"Anything wrong with a mother instead of a father?" She asked softly.

Morin smiled. "I certainly see nothing wrong with it, and I'm certain Nathan wouldn't object since his Mother has also been very important to him, even if she did die when he was very young.

"But Nathan's not thinking of one, because he simply has no interest in females sexually speaking. He can work with them, take orders from them, respect them but he doesn't have sex with them. Which is why he's looking for a second father for Storm."

"Oh," she nodded. "So what are your hobbies, besides archeology and furry males?" She quirked a smile at him.

Morin chuckled. "Oh, that's easy. Magic, I'm trying to learn to work true-magic, instead of just TechnoMagic. It's not easy, the principles are entirely different. But it's one of those things you can do as a hobby when you're minor royalty with little responsibility and a long lifespan."

He looked at her. "Speaking of hobbies, what do you do when you're not working? Even ExCRU isn't on-duty all the time."

Lyrra chuckled. "I tend to be a lab subject, and I keep what survival skills I have up. Up till recently I put quite a bit of time in helping get furniture, vehicles and such designed for my use."

"I can see where the design work would be necessary. The rarity of Taurs locally means there's little demand for properly designed things, like furniture. Though it seems to have paid off." He nodded at the vehicle.

"It helps to have Sha'Khar'Fi Industries and ExCRU doing the requests." She chuckled. "It makes such requests go from being laughed at to a quick 'yes, ma'am'."

He smiled. "Lab subject, huh? Graciously letting people satisfy their curiosity about Taurs?" He said grinning.

"More curiosity of how my Profiling gift works." She nodded as they reached the first of the ruins. "They haven't had much luck. So far magic, psionics, and several things I've never heard of have been ruled out and they're getting frustrated."

He smiled. "Now that I understand since numerous attempts at explaining my connectivity sense ended in frustrated researchers. It stubbornly refuses to trigger psi-senses, magic senses and some very expensive scientific equipment I'm not entirely sure about.

"Most of the royals get straight-forward things like pyrokinetics, psi-flight and the like, but I got the real oddball one. And the hardest to put to practical use." He grinned. "It has helped me avoid a few potential bedpartners who had extremely jealous mates though." He said chuckling.

"It's probably saved your hide then," she smiled playfully. "Jealous mates are a bad thing." She looked around at the carefully roped off excavation site which contained what appeared to a small carefully preserve 'metal' hut and pulled to the side of the road. "Here seems a good place to start."

"Okay, this is your show. Where do we start?" He said evenly.

Lyrra stepped out of the hovercar and glanced around again, quietly ignoring the stares and whispered comments from the Felsin working the site. "Now, I walk around and see what I 'see'." She glanced at the wine-red Dracon that stood out almost as much as she did. "Just stick my me and make sure I don't walk into a hole ... and ask any questions that come to mind, whether they seem to pertain or not. And I mean any questions, or comments."

"No holes, right." He said smirking.

"Oh, you!" She laughed and batted his wing. "Get your mind out of the gutter."

Morin grinned and put on a 'who me' expression trying to look innocent, which was very strange thing to see and 8 foot tall Dracon doing.

She laughed again and kissed him on the cheek. "I think I'd forgotten how to laugh, it's been so long." She gave him one more smile before switching gears and padding quietly around the site, swinging her head rapidly from side to side, pausing here and there to look at something closer or touch it.

Morin followed her around making sure she didn't fall into any holes. He looked around to see if anything seemed unusual, or strangely connected. Nothing much presented itself, though one of the workers who crossed his path was having an affair with the site manager. He chuckled quietly at that bit of unhelpful information.

Lyrra stopped to touched a particularly large piece of hull and shivered along her entire spine. "Morin, could you 'ask' the ship remains where it came from?"

"I'll see what I can do. I don't know that there'll be enough 'ship' left to answer questions. Talking to objects is more of a psychometrist line then mine." He bent down to examine the remains more closely. He tried 'talking' to the fragment, but it no longer had sufficient tech-psi to respond. Then he spotted a strange shadow lingering near the far end of the hull piece. He walked over keep his eye on the shadow.

After a few minutes, he came back. "Strange that so strong a 'shadow' remains. That was the 40th captain of the evacuation fleet flagship. From somewhere he called Sethronar."

She nodded. "Doesn't mean anything to me, yet." She glanced around and walked to where Morin and seen the shadow to settle down. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, letting her perceptions wonder unfettered by her mind.

Her body twitched with each series of images and feelings ... lives and destines compressed into seconds ... a clarity she never had.

Without opening her eyes she stood and began to walk, easily avoiding obstacles until she came to an unexcavated spot. Only then did she look at her surroundings again, staring hard at the ground and circling several times before digging furiously with her forepaws.

Morin observed for a moment before he looked at the dirt and decided to try a little magic his mentor had taught him, for gardening.

"Rego Terram." He intoned quietly, and watched in quiet satisfaction as the earth claws began digging alongside Lyrra helping remove dirt. He watched carefully looking for anything in the dirt.

Abruptly she stopped and looked in the hole in some confusion. She backed up and shifted to bring her nose down to sniff around before carefully clawing away a few more inches to reveal a small, glittering object.

Morin looked curiously. "Any idea what you've found, Lyrra?"

"I have no idea," she carefully used her claws to get the worst of the muck off it and examined it more closely. "It's pretty, it's energy rich, and it's from the world of origin." She said simply. "Much more is going to take a much safer environment than this."

Morin looked a little more closely. "Power core component, perhaps?"

"Don't think so," she sniffed it. "Not that kind of power. It's the kind I walk through when I 'see'."

"Perhaps part of the ship's navigation, or maybe even the core to the ship's main computer." He hypothesized, a little more broadly then he might otherwise.

Lyrra chuckled and started to pad for their transport, object in hand. "That would be your kind of energy."

"Assuming it's willing to talk to me." He said, chuckling as he followed her back.

Lyrra chuckled softly in contentment and bemusement as she and Morin settled in for the night that the feeling of scales on the warm body she curled around and the spicy-sweet scent of a Dragon-kin made her feel stronger, and safe enough to relax.

Morin absently made random patterns gently with one hand in the HyenaTaur's fur. "What amuses you?" He asked quietly, feeling very relaxed.

"Life, at the moment," she licked the top of his head. "My mind-match is Dragon-kin and I'm a Dragon-hunter. And to find him I had to leave everything I was raised to be and believe, and my world itself." She sighed and relaxed a little more under his touch. "And I found him looking for his LifeMate of all things, and there will be no fight over you if all I understand is correct." She chortled softly. "It's one of those 'this is so bizarre it's funny' scenarios to me."

Morin smiled. "No, no fight at all. Nathan suggested I should find a female consort, so that Mother would stop throwing eligible Princesses at me."

"That just sounds wrong," Lyrra laughed playfully.

He laughed a little. "It is odd the way life works out isn't it? I stop looking because I'm worried about Nathan and an eligible, willing, attractive consort just walks into my life." He grinned. "Grandmother will be pleased, she won't have to hear me gripe about Mother's latest picks anymore."

"She won't still be looking for a breeding mate for you?" Lyrra asked softly as a deep breath relaxed her to the point of her eyes drifting closed.

Morin shook his head. "Not really, the mates aimed at me were always 'political' arrangements. Besides, on the distant chance that I need an offspring ... the technology exists to allow offspring from any mated couple." He said casually, happily relaxed. Grandmother promised me I wouldn't have to accept any mate I didn't want." He said somewhat absently.

"Really?" Most of her sleepiness evaporated. "I knew it worked for two toms and such, but it works across species too?"

Morin nodded. "If you've got a talented geneticist that you trust, yep. When we get Nathan back, we'll have both." He said with a sudden unquestioning surety that he would get his Cordraki back.

Lyrra was silent for a long moment, then asked quietly. "Have you thought about having young?"

Morin smiled gently. "I loved the time I had with Storm, and it did set me thinking about offspring of my own. But my luck with female partners has not been the greatest. It was difficult to find one who wasn't as interested or more interested in my status and title than me, at least on Draconea.

"And honestly, I never found a non-Dracon I felt enough in common with for anything more than a transient relationship ... before now." He said smiling. "Though I get the feeling I know the answer, it's simple politeness to ask if you have considering becoming a parent." He said in voice both formal and considerate.

"Yes, it is something I desire," she answered softly, "and all but given up on. ExCRU gives me little time to raise a cub, and finding a suitable sire, much less environment, has not been successful so far." She licked his head again. "I'm hoping this will change that."

Morin smiled, then kissed her gently on the cheek. "I think a great deal will change for the better when Nathan returns."

He looked a little vague for a moment, then chuckled. "Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but I can faintly see him connected to you. I consider that a very encouraging sign." He said quietly.

"If nothing, else, we both are connected to you, and very far from home." She said softly before shifting a little and settling in to sleep. "Good rest, Morin."

"Good rest, Lyrra." The Dracon said quietly, settling in to sleep.

Morin snapped awake as his bedmate began to twitch violently, then began to whimper as her scent swirled rich with despair, a sad longing and something he couldn't identify. He gently wrapped a wing over her, and began stroking her hair soothingly with one hand. He held her close without restraining her. The despair and longing were not unfamiliar since Nathan had been deep in such emotions after Storm 'died' and the Dracon did his best to comfort Lyrra the way he had his Cordraki.

He continued to comfort her as minutes, then hours ticked by, and her fur slowly became slick with foul-smelling sweat. Slowly the physical reactions stilled until only her double chests were heaving as she settled into a more normal sleep.

"Sorry I woke you." Her voice was both apologetic and grateful, though she didn't move. "That was what I like least about being a Seer. The Night Visions."

"As long as you're all right now, that is all that is important." He said concerned. "Aside from the occasional odd LongSleep, I usually get more sleep then I need anyway."

"LongSleep?" Lyrra rolled to lie on her belly and stretched.

"An odd physiological behavior of Dracons, sort of a throwback to the Dragons hibernation behavior. Sometimes after extended stress, illness, or severe injury; we lapse into a sleep that can last for a week or two. It's a very powerful healing state, but tends to frighten those who don't know about it.

"What's amazing is that our bodies don't need food or water during the LongSleep, and our air requirement is greatly reduced. It's occasionally been used for space or deep sea survival."

"I can see how it would be." She nodded, and relaxed, though her body exuded exhaustion.

"Do the Night Visions tell you anything, or do they merely disturb your rest?" The Dracon asked both curious and concerned.

"Gauh," Lyrra stuck her tongue out and scrunched her face up in displeasure. "They tell me stuff. Usually things I don't want to know but need to and aren't immediately useful."

Morin chuckled sympathetically. "The universe is oft-times impolite, telling us what we don't wish to know and refusing to give us the answers we want. Or to quote my sister, whose talent is musical psychometry: 'When you want it to talk, it won't say a word; and when you're not in the mood, it won't shut up.'"

"I've heard that before." Lyrra chuckled before rolling partway to her side, then sprawling on her back. "Though this time it's a little better than most. I learned a bunch about where this came from." She held up the trinket she'd picked up at the excavation site. "And a few things about Nathan, or rather, where and what he's going to be when you met again."

Morin turned to look at her, his eyes shining with curiosity. "This sounds interesting indeed. Please, start wherever you feel comfortable." He said, far to curious to restrain it.

"Let's see, the points you'll be interested in most. Nathan will be alive and well when you meet him again ... or you'll both be dead. I can't be too sure, though I'm fairly sure you're alive. There was a lot of 'real world' stuff around, including a silver starship and some very feline Felsin-types, probably natives of their world of origin, and Nathan has wings and a war-form, which I take to be new.

"He will choose between life and death, and that choice will determine the fate of the universe. An ancient evil seeks revenge on someone close to him through him and the death of his LifeMate, and Nathan will end up standing between them.

"A calico named Alex Maxwell is involved significantly, and Nathan's actions will destroy the first and last world." She shivered as an image flashed to the fore. "He will choose, by his actions and inactions, the fate of trillions, religions and governments across dimensions."

Morin shook his head. "Wings and a war-form? That's certainly new, since he has neither. In fact, I remember him telling me once that his genetic structure doesn't allow shapeshifting."

"Apparently that's going to change, along with most of reality."

Morin shook his head. "Grandmother always said there was more to him than anyone realized, including him."

"You're grandmother sees things clearly." She smiled softly.

"Chose between life and death?" Morin chuckled quietly. "With Nathan there is no choice, he'll protect life against anyone. As for standing between his LifeMate and some threat ... well, if he's got a new LifeMate, I'd feel sorry for whatever threatened him."

"Sometimes choosing between life and death isn't so simple as life or death." Lyrra nodded sadly.

"I don't suppose any these visions including even a small hint of what this first and last world is?"

Lyrra nodded uneasily. "The first world is the world or origin of his people, where he will be when you see him next. The last world is one of pure magic and the ancient evil, and you will face it before he meets me."

"Fate of trillions? Hellfire, he'll hate that if he's aware he's making the choice. As for religions and governments, he's tolerant of them to the extent that they create situations which favor life, and better the quality of living for sentient beings. Beyond that, he doesn't care much for them.

"Never heard of anybody named Alex Maxwell, though." Morin looked at her apologetically. "Did I mention I have this tendency to analyze everything?" He grinned.

"No," she smiled back, "but I knew you would anyway. It's part of what makes a Seer's mind-match."

Morin smiled pleased. "Well, it's nice to know someone actually appreciates it. Sounds like I'm going to need Grandmother's support for this after all. Though I think she was sure of that when she offered it."

Lyrra suddenly stilled. "Well, that makes more sense. Queen StarFire's one of them, the old powers. I was wondering what smooth-skinned Dracons were doing in the fight."

Morin chuckled. "Grandmother tries to keep people guessing, as to exactly what she is. I do know that it's been Dracon generations since she's actually acted with her full powers, or so the stories say ... and she's not saying one way or the other.

"What do you mean smooth-skinned Dracons? There aren't any ... all Dracons have scales." He said looking very confused.

"Some relative-race with strong ties to her." She rolled over to dig through the pack they'd brought inside their tent and eventually pulled out a small lightslate. After a while she handed it over to him. "Close to this."

Morin concentrated for a moment, briefly tapping the Archives. "Nope, that's not a Dracon. It's not even a related species, it's a Gargoyle. They're native to Earth to the best of my knowledge. And to the best of my knowledge Grandmother has no ties to them." He said evenly. "Though I'm sure she knows about them, probably a great deal about them. Though I can see why you might think they're related."

Lyrra rocked back and sighed. "I said something like that. The one I saw clearly was much darker, with heavily tattooed flight wings. Sorn ... or something like that. He was their leader, sort of. And they are related to Queen StarFire, though they may not be related to you. Relations of power, if not blood."

Morin considered, then plunged into the Archive fully. After several minutes he snapped back. "Right, there is a related species known as the Darshar. They look like Gargoyles, but they're far more magical and they fly, like you said flight wings. Some of the more powerful of them can match an Ancient Dragon for power, and supposedly their Queen could match StarFire. Though records show she died at the hands of one of her own, about three thousand years ago, give or take.

"So I guess relation of power does make sense, I was just thinking relation of blood or ancestry that's all." He shook his head. "Can't imagine why they'd be involved though, not like them at all."

"You already said why." She smiled playfully.

"I did? I guess I forgot. Or is it because it's not like them?" He asked both amused and confused at the same time.

"Yes, I doubt it, and no." She smiled broadly. "Try again."

Morin chuckled. "Next leap of logic says it has something to do with death of the Darshar Queen three thousand years ago. And is that a leap."

She grinned in a pleased pride. "Two tries, not bad." She curled her body around kneeling form. "Those with long lives and longer memories bide their time."

Morin chuckled. "I really didn't consider the Darshar lifespan at first, but I'm used to politics played by those with long lives and memories." He grinned. "Father's trying to get even with High Lord Dalkan over something from about 2500 years ago, I'm not sure what but it was enough that they've been bickering for that long.

"So Nathan's getting caught in the middle of a three thousand year old not-so-civil war." He shook his head. "Wish I was with him. But it sounds like I will be eventually, so that's that."

"Yes, and I won't be." She sighed sadly. "I just hope you come back."

"I have every intention of coming back, with Nathan. And I have Grandmother to back me up so I'm not worried." He ran a hand along her cheek gently. "It may be selfish of me, but I feel better that you'll be back here. There's two people I care about too many involved as it is."

"I know. It's not like I could leave my cases even if I was willing to walk into the middle of this." She stretched to kiss him. "This is a journey for warriors, not Seers. Though this Seer will see you off as best she can."

"And for that I am most grateful." He said before he bent into the kiss, accepting it with as much passion as the Taur wanted.

Lyrra smiled a little tenderly at the wine red Dracon sprawled on her bed as she quietly accessed the main cultural database to read up on the ins and outs of courtship among minor Dracon nobles who already had one consort.

Galactic Alliance Cultural Database

Culture: Dracon
Sub Culture: Nobility, minor
Topic: Courtship
Sub Topic: Already having one consort

Content: The Dracon's have few rules on the this subject that apply to the one courting the noble, since it is the courted nobles responsibility to make certain that his or her current consort is willing to accept the presence of the second consort. A Dracon noble whose consort will not accept any second consort will generally make it clear that he or she is not interested in being courted, and the courter should refrain from further attempts.

If the first consort is willing to consider a second then at some point the noble will introduce the two, in order to see if they can co-exist. Only personality compatibility is important, since there is no social requirement that the two be sexually involved with each other, though in many cases they are. (The average Dracon is bisexual having no strong preference for either male or female partners).

If the first consort finds the courter unacceptable for whatever reason they will inform the courted Noble who will decline further attentions. Once again, the courter should refrain after this point.

The successful courtship of a noble with one consort requires the successful courtship of both noble and consort, since the final decision about accepting the second will be made by the pair. If the current consort is not sexually interested in the courter's gender, then the courter can and should suggest joint activities as though he or she was developing a close friendship, since ideally this is what the relationship between the two consorts should be.

During courting, the courted and courter are permitted to behave as any other courting couple, though the courter should be careful not to claim too much of the courted Nobles time or attention as this may alienate the first consort. The courted may chose to invite the courter to certain nobility social events, the courter is allowed to accept though it is politic to discern if the first consort was interested in going and suggest that the courter take him or her instead. Many prospective seconds have ruined an otherwise successful courtship by seemingly threatening the first's position. Ideally, the two will be equal in time, but the sensitivities of the first must be carefully considered during courtship.

END document.

Lyrra muttered softly and dug up the general courting practices for both Dracon and Felsin.

Galactic Alliance Cultural Database

Race: Dracon
Subject: Courting practices, general, summary
Parameters: Male / Female, Dracon / Non-Dracon

Content: Dracons view courtship as a period during which prospective partners should learn as much about each other as possible, so as to be certain about long-term compatibility. This focus on interpersonal communication means that most 'dates' in a courtship involving a Dracon will be in private settings or small groups. Even socially prominent Dracons prefer to leave large group activities and other such public display until late in the courtship.

Dracons generally see no reason not to have sex during courtship, though most will not do so on the first 'date' unless strongly attracted by the potential mate. Dracons do not believe in having offspring outside a mated pair, and will make use of various contraceptive techniques to ensure that it doesn't happen. Normally, Dracon are fairly expressive in a physical way, enjoying hugging, cuddling and other physical contact nearly as much as sex.

With rare exceptions Dracons do not discuss the subject of offspring during courtship because of the Dracon cultural assumption that there will be children. The Dracon ideal is to have three offspring but for a variety of reasons, often have less. A potential mate who doesn't want offspring is advised to bring the subject up as early as possible.

There is no gender differentiation in Dracon courtship habits, and the female is as likely to initiate as the male. Likewise all other aspects of courtship are gender-neutral, determined by the personality and social class of the two, though social class is usually ignored when one of the two is a non-Dracon.

End Document.

Galactic Alliance Cultural Database

Culture: Felsin
Topic: Courtship
Modifiers: male/female, Felsin/non-Felsin

Content: The Felsin are fairly casual about courtship, with the exception of certain high profile, high wealth and power families, but these constitute a sub-culture. (see Sub-Topic: Upper Class)

Either gender may initiate courtship, and there is no inherent bias either way. Courtship generally consists of public outings such as clubs, movies, social gatherings and the like followed by private time afterwards. The nature of the gatherings depends on the interests of the individuals involved.

Since Felsin normally mate for life, they spend a great deal of time finding out if there are mutual interests, and no serious conflicts. An important issue is always whether or not the couple desires to have offspring, since a sizable number Felsin have no real interest in being parents. However, the ones who do become parents usually have three or four kits, often over a span of twenty years or more, as most Felsin do not like to crowd the kits together age-wise.

Felsin often engage in the giving of tokens of affection such as flowers, sweets or jewelry. This is dependent on the personalities involved, and the relative social classes.

Non-Felsin should recognize that Felsin will tend to spoil and indulge their mates to the extent they can. A fair number of males are also highly protective, to the point of being overprotective.

Initial dating tends to be hesitant as the Felsin try to figure what the prospective mate is most interested in. This can become almost comical with two Felsin doing it at the same time.

Empathic or Telepathic Felsin tend to be far more cautious in courtship, since the Joining is far more permanent for them then it is for a non-empath.

Felsin are not particularly hung up on formalities in courting, and in fact like spontaneity.

end document.

Lyrra leaned back slightly and crossed her forepaws and she considered the three documents, and that they were already slightly off the standard for Dracons ... never mind how different it was from her upbringing.

"What are you looking up?" Morin asked as he knelt next to her forebody to huge her.

"Trying to figure out how Dracon and Felsin deal with courting." She muttered before shifting her head to lick the side of his mouth. "Rest well?"

"Very well. The right companion always makes sleeping better." He said kissing her gently. "The Felsin are very informal about it, except for some upper classes, which Nathan isn't. As for the Dracons, don't worry about rules and standards and such, I'm very informal...too informal some of my peers would say. So far you're doing just fine." He said rumbling happily.

She rumbled softly and rubbed against him. "Both are quite different from what I'm used to. Very different from Hyena society."

Morin made patterns absently in her fur with one hand. "Care to tell me what those customs are?" He asked curiously.

"There are two ways courting happens among my folk, one when a male seeks a female, and a very different one when a female seeks a male." She leaned against him in contentment. "If a male seeks a female, he courts her by cooking fine meals and giving her weapons, clothes and pretty things he makes himself. If he's lucky, she'll have a sister or aunt with cubs, and he'll take care of them. It's all about impressing her with how good he can care for her den and cubs while she's hunting, providing and protecting the clan.

"If a female desires a male, she gives his mother, guardian, or clan Queen, whoever speaks for him, meat, proof of her deeds and how good a provider she is. To prove she is worthy of the male and can provide for him as well as the female who currently cares for him. She usually has to provide a marriage price, usually a male from her clan to replace the one she is taking away, but it may be in the form of goods if the clan has enough males and doesn't want him replaced.

"How much he is worth depends on his skills, his appearance, and how important his mother is. Those factors also go into how hard he will have to court a female he desires.

"All that, of course, assumes that a permanent pairing is desired. If all the one courting wishes is sex or a siring, then his appearance and rank are paramount, as his skills are of little consequence, and she is judged almost exclusively on her rank and her mother's rank."

Morin nodded. "Yes, I can see why the Felsin and Dracon courting practices seem so different. Both races reduce it primarily to the individuals involved, and the clans, families and so have little input." He chuckled. "Well, technically my Mother does get to weigh in, but she doesn't oppose me much anymore on what I really want; Grandmother usually ends up supporting me ... and that's what really counts." He said matter-of-factly.

"Aside from the two of us, the next most important opinion is Nathan's, but the database explained that, at least I hope it's comprehensive enough to."

"I think so." She nodded. "Basically, I'm looking to make friends with him while I'm 'courting' you, and to be careful not to alienate him or threaten his status."

"That's as good a summary as any. Something to keep in mind, Storm will undoubtedly enter the picture as some point. A very good way to make friends with Nathan is to be good to Storm."

Lyrra chuckled. "Thanks for the advice ... it'd never occur to me to be anything less than an indulgent aunt to any cubs you have. They're the lifeblood of the clan, and everyone's responsibility."

Morin nodded. "I'm glad to hear that, but Storm's experience with people hasn't been the greatest. People get hung up on the fact that he's got dragon wings, it frightens some. And of course, his father's lifemate was afraid of him, and made no effort to hide his discomfort or do anything about it."

"So he's a Felsin with Dracon wings? So what. I'm a species that doesn't exist, even in most mythos." She huffed playfully. "And I don't have the convenient explanation he has. I think we'll get along, we've got common ground there too."

He chuckled. "But an indulgent aunt, that he'll love. He's never really had any female figures in his life. Aside from hospital nurses, that is."

"It'll be nice to have cub around to indulge again, and I would hope I can be a lot more fun to play with than his nurses."

Morin nodded. "I would expect so. But I'll just be glad when everyone is back." He said quietly.

"Yes," she sighed. "That will be a good day."

Shadows of the Kat 2: ExCRU

NC-17 for M/F
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Low
Slash Level is
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

124 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written August 26, 2001 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: ExCRU, Galactic Alliance

Primary Races: Canine, Dracon, Felsin, Hyena, Taur

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M).

Pairings: Morin Kar'Dranor/Nathan SwiftClaw, Morin Kar'Dranor/Lyrra

Notes: ExCRU: Extraordinary Crimes Response Unit
*Team Leader: Sheir Khan (A regal, flame-furred tigress Felsin)
*Profiler Lyrra Sunin (Female Striped HyenaTaur)
*Computers: Terry Sun (black-marked silver Ferret)
*Detective Nick Farcall (large black Wolf Lupo, male looking Herm)
*Medic/ Forensics: Marsa Ringold (A brown, black and cream piebald female Felsin)
*DS craft: Agrementh (Agre) Transport with two primary bodies, a planetary and interplanetary one
*TechnoMage Sindar FireWind (black on silver Dracon (black wings/silver body))
*Espionage Joshua Camdenorin (black tipped arctic fox morph (Foxen))
*Security Anders (Andy) 'Slash' Gromlin (German Shepard Canem)

Blurb: Back in Alliance space, the elite of the Alliance Military Intelligence Structure, ExCRU Alpha, just landed a case they wouldn't normally handle. Set roughly shortly after Nathan disappears.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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