With chaos spreading on the ship, one of the characters find that she is asked of more than what she can handle.
On her PawPad, reviewing over the documents Fury had conjured up over the failed mission, Tang was allowing her mind to wander. Around her, in the lounge were some of her scientists but more military personnel taking a break after or before their shifts.
In front of her on the low table was a dish of half-eaten food and an empty glass. Now she was lazily slouching back in the padded seat, eyes scanning the text and examining the photographs regarding the object that Captain Calvin Redding's team failed to retrieve.
"Last place I search," commented Jun, walking over to Tang from the entrance of the lounge. "I thought you would have been in your lab, or your room, or somewhere practical."
"What are you doing-Hey!" Tang exclaimed, having her younger brother make himself comfortable on the large sofa, roughly bumping into her. He giggled in response. She sighed. "It's been nearly an hour since the mission ended. I thought the Admiral would have wanted to speak to you by now."
"He's seeking council from that alien for this one," replied Jun, squirming a bit for the sole purpose to annoy his sister. "There's not much for me to offer since the only interaction was that blast nearly killing them all. It was that alien's own people who did it so he could explain the action better than me."
"I suppose you never were his official advisor," commented Tang, shuffling away from her brother's persistent squirming. "Still, he seems to like your input."
"A fresh opinion usually is welcomed," Jun said. He stopped squirming against his sister, once she was too far to conveniently continue doing so. "So find anything interesting about it?"
"Whatever it was, it was mostly buried in the ground so no I couldn't get any useful information from this photograph," Tang answered, holding up her PawPad to display the image.
"That's not a great photograph," Jun remarked.
"No it's not. There's way too much atmospheric disturbance to come up with anything more than that. It's a shame they weren't able to at least uncover a little more of it. It'd give us invaluable information in how these Creepers travel from planet to planet."
"Are you going to finish this?" asked Jun, noticing the food on the table hardly touched. He reached for it before Tang could answer. "It's obvious that they infect ships to travel in space. I still don't see the point of going for one that they crashed into another planet."
"Because however this thing got on the planet, it launched a very successful invasion. We want to know how they invade a planet, not just how they-" The lights dimmed, and an alarm of some type went off.
Everyone in the lounge looked confused for the moment, but the military soldiers reacted quickly. They got up and ran out of the lounge.
"What's that?" Jun questioned, looking around the lounge.
Tang didn't answer but stood up, unsure of what to do. They weren't trained for this ship, so the alarm didn't mean anything other than something is wrong. Everyone except her and her scientist had already left without explaining anything.
"Fury, what's going on?" she asked into the open. There was no answer. "Fury?"
"Tang, get to the bridge, now!" he demanded, using multiple speakers around the lounge.
"What's going on?" she repeated, but not without moving. Again she was ignored while she hurried out of the lounge, Jun following close behind. Others were in the corridors too, some stopping to ask what was happening.
Before they arrived anywhere near the bridge, the crimson alien blocked their path. It's back was against the wall, and its limbs flashed out creating a dark liquid out of thin air. An unknown force smashed the alien back into the wall again and Tang reacted only by instinct to push herself out of the way of what looked like a gust of wind heading for her.
"A Stealth!" shouted Jun, dodging out of its path too. The tall furred alien ran pass them in pursuit.
Deciding to ignore what just happened, Tang put her claws into the metal floor and continued toward the bridge. Once she made it, she ran into Captain Redding holding the Admiral's sword, blood on its hilt. The wolf moved aside for her and she ran in to see the Admiral on the ground, in a pool of dark blood contrasting his white fur in an eerie way.
"Where's the medical team?!" Commander Yelena demanded, tears in her eyes. She was leaning over Admiral Alexander, both paws try to stop the blood from gushing out.
"On their way," answered Fury. "I found Tang closer. She has some medical experience."
"It's been years Fury," remarked Tang, but she didn't resist kneeling next to the Admiral and checking his condition. The unconscious fox was unresponsive while she checked his pulse and put her ear next to his muzzle. "It's obviously a chest wound, but I don't think his lungs were damaged. His heart wasn't hit, and from what I remember, none of the arteries were severed but one must have been hit. Not so hard Commander."
"I have to keep him from bleeding out," objected the Commander.
"Yes, you want to keep pressure on the wound but he's just a youngling," explained Tang. "You're crushing his ribs. Captain Redding, give me your knife."
The Captain left his post long enough to pass a combat knife to her, and Tang used it to cut open the Admiral's shirt, avoiding interfering with the Commander pressing into the wounds.
Before she finished cutting the shirt, the medical team arrived. They asked for Tang and the Commander to step aside while someone took the Commanders place. They finished removing the Admiral's shirt and began working on the wound, filling it with some sort of medical foam and covering it with clean fabric.
"We need to move him to the medical wing," instructed one of the medics.
A team of armed guards came in before the medical team could move the Admiral. Captain Redding came over and stood next to the Admiral that they were preparing to carry.
"Captain Redding will guard you," Fury stated just as they're finishing up. "Stay clear of the living quarters. Velsh'nark is still chasing after the Stealth down that way."
Tang didn't notice before but when she looked at her brother, he looked almost as bad as the Admiral. His eyes were glued to him but he didn't move. When the medical team carried him out, with a few armed guards and Captain Redding, Jun hesitantly followed.
Only Tang, the Commander and a couple guards remained. She turned toward the Commander, whose paws were dripping blood but were clenched tight. Her eyes still had tears in them but the shock she was experiencing only a moment ago was gone and replaced with something else.
Without notice, she spun on her hindpaws and turned toward the command post. "Fury, locate that Steath's ship and destroy it."
Fury didn't answer for a moment. "I already found it. All access points are sealed off. The Stealth isn't getting off this ship."
"There might be more of them on that ship, have it destroyed," Yelena demanded. She activated a ship-wide transmission. "Attention crew of Drach'n Fury, we've been boarded by the hostile race commonly known as Stealths. Our alien ambassador, Velshnark, is currently in pursuit of one of them. All combat personnel are to begin searching the ship for others. Use extreme caution."
"The Stealth ship has been destroyed," Fury said once Yelena finished her announcement.
While Yelena began checking the area around the ship for more, Tang left the bridge but not without taking one last look at the pool of blood that shined in the middle of the floor. Unsure of what to do or where to go, Tang idly walked pass the guards and attempted to fix her outfit. It was then that she realized that her paws had blood on them too.
With a destination in mind now, she headed straight for her room so she could wash herself clean. Now walking through the corridors, there wasn't as much confusion but there were searching parties passing her occasionally. Most of the crew must have been off duty after the mission because all the parties were leading away from their bunks.
Tang never really liked or disliked the Admiral, but she now found herself greatly worried about his condition. Back near the meteor, the little fox did save her life from the parasite, and even without that the fox's company was always welcome with her, and her brother. She was confused on why the Stealths would attack him, such an innocent youngling who is working hard on learning more about the parasite so we can take the fight to them. Shouldn't everyone want this parasite destroyed?
"Tang, where are you going?" Fury asked urgently, he still sounded flustered despite being a computer program with limited vocal patterns.
"To wash up," she answered, somewhat irritated by the obvious answer. "I can't help-"
A soft crash echoed from further down the corridor, halting her in her tracks. The Stealth was last seen in this area. Before she or Fury could say anything further, the crimson alien was thrown into the corridor and slammed against the bulkhead. It launched itself back into a nearby room, followed by a louder crash, hissing and growling. Blood remained splattered on the wall.
"Get out of there," Fury insisted. "Let Velsh'nark take care of it."
Her body refused to answer to her demands and she remained frozen in place. Only able to watch, she stood in the corridor even as an invisible force ran out, leaving a trail of blood where it went and headed straight for her. In a flash, it went around her and she turned in the direction of it but felt razor-sharp claws tears through her fur and skin and push her aside.
"Tang!" Fury shouted but if fell on deaf ears.
She fell to the ground, clutching her side while she watched Velsh'nark again struggle with air until he grabbed the Stealth and slammed it into the wall, picked it up and did it again.
Finally the invisible field around the Stealth ceased to move and blood dripped down to the floor.
Pain from the fresh claw wounds burned painfully as if they were on fire once the confusion settled down. Her paw still pressed against the wound, she watched as the crimson alien stood up straight, dropping his aggressive stance and glancing at her. He walked over to her, appearing rather intimidating due to the blood and his tall physique, but carefully kneeled down to her helped her back up.
Tang realized then that her blood was on his claws mixed in with the dark blood from the Stealth, but she ignored it partially because the pain was too distracting. Almost immediately once she was back up, several teams of armed guards appeared. The alien instinctively stepped away from Tang and hesitated before he showed the team where the Stealth was.
"It's still alive," the alien's translated words stated. "Its life is up to you."
"Remove it's stealth technology and lock it up," Fury ordered, his voice back to normal. The lights started to shine brighter too. "Commander Yelena wants to speak with it once it wakes up so make sure that it doesn't die. A medical crew is in route to the containment rooms."
After securing an awkward grip on the invisible alien, it was carried off followed by the alien that brutally beat it half to death. Tang was still a little shocked and watched them walk down the corridor.
"I have a medic coming to you Tang," Fury said once the team was gone. "Just stay put."
"Thanks Fury," she said weakly. She visually checked the claw marks across her ribs, and they were bleeding but not dangerously so. The cuts were shallow enough but they still burned like fire.
"I'm going to my room," declared Tang, turning away from the direction the Stealth was carried off in.
"I told you to stay put," insisted Fury, his voice monotone once again.
"The medic can find me there," she responded. "I need to sit down."
Stepping toward her room, she avoided the splattered blood that was all over the floor and walls. Glancing into whatever room they were fight in, it looks like a sword fight was fought in it. Strands and splatters of blood covered almost everything, and almost everything was broken. Each step sent up a fresh lance of pain to her ribs but she ignored it until she reached her room and sat on her bed, careful not to stain anything with her blood.
The medic arrived, cleaned and bandaged the wound before leaving. With the capture of the Stealth, Tang was able to lie back and close her eyes. The only image that her mind could bring to her attention was the gory mess throughout the ship. The Admiral's blood, both the aliens' and even a little of her own.
Without realizing it, she dozed off and was woken up by another presence entering her bed. Peeking at the intruder, she realized it was Jun cuddling up against her. He was sniffling and buried his face in her fur, squeezing her painfully so.
"Are you okay?" she asked, still tired from her quick nap.
He shook his head and didn't speak.
"Is the Admiral okay?"
"H-He's alive," Jun answered, his voice breaking. "But why would anyone want to hurt him? He's really nice and a great Admiral."
Tang didn't answer but ran her paws through his fur, coaxing him to sleep. The Admiral would live. It was a great relief to her and she was able to fall back asleep again soon.
A nudge disturbed her from her sleep. Slowly she opened her eyes, but could only see a couple of yellow blurry dots and feel her brother sleeping against her. It took a moment that those yellow dots were eyes belonging to panther, Natasha. Her appearance immediately brought Yukiomaru to mind.
"What? Is the Admiral okay?" she asked in a hushed tone.
"He's fine but you need to get up now," replied the panther, courteously keeping her voice low as well. "One of our teams brought something for you from a Stealth ship."
Carefully pulling herself from her brother's grip, Tang stood from her bed. Her brother stirred a bit but didn't wake.
"I wasn't aware that we've had anyone on one of the Stealth ships before," remarked Tang once they were out of the dark room. Natasha was leading her toward her labatory.
"Me neither until they arrived a short while ago," answered Natasha. "The Admiral approved the mission without letting even his Commander know. Now I suppose I have to finish the mission, unless the Admiral wakes up tonight, which I doubt. I'm not even sure if his secret mission was a success or a waste of our resources."
"Was someone killed in the mission?" Tang asked, concerned about the Ghost's comment.
"No it wasn't that big of a disaster. Their armor was high quality military equipment and it's no longer useable now. The team was lucky they didn't damage those suits anymore than what they were, otherwise they wouldn't have survived the vacuum. I'm actually amazed the drop ship wasn't destroyed, and that everyone actually made it out of there alive."
"Fury, do you have any details on this mission?"
It took a moment for him to respond. "No, sorry Tang. When the Admiral hides something from me, I don't bother to pry. I know that when the Admiral wants something kept secret, it is best that it is kept secret."
"Doesn't have some data stored somewhere that you can access then?" Tang asked.
"Normally I wouldn't dare to do something like that but given the Admiral's current condition and the sensitive information regarding this mission, I'll try to access his PawPad."
"Thank you Fury."
"Don't thank me yet. One of the first things the Admiral did was lock his PawPad information away from me when I was trying to self-identify myself. It'll take some time."
"In the meantime," continued Tang ignoring Fury's last comment, "I'll try to learn what I can from this team."
"Sounds like you have it all figured out," Natasha remarked, stopping in the hallway. "I don't like that the Intelligence is letting the Admiral do his own missions. All I am now is a messenger."
Tang ignored her and kept walking, entering her lab shortly after going through the usual checkpoints. Inside, she found five wolf pups fully armored except for their removed helmets.
"Ma'am!" shouted the largest one, and he saluted. Although it was only meant as a courtesy, it still seemed uncharacteristic to Tang since she was a civilian. "Cadet Alex! I was told you'd analyze the item we retrieved."
"Cadet?" she questioned. "The Admiral sent a bunch of pups and cadets on a secret mission?"
"We're more than we look," boasted one of the female pups.
Tang looked at them, the smallest one remained silent sitting on a table next to the last male. The last female was observing Tang's equipment but was being careful not to touch anything. They were all Jun's age.
"We seem to be a fleet of adolescents," muttered Tang. She leaned against an adjacent table. "A mutual contact tells me that you have something for me, extracted from a Stealth ship."
"Here you go ma'am," said the wolf sitting next to the smallest one. He carried what looks just like a white box.
"Thank you," she said accepting the box, a little confused. She saw the jagged edges where it was cut from the ship but it didn't look like anything significant.
"Where'd you cut this... box from?" Tang asked, flipping it over in her paws.
"Next to what we thought was the command chair of the vessel," answered Alex. "It was the only thing that looked like some sort of data base."
There were some hints of a receiver for wireless data but only a few wires that could suggest a direct link to the Stealth ship's direct data core. Without risking any damage to it, Tang set the device on a nearby table before trying to pry it open.
Before she was about to begin investigating the device itself, she noticed that the wolves were still watching her.
"Don't you wolves have orders?" she asked, annoyed by their presence.
"Not really," answered Alex. "Our mission is over and we've received no new orders since. The artificial intelligence says we should try to lend a paw."
"Fury?" Tang asked with a growl.
"One moment," he responded before immediately coming back. "I've contacted their commanding officer but he hasn't answered yet. You might have more company soon."
"Keep them out of my lab," Tang declared, stepping back from the box, wishing she had someone to glare at.
"He's very persistent," complained Fury. An alarm sound came from the decontamination room along with the alien language of Velsh'nark's coming from the alien himself and Fury. Within moments, the alien came through the doorway to be met with Tang's glare and the confused look of the five wolves.
"What do you want?" Tang asked, withholding most of her annoyance.
"I told the young commander that his mission was pointless," replied the alien, his translation finally having some tone to it. "The parasite can infect asteroids and most likely hitched a ride on one directed towards that planet. They've invaded hundreds of planets with this method."
"We need more than just your word on it Velshnark," answered Tang. "If they invade by asteroid then it should be easy to deflect their invasions."
"You haven't come across the real threats yet," replied Velsh'nark.
"Then what harm is there in investigating this box?" Tang remarked, taking her eyes off the alien and trying to return to work. The wolves were mumbling among themselves, continuing to distract Tang from focusing on working.
"You're second commander is going to interrogate the alien I subdued once it wakes up," Velsh'nark said after watching her for a while. "You'll learn more from it."
"Fury, can you direct my guests elsewhere?" asked Tang, her irritation reaching her limit.
"Alex, take your team to the main hangar," instructed Fury, opening the doors for the exit of the laboratory. "Velsh'nark, I want to speak with you more private on what these 'bigger threats' may entail. If you'd please return to your room."
"My apologies, Tang Fa," said the alien before leaving. He didn't seem upset but Tang ignored him while he left. The wolves followed closely behind, leaving the lab to the marten herself.
"Thank you Fury." He didn't respond and left her to work, now that she was able to concentrate on the strange box extracted from the Stealth ship.
For several hours she worked on the device, and was able to discover that it did indeed hold information in a crystal found deep within the box. No matter how many different ways she tested methods to extract the information, none succeeded. The severed wires that were connected to the crystal weren't compatible with the equipment Tang had accessible no matter which way she modified her equipment.
While she was recording her notes, she realized that the shifts have changed. Jun would probably be awake by now. With a yawn, she leaned back in her seat and stretched.
"Interesting ideas, Tang Fa," Natasha said appearing from the shadows holding her own PawPad. "We may need to send another team on another Stealth ship so we can extract the information from this crystal."
"How'd you get those notes already?" asked Tang, her glare returning. "And how'd you get in?"
"Would these 'keys' be difficult to find once on board?" asked Natasha, ignoring the questions from the marten.
"My ideas are not suggestions," explained Tang, referring to her hypothesis of having Stealth equipment to unlock the information. "Such a mission would be too much of a risk."
"We need to find out how the parasite invaded that planet," Natasha stated, looking up from her PawPad with a serious glare. "This ship and its crew are prepared for high risk missions. With the Admiral incapacitated, the Intelligence will be assigning the next missions. Once they receive these notes and my recommendation, they will decide whether or not we need to disable and board a Stealth ship."
"We're going to war instead of simply asking them how their planet was invaded?"
"Diplomatic solutions with these Stealths are hardly likely to succeed," replied Natasha. "Peace with this civilization is our top priority when dealing with them but this parasite poses a far greater threat so we must act quickly to learn more about it and how fast it's spreading. According to the Intelligence, we are already at war."
"The parasite consumes indiscriminately it'd seem so we don't need to add on additional wars by causing conflicts with the Stealths," remarked Tang.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you two," Fury started. "But the Commander is requesting updates on this secret mission."
"Were you able to unlock the Admiral's PawPad yet?" asked Natasha, turning toward the exit.
"Partially," answered Fury. "I was able to retrieve some of his daily notes but there's more locked away. The mission was intended to learn more about the parasite, obviously. I don't think there'll be much more to learn from his PawPad but I'll keep trying to unlock it."
"That's information we already knew," muttered Natasha while she walked out of the laboratory and through the decontamination room.
"How'd she gain access to my notes while I was writing them?" Tang asked once the Ghost was gone.
"She has clearance codes that not even the Admiral knows about," answered Fury, his voice tone offering a little annoyance with the Ghost as well. "They're hard to track and she hardly uses them but I'll be able to block her soon enough."
They continued to chat for nearly an hour, and Tang quickly learned that she was eager for the wounded Admiral to recover and be in command once again. Eventually she returned to her room, and found that Jun had already woken up and gone off somewhere before she went to sleep.