Shadows of the Kat 4:
by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
Duke L'Orange began assessing his situation before he could open his eyes, and well before he gave any outward indication he was conscious.
He was still in his clothes, though his sword and the tools he could normally feel the weight of were gone. Someone with small, delicate but strong hands was feeling along his left leg. The touch was just like what he knew a doctor would do when checking for injuries.
All the scents in the area screamed 'feline' in his foggy brain.
"You can open your eyes." A gentle but firm female voice spoke from the general location of the one touching him. "I know you are awake."
He paused a moment, trying to figure out how he understood the sounds he didn't know, and then shrugged slightly and looked around.
Standing next to him, still checking him for injuries, was a regal biped tigress. Nearby was a black ... beast easily nine feet tall. Also in the room were a humanoid black lion and a very large tiger. The three bipeds were wearing a black uniform with a shoulder patch containing black crossed swords on red field.
He glanced further field when none of them moved and spotted his gear between the tiger's paws. The buildings were high-tech in construction, much like what Tanya designed. Behind one building was the upper half of a sizable robot.
Everything screamed military to the quickly recovering rogue.
Before he could open his beak to say anything, two identical Cheetah bipeds ran up to the largest of those watching him.
The twins saluted sharply. "SkyStriker Team reporting from Patrol, Commander." They said in unison.
"Report, and just one of you okay." The Commander said in a deep, powerful voice obviously accustomed to command, though he seemed somewhat casual about it.
The twin cheetahs exchanged a glance and then one of them spoke. "Aerial Recon revealed no further intruders nor any further sign of the distortion effect. Orbital Flyby revealed no ships in orbit or near orbit."
"Very good. Establish a level 3 recon schedule and coordinate with Tracker and Blitz. Dismissed."
"Yes, Sir." They turned in tandem, shifting to quadruped cheetah form before sprinting out.
The black lion bent down and picked up the equipment he'd found on the Duck morph. He looked at the saber handle curiously for several minutes before he succeeded in energizing the blade. "Fascinating, an excellent idea in concealable weaponry."
He deactivated the saber and set it back down next to the tiger. He looked at the tools, and chuckled. "Covert operations equipment, or as some might put it ... thieves tools."
The nine-foot tall commander shifted to a 7 1/2 foot tall humanoid panther form, and looked down at Duke. "Okay, who are you?" The question was simply a question, no hidden threat other then the fact that it came from a well-muscled 7 1/2 foot tall feline with a distinctly military bearing.
He got to his feet and regarded the taller male addressing him. "Duke L'Orange," he said simply, for once not feeling up to his usual flair. "Who are you, and where am I?"
Ebon looked at Duke appraisingly, noting from stance and movement that the Duck was clearly a trained fighter and a good one. Ebon was no expert when it came to avians, he'd known few but his instincts told him this one wasn't a Shadow Government or Mephit agent. "I'm Ebon SwiftClaw, NightBlade Commander. The tigress is Nareena Moonstone, NightBlade Medical Officer and the Black Lion is Corwin Marshan, my second in command." He looked down at the White Tiger. "The White Tiger is Arsham Kelspar, NightBlade Security and Intelligence Officer.
"As for where, this is our encampment on Nilpharim 4, just inside Mephit space. If you don't know where you are how did you get here?"
"I fell through a dimensional warp," the dark brown Duck shrugged. "I didn't see where it was set to."
"Commander, I think we should move this inside. You know how fast the temperature can drop here after dark." The tigress interjected firmly, yet gently.
Ebon nodded agreement. "Quite correct. Duke, if you'll follow us we'll move this discussion inside. This planet does get uncomfortable after dark."
He gestured toward the nearby structure, where the Black Lion was standing with a door open, and Duke's equipment in his hands. The White Tiger went inside, look over his shoulder and woofed as if urging the rest to 'hurry up.'
Nareena laughed quietly. "Arsham, don't be so impatient, we're coming." She turned to Duke. "I'm sure this seems a bit intimidating." She leaned close to him and stage whispered. "They're not nearly as hostile as they seem." She smiled encouragingly at him.
Duke nodded at her with a flirting smile and followed the others inside, despite his slight reservations. Flashbacks of how Canard and Tabrin had 'acquired' his loyalty flickering up unwanted.
The room was not what Duke expected, in fact it looked a lot like some sort of recreation room, dominated by a large sunken area surrounded by comfortably upholstered seating. The dominating feature was a large screen television at the one end.
The Black Lion and a humanoid White Tiger, who he figured was probably the security chief, were already seated, apparently discussing something on a electronic pad the Tiger was holding. Ebon was talking to a golden long furred canine humanoid, up near the TV.
As Nareena gently guided him toward what appeared to be some sort of hot beverage dispenser, he heard the door open and an avian humanoid about his height entered. From the hooked beak, the avian was clearly a predator, similar to hawk or eagle but not really either. He was wearing the same uniform as the rest, which set off the bright red plumage in his wings quite well.
The avian strode quickly across the room to where Duke and Nareena were standing. He nodded politely to Nareena. "Good Evening, Nareena. Would you be so kind as to introduce me to our guest?" He said in very cultured voice, not very deep but strong nonetheless.
Nareena smiled. "Of course. Duke, I like to introduce Lt. Commander Ramses 'Hawk' Phoenixi, Commander of the NightBlade Armored Air Corps. Ramses, this is Duke L'Orange, who's visiting us quite unexpectedly."
Ramses extended his hand politely. "A pleasure to meet a fellow avian among the felines." He smiled. "I noticed a blade among your equipment, do you fence?" The question was both curious and very polite.
"Quite well, last time we crossed swords." An amused male voice chuckled. "We do meet in the strangest places, don't we, Duke?"
"Tabrin?" Duke blinked his good eye at the handsome, middle-aged Mallard Duck. "What are you doing here?"
"What I usually am, chum." The Mallard laughed and patted his shoulder, then lost all amusement. "Though this war isn't nearly as ... clean ... as I usually keep it. How'd you end up on this backwater in the wrong dimension?"
"Dragaunus," Duke shrugged without taking his eyes off the other Duck. "And you?"
"When is it not?"
Tabrin chuckled. "One of my kids ended up getting dragged into this dimension and I followed her. I didn't realize it was a one way trip at the time."
Ebon watched the exchange for a moment before walking over. He looked at Tabrin, then at Duke and then back to Tabrin. "I take it you know him, Tabrin." He asked in deep, somewhat amused voice. Then his eyes lost all humor, becoming entirely Commander Ebon. "You know the situation, Tabrin ... can he be trusted?"
Any reply was interrupted by a high pitched whine, followed by a sharp <crack> as 'something' broke the sound barrier, and then came through the outside door narrowly missed Duke, rebounded off two walls and then embedded itself in a seat cushion.
A large grey on white Husky canine humanoid poked his head in through the door. "'Allo, everybody alright in here?" The young, yet deep voice asked somewhat sheepishly.
Ebon growled quietly. "Just what in Keltin's name was that Sergei?"
A darker furred Husky poked his head in from the other side of the broken door. "Sorry Commander, I think I miscalibrated the inertia dampening field."
Ebon shook his head. "Inertia dampening field on what, Yuri?" He rolled his eyes as he realized the SandRock team was up to something again.
A mostly white Husky bounded in, over the cushions grabbed the 'something' and leapt back to his partners. "The ground, Commander, we attempted to lower the inertia parameters of the ground to that of well-groomed ice ... but I think I transposed a digit." He spotted the look he was getting from Ebon. "Under normally conditions the puck is not supposed to exceed the speed of sound."
Ebon shook his head, as he looked at the three very abashed Huskies. "No more playing whatever game it is, until you fix the damage. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." The three said cheerfully, as they headed off presumably looking for tools.
The panther looked at the others present. "Pups." He shook his head quietly, yet a small edge of sorrow was in his voice.
Nareena walked over to sit next to him, put an arm around him and lay her head on his shoulder. Wordless communication born of decades together passed between them.
Tabrin watched Duke watch the Huskies with something akin sadness in the dark brown Duck's expression, his own one of critical consideration. "Duke."
"Yes?" He dragged his attention back to his one-time lover and commander.
"My fight still your fight?" He matched Ebon's cold expression.
"You still fighting for that truth, justice and honor of the team and universe garbage?" Duke crossed his arms and met the stare.
Tabrin laughed and shook his head, then shifted his attention to Ebon. "He's as trustworthy as any thief I've retrained."
Ebon nodded, and smiled. "The word of a NightBlade is good enough for me." He got up and walked back to where Duke and Tabrin were standing.
The panther extended a welcoming hand to the dark Duck, and nodded when it was accepted a little wearily. "If you wish to join us, you'd be welcome, Duke. And you'll find being an thief is not something I have a problem with ... after all, my late mate was one of the best, and I'm still considered one of the better spies.
"And now I need to find out what the pups are up to ... it seems as though they're doing some sort of weapons development. Which isn't a bad thing, but they do need to be more careful where they test fire it." He smiled in slight amusement as he headed out the door.
"It's not a weapon." Duke spoke without most of his usual attitude. "Sounds like they were trying to play hockey."
Ebon stopped and turned back. "Play hockey? Well, it's not something I'm familiar with. Are these 'pucks' usually so dangerous?" It was very clear that Ebon wouldn't know one end of hockey stick from the other, save as a weapon application.
Nareena turned and leaned on the back of the seat. "I think a better question is are they going about playing hockey correctly? Things have been very serious of late ... what happened to the NightBlades who played as hard as they fought?"
Ebon couldn't bring himself to meet his mate's glance. He'd been so busy trying to avenge Zoran's death that everything else had become unimportant. "I don't know, 'Rena ... after Zoran ..."
The golden-furred canine put his arms around the big warrior. "Dad wouldn't want you to stop living just to get even for him, Uncle Ebon."
Ebon looked at the young Retriever fondly. "Maybe you're right, Ty. I guess it was easier to try and avenge him, then to accept that he was gone."
Duke swallowed as three rounds worth of flashbacks hit him at once. He shook his head to clear it as Tabrin put a hand on his shoulder in understanding.
"Why don't we go see, Ebon. I know how to play too, as does Jesse." The Mallard spoke up. "It's the planetary obsession of Puckworld."
Ebon smiled slightly. "Planetary obsession, huh?" He chuckled lightly, the Sandrock team was rather inventive. "Guess it must've caught on elsewhere 'cause Sandrocks' from Earth, a territory called Russia."
"Earth plays the game, just not well." Duke commented and followed Tabrin and Ebon outside.
Nareena watched him go, and sighed. "Fifty years, and nothing changes." She understood his pain, even shared it. But he refused to let go of the guilt he'd claimed, and it was the one thing all her healer gifts had been unable to touch.
Duke yanked Tabrin to one side. "You will explain these folks, and this war of yours. And how in the nine hells of Dragaunus I get out of here and back to civilization."
The Mallard nodded and gave them a little more distance from the action. "The original NightBlades are a terrorist unit that has turned against its masters, the Shadow Government, which is backed by the Mephits. They are as bad a Dragaunus, if not worse.
"They've picked up a few more members in the resistance, including an armored Mech unit I'm part of and a couple other random souls." Tabrin regarded his former teammate carefully. "As for getting back to civilization, we don't have cross-dimensional technology and taking you to the nearest Alliance planet will involve leaving the war for at least twenty days. The only ship we have capable of the trip is the Carrier, and that means taking the whole team out of action.
"If you really want out, you'll have to convince Ebon to take you." He placed a friendly hand on Duke's shoulder, "but listen to me, and give them a chance. This is a good cause, and a fine team. You might find you like working with a team, and the NightBlades are less than fussy about methods, as long as the results happen. Right up your ally."
"I already do." Duke grumbled, then smirked at the startled look that crossed Tabrin's face. "I've been playing on Canard's team since shortly after the invasion." He shook his head. "Even when we left Puckworld, and lost him, I stayed with the team."
"At least until circumstances change, do consider staying. You'll do some good with those skills of yours."
"Get me my gear back, and I'll play with these guys for a while." Duke chuckled and shook his head, more than a little annoyed with himself. "Like there was any real doubt I'd stay once you walked in."
"Love does that to you." Tabrin leaned forward and ruffled the feathers on Duke's neck.
"I do not love you." Duke snapped and pushed the other Duck away. "Don't push that line again."
A with soft sigh of disappointment Tabrin nodded and lead them back to the gathering.
Ebon raised an eyebrow as something Duke said obviously startled Tabrin, and the new Duck's clear displeasure at whatever he was being told.
The panther figured Tabrin could handle it, so he headed over to where Sandrock was attempting to convince several pieces of equipment to do something other that their original function. A fair number of the rest of the team had gathered as well.
Sergei spotted Ebon and ran over. "Commander, we were just taking down the equipment." He said breathlessly.
Ebon smiled. "You guys are trying to ... play hockey?"
Sergei nodded. "Yes, sir. But we didn't have a proper ice rink, so we tried to use the inertial dampener to remove some of the friction and make the ground like ice."
Ebon chuckled at the usual Sandrock inventiveness. "I take somebody misplaced a decimal point."
"Yes, sir. But we've got that fixed now."
"Good. Turns out you're in luck, Tabrin and our newest member, Duke, both know quite a bit about this hockey. If you're going to play hockey, you may as well do it correctly." He smiled in amusement, wondering what a game played on ice would look like.
"Then we can keep working on the 'rink'?"
The commander chuckled. "Yes, Sergei you can. Just be careful, no more holes okay?"
"Yes, sir. No more holes." The Husky ran happily back to his two teammates.
Ebon chuckled watching them, as he remembered back when Rifleman taught the first NightBlades team to play rugby. He realized that Nareena and Tyler were right, he'd forgotten that what had held the NightBlades together was that as serious as they were on missions; they played just as hard during downtime.
Duke listened to the increasingly playful and unabashed banter between the twenty-odd NightBlades over dinner with a heavy, jealous heart. It had been far too long since he'd been anywhere that was this comfortable with themselves ... not since he'd served with Tabrin, really.
Much less found a group this accepting of him. Tabrin's word or no, they'd taken him in ... an admitted thief ... and neither challenged his skill at it or seemed to care. He was a NightBlade if he cared to accept the title.
"Ebon?" He casually leaned towards the team leader. "What's the next mission that might see use of my ... skills?"
Ebon smiled remembering some of Cazi's early days as a NightBlade. There was some similarity between his late mate, and the newest NightBlade. "One of our standard missions, we drop in a covert team to sabotage defenses and grab as much data from a Mephit installation as we can; and then the armor group drops in and levels the place. That way they can't be sure what, if any, data was actually stolen." He grinned aggressively. "Also makes 'em rebuild the place."
"I can get behind that theory. It's what we did on Puckworld when we could."
Ebon nodded at Duke. "Another experienced covert entry person will make things significantly smoother. It's one less heavy weapons person who has to fake it at breaking and entering ... quietly."
Duke couldn't help but chuckle. "Quiet I'm good at," he smirked. "I'm more into liberating jewels than data alone, but the defenses won't know what hit them."
Ebon grinned broadly. "We'll do a resource acquisition mission later on. Oh, just to let you know: we have a basic small objects acquisition policy on missions ... if it's small enough that you can acquire it without compromising your mission and you feel want it, you can help yourself to it." He smiled. "We've had some of the most interesting things turn up that way. Besides, the enemy doesn't deserve to keep anything they can't protect."
"I like your style, Ebon." Duke couldn't help but notice a certain viciousness in a Ebon's voice when he referred to the enemy and grinned at it. "What are these Mephits we're trying to get rid of, and just what did they do?"
Ebon leaned back, and concentrated. A brief hologram of a small, predatory winged light purple being appeared briefly. "That's a Mephit. Don't let the small size fool you, they're vicious and they fight dirty; biological, chemical, even nuclear weapons are fair game as far as they're concerned. They also practice the art of covert and psychological warfare on an expert level. They don't discriminate between military and civilian targets, well sometimes I think they prefer civilian."
The panther's eyes narrowed. "As for what they've done ... ask Tyler," he indicated the young golden furred canine humanoid. "He lost his father, Zoran, to a Mephit seeker mine. Zoran was the one who organized our mobile arm, and rescued a lot of the Armor crews including your friend Tabrin. Zoran was trying to avenge his family who died in a Mephit bioweapon attack on a civilian colony." He paused briefly. "Zoran gave a lot of these folk a second chance at life, and they, we, took his death pretty hard.
"But personally, Nareena and I lost our mate Cazimir and our five year old son, Nathan in an attack by Mephit hired mercenaries." Ebon's voice was actually touched by grief, and a softness that surprised Duke.
"Sounds as bad as Dragaunus ...."
"They're much worse." Tabrin interrupted grimly. "Dragaunus is just a megalomaniac that happened to get lucky. This is an entire species that thrives on destruction."
"Got any redeeming qualities?" Duke didn't miss the sudden tension across the entire room at his question, and didn't care.
"No." Tabrin replied, as serious as anyone had ever seen him.
The dark brown Duck nodded to cover his shock that the Duck that could find good in anyone had condemned an entire species. "I see." He gave Tabrin another appraising glare with both natural and cybernetic eye. Then shifted his attention to take in Ebon as well. "Besides doing damage, what's you're goal in this?"
Ebon looked at him. "The near long-term is to disrupt Mephit support of the Shadow Government, which should cause its demise. After that, we do enough damage to Mephit military and industrial infrastructure to put them out of the 'destruction' business for a long time."
Nareena walked up quietly behind Ebon. "There are the very rare, non-malign individuals among the Mephit but they don't usually survive the 'growing up' process Mephits go through." She noticed a slight tension in the room. "However, these individuals are a rare aberration in the species, not really significant from a genetic standpoint and certainly not from a socio-political standpoint."
Duke considered that idly as he played with a fork. "Sounds like you have a real war going on."
Ebon nodded. "Unfortunately, the powers that be want to play politics with the whole thing, and pretend that peace with the Mephits is both possible and sustainable. And if a few lives get lost here and there in the process, that's unfortunate." He looked distant. "So we fight the war on our terms, maybe we can't engage them directly but we can give 'em nine kinds of hell just the same."
"Typical bureaucracy," Duke snorted, and returned his attention to the surprisingly good food, hoping for the flow of comradely would gather around him again.
Several of the NightBlades chuckled at Duke's bureaucracy comment, and then things fairly rapidly returned to their boisterous normal. But then again, nothing short of high explosives could have interrupted the NightBlades at play anyway.
Shadows of the Kat 4: NightBlades
Het Level is Low Slash Level is Femslash Level is None Herm Level is None
25 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written September 6, 2001 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall
Setting: Galactic Alliance, Mighty Ducks TAS
Primary Races: Canine, Duck, Felsin
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M).
Pairings: Duke L'Orange/Tabrin, Ebon/Nareena
Blurb: Duke gets sucked into a dimensional gate, and lands in a world he didn't even want to think about, a feline dominated one. But survivor that he is, he'll make the best of it.
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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