U.S.S. Mount Tar'Hana
"Are you certain this is all you require, Captain?"
Syoseo tied his small leather bag shut and nodded. "It should be enough, Setem. I had far less on my first journey, I can assure you."
The dark skinned Vulcan raised an eyebrow in a typical display of Vulcan curiosity. "Indeed. However, I should warn you, the 'Forge' is challenging enough for my own people, and we have evolved to be well suited for our planet. I am...hesitant, to allow you to go down without proper...warning."
Syoseo smiled, reaching up and grasping his dark blue hair. He pulled it behind his head and tied it off in a ponytail. "I appreciate your concern, friend. But I believe I am more than prepared for your Forge." He looked at himself in the mirror that hung on the wall next to his closet. He was forty years older, but the image before him reminded him of his first journey, when he was only a child of twenty. His boots were higher quality, replicated instead of hand-sewn by his uncle, and his water pouch held double what he had received the first time; they were small compromises, both with his Vulcan science officer and his age. There was no one to prove anything to except himself, so he could be forgiven the slight changes in equipment. Still, he had only the three nights of food stored in the old leather satchel that hung from his bare, snow-white chest, and his first knife tied around his waist with a leather belt that held up his pants.
He turned and faced his science officer, putting a hand on his shoulder. "If what you say is true, then Akoum was far less forgiving, and I went there as a child."
Setem nodded and stepped to the side to allow Syoseo room to walk past and out of his quarters. He followed close behind as they walked through the ship's corridor to the turbolift, and was still close behind when they stepped off and made their way to the transporter room.
Syoseo stepped onto the triangular platform and turned. The transporter officer was transfixed for a moment in shock at the sight of the bare-chested captain, and he turned to Setem for an explanation.
The Vulcan gave the operator a slight nod before turning back to the captain. He raised his hand in the traditional salute of his people. "Peace and long life, Syoseo en-Kor. And, good luck."
Syoseo smiled. "Energize."
Sas-A-Shar Desert, Vulcan
The bright light of the transporter effect seemed to linger forever before Syoseo realized it had already finished; the mid-day Vulcan sun was almost excruciatingly bright. The captain smirked as he briefly regretted not bringing the sunglasses his chief engineer, "Bert" Ackland, had offered him.
The Vulcan desert was definitely hot; Setem hadn't been exaggerating. He should have known better than to distrust the words of his Vulcan science officer, but time spent under the rule of the Romulan Empire had given Syoseo an unfair perception of Vulcans in general.
It was that unfair perception that drove him to explore the harshest part of their planet on this new journey. Not just to reaffirm his place among his own people, but to also see just how the Vulcans measured up to them. So far, they were measuring up quite well, better than the Romulans ever had on his homeworld of Zendikar.
"Captain, this is the Mount Tar'Hana, confirm you're where you want to be?"
Syoseo sighed; another compromise he had made unwillingly. He pressed the badge that he had affixed to the flap of his satchel. "Yes, Tar'Hana, this will do."
"Sounds good, sir. We'll see you...uh...when you're done?"
Syoseo shook his head, laughing lightly. "Affirmative. Syoseo, out." He pressed the badge again, then pulled it off the flap. He opened the bag, tossed the badge inside, and sealed it again before starting his hike.
The Kor captain shielded his eyes from the sun while he walked, taking in the sights of the Vulcan landscape. Mountains towered around him, rusty red and brown in color. Small shrubs and thick grasses grew here and there, but otherwise the desert was nothing but rocks, worn shards of glass, and small dunes of sand. The air was dry, and the gusts of wind only served to make almost unbearable heat even hotter.
As he continued walking, he was vaguely aware of another presence near him. He stopped occasionally, not bothering to turn around and look for his company; the barbels on his chin - tendril-like sensory organs that had reminded Bert of something called a "catfish" on Earth - gave him a sort of sixth sense that told him he was being followed a few meters back.
Setem had warned him of what he could find in the Forge. The le-matyas were his biggest concern, with their poisonous fangs and claws, and he decided to try climbing to higher ground while he still had light from the setting sun. He would need to find a roost for his sleep, and the higher off the ground he was, the safer he would feel.
He found a well-traveled path and followed it up to a ridge. When he reached the top he smiled.
The view was incredible. The setting sun lit the Vulcan desert with fire-like reds and oranges. Ancient statues of warriors with their lirpas held at the ready towered over the desert, and the blood-red crystal the statues seemed to be made of shone brightly in the dying light. He berated himself for not bringing a holo-recorder, but only for a moment; the bulky device would have meant more weight.
Delta Vega had barely begun to rise in the night sky by the time Syoseo had finished his roost. Satisfied with the net he had created with his ropes, he was closing his eyes when a blood-chilling scream caused him to sit up. His sixth sense was on full alert, but he didn't need it; below him, circling in frustration, was a large, brown, fur-covered beast resembling a bear with long, curving canine teeth. It screeched again in frustration, it's long tail whisking back and forth as it lifted its head to look at Syoseo.
The Kor watched in morbid fascination at his stalker. "Sorry, friend," he called down at the wild sehlat. "But I'm afraid I'm not interested in joining you for dinner tonight."
The sehlat stopped circling, looking up at Syoseo in what he was sure was a glare. It growled, then screeched again before running off back into the night.
The feeling of being watched was still pressing on his mind when Syoseo woke with the rising sun. The sehlat was no doubt still very nearby, watching him. Luckily for him, Syoseo preferred the height; after a few practice throws, he began to navigate the side of the canyon by throwing his ropes out, the large hooks at the end of them easily digging into the sometimes completely vertical cliff-face. He swung his way forward along the mountain pass with ease for hours, enjoying every moment as he felt as if he was flying. When he was sure he had left the sehlat far behind and frustrated, he let himself back down to the ground.
After a quick bite to eat, he continued on his way. The sun shone down mercilessly as the day progressed, and Syoseo was finding it harder to continue without more frequent breaks for water.
He frowned as he pulled out his water for what seemed like the hundredth time that day; he was certainly not as young as he had been on his first journey. The volcanic plains of Akoum, though, were still hotter, and for the entire day, at least. That was something Syoseo had not even considered - when the sun set on Vulcan, the night was actually much colder than the day.
The wind blew, kicking up dust and sand and blasting it into Syoseo's back. It wasn't until he heard a roar behind him that he turned to look.
Barreling towards him was a wall of hot sand, violent winds pushing the sandstorm forward at incredible speed. Just barely visible in the dust were discharges of electricity. Setem had warned him of this: Sandfires.
They were incredibly dangerous to be caught in.
Without a second thought Syoseo turned and ran, his eyes quickly scanning the rock walls that rose up on either side of him in the small canyon he had found himself in. Bolts of lightning flew past him, being hurled from the storm as it chased him. There was a strip of darkness to his left; Syoseo quickly bolted towards it, hoping his judgment was correct. As he neared it, he could feel the hot sand beginning to pelt him.
Sure enough, as Syoseo drew closer, he could see it was an entrance to a small cave. He dove in just as the sandfire caught up to him, and had to roll off to the side to keep from being struck by errant bolts of electricity. He allowed his eyes time to adjust to the darkness and proceeded deeper in and away from the open entrance.
The cave opened up to a wider space, almost like a room. He was vaguely aware of the size thanks to the extra sense he possessed, but even the dim light being thrown in from the entrance and reflected by the crystals and metals in the cavern's walls allowed him to see the room he had entered. There were no rock formations, no dripping stalactites; just an empty room, with a slab of stone in the center like an ancient altar.
Syoseo gazed around the small room, intrigued. He was silently wishing he could have had a torch to explore further when he stopped, the hairs on the back of his neck rising as he felt another presence in the room with him.
In one deft movement he grabbed the hilt of his knife and unsheathed it as he spun around, raising the blade in defense. There was a low growl, and a large, hairy mass collided with him, knocking him to the ground. Syoseo jabbed with his knife, thrusting it deep into the body of his attacker as long claws tore at his arm and body. Hot, sickening breath blew in his face as more claws swiped at his body. Syoseo pulled the knife out and stabbed again, thrusting it deeper.
There was a scream, and Syoseo kicked his legs with all his strength to knock the beast off of him. Once the weight had been lifted, he jumped to his feet, facing off with the animal. Even in the dim light he could tell what it was from just the gleam of its long fangs: a wild sehlat.
"So, my friend, have you been following me all this time?"
The sehlat lowered its head, a low growl issuing from its throat. It began to circle around the small room, watching the Kor intently as Syoseo matched its movement, not allowing the sehlat to get behind him again. Keeping the knife level, he reached with his other hand to the bundle of ropes he kept slung across his chest; he pulled the large iron hooks out, wrapping the rope around his arm and securing it with one of the hooks, while the other he let fall just enough so that it was hanging from his hand. The hooks were the ancient symbol of his people, and for good reason; not only were they used for travelling, but they also made incredibly vicious weapons and hunting tools. Syoseo let enough slack from the rope drop down to allow him to keep his distance from the wild animal.
The sehlat screamed again, the noise echoing in the small chamber, and pounced. Syoseo took a step back and, in one fluid motion, flung his new weapon out. The hook swung wide, burying itself into the sehlat's side. When the captain felt it catch he spun, gripping the rope tight as he strained to fling the hooked animal. The sehlat howled in pain as it continued flying in a wide arc in the air, slamming into the cavern wall. Syoseo pulled back on the hook and it ripped out, causing the beast to howl in pain again. The captain grabbed the hook as it flew back to him, then readied himself for another assault.
The sehlat was slow to climb back to its feet. When it finally did, Syoseo saw that its side was matted with blood, and it was limping as it slowly circled him again. With a low growl, it stopped at the stone altar and climbed on top of it. Syoseo lowered himself slightly, preparing for the beast to jump at him from its higher ground. It walked in a quick circle, taking its eyes off Syoseo for only a second before plopping down with a growl. It began to lick its wound, watching the Starfleet captain with a baleful expression.
Syoseo was stunned, and remained in his stance, waiting for the sehlat to show interest in him again. Surely, he was awake, wasn't he? But here it was, right in front of him in the dim light; the animal had lay down in front of him to lick its wounds.
"Giving up so easily, friend?" Syoseo relaxed his stance, but kept his knife unsheathed in case the animal changed its mind. The sehlat lifted its head to look at him, watching to see what he would do after he spoke, then went back to licking its wound. "Surely I couldn't have harmed you that badly." He knelt down, taking his satchel off.
The sehlat kept an eye on the Kor while it still licked its wounds. It whimpered slightly, but otherwise did nothing to show interest in the captain. Syoseo took out a small package of dried meat, wrapped in a thin cloth. He pulled some out, and the sehlat stopped, taking in a large sniff. Syoseo ate some, then tossed a bit to the animal. "Here, friend. I'm sure you're hungry if you tried to eat me."
The sehlat moved toward the small piece of jerky and took a large sniff before licking it tentatively. It made a low grumbling noise in the back of its throat, then licked the meat up into its mouth.
Syoseo didn't dare relax enough to sit down on the ground - that would be tempting the spirits, who seemed content to play this trick on him with the sehlat who wouldn't attack him suddenly - but took another bit of the dried meat and tossed it up onto the altar for the sehlat. It ate it up greedily, then looked over at him, waiting for more.
Syoseo took another small bite; it was dried out, and not at all very appetizing. He sighed, then tossed what was left of the package up to the animal. "Here; I don't have the stomach for this, I'm afraid." He knew he had plenty more food for his trek, so giving up the rest of the dried meat to the animal wouldn't be detrimental to him. Not breaking his eye contact, he reached in to the pack, fishing out another bundle of ropes and hooks. The storm was still raging outside from what he could hear, and it probably would for the rest of the day. If he was going to spend the rest of it in the cave with the sehlat, he thought, it would be better to do it on the ceiling, no matter how domesticated the beast appeared to be now.
The sehlat watched him throw his hooks to the ceiling with apathetic interest - eyeing the vicious hooks more than the Kor - and lost interest once he had climbed the rope up to the small roost he had set up by tying his ropes into a makeshift net. Before Syoseo was even comfortable in his "bed," he could hear the animal taking deep, steady breaths below him.
Syoseo chuckled and shook his head. "Goodnight, friend. I promise I won't kill you in your sleep if you don't kill me in mine."
A quick huff below him interrupted the steady breathing for a moment, as if the animal had replied.
Syoseo laughed again. "Surely, this is the maddest conversation I've had since Akoum."
He awoke with a start, very aware that the dark cave was silent. His extra sense was eerily quiet, despite the fact that, he knew, he had a sleeping sehlat under him. Or, at least, it was supposed to be sleeping still.
He unhooked one of his ropes and let the heavy hook drop to the floor with a clatter. As the echo died into silence he strained, listening for any sign that he wasn't alone.
No movement in the shadows, no muffled movements or heavy breathing. No growls or scratch of claws on dirt.
Syoseo took a deep breath; he knew better than to doubt his "sixth sense," but the thought of dropping down into the dark cave, where he knew only hours earlier a wounded sehlat had been lying, was frightening. He had been lucky to catch the animal off guard with his hook and rope; dropping down now, he would have very little time to recover and defend himself if the animal was lying in wait for him.
"Spirits, this is stupid."
He finished untying his net of ropes, stuffing them back into his satchel. He kept a rope out, which he prepared by wrapping enough of it around his arm to anchor it and leaving a hook with enough slack to swing. After taking a steadying breath and gathering his courage, he rappelled down the rope he had been clinging to, the one he had allowed to drop to the bottom to see if his friend was still in the cave. He landed hard on the stone floor and rolled to his feet, getting up quickly with the hook raised, ready to lash out.
He met only darkness and silence. No light was reflecting into the cave; the sun must have set some hours ago, and the sandfire had finished as well. His eyes were already adjusted, but it was still difficult to see. The tendrils hanging from his chin helped him determine the route to the entrance way, thanks to the light flow of air; after some time wandering through the passageway, he found the entrance and stumbled out into the cold desert night.
The wind swept across the plain, making the only sound he could hear besides his own breath and the crunch of stone beneath his feet. He gathered his bearings as best he could before he continued along in the night.
It was certainly cooler at night, making it much easier to travel as opposed to the heat of the day. He only hoped he had slept for more than just a handful of hours. Without a chronometer handy, he had no way of knowing just how long he had been sleeping in the cave, or how long it would be till the sun rose again. He finally decided he didn't care; he had sat in the command chair of his ship on more than one occasion with little - if any - sleep when the situation arose.
The situation was much more relaxed here, in his eyes. He'd be able to make it.
Luckily, he had only gone for maybe an hour or two at most before the sky began to change from dark black to a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and purples as the sun rose again. It finally peeked up from the horizon, igniting the sky with brilliant light.
He finally stopped to take a drink, finding some shade behind a rock. He sat down on the ground, finally looking over his now brown skin. He had a few scrapes on his side and stomach, and a scratch of two from where the sehlat had struggled with him. His right arm had taken most of the attack, as it had been the one he had held up to defend himself with; two large gashes were scabbed over, and dried dark-blue blood covered his arm. He laughed a little; he hadn't even noticed when he was struggling with the sehlat. He glanced down at his chest, seeing that it was covered in dried blood as well. The greenish tinge distinguished it as the sehlat's, from where he had stabbed the beast.
"You got yours, I got mine, my friend." He laughed, taking another drink. "Setem will have a Vulcan fit over this, I am sure."
His thirst satisfied, Syoseo stood, repacking his water in his satchel. If what he remembered from the map he had seen of the Forge, he still wasn't half-way through his journey. As the sun continued to climb in the sky, he marched on, ever aware of a presence behind him, stalking him once again. He smiled, fighting off the urge to turn and wave at the beast following him.
Sleep was fleeting that night, despite how long his day of travel had been. The feeling of being watched invaded his dreams, causing restless fits in his sleep that woke him up just as he felt himself begin to fall, his tossing and turning causing his net to swing in the air.
When he opened his eyes, the sense was even stronger. Whatever was hunting him was watching him closely, and from very near. He did his best not to move anymore than he already was, sniffing the wind for any hint of his target.
It wasn't right; the presence felt too...extreme. It wasn't just hunting him; there was almost malice in the way Syoseo felt his stalker. It was vicious. This wasn't his friend, the sehlat, from the previous days.
This was something else entirely.
It was close by, and well hidden; he could have caught the sehlat with just the cursory look around the position that he now took. "This isn't right. This is...intelligent, more so than that sehlat." He rolled over onto his stomach, searching the dark mountain ridge desperately. "Come out, hunter. Show yourself."
The silence went unbroken for what seemed like hours, and the dark shadows on the ground never moved. Syoseo struggled to keep his eyes open as the night trudged on, unable to find his target.
It wasn't until the sun began to rise that the first beast appeared, slowly leaving his cover. Its dark grey hide and feline build identified it as a le-matya. Syoseo felt his heart race faster at the revelation; these beasts were as dangerous as the sehlats, with the added bonus of the poison in their fangs and claws. And, if his extra sense was to be trusted, there was more than just one of the vicious animals near him.
The beast he could see growled, looking up at him with its ears pressed flat against its skull. It made a series of calls before disappearing behind a boulder.
What are you planning...?
Syoseo could feel a jolt in his body, as if electricity had suddenly coursed through it, and he spun around before the hot breath had registered on his skin. He grabbed at a knot and pulled one of the ropes, instantly destroying his net and sending him tumbling away as a second le-matya swiped at him from above. He grabbed his climbing rope and held on, stopping himself well above the ground; he swung wildly in the air and hit the rock face with his back, nearly knocking the wind out of him. His hands slipped and he fell further down the rope.
He finally managed to wrap the rope around his bare arm, and the friction of it on his skin burned him until he finally stopped just inches from the ground.
There was a growl, and Syoseo kicked off the ground and to his left, driven by his sixth sense. Still hanging onto the rope, he swung around and away as the first le-matya lunged from its cover, swiping at him with its deadly claws.
A second - or perhaps a third now? He was starting to wonder just how many there were behind all the rocks and boulders - le-matya lunged from another hiding spot, and Syoseo had just enough time to lift his legs out of the way and then push off the cat-like beast with them, tossing his body further into the air while making sure the new hunter fell to the ground with a whimper. As the rope swung him around back to the rock face, he glanced down, looking for more.
Three of the rough-skinned animals were on the ground, following him ravenously except for the one he had kicked back to down- that one was taking its time to find its feet, still dazed from the unexpected meeting it had had with the ground.
He reached out, hoping to grab hold of the rock face. His fingers dug in as he hit the stone wall hard, the impact causing him to bounce off. He wasn't able to find a hand hold and swung back, his feet finally dragging on the ground and bringing him to a stop. He quickly flicked his wrist, sending a wave up through the rope and releasing the deadly iron hook from the mountain-side. He caught it before it could hit the ground and he immediately lowered himself, facing off against one of the beasts.
A jolt of intuition hit him has he sensed another opponent, but it was too late. Syoseo was forced to the ground as the fourth le-matya, the one that had ambushed his roost, landed on him, tearing at his back and legs with its claws. Before it could deliver a fatal wound to his neck with its powerful jaws, the Kor rolled forward; as he spun onto his back, he brought his feet up and underneath the animal and, with a loud shout, kicked it off of him and towards the first.
He finished his roll, stopping on his hands and knees just as a growl warned him of just how dangerously close he was to the beast; it had side-stepped its companion-turned-projectile and stopped, just inches from Syoseo's face. Syoseo stared down the le-matya, a slight grin playing over his lips. He spat on the ground between them, but otherwise didn't move from his position on the ground. The Vulcan sand scalded his hands and knees despite the coolness of the night, and he could feel heat on his exposed back as the sun began to rise behind him.
"What do you want, beast?"
The creature recoiled slightly at the sound of his voice, as if not expecting its prey to make a noise. It leaned forward again, lowering its head and growling. It prepared to pounce on him and finish him, with either a bite from its powerful jaws or, at worst, slashing at him with its poisonous claws. It growled again, lowering its ears.
Syoseo wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. He kept his hand raised, ready to protect his face.
There was a scream nearby, causing both of the foes to turn and look for the source.
One of the le-matyas turned its head just in time to be barreled over by the large, fur-covered mass of a sehlat, the beast's long fangs digging deep into the surprised animal's neck and head. With a growl it shook the le-matya furiously, letting it fling into a nearby boulder with surprising force; the attacked beast hit the rock with a sickening thud, and then lay still on the ground, its head bent backwards in an unnatural position. The sehlat screamed again, squaring off against the rest of the le-matyas; Syoseo saw that its side was matted and dark, and the animal was favoring one of its massive front paws.
The captain found himself smiling in genuine relief at the sight of the animal. Seeing his chance, he shot his hand out, lodging the hook he held deep in the skull of the le-matya that stood in front of him while it was turned, snarling at the new combatant. The animal roared in pain and writhed on the ground as Syoseo let go of the hook, keeping the rope it was attached to secured around his arm while he vaulted over it towards the sehlat. Once he felt the beast's death throes had ceased, he yanked hard on the rope, bringing the weapon flying back to his hand with a sound of bone shattering. He stood next to the sehlat, suddenly realizing just how stupid he was for being this close to another animal that had already tried killing him once.
The furred animal looked at him in surprise, lowering its ears and growling at him in warning. Syoseo took half a step away and turned his back on the beast in time to see the remaining two le-matyas stalking forward, incensed by the deaths of their pack-mates. They snarled and snapped their jaws, lowering themselves to the ground in preparation to attack.
Syoseo turned his head enough to see the sehlat while keeping the two predators in his periphery. "Friend?"
The sehlat's eyes glanced at him for a second, then back to the other two animals. It took a step forward, growling deep in the back of its throat, lowering its head in preparation. The Kor lowered himself next to it as well, letting the large hook in his hand drop down a bit with slack, ready to swing it.
"I'll take the one on the left."
The sehlat let loose another of its screeches, and Syoseo felt even more unnerved by the sound in such close proximity. It leapt with surprising agility, closing the distance between itself and the le-matya on the left with a speed neither the le-matya nor Syoseo were expecting. The two grappled, powerful jaws and sharp claws ripping at one another in a deadly dance.
Syoseo sighed; it had gone after the le-matya he had had the slack to take out from a distance. He turned, watching the second le-matya as it ignored its friend, focusing solely on the lone humanoid. It charged with a furious roar. Syoseo brought the hook up, swinging it around above his head. Faster and faster it spun around until he finally let it fly forward.
The le-matya dodged and continued its charge. Without pausing, Syoseo pulled back on the rope. With a blood curdling scream of its own, the le-matya fell to the ground, the heavy hook lodged in its spine behind its front shoulders. Syoseo spun the rope in a wide arc, causing it to wrap around the fallen beast's neck. With a graceful tug, the Kor tightened the rope with a speed that snapped its neck. It was dead before its head hit the ground.
There was a crash of stone behind him, and the captain turned to see the second le-matya sliding down the flat face of a boulder, blood smearing down after it. It, too, was still when it hit the ground.
The victorious sehlat and Kor locked eyes for a moment, and Syoseo was briefly afraid the beast would make another attempt on his life. It took a step forward with a low growl.
Syoseo dropped the rope he was holding and held up his arms, ready to defend himself when the sehlat stumbled forward, falling into the rough sand. The captain stayed where he was, confused for a moment, until the burning sensation on his back seemed to creep deeper inside him, slowly into his arms and up his neck. He staggered forward, gritting his teeth.
The poison. Syoseo cursed; at least one le-matya had gotten the drop on him - literally - and done a number on his back. He knew he had hours to get help, but he needed to contact that help first. He had dropped his satchel in the small battle that had been fought, and now he desperately searched for it.
The sehlat groaned in pain, barely lifting its head up to watch Syoseo as he fell onto his hands and knees and began to crawl, still looking for his bag. He finally found it, hidden behind a rock and severely ripped, spilling most of the contents onto the ground. He dumped the rest of the bag out, sifting through the bundle of extra rope and small packets of food until his eyes spotted a flash of gold and silver. He pressed it desperately; not hearing the beep that warned him of an error, he called out, "Tar'Hana, this is Syoseo! Emergency beam out..." he paused, glancing at his unlikely ally. "Emergency beam out for myself and a wounded sehlat! Medical emergency!"
His ears were ringing now, but he could faintly hear the reply of the officer - probably Bert, still in command - before his vision disappeared in a sparkly haze of blue and white light.
U.S.S. Mount Tar'Hana
"That is one hell of a story, Cap'." Bert chuckled, lifting a dark green bottle to his lips and taking another drink.
Setem raised an incredulous eyebrow in agreement with the engineer. "Indeed" was all he said in reply as he sat up straight in his chair.
Syoseo shook his head at the Vulcan. "I befriend a wild animal after defeating it once and it saves my life, and all you can manage is an 'indeed?'" He laughed, taking a drink from his own glass.
Setem tilted his head in thought. "It was not wild, captain."
Bert and Syoseo both stopped, slowly refocusing on the science officer. Bert snickered. "Not wild? How so?"
The Vulcan gave the tiniest lift of the shoulders before continuing. "I am pointing out that the sehlat captain Syoseo encountered was domestically bred. It was considerably smaller than a wild sehlat should be, and had been groomed at least twice."
"How can you be sure?" Syoseo asked, not believing what he was hearing.
"Its teeth were polished. And, besides a few recent nicks, were whole." The Vulcan lifted his glass of water and took a sip. "It was a domestic sehlat that, more than likely, ran from its home and wandered into the Forge some weeks or months ago."
Bert couldn't contain his laughter any longer; he let loose a loud guffaw before slapping his captain on the back. "Saved by a housecat? I think I liked your story better the first time."
Setem lifted his eyebrow again in confusion. "Sehlat's are not felines. They are more closely related to Earth's ursine-"
Bert waved him off, interrupting him. "A house pet, Setem, that was my point." He looked over at his now fuming captain and laughed again. "Thinking about finishing that vacation of yours?"
Syoseo glared at the engineer. "As soon as you finish buffing the floors on the ship."
"Well, thank God for carpets." Bert took another drink, still smirking.
Sas-A-Shar Desert, Vulcan
They were back in the Forge now, and Syoseo found that after the two days spent in the cool Mount Tar'Hana, he was once again finding it difficult to be comfortable in the impossible heat. The Vulcan sun beat down heavily on him and his companion as they stood on the rocky mountainside, and he deeply regretted not returning to the place out of uniform.
The "wild" sehlat was resting on its hind legs, looking quickly around in bewilderment. One minute, it had been in a cell in the brig - it made for a nice enclosure to safely contain the animal from the crew while it had recovered - and then the next, it found itself back on Vulcan, in the inhospitable Forge.
"I know, friend. It was confusing the first time I used it as well." Syoseo knelt down in front of the animal, offering a hand for it to smell. It looked distrustfully at the Kor for a second, then stepped forward, putting its massive head under the offered hand. Syoseo smiled, running his fingers through the wiry fur of the beast. "Yes, I believe I should miss you as well."
The sehlat made an almost content noise in its throat, closing its eyes and pushing into Syoseo's hand, trying to elicit more petting from the captain.
Syoseo laughed, rubbing the animal's head quicker for a moment before standing up. He frowned sadly. "I must go, friend."
The sehlat seemed to understand once again; it stared at him for a moment and made a small, frustrated sound. It took a hesitant step towards him.
Syoseo took a step back, shaking his head. "There is no room on the ship for you. Out here, you are still free." He smiled. "I'll be back; I need to finish this journey."
The sehlat stopped, growling in frustration more.
"Perhaps, when I come back, you can join me again?"
The sehlat and Syoseo locked eyes again. The beast let out a breath, as if sighing, before turning around. It took a few steps away before turning its head to look back at Syoseo again.
The captain smiled and, without thinking, lifted a hand and waved. The beast lowered its head in what Syoseo could have sworn was a nod, before it turned back again and took off into the desert.
Syoseo watched for a moment, half hoping and expecting the animal to come running back. When he was satisfied that it had left, he tapped the comm-badge affixed to his chest.
"Syoseo to Mount Tar'Hana. One to beam up."