Author's Note: Once upon a time NightFox meowed on the Mission Genesis
Bulletin Board on the Sci-Fi Channel site. I asked when the crew
of the Deepwater got a cat, and the response was something like when I
wasn't looking. I threatened to write a story about it. Tonight
I found another meow, so I'm writing it. THIS IS TOTAL FLUFF. You
have been warned.
Thanks to my beta readers (especially Megan who pointed out some confusing points and character inconsistencies).
Rating: PG, for one kinda bad-ish word. But the Tomorrow People snuck it onto Nickelodeon three times in one sentence, so it can't be *that* bad.
Distribution: my web site, and if Karebear wants it for Karen's Deepwater, she's quite welcome to it. Anyone else ask and ye shall most likely receive. But if I find somewhere without permission, I'll ask you to take it down.
Cats and Critters
by Beth Epstein
"I'm telling you we should clone a tabby cat," Zak insisted between sips of his clear drink with orange bits floating in it.
"No, calico cats are prettier," Gret said.
"Don't you think we should talk to Bren and Lise about this?" Reb asked diplomatically, then continued shoveling his dinner into his mouth.
Various data chips were strewn over the table in Habitat, along with the others' drinks. Zak and Gret had been arguing over the five breeds cats in the gene bank for the last twenty minutes or so.
"Not really. We won't like what he has to say," Zak replied. "I don't get the feeling Bren would like having a cat around."
"No. We'd have cat hair all over Gen's circuitry, the food synthesizer and all of our quarters," Bren interrupted from the doorway leading to the bridge. "It's too big of a risk to the mission."
"What's a risk to the mission?" Lise asked from the doorway on the opposite side of Habitat.
"They want to clone a cat," Bren replied. "Those things shed."
Lise frowned, mulling over what to say.
"We have to do something, every thing's getting to everyone right now," Gret said. "What's your assessment of troop morale, soldier?"
"This crew is in desperate need of shore leave. According star charts, the nearest suitable planet is only two days away. Even you *civilians* can deal with it until then," Bren snapped in frustration and stormed back onto the bridge.
"I rest my case," Gret said.
"There are ways to guard Gen's circuitry. It'd take me an hour to make the upgrades," Zak added.
"I'll go see if I can talk some sense into him," Reb got up.
"No," Lise said, "let me go."
Reb made a sweeping gesture towards the bridge with his right hand, as if to say "be my guest". Gret glanced up at Lise, trying to look casual.
Lise winked. "Yours," she mouthed.
Gret smiled. She was glad that was clear.
"They can find ways around any other argument, you know, Bren," Lise said as entered the bridge. "It'll be a lot easier on them if you just tell them the truth."
"What truth is that? That we can't have a feline getting under everyone's feet when there's an emergency on?"
"You know what I mean," Lise said. "It has nothing to do with security or the ship. It's just plain hazardous to your health."
Bren whirled around. "You know?!" he asked accusingly, anger bubbling beneath the surface.
"I'm the ship's medical officer, Bren. What kind of doctor would I be if I didn't know?"
"You're right," Bren sighed, not meeting Lise's eyes. "I'm sorry." He turned back to the pilot's station in front of him.
"There's nothing to be embarrassed about, Bren, lots of people are allergic to cats," Lise said.
Bren just glared at her and then returned his attention to the Deepwater's course, balancing on one arm as if testing his strength.
"It's a medical condition, Bren. It doesn't mean you're weak," Lise sat next to him. "It's not your fault. In fact, you could think of it as your immune system being a little more hyper-vigilent than the rest of ours-- it thinks cat dander is an invading parasite and reacts accordingly. Just like..."
"Don't patronize me!" Bren snapped.
"Then quit being ridiculous," Lise replied evenly.
Zak rolled his eyes at that remark as he entered, carrying a data chip, which he handed to Bren. "Precautions against cat hair in Gen's circuitry."
"Precautions aren't foolproof," Bren argued. A brainstorm occurred to him, "What about a hairless cat?"
"No good, it's the dander," Lise replied.
"And those aren't in the database. Besides, what's the point if it doesn't have fur? Wait... dander? You mean skin flakes, Lise?" Zak asked.
"*Our* skin flakes off, Lise. It's not a problem for Gen's circuitry," Zak said. "Why would..."
"Not Gen's circuitry, my nose," Bren sighed.
Lise was right. Damn, he hated it when that happened.
Zak didn't say anything, just looked at him quizzically.
"I'm allergic to cats," Bren muttered into his hand. "My nose stuffs up and my face swells. My donor's little sister had to give up her cat even though it was a low dander one and she was giving it anti-dander shampoos twice a week. That allergic."
"Why didn't you say so? I'll go work on modifying a mag cage for goldfish," Zak said.
"Ten pounds or more of water? No way. Think sand and seashells," Bren grinned.
"Hermit crabs. Low maintenance, they don't need much space, we can get some old branches from hydroponics...." Bren, suddenly into the idea of having a ship's pet-- or two or three, was off and running....
* * *
Lise sat in the dimmed habitat area and watched the small crab moving its behind from one shell to another. Then started laughing hysterically.
"What's so funny?" Bren asked as he entered and started to dial up something to drink from the food synthesizer.
"Morgan's trying out that snail shell *again*," Lise laughed.
"Isn't that the sixth time this week?" Bren asked.
"We're going to have to raid Gret's collection again soon, aren't we?"
"Why?" Zak asked. Then he saw the small crab straddling two shells. "Morgan, really, you're beginning to look like an exhibitionist," he laughed. "Man, I still can't believe these silly guys were your idea, Bren. It's just so..."
"What?" Bren asked.
"Frivolous," Zak said. "Not to mention these guys' spontaneity. I mean, you couldn't do anything spontaneous if you tried."
"You mean like this?" Bren asked as he approached Zak.
"Hey!" Zak cried out as Bren poured the remainder of his fruit drink over Zak's head and then dashed out of the room.
Zak took off after him.
Lise looked at the tank. "Ok, guys, I'm impressed, you've even gotten Bren to lighten up a bit."
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