Title: Congrats, Your New Partner is a Space Case
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: December 2, 1999
Original date: 1997

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Felina Feral had just set one foot on the first rung of the access ladder to her jet when she heard someone calling her name.

"Captain Feral!"

She turned her head to see a short, red-haired she-kat about her own age, maybe a little younger, running towards her. As she watched, the other she-kat skidded to a stop beside the jet, slightly out of breath.

"They told me I might not catch you - glad I did," the redhead panted between breaths, a bright smile on her face. Then, she straightened up and saluted smartly. "Lieutenant Kristen Sharpe, at your service and a pleasure to meet you - I'm your new weapons officer."

Felina was trying to make heads or tails out of the strange greeting when that last sentence clicked in her brain.

"Weapons officer? I've never had a weapons officer!"

"Well, first time for everything," Kristen responded brightly.

"Ahhh...." Felina searched for the right words.

Sensing quickly, that the idea of a partner wasn't exactly thrilling to Felina, Kristen jumped in before the dark-haired she-kat could say anything further.

"Okay, before you go beg your uncle to have me reassigned, let me try to change your mind. Number one, I'm small - you'll never even know I'm there 'til something in front of the jet goes -BOOM!- I can be a great conversationalist or quiet as a mouse - I'm really useful in a game of Trivial Pursuit because I'm just full of useless trivia..."

Kristen stopped for a second to breath. Felina felt it a wise move as Kristen had been chattering nonstop. No sooner had the thought flitted through her mind than she realized that the perky redhead was about to begin her spiel again. Hastily, Felina jumped in.

"How's about you go up with me now and we'll see how it goes?"

'Why did I say that?' Felina thought with an inward groan an instant later.

The other she-kat's glowing smile was some recompense, however.

"Ohhh.... AWESOME!!!" Kristen was practically dancing from foot to foot.

Felina motioned for her to come up and climbed into her seat wondering just how "awesome" this was going to be. Kristen seemed just a few apples shy of a full barrel.

Kristen took her seat quickly and they were off, leaving the top of Enforcer Headquarters far behind. Felina headed the jet for the Enforcer training grounds on the outskirts of the desert. Several minutes passed in silence as the training grounds came into sight.

"Please identify yourself," suddenly crackled over the radio.

"Captain Felina Feral - going for my practice run... I'm about five minutes early," Felina returned into her headset.

"You're clear, Captain Feral," the voice on the other end responded.

"Roger that. Get ready, Lieutenant Sharpe," Felina called back to the other she-kat as they neared the target area.

There was no reply. For the first time, she realized that Sharpe had been amazingly quiet since the flight began.

"Lieutenant, get your mind on what you're doing and get ready for some target practice," Felina barked, this time a harsh, warning edge in her voice.

Still, there was only silence from the weapons officer's seat as the first target loomed ever nearer.

"Lieutenant Sharpe...!" Felina started to yell, twisting in her seat to find the other she-kat. The telltale sound of a missile detaching from the rail beneath the jet abruptly informed her that one of her missiles had been fired. She jerked around and watched as it streaked toward the target, hitting it dead center.

"Lieutenant, what are you...?" Felina started to yell again when she heard the first, faintest of sounds from behind.

"Hmmm.... What was that, Captain Feral?" Kristen asked, her voice like that of someone waking from a dream, a stark contrast to her earlier perkiness.

"What were you doing?!" Felina demanded.

"Huh...?"

"I've been calling your name and you wouldn't answer!"

"I didn't hear anything."

Felina rolled her eyes and moaned inwardly.

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"Uncle, I can't work with her - she's literally schizophrenic," Felina groaned emphatically as she stood before her uncle's desk. She had never tried to use her relationship to the Commander of the Enforcers for any "special favors." She even resented her uncle's tendency to be more lenient with her than other Enforcers, despite its perks. But now... drastic times called for drastic actions.

"One minute she's talking my ear off and then in the jet she's having some kind of mind out of body experience!"

"I'm well aware of Lieutenant Sharpe's... 'peculiarities,' Felina," Commander Feral remarked evenly, presenting Felina with a stern gaze. "But, she's also one of the best weapons officers we have now. And, despite my limited tolerance for eccentric officers, her discipline record is faultless..."

"But, she spaces out in flight situations! Who even knows what she'd do under combat conditions!"

"Did you know that when she 'spaces out' her aim is perfect?" Feral asked mildly. "According to the last pilot she flew with, she doesn't always do that, but when she does, she never misses."

"I don't care if she's mind-melding with the target - I'd like to know that my weapons officer's mind isn't off on Alpha Centauri!" Felina wailed.

"Felina... You asked me to treat you like any other officer... I'm trying to give every pilot in the squadron a weapons officer. You all need someone else up there watching your back." Feral paused. "My decision is final. You're having a partner. Give Sharpe a week... Then, and only then, if you still can't work together, come back and we'll discuss the matter."

Felina sighed. Her uncle's reasoning was right on this issue. But, that didn't mean she liked it.

"Yes, Sir..."

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Felina was moodily trudging down the hallway in her civvies when her new partner found her again.

"Captain Feral!"

'Oh, no...' Felina sighed and turned to face the Queen of Perkiness, who was bounding down the hallway toward her. 'I am not gonna be all buddy-buddy just because you're my partner.....,' she silently growled to the over-excited Kristen.

Kristen reached her at last and skidded to a stop.

"I just wanted to tell you that it's an honor to be flying with you," Kristen commented, dropping her gaze away from Felina's face, suddenly shy. "You have quite a reputation you know..." Her sparkling green eyes again met the captain's as she saluted smartly. "I'll try not to let you down!" With that, she was gone, dashing back down the hallway.

Felina looked after her and slowly, oh so slowly, let a smile cross her face.