A FOREST TALE 24: More Terrible Than Chains (a.k.a. Leannaís Story)
Part 5: Future Courses
By Bernard Doove © 2005

"Are you sure this is what you want to be doing, Leanna?" Rosepetal asked.

The past few days had seen Leanna slip into a routine of childminding and studying. Every morning after hir daily scan by MíLai, shi joined the family for breakfast, then was left in charge of the children. Having decided that Forestwalker had learned enough about the fennec, shi had been put back onto helping with the massive task of sorting through the ex-slaves and assessing their capabilities, leaving Leanna to cope with the cubs by hirself. Shi was pleased with both the responsibility and the trust they had in hir, and strove never to let the family down. Occasionally Forest would ask Leanna to join hir to get the fennecís insight on some of the more promising or needy morphs, leaving Yeoman DíArmand to hold the fort, but even so hir days had their quiet moments, and shi put them to good use studying various subjects that shi had determined to be necessary to qualify formally as a teacher. This had not gone unnoticed by Rosepetal though, and she had asked what Leanna was doing.

"Itís the first time in my life that Iíve had a career goal other than minding cubs, and it feels right to me," Leanna insisted.

"I just wanted to be certain. I love and trust my co-mate, but chakats have a habit sometimes of getting over-enthusiastic about some things that they think are good ideas, and I donít want you to be doing this just because you have been swept up in hir zeal."

"Believe me, I gave it a lot of thought before deciding to go ahead. Someone helped me put things into perspective, and this is the right thing for me to do."

The Caitian smiled. "Then Iím certain that you will succeed. Let me know if you need any help though. Any one of the family would be only too happy to assist you. Weíre all wanting you to find your place in our society, and in our home."

Leanna was gratified by Rosepetalís support. Although the material wasnít terribly difficult, it was nevertheless intensive study. After dinner, Leanna went straight to hir cabin to continue hir studies in peace. However, as shi still liked to do occasionally, shi took a break to do a little discreet exploration of the ship. Shi had a pretty thorough knowledge of the layout of the starship by now, and had been considering how to go about investigating sections that were obviously off-limits to the civilians. Shi had finagled hir way into some low-security areas already and, as hir explorations had continued, hir confidence had grown also. Shi would find a way. But not tonight. Leanna headed to hir new favourite spot: the coffee lounge.

Leanna sipped some of the foam off hir hot cappuccino as shi admired a particularly impressive star cluster that they were currently passing. Out of the corner of hir eye shi noticed a form settle to hir side. Thinking that it was hir friend, Moyshu, come to join hir for one of their regular coffee chats, shi was taken by surprise when another personís voice spoke.

"I never tire of sights like these either."

Recognising the voice, Leanna turned to observe the totally black-furred chakat seated next to hir, gazing out the windows. Midnight had on hir uniform top with the silver-grey of Security and hir rank tabs of Lieutenant Commander and, although shi also had a mug of steaming coffee in hir hand, Leanna felt that the chakat was never truly quite off-duty when in uniform. This had implications that shi wasnít too happy with as shi had yet to tell anybody about hir trips to the coffee lounge, not to mention other exploratory trips.

"Am I in trouble, Midnight?" Leanna asked apprehensively.

A slight smile quirked on Midnightís muzzle. "For having a cappuccino? I donít think so."

The humorous answer threw Leanna momentarily, and shi sipped some of the beverage to steady hirself. The fact that shi was away from hir cabin without notification was now obvious, so shi might as well get it all out in the open.

"I thought that this being a military ship, you might not want me to be anywhere except my cabin, yours, and sickbay."

Midnight smiled reassuringly. "While this is indeed a military ship, the Pegasus also carries many families and dignitaries, so there has to be a certain amount of freedom of movement. If we had been concerned about your movements, we would have had you escorted everywhere, and your cabin door would be locked." Shi peered off into space, apparently enjoying the view, and said, "However, there are places where neither that uniform youíre wearing, nor sexual allure, would gain you admission. There are others where even trying would get you thrown into the brig." Midnight glanced at Leanna, adding, "And parts of the ship are outright dangerous to those ignorant of the workings."

Although Midnight had not even hinted that shi suspected Leanna of trying to do anything untoward, at that moment Leanna knew with absolute certainty that the Chief of Security somehow knew of hir first visit to the hangar decks, and probably most, if not all of hir subsequent unannounced explorations. Shi thought quickly and hard, covering up by seeming to concentrate on hir drink. Shi quickly came to the conclusion that Midnight was subtly warning hir unofficially, and it was in hir best interest to listen.

"I completely understand, Midnight," was all shi said.

The chakat nodded in acknowledgement and the two finished off their drinks while watching the stars pass. When Leanna put down hir empty mug, Midnight asked, "Would you like another, Leanna?"

Leanna shook hir head. "No thanks. Any more than one cup of coffee makes me hyper, and I need my sleep to cope with your cubs tomorrow."

Midnight laughed. "Yes, I can fully empathise with that! Iíd better head off to bed myself," shi added, getting up. "Iíll see you in the morning, Leanna."

"Goodnight, Midnight," Leanna said and watched the shadowy felitaur leave. Then shi considered what had just happened. Midnight had always struck hir as being sharp of mind. Tonight had set that notion firmly in concrete. Obviously there were a lot of differences between security on the estates of hir former masterís competitors and that of a military starship. Very sophisticated ones. Perhaps it was time to stop hir secret, or not-so-secret-anymore, investigations. Leanna decided that in future, shi would never assume that shi had gotten away with anything when it involved the shipís head of security.

A few days later, Leanna learned another side of the panther chakatís nature. Midnight came off hir shift early and asked Leanna for a favour.

"Sure, Midnight, what is it you want?"

"Iím setting up a surprise for Forest. I just need a little assistance now, and later shi and I will be very pre-occupied, so could I get you to stay back tonight if necessary to help with the cubs?"

This got Leanna curious, but there was never any doubt that shi would knock back the childminding duties. "No problem. What can I help you with?"

"I need a bit of help with my wardrobeÖ."

When Forest returned to the cabin, Leanna was waiting for hir with a drink and an energy snack. The chakat looked at hir curiously. "This is unusual, Leanna. What are these for?"

Leanna grinned widely. "Believe me, youíre going to need them. Midnight asked me to tell you to have these, freshen up, then meet hir in the sleeping quarters."

This naturally put Forestwalkerís curiosity into overdrive, and shi started moving in the direction of the bedroom. Leanna, still wearing the grin, smartly blocked hir way. "Shi also said to stop you from jumping the gun, so I suggest you do as shi asks."

Forest knew that the diminutive fennec could hardly stop a determined chakat, but also knew that getting past Leanna wouldnít be as easy as it looked, and shiíd annoy hir lifemate in doing so. Forest then took the only course of action left to hir: shi did as shi was told. Only then did Leanna let hir go join hir mate.

Forest entered the sleeping quarters and immediately beheld a sight that shi had never expected to see. Midnight was standing in front of the huge bed, posing for hir in an outfit of white leather, brass studs and rings. Shi had on arm-length gloves, matched by fingerless glove-leggings on hir forelegs, while the hindlegs and feet had a complex strap-style sandal. The leg-wear was attached by rings to the part of the costume that went around hir lower torso and between the legs, eventually connecting to harness at waist level. The thing that most drew Forestís eyes though was the cupless bustier that Midnight was showing off to maximum effect, hir breasts with their black-flesh nipples proudly standing out. This was obviously done with Forestís tastes in mind, but Forest could hardly conceive of Midnight wearing such an outfit. Shi tended to de-emphasise hir female side, yet this was totally the opposite. Forest gasped in amazement and arousal. Shi just stood there for a long moment, drinking in the sight. Midnight was very much enjoying the effect shi was having on hir lifemate.

Finally Forest found hir tongue. "Not that Iím complaining, but why?" shi asked.

"Happy Anniversary, love!" Midnight said as shi threw hir arms about Forest and kissed hir deeply.

Forest happily cooperated with the kiss, and let it stretch out for a long time. Finally they broke though, and shi said in puzzlement, "Our fourth anniversary isnít for a few more days yet though."

Midnight grinned. "True, but Iím on heat right now."

Forest gaped at hir. "You meanÖ?"

"Yes, love, itís time for me to keep my promise to you, and have you sire a cub in me. That is my second present to you, and also from you, my dearest mate."

Forest looked into Midnightís crystal blue eyes and felt the adoration and sincerity coming from hir. Shi felt hir heart would burst as it filled with the love and desire shi had for hir raven-furred goddess of beauty. Shi drew hir over to the bed, even as hir penis reached full erection, demanding to be used. Midnight positioned hirself on the bed in anticipation of being mounted. Shi lifted hir tail fully to show that the white leather strap that went between hir hind legs, split and passed on either side of hir vulva which was already moist with hir arousal.

Forest said, "The leather covers your sheath though."

Midnight replied, "I wonít be needing my cock for a while. Iíll be using yours for a long while instead! Iím waiting for it, love!"

"Right away, dear one!" Forest responded happily. Shi mounted hir with both familiarity and excitement. While they had made love this way many times, this was the first time that they would do so with the goal of getting Midnight pregnant. As shi settled onto Midnight, hir hands cupping the breasts and stroking the black nipples, Forest asked, "Shouldnít we be making an oath of commitment for the child?"

"Weíre lifemates now. I think thatís a given. Now please shut up and screw my brains out!"

Forest willingly complied.

A couple of hours later, the costume had mostly been removed. As was usual for chakat matings, they had swapped gender roles briefly, giving each a respite, but they had finished as they started, with Forest pumping the last of hir seed into Midnightís fertile womb.

Forest sighed happily in repletion. "Think that will do the job, hon?" shi asked.

Midnight replied dreamily, "Probably, but thereís no reason why we canít make doubly sure tomorrow night, donít you think?"

Forest giggled. "Nope. If a job is worth doing, itís worth doing well!"

"So, you enjoyed your present?"

"Oh, definitely! That outfit was a stunning touch. How did you get into it?"

"I asked Leanna to help me. I had to explain why, so shi was a willing accomplice."

"Iíll have to thank hir personally then. Are you going to wear that thing for Boyce sometime?"

Midnight considered the question for a moment. "Maybe. Maybe not. I might save it for another special occasion just between us."

"Mmmrrrr! Sounds good to me, love."

Leanna chuckled in amusement. Although the rooms were reasonably soundproof, hir large ears were quite capable of picking up the majority of what was happening inside.

"Whatís so funny, Leanna?" Rosepetal asked curiously.

"When I first saw a chakat, I thought they were very strange. But now, especially after tonight, I see that they are so like humans in many ways that you couldnít tell them apart easily if you couldnít see them. Itís both funny and reassuring."

"Because theyíre not so unfamiliar anymore?"

"Yes, but also because despite their different standards, they still respond in predictable ways. I think I have a handle on them now."

"If youíre going to be a cub-minder and teacher for chakats, thatís a very important point. Having them as co-mates was also a learning experience for me."

"Speaking of which, I need to get back to my studies. Iíll see you in the morning, Rosepetal."

"Goodnight, Leanna." Rosepetal watched the fennec depart. Such a turnaround since the day they had first met! She purred in amusement as she wondered if Forestwalker had managed to take on more than shi could handle in that one. Who would be running the household in a yearís time?

"This meeting is to present the final assessment of the liberated slaves before we rendezvous with Starbase 3," Boyce formally announced to those gathered in the Captainís Ready Room. "I believe you have a few special cases to report, and some recommendations?"

Forestwalker, who had become the de facto head of the special investigation, was the first to report. Also there was Leanna, who would be giving hir insight on the matters. Rosepetal and Midnight were present in their capacities to make their comments on Forestís assessments.

"Iíll start with summing up the basics," Forest said. "As Leanna told us, and we have subsequently confirmed, aside from the group of heavy labourers, all the liberated morphs were sex-slaves, and mostly exotics at that. Although some werenít obviously so, each of these poor beings has been physically and/or mentally altered to perform sexual duties that range from moderate to extreme. Having studied older reports on previous slave rescues, I am sure you are familiar with the fact that they are also of very low intelligence, some barely functional. However, we are pleased to say that this shipment seems to have varied from this, and we have found quite a few whose IQ has fallen within normal parameters. This bodes well for their rehabilitation. However, a few have some extreme physical liability to overcome as well."

Leanna interjected at this point. "Actually, I suspect that Star Fleet has managed to overlook some slaves with normal intelligence previously."

Boyce frowned. "Why do you say that, Leanna?"

"When I first met Forest, I was using the usual slave talk, the simplistic and self-denigrating speech we are all conditioned to use when speaking with our masters. On top of that, most are forbidden to speak unless spoken to, and then only with the absolute minimum possible. It is the duty of all slaves to humble themselves before their masters. If an observer is careless, it would be extremely easy to mistake someone for a lack-wit."

"Star Fleet has always more fully assessed every slave back on Earth," Boyce informed hir. "Surely they would pick this up?"

"With respect, Captain, I observed some of your crew doing just that, despite the fact that they were supposed to be on the look-out for intelligent ones. Itís very easy to jump to conclusions."

Boyce frowned again. "I find that rather disturbing, and I promise to follow up on that. Iíd appreciate details of specific instances. Iíll also emphasise this possibility in my report to Star Fleet so this wonít happen again, hopefully."

"Thank you, Captain," Leanna said, then let Forestwalker continue.

"You are already aware of some of the exceptions, namely the bunny brothers and Sylvester, the major domo fox. We're confident that the latter will respond well to socialisation and will be able to have a fairly normal life. Ironically though, it may be doing exactly what he was bred to do. We have been talking with the authorities back on Earth, and they referred us to ILM, Interstellar Labour Management, a highly-respected professional workforce placement business. When they learned of Sylvesterís training, they had an offer of employment almost before his details were transmitted!"

"Good help is hard to find?" Boyce asked dryly.

"Something like that, I suspect," Forest agreed. "Theyíll be using the time spent shipping the slaves from the Starbase in devising an appropriate program for him. That brings me to the bunny brothers: Roger, Peter, Oswald and Harvey."

Boyce almost choked for a moment. "Youíre kidding me, right?"

"About what, Captain?" Forest asked innocently.

"Four rabbits named like that! Someone must have had a sense of humour."

Forest grinned. "It would seem so. Anyway, you are aware that we asked your permission to let them exercise their talents in the kitchen."

"The galley," Boyce corrected.

"Yes, the galley. Anyway, the four had been practically desperate to get back to what they loved doing, and that was cooking. Are you aware that since they started serving up their non-standard fare, the number of crew who have taken their meals there, rather than getting them from a replicator, has nearly tripled? The boys have gotten quite a reputation for some delicious and highly varied meals. They practically kicked out the rest of the crew on kitchen duty, leaving only the head chef in charge. His job is looking a bit shaky too," shi added with a big smile.

Rosepetal spoke up. "We wonít be leaving the galley solely in charge of the rabbits, and we canít be abusing their conditioned instincts to serve."

Forestwalker shook hir head. "I didnít really expect them to be left to themselves, but youíre wrong if you think theyíre being abused. These four truly love what they do. I probed them while they were at work, and they were quite happy then, but when they were complimented on their cooking by the crew, their pleasure verged on the orgasmic! They have even arranged shifts for themselves so that they can cook for the most people for the most time. The head chef has had little to do besides making sure that the appropriate food supplies are ready for them, and that the kitchen staff cleans up after them. Today was the kicker though. Captain, they have formally petitioned you to stay on as permanent cooks for the Pegasus!"

That caught Boyce by surprise. "They have? I have got to check out this for myself!"

Forest continued, "I recommend that you go have a meal there, and let them petition you in person. Judge their feelings for yourself."

"Wait a moment, Forest," Rosepetal objected. "They havenít even been processed yet, and neither have they been formally admitted as Federation citizens. We canít just be handing over an official position on a Federation starship just like that!"

"Iím sorry, Commander, but I see the situation differently. By taking on the slaves, you have already taken them into the Federation. You might as well let them do their work while the bureaucracy gets around to making things official. I have examined them in conjunction with the Shipís Counsellor, and we agree that they are ideally suited to the position, and definitely not a threat to anyone. Rose, I donít want to see officiousness prevent the very thing weíre trying to achieve with this exercise."

Rosepetal was about to say more, but Boyce held up his hand to stop her. "I will go see them and judge their case personally. I have the power to bend the rules occasionally, and this seems like the right occasion. However, thereís still one aspect you havenít addressed, Forest, and that is their sexual dispositions. As youíve said, theyíve all been bred as sex slaves. How does this affect their situation?"

"Actually, in their case itís not a problem. Although they are totally homosexual, their sexual inclinations arenít of a compulsive nature, unlike many of the others. They are all capable of having a normal relationship. In fact, all four of them have met and socialised with crewpersons of similar sexual leanings already."

Midnight spoke up at this point. "Before anyone protests, I have had the brothers under discreet observation during their time in the galley, and kept a close eye on theirÖ interactionsÖ with the crew. Let me assure you that neither the bunny brothers nor the crewpersons were abused in any manner, and that the rest is none of our business."

Boyce nodded agreement. "Okay then, Iíll go see them as soon as possible. Whatís next on the list?"

Forestwalker grinned. "If you thought that was an interesting situation, this one is going to top it. One of the exotics and one of the crew have fallen in love! They intend to apply for a cohabitation arrangement immediately. I asked them to wait until I reported their situation, but Iím telling you now that Iím going to support their request."

Rosepetal rolled her eyes, and Boyce groaned. "Good grief! I suppose I canít question the genuineness of their love if youíre the one who has confirmed it, but this is damn awkward. Okay, which of the slaves, and which of my crew?"

"The slaveís name is Billy-Jean." Forest touched a button on hir PADD, and the main monitor displayed a picture of the very exotic morph. The species was a horse of some kind, one of the sturdier breeds apparently, and the ex-slave was the epitome of equine beauty. Soft sensuous eyes were set in delicate equine features, long wavy auburn hair framing the face. The body was curvaceous, padded in all the right places, with a very generous bust, all covered with a glossy chestnut coat. Billy-Jean was the essence of equine feminine beauty, which only made it more jarring when you noticed the very male, and very human genitalia. A much larger than average penis surmounted a heavy scrotum, very visible because, like all the rescued slaves, he was nude.

Forest continued when shi was sure Boyce and Rosepetal had absorbed the sight sufficiently. "Billy-Jean is not a hermaphrodite like Leanna. In fact, despite the fact that those breasts lactate, heís 100% male, or perhaps more accurately a she-male, apparently bred as a companion for someone whose tastes lean that way. He has no problem with wearing clothes, and when dressed, looks and behaves exactly like a female, and prefers being addressed as such, so from now on I will refer to him as female. She has no interest in women at all, so apparently she was intended to be sold to a male owner. As we have been talking about slaves who are of normal intelligence, she had the wit to assess her intended fate, and had been a bit dubious about being simply thrust upon her intended new owner. Give a person intelligence and you run the risk of her questioning her fate, despite the standard slave conditioning. So we asked her how she felt about herself and, if she had the opportunity, would she want gender reassignment surgery. She was quite horrified at the prospect. She likes herself exactly the way she is. I delved as deeply as I could into her feelings and they seem unforced. I think her feelings stem from the nature of her body rather than conditioning, so Iíd be reluctant to force anything on her in the name of making her supposedly Ďnormalí. Then something happened. As part of the testing to see how the intelligent slaves behaved in social settings, the ones who werenít crippled by some form of conditioning were allowed to meet and mingle with the crew in places like the lounges and dining areas. There Billy-Jean met Crewman Harold Shire. Do you know him, Captain?"

"The name rings a bell. Who is he?"

"More to the point, what is he? Harold got his surname from his breed; heís a Shire breed horsemorph. When he and Billy-Jean laid eyes on each other, it was a wonder there werenít fireworks going off around them. Even a chakat is reluctant to use the term Ďlove at first sightí, but this was damn close."

"But Crewman Shire couldnít know about Billy-Jeanís gender then. You must have had to break it to him?" Boyce queried.

"Of course. As soon as we realised what was happening, we hastened to enlighten him before he got too emotionally involved. It only made things worse. It turns out that heís bi-sexual, and Billy-Jean was his ultimate dream-girlÖ erÖ boy. By that time, you couldnít have torn them apart with tractor beams. Weíve been watching their relationship for several days now and, as far as we can tell, theyíre only falling deeper in love all the time. When Harold realised that Billy-Jean was going to be offloaded with the other slaves though, he immediately put in his cohabitation request. Now, I know that he has the same bureaucratic problems as the bunny brothers, but I canít see why they canít be granted their request."

Boyce sighed in resignation. "I suppose if Iím considering one case favourably, I need to treat them all equally. Alright, I will make a decision on them also. However, I want the news of this kept buttoned down as much as possible for the moment. I donít want more of the crew suddenly getting the idea to take on a former slave as a mate. I canít be sure of them all having such pure intentions. Now, whoís next?"

"That would be Giselle, a rabbit doe," Forest said after checking hir PADD. The screen lit up with the image of the rabbit. If there was perfection to be found in a rabbit morph, she was it. She was around five feet tall, six including her long ears. Her fur was a luxuriant soft brown and beige, with black trimming the ears and tail. She had a full figure, pert breasts with large nipples peeking through the fur, lush thighs, and cute behind topped by her fluffy tail. Large expressive blue eyes peered at you shyly. She was the embodiment of sex appeal, and the only one in the room not to feel any sexual attraction was Rosepetal.

Forest eventually broke the spell upon them by continuing. "We came across Giselle in a corner of the hangar deck. She had stacked some containers around her, essentially trying to make a private cubicle. We failed to realise why at first and, because she was a slave, she didnít volunteer anything. It was Leanna who accidentally found out why Giselle was trying to avoid contact with others. In trying to reassure her, Leanna accidentally triggered her special conditioning."

Leanna looked embarrassed. "Iíd grown careless. I should have asked her in privacy before trying to initiate any physical contact, however harmless it seemed."

"You canít know or anticipate everything, Leanna. Stop berating yourself over it," Forest insisted.

"Is anybody going to tell me what happened?" Boyce asked.

Forest hastened to explain. "Giselle has been deeply conditioned, on top of having several sexually sensitive trigger points. They are in the obvious spots Ė her nipples, crotch, and under her tail, but also her ears for some reason. Ear fetish, I guess. Touch her in any of those points, even inadvertently, and you trigger her special response. She immediately becomes sexually fixated on the person who touched her, male or female, or herm for that matter, and her lust virtually explodes."

"All I did was give her a reassuring hug," Leanna interjected, "but that put me in contact with her breasts, thus triggering her response."

Forest said, "Basically, once triggered, Giselle will not stop her demands for sex until she has been brought to orgasm two or three times, depending on the degree of stimulation. Giselleís intelligence has since been tested to be of average level, but during this period it plummeted to nothing but a sex-crazed animal." Leanna looked a bit uncomfortable at the mention of this piece of information, but she wasnít about to discuss hir own similar problem with those in whom shi hadnít yet confided. "Leanna provided the necessary stimulation, and her intelligence seemed to come back again as abruptly as turning on a switch."

Boyce looked keenly at Leanna. "I thought that you didnít like having male sex?"

"No, itís more that I regard myself as female, sir," Leanna replied. "However, at that point, it was irrelevant. When we realised her need, it had to be done. As a slave, I was required to provide both male and female sexual satisfaction at a momentís notice. Doing so for Giselle was not an arduous task. I also take care of my own mistakes, sir."

Boyce nodded. "Fair enough. So we have an intelligent sex bunny who loses her intelligence when triggered. I suppose this was some pervertís idea of a party trick. Be served by a beautiful bunny, and when youíre ready, trigger her into your mindless sex toy."

"Thatís what we figured out when we managed to interview her properly. It seems she was a big hit at parties, especially as she immediately Ďresetsí after each time. She could be used many times each day, and each time her intelligence is ripped from her. Thatís why she built the barricade, so that nobody could accidentally do to her what had been deliberately done so often. She was so desirable, apparently, that one of her masterís guests had made him an offer he couldnít refuse, and she had been en route to her new masterís world. Since learning that she would not have to go there any more and that she would be free to make her own choices, she has been trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. She has some enormous hurdles to overcome yet. She can wear little more than an apron without hyper-stimulating herself. Her conditioning is so deep, it may never be broken. In the meantime, sheís getting very bored. The trouble with being intelligent is that the more you are, the more mental stimulation you need. She wants something to do to stave off boredom, yet not risk triggering the Ďparty trickí."

"And have you any recommendations?" Boyce asked.

"For starters, donít put her off at the starbase. The personnel transport that is picking them up has only multi-person bunkrooms, and no spare cabins. She would be in constant contact with others, with a high risk of being triggered frequently. I do have a viable alternative though. We have trialled her in the kitchen as an assistant. In the privacy of the kitchen, being nearly nude wonít matter, and she wonít have to come in contact with almost anyone."

"Youíre going to put a rabbit doe in with four rabbit bucks?" Boyce asked incredulously.

"You forget Ė the bunny brothers are strictly homosexual. They arenít interested in her sexually in the slightest, and sheís not interested in sex of any kind at this time. They do have high praise for her competence as a kitchen assistant though, and she was happy to have something to do other than stare at a monitor all day."

"So, providing I agree to keep the bunny brothers on, I should also keep her on, at least until we get to Earth?"

"Thatís our recommendation, Captain, Of course, the final decision is up to you," Forestwalker conceded.

ĎAs if theyíve left me any option that wouldnít leave me looking like a jerk,í Boyce thought to himself. Still, that was responsibility. "Any more?"

"Yes, there are more." A touch of the PADD and the monitor displayed an ermine with bright green fur. She had no human-type head hair, but subtle curves and petite breasts marked her as a female. This wasnít a still image like the others though, and as shi moved, the watchers could see the fluidity of motion that was unmatched by any others outside of closely related species. "This is Bellarinka, and no, that isnít a dye job. Her fur grows in that incredible colour. However she might be one of the greatest finds ever despite that obvious trait. Sheís a dancer, and an extraordinary one at that. I was fortunate enough to have the presence of mind to record the following impromptu event. As with the others, she had been brought out to meet and socialise with the crew. She was enjoying it so much, she decided to dance for the people in the mess hall."

Forest stopped talking then and let the video speak for hir. Bellarinka had immediately commanded the attention of all the crew, and for more reasons than she was dancing entirely nude. Boyce lacked the formal knowledge of the skills involved with dancing, but even he could tell that here was something special. The ermine glided around the room, pirouetting, leaping, spinning and bending with all the flexibility of a member of the mustelidae family. Not a sound came from the recording until the dance was finished, and then the applause and cheers were deafening. Bellarinka bowed in acknowledgement, then retrieved her discarded clothing just as the video recording ended.

There was a period of silence in the cabin until Boyce finally spoke up. "No need to make your recommendation for this one, Forest. If she isnít the best dancer in the galaxy, sheíd have to be in the top ten. Iím going to make a call personally to see what I can do about fast-tracking her into an appropriate program to make sure her talent is seen by as many people as possible. Itís obvious that girl loves to dance, so letís grant her wish."

"I took the liberty of looking up some appropriate contacts, sir," Midnight said as shi keyed hir PADD to transmit the details to Boyceís computer.

"Thank you, Commander," Boyce said. "What I donít understand is: why is this one in a cargo of sex slaves?"

"Because thatís what she was," Forest replied sadly.

Boyce was incredulous. "You mean to say that they had such an extraordinary talent, and the most that they used her for was sex?"

"Weíre not certain that they knew the depths of her talent," Leanna answered, "but even so, you have to take this in perspective. On some of the worlds, you cannot acknowledge that a slave has a greater ability than a human, so the only way they feel that they can be superior to her is to reduce her to a common bed slave after her performances."

Boyce shook his head in disgust and disbelief. "Just as you think youíve seen it allÖ! Tell me, does she always dance in the nude?"

"Aside from the occasional prop, we believe so," Forest replied.

"Oh well, I suppose it can be put down to art. If Bellarinka is amenable, Iíd like you to organise a show for the crew. Such a talent should be given the chance to express itself, and the crew would appreciate it, judging by this video."

"Very well, sir," Rosepetal replied.

"So, whoís next?"

"Just three more, Captain. This fellowís name is Casanova. Youíre familiar with him. In fact, you told me about him when you took me down to the hangar deck to show me the slaves." The monitor showed a handsome white-tailed deer buck, complete with a modest rack of antlers. He was a handsome specimen, but not exceptional except for what seemed to be a large wattle under his chin.

Boyce was startled as he recognised him. "Thatís the morph with the penis-tongue! You mean to say heís one of the intelligent slaves?"

Forest grinned widely. "Yep. Surprised us too until we found out that he had been bred as a gigolo. You need to have a clever mind as well as sex appeal to serve adequately in that position. It seems that the physical modifications to his tongue do not interfere with ability to speak, at least when itís not in the aroused state, so we interviewed him. We found out that he was witty and engaging, and I was having trouble maintaining a professional detachment. We enquired about his unusual endowments and whether he wanted to look into surgery to bring him to physical normality. He practically burst into tears and begged us not to do that to him. At this stage, he was still thinking he was a slave and in the hands of some strange new owners. We had to explain to him that we had no intention of forcing anything upon him that he didnít want, but it took a while before he was reassured. After that, we asked him to explain more about his endowments. It turns out that of the two penises, he prefers using his tongue, so having it made Ďnormalí wasÖ wellÖ I think you can imagine."

Boyce shivered at the thought and nodded fervently in agreement.

Forest continued. "As far as we can determine, he has a normal sense of taste, and his articulation, while not perfect, is nevertheless perfectly understandable despite the modifications. Without us asking, he gave us a demonstration of how quickly he could engorge it at will. Despite that, he could still manipulate it Ė a prehensile penis in effect. Later tests showed that the second set of gonads supplying the tongue produce sperm identical in nature to his normal ones, and both are quite fertile. He literally can get a female of a compatible species pregnant with his tongue! We lack the facilities though to determine whether this feature is genetically inheritable."

"So what do you recommend we do with him?"

"Obviously he will need to be properly psychologically examined to make sure that his attitudes arenít merely conditioning, but my impression is that heís quite proud of his extra endowment, and canít wait to put both it and his training to use. I suspected that the licensed brothels would be interested in his services, and made a couple of enquiries. Now theyíve started a bidding war to get him to sign a contract, despite the fact that he hasnít even been cleared yet! I predict that boy is going to have a very happy future, and is going to be richer than the lot of us combined!"

Boyce rolled his eyes. "And what reason are you going to give me for keeping this one on board?"

"Why, none, Captain," Forest said in a tone that implied that shi wondered why he could possibly imagine that shi would have one.

"Then what was the point of all this?"

"You wanted a full report on all the intelligent slaves. Well, he was intelligent. He just doesnít have any need not to be shipped back with the rest of the slaves, and he can put his libido to good use amongst them until they get to Earth."

Boyce growled in mock annoyance at his cheeky mate. "Alright then, Iíll add my recommendation for him. Two more to go, I believe?"

"I left these two for last as theyíre not really exciting because, although they do qualify as being intelligent, their IQ's are very low on the scale. Both can talk reasonably well, but theyíre basically thick as a brick. Dumb blonde jokes would enjoy a revival with them. Nevertheless they can perform their functions well enough."

Forest flipped the image of a Persian cat onto the screen. She was pure white, with gorgeous blue eyes. Her fur was long and luxurious. Although all the former slaves so far had been nude, this one was wearing a classic French maidís outfit. "No prize for guessing her duties. About the only thing that Eva can do well is maid work. Of course, as Leanna pointed out, all the morphs are sex slaves of one kind or another. As far as we can figure out, she was assigned to guests to take care of all their needs just like a normal maid, but with sexual services thrown in. Weíre not sure why such an ordinary slave is doing on a shipful of exotics, but weíre speculating that she belonged to one of the crew. Evaís sweet, affectionate, compliant, and definitely not a candidate for poster girl for your crusade."

Without waiting for Boyce to comment, Forest immediately put up the final ex-slave on the screen. This one was a male collie: tall, lean and handsome. He had the typical English Collie fur colour and pattern, as well as the long narrow muzzle. Forest continued her narrative. "Like the Persian, Emmanuelís a household servant for pretty much the same purpose, but with one unique twist. Once again we were wondering why such an ordinary slave was doing in this shipment. Fortunately he demonstrated for us. Crewman Vasquez volunteered as a guinea pig, as she was very sceptical about his claim."

The scene shifted to a view of a short olive-skinned human standing with her arms folded defiantly and a cocky grin on her face. The collie moved up to her hesitantly and said, "Are you sure of this, mistress?"

Vasquez responded, "Give it your best shot. You ainít got nothing that other men havenít tried on me before."

Forest commented wryly, "Vasquez is a bit man shy."

Emmanuel shrugged, and for a moment nothing apparently was happening. Abruptly, Vasquez threw herself at the collie, hugging him, stroking him, kissing him frantically. Then she started tearing off her uniform with her intentions quite clear. The recording stopped at that point.

Forest said, "We had a male crewman standing by and at that moment we told him to restrain Vasquez and for Emmanuel to leave the room. Despite the fact that the crewman is quite burly, he almost failed to control Vasquez, such is the strength of the compulsion. As you can surmise, Emmanuel is able to trigger extreme sexual attraction in any female, and weíre presuming that herms may be similarly affected, which is why Leanna and myself stayed out of that room for the experiment. The effects didnít wear off for a couple of hours. Afterwards Vasquez said she felt fine, but a day later I unobtrusively scanned her empathically, and I could feel an emotional tug that hadnít been there before."

"Does Emmanuel do this all the time, or only when ordered to do so?" Boyce asked.

"Emmanuel says he only does it when he is told to do so, but every female heíd been told to serve had either been expecting it of him, or else heíd been instructed to use it on them. He has never done it of his own accord."

"Thank heavens for that at least. Do you know how he does it?"

"We need some more specific tests, but it would seem that it is a two-fold system. Firstly, he can control the release of a super-pheromone that kicks sexual attraction into overdrive. So far we canít exempt any female from its influence, including non-Terran species such as Caitians, without more trials."

"I decline the offer to be a test subject," Rosepetal commented dryly.

Forestwalker grinned but continued, "The second part seems to be of a psionic nature. I felt its influence from the observation room next door. It seems to direct that sexual drive at Emmanuel, making him the object of the womanís desire. Thatís why the male human in the room was not targeted by Vasquez, even after Emmanuel left the room. She remained fixated on the collie."

"Iíll bet some humans had it done to themselves just for the thrill of it," Boyce speculated.

"If they did, they might have regretted it later. As I mentioned, Vasquez seemed to have lingering feelings. Two days later, she requested to see Emmanuel again. I scanned her again and felt a need growing there. At this point, we donít have enough data, but Iím speculating on a couple of possibilities. Firstly, the psionic nature of the second component of the compulsion may not let her quit until it is satisfied. In other words, she would have to have sex with Emmanuel before it would abate."

"And the second?" Rosepetal asked.

"The super-pheromone might be addictive."

"Or both?" Rose queried.

"Or both," Forestwalker conceded.

Boyce said, "You should never have let Vasquez do that test. I canít hold Leanna responsible for this situation, but I expected better of you, Forest."

Leanna felt a bit ashamed anyway. Of all the people on this ship, shi was the one in the best position to know some of the strange and unusual modifications that had been done to morphs.

Forest said, "In hindsight, it wasnít one of the smartest things Iíve ever done. Iíve arranged for both more medical testing and counselling sessions for Vasquez."

"Good," Boyce agreed. "In the meantime, despite the fact that Emmanuel claims to have never done this to someone of his own will, I think it prudent to take some appropriate precautions with him. Make sure heís made to understand that he is not to do that again at least until he reaches Earth. The experts there can investigate him more thoroughly. Make sure he keeps away from females until then, unless itís with one of the slaves who have already been with him. As for Eva, she might have potential if the doctors can do anything back on Earth, but for now she rates no special treatment and goes back with the rest. That just leaves us with the non-intelligent ones."

Rosepetal spoke up. "I have had the medical staff treating the more extreme cases, and for now it would seem that they are all content. Itíll be up to the authorities to decide what to do with them when they take them off our hands."

"Pardon me," Leanna asked, "But what is going to happen with all those? Are they simply going to be put into some corner and forgotten again?"

Boyce looked at the fennec gravely. "Leanna, every one of those morphs will be screened again, especially in the light of what you have told us, and they will be physically and mentally assessed thoroughly. Where medical intervention is called for to give them a reasonably decent life, it will be done. But there is a limit to what our medical sciences can do, and as you know for yourself, these remaining morphs are mostly morons, incapable of looking after themselves properly. The vast majority, if not all, will probably be declared wards of the government, and appropriately dealt with. I believe that most will end up in licensed brothels anyway. There they will have as much sex, or as little, as they wish, and the fees charged for their services will go towards maintaining them, giving them sustenance, entertainment and health care, for as long they live. They will have happy and healthy lives, even if we donít particularly like their limited futures. The fact is though that we canít fix everything, and sometimes all we have to choose from is the lesser of two evils. Not all are as fortunate as you are, Leanna."

"I understand, Captain. I should count my blessings, right?"


The Pegasus finally made its rendezvous with Starbase 3, Rakshan sector. Their arrival was due near the end of the first watch, so Leanna had been warned to prepare for an outing, with dinner to be held on the base. Midnight had arrived later at the cabin with Yeoman DíArmand in tow.

"Are the cubs ready, Leanna?" Midnight asked.

"As much as theyíll ever be, Midnight," Leanna replied.

"Good. I want you to leave them with Yeoman DíArmand for the moment and get into one of your ship uniforms. Youíre coming with me."

Even as shi hastened to comply, Leanna asked, "Where are we going?"

"Youíve been invited to watch our arrival at the starbase from the bridge by the Captain. I wouldnít keep him waiting."

Leanna was surprised but gratified by the opportunity to visit the bridge, a place that was very much off-limits to those who werenít bridge staff or explicitly invited there. Shi hastened to put on hir special bra and duty uniform, then followed the chakat to the trans-lift.

While there wasnít anyone in earshot, Midnight said, "Leanna, you are to behave as if you are a member of the crew performing a yeomanís duties for the captain. As such you will have little to do at this time other than waiting for instructions from him. You will stand quietly at the left side of the captainís chair and, aside from reporting in, wonít say anything unless addressed directly by him, Commander Rosepetal or myself. Very few people know your exact status, and weíd prefer to have it remain that way for the moment. Understood?"

"Understood, sir!" Leanna responded smartly.

Midnight smiled slightly at the reply. "Good. Other than that, enjoy the experience."

"Thanks. I will!"

They stepped onto the trans-lift and Midnight announced "Bridge!" to the trans-liftís computer system, which recognised hir voice and hir authority to go to that destination. The lift started off smoothly and Midnight continued hir talk with Leanna.

"As weíve mentioned, this is a Rakshani run base, and although you will find many species there, Rakshani will be in the majority. They are a large and powerful species, and very intimidating when you first meet them. Seeing as one of them is my co-mate, youíre going to have to be prepared to meet her."

"Most species are bigger than me, Midnight. Iím reasonably prepared to deal with that."

"Weíll see," Midnight said knowingly as the liftís doors opened to reveal the bridge.

Stepping out onto the bridge, Leanna took a moment to glance around and orient hirself. Shi noted that Midnight left hir to take hir own station. Leanna strode down the ramp and up to Boyce who was scrutinising something on his chairís display screen.

"Reporting as ordered, captain," Leanna said, saluting as shi had seen others do.

Boyce looked up and said, "Very good, Mr Fennec. At ease." Then went back to looking at his screen.

Leanna took the position that shiíd been instructed to take, then started observing keenly all that was happening on the bridge. A couple of the crew had given hir slightly curious looks before returning to their tasks, but otherwise hir arrival passed without note. Shi realised what a hive of activity that the bridge was and wondered if this was normal, or a consequence of their imminent arrival at the starbase. Shi took in what shi could, but realised that this was beyond hir present abilities to comprehend. Shi turned hir attention to the main view screen that showed the starscape with a slowly growing object in the centre.

A male morph that Leanna identified as likely being a black-footed ferret spoke up. "Captain, Starbase 3 control has contacted us."

"Open a channel to them," Boyce said. The ferret nodded and Boyce spoke up, "This is the Federation Starship Pegasus, Admiral Boyce Kline commanding."

The view screen image changed to show a view of a control room, presumably that of the starbase, with Star Fleet personnel of various species in the background. Dominating the view though was a female Rakshani. Resembling a tiger, she had all the power and grace of that species, combined with a voluptuous form. Despite it being an image, Leanna gained a strong impression of her size and it was very imposing.

"Welcome, Pegasus," the Rakshani said. "I believe you have quite a cargo for us?"

"You could say that, Captain. Permission to dock?"

"Permission granted, Admiral. You are cleared for dock four. Please report to me as soon as possible after docking."

"Acknowledged. Kline out." Boyce turned to Leanna. "In case you didnít realise, that was Captain Zhane ap Nashene na Zhane, commander of the starbase. Iíll be introducing you to her later as youíll be dealing with her while weíre docked here."

Leanna nodded in understanding.

Boyce turned his attention back to the business at hand. "Standard approach, Mr Murawrr!"

"Aye, Captain!" the Caitian helmsman responded.

For a while, the bridge crew quietly and efficiently carried out their tasks. Meanwhile the starbase grew rapidly on the screen, filling it, then exceeding its bounds. Leanna was impressed by the immensity of the structure. Shi spotted another starship docked there already, dwarfed by the station. Leanna had read up on the starbases when shi had learned that they would be docked at one for a little while. This one had been established soon after the Rakshani had joined the Stellar Federation, catering for the needs of the sector once exclusively controlled by the Rakshan Empire. It had been a near thing though. The Rakshani had almost gone to war with the Stellar Federation at first, determined to keep control of their territory to themselves, but a skilful team of Caitian negotiators had successfully convinced them that there were greater advantages to forming an alliance with the Federation instead. The Rakshani still controlled their territory, but with free trade open between their worlds and others of the Federation. The Rakshani, being a warrior race, were often enthusiastic participants in Star Fleet, frequently taking the more militaristic positions. After seeing Zhane, Leanna wasnít at all surprised.

Despite hir confidence in the crewís abilities, Leanna still found it a tad nerve-wracking during the actual docking as the helmsman skilfully manoeuvred the huge ship into position. The final coupling was done by the stationís docking computer though. There was no room for egos when dealing with two such massive objects.

"Docking completed, Captain," the helmsman said.

"All stations stand down. Mr Murawrr, you are officer of the watch. Commander Rosepetal, Commander Midnight, Mr Fennec, please accompany me to pay our respects to the Starbase Commander."

The four trooped into the trans-lift. "Docking Bay One!" Boyce told the computer. On their way, he grinned at Leanna. "So, what did you think of that, Leanna?"

"Very impressive, Captain. Thank you for inviting me onto the bridge."

"Youíre welcome. Best way of satisfying curiosity too, donít you think?"

"Indubitably," Leanna agreed, wondering if Midnight had said anything to him, or whether he had figured out hir activities, or even if it was just a coincidence.

They got off the trans-lift into a short corridor that led directly to a spacious room with an airlock. The viewport in the airlock door showed that the outer door had been opened to reveal another airlock door at the end of a corridor that shi believed had to have been extended to mate with the ship, similar to an aircraft jetway. The far airlock was just opening as shi watched. A stern-looking wolfmorph was stationed at a counter near the door. He wore the grey of Security, so shi presumed the purpose of this room was to monitor and control personnel boarding or disembarking the ship, and possibly goods also, depending on where they were docking.

"Air pressure has been matched and you can disembark now, Captain," the wolf said as he toggled the switch that opened the final door.

"Thank you," Boyce replied, and he stepped into the corridor, followed by the others.

They were met at the other end by Captain Zhane with the standard complement of security personnel. Although shi had been determined that shi would be prepared to meet the Rakshani, Leanna was still awed by the massive felinoid alien. At 218cm, the tiger-patterned alien towered over Leanna's 150cm height, and while Zhane was very femininely curved, Leanna could also see the muscles working beneath the uniform in her powerful limbs.

"Permission to board, Captain?" Boyce asked formally.

"Permission granted. Welcome back, Admiral," Zhane replied. "You too, Commanders. And if Iím not mistaken, this crewman is the person whom you said youíd be talking to me about when you arrived. Youíre welcome to Starbase 3 also."

"Yeoman Leanna Fennec is currently assigned to my family. The full explanations can wait though."

"Indeed they can. Would you care to accompany me to my office?" Zhane asked.

The group headed to the nearby trans-lift. They were soon at Zhaneís office, and when the last of them was inside, Midnight touched the door locking plate, then nodded at Zhane. Leanna was startled to watch Zhane grab Boyce, pulling him into a strong hug cushioned only by her impressive breasts, and lowering her muzzle to passionately kiss him. Boyce wasnít idly letting it happen though. He was returning the kiss with enthusiasm, his arms stroking the ardent feline.

Leanna noted that Midnight was grinning at the sight, and Rosepetal was patiently waiting for her mate to finish. Leanna had been told that Zhane was also one of Boyceís co-mates, so the scene wasnít untoward, just a bit abrupt in its transition from formal to unrestrained. Finally the two finished their long kiss.

"There, thatís a much better welcome for my lifemate," Zhane said with satisfaction. "You need to visit this base more often."

"You present a strong argument, love," Boyce replied with a grin.

Zhane turned to Rosepetal and exchanged a slightly more formal greeting with her co-mate, one that Leanna had been shown to be used between Caitian co-mates. As the Rakshani had mated into a Caitian family unit, she honoured their customs where she could. However, when she turned to the chakat, it was quite different. Midnight reared up on hir hind legs so that the two could exchange a bone-crushing hug, both grinning in pleasure. Leanna shuddered at the thought of either doing that to hir.

All greetings having been properly made, Zhane invited them all to make themselves comfortable and offered refreshments. Leanna had to force hirself to stop jumping up and serving them. Old habits died hard. Then when all were settled, Zhane turned her attention on Leanna.

"So you are the intelligent slave that Boyce found? How are you finding freedom so far?"

"Confusing at times, but far better than my old life."

"Even if heís got you working as crew already?" Zhane asked, indicating the uniform.

"Actually the uniform was my idea, and the work I do is my choice."

"Hiding behind the uniform, hey? Not a bad idea considering the furore that youíve already caused. Anyway, itís obvious that Boyce trusts you, or you would not have been part of this group. I wish you luck for the future."

"Thank you, Captain."

The conversation turned to the rest of the slaves and plans to transfer them to the starbase until a personnel transport could rendezvous to transport them to Earth. After that, they started catching up on family news. Leanna was starting to get quite bored before they decided it was time to make dinner plans. Boyce announced that he intended to wrap up a couple of things on the ship first and come back for the meal. Midnight said shi would go back with him and change out of hir uniform, which Leanna thought a good idea.

Rosepetal said, "I need to clear up one item of business with Zhane first. Iíll catch up with you soon."

"Okay, love. Letís go," Boyce said to the others.

"So, whatís the business?" Zhane asked as the door closed behind them.

Rosepetal replied, "The family kindÖ"

Leanna was dressed for the dinner in a new outfit that had been designed especially for hir. It complimented hir fur and build, and could be worn with or without hir special bra, only discarding the top that went with it if shi chose not to wear the bra. It was themed on an ancient Egyptian outfit, and Leanna had to admit that it really suited hir. Because this was a Star Fleet station though, shi chose not to take the more comfortable option. Technically shi knew that shi was within hir rights to go topless as shi wasnít actually a Star Fleet member, but shi preferred not to make waves. Rosepetal had dressed in her finest Caitian style garments. Midnight had dressed up a lot also, much to Leannaís surprise. Shi had never seen the chakat dress much more than the minimum, with the exception of the special outfit for Forestwalkerís benefit. In fact, everyone was dressed in their best, even Kayla who looked like she would much rather be in something more comfortable. Leanna had been introduced to Kernos, the son of Zhane and Boyce. The Rakshani boy was already taller than Leanna, although shi had been reassured that he was the same age as Kayla. Rakshani children grew up fast and tall! The boy had been hyper all evening, excited at seeing his father again. Despite the differences between their species, the two got along exceptionally well. It wasnít unusual for Rakshan children not to see their fathers very often, and the times that they could be together were exciting for them both. Boyceís entire family was gathered here together for the first time in a long while, and it was a special occasion for all. Leanna felt honoured to be included in the gathering.

The evening went exceptionally well, interrupted only by having to put the cubs to bed. Both Kayla and Kernos protested when their time came, but both had already well exceeded their normal bedtime. That just left the adults to chat for a while longer. Eventually though, Zhane got up and announced, "This has been a grand evening, but if itís all the same to you, my mate and I have a bit of catching up to do of a more intimate nature. I love you all, but I want you all out of here now!" She grinned to show the humour behind the statement, but showed just enough of her fangs to indicate that she meant it. Leanna had read that Rakshani tended often to be blunt, and it came as no surprise to the others also. Zhane made her farewells first, then disappeared into her bedroom. They gathered the sleepy cubs and headed back to the Pegasus, leaving only Boyce.

Boyce headed for the bedroom, taking off his jacket at the same time. He entered it to find that Zhane had redecorated it since his last visit. It now resembled the room of a traditional Rakshan manor with its colour theme of blacks and reds, including fake view windows and a huge four-poster bed. Dominating the room though was Zhane, artfully posed on the bed, wearing a black bustier, a red boa, and nothing else besides her fur. She looked at Boyce sultrily.

"I hope that youíre ready to make up for lost time," she said.

Boyce grinned and walked over to her, stripping off his shirt as he did so. "I did nothing but cuddle with my mates these past two nights, just so that I could be at my best for you, darling."

She reached for his trouser belt and undid it, pulling his trousers down. "Youíve never disappointed me yet, my dear." She continued to undress him with his help, then she wrapped her long thick tail, so unlike a tigerís, around her mate, pulling him close to kiss him.

When they parted, Boyce started caressing her breasts. She started a deep rumbling purr. He said, "Thatís a new bustier, isnít it?"

"Yes it is. You like?"

"I love! Itís the best one yet. I love how your nipples peek over the edge." He leaned down to lick one, feeling it harden to his touch. "But the best thing about a bustier is getting the contents out!" He started pulling on the ties, unlacing it until her breasts fell free. She threw it aside as he buried his face between hir ample breasts, stroking them with one hand as his other wandered familiarly over the rest of her curvaceous body. Her rumbling purr grew louder until she suddenly gasped in pleasure.

"Oh! Take me now, my mate!" she demanded.

Boyce, inflamed by her heady scent, was only too ready to do so. With the ease of experience, he entered her hot body and they made love. It was a good thing that he had rested up beforehand because the two continued in similar fashion for a few hours before both were spent. They ended up falling asleep, Zhane curled possessively around him. Indeed he had never disappointed her in the bedroom, and rarely outside of it, and she had never regretted taking the Terran as her lifemate.

The next day saw a large portion of the shipís personnel take leave on the starbase, availing themselves of the various divertissements there. The rescued slaves had been all offloaded during the Ďnightí, thus leaving many free to relax. It was Zhane who came on board the Pegasus though for the next family dinner, a somewhat less formal affair than the one on the starbase. Because they never left the captainís cabin, Leanna elected not to wear the top for hir outfit this time. The broad Ďnecklaceí though came down to just above hir breasts, and shi did not seem inadequately dressed. This time they invited MíLai to join them and introduced her to Zhane. MíLai felt strange at not being the tallest person in the room for once, but liked the rough humour of the Rakshani. They talked a lot before Boyce arrived with Kernos and the meal could be served. Father and son had been spending some quality time together that day, and both were in high spirits and had ravenous appetites.

MíLai was surprised at how much interest that Zhane showed in her, but put it down as something different from the usual topics of conversation amongst the family. By the time she left to go back to her cabin though, she was wondering when she had last talked so much.

Leanna arrived at the captainís cabin at the usual time, although this time accompanied by MíLai. A message left at the doctorís office had asked her to see Rosepetal after Leannaís appointment. The Caitian was curious about what the First Officer wanted with her, but was reassured by the pleasant smile that she was given upon reporting. Rosepetal asked MíLai into the study as Leanna took charge of the cubs. Rosepetal closed the door behind them and invited MíLai to make herself comfortable, taking a seat at the study desk at the same time. Being seated brought them closer to being of the same head-level, a more comfortable situation for them both.

"So, how can I be of service to you, Commander?" MíLai asked.

Rosepetal came straight to the point. She asked, "Mur Lai fola Saarath, trrket su ent rramrrk setgarrut?"

The sentence, spoken in Ratarsk, the Caitian common speech, surprised MíLai hugely. Translated, it meant, "Daughter Lai of the house of Saarath, are you the one for whom I have been searching?" It was the sentenceís formality that mostly threw the doctor, as it was only used by a female looking for a new co-mate. She was being propositioned as a potential mate for Admiral Kline!

The conversation continued in the Caitian tongue. MíLai asked, "Are you sure that you want someone like me as part of your family? You know my history better than most."

"I do, and I know my mateís tastes just as well. I have also consulted with all my co-mates for their opinion of you, and we unanimously agree that you would make a good fifthwife."

"IÖ Iím stunned. I mean, I had seen the signs of interest, but I had never dared to believe that a freak like myself would ever be considered mate-worthy."

Rosepetal smiled. "You must surely realise that ours is a rather unusual family. Believe me, you fit right into our odd relationship! I have been impressed by your dedication to your craft in spite of your handicap, and you have a good rapport with all the family members, including Leanna. Besides saying that you have all the rightÖ ummÖ physical attributes, Forest says that you have a good heart and will make a good match with Boyce. Coming from someone who is almost an E5 level empath, I put a lot of faith in hir opinions. Zhane approves of you too. She said that it was about time we got another decent-sized female in this bunch!"

They shared a grin at that opinion before Rosepetal continued. "Midnight added one more point in your favour: shi says you make a competent and pleasant lover."

MíLai blushed at the realisation that Rosepetal apparently knew all about the times she had spent together with Midnight, assuaging her insatiable need for another day. In retrospect, it should have been obvious. As a security officer, it was impossible to drag a secret out of Midnight, but as a chakat, shi saw nothing wrong in the relationship, nor inappropriate in keeping hir co-mates apprised where it mattered. In truth, shi was quite discreet because shi knew that none of that knowledge would pass beyond hir family, and none of them had any objections, especially Zhane who regularly had trysts to serve her needs as Rakshani females usually had.

But Rosepetal was not quite finished yet. "And if itís your desire to have children in the future, weíve ample proof that Boyce is quite capable of giving you them. You can find complete fulfilment as part of our family. So, do you have an answer for me, or would you prefer to think it over for some time?"

MíLai still felt flustered, but tried to get her thoughts in order. She had been asked formally, and an answer of some kind was required. "It has been my dream to be asked to be part of someoneís pride. One that I felt would never be anything but a dream. To actually get the opportunity is frankly staggering, but I have to admit that yours is the most interesting and likeable family that Iíve ever met, and I would be a fool to turn down the opportunity. And as you know, I am a xenophile, and find Admiral KlineÖ BoyceÖ to be quite handsome and desirable. Oh, listen to me! Iím babbling on and on. I suppose what I mean is: I accept! Saartask sur gitarsh!"

By this time, MíLai was weeping tears of happiness, and Rosepetal embraced her in congratulations and comfort. When MíLai had collected herself again, Rosepetal said, "I will speak to Boyce about this at our midday break. If all goes as planned, will you be ready for the traditional pre-mating night tonight?"

"Iíve been waiting for it since I came of age! Anything else can wait!" MíLai responded with finality.

Rosepetal grinned. "I rather thought that would be the case. But now itís time for us to go on duty. I will see you later, future co-mate!"

MíLai smiled broadly in answer, and the two departed to their posts, waving goodbye to Leanna on their way out.

Rosepetal didnít have any problems with Boyce when she announced her candidate for fifthwife to him at lunch break. She was careful though to make sure that his mouth wasnít full when she said it. Boyce took it quite well however, leading Rosepetal to believe that all those lessons on Caitian culture had not been wasted on him after all. It wasnít the first time that he had been in this situation, of course. Rosepetal had proposed Zhane a few years back, and although heíd found it hard to believe that his wife actually wanted him to have another wife, he was quite taken with her choice. Later, he had made the major faux pas of finding a new mate without the approval of his firstwife, but it had all worked out in the end.

Boyce mulled over the announcement in his mind. At this point, by tradition he could demand of his firstwife proof that the proposed new wife would be an asset to the family, but Boyce was already convinced of that. Then there was the compatibility test, but that was to be decided as part of the pre-mating night. He smiled a little at the thought of what was in store for him that night. Everyone in his family already knew that he found MíLai to be sexually desirable, but this night would prove just how compatible they were also. It promised to be enjoyable, but it had its serious side as well.

"When will the pre-mating be done?" he asked.

"Tonight after the children are all put to bed," Rosepetal replied.

"Wow! Things sure are moving fast," he observed.

"Thatís as it should be," she said authoritatively. "When all the proper protocols are observed and the firstwife has done her duty correctly, then her mate should be presented with a candidate who not only is ready for the position immediately, but also should be assured of being found compatible. The rest is just tradition."

"Letís hear it for Caitian tradition!" Boyce said, raising his glass of orange juice in a toast.

Rosepetal just shook her head in resignation. He was a good husband, but such a silly human sometimes.

That night there wasnít a formal dinner, but there was a lot of excitement in the air that puzzled the youngsters. This made them feel like staying up to find out what was going to happen, not realising that nothing would happen until after they went to sleep. When the last was finally tucked in and Leanna had left for hir room, Rosepetal gathered everyone together, with Boyce on her left side, and MíLai on her right, holding the nearest hand of each.

"Tonight is special," she began. "We have chosen a candidate for fifthwife for our beloved mate, and they will decide if they are truly suited for a lifetime as partners in our pride." She turned to Boyce. "Husband, I know that you will uphold the honour of our family, and decide fairly." She turned to MíLai. "Candidate, I hope you will do your best to show that we have chosen well." She brought their hands together. "Go now, and fulfil your duties."

The two grinned at her, and started for the bedroom. As they reached the door, Rosepetal added with humour in her voice, "But try not to keep everyone on this deck awake with the decision-making process, okay?"

Boyce closed the door firmly behind them and noticed that MíLai was already starting to undress. Unfastening his own jacket, he commented, "Not that I have any objection, but I find it hard to understand why the pre-mating exists."

MíLai took her time with the undressing, giving Boyce a bit of show while doing so. "Itís not so difficult when you realise that it dates way back into our history when Caitian civilisation consisted of a large number of nomadic clans. Long before we knew the nature of genetics, we understood the need for new blood to have strong and healthy children. When a female accepted a place as a wife, it was frequently with another clan for this reason. However, one is hardly likely to make a lifetime commitment without knowing whether your potential mate and yourself are compatible, especially in the area of love-making. So it eventually became traditional for the females to try out their potential mates first, thus saving many from a potentially unhappy life, both male and female." She finished her explanation with a sultry roll onto the bed. "So, do you like what you see so far?"

Boyce completed his undressing and paused to admire her. "Milady MíLai, Iíd do my current mates a disfavour if I said that you were the sexiest person whom Iíve ever seen, but my dear, you rank equally amongst them. Besides, I think my reactions speak for themselves."

MíLai observed the salute she was being given and grinned. "A very good start." She got onto her hands and knees then reached out in invitation. "Now come here, lover!"

Boyce obeyed with alacrity, and they were both quickly familiarising themselves intimately with each otherís body, which quickly became more and more passionate until MíLai cried out, "Take me, Boyce! I need you in me now!"

Boyce mounted her then, and together they built up to the heights of passion. MíLai, ever sensitive to sexual stimulation, came to climax long before Boyce, but was quickly brought to her second orgasm in time to share it with Boyceís, and together they cried out in the height of their passion. Panting, they smiled at each other, praising the otherís performance with looks and touch. The night was yet young though, and both were soon ready for another round. This was one tradition that they intended to fulfil to the maximum!

Leanna had not returned directly to hir cabin after leaving the Admiralís quarters. Instead, shi went to what had become hir favourite haunt, the coffee lounge. Shi was pleased to see that Moyshu was already there as shi was in the mood to socialise with her for a while, and the foxtaur was equally glad to see the fennec. They chatted over cappuccinos, Leanna happy to discuss those aspects of hir job that were neither restricted nor revealing of hir background. Then the subject drifted off into safer areas.

"I know you told me that foxtaurs are rare amongst Star Fleet personnel. Donít you miss the males of your kind?" Leanna asked at one point.

"Foxtaur tods, you mean. No, I donít miss tods at all," Moyshu replied, but with a hint of a strange tone in her voice, and an odd expression. "I find enough distractions out here, usually."

Leanna tried to get more information out of her, but it seemed that the subject was closed. Eventually Leanna felt that shi had better head back to hir cabin in order to get some studying done.

"Iíll walk with you," Moyshu said, putting down the coffee mug. Her quarters were on the same deck as Leannaís, so this wasnít the first time that she had done so. However, Leanna sensed that Moyshu was a bit nervous tonight.

When they reached Moyshuís door, she seemed to want to say something, but didnít seem to know how to start. Leanna asked with some concern, "Is everything okay, Moyshu?"

Moyshu drew a deep breath, then seemed to come to a decision. "Actually, there is one thing bothering me. Would you step into my cabin for a moment?"

Leanna agreed willingly, although slightly puzzled.

When the door closed, Moyshu said, "Weíve become very good friends, havenít we?" At Leannaís nod, she continued, "Then I hope that nothing more of this will go beyond this cabin. Leanna, have you ever heard of a vulpamour?"

"No, Iím not familiar with that term."

"Literally, it means fox-lover, but when applied specifically to foxtaurs, it has a very specific meaning. Vulpamours are vixens who like other vixens. In other terms, theyíre lesbians. Leanna, I donít miss tods because Iím a vulpamour, and I find myself very attracted to you. In fact, I have been ever since the first time we met, and Iíve been trying to gauge your feelings also, but keep getting mixed signals. I guess what Iím saying is, would you like to be more than friends? How would you feel about having a foxtaur girlfriend?"

Leanna was stunned. Not by the prospect of a female lover, because that was hardly a unique event in hir life. It was because shi hadnít seen it coming. Shiíd grown used to having Moyshu as a friend and confidante, and shiíd never caught the subtle signals that she had been giving. Shi was either slipping badly, or had grown a blind spot in regards to the vixen. ĎNow what do I do?í shi questioned hirself. ĎItís not as if being her lover would be unpleasant, but she doesnít even really know my true nature. Then again, perhaps that is the answer.í

"Moyshu, before you go any further, I need to show you something. Itís a very private thing with me, and only a few others on this ship know about it, but you deserve to know." Leanna started unfastening the tail fly of hir pants while Moyshu looked on in both puzzlement and hope. Leanna was pretty sure that the foxtaur would not be concerned about nudity considering what shi had learned about the species, and the fact that they almost never wore anything on their lower torso anyway. Showing her was going to be more convincing than merely telling her. "Moyshu, my dear friend, I am a hermaphrodite," Leanna told the foxtaur as shi lowered hir pants to show the unequivocal truth of hir statement.

It was Moyshuís turn to be stunned. Out of all the scenarios that she had imagined after telling Leanna her feelings, this was one that she hadnít anticipated. Shi stared at the awful truth until Leanna pulled hir pants back into place and re-fastened the tail fly. Then she looked up at Leannaís concerned face, and asked, "Youíre a herm, like a chakat?"

"Except for some minor differences, yes, I am," Leanna confirmed.

"I never even knew that there were herm fennecs," Moyshu said uncertainly.

"Have you ever seen any fennec morphs at all?" asked Leanna hopefully.

Moyshu paused, trying to think, and then she shook her head. "Come to think of it, I canít recall ever seeing anything but fennectaurs before."

Leanna sighed in disappointment. For a moment there, the vixen had raised hir hopes that the others were wrong. Shi quickly brought hir attention back to the problem at hand. "So, how do we stand, Moyshu? Are we still friends? Do you really want someone like me for something more than just friends? Or am I just a freak to you now?"

That jarred the foxtaur. "Oh no, Leanna! Youíre still my friend. Itís justÖ wellÖ I have to re-examine my feelings. Iím just so confused now."

Leanna came over to give the vixen a hug. "I still need you as a friend, whatever else happens. Come talk to me again when you have figured it out." Then shi touched the door control and let hirself out of Moyshuís room, glimpsing the vixenís troubled face watching hir go as the door slid shut.

Leanna stood there in the doorway for a few moments, trying to take stock of the situation, then headed at last for hir cabin. After getting hirself a mug of hot tea to help settle hir agitation, shi tried to study for a while to get hir mind off the recent turn of events. Shi felt that shi wasnít accomplishing much though, so eventually gave up for that evening and started preparing for bed. After showering, shi attended to hir bodyís special needs, and was about to climb into bed when hir door announcer chimed. No one ever visited at that hour, so Leanna had very little doubt about who was on the other side of the door. Just in case, shi put a pair of shorts before opening the door. If there was another person there besides Moyshu, or a crewman was passing by coincidentally, shi didnít want them to see anything. Shi couldnít care less if they got an eyeful of hir breasts. They were however what Moyshu looked straight at when the door opened.

The vixentaur blinked in surprise, then smiled in appreciation as she lifted her gaze to look at Leannaís face. "May I come in?" she asked.

Silently, Leanna moved to one side and gestured to invite her in, closing the door behind the foxtaur.

Moyshu settled on her rump, looking a bit embarrassed. Leanna patiently waited for her to speak. Finally she spoke, staring at the floor, "I think Iíve been guilty of fantasising about what you and I could be like together. I had this silly dream of you being delighted with my announcement and telling me how you felt the same. I just couldnít pin down your feelings though, and I finally know why." She lifted her eyes at last to meet Leannaís. "You were projecting both male and female signals because youíre a herm, but I only picked up on what I wanted to see, while the others just muddied the waters."

Leanna was startled. Shi continued to think of hirself as a female with an unwanted addition to hir physiology, and yet here was yet another person telling hir that shi was coming across as bisexual. Was there a part of hirself that shi didnít properly understand? Moyshu misinterpreted hir reactions though.

"Now that I have had the truth thrust upon me, so to speak, I realise that I was idealising you," she continued ruefully. "So I had to examine my feelings, and I have come to the conclusion that that I need you more for a friend than as a lover, although, I must add that I donít think that I would mind trying a herm lover for once." She held up a hand to forestall any comment. "But right now, what I miss most is someone to share the den with me. We foxtaurs donít generally sleep alone, and Iíve been feeling the lack badly lately. What I would like to ask you now is: would you care to have a bed companion? Nothing more, just the comfort of a friend?" she ended on a hopeful note.

Leanna considered what the vixen had told her, and truthfully shi had to admit to hirself that shi found Moyshu sexually appealing, although shi wondered how much of that was because of hir nature, and how much was because shi genuinely liked the foxtaur. Nevertheless, a compromise had been offered, and considering the fact that shi had rarely slept alone all hir life, and Leanna had been feeling the novelty of the empty bed wearing off, shi couldnít think of a good reason to reject hir friendís appeal. Shi smiled at Moyshu. "I think I would enjoy having someone to cuddle tonight."

Moyshu yipped in joy, then looked a bit embarrassed at her reaction.

Leanna grinned, then headed for the bed, stepping out of hir shorts as shi went. Sitting on the edge of the bed, shi said, "Well, are you going to take off your uniform and join me?"

Moyshu returned the grin, and rapidly pulled off her uniform top and then the bra before jumping onto the bed beside the fennec who stretched out with hir back to Moyshu. The bed wasnít made for two, but that was okay with the vixen. It gave her an excuse to snuggle closer to Leanna. Her longer body curled partially around the petite fennec, and she put a foreleg and an arm over hir.

"Comfy?" asked Leanna.

"Oh, yes!" affirmed Moyshu. "I feel better already!" She couldnít resist giving Leanna a good-night kiss.

Leanna smiled indulgently. "I have to admit, Iím glad that Iím not sleeping alone tonight. Sleep well, my friend."

"I know I will tonight, and I hope you do so as well." If foxtaurs could purr, Moyshu would have been doing so.

"Lights out!" commanded Leanna, and the computer extinguished all but a small nightlight.

Leanna could feel the tensions and cares of the day draining from hir more quickly than usual, and realised just how much shi needed this; maybe as much as Moyshu. As shi drifted off to sleep, Leanna briefly wondered if this boded well for hir future relationships before pleasant dreams overtook them both.


Admiral Kline, Zhane, and Rosepetal Silpurr are the creations of Boyce Garald Kline Jr and are used with permission.
All other characters and this story are © 2005 Bernard Doove.

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To be continued in Forest Tales #25.

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