A FOREST TALE 26: More Terrible Than Chains (a.k.a. Leannaís Story)
Part 7: Growing Closer, Pulled Apart
By Bernard Doove © 2006

Although Leanna could scarcely have imagined such a thing a few months ago, life fell into a comfortable and fulfilling routine. The morning after the mating ceremony, everyoneís pace seemed to pick up. Shore leave was finished and the ship was scheduled to depart the Star Base at the beginning of the first shift. Leanna found Midnight already back at the cabin when shi arrived as usual. The chakat was wearing a bandage around one foreleg, but seemed very cheerful in spite of that.

At Leannaís look of curiosity, Midnight said, "Zhane and I like it rough."

Leanna nodded, instantly understanding. Frankly shi wondered how the Admiral could cope with such powerful and aggressive mates, speculating that they must work it out of their systems with others.

The rest of the family was also cheery but business-like. Boyce and Rosepetal were both leaving earlier than normal to make sure everything was ready for departure. Before they went though, they filled in their itinerary with Leanna.

"We were due to make contact with an exploration team on a newly surveyed planet," Rosepetal said as she passed the syrup to Leanna. "Besides bringing supplies and bringing back samples and data, some of the crew are going to provide relief for those currently there. The incident with the slave ship has pushed back our schedule a little bit, so we will be going there as expeditiously as possible."

"So the next few days will be pretty consistent then?" Leanna asked.

"Yes Ė school for Kayla, child-minding for the cubs. Thereís one other thing that you can do though. How are you at racquetball?"

That question caught Leanna by surprise. "Racquetball? Iíve never played it."

"Would you like to learn? You see, I feel that Kayla has been getting a little lazy lately, and I want her to get some more exercise. I know that she likes racquetball so, if youíre willing, Iíd like it if you were to give her a few games after school. Get Yeoman DíArmand to look after the cubs while you do so."

"Not that Iím unwilling to play with Kayla, but why not get DíArmand or someone else to play this game with her?"

Rosepetal grinned. "Yeoman DíArmand is a competent, cheerful and an exemplary crewmember, and possibly the worst racquetball player in Star Fleet! But seriously," she took Leannaís hand and looked hir earnestly in the eyes, "Leanna, youíve become very close with our family now. You have chosen to become a carer and a teacher. I want you to make strong relationships with all the children in as many ways as possible. I particularly want my daughter to realise her full potential, but my work doesnít allow me as much time to devote to her as I might wish. Iím entrusting you to fill that gap. At the same time you might learn a few new things, and also get a better idea what you are getting yourself into. Besides, a little exercise would probably do you good also."

Leanna knew that Rosepetal could have easily found a suitable member of the crew to do everything that she was asking of hirself. Instead, she was putting her trust in Leanna, and that was a heady feeling. "Iíll do my best, of course," shi promised Rosepetal fervently.

It didnít take much to persuade Kayla to teach Leanna how to play. The biggest surprise was the court itself. When Kayla stopped at a doorway marked ĎRecreational Suite 3í, Leanna was puzzled. On one of hir exploratory trips, shi had been able to spy inside, and there certainly wasnít a racquetball court in there. A subsequent visit hadnít clarified its use beyond the cubsí playground that shi had seen as the computer had denied hir access, saying that shi did not have a reservation for the use of the suite. Kayla had no such problem though. The computer recognised her voice in combination with the comm badge, and the doors slid open. Leanna was startled to find a proper racquetball court inside, and not a sign of the playground equipment, sand-pits and toys that had previously filled the room.

"Whatís the matter, Leanna?" Kayla asked curiously when she saw the fennecís puzzled expression.

Leanna gestured all around hir. "None of this was here a few days ago."

Kayla grinned. "Youíve never been in a holosuite before?"

Leanna looked keenly at Kayla. "Holosuite? Are you saying that this court is just a hologram... an illusion?"

"Well, most of it. Check this out," Kayla replied, excited to be able to show a grown-up a clever trick. "Computer! Adjust setting to competition court."

Abruptly the plain walls disappeared into stadium seating in a room far larger than the suite could possibly be. The illusion was perfect, and Leanna was fascinated.

Kayla enjoyed Leannaís reaction for a bit, then went a step further. "Computer, add spectators to the scene."

Suddenly a crowd of onlookers occupied two thirds of the seats, and the court was filled with the roar of conversation. The sound illusion was as perfect as the vision and, if Leanna hadnít known otherwise, shi would have sworn that shi was in the real thing.

"Computer, reset to normal," Kayla said, and the room reverted to a plain court.

Leanna shook hir head in amazement. "Iíd heard about the sophistication of Federation holo technology. It sure beats anything that I have seen before. So the playground that I saw previously was all illusion? What about the equipment like the swings and such?"

"It gets replicated when needed, and put back into storage when itís not. That way we make the most of the available space."

Leanna suspected that it was a little more sophisticated than that, but it was a child explaining the process, not an expert. Nonetheless, shi was very impressed. "What other tricks can it do?"

"The large one can make just about anything and anyplace. Want to go hiking around a Caitian forest sometime?" Kayla asked with a smile.

"I bet that they donít let just two people hog a facility that big," Leanna guessed shrewdly.

Kayla deflated a bit. "Yeah, you need a big group to use the big holosuite."

"You can show it to me some other day when thereís something appropriate going on. Meantime, weíre here to teach me how to play racquetball."

Kayla quickly became serious and, despite her youth, proved to be good at teaching the game and the skills involved. Leanna was a very fast learner though, and was soon her match. Shi was careful not to exceed her though. The purpose was fun and exercise, not beating a child at her favourite game.

It was two weary but satisfied people who returned to the cabin just before dinnertime. Forest was playing with the cubs, and Rosepetal walked out of the bathroom just as they arrived. She was just wearing a loose robe, and was brushing her hair after her shower.

"How went the game?" Rosepetal asked.

"Leanna is good, satri, but I still beat hir. I want to play again tomorrow!"

"Well done, tara. If Leanna is available, then you are welcome to play again."

Leanna smiled to hirself. Of course shi would be available, but it was best that Kayla thought that this was all her own idea and not feel obligated. Her mother knew what she was doing, and Leanna filed away the experience for a time when hopefully shi would have hir own children to teach and persuade.

The next few days were unremarkable. Leanna looked forward to both hir work and hir after-work activities. Shi always had dinner with the family, and it amused hir to see the friendly manoeuvring to see who spent the night with whom. The night after they left the Starbase, it was Forestís turn to spend time with the Admiral. Midnight approached M'Lai and said with a smile, "As Chief of Security, it is my obligation to see that you get your regular therapeutic sexual intercourse. As your co-mate, I wish to work on our relationship, and as a chakat, Iíd love to make love to you again. Will you spend the night with me?"

M'Lai replied with a straight face, "Okay, but do you think that I can satisfy all three of you?"

Midnight laughed. "Letís find out, hey?" shi replied as shi held out hir hand for M'Lai.

Rosepetal shared a grin with Leanna before she bade the fennec goodnight and she headed off to spend the night with the cubs.

The next night, Rosepetal and Boyce retired together, while M'Lai accepted an offer from Forestwalker to get to know each other better while Midnight had cub duty. Sometimes the lucky human had several mates sharing his bed. Shi had to admire his stamina as, unlike hir former master, shi was assured that he took no medical enhancers to cope.

As for Leanna, shi was happy to be able to finish off each evening sharing Moyshuís bed, the two of them content to snuggle up together. Shi always slept better in her company. Then one evening, something changed.

Leanna made hirself comfortable as usual, curled within Moyshuís larger form, but for some reason shi still felt keyed up and unable to relax. Worse yet, shi was developing an unbidden erection. Leanna was certain that shi wasnít in rut, so it didnít take long for hir to realise that it was Moyshu who was the cause. She was in heat. Leanna hadnít anticipated being affected by the foxtaurís pheromones so strongly. Outside of hir rut, Leanna normally could consciously control hir erections and shi could stop it with an effort of will, but shi could never relax in this condition, let alone sleep. Leanna started trying to extricate hirself from the huddle without disturbing Moyshu, but she wasnít asleep as yet.

"Where are you going?" Moyshu asked.

Leanna rapidly assessed possible answers to that question, but in the end decided that the unvarnished truth was the best. Shi turned to face Moyshu so that she could see the problem. The vixenís eyes widened as she saw the extent of Leannaís arousal.

Leanna said, "Your being in heat is turning me on badly, Moyshu. I know that as a vulpamour, you favour female sex, so I didnít want to bother you with my problem. Iíll go to my cabin tonight and deal with it." Leanna hoped that separation and perhaps a cold shower would do the trick because shi still could not break the conditioning that prevented hir from touching hir penis for masturbation. Shi started to move away to get dressed, but Moyshu reached out to grab hir hand, preventing hir from leaving.

"Leanna, let me tell you a little more about vulpamours first," Moyshu said earnestly. "Broadly speaking, there are two types. The first kind is a radical lesbian. Sheís not only not interested in males, she is actually repulsed by male genitalia. Those vixens almost never have children because of this."

"Then thereís the second kind. Those vixens, while not particularly attracted to male genitalia, are not repulsed by it either. Given a choice, those vixens will always choose a female partner over a male one, but when the time comes when they want to have a kit, they have no problems accepting a tod."

Moyshu looked at Leanna sincerely. "When I am with you, I see everything that I like in a vixen Ė your cute face, your curvaceous form, your adorable breasts, and your feminine personality. Being actually a herm has not changed that one bit, and Iím the second kind of vulpamour, so your erection doesnít bother me at all. In fact, it means that at least one of us would never need a dildo to pleasure the other! Leanna, I asked you once before if you would be my girlfriend for as long as weíre together aboard this ship. You never really answered that, so I am asking you again in full knowledge of what you are Ė will you be my girlfriend and lover?"

Leanna felt a bit choked up, excited and confused, and shi felt a little weak at the knees by the vixen's revelations. It had surprised hir to find out that she didnít mind males because shi had never related to her on anything but a female basis. Shi really hadnít properly understood what a vulpamour was until now. Shi was still trying to come to terms with what a true herm was! Yet should shi make a decision that could be strongly influenced by pheromones? Then shi recalled the pleasure that they had taken in each other when Moyshu had drained hir breasts, and shi realised that it didnít matter about the pheromones because shi wanted Moyshu again, even before they had become a factor. More and more, shi had been learning to appreciate hir male side. It was time to stop reacting to a need and start acting on hir desires.

With hir decision made, hir expression cleared and shi smiled at Moyshu and said, "It would be my greatest pleasure to be your hermfriend, if thereís such a word. I want to be with you too, but it will be as a complete package, the entire me."

Moyshu returned hir smile. "Done!" she said, then finally let Leannaís hand go. She then rolled over onto her back and propped her upper torso against the headrest. She winked at Leanna. " You and I both need some sexual relief right now. Later, I'll show you how a vulpamour truly makes love to her partner. But for now, this way we should get off to a great start," she said as she spread her hind legs in invitation.

Leanna grinned as shi moved to take up her offer. As shi kneeled in front of the vixen, shi thought to hirself, ĎFirst I mounted Forest out of sheer desperation, then had intercourse with M'Lai out of a mutual need. But now, for the first time ever, I am going to do this as a lover. How things have changed!í Shi leaned over the foxtaur, and hir penis rubbed against the vixenís labia. Seeing Moyshuís readiness in her eyes, Leanna pushed hir rigid cock deeply into her warm, moist vagina, and they both groaned in relief and pleasure. Leanna settled hirself comfortably around Moyshu as the vixen put her hands on Leannaís breasts, thumbs rubbing against the turgid nipples. She leaned forward to meet Leannaís muzzle then, tilting her head, she began kissing the fennec deeply while fondling hir breasts. The two enjoyed this for a couple of minutes before Leanna leaned back, smiling lovingly at Moyshu. Shi then started a deep, steady thrusting into Moyshu, and the vixen threw back her head and basked in the pleasure. Leanna used hir training and skills to rapidly bring the vixen to a screaming orgasm, then a second time. The third time, Leanna let loose hir own tensions and, virtually together, they climaxed in a chorus of yips and groans. Leanna, still buried within Moyshu, relaxed on top of the vixen who stroked hir hair and crooned her thanks to hir.

Eventually Leanna slipped free and settled into hir usual position, Moyshu curling around hir. "Thank you, Moyshu. I feel a lot better now. Were my efforts to please you what you expected them to be like?"

"You certainly didnít disappoint me, Leanna. I like having a girlfriend... sorry, hermfriend... who can be so soft and cuddly, yet have the capability to do so much more at the same time." She laughed softly. "Perhaps I should have tried a chakat lover before this!"

"Itís nice to have oneís abilities appreciated so openly and honestly," Leanna replied. "Chakats are good at that."

Moyshu was thoughtful for a moment, then replied, "I gather the impression that you didnít get too much of that in your life. Do you mind if I ask you a very personal question?"

Leanna giggled. "How much more personal than we already have been? I donít promise an answer, but you can ask me anything."

Hesitantly, Moyshu asked, "Were you a slave, Leanna?"

Leanna stiffened in surprise. That was one question that shi hadnít anticipated. Had shi given hirself away somehow? To buy hirself more time, shi immediately replied, "What the heck makes you think that?"

"Lots of little things," Moyshu answered. "Your unusual accent made me wonder where you came from, and I wanted to find out a little more about you after we first met. I kept getting odd results though. The computer would not release details of your background. The only fennec morphs that I could find were all reported from the Non-Aligned Worlds. Herms are very rare too, and are almost always the result of someone breeding them for fetish purposes, either before the Gene Wars, or currently in the N.A.W. Then thereís the fact that I never met you until after we encountered the slave ship. You also make small mistakes in things with which the shipís crew would be totally familiar. And then thereís the very unusual way that the Admiral and his family treat you Ė completely unlike just another member of the crew. There are other things, such as your relationship with the slaves, but they all point to only one conclusion Ė you were a slave rescued from that ship."

Leanna though fast and hard. Shi was almost certain that shi could explain everything away. Shi had already thought of excuses for several. However, Leanna was tired of the subterfuge. Shi had found someone who could be a friend and lover, someone in whom shi could confide and be intimate in more than just a physical manner. Admiral Kline and Commander Rosepetal had asked hir not to let on to the crew about hir true nature, but as shi wasnít truly a member of Star Fleet, shi wasnít bound by a request. If they had framed it as a direct order, then shi would have had to comply, but they wanted hir to be independent and make hir own decisions, as hard as that concept seemed to hir, and this was one of the consequences. Well, shi would make a decision this time!

Leannaís turned over and met Moyshuís eyes. "I like having an observant and intelligent girlfriend. You are correct; I was one of those rescued from the slave ship. How do you feel about that?"

Moyshu smiled. "I think we both got lucky that day. Will you tell me what it was like being a slave, or is that a touchy subject?"

Leanna thought for a moment before replying. "Not everything about my past life should be told. A lot is very unpleasant, and some of it is downright ugly. There are things that I was forced to do that I wish that I could forget, but I canít. I have perfect recall, and every one of those moments is still clear in my mind. All that I can do is to try never thinking about them. However, I can tell you about how things were in general, and several events. You may even ask me for more details, but there will be some subjects that must remain a secret, or are too touchy to talk about. Can you accept that?"

"Of course I can, Leanna. Iím your friend, not your interrogator. Just tell me what you can so that I can understand what it was like for you and for the other slaves."

For the next couple of hours, Leanna talked and Moyshu asked the occasional question. Once in a while, Moyshu comforted Leanna as a particularly upsetting thing was related. By the time that they were too tired to go on any longer, Moyshu was greatly enlightened as to the true state of the slaves of the Non-Aligned Worlds. For Leanna though, it was a greatly cathartic session, and shi drifted off to sleep more at peace with hir past than at any other time in hir life.

"Moyshu knows that I was a slave," Leanna said matter-of-factly.

Rosepetalís fork paused momentarily on its way to her mouth as she eyed the fennec, then completed the journey. She chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then after swallowing, asked, "Did you tell her, or did she figure it out for herself?"

"She put a lot of clues together correctly and then asked me about it directly last night. I chose to confirm it despite your wishes," Leanna said a little defiantly, surprising hirself with hir temerity.

"Good," Rosepetal said with a reassuring smile. "Thereís a time and place for everything, and that was as good a time as any to tell her. It also pleases me that she worked it out. Good observation and deduction are desirable qualities in a mission leader."

"Mission leader?" echoed Leanna in puzzlement. "What mission?"

"What has she told you about her duties?" Rosepetal countered.

"Sheís a planetary scout, and she teaches survival courses while aboard the ship."

"Correct, and sheís very good at it. And when we get to our next destination, she will be taking a team down to do a general survey. We will be coming back to pick them up on our next tour, unless some emergency requires an earlier visit. Moyshuís unique abilities, combined with her intelligence and leadership skills, made her a perfect choice for mission leader."

"So she wonít be aboard when we get to Earth?" Leanna asked. Rosepetal nodded in affirmation and Leanna continued. "So that is why she said Ďfor as long as weíre together on this shipí, and not until we get to Earth. When does she leave?" Leanna was starting to feel upset.

"We get there in eight days."

Eight days? Having found someone whom shi could be completely intimate with, shi was going to lose her so soon? Why hadnít she told hir? Leanna felt like running out and demanding answers, but hir sense of duty stopped hir. Nevertheless shi was going to have a few sharp words with Moyshu when they got together this evening!

"I intended to tell you tonight!" protested Moyshu. "I just didnít want to spoil things last night. Everything was going so well between us, and then later it was all about your past. I didnít think it was the right time to bring up my assignment."

Leanna was partially mollified, but wasnít quite satisfied. "What about before last night? There were plenty of opportunities then."

"I was only assigned to the mission yesterday. Up until then, it could have been two others who got the position, and I would either have just been just one of the team, or assigned to another mission, or even returned to Earth without an assignment, hoping that the next voyage would give me my big break. Leanna, this is a big promotion for me. Iím still pretty young for a team leader. Something must have convinced them that I was ready for the job."

Leanna was startled. ĎSomething? Or Someone?" shi wondered. Shi filed away that thought for further consideration later. Right now, someone more important was waiting, and they had no time to waste anymore. Besides, Moyshu was still in heat, and both of them felt the need to do something about that!

"May I be blunt, Commander?" Leanna asked Rosepetal.

Rosepetal was a bit surprised. Leanna usually was only that formal with Boyce, and that because of hir conditioning in regard to humans. She gave the fennec her undivided attention. "Certainly, Leanna. Whatís the problem?"

"Are you responsible for assigning Moyshu to the upcoming survey mission?"

Rosepetal had wondered if, or more likely when, Leanna would find out, and how shi would react. "Iím not the final authority; Boyce is. However, he usually acts on my recommendations, and I put Moyshu on the top of the list of candidates for the job."

"Was it because of me?" Leanna demanded. "Did I step over some bounds and youíre getting rid of her? Did she make a mistake in associating with a slave? Or is she being rewarded for making that slave happy? She mentioned that she was quite young for such an important position, so why did she get it?"

Rosepetal sighed. If this had been a crewperson, she would have had hir up for insubordination. However, this was someone who had come from an entirely different culture, a former slave, and someone who had good reason to be suspicious of motives. She had to be sympathetic but stern. "Leanna, above all else, this is still a Star Fleet vessel, and Moyshu is a Star Fleet officer. Although her relationship with you is quite acceptable and of benefit to you, she is still here to perform her Fleet duties first. Moyshu has proven herself to be a very good planetary scout with the ability to lead others and, despite her relative youth, more than qualified for the position, as I mentioned yesterday. However, recent events did affect our decision. She, as well as the other two candidates for the position, have been under closer scrutiny since before we met up with the slave ship. How they deal with people and situations is critically important because they will be isolated from the rest of the Federation for a long period. Moyshu showed a high degree of flexibility, ingenuity and decisiveness, combined with an excellent ability to get along with others. So yes, how she interacted with you was a factor in our appraisal, but hardly your fault. As much as we want you to be happy and forge relationships, Moyshuís work comes first. This is her career, and it would be selfish of us to hold her back just so that she can continue being your girlfriend. I hope that you can understand that."

Leanna could indeed understand that, and intellectually agreed with Rosepetal. That didnít make the fact any easier to deal with emotionally though. Still, shi had learned another lesson Ė just because shi wasnít a slave anymore didnít mean that everything was going to be perfect. Life was never fair, and shi had to learn the new rules before they blindsided hir again. "Thank you, Commander. I understand now. I should be happy for Moyshu."

Rosepetal reached out to take Leannaís hand in hers, reassuring the fennec. "It certainly isnít the end of the world. Moyshu will be back, and if your relationship with her is strong, you will be able to continue where you left off. Meanwhile, I suggest that you make the most of your remaining time together."

Leanna nodded. "We will," shi said fervently.

Of course, that plan came unstuck also. For a couple of days, Leanna resumed the regular routine, although shi did take a bit of time off hir studies in order to spend more of it with Moyshu. This morning though, it had been particularly difficult to part company with the foxtaur. Theyíd made love for longer than normal, and Moyshu needed her sleep before starting her shift later. Leanna still felt horny though, but shi managed to restrain hirself to merely cuddling and stroking her fur until shi realised that shi was running late.

Leanna hastily dressed, frustrated by a seeming lack of coordination this morning. Too late for breakfast, shi rushed off to Doctor M'Laiís office, not noticing the startled expressions on the faces of the morphs shi passed, especially one red fox morph.

M'Lai did her usual scans, then frowned at the results. "Are you feeling okay, Leanna?" she asked.

"I had a late night, didnít get enough sleep, and missed breakfast because I was running late. Other than that, I feel fine."

M'Lai wasnít entirely convinced, but if Leanna said shi was fine, she would have to take hir word for it until they established a proper medical baseline for the fennec. "Okay, but let me know if there are any problems. Itís important that I keep track of any changes in your body that might be relevant."

Leanna gave the Caitian a quick hug. "Of course I will. Gotta go!"

M'Lai reluctantly let Leanna leave, and shi hurried off to the Admiralís cabin. In the trans-lift, shi momentarily forgot to tell the computer where shi wanted to go, but it made virtually no difference to the amount of time that shi was tardy anyway.

Forestwalker greeted hir at the door as shi came in. "Good morning, Leanna. Had a rough night?" shi asked cheerily.

"Leanna slept in," the fennec admitted.

"Leanna slept in?" Forestwalker echoed. "Whatís with the slave speech?"

"Oh! Sorry, I must be more tired than I thought and slipped back into old habits."

"Did you even have time for a decent breakfast?"

"No. I had better grab something to eat quickly if you will look out for the cubs a moment longer."

"Take your time. Youíre not really late."

Leanna headed for the replicator for food, but just then Boyce emerged from the bedroom, ready to start his day. He greeted the fennec, "Good morning, Leanna."

Leanna immediately detoured to give Boyce a hug that was a tad more than just friendly. "Good morning, master," shi said, and gave him an intimate grope.

"Leanna!" Boyce said sharply, shocked by hir words and actions.

Leanna stepped back from Boyce, a look of dismay dawning on hir face. "Leanna sorry! I mean Iím sorry! I didnít mean... oh no...."

"Whatís wrong, Leanna?" Forestwalker asked as shi felt the torrent of conflicting emotions pouring out of the distressed fennec.

Leanna shook hirself, appearing to be trying to clear hir head. Shi looked at the two desperately. "Quick! Call Yeoman... Yeoman...."

"Yeoman DíArmand," Forestwalker supplied.

"Yes, her!" Leanna said emphatically. "She must look after cubs now. I cannot. Iím... Iím going into heat."

Forestwalker instantly knew what was happening. Shi turned to the puzzled Admiral. "Boyce, I need to help Leanna. Can someone cover for me? Iíll explain later."

"Leanna is still your first priority, so go ahead. Take as much time as you need. Iíll call DíArmand and fix things here."

"Thanks! Come on, Leanna, weíre going to see M'Lai."

Doctor M'Lai Saarath wasnít terribly surprised to see Leanna so soon, but she was a bit upset. "I knew I shouldnít have let you go so soon without a deeper examination. Whatís wrong?"

"Shiís going into heat, and we both know what that means," explained Forestwalker.

"Yes indeed! Leanna, get up onto the scanning bed. Weíre going to take those detailed readings now."

Leanna did so, and M'Lai started the process of pre-programmed scans. As shi laid there, Leanna said, "Sorry. Getting stupid. Did not realise I was going into heat."

"Itís okay, Leanna. We understand," M'Lai replied. "Iím the one who should be sorry. I could have guessed what was happening, even if I couldnít interpret the data right then." She gave a Caitian mrrrp of surprise. "Although, looking at these readings, I would not have known what was happening without prior warning. This is very strange stuff." Her voice trailed off as she got engrossed in the data.

Forestwalker gave the doctor a subtle nudge. "M'Lai, do you still need Leanna? I think that we need to get hir back to hir cabin as soon as possible."

"Hmmm? Oh, sorry. Yes." She pressed a button that lifted the scanner out of the way. "Iíll be making a visit or two later to take more readings though. I want as much data on the changes as possible."

"Okay. Letís get you back to your cabin, Leanna."

Leanna nodded, following the chakat meekly. Safely back in hir room, Leanna started undressing. "No point in wearing these for a while," shi commented.

Forestwalker asked, "What do we need to do for you while youíre in heat?"

Leanna frowned, finding it hard to focus hir thoughts. "Make sure I eat properly. I might not operate the replicators well, or at all, while I am stupid."

"No problem," Forestwalker replied.

"Lock door. Stupid Leanna must not leave room."

"I can understand that. Computer! Do not open cabin door for Leanna Fennec until either myself, Doctor M'Lai, Chakat Midnight, or Commander Rosepetal discontinues this instruction."

The computerís even tones stated, "Security code or authorisation from Leanna Fennec is required for this action."

Forestwalker looked at Leanna as shi did not have the necessary security code. Leanna hesitated a long moment, then said, "I, Leanna Fennec, authorise this action."

"Command accepted," the computer replied.

"Next?" enquired Forestwalker.

Although hir thinking was getting fuzzy, shi had previously thought out what shi wanted to do, but shi had to push hirself to remember. When shi did, hir expression turned very earnest. "Tell Moyshu... tell Moyshu that Leanna canít see her... two nights! Moyshu must never know this happen to Leanna. Never!" Although shi could not articulate hir reasons properly anymore, Leanna was determined that Moyshu would never witness hir degrading descent into animalistic sexual behaviour. This was one secret that shi intended to keep. If all went as promised, it would never happen again.

"I promise, Leanna," Forestwalker said. "Weíll come up with some good excuse to tell her."

Leanna looked grateful and relieved.

"What about sexual relief? You told me that it wasnít a matter of life or death as with your rut."

Leanna looked at the chakat keenly, and Forestwalker sensed a surge of lust that the fennec tried to suppress. "Leanna like..." shi started, then tried again. "I would grateful... if you would do me the favour... of making love to me," shi ground out carefully.

Forestwalker was dismayed at how quickly Leanna was losing the ability to talk cogently without a great deal of effort. However, shi had made this particular point unambiguous. Nevertheless, after what had happened during Leannaís rut, shi had to be certain.

"Are you sure that somebody else couldnít do the job just as well? I will do this for you, but I need to know that I wonít be taking advantage of your state. Maybe one of the male sex slaves?"

"No! Leanna decided days ago... you best! You help Leanna in rut. You help Leanna get good work. You bring Leanna family. Now you take Leanna and make love... please!" The fennec came over and hugged the chakat, nuzzling hir. The close physical contact threatened to overwhelm hir empathic senses and hir self-control.

"Okay, Leanna, Iíll do it. When and how often?"

Leanna seemed to struggle to comprehend. Finally shi said, "Not now. Want now, not need now. Need tonight. Need in morning."

"So, if I understand correctly, although you already desire sex, you wonít actually need relief until this evening, then again in the morning. At least twice a day until itís over?"

Leannaís concentration seemed almost comical as shi listened to Forestwalker, then hir face lit up with the simple happiness of being understood. "Yes! Yes! You come see Leanna then; Leanna make you happy; you make Leanna happy; Leanna remember!"

ĎThatís right,í Forest thought to hirself, Ďshi always remembers everything when shi comes out of heat.í "Okay, Leanna, I will try to give you happy memories. I promise."

Leanna hugged the chakat happily, and with the success of giving Forestwalker the instructions, finally seemed to succumb completely to the moron phase. Shi completely disregarded hir own instructions and started groping Forestwalker very intimately. Forest gently but firmly disengaged the fennec. "Not now, Leanna. Later, okay?"

Leanna looked very disappointed and hir soulful eyes looked upon Forestwalker with undiluted lust. Forestwalkerís erection was unavoidable, but shi did hir best to suppress the urge. Shi hastily left the room, promising again to return. Outside in the corridor, Forestwalker sat with hir legs close together, obscuring hir aroused state until it subsided. Shi got a few curious looks from passers-by, but it was better than the alternative. As shi sat there, shi reflected on what had just happened. ĎItís been less than half an hour since shi arrived for work as usual, and in that short time shiís gone from almost normal to totally lost in hir moron heat phase.í Forestwalker shuddered. ĎAnd to think that shi will recall every moment of what happens during it. Iím glad that Iím not hir right now, but shiís had to go through dozens of these. Poor dear Leanna. Iíll make sure to give you something worth remembering!í

When walking was practical again, shi headed back to hir cabin. Boyce was still there, apparently having left Rosepetal in charge so that he could find out what was happening with Leanna as soon as possible. Forestwalker filled him in completely as to what was happening and why.

"You can take as much time as you need to attend to Leanna," Boyce told hir.

"I donít think that thereís much that I can do at the moment. Iím going to instruct the computer to play hir some simple programming in hir cabin that ought to keep hir from getting bored. Iíll check to see that shiís getting food and water okay in hir current state. Otherwise, there really isnít much that we can do. Iíll tell M'Lai the situation so that shi can get in and out without a problem, and get her readings."

"Very well. Just let me know if anything extraordinary happens. DíArmand has things under control here, so you may as well go back to your regular duties until you need to attend to Leanna." He got up from behind the small desk that he used when not in the Captainís Ready Room, straightened out his uniform, and said, "Iíd better get to the bridge now. We may be in dull interstellar space, but the Captain is expected to put in an appearance occasionally."

Forestwalker went back to hir work, but was unable to concentrate 100% on the job, and constantly checked with the computer on Leannaís status. ĎA good thing that it doesnít get sick of me asking the same questions over and over,í shi thought with a small smile.

At the end of the shift, shi went to Sick Bay and collected M'Lai. The doctor had prepared some sophisticated equipment to get her readings in Leannaís cabin instead of Sick Bay. Forest informed her of Leannaís request to give the fennec sexual relief, and M'Lai asked the chakat if it was possible to get another set of readings soon after.

"I need to know if anything is counteracting the hormones that trigger the suppression of hir cognitive abilities," M'Lai elucidated. "Shi gave me the impression that the more that shi got serviced during that phase, the shorter it was. And if you notice anything at all worth mentioning, let me know."

Forestwalker shrugged. "Iíll do what I can. Iím playing this by ear at the moment."

"Until I get enough data, so am I, so I certainly understand your position," M'Lai commiserated.

Forestwalker helped carry some of the items for M'Lai. When shi opened Leannaís door, the fennec practically pounced on hir, resuming hir previous attempts to arouse the chakat.

Forestwalker had mentally braced hirself for the assault, and firmly ordered Leanna to lie down on the bed. "Lie still for a few minutes, Leanna. As soon as M'Lai is finished, we can start having some fun."

Only the direct order acting on Leannaís slave conditioning kept hir there for even the few short minutes that the doctor required. M'Lai quickly and efficiently took her readings, then took a small blood sample.

"Shiís all yours," M'Lai said as shi packed up. "Iíll wait to hear from you." She then departed, leaving the chakat and fennec alone.

Leanna was immediately all over Forestwalker, but this time the chakat relaxed and went with the flow. In only moments, shi had a full erection, and Leanna positioned hirself to receive Forestwalker. The first time was a short but powerful burst of intercourse meant just to ease the fennecís desperate desire for sex, and the orgasm came quickly, followed by a second shortly afterwards. After that, it became a lot less frantic and a bit more interesting. Leanna was enthusiastic and enjoyed every moment, but had no creativity in hir current condition. It was up to Forestwalker to try different things in the hopes of giving Leanna some enjoyable memories when shi got back to normal. Forestwalker enjoyed those parts a lot more, and they were the only times that shi too orgasmed.

Leanna threatened to wear out the chakat before shi was finally satiated. ĎGood thing that Trina has built up my stamina,í Forestwalker thought.

Surprisingly, Leanna started drifting off to sleep. Forestwalker gently extricated hirself from the fennecís arms and called M'Lai. The doctor turned up promptly and took her readings without disturbing Leanna, even when she drew a second sample of "after" blood.

"How does it look?" Forestwalker asked in a low voice.

"Initial readings bear out what shi mentioned Ė lots of orgasms seem to counter the effect somewhat. I need to figure out the exact mechanism, but itís promising."

"So, the more shi gets, the shorter it lasts? Now thereís a helluva course of treatment!"

M'Lai smiled a little. "Yes. If it wasnít for the unwanted mental effects, it would almost be funny. Now, what about you? You didnít stop for dinner first."

"Come to think of it, Iím ravenous! I suppose that while Leanna is sleeping would be a good time to get something to eat. I also need to go see Moyshu. Iíll check with Midnight to find out what would be the best time to do that. Then Iíll come back here, hopefully before Leanna awakens."

"Sounds like a plan. Iíve left the instruments set up to auto-run the scanning program for Leanna. If you could do a scan before and after hir next bout, I would appreciate it."

"Not a problem," Forestwalker replied as they headed out the door. "Do you want me to call you at all?"

"I anticipate that she may be wanting sex again sometime after midnight, and again in the morning. Call me after that so that I can get another blood sample."

Forestwalker pulled a face. "Oof! That much male sex? I wish that I was in male phase at the moment. That would make this a lot easier. Chakats may have a reputation for having lots of sex, but the truth is that we donít have it anywhere near that much. My penis is going to ache!"

M'Lai laughed as they stepped into the trans-lift. She put a consoling arm around Forestwalkerís shoulders. "For once, Iím glad itís not me that has to deal with that kind of problem. Come see me though if it becomes a real issue."

Forestwalker had time to have decent meal before shi left to rendezvous with Moyshu. The vixen was surprised to see Forestwalker and not Leanna when she arrived.

"Hello, Forest. Is there something wrong with Leanna?" she asked with concern in her voice.

"No, not wrong per se," demurred Forestwalker. "Shi did ask me to tell you that shi wonít be able to see you tonight or tomorrow night at least. Shi will possibly be back on a normal schedule the night after that though. Shi wanted me to reassure you and shi will be looking forward to seeing you again as soon as possible."

"Did Leanna get into trouble?" Moyshu asked, wondering if exposing hir past had caused Leanna problems.

"Oh, no!" Forestwalker hastened to reassure her. "All I can say at this time though is that this was an anticipated problem involving Leanna. Shiís fine, shiís not in trouble, but shi canít be with you right now." Forestwalker put a hand on Moyshuís arm. "Donít push hir about it when you see hir, Moyshu. I assure you that it doesnít concern you, and shi wonít be talking to anyone about it."

"Thanks, Forest. I suppose that I can find some other way to occupy myself this evening. So, the night after tomorrow then?"

"Weíre pretty sure. Please donít be disappointed if it goes a bit longer than anticipated though."

"Okay. I suppose that I canít ask for more than that. Iíll see you later, Forest!"

"Goodnight, Moyshu!"

Forestwalker followed the foxtaur out after Moyshu had had enough time to get out of sight, then headed off to Leannaís room. Shi was relieved to see that Moyshu had apparently not decided to try her luck there after all, then went inside.

Leanna woke up the moment the door opened, and it was quickly apparent that shi was ready for another round. Forestwalker insisted on Leanna getting something to eat and drink first, and then struggled to get hir to cooperate long enough to do another set of scans. Only then did Forestwalker accede to Leannaís demands. The chakat discovered however that apparently the dull-witted fennec hadnít figured out that shi needed to empty hir breasts of milk, so Forestwalker took care of that for hir, suckling them both dry. Not only was it very pleasant for both of them, but the milkís aphrodisiac effects made it easier for Forestwalker to sustain hir erection also. After a shorter bout than the first time, Leanna was again satisfied, and Forestwalker encouraged hir to go back to sleep. This time, after doing another scan, Forestwalker laid down next to hir in the hope of getting some good sleep also.

Forestwalker awoke from an erotic dream to find Leanna playing with hir cock. Groaning, shi looked at the clock to see how much sleep shi had managed to get. Ė less than shi had hoped for. ĎLooks like I wonít be sleeping too well for a couple of days,í shi thought unhappily, then turned hir attention to the persistent fennec. Fortunately, the lingering effects of Leannaís milk helped sustain Forestwalker to pleasure Leanna to orgasm a few times. After that task was accomplished, shi took Leanna into the bathroom and showered them both. Even that Leanna turned into sexplay, but in the end they both emerged fresh and sweet-smelling.

Forestwalker made sure that they both had a good breakfast before shi left the fennec in order to go to hir own cabin. Windrunner was just starting to mewl for a feed. Glad to have something else to do before having to go to work, and not wishing Midnight to be disturbed, Forestwalker contentedly fed the hungry cub. Just as shi was almost done with that pleasant task, a rather dishevelled Midnight walked in.

"Youíre up early," the black-furred chakat commented. "How did the night with Leanna go?"

"A bit rough. Leannaís appetite for sex seems virtually insatiable in hir present condition. Itís gone past the point of enjoyment and become more of a chore."

"Well, I have a bit of a consolation prize. I was saving my milk because I couldnít be sure that youíd be around for feeding time. Looks like you get to empty the milk jugs."

Forestwalker smiled. "Now thereís something that I donít think Iíll ever get tired of."

Midnight settled down next to Forestwalker, careful not to disturb the feeding cub while Forest suckled on Midnightís tit. For several minutes, the trio shared milk, stroking and empathic bonding, glad to be together as lifemates and child.

All good things come to an end though, and Midnight had to get ready for hir shift. Forestwalker settled Windrunner down to sleep off hir meal, and then went back out into the main room. By then, everyone else was up and getting breakfast.

Boyce looked up, concern crossing his features. "You look worn out, love. Is Leanna letting you get enough sleep?"

"No," admitted Forestwalker.

Rosepetal spoke up. "I think it would be best if you go straight to bed now. I know you chakats need more sleep than we do, and I donít want one of my crew running on empty. Iíll let your department head know that you wonít be coming in until later."

"But what about my project?" Forestwalker protested weakly.

"Thereís nothing that canít be put off for a couple of days," Rosepetal reassured hir. "Same goes for tomorrow if necessary."

"Listen to the First Officer, Forest," Boyce said, getting up to give hir a hug. "Keeping things running smoothly is her job, and that also means making over-conscientious chakats get much-needed sleep."

"Yes, dear," Forestwalker acquiesced, leaning into the hug. Shi then gave Rosepetal a cheeky salute. "Yes, maíam!"

It was about lunchtime that Forestwalker checked on Leanna. Neither got anything to eat though until after Leanna had worked off hir urges once more. Forestwalker finally got to work on hir project before the shift ended, then it was back to Leanna, after which events occurred much as they had the previous evening.

Forestwalker was surprised to wake up normally at a late morning hour. ĎLeanna hasnít tried anything this morning?í shi wondered. Turning over, shi found the fennec sitting on the edge of the bed just watching hir.

"Good morning, Leanna," shi greeted hir.

"A very good morning, Forest," agreed Leanna.

Forestwalker raised an eyebrow. "Youíre back to normal, I take it?"

Leanna grimaced. "Kind of. My intelligence is mostly returned, but Iím at the tail end of my heat, so Iím pretty horny still."

"But not uncontrollably so..." Forestwalker began.

"... that Iíd wake you while trying to arouse you?" Leanna finished for the chakat. "I was just remembering that. You were remarkably tolerant despite my abuse. My deepest thanks."

"I just wish that I had had a bit more warning," Forestwalker commented.

Leanna looked embarrassed. "Iím very sorry about that. I had already considered my alternatives long before it started. Iíd already rejected the captain for several reasons, and while Midnight is more male inclined, I donít connect with hir as well as I do with you, and you have had experience with me before. But after I had made my decision, I put it out of my mind. Youíd think that a slave would be more blasé about such things, but this is one that I truly abhor to the point of not wanting to think about it any more than necessary... or forgetting to tell people that I plan to involve."

"Itís okay, I would have agreed anyway, but why not simply get one of the male sex slaves to do what he does best? He probably would have had more stamina than me."

Leanna shook hir head. "With one of them, it would have been nothing but pure animalistic rutting. That kind of memory I can do without. With you, however, it was more meaningful and enjoyable. I can recall those moments with some degree of satisfaction." Shi leant up against the chakat, smiling. "Youíre worth remembering."

"Thank you. Iím happy to have made your time more bearable."

"Thereís one other thing. Sometimes you get more than you bargain for if you take a sex slave. Iíve done things under those circumstances that I would never do willingly when Iím normal." Shi shuddered. "Some very nasty things."

Forestwalker stroked Leannaís back-fur as shi soothed the fennecís upset at recalling those moments. After a minute, Leanna relaxed a bit as shi managed to put those memories aside. Forestwalker then said, "I sense that youíre still trying to control yourself because youíre not over your heat."

Leanna sighed. Shi had not wanted to burden Forestwalker with that problem anymore. "Itís true. The moron phase passes when I come off the peak, but it takes the best part of the rest of the day for the urges to ease off."

"You still need servicing then?"

"Youíve already done enough for me, Forest. Itís not something that I canít cope with, and I know that you are tired of the task."

Forest grinned. "Well, youíve let me have a good sleep in, so Iíll make you a deal. The thing that I most disliked was that you were too obsessed with the physical aspect of sex to make it as interesting and intimate as we chakats like it. It was just intercourse, and that palls rather quickly. So, I will help you work off the rest of your cravings and, in exchange, you give me the most interesting and intimate mating that you can."

"Youíve got a deal!" Leanna declared immediately.

"Scan first though!" Forestwalker said with a laugh.

The scans were done, and then the two set off with gusto. This time it was everything both wanted in sex-play. It was truly making love rather than mere intercourse, and despite having partners of both the taur and the biped kinds, Forestwalker was still surprised and delighted with some of the things that the fennec came up with. After a couple of orgasms apiece, they concentrated their efforts into one last shared climax. Forestwalker opened hir empathic senses into a full two-way connection, much as shi had with Malena, and the two exploded into a doubled helping of both physical and emotional pleasure.

Leanna laid on top of Forestwalker, both panting from their exertions. "Thatís a... nice trick," Leanna said between breaths.

"Well I... couldnít have you... one-upping me... in everything!" replied Forestwalker, equally short of breath.

"No fair! ... I canít... do that!" Leanna laughed.

"I think that... Moyshu should be... well satisfied... anyway," Forest opined.

Leanna thought about the foxtaur, and then realised that despite the servicing that shi had just enjoyed, shi still felt a thrill of lust at the thought of being with Moyshu again tonight. Then hir belly gurgled loudly.

Forestwalker giggled. "I think that weíre both more than a little bit hungry. Letís have some brunch, then go see M'Lai."

The doctor was delighted to see Leanna walk into Sick Bay dressed once again in hir uniform. "Leanna! Youíre back to normal already?" she asked.

"Mostly. How much is up to you to measure exactly, no?" Leanna replied with a grin.

Forestwalker handed a datacard to M'Lai. "Hereís the data from the other scans that I did for you."

"Thanks, Forest," M'Lai said, taking the card and inputting the data into Leannaís file. "One more deep scan and you can let me do some analysis. Iíll still expect to see you back here at the usual time for the regular scan though, Leanna."

"Whatever it takes to rid me of the problem permanently, Iíll do. Just reassure me that I wonít have to go through that again."

M'Lai smiled confidently. "While it may take a lot of analysing and computing to find a permanent solution, I already have enough data to produce a counter-agent for the key hormones. You will have that available to you long before your next heat."

Leanna hugged the Caitian. "Thank you very much, M'Lai."

M'Lai stroked the fennecís hair affectionately. "Youíre very welcome, Leanna."

Moyshu headed straight for the coffee lounge as soon as her shift ended. She approached its doors nervously, wondering if Leanna would be there, then hesitated for a moment before entering, afraid of being disappointed. It took only a moment to spot the fennec sipping hir cappuccino, watching the stars crawl past the view windows. Quietly she walked up behind Leanna and put her arms around hir. Shi smelled extra appealing tonight.

Leanna, unsurprised, looked around, a big grin of happiness on hir face. The shi reached up and pulled Moyshuís face to hirs and proceeded to give the vixentaur a full-muzzle passionate kiss in front of everyone in the lounge.

Startled at first, Moyshu quickly went with the mood, returning the kiss in full. When they finally breathlessly pulled apart, there were a few good-natured jibes to "get a room". Moyshu grinned. "Shall we take their advice?" she asked Leanna.

"The sooner, the better," agreed the fennec.

The pair left hand-in-hand. As they walked to Moyshuís cabin, she asked, "I have no intention of stepping on anyoneís toes, but is there anything that you want to tell me about the last couple of days?"

Leanna had expected the question, and had already considered hir reply. "Thereís not much that I can say about those days except that my absence was not by my choice, and you would not have wanted to be with me then. The circumstances were unpleasant, and I intend to bury most of those memories as deeply as possible. One thing that I can say though is that I missed you a lot, and I wanted to be with you. We have some time to make up."

The duo did their best to cram three nights of love-making into one, and the action got very hot and frenetic at times. Eventually they had had their fill, and they snuggled up together comfortably.

"Youíre in heat, arenít you?" asked Moyshu. "Feeling better now?"

"Right on both counts. How about you? Two whole nights without me Ė you must have been suffering!" Leanna added mischievously.

Moyshu merely grinned. "I didnít like it, I admit. Iíve gotten used to having you here with me at night. Iím really going to miss you when I go."

"Itís going to be strange for me. Iíve never been in the position of having a girlfriend or boyfriend before, and now Iím going to have to give one up!"

"Iíll be back," promised Moyshu, "but donít wait for me. There are plenty of other people out there who would find you just as delightful as I do. You have a whole new life waiting for you on Earth, so make the most of it."

"I intend to," Leanna said fervently. "I think that I have found the niche that will suit me best and make me happy. I couldnít have gotten where I am now without people like you, Forest, M'Lai and all the rest. Maybe especially you because now I know something about what a real relationship feels like."

"I think youíve given me some fresh insights also." Moyshu then yawned hugely. "I think my deepest insight right now though is that we both need to get some sleep!"

Leanna giggled. "True, even if I do have more stamina than you. Goodnight, dear."

"Sweet dreams, love," replied Moyshu.

And their dreams were sweet indeed.

Things returned to normal the next day, or as close to normal as they ever got for Leanna. With the promise that shi would never again have to go through the sex-obsessed moron phase again, a weight seemed lifted from hir shoulders, and shi approached each task with gusto. Then each evening after dinner, shi would immerse hirself in hir studies until just before Moyshu was due to come off her shift. Leanna would then head for the coffee lounge and order their drinks so that Moyshuís was ready when she arrived. The duo could just have easily have rendezvoused at the foxtaurís cabin (still preferred for its larger bed), but they enjoyed relaxing and chatting over their coffees before engaging in more strenuous and intimate activities. Life was good for the former slave, which meant of course that it couldnít last.

Far too soon for Leanna, the starship dropped out of warp and went into orbit around Pelago III. The timing was such that both were in the coffee lounge to witness the planet heave into sight. It was a bittersweet moment as they both knew that this would be their last night together for a very long time.

"Are you going to beam down to the surface with me tomorrow to see me off?" asked Moyshu.

"Of course I will. Commander Rosepetal has already told me that I could do so if I wished it, and besides, how could I resist stepping out onto a new world? I just wish that my girlfriend wasnít going to be left behind on it."

Moyshu had no answer that hadnít already been voiced before, so they contemplated the blue and green world in silence as it grew larger in the view-windows.

"So beautiful," murmured Moyshu.

"Yes, and probably full of unknown dangers," Leanna added. "You be very careful down there!"

"Yes, dear," Moyshu agreed with a giggle. "Iíve got added incentive to come home intact now."

Leanna got up from hir chair and held out hir hand to Moyshu. "Come on. Letís go and add onto that incentive."

"Sounds like a grand idea to me!" Moyshu declared as she took Leannaís hand.

Leanna found hir second experience with a Transporter just as fascinating as the first, although at least shi knew far more about what was happening now. It was all quickly forgotten though as shi and Moyshu stepped out of the base of operations, to be confronted by the beautiful vista spread out before them. The encampment had been set up in a clearing close to a small river that cascaded down a rocky slope for about a hundred metres. The drop in the terrain enabled the two to look over a broad valley that was lightly forested, interspersed with meadows near the banks of the river as it wound its way between the weathered ranges on either side. A herd of some dark-coloured animal could even be seen in one of the nearer meadows. Although they had yet to see any birds, this world definitely had its equivalent of insects. Even as they shooed away some of the more persistent ones, both faces were grinning with the pleasure of being on a new world, one only seen by a small handful of people so far.

"This reminds me so much of a place that I know not too far from home," Moyshu commented. "Of course, once I start looking more closely, I will soon see hundreds of differences. Some will be beautiful, some dangerous, but all will be very interesting."

"Youíve got a whole world to play with," Leanna said. "Iím almost jealous."

"Jealous? Why?" asked Moyshu curiously.

"With all this," Leanna said with a sweep of hir hand, "you wonít have time to think of me!"

Moyshu laughed. "I donít think even all of this will make me forget you!"

"I hope that doesnít distract you from your job," a new voice with a touch of humour in it commented from behind them.

The pair turned to see two people who had come up behind them unnoticed. One was Admiral Kline who had come down as much to see the sights as to touch base with the exploration team commander. The other was a foxtaur whose uniform consisted of little more than a halter top and comm badge, and it had been this person who had spoken.

At first glance, Leanna thought that this was another grey foxtaur vixen like Moyshu, although the fur colours varied. The parts that were white on Moyshu were light warm grey, and the reds were stronger. Nor did shi have normal hair, but instead had a shock of white fur that almost qualified as hair cut really short. Bright green eyes contrasted with Moyshuís brown ones. Then Leanna caught the scent coming to hir and realised that this person was a herm!

Boyce spoke up, interrupting Leannaís thoughts. "Ladies, Iíd like you to meet Commander Twilight. Shi is the coordinator of the exploration teams here on Pelago III. Commander, this is Lieutenant Moyshu, your new scout mission leader, and Leanna Fennec, who is part of my personal staff."

Moyshu saluted Twilight and said, "Lieutenant Moyshu Blacktail reporting for duty, Shir!"

Twilight gave her a casual return salute. "Welcome to Pelago III base, lieutenant. Now unless you plan to get on my bad side and force me to fall back on protocol, we will address each other less formally here. My teams need to live and work closely together for a long time, so we need to be able to get along socially and more casually than the usual Fleet outfits. So Moyshu, I expect you to settle yourself with your group, get to know your team-mates, and enjoy your first day on this planet. Your work really begins tomorrow," shi said with a grin.

"Iím looking forward to it immensely, Twilight," Moyshu said, matching the commanderís grin with her own.

Twilight turned hir attention on Leanna. "As you are obviously her companion, would you like to join us for dinner? It will be your last chance in a long while, Iím afraid."

Leanna looked at Boyce for permission, who gave hir a smile and a nod. "Iíd be delighted to accept your invitation," Leanna said.

"Good. Well, I need to keep an eye on the incoming supplies, so I will bid you farewell for the moment. I will see you all at dinner in three hours."

As the unusual foxtaur left, Leanna repeated questioningly, "Three hours?"

Boyce smiled. "It may still be morning shipís time, but here itís mid afternoon."

"Oh! Of course," Leanna said, chagrined at not realising a simple thing like that. Shi had mistaken the low sun to be mid morning without considering the possibility that it might be afternoon instead. Shi had another thing niggling at hir curiosity though. "Shi was awfully informal for a Star Fleet officer, wasnít shi?"

Boyce nodded. "True, but Iíve seen Commander Twilightís records, and shi has well and truly earned hir rank, and if shi chooses to use this style of command, that is hir prerogative. Besides, hir species tends to affect the way shi relates with others."

"About that Ė I didnít realise that there were herm foxtaurs. Are they a cross between a chakat and a foxtaur?"

Moyshu spoke up first. "Nope. If you cross a chakat with a foxtaur, the resulting child is still a chakat, so that isnít the answer. Oh, sorry sir, I shouldn't have butted in."

"Youíre correct though," Boyce acknowledged, then turned back to Leanna. "As Moyshu already knows, Twilight is a Stellar Foxtaur, and there are seven breeds of them. Each breed has special extra adaptations that enable them to excel in specific environments. Twilight is a Forest Breed, but there are others adapted to desert areas, polar regions, marine environments, mountainous territory, open plains, and even one adapted to space, though not without a spacesuit, I hasten to add. The Stellars are almost all found out here on the frontier at the forefront of exploration and development, so itís very unlikely that youíd ever meet one on Earth. They filled the need for skilled foxtaurs that the Clans could not."

"Yeah, the homesickness," Moyshu confirmed. "Only a few like myself ever leave home territory because of it. For some reason, it never affected me."

"So, these are all relatively new breeds, I take it?" Leanna queried. "Are they all herms like hir?"

Boyce answered, "Yes. They took what they considered were the best traits of both chakats and foxtaurs, and put them into the Stellars. The herm gender was considered to have been a great success with the chakats, so thatís what they did for the Stellars also."

"Does that mean that the Stellars are an improvement on the chakats?" Leanna asked keenly.

"Not really. The Stellars are specialists, while the chakats are highly flexible generalists. They tend to complement each other."

"Makes me feel a little redundant," Moyshu said a little sourly.

Boyce laughed. "Donít worry, lieutenant, youíll have a job for a long time yet. For starters, there arenít a lot of them yet, and secondly, theyíre intended to bolster our resources, not replace them. Your skills earned you your promotion to team leader, not your birthright, and the same applies to the Stellars."

"Thatís a relief. Well, I had better get settled in. I donít have as much time as I thought that I would. Iíll see you at dinner, Leanna," Moyshu said as she gave the fennec a hug.

As the foxtaur walked off, Boyce said to the fennec, "Walk with me for a bit, Leanna."

Leanna nodded and fell in step with the Admiral. They approached the perimeter of the camp, protected from unknown dangers by force-fields set up between generator posts.

"What do you think of this place so far?" Boyce asked.

"It looks very beautiful, but I canít tell much just from looking from here."

"Wise of you to say so. Every new world has its new vistas, and its new dangers. Moyshu is likely to face those dangers sooner or later. However, she is well trained and highly skilled at what she does, and itís unlikely that she will come to serious harm."

"I realise that, sir," Leanna replied. "Is that all you wanted to tell me?"

"Not at all," Boyce replied as he sat down on a fallen tree trunk and indicated that Leanna should sit next to him. When shi had done so, he continued. "Leanna, we all know how you and Moyshu have become very attached to each other. We are very concerned about how you feel about this. Would you feel better if you could stay here with her?"

That caught Leanna by surprise, and shi had to think about it for a minute. Then shi said, "I thought that you wanted to bring me back to Earth for various reasons? Also, what about my permanent cure?"

"Leanna, weíve tried to impress upon you that your life is now your own to control. What we want and what you want are two different things. You are free to make these choices. Admittedly a frontier world is not the best place for someone not trained in this sort of work, but a place could be found somewhere if you really wanted it. Having seen what you can do, Iím confident that you could fit in quickly. As for your permanent cure, that will remain available to you whenever you finally get to Earth. Thereís no time limit on the offer. I will say though that weíd miss your services."

"I see," Leanna said, then fell silent as shi considered the offer. Boyce patiently and quietly waited while the fennec considered hir options, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine while it lasted.

Eventually Leanna came to hir decision. Turning to Boyce, shi said, "Thank you, but I decline your offer, sir. I have already chosen a new career, and I need to pursue that. I also want to continue staying with your family and caring for the children, as that gives me a lot of pleasure. Like Moyshu, I have made a commitment to a job, and I intend to keep to it. And lastly, although Moyshu is my lover and I will miss her terribly, she is not the lifemate that I am looking for. I have learned that there doesnít seem to be any other fennecs in the Federation, but perhaps there will be another morph with whom I can have children of my own. Stranger things have happened."

Boyce smiled widely. "Quite right, and I should know! Iím glad that you will be staying with us, and the family will be also. Youíre one of us now, and weíd be the lesser without you." He got up and straightened his uniform. "You can come back up to the ship whenever youíre ready. You donít need to be back until after the dinner, which is when weíll be getting under way to our next destination. Enjoy yourself!"

Leanna spent the next few hours checking out every aspect of the camp. It amused hir when shi realised that the survey crew thought that shi was an inspector assigned by the Admiral, and were on their best behaviour whilst shi was around. All too soon though, it was time for the promised meal. The last of the unloading of the supplies had been completed about half an hour ago, but the ground crew were still sorting and storing the goods. Various crewpersons from the ship had beamed down for some "real" air and sunshine once they had finished at their end. It was a real party atmosphere, and Leanna made the most of this last opportunity to spend time with Moyshu. Then in what seemed to be no time at all, they stood by the Transporter awaiting hir turn to beam up. They kissed and hugged until a noise from the Transporter technician indicated that they were holding up the line. Even then they parted slowly. The last sight that Leanna had of the foxtaur was of her blowing a kiss in hir direction.

Leanna was nursing hir usual cappuccino at the usual time at the usual place. It seemed that shi had gotten into a habit, but it was a lot less satisfying without Moyshu there beside hir. Shi was considering having an early night, but inertia kept hir there; the coffee rapidly getting too cold to drink.

Unexpectedly, a familiar voice next to hir said, "I know how you feel. It isnít easy being away from loved ones, especially if itís your first."

Nearly spilling hir coffee from being startled, Leanna turned to the voiceís owner. Midnight sat on hir haunches, having silently padded over to the fennec, as was hir wont. "Midnight! Arenít you up a bit late? I know that you need more sleep than I do."

"As chief of security, Iím on call at all times, and I had a bit of unfinished business to deal with first," the chakat replied.

Leanna noticed that shi did not elaborate on what that business was, and wondered if it was hirself. "I feel like I have left something unfinished also," Leanna admitted.

"Donít worry, itís not fatal," Midnight said with a grin. "Youíll see Moyshu again soon enough."

Leanna sighed. "Intellectually, I know that, but in my heart itís unsatisfying. Funny how so quickly I got used to having her by me at night."

"Well, weíre not quite the same thing, but youíre welcome to join Forest and me sleeping with the cubs tonight."

"Wouldnít I be disturbing you two?"

"Forest is probably asleep by now, and even if shiís not, we usually donít do much more than cuddling while weíre with the cubs. Come on, I think youíll feel better that way."

"Thatís very considerate of you, Midnight."

"Youíre part of the family now, Leanna. How could I not think of you?"

That almost brought tears to Leannaís eyes from the power of the emotion that sentence evoked. Family Ė it was the strongest of the reasons why shi had chosen to stay aboard. Shi had a family now, and shi would do virtually anything to keep it.

Midnight held out hir hand to Leanna, who took it in hir own. Together they walked to the Captainís Quarters where they found Forest sound asleep with the cubs draped on and around hir. The two divested themselves of their uniforms and joined the snuggle pile, and were soon fast asleep. Leanna dreamed very happy dreams of family that night.


1 Satri Ė common familiar Caitian term for mother.

2 Tara Ė common familiar Caitian term for daughter.


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 © 2006 Bernard Doove.

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To be continued in Forest Tales #27.

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