Makrana waved goodbye to hir younger sister as shi left the apartment to go on the date that Makrana had arranged for hir. "I hope it works out for hir."
Dancer nodded. "Me too."
"Me three!" exclaimed Honeymane.
Dancer and Makrana shared a glance. Browneyes still hadn’t explained to hir cub the circumstances surrounding hir birth, and both of them knew it would be extremely difficult when the time came. That being said, they were pretty sure the child hadn’t a clue what they were talking about.
"So what are you planning tonight?" Dancer asked hir daughter, as the two of them with cubs in tow entered the den.
Makrana shrugged as they lay on some of the den’s pillows that served as seats. "Just watching the cubs, I suppose. I have to go to bed early anyway, so I figured their bed times and mine would line up perfectly."
"Why do you need to go to bed early, hon?" Dancer asked, glancing to see how far along hir mates were in getting ready. Shi and the rest of hir mates often spent their evenings out on the town, dancing or doing whatever else they could think of. Although they had slowed down a bit after Sugarback had been born, they did still try to find the time when they could.
"Didn’t I tell you? I have work tomorrow," Makrana said, trying to get Sugarback to sit still in hir arms before giving up and releasing hir. "Just some light duty stuff; introductions, briefing and stuff like that."
"Oh." Dancer scratched Sugarback’s ears gently. "You made it sound yesterday like you had a lot of time off."
"I do," Makrana said. "Star Fleet just wants us all to get acquainted with everyone, and then I’ll be off for bit, just touching base every now and again."
"It’ll be nice to have you around the house again Mak." Dancer shuffled over closer to the grey marbled chakat. "We have missed you."
Makrana smiled with a hint of sadness. "I know, Dad. We have to follow our dreams, though."
Dancer grinned. "You and your sister both seem to share that philosophy." Cocking hir head, shi could hear that hir mates were nearly ready and wondering where shi was. "Are you sure you can handle looking after these cubs, hon? I’m not trying to insult your abilities, sweetie, but to be frank you haven’t had a lot of experience looking after young cubs like this."
Mak grinned. "I think I can handle it on my own. You guys have fun."
"Well, all right. You have my number —"
"Dancer, are you coming or not?" Spadespot interrupted, poking hir head into the room.
The brown dappled chakat nodded as shi leaped up, bent down and gave hir daughters and granddaughter each a quick hug and kiss, and dashed to the door where all the other chakats were waiting. Makrana went along to say goodbye hirself. The other chakats in the hall were dressed in somewhat fancy attire; if Makrana recalled correctly they were going to some sort of party.
"Where’s your outfit, love?" Sky asked.
"I don’t think I have time to put it on; too many straps and stuff," Dancer replied, glancing down at hir bare breasts. "I figured I’d just go nude."
"What...sort of party is this?" Makrana said, looking more closely at their clothing.
Sky hesitated. "It’s...sort of a bondage party."
Makrana blinked. "Uhhh...okay?"
Spadespot put hir hand on the marbled chakat’s shoulder. "Don’t worry, hon. We’re just going to learn how to tie knots and proper positions and stuff, and nothing sadistic or masochistic or whatever."
"Who’s watching the kids?" asked Pond.
"Err...um...." Makrana’s eyes grew big at the sound of a large thud from the den area. "SHIT!" shi exclaimed as she dashed off to see what trouble the two children had gotten into.
Dancer chuckled as they filed out the door, and put hir arm around Spadespot, leaning a bit on hir frame. "I’m sure shi’ll be fine. So mistress, what do you have planned for this evening?"
Spade returned the one-armed hug with one of hir own. "Wouldn’t you like to know?"
"Look at what I drew, Auntie!" Honeymane said, holding up hir rather primitive color drawing of stick figure chakats. "That’s you and Mommy and me and Sugarback in the park!"
Makrana smiled. After shi had gotten the situation under control, shi had convinced the two children to do some quiet activities, in this case drawing. "It’s very good, sweetie. How about you help Sugarback with hir picture?" Judging from the cub’s expression, shi was getting quite frustrated.
"’kay," the red and white cub said with a nod, and started to help Sugarback draw.
In retrospect, it had probably been a bad idea to suggest such an activity; Sugarback did not yet have the manual dexterity to make the crayons go where shi wanted, and shi didn’t really have the mental development to fully grasp the concept of the activity either. Makrana frowned. Hir empathy still hadn’t returned yet. Shi didn’t think anything was wrong, but it was starting to worry hir.
Makrana watched as the ‘helping’ turned into play wrestling. At least the children were having fun, shi mused, as shi glanced at the wall clock on the den’s wall for the time. It read 18:17. "Nearly time for the news," shi muttered. Shi turned the vid on and changed it to the correct channel, all the while keeping an eye on the children. Shi had learned hir lesson.
The newsreader was a very pretty vixentaur, who had worked at the station for years. Makrana remembered having a rather large crush on her when shi was a teenager.
"...the Prime Minister announced today that Chakona will be sending aid to the recently discovered warbeast colony of the Dalians. Dalians, long thought lost, suffer from massive overpopulation and few resources on their settled world."
Mak frowned. Shi recalled that particular discussion—the Dalians were sequential hermaphrodites as well as litterers, so they never had a gender imbalance to worry about, and every birth resulted in multiple children. The Federation had offered to remove the latter ability via genetic engineering, as had been done for the majority of warbeasts and sex slaves after the Gene Wars, but the Dalians had flatly refused. They apparently liked having six children a pop.
The two cubs had returned to drawing, so Makrana decided to check out the kitchen and get a drink. Once there, shi poured hirself a glass of juice, and turned back towards the den. Suddenly shi doubled over, and dropped the glass, feeling as if shi had been hit in the forehead with a hammer!
"Ugh," Makrana groaned, making hir way back into the den area. Glancing at the cubs shi confirmed that they were still playing quietly. For the first time in a while, shi could feel their emotions, but it was all very confused and...painful. Checking again that they weren’t about to destroy something else, Makrana went to the comm and dialed hir father’s number – there was no way shi’d be able to deal with this.
Dancer by the Sea
Chakats generally don’t get embarrassed when it comes to things of a sexual nature; Dancer had to admit it was an interesting sensation.
Shi stood, naked, in front of a semi-circle of other chakats, with hir arms tied to a rope above hir head and both pairs of legs spread by aptly-named "spreaders". Crisscrossing hir body were an assortment of ropes and knots that squeezed hir breasts—not enough to hurt them, but enough that they were leaking a trickle of milk all down hir front. It wasn’t the compromising position shi was in, or the fact that shi was nude that bothered hir so much as that hir cock was rock hard and shi was in front of total strangers.
"And you have to make sure your partner isn’t being hurt by your rope tying; you want the restraints tight, but not to the point where they’re injuring your partner. Always remember, safety first," said the ‘teacher’, a veteran vixen-morph dominatrix. "Unlike humans, we furred beings don’t have the benefit of exposed skin that changes color if it’s not getting enough blood flow, so communication is especially important. I’d certainly recommend against using gags."
Dancer was beginning to have second thoughts about the whole idea. Originally, shi and hir mates had thought it would just be nice to have something new to do in the bedroom—but this was just too much. Glancing over at hir mates, shi could tell they were at least enjoying the spectacle.
"But, if you really do want to use a gag for whatever reason, you can check to see if the tied up parts are losing circulation if place your thumb and forefinger like so," the vixen explained, placing her fingers on Dancer’s breast and moving out of the way to show the proper positioning, "and check the temperature; as flesh loses circulation it becomes colder and —"
The dominatrix blinked as she was cut off by the ringtone from a comm located in the pile of belongings people had brought. "I thought I told everyone to turn off their comms when — "
"Oh hey!" Dancer exclaimed, interrupting the vixen. "That’s my comm; it could be my cubs. Can someone get it for me?"
Dancer watched as the fiery-patterned chakat nearest to the pile rummaged through it to locate the offending device. When shi had suceeded in doing so, shi leaped up and came over to Dancer, answering the call and holding it up to hir ear.
The dominatrix shook her head in disbelief and muttered something about ‘ruining the atmosphere’ and ‘chakats not being cut out for BDSM’. Ignoring the vixen, Dancer spoke into the comm. "Hello?"
"Hi, Dad." Makrana sounded very weary. "Sorry about bothering you at your party."
"That’s all right, hon. What’s wrong?"
"I...I have a massive headache," Makrana moaned. "I think it must be the drug wearing off. I just hadn’t expected it to be like this. Is there any way you could come home? I don’t think I can keep an eye on the cubs like this."
"You’re probably right." The fiery chakat holding the comm to Dancer’s ear was smiling, and Dancer could sense shi was enjoying being this close and personal to hir. "I can come home, but not quickly—I’m kind of tied up at the moment." Dancer paused as a wave of chuckles went around the room, while shi tried to think of a solution.
"What?" Makrana groaned on other side of the line. "Oh, right, the bondage thingy...."
"Call Chess," Dancer said finally. "Shi’s a midwife and has a good amount of medical training, which will be good for everyone—especially you, hon."
"Okay, Dad. Thanks."
"Don’t mention it, sweetheart. You get better soon."
Sensing the conversation was over, the fiery chakat hung it up for Dancer, then leaned in close to hir.
"I know this isn’t the best time," shi whispered, "but...could we go out sometime?"
Dancer gave the other chakat a stern look. "You’re right; this isn’t the best time. And I don’t know you at all."
"Please? Just think about it." The fiery chakat returned to hir former position.
The dominatrix shook her head. "If everyone’s quite finished?" She looked around for a moment, as if daring anyone else to interrupt. "Now, as I was saying...."
The marbled chakat groaned as hir desk alarm clock went off. Raising hir head, shi checked the clock — it was fairly early in the morning, but more than a perfect time to get up. Thankfully the sleep shi had gotten seemed to have cleared hir head of most of the pain, and shi was reasonably ready to face the day.
Chess had appeared fairly quickly after shi had made the call, and readily took control of the situation, allowing Makrana to take some pain meds and try to get as much sleep as possible. Idly, Makrana laid hir head back down on hir pillow. Unlike most nights, when shi’d be sleeping with the rest of the family, hir illness and hir need to rise early had driven hir to the guest room.
Shi could feel the others in hir family with hir empathy again, for which shi was grateful, and, judging by the peaceful feeling shi was getting from all of them, they were still asleep...except for Browneyes and Honeymane? Shi checked hir clock again. It was extremely early.
"Perhaps I better go see what’s going on," Makrana mused.
Opening the bedroom door led to a further clue — the sound of foodstuffs being cooked. Most chakat bedrooms had to be soundproofed, lest the occupants wake everyone within hearing — chakats did have a reputation for being...vocal. As Makrana expected, Brown was in the kitchen making breakfast with hir daughter.
"Hi, Mak. How are you feeling?" Browneyes left the waffle iron and frying pan in which the pancakes were cooking to give hir sister a hug. "Honeymane tells me you took ill last night."
Makrana returned the hug and nodded. "Yeah, it’s those damn drugs I took. Hit me like a brick wall. I’m feeling a good deal better now."
"Me and mommy are makin’ breakfast!" exclaimed Honeymane, bouncing up and down. "I’m helping!"
Judging by the fact that more flour and batter seemed to be on the cub than in the bowl, Makrana suspected ‘helping’ may have been a very loose term for what Honeymane had been doing, but praised hir anyway.
"So what are you doing up so early?" enquired Browneyes, returning to hir frying pan.
"I have to go into work today," said Makrana. "New assignments and whatnot."
Browneyes nodded, promptly serving up half a dozen pancakes and giving them to hir older sister.
"Have you been out all night?" Makrana asked. "I guess the date must have gone well then, hmm?"
Browneyes continued to work on making more of everything for the rest of the family, but Makrana could tell by the empathic connection they shared and the look on hir face, that it had in fact not gone very well. The silence grew for several minutes, until Honeymane asked if shi could go wake everyone up. Brown agreed, and then turned to Makrana when shi was gone. "Makrana, how well do you know Ariston exactly?"
The marbled chakat frowned. In truth, shi really knew the skunktaur only on a professional level, but every time shi had met with hym he seemed very gentle and kind, and Makrana told hir sister that.
The calico chakat sighed, and briefly explained what had occurred. By the time shi finished the two sisters were hugging one another. "I’m so sorry, Browneyes. I had no idea hy was like that."
"I know." They hugged for a moment longer, before Browneyes went back to hir pancakes and waffle iron. "You’d best eat up."
Makrana nodded and began to eat in earnest, but shi felt very rotten inside; shi’d only been trying to help hir sister, and shi’d managed to screw things up even more for hir.
When Browneyes had been a lot younger, before shi’d reached puberty, shi’d had a rather distressing encounter with a young wolf morph who had the telepathic talent. Makrana had never learned the full details of what had happened — shi’d been fifteen at the time and hir parents had tried to shield hir from what had occurred, feeling it wasn’t appropriate for hir to know. Later shi had tried to talk to hir sister about it, but shi had flatly refused.
"I wonder what’s keeping Honeymane," Browneyes mused. "Do you think you could go check on hir?" At least Browneyes didn’t sound or feel angry towards hir, Makrana reflected.
"Sure." Makrana shoveled the last of hir breakfast into hir mouth and rose from hir place on the floor. "I have to get ready for work anyway. I’ll see you in a few."
Honeymane, as it turned out, had encountered hir younger aunt and best friend Sugarback on the way to the communal bedroom, and started play wrestling in the hallway. Breaking the two up, Makrana sent them on their way to their meals before stepping into the bedroom hirself to wake up the other chakats of the family.
Within a few minutes, shi had awoken all of the family (plus Chess, who had apparently never left) and was well on hir way to getting dressed and groomed for work. Soon shi was fully clothed, at least for a taur, and reentered the kitchen to say hir goodbyes. Chess held hir up for a moment to take some medical scans, but before shi knew it, shi was standing on the receiving pad of the transporter on the Gateway station.
The Gateway station was currently the only space station in orbit around Chakona, and had been built as a single focal point for all movement from the planet to space and vice versa. For this reason it was extremely large, with thousands of workers and even more civilians travelling between their ships and the surface. Very few ships were ever allowed to land on the surface of the planet, unless they had to, in an effort to reduce the possibility of any number of invasive species or, worse, deathly pathogens. Just thinking about it made Makrana’s head spin.
Shi pulled out hir PADD and checked hir day’s schedule, finding an appointment to check in with the admiral who was to be hir new boss. It took hir a few minutes to find the right floor and office, but shi was soon in front of the admiral in question: a pinkish-red chakat whose long tail and many silver-tipped hairs suggested a fairly advanced age. The nameplate on hir desk read "Roseblood".
"Lieutenant Commander Makrana reporting for duty, Shir!"
"At ease, Makrana. You’re not on the clock yet," the admiral said, rising from hir seat and giving the much younger chakat a hug.
Makrana returned the hug, a little stiffly. Shi wasn’t used to hugging hir superior officers.
"Take a seat." The older chakat waved to one of the taur-style pillows on the floor. "I’m sure you know your itinerary for today?"
Admiral Roseblood looked thoughtfully at the marbled chakat before speaking again. "Makrana, as you know, we’ve been conducting a full investigation into what happened with the Dalians, and the report is going to be published quite a bit sooner then we had expected. Today, in fact. As such, the rest of today’s meets and greets are canceled. Feel free to look around the station, and I’ll see you back here in three hours."
Makrana stood up. "Thank you, Admiral. I’ll be glad to get to the bottom of this."
The chakat admiral sighed wearily. "We’d all like to, my dear. We all would."
Exiting the office of hir new CO, Makrana quickly headed for the docking bay, while checking that shi still had the bag of blue shards from hir family’s broken vase. Shi had promised to get it repaired, and shi could think of no better time to fulfill hir promise. Once at the docking bay, shi located hir old ship, the FSS New Zealand, and went aboard.
The whole reason shi had been transferred from the New Zealand to the Tigerstone had been because of hir species—the drugs used to dull their empathic talents also caused the federation negotiators to lose their main edge over the Dalians, and thus their ability to make the talks go quickly and smoothly. Many chakats from several other ships had been transferred to the Tigerstone, either to help directly (Makrana was the personal assistant to one of the diplomats), or just to be in the ship’s background projecting, as best they could, an empathic feeling of good tidings. Serving aboard the Tigerstone had been a unique experience—never in hir life had shi seen so many chakats on one ship.
However, shi did miss the crew of the New Zealand, among whom shi had made a number of good friends, and hir old job as CO of a joint xenoarcheology/xenobiology team aboard the ship. Shi was glad the ship happened to be stuck in drydock being retrofitted with more modern technology when hir tour of duty on the Tigerstone had ended.
Walking through the hallways, shi felt like shi was home again. It didn’t take hir long to find the lab shi was looking for.
"Well, look who’s here!" exclaimed one the two wolftaur bitches as shi walked into the lab. "Makrana! How are you!"
"I’m fine," Makrana said, giving each of them a hug; the two bitches had been among hir closest friends aboard the ship, and sometimes hir lovers too. "How have you been, Lynn, Roxu?" Neither was their real name, but Makrana had great difficulty remembering or pronouncing traditional wolftaur names, which were often extremely long. Makrana suspected they did it on purpose.
"Great!" they answered in unison.
"Lynn and I have nearly finished our paper," Roxu said excitedly, "and the modified replicator is ready for its first trials."
Makrana grinned. "That’s what I was hoping. I have something I’d like you to —"
"Ohhh, Mak!" said Lynn, "did you get an earring?"
"And got promoted?!" Roxu exclaimed, looking closely at Mak’s combadge.
"I —" Makrana frowned. "Didn’t you guys read the letter I wrote to you? It was only two days ago that I sent it."
"Err...two days ago, you say?" Lynn said, as the two wolftaurs looked at one another. "Yeah, I don’t think so. Roxu was in heat, so we were kind of busy…"
The chakat sighed. Lynn and Roxu’s subspecies of wolftaur always had rather intense and long periods of heat—so intense at times that neither of them could do much else besides eat, sleep and fuck one another. It was a good thing the two bitches were so close to one another, because Makrana suspected no one else could keep up with them. The Makers knew shi’d tried in the past — several times in fact — and shi never could make it through the whole thing.
"Well…" Makrana began. Shi explained the situation in as few words as possible—shi still wanted them to read hir letter, as much work as shi had put into it! "So, anyway, I was wondering if you’d like to try out your new device. My niece managed to bust this vase my dad really liked; it seems like something that would just be perfect for a test run."
"It would!" Lynn took the bag of shards from Makrana. "I’ll get the equipment ready. This might take a while."
Dancer by the Sea
"So shi just asked you out on a date? Like that?" asked Sky. The whole family was in the den again, relaxing after breakfast. On learning of their daughter’s experience, they had all decided to take the day off.
"Yeah, shi wanted to meet with me after the party, but we were in a bit of a rush. But I think shi was expecting that, because shi handed me this on the way out." Dancer handed a note over to hir lifemate. On it was scrawled a time and place to meet.
"So what are you thinking?" Pond asked. "You want to go and meet with hir?"
Browneyes snorted. "I don’t think going alone would be a good idea."
Dancer shook hir head. "I know shi didn’t mean any harm; it’s just a bit forward. I think…" Dancer paused for a moment. "I think it would be rude to stand hir up. I’ll go meet with hir anyway."
The other chakats nodded in agreement. "You’d best get going than, hon," Spadespot pointed out, looking over the note hirself. "Shi wants to meet you in half an hour."
A short while later Dancer was fully dressed and outside the diner in downtown Amistad. Shi stepped into the place and looked around for hir ‘date’. Sure enough, the fiery chakat from the night before was sitting with hir back to the door in one of the corner booths.
"Hello?" Dancer walked past the other chakat and sat down. "I’m here."
"Dancer!" the fiery chakat exclaimed. "I was worried you weren’t going to show!"
Dancer frowned. "I very nearly didn’t. I hope you know how forward you’re being by asking me here, without us even knowing one another."
The other chakat’s face fell. Shi began to stammer an apology, but Dancer interrupted hir. "But I’m here now," the dappled chakat said. "You can start by telling me your name, hon."
"Oh, I’m Sunspot, daughter of Sunlover and Northstar," the chakat said proudly, lifting hir T-shirt to show a large splotch of black fur under hir left breast. "That’s how I got my name."
"I...see," said Dancer. "Well you already know me, so let’s get down to business. What do you want?"
"I’d like to go out with you." Sunspot replied, reaching across the table to grasp Dancer’s hand.
"Well, you’re very beautiful, and you seem very kind and you seem interested in the whole BDSM thing —" the fiery-pelted chakat blurted out, before being cut off.
"What gave you that idea?" Dancer interrupted.
"Well, why else would you be there learning all that stuff?" Sunspot responded.
"Well, I’m not." Dancer could feel the disappointment coming from the other chakat. "I and my mates just wanted to see what the bondage was all about, maybe try a few of the positions out, but nothing really BDSMish. I’ve always found it to be moderately sexy… but I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to do myself."
"Oh, sorry." Sunspot hung hir head and started to get up. "Sorry about wasting your time."
"Now hold on!" Dancer said, leaping to hir feet. Shi hadn’t asked Sunspot’s age, but shi could tell the other chakat was relatively young, perhaps a few years younger than Browneyes. Dancer felt a pang of concern that this chakat could get into trouble on hir own. "Sunspot, if you’re serious about asking me out, I think we should give it a go. I know I wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, but you’re never going to find someone who shares every interest that you do."
Sunspot still looked glum, but sat down anyway.
Dancer smiled; this chakat definitely needed some guidance, and shi was going to provide it. "I’ll tell you what: how about you and I spend the day together, getting to know one another, and we’ll see where we stand at the end of the day, all right?"
It was the fiery chakat’s turn to smile.
Dancer by the Sea
As the bitches had predicted, it was in fact taking quite a while to set up the device. It had been the goal of months of research for the two wolftaurs to create a modified replicator that could knit a piece of pottery back together from its shards and restore any and all glazes to the object. Although replicators had been able to do such a thing for years, any use of replicator technology destroyed a lot of data, such as presence of trace materials, and scrambled the Carbon-14 of the object. In short, putting something back together again with a replicator destroyed almost all of the useful information that could be gleaned from it.
Lynn and Roxu had devised a method of using the technology to affect only the clefts of the shards—merging the two halves of a fracture into one—thus retaining almost all of the normally lost information and producing a whole artifact. As their CO, Makrana had been (and still was) impressed by their proposal, but shi was slightly less impressed when told it would take nearly an hour for the computer to figure out the correct positions of all the pieces.
In light of that, Makrana decided to use hir time in a more constructive fashion than watching a robotic arm scan each piece and crunch numbers. Shi wanted to check in at the Tigerstone. Even though shi suspected it was a bad idea, shi really wanted to give Ariston a piece of hir mind. Before shi could go aboard, however, shi was stopped on the hangar floor by the Tigerstone’s councilor, Fallingstar.
"Hello, Councilor," Makrana said grudgingly. Shi suspected shi already knew why the Starwalker had intercepted hir.
"Makrana, hon, I know you’re upset, but going over and yelling at Ariston isn’t going to make anything better," Fallingstar said. "Let’s go have a coffee at the café and we can talk."
Minutes later, Makrana and Fallingstar were sitting over drinks at the Chakona Gateway Café. Most councilors Makrana had met in hir time in Star Fleet were already extremely kind, but there was something especially wholesome about Fallingstar. They sat in silence for a few minutes before either of them spoke.
"How’s Browneyes?" Fallingstar asked.
"Upset still, I suppose." Makrana sipped hir coffee. "I saw hir for only a few minutes this morning."
"And you?" the Starwalker asked. "I could feel your anger a kilometer away, hon." Fallingstar had been born with an extremely powerful empathy talent—unusual in a stellar foxtaur and something that doubtlessly helped hir in hir profession.
"Of course I’m mad!" Makrana exclaimed. "Mad at Ariston...and myself."
"Browneyes is my little sister. I should be able to look after hir." Makrana drank some more of hir coffee. "Yet I’m either not there when shi needs me, or I’m fucking hir life up even more."
Fallingstar considered hir coffee before replying. "I spoke to Browneyes this morning, you know. Shi’s a strong person, Makrana."
"Stronger than me, I suspect. That doesn’t mean I don’t still feel like I should be there…" Makrana finished hir coffee. "I probably should thank you for stopping me."
The Starwalker grinned. "Not a problem, Makrana. I’ve already taken care of it for now."
"What do you mean?"
Fallingstar shook hir head. "It’s between me and Browneyes, if you don’t mind, hon, but, if you don’t mind, could I come to lunch? I need to talk to hir, and I thought it would be best if I came to hir rather than vice versa."
The marbled chakat shrugged and got to hir feet, glancing at hir PADD as shi rose. "Sure. I have to run, though."
"Oh? Where to?" asked Fallingstar. Shi stood up as well, and gestured to their server for the check.
"To pick up my vase and talk to Admiral Roseblood." Makrana smiled at the councilor’s rather confused look. "The Admiral has the report on the investigation into the earring thing, and I’ll fill you in on the vase when you come to lunch."
The Starwalker nodded and leaned forward to hug Makrana. "Good luck on both accounts than."
Makrana agreed and thanked hir for the discussion, then headed back over to the New Zealand.
As promised, Lynn and Roxu’s new toy had performed the repairs flawlessly. When Makrana entered the lab, the two wolftaurs were just finishing taking some final pictures and notes on the re-integrated vase. Saying hir thanks, shi checked the time and realized shi was very nearly running late.
As Makrana dashed across Gateway, shi realized carrying the blue vase was earning her some very odd looks. And there was no safe place to leave it outside Admiral Roseblood’s office—shi would have to bring it in with hir. Shi hoped the admiral wouldn’t find it too peculiar or disruptive. Within moments of reaching the door, Makrana was again ushered into the office.
"Hello again Lieutenant, it’s good to see —" The Admiral interrupted hirself to glance curiously at the vase. "I hope you didn’t spend the whole day shopping?"
Makrana shook hir head furiously. "No, Shir. I was…" Makrana sighed inwardly and launched into a brief explanation.
Roseblood smiled. "Very well, than. Place it on my desk, and maybe next time you’ll be more careful with your vases. You may not have friends like those two bitches to fall back on next time." Then the admiral frowned and changed the subject. "Makrana, can I be frank with you? I’m fairly disturbed by what I’ve seen in this report."
"How so, Admiral?" Makrana enquired.
"Please, call me Roseblood."
"I’m not sure it would be appropriate, Shir."
"It’s very likely not," Roseblood admitted, "but I never really cared for such formalities." The chakat paused momentarily, to run hir hand through hir hair. [Hair? Or mane?] "Makrana, there have always been elements in societies who have wanted change, sometimes not very good change either."
"I’m sure you’re well aware of the Gene Wars?" the graying chakat asked hir.
The admiral chuckled. "Yes, I suppose so. But you know they say history is written by the victors, Makrana, and sometimes the victors leave out...information."
"Admiral—er, Roseblood, I’m not sure I follow."
"Yes, I suppose I am being rather cryptic, aren’t I?" Roseblood mused, sighing. "Makrana, our history books, our literature, our whatever...would like you to believe that when the Gene Wars were won, all discrimination was stamped out, removed from the fabric of our collected societies. The truth is, however, that in many places within the Federation, people still harbor such hate within their hearts.
"One such person — I won’t name him — was in charge of distributing the intelligence reports in relation to the Dalians, and he decided to withhold the report explaining the earrings, because he knew many, many chakats were going to be involved, and he thought it to be the perfect...I can’t say revenge, but I suppose it fits as well as any other term." The admiral sighed again. "The Stellar Federation, and especially Star Fleet wants to extend its deepest apologies to you; we should have caught this idiot before he even got to that position, but we didn’t."
Makrana sighed as well, and fiddled with hir earring. "It’s all right. Star Fleet and everyone has been exemplary in handling the situation." Then Makrana smiled. "The promotion, time off and extra cash are all very nice."
"I’m glad you think so," Roseblood said. "Not all of your shipmates are taking it so well."
The admiral nodded hir graying head solemnly. "We’re lucky Fallingstar is such a skilled counselor." Roseblood was silent for long moments as the statement hang in the air. Makrana had known a lot of hir chakat friends and co-workers aboard the Tigerstone had been quite distressed by the earrings—but since the empathy-blocking drug had still been in effect, shi hadn’t really known how distressed they were. Shi hoped none of them had done anything crazy.
Roseblood abruptly picked up the vase from hir desk and examined it closely. "You know, this is a very pretty vase, Makrana, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite like it."
The vase was mostly blue, depicting an underwater scene filled with fishes. Encircling the vase was a frieze of a nude silver-and-brown-striped chakat, diving for a clam or oyster of some sort. Roseblood turned the thing in hir hands. "The artist must have been extremely skilled. Where did you say you got this?"
"It’s a family heirloom," Makrana said. "The Turners gave it to my great-great-great-great-grandmother." Shi stood up and reached over to pull down the shell, which was on a very cleverly designed hinge, to reveal an inscription: To our daughter Shellhunter. May all your shell-hunting wishes come true. Love, Katherine and Charles. "It’s been passed down from generation to generation ever since. I’m glad I could get it fixed; my dad was — Admiral, is something wrong?"
"You’re related to Shellhunter?" Roseblood exclaimed. "Shi used to kittensit me when I was a cub! I mean, shi was like a second mother to me in a lot of ways, one of my best friends too, first lover —" Roseblood looked sharply at Makrana. "Well...you don’t need to know that. Do... you think it would be possible for me to meet your family sometime?"
"I —" Makrana blinked. "Well, Councilor Fallingstar is coming for lunch, but I’m sure you can come too...Admiral." Admittedly, shi wasn’t really sure about inviting hir CO over for lunch, but what could shi do?
"Excellent!" The old chakat surged to hir feet with a speed that surprised hir much younger charge. "You go round up Fallingstar and I’ll go ready my runabout. Meet me in the hangar bay in fifteen minutes!"
Makrana sighed, and wondered what shi had gotten hirself into.
Much to Makrana’s surprise and general pleasure, the lunch went unbelievably smoothly. The admiral adored the two cubs, and had a great deal of fun swapping stories with the adults of the house, although Browneyes remained somewhat vague as to the parentage of hir cub. Makrana suspected that shi was fearful of what would happen if the old chakat learned that Honeymane’s father was completely unaware of hir daughter’s existence. Fallingstar, on the other hand, spent a great deal of time talking to Browneyes alone. Makrana had no idea what they were talking about, but suspected shi might find out later. There was, however, one hitch.
"Is Dancer around? I’d love to meet hir." asked Roseblood earnestly. "I’m eager to meet hir!"
"I’m not sure," Makrana said, looking hopelessly at the rest of the family.
Sky answered, "Shi’s out on a date, if you can believe it." Shi explained in detail about Dancer’s awkward young suitor.
Roseblood nodded. "Another time, perhaps. I’d very much like to meet hir though."
Pond shrugged. "If you’re not busy the rest of the day, Dancer says shi’s bringing Sunspot over for dinner. To meet the family, you know. You’re welcome to stay as well."
"I’d be delighted to!" Roseblood said. Shi turned to Makrana. "Makrana, dear, we’re both off duty; there’s no need to hover around me as if you’re my assistant. Go! Change out of your uniform, make yourself at home. In fact...." Roseblood paused and started removing hir uniform. "I think I’ll do the same, if you don’t mind?"
Makrana shook hir head in bemusement and retreated to hir room to remove hir clothing, as the admiral suggested. Shi had always preferred going nude; it felt right to hir. Returning to the den, shi noticed Roseblood was deep in conversation with Spadespot and Pond, while Browneyes was busy playing with the two cubs and talking to Fallingstar. Not wanting to interrupt the admiral by joining in — Makrana had to admit shi was a bit afraid she might do something stupid in front of hir — shi decided to join hir sister.
Drawing near, however, shi realized they were still talking about what had occurred last night, and wondered if shi’d be interrupting them as well. Catching sight of Makrana turning to leave, Fallingstar waved hir over, however. "Mak! We were just talking about you."
Sitting down facing the other two, the marbled chakat found hirself besieged by Honeymane and Sugarback’s hugs and lick-kisses.
Browneyes smiled. "You made quite an impression on the children, Mak."
Makrana returned the affection, but it didn’t ease hir puzzlement. "How? I was only with them a little bit, and I wasn’t much fun last night."
"You should know better than that, Mak," Fallingstar said, picking up Sugarback and tickling hir stomachs. "Chakat cubs rarely need a lot of time to make up their minds whether they like someone or not."
Makrana smiled. "Well, in any case I’m glad. So, you guys were talking about me?"
"Star was telling me about the little discussion you had with hir this morning." Brown gave Makrana a hug. "There’s no need for you to get upset over this, Mak, I’m fine."
Makrana gave hir sister a quizzical look at the use of Fallingstar’s nickname, but returned the hug. "I still want to try and be there for you."
"I know." Browneyes licked hir sister on the cheek. "Other then that, Fallingstar was just checking in on me, seeing how I’m doing."
The Starwalker nodded. "I wanted to know if your sister wanted to press charges against Ariston as well."
"Really? I didn’t think these sort of incidents were really common enough to warrant any sort of laws."
"There aren’t any laws we can charge hym with for this specifically, but I was mostly asking from a Star Fleet point of view; the Federation really can’t have people like Ariston running around; if Browneyes had been someone more important — no offense, hon — hy could have single-handedly caused a war, for example," the councilor explained. "And this isn’t the first time Ariston has been involved in stuff like this. Even though we can’t charge hym with any sort of ‘mental’ rape, as no such crime exists on the books, an investigation would give the higher-ups just cause to pull hym off the frontlines, if you will."
"Well?" Makrana looked pointedly at hir sister. "Are you going to press charges?"
"I’m going to think about it, but —" The sound of the condo door opening cut Browneyes off. Dancer was home.
Sugarback dashed out into the hallway to meet hir father, but the rest of the family and friends remained seated, knowing Dancer would be with them shortly.
Soon enough, the dappled chakat appeared at the threshold, hir left arm around hir nursing kitten, and hir right arm around a fiery-pelted young chakat, who was grinning from ear to ear but projecting extreme nervousness.
"This," Dancer said, gesturing as best shi could at the fiery chakat, "is Sunspot from last —" Dancer paused, noticing the two newcomers in the room. "Well, it appears I wasn’t the only one who brought friends home."
Makrana leaped to hir feet and began to explain. "This is my CO, Admiral Roseblood—and Councilor Fallingstar, and I, well...."
"Forgive me, Shir." Roseblood stood up and walked over to the dappled chakat. "I somewhat invited myself. I’m sure Makrana was a bit apprehensive about disagreeing with an admiral, especially one who’s hir CO."
"Is shi in some sort of trouble?" Dancer was becoming more confused by the minute.
The much older chakat chuckled. "Hardly. If anything, shi’s quite the exemplary officer. No, I’m here to see you, Dancer by the Sea. I wanted to meet the descendant of Shellhunter."
Dancer gasped. "You’re not that Roseblood are you? The stories Longtail Shellhunter used to tell us about you...." Dancer shook hir head in disbelief. "Shi kept comparing us to you, telling us shi was grateful we were much more well behaved."
Roseblood grinned. "That does sound like something shi’d say."
As the two chakats talked in earnest, Sunspot decided to break away from Dancer and introduce hirself to the rest of the family. After a round of hugs and nuzzles, Sunspot began to explain why shi was there.
"You see, I was originally born on Chakona, but my family moved to Earth a few years afterward so my dad could spend more time with his family."
"His?" Browneyes asked. "I thought your sire was a chakat; he certainly has a very chakatish name."
Sunspot shook hir head. "No, my dad was a wolftaur, you see; that’s why we moved to Earth — it’s where he’s originally from. Now, my dad belongs to a rather conservative pack of wolftaurs, who had...not exactly disowned him, so to speak, but his leaving and becoming part of a freighter’s crew was certainly frowned upon."
Makrana shook hir head. "A lot of wolftaur packs seem to be like that. I know Roxu and Lynn don’t exactly have great relationships with their pack either."
Sunspot nodded in agreement. "In any case, when he showed up with a non-wolftaur mate — one that wasn’t even female, and a child by hir...it didn’t turn out very well. They got very ugly." Sunspot paused, wondering how to put the next part. "But, after a while, thing settled down...not necessarily to really friendly terms, but they were talking.
"Then...." Sunspot paused, sighing heavily. "We had been in the woods with this pack of wolftaurs for about six months at this point, and one day shi told the pack that shi was expecting hir second child. My mother was a real go-getter — you know the sort — and shi was trying to make a good impression by helping out with the pack, you know — weaving, gathering, hunting, that sort of stuff." Makrana could tell it was getting fairly difficult for the young chakat; shi was giving off waves of sadness, and even the cubs had stopped playing.
"The next day there was...an accident." The fiery chakat sighed again. "The hunters said it was an accident; I don’t know if I believe them or not, but an arrow ended up piercing hir upper heart. Shi probably could have survived if they hadn’t pulled the damn thing out, but, one away or another, shi ended up dead."
"That’s horrible!" exclaimed Sky, giving the younger chakat a hug; the rest of the chakats, and lone Starwalker also offered similar condolences.
"Naturally my dad got into a big fight with the other wolftaurs, and things turned violent." Sunspot held up hir hand before anyone could speak. "No, he wasn’t killed, but he was injured pretty badly, and this time he was banished. He managed to walk to a nearby foxtaur village carrying me, and he raised me there."
"Why didn’t he go back to Chakona?" Pond asked. "Surely your mother would have had relatives who could have helped him out."
"I think he would have, but...he was kind of a broken person by then; he had lost everything — his mate, his unborn cub, his family." Sunspot shook hir head sadly. "If it hadn’t been for me, I don’t think he would have had the will to live. I’m not sure he ever recovered from losing hir, so that’s why he took a chakatish name."
Dancer suddenly sat down beside Sunspot and gave hir a warm hug. "You okay, sweetie?"
"Yeah," Sunspot said, leaning against the dappled chakat. "My dad died last year, and I decided I should head to Chakona myself and find my mother’s relatives. I didn’t really have many ties to the foxtaur village of my upbringing; I thought maybe I’d find some ties here. Unfortunately, I’ve been having a hard time locating them."
"Is that why you asked Dancer out?" Sky asked. "For help?"
Sunspot looked, and felt, quite embarrassed. "Not exactly. I thought shi was into BDSM, you see, and well...you have to realize that when my dad died I didn’t have much money, so I had to work odd jobs and stuff to get by, and that kind of put all sorts of ideas into my head I suppose that differ a lot from the norm...at least for chakats."
Dancer licked the younger chakat’s cheek. "In any case, for the next little while Sunspot is going to be an honorary member of our little household until we can locate hir family. I’ve even managed to enlist the help of Roseblood."
"Where is Roseblood anyways?" Makrana asked. "Did shi leave?"
"Nope!" Roseblood said, hugging Makrana from behind. "I was using the restroom."
Makrana nearly jumped out of hir skin. "Admiral!"
"Oh relax, Makrana," the much older chakat said, releasing the protesting chakat and settling down beside Dancer. "You’ve been acting like you have a stick up your ass all day! I don’t know who your last CO was, but I’m not that strict a person, and as far as I’m concerned you’re practically part of the family."
Makrana rubbed hir forehead. Shi could feel another headache coming on—this day had not gone at all like shi had expected. Nevertheless, shi recovered quickly enough. Shi was soon was engaged in a deep conversation with hir new "sister" Sunspot, and it was suppertime before shi knew it.
After supper both Roseblood and Fallingstar dismissed themselves, claiming they had to get ready for the next day on the Gateway station. Both promised to return soon, and often, however, leaving Makrana wondering just how large the family was going to get.
To be continued in The Park.
Chakats, Stellar Foxtaurs and other concepts © 2009 Bernard Doove
Skunktaurs (Chakat-kin) are © Robert Reijns
Browneyes, Darktoes and other characters are copyright me, Honeymane
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please send your questions, comments, etcetera to HoneymaneFeedback@gmail.com
And a special note of thanks for Sandwalker for his help putting these stories together.
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