Coming Home Again
By Cassandra Foxx
This story is in the same universe as Chakat Goldfur's "Forest Tales" are, and involves characters from those stories. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading them, I suggest you do so before reading these. There are characters and settings in here that are explained in more depth in those stories.
Remembrances And Beginnings
The air was cool and pleasant as she stood on the hill overlooking the chakat village in the valley below, but Cassandra's mood was such that she didn't even notice. She'd been travelling for several days now, first from her ship, then from various cities, trying to locate this one particular chakat community. She needed to see some of those that were residing here, and as they, too, had a tendency to leave for long periods, she had to arrive there when she would be sure they were home. Turbulent thoughts filled her very pretty head as she wondered what would become of her, now that she had reached her destination. So much was riding on what would happen when she found those whom she was searching. Looking back over her shoulder, her attack runabout, the Taipan, was sitting in a small roadside clearing, and Daniel, her lifemate, and their children were sitting together, resting and feeling out this new, to them, world. Cassie turned and sighed. After so many years, seeing the deaths of friends and feeling life spring from within her, the trip through Life she'd taken to reach this place had not been easy, by no means, and the future depended so much on what would happen during the next few days. She sat down on her haunches and closed her eyes, contemplating the future as her mind drifted back...
Back to where it all began...
* * *
Cassandra had been known as Cassiopeia then, Cassiopeia Firetail. A foxtaur living and growing up in the Mountain Glade Community village in California, Earth, she had always been different from the others. Her mother despaired of her, how she'd waste time learning things of Technology, rather than the good old crafts that had financed and supported their family since the village had been founded. Her mother, Eillanna, just shook her head and continued to admonish her daughter whenever she caught Cassiopeia ignoring the lessons in leatherworking and hide-curing that she'd set out for the 13 year-old vixen. "How can you waste your time with these things, Cassiopeia? They will never do you any good. The trades you are learning is what will get you a good home and a fine mate. This... technology will only lead you to trouble. You do not need to know these things. All you need is a trade, a good mate, a fine home and cubs, then you will be happy."
Her father, Tergar, just smiled and shook his head at his wayward daughter. One of three daughters he had and the apple of his eye, he had never had the heart to deny Cassi anything. He continued, much to his mate's chagrin, to indulge Cassi in her appetites for electronics and computers. He even allowed her to study at a school nearby, where others were taught things not learned in the village. "Leave her be, Eillanna. She is doing no harm as long as she learns the family trades and her grades stay where they are. Marranos is always on the lookout for a new apprentice. Maybe she can serve under him for a time. The reality of working with those machines and other things will work it out of her system, then, when she is old enough, Cassi will settle down and be ready to raise a family, just like her sisters."
But Cassi's obsession with technology went deeper than even her father knew. She was fascinated by the machines human-kind had invented and used regularly. And she found a kindred spirit in one of her cousins, Garrek Redfox. Garrek was, like her, very technically minded, and often helped and tutored the young vixen in her studies. Garrek was over three years older than Cassi, and as some females do, Cassi developed a crush on the handsome, young tod foxtaur. She started trying to spend as much time with him as she could, even when other vixen-taurs were around and trying to catch his eye.
As she grew up, Cassi learned to show more interest in the things her parents wanted, and they allowed her greater freedom. But she always kept her fascination with technology alive. Then, when she was 15, Cassi entered Marranos' workshop to find Garrek packing up his belongings. Cassi was horrified. "Garrek, What's going on? Where are you going?" She asked.
Garrek smiled warmly at his young cousin, and answered "I've been accepted into the Federation's Star Corps Academy, Cass, for training in engineering." He grinned widely at her. "It's something I've always wanted, but I'd never dared hope that my application would be accepted. But this message came for me yesterday afternoon." Garrek handed Cassi a formal letter with his name on it. It read:
To: Garrek Redfox
Mountain Glade Community,
California, GNA, Terra
From: Commodore Abram Altandi,
Commandant of Star Corps Academy
Cape York, Australia, Terra.
Your current application to attend and study at the Academy has been thoroughly considered and, as of the current semester, you are hereby cordially invited to attend classes at the Academy's main campus at Cape York, Australia, Australia, Terra.
Cassi's mind froze for a moment as she realised that Garrek would be leaving her for good, it seemed. She started to weep, the tears flowing out of the corners of her eyes and flowing through her cheek-ruffs. Garrek put his arms around her and hugged her gently.
"Hey, squirt, it's not that bad. You'll be Marranos' apprentice now, and you'll be able to learn all you want to. Maybe you could even apply yourself. I hear the Academy's looking for all the young people it can get it's paws on." Garrek gently stroked Cassi's head, then picked up his bags and went outside. Cassi stood there, unable to move even when Garrek returned and gently removed the message from her hands.
* * *
Several days later, Cassi watched as Garrek left for the Academy. She was smiling and waving on the outside, but on the inside she was both sad and angry. Angry at the fact she was left behind, and sad that her favourite cousin and the only person that truly understood her was leaving her, maybe for good. After the car carrying Garrek had left, Cassi walked out of the village, heading for the mountains beyond. Several hours later, she rested, tired and footsore, at the mouth of a cave she had discovered ages ago. Her panting turned to sobbing as she cried out her sorrow to the elements.
Cassi spent several days out in the wilds, searching for peace within herself. In the end, she came to grips with Garrek's leaving, but the peace she sought seemed to avoid her, like trying to catch the four winds in a bottle.
* * *
Cassi went back to work with Marranos and found some solace in the machines she loved to work with, but her heart still tore at her. Most of all, she steered clear of Ketta, who had been another vixen who'd had her eye on Garrek and was jealous of Cassi for the closeness she'd shared with the handsome tod. But Cassi had a plan. It would get her to where Garrek was and out of the village to where she could indulge herself in, as a career, the technology her mind craved.
Four months after Garrek left, she drove the ground-shuttle to a nearby human settlement to get supplies that Marranos needed. In her waist-bag was a very special letter that she'd worked on for the last few days. It was an application to the Star Corps Academy. But since Cassi had only just turned 16, she'd had to forge her parents' consent to allow her to enter early. She knew that early entry wasn't unheard of, and her educational scores were certainly high enough to warrant it, having topped her classes in almost every subject, but without her parent's permission, it would be all for naught. It hadn't been easy, but Cassi had done it, and it was perfectly forged, beyond all ability to detect. Also, she had a new name now, as well, to make sure her parents couldn't find her and spoil her plans. After she purchased the use of a postal box in the town, then posted the letter, Cassi drew a huge sigh of relief. If things worked out, she'd be at the Academy for next semester...
* * *
Time passed slowly for Cassi. She kept working and studying, even working her hardest at the few subjects she hated, like art and biology. Every week for the next four months, she went down to the human community and checked her mailbox, hoping for the letter that would ensure her freedom. The harvest festival came again as the cooler weather moved in, and she was starting to feel very strange. Her figure had filled out almost completely, and she was filled with urges that she couldn't explain, until one day her father came to see her. "Cassi, can we go somewhere and talk, please?"
When her father walked close to her, Cassi felt something happen inside her. An urgency she'd never felt before raced through her, but she went with her father anyway. As they walked through the village heading for a quiet clearing apart from the buildings, she noticed a lot of the tods were looking at her strangely, and occasionally making comments to their fellows, as were the vixens. She vaguely knew something was happening, but what she had no idea. Then a terrible thought struck her. What if her father had found out about the letter?
Very subdued, Cassi walked on until she and her father were out of sight and earshot of the others. Tergar turned to face his daughter with a soft smile on his face and motioned for her to sit down. Cassi did so, her anxiety at being found out mixing with her emotional confusion to make her almost frantic. Softly, Tergar began to speak. "Cassi, I know you've been keeping yourself very busy lately, ever since Garrek left. I understand how much he meant to you, but that is no reason for you to ignore what your body is telling you. Marranos called us this morning, and said you were down at his workshop, in a daze. He doesn't know how you were still doing your job, but you were."
"Ignoring my....?" Cassi said, even more confused, "Father, what do you mean? I know I'm feeling a little strange, but...."
"Of course you're feeling strange, my dear Cassiopeia." Tergar interrupted, smiling kindly. "You are coming into estrus for the first time. Your mother and I have known for the last few days."
Cassi was shocked! This was.... unbelievable! How could she be in heat? She'd already taken steps to avoid that. But then a wave of her own pheromones hit her right in the muzzle, and she swayed uncontrollably. Urges to mate raced through her, almost overwhelming in their intensity. Tergar slid his arms around her, very worried about his daughter. By rights, she should have mated by now and the urge passed. Somehow, Cassi had been ignoring her body's demands, almost to the point of danger. He knew something had to be done.
"Can't be...." Cassi said, dazed. "I can't be.... never wanted to.... Only want....."
"Cassi, you have to!" Tergar exclaimed, extremely concerned now. He was one of the community's paramedics, and had enough training in general medicine to know his daughter was becoming very ill. He knew her body would have to be satisfied, and soon, or Cassi would be ill for weeks afterwards. He motioned to someone nearby, and a young tod walked in. This was Merrat, a very good friend of Cassi's from her school. He had been the only tod that Cassi had ever shown any more than a passing disinterest in. Merrat moved forward and took Tergar's place, subdued in manner, but his obvious arousal showed his state of mind. Tergar then remembered something Cassi had mumbled. Maybe she was waiting for a certain tod. He looked into Cassi's glazed eyes, and asked "Cassi, is there any one you else you want? Please! Give me an alternative! Tell me who you want to be with....."
Cassi just growled softly at her father as her body took control of her. She looked up at Merrat with dull fire in her eyes, and clung to him like glue. Tergar tried to get an answer out of her, but Cassi was beyond answering. She was deep in her heat now, and knew only one thing: the need for what her body demanded. As Tergar had feared, Cassi was beyond control, but further than Tergar had ever seen before. Not even her sister had been this bad. "Take care of her, son. Be gentle." Tergar said to him. Merrat nodded, then softly nuzzled Cassi as Tergar left the clearing...
Tergar walked on, his heart heavy. He knew that Cassiopeia needed to mate now, but he had wondered why she hadn't felt the urge herself. He had hated to involve Merrat, but he knew that the young tod would be able to help Cassi through her first full estrus. What she needed now was a gentle, loving male who could ease her through this time, even more in Cassi's case since she had been acting so unusually. "Maybe she's just confused by her feelings," he thought. "Selena and Athena was much the same way when their times came, but it was not this serious a problem. Merrat will ease her through this." Smiling sadly to himself, Tergar sighed. "I must make sure that Cassiopeia's younger sister Istara is better educated about her first time. I felt sure Cassi wouldn't have these problems!"
Merrat led Cassi towards his home: a lovely house he'd built on a slope not too far from the village. He watched the reactions and demeanour of this very lovely young vixen he was guiding. He knew about her family problem: Tergar had confided in him. But as he continued to lead Cassi onto the front porch, he noticed certain things..... things which led him to believe that this was no mere condition. Something was wrong here, and he intended to find out what before he went any further than to make her comfortable.....
* * *
Cassi woke up in a strange room. She was dazed and very sleepy, but she was clear-minded enough to know that she hadn't been here when she last could remember anything. She could feel another body lying with her, but she felt too weak to move, so she lay there and relaxed. She realised that the terrible urges and confusion was gone now, and she no longer burned or ached all over. Then she felt the person behind her moving, and an arm slid around and hugged her. Cassi moved her head and looked up, her eyes meeting those of a tod she thought she knew. He smiled at her warmly and then nuzzled her. Cassi accepted the nuzzle, but was slightly confused. She could tell this wasn't her brother, so what was he doing here with her, wherever they were?
Merrat sat looking at Cassi, wondering what she was thinking. "Good morning, Cassi." He finally said. "Are you feeling better this morning?"
"I guess so." Cassi answered softly, still very groggy. "Who are you, and where am I?"
Merrat grinned. "Why, Cassi, don't you recognise me? I'm Merrat, remember? You and I, well, we are in my home."
Cassi looked confused again, until it sank in. Her face took on a shocked appearance. She finally comprehended what had been happening to her, but to think that someone had actually taken her while she was in that state was almost repugnant to her. But, with a great effort of will, she controlled herself and asked "What happened?"
Merrat sighed. "Cassi, you were almost hurting yourself. You'd denied the call of your maturing body, until it had almost put you in hospital. Your father and mother were worried sick. Your father came to me and asked me to help, because he knew I liked you, and your parents seem to like me a great deal."
Cassi took all this in, but she was still stunned. "So, Father and you.... made me mate?"
"Well............" Merrat began, then he stopped, and continued, "Anyway, I brought you here, where it's more comfortable." He got to his feet, shook himself all over and stretched. "Are you hungry? I know I am. Would you like some breakfast?"
"Yes please." Cassi answered absently. As Merrat left, she checked herself over. True, the overwhelming feelings of urgency and confusion were gone, and she felt better than ever. She stretched a little, and her rump felt a little sore. Heading for the bathroom, she checked her genitals, but she couldn't confirm if Merrat had actually mated with her. She felt very tender inside and in her lips, but that was normal for a vixen going through her first estrus. She knew it didn't mean that Merrat had mated with her, but she couldn't see anything else satisfying her. Cassi sighed somewhat sorrowfully. She had been so stupid, thinking she could ignore her first time, her first estrus coming up on her. Most likely, the drugs she'd sought to give her relief had only exacerbated the problem. "So much for me being the great doctor," She thought to herself. "I probably could have killed myself. Next time, I get professional advice." Cassi shook out her long hair, brushed it, then headed downstairs to where she could smell something mouth-watering cooking. As her head cleared more, the notion came to her that Merrat might be feeling guilty about what he'd done to her. She smiled. She knew it was no-one's fault but her own, and she wouldn't let him blame himself. After all, he'd helped her out, and deep down, she was grateful, if a little sad that she hadn't gotten to choose Garrek as her First. She sat down opposite Merrat and started eating with him
Merrat watched as Cassi ate. She looked so much different from the vixen he'd brought home the night before. Her eyes had cleared, her demeanour was at least a little cheerful, and she could keep her balance easily. Studying her as they finished off the breakfast, something then clicked in Merrat's mind, and it just confirmed what he'd thought had been the problem with her last night. Sighing to himself, he rose and started to clear the table. As he talked to Cassi, he became more and more convinced of what the truth behind her state was. He was glad that he didn't let his lusts rule his mind last night, and that his sister had left those toys of hers behind the last time she stayed with him. Merrat grinned ironically. "I never thought I'd see the day when I'd resort to using those things, instead of what I was endowed with..." He mused to himself under his breath. He looked back at Cassi, thinking of what a gorgeous mate she'd make. He turned around and moved back into the dining area, wanting to tell her there and then...
"Cassi, I..." he started...
"Yes, Merrat?" Cassi asked, curious as to what he had to say.
"I... um, well, Just want to tell you..." He continued, but then Cassi smiled and hugged him tight. Startled by this unexpected reaction, Merrat was reduced to speechlessness.
"It's alright, Merrat. I understand. I'm sorry if I wasn't a very willing partner last night, but I bet I was still able to give you a run for your money, eh?"
"Well, uh,...." Merrat was still slightly stunned. This wasn't what he'd expected from her. Acceptance, instead of anger and rejection. He just grinned at her, then said: "You did look very good last night, Cassi. I just wish you'd actually been able to choose me as your First. I'd have been honoured."
Cassi grinned, hugged him again, then returned to the kitchen. Merrat sighed. He knew now that he could never tell her just outright. He would only tell Cassi if she asked him directly. Only he would know the truth, and that would be his secret. Cassi, in the state she had been in, would never know what had happened, and she would think he completed his duty with her, which was all and good. Her family would also believe that, and leave her alone. If she did decide to ask him to be her mate, then he could tell her in all honesty, but only if she asked him. Until then, only he would know what he had really done with her in the bedroom last night, and why he felt unfulfilled...
Later, as she walked back towards the village, Cassi had to admit that Merrat knew his way around a kitchen. She even entertained the thought that maybe Merrat might make a good mate, but in the end, she dismissed it. Too much rested on her plan to get Garrek and find her own way in the big universe. After what her parents did with Merrat only proved that she had to get away as quickly as possible. If her parents would go so far to have Merrat become her first mate, then they must approve of him greatly, enough to try and arrange for him and her to mate for life. Cassi could never accept that. She knew who she wanted, and nothing would stop her getting him.
* * *
It was three months later when Cassi received a message saying that there was a letter for her in her mailbox. She barely managed to contain her excitement until Marranos sent her on her regular run into town. Calm on the outside, but seething with anticipation inside, she walked into the post office and claimed not a letter, but a large packet. The symbol of Star Corps made Cassi almost faint with relief, but she knew that she'd have to open it first before her anxiety would be relieved. On the way back to the village, Cassi stopped at a roadside clearing and almost tore the packet open. Inside, she found a large padded envelope that contained a map of the Academy and other materials, and a smaller envelope. Once Cassi had slit it open and pulled the letter from inside, her heart almost stopped as she read:
To: Cassandra Whiteclaw,PO Box 1125,
California, GNA, Terra.
From: Commodore Abram Altandi,
Commandant of Star Corps Academy
Cape York, Australia, Terra.
Your current application to attend and study at the Academy has been thoroughly considered and, at the end of the current semester, you are hereby cordially invited to attend classes at the Academy's main campus at Cape York, Australia, Terra. Your underage status has been carefully reviewed and due to your parents' willingness to allow you to attend, you have been assigned to the special courses for those in our underage program.
We hope to see you here at the start of the new semester.
Commodore Abram Altandi,
Commandant of Star Corps Academy
Cape York, Australia, Terra.
Cassi howled out loud with joy. The application had been accepted! In two month's time, she'd be heading to Cape York in Australia to be with Garrek. Now, all she had to do was make a good cover story, and get her parents to believe it.
* * *
Cassi was figuratively walking on air for the next few days, as the knowledge that she had secured for herself a place at the Academy buoyed her troubled soul. Tergar noticed this, but he put it down to something Cassi had told him before she'd sent the letter in....
"Father," Cassi said one day as she came in from working at Marranos' workshop, "guess what? I have fantastic news!"
"Really, Cassiopeia? And what might that be?" Tergar asked back. His concentration was distracted somewhat, as he worked on his hobby, making fishing flies for the local human fisher-people who frequented some of the sporting streams in their area.
"Well, I could be getting a scholarship to a very prestigious technical college!" Cassi said, lying to her father as she put part two of her plan into effect. Tergar stopped still as this sank in, then looked up at his daughter, a stunned expression on his face. "Could you repeat that, Cassi?"
"Sure, Father. I applied for a scholarship at this technical college in Australia. Marranos said I have a very good chance of being accepted!" Cassi beamed ecstatically as her father rose slowly from his seat.
"Cassi, that's wonderful!" Tergar replied, and he moved to his daughter, hugging her close. Cassi grinned and snuggled her father, not acting now. Then, it registered with Tergar exactly what Cassi had said, "But, Australia's so far away. Will you have to leave here?"
"I know I will, Father, but I can handle it. Besides, it's one of the best technical colleges in the world. I could even get a scholarship to the Federation Academy from there!"
"Well....," Tergar replied , slightly overwhelmed by his daughters revelations. Personally, he'd secretly agreed with Eillanna that Cassi did not really belong fiddling with technological things. He'd always thought it a fad that would die out. Now, his daughter was telling him she was good enough to have won a place at a very prestigious College, and one with links to the Star Corps, no less. This was an unexpected turn. "We'll have to see, Cassi. You know it's not good to go too far from here. There are a lot of things out in the world that can hurt a young vixen like you. And you'll be away from others of your own kind, too. What will you do when the need comes on you again? Remember what happened last time."
Cassi grinned knowingly at her father. "It's alright, Daddy. The College has live-in accommodations, and they have taur-teachers there, too. I think they even have a foxtaur teacher there. I'll be safe. And it is Australia, you know, not Argentina. They are as civilised as America is. They even have a taur-race there as well, called Chakats."
"Chakats? What type of taurs are they?" Tergar asked, curious.
"I'm not sure, Father. There wasn't much on them in the community database. except they're Taurs and live in Australia." Cassi answered.
"Hmmmmmmm..." Tergar considered what Cassi had told him. It might not be a bad idea to have one of the family trained in these things. There was a lot of prestige in the fixing of the machines in the Village. Marranos was held in high regard by the others, and with young Garrek Redfox leaving for the Star Corps, Cassi could bring a lot of prestige to his clan by becoming Marranos' replacement when he grew too old to continue his work. Marranos, too, was not as experienced with the latest things the Community now had, such as the newest trans-communicators. With Cassi experienced in repairing them, she would have males falling at her feet, and could choose any tod she wanted as her mate. That would please her mother greatly. "Well, Cassi, we'll see what your mother says. I'll have a talk to her, and see if I can persuade her to let you go."
Cassi was overjoyed! This was working better than she'd hoped! She threw her arms around her father and hugged him tightly, purring loudly. "Daddy! You're wonderful! Thank you ever so much!"
Tergar smiled and hugged his daughter back. "Cassi has also always been the most tactile of my daughters when it came to showing her father affection," he thought to himself, grinning. "Alright, Cassiopeia, go and do what you have to do. Tell your Mother that I'll finish this, then come inside for dinner."
"Alright, Father." Cassi replied and she trotted off inside their home, very pleased that Father had accepted her story. "And that's going to make things a lot easier later on!" She though to herself.
* * *
To be continued in Chapter Two
Chakats, Garrek Redfox, Purteshka, the Mountain Glade community, and The Stellar Federation, Star Fleet and Star Corps (as related to this story) are copyright © 2002 Bernard Doove, and used with his permission.
Voxxans are the creation of, and are copyright © Brian Miller and are used with permission.
The Quange are the creation of, and are copyright © Roy D. Pounds II and are used with his permission.
The Furrderation is the creation of, and is copyright © Terry Knight and is used with permission.
All the rest of the story and names are copyright © 2002 Cassandra Foxx.
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