Coming Home Again

By Cassandra Foxx

 

In Chapter Two, we left Cassi just as she had finally arrived at the Space Academy and found it wasn't quite what she'd envisioned. After getting settled in, and not without a bit of trouble, she was looking forward to the next few years there. But fatigue has her asleep as night fell, and she awakes to find that things can change overnight...

 

Chapter Three

Learning To Be Yourself

As Dawn slowly filtered through the blinds into Cassi's room, she stirred slightly. Dreams of being with Garrek, with him curled up behind her, flowed through her mind. Then, the image of Garrek changed to Merrat, and Cassi woke with a start! Then, she felt that there actually was someone behind her! Quickly she rolled over onto her feet, retreated to the wall and flicked the blinds open, revealing a taur-body covered with bright, golden fur. Cassi's rapid breathing slowed as she realised who it was. "Dawnbright!" She almost shouted, "What are you doing in my room?"

Dawnbright awoke with a start. Shi looked around, then saw Cassi cringing against the wall. Blinking, shi stretched, then rose slowly to hir feet. She then sat and looked at Cassi, a slightly startled look on her face. "I'm sorry, Cassie. I didn't mean to startle you." Dawnbright retreated towards the bedroom door and out into the main room. Cassi slowly uncurled and took a deep double-lungful of air, her upper and lower lungs filling to capacity, then she slowly let it all out. She slid slowly to the floor, feeling drained and very cold all of a sudden.

Dawnbright returned to find Cassi shivering, apparently from shock. Feeling ashamed, shi went to hir own room and took out a huge blanket shi kept in a bag, then returned and wrapped it around Cassi. Cassi looked up at hir smiling face and returned it weakly. "Take it easy, Cassie." Dawnbright said softly. "I'll get you something." Dawnbright walked out to the kitchen, and had the replicator give hir a large cup of hot chocolate. Shi then returned to Cassi and handed it to her as shi gently lay down beside her.

Cassi sipped at the chocolate, which warmed her as it trickled it's way down through her. She sighed as the shakes subsided, then turned to look at Dawnbright. Snarling, she asked in a low voice "What were you doing in my room, in bed with me?"

Dawnbright settled back on hir haunches. Shi hung hir head and sighed sadly. "I'm sorry, Cassie." Shi looked up, and Cassi could see tears forming in hir lovely golden-green eyes. "I got in last night, and saw you had moved in. I came in to check on you, and when I saw you there, I just..." Crying softly, Dawnbright looked at Cassi and continued "I couldn't help it. I came in and moved you to where you'd be comfortable. Then I... I... I curled up behind you. I wasn't trying anything, I swear! I just needed to feel someone with me last night."

At that moment, Cassi's anger just vanished. She saw in herself Dawnbright's predicament, the time she experienced first estrus. Putting down her cup, she slid her arms around Dawnbright and held hir close. Dawnbright did the same, hir tail coiling with Cassi's huge foxy tail. It was Cassi's turn to comfort Dawnbright now, as shi slowly regained control of herself. When Dawnbright could finally talk again, Cassi looked at hir and simply asked "Why?"

Dawnbright looked at Cassi, then sadly smiled. "I'm... at the height of my male cycle, as you probably guessed. I've been away from my family and someone I love very much, for a while now. I haven't really found anyone here on base to help me yet. You just looked so beautiful, lying there asleep, I just had to be near you. I wasn't thinking of doing anything, mind you; we Chakats would never do anything like that. I just needed to be with someone last night. I'm sorry if I upset you."

Cassi looked at Dawnbright, then smiled softly. "It's alright, Dawnbright. You just gave me a real fright, that's all." Cassi stood and helped Dawnbright up, then they walked out together. Later, Dawnbright came out of the kitchen carrying a large tray with two big breakfasts on it. "I didn't know you'd moved in here, Dawn," Cassi said as she sat at the table, "I thought the room there was unoccupied."

"Well," Dawnbright answered, "I must've come and moved in while you were out. I shifted my things in just after the Orientation."

"That explains it, then." Cassi went on to relate to Dawnbright what had happened to her on her trip to the Academy as they ate. Dawnbright listened avidly, then they both broke up when Cassi told hir about the taxi ride to the Academy gates.

"Oh, Cassie! That has to be the worst ride I have ever heard of! And you say his name was Brock?" Dawnbright asked.

"That's right, Dawn. Peter Brock the third. Why?"

Dawnbright giggled. "The original Peter Brock was a famous Australian racing driver in the late 20th century. I guess you found his descendant."

"Oh no!" Cassi giggled back.

"Yep." Dawnbright answered. She then looked at the clock, and her demeanor changed to one of urgency. "Oh frack! We've got less than an hour to get ready for parade!"

"Quick! Let's get in the baths!" And as Dawnbright raced out for her room, Cassi grabbed her own kit and headed into the bathroom.

*               *               *

Cassi and Dawnbright raced across the parade ground as they could see all the other cadets forming up not too far away. They skidded to a stop and took their places within the ranks of the other taur cadets, just as a door on a nearby building opened. Looking slightly to one side, Cassi saw a cluster of humans, with two taurs, marching towards them. The scowl on one human's face showed that he brooked no trouble from anyone. He pulled up in front of them all and waited for his men to come into position. The two taur NCO's, one a chakat and one a foxtaur male, stopped in front of them. As the Gunnery Sergeant gave the command, they all came snappily to attention.

"Right, you sorry bunch of animate objects!" Gunnery Sergeant Maxwell Phillips started his usual welcoming speech with his usual invectives. "You have been chosen, supposedly, as the finest students of your age level to attend this Academy where you will learn, over the course of two years, to be trained as members of the Star Corps. Now, some of you, IF you are either lucky or incredibly intelligent," He went on as he walked up and down the ranks, " may even be chosen to join Starfleet! However, for the next six months, you are MY RESPONSIBILITY!! And I ALWAYS take my responsibilities very seriously! I will train your soft, cushy civilian bodies until you are fit and ready for anything! IF you don't think you have what it takes, the Commandant's office is clearly marked! So, if any of you don't think you can handle the training, why don't you just save us all a load of trouble and go see him now?" Phillips stopped right in front of Cassi and Dawnbright, and seemed to be staring right at them. Cassi managed to hold her eyes forward, but her tail-tip trembled ever so slightly, while Dawnbright's claws were extending and contracting on her hind feet.

Phillips turned and walked forward again, out amongst the other NCO's and stopped. "For you taur races, Sergeants Greystripe and Azarrel will be in charge of you, and I will be in charge of them. You will find that, even though your training schedule is different to the bipedal races, your's has been designed to put you through exactly the same amount of exertion as the others. So I DON'T want any complaints about us being unfair to you! Understood?!"

"YES, SERGEANT!" They all answered. One of the human cadets snickered at the taurs, and Phillips caught it. "YOU!" He shouted as he strode up to the male "Drop right here and give me fifty! I will have no-one disbelieving that what I tell you is the truth! You will all, fairly and without species-bias, be worked within an inch of your miserable hides! There will be no exceptions! Understood?!"

"YES, SERGEANT!" They all answered again. Dawnbright then muttered "I wonder what they use to punish us taurs? Push-ups wouldn't be any good..."

"I am sooooo glad you asked that, Cadet!" Phillips said, right beside Dawnbright, who almost jumped out of hir skin. "Come with me and I will show you, and all these others, exactly what we have you do." Dawnbright shook hirself and walked off with Phillips. There was a large upside-down U-shaped bar to one side, where all could see it. Cassi had wondered what it was for. It looked like a human chin-up bar, but it was far too high for a normal human. "This is your disciplinary action, Cadet! I want you to put your hands around that bar and give me one, just one, Full-Body-Mass chin-up, if you can...."

Dawnbright looked up at the bar with a sense of foreboding. Cassi's eyes widened when she realised exactly what the Sergeant meant. She watched, as did the others, as Dawnbright lifted hirself up on hir hindlegs, wrapped hir hands around the bar and attempted to lift hir entire body mass up and do one chin-up. To Dawnbright's credit, shi just managed to get hir chin up over the bar, but it was for only a split-second before shi came crashing down again, looking very exhausted.

Phillips watched as Dawnbright was looked at by one of the sergeants, then he turned and said "As you can see, this is extremely hard for a taur to do. That's why it is limited to very low numbers. But I assure you it is possible. Sergeant Greystripe, come here and show them how it's done!"

"YES, SERGEANT!" The chakat answered. Shi turned and marched to the bar and, lifting hirself up, did five chin-ups in a fairly quick succession. Then shi lowered hirself back on hir feet and stood there, breathing heavily for a minute before returning to hir position.

"For your information, Sergeant Greystripe is the record-holder for this little exercise. Shi has done TEN of those in a row, twice. If any of you think you can equal or beat that, I will give you a three-day-pass out of Academy as part of your first leave." Phillips said. "BUT FOR NOW" he shouted, and all snapped to attention, "We are going to start to turn you civilians into members of the Star Corps!" He started them marching around the parade ground, the taurs in a looser-but-no-less-regular formation to the bipeds.

Cassi found herself getting more than she'd bargained for. She'd known about the study and classes and other academic work, but the physical training had never been mentioned. "Still," She thought to herself as she raced along a dirt track through the forest at a good pace, "it's not all that different to the annual cross-country races back home, just longer, faster and more supervised." She raced towards a hanging rope, just as Dawnbright jumped up and grabbed another one. But hir grip wasn't as good as shi thought, and Dawnbright slid, with a yowl of panic, down into the mud. Cassi managed to get across, but she didn't quite make the next obstacle. Looking back over her shoulder to see how Dawnbright was, she jumped up and over a low wall and fell into a pit of water, drenching herself completely. Then she heard a yowl from behind, and shifted just as Dawnbright came sailing over and into the water as well, washing the mud out of her coat. Shi smiled at Cassi, then they both climbed out of the pit giggling and raced on....

*               *               *

The first six months seemed to drag on like a bad movie, but they endured. Cassi and Dawnbright often found themselves sleeping in the same bed, but they never seemed to want to do much but cuddle and sleep. Cassi knew why. She wanted only Garrek, and Dawnbright... shi had managed to find another chakat that helped hir through hir cycles. But the two had become friends in the truest sense of the word. When Dawnbright was disciplined by doing guard duty, Cassi volunteered to join her. Their classes were no less hard, but Cassi was far more prepared for this part of the training.

The technical classes were mainly hands-on, and Cassi loved delving into the technology that made the Star Corps and Starfleet work. She worked very hard at her studies, but some things seemed to be escaping her understanding, and she couldn't understand why. However, the flight simulator programs they used seemed so simple to her, she breezed through them, and in astrogation, she could almost see the answers before her. She was often left idle, wondering what was taking the others so long. The physical classes she and Dawn struggled through, and they knew they weren't doing a bad job, by the fact that the sergeants were on their backs less than most of the other cadets.

The time came for their end-of-year exams. Cassi and Dawnbright sweated through them all, and relaxed when they could. Cassi found that she and Dawnbright were good influences on each other. Cassi had calmed the boisterous chakat down somewhat, while Dawn taught her how to be more sociable with others. The two were rapidly coming to think of each other like sisters, which Cassi appreciated, being away from her own two sisters. Dawnbright also was finding Cassi to be a great comfort to her when shi wasn't in the peaks of her cycle, when she didn't need sexual satisfaction, just comfort and companionship.

As their class came off the field from weapons-training, Cassi noticed a crowd gathered around the electronic bulletin board, where the cadet notices were displayed. Dawnbright stopped another cadet who was moving away from it, and asked "What's up?"

"The exam results were just posted! They're up, and the ratings are in, too!" he said excitedly and continued on.

"Shall we go and see where we ended up?" Cassi asked Dawnbright.

"Not yet," shi replied, stretching her backs, "let's get out of this camo gear and webbing first. I think I've come out with a new range of bruises"

"Alright, Sis." Cassi agreed. Later, as they marched back down to the board, they were easily able to make their way through the thinning crowd to the board. Dawnbright was the first to reach it, and shi immediately asked for a print-out of her results and Cassi's. Later, as they sat in the Mess Hall, they compared notes.

"Damn!" Dawnbright said. "I got 18th place in Shuttle piloting, and 46th in astrogation!" She growled, then sighed. "At least I did well in Physical Training, Planetary Sciences and Biological Sciences. And 8th in Technical Support's not bad at all. What did you get, Sis?"

Cassi was slightly aghast. Her results were nothing like she'd hoped. Her technical studies were all way down below where she thought they'd be. "If I keep this up, I'll never make Head Technician! Or any sort of technician, for that matter." But then, she noticed her other scores. To her amazement, she had scored First overall in Astrogation and Shuttle Piloting! Cassi had also scored extremely well in areas like Sensor Studies and Basic Starship Procedures.

"Cassie!" Dawnbright exclaimed. "Wow! Those scores are great!" Shi moved closer to Cassi, and asks "Listen, I need some help with Astrogation. Could you tutor me?"

"Ummmmm.....Yeah, sure." Cassi said absently. She walked slowly back to her quarters, ignoring just about everyone. Sitting down on her bed, Cassi rolled over onto her side, the sheet with her test scores looking straight at her. "If I can't get past the minimum Score Levels, I'll never be able to get on-board a Starship. What can I do?" While thinking about her perhaps-defunct career, Cassi's eyes closed, her breathing steadied and the sheet slipped out of her hand.

*               *               *

Cassi slowly came awake, her body feeling rested and her mind a little clearer. She could smell something delicious wafting up from near her, and her stomach rumbled. Looking up, there was a mug sitting beside the bed. Sniffing it, she found it was full of her favorite soup. Cassi rose, steadied herself, and sipped it slowly, thankful for Dawnbright's ministrations.

Later, Dawnbright looked up as Cassi's door opened, and she slowly walked out and smiled at Dawnbright. Dawn waved back, then turned and continued working on the astrogation tutorial shi'd called form the database. Cassi deposited the mug back in the replicator's disposal slot, then walked out and sat by Dawnbright. "Dawn," She asked her roommate, "What am I going to do? My technical skills are nowhere near where I'd thought they'd be. I can handle most of the equipment, but the more advanced mechanics I just can't seem to wrap my tail around. How am I going to graduate if I can't pass the exams?"

Dawnbright turned and looked at Cassi. "Cass, you seem to be missing the obvious. Sis, look at the scores in other areas. You got First overall in Astrogation and Shuttlecraft Piloting! Doesn't that mean any thing to you?"

"But I wanted to be a Technician! I had to be, to go and... " Cassi then clammed up, realising she'd almost told Dawnbright everything.

Dawnbright looked at Cassi craftily, then said "There's a reason you wanted to go into Technical Studies, isn't there? And it's not because it's your lifelong dream, or something like that, isn't it?" Cassi sighed, then hung her head and nodded. Dawn smiled and went on "I thought so. He's a Technician, isn't he?" Cassi nodded again. Dawnbright sighed. "Girl, you can't go living your life for someone else! This is your Career here! You have to do what's best for you."

Cassi felt a single tear trickle down her cheek, in the fur. She had never thought that her skills would have been inadequate, but it seemed that way. "What can I do then?" she asked. "I can't go home, and I don't know what I can do here, now. Dawn, what can I do?"

Dawn looked at her, picked up Cassi's score sheet, then cancelled her tutorial program and called up another on that listed Career paths. After a few minutes checking, shi said "Well, I'm not a counsellor, to advise you, but your scores would have you in an extremely good position to join the Star Fleet, as ship crew. Why not move to Fleet, Cass? You'll still be here for two years after I've gone, but then, if you keep these levels up, you might find yourself making Junior Lieutenant aboard a starship!"

Star Fleet! Cassi's ears perked up. She had never considered Fleet as an option before, but now she looked at it with great interest. She could still find Garrek, and maybe even outrank him when she found him! And Fleet went everywhere! "You really think I could make Fleet?"

"Don't ask me, ask a counsellor. They'll be able to advise you, and get your path changed if you want it to." Dawnbright answered.

"Goody! I'll do it right..." Cassi rose, then saw the time on the clock, and sat back down again "...in the morning." She grinned sheepishly, and Dawnbright laughed.

*               *               *

The next morning, Cassi went to see the base counsellor. He welcomed Cassi in and asked "Now, what can I do for you, Cadet?"

"Sir, I want to transfer my path from the Corps to Fleet, if I may. My scores, in certain areas, weren't exactly as I expected them." Cassi asked

The counsellor called up Cassi's scores and said "Well, you certainly have the scores for Fleet. I'll make the adjustments to your courses. Now, what was your name again, Cadet?"

"Cadet Cassandra Whiteclaw, Sir." Cassi said with pride. As she headed downstairs, Cassi realised what this meant. She truly was following her own path now, not for her parents, not for Garrek, not for anyone but herself. "I guess I really am Cassandra, now, not Cassiopeia anymore." Feeling very good within herself, Cassie returned to the parade ground for morning inspection, with her new assignment and classes on the padd in her hand.

*               *               *

To be continued in Chapter Four

 

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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