Frederike sighed contentedly and snuggled up against Goldstripe. Today was their day off, and they both enjoyed being able to sleep in. Tokalina lay between them as usual, and turned in her sleep, which made Frederike wake instantly. Cold noses against one’s bare skin are known to have that effect.
Whazza matter honey? Goldstripe mumbled as shi sensed the spike in hir mate’s state of mind.
Just Tokalina’s cold, wet nose against my chest and right breast, Frederike said.
Oh. Mmm…since you’re awake, how about you make your mate and daughter some breakfast in bed? Goldstripe said with a smile and opened hir eyes.
You'll have to say pretty please, Frederike smiled back.
Goldstripe gave her a lick-kiss on her left breast, then one on her cheek and then shi said, pretty please with cherries and sugar on top?
That'll do. Do you want cheese on your toast or– Frederike said but was interrupted by the comm.
Oh crap. Who calls this early? Goldstripe grumbled, and Tokalina stirred with a sound which seemed to be of slight annoyance.
It’s not that early actually; it’s a quarter past ten! Frederike said and got out of bed to answer the comm.
She accepted the call after having put on a bathrobe.
Hellooooo…and good morning I guess! sang out a smiling Ashley.
'Morn', Frederike said. What can I do for you, oh whitest of vixens?
I was just wondering what time Bhaskar and I were supposed to arrive?
Oh, right. Um, I think that...hold on. Goooldstripe? What time did you ask Kane and the Backfishs to come?
Six thirty, Goldstripe said. Shi had padded up to stand beside her as shi heard who it was.
Gah! You sneaky kitten, Frederike said. You gave me a real shock there, Dear.
Sorry. Hi Ashley.
Hello Goldstripe, Ashley said. Did I catch you two at a bad time?
Not at all. We just decided to sleep in, Frederike said.
Yes, we had our own little sex org- auch! Goldstripe said and was elbowed by Frederike who had turned quite red.
I think I get the point, Ashley said with a laugh. Oh-well, some of us have to work today. But I’ll see you then. Gotta go on patrol now. Ciao! she finished, and then disconnected.
Goldstripe, you are such a naughty kitten, Frederike said and grabbed one of hir ears and gave a gentle yank.
Yep. But that’s the way you like me, right? shi said and started pulling off Frederike’s bathrobe.
I guess it is. So, am I headed for the kitchen or the bedroom?
Oh! There was that. Um... Goldstripe said and released the now open bathrobe. Kitchen I guess. I’m starving, and pretty soon junior will be complaining about the same thing.
Right. If you get her ready, I’ll get breakfast ready. Deal?
Yup, Goldstripe said.
Frederike nodded and started to turn, when she felt Goldstripe’s hands on her; one on her belly and one on her breast.
Mmmmm-MM! Goldstripe said and gave her an extra squeeze from behind.
Frederike put a hand on top of one of Goldstripe’s as she also felt a handpaw groping her butt.
I think breakfast will need to wait, then, Frederike said and laughed.
I guess so... Goldstripe said, and yanked off the bathrobe.
Wash your hands, dear. Good girl, Goldstripe said when shi’d helped Tokalina relieve herself in the bathroom. Of course, washing one’s hands wasn’t on the top of the list of funniest things in the world for a foxtaur vixen of her age, so she happily started splashing herself, Goldstripe and the mirror hanging over the basin.
No, don’t...splf...stop you little... Goldstripe said and managed to catch Tokalina’s hands. Look at our fur and the mirror. Now Mummy or I will have to clean everything again, Goldstripe scolded and gave her a stern look.
Tokalina drooped her ears, and Goldstripe sighed. Uh-oh, shi said and picked up the little wet-eyed foxtaur before she started to cry. At the same time the comm rang, and Goldstripe cursed as the ring mixed with Tokalina’s wail.
Honey! Could you please get that? Goldstripe yelled.
Just a sec...damn how do I press the button with dough on my hands? Frederike said from the kitchen where she was making homemade baguettes. She managed to hit the receive button with the back of her hand without dirtying the comm in the process.
Starnight’s face appeared on the screen. Hello dear, I hope I’m not interrupting anything? shi said. Frederike recognized hir office behind hir, and could see the morning sun through hir office window.
Erh...no; um...a little perhaps; we’re expecting guests in a little less than an hour. But what can I do for you? Frederike answered slightly strained.
Actually not mu- what’s with the wailing? shi said, interrupting hirself.
I don’t know. Tokalina hasn’t exactly been in her most well-behaved mood today.
I guess all kids have days like that. Welcome to the real world of parenting, Starnight said with a laugh and paused.
I’m actually calling to invite the three of you on vacation, shi continued.
Vacation? Goldstripe said as shi appeared next to the comm. Shi had managed to calm Tokalina down a little again; and when she saw her step-grandsire, all thoughts of earlier whining were gone.
Yes, dears. Remember I said last time you guys were here that I needed to go to Chakona? Well, now’s the time. And rather than going on a several weeks trip all by myself, I thought that it would be better to invite my family along.
That sounds interesting, Frederike said, but ahem...we’ve nearly just come home from Australia so...
I know, Starnight interrupted. But I did say invite, which translates to Goldstripe’s daddy will pay, shi continued with a smile.
But we can’t accept...
Nonsense! Listen, I usually don’t like to talk about money, but let’s just say it won’t be a problem. And besides, you’d make Sunfur and me very happy if you joined us. The others have already said yes.
Well, in that case I suppose...what do you say, Muffin? Frederike said.
I think I’ll say: thanks Dad! Goldstripe said with a smile. We’ll have our vacation cleared with the chief by this time tomorrow.
Good. I’ll just send you some traveling brochures. We’ll be traveling on an Imperial Intergalactic ship, Starnight said, and the brochure in question popped up beside Starnight in split-screen mode. We will be traveling on the Freedom of the Galaxy.
Welcome! Frederike said, and gave Ashley a hug. The others are already here.
Thanks, Ashley said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
And to you too, Bhaskar, Frederike said and gave him a hug.
One can certainly see you’ve become part of a chakat family, he remarked as they released each other.
I guess so. Please, help yourself to some punch, Frederike said and gestured towards the living room where Goldstripe was already handing out glasses to the other guests.
Tocho and Tokalina had settled down to watch cartoons, but Tocho waved at the newly arrived, and Tokalina ran over for a hug.
Hello, Bhaskar said and read Tokalina’s t-shirt, good to see you too, my little foxy lady.
Where did you get that? Ashley asked.
In a market in Perth, Goldstripe said and gave Ashley a glass.
Oh, right...so, how’s the family Down Under?
Fine. Daddy called about an hour and a half ago. Shi just invited us on a trip to Chakona! Goldstripe said.
Waaauuuu, Ashley said.
Lucky you, Donald said. I guess that means you guys will be gone for a while?
It does. If we can get the time off, that is. It’s almost two weeks each way, and Daddy will need at least three weeks on Chakona. They plan for us to stay at my aunt Sandrunner’s pineapple farm, and then Daddy will commute by transporter to the construction site as needed.
Not much vacation for hir, then? Bhaskar remarked.
I guess not. But shi will get to relax a little on the way. We’re taking a cruise ship there, Frederike said.
Oh la la...someone has a rich daddy... Ashley said with a laugh.
Yes, I just took Goldstripe for the money, Frederike said with a laugh.
Ellen – Donald’s wife – and Kane looked up from their conversation.
I did the same thing, Ellen said. He doesn’t have that much, but that means we’ll have to substitute it with love.
Donald gave her a sheepish smile. And look how many kids we have.
Yes, what is it they say: the rich have much happiness, the poor many children. I guess we're sort of in the middle, because I think we're amply supplied with both, Ellen said and gave her husband a hug.
Donald smiled and kissed her on the forehead.
Kane just smiled, but didn’t say anything.
Goldstripe sensed his mood was dropping at the talk about mates and children, and changed the subject.
Now that we’re all here, shi said and raised hir glass, I guess it’s in order to say officially welcome.
There was a murmur of thank yous from the guests, and Goldstripe started telling them about the menu.
Mmmm...I can't stop thinking about your dad's invitation, Frederike said as they lay in bed together later.
Looking forward to see Chakona, are we? Goldstripe said as shi lifted hir muzzle from between Frederike's breasts.
Oh, yes. Very much so. I've always wondered how it would be to set foot on another world, not to mention traveling through space. Now I'll try both, she said and nuzzled Goldstripe's right ear.
Right. The sci-fi geek, Goldstripe said with a laugh. You know, maybe Dad will take us to Ka'Turna to see the base up there if we're lucky.
I'd like that too, Frederike said and lifted her head so they could kiss.
After they broke the kiss, she continued, this trip could also be sort of our belated denmate-honeymoon.
Agreed. Besides, we can never celebrate that enough, shi said and started another round of petting.
There's something I need to ask you, Frederike said and Goldstripe paused. She was about to say something, but paused. Instead she said, I'm wondering with all the petting...are you at your male peak, or is it the trip that excites you, or something entirely different? You seem rather frisky today.
Mmmm...a bit of everything, I guess, Goldstripe said. Shi had noticed her hesitation, but wasn't sure if shi should comment on it. Frederike's next words made hir forget all about it, though.
How long has it been since you last had a checkup? she said.
Um, I... Goldstripe began, not so keen on another trip to the doctor's office.
I thought as much. I think it is time for the nurse to examine you... she said with a naughty smile.
Oh...now we're talking, shi purred.
To skip past mature section, click here
Frederike got out of bed, and left for the bathroom. When she came back, she was clad in her white leather nurse uniform with skirt, top and hat, the last two of which sported a small red cross.
Ah, Shir Goldstripe, shall be begin the Examination? she said.
Yes, Nurse Weismann, Goldstripe said.
Then lie on your backs please, Frederike said and opened the Doctor’s Bag that came with the uniform.
Yes, Ma’am, Goldstripe said and obediently did so.
Frederike found a stethoscope, and started checking the chakat’s hearts and breathing. She made sure that the cold stethoscope accidently touched Goldstripe’s nipples, which made hir gasp with the mild shock and following pleasure.
When that was done, she proceeded to do the breast exams, making sure that she checked the quality of both mammaries’ contents.
And now I think it is time for the nether regions, she then said and proceeded to don a pair of examination gloves. Goldstripe leaned back with anticipation. While shi’d had a couple of lovers before shi met Frederike, none of them had been as playful and...inventive...when it came to sex games.
Shi felt how the nurse started to examine hir penis; first by extruding it, then feeling it up, followed by gentle strokes to make sure that shi had a full erection. She then proceeded by telling that it was time for the gyno examination, and after which a sperm sample would be taken (of course in a most pleasant way).
Mmmmm....this feels both good and also quite kinky, Goldstripe said with hir eyes closed.
I know, dear. Now lie still and relax while I continue examining you... Frederike said with a naughty smile.
Yes Ma’am, Goldstripe said with a smile of hir own.
Shi was enjoying hirself and hir nurse’s ministrations when a new sensation startled hir.
Oh! shi said as shi felt something cold and then a pressure against hir anus.
Shhhh...try to relax... Frederike said.
But, um...I’m not sure that... Goldstripe interjected. Shi wasn’t sure if shi liked that kind of...intimacy.
Just relax and let it happen, Frederike whispered and gently stroked hir. I won’t hurt you. I promise. And if you don’t like it, I’ll stop...
Goldstripe closed hir eyes and leaned back again. Alright...I trust you, honey...
Shi then felt the lube covered finger again, but this time shi relaxed. Shi felt the finger enter hir in that very private spot. It was a little strange, but after a short while of gentle massaging, shi started to enjoy it.
I think I must be doing something right, Frederike said.
Oh? Goldstripe said and opened hir eyes.
You’re purring, she remarked.
I guess I am. I still think it is a bit kinky...but not as unpleasant as I’d thought. It does feel...good actually, shi admitted.
I thought so. Would you like me to mount you that way with the strap-on?
Ahem...one thing at a time... Goldstripe said, holding up hir hand.
That’s okay...we’ll do it as fast or as slow as you like. This is intended for your pleasure, hon, she said.
Hopefully yours too? Goldstripe said, although shi thought hir empathy told hir as much.
Of course. By the way, I hope you won’t mind switching roles at some point, she said.
No...I can do this. So...do you want me to mount you this way?
Hm...I think so. Although we’d have to be careful. You’re a bit bigger than a human, after all, she said.
I’ll be gentle, shi said with a smile.
So, I guess we shouldn't head directly for Perth? Kabayama said as she took the shuttle out of warp.
No, I think we should ditch it in Melbourne; we have people there who can take care of it. With the money the Organization gave us, we could then take the MagLev to Sydney, and then after a few days we will head for Perth, Hughes said as he joined her in the cockpit and settled in the co-pilot's seat.
That sounds reasonable, the Japanese woman said and nodded.
Good. While you take us down, I'll go make some false trails by checking for trips to Beijing. Then we can book tickets from a public terminal once we're down, he said and left the cockpit again. All the searches he made on the computer would of course be purged, but in a way so they would still be recoverable. You could never be too careful.
Ah, this is the life, Father, Kabayama said as she stretched in the comfortable 1st class seat in the Trans-Aussie Express.
Hm, he said and looked up from his bible. I can see you're enjoying yourself, he added and then continued in a lower voice, remember, we're still here to do God's work. These tickets were only bought to avoid suspicion.
I know, she said with a sigh, but with that cover story, I think the Organization wanted us to indulge ourselves a little. And I think we deserve it.
Hughes smiled. While he didn't completely share her views, he too had to admit that this level of comfort was welcome after so long in the shuttle, surviving only on emergency rations.
Next station: Bairnsdale, the train AI announced, and the train started decelerating.
I suppose... he said. He had wanted to buy some food from the restaurant car, but the two Abominations across the aisle and his appetite had proven to be mutually exclusive. The two chakats had been kissing each other ever since they got on at Morwell. He had considered changing seats or asking them to stop, but had decided against it. They were to lay low until they reached Perth at least.
Filthy, rutting animals, he thought, although he was careful not to reveal his displeasure to them. To take his mind off things, he returned to his bible.
Part Two – One Small Step for a Woman, One Giant Leap of Experience
The Freedom of the Galaxy was a magnificent ship in Frederike’s inexperienced eyes. She stood openmouthed and looked at it through the huge windows of the waiting area in the spaceport. She had read about it in the travel brochure provided by the shipping company, Imperial Intergalactic. The Rakshan ship measured seven hundred meters from bow to stern, and she could carry no less than 12000 passengers and nearly half as much crew. She had 26 decks, and massed about 800,000 metric tons.
A gentle finger under her chin brought her back to reality.
You’d better close your mouth before you start to drool, a voice said beside her.
She smiled and turned towards the speaker. I guess you’re right, honey, she said and hugged her mate.
Goldstripe, Frederike; we’re boarding now, Sunfur said.
They turned and followed their family towards the gates.
A group of mostly Rakshani stood by the gate. Some of them were checking the passengers’ boarding passes, others ran a security check, and yet others were available to the VIPs.
Welcome aboard, Shirs...Miss, Sir, a Rakshani female said as they passed her after she’d looked over their boarding passes.
Thank you, Starnight said for all of them as shi received the papers back from the clerk.
After they’d gone through security, a male approached them with a hover trolley.
May I take your luggage? he said with a friendly smile (for a cat that was a bit over two meters tall).
Oh. My. God, Frederike said as they entered their suite. A huge living room that could easily hold all of her and Goldstripe’s apartment met them. The ceiling and the wall opposing the door to the suite was one big piece of transparent aluminum, and they had a stunning view of space and Earth below them. Small craft zoomed to and fro all around the space station which they could also see part of.
Yeah, it’s quite impressive, isn’t it, Starnight said.
’Impressive’ doesn’t quite cover it, Dad, Goldstripe said.
The porter unloaded the trolley and made a quick demonstration of the room’s controls as well as its safety systems and what they needed to do in case of an emergency. When done, he took his leave after thanking Starnight for the tip shi gave him.
This must’ve cost a fortune! Frederike whispered to Goldstripe.
What to her was a low whisper was actually a bit more than that to the chakats, so Starnight walked over and put an arm around her. I’ll admit it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t that bad compared to getting enough rooms to house all of us, shi said.
And you make the company pay some of it, Sunfur said and let hir hand gently flow through hir lifemate’s lower back fur.
True. Are you complaining? Starnight conceded and turned to look at Sunfur.
No, I just looked at our bedroom. I look forward to be able to look out at space while we snuggle tonight, Sunfur said.
Me too; that was also why I chose this suite.
Our rooms aren’t too shabby either, Lightpaws said as shi came back out of one of the bedrooms. This one has a big window too and a nice view of space.
They all do, Starnight explained.
After they’d stowed their gear, a gentle chime sounded. Good day to you all, Gentlebeings, and welcome aboard. My name is Zisha ap Niram na Axam, and I have the pleasure of being your captain for this voyage, a female voice said. In about thirty Terran minutes we will be leaving Earth. We will be passing the Moon on our way out on our port side, after which we will accelerate to warp eight. We will be arriving at Chakona Gateway in twelve Terran days, at about ten Amistad time on Sixthday of week 21. My crew and I hope you will have a pleasant voyage, and if you should need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our stewards, she finished.
Would you prefer to watch from here, or should we go to the sun deck? Starnight asked.
I think we should stay here, Sunfur said and gave hir a lick-kiss.
There was a murmur of agreement from the others, and Starnight nodded in acknowledgement. In that case, let’s leave Earth with style. Summerwind and Bearstalker, there ought to be three bottles of Chateau Softpaw Champagne on ice in the bar. If you two would do the honors?
Sure thing, Bearstalker said for both of them, and they padded behind the bar desk in the corner of the huge living room. True enough, there were three bottles as well as some soft drinks for the cubs. Starnight, there’s also a personal message signed by the captain. She wishes us a pleasant trip, Bearstalker said.
The departure from Earth was absolutely stunning, and they all enjoyed the view of the shrinking Earth as well as the close passage of the Moon.
I see there’s some settlement on the Moon, Frederike said, indicating the many small lights on the surface below.
Yes, it is home to quite a few. We should go there on a prolonged weekend at some point, Lightpaws said. We could see the Apollo Memorial Park. It is built around the original Moon landing site. It was made in 2262 when the Eagle was returned to the Moon after several decades in an Earth museum. The top with the cabin is a reconstruct, as the original was jettisoned into space when the astronauts returned to Earth, but the lower part is from the original Eagle Lunar Landing module.
And there are a lot of nice little souvenir shops, cafés etc. down the nearby Armstrong Lane and Buzz Aldrin Avenue that are worth a visit. Many of them have a view of both space and the moonscape, Grayspot added.
Later they went to one of the restaurants on the ship.
This trip is all inclusive, so you just eat and drink what you like, Sunfur said and gestured towards the huge buffet. But don’t eat too much. I seem to remember that I promised Snowpelt that we’ll head for the pool for a late swim.
There’s a pool on this starship? Frederike asked in disbelief.
No, there are several. Some wading pools for the youngest, one is made to be large enough for exercising and there are also some with in-pool bar.
How come there’s this much luxury on a starship? she asked again.
Because people need entertainment, and also because many of the passengers are on vacation, and will want some luxury on their trip, Sunfur explained. These ships are also popular for honeymooners. And they want lots of luxury. I know we did!
That’s true, Sweetypurrs. I still remember it. It cost a tail and a leg, Starnight said, but even though it left us almost broke, I still think you were worth it.
Thanks, Muffin, Sunfur said and started kissing hir mate.
Maybe you two should head back to the cabin and...enjoy your view? Beetail suggested with a wink.
Maybe so... Starnight agreed.
We’ll take Snowpelt and the other cubs to the pool. See you there, Lightpaws laughed.
Everybody dug into the buffet with gusto, except for the cubs who mostly wanted to be done with it so they could head for the pool. That changed however, when they discovered that the buffet also included all you can eat dessert.
Ah, this is the way life ought to be, Summerwind sighed as they lay on each their deck chair by one of the kiddy-pools.
I couldn’t agree more, hir mate said and sipped the last of hir drink and sighed in pleasure from the warmth of the holographic sun above.
Mango-tangos! Mango-tangos! Meeedication for your vacation. Mango-tangos! Booze for your cruise, a black human said as he went smiling along between the deck chairs. With him he had a large tray with some sort of sorbet-like drinks as well as a bottle of rum.
Goldstripe waved him closer with hir tail and found hir Space-Pass, which was an ID card that also worked as your room key and for payment for the few things that weren’t included in the all inclusive; part of which were the drinks you consumed.
Shi bought one for each of them, and also some without rum for the cubs. Just as shi was about to pay, a voice behind them said, add two more, please.
They turned to look at the newcomers, who now pulled up their own deck chairs.
Yes, shir. I’ve got two-uh for you-uh! the man almost sang with a big smile and made two more drinks ready while the others smiled at his newest little rhyme.
Oh, hi Mum, Goldstripe said with a smirk, did you enjoy your starry night?
Yes I did. I had a very pleasant experience, shi said and squeezed Starnight’s hand.
So, what’ve you kids been up to? You’re not drunk, are you? Starnight said with a smile.
No, not yet, Lightpaws said as hir parents settled on their deck chairs and accepted their drinks from the waiter.
Starnight was about to give hir a snappy comment when shi felt something jump up on hir lower torso. Hi Muuuuum! Snowpelt said, and shook hirself, splashing hir mother and sire as well as Goldstripe.
Ew! Stop that! hir mum scolded.
Yum, more sweet stuff, shi said as shi saw Starnight’s drink. Can I have some?
No, little one, there’s rum in this one, Starnight said and gave hir older daughters a stern glare. You didn’t let the cubs have any of this, did you?
Of course not! We bought some without alcohol too, Lightpaws reassured hir and held one up.
Ah, okay. Snowpelt, go over to your sister. Shi has one that you’ll like, Starnight said and settled down on the deck chair with a sigh as shi felt hir daughter’s wet paws leave hir lower torso.
Snowpelt went over to hir sister and happily accepted the cold treat. Eeek...brain freeze! shi said and massaged hir forehead while passing the glass along to Desertstorm, who’d also returned from the pool.
Then don’t drink so fast, dear, Sunfur said from hir deck chair, where Kadira had found hir favorite treat: a pair of full breasts.
Bearstalker had been playing with the cubs in the pool, but now returned with the rest of them.
Thanks, Love, he said as Grayspot passed him a drink when he had settled himself in a deck chair with a couple of cubs on the belly of his upper torso.
Mmmm...just what I needed, he said after he’d taken a big swig of his drink; which he soon regretted as he too started complaining about a brain freeze.
You know, our wolfy mate really is just an oversized cub, Lightpaws said with a laugh.
Agreed, Grayspot said, but that is one of the things I love about him. Shi then turned and gave the big wolftaur a lick-kiss. You okay, honey?
Yes, it’s almost gone now. I think if I receive one more kiss, it will be but a memory, he said and shi leaned in again so they could kiss some more.
When he was finally satisfied that the brain freeze had vanished, he raised his voice for all of them to hear. I spoke to one of the other parents. They said that there would be a belly flop competition tomorrow. Sounds like fun, so I thought I’d participate. I’m sure the cubs will love it.
As will you, I guess? Lightpaws said, leaning in from the other side to get hir part of the kissing.
Mmm, he said when shi kissed him. Yes, of course. You two just agreed that I was still a cub, right?
True. We’ll all be there to cheer for you! shi said and they all laughed.
Tokalina found herself a place beside Frederike. Frederike dried her off a bit and then let her have a sip of the cub-friendly mango-tango. After that she took one of her favorite positions: curled up on Frederike’s lower chest and belly. After a bit of nuzzling and a satisfied yawn, she fell asleep.
She’s sooo cute, Goldstripe said and gently gave their daughter an affectionate nuzzle.
The cutest, Frederike agreed and accepted Goldstripe’s kiss as shi leaned closer.
A loud SLAP and a splash was heard as Ra'shan ap Enfa na Laim hit the water, and the spectators cheered.
That's definitely a winner-candidate! Summerwind said.
Agreed. Now, here comes Bearstalker! Lightpaws said.
So, what's your name, Sir? the Rakshani male in charge of the competition asked.
Bearstalker, he said and waved his hand at the cheering crowd.
So Bearstalker: Are you ready to do make a HUMUNGOUS BELLYFLOP?!??!
Absolutely! he said.
Aaaaalrightie! GO BEARSTALKERRRR the Rakshani sang out.
Bearstalker climbed up on the small podium made for the competition.
OOONE!! TWOOOOO! THREEEE! JUUUUUMP! the crewman yelled in his microphone, and Bearstalker jumped off the podium, and hit the water with an equally loud splash and water was sprayed over the nearest spectators.
Yeeeeeeaaaahh! You're the winner, Honey! Lightpaws yelled when he resurfaced.
Everybody cheered as he left the water and padded up to his family and shook himself, and thus spraying his mates and in-laws.
Yipes! the others said.
I guess it's true what they say, then, Frederike – who had avoided the involuntary shower – said with a smile.
What is? Goldstripe said.
That all cats hate water! she said, and both of them laughed.
Then I guess I'm the exception, Goldstripe said.
Is that so??? Bearstalker said, and immediately gave hir a hug.
Eeeek! shi said and pushed him away. Lightpaws, make him behave!
Don't worry. He'll be sleeping on the floor tonight, shi said with an evil smile.
I thought you were in heat? he countered.
I am. So go get dried mister. Your mate needs you, shi said.
Ah, the things I do for my family, he said mock-seriously.
Aw-youuuu! Grayspot said and tugged at one of his ears.
Can I at least wait to see if I won?
Okay. But not a minute more, Lightpaws said and crossed hir arms like a parent talking to a kid who just asked if he could play outside a little more.
Bearstalker didn't win the competition, but ended up getting a third place. This however, was enough to earn him and his family a round of free drinks.
As soon as they got the drinks, Lightpaws dragged him away from the others, saying, you can drink that later. You'll need it, trust me!
Bearstalker gave the others a 'what can I do' expression and left with his eager mate.
So, does this mean we'll see another cub in the family? Goldstripe asked as shi picked up Tokalina.
Yes. Originally we would have waited, but shir-wants-it-all asked us if shi could try being both a mother and a father at the same time. And you know how we are. We spoil hir too much, Grayspot said.
How about we help you kill some time? Beetail said and Summerwind hugged hir.
I'd like that, Grayspot said and hugged Summerwind back.
Before everybody leaves for the hanky-panky: remember that we're eating at Stardust tonight at seven thirty, Sunfur said.
Of course. We'll tell the other two when we see them, Beetail said.
The chakats left, and Frederike, who’d been holding a sleeping Desertstorm, felt hir waking up.
The little fox in Goldstripe’s arms started to squirm and then got what she really wanted as Goldstripe turned around and put her on horsey-ride position on hir back and Frederike set Desertstorm just behind her. Here you little scamps. Just don't fall off, okay?
Tokalina and Desertstorm nodded and looked as if they had the time of their life.
Well, this just leaves the four of us – and the cubs of course, Starnight said.
How about we head back to the kiddy pool? I'm sure our mango-tango preacher's still there, Frederike suggested.
Yay! Will you play with us? Snowpelt asked.
Of course, Dear, Frederike said and picked hir up.
Oh, you're getting almost too heavy for me, she said to the purring cub.
That being decided, they headed in direction of said pool. The adult chakats took a deck chair each, and after a swig from her drink, Frederike took the cubs to the pool. A watery battle soon broke out, where everybody splashed at everybody.
KA-BOOOOOOM, Goldstripe yelled and jumped in the water, splashing all combatants equally.
Ah, so my own little kitten couldn't stay away? Frederike said as Goldstripe resurfaced. Tokalina and Desertstorm climbed up to stand in belly-deep water on hir lower back.
Guess not. The seniors have fallen asleep. I guess they're just too old for lunchtime sex and then staying up for the rest of the day, Goldstripe said with a snicker.
I don't think your sire beat you enough when you were a cub. You have no respect, Frederike said and splashed hir.
Shi never did. Did you parents beat you? Goldstripe said with a lifted eyebrow.
Once. But that was well deserved. I pushed my sister in an argument, and she almost fell out on a road and in front of a truck.
Good thing they didn't do it today. Now it's illegal to do that, Goldstripe said.
Perhaps that is for the better, Frederike said. But I believe there's no law prohibiting splashing one's mate, she continued and did so.
Why, you...! Goldstripe said and sputtered, and soon the free for all war broke out again.
Stardust was the place you went if you wanted a little extra than what the normal all-inclusive buffet could offer. It was close to gourmet level, but also cost a little extra as a sort of entry fee, and you had to reserve a table.
While the adults enjoyed it to its fullest, the cubs were quickly bored. When they had finished their main course, they started to become uneasy. The youngest had started to nod off, but the older were deciding that they had been well behaved for too long.
Muuum, can we please go? Desertstorm asked.
Yeah, can we go to the arcade? Tailcatcher chimed in.
I'd rather you didn't get lost on the ship, Lightpaws said.
Pleeeeaaase? they both said.
Lightpaws sighed and exchanged looks with the other adults. Fine. But when we come to get you, it'll be time for bed. And I wanna hear absolutely no complaints!
Yes Mum, they chorused, and left with some of the other cubs.
Kids. Why is the new generation so ill behaved? Lightpaws grumbled as the cubs ran out the doors.
And you were never like that, Sis? Beetail said with a grin.
No of course not, shi said with confidence.
Hmf. I seem to remember you and Goldstripe gave me some gray fur, Sunfur disagreed.
Why am I being dragged into this? Goldstripe said.
Hm, if I say 'sailing on Yarra River' does that ring a bell? Sunfur said, and both Lightpaws and Goldstripe looked a little sheepish.
What? Do tell! Frederike said. It sounds like a good story!
Well, I suppose we can laugh about it today, you see back when Starnight was pregnant with Beetail and we still lived in Melbourne... Sunfur started.
Mum, can we go out and play? Goldstripe asked hir mother.
Sure, hon. But remember dinner's at six today, Sunfur said.
Goldstripe nodded, and soon shi and hir sister were on their way.
Good thing you didn't tell Mum where we would go, Lightpaws said.
Shi didn't ask, Goldstripe said and the sisters laughed. They weren't allowed to go down to the river alone, so naturally, that was something they found very exciting.
Do you think Bluesea will be angry with us for borrowing hir boat? Goldstripe said. Their neighbor, a nice elderly chakat, lived alone. Hir mate had passed away and hir daughter now lived in Moscow. Thus, shi had taken a shine to the cubs next door, and had sometimes taken them fishing when Sunfur and Starnight had needed a sitter.
Nah...shi has taught us how to sail, now hasn't shi? Lightpaws said.
Goldstripe nodded. Shi was starting to get a little cold paws, but shi didn't want to listen to hir sister's teasing if shi chickened out now.
The two cubs reached the riverbank, and quickly found the boat. It was moored on a narrow wooden pier along with a few others. They soon cast off and set sail.
Sunfur was humming to hirself. Starnight had called and said shi was on hir way home, and the sun was shining outside. Of course, shi knew that the rainstorm would come, but also that it wouldn't come until Starnight was home, and they'd had a drink in the garden. Their neighbor Bluesea would visit them for dinner, and also stay for a night of fun. Though the other chakat could easily have been their mother, the three of them enjoyed such nights. Besides, it was the least they could do for all the free cubsitting shi did.
Lightpaws, don't you think we should turn back now? Mum will be angry if we're late, Goldstripe said.
Afraid of being sent off to bed without dinner, are we? Lightpaws said with a wink.
Goldstripe sighed. No, but those clouds out there look like there's rain in them, shi said.
So you're afraid of a little rain?
No, but... Goldstripe began, but was interrupted but a chicken imitation from Lightpaws.
Alriiight, Goldstripe said with a sigh. We'll do it your way.
Good, Lightpaws said and gave hir a lick-kiss.
Oh, we're making good speed now! Lightpaws said enthusiastically.
Yeah, weeeeh! Goldstripe said. Both chakats had shifted themselves to the port side of the boat, which had picked up speed rapidly. The wind had increased considerably, and a few raindrops had also started falling.
Arrrrgh...fire the cannons, matie! Lightpaws said in what shi thought was a pirate-like voice.
Ka-boom! it said from behind them. Both chakats turned, and then they saw another flash of lightning turn dusk into brightest day. Another thunderclap followed.
Okay...it's not fun anymore. Let's sail back, Goldstripe said. Shi no longer cared if Lightpaws would laugh. Bluesea had said that thunderstorms could be dangerous.
But Lightpaws immediately agreed.
They were about to turn, but that was unfortunately a bit too late. Lightpaws was still holding the rudder when the sound of torn fabric announced the destruction of their sail.
Oh-crap! they chorused.
Honey, I'm hooome! Starnight said and entered the kitchen.
So I gather, Sunfur said when Starnight had given hir a hug from behind.
No...hehehe...not in the kitchen you naughty...hehehe, Sunfur laughed as Starnight mounted hir.
Mmmmwah! Starnight said as shi kissed hir mate on the cheek.
Where are the cubs? shi then asked.
Outside, playing. Didn't they greet you when you came in? Sunfur said.
No...oh-well, they're probably... Starnight began but was interrupted by Sunfur.
Honey...please dismount...something is wrong!
Starnight pulled hirself a little out and said, oh, did I hurt you?
No, the cubs! Something is very wrong! Sunfur said.
Starnight immediately jumped off, and both of them let dinner be dinner and ran out the door.
We have to row! Goldstripe yelled.
What about the mast? It attracts lightning! Lightpaws argued.
It also stabilizes the boat – Bluesea said so! Goldstripe argued back through the howling wind.
The torn sail was like a whip in the strong wind and the clouds had now caught up with the small boat. They hung above them, menacing, and Goldstripe suddenly understood why the Vikings of ancient times shi learned about in school last week had believed in Thor, the god of thunder. Shi was scared out of hir fur!
The sisters started to row through the now frothing sea, fighting a losing battle against the forces of nature.
Seawater started pouring over the sides, and the sisters were glad they were chakats, because then they'd have four hands and a tail each. They alternated between using their forepaws and true-hands to row while using their tails to bail out the water with a small hand driven pump. But it was still rising...
Three chakats ran through the rain that poured down relentlessly. Only because of their sharp morph senses could they see the small pier. And the sight they'd dreaded of the missing boat.
Noooo....my cubs! Sunfur cried.
Starnight handed hir unicomm to Bluesea while grabbing hold of hir mate so shi wouldn't do something stupid like taking another boat out in the thunderstorm.
Melbourne Emergency Service, how can I help you? a voice said from the unicomm.
This is Chakat Bluesea. I'd like to report a missing boat with two cubs in it. They took it from the Newpoint Park Pier, and they haven't returned.
Is there a comm. or transponder in the boat? the operator asked, and Bluesea could hear her tapping commands into her computer.
No, I'm afraid not. It's a Wayfarer XII, and it is carrying two chakat cubs, Bluesea said.
Understood. We are dispatching a rescue vehicle and alerting the Coast Guard. Any idea where they went?
No, but when I've taken them out on it, we sometimes went out in the bay, Bluesea said, and could hear Sunfur cry even louder.
Gus Palawa wrinkled his muzzle as he turned the small Coast Guard ship and headed for the mouth of the river.
And I thought 'em chakats were supposed to be averagely smarter than the rest of us, the collie morph grumbled with a humorless smile. He wrinkled his muzzle at the rain that beat angrily against the small craft's windows.
Mmmm, his colleague acknowledged and tapped in a few commands on the sensor array.
Think we'll find them, Warren? the collie added.
We can hope so. But I doubt it in this weather, the human said with a sigh.
Sir, we got Falcon Seven on the horn, S'murr, the Caitian comm. operator said.
Good thing we get air support on this one, I was afraid they wouldn't fly in this weather. Put 'em through, Gus said.
Sunfur was inconsolable, and hir tears mixed with the pouring rain.
Come on, honey. We've got to go b... Starnight said.
NO! What if we see them? Sunfur wailed.
But honey, the best thing we can do now is to... Starnight tried, but the look Sunfur gave hir made hir close hir mouth with a click.
Instead, they huddled together under a small shelter that was used for repairing the small boats.
FURBALLS! I lost my oar! Goldstripe screamed in horror.
Lightpaws cursed. Take the rudder, then. Try to get the bow up against the waves. Or we might capsize. I'll continue rowing!
Okay...sorry... Goldstripe said.
Dolphin Two – Falcon Seven , the air unit's pilot said from the comm. speakers.
Falcon Seven – Dolphin Two, we copy, the Caitian said.
Dolphin Two, the storm is increasing. We have to fly back. Sorry to leave you on your own, Falcon Seven's pilot apologized.
Understood Falcon Seven, S'murrr said with a sigh, and turned. Heard that, Skipper?
I did, the collie said.
Lightpaws...I can't hold it! Goldstripe almost cried.
Use your handpaws too! Lightpaws said as shi franticly shifted the oar to the other side of the boat. Their one oar.
Another wave filled the bottom of the boat with water again, and Lightpaws pulled the oar in and started bailing out more water.
Gus, I have something on sensors, Warren said. Bearing two-one-zero, distance point six-five-zero klicks, he added.
Right, Gus said and turned the boat and Warren turned the searchlights in that direction.
The engine grumbled as it fought to get the small ship through King Neptune's wrath, but they got steadily closer.
There! Look! Warren said and pointed. In the searchlights they could see the small boat and two small soaked forms that thankfully were still on board.
Gus approached the boat while Warren and S'murrr put on lifelines and got outside.
Here, grab on! Warren yelled as they threw a rope towards the small boat. One of the cubs grabbed on for – literally – dear life, and secured it to the bow of the Wayfarer, and Warren and S'murrr started pulling it closer.
They managed to grab onto the cubs and haul them on board, and then Warren tied the boat to the ship while S'murrr got the kids inside.
There-there, Warren said as he tried to comfort the cubs. They were coming down from their adrenaline trip, and had started crying. He tucked the blankets in around them, and nuzzled their heads.
Careful, it's hot, S'murrr said and handed them each a steaming cup of cocoa. He then headed back to the bridge to comm. the Emergency Service, now that they had made sure the cubs were safe and sound.
Sunfur hugged the cubs close to hir and cried, this time of joy.
Oh, my little babies...thank the Makers you're safe, shi said. Starnight hugged all of them while Bluesea thanked the Coast Guard officers for rescuing the cubs.
Starnight sniffled and said, You two are grounded, and then shi hugged them again.
Lightpaws and Goldstripe didn't complain. They were just happy to be with their parents again.
How are they doing? Bluesea asked the next morning.
I think the little terrors are doing fine, thank you, Sunfur said. What about your boat?
Oh, it's fine too, Bluesea said and made a dismissive wave with hir hand.
We will of course pay for... Starnight began, but Bluesea held up hir hand to stop hir.
Never mind that. The sail can be repaired with some stitches, and the rest is nothing, shi said.
Lightpaws and Goldstripe's ears where tucked back as they greeted Bluesea.
We're sorry for borrowing your boat without permission, Lightpaws said meekly, and Goldstripe just nodded and looked at the floor.
Hm, come to think of it, we haven't decided on a suitable punishment for the two of you, Starnight said with a thoughtful look.
The cubs were ducking their heads and looked up at their parent. B-but... Lightpaws began, but a look from Starnight stopped hir.
Bluesea, I think it is time for my cubs to learn how to sew, shi said.
Bluesea gave a short smile. But the fabric of the sail is rather tough...
Then they'll just have to work harder. Unless you'd rather not have them near the boat again?
No, it's alright. I think you're right, Bluesea said and nodded.
And there's no supper until you've finished! Sunfur added.
Yes, Mum... Goldstripe said.
The grownups smiled at each other. They were just happy the cubs were okay, but not only would this punishment teach them something new, it would also ensure that they learned about taking responsibility.
Yeah, heh, I guess it served us right, Lightpaws said, and both hirs and Goldstripe's ears were pink inside.
We never borrowed Bluesea's boat without permission again, at least, Goldstripe said.
And you were shocked about my adventures in a Cessna? Frederike said to Goldstripe with a lifted eyebrow.
Goldstripe gave her a sheepish smile. Yeah, I guess the two of us go well together, huh? We're both a bit crazy and a bit too adventurous for our own good, shi said.
Yes, I guess you're right, Frederike said.
And we wouldn't have it any other way, Sunfur said and hugged them both.
Hm, perhaps it is time to fetch the current generation of little terrors? Grayspot said.
I think you're right, Bearstalker agreed. Should we go round them up?
Grayspot nodded, and the two of them left the table.
When you've tucked the cubs in, would you all join us at in the bar? Frederike said.
Sure, Bearstalker said as they headed for the door.
Stardust had its own bar, a small, cozy place with a view of space.
As they entered, gentle jazz music was playing. An elderly black human sat at a piano and sang, while a Voxxan played the cello.
When the others returned, Frederike nodded to Grayspot. Shi waited until the musicians had finished, and then walked up to them and said something to the human, who nodded.
Shi then joined the others, while the two musicians apparently took a break.
Frederike then stood up, and the family stopped their conversation to look at her.
Goldstripe. We have been denmates now for some time, and we have found great happiness together. We have even gotten ourselves a daughter, against all odds, and I think I can say that I have never been happier in my life. That is why I now ask you: will you be my Lifemate? she said and held up a small box containing two gold rings.
Goldstripe stood, and with tears of joy in hir eyes said, Yes...oh, dearest, with all my heart, yes...
And then they kissed.
What are the rings for? Goldstripe asked when they ended the kiss.
That is the second half of my proposal: will you also marry me? Frederike asked.
Like in: a real wedding, with church, priest and all? Goldstripe said. At Frederike’s nod shi continued, Yes, I will. I think that would be very romantic, and they kissed again.
There were well-wishes and congratulations from the family as well as a Rakshani couple sitting next to the family.
And now, while your dad is up getting drinks for all of us, I'd like to take you out on the dance floor for a single dance, Frederike said.
The musicians nodded, and started playing again.
We’d like to play this very special song by the Terran musician Elvis Presley, for two of our very special guests tonight, the man said and started singing.
Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you?
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you
Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you
For I can't help falling in love with you ....
The piano player sang, and the couple danced close, both with their eyes closed and a smile on their face.
When the music ended, they kissed for a long time, and then walked back to the family hand in hand. Starnight gave them each a glass of champagne, and then the family toasted to the life and happiness of the newly mated.
When they had finished the champagne, Lightpaws said, now only one thing remains: to consummate the mating! Shi then nudged hir sister, and the young couple turned pink and then excused themselves.
Mmmm...that was wonderful, Goldstripe said after their first coupling.
Yeah, it was. And with the stars outside even more so, Frederike agreed.
By the way: since we’re going the whole hog with wedding bells and all...have you thought about someone you’d like to wed us? shi asked while they started nuzzling each other’s breasts.
Ellen’s brother is a priest, Frederike suggested.
And he’s one we know, Goldstripe agreed. He was good when Sandra was married, shi added, remembering the wedding and reception they attended for the Backfish’s daughter.
By the way, I sensed you were more tense about the marrying thing than about being lifemates. Why was that? Goldstripe asked.
I was afraid that you wouldn’t have had anything to do with someone carrying the white collar of a priest after...you know... she said.
Ah. Well, we both know that Hughes’ point of view isn’t shared by the church. I mean, if I recall correctly, he was even excommunicated from the HCKNA state church...and that takes more than just a small dislike of furs, I think, shi said. And as we agreed, we know – and like – the good Father George O’Donnell, shi added.
Right, she said and kissed hir, mmmmwah...sorry for doubting you. I was just afraid that...
Don’t be. Now shut up and grab your cowboy hat darling, 'cause you’re going to ride the Wild Chakat! Shi said with a smile, plumped down on hir backs while lifting her up to sit on top of hir with hir handpaws and tail.
I guess a yeehaaa is in order then, she laughed and positioned herself on Goldstripe’s lower torso.
Neither Goldstripe nor Frederike thought they'd had a better night together, and when they'd finished taking Lightpaws's advice, they fell asleep while looking at space and the slowly passing stars...
Time flies when you're having fun, and to the family that was certainly true. Before they knew it, the captain announced that they had arrived at the Chakastra system, and were now approaching Chakona and Gateway Station, where the Freedom would be moored.
They watched the approach from the living room of their suite, and then disembarked.
They then took a shuttle to the surface, as Starnight thought that they should arrive in style rather than just beaming there as shi put it.
Frederike and her family were seated in the aft section of the shuttle, and were thus to disembark last from the shuttle.
Is something wrong, honey? Goldstripe said to hir mate as she stopped on the stairs leading from the shuttle to the tarmac below.
No – on the contrary, she said and turned to look at hir. I know this may sound weird to you guys, especially since this planet has been settled for a century now, but I feel a bit like Neal Armstrong right now. I mean...I'm actually going to set foot on extraterrestrial soil.
Houston, the Eagle has landed, eh? Grayspot said with a smile. You know, I think I know how you feel. When I set foot on a planet called Arisia a few years back, I felt the same way. Would be fun to come back, though. I hope they'll open it for civilians soon so I can bring all of you.
Oh, isn't that where Treespirit's people went? Frederike said and took the final steps from the ladder to the tarmac.
It is. The planet was chosen as a 'test ground' if you will for the Stellars to prove themselves. And from what I heard, they seem to have passed with flying colors, Grayspot said.
Ahem...this way please, a chakat in Equatoria Spaceport uniform said. Shi had patiently been waiting for the last group to disembark from the shuttle.
Right, sorry, Starnight said for all of them.
No problem, Shir, but we need to prep the shuttle for its return trip, the uniformed chakat said.
The family entered the spaceport. It was an amazing construction; it was both stylish and also filled with plants and trees to make some of the larger lounges seem almost like small parks. Signs led to domestic, 'air breathing' planes as well as public transportation.
We'll take a MagLev to the center of the city, and then we'll hail a PPTV to take us to Sandrunner's place, Sunfur explained as hir mate bought tickets.
Part Three – Pineapples and Reunions
I-wanna-ride-with-you-I-wanna-ride-with-you-I-wanna-ride-with-you, Snowpelt said when shi’d jumped into Frederike’s embrace.
Alright, alright, Frederike said with a laugh and gave hir a squeeze.
I’m envious, Lightpaws said with a laugh, indicating hir sister and sister in law.
I thought chakats didn’t know that word, muffin, Bearstalker teased and lick-kissed hir.
Mmmm... you’re thinking of jealousy – that’s a somewhat different thing. Anyway, I guess I should just have said it before Snowpelt did.
But there’s a difference between hir and you, Frederike said.
And that is? Lightpaws said with a lifted eyebrow.
Shi’s small, cute and above all carry-able. With all due respect, I wouldn’t dream about trying to lift you, Lightpaws.
Right. I’ll have to lose some weight, shi laughed.
But you’d be all skin and bones! Bearstalker said with a horrified look that quickly changed to a big smile. Besides, I’ll happily carry my little cuddly-kitty, he added, and lifted hir up.
Argh...put me down, silly wolf, before you break something, shi said.
Bearstalker kissed hir and did so, and at that time the PPTV mini bus that Starnight had called for arrived.
Equatoria PPTV service apologizes for the wait. Welcome aboard! the PPTV AI said as the door opened to the vehicle.
They all gave a sigh of pleasure as they settled in the comfortable air-conditioned ground car, and as soon as Starnight had entered their destination and swiped hir credit card (which made the machine give the classic kachiiing sound of an old register), the AI started heading for the city limit.
Frederike, Tokalina and Snowpelt all stared out the window as the Chakonan nature sped by.
Enjoying the view, kids? Sunfur said to all three of them.
Snowpelt nodded and settled more comfortably in Frederike’s lap and put hir arm around Tokalina, and Frederike turned to her mother-in-law.
Absolutely, Sunfur. Chakona most certainly is beautiful. It was amazing from orbit, and both the cities and the nature I’ve seen so far are too. It’s a jewel, and the Chakonans have made it shine, she said.
And don’t forget we’re going on a hiking trip with Treespirit and hir mate in two days, Goldstripe added from hir seat and lick-kissed her from behind.
True. It was nice of hir to do that. I just hope Sandrunner won’t be disappointed when we leave so soon.
Shi won’t be; I spoke to hir before we disembarked to let hir know we’d arrived. Shi has taken some time off from the farming, so shi’ll be coming with you, Starnight said.
Too bad you can’t join us, Dad, Goldstripe said.
Yes, but the timing is good actually. I have some very extensive meetings the first week starting from tomorrow, and I doubted I’d be able to travel back and forth anyway, Starnight said. You just take care of my mate, right kids?
Right, Goldstripe said for all of them.
And I’m sure Sandy will too! Sunfur said with a naughty smile.
I’m sure shi will, Starnight agreed.
Whoa, Frederike said when the PPTV finally turned and left the road after driving for several kilometers alongside pineapple fields. The entrance to Sandrunner’s farm was adorned with a statue of two chakats – one on each side of the road – whose tails entwined and made an arch over the long driveway.
Hir first mate was quite an artist, Beetail explained. You’ll see more of hir work when we get there.
Weeeelcome, welcome all of you! the sand-colored chakat greeted them as shi came out of the main building. Shi eagerly hugged and welcomed them all, and shi and Sunfur exchanged kisses.
Mmm...it’s good to have you back, kitten, shi said to Sunfur.
It’s good to be back, Big Sister. It’s been awhile.
Yes it has. I remember you were still pregnant with Snowpelt back then.
True, and look how shi’s grown, Sunfur said and lifted the cub up.
Sandy, honey, how about you get our guests inside. I’ve got the refreshments ready, a red-furred chakat with yellowish-cream ears and bellies said.
Of course, Redback, Sandrunner said.
Redback also welcomed them, hugging them all as Sandrunner had done.
Come inside where it’s cooler. We’ve got chilled pineapple juice and ditto pineapple pieces ready for you, shi said.
You have an almost fox like coloring, Frederike remarked as they all settled inside.
True. My grandsire was a foxtaur tod, Redback said. I guess my dad was one of those festival cubs.
I see. I thought it was only something that happened to the locals, she said.
It usually is, but my grandmother was at the festival and found hirself a local tod. When shi found out shi was with child shi ended up staying in the village.
Oh, I imagine the local vixens weren't too thrilled about that? Frederike asked with a lifted eyebrow.
Not at first, but since they were mated soon after shi had the right to stay. They did loosen up later, especially when they discovered that instead of losing one, they now had two people they could claim Obligation from.
I see. What village was it? One here on Chakona?
No. On Earth. One called Blue Peak Springs, Redback said.
Really? What a coincidence! One of our friends who's a skunktaur has family there, Frederike said.
Heh...what are the odds, hm, Redback said.
Maybe we should go there together one day if you and Sandy ever visit good old Terra, she suggested.
That might be, but I must admit that neither Sandy nor I are keen on going there. Not after what happened the day the two of you were shot. We didn't sleep that night; in fact we almost didn't sleep at all until Starnight commed us to tell us that you'd survived. So, we'd rather stay on Chakona where it's safe, Redback said, hir smile now gone.
But the guy who did it took off in a shuttle with Starfleet hot on his heels. I bet he won't be back anytime soon, Grayspot interjected.
I understand Redback and Sandy. You didn't look into his eyes. I – sorry, we – did. I'm not trying to scare people, but that man won't just go into a corner of the Federation or LNAW to hide, Goldstripe said.
Frederike put a hand on hirs. Easy now, honey. She then turned back to Redback. While Goldstripe is right, we shouldn't let us scare by people like him. If we do, they win.
Sorry, Goldstripe said and gave her a lick-kiss, you're right. It just brought back some unpleasant memories...
Maybe what we need now as something a bit stronger than pineapple juice. Redback, be a dear and man the bar, and I'll go check on the food, Sandrunner said.
Of course. What do people want? Goldstripe, you look like you could use a double of our Knightsport single malt. It's a twenty-one year one – cask strength.
Goldstripe nodded and took a deep breath, while I usually don't drink much, yeah, I think that would do me good right now.
Are you okay dear? Sunfur asked.
I'm alright. Sorry. I just....for a moment I saw a flash of that Hughes guy...
Frederike cuddled hir. I know. I sometimes see him too when I close my eyes. We'll have to work more on it. But we'll do so together, right?
Right, Goldstripe said and smiled again as shi hugged hir mate back.
The mood started to improve again when Sandrunner announced that it was time for dinner. Tokalina was still a bit tense, but after Goldstripe had fed her, she settled down on her favorite spot in Frederike's lap.
I'm surprised to find chairs in an all-taur home, Frederike remarked.
Ah, we've had two-leggers here before. We have many biped friends in Equatoria, and the occasional lover has also been here. I have a weakness for bipeds, Sandrunner said.
Yeah, so watch out for pouncing chakats with their di- Redback said with a laugh.
Redback! Not in front of the cubs, Sunfur said.
Sorry... Redback said with a grin.
I'll be real careful, then, Frederike said with a laugh.
Don't worry...I'll protect you, Goldstripe said and put a protective arm around hir mate while shi too smiled.
That evening Sunfur and Starnight slept with Sandrunner and Redback.
So, are they going to have a foursome now? Frederike said.
Perhaps. But mostly Mum wants to cuddle with aunt Sandrunner. As you might have gathered, they don't see each other much, Goldstripe said.
Yes, I've been meaning to ask about that. How come they ended up living on different planets? Frederike said and leaned back against Goldstripe as they looked at the sun setting in the horizon. The pineapple farm was on a small hill, and the veranda of the main building they were currently on had a nice view of the beach and Chakastra setting in the Chakonan sea.
Sandrunner wanted to be a farmer, and then shi met this 'crazy artist' as my grandsire put it, and shi came from Chakona. They then got a good deal on this place, and moved here. It was perfect for both of them. Sandrunner could live out hir dream and the area was good for hir mate's art too, as the sculpture in the driveway suggested. All the paintings in the house are hir work.
Too bad shi died, then, Frederike said.
Yeah, but they had a good, if too short, life together. And Mum says Sandrunner's happy.
But Redback travels a lot, right?
Yes, but that is where the aforementioned lovers come in, Goldstripe explained.
Frederike shook her head. You know, even though it seems ideal in many ways, I guess I'll never truly understand your species. I mean, if I got it right, it doesn't bother Redback one bit, right?
True, Lightpaws said and plumped hirself down on the veranda next to Frederike and Goldstripe. But mostly they are just – if you'll pardon my crude expression – fucking good friends. They come here both when both of them are here and when Sandrunner's alone. But it's not one big orgy. They are mostly good friends of the family, who sometimes stays the night.
Do you have friends like that, Lightpaws? she asked.
No, but I have my mates all the time – or at least Bearstalker. But I know that when Grayspot is on a tour of duty with Starfleet, shi sometimes does more than socialize with hir fellow crewmen. It's not always sex – far from it actually – sometimes it is just cuddling or even just being with someone of hir own kind.
Hm, I can understand that. I mean, even though I'm happy with Goldstripe and you guys, I like it when I go on patrol with Donald – one of my colleagues – or when he and his wife visit us, Frederike conceded.
And with us it's even stronger, mostly due to our empathic nature, Lightpaws explained.
Ah, I see, Frederike said. So is your empathy telling you something now?
Hm, it's telling me that you two are enjoying yourselves...and also suddenly a bit of mischief on your part....
I guess I can't hide anything from you. Well, I was thinking, that since the others have gone to sleep, and since your mates are probably sleeping, if you wanted to sleep with us tonight?
Mmm...I'd like that, Lightpaws said.
But only cuddling! Frederike added with a lifted index finger and a wink.
What? Are you empathic too? shi said and then smiled, 'cause you read my mind like an open book!
Hehe...well, I know my own kitten and how bad shi can be...
And now I have to be dragged into this? Goldstripe said with mock annoyance.
Remember the day your dad invited us on this trip? I had only just said goodbye to Ashley when you all but ripped my bathrobe off...
I'm not that bad. It's still in one piece, Goldstripe protested and pinched her butt.
Eeek! Frederike said with wide open eyes and turned to Lightpaws. See how bad shi is?
Yes, I'm afraid shi was born that way. Now, how about we hit the sheets?
The others agreed, and the trio headed for the bedroom.
Breakfast’s ready, Frederike said gently, and the two chakats on the bed stirred.
Goldstripe smiled and said, mmm...are you sure? There’s no breakfast in here...
Get your lazy tail out of bed, Frederike said and gave Goldstripe’s tail a gentle yank. Redback’s making omelets, and there is no delivery service here!
Alright, alright...mrrr...I’ll get up in a minute... Goldstripe mumbled and cuddled with Lightpaws.
I was also told by your mum, that latecomers would not be served, so... she continued.
Whaaat? Why didn’t you say so? Goldstripe said and jumped out of bed.
You know, when your mind is all foggy with sleep, you’re SO easy! Frederike said with a laugh and hugged hir.
Mmm...sneaky girl, Goldstripe said and also laughed. Alright...I’ll head for the bathroom. Think you can get Sleeping Beauty there up also?
I know I can, Frederike said with a smile in the direction of the snoozing Lightpaws.
Goldstripe left in the direction of the bathroom, and Frederike climbed back on the bed.
Lightpaaaws...breakfaaaast, Frederike whispered.
Mmmf... was the answer.
Do you want some? she said.
Mrrr... shi grumbled.
If you get up now, you get a blowjob... Frederike whispered and Lightpaws suddenly opened hir eyes with a zzzay whuh?
I said do you want ham and tomato on your omelet? Frederike said with a smile.
Lightpaws gave a laugh and noticed that her bathrobe had opened, revealing with all clarity that it was her sole item of clothing.
Strange, it sounded like you said something else, you naughty girl, Lightpaws said and gently stroked her thigh.
How is it: you sometimes hear what you want to hear? Frederike said and gave hir a kiss on the cheek.
I suppose... Lightpaws said. Dang, now I can’t go out there, shi added and gestured towards hir hind quarters.
Frederike noticed hir reaction to their morning intimacy.
Mmmm...maybe I should call Grayspot in here? she suggested.
Nope. It’s your fault, you fix it, a voice said behind her.
Frederike and Lightpaws turned their heads to look at a laughing Goldstripe.
But honey... Frederike began.
Yes Goldstripe; while I’d very much like just that, I’d rather not push her into something she doesn’t like... Lightpaws agreed.
Goldstripe held up hir hand. Or you could ask your mate to help you, right? For better or worse and all... shi said.
Frederike snorted with amusement and shook her head. You are so bad, you know that. Alright...get over here.
Frederike noticed that Goldstripe wasn’t exactly unaffected as shi started helping hir mate, and decided to follow Goldstripe’s example.
Goldstripe gave a purr of enjoyment as shi received similar pleasure to the one shi was giving Lightpaws. Frederike had thought that this would have felt very unnatural, but the mental spillover she received from the two chakats made her decide that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all...
Breakfast’s served...what’re you doing? Snowpelt said as shi came running into the room and stopped in the doorway.
The trio was very embarrassed, but Lightpaws managed to say, we were...just waking up, and erh... Don’t you know how to knock, you little scamp?
I take it you’ll be out here soon? Summerwind, who’d followed the cub and hir own empathy, said.
Yes... the two sisters said meekly while Frederike just sat there, scarlet faced and silent.
It was three very red-faced bed companions who finally settled at the breakfast table.
Summerwind and the others made no comments, but Snowpelt and Tailcatcher were sniggering and whispering until Starnight told them to behave.
Part Four - Explorations
The first sign of the arriving PPTV was the cubs suddenly stopping in mid-play and bolting for the door.
While the adult taurs noticed it too, Frederike was a bit puzzled until her furry family filled her in.
The AI swung the vehicle around and parked in front of the door, announcing, You have arrived at your destination. Equatoria PPTV Service hopes that you have enjoyed the ride, and we hope to welcome you back with us soon.
Treespirit stretched as shi and hir mate exited the ground car and got their luggage. Graytuft sent it away and then they were ready for the family greeting led by the cubs who were ecstatic at the arrival of the newcomers.
After the hyperactive youngsters came the adults, who greeted them with equal amount of welcome, but less energy.
Treespirit and Graytuft had brought a generous amount of camping equipment, which was quickly stowed in the house so everybody could relax outside and chat.
The kids started to play chakker in the garden, although Tokalina quickly found it to be none of her liking. She decided that while the running with the others was fun, the fast and way too big ball was a little too dangerous, thank you very much, and instead retreated to a peaceful slumber while hugging Goldstripe's tail.
Goldstripe curled hir tail around her, and soon after Tokalina fell asleep.
You're very lucky with her, Sandrunner said and gestured towards the sleeping foxtaur.
We consider ourselves quite lucky, Goldstripe said proudly, and hugged the sleeping child with hir tail.
But she can have her bad days too, Frederike added. But so far she's only cost us a torn up pillow. Thankfully her preferred 'prey' has been her teddy bear.
The hikers started their trek when the PPTV minibus had dropped them off. A path led from the parking lot to a small bridge over a gurgling stream that flowed out from the forest. The sun shone from a partial cloudy cover and made the morning comfortably cool. Treespirit took the lead, and was soon joined by Bearstalker. While Treespirit took time identifying the local flora and fauna for the other hikers, shi also had time for a mutually enjoyable chat with the wolftaur. When the bridge was safely crossed, the cubs were let loose, Treespirit promising that nothing in this area was dangerous for them. They were still fitted with wristwatch-style locater beacons, just to be safe. The newly won freedom soon saw the older kids running ahead, Desertstorm having eyed a particularly good tree for climbing.
Desert, get down from there this minute! Lightpaws scolded as the adults caught up.
But I'm almost at the top! Desertstorm pleaded.
Desertstorm, now! Lightpaws said, and the cub started climbing down with a disappointed okaaaayy.
After the climbing tree incident the trip continued in merriment. Treespirit commented on Frederike’s ability to easily follow her four legged family.
Oh, but the cubs are here too, setting a more relaxed pace. Besides, the job requires me to stay in good shape. And finally, Goldstripe and I enjoy hiking as often as we can, and when we do, I’m also often the only biped, she said.
Ah, yes...you usually go with your foxtaur friends, right? Treespirit said.
Yes. Their land is beautiful, and Goldstripe and I are both crazy about it. And Dailada and the other vixens are such wonderful people.
They continued to chat as they strode along, and when evening came, they found themselves a good spot on a hill with a nice view.
Treespirit pointed out landmarks for them, among other things the largest river on the island. Shi promised them, that they would reach the river the next day, and that they would get to see the Twintail Falls in three days.
The Twintail Falls were named that way because at that point the river temporarily split in two, and both waterfalls looked like a twisting tail (or so the cubs of the first chakat scouts to be there had thought, and hence the name).
The evening was spent around the campfire, and Greytuft had brought a banjo, which meant campfire songs after dinner. The cubs were sent to bed as darkness approached, which they welcomed after a long day of walking and seeing, hearing and smelling new things constantly.
Greytuft then changed hir repertoire a bit to fit an all-adult audience, and they sang and laughed for a few more hours, until the chakats finally had to surrender to the Sandman. The others were tired too, and after the good-night hugs, the entire camp was soon asleep.
The next morning started out with oatmeal porridge for everyone while Treespirit explained the plans for that day. They would first continue through the forest until they hit one of the springs that would later be the Nunca Termina River. They would then follow it for as long as they could before evening came, make camp, and then continue the next day until the river was large enough for them to build rafts and then sail.
The day after was mostly used for building the rafts, as it took a lot of wood to make rafts able to carry the rather large group. Fortunately, a foxtaur clan lived there, and they sent wood downstream to be shipped out to a sawmill in Wanganui. The easiest way of transporting the wood was to drop the trees in the river, and let nature take care of the logistics until they reached the end of the river where they were picked up and loaded onto ships.
The foxtaurs made a little extra by letting the hikers who came by every now and then pay for loaning the wood, and the hikers didn’t have to cut down any trees. Also, letting a foxtaur clan handle things made sure that the woods were used in an ecologically responsible way.
Twintail Falls is beautiful, Grayspot said as they stood on their rafts on the lake at the bottom of the falls. Getting the rafts down there had been a pain in the tail, even when they used the paths that the foxtaurs had made for exactly that purpose, but all agreed that it had been worth it.
The water fell from two sides, and there was always at least one rainbow to be seen as long as Chakastra’s light shone on this little paradise.
It is also one of my favorite trips, Treespirit admitted.
I can understand why. You know, I am starting to envy your job a little, Frederike said.
If you move to Chakona, you could always sign up as my assistant, Treespirit said with a laugh.
Nah...I like both the job that I have as well as living on good old Mother Earth. But thanks for the offer, she said.
They stood for some time looking at the roaring water, and then used some time to swim in the lake. The cubs enjoyed standing on the lower backs of some of the adults and then being ferried around. A ball was also brought out, and a friendly game of water polo started.
After their swim, they pulled their anchors in and let the rafts continue downstream while they lazed in the sun.
Honey, you know if you take off your bikini, you’ll avoid those white spots... Goldstripe said from beside hir mate.
Yeah, you’d love that, Shir At-hir-male-peak, Frederike laughed.
Mm-hmm...I would. Besides, you’re the only one wearing any clothes... Goldstripe said and turned to put a head between her breasts, looking up at her.
I know...but you guys have your fur, so to me you’re never truly naked...I think I’d be a little shy to do this with so many people around, she said.
Okay...too bad. Mmmrrrr... Goldstripe said and started purring as Frederike scratched hir ears.
Besides, we can’t have you and Lightpaws walking around with a huge...eeek! Frederike said but was interrupted by Goldstripe tickling her.
Behave. You’re worse than we are...and that takes a lot, shi said.
They both laughed at that, and settled down to relax again with the rest of the group.
They enjoyed the rafts for a few days more, and then dismantled them and hiked back towards the parking lot where they could order for a PPTV. The trees were allowed to continue their journey alone as the group found their hiking boots again.
Treespirit took them through more exciting parts of the forest, and after a few days more they found a PPTV and headed back to the farm.
Mrrr? Goldstripe said as shi was woken up.
We’re home, dear, hir mother said gently.
Oh...right...um... Goldstripe said and yawned. Shi then joined the rest of hir family outside.
Treespirit and Greytuft stayed the night, and left the next morning. Sandrunner started working on hir farm again, and Redback had to go to Amistad to meet a client.
The rest of the family (Starnight excluded) enjoyed their time at the farm. They would take turns helping Sandrunner as needed, or else going with the cubs to the beach.
Sunfur took charge of Sandrunner’s kitchen, which was welcomed by their host.
Shi commented on how nice it was to have someone preparing the food (Redback was hopeless in a kitchen, except for making omelets), and Sunfur enjoyed being mother hen for hir older sister.
So, how are things going on Ka’Turna? Lightpaws asked Starnight as they sat at dinner.
They are going quite well, thank you kitten, Starnight said.
Glad to hear it, Lightpaws said and several of the others nodded in agreement.
Can we see it? Beetail asked.
Yes, I was actually going to ask you if you wanted to come with me up there tomorrow, Starnight said.
We’d love that, honey, Sunfur said for all of them and gave hir mate a one armed hug.
Starnight responded with a lick-kiss, and said, Well, it’s settled then. After dinner, I’ll make preparations for our departure.
Sounds serious, Frederike said.
No, but we need to be at the Transporter at a certain time, and we also need both a PPTV and some public transportation, Starnight said.
After dinner shi went on the hypernet and made the bookings, and then joined the others outside for after-dinner tea.
Part Five – Fly Me To the Moon
Frederike noticed she'd held her breath as she materialized on the Transporter pad. Though as a once-Trekkie, she had always dreamed of things like this, it was a little scary when she actually had to do it. Goldstripe had given her hand a final squeeze before the Starfleet officer had said Energize! It had helped a little, but not calmed her totally.
But now she was on the base on Ka'Turna, and she and the others stepped down to allow the next group to be beamed in.
When they'd all arrived, Starnight nodded to the officer having Transporter watch, and led them out of the room.
From here we will need to walk a little, and then take a shuttle, Starnight explained.
When the resort is finished, it will be connected to this base with a maglev, but that part is still under construction. Our Voxxan subcontractor is more than a little delayed. This has made construction a little harder, but thanks to our workers – skunktaurs are effective I might add – and our Caitian subcontractor, the rest is mostly on schedule, shi continued as they walked towards the shuttle bay.
Hooow, chief! Starnight said in a deep voice and grinned as they boarded the shuttle.
The Native American shuttle pilot stuck his tongue out at hir and rose from the seat where he'd gone through preflight. Ha-ha. Just because I'm a chief of shuttle operations and Native American, he said and gave hir a mock-punch on the shoulder, after which shi gave him a hug.
Sorry. Couldn't help it. Congratulations on the promotion, by the way, shi said.
Thanks. I take it that this mob is the little...not missus perhaps, but your better half and your family? he said and returned the hug. After being stationed on Chakona for two years, he'd come to both get used to and, he had to admit, like the hugs that many of the locals used instead of a handshake.
It most certainly is. Everybody, this is Ayawamat, and Ayawamat this is Sunfur, my mate, and from the left... shi said and named them all for the chief.
The flight was short, but Starnight's family enjoyed it, especially Frederike, who couldn't help but think that this was one more reason she was happy that she'd woken up in this futuristic world of wonders.
The resort – though far from completed – was also very interesting. Starnight showed them the parts that were already finished, and also the large park where the huge dome was being constructed. People in space suits (many of them taurs) and fighter-sized small craft working as cranes labored to get the huge piece of engineering assembled and turn the bare moon surface into an oasis of comfort and luxury for the coming guests.
Starnight, will it be possible to try going out there? Frederike asked.
I'm afraid not. We can have Ayawamat give us a small tour in the shuttle, but EVA requires certification, I'm afraid. And it takes two months of training to achieve it.
You could always join Starfleet's security branch. I'm sure they'd love your background with the police force. All Starfleet cadets are required to be certified, Grayspot suggested.
Tempting if not for my mate and daughter, Frederike said.
They could be with you as dependents, Grayspot said.
Nah...wouldn't do that to my kitten, Frederike said and gave Goldstripe a one armed squeeze. Besides, it would mean that I'd have to go back to school.
What's that hole over there, Mum? Beetail said.
That is where one of the pools is going to be. It will be the biggest one, and will have a small waterfall between levels, an in-pool bar and will have a view of both the park and the moonscape. Over there, Starnight said and pointed, there will be the more expensive rooms, which will have a view of the pool as well as the park and the moonscape.
I take it those will be more than a little pricy? Summerwind asked.
Indeed. I don't know what they'll cost, but Sir Henry can tell you that. We will meet him when we head back to Chakona. He's in Amistad, but we will pass him before we beam back down.
In my time they had what they called 'mystery shoppers', which were people who would go to a hotel and be test customers with everything paid. Does that kind of thing still exist today? Frederike asked hopefully.
It does, but I don't think they'll have it for those rooms. Or rather suites, Starnight said.
Dang! several of the others said.
Starnight continued the tour, and showed them the rest of the resort. They saw the maglev station (with the rails leading nowhere), a nearly empty piece of moonscape which would become the small promenade, and two of the restaurants and the holosuites.
When shi'd finished their tour, shi took them back to the shuttle bay and had Ayawamat make the promised pass over the construction site.
This was very amazing, Starnight, Bearstalker said as they disembarked from the shuttle.
I'm glad you enjoyed the tour, shi said with a smile.
How come Starfleet operates the shuttle service? Grayspot asked. I would have assumed that it had been a local contractor.
It should've been, and it normally is. But Starfleet is having a training course in the area. It is a two months training course that simulates a crash on a moon, and the crew has to survive. Also, they have deep space SAR training in the area. They insisted on taking over the service for that time period. It was a little strange, I'll admit, but I'm not complaining. Ayawamat is a good man and a good pilot, and since they had to force it upon us, it's free.
Grayspot was about to add something when a newcomer announced his presence.
Hello, Starnight, the newcomer said.
Hello Sir Henry. How are things in Amistad? Starnight said and gave him the customary hug.
Fine, Starnight. Better than expected. We managed to avoid a strike, so now we'll be getting those I-beams on time. R'Rriask is a tough negotiator, he said after he'd returned the hug.
He'd have to be with that firstwife! Starnight said with a laugh. R'Rriask’s Firstwife M'Ruusha had a tongue like a barbed whip, but hir subcontractor always seemed to get the upper hand – at least in public – whenever there was a disagreement. Though these were frequent (and sometimes public, Starnight had experienced), shi'd also felt that they both loved each other dearly and also seemed to enjoy their verbal sparring.
Sir Henry turned towards Starnight's family. So, did you like the tour? he asked.
Absolutely, Lightpaws answered for all of them.
Yes, it's amazing, Goldstripe added. I didn't have a feel for how huge this thing really was until we saw it. I'd love to see it again when it's finished!
I'm sure that can be arranged, Sir Henry said. He then turned back to Starnight.
We have something else to discuss, however. I've booked a conference room for us here. Sorry to have to keep you more away from your family, but this is actually rather important, he added.
Of course. I'll walk my family to the Transporter, and then I'll be ready, Starnight said.
Fine. It's room five-alpha, he said with a nod.
They then separated, and Starnight and the others walked back to the Transporter room.
Sir Henry seemed very serious about something, Honey, Sunfur said when they settled down later for dinner.
He was. He just fired the Voxxan contractor today. He asked me if we; if I would take over that part too, Starnight said.
Really? That's not your area of expertise, how come he asked you? Sunfur said.
He's been very satisfied with Wurrumgidee Skydomes Inc. And while we don't do maglevs normally, the tube for the train isn't too far from what we make. Actually it is much easier. He intends to keep their rail engineer, however. She's good, and tomorrow she, Sir Henry and I will start our negotiations. So tomorrow I'll be late. I might actually stay up there for a day or two.
Aw, nooo.... Sunfur said and snuggled up to hir mate.
Sorry, Muffin. But I have to. I know you're in heat, but I have to have this settled before we go home, Starnight said and gently stroked Sunfur's cheek.
We'll take care of hir, Sandrunner said.
Yep. It'll be our pleasure...and hopefully hirs as well, Redback said, the last part of hir sentence with an added grin.
Thanks. I appreciate it, though I'd have preferred to join the three of you, Starnight said.
Starnight did stay on the moon the next two days. While Sunfur would’ve preferred it to be different, shi also knew that hir mate’s job was the reason they were here at all. Instead of moping, shi decided to enjoy the company of hir sister, whom shi after all hadn’t seen in a few years. Redback was pleasant company too, and so was hir wolfmorph colleague Delena whom shi had invited home for one of the nights.
Though Delena was female and Sunfur was in heat rather than rut, she managed to satisfy the chakat thoroughly.
Sunfur; wake up Sis, Sandrunner said as shi shook hir younger sister.
Mrr? Sunfur said and opened hir eyes. Delena only hugged Sunfur, but didn’t open her eyes.
Starnight’s on the comm., Sandrunner said.
Oh... Sunfur said and gently left the wolf’s embrace.
Good morning, Pumpkin, Starnight said.
Good morning, Sweetypurrs, Sunfur answered and rubbed hir eyes again.
Frederike joined hir wearing a bathrobe (unlike Sunfur, who was only in hir fur).
Good morning to you too, Starnight said, and Frederike replied with a good morning of her own.
Sorry to disturb, but it will seem that I’ll end up in Amistad today. So I thought we could meet?
Of course, but um...I guess we’ll need to book ourselves a domestic flight? Sunfur said.
Nope...I’ve booked you on the Transporter in Equatoria, so you’ll be beamed there, Starnight said.
Oh...okay. When do we leave?
You should be in Equatoria at four. That’ll give you a few hours in Amistad, and then I’ll join up with you. My meeting ends around six fifty, Starnight said.
That sounds great, Muffin, Sunfur said. Will you spend the night on Chakona?
Yes. So Sandrunner? Starnight said as shi saw hir sister in law had joined them. At hir nod Starnight continued, Will Redback be joining us?
Yes shi will, Redback, who’d also heard the comm. said. I plan to leave work early today, so I’ll meet everybody at the Transporter. And unless you have something special planned Starnight, I’d like to show you one of my favorite places in Amistad this evening. They have good food and a dance floor.
What more do we need, Frederike chimed in.
That being decided, the conversation ended with Starnight and Sunfur blowing each other a kiss.
Amistad sure is a nice city; I mean, even though it's big, it is still beautiful and – at least in this area – almost tranquil, Frederike said.
I'm glad you like it, dear, Sandrunner said and gave her a squeeze.
We'll have to turn left here, Redback said.
They were led towards a house that looked as if it was taken out of a middle age town. Ye Olde Terran Inn as the timber framed house was called looked cozy, and a warm, yellow light shone out in the stone paved street, welcoming its patrons.
They serve Terran specialties from many different countries, and each night they have a new theme. It can be a country or a historic period, Redback explained.
Today's American Country Theme, Lightpaws said. Shi and Bearstalker had walked up to the sign outside telling the theme of the day.
When they entered they were met by a foxtaur vixen, clad in a checkered shirt and a cowboy hat. What can I help y'all with? she said with a smile.
A table large enough to hold our rather huge family, Sandrunner said.
Right y'are. Well, y'all come this way, the vixen said and waved for some of her colleagues to help her push some tables together.
Frederike looked at the wall behind Starnight. All the walls were covered with ancient photos of Earth, little knick-knacks etc. She noticed a poster with Elvis, a picture of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, another poster with Batman, a photo of Ronald Regan shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev and a photo of a red-haired man in a special frame. Though she didn't recognize him as a major politician or rock star, she was sure she'd seen him before. In her own time. She looked down at the small plaque under the picture, that read Our own Grumpa Neal Foster.
Is something wrong Honey? Goldstripe asked and put a hand on her wrist.
Yeah, you look as if you'd just seen a ghost, Starnight said from across the table.
You are actually quite close, Frederike managed. That man – the red-haired one in the golden frame behind you – I have seen him before in my own time! I was au pair for his family!
The others turned to look at the man, and then at the discrete timestamp at the bottom of the picture reading 2315-08-22 10:05:04.
Hm, he might have been frozen like you, though the odds for that are infinitesimal, I would assume – only few survived, Starnight said and turned back to face hir family.
Let's ask the waitress, Lightpaws suggested and waved for her.
What can I do fer y'all? the vixen said as she approached the table.
That man, Frederike said and pointed at the red haired man, who is he?
Um...I don't know, the vixen said, forgetting her Western accent at Frederike's expression. I could ask my boss, though, she suggested.
Yes, please, Frederike said.
The vixen left and soon after a chakat arrived at their table.
Hello I am Chakat Sings-a-lot Foster, daughter of Sunset and Raincloud. You had a question? shi said.
Yes, Frederike said, I was wondering about that picture; or actually how that man can still be alive?
I was cryo-frozen in 1992. In 1987 I was an au pair in what was then the United States of America with his brother’s family. He came by every now and then, and we became friends. I wondered how he could still be alive today? And if I could meet him?
Ah, I see. Well, Neal Foster is my father – by adoption I might add – and we usually refer to him in our rather large family as Grumpa Neal because he is quite old. But I didn't know the old fart was that ancient. But you know, I'm pretty sure he wasn't frozen, Sings-a-lot said.
I see...um, how did he survive for that long, then? Frederike asked.
I don't know. Um...and you asked to meet him. That could be a bit of a problem, unless you're very patient. He's a freighter captain, and while he comes by Chakona every now and then, I think it'll be quite some time before he comes back.
Sad to hear it. But thanks anyway, Frederike said.
I’m sorry I couldn’t help you out more, but I’d be happy to hold a message for him if you want? Sings-a-lot offered.
Well, in that case, you’re welcome to use my comm system to record a message, the proprietress said.
Thank you very much. I’ll do so right after dinner, Frederike said.
Frederike stood in front of the comm. unit, and bit her lip. She had finished a bit before the others, as she really wanted to send her regards to Mr. Foster.
Ready? Sings-a-lot said.
As ready as I’ll ever be, she said a bit nervously. She hoped that he wouldn’t think her a lunatic if it was either the wrong Neal Foster or if he’d simply forgotten about her after 350 years.
The comm lit up and the text RECORDING was shown on the screen.
Hello Mr. Foster, she began, or Captain, I guess. I don’t know if you remember me, but I hope so. I am Frederike Weismann, and I was au pair with your family in 1987. I have been cryofrozen after an illness, and I was revived and healed a few years ago. I saw your picture in Sings-a-lot’s inn, and after a chat with hir, I am now recording this message. Um...anyway, if you’re on Earth anytime, feel free to drop by or comm me. I will add my contact info to this message. I hope you are fine after all these years. For myself I can say that I’m doing fine. I work for SFPD, and I am mated to a wonderful chakat called Goldstripe. I’m on Chakona with hir family when we stumbled upon this place. I will head back to Earth in about a week from now. I hope to hear from you.
Frederike then nodded to Sings-a-lot, who stopped the recording.
She then thanked the chakat again for hir trouble. Sings-a-lot dismissed it with a wave of hir hand, and gave her a hug.
When they had all finished their dinner, a small band started to play. Most of the adults rose to join the other guests on the dance floor.
The band consisted of a foxmorph vixen playing a fiddle, a chakat with a banjo, a human male as singer and a cheetah male on drums. The chakat and the vixen alternated being female singer when it was required, and everybody agreed that their music was very enjoyable.
Frederike and Goldstripe danced close to the stage, and as they danced Frederike started humming along on the song the band played.
We could get lost baby I don't care
I ain't worried as long as you're there
There ain't no place that I'd rather be
Next to you, sittin' next to me
There ain't no place that I'd rather beeeehheeeee
Next to you, next to me... the band played.
You know, I think that song kinda sums up my feelings for you, Frederike said as Goldstripe swung her around on the dance floor.
Mmmmm...likewise, Goldstripe said and kissed her. I can't thank the Powers That Be enough for letting Sleeping Beauty wake up after 300 years just to become the mate of lucky me, shi continued and kissed her again.
They stopped for a while, just content to kiss each other and not care about the rest of the world. It was only when the band reached the chorus of the next song they even noticed it had changed.
...when soul meets soul on looouuuvers' lips... the band sang, and Frederike and Goldstripe broke their kiss to look each other deeply in the eyes.
When the band stopped, all the dancers clapped. Frederike and Goldstripe reluctantly left the dance floor to join the others at their table.
Starnight signaled the waitress.
Another round of beer and soda, please. Oh, and a round for the band as well! shi said with a big smile.
Thank you, the vixen said.
She came back soon after with beer for the adults and some soda for the cubs. They raised their glasses and toasted the musicians, who raised their glasses in return.
The band was about to start again after their short break when Starnight's comm chimed.
Oh, couldn't you turn that damn thing off just this once? Sunfur grumbled.
Sorry. I told them that I would be out of town, so I think it's important, Starnight said as shi got the comm out.
Hmf! Sunfur growled.
Yes? Uhuh....Oh, Makers! Yes. Yes, of course I'll be there. Yes, right away. My coordinates, um...not sure, but can't you find me via the comm signal. Yes. Right. Of course Sir Henry. Right. See you then, Starnight said and closed the comm slowly with a sigh.
What's wrong? Sunfur said. Shi could sense hir mate's troubled mind, and all thoughts about verbally skinning hir alive were gone.
There's been an accident. They just suffered an explosive decompression up there. I...I'm sorry but I have to go, Starnight said, visibly shaken.
That's horrible. Any information about why or how? Grayspot said, and shivered with the thought of such a thing. An explosive decompression was something every spacer feared like the Devil himself.
No; no, I'm afraid not. Sorry I have to leave you, Starnight said and dug into hir belt pouch again. Here, have fun, shi said and handed Sunfur hir credit card.
But shouldn't I come with you? shi suggested.
Yeah, and me too? Grayspot added.
The others were about to open their mouths, but were stopped by Starnight's raised hand. No, I'll deal with it. You guys just forget about this, Starnight said and got up.
Shi kissed Sunfur goodbye and said, Sorry Pumpkin, and then shi left.
The others were quiet when shi had left.
Maybe we should call it a night? Lightpaws suggested.
Perhaps, Sunfur said and sighed.
Let us at least finish our current round, Beetail suggested. At least here we can be together all of us, unlike in the hotel.
I suppose you're right. I won't be able to sleep anyway after this – at least until Starnight calls me, Sunfur said.
They sat for a little more than half an hour in quiet conversation, and then Starnight called.
Sunfur put hir comm on speaker, so they could all hear Starnight's report.
Hi, hon. Just wanted to call you and tell you the news, shi said and paused to take a breath. Thankfully, there have been no fatalities, only some minor injuries, thank God. Most of the damage is to the equipment. There was only one worker there when it happened, and fortunately, shi was a Starwalker stellar foxtaur. They're built to survive this kind of thing, Starnight continued and sighed. I'm afraid I need to stay the night up here, however. But everything is fine up here now. Gotta go. Love you, Muffin, shi finished.
I love you too, Sweetypurrs, Sunfur said, and sighed too with relief.
Kiss-kiss! Starnight said and disconnected.
They all realized that they'd held their breath, and exhaled as Sunfur put the comm away.
I think this calls for another round, hm? Lightpaws suggested and held hir empty beer glass upside down for emphasis.
I think you're right, Sandrunner said and gave hir a squeeze. My shout this time.
The good mood returned to the family table, and a little later they started dancing again.
After some time the band stopped playing, and were seated at a table of their own.
Instead, an antique jukebox was brought out. The coin slot had been blocked, as the jukebox would play for free.
Frederike went up to the ancient machine. The vixen from the band stood and looked at it when she got there. She turned around as Frederike arrived.
Do you know how to operate this thing? she said.
As a matter of fact I do. My uncle had one just like it. Have you chosen a song? Frederike said.
Yes I have. How come your uncle had such a thing? I thought this was one of the few, if not the only one still around, the vixen said with a lifted eyebrow.
It's a long story; but I'll be happy to tell you. Perhaps you'd like to join me at our table?
I'd like that. The band will leave soon, but I feel like staying a little longer. School finished a few days ago, and I need to unwind, the fox said a stretched her arms, so I went to visit some friends in Amistad – I live in Curtisport by the way – and when one of their band members called in sick, I offered to stand in. I’m normally more into the classics, but helping them out was the least I could do now that I have free room and board.
Sounds nice. Now, regarding the machine. See, the little book here with the songs have letters next to the songs on each page. At the bottom are some numbers. In your case the code for the song is Seven-C. You press that on the keypad over here, and it will start playing, Frederike explained.
The vixen did as instructed, and they saw the mechanical arm select the chosen record and then the machine started playing.
I'm Frederike by the way, she said as they walked towards the table.
André, the vixen answered.
André? I thought that was a boy's name? Frederike said, puzzled.
The vixen laughed. I'm a herm, just like your chakat family, shi said.
Ah, I wouldn't have guessed. You see... Frederike said and started to tell hir her story while the jukebox cheerfully sang out, ...country roooooaaads, take me hooome, to the plaaaace I beloooong, West Virginia, mountain Mama...
André found Frederike's background quite fascinating.
Must have been strange to wake up in this world, hm? André said.
It was. When I saw Leonard – the doctor – for the first time, I thought I was going to die, Frederike said.
Hm...I can imagine, I suppose. The morphs derived from predator species does have a rather impressive set of canines.
Yes, and now I’m den- sorry lifemated to one of them, Frederike said and nodded in Goldstripe’s direction.
Sounds like you recently changed your status, André remarked, as shi waved goodbye to the band.
Yes, I asked hir on our way here, and shi said yes, Frederike said and turned slightly pink.
You asked hir?
Yes, Sunfur, who’d just returned from the dance floor, said. My daughter is hopeless when it comes to those sorts of things. Good thing shi found a mate who isn’t, shi added with a smile. My name is Sunfur, and I’m Goldstripe’s mother by the way.
André, shi said and got up to receive the inevitable – but always pleasant – Chakat Hug.
Sunfur offered the vixen a drink, and shi accepted. Sunfur also apologized for hir children (and in-laws) and their lack of manners as shi placed the order with the barmaid.
André gave a laugh, and then settled down at the table again.
André then got to tell about hir and hir family’s move to Chakona and why.
Yes, those H1 people can really be a terrible experience. My mate and I have encountered them twice. Once while we were in the academy, and then again on Longtail Day. I nearly lost hir that day, Frederike said and took another swig of her beer to calm herself.
You were there?
Yes. Goldstripe and I were the two officers who chased down Hughes. I’ll never know how that man can call himself a man of God. I’m catholic myself, and what he does is so...so unlike what I was taught as a child.
Actually, he can’t call himself a priest, André said, and Fredrike lifted an eyebrow. He was excommunicated – or so I’ve been told – after he tried to kill my granddaughter and hir mother.
My God. He really does get around, doesn’t he? And yes, he was excommunicated. It said so in his file, Frederike said with a frown.
Yes. Jo and Teri – my daughter in law and granddaughter – took it rather hard when they saw the news of the Longtail Day bombing. I hate to say it, but I must admit that I wish you’d shot him that day, André said with a sigh.
Don’t apologize. I agree. Though the thought of killing another sentient being appalls me, I agree, Frederike said.
The two were silent for a moment until Sunfur broke in. I think it is time to lift the gloomy mood. Here, I bought some shots. Have one each and then let us all hit the dance floor.
Both of the others nodded, and accepted the small glasses.
When they had drained them, Sunfur asked André out for a dance, and Frederike went out with Sandrunner.
After that the subject was changed to concern the children of the families. While Frederike liked children, she decided after some time, that her time could be put to better use on the dance floor. And as much as she loved her adopted daughter, she was grateful for the child minding services of their hotel.
She had also noted the interest that Sunfur showed in André, and thought it better to leave the vixen in Sunfur’s paws. She then decided that it had now been too long since she'd danced with her lifemate, and asked Goldstripe for a dance. Goldstripe was still in a partying mood, and readily complied.
Frederike selected a song from the jukebox, and said as she took Goldstripe's hands, I think this song fits well with this vacation of ours...
The jukebox moved the old Frank Sinatra record into position, and started playing:
Fly me to the moon
Let me swing among those stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me
Fill my heart with song
Let me sing forever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you
Why don't you fill my heart with song?
Let me swing forever more
Because you are all I long for
All I worship and I adore
In other words, please be true
In other words
In other words, I, I love, you
When it became time to leave, Sunfur asked André where shi lived. When told that shi stayed with some friends in one of the suburbs, shi asked if shi wouldn’t want to spend the night at the hotel with hir.
While André thought the chakat could have done better when it came to pick-up lines, shi also thought that shi was cute and since shi would otherwise be alone in hir rut phase...
The next morning saw the family sleeping in, except for Frederike, who had decided to take a morning jog in the nearby park. She couldn't help being surprised by the locals still, as things like nudity taboo seemed to be non-existent here. Some of the locals had made similar decisions and were either jogging or walking in the park, enjoying the morning coolness and fresh air. While the city's population had a significant percentage of chakats, Frederike only saw two of them, and they seemed as if they'd decided to sleep together under a tree. She was on her way back when she ran into André, who had also awoken early.
You needed some fresh air too? she asked.
Yes. Like you, I don't need the same amount of sleep as your four-legged family. But I think I'll cut it short. While your mother in law was pleasant company last night, shi also helped me burn off a lot of calories, so my belly is telling me that breakfast would be welcome soon, the vixen said with a smile.
I know what you mean. I have the same experience with being Goldstripe's mate. Chakats can be very energetic in bed, but they are rarely morning people.
They laughed about that and chatted on the way back to the hotel, where they went to the pool area to shower and stretch.
They were met by the reception by a very tired looking Starnight.
Good morning, Frederike said and gave hir a hug.
"Not really, I'm afraid, Starnight said as shi returned the hug.
Oh? Frederike said with surprise.
Yes. We just found out that our 'accident' last night was no accident at all. Someone had sabotaged the pressure door. Luckily they had apparently done a poor job of it. We think – but forensics are looking at things now – that it was supposed to go off sometime today when there would've been more workers there.
To be continued...
André Fleetfoot belongs to Tim Rumph. The Folly and Neal Foster belongs to Allen Fesler. Thanks guys for giving us all more fun stuff to read.
To be continued
Chakats and the Chakat universe are Copyright © Bernard Doove. These are used with permission.
André Fleetfoot belongs to Tim Rumph. The Folly and Neal Foster belongs to Allen Fesler. Thanks guys for giving us all more fun stuff to read.
The rest of the characters belong to me. Ill try to add references to owners of other characters in the following parts. Should I forget some, please tell me, and Ill correct it.
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