The Colony
V. Ducain

Chapter Four
First Day : More Revelations And A Hasty Evacuation

Deering paused and stared at me just long enough for me to wonder if she was going to accept my orders, then she nodded and ran off with Zandora following, the both of them yelling out names and ordering them to meet at the passageway to the surface.  When a couple of the people who had been waiting started to follow Deering and Zandora, I called out, “Didn't you two have something you wanted to tell me?”

They stopped and one said, “The Colonel wants us over there.”

I replied, “If you know anything about Chakats the Colonel can wait.  Yes, we need to find shelter, but I think we may need to know about Chakats just as much.”

They looked at each other then one said, “Shi knows as much as I do, so I don't think you need both of us.  I'll go with the Colonel and. . . ” She paused and smiled as she continued, “Red Foot can tell you anything you want to know.”

'Red Foot' laughed and said, “Yeah, go sniff the Colonel's ass Brown Nose.”

The one called 'Brown Nose' growled as she ran off and yelled back, “My nose ain't brown! It's black!”

Red Foot yelled at the retreating figure, “I wasn't referring to its color!”

Di Vargin almost yelled, “What is going on?  And, what the hell are Chakats!?”

I replied, “Well, it looks like it's about to rain outside, and this cave will probably flood.  So, we're getting out of here now, before it starts raining.  And, I'll let you know what Chakats are as soon as I find out.  Now, I would really appreciate it if you can see if your people can help in evacuating everyone to the surface in a safe orderly manner.”

Di Vargin frowned but nodded and said, “Very well, but I believe you know more then you've admitted to.  I will expect some answers if you wish my continued support of your leadership.”

As Di Vargin left, I turned to the brown-maned, tan-coated 'Chakat' with a red furred forefoot and asked, “Well, 'Red Foot', what can you tell us about Chakats?”

Red Foot gave me a curious and cautious look as she asked, “Uhh, how much about Chakats do you know?”

“Just what Foxtaur tod Danny 'Black Tip' Anderson, who now calls herself Black Tail, could tell me.” I said.  “She said Chakat Quicksilver or Nine Toes could tell me all about them.  Which one were you?”

Red Foot replied, “I played Chakat Nine Toes.  My character lost a toe in an accident as a cub, and it never grew back. . . I assume Danny told you Chakats are hermaphrodites, both male and female.  On the MUSH and in the stories written about them they are referred to as 'shi' instead of she or he, and 'hir' instead of her or him.  And referring to a Chakat as an 'it' is an insult.”

I nodded and said, “Humm. . . Yes, I guess shi and hir would be better then she and her, especially since I have a feeling some of your more macho buddies will not like being referred to as she or her.”

Red Foot laughed and said, “Yeah, a few are a lot more upset about waking up with tits and a pussy then they are by the fur and four legs.” More seriously 'shi' said, “You know, I'm not at all upset about what's happened to me.  I've been fascinated by furries in general and Chakats in particular ever since I discovered them on the internet.  I know all the advantages, and disadvantages, and I love the idea of actually being a real Chakat.  But that's me, so I am surprised how calmly everyone else is acting.  In fact, I'd have expected some kind of riot to erupt long before everyone woke up.”

I nodded and agreed, “Yeah, that has been worrying me too.”

Katherine grunted and said, “If whoever they are could physically transform us as they have, I doubt they'd have much trouble ensuring there'd be no panic.  They most likely used some kind of drugs.”

Red Foot shrugged and said, “Well, it may not be entirely due to drugs.  In general, Chakats are more even tempered and less prone to panic then humans.  Chakats also tend to be very curious.  I guess our general temperament could have been, adjusted to be more Chakat then human.  Of course, any change in our basic temperment may be entirly due to the different Chakat brain structure as compared to typical human brain structure.”

The smoldering anger I felt forced a low growling undertone in my voice as I said, “If they did tamper with our minds, then that is one more thing the people who did this to us has to answer for.  I will not be forgiving or forgetting what has been done to us.”

Katherine lay her hand on my shoulder, I guess to calm my temper, as she said, “I understand there has been a fairly detailed biology worked out for Chakats.  I would appreciate you telling me everything you know about Chakats, especially things I can verify under primitive conditions.”

I looked at the half dozen other people gathered nearby and asked, “Do the rest of you also know something about Chakats?”  When three of them, two obviously teenagers like Black Tail, indicated they did I said, “Good, you can help 'Red Foot' tell us all about them.”

Red Foot said, “Well, I guess the most important thing to remember is that Chakats are supposed to be genetically engineered to be a physically and mentally superior sentient life form in many ways.  They were not created from just one type of creature, they are a hybrid of the most ideal characteristics of many species, so we are not really completely feline even though we appear to be.  Chakats are a centauroid or hexapodal species, intended to have an ideal blend of physical and mental abilities to produce a superior being with a generally attractive form.  Since survival characteristics were a primary consideration in the Chakat design, traits which enhanced their ability to survive and prosper under adverse conditions were selected to enhance their genetic structure.”

The slightly older of the two 'youngsters' interrupted, “Yeah, we can see, hear and smell a lot better then humans can.  We have sharper vision and we can see farther into the UV and IR parts of the spectrum, and we can see on the darkest night as good as human can see on a bright overcast day.  Our hearing is also sharper and more sensitive, we can hear lower and much higher frequencies.  Our sense of smell is almost as good as a bloodhound. . .”

The younger one butted in with, “No!  We can smell better then a bloodhound!”

When they suddenly realized all the adults was staring at them the two kids, who must have been a couple of years younger than Black Tail, they shut up and squatted down on their bellies.  Then Katherine said, “Now that's an interesting reaction.”

“Uh, what do you mean?” I asked while thinking, “Maybe we should start calling them 'cubs' now”

Katherine nodded toward the two kids and said, “The way they dropped down on their bellies with their ears laid back, tail tucked up close to their bodies.  Except for their wide-eyed stare, that is more of a feline response of submission, not human.  A human would cringe, or back away, and look away, breaking eye contact.  I've noticed other feline responses in the body language of others.  The way Doctor Di Vargin initially reacted to Colonel Deering's display of rage, and the way they continue reacting to each other, are fairly typical feline responses.  From the rage Deering displayed, I'm pretty sure if Di Vargin had not shown that initial display of submission, Deering would have attacked.”

Red Foot said with a smile, “Yeah, I noticed they didn't seem to like each other.”

I dryly said, “Oh.  Really?  I hadn't noticed.”

Just about then Pilot Folson jogged over from where he, she, uh, shi was talking with about two dozen people.  Before he could say anything I took a guess at part of what he was about to report and asked, “So, how many of your crew are missing?”

She, uh, shi gave me surprised and suspicious look as shi replied, “Three are missing, the engineer, and two flight attendants.  There are also five of the passengers missing. . .  How did you know anyone was missing?”

I shrugged and replied, “I did not know anyone was missing, but can you think of a better way to kidnap an entire plane load of people then to release an anesthetic gas in the plane's AC system?  The flight engineer would be in a perfect position to monitor the operation, but he would probably need some help.”

I paused to consider how much to reveal of what happened on the plane then explained, “Besides our kidnappers, I happened to be the last person awake on the plane.  We had been in the air only about two hours, and I was feeling very sleepy, something that was not normal for me.  I also had to use the restroom very urgently, something that was not so unusual.  On the way back to my seat from the restroom I noticed nearly everyone else was asleep.  I was just lucky to still be alert enough to realize something was wrong about that.  Seeing the only two flight attendants still on their feet suddenly drop down in empty seats and doze off is what drove home the fact something was wrong.

“I managed to get an oxygen bottle from the galley first aid kit before I passed out like everyone else.  The oxygen helped some, but not enough.  I guess I had already breathed in enough of whatever they used to knock everyone out, because it was still affecting me.  I also filled a syringe with a good dose of a stimulant I found in the first aid box with the oxygen bottles, but did not use it then.  When I could not get any response from the cockpit over the intercom I figured the flight crew had been affected by whatever had knocked out the passengers.  I managed to get up to the first class deck, but found the door to the flight deck was locked.  Beating on the door didn't get any more response than the intercom had.  I barely managed to inject myself with the stimulant before actually passing out, but I still collapsed and ended up on the floor laying against the door.  I could not move, could not even open my eyes, but the stimulant did keep me conscious and aware, although I must have appeared to be asleep like everyone else.

“A few minutes after I seemed to pass out against the cockpit door someone pushed the door open from the inside.  Whoever it was picked me up like I was a small child and strapped me into an empty seat.  I could not see anything, but I could hear them talking.  They had strong odd accents and I did not realize right away they were speaking English, since it was not American, or standard English-English, or any English dialect I am familiar with.  After a male voice reported to someone about collecting intended and unintended subjects he said something about initiating retrieval phase.  I heard and felt a sound like a turbine winding up, then there was a kinda a loud 'POP', and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in here.”

Katherine said, “So, that's why you're sure we were kidnapped.”

I gave her... hir... a sour look as I said a bit more sarcastically then I intended, “I suppose you think God snapped his fingers, changed us all to 'Chakats' then laid us out all nice and neat in a cavern that'll flood like a flush toilet at the first rain.  All for some mysterious reason only 'HE' knows, to be lead by 'HIS' appointed ones to keep us on the path 'HE' has chosen.”

Pilot Folson laid his, hir ears back and snarled, “You should not mock God or doubt His power!”

I sighed and said, “I do not mock God, and I have no doubt of His power.  I also have no doubt many will believe, or allow themselves to be lead into believing God is directly responsible for our transformation.  History has proven again and again that people who have had their lives and world disrupted and turned upside down are very susceptible to being manipulated into doing some horribly harmful things.  And, if there is no one to blame, the next most commonly used tactic of unscrupulous power-hungry people to assume power and lead such distressed people is to convince them their troubles is some test of God, and that only they know what God desires.”

When Folson still looked upset and was about to interrupt, I added, “I'm not saying God did not have anything to do with what happened to us.  This very well could be a divine test, but I refuse to believe anyone knows for sure.  Far, far too many horrors have been committed in the name of God for me to ever, under any conditions, follow, or cooperate in any way with anyone who desires to harm anyone while claiming to be following God's will.”

Folson looked thoughtful as I continued, “While God may have had something to do with our transformation, I believe He would have used mortal tools to do so, and I doubt those tools would have any better idea of God's ultimate aims then we would.  In any case, we have our minds and our intelligence, and the free will to use them, I fully believe God intends each of us, as individuals, to use them to the best of our abilities to better ourselves and others.  Anytime anyone tries to tell people they should not use their minds, intelligence and free will to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, that person is not an agent of God.”

I paused to judge the effects of my words on Folson and the others, and to give her, give hir time to think them over.  Then I asked, “Well, are you willing to accept God's gift of freewill and use your mind and intelligence to decide the fate of your own soul without regard for what others may think, say, or do?  Or, do you wish to find someone to make those decisions for you?  Of course, if you follow the decisions of someone else, your soul will still have to accept the consequences of those decisions.”

Folson nodded and said, “Yes, what you say is true.  Everyone must assume responsibility for their own souls and the things they do during their life.  I will watch, and I will listen, and I will make my own decisions.”

Only after Folson turned away to leave did I realize how big an audience I had for my impromptu sermon.  I felt a flash of alarm and annoyance about so many people overhearing me getting carried away, espousing strongly held, and very personal opinions on such a sensitive personal subject like some damn TV Preacher.

The irritation I felt was kind of obvious in my voice as I called out to the people who paused to listen “We may not have much time before it starts raining, and we have to be out of here before then.  I have noticed even the very young kids can get around surprisingly fast.  I would like everyone to keep an especially close eye on them as you leave and move to whatever shelter is found.”

As the surrounding group began breaking up I turned to Red Foot and asked, “Could you tell us more about Chakats?”

Red Foot nodded and said, “Since Danny Black Tip told you Chakats are hermaphrodites, did he also say anything about their fertility cycle?.”

I shook my head and said, “No. She didn't get that far.”

She, uh, shi explained, “Chakats have a about a one month fertility cycle, during which they may become pregnant for only a day or two.  At this time a Chakat is at the 'female' peak of hir cycle with hir feminine traits and attitudes at their strongest.  Then, half a cycle later a Chakat will be at the male peak of hir cycle, at hir most virile and with hir male traits and attitudes at their strongest.  Although Chakats experience a relative smooth monthly shift in mood, attitude, and some physical traits between male and female peaks, we are still a lot better off then Human females.  Chakats do not menstruate, do not have PMS, and do not experience anything like the usual discomforts a human female does during their menstrual cycle.

“As you can see we have no external testes, and our sheathed penis is located about where a male canine's penis is, which is a lot further forward then it is on male feline.  Like a human penis, a Chakat's penis has no bone like a canine or feline penis has.  Our erect penis also looks rather like a human erect penis and has nothing like the barbs of a feline penis or the knot of a canine's penis to aid in fertilization.”

Red Foot chuckled and added, “I don't know if it will apply here, but Chakats are very sensual creatures who usually greet each other with a hug.  Chakats in general have a very liberal attitude toward sex, and probably because it is very unlikely for one to accidently get pregnant, casual sex is considered just another way of expressing affection.  As a result, Chakats have a reputation among humans of engaging in sex with any compatible species, anytime, anywhere, which is not quite true. . .”

One of the adults listening to Red Foot's description of Chakats objected, “I do not think you should talk about such things in front of children.”

Before anyone else could say anything Katherine glared at the speaker and said, “Oh, why not?  We all have penises, as well as vaginas now.  There is simply no valid reason now to deny honest basic information about such an important part of a person's life.  Enforced ignorance about sex is a gross stupidity I hope we will avoid.”

Katherine turned to Red Foot and said, “Continue, please.  Why do you say accidental pregnancies are very unlikely?”

He, shi nodded and said, “Uh, well, Chakats are very self-aware of their bodies and their state of health, so a Chakat just knows when they are fertile.  Of course, everyone down-wind of a fertile Chakat knows shi is fertile since Chakats 'go into heat' and have a quite distinctive scent.  Injured Chakats will usually know how serious their injuries are and if they are survivable or not.  It is also not unusual for an old or sick Chakat to know when they are going to die several days in advance.  So, as far as Chakats are concerned, if you feel sick or injured, then you are sick or hurt, and you probably know how serious it is.

Katherine commented, “Well, that should make my job a lot easier.”

Red Foot grunted in agreement, then continued, “A Chakat's vaginal muscles are very strong and normally seal the vagina, only a conscious effort will relax the vagina muscles enough to allow intercourse.  These vaginal muscles are normally clenched shut beyond the control of young sexually immature Chakats which prevents them from accepting intercourse before they are physically developed enough to do so safely.  A relaxed, or sexually aroused Adult Chakat has little trouble relaxing hir vaginal muscles to allow mating, but certain emotions like fear, anger, rage makes it much, much harder to relax the vaginal muscles.  This makes it very hard, if not impossible to rape a Chakat, and that's not counting our fangs and claws which would make such a thing extremely hazardous in any case.

Katherine snorted and commented, “That pretty well eliminates accidental or unwanted pregnancies.”

Someone laughed and added, “Duh, yeah!  'Specially when everyone can smell when anyone is fertile.”

Katherine laughed too and said, “Yeah, that's what I was thinking of too.”

Red Foot agreed, “Yes, our super enhanced senses of smell, and empathy is going to change a lot of things no matter what anyone might prefer.”

“Empathy?” May asked, “What do you mean by that?”

Red Foot explained, “I mean, we have an enhanced empathetic sense or feel for the emotions of others, you know, how they are feeling emotionally.  A practical application would be, if you feel someone is lying or trying to deceive you, then they most likely are. . .”

“Good Gawd!” I thought, “That sure as hell is going to affect how people get along. . . all for the better hopefully. . . hummm, good thing I didn't try spinning out a bunch of bullshit when I was giving my 'leadership spiel'. . . if everyone can 'feel' if someone is trying to deceive them. . . have to remember to keep a very close eye on what I say. . .”

While I was thinking of the impact of built-in natural lie detectors will have on our developing politics, Red Foot continued explaining, “This enhanced empathy also makes 'love at first sight' a common way Chakats recognize their future life-mates, as well as more the more common but less committed den-mates.  A Chakat's pregnancy lasts about 1˝ months longer then a normal human pregnancy.  Pregnant Chakats do not suffer from morning sickness, varicose veins, backaches, or most other difficulties human females are often afflicted with during a pregnancy.  About the only thing they usually get is the 'warm, happy glow' pregnant women are suppose to feel, and uhh. . . well, some also have a noticeably 'enhanced libido'.  Single births are normal, twins are rare, and triplets have never occurred.  While a Chakat mother can normally produce just enough milk to keep twins properly nourished, the cub's sire also shares the nursing duties.”

Katherine's ears perked up at this, and shi asked, “How does the sire's breasts begin to produce milk?  Is this another affect of the enhanced sense of empathy?”

One of the youngsters jumped in with, “Oh, I know!  You see, a new mother's milk has a hormone in it that causes the breasts of adult Chakats who drink it to begin making mother's milk too!”

The other kid, or cub, quickly added, “Yeah, a Chakat's breasts normally makes and stores 'water-milk'!”

At Katherine's questioning look Red Foot nodded and said, “Yeah, that's about the way it's supposed to work. . .

The youngest 'cub' interupted with, “What does 'labedo' mean?  Is it a dirty word?”

Most of the adults and older 'cubs' smirked or actually giggled as Red Foot tried to come up with a answer to the 'cub's' question, “"Ah, well, no.  It is not a dirty word. . . not exactly.  Libido has to do with how a person feels about someone.  How they get along. . . it's hard to explain.  It's really something you'll understand a lot better when you are older.”

Red Foot quickly changed the subject to something shi was a little more comfortable with.  “Ah, you notice how firm and, uhh, 'outstanding' our breasts are?  This is because most of the fat tissue of a human breast has been replaced by a 'fibrous sponge-like' tissue.  Non-lactating Chakat breasts still produces and stores a, a kind of a natural 'power-drink' that's similar to, but thinner then mother's milk.  This 'water-milk' has a lower solid and fat content, and higher concentration of sugars, vitamins and minerals.  This stored liquid, plus a Chakat's more water efficient metabolism and the fact we don't sweat to regulate our body temperature, allows a Chakat to go a long time without water.”

Katherine nodded and said, “Oh, so that's why everyone except the youngest children have such noticeably developed breasts.”

Red Foot smiled and said, “Yeah, I guess that's the 'biological' justification.  But personally, I think the guy who came up with Chakats, or his friends probably just liked big boobs.”  She hefted her firm ample breasts as she added, “Hell, I like big boobs, but I never expected to have a pair of my own, any more then I expected to wake up as a real live Chakat.  Well, at least they don't flop around like real, uh, human breasts this size would do.”

I asked, “Would you know who 'came up' with the idea of Chakats?”

“An Aussie,” Shi replied, “named Bernard Doove has the copyright to the idea, so I assume he's the one who originally thought of them, or at least, he was the first to publicize them.  But I'm pretty sure he had help from a few others.”

I muttered, “Yeah, I bet he had a little help.”

Red Foot asked, “Oh, you think he got the idea for Chakats from aliens or something like that?”

I shrugged and said, “I don't know, but even with the technology we had it's possible.  Hell, he may have had some kind of psychic dream, and the ones who did this to us may have been totally unaware of Mr. Doove and his Chakats.  Or, it is possible they knew about Mr, Doove's Chakats and simply used them as a template for our transformation for some weird alien reason.”

Red Foot just shrugged and moved hir hands to hir waist as shi continued, “A Chakat's upper torso is more muscular, and contains a bit smaller set of 'speaking' lungs and a bit larger heart in proportion to its size then a human torso.  They also have an upper, or 'first', stomach in the upper torso, but most of the other organs are located in the lower torso.”

As shi demonstrated how flexible shi was at the waist Red Foot said, “The waist of the upper torso has fewer organs and more muscles, and when combined with the special forward 'pelvic' joint connecting upper and lower torsos, results in a very strong and extremely flexible upper waist.”

Holding up hir forepaw shi continued, “The toes of the forepaws are more like stubby fingers, and the dew-claw is longer, thicker and located lower on the forepaw, turning it into a kind of a semi-thumb.  The longer 'finger-toes' and 'dew-claw-thumb' does not interfere with walking or running, but you do have a pretty good grip with them.  I don't know how many time I wished I had an extra pair of hands, and now I do.  Our 'hand-paw' grip is very strong, but not as precise as our hands.  With our hand-paws and strong prehensile tails we are even better climbers then felines are supposed to be anyway.”

Then she flipped hir long thick tail around as she said, “Our long heavy tail acts as a counter-balance for the added mass of our upper torso, and aids in making fast tight maneuvers.  A Chakat's prehensile tail is also very muscular.  Easily strong enough to pick up twenty to thirty pound objects, if you can get a grip on them since the fur makes for a slippery grip.  While the tail really is not strong enough to allow an adult Chakat to suspend hirself with it like a possum for more then a few moments, it is strong enough to act as a brace or anchor when climbing for as long as needed.  Cubs, up to a certain age and size can suspend themselves by their tail like a possum, so picking up a cub by hir tail may be embarrassing to the cub, but is quite safe.  Even suspending the full weight of a full adult Chakat by hir tail would not normally be unsafe or uncomfortable.”

Black Tail, with hir tail wrapped around the waist of a small child or cub, joined us as Red Foot was telling us about Chakat tails.  She asked, “Did you mention how our heavy strong tails can be used in a fight?”  Then she grabbed hold of the little cub's tail and hoisted hir up off the ground as shi said, “Yeah, and it doesn't hurt at all to pick up the brats by their tails if you need to swat their bottoms.”  Needless to say, the little one did not like being picked by hir tail, or being called a brat, and loudly let everyone know about it as she tried getting her claws into hir tormentor without much success as Brandy held the cub out at arm's length with little apparent effort.

I have had to hold heavy objects at arm's length many times, a few times when the 'object' was alive and trying to sink it's teeth or claws into me, so I knew just how hard what Bandy was doing really was.  Curious about just how strong I was, I grabbed Brandy by her tail and hoisted her up like she did her sister, as I said, “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

I swatted Brandy's furry ass a couple times as I said, “Now, put the little one down, gently.”

I held Brandy at arm's length, surprised at how little effort it took, as she looked up at me with a surprised expression and I said, “Well, how do you like getting hoisted up like this?  Embarrassing, isn't it?  Not a lot of fun, is it?  You gonna behave yourself now?”

Brandy quickly nodded and said, “Yes, I'll be good . . . but, I didn't hurt Melissa!”

“That's not the point,” I said.  “You're old enough to have a good idea now is not the time to play around.  You didn't have to demonstrate your point, just telling us would have been enough.”

Looking to Red Foot, I asked, “Red Foot, just how big, how massive are adult Chakats suppose to be?”

“Ah, Adult Chakats usually stand between 5ft.  and 5ft.8in., and weigh between 400 and 450 pounds” she replied.

Looking over Brandy I said, “Then at that scale, this youngster would weight between 150 and 200 pounds. . . if we are really Chakats.  I see what you mean, when you said Chakats are a lot stronger for their size than humans are.  I'd swear this one weighs less then twenty pounds, surely not anywhere near 150 pounds.”

I finally lowered Brandy to hir feet with a warning, “Brandy, I want you to be sure to remember this, you are a whole lot stronger then you use to be, and you also have some very sharp claws, so you better be very careful how you treat your sister and the other little ones.”

“Okay, okay,” shi said, “I'll be careful.  I wouldn't really hurt Melissa, even if she, shi is acting like a brat.”

Red Foot gave Brandy a quick look over as she asked, “Ah, I am. . . well, I guess I'm Red Foot now.  I ran Nine Toes on the FurryMUCK.  Did you run a character on FurryMUCK?”

“I'm Black Tail, now.  I ran Danny 'Black Tip' Anderson.” Shi replied.

Red Foot smiled and said, “Yeah, Nine Toes and Danny Black Tip got ta know each other pretty well. . . Ah, how old are you, anyway?”

Black Tail looked a bit uncomfortable as shi replied, “Uhh, thirteen.”

Red Foot looked surprised as shi exclaimed, “Thirteen!?  I didn't think you where as old as you claimed to be, but I didn't think yea were that young!  Didn't you know that MUCK was for adults only?”

After a short pause, Red Foot asked, “You're a girl too, aren't you?  For a thirteen year old girl, you played a horny tod foxtaur pretty damn well.  I still got the impression you might have been a girl playing male character, but I sure didn't think you were that young.” Red Foot shrugged and added, “Not that I think it matters much now.”

Katherine coughed and asked, “Can you tell me something more about a Chakat's internal anatomy?”

Red Foot frowned as shi said, “Well, you understand as far as anyone knew Chakats were just one of dozens of made-up fantasy creatures.  They were better thought out and designed than a lot of others, but there still isn't a lot of details.”

Katherine nodded and said, “I understand, just tell me what was generally known.  What you've told me so far seems pretty damn accurate, far too accurate to be a coincidence.”

“So you think we really are Chakats?” I asked Katherine.

She shrugged and replied, “I don't know for sure, but it does seem like someone used what Red Foot calls a Chakat as a pattern for what they turned us in to.”

About then Brandy yelped in pain, then hir little sister ran around behind me as Brandy held hir tail and yelled with indignation, “The little brat bit my tail!  I'm bleeding!”

I grabbed up the squirming hissing child and held her away from her outraged sister.  I gently shook Melissa as I said, “Melissa, settle down!” which she did, then I asked, “Why did you bite your sister's tail?”

“She not my sister! My sister is Brandy! That not Brandy!” the child-cub yelled and pointed at Black Tail as she clung to me.

Holding her close to calm her I asked, “Why do you think she's not your sister?”

She said, “She doesn't look like Brandy.”

Stroking the soft black spotted white fur of her back as I looked into her big golden-green eyes I said, “I bet you don't look much like Melissa now, do you?  Did you use to have such pretty soft fur, and a long furry tail?”

She reluctantly shook her head and said, “Weellll, no.”

“So, you don't look like you used to look?”

She shook her head again then quickly said, “But she said she wasn't Brandy! She said she was Black Tail!”

I frowned at Brandy as I said, “Ohh.  So that's what the problem is.  Tell your sister who you are and why you want to be called Black Tail.”

Brandy, still holding her bitten tail, said, “Melissa, I am your sister Brandy.  I really am.  I said I was Black Tail because I have a black tail now, and I think it's a better name for a Chakat than Brandy.”

Melissa, looking at Brandy with suspicion said, “Well, I don't!  Black Tail is a dumb name!  I like Brandy, and so did you, if you're really my sister Brandy.”

With Katherine and the other adults smiling at this sibling squabble, I put Melissa down and said, “Okay you two, I want both of you to stay with me for now.  Brandy you keep an eye your sister.  And Melissa, I don't want you biting anyone again.  Little one, you have some pretty sharp teeth now, and you could really hurt someone.  You understand what I'm telling you Melissa?”

She looked down as she nodded and said, “Yes, I understand.  I won't bite anyone again.”

“Good, now apologize to your sister for biting her, hir tail.”

Melissa reluctantly said, “You were squeezing me with your tail Brandy, but I guess I shouldn've bit your tail.  I'm sorry.”

Brandy-Black Tail didn't look too convinced by Melissa's apology, but she said, “That's okay.  I didn't know I was squeezing you, I'm sorry too.”

Katherine took a look at Brandy's injured tail as I ran my hand through Melissa's shiny black mane and said, “I want you to stay close for now.  You'll get plenty of time to play later, okay?”

Melissa nodded again and said, “Okay.” and asked, “Why did you say hir tail, instead of her tail?”

I glanced around at the adults before replying, “Well, it's because you and sister aren't girls anymore. . . ”

“You mean we're boys now!?” Melissa exclaimed wide eyed.

“No,” Brandy said, “we are all both boys and girls.”

Wide eyed Melissa asked, “We are!?  How can a person be a boy and a girl at the same time?  Is it because we've been changed into cat people?  I thought there were boy cats and girl cats, like people.”

Katherine chuckled and explained, “You are right, there are boy cats and girl cats, and boy and girl dogs too.  We're not just ordinary cat-people, we think we were all changed into special cat-people called Chakats.  And each Chakat is both a boy and a girl at the same time.”

I nodded and said, “That's right, so you see calling someone he or she wouldn't be right.  Instead you use 'shi' instead of he or she, and 'hir' instead of his, him, her, or hers.  Do you understand?”

Melissa looked doubtful but nodded and said, “Yes, but it sounds funny.”

About then a couple of adults, or near adults, with two youngsters about the same age as Brandy and Melissa came trotting over.  A rather self-conscious brown and white coated copper maned Chakat said to me, “Uhh, the Pilot told us to come over here.”

Looking them over I asked, “And who are you and your friends?”

She said, “Oh, I'm Randal Corbin,” then gesturing to the two youngsters shi added, “this is Buffy and Jay my sister and brother.”  Patting the other young near-adult on her shoulder she said, “And, this is Valerie Avagondin.”

Jay was little smaller then Melissa, with a creamy chocolate-brown and golden-blond coat, with a very dark-brown tail, and a very light-blond mane.

Buffy looked just a little bigger than Brandy, but had noticeably larger breasts, with a sandy tan coat, darker along hir back and lightening to almost white on hir belly and chest, with a reddish tan mane and tail.

Valerie was a little smaller then Randal, but quite a bit bigger then Brandy or Buffy, with breasts only a little bigger then Buffy's.  She had exceptionally beautiful markings, almost classical snow leopard markings, with a black tipped tail, silver-gray mane and greenish-gray eyes.

Although I had felt a definite sexual attracted to May and an even stronger one to Katherine, I had not noticed myself getting an erection.  But, looking at Valerie, I felt an old familiar stirring in a rather different location, followed by an odd coolness.  It took a second for me to realize I was getting an erection, and the odd coolness was caused by my swelling penis protruding from its sheath.

Tearing my gaze from Valerie, I quickly glanced around to see if anyone noticed my embarrassing involuntary reaction.  I was very surprised to notice Katherine staring at Valerie, with a growing erection becoming more and more evident.  Looking away from Katherine I found Red Foot smiling at me, then she glanced at Katherine, winked at me and turned her attention to Valerie and her companions.  As she, as shi did so I noticed shi also had an erection, but not to the extent of mine or Katherine's.

As I tried to conceal my erection, without calling attention to it, I noticed Katherine suddenly realizing shi had a rather impressive purplish-red erection to hir obvious consternation.  Trying to keep her from being embarrassed I said to Randal, “Oh, yes.  I understand you were on the plane without your parents for one reason or another.”

“This is Brandy and Melissa Wilson,” I said, patting Black Tail on the shoulder and Melissa on her head, “I believe you all knew each other.”

About then Melissa stooped down and look back and forth at Katherine and me, straight at our exposed erections.  Just as I realized what she was staring at Melissa looked up and 'innocently' asked, “Ohhh, is that your penis?  They look so big and red.”  Then she bent and twisted around to look at her own sheath as she asked, “I got a penis too now, don't I?”

Momentarily speechless, I could only stare down at Melissa as shi pushed hir sheath back enough to expose the pinkish-red end of hir penis, then she looked up again with a triumphant smile and proudly announced, “Ohh, yes.  I do got one too!  It's hiding and a lot smaller than yours, but I got a penis too!”

I could feel everyone staring at me as I gave her a weak smile and, “Ahh, yes.  Yes, you have a penis now, and a vagina, just like everyone else.”  When I heard Katherine making a odd sound I interpreted as a suppressed laugh, I added, “Just like Katherine.”

Randal, Valerie and Buffy looking at me with wide eyed surprise as Valerie exclaimed, “We have co. . . ah, penises!?  You mean we're not girls?”

At first, I felt a little relieved to have someone else answer Valerie's questions when Brandy eagerly spoke up, “No, we're not girls!  And, we're not boys either.  We're hermaphrodites.”

But then, my relief vanished when Randal, Buffy and Valerie gave her a blank look.  Seeing their puzzled expressions Brandy quickly lay down and rolled over on her back with her legs wide apart, then explained in an obviously superior tone of voice, “I mean we have a penis and a pus. . . I mean vagina, see!” while proudly displaying what she was referring to.

“Brandy!” I exclaimed.  After she realized she'd gone a little too far and flipped back over on her belly, I said, “I understand you love the idea of being a Chakat, but could you please remember some of us are not as enthusiastic as you are.”

Brandy-Black Tail looked up at me with only a slightly embarrassed expression as she said, “Uhh, sorry.  I guess I got, carried away.”

I nodded then said to Valerie, Buffy and Randal, “Okay, I guess the pilot sent you over to me since your parents aren't here, so you hang around with me for now.”  Looking to Red Foot I asked, “Do you see anything in our appearance that does not match the descriptions of Chakats you know of?”

She looked thoughtful as she slowly said, “Welll, no.  I have seen drawings by several artists based on the physical descriptions of Chakats, from rough sketches to some very nice full color art work.  While some drawings were rather cartoonish, others were pretty realistic, but all of the drawings could of been of any of us.”

I nodded and said, “Okay, assuming we really have been transformed into something that is in effect the same as the creatures you call Chakats, tell us something about their survival potentials.”

Smiling, Red Foot replied, “Since Chakats were genetically engineered to survive and prosper under very harsh conditions, we shouldn't have any trouble surviving if we can find enough to eat.” She began counting on her fingers;

“One; We are faster, and pound for pound much stronger then humans.”

“Two; All of our senses are superior to human senses, and our three primary senses, sight, hearing, and especially smell are far superior.”

“Three; We have no trouble with cold and can easily tolerate even sub-zero temperatures with little or no protective clothing, although we do not tolerate very high temperatures as well as humans.”

“Four; Like humans we are omnivorous, and we can also safely eat things which would poison humans, or many other animals.”

“Five; Although we are over twice as massive as humans, we require less then a sixth as much water as humans under most conditions, partially because we don't sweat like humans to keep cool, but also because we have a more water efficient metabolism, I guess.”

Red Foot paused then added, “We do have a couple of minor weaknesses.  We require fifty to one hundred percent more raw calories as humans if we're at all active or nursing cubs, although we can survive on much less then this if we cut way back on our activity.  And, our quadruped 'taur' form is much bulkier than a biped form so any structures or vehicles we use will have to have two to three times as much floor space.”

When she paused again I commented, “So, we need more to eat, a little less than twice as much as before, but we can eat just about anything.  I hope you're right about us being able to eat almost anything.”

Then I asked, “What can you tell us about Chakat's temperament?  Everyone seems to be accepting what's happened way too calmly.  It just is not normal for everyone to be so calm and cooperative after something as outrageous as waking up and finding they have been turned into something that looks like an animal, and dumped in the middle of nowhere!”

Red Foot looked thoughtful then said, “Well, if we are Chakats, as I believe we are, then that fits to a certain extent.  Chakats are highly intelligent and they are supposed to be extremely mentally stable.  While Chakats can be startled or momentarily frightened into reacting without thinking they are effectively immune to panic.  If Chakats are not surprised or have even a short time to think about a given situation no matter how. . . weird or frightening, they will seldom do something that would obviously endanger their own survival.  Chakats are generally highly cooperative, in an individualistic way.”

“What do you mean 'cooperative in an individualistic way'?” I asked.

Red Foot replied, “I mean Chakats won't blindly follow just any self-proclaimed leader for very long, but they have no trouble cooperating to achieve a common goal, especially something as obviously necessary as group survival.  Chakats are seldom willing to take a blind risk just for the thrill of taking a risk, although they will take a calculated risk to achieve a desired goal if they believe the results will be worth taking such a risk.  This means Chakats seldom become addicted to gambling, or games of chance in general, as is common with humans.  While Chakats as a group are not as likely to take a risk without a well defined goal as humans often do, they are very curious and will often get into as much or more difficulties due to their curiosity as humans do due to risk taking.”

She paused then said, “Ohh, yes.  Chakats have one major 'flaw' in their mental stability, if you want to consider it a flaw.  In general Chakats are considered to be fairly non-violent and pacifistic, but they are extremely protective of their young.  Parents will never abandon or neglect a cub.  If a cub is threatened, its mother can be as totally vicious as any animal mother protecting its young.  The only thing kidnapping a cub will accomplish is to enrage the cub's parents, especially its mother, to the extent they could tear the kidnappers into bloody pieces, and they won't be too gentle with anyone trying to protect the kidnappers.  If a cub should be deliberately killed or murdered, the parents will not rest until the killer or killers are dead.  Chakats are also very protective of cubs in general, not just their own or those related to them, but they don't usually turn into raging killers if it's not their own cub threatened.  As a result, any orphaned cubs would never be put in an orphanage.  In fact, the entire concept of an orphanage is foreign to a Chakat's way of thinking.  Orphaned cubs are immediately adopted, usually by relatives or friends of their parents.”

May called our attention to the fact only a few people remained in the cavern, and we started toward the entrance tunnel.  Looking around, I saw the dozen or so in the group with me were about the only people left to leave.  About then the sound of distant thunder echoed through the cavern, and I noticed a light rain was falling through the hole in the cavern's ceiling, even though sunlight was still shinning through as well.  As we headed over to the passageway to the surface, there was another, much closer peal of thunder and the light began to rapidly dim as the rain falling into the cavern increased.

Katherine and May stood beside me as I held Melissa and waited for the last of the others to head up the tunnel.  Katherine commented, “If this cave is going to flood like Zandora thinks it will, then we're cutting getting out of here a bit close.”

Starting up the narrow sloping passageway, I replied, “Yeah, we may be cutting it too close. This tunnel would be a very bad place to be if the ravine up there is hit by a flash flood.”  Louder I called out, “Okay, everybody!  We may be getting a little wet before we get out of here, so everyone hold on to the tail of the person in front of you.”

About two-thirds of the way up, word flashed back about water beginning to flow down the tunnel, just a few moments before we felt it trickling past our feet.  At first it was just a trickle, but no one doubted it would stay that way for long, and it didn't.  The water racing down the narrow passageway was between ankle and knee deep by the time May, Katherine and I could catch an occasional glimpse of light from the exit.  By the time we finally struggled out of the ever increasingly flooded tunnel, the advantage of having six claw-equipped limbs and a grasping prehensile tail was made very apparent.  I'm sure the last one or two dozen of us could never have stood against the rapidly deepening flood if we had been human.  The last half dozen, including May, Katherine, Melissa and me would probably still have been flushed back down the tunnel if Deering, Zandora and Blackstripe had not found some vines and had them ready in case they were needed.  They were needed.

Continued in
First Day : Our First Home

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