The Colony
V. Ducain

Chapter Six
Day Two : Discoveries

I woke up an hour or so before sunrise the next morning, and was vaguely surprised to find things unchanged.  I was in a cave and I still had fur, tits, four legs, and a tail.  I was lying in a pile of furry bodies by whose scent I easily recognized as Katherine, May, Jay, Melissa, Brandy, and the others. Trying my best not to wake anyone as I sat up and stretched, which felt very good, I was not displeased to find things were not just a dream.  Looking around, I could see vague dark ‘lumps’ of other piles of still sleeping chakats in the dark unlighted cave.  It is obvious that as Chakats, people prefered sleeping together.

With delight, I found my other senses automatically filling in for my nearly useless sight as I ‘looked’ around.  I could feel my ears turning to focus in on every little sound like a pair of super sensitive parabolic microphones.  And my sense of smell was still so, so unbelievably sensitive and told me so much about my surroundings, things I'd have never imagined possible from such a ‘limited’ sense.  I just sat and let all my enhanced senses probe the darkness, forming a ‘picture’ in my ‘mind's eye’ with almost as much detail as I could have seen if with my old human senses in a lighted cavern, although the details were rather different.

While my senses probed my darkened surroundings, with the warm still-sleeping forms of the others lying close around me, I reviewed my first night's sleep as a Chakat.  Sleep consisted of times of near wakefulness when I vaguely remember looking around, interspersed between periods of deeper ‘dream’ sleep.  I usually sleep rather ‘fitfully’ so this sleeping pattern was not much different from the way I used to sleep, a habit I learned from having to sleep in less than safe places in my prior line of work.

I remember having some really ‘interesting’ dreams during the dreaming sleep periods, and the degree to which I remembered my dreams was unusual.  I used to remember only a little of my last dream before awakening.  I did not remember everything about my dreams this time either, and what I did remember made about as much sense as dreams usually do.  In the dreams I was always a chakat, the other characters in my dreams were human, chakat, or a variety of other furry non-human creatures.  As far as I recall, the dreams, even the really weird ones, seem to be fairly upbeat and positive for the most part.

After carefully extracting myself from the pile of furry bodies, I began making my way to the cave entrance through the darkened cave.  I realized I was using, and constantly ‘updating’, my mental picture of my surroundings to navigate as much as what my senses was reporting.  I knew I would have been totally blind, groping my way along, tripping over one pile of sleeping bodies after another if I had been still human.  As it was now, not only could I make out the very dim shapes of the sleepers, I could also hear their breathing and the double thump-thump of their twin beating hearts.  My truly wonderful sense of smell more then made up for the very dim lighting.  Even if it had been totally dark, I'm sure I would have had no trouble making my way through the sleepers without stepping on or tripping over anyone.  Some of the more curious spelunkers among us already proved yesterday how well we could get around in the total darkness of the surrounding tunnels, although they all discovered low hanging rocks or cave formations were still invisible and still hard on a Chakat's skull to run into.

As I got closer to the cave entrance, I found I could make out several quiet voices well enough to understand over the slight but constant background sounds.  I paused a few bodylengths inside the entrance and made myself comfortable in a dark shadow cast by the single low burning fire someone had built just outside the cave entrance.  From where I lay, I could not be seen, but I could easily hear the quite conversations just outside, and since there was a slight draft coming into the cavern from the entrances, I was pretty sure none would catch my scent.  Of course, if someone did notice me laying in the shadows, it would not be hard to guess I was eavesdropping on the conversations of the people gathered on the low wide ledge under the overhang just outside the entrance.  Some might consider what I was doing as spying, which I guess it was, and I would not be doing it if I did not feel I really needed a feel of what people really felt about things.  I have learned the hard way what people say when ‘leaders’ are not around to overhear is often very different from what they say when those ‘leaders’ are around to hear.  I wanted to avoid any nasty surprises this can often lead to.

No big surprise, the main topic of conversation was our recent transformation, but no one seemed to be expressing any real loathing for their new bodies.  In general they sounded like they accepted their transformation, at least as far as it was something they could not do anything about, and more then a few expressed satisfaction with their new bodies.  The strongest complaint I heard about their new bodies was about the size of their tits from several former males of our group.  In fact, about the only thing causing any real distress was the ‘loss’ of friends and family.  This seemed to effect the former military people much more then the others.  Most of the conversations I overheard about our new bodies concerned how our hermaphroditic bodies would affect basic social interactions and conventions.  Of course there was a lot of talk and joking around about how the rules of dating and sex will change.  I could not help but wonder how they would feel when they got around to trying out their new ‘equipment’, and ended up pregnant.  In fact, from the occasional whiff of distinctive scent I picked up drifting in from outside, I would say more then a few had already tried out their new equipment.  I wondered if they knew they would be going into heat and realized how hard it was going to be to resist getting knocked-up, or how impossible it would be to conceal things like that given our enhanced sense of smell.

I found myself caressing my arms and forelegs, my soft fur, my full furry breasts, and wondering how different I would feel at my 'female peak' and if I will be able to resist ending up pregnant, or if I would even want to avoid getting pragnant.  It was so weird thinking of getting pregnant, but I now seemed to have the required plumbing, and the idea was fascinating. . . “Hummm. . . given my curiosity it was not at all unlikely I would be finding out what it was like before the year was out. . . at least we wouldn't have to worry about VD. . . a lot of those stupid sexual or racial hang-ups people always seemed to cling to sure don't apply now. . . Uh huh, yeah. . . wonder what the bigots will try to replace them with?”

I would have normally felt safely undetectable laying in the deep shadows like I was while listening to the conversations outside.  At least I would if we had still been human, but we were not, and Chakat senses are way too sensitive for me to have any reason to feel at all safe from detection now.  Getting caught spying on people, especially after making such a fuss about respect yesterday, would not help my leadership credibility at all.  So after listening from the shadows for about twenty minutes or so without being discovered, as others began waking and joining the ones already awake outside, I decided I should go ahead and join those outside too before someone noticed me and suspect I might be deliberately eavesdropping.  I greeted the ones outside, and set about getting to know more of my fellow involuntary colonists as individuals, as well as letting them get to know me.

Next most common topic of conversation after our transformation and new bodies, was the weather.  The sky was still overcast from yesterday, and it looked like is was going to rain on and off for at least the first part of the day.  Several people from the southwest speculated about the climate being similar to what they were used to.  If so, the current rainy weather would not last more then a month or two, then things would get hot and dry.

As much as I disliked what passed for modern politics, I knew how ‘the game’ worked.  I realized some kind of personal ‘small town' style politics would be necessary if I wanted to keep the group together and working as a more or less unified group.  Given the very personal nature of our situation, I knew the typical modern day politician's tactics of doing whatever was expedient to ‘get the job done’ would not work with this group in the long run.  Lying, even ‘small’ political type lies, would be pure poison given the fuss I made about the value of a person's word.  The likelihood of any politically expedient deceptions being easily spotted by my empathic fellow Chakats made most of the common political maneuvers unusable.  A fact I really did not mind at all.

I really had no long range goals yet, except survival and keeping the group together while as much of the group's accumulated knowledge could be preserved as possible.  Goals I have made no secret of.  Beyond that, I thought it best to keep things flexible so we could react as quickly as possible to the inevitable unexpected events and outright disasters I was sure would occur.  Now, all I had to do was come up with some initial programs and get the others to follow my lead.  Of course, if others really took an interest in things, I could end up spending most of my time as a kind of referee or social judge.

I quietly greeted the gathering as I openly appeared in the wide low cave entrance, then joined the conversation after making myself comfortable.  I learned for the first time that four of the ones lounging around the cave entrance were part of a dozen sentries Deering had set.  A good idea I had not thought of, but I made a point of complimenting Deering's initiative to her troops and the others for taking care of a potentially important detail I had overlooked.  I also found out that maybe two dozen people, mostly military personnel, who realized how well they could see in the dark had spent most of the night scouting out the immediate area without being assigned that job by Deering or one of her former officers.

I was not too surprised when I got some questions about using ‘shi’ and ‘hir’, instead of the usual pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘his’, and ‘hers’.  I jokingly replied, “Well, I'm sure everyone has noticed we all have a nice pair of breasts.  They may be fur-covered, but they are definitely breasts, boobs, tits, or whatever you want to call them.  I also sure hope anyone with more curiosity than a lump of lead has also noticed we all have a penis, as well as a vagina, and as I understand both are fully functional.  So, he or she do not really fit anymore, and it has been suggested we should use some fairly common pronouns used in fantasy and science fiction stories to refer to hermaphrodites: Shi and Hir.

Someone asked, “But, if we are really fully functional hermaphrodites, then where are our balls?”

I replied, “I understand they are internal, which you have to admit is safer then hanging out where they might get snagged on something, especially since they'd be a bit closer to the ground.”

Someone else asked, “What's this I've been hearing about ‘Chakats’?”

I sighed and replied, “Chakats are supposed to be fictional creatures, but it is looking like that is what we have been turned into.” I forestalled the expected flurry of questions as I quickly continued, “Before you all start asking a lot of questions, I'm going to be telling everyone later today, everything I've learned about Chakats, what they are, and why we might be Chakats, so please save your questions about Chakats until then.”

It was not any surprise to me when a few of the former female ex-military, now physically as big and strong as anyone else, offered to show their former male ‘buddies’ how their new plumbing worked.  Although most of the former males at least acted like they were as interested in such ‘experiments’ as the former females.  A few of the former males seem particularly uncomfortable with the idea they could be ‘on the receiving end’ in any future sexual relations, especially with their former male comrades.

I sniffed the air loudly and added, “From a rather distinctive scent I've noticed, I'd say at least a few have already been testing just how functional our new equipment is.”  After the chuckles died out and a few people managed to stop looking so conspicuously embarrassed I commented, “Just in case someone here doesn't realize it yet, our sense of smell is gonna definitely change how we do certain things.  So, you either gonna have to be a lot more discreet, or more open, with your fun 'n games than most people are used to, because you sure not gonna be able play around without everyone downwind knowing about it.”

After some joking around about the ‘joys’ of ‘screwing’, getting ‘knocked-up’, pregnancy, and motherhood, the conversation eventually settled down to a general discussion of our current situation, and what should be done.  Everyone had ideas, some more vocal then others in expressing them, but no one seemed withdrawn, or depressed to any noticeable degree.

No one seemed really distressed by our transformation, and again I was not the only one wondering why everyone was taking what happened to us so calmly.  In fact, it seemed more people were bothered by how everyone ‘else’ seemed to accept our mass transformation than the actual transformation itself.  Some got downright irritated when asked why they seemed to accept their transformation so easily, and could not explain it any better than ‘they felt normal’.  I had to agree with them; if I did not stop and actually think about how different my body was now, it did feel normal, which was a most irritating feeling when I stopped to think about it.  Oh well, at least we did not have to learn to walk all over again on four legs, instead of just two.

I was happy everyone seemed as conformable with me as they did their new bodies, and freely expressed the same opinions while I was present as they expressed when I was lying back in the shadows and listening.  Not all of their opinions of me, and some of the things I said yesterday, were totally favorable, but they seemed honest.  I tried to let them know I was always going to be open to honest criticisms and suggestions, even if I did not agree with them, or privately thought the suggester was putting out more than a fair share of ‘BS’.  I hope they continued feeling free to tell me what they were really thinking and feeling about things, and about me, because I was not planning on doing any more such spying.  The risk of discovery was too great, and it just felt all wrong.

By the time the sun began lighting up the rough horizon, the group gathered on the ledge outside the cave's three main entrances had grown considerably.  Most of the people who spent most of the night scouting the area, in addition to the Recon Teams sent out yesterday, had returned.  Several of the night scouts had taken the opportunity to catch some small game, and sample some of the local plant life.  The hunters, mostly Rangers and survival instructors from the closed military base, claimed the reptile and mammal-like animals tasted pretty good, as were the grubs some of them also found and sampled.

Much to the amusement of the hunters, several people expressed more then a little distaste at the idea of eating bugs and animals raw.  I was hungry, and while I have enjoyed sushi, eating raw prey did not seem at all appetizing to me either, but I was pretty sure I would be willing to see what a few raw lizards might taste like if I could not find something else to eat soon.  I doubted I would be alone as far as that was concerned before much longer.

They also reported the local plants were mostly not edible, except for a few which had good size potato-like tubers growing a few inches underground.  They said the tubers were not the best tasting things, kind of bland. . . like potatoes, but they ‘smelled’ safe to eat, and cooking might improve their favor.  A couple of Di Vargin's people claiming to know something about edible plants examined the few samples the hunters brought back.  The younger one was very happy about the discovery, and announced they might become a major food source, like potatoes were for the Incas of South America.  The older one, who had been well over twice the age of hir younger colleague, as well as the younger one's superior, was more conservative and less willing to give the tubers such acceptance without further investigation.

A little after sunrise, after most people were awake, Deering began making plans for longer-ranged surveys.  I had to insist at least one of Di Vargin's people with practical field biological and zoological experience be included on each recon team.  Deering was not happy about this.  Shi really despised Di Vargin, and made it clear shi doubted the qualifications of anyone Di Vargin might vouch for.  I had to insist Deering accept the qualifications any person claimed until it was clear that person was lying about what they claimed.  I tried doing this in a diplomatic way to avoid pissing off Deering anymore then I had to, as well as to remind Di Vargin how important I considered a person's word, and the results of being proven a liar.  I think I mostly succeeded in pissing off both of them, but at least Deering finally admitted the recon teams could use the added expertise in those areas which would help evaluate the local potential for supporting a group our size.

Melissa and Jay, with a not too happy Brandy riding herd, found me after I finished talking with Deering and Di Vargin about the longer-ranged recon teams.  Brandy complained, “Katherine stuck me with brat patrol.  Do I really have to chase these two around all day?”

Before I could say anything Jay loudly proclaimed, “I'm hungry! When do we eat?”

I sighed and said, “Jay, I'm hungry too.  Being a little hungry won't kill you, and we eat as soon as we find something to eat.  Brandy, for now, you'll do as Katherine said and watch your sister and Jay.  Just try to keep them out of trouble, okay?”

“Black Tail!” Brandy protested, “I'm Black Tail now! And why can't Jay's brother or sister watch hir?”

“Humm, that is a good question.” I admitted and said, “I'll ask Katherine about it when I see her, see hir, but until then you'll watch both of them like she, like shi said.”

Brandy started to protest again and I interrupted with, “Brandy, you are not an adult, not yet, but I'll admit you're not a child anymore either.  So I'll tell you what I'm going to do.  Until you prove to me you should be treated as an adult, you will be called Brandy.  When you prove you are an adult, you may choose whatever name you wish.  If I'm right about the kind of young lady I think you are, I don't expect you to take long to show me you deserve to be treated as an adult.”

Brandy was plainly not happy, but she seemed to accept my ruling as shi asked, “Okay, I guess.  But what do I do if the little brats bite me?  My tail is still sore from where Missy bit me yesterday.”

I stared at Melissa and Jay as I said, “If they bite you, or deliberately try out their claws on you, or anyone else for that matter, then swat them.  Since you are responsible for them, you get to punish them.”

I pulled Brandy close and whispered in her ear, “But if you use your claws or teeth on them, or really hurt them, people will be calling you ‘Stubby’ when I finish with you, you understand?”

Brandy stared wide eyed at my wide toothy smile as she quickly nodded and said, “Yes, yes, I'll take good care of them, I promise.”

I turned to Melissa and Jay, who were starting to show signs of impatience, and said, “I will be busy for a while, but as soon as I can, we'll go see what we can find to eat.  Until then, Brandy will be watching out for you, and I want to you two to stay out of trouble, okay?”

Melissa and Jay both said, “We'll be good.” then ran off after some other kids, or cubs, about their own age.  Before Brandy took off after them I advised, “Let them play and have fun.  If you try being too bossy, they'll run you ragged.  I just expect you to keep them in one piece, and out of trouble as much as you can.”

Brandy said, “Okay, I'll keep the brats in one piece, but I don't know about the keeping them out of trouble part,” as she ran off to join the other baby-sitters chasing after the little ones.

Deering, having padded up silently close by, commented, “I'm glad I'm not stuck watching those little furry bundles of teeth and claws.”

I nodded and chuckled, “Yeah, me too.  Were those kids as wild before their transformations as they are now?”

Deering grunted and answered, “No, not that I heard about.  But then that wasn't something I would hear about unless things really got bad.  I have something more important to discuss with you.  These things you say some mysterious ‘they’ have turned us into, Chakats you called them, assuming you are right about this, do you happen to have any idea why ‘they’ did such a thing?”

“No, not really, just a few guesses based on what I've observed of my fellow passengers, and what little I overheard on the plane before we were taken.  All of which maybe totally misleading.” I replied, “I think what is happening to us might be part of some kind of sociological experiment, but I really don't know.”

Deering gave me a sour look as shi said, “If you are anywhere near right, then whoever ‘they’ are is probably observing us in someway.”

I nodded and agreed, “Yes, I'd assume they would be watching us somehow.  I also assume you have a problem with this.”

“Of course I do!” Deering said in an exasperated tone, “Doesn't that bother you?”

“Yeah, of course it does,” I agreed, “but I really doubt there is anything we can do about it.  I doubt we can even detect their observation, assuming we really are being watched, so why worry about it?”

As Deering looked like she was about to explode, I glanced around, and shook my head a little as I chewed on my lip.  Her eyes widened, and glanced around too, as she visibly calmed down, then she nodded as said, “Yes, I guess you're right about that. . . assuming we are being watched.  We will have to talk about this again in a few days.”

Deering did not look at all happy as she walked away.  I understood how she felt.  Anyone who could transform us like they did could easily bug every cave in the area we might use for shelter in ways we could never detect.  I hoped I was just being just paranoid, but if I was not, I hoped ‘they’ just bugged the likely shelters we might use.  Given the obvious level of technology, ‘they’ could have actually implanted each one of us with our own personal monitor and tracer.  I really hoped and prayed I was just being paranoid as far as this was concerned.

Continued in
Day Two : Bamboo Canyon

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