The Last Straw
by Tim Rumph
Chapter 7


Will told the kids that they could come back in, and then John followed them in. Andre had gone somewhere and didnít come in with them. John told Eleanor, "Give Teri and Auntie Jo a hug; itís time for us to go home." Eleanor hugged Teri and then climbed up on the bed to hug Jo as the nurse came in with a tray. She was a human. She smiled and said, "Ah-ha! Tom told me about his rule Ė nobodyís supposed to be up there except Teri."

Teri said, "Eleanor has to leave, so she needs to hug my mom. Sheís not much bigger than I am."

The nurse smiled at Teri, "Well, I guess itís OK this time, but I donít want to see both of you up there!"

Jo smiled, "Thanks, Tammy. John, thanks for letting us borrow Eleanor. Sheís been a big help to Teri and me."

John smiled as Eleanor came over to him. "Glad to do it. We all want you to get better." He looked down at his daughter. "You ready to go now?"

Eleanor nodded. "Bye Auntie Jo, Uncle Will. Bye Teri, see you later."

As they left, Andre came in with bags full of good smelling stuff. Shi said, "I bribed Tammy into letting me bring dinner up from the cafeteria, so we could all eat together."

Will smiled, "What did that cost you?"

Tammy turned to Will and said, "The price is that you will go home tonight with your daughter and hir grandmother." Will started to say something, but Tammy shook her finger at him and continued; "Now you listen here, Mr. Cochran. Iíve been working with Jo for longer than you two have been mated. I pulled rank to get up here to replace Liz while sheís on vacation, and Iím going to make sure that Jo gets the rest she needs. If you stay here, you two will be up all night talking. Iíd probably find you in her bed before the nightís over, so you are going home when normal visiting hours are over at eight oíclock."

Jo smiled sheepishly at Will. "Youíd better listen to her, dear, thatís the most powerful finger in the hospital."

Tammy glanced at Jo. "Yes it is, and donít you do anything to make me point it at you. Now, you all enjoy your supper."

She turned around and left. After they finished eating, Detective Smith called Will to tell him that he had installed a police department surveillance system outside the Cochransí house and had double-checked the com systems to make sure that they would work. He said that they should be fine at home and that, if anything did happen, the system would call his personal com as well as the police dispatch system. Will, Teri, and Andre said their last good nights to Jo and left at five ítil eight, making sure that Tammy knew they were leaving. They got a PPT and went back home.

Will, Teri, and Andre shared a bed that night, since Teri wasnít ready to sleep by hirself yet. Despite how worked up they had been over the events of the last few days, they were all asleep before 9:30 and slept the night through. Will woke up first the next morning and grabbed a shower, then he got dressed while Teri and Andre headed into the shower. Will went out and got breakfast put together and had everything ready by the time the others were dried off and dressed.

After breakfast, Andre said that shi had something shi had to do, so Will and Teri dropped hir off at hir house on their way to the hospital. They said hello to KoQuatomanta on the way to Joís room, and then followed a doctor, a human woman, inside. The doctor said, "Cochran, you know how I feel about your people, so Iím not going to act all nicey-poo about it. I didnít go to medical school to be a vet, but Morgenstern is making me do this. Your surgery is scheduled for four oíclock this afternoon; they will come up and get you prepped at three. You should be back here at 6:30.

"After the surgery, youíll stay here for therapy for two days, then you can go home. Iíll check you before you leave. You will have physical therapy every day for three weeks and Iíll see you again to see how youíre doing and what therapy you need. Hopefully, Iíll only have to see you once more after that and then I wonít have to mess with it any more."

She turned towards Will and said, "You can do a lot better than this. I donít understand you fur-philes." With that, she turned and left.

Will and Teri were stunned and just watched here go out the door. Finally, Teri turned to hir mom and said, "I donít like her."

Jo just shook her head and gave Teri a rueful smile. "Come on up here and give me a hug."

Teri climbed up onto the bed and gave hir mom a hug, then Will kissed Jo and sat down next to the bed, both of them with their arms around Teri. Will said, "Iím not sure that I want her operating on you with that kind of attitude."

Jo said, "Iím like Teri, I donít like her either, but sheís the best orthopedic surgeon in the city. Despite the fact that she doesnít like us, she is very meticulous and proud of her work. In fact, sheís so good the Morgenstern will hardly let anyone else work on Quange. About a third of her patients are Quange and other large Ďtaurs. Iíve never heard of any problems with their treatment. An injury like mine on a Quange is potentially life threatening, and she would be working with them for close to a year, rather than the few weeks that mine will take."

Will shook his head, "Well, if you say so. I still donít like it though."

Teri snuggled up closet to hir mom. "Mommy, why did those men hit you?"

Jo kissed hir and said, "I donít know, love. Some people just donít like furs."

"Bishop Johnson says weíre evil, and heís a preacher, does that mean that God doesnít like us either?"

Jo glanced at Will, they knew that this was coming. She turned back to Teri and said, "What does Pastor Lanier say about that?"

"He says that Jesus loves everybody and doesnít care what we look like." Teri thought for a minute, then added, "Does Jesus love the people that hit you too?"

Jo sighed and gave Teri a squeeze. "Yes Teri, Jesus loves them too."

"Then why did He let them hit you?"

"When God created the universe, he decided that the people in it should be able to decide for themselves what they would do. Some people decide to try to do what Jesus says, but they donít all agree what that means, so sometimes they argue with each other about it. God doesnít stop people who are doing things that are wrong."

"But there arenít any furs in the bible."

Jo smiled at Teri, "Youíve studied history, and you know that the first furs were created about three hundred year ago. Jesus lived about two thousand three hundred years ago, so there werenít any furs here when the bible was written."

Teri frowned, "But what about the Caitians and the Voxxans? They were here then."

"They were alive then, but they werenít here on Earth. When Jesus was alive, they didnít have any spaceships to go to other planets. They didnít have any PTVís or airplanes or trains either. People had to walk everywhere they went, or ride on horses, if they were rich or important, because horses cost lots of money and most people couldnít buy them."

"So they didnít know that there were other people on other planets?"

"No, they thought that the Earth was the only place where there was anything alive at all. They didnít even know that the stars were other suns that had their own planets."

Teri looked up at hir mom. "Didnít that make them lonely, to be all by themselves?"

"The Earth was all they knew about, so they didnít miss other people because they never knew about them." She thought for a second. "Do you remember when your dad was in London and your Grandma Andre fixed locusts for breakfast?"


"Did you like them?"


"Well, did you miss not having them before shi fixed them for you?"

Teri thought for a minute. "No, because I didnít know about them."

Jo nodded. "Well thatís just like the people back in Jesusí day. They didnít know about people on other planets, so they didnít miss them."

"But God knew about people on other planets. He knows everything."

"Yes, but he doesnít tell us everything He knows. He makes us find out about it ourselves."


Jo looked up at Will, and Will smiled and said, "Teri, what would happen if I tried to tell you about how I make the gears for the machine that Quont is trying to build?"

"I donít think Iíd understand. I heard you talking to Quont and it doesnít make any sense."

Will nodded, "Thatís right. Thatís because you havenít learned all the stuff you need to understand it yet. Now, imagine what it was like back in Jesusí time. Most of the people were farmers and couldnít even read. They had never even seen a PTV, and they didnít have any electricity or computers. They didnít even have water in their houses, but had to go the well and lower a bucket with a rope to get their water, like in some of the shelters weíve stayed in when weíre camping in foxtaur territory. How could you explain to them about spaceships and people on other planets?"

Teri thought for a minute, then looked at hir mom. "This is hard stuff."

Jo hugged hir and gave hir a kiss. "Yes, love. Itís very hard stuff, but if you study hard, and pray, you can begin to understand some of it. Nobody can understand everything about God, because our brains arenít big enough, but if we help each other, sometime we can figure out what He wants us to do."

Later that morning, Joís obstetrician, Dr. McQueen, came in and closed the door behind her. She was a collie morph in her early fifties. Jo said, "Hello Ruth, Andy Purvis told me youíd be up here to see me."

Ruth smiled, "Yup, gotta check everything out." She gave Teri a scratch between the ears, and Teri smiled at her. "You need to get out of the way, kiddo, so I can check your mom. Go over and sit on your dadís lap."

Teri said, "OK Dr. McQueen."

"Hi Will, good to see you again, just wish it wasnít here."

Will smiled, "Hello Ruth. I think weíd all rather not be here. Am I in your way?"

"No, hon, youíre fine where you are." Knowing this familyís attitude about these things, she just pulled back the sheet on the bed and lifted up the bottom of Joís gown so she could start her examination.

She slaved the display on the wall to her scanner so everyone could see and started. Teri said, "You can see his tail better now!"

Ruth smiled and said, "Yup, and look at his feet. You can definitely tell that your little brother is going to be digitigrade like his sire." She started a running commentary while she continued her examination.

"Letís see here, fetal heartbeat is good. Oxygen and nutrient levels look OK." She started moving the scanner some. "Placenta looks like itís in good shape. Ö Uterine wall looks healthy and strong. Ö Cervix looks good." She winked at Teri, "We donít want your little brother sliding out before his time." She moved the scanner away from Joís belly. Now that the sheets were off, you could see that Jo was just beginning to show. She smiled at Jo, "All your parts seem to be going where theyíre supposed to and making room for the new kid. Heartbeat and respiration OK. Your hormone balance seems a little off, but nothing that I wouldnít expect after what youíve been through."

She finished up, and checked her PADD to make sure everything was properly recorded. "You both look to be in tip-top shape. I donít see anything to worry about." She covered Jo back up and turned to Teri, "You can get back up here now kiddo."

Teri climbed back up on the bed and Ruth said, "Come in to see me in a week, just to make sure, and then weíll continue with your normal schedule of examinations." She rubbed Teriís head again, "Looks like in another five months or so youíll have a little brother." She turned to Jo. "If you need anything, just call me. Youíve got my personal com code if you need me after normal working hours."

When KoQuatomanta came in, Andre followed him in. Shi was wearing a paper hat held onto hir head by an elastic band, and had a plate with a brownie on it. There was a candle burning in the brownie and shi had a bag hanging on hir elbow. Andre said, "Happy Birthday Will!"

Will was a little stunned as he watched Andre pass out hats and party favors to everyone, including KoQuatomanta, then they all sang "Happy Birthday" to Will/Dad/Mr. Cochran. Will blew the candle out on his brownie, and then shared it with Teri.

KoQuatomanta said to Jo, "Iím afraid you canít have any lunch today, since you have surgery this afternoon."

She looked up at him and nodded. "I understand. When are you going to let me have some real food?"

He smiled at her, "If Tammy says that you can have it, you can have a real breakfast in the morning."

She tried to remember her resolution to be a good patient, and managed a smile for KoQuatomanta. "Thank you KoQuatomanta."

"Youíre welcome. Now you enjoy yourselves and Iíll see you later."

He left and Jo turned to Will, "Not much of a birthday party, but Iíll make it up to you when I get home."

He smiled at her and gave her a kiss. She clutched him and didnít want to let go of him. Finally, Teri said, "When is it my turn to kiss Mom?"

They stopped and Will said, "Iíve got my family here, what else do I need for my birthday?"

Teri climbed back up on the bed and kissed hir mom, then turned around and gave hir dad a kiss, then held out hir arms to hir grandmother, and gave hir one too. Shi settled down next to hir mom. Jo said, "Iím glad that everybodyís here, because I need to tell you something." She gave Teri a hug, "Your dad and I decided Ö" she saw the look on Will face, "well, I decided that your dad should take the job that Quont offered him, and that we will be moving to Chakona."

Teri got a thoughtful expression on hir face. Jo asked hir, "I know this is a surprise for you, and not necessarily a happy one, what are you thinking?"

"Iím going to miss Eleanor and her dads."

Jo hugged hir, "I know you are. What about your other friends?"

"I havenít seen them much since I left the school. Iím going to miss some of them too, but some of the human kids donít want to see me any more. I think their parents donít like me. Will I be in a regular school again?"

Jo nodded, "Yes, they have very good schools there. I know you will make new friends quickly."

"I thought that Chakona was just for chakats."

Will said, "There are all sorts of people on Chakona. We will be moving to a city called Curtisport and most of the people who live there are not chakats, but skunktaurs like Quont and Slirparton."

"Will we able to take hikes and stuff in the woods like we do here?"

"Yes, there is even a foxtaur village on Mephitus, the island where Curtisport is."

Teri smiled, "Good, foxtaurs are neat people. Will I still be able to message Eleanor, Mike, and Melissa?"

Will nodded, "Yes, you can. It might take a little longer to get answers back though because they have to go a long way. Also, when itís day there, it might be the middle of the night here."

"Thatís OK. Itís like that with Mike anyway, since he moved to Australia." Shi gave hir mom a hug. "There wonít be any H1 people there will there?"

Jo said, "I donít think so. It wonít be anything like here. Almost everybody will be furs and the humans that live there are there because they like furs."

Teri smiled, "Thatís good, I think it will be OK."

When the nurse came to get Jo prepped for surgery, Will, Teri, and Andre went back to Willís house. Andre went into the kitchen to see what shi could put together for dinner, and Teri went across the street to see Eleanor and tell her the news. Will went into his office and called Quont.

Quont answered the com, "Hi Will, I didnít expect another call so soon."

Will smiled at his friend, "Hello Quont." His smile faded as he thought how to tell Quont their news. Finally he just plowed ahead, "Quont, thereís no easy way to start this, so Iíll just say it. Jo was badly injured the night before last in an H1 attack at a concert here. Sheís still in the hospital and is in surgery now to repair a broken femur."

Quont smile faded, "Makers, Will. How is she doing? Is her baby alright?"

Will nodded, "She is going to be fine. She has the best orthopedic surgeon in the area working on her, and our son came through it OK. Joís obstetrician examined her this morning and everything looks fine. She should be home Tuesday Ö um, three days from now. Sheíll have several weeks of therapy, but should recover fully."

Will saw Track and Slirparton come in to view and sit down on either side of Quont. "Please call us when you all get home together."

"I will. Itís good to see you, Track and Slirparton, but I didnít see Quont call you."

Slirparton said, "You should remember from when you were with Quontiale that a bond develops between skunktaurs and our mates." Will nodded, a trace of a smile returning to his face, remembering his time with Quont. "When one of the mates is a telepath, we share thoughts as well as feelings. We all knew what had happened as soon as you told Quontiale."

Will nodded. "I should have expected that. Well, I also have some other news: Jo and I have decided to emigrate to Chakona, provided you still have that job open for me."

Quont smiled, "Good, this will save us the trouble of kidnapping you. Joking aside, you will all be better off here than you are there."

"We told Teri today, and shi seemed to take it better than I expected. There are some close friends that shi will miss, but many of hir friends from school have been drifting away since we started having trouble when we took hir out of the school. Shiís looking forward to being in a Ďregular schoolí again."

Slirparton said, "You wonít have to worry about the schools here. Call the embassy in Melbourne today and theyíll get you started. They will have a form that we will need to fill out since youíre coming to work here."

Will rubbed his hands through his hair, "Itís Saturday here, so Iím not sure that there will be anyone there. Itís also the middle of the night there."

"Thatís fine, their AI can get you started, and send the information to the local consulate for follow-up."

Will said, "Iíll call them now then, and weíll all call you when Jo gets home."

Quont said, "Itís Sixthday today, so weíll all be off the next three days. You should be able to get us at home any time."

"Thanks, Iíll talk to you all later."

Will disconnected and placed a call to the Chakonan Embassy. After he had answered a few questions with the automated answering system, the image of a chakat came up in the holotank. "Good afternoon, I am Rosy, an AI belonging to the Chakona Immigration Department. How may I help you?"

Will was impressed. This was better than the run of the mill AI. He said, "My family and I would like to emigrate to Chakona. How do we get started?"

"Letís start with who you are. Please list the members of your family, starting with yourself, and give their age, species, sex and occupation."

Andre walked into the office and Will waved her over and shi sat down in a chair next to him. "I am William David Cochran. I am thirty-seven years old and a human male. I am an engineer in private practice working in machine design, manufacturing systems, and facilities management. My wife is Josephine Cochran. Jo is 40 years old and a fox morph female. She is a physician, a specialist in trauma surgery who currently works at the University Hospital. Our daughter is Teri Fleetfoot. Shi is seven years old and is a fox morph hermaphrodite." Will nodded to Andre, "This is Andre, Teriís paternal grandmother."

ĎRosyí nodded to Andre, so shi said, "I am Andre Fleetfoot, as Will said, Teriís grandmother. I am 62 years old and, like Teri, a hermaphrodite fox morph. I am a professional musician and music educator."

"Shir Fleetfoot, will your child, Teriís sire I presume, be coming with you?"

Andre shook hir head. "No, my daughter, Marcus, was killed in a traffic accident in 2322, before Teri was born while Jo was pregnant."

"My condolences. Mr. Cochran, I see that your call originates in the Holy Christian Kingdom of North America. Are you and Mrs. Cochran legally mated?"

Will shook his head. "No, we are not. That is not allowed in the HCKNA."

"I am aware of the local laws where you live. Your wifeís legal name is, though, Cochran?"

"Yes, she legally changed her name after we were wed in a church here."

ĎRosyí nodded. "Local laws also forbid you from adopting Teri?"

"Yes, that is true."

"Would you adopt Teri if it were legal to do so?"

Will nodded, "Yes, I would."

"Very well, are there any other family members?"

Will started to shake his head, but Andre said, "Yes, sort of."

ĎRosyí looked at Andre, then back at Will.

Will grinned sheepishly, "Thank you, Andre, Jo is pregnant and we probably wonít be leaving until after the child is born."

ĎRosyí smiled, "Congratulations. What are the sex and species of the unborn child?"

Will smiled, "He is a male fox morph. We havenít decided on a name yet."

"Very good. Now, who is his sire?"

"His sire is Sean Phillips, a fox morph male. Sean recently moved to Sydney, Australia with his mate, Alice Maeger, and their children Mike, Mitsy, and Sarah."

"Can you send me their contact information?"

"Of course, here it is," and he instructed the house AI to send it.

After a few seconds, ĎRosyí said, "I have it. Since your mating is not legally sanctioned, a chakat on the staff of the local consulate will have to meet with all of you together to evaluate you. This will determine if you qualify as a family unit under Chakonan law. Would you like to schedule that now?"

Will thought for a moment, "I need to talk with Jo first, sheís currently in the hospital."

"She is currently a patient at the hospital?"


"What were the circumstances that lead to this?"

"She was injured by in H1 attack at a concert here on the First of January."

"We have a news account of that attack. Your family may qualify for refugee status, and that would expedite your immigration request. That determination would have to be made by a Stellar Federation court.

"Now, do you have a job lined up already, or are you going to be looking for work or continuing in private practice?"

"I will be working for Cargo Engineering, Ltd. in Curtisport, on Mephitus."

"If you are going to be living in the Skunktaur Archipelago, you will also need immigration clearance from the local government there. I will send you information about that. Who are the principals of Cargo Engineering, Ltd.?"

"They are Quontiale, House Bluepaw, child of Xantal and Jarad, Chakat Powertracker, child of Bluespot and Starhunter, and Slirparton, House Redpaw, child of Randolph and Sweetpaws."

"Very good. I am sending you a form that they will need to fill out to accompany your application. Now, what about Mrs. Cochran?"

Will shook his head. "Jo hasnít started looking for a position there yet."

"Shir Fleetfoot?"

"I havenít started yet either."

"Very well. I will send you information about employment in Curtisport in addition to the other information you need. The local Chakonan consulate will be contacting you on Monday. If you think of anything else you need or have any more questions, I am sending my direct contact number, so please call me."

Will said, "Thank you, you have been very helpful."

ĎRosyí nodded to him, and Will terminated the contact. He turned to Andre and said, "I guess this is it. Jo and I had talked from time to time about leaving the HCKNA, but I never imagined that weíd go all the way to Chakona."

Andre nodded, "I donít imagine that Jo will have any trouble finding work, but Iím going to have to work some to find a position teaching music somewhere in the area."

"Iím sure you will find something."

Just then the com sounded Ė it was Teri calling from across the street. Will said, "Hi Squirt."

Shi smiled and said, "Hi Dad. Eleanorís dad asked if you and Grandma wanted to come over here for dinner, and I was wondering if I could spend the night here with Eleanor."

Will smiled, "Weíll be right over. Itís OK if you spend the night there, as long itís alright with John and Lindsey."

"Thanks Dad. Iíll tell them youíre coming."

Will and Andre got up and went across the street. After dinner, he went back to the hospital and Andre headed home.

When Jo woke up, she could smell that Will was in the room with her. She smiled and turned toward him. "Youíre awfully close; arenít you afraid Iíll clobber you again?"

Will returned her smile, "No, now Iím going to kiss you, so please donít bite me either."

When they finished, Jo said, "You donít know how much I want you. Just smelling you got me all soggy, and you know being pregnant makes me horny. Itís been days since weíve been together."

Will smiled at her, "I know, but if Tammy comes in here and catches me in bed with you, she wonít just shake her finger, sheíd throw me out the window!"

"Well, then you can be here with me all the time."

"Iíve got a better idea." Will got up a looked out the door, then closed it. He came back to Jo and kissed her, fondling one of her breasts under the gown. He then opened the gown so he could nuzzle her breast while he reached under the sheets.

As Breeze came out of the elevator and headed toward Joís room, shi felt the emotions coming from there and turned back toward the nursesí station, a smile on hir face. Shi knew that Jo needed what Will was giving her. As she came up to the nursesí station, Dr. Morgenstern came out of the elevator and walked up to the nursesí station and said, "Tammy, Iím going to check on Jo, she should be coming around by now."

"Certainly, Dr. Morgenstern."

Breeze stopped dead in hir tracks. While Jo needed what she was getting, it was certainly against hospital rules. Shi hurried up to Dr. Morgenstern and said, "Phil, I need to talk to you about scheduling the staff for counseling. Some of them have been reluctant to come in."

"How many havenít been in yet?"

"We still need to see eight people who were on duty or called in that night. I also want to see Jo and Teri and Will, but that will be on my own time."

"No, report that as working hours. Jo is staff and her well being depends on how her child and husband are doing as well."

"Thank you, Iíll do that."

"Give me a list, and Iíll see that they see your people."

He started to walk around hir, but shi interrupted him, "You are on the top of that list."

"I will call you Monday, Breeze. Now can I see my patient?"

Breeze felt Jo and Willís emotional level start to drop. Apparently they had finished. Shi was glad of that because shi couldnít thing of anything else to delay Dr. Morgenstern. Shi turned and followed him down the hall. He opened the door and shi followed him through, and hir jaw just about hit the floor. Will was still under Joís sheet, but there werenít any sexual feelings in here any more.

Will stood up, holding a bedpan. Breeze let out a sigh of relief, and could smell that it was full, and that Will had cleaned up Jo before she urinated into it. Dr. Morgenstern said, "Mr. Cochran, you should have called the nurse to help with that."

"I was here, so it seemed the thing to do. Excuse me for a moment."

Will went into the bathroom and emptied the pan, then got cleaned up. When he came out, the doctor said, "I observed your surgery Jo, and everything went well. Dr. Edwards will be in to check on you in the morning and tell you about your rehab schedule."

Will said, "I didnít like her attitude when she came in here yesterday morning."

Morgenstern nodded, "I donít like it much either, but sheís the best orthopedic surgeon in the state. I care more about that than her emotional attachment, or lack of it, to her patients."

Jo said, "Thatís what I told Will yesterday. She must have been chafing if you were observing her."

Morgenstern smiled, "I was the least of her worries. We did the procedure in O.R. Four and the gallery was packed with as many of the staff as could get in there. Iím sure that there were more watching it on the monitors."

"That must have irked her." Jo turned to Will. "O.R. Four has a huge gallery and is usually used for teaching medical students. Edwards usually uses O.R. Two, which doesnít have any gallery at all."

Will nodded as Dr. Morgenstern said, "O.R. Two also has heavy lift equipment for her larger patients. Now, Tammy told me about the deal you two have, so I know that Jo will get the rest she needs. Iíll see you all tomorrow."

With that, he turned and left. Breeze closed the door behind him and came back in to the room. Jo smiled at hir and said, "He nearly caught us breaking about a dozen hospital rules."

Breeze smiled back, "I know, I could feel you as I came down the hall. I managed to slow him down a little, and you were about finished, but I about had a heart attack when I came in and saw still Will under your sheets."

Jo said, "Thank you. I didnít expect him to come up here tonight."

Willís com rang. He said, "This is Detective Smith, Iíd better talk to him." He answered it and put it on speaker. "Hello Detective Smith, this is Will. Iím here with Jo and Breeze."

"Hello Mr. and Mrs. Cochran, Shir Springbreeze. I have some more questions for Mrs. Cochran and wanted to let you know how things are coming with my investigation. Can I see you tomorrow?"

Jo said, "One moment Detective," and pulled a PADD out from behind her mattress, "I have therapy scheduled for tomorrow from 9:30 to 11:30 and 3:00 to 5:00. Would right after lunch be OK, say about 12:45?"

"That will be fine, Iíll see you then. You might want to ask your lawyer to come too."

Will said, "Iíll call him tonight and ask him to drop by."

"Thank you sir, I hope you all have a good night. Iíll see you tomorrow."

He disconnected and Breeze said, "How did you get that? If Phil knew you had your staff PADD, heíd have a fit."

Jo smiled, "I asked KoQuatomanta to run down and get it for me while he was on break. I want to be a good patient, but I donít like being left in the dark about my treatment either."

Shi smirked at Jo. "Well, just make sure you donít get caught with it." Shi turned to Will, "I would like to see Teri on Monday morning, if thatís OK, for a counseling session."

Will nodded, "That should be fine. Shiís at Eleanorís house tonight."

"Thatís good. Since Eleanor knows what happened, being together should help Teri, even if they donít talk about it. I donít imagine they will."

"Shiís not real enthusiastic about coming down here. Can you do this somewhere else?"

"I can come over to your place."

"Good, Iíll let hir know youíre coming. Iíll also ask Roy. Do you remember Roy Lanier, the pastor at our church?"

Breeze nodded. "Yes, he presided at your wedding."

"Thatís right. Iíll ask him tomorrow after the service about seeing Teri and me as well." He smiled at Jo. "Shi had some hard questions for us this morning and I think he can give hir some of the answers shi needs."

Jo took his hand, "I hope so. I was kind of expecting that, but still felt out of my depth."

Breeze said, "That sounds like a good idea. Now I will leave you two alone, if you promise not to get into any more trouble." They just smiled at hir, not promising anything of the sort. Shi grinned, "Well, Iíll leave you two alone anyway." Shi hugged both of them and then left.

The next day, Will and Teri and Andre were waiting for Jo in her room when she came back from therapy. After Jo got settled in bed, Teri climbed up and gave her a hug. Jo asked, "So, how was church this morning?"

Teri said, "It was OK. Pastor Lanier said he wanted to talk to Dad and me."

Jo smiled, "That sounds like a good idea. Breeze will also be by to talk to you tomorrow."

"Dad told me."

The nurse brought Joís lunch in just then. KoQuatomanta was off today, so it wasnít him. While Jo started eating her first Ďreal lunchí since she had been here, Andre handed out the lunches for Will, Teri, and hirself, once again from the hospital cafeteria.

After they finished, Andre said, "Now, Teri and I have some things to do, so weíll see you tonight." They both hugged Will and Jo then left.

Will said, "Teri wants to be with you, but shi really doesnít like it down here."

Jo smiled, "I understand, but I should be home Tuesday."

Will and Jo talked for a while, then their lawyer, Jack Floyd, came in followed shortly by Detective Smith. Will got up and shook his hand, "Hello Detective. You have some news for us?"

"Yes, but first I need something from Mrs. Cochran." He got out his PADD and called something up. He handed it to Jo and asked, "Do you recognize any of these people?"

On the PADD were pictures of 12 men, all of them older, fit men with white hair. Jo said, "This one, number 4, is the one who hit me."

"Would you please select the one you recognize, and then verify and seal the affidavit that appears on the next screen?"

Jo selected the image. Jack came around and looked at the affidavit, and nodded, then Jo sealed it and handed it back to Smith.

Jack sat back down, and Jo asked Smith, "So, can you tell me who this is now?"

Smith pulled up a chair and sat also, "That is Edward Hughes. He was arrested Friday morning at Memorial Hospital. He was brought in seeking treatment for severe lacerations on his throat. His blood matched the blood samples that I took from your daughterís hands."

Will said, "So youíve caught the person who attacked Jo. Do you have any leads on the rest of them?"

"Weíve rounded up about a dozen who were caught at the scene that night, but none of them say that they know Hughes. He isnít talking to anyone but his lawyer."

Jo asked, "What do you know about him?"

"He is an ordained minister, so the clerical collar you saw is legit. Heís not with the State Church here though. He has been connected with some H1 activity before, but, from what the others are telling us, did not organize the attack when you were injured. There are a couple of fugitive warrants out for him from various jurisdictions, including one from England. Thatís where he is from, and he apparently stopped taking court ordered treatment for a mental illness before fleeing the country. He has never been convicted of anything, but we shouldnít have any trouble convincing a judge that he is a flight risk and denying him bail."

Jo frowned, "It sounds like heís been involved in this sort of thing before. Iíd like to see him put away, but I donít have much confidence in the HCKNA courts."

"One of the fugitive warrants is from a Stellar Federation court, so even if the local courts are lenient, he will have to be turned over to the Federation to get that settled."

Will frowned and said, "It seemed like it took a long time before the police started responding that night."

Smith nodded, "Weíve had several other witnesses mention that as well. Iíve gotten a judge to allow me to get an outside IT expert from the university to take a look at the police department computers. Apparently, there was something in the system to delay the calls from that area that night. It also intercepted the call from your house so it never went through."

"Could this Hughes have done that?"

Smith shook his head. "There isnít anything in his file that indicates that he has the skills necessary for something like this. This would have required special skills that even most IT people would have trouble with."

Jo glanced at will, then looked at Jack, "Jack, Will and I have reason to believe that someone in the State Church was behind this attack. Can we force this Hughes to testify?"

Jack shook his head. "Not in the HCKNA courts."

Will asked, "What about Federation court?"

Jack thought for a moment, "If you can convince a Federation court to do it, they can force him to testify with a telepath. That will insure that we get everything he knows about this into the record."

"Can you help us with that?"

He shook his head. "Thatís out of my league. As you know, I mostly do corporate law. I do know of someone, though, that may be willing to help. Iíll contact him and see if heíll come in and talk to you."

Smith got up and said, "I trust you wonít be going anywhere."

Jo glanced at Will, then turned back to Smith and said, "Actually, weíre planning on emigrating to Chakona."

Smith frowned. "When are you leaving?"

Jo shook her head. "Weíve just started the paperwork. I know it wonít be until our kit is born, in about five months."

"I hope we can get this wrapped up by then. Please let me know when your plans are finalized."

"We will."

Smith nodded and left. Jack asked, "Is there anything else you need from me?"

Will said, "When I talked to the AI at the Chakonan Embassy yesterday, it said that we may qualify as refugees because of what has happened to us. That would have to be decided in a Federation court."

"If this lawyer I mentioned is willing to help, Iím sure that he can take care of that as well."

Will glanced at Jo, who just shrugged. He said, "I guess that will be all for now. Thanks for coming by on a Sunday."

Jack got up. "Donít worry about that, Iím glad to help. Please call me if you need anything else." Will got up and they shook hands, then he left.

Breeze went over to the Cochrans house the next day and had a session with Teri and also one with Will. Shi told them that shi wanted to see them twice a week for the next couple of weeks, and then they would decide how to proceed from there. Will and Teri then went to the church to meet with Pastor Lanier. When they left there, Will was happy that they had done this. Teri seemed to be in a much better mood than shi had been since the attack.

They stopped by the hospital cafeteria to pick up some lunch to eat with Jo. After they finished lunch, Lindsey called. Will put the com on speaker and said, "Hello Lindsey." There was a lot of noise on the com, it sounded like a crowd of people. "Whatís going on over there? It sounds like youíre having a party."

Lindsey said, "Let me step outside for a minute." They heard the noise level drop, then a door shut. "Thatís better. Iíve got a whole crowd of kids over here. Weíre getting ready to go over to the science museum, and then go to get some pizza at Luigiís for supper. I was just wondering if Teri wanted to come along."

Teriís face lit up and shi jumped off of the bed, "Can I go, Dad?"

Will smiled, "Yes, you can go."

Shi came over and hugged him, "Thank you, Dad!"

Will turned back to the phone, "Lindsey, weíre at the hospital, can you swing by and pick Teri up, or do you want us to meet you down there?"

"Weíll come get hir. It will be a few minutes to get everybody loaded."

"OK, weíll meet you at the main entrance."

Jo said, "Lindsey, I thought school started back up today."

Lindsey said, "It does, but some of us have decided to follow your example. If itís alright, John and I would like to come by and talk with you about that when he gets off this afternoon."

"Iíve got therapy from three to five, but anytime after that should be fine."

"Weíll see you then. Teri, Iíll see you and your dad in a few minutes."

Will took Teri downstairs, and then came back up to Joís room. Jo smiled and said, "That sounded like too many to fit in Johnís PTV. What kind of crowd did they have?"

"There were three vans full."

"Were they all furs?"

Will shook his head. "No, Eleanor was with them, of course, and I also saw Linda. Sharon was driving one of the vans. I saw three other human kids, so it wasnít all furs."

Jo frowned. "If Sharon pulled her daughter out of school, sheís got to be having a hard time at her church."

Will nodded, "I know she told me that there was a lot of support for us there, but I canít see it being that many people, certainly not a majority. Sharon told me that Bob is serving on the Sacristy Committee. Heís not one to quietly accept something he doesnít agree with. He and Sharon have always been friendly with Teri and have never objected to Linda visiting or having Teri over there."

"True, and Teri likes Linda well enough that shi doesnít even object to having to wear a bathing suit in the pool when she visits. I canít imagine asking them about swimming in the nude; that would be pushing them too far." Will nodded and Jo continued on a different subject. "Did you talk to the local Chakonan Consulate? Thereís one near the University, isnít there?"

Will nodded, "Yes, we have an appointment with a Shir Softtongue on Thursday afternoon. Shi said that shi will come over to our house and needs to see all of us together."

"That should work fine. Iíve got my therapy schedule already and my appointments are in the mornings this week. Does Andre need to come?"

"Shi said that Andre can join us if shi wants to, but it isnít necessary. Since Andre doesnít live with us and isnít planning to live with us in Curtisport, hir application will be processed separately, but shi will get special consideration as extended family. Softtongue said it shouldnít cause any problems. I also got the employment form and have filled out my section and sent it to Quont. They sent some links to the employment database in Curtisport."

"Good, Iíll take a look at that when I get home. Iíll also contact the local hospitals directly. What about travel arrangements?"

Will smiled, "Slirparton said hy would pay for our tickets; calls it one of the costs of doing business."

Jo grinned. "I guess they really do want you, but Iím going to have to keep an eye on Quont."

Will laughed at that. "I think that Quont is plenty busy with hys mates and Skyspot."

At that point, Dr. Edwards came into the room without knocking. She glared at Will before turning to Jo. "Cochran, your therapy is proceeding as planned." She handed Jo a PADD, "Here are your discharge papers. You can leave after this afternoonís session." Jo signed the form, and with that, Edwards glared at Will again and then left.

Will watched her leave, a stunned expression on his face. He turned to Jo. "If sheís like that with all her fur patients, Iím surprised she doesnít get clawed."

Jo shook her head. "Sheís not like that with her other patients. Morgenstern wouldnít stand for that, regardless of how good she is, but Iím staff and already know how she feels about us, so she figures it doesnít matter with me."

"Isnít it unusual to be discharged this late in the day?"

"Yes, but Iím not going to argue with her. Iíd much rather be home tonight than spend another night here." She gave Will a predatory grin, "Tammy doesnít care what we do in our own bed! Now get up a sec so that I can use the bathroom before they come and get me."

While Jo was at her therapy session, Will called Lindsey to tell him and Teri that Jo was coming home that evening and to ask that he and John see them later in the week. Lindsey brought some pizza home with him when he brought Teri back, and after Will and Jo finished eating, Will helped Jo into the shower and then he and Teri gave her a good scrubbing. After they dried off, Teri gave hir parents a hug and went to hir room. Will helped Jo into bed. Jo said, "Iím beat. I didnít realize that just coming home and having some dinner and a shower would be so exhausting."

"Well, Iíll make sure you get a good nightís sleep."

Jo chuckled, "You donít get off the hook that easily. Iím tired, not comatose. Now, get up behind me." Will climbed into bed behind her and started cuddling and nuzzling her. Jo asked, "That feels nice, but are you hard?"


"Good, Iím ready. Just go nice and slow. If I nod off, keep on going until you come."

Will did as he was told. When he did come, he cleaned them up some with a towel he had brought with him, and then he heard a gentle knock on the door and Teri stuck hir head in. Shi asked, "Are you done?"

Will smiled at hir, "Yes, but how did you know? I tried to be quiet."

Shi smiled back, "You smell different when youíre done." Shi came in and got up on the bed in front of hir mom. Fluffy also came in and curled up behind Willís legs.

Will had thought that Jo was asleep, but she hugged Teri and said, "I love you dear. Itís good to be home."

Shi said, "Me too."


To be continued in Chapter 8.

Copyright © 2008 Tim Rumph – tarumph AT

Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.

The Holy Christian Kingdom of North America is the creation of John Plunkett.

Skunktaurs were created by Bob Reijns.

Quange were created by Roy D. Pounds II.


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