A FOREST TALE 20: More Terrible Than Chains (a.k.a. Leanna’s Story)
Part 1: Perilous Freedom
By Bernard Doove © 2003

The nude fennec fox morph stood in the middle of the extravagantly decorated bedroom, next to the huge four-poster bed that dominated it. Her crotch was damp and her penis still partially erect and slick as she watched the human form on the bed twitching from seizures, spittle dribbling from his mouth. "Hurry up and die!" Leanna whispered softly but defiantly, her voice tremulous from fear. The fennec’s petite form quivered with the tension of the moment, her iron resolve battling with the strong slave-indoctrination that was pushing her to call for medical help. On top of all that were her unrequited physical desires; her penis still straining to perform its function, demanding to have its cravings satiated. However, for once in her life, she defied both the will of her master and the demands of her body in order to end an existence that was no longer tolerable. That it would mean her death sooner or later, she no longer cared.

Her master’s life slowly ebbed out of his body. She glanced at the pills on the chest of drawers that were responsible for his present condition. The seizure brought on by the drug overdose would be fatal if she didn't get him medical assistance urgently, yet she made no move to the comm unit that would bring help in moments. Instead, she watched as the human breathed his last, then nervously reached for his arm. Afraid that any moment he would suddenly revive, she could hardly bring herself to touch him. Eventually though she picked up his arm and checked for a pulse. None! Triumph filled her. "Free," she said almost unbelievingly. "Free from him after all this time!" The massive relief she felt soon came crashing down, to be replaced by terrible sobs as the burden of fear and uncertainty replaced it. Eventually though, the sexual urges that plagued her resurged anew. Her master had died without fulfilling those needs today, but her body would not, nor could not, accept delays. Her partial erection grew to its utter fullness, demanding to be sated. With a cry of anger at still being forced to do her dead master's will, she climbed onto the bed. Moving the man’s body into position, she plunged her throbbing penis into him again and again, weeping tears of humiliation at the manner in which she was compelled to assuage her needs.

[Several weeks previously...]

"But master, Leanna needs you!" Leanna desperately said. She had gone into rut this morning, and as always, her body demanded attention.

"Why should I attend to your needs when you can’t even fulfil the task that I set for you?" Leanna’s master sneered contemptuously at his special slave, a slave with many hidden talents designed to serve his purposes. A slave who had let him down. "All you had to do was find out what Phoebe’s new product was, and you failed to get even a hint!"

"But master, mistress Phoebe would not say anything, no matter what Leanna tried. Leanna could do no more without revealing that she is not merely an idiot sex slave."

"Pah! Stick a cock in that woman and she would tell you anything! You’ve done it before and you know that she has the worst ability of any of our competitors to keep a secret."

Leanna cringed, knowing that this was indeed the truth, but last night had been different. "Leanna knows this, but for some reason this time she would not talk at all. Perhaps she suspects where the last leak came from?"

The man sneered. "That woman suspect? She isn’t that smart. Anyone who lets out their secrets so easily merely for sex hasn’t got what it takes to survive in this business. No, I blame you, and for that you deserve to be punished."

Leanna knew that her master had equal contempt for most of his competitors. At one time or another, her master had gifted the services of his ‘special’ sex-slave to them after, or even during, some special function. Everyone knew that his sex slaves were invariably so stupid that they were barely smart enough to fulfil their designed function. No one dreamed that the unusual fennec morph was not only intelligent, but probably even more so than them. She was very adept at wheedling out information from her unsuspecting victims without them ever realising anything, but this time she had failed. "Master! Leanna tried her best! She always tries to satisfy your demands. Please tend to Leanna’s needs!" she pleaded.

The man turned away. "No. I am displeased with you and you will be taught a lesson. You will stay in your room until I tell you otherwise." With that, he stepped out of the room and the door closed automatically behind him.

Leanna stared in disbelief at the closed door, anger swelling within her. How could he do this to her? She had never failed before, but it was inevitable that it would happen one day. Why did she deserve such a harsh punishment? Just then, her swollen member throbbed and a surge of raw lust crashed through her body. Leanna groaned, knowing that as strong as this was, it would only keep getting worse. She collapsed on her bed, desperately trying mental exercises to relax, only to have another surge of sexual desire undo all her efforts. For the thousandth time, she strove to put her hand on her rigid penis to masturbate, only to have the memory of her painful conditioning force it away again. There would be no relief until her master decided to give it, and if she judged him correctly, that would not be soon. Leanna wept from frustration, anger and the growing pain due to lack of relief from the sexual demands of her body.

Half a day later, Leanna stopped drinking. She couldn’t concentrate on anything now, not even assuaging her thirst. Her bed was a wreck due to her thrashing about constantly, vainly trying to find a position that was marginally less stressful. At one stage, she had beaten at the locked door screaming for her master to come and service her. All that had achieved was several large dents in the door and another surge of hormones that only increased her needs.

Another day without relief or sleep passed before the dehydrated and exhausted fennec collapsed into unconsciousness….

"......... almost certainly would have died if you had left calling me any later.” Leanna realised that there was another person in the room. She didn’t open her eyes yet, but after a brief moment of fear, she realised that the lust was gone, and this was most likely a doctor called to help her, and he had neutralised the rut in some manner. She kept listening.

"Why should I care if she had died? I could always make another like her." Her master’s callousness was shocking even to Leanna who thought she was used to his sadistic nature by now.

She sensed the doctor’s disapproval in his tone, but he obviously could not bluntly tell what a master could do with his slave. "The medication I gave her should stop the return of the physical demands for sex until the next cycle, but she should be otherwise be back to normal soon, although what is normal for this unusual morph of yours, I’m not exactly sure. Have your slaves give her plenty of liquid nourishment when she awakens, and I recommend that you let her rest a day or two also."

"I’ll judge when she is ready to return to her duties, doctor. Now if you’re quite finished, the major-domo will see you to your vehicle."

Leanna’s sensitive ears picked up the low murmur of contempt from the doctor, either not heard or ignored by her master. Then the door closed and Leanna realised she was alone in the room. She opened her eyes. The first thing that she saw was the drip tube feeding into her left forearm. Considering the amount of fluid that she had lost in the 40 hours or so that she’d been in the rut, it was hardly surprising. Leanna sat up in her bed and examined herself. Her penis was back in its sheath, completely flaccid and undemanding, and once again she looked almost completely like the fennec vixen that she considered herself to be, rather than a freak with extra male genitals. What still shook her up though was her master’s casual contempt for very existence. Despite her lowly stature, she had always felt that she had some value in her master’s eyes, whether it was for her services as his assistant or merely to satisfy his personal sex kinks. In two sentences though, he had wiped out her entire sense of self-worth. Tears started to flow as misery more intense than even when she was in the rut crashed down upon her.

"Now this is what I call travelling in style!" Forestwalker declared as shi plonked hir travel bags down on the stateroom floor and luxuriated in the roominess and lush furnishings of hir accommodations for the next several weeks. Hir cubs, Snowcloud and Patchwork started exploring the room, but their sister, the newborn Windrunner, stayed fast asleep in hir saddlebag carrier on Forest’s back.

"Rrank has its privileges, as you say on Terrra," Rosepetal Silpurr said, rolling her R’s in typical Caitian fashion. She smiled in amusement at Forest’s reaction.

The two were an odd duo, with their only resemblance being that they were both felinoids. Forestwalker, or just Forest to hir friends, was a chakat and, despite the fact that hir kind had only been around for a couple of hundred years, a native of Terra (or plain old Earth to the natives). Hir species had been created in the genetic laboratories at the end of the Great Reconstruction, and they had represented the pinnacle of scientific achievement in that field at the time. They were also radically different from anything ever created before. For starters, they were taurforms, a fairly new concept in morph species at that time. This meant that they had a four-legged torso which, in this particular case, was based on the powerful and sleek form of one of the Big Cats. However, where the neck would normally begin, instead began another torso, this time vertically aligned. This part strongly resembled a humanoid female with the exception that it was covered with just as much of the thick jaguar-patterned fur as the lower torso. The hands were almost human with the exception of claw-like nails and short dense fur covering them except on the finger and palm pads. The breasts were very large and firm. However, the head that sat upon the neck was anything but human. A feline’s head, similar to that of a jaguar except for the higher forehead indicating a larger braincase, topped the body out at about 170 centimeters, or five feet seven inches in the old style which still inexplicably persisted for measuring people’s heights in casual conversations. Chakats tended to have hair that was long and thick like a mane, but Forest kept hir raven-black hair cropped neatly to about shoulder length. This completed the base form of the feline centauroid, but there were a few things that made chakats significantly different from other taurforms other than their species. For starters, their tails were exceptionally long, strong and prehensile. A look at their forepaws would reveal that the digits were much longer than a natural cats, and the dewclaw extended into a semi-thumb, thus enabling them to grasp objects in their ‘handpaws’. But the biggest difference, although not terribly obvious at a casual glance, was that they possessed both sets of genitals. Despite hir very feminine looks, Forest was a fully functional hermaphrodite.

Rosepetal’s kind, on the other hand, didn’t even originate from Earth. Despite the resemblance to a cat, she was an alien from a world named Cait, which was the Terran form of the actual name of the planet. Since it was pretty much unpronounceable to almost every other species though, most settled for using the common name. Even the name Rosepetal used was the Terran version of her true name. It translated roughly to mean ‘Petal of the Thorn Flower’, and so she chose her Terran name to closely reflect that. Unlike Forest, she stood on two legs, although she was digitigrade, thus basically only her toes normally met the floor. Her balance was very good, helped a lot by the long tail that swung casually behind her, the tufted end a frequent target for the playful cubs. The snugly fitting ship uniform that she wore showed off a lean and lithe feminine form that only reached as high as five foot four, and she had moderately-sized breasts filling out her top. Unlike Forest though, Rosepetal was only female. Her hands were blunter and more paw-like than Forest’s, but had retractable claws which she meticulously maintained. Her head had a smaller muzzle than Forest, resembling a house cat’s, and shi had large golden eyes. Her hair reached halfway down her back and was light brown in colour, softly contrasting with the tan and beige fur that covered the rest of her body.

Both wore Star Fleet duty uniforms, although where Rosepetal’s reached from neck to ankles, Forestwalker only wore the top half on hir upper torso. Typical of many taurforms, chakats generally disdained wearing clothing on their lower torsos except for special occasions. Both were mostly black except for the cuffs of the long sleeves and a diagonal section of colour that covered both shoulders, but ended just under the armpit on their right side, and at waist level on their left side. Whereas Rosepetal’s had a blue swatch though, Forest had a green one, indicating that hir department was life-sciences, while Rosepetal’s indicated that her department was the physical-sciences. The collars bore radically different rank markings. Rosepetal’s had the three round pips that indicated that she was a full Commander, and she was the First Officer of the ship both were currently on: the Pegasus. Forest’s collar had bars though, indicating a civilian rank. Shi had come aboard as a mission specialist, and while shi didn’t have any naval command authority, shi did have authority to order around lesser-rank Star Fleet personnel assigned to hir department.

"You’re the one with the rank, not me," Forest demurred.

"As the mate of the Captain of this vessel, not to mention my co-wife, you’re entitled to nothing but the best also. You have several cubs to look after too, so you’re going to need all these rooms," Rosepetal countered.

"You won’t get any argument out of me there, Rose! My travels with Midnight were pretty comfortable, but just adequate for taurs like us. I’m more than happy to have this much room."

Rosepetal’s voice purred with amusement. "Pegasus is a pretty big ship. We can spare the space."

"I noticed how big it was. I’m going to have to study the layout of the decks to make sure I don’t get lost! I don’t have the advantage of the regular crew in being familiar with Fleet ships."

"I’ll assign a yeoman to you to make sure you get orientated and the cubs are adequately cared for in your absence. In fact, I might as well assign Yeoman d’Armand. She already looks after my daughter and keeps Kayla from getting underfoot when I have to be on duty. She’s very good with children."

"That sounds like a very good idea to me. I’ll get started on the unpacking in the meantime. Hmm, have you seen our elusive mate anywhere? I thought he might be here when I arrived."

Rosepetal smiled. "Knowing Boyce, you’ll probably find him down in Engineering, going over the upgrades personally. You know him. You can promote the man out of the engineering department, but you can’t take it out his blood!" Both laughed at that. They knew how much he still enjoyed taking a hands-on approach to everything, but it undoubtably made the regular crew nervous when a Fleet Admiral came digging into equipment that they’d already checked over.

Rosepetal turned to leave, but paused at the doorway to say one more thing. "Just a reminder, Forest. Unlike the Star Corps vessel you were on previously, this is a military ship, and discipline is much tighter. When you’re on duty, and pretty much anytime you’re outside these staterooms, I am Commander Silpurr, not your co-mate Rosepetal. Don’t presume on familiarity unless it is offered first. If I give you an order, it is not subject to debate or vote. The same should be true with Boyce, although he’s been guilty of many appalling lapses of his own, but when you’re his rank you can get away with a lot more!"

"It’s okay, Rose, I understand. Hopefully I won’t slip up," Forest replied soberly.

Rosepetal nodded, then left the room, the door swooshing shut automatically behind her.

Forestwalker looked around and realised that the room was too quiet. ‘Now what are those little troublemakers up to?’ shi thought, then headed for the bedroom in search of the twins.

Rosepetal, or more precisely Commander Silpurr now, headed for her office. Her mind was turning over the ramifications of having Forestwalker on the crew this mission, but she didn’t foresee any major dramas. However, to forestall some possible problems, she made sure that the first thing that she did when she got to her office was to contact Yeoman d’Armand and assign cub-minding duties to her for the first watch. She then picked up the PADD laying on the desk, displaying the roster of new crewpersons assigned to the Pegasus. She’d gone over the records of the new people and had been satisfied that they would fit in well in their new assignments… all except one. The Pegasus had need of a new Assistant Chief Medical Officer since their previous one had been promoted to another ship. Doctor M’Lai Saarath had come with high recommendations for her medical abilities, but with a personal history of strange incidents that had followed her from ship to ship. The trouble was that most of them were sealed under Personal Privacy, leaving Rosepetal with no information to go on when evaluating her new medical officer, and why so many had frequent problems with her. Therefore she had left orders for the doctor to report to her office before commencement of the voyage so that she could do a personal evaluation, and she was due very soon. Rosepetal was reviewing M’Lai’s qualifications when the door chimed.

"Enter!" she ordered.

Rosepetal and M'Lai

The door slid quietly open to reveal a Caitian female, the doctor Rosepetal had been expecting… only not quite what she had preconceived. There was nothing unusual about the tan fur that covered her evenly as far as could be seen, and her long, glossy reddish-brown hair and tail-tuft were attractive but quite normal. However, while Rosepetal’s height of 157cm (5’2") was very tall for a Caitian, M’Lai towered at 193cm (6’4"), a totally unnatural height for any Caitian. Nevertheless, Rosepetal had seen tall felinoids before, both Terran morph species and the even taller Rakshani, so that initial surprise was quickly put aside for the sheer disbelief of M’Lai’s other outstanding attributes. All Rosepetal could think of was the human term because Caitian didn’t really have an equivalent – she was absolutely stacked! The medical uniform that she wore was obviously straining to contain breasts that simply did not grow that big on Caitians normally. Rosepetal had a modest bust by human standards, yet in the upper sizes by Caitian standards. She felt totally flat-chested next to M’Lai though. This hardly seemed to be a Caitian; more like an amazon!

M’Lai waited patiently, quite used to the reaction from Caitians and Terrans alike. When she felt that the commander had gotten enough of an eyeful, she moved over to the desk, saluted, and said, "Lieutenant M’Lai Saarath reporting, sir!"

Rosepetal shook off the shock she was feeling. She had a suspicion that she already knew part of the reason why trouble followed this person. "Sit down, lieutenant. I need to discuss a few things with you."

M’Lai nodded and sat down on the indicated seat, slipping her tail through the slot designed for people with that appendage in mind. "If I may, sir, I think I can save us both a lot of time and explain a few things about my… unusual nature."

Rosepetal glanced at the uninformative PADD that she was holding, then put it aside, crossed her arms on the desk in front of her and leaned forward. Her ears swivelled to focus on M’Lai. "I’m listening."

M’Lai took a deep breath to start a familiar story. "Until the time that we females start the growth spurt that signals the beginning of our adolescence, I was an absolutely normal child. That soon changed though when my parents realised that I was growing much faster than everyone else. At first they were pleased that I was growing into such a big strong adult. That changed when I didn’t stop growing, and neither did my breasts. When my first estrus came, we all knew something was definitely wrong. I nearly went out of my mind with sexual desire. The stress nearly killed me, and only prompt medical attention saved my life. While recovering though, I was subjected to a battery of tests to discover the cause of my condition. They eventually discovered a benign tumour in my brain that had been overstimulating the gland that controls growth. Because of its location, doing something about the tumour was excessively risky, but eventually they were able to devise a procedure to deal with it, but not before I reached this height."

"And that bust size?" enquired Rosepetal.

"Yes," M’Lai acknowledged. "My height wasn’t the only thing that was greatly enhanced. And yet, my physical attributes are not my biggest problem. Commander, the information that you haven’t found out about me, because it’s locked behind Privacy protocols, all revolves around my biggest problem – I am a clinical nymphomaniac." M’Lai saw Rosepetal’s eyes open wide in surprise and let her digest this information for a moment before continuing. "Parts of my brain were affected also, mostly in the pleasure centre. That area is about three times the size it should be, and any sort of sexual stimulation has a far stronger effect on me than for any other Caitian. Before we knew it, I was hooked on the ecstasy of sex. I literally crave it constantly."

"How can you function like that though?" Rosepetal asked, genuinely concerned. "Couldn’t the medics do something about it?"

"Of course they did. I had several options. Firstly, surgery to reduce the part of the brain that was doing this to me. The dangers are obvious – damage to areas that shouldn’t be touched, not enough done, too much, or worst of all, total loss of the ability to feel pleasure."

"The skill of brain surgeons is quite great. Surely the risk was trivial?"

"While their skill is great, they’d never dealt with something quite like this before, so there was plenty of room for error. Besides, I didn’t really like this option at all."

"Why not?"

"Because to me it would be depriving me of something positive. How would you feel if someone took away over half your ability to feel pleasure?" Rosepetal shuddered at the very idea. "Sure, I had far more than was normal, but to me this was normal. I might lack control, but by the Goddess, I really enjoy it."

Rosepetal wasn’t entirely sure that M’Lai shouldn’t have tried the procedure anyway, but obviously she hadn’t, so, "What other options were there? Drugs?"

"Yes, exactly. The medics eventually found a combination of drugs and hormone treatments that would dampen my sexual desire without destroying my ability to feel pleasure. I have an implanted drug-delivery device that delivers the medication as required, and will need to use it for the rest of my life unless some new procedure is found. Even so, I walk the knife-edge between control and total lack of constraint. Too much of the drugs impairs my brain functions, so I must be judicious in their use."

"I’m guessing that occasionally you have slipped up and that accounts for the… incidents on the other starships?"

"Unfortunately, you’re correct. Times of exceptional stress coming at a bad time of my sexual cycle can overload the system, and once that happens, I no longer have any inhibitions and my judgement is no longer very rational And while some captains have understood and sympathised with my problem, they’ve all felt that I’d be better off on some other ship than theirs."

"How did you end up as a medical doctor though? And in Star Fleet?" Rosepetal asked curiously.

"Not surprisingly, my constant trips to the hospital to deal with the tumour, etcetera, got me interested in the medical profession. However, it’s because this was the biggest hospital of the capital city, Kt'trr'nass, it was also used for sick visiting aliens. I saw my first human there, soon followed by many other species. I was absolutely fascinated by them, and this eventually led me to pursue a career in medicine specialising in xenobiology. I did exceptionally well, which attracted the attention of Star Fleet which offered me a position as a starship medical officer. I took it immediately. It was a dream come true for me."

"That makes sense. And I suppose being a medic allows you to monitor your own condition better too?"

"Yes, that’s true," M’Lai agreed.

"Well, that isn’t enough for this ship, lieutenant," Rosepetal said sternly. "You will apprise the Chief Medical Officer of your medical needs and what is necessary to maintain your control. While I can’t order you to disclose subjects specifically covered by Privacy protocols, I strongly urge you to take advantage of doctor-patient confidentiality and fully inform Dr Kelly of all aspects your condition." She added to herself, ‘It’s a good thing Dr Kelly is a female also!

"I’ll do that, sir," M’Lai agreed, unsurprised by the orders.

"Good. I need to be able to rely on all my crew, and I don’t want to have any incidents like they had on the other ships. I don’t expect miracles of you, M’Lai, but I do demand that you do everything within your ability to see that your problem does not interfere with your duties. Is there anything else that can be done to this end?"

"As a matter of fact, the counsellor on the last starship I was assigned to had recommended trying martial arts as a form of self-discipline just before I was transferred. He felt that it could help supplement the drugs, and help at those rare times when things went wrong."

Rosepetal mulled this over in her mind, then nodded. "I agree. Therefore I’m going to assign you to classes with our Chief of Security. Lieutenant Commander Midnight holds these classes daily after first shift. I expect you to attend every day for the first week, until or unless the commander recommends otherwise."

"Understood. Is that all, sir?" M’Lai queried.

Rosepetal nodded. "I think that should do for now. I think I have a handle on you, but I’ll be keeping my eye on you." She smiled. "Don’t worry, lieutenant, I’ll just be getting up to speed on all your quirks, just as I do with any other crewmember. I think you’ll find that you’re hardly the only unusual character that we have on this ship. The Pegasus seems to attract some oddballs for some reason, but the crew is stronger for its diversity. Welcome aboard." Rosepetal rose from her seat, holding up her left hand palm-forward in the Caitian manner, rather than the official Star Fleet salute.

M’Lai stood also and placed her left hand against Rosepetal’s. "Thank you, Commander. Believe me, I’ll be doing my best."

Rosepetal nodded, then lowered her arm. "Dismissed!" M’Lai turned and headed for the door. As it slid open, Rosepetal added, "And please, do try to get a uniform that fits a little less… snugly."

Leanna’s rut had been finally satisfied, to her immense relief, although fucking a corpse was only moderately bad on the list of the least pleasant things shi’d had to do in her life. Only then did shi push the comm button that would bring the paramedics to the mansion. She then took the glass of water that was by the bed and emptied the remaining contents into the ensuite’s sink, replacing it with fresh water. She made no attempt to hide the pills though. They may have been the cause of his death, but her master had provided them, not her. She knew what they were though, and she also knew that they were illegal because they had serious side-effects; lethally serious. That she was unlikely to survive for long without him was almost inconsequential to her, but she wasn’t quite ready to give up her dreams now that her greatest hurdle had been overcome. She heard the sirens of the approaching emergency vehicle and went to meet its crew at the door. As she opened it, she shifted her expression to that of a confused, dimwitted sex slave. Two human paramedics jogged up to the door with a load of equipment.

"Who called for paramedics? What is wrong?" he demanded of the little fennec slave.

"Leanna call," she replied in the baby-talk typical of sex slaves. "Master said he sick. Master not wake up now." Let the humans think she was little more than an idiot fuck toy. They wouldn’t even dream of the fennec fox being smart enough to even think of acting against her master. Even now they were being distracted by her exotic nature as she was still completely nude. Slaves rarely were allowed to wear more than a breechcloth or shorts, and often nothing at all in their master’s home.

The first human tore his eyes off Leanna, then ordered, "Take us to him!"

Leanna did so, offering no other information or help. They quickly realised that he was beyond reviving. "Bloody idiot pet must have waited too long to call us," said the one in charge.

"That’s what you get when you rely on animals instead of humans. Hey, get a look at these!" He picked up the bottle of pills. "Looks like ‘stallyons’. I think we’ve found our cause of death."

"Damned spoiled brats. They have everything, but they’re still not satisfied. Oh well, better call in the cops. Take a few blood samples for them to test."

Leanna smiled to herself. The paramedics were making the case for her. Now her only problem was what they would do with her and the other household slaves now that their master was dead. She doubted that it could be anywhere near as bad as serving her deceased master though.

Forest had learned when Midnight finished hir shift, and shi wanted to see hir about a minor matter before shi started the martial arts class. As usual, Midnight was trying to convince hir mate to join the class too.

"You know I’m a lover, not a fighter, dear," Forest demurred with a sly smile.

"A fat lot of good that did you when dealing with that nutcase with the bow last month," Midnight replied seriously.

"Next time I promise to hide rather than attack, okay?"

Midnight rolled hir eyes and was about to argue more when the first of hir new students arrived. It was difficult to tell who was more surprised. Midnight had never met such a big Caitian before despite having met quite a lot during hir years of service. Forestwalker, who hadn’t met any other Caitians besides Rosepetal before, merely looked at her curiously, and admired her gorgeous bust. M’Lai was wearing a bodysuit that allowed flexibility and some protection, but left little else to the imagination. M’Lai had seen chakats before, but remarkably had never had direct interaction with one yet. However, she was familiar not only with their biology, but she also knew their tactile nature and proclivities. As she felt the familiar feelings welling within her, she wondered if Commander Silpurr had made a mistake assigning her to this class.

Midnight turned back to Forestwalker and gave hir a hug. "We’ll talk about this more later. I’ll be done in about an hour if you want to have dinner together."

Forest squeezed hir lovingly, then asked with a grin, "Is that an order, commander?"

"You bet!" Midnight laughed. "Now shoo!"

Forest released Midnight, turned, winked at M’Lai and left the room. M’Lai was wondering what was going on, but was glad it stopped before she got too stimulated by their actions. The remaining chakat was easier to deal with than the one that just left though. Hir solid black fur, interrupted only by a brief halter top in Security gray, gave hir a much more imposing impression, while the jaguar-patterned one radiated friendliness. This one had to be the Chief of Security though. Black fur and a name like Midnight made it a virtual certainty.

Midnight’s expression turned completely serious. Shi padded up to the Caitian and said, "In case you were wondering, that was my lifemate. The only time that you’ll be laying hands on me is when you’ll be trying to throw me. Do I make myself clear?"

Suddenly M’Lai realised that Silpurr might not have made a mistake after all. "Yes sir!" she barked out.

"Good. You must be Lieutenant M’Lai Saarath, correct?"

"Yes sir!"

"Commander Silpurr has told me little about you, but she says that you need to emphasise self-discipline in your studies. Care to explain more about why?"

M’Lai thought briefly. "Maybe later, sir, when we both see how this is working out."

"Hmmm, okay, that is your right." Midnight paused, sniffing. "Are you on heat, lieutenant? That may affect your training."

"No, sir," M’Lai answered.

Midnight was only half listening to the answer though, concentrating on what hir empathic senses were telling hir – a half-truth. She smelled like she was on heat, but was telling the truth when she said she wasn’t, yet shi also sensed a qualification to that answer and repression of strong sexual desire. Well, the truth would come out eventually, and shi already had a reasonable idea about why she required self-discipline. Just then, the other two students shi’d been expecting arrived, so shi shelved any more speculation for the moment. "Okay, now that everyone’s here, we’re going to begin with basic exercises...."

Leanna was herded into what would have to be called barracks along with two dozen other female slaves of various species. The slave dealers had been a little disconcerted about what to do with her at first, but eventually decided that she acted like a female, and looked female except for her sheath, so they classified her as female too. It seemed that her research had been correct – while there were a lot of fetish slaves, there didn’t seem to be any other true hermaphrodites on this world. Knowing something about the kinks of many human masters, she found this rather surprising. She could only guess that perhaps she had been the first successful one to be bred. ‘Lucky me!’ she thought facetiously.

At first, when the slave dealers had been selling off the other household servants, they had tried to find a position for her too, but it seemed her unique sexual nature had been a disincentive for a sale. Although she didn’t really have any plans as to where she wanted to go, she nevertheless felt mildly insulted that no one felt her to be a worthwhile purchase. Perhaps no one wanted to publicly admit to having a fetish for a dual-sexed creature? It wasn’t as if her services weren’t enthusiastically used when her master gave her to a client for his or her use for the night. Leanna had a sudden nasty thought – perhaps the humans suspected her of being responsible for her master’s death? They didn’t need proof; the mere suspicion would be enough to mark her as tainted goods. Anyway, she was now being shipped to another of the non-aligned worlds in the hopes of a better market.

Not that she could tell that she was on a spaceship. This wasn’t a liner catering to the whims of tourists. All she knew was having been marched through several corridors, up stairs and an elevator, then more corridors and into a cramped room lined with narrow bunks. A multitude of species was represented by her barracks companions – rabbits, cats, minks and wolves were popular, but the foxes outnumbered them all. Unfortunately, none of them were fennecs. Leanna sighed. There was only one thing that all of them had in common, and that was that they’d obviously been bred as sex slaves. Leanna looked over them, trying to identify which kink each had been bred for. Some were obvious, such as the ones with huge breasts, or the ones with more than one pair of breasts. There were slim ones and zaftig ones, fems with thick luxurious fur and those with a slick coat of short hair. Jet black ones and some with gorgeous colouring. Leanna was actually quite plain in comparison to most, but then again it was obvious what kink she’d been created to satisfy… at least on the surface.

Leanna chose a bunk and prepared to be bored stiff. No form of entertainment or diversion would be coming; their keepers fully expected them to amuse themselves. Hell, a couple of them were at it already! Leanna wasn’t interested in that though, at least not while she was not in heat. She didn’t feel sorry for them though. In their own limited way, they were happy, and in several days, she might be enjoying their services too. She had no idea how long the journey would take, but she knew an interstellar trip took days or weeks, and she could never forget her own cycle….

Leanna woke up, sensing a warm form snuggled closely to her. She looked to her left to see one of the rabbit does sleeping peacefully and memories came flooding back. ‘So I got to play bunny rabbit this heat?’ she thought to herself. ‘It must be the ears, I suppose.’ She no longer felt any extreme cravings, so her excessive sexual desires must have been satisfied while under the influence of her heat. The best thing that she could say about it though was that it had killed a couple more of the otherwise mind-numbingly boring days. She didn’t disturb the doe. Although she no longer needed her services, Leanna felt comforted just having someone snuggling up to her. She closed her eyes again and attempted to go back to sleep.

Several days later, Leanna’s attempts to meditate to stave off the boredom were rudely interrupted as the entire contents of the room were thrown against one wall, accompanied by a clang that seemed to shake the whole ship. Leanna’s bunk was against that wall, so she was relatively okay. That is for the fraction of a second before the inhabitant of the bunk on the opposite wall slammed into her. It was the mink, and her jaw seemed to have connected with Leanna’s knee. She was unconscious and Leanna’s knee hurt like hell, not to mention that her ribs felt as if they’d been kicked in. She started disentangling herself painfully from the limp mustelid, noticing others in similar situations, trying to block out the screams of pain and fright. Then Leanna noticed another sound almost drowned out by the noise in the room – a klaxon was sounding non-stop. Something was seriously wrong, and there was nothing that she could do about it! ‘Well, I expected I might die soon, but I never anticipated it’d be like this!

Then the lights went out.

Leanna’s sensitive ears were assaulted by new screams of fear before the emergency lights blinked on. When the cries died down, Leanna noticed that the constant murmur of the ventilation system was suddenly absent. ‘Catastrophic systems failure? No, the artificial gravity is still operating…’ It promptly cut out. ‘Oh, shit,’ she thought, feeling a bit nauseous by her sudden loss of weight, not to mention a feeling of disorientation. ‘And we’re all packed in here, helpless to do anything but wait to die a slow death from asphyxiation. I doubt the humans are much concerned about we animals right at this moment. They’ve probably thinking about how to save their own skins and not even giving a thought to coming to check…’ Leanna’s eyes opened in surprise at a sudden realisation. She floated unsteadily over to the door. The tell-tales on the electronic lock were out. Now if the safety protocols were the same as for buildings… Leanna put her hands on the door and, bracing against a nearby bunk, attempted to slide it open. She cried out in triumph as her guess was proven correct and the door reluctantly slid into the wall. ‘Okay, we might all yet die today, but at least it won’t be locked in a box meekly waiting for our fate.’ She looked back into the room to see most of the eyes focused on her. None of them was even attempting to follow. ‘Or maybe not.’ She sighed. ‘I suppose I shouldn’t have expected more from those morons.’ Leanna considered her options, then decided that there wasn’t much else she could do before she learned what was happening.

"Robertson! Tell me that you can at least get the damn gravity back on!" Strain showed obviously in his tone.

"No can do, captain. The last power surge took out all the main systems. I’ve been trying to re-route the power, but it looks as if the generators are fried now too."

"Garcia, how’s life support coming along?"

"Minimal life support will be back online soon, sir," she replied. "However, I’m going to have to use the one operating emergency back-up power source, and you know that won’t last indefinitely."

The captain groaned. "Thorsson, any response to our Mayday yet?"

"None, but you gotta realise that without our main power, the signal strength is too low to be detected by Grandia control. In fact, the only ones likely to hear us are nearby ships from the Federation."

All were silent briefly. While within the systems of the non-aligned worlds, or participating in free trade between them, they couldn’t be touched. However, this area of space was under the control of the Stellar Federation, and if they encountered the slave traders adrift helplessly…

The captain sighed. "Robertson, what are the chances of us restoring warp drive?"

"None, sir."


"Marginal, and we’re well outside the range of any destinations reachable by impulse anyway."

The silence stretched out for a long moment before the return of the ventilation system noises heralded emergency life-support coming online.

"Well, at least we can breathe easy for the moment," Garcia said.

"Not good enough though. We could be waiting for a long time before they realise we’re overdue and send out a ship to look for us, and by that time we could all be dead. I’m going to order everybody to the life pods."

"But sir, what about the cargo? We have a lot of money tied up in those slaves!"

"We all do, Carter. In the pods, we can get to safety and arrange a salvage ship. If we’re lucky, the cargo will survive until then."

"Life-support isn’t likely to last that long, sir."

"If you have a better idea, I’ll be glad to hear it."

"We could bring a few with us in the pods…" Carter began.

"Idiot! You know the life pods are designed solely to support a certain number of people for a certain amount of time. Add just one slave and no one in that pod may get to the destination alive."

"Damn cheapskate operation and the absolute least in safety gear. If the owners had sprung for decent shield generators, we wouldn’t even need those pods!"

"You’re welcome to take it up with them if we get back safely," the captain replied unsympathetically. "Now, turn off the emergency distress signal. We don’t want the Federation finding this ship before we come back for it. Just leave the normal navigation beacon on low power. Is the p.a. working?"

"Yes, now that we’ve got some power for it."

Moments later, the captain’s voice came over the public address system – "Now hear this: All hands to the life pods. Abandon ship! Abandon ship! All hands to the life pods. Abandon ship!"

Leanna suddenly realised that the crew would be emerging from the bridge and would spot her overhearing their conversation. She scrambled to get under cover, hampered by her unfamiliarity with manoeuvring without gravity. Whether she succeeded or whether the crew were in too much of a rush to notice, she wasn’t challenged. Leanna watched the humans leave with a sinking feeling in her heart. They’d virtually condemned every morph on the ship to die a long, unpleasant death. Her room had been equipped with a water supply and toilet, but the food had been brought by their keepers. However, she suspected that they’d run out of life-support before they starved.

When she felt muffled thumps start, she assumed that they were the life pods launching and that it was probably safe to come out of hiding. She had no idea what she could do to help their situation, but the most likely place seemed to be the bridge. She hauled herself through the doorway and promptly got stranded in mid air. Swimming seemed to be minimally effective, so she had to wait until she drifted to within reach of a handhold. She batted aside a piece of harmless flotsam. ‘At least I’m not puking my guts out from spacesickness,’ she thought. ‘It’d be really unpleasant in here.’ She reached a control panel and grabbed the arm of the chair bolted to the deck in front of it. She surveyed the panel, not recognising most of the instruments and read-outs. One finally caught her eye though – the distress beacon. This got her to thinking. ‘If the slave traders don’t want this Federation finding us, perhaps we’d be better off if they do find us. I wish the global-net library had had more information on them though. I hate to make a choice with so little information.’ She pondered for a while longer, then decided. ‘I don’t exactly have much to lose, so it’s worth a chance. Better not try getting that beacon going just yet though. The crew could still be too close and decide to come back to find out why the beacon is going. Best to wait until they’ve reached a point of no return. Can’t wait too long though if the life support won’t last long. I wish I knew how much time I have before they return.’ She checked out the rest of the panels without much inspiration, then propelled herself out the door, careful this time to make sure she didn’t get stranded again.

She began exploring the rest of the ship. She found a well-provisioned galley, so that looked like being able to cope with one problem. However, there was a ship full of slaves to deal with, and she couldn’t handle them all by herself. She headed back to the barracks level. She noted the door locks were operational again. ‘Maybe there’s a way to turn off power to all the doors. We need to conserve it for life-support.’ The locks were very simple, designed to keep people in the rooms, not for keeping them out. A single button press opened the door. She remained in the corridor though, afraid that it might close behind her, trapping her within. She wrinkled her nose as the stench of vomit assaulted her. ‘It seems not everyone has as strong a stomach as me.’ She surveyed the room, noting that this one consisted of all male morphs, mostly exotics. Without much hope, she asked, "Has any one of you been trained to cook or other household duties?" They looked back blankly. Leanna sighed. ‘Just a pack of sex slaves who’d be lucky to have a vocabulary of a few dozen words.’ She closed the door and went to the next room. She had no luck there, nor for the next. Upon opening the one after that though, she immediately had her hopes raised. For starters, the morphs in there were of both genders, something that slavers usually didn’t do with sex slaves unless they were breeding them. Far more important were the concerned gazes turned upon her. She could see the intelligence in their eyes. Finally it seemed she had found the smarter morphs who were trained for servant duties and needed to be intelligent enough to follow instructions. She repeated her question.

"Why do you want to know?" answered a supercilious red fox.

"The humans have abandoned the ship and left us to fend for ourselves. There’s a couple of hundred slaves on this ship that need feeding, and I can’t look after them all by myself. I want morphs who can man the galley to help me."

The fox looked Leanna over, noting her most obvious oddity. "And why should I, a high-class servant, follow the orders of an exotic sex slave?"

"Because so far I’m the only one who was smart enough to figure out how to get out of our barracks and find out what has happened. I may be an exotic, but there’s far more to me than what you can see!" Leanna replied with acerbity. "Now, does anyone here have the abilities I’ve asked about? Speak up!"

The fox was taken aback. His only experience with other morphs was that they were invariably docile and stupider than he was, and that he’d been trained to control them as a major-domo. This pint-sized creature not only wasn’t intimidated, but she also seemed unimpressed with his position. Slaves like her weren’t supposed to be able to think and give orders.

Several of the other morphs answered, responding to the authority in her voice. "I’m a household servant," said a collie. "We’re all trained chefs," responded one of four identical grey rabbit bucks. "I’m a maid, if that will help," volunteered a cute Persian cat fem.

Leanna nodded. "Okay, all of you come with me. Be careful manoeuvring in freefall, and for heaven’s sake, if you feel nauseous, try not to throw up everywhere and on everyone." She poked her finger into the fox’s chest. "Since you seem to think you’re in charge, I’ll make you responsible for keeping them under control."

Leanna started heading off in the direction of the galley. The fox was torn between outraged refusal and complying, however a lifetime of conditioning to obey authority swayed him to follow. Whatever else this fennec was, she was obviously top dog for now.

M’Lai landed on her rump with a cry of indignation and frustration.

"You’re still not concentrating. In fact you’re acting more distracted all the time," Midnight told her. "The other students mastered the throw. I’m not letting you go until you get it right also."

"Ssptk’t! I took this class to learn self-discipline, not be celibate!" she blurted out.

Midnight settled on hir haunches, crossed hir arms under hir breasts and looked interestedly at M’Lai. "Care to explain that further?"

M’Lai realised that she had said more than she should have, then she sighed in resignation. She got to her feet and brushed her fur straight. "Okay, I suppose I should have said something sooner, but it’s not exactly something that I want everybody to know about."

Midnight nodded in understanding. "Computer! Privacy mode!" The compliance tone sounded indicating that the door was locked and non-critical communications deferred. "Feel free to tell me as much or as little as you wish, but the more that you tell me, the more I can help you."

M’Lai sat down on a bench and proceeded to tell Midnight everything that she had told Rosepetal. She finished by saying, "I’d been hoping to get more self-discipline to stave off my craving for sex when the effects of the drugs faded. Instead I’m constantly grappling with a creature that is the epitome of sexuality to many others. Worse yet, spending my spare time with you has taken away from my time to find a possible bed-partner. If I don’t get something soon, there’s going to be another of those incidents that have dogged me."

All the pieces finally came together for Midnight. "I see. I wish you’d told me all of this sooner. I would have tailored a different program for you. I also would have offered other courses of action. In some ways, you have more in common with chakats than your own kind."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked M’Lai curiously.

"You said it yourself – chakats are viewed as extremely sexual creatures, and in many ways, they’re right. As a species, we have to learn self-discipline also, although admittedly we don’t have the problem of being always on a sexual peak as you are. We have evolved ways to deal with it though, and that’s part of what has given us our reputation. Are you aware that it’s a hard rule that there is never to be a single lone chakat on a starship?"

"No, I wasn’t aware of that."

"It was made specifically to deal with our needs. There must be either two or more chakats, or none at all. That’s so we have another to deal with our physical and psychological needs. On voyages where I didn’t have my mate with me, I did what all chakats do on these trips – I sought out whatever chakats were assigned to the ship and socialised with them, getting to know them well. Then when one of us went into rut or heat, we had another to help us through it gracefully. Some of us find our mates that way, others just make good friends. Either way, we have our needs attended without disrupting the ship in any way. You may be a Caitian, but your needs are similar, and I feel the solution would be also."

"Are you suggesting that I should find other Caitians? I’ve been trying! I’ve found one male but he’s not interested in taking on another mate, and spends all his spare time with his family. I don’t blame him, but it doesn’t help me!"

Midnight padded over to M’Lai and cupped her chin in hir hand, looking solemnly into her eyes. "No, M’Lai, I’m suggesting that you do what chakats do and ask a friend."

Suddenly M’Lai understood. "Species isn’t a complication for you chakats, is it, commander?"

"It never has been. A friend is a friend, no matter what species or gender, and if that friend has a need, then we will always do our best to help."

"Are you offering to be my friend, sir?" M’Lai asked curiously hopeful.

"My name is Midnight, M’Lai," shi replied simply.

M’Lai smiled. "Would you care to join me in my cabin, Midnight?"

Midnight smiled back and tapped hir comm badge. "Midnight to Forestwalker." A moment later, Forest acknowledged hir. "Don’t wait for me, love. A friend needs me this evening."

An answering chuckle told hir that the situation was understood. "I’ll let the others know, hon. Forestwalker out."

Midnight looked at M’Lai. "Shall we?"

M’Lai reached out and took Midnight’s hand, thrilling in anticipation at the touch.

Midnight’s comm badge chirped persistently, then a voice override operated. "Silpurr to Midnight. Acknowledge please."

Midnight suddenly came fully awake and answered. "Midnight here, sir!"

"Sorry to disturb your sleep, commander, but a situation has come up. We’ll be requiring your presence on the bridge as soon as reasonably practicable."

"What’s the situation, sir?" Midnight asked as shi climbed off the bed carefully, trying not to disturb M’Lai.

"We’ve detected an automatic distress signal. It’s coming from a non-Federation ship, so things might get interesting."

"Understood, sir. I’ll be there as soon as possible. Midnight out." Midnight grabbed hir halter, then realised that shi would have to make a detour to grab a uniform top, not having brought one with hir when they had left the gym. Shi paused to look at M’Lai, surprised to see her gazing back at hir.

"Thanks, Midnight," she said. "The experience was wonderful, and you helped me a lot. The urges are almost gone, in fact."

"You’re welcome, M’Lai. I must admit that making love to a nymphomaniac has its attractions." Shi grinned as shi recalled some of their more lusty moments, hir empathic senses lapping up the pleasure that M’Lai had been experiencing. "I suppose you’re never quite free of the urge, but if it ever gets too much again, you know where to find help."

"I’ll make sure to ask only when I really need it, but before it gets beyond control."

"Yes, well we’ll just have to see about increasing that control, won’t we? Lessons resume at the usual time, circumstances permitting, but with a revised curriculum."

"I’ll be there, sir!" M’Lai replied cheekily.

Midnight grinned again, then turned for the door, saying as shi went: "It might pay to get up. Your services might be required also."

Leanna had strapped herself into one of the chairs to stop herself from floating away. She had successfully managed to turn on the distress beacon, and now was waiting for any sort of response. In the days since she’d found help amongst the morph cargo, she’d managed to organise them to feed the others and to clean up the barracks. Some still suffered from spacesickness, but at least nobody was throwing up anymore. After the initial phase of trying to figure out where everything was and how to use it, the circumstances had quickly gotten boring again. She really wished there was more to keep the servant-type morphs occupied because that fox kept being a pain in the butt when he wasn’t kept busy. The fact was though, he wasn’t anywhere near as smart as Leanna was, nor as well-versed in complicated equipment as she was, which meant that she needed to try to deal with the overall situation by herself in spite of his self-important opinions. She had more important things to worry about now, because the air was already noticeably starting to get foul.

The time had come when she felt it safe to turn on the distress beacon, and she came back to the bridge regularly to check for a response. This time she stayed, worn out by the latest run-in with Sylvester. She thought that the name sure suited him. Her reverie was interrupted by a beeping coming from the panel in front of her. Looking frantically for the source, she identified it as an incoming message. She hoped that she had figured out the equipment properly and pressed a button.

"…essed cargo ship. This is the Federation Starship Pegasus answering your Mayday. Please respond, distressed cargo ship. This is the Federation…"

Leanna slapped the key that should hopefully transmit her reply. "Pegasus, this is the distressed cargo ship. We need help badly. Power is running low and life-support failing."

"We’re on our way. Please give us some details. What is your ship’s name and who is in charge? How many people are on board?"

Leanna only knew the answer to the first question because of badges on the bridge. "This is Marko’s Venture, and while I’m not part of the crew, I’m the nearest thing to someone in charge. There are around two hundred slaves aboard."

There was a long silence as this information was absorbed. "Marko’s Venture, how many crew are aboard?"

Leanna replied, "None. They all abandoned ship and left us to our fate. They hoped to return and salvage their cargo, but I doubt that any of us would be alive by the time they returned. We need your help badly."

"No crew? Who are you then?"

"Just one of the cargo, Pegasus."

Commander Silpurr looked at Admiral Boyce Kline in surprise. Sadly, both had encountered slavers before, but this was the first time that they had encountered a slave that was capable of doing much more than basic tasks. Now here was one that seemed to be doing far more than thought possible.

"This sounds like anything but your usual rescue, don’t you think?" asked Boyce.

"Indeed, sir," Rosepetal replied. "I’m curious to meet this person."

"Me too. That will have to wait though. We’re going to have to organise places to put a couple of hundred various morphs. See what space we have available on the cargo deck, and whatever unallocated cabins we might have spare. I want security to keep a close eye on those morphs to make sure they don’t get into trouble and to coordinate their distribution to those places. Alert sickbay that there might be some patients to attend to. However, if at all possible, I want contact between those slaves and any non-human crewmembers to be kept to as close to zero as possible. I’ve seen those morphs, who have been slaves all their lives, confused by other morphs or aliens giving orders. Until we get all those people safely quartered, we’ll take advantage of their conditioning to obey humans unquestioningly. There will be plenty of time to let them get used to their new status later."

"Aye, sir," Rosepetal said and set about delegating those tasks.

Boyce continued, "Mr Murawrr, have we gotten scans of that ship yet? What can you tell me?"

The Caitian navigator never took his eyes from the instruments he was scrutinising. "Long-range sensors detect no loss of structural integrity… no shields… no mains power at all. A single backup generator only operating. Very little systems response. Catastrophic systems failure in fact."

"Are there docking facilities?"

"Yes, sir, but no power to operate them."

"Mr Silpurr, alert the Transporter Chief. We’re going to keep his staff busy for a little while. Mr Mazantod, re-open the channel to the Venture, please."

"Channel open, sir," the Voxxan communications officer replied.

"Venture, stand by for a boarding party. We are going to arrange to beam you all on board our ship as soon as we can."

"You’re going to what us, Pegasus?" the female voice asked, puzzlement clearly in her voice.

"We’re going to bring you over by matter transporter beam, a teleportation device," Boyce elaborated, wondering if she would understand even that.

After a pause, she came back. "Understood, Pegasus. We’ll be waiting."

Boyce rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Interesting. The non-aligned worlds did not possess matter transporter technology, but this slave had very rapidly caught on. He was more intrigued than ever.

As soon as Leanna finished talking to the rescue ship, she launched herself out of the bridge to head back to the levels with the slave barracks. She had avoided identifying herself until now because she hadn’t wanted them to know that there weren’t any passengers to come rescue. They might not have been so keen on rescuing a pack of slaves. She had no idea what this Federation did with slaves, nor how it would deal with a smart one who had assumed control, so she intended to play it safe and blend in with the others until she could figure out what was happening. Plenty of humans had underestimated her abilities before, and she was relying on them doing so again. This teleporter of theirs was a complication she hadn’t anticipated though, and who knew just when they would start popping up out of thin air. She was relieved to get back to her barracks without incident and took the chance to inform some of the others that help had arrived.

She heard voices calling long before the first of their rescuers reached their room. Two male humans, dressed in a mostly black uniform with a red section from the shoulders down to a diagonal that went from the right armpit to left waist, took a quick look around the room. Bulky boots seemed to be holding them onto the floor.

"Another two dozen female sex slaves in here. We’ll beam this bunch over next. Rajiv, take Lim and check the next room. If there are more of these, organise them to go after this bunch."

The man nodded and left the first alone with the slaves. Leanna thought that perhaps he was being a bit overconfident until she noticed a small device almost lost in the man’s large hand. Although she didn’t recognise it, she was sure it had to be weapon of some kind. ‘Okay, not so silly as I first thought.

She watched as the man ordered the four nearest slaves to come out into the corridor. Shortly after they went out of the line-of-sight of the doorway, she heard him say, "Transporter 2, another four ready to beam over." There followed sparkles of light reflecting off the wall that she could see through the door, and then the man returned alone. Another four went with him before Leanna’s turn came. He told them to stop in the middle of the corridor, then tapped his badge. Apparently it was a communicator because it chirped softly and the man repeated his phrase to Transporter 2. What happened next almost broke Leanna’s calm. For an instant, she felt utterly immobilised, then every sense failed for a moment before she fell to her knees, blinking her eyes due to the brightly lit room that was blatantly not on the cargo ship. For starters, gravity was back, and all the slaves had collapsed onto the floor, struggling to regain their feet after so long without weight. They weren’t allowed to dawdle though. Other humans, both male and female but dressed in similar uniforms as the ones on the cargo ship, helped the slaves to their feet and then herded them firmly off the platform where they had appeared and out of the room. ‘So that was their teleporter. Such an amazing way to get around!

A steady stream of slaves was herded from that room and an adjacent one. They were taken to what appeared to be a cargo deck where she was tagged with an identification number. It was also there that someone took a good look at her for the first time. The woman who was taking down her details blinked in uncertainty for a moment, then turned and called out to another crewmember.

"Hey Carl! I’ve got an odd one here!"

"Have you found our elusive smart slave, Jess?"

"Nope, something else really unusual."

Carl came over, looked at Leanna, did a double-take and said, "Whoa! A normal hermaphrodite without any weird enhancements or kinky additions! First time I’ve ever seen a slave like that before, and I’ve seen far too many bizarre ones on this job."

"What do you think we should do with hir?" The last word confused Leanna. What was ‘herr’ supposed to mean?

Carl scratched his head thoughtfully. "Well, shi has to be given a thorough check-up like the others," he began, throwing in another strange word. ‘Shay?’ "But we obviously can’t quarter hir with the other fems. You’ve been given a list of people to call on if we have an odd situation, and I’d say this qualifies. Who do you have best suited to our odd fennec fox here?"

Jess consulted her PADD. She saw a name near the bottom of the list and pointed to it. "Chakat Forestwalker. If anyone can deal with our herm friend here, shi should be able to."

And with that most simplistic of reasons, Leanna’s life was to be forever changed.

Admiral Kline and Rosepetal Silpurr are the creations of Boyce Garald Kline Jr and are used with permission.
All other characters and this story are © 2003 Bernard Doove.

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To be continued in Forest Tales #21.

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