Of all the places in the Federation, Chakona was probably one of the most unique of them all. You could go to the market, and find anyone from a Voxxan to a Rakshani. Other than Earth, it was probably the most cosmopolitan planet in the Federation and, among other things, the only place you’d find skunktaurs in great abundance.
Browneyes, by comparison, was rather plain; a Chakat, one of millions on the planet, and had rather normal coloring, much like a calico cat on hir flanks, a plain white upper body, with two ‘goggles’ of chocolate brown around hir eyes. And today, Eighthday of the 25th week, shi was out to get some fresh fruit from the local vendors.
As usual, the crowds were thick and wild, but Browneyes, a native of Chakona, had no difficulty navigating hir way through them to the vendor shi wanted. The stand was set up by the side of the stone block walking street, much like the rest of the stands, and like them, it was made of local plant material not unlike wood, but a brilliant shade of red; to an untrained observer, it would appear to be painted. At the stand there was a white femme fox morph, and what was a relativity rare sight on Chakona, a black human, a female to be exact.
"Hi Molly," Browneyes said, strolling up to the stand. "Slow day?" The stand was mostly free of people in spite of the crowds.
"Er… sort of," said the woman, snapping out of her light doze. "We had a lot of customers earlier, but most of our regular customers seem to be having their normal meets and greets with their moms."
Browneyes moaned; next week was Mother’s Day, and shi was expected to visit hir in Amistad. Normally shi loved Mother’s Day, but this year hir professor of alien psychology had assigned a essay on Voxxan mental diseases due the day beforehand. This had been the first time shi had left the apartment in over a week, and shi hadn’t made arrangement to buy tickets for the Amistad-Berdoovia maglev train. One more thing to do, shi supposed. "I hope they didn’t eat your whole stock of crownfruit?"
"Nah," said the vixen, pulling out a bag from the storage area. "You know we always save a bag for our friends. Besides, no one but chakats eat this stuff anyways."
Crownfruit was a bit of misnomer of a name. The fruit was more or less a sort of parasitic plant, which wrapped itself around other plant’s fruits and used them as a source of energy for which to build a dark green film, about a centimeter thick, around the fruit, and grow its own spiny flowers and, if pollinated, its own little berries. Overall it resembled a long-forgotten king of Caitian origin. Other than its strange lifestyle, it also had a unique flavor. The amount of sunlight it received determined what its flavor was, as well as how sweet or sour it was. Even after being picked from the tree, it typically kept this up for several days. However, Chakats were generally the only ones who ate them because of the plant’s notorious reputation for growing on the fruit of the mildly poisonous Mikio tree, and incorporating the toxins into their juices.
"Speaking of friends," said the vixen, handing the bag to Browneyes, "Where the hell have you been, hon? We haven’t seen you at the café in over a week!"
"Oh you know, Zelda, hard at work studying." Browneyes mimicked typing on a keyboard in the air before accepting the bag of the fruit, "Mr Hardballs wants a 2000 word essay due on the sixth of next week."
"Well damn, girl, get your act together!" said Molly, giving the Chakat a quick hug. "I’m sure you’ll do fine."
"Sure, sure," shi said. "What are you two doing for Mother’s Day? Visiting your parents?"
"Nah, They’re coming…" the vixen said, embracing and kissing the black-skinned woman, "…here, for a change."
Molly and Zelda had been together for several years working on a family farm that Zelda had inherited when her parents retired and moved up to Chakona Gateway, although they had only been a officially mated for the last two.
"So, any buns in the oven yet?" Browneyes asked. The couple had been trying to get pregnant for a long time; the difference between species and need of in-vitro fertilization hadn’t made it easy.
"Er…" said Zelda, unconsciously rubbing her belly, "sort of."
Browneyes gave hir a look. "um…what?"
"Well, it’s not official, but yes," said Molly a little bit sadly.
Empathically, shi knew something was up. "What’s wrong?"
"Nothing," said Molly, looking down at the stand. She knew lying to a Chakat was pretty much impossible.
"Spill it!" Despite hir forceful tone, Browneyes was projecting a reassuring aura of good will empathically towards the two, just as shi had learned to do in Advanced Empathy 101.
The vixen bit her lower lip. "Well, like Molly said, nothing is wrong, it’s just that…"
"The doctors contacted us about two weeks ago about the process. Apparently they could solve the genetic complications between our eggs, but doing that much recomming would put it out of our price range." Molly stated tonelessly. "So we had to go with donor sperm instead."
Suddenly it clicked for the Chakat; in the modern day and age, medical miracles could, and were, performed on a fairly regular bases; the ability to create viable zygotes from two sperm or two ova was a pretty standard technology between homosexual couples, and even more advanced technology could be used to alter the genetic codes of the two ova or sperm to create a zygote that could be carried by ether parent. However, it wasn’t perfect, and extreme genetic differences couldn’t simply be edited easily, although it could be done. Often times even simple changes to a genome would result in large medical bills, partly because of the legal restrictions on the process under Federation law for Genetic Engineering.
"Hun," Browneyes said, leaning over the counter and giving Molly and Zelda a hug, "it doesn’t matter who the genetic parents of your child are, it’s the ones who raise hir that count. He or she is still your child, Molly, regardless of how you bring them into the world."
Separating, Molly sighed. "I’m sure you’re right, Brown, but still, I suppose there isn’t any point in moping over it."
"That’s the spirit!" said Browneyes, but it was more for Zelda’s benefit than anyone else. Despite her words, empathically, Brown could still sense she was torn up inside, and made a promise to hirself to give her a call later.
After Zelda changed the subject, they chatted for a few minutes until another customer, a triad of feline morphs, one carrying a small child, and another one who was pregnant, arrived. Brown stepped aside so they could have easy access to the counter. Brown knew how difficult looking after squirming children could be in a busy marketplace, shi had done it hirself while shi was babysitting back in the day. Brown bid hir friends goodbye and wandered through the crowd, browsing though the various items displayed before making a beeline to a local Public PTV pick-up location. A few minutes later, a PTV pulled up, and Brown hopped in.
After entering the location of the train port (shi had to pick up those tickets), shi relaxed as the PTV pulled away from the market and out into downtown Berdoovia. PTVs, especially public PTVs, were nearly, or completely automated. However, this often meant picking up more people if it wasn’t fully occupied.
The PTV alerted hir to the course change; they had to pick up another person.
Browneyes groaned; it wasn’t that shi didn’t mind the company, but the more detours the PTV had to take; the more time shi’d be wasting trying to get those damnable tickets.
The PTV slowed to a stop in front of another taur. Shi was rather tall, from what Brown could tell, and was clearly some sort of herm foxtaur. Hir fur was off-orange with dark brown socks and a small mop of hair, if you could call it that, sat upon hir head. Shi had bare breasts – public nudity wasn’t all that uncommon on Chakona. Browneyes hirself was nude, although shi, like hir soon-to-be PTV companion, wore belts filled with various items, such as IDs and comms.
"Hi there," said the taur in a faintly Terran accent as shi ducked into the PTV. Shi was tall, very much so for a taur; Brown estimated shi was maybe 180 centimeters or so. Shi settled down next to Brown and entered hir destination into the central console control pad. The heads-up display flashed the revised ETA to the train station up for a moment. To hir surprise, it hadn’t changed.
"Hello, we both seem to be heading the same way," shi said, glancing the other taur over. Despite living on Chakona, and seeing more then a few foxtaurs in hir day, shi couldn’t place the species.
"So it would appear," the foxtaur said with a laugh. "At least we’ll save time!"
"Indeed," Brown agreed. "I don’t mean to come off as rude, shir, but what species are you exactly?"
The taur looked at hir in the eyes and smiled. Shi has beautiful eyes, Browneyes thought, and such a wonderful smile. "Well, my fine Chakat, I am what you call a Stellar Foxtaur."
"A what?" Browneyes blurted, still mesmerized by the foxtaur’s warm eyes. Ugh, this isn’t good, the last thing I need is a relationship right now.
The Foxtaur grinned, "Surely you’ve heard of the Stellar Project?"
"Er..." Come to think of it, the term did sound familiar, but where did shi… Ah! Of course. They were mentioned in the Engineering New Brains course. "To be honest, Shir? Only in passing."
"Please, call me Darktoes," smiled the taur.
"How rude of me. I’m Browneyes," shi said, giving the stranger a small hug, as was a normal ‘handshake’ for chakats.
"Pleasure to meet you, Now, the Stellar Project is more or less the engineering of seven new foxtaur species, designed to be more specialized into different ecological niches, Veldt, Polar, Forest, Starwalker, Marine, Mountain, and Desert, on new worlds, with the aim of helping mold them into economical and social juggernauts, much like Chakona is now," shi explained. "I’m a Veldt breed, built for running on the plains."
"I see." Not really, shi supposed, but shi’d look it up later on the hypernet.
"So what brings you to Chakona?"
"Well, I’m training to be a colonist, so I and my fellow Veldts need some real-world practice in the wilderness," said Darktoes, looking out the PTV’s window at the passing scenery. "However, true untamed wilderness is hard to come by outside of dropping us on a real colony world, so we’ll be using the local holosuites for practice."
"That makes sense." Browneyes leaned back, stretched, and checked the ETA. Down to five minutes. "Why are you going to the train station, if you don’t mind me asking?"
"Going to buy a ticket so I can go to Amistad Spaceport next week to pick up my parents," the Veldt said. "You?"
Browneyes giggled. "Me too, except I’m going all the way to Amistad. My parents have a condo in the downtown area."
"Cool!" Darktoes exclaimed. "I’m probably not going to be taking my parents anywhere that fancy."
"Meh! I don’t have much; I rent a room from Dewclaw. I don’t see the point in owning much when you’re going to have to live off the land for the next twenty years."
The PTV slowed as it entered the parking lot. It only waited a few moments for them to get out before speeding away towards some other person in need of transport. As the two of them walked towards the large building, Brown continued the conversation. "How about you and your family come and spend Mother’s Day with my family? My parents are always open to company and new faces, and I myself wouldn’t mind seeing you again."
Darktoes held the door open as shi considered hir suggestion. "I don’t see why not. I should run it by my parents though."
"Aye, and mine too," Browneyes said, strolling through the door.
"I’ll tell you what – how about you meet me after class at the HoloCenter at Dewclaw tomorrow. We can call our parents tonight and run the idea by them?"
A few minutes later, both had bought their tickets. However, for the ride back, Darktoes took a nearly full PTV, and they couldn’t share a ride. On the way home in hir PTV, Brown examined hir feelings towards this newcomer in hir life. Schooling had taken up a big part of hir life, and for the most part, hir love life had fallen to the sidelines. Shi wasn’t in desperate need of sex, hir roommates and close friends saw to that, so what was hir attraction to this person shi barely knew?
"I don’t know Brown, I just feel…disconnected with this child, I know I should be happy and supportive, but every time I think of raising this child, it just fills me with dread."
Brown nursed hir drink, hot chocolate, before replying to the distraught female on hir bedroom’s comm. It was quite late, but Brown did want to check in. "Have you discussed any of this with Zelda?"
The dark-skinned human sighed and wiped some tears from hir face with the back of hir hand. "I don’t see how I could. She’s so happy to finally be pregnant and…I don’t know Brown, we discounted adoption when we first became mated because we both wanted children of our own flesh and blood, but when the treatments kept failing…"
Brown interrupted, "It’s not unusual for first-time parents to feel some measure of anxiety when confronted with their first child and, in your case, you’re clearly feeling upset because the treatments failed. Perhaps you even feel a little bit jealous, but because of your feelings for Zelda, you feel even worse for feeling that way."
The human looked down at her hands. "Maybe."
"Hun, the only advice is that you should talk this over with Zelda. She’s your lifemate, and she deserves to know how you feel, and it’ll probably help you deal with these conflicting and difficult emotions," said Brown. "But, hun, you really should see a professional counselor."
The human was still looking down, so Browneyes decided to try a different tactic. "So, I suppose you’ll be the first to know, I met someone…"
The woman brightened up. She was one of those types who enjoyed a juicy bit of gossip, and this was pretty juicy. "Really? Do you think shi’s the ‘one’?"
Browneyes nodded lightly, "Could be; shi definitely made an impression on me, but I think I ought to give it some time."
Molly blew a raspberry. "Pifff, Zelda had me laid almost as soon as we met!"
The Chakat chuckled, "I seem to recall something of a drunken orgy…"
"Yes, yes," said Molly dismissively, "the point is the next morning we both woke up in one another’s arms and Zelda is too much of a Vixen to have sex with someone and not try to get to know them. The point is, don’t sit on this opportunity. You chakats, of all people, should know that life’s too short to waste haggling over the details."
Brown shook hir head in disbelief; "We’ll see, won’t we? Anyways dear, it’s getting rather late." Molly nodded in agreement and the two friends exchanged goodbyes and turned on their Comms. Brown yawned and busied hirself getting ready for bed, in anticipation of the next day.
The HoloCenter, or as it was officially named Windstorm Holographic Research and Imaging Center, was a fairly impressive, five story tall structure. The building’s walls were dressed in local stone and, from the ground, the roof-top garden could be seen – barely. In the dying daylight, Brown could see they were starting the nightly holographic show. It wasn’t much, but every night holo emitters would be used to point out various stars in the night sky, and give facts about the planets orbiting them; other times it was used to display news messages or displays of support for the families of students who had died, or disaster victims. Thankfully those were rare.
Browneyes was, however, fairly late, hir classes had gone on longer then shi had expected, and shi had only just gotten out. Shi dearly hoped Darktoes would be waiting for hir; this meeting was hir only lifeline to this person.
Hir mother had been, as shi expected, extremely pleased that shi had ‘met’ someone, even though Brown had tried to convince hir mother that they weren’t romantically involved. However attracted shi felt to Darktoes, it certainly wasn’t love. Even chakats, however idealistic they may be towards such things, certainly didn’t believe in love at first sight. Such things simply didn’t happen, did they?
Brown dashed up the steps of the build, and yanked out the door. The lobby, which was fairly spacious, was empty.
"Shit." Shi had missed hir! Now what?
"I must admit, I never took you as the sort to curse like a Mariner, Brown," said that earthy voice behind hir.
Browneyes spun around to face the orange-furred taur, who wore nothing but a cheeky grin. Brown could guess by now shi was probably a nudist; while everyone was free to wear as little or as much as they wanted, pure nudist, the type who wore nothing unless they had to, were reasonably uncommon. Brown wasn’t fazed by it, but it did mean shi’d have to scratch woolen sweaters off hir ‘Possible Gifts’ list. In Darktoes’ hands shi held two chocolate ice cream cones. "Here," shi said, handing Brown one. "When you didn’t show up, I figured your classes were running late, so I went off to get us a treat."
Accepting the cone, Brown held the door open for hir friend to exit, as shi started to lick the cold creamy treat. "Thanks Dark, I was sort of worried you had thought I had stood you up."
Dark blew a raspberry. "As if, you’re the only interesting person I’ve met since coming here. How was your day?"
"Meh, you know how it is – same old, same old; my professors bitching about assignments and piles of pages to read from various books."
"Heh, I know what you mean. Star Corps instructors can be asses too. Two weeks ago they told us we were just going to have just a nice, peaceful day of learning how to hunt. Then they dropped a level three thunderstorm on our asses. Not my idea of a fun day." Darktoes looked around; they we’re walking into some sort of heavily forested park inside the Dewclaw campus, and it was nearly completely dark now. "Where are we going by the way?"
Brown smiled at the taur and gave hir a small hug. "You’ll see. Were you able to get a hold of your parents?"
"Yeah, they thought it was a wonderful idea, seeing as all I’d have to offer is a small apartment. What about yours?"
"Well my dad wasn’t home when I called, but my mother just about jumped through the screen and hugged me. Shi’s been trying to get me to hook up with someone for years."
Darktoes laughed as they entered a small clearing with a stream running through it. Beside the stream was a large, mostly flat rock. Brown bounded forward and laid down on the rock and patted the spot beside hir. Dark laid down beside hir friend. "So what is this place?"
"This, my dear, is Swansong’s Park, and this…" Brown swept hir hand around to the clearing, "…is popularly known as Lover River, a popular make-out spot for students."
Dark gave hir a strange look, to which the Chakat answered with a giggle. "Don’t worry, Dark, that’s not why I brought you out here; I like to come out here and look at the night sky," shi explained.
"Ah!" Dark looked up at the sky, and pointed to one of the stars. "See that star? That’s where I’ll be headed."
"Wow. How long until you ship out?" Browneyes asked quietly. It wasn’t as if shi hadn’t had friends leave before, but this, for some reason, filled hir with dread.
"A month, maybe two after this we’ll be off to the planet, we’re also suppose to survey it you see. It’s supposed to be our, and the project’s, proving grounds," shi said.
"What happens if you fail?" Brown said worriedly. Most experimental projects, like the Corin Warp drive, tended to get terminated. Shi didn’t think they’d do that to these people…but you never knew.
Dark smiled at seeing hir clearly worried face, before giving hir a hug. "Nothing bad. We’ll just lose our jobs and any land given to us in our contracts however."
Brown sighed in relief and finished off the last of hir cone, before continuing the conversation on less worrisome topics. After about an hour, they got up and walked out of the park to the nearest Public PTV pick-up location. Darktoes begged off a ride, because hir apartment was well within running distance. This time however, Brown remembered to give hir new friend hir number and asked hir to call later.
As Brown rode home, shi contemplated hir friend. There was definitely a spark of something there, but what could shi do? Hir friend would be gone within no time at all, and any relationship would be doomed to fail.
Later that night, shi found hirself less interested in working on hir essay, and more interested in researching the project. The more shi read, the more shi became upset. The only way shi’d be allowed to go with Darktoes on this project would be as hir mate, all of whom had applied to be allowed to go months and months ago, not to mention hir own career wouldn’t be needed for several years.
Browneyes flopped into hir bed an hour later, and sighed. Somehow this nearly complete stranger had worked hirself into hir mind and heart. And shi’d never see hir again, or at least not for a very, very long time.
"How’d your date go, stud?" joked one of the Mariners that Darktoes shared hir apartment with. These apartments were designed with a single large common room with various pieces of furniture and, in one corner, kitchen equipment. The apartments had been designed for the Stellar project in mind, with one roommate of every breed, save for the Starwalkers, represented in every room. The idea was to promote intra-breed sisterhood; the last thing the Federation wanted was for members of different breeds to start hating one another for whatever reason.
"It wasn’t a date, Swimmer, I told you that already," Darktoes sighed. They weren’t chakats, but Stellars, especially Mariners, tended to enjoy their gossip.
"Dark, you know this is going to end badly. Maybe you should cut this Chakat loose before you get in over your head," purred a Polari foxtaur lounging on one of the large pillows that served as seats in the apartment.
Dark sighed and laid down on one of the unoccupied seats and rolled onto hir back. "Too late, I think."
"What do you mean?" Swimmer hopped up next to the Veldter and snuggled with hir friend.
"I don’t know, you guys, I just…I don’t know how to describe it." The Veldter frowned. "It’s like I’m in love or something."
Swimmer and Snowflake exchanged looks. "Are you…sure hun? You know that contract you signed is pretty much airtight."
"I know." Dark felt tears well up in hir eyes. "I wish I had met hir sooner."
"Well," Snowflake said, "you could ask hir to come with you as your mate, if you really feel that way about this Chakat, Browneyes, I think it was?"
"I know that Snow, but…" the Veldter wiped the tears from hir eyes, "…shi’s studying to be a psychologist, and I can’t ask hir to give up hir career for me. I mean, what would shi do if shi came? Sit around all day and do nothing?"
Swimmer licked Dark’s cheek. "What will you do then? You’ll have to tell hir soon."
"Well I do have a month, maybe two," the Veldter said. At least shi had a few weeks to be with Brown.
A Forest breed emerged from one of the bedrooms with a Mountain breed in tow at the moment. The two taurs laid down together next to the Polari, both looked disheveled and smelled of sex. The two breeds, Leaf and Amethyst, were among the first crossbreed couples, who had apparently been enjoying an after-dinner romp in the sheets.
"Didn’t you hear, Dark? They’ve decided to move the launch date up! We’re going to be heading out in two weeks." Said Leaf.
Darktoes sat up violently, shaking off Swimmer. "What?!"
Amethyst nodded. "Isn’t it exciting?"
Dark moaned and ran off to hir room. This certainly was not good news. Shi bit back sobs before excusing hirself to hir room.
Swimmer shot the couple a dirty look before racing off behind the badly shaken Veldter.
Amethyst glanced at Snowflake; "What? Was it something I said?"
Public transport had always been an important part of Chakona; as a planned world with the stated goal of being extremely eco-friendly, it was of course important to insure that transport between cities was both easy and eco-friendly. To help this along, the first intra-continental high-speed rail had been completed on Finders Continent connecting all major cities.
The high-speed trains were a quite different from those on Earth; in addition to being eco-friendly, Chakats (and other morphs) preferred a higher level of comfort on their trains and other forms of public transports, so these high-speed trains were typically outfitted with rooms complete with a small sleeping area (for two to three taurs) as well as a washroom and small drink refrigerator. Even though trips were often relatively short, they still enjoyed such concessions.
Brown and Darktoes had both asked to share the same cabin on the train when they had bought their tickets, which was indulged by the sales person. Brown wasn’t really expecting anything to happen, but shi was glad they had made the arrangements beforehand. Brown had been irritated all day due to hir impending heat. Darktoes had called hir a few nights before, as shi had promised, but what Brown had hoped would be a pleasant and fun meeting was dampened quite a bit by Darktoes’ news. Browneyes knew the relationship, however unexpected and fast-paced (well not that fast-paced Brown was forced to remind hirself, hir own mother, after all, would have had already bedded hir sire by now in the relationship.) wouldn’t last long, but still, the shock of realizing they only had about a week left with one another was quite unsettling, and any time they got to share together was quite welcome.
The trip was quite quiet and calm, and the two spent most of the time cuddling and discussing their families.
"So your parents are chakats too?" asked Brown.
"Well, only emotionally and legally. The Chakona Council demanded that we were to be born into loving families rather than just being popped out of a tube," said the foxtaur.
"I can imagine." Browneyes leaned on hir friend. "I think it’s more heartwarming to think you had someone to love and hold you as you grew up."
"Yeah, they were pretty great. What about your parents?"
"Oh you know, classic Chakat family, they met, fell in love, had a bunch of cubs," laughed Brown. "The home’s been pretty empty for a few months now. I daresay I shouldn’t be surprised if they’ve gone and conceived another cub by the time we get there."
"Ah! So will I get to meet some of your sexy sisters?" Dark giggled.
"One or two, maybe, but most of them are off-world on deep space missions and such; we’re got a pretty strong wanderlust streak in my family. I’m the first person thus far to take up something that didn’t involve flying around up in the sky."
"Heh, sounds interesting; my parents are both farmers, thus how I developed my interest in agriculture."
"Why do you want to go be a colonist though? I did a bit of research on your species and apparently 98% of you accepted contracts with Star Corps but you’re not engineered to want to go, so…what gives?"
The Veldter gave the Chakat a nuzzle; "Well, I imagine it has to do with the chakat genes they combined with the foxtaur ones; you chakats are pretty curious, and foxtaurs are pretty adventurous at heart too; the problem is, you see, that around the end of puberty, normal foxtaurs tend to get inflicted with Territory Attachment Syndrome."
"Well TAS is sort of like homesickness, but a lot more extreme, to the point where they can’t leave their home territory without getting extremely sick. In the worst cases, just the thought of leaving is enough to set off a reaction. It’s almost like…" The veldt thought for a moment. "…like a human with a drug addition; they leave the territory and they go into withdrawal."
Browneyes frowned. "Sounds terrible."
"Yeah, so anyways, we’re just natural-born explorers because they’ve eliminated the problem on a genetic level. However, you could say we’re inflicted with the opposite of TAS – wanderlust!"
"At least you’ll enjoy your work," said Browneyes, giving Darktoes a hug. The rest of the trip passed uneventfully, and before they knew it, they were picking up Darktoes’ parents (an extremely pleasant people) and Browneyes was taking them to hir parents’ condo.
The condo was fairly large and roomy, more then enough room for the two families. As Brown predicted, none of hir sisters were present at the celebration. Of course, it was something of a party with just a general get-together. The four parents hit it off quite well, and Brown wasn’t at all surprised when they begged off the after-dessert chit-chat for a more intimate encounter.
After their parents had left, the two taurs went out onto the balcony that was attached to condo and overlooked the city for a cuddle of their own.
"Beautiful isn’t it?" sighed Browneyes. Shi straightened up and looked Darktoes in hir eyes. "Honey, I think we need to talk about this."
"Yeah," the Veldt started. "Browneyes, I don’t know how, or why, but I love you dearly, but…I don’t know what to do; I would love for you to become my mate, but at the same time I know that we walk two very different paths, and I can’t justify ripping you away from your hopes, dreams and life to go off tramping around on some frontier world with me."
Brown hugged hir beloved foxtaur and placed hir head between hir breasts before shi spoke, "I know, and I can’t ask you to leave the job you’re clearly meant to do. What are we going to do?"
"I…I don’t know, Browneyes." The Veldter bent down and kissed the Chakat. "But let’s make love, my love. Even if we cannot be together, I want to make every moment we are together the best they can be.
Perhaps it was a romantic atmosphere of the moment, or perhaps it was hir own hormones and pheromones at work, or perhaps (and Brown would admit it to hirself it was a contributing factor) the empathic backwash from the foursome in the other room. Whatever the reason, several hours later, the two taurs drifted off to sleep in each others arms.
The next day was pretty lazy; Dewclaw and other businesses and institutions generally had a three to four day waiting period before they expected their employees or students to return from vacation; a good number of students had to return from off-world, or other continents. For Browneyes and Darktoes, however, it just meant a couple of extra days they could spend together enjoying one another’s company and making love; the next day however, held some surprises.
The calico-flanked Chakat was the first to wake the next morning. It had been a wonderful night and that warm, joyful feeling shi had experienced last night was still with hir this morning.
Untangling hirself from hir companion, shi slid out of the bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen area. Shi wasn’t wearing anything, but shi imagined that neither hir parents nor Dark’s would care much. As shi expected, the small kitchen table was occupied by all four of the older chakats.
"Did you have a good sleep, dear?" grinned hir sire, Sky. Shi was a stormy-grey Chakat with a white fluffy patch of fur between hir breasts.
"Don’t tease hir, Sky. I’m sure shi had a very enjoyable night," said the dappled brown Chakat who was hir mother.
"I daresay our night wasn’t half bad ether, Dancer," joked one of Dark’s parents. Brown had been introduced but couldn’t for the life of hir remember what their names were.
"Half bad?" said Brown’s mother,sticking out hir tongue at the darkest green and grey Chakat, "I seem to recall that you. Pond, were the one who nearly passed out from pleasure after the second time we…"
"Okay, okay" said Brown shaking hir head in amusement, "I don’t need to know the details. I’m taking a quick shower, so if Dark comes out and asks where I am; give hir a heads-up, okay?"
The four chakats seated around the table nodded in agreement, before breaking into a fit of giggles. Shaking hir head, Brown went off to get the personal bag that shi had left it in the hallway when they had came over yesterday afternoon. Shi had meant to retrieve it and bring it to hir room, but things hadn’t gone as shi had planned.
Unzipping hir bag, shi proceeded to remove the top layer of clothing. The day before shi hadn’t put anything on, but today shi felt like shi needed a new top. The first thing shi noticed was that hir personal PADD, which shi had laid under the top layer of clothing, was flashing red. Picking it up, shi tapped the touch screen which made the PADD beep and reveal a calendar. In the center of the calendar was a flashing pink square with the date 8/26/91, and under that was the text: ‘HEAT Day 2’ in curly letters.
Brown blinked. ‘It must be a mistake, I’m not in heat I would have felt it by now unless…’ Shi gasped. "Oh shit."
Hopping up, shi ran back to the kitchen and waved hir mother out of the group into the hallway. Browneyes then pulled hir mother into the washroom and started the shower up.
"Brown, honey, you know I love you very much, but I think you ought to spend your shower times with Darktoes," said Dancer, somewhat bemused.
"Gah!" Brown said pressing hir ear to the door to see if anyone was out there. Satisfied, shi turned to hir mother. "Mom, when you were pregnant with me, what did it feel like?"
"Well I don’t know, I guess I felt a little slowed down I suppose, I mean you weren’t the lightest of kits but…"
"Not that! Right after Dad impregnated you and you knew you were pregnant? What did you feel like?"
"Sort of…I guess a warm, secure feeling…err joyful I suppose, like the afterglow of an orgasm, I suppose."
"Damnation." Brown swore, sinking to the floor before hir knees gave way.
"Why are you asking all these question in the bathro…" A look of realization dawned on the older Chakat, "You’re pregnant, aren’t you, sweetheart?"
"I think so, yes," Browneyes was close to tears now. This wasn’t how shi had wanted things to happen.
"Congratulations, honey!" hir mother sank to the floor next to hir clearly upset daughter and gave hir a hug. "Why are you upset? This is a joyful occasion!"
"You don’t understand!" Browneyes explained to hir mother the whole of what was going on with hir child’s sire.
"Surely the cub would be a deal breaker?" asked hir mother. "I mean they’re not going to allow a family to be separated?"
Brown sighed. After shi had heard the bad news about the moved-up launch date, shi had gotten one of hir friends who was a student of legal affairs to examine the contract, so shi knew the ins and outs pretty well. "I can break the contract forcing Dark to colonize the world, but not the one requiring hir to survey the planet, which could take up to five years regardless. And I’d have to prove that this cub would grow up without the basics."
"Isn’t two loving and caring parents part of the basics?" Dancer asked.
"No, mom, even the Chakat council agrees that children can be raised well by a single loving parent. Why do you think Star Fleet is allowed to take chakats on such long voyages?"
Hir mother sighed. "We should at least tell Darktoes then and…"
Browneyes cut the dappled Chakat off. "No, mother, we can’t!"
"Why not? It’s hir cub as well as yours."
"Because if we do, shi’ll want to stay!"
"I fear I must be missing the point then. Don’t you want hir to stay?" asked Dancer, rather confused by now.
"Of course I do, mom, I love hir, but I can’t take hir dreams away because of my foolishness in the bedroom. I should have remembered I was on heat and had hir wear a condom or something." Browneyes sobbed lightly. "I’ll miss hir terribly, but I want hir to be happy and satisfied with life, not bogged down by an accidental kit and hir idiot mother."
Dancer hugged hir daughter tightly. "If you this is what you really want, I promise I won’t tell hir, but hun, raising a cub isn’t easy. You’ll probably have to drop out of school."
Browneyes dried hir tears on the back of hir hand. "I know it’ll be difficult, but I was hoping you’d support me." Brown glanced at hir mother; it was unheard of that a chakat’s parents would reject hir, for whatever reason, but you did hear horror stories from non-chakats.
"Of course, sweetheart, of course." Dancer give hir kitten a lick-kiss on the cheek. "You needn’t worry about that."
"As for schooling, I know Dewclaw has a program set up for students living on other continents who can’t make it to school on regular basis, so I should be able to do that."
"Sounds like you have this all planned out."
Browneyes shot hir mother a dirty look. "I didn’t plan this at all, so don’t even think that…"
A knock on the bathroom door, "Brown? Honey? Are you in there? They said you’d be in here," said the voice of Darktoes.
Dancer hopped up with the grace that had earned hir part of hir name, and opened to door. "You two have fun, okay?" shi said, leaving behind hir daughter and hir lover.
Dancer by the Sea
Despite of the complications surrounding hir daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, shi was glad shi was going to finally get a grandkit; hir other children, while older then Browneyes, all had very busy careers in Star Fleet or Star Corps, and hadn’t even thought about settling down yet to have children. Shi was a bit disturbed by hir daughter’s insistence that the cub’s sire not to be told, but shi respected hir child’s wishes. It wasn’t hir cub after all. However, there were other complications.
"Hi hon," said a reddish-furred chakat whose only mark was a single black spade shaped spot on hir rump. The chakat’s name was Spadespot, Darktoes’ sire. The three chakats were still at the kitchen table, apparently still chatting. "Where were you?"
"Err…" lying was not something that came easy to Chakat, nor was it pleasant to deceive hir mates and friends. "I had to help Browneyes’ with something personal." It wasn’t a complete lie.
Sky gave hir a quizzical look. The stormy-gray Chakat had been hir mate for many years and, aside from knowing Dancer extremely well, their extremely strong empathic bond gave hir away. Luckily hir mate knew better then to say anything, trusting hir mate’s judgment.
The green and grey Chakat sitting at the table spoke up, "Did you tell hir about our denmating?"
The last two nights hadn’t just been lustful passion between friends who had just hit it off. Dancer hadn’t wanted to tell Browneyes, but shi had known Pond and Spadespot from a long, long time ago. The two of them had grown up together in a small rural town on Earth, before Dancer’s family had immigrated to Chakona. As the only chakats in the small town, they had closely bonded and were on-off again lovers. Of course, at the time, the two Chakats had different names, so when Browneyes had told hir of them, shi hadn’t a clue they were going to show up!
The three of them had decided to do more than just catch up on years of lost love making, and had decided last night to become full fledged denmates, even if they weren’t going to see one another as often as they would have liked.
Dancer sighed; this secret wasn’t going to be easy to keep, "No, It sort of slipped my mind when I was dealing with Browneyes’ problem."
"No problem, love, we’ll tell them both later." Spade got up off hir haunches and lick-kissed hir new mate. Dancer gave hir a cuddle and felt better already. "Sound’s like a plan love, but…"
"But what, my sweet?" asked Spade. "You’re not getting cold feet are you?"
Dancer shook hir head. "No, nothing like that. It’s just that Browneyes is going through a lot of heartbreak now, and I’d rather not upset hir further. Not that shi’d be upset at us becoming a triad," shi added hastily at the look the four chakats at the table gave hir. "I’m not sure you realize this, but your daughter has made quite the impression on Browneyes, and shi’s not taking the fact that shi’ll be gone soon very easily."
This of course sparked an intense discussion about what they could do to help the young lovers out, with Dancer by the Sea explaining hir daughter’s reasoning for letting hir lover leave to follow hir dreams, leaving out, of course, the fact that hir daughter was now carrying the Stellar’s child. After a while, they both came to the conclusion that it was best to just allow what would be, be. After moving to the den, their conversation turned more to local topics such as discussing a possible shopping trip and how they could help bring these two farmers to Chakona.
The last week the young couple had, had passed quickly, more quickly then Browneyes had wanted. The two of them had spent every moment they could together, but today was the day.
The Stellar Foxtaurs had gathered at the spaceport, where a large scale aero-transport was waiting to take them up to the starship that would be their new home until they got to the colony planet that had been picked out for them. Brown and Darktoes were spending the last moment they could together. Both promised one another to write, although both knew it would be several months before they’d be able to really talk. It took time to set up Faster than Light communication systems, and even when they did, it would be months before the orbiting space station would have the bandwidth to be used for anything more than emergency and official Federation business.
Finally, the boarding started to commence, and the foxtaurs slowly filed on, most of them carrying all their worldly goods on their backs. Browneyes and Darktoes shared a long passionate kiss, and then the two separated for the final time.
Later that evening Browneyes would look up at the stars in the direction of hir lover’s destination, and wonder if shi was thinking of hir.
It had been many months since hir beloved had left. It hadn’t been easy; several times shi found hirself crying hirself to sleep, and moping around hir parents’ condo for days on end. Shi had long since moved back into hir parents’ place, only going back to Dewclaw long enough to arrange the at-home distance education.
Luckily, hir mother’s new mates were able to break hir out of the flunk with their excitement of becoming grandparents. Brown had been a bit shocked that hir mother had already known these chakats and had taken them as mates. Of course they were more than a little shocked that their adopted child was about to become a father and shi didn’t even know; but they promised to keep that fact a secret.
And, lo and behold, it was the day of hir cub’s birth. As per normal, as many people from both families had shown up, and it was quite the crowd. However, the day wore on, and here it was, two hours from the next day, and shi still hadn’t given birth yet. For a Chakat whose births are normally very predictable, it was frustrating to miss the selected day of birth and force everyone to come back for another party the next day.
Brown was out on the same balcony that shi and Darktoes had been out on the night shi had gotten pregnant. In some ways it have become hir widow’s walk, even though shi knew full well hir beloved Veldter was still very much alive. Shi could still sense hir empathically, thought it was very, very faint. Shi’d gaze up at the star where shi knew Darktoes was orbiting.
The door behind hir slid open. Brown turned and saw hir family’s midwife walk out and take up position beside hir.
"Mind if I take some scans, dear?" asked the salt and pepper colored Chakat.
"No, go ahead," Brown said, trying to smile slightly. Shi had been talking all day, which was to be expected, seeing as shi was more or less the guest of honor in this whole performance. Still, it had tired hir out. "I’m sorry, Chess, I guess my kit just isn’t ready to come out yet."
Chess smiled, as shi took scans with hir medical tricorder. "I’ve seen my fair share of stubborn kits in my day, hun. I wouldn’t worry about it too much." The Chakat nodded to hirself as the scans completed. "Everything appears to be in order. It’s a bit chilly out here, hun, maybe you should get something heavier to wear."
"I’ll be all right," Brown said to the retreating Chakat as shi stepped back inside.
The calico Chakat looked back up towards the stars again; shi could almost imagine hir mate out there on some far-flung plains, looking up at those alien stars and thinking of hir. "Oh, Dark, why didn’t I go with… OUCH!" Shi yelped as shi felt a contraction.
Chess apparently had heard hir, and stuck hir head out of the door way. "Was that what I think it was?" shi asked with a cheeky grin.
"Yes, yes." said Browneyes, wincing as a second contraction washed over hir. "And from the looks of things, shi’s in a hurry."
The midwife helped the calico Chakat into the den, which had been set up into birthing room. The condo might be reasonably large, but it wasn’t large enough to have a separate nursery, so Browneyes would be using hir room as a nursery, which thankfully had just enough room for the whole of the two families.
Laying down in a birth position with hir mother supporting hir in place of the sire, shi began to push. Giving birth was always easy for chakats, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t painful; after dozens of contractions and pushing when the midwife told hir to, the pain was starting to get to hir then…
Shi felt the head slip free of the birth canal, and with it, the rest of the body of hir kitten.
The newborn let out a lusty cry.
It was done.
After a few moments of inspecting the newborn, the midwife dried the cub and then handed hir to hir mother. Browneyes held hir child up hir breast to allow it to feed. Brown murred with pleasure as the little cub suckled for hir first time. As shi did, Brown inspected the cub hirself; shi had clearly inherited hir basic coloring and patterning from hir father; orange-red with a white underbelly and dark brown taur socks. Well, almost; shi had several black spots with azure blue centers on hir left shoulder blade and chest and the back of hir taur waist.
On top of hir head was a mop of slightly damp blonde hair; Chess had assured hir, however, that shi was 100% Chakat, so their was little chance that hir hair wouldn’t grow into a beautiful, long mane of hair, should shi choose it.
After hir fill, the kitten yawned and fell into a peaceful sleep. Brown completed the milk sharing ceremony with hir mother (shi had agreed months ago to help feed hir) and got up to place hir kitten in hir crib for the night. As shi was laying the kitten down, Brown noticed something unusual about one of the spots on the right side of hir daughter’s chest. It wasn’t a blue-centered black dot like the others, in fact it looked like a little pawprint.
Browneyes frowned; there was only one species who had that sort of markings, and that was a skunktaur, but hir mate wasn’t one…and shi certainly wasn’t one. The calico went off to find hir mother.
"Mom?" Hir mother was chatting with some relatives of hirs.
"Yes sweetie? Something wrong?" Dancer knew that, while Chakat cubs were born healthy almost always, it didn’t stop new mothers from worrying.
Brown grabbed hir mother and pulled hir mother away from the crowd before asking: "Mom, am I a chakat?"
Hir mother giggled, "Of course you are hun, what a silly question!"
"No, no," the new mother was starting to get frustrated; "Am I one hundred percent Chakat? My kitten has a blue pawprint on hir chest and want to know why, damnit!"
The dappled Chakat frowned, and asked hir daughter to show hir. Looking over the newborn, Dancer smiled, "Your kitten is very special sweetheart. It looks like shi inherited the telekinesis Talent."
"Well, you never met hym, but your great-great grandmother was a skunktaur; one of the first to be freed from the Three Firms."
"What happened to hir? Surely shi should still be alive?"
"Alas," hir mother frowned, "hy was killed a few years after hy gave birth to my great-grandmother in a space liner accident."
Brown and Dancer stood in silence for a few minutes until Browneyes broke the silence, "Why now though? None of you have that Talent."
"Quite true," hir mother said, "but these things tend to get diluted over time, and it’s a recessive trait in chakats. A doctor would probably be better able to explain it."
"I’ll get hir checked out as soon as possible," Brown said, yawning.
Hir mother chuckled. "I think your kitten isn’t the only one who needs some sleep, dear."
Browneyes agreed, and after bidding the guests good night, shi settled down to sleep. Despite hir great weariness, shi had difficulty sleeping. Perhaps I should tell Darktoes of hir child…
The Skunktaur doctor smiled at Brown as shi tried to hold the hyperactive cub. The foxtaur-colored cub was several months old at this point. "Little Honeymane is fine, Shir Browneyes."
"Were you able to test for the Talent?" Brown asked, as the kitten began to mew; shi was hungry. Browneyes quickly pulled down the straps of hir tank top and lifted the now calmer kitten up to hir breast to be fed. Shi started suckling almost immediately.
"Yes and no," said the doctor, "We can test for the genetic markers, but not directly test for it for at least another year. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that we did find the genetic markers."
"How do you know if it’ll give hir the Talent, or if it’ll just laying dormant?"
"We…can guess, but as I said, without a direct test, we’ll have no idea. The computer is estimating shi has about a 70% chance that shi will have TK."
Brown smiled down at hir drinking kitten between hir breasts. "I guess I’ll have to look into enrolling hir in special education."
"Indeed" said the doctor, leaning back in hys chair, "Talents are typically harmless, but Telekinesis can be somewhat dangerous in untrained hands. Of course, do you have any relatives who have training in these Talents? I know Chakats tend to prefer a closer family setting in such matters."
Brown shook hir head, "No, I’m afraid my family is pretty much 100% Chakat. I didn’t even know I had a Skunktaur relative until Honeymane was born, and hy died years ago in an accident."
"Well no matter, most of us Skunktaurs are friendly, even if the teachers can get a little be arrogant sometimes," hy said with a smile.
Brown nodded, sensing the appointment was over, and stood up. "I understand. Good day, doctor."
"Good day, Shir. Take care, and you too, Honeymane!"
To be continued in Motherhood Woes.
Chakats, Stellar Foxtaurs, Chakona and other concepts © 2008 Bernard Doove
Skunktaurs (Chakat-kin) are © Robert Reijns
Browneyes, Darktoes and other characters are copyright me, Honeymane
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please send your questions, comments, etcetera to HoneymaneFeedback@gmail.com
And a special note of thanks for Sandwalker for his help putting these stories together.
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