"You all have your lists?" a foxtaur vixen asked the group around her. As all the mumbles and nods were positive she said, "We have five hours, so get your chores done and you’ll have a little time for looking around before we lift at midnight local time."
"Where’s Dad?" an almost pure black chakat of about six or seven asked.
"You know him," another, slightly older chakat youth told hir, " ‘Around’ here, somewhere ..."
"Freetrail – stop!" a very elderly chakat half cried – half whimpered as shi didn’t quite collapse to one side of the main thoroughfare leading from the landing pad they had just left to the main terminal, road shuttles and PTV parking where they were heading. "I’m sorry, but I have to rest," shi told another, equally old chakat, though this one’s fur still held traces of hir original dark brown coloring.
"Hunter, I told you we should have caught our breath in the departure area before trying to walk across the terminal," Freetrail told hir old friend. Neither of them had said it, but they both knew that this had been their very last trip to Chakona. They couldn’t get around like they used to, and if their current state after such a short walk was any indication, they soon wouldn’t be getting around at all. Shi mentioned none of this as shi sank down next to hir friend of many years, wondering if either would be able to get up without having to take off their saddlebags.
"You two look like you could use some help," a voice said from behind them.
Turning, they found they were blocking the path of a heavily loaded trolley. The human that had brought it to a stop behind them wore dark glasses and his red hair was mostly hidden by a yellow and black baseball type cap that read, ‘I don’t avoid confusion – I create it!’ A dark blue shirt, black pants and orange flip-flops completed his ensemble.
"We’re fine; just need to rest a minute," Freetrail assured him.
"Bullshit," he replied in a low yet gentle tone. "I saw how hard it was for you to get this far – you won’t make it to the next break area without collapsing again."
"Really, we’ll be fine," Hunter told him.
"Yeah, right. You’re in worse shape than shi is. Just a second," he said as he dug into the luggage on his trolley. "Ah!" he exclaimed as he pulled out two large bottles of cloudy liquid. He gave them each a good shake before bringing them over. "Drink," he didn’t quite order as he thrust one into each of their hands. Watching Freetrail take a tentative sniff, he added, "It’s just an energy drink; you two look like you could use one," he said as he went back and started shifting around some of the luggage on his trolley. He then came over and released Hunter’s saddlebags.
"Hey!" Hunter protested as he quickly added them to his trolley.
"Hay is for horses," the human quipped back, "though I do swear that some of you chakats are part mule." He also took Freetrail’s saddlebags, but shi only raised an eyebrow at him as shi finished the drink.
"Now that you’ve taken our belongings, what are you going to do to us?" Hunter asked.
Patting the top of his now fairly flat trolley load, he said, "Give you a ride to wherever you’re heading."
" Uh, no. Thank you, but we’ll walk," Freetrail told him.
"Bullshit again," he chuckled. "All three of us know you two won’t make it, so your choices are let me help you – or I alert the station to two frail, invalid travelers and let them help you."
Freetrail looked over at Hunter. "I really don’t want to deal with the station," shi muttered.
"They’ll probably go and call the hospital again," Hunter agreed.
"So, do you agree?" he asked with a grin.
"Right now you’re the lesser of the two evils," Freetrail admitted as shi got up.
He had to help hir climb onto the loaded trolley, but even with help, Hunter couldn’t manage the climb.
"Need help loading your baggage?" a voice purred from behind them. Hunter turned to see a massive dark gray and black-striped chakat grinning down at hir.
"If you don’t mind," the human admitted.
"Any time," shi said as shi easily lifted Hunter and gently set hir on the baggage next to Freetrail. Shi turned and left them with a wave of hir tail.
"Nice of hir," he said before touching the trolley’s controls. "Time to get this show back on the road."
As the trolley started moving, Hunter muttered to Freetrail, "This is embarrassing."
"Could be worse," shi replied.
"Yes, it could," the human agreed, having much better hearing than they had anticipated. "And I take exception to being called the lesser of any evils, kitten … as to being embarrassed, well …" He shifted the trolley until it was going down the middle of the wide passage.
"Longtails for sale, get your Longtails!" he suddenly cried out, getting everyone’s attention. "They’d make great cub sitters – if they didn’t always fall asleep long before the cubs!" he proclaimed.
While most were watching with disgust, a couple of older ones had grinned at the cub’s line. The Longtails in question were hugging each other, trying to hide their faces from those gawking up at them.
"Longtails for sale, get your Longtails! Hurry now before this offer – or they – expire!" he called again with a laugh. "They’d be good at spinning tall tales – if only they didn’t bore the ears right off your poor head!" he threatened them with the last.
The two elderly chakats on his trolley were now visibly shaking. Several chakats and other visitors were now closing on the trolley, most looking very displeased about what they were hearing.
"Longtails for sale, get your Longtails! One day only – get ’em while they last!" The look he was giving those approaching suggested they’d be better off elsewhere.
"They’ve been rode hard and put away wet, but they might still have one more good romp left in ’em!" came not from the human’s lips – but from the top of his trolley!
"Well used and abused!" Hunter sang out as well as shi could as Freetrail got hir breath back. Those almost to the trolley now stopping in confusion.
"They make great sex partners," Freetrail called out, "as they –
Don’t often tell – "
"But often brag!" Hunter cut in.
"And are grateful as all hell!" Freetrail finished up, laughing.
"Free old farts to a good home!" the human threw out as they caught their breaths. "No wonder Longtails always look so worn out ... it now takes them all night to do what they used to do all night!"
"The nice thing with Longtails is that they are so forgetful that you are always our new friend, no matter how many times you've been here!" Freetrail told the growing crowd.
"They’ll treat you like family because they think you are ... after all they knew someone that kinda looked like you – fifty years ago!" Hunter chuckled just as a spotted chakat cub jumped up on the trolley with them. Shi gave each of them a hug before giving the human a grin.
"So?" he asked hir, "Are they keepers?" At the cub’s energetic nod, he said, "There you have it folks! These are grade A cub-approved Longtails! Longtails for sale, get your Longtails!"
"They may need splints to keep it up – so watch out for splinters!" Hunter warned them.
"And about the time they get it up, their partner has fallen asleep," Freetrail said giving Hunter a dirty look.
"Or they've forgotten why they were playing with it!" Hunter fired back at hir before they both broke out laughing.
They had quite a gathering walking at the pace the trolley was moving. A pair of teenage foxtaur vixens approached the front of the trolley from either side and handed up drinks to the riders.
"Let us know if he pushes you too hard – or too far," one told Freetrail.
"Like they’d admit that one little human could get the better of them," the other one softly scoffed with a chuckle as they stepped back to join the groups that seem to be paralleling the trolley’s route.
"A nice thing about Longtails is that you can give them a ration of shit and in five minutes they’ve already forgotten you did it," the human said from behind them.
"Or you can keep telling that same old joke and they’ll always laugh," Hunter countered.
"When they say they’ve changed their mind - you can only hope that the new one works better!" Freetrail laughed.
Grinning up at them, the human sang out (badly!):
"When I was young I had a lot of pep
I could get around, I didn't need no help
But since I'm getting’ old and gray
Those people all look at me and say
He's too old, too old
He's too old to cut the mustard anymore
He's a-gettin' too old, he's done got too old
He's too old to cut the mustard anymore"
To save hir poor ears – and the ears of those in hearing range, Freetrail took up the song.
"I used to could, jump just like a deer,
but now I need a new landing gear.
I used to could, jump a picket fence –"
"But now you’re lucky if you can jump an inch," Hunter told hir.
"Too old, too old, shi’s done got too old,
shi’s too old to cut the mustard anymore,"
they sang out together – to the cheers of those around them.
They were surprised to find that they were already leaving the main building for the parking and vehicle rental area. While they had left most of their followers behind, over a dozen continued on with them.
"Do you have your own vehicle – or were you getting a rental?" he asked.
"A rental," Freetrail told him. "We’ll punch up a twin taur seater."
"How far is ‘home’?" he asked.
"Three hundred klicks," shi admitted.
"Upscale," he told hir. "So you two can stretch out and not have to sit up the whole way."
"We’ll manage," Hunter told him. "We’ve done it before, we can do it one more time."
"Stubborn furballs," he muttered before giving them a nasty grin. "I think I can out stubborn you. Graysocks, rent us a PTV if you would please?"
"Yes, Father," called out one of the teen vixens that had offered them a drink. "One extended taur cab coming up."
"Father?" Hunter said in surprise.
"You’ve been out of your depth since Neal pulled up behind you," the other vixen told them. "He collects strays you see, and now you’ve been collected."
"Now now, Beechwood, they still have a chance to escape," Neal chided her.
"No they don’t," a six or seven year old chakat youth retorted. "You gotten their spirits up; they’ll jump at your offer, no matter the cost."
Neal glared down at the cub as the PTV pulled up. As Graysocks keyed the doors open he said, "Shady? If you’ll do the honors?"
"Certainly, Father," agreed the large chakat as shi gently picked up Freetrail and set hir in the PTV before doing the same with Hunter. "It was nice to meet you two, and I hope to see you again," shi told them.
"Thank you, but this was our last trip," Hunter told hir, the sadness obvious in hir voice.
"Think positive," Shady told them. "Stranger things have happened."
"Then there’s the matter of the fee for dragging you across the terminal," Neal said with a grin. "One hug, each."
"I don’t remember agreeing to that," Freetrail complained – even as shi opened hir arms to him.
"You could always refuse," he admitted as he gave hir a tight hug before releasing hir to go to the other side of the PTV.
"Cheap at twice the price," Hunter said into their hug, only to sputter out a snicker when Neal kissed hir nosepad. "Nobody said anything about you stealing kisses!" shi told him.
"Well – if you think you can steal it back …" Neal said as he backed away from hir with a grin.
The spotted cub from before also jumped up and demanded a cuddle from each of them before sticking hir comm badge to the PTV’s front console and jumping out.
At their confused looks, Graysocks said, "Shi thinks shi’ll be seeing you two again."
"With a little bit of luck, and maybe a touch of magic," Neal said. "You two do believe in magic – don’t you?"
"It has been a magical evening," Freetrail admitted.
"Then we’ll throw in just a little more," Neal said. "While you two are getting close to the end of your turn on the wheel of life, sometimes there is the possibility of jumping to a fresh wheel – if you believe…."
"Believe in what?" Hunter asked confused.
"Magic," Shady said from the side. "You have to believe you really want it for it to work."
"Magic?" Freetrail repeated.
"Magic – but only if you want to," Neal assured hir. "There are some new colonies opening up, and I can reserve a couple places for you – if you find you’re interested."
"How do we …?" Hunter asked, unsure.
"You have a little time to think it over," Neal told them. "If you decide to take the plunge, you simply say the spell three times."
"What spell?" Freetrail asked. Hunter looked between them like shi wasn’t sure shi was hearing things right.
"Bibbity … Bobbity … Boo," Neal told hir. "Three times each – but only if you’re sure – as once invoked this spell cannot be reversed. You have until you reach your home to decide."
"Lame, Dad," one of the older cubs complained as the PTV rolled away.
"Perhaps," he admitted, "but no one can say I forced them to take it, and they have a few hours to think about it."
"If they don’t just fall to sleep," Graysocks pointed out.
"No chance of that," Shady assured her, "I got a good read off them as I put them in the PTV. Between them not having that long tiring walk, the energy drinks, and all that excitement, they should be up for hours."
"Speaking of hours, did everyone get their chores done before butting into my task?" Neal asked. The couple of groans told him who still had things to do.
"Do you think it’s real?" Hunter seemed hesitant to ask.
Freetrail snorted. "I see four sets of possibilities. The first pair deal with if it’s not real. We do nothing and nothing happens. We say the ‘magic’ words and nothing happens – other than maybe them laughing at us through that little comm badge that cub left us."
"So harmless – unless it’s real."
"If it’s real, we can still do nothing – and he said nothing will happen to us. But if it is real and we invoke it as he said … do we really want to get on the ‘wheel’ again?"
Hunter was lost in thought. "That Shady, shi was so big and strong, yet shi was so gentle when shi was carrying us. I could wish to come back like that."
"Then wish for it," Freetrail told hir. "The worst that can happen is ‘nothing happens’."
"Bibbity … Bobbity … Boo," Hunter said before looking expectantly at Freetrail.
"Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo," shi agreed.
"Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo."
"Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo."
"BIBBITY-BOBBITY-BOO!" they quickly sang out the last one together – and they never saw the transporter beams that filled the PTV.
For almost a minute, the PTV continued on its course unoccupied. Then the beams came again, depositing two prone bodies and a second comm badge next to the first.
The chakat lying where Hunter had sat was the first to stir. Shi let out a powerful yawn before relaxing into slumber again. Moments later hir eyes popped open and shi shot up – only to slam hir head into the semi-padded ceiling of the PTV.
"Ow damnit ouch," shi muttered rubbing hir head.
"So there are disadvantages of being big," the other one commented. Equally massive, hir dark brown coloring was the only main difference between hir and hir now sandy-colored partner.
"Not funny, Freetrail," the sandy colored one complained.
"Sure it is, Hunter. You wished to be big and the first thing you do with it is try to bash your brains out," shi snickered. Freetrail then pulled Hunter down to hir and examined hir head before wrapping hir in a full body hug. "No real damage, but you demonstrated that it’ll take some time to get used to these new and larger forms."
"Hmmm. Good thing we let that damn human upgrade this thing or we’d have our butts pushed up the back door with our muzzles mashed into the windshield," Hunter snickered.
"His name was Neal," Freetrail reminded hir. "I wonder how we’re supposed to know what to do next? He did say something about colonies …"
"Maybe those?" Hunter asked, pointing at the two comm badges. "Wasn’t there just one earlier?"
Getting back into seated positions, Freetrail reached out to tap one of them. "Hello?" shi half asked.
The badge chirped and then replied, "Hello, this is Tess. How may I help you?"
"Tess, we –," Freetrail started.
"– invoked the ‘spell’. Yes, I know. Were you inquiring about going to the colonies, or to tell us you wanted to renege on the agreement?" Tess asked.
"I didn’t know we could renege," Hunter replied cautiously.
"Of course you can," Tess told them; "We are only interested in willing volunteers going out to the colonies with us. Besides, forcing you would be slavery, and we’re not into that."
"So if we say yes to the colonies, what happens now?" Freetrail asked.
"While my boss would like you back at the spaceport by tomorrow evening to join us, there will be several other ships also heading that way over the next two months," Tess said.
"Who is this ‘boss’?" Hunter asked, as a growing suspicion started to worry hir.
"You’ve already met him. Good sized – for a human, but not able to lift a chakat without some help."
"What exactly is he the ‘boss’ of?" Freetrail asked, starting to feel some of what was bothering Hunter.
"Captain of the good ship, Folly. Mate, co-mate or adopted father to all the furs that were around your PTV this evening. He’s one of the primary movers in the colony expansion project that he was offering to the two of you. And, when he’s not acting in any of those roles, he sometimes pretends to be an engineer," Tess told them, amusement in her voice.
"B-but he was just a porter moving luggage!" Hunter protested.
"That chore had been given to Chakat Darkstreak, one of our cubs, but Neal took over when he saw you two in distress."
"Why did he offer us this?" Hunter asked, indicating hir new form.
"He was going to help you through the port either way, but he sensed that your spirits weren’t as aged as your bodies. That’s why he tried to embarrass you, to see if you would stand up to him or fold. Since you two not only didn’t fold, but you beat him at his own game, he offered you the ‘spell’. I can’t wait to see his expression when he sees you, as he doesn’t know you mixed a wish into your spell," Tess finished with a chuckle.
"So, what happens next?" Freetrail asked again.
"You go home and gather whatever you want to take with you and meet us back at the space port," Tess told them. "If you need longer to get your affairs in order, we can discuss when the other ships will be coming through."
"Okay," Freetrail agreed. "We know how to turn these badges on, but how do you turn them off?"
"As in you’d like some privacy? Just say ‘privacy mode on’. To deactivate privacy mode, just touch the comm badge."
"Thanks, Tess. Privacy mode on," shi said before looking over at Hunter. "Do we rush this – or take our time?"
"Rushing means we’ll be on the same ship as Shady," Hunter pointed out. "Later means an unknown ship and crew."
"A point," Freetrail agreed. "We already had things ready to go for when we passed – grab what we want and then invoke the wills?"
"Suits me," Hunter agreed. "So … we still have a couple hours before we get home; how did you want to spend it?" shi asked with something between a grin and a leer.
Freetrail didn’t reply, instead shi rolled away from Hunter and exposed the underside of hir lower torso. A grin grew on hir muzzle as something began to emerge.
"Wow, seems shi’s big everywhere!" were the last words spoken for a quite a while.
The chakat went down hir list, checking off items as shi came to them, and being careful not to look behind hir where two very excited chakats were trying to sneak up and surprise hir.
"Chakat Shady! Chakats Hunter and Freetrail reporting for duty," one of them proclaimed when they were to either side of hir tail.
It was who shi had felt, having gotten a good feel for them the night before. Shi turned with a smile to greet them only to stumble a little when the two massive chakats came into view. Quickly recovering shi said, "Funny, I don’t remember either of you two being quite that large last night."
Freetrail snickered. "My partner mixed a wish with the spell, and these are the results."
"You made such an impression on us that now we are an impression of you," Hunter confessed.
"Better me than Neal!" Shady laughed. "I don’t think the universe would ever be ready for three of him."
"What’s our first task?" Hunter asked.
"Depends on if you’re just going to be warm bodies for the colonies – or if you’re going to be getting ‘close’ to our family," said the almost pure black chakat cub from the night before.
"Blackie …" Shady warned.
"They wanted to be like you and they now want to get close to you, so they get the house testing," Blackie retorted. "Stormy! Star! Front and center!" shi called out.
"I’ve got them," a voice from hir comm badge stated.
"Release them; we have some fresh meat for them to chew on," Blackie replied with a grin at the two now worried looking chakats. "We believe in trial by fire," shi told them as a two year old foxtaur and the spotted cub came around the corner. "Your duties tonight are to attempt to keep up with these two. Stormy, Star, they’re all yours," shi said as shi turned back to hir own tasks.
The chakat cub jumped into Hunter’s arms and demonstrated hir knowledge of fasteners by undoing Hunter’s top and latching onto one of hir large breasts. After a quick sample, shi climbed up to give Hunter a hug before turning to hir partner and repeating the process.
"I take it neither of you is in ‘milk mode’," Shady said from where shi had been watching the proceedings. "Firestorm would have taken more than a sip if shi’d found there was milk to be had."
"Fortunately not, or we’d both be by now," Freetrail said as shi got hir hug. "We had to ‘test’ these new bodies and got a bit carried away."
"I’ve grown to like it," Shady admitted. "I was given the option of going back to what I was, but this is me now."
"That’s not your natural form?" Hunter asked as shi picked up Star for a cuddle.
"I was processed after an accident almost killed me. At the time they could only reset you to young adulthood – so I’m going to celebrate my thirteenth birthday in an adult body."
"So if we suggested joining you tonight, would that mean we would be robbing the cradle?" Hunter asked coyly.
"No, you two sleeping in the captain’s bed would be ‘robbing the cradle’ – but the captain would be the one doing the robbing!" Shady told them with a laugh.
"That wasn’t a ‘no’," Freetrail pointed out.
"I am physically and emotionally an adult," Shady said with a smile. "A romp with a couple of like-minded friends sounds like fun. Besides, it’s not often I have someone my size to play with."
"Then we’ll see you after shift," Freetrail agreed as Firestorm got bored and jumped from hir arms and dashed away – Star not far behind hir.
"Get back here you two!" Freetrail yelled as they took off after cub and kit.
"Well, they have spirit," Blackie admitted from where shi was working.
"And if they’re ‘me’, they should have the stamina," Shady agreed.
"Try not to break them," Blackie chuckled as shi went to check the next load.
"Ha!" Shady said before keying hir comm badge. "Tess? Tell Neal his latest pair of strays has arrived – and until next ship’s morning, they’re mine."
"I’ll let him know," Tess agreed. "Looks like there’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!"
Copyright © 2010 Allen Fesler Redbear1158@hotmail.com
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove and used with his permission.
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