Tanj's Tales: Gotterdamerung, part 2

By Kittiara



Stardate 2401.2

Slave Bells and Negotiations

Zassa Stretched and looked at the clock by her bunk. It

was early, and yet for some reason she wasn’t sleepy.

Laying back on the bed for a moment she ran her paws

lightly over her nude body. Her stomach rumbled. Thinking

over the items in the ship’s galley, the vixen wondered

what she’d like to fix herself to eat. None of it was

immediately attractive. And then a thought hit her; on

their forays into the station, she’d seen a bakery, and

honest-to-God Bakery, with all the scents that go with such

a place. Rising, she rummaged through her closet, looking

for something suitable to wear.

The bags were bulky, but not all that heavy. She’d gotten

bagels, for breakfast, and had even splurged on a tin of

cream cheese. She had a selection of danishes for Wanda,

and some donuts for the others, cake donuts for Tanj,

glazed for Kath, and cream filled for Hinoki. She’d even

stopped in at one of those chain coffee places, and picked

up a half pound of freshly ground coffee. This breakfast

was going to be one to remember! Her mouth watering at the

thought, she pressed through the early morning crowd of

furrs heading towards their day-shift jobs.

The jingle of slave bells, made her head turn. Blinking,

the Vixen angled through the crowd, following the gazes of

those around her. The Ermine fem that came into view was

mostly nude, save for the leather harness she was wearing.

Her head harness included earplugs and blindfold, and what

looked like an inflatable gag. Her arms were bound behind

her, palm to palm, with a rope tied from her wrists to the

end of the short braid her hair’d been put into. She was

hobbled by a short chain, and from her nipple rings hung a

sign advertising some bar. Zassa watched for a moment as

the Ermine moved with miniscule steps, only to bump into a

wall. Without a sound, she turned and started moving out

into the passing crowd, furrs altering their paths to avoid

her, like water flowing around a rock in the middle of a


For a moment, Zassa wondered what it must be like, to be in

such a position, not knowing where you are, or who's around

you. Or what might be done to you…. With a grin, she

shivered in sympathy and envy.

Zassa waited until the Ermine had made it across the

corridor, and was about to bump into the opposite wall.

Reaching out, she took hold of the Ermine’s left elbow, and

used it to turn her just a little, steering her away from

the wall. Releasing her, she grinned as the Ermine

teetered forward, the chain between her ankles going tight

with each step, jingling musically.

It took four more "course corrections" before the ermine

was in the vicinity of the ship’s docking port. Trotting

ahead, Zassa put her packages inside the open lock, and

then keyed in the command code to open both the inner and

the outer personnel locks. Dashing back out, the Vixen

grinned as she held a large piece of plastic wall board

she’d found, angling it just so.

Tanj blinked as the alarm went off. Rising she looked at

the small terminal in her cabin, scanning the alarm message

reported there, and blinked; "now why would Zassa do THAT?"

Rising, grabbing a robe, she hurried down to the personnel

lock, to see what was going on.

The jingle of chains greeted the surprised cheetah; as

Zassa had intended, the Ermine had "ricocheted" off the

wall board she held, and had blundered straight into the

Lost Cause’s personnel lock. Tanj looked from the deaf-

dumb-and-blind Ermine to the grinning Vixen and back. The

vixen just grinned "She followed me home; can we keep her?"

Tanj sighed; "That looks like the one I ran across the

other day… Is she STILL out walking around?" Zassa

shrugged, and stooped to pick up some of her packages;

"Dunno if it’s the same one, or another one like her, but I

thought she could use a rest. Besides, I want to talk to

her. The timer at the back of her neck looks like its

about to time out. Come on, I’ve got breakfast."

Hinoki yawned widely as the sound softly intruded on his

slumber. It sounded like chains rattling…. Opening his

eye, he looked out the open door to his cabin, but couldn’t

see anything….

Tanj stood just outside the lock to her ship, clutching her

robe around her. There were still a few furrs moving

about, the morning "rush hour" tapering off. No one seemed

to be hunting a missing slave, and if there were any signs

of anyone being upset at Zassa’s "abduction," Tanj couldn’t

find them. With a shrug, the Cheetah fem turned and re-

entered her ship’s lock, closing and locking the outer


Wanda frowned at the rattling of chains; turning she looked

at where Kath was still slumbering in her bed. The Mink

had been very naughty last night, climbing under the covers

to stroke, lick, and tease her Mistress….. Wanda smiled,

thinking she should come up with some sort of suitable

"punishment, " something that would both encourage the Mink

to do nice things like that again, while also demonstrating

that it wasn’t her place to make moves on Wanda’s bed….

Sliding the door open, the Woverine lass stepped into the

corridor, to look towards Tanj’s cabin, and the flight

deck, curious at the noise. Were Hinoki and Tanj at it

again? Finding the corridor empty, Wanda was about to turn

and look in the other direction when something bumped into

her softly from behind…..

The bound ermine bounced off someone large, and by random

chance, turned to her left; shuffling she took a half-dozen

tiny steps, only to have something bark her in the shins;

staggering, unable to catch her balance, she fell forward…

Hinoki OOOOfed as someone landed on top of him; twisting

around he found himself face to face with a heavily bound

Ermine fem. "Well, HELLO!" Chuckling, he held onto the

struggling female, wondering what was going on now?

Looking up, he caught a glimpse of Wanda’s face in his

doorway; "Why, THANK YOU, Wanda, she’s Lovely!"

Wanda blinked and spluttered; "but… but I ….. Ah…. I


Hinoki let his paws roam over her body, examining the

harness with almost professional detachment. It was

sturdily made, leather over metal mesh; it wasn’t going to

come off easily. The straps all seemed to wind up at the

back of her neck, where a time-lock held it all together.

Examining the sign hanging from her nipple rings, the

Cheetah sighed and carefully unclipped it, tossing it to

the floor. Sliding from his bed, he helped the Ermine to

her feet, and carefully guided her from his cabin; "Lets

see if we can find out how you got in here, Little One."

Zassa looked up from her fry pan as the Cheetah male guided

the Ermine into the wardroom; "Ah, so THAT’S where she got

off to." Hinoki blinked "you know her?" The Vixen shook

her head; "Not yet. Found her wandering in the Promenade,

and thought I’d bring her home for breakfast. How do you

like your eggs?" Hinoki maneuvered the Ermine into a seat

and shrugged; "scrambled is fine by me…. Say, are those


Kath yawned and stretched; suddenly she realized Wanda was

no longer in the cabin. For a moment, the temptation to

simply fall back to sleep was overwhelming, but then she

sighed. And then grinned; after last night, rousing her

Mistress in the middle of the night with soft licks, well,

she was probably in enough "trouble." Rising, stretching,

she made the bed and then, wearing only her collar, padded

down the hall, to see where everyone had gotten to.

Tanj got herself a cup of coffee and slid into the seat

next to the bound Ermine. The Ermine had kept trying to

get up, to resume her wanderings, until Hinoki had taken a

leash, clipped it to her collar and tied it to the back of

her chair. Now, the bound fem just sat there, quietly.

Taking a long swig from her mug, Tanj turned and peered at

the time-lock on the back of the slave’s collar…… If she

was reading it right, it should time out in mere minutes….

Kath peered into the Wardroom and for a moment froze in

shock. There was a stranger, a rather pretty Ermine in

rather strict bondage sitting between Tanj and Wanda. For

a moment, panic reigned; was she being replaced? Did they

know her secret? Were they going to make her leave, with

this Ermine taking her place on Wanda’s leash? In Wanda’s

heart? Forcing herself to be calm, the Mink padded into

the wardroom, to quietly kneel behind Wanda’s chair…..

The eggs were just coming out of the fry pan when there was

a soft beep and a click; all eyes turned towards the

Ermine, who started to squirm. With the time lock at the

nape of her neck now open, she was able to extricate her

paws from behind her back; while they were till covered in

leather "mittens" she was able to push up one corner of her

blindfold, to look around. It was plain from the

expression on her face that she wasn’t where she expected

to be……

"MMmmmm, this is good." The Ermine, who’s name was Salde,

was on her second plate, not surprising if her mouth had

been full of rubber for the past 24 hours or so. Tanj

sipped her coffee as she examined the time-lock; "so you

say this is a standard "punishment" your Mistress uses?

The Ermine nodded; "yes Ma’am; whenever there’s a complaint

against a slave, rightful or otherwise, the next day we’re

out wandering the station as an advertisement. Sometimes

folks will turn in a complaint just so’s they can… well,

have some fun with us as we’re punished…." Tanj winced,

catching Hinoki’s eye; the male Cheetah looked just a

little grim. Zassa, on the other hand, was listening

raptly; "really? Ooohhh… tell me, what kind of things do

the disgruntled customers do?" "Well," the ermine replied,

"with the harness, there’s not much they can do sexually,

although I have been forced to tit-fuck some folks… can’t

say if they were customers or just someone on the station.

Mostly they play dirty tricks on me….. tripping me, or

tricking me into a maze, or applying an irritant. I

remember one time I was dusted with something like itching

powder. Now THAT was miserable….."

Tanj sipped her coffee; "so you do more for your

establishment than merely provide… "advertising?" Salde

nodded; "Yes, Ma’am; all of the slaves perform a number of

tasks; we wait tables, dance, and of course, we’re all

skilled in the bedroom arts…." Tanj smiled; "I bet you get

a wide variety of customers…. Do many of the Imperial types

visit Miss Kitty’s?" Salde looked down; "well, we’re NOT

supposed to notice… but yes, I believe so…." Tanj nodded;

"and I would imagine in your routine, you overhear some

very interesting things….." Salde paused for a moment, a

cautious look on her face; "um….. could be…." Tanj smiled

and paused to sip her coffee for a moment; "and does your

Mistress require you to tell her the things you’ve

overheard?" Salde’s eyes flicked from side to side, almost

as if she were seeking some route of escape… finally she

muttered, almost too low to hear; "that…. Might be true, on

occasion…." Tanj just smiled; "I think I might have to

have a talk with this Miss Kitty……"

Salde looked at the last remaining donut on the table; "Um…

Ma’am… I really am required to head right back after the

time lock opens…. I’m sure the overseer is going to be

wondering just what happened to me….." Hinoki smiled and

stretched; "ah, but surely there must be excuses for not

coming right back; I mean, what if there were some gang of

street toughs just waiting for the timer to time out, so

they could ravish you?" Salde smiled and looked down;

"that might be a legitimate excuse, but Miss Kitty doesn’t

like for things like that to happen; she wants her

customers to PAY for it… and I’m sure she’d find a way of

getting revenge for anything like that….

Tanj frowned, and shot Hinoki a look; "I know she’s

tempting, but it wouldn’t be fair to get her punished…."

The male Cheetah just leaned back, and laced his fingers

behind his head; "Ah, but dear Captain, there IS a way….

Go ahead and finish the last donut, Salde; I’ve got a comm

call to make….."

Intercepting the Cheetah just outside the flight deck, Tanj

growled; "you are NOT going to depressurize this portion of

the station, just to make the emergency doors close, are

you?" Hinoki blinked and then shook his head; "not a bad

idea; wish I’d thought of it… but no. This "Miss Kitty’s"

is actually on the far side of the station, and it’s a BIG

station. Take at least a half an hour to walk there. But

in a robocab, its only about five minutes. I just called a

cab; we’ll have it take the "scenic" route, and I’ll have

her there in plenty of time….. And, as we go, well……" The

Cheetah’s grin said it all…… Tanj just chuckled and shook

her head; "always the "gentlefurr", aren’t you? Seeing the

Damsel in Distress home, and getting some nookie in the

process." Rising to tiptoes, Tanj kissed him on the nose

and then made shoo-ing motions; "you’d best get going!"

Salde stared at the robocab in wide-eyed wonder; "I didn’t

even know such things existed on the station!" Hinoki

smiled and helped her in, settling onto the hard plastic

bench seat. The door closed with a hiss. Pulling the

Ermine onto his lap, he chuckled; "the windows are one-way;

we can see out, but they can’t see in…. now… lets see, your

timer timed out at….08:37…. Driver! I want an arrival

time of 09:07 at coordinate DD32, and yes, I’ll pay for the

extra minutes." As the cab silently accelerated, Hinoki

turned to kiss the wide-eyed Ermine….

Salde was astride Hinoki’s lap, her harness a heap of

leather straps and metal buckles on the floor. She was

facing away from him, leaning back against him, his cock

buried deep in her pussy. As she moved, as she rode his

shaft, she stared out the "window"… the cab had turned off

of the concourse, and shot into a short tunnel, only to

emerge in a transparent tube, traveling over the exterior

surface of the station. The stars, and all the docked

ships were visible; it was a splendid and exciting view,

one she'd never even knew existed here in the place that

had been her home for several years. Smiling, she thanked

the Cheetah for the treasure he’d shown her in the only way

she knew how, milking his cock with her vaginal muscles,

riding him harder and faster…. Just as the cab flashed

from the transparent tube back into a dark tunnel, their

journey almost over, she managed to bring him off…..

Hinoki was still panting when the cab stopped. As the door

opened, Salde turned to exit, but Hinoki grabbed a paw;

"wait a moment; you don’t want to go back looking like

THAT…. Salde blinked at him curiously, but Hinoki just

reached into a bag he’d brought, to produce a soft towel;

"you’re a bit of a mess; we don’t want people figuring out

what we’ve been doing, do we?" Salde purrred as he rubbed,

cleaning between her legs; her fur was still a little damp,

but maybe, just maybe that could be excused as sweat…..

Harness in hand, she bent to kiss Hinoki goodbye, and then

without a word, she was gone.

Hinoki looked out the window, watching the Ermine’s ass

sway, until she rounded the corner, and was gone. With a

sigh, he looked at the forward wall of the cab and growled

"Home, James….."

Tanj sighed and shook her head; "the problem, Zassa, is

that while the beggar might hear all sorts of interesting

snippets, his "access" is completely random. It depends on

him being in the right place at the right time. And

Hinoki’s friend, the Raccoon, just isn’t "established"

enough yet. Either one MIGHT be a significant intelligence

source, but I still think we could use something a little

more… "mainstream." The Vixen nodded; "so you want to go

visit this "Miss Kitty’s" and see what they might be able

to do?" The Cheetah nodded; "Yeah… call it a hunch…

feminine intuition. I admit it would be the most open

recruitment yet, but if it were to work, it might provide

us with the best source of information." Tanj smiled;

"lets face it; folks like that are VERY mercenary; as long

as we’re offering enough money, there shouldn’t be any

trouble at all…." The Vixen just frowned; "um…."

The dress was barely within the social standards of the

station, and as such, Tanj drew both appreciative and

disapproving looks as she made her way across the station,

to the "strip". During the day, the station was busy, but

as she entered the entertainment district, the crowds fell

off, until it seemed only delivery and cleaning furrs were

about. Stopping in front of the establishment marked by

glare panels as "Miss Kitty’s" Tanj came to a stop. There,

hanging from a hook over the door was Salde… at least she

THOUGHT it was Salde….

The Ermine was in a strict hogtie position, her legs pulled

up behind her back, her arms tied so tight her elbows

touched, her wrists lashed half-way between ankles and

knees. A chain ran from her bindings to the ceiling,

holding her a little over a meter and a half off the floor.

Her head was covered with a slave hood, cutting off all

sight and sound, and probably making it a little difficult

for her to breathe as well. The strap that passed between

her thighs obviously holding a large butt-plug and a larger

dildo in place. And from a pair of rather wicked looking

nipple clamps dangled a sign that read "Closed for


Tanj watched the Ermine slowly twist, in her suspension

bondage and hmmmmed. Did Hinoki’s little trick result in

this punishment? Or had something else happened? And what

could close an establishment like this? Yes, this wasn’t

quite the peak of the business day for places like this,

but all the other establishments on the strip were open…

Curious, Tanj moved past the Ermine, to try the door. As

she suspected, it was locked.

The alleyway was narrow, and dimly lit. Tanj moved towards

the back of Miss Kitty’s, thinking that if the bar was

closed, it might be the perfect time to discuss her

proposal with the proprietor…. If she could just get in.

Besides, the question as to WHY the place would be closed

was bothering her. It was obvious to her that Miss Kitty

had a tendency to be a little rough with her slaves, and

the Cheetah feared what she might find on the other side of

the wall…. As suspected there WAS a back door, but it too

was locked. Knocking discretely on the door produced no

results. Looking about, Tanj found no other doors, or

windows, but there WAS a rather large ventilation grille

about four feet off the floor. Frowning she wondered why

the building wasn’t hooked into the station’s HVAC system….

Stepping closer, she examined the grille; not

unsurprisingly, it popped right off in her hands. It was

almost as if she was being invited to break in….. "Its

just GOTTA be a trap" the Cheetah mumbled to herself; then

a wry grin formed on her face; "but I bet I’d get to meet

the owner…" Smiling to herself, she moved off down the

alleyway to find a comm terminal.

"Tanj, have you lost your mind?" Wanda stared at the image

of the Cheetah on the monitor; "Maybe, Wanda, but I’ve just

got this… "itch"… I’m going to do it despite the thought

that it might not be the smartest thing to do. I can’t

just SIT here any longer, waiting for someone who may or

may not show up; I’ve got to DO something! I’ve swallowed

the tracer; you should be able to find me if I don’t report

back in a few hours…" The Wolverine lass shook her head;

"Dammit, Tanj, I wish you wouldn’t!" The image of the

Cheetah smiled; "Love you too, Wanda." And then the image

faded and was gone….

Behind the Wolverine, Kath sighed and shook her head;

"well, just in case things don’t go as per her rather

optimistic assumptions, there ARE a few things we can do to

prepare for the worst." Wanda just turned and looked at

her pet; "such as call the local undertaker?" Kath shook

her head, and with a grin, padded off, to return a moment

later with two cloaks and her leash; "Mistress needs to

take me for a walk…."

Tanj pulled the grating off the ventilation duct, and

looked inside; it seemed to be clean, and unreasonably

wide. Inviting. With a shrug she climbed up into it,

twisting to reach down, to fetch the grate, to pull it up,

and to snap it back into place. Turning, she crawled a

couple of body lengths before an almost silent clack made

her pause. Backing up, she pushed lightly against the

grate; it didn’t move. Rolling onto her back, bracing

herself, and kicking with both feet didn’t budge it. With

a sigh, she looked at the grate and shook her head; "I hate

it when I’m right…."

Wanda slowed, until the leash went taut…. Kath, who was

actually a few steps ahead of her, looked back over her

shoulder. "Kath… are we going where I THINK we’re going?"

The Mink turned and moved back, to face the Wolverine lass;

putting both paws on Wanda’s shoulders, ignoring the fact

that her cloak fell open as she did so, revealing that she

wasn’t wearing a stitch underneath, she looked into her

Mistress’ eyes. "Mistress, do you Love me?" Wanda

blinked, and then after a moment, she nodded, her eyes

wary. Kath smiled; "Mistress, do you TRUST me? Do you

trust me not only not to do you intentional harm, but to

protect your interests as well?" Wanda swallowed, looked

from her pet to the doorway and back, and finally gave

another miniscule nod. Kath beamed; "then lets go in there

together. Stand straight, look firm, and follow my lead.

If Tanj has gotten herself in trouble like I think she has,

she’ll need help, and I know JUST where to find it…..

The duct had narrowed alarmingly. Worse, sharp

projections, the pointy end of sheet metal screws, longer

than she would have thought necessary, were slowly

shredding her dress. Somewhere near an air mover, some

magnetic field, possibly from a motor, but more likely

something built into the "trap" had snatched away

everything she had made of ferrous metal. Not that this

had left her "unarmed"…. But the way her dress was being

slowly shredded meant that hanging onto all the little

items was becoming more and more difficult….

The officer behind the desk stared open-mouthed. Kath

ignored him, pressing her face to the retinal scanner.

After a moment, she could see the green light reflected on

the Marmoset’s face. "I assume that I’m cleared for

entry?" The Marmoset blinked, and as if awakening from a

dream, dropped his gaze to the screen built into the

counter top. The double-take was classic as his gaze rose

to stare at the Mink on the end of the Wolverine’s leash,

and then back down to the data displayed. Sure enough, the

screen background color was green, indicating that she was

in the database as a member of Imperial Security. Worse,

her rank was….. well, if not truly impressive, then at

least high enough so that it really wouldn’t be prudent to

ASK her about the strange image she presented. Nodding,

swallowing, he pressed his thumb to the special button.

After taking a moment to analyze his thumb print, the

computer turned off the active and passive security

measures and a door opened. Kath smiled coldly and turned,

literally dragging Wanda behind her.

Tanj yelped as the ductwork suddenly gave way. The room

she fell into was almost completely dark, and as the

ductwork and broken ceiling tiles hit the hard metal floor,

the darkness was filled with stars…. After a moment

however, Tanj was able to crawl free, and rise painfully to

her feet. For a long time she remained still, waiting to

see if anyone would come looking, investigating the crash.

Finally she rose; looking around, squinting, she fumbled in

the remains of her dress for the penlight that had been

sewn into one hem…..

The Wolf looked up from the internal security monitor, at

the Chief of Station. While the elderly Badger wasn’t his

nominal superior, he did out-rank him, and as such, had to

be dealt with carefully. "So what’s your wild card doing

now?" The Wolf looked back down at the monitor, where Kath

was arguing with a supply Sergeant. "I honestly don’t

know. The very fact that she’s here, during the day, AND

accompanied, suggests that something major has happened.

And the fact that she hasn’t informed ME suggests that its

either something she’s not sure of, or something that she

wants us "out of the loop" on, even if we DO know she’s up

to something." "Maybe she’s just lost it…. From her file,

it seems she’s gotten more than a little "strange"

lately…." The Wolf nodded; "Perhaps… but I don’t think so.

For the moment, I’m inclined to let her have her head. If

she proves to be working in our best interests, that will

go a long way towards reassuring Command that leaving her

in place was a wise choice. On the other hand, if it turns

out to be something… frivolous, well, it would be well we

knew now." The Badger nodded; "its your neck…"

Tanj looked around, in the dim light of her penlight. The

magnetic field probably hadn’t done too much good for the

power cell, as it should have been brighter. Still, it was

bright enough to show her that she’d fallen in between a

row of cages. Each cage held one or two bound slaves, some

male, some female. They wore body harnesses, in leather

and steel, with their wrists bound at their hips. Each

wore a visor that covered their eyes, and Tanj smiled;

she’d worn one like that at the academy; it let you see

only a thin sliver of light, between your cheek and the

bottom of the visor. Coupled with a posture collar,

holding the head erect, you would only be able to see just

in front of your feet, just enough to walk at the end of a

leash without stumbling. They might know she was here, but

they couldn’t see her….. Each slave also wore a device in

their mouths, that held their lips partially open, like a

slightly less severe ring gag. If she was going to talk to

one of them, she’d have to open one of the cages and

release them from their bondage. Fumbling in the remnants

of her dress, she went looking for the lock pick…. Only to

find it gone, her dress torn to shreds in that area. With

a sigh, she turned to look at the cage nearest her, only to

find that the door had no lock, just a simple bolt. A

simple bolt that a bound slave could never manage to open.

Smiling, she bent to unlock the door…..

Kath struggled under the load of two large bundles, each

tied up with string so that she could carry one in each

hand. Wanda again trailed at the end of the leash,

hurrying to keep up with the Mink. She STILL found it hard

to believe that she’d just made it into, and out of the

Imperial Security offices on Gibralter base, without being

challenged or checked. They’d made their way in, and out,

obtained supplies, I.D.’s, even weapons, ALL just on her

say-so…. And she still didn’t know just what her erstwhile

"Pet" had in mind…..

The bunny blinked in the dim light as Tanj removed the

visor. For a moment she worked her jaws, as Tanj examined

the "gag." "Its made so that you can get food, and water

from those" the Bunny whispered, pointing with her chin;

there, protruding through the bars of the cage, were two

phallic shapes; one was attached to a water bottle, the

other was attached to a machine that might have delivered a

food paste….. Tanj nodded; "I wonder if you might answer

some questions…." The Bunny looked up; "you don’t work for

Mistress? No, you’d know about the cells then…. Not one

of her… "guests"?" Tanj smiled and shook her head; "I’m

here to make your Mistress a business proposition, but I

thought it might be… prudent to find out a little more

about her operation before approaching her…." The Bunny

just nodded….

Hinoki scowled, fingering the black cloth. Looking up, he

fixed Kath with a piercing glare; "where did you GET these?

Do you know how much trouble we could get into if we were

caught in these? If we were just caught WITH these? They

wouldn’t have to know we were with the Brethren! This’d be

all they’d need to send us to the ice mines on Kessel!"

Kath opened her mouth, whether to deny, or to explain

wasn’t clear later; everyone’s train of thought was

disrailed when Zassa held the black uniform up to her front

and grinned; "I think I’m going to look absolutely Stunning

in this. Waitrighthere, Igottagotrythison! As the Vixen

hurried out, everyone else just groaned.

The Bunny rocked her whole torso up and down, making her

breasts bounce; as with the posture collar she couldn’t nod

her head, this was the equivalent of a "yes." "Yes,

mistress" she whispered; "Mistress often leases us out to

various dignitaries. In fact, we’re frequently sent to

"parties" off the station. Once, I was taken all the way

to Hanson’s Pleasure Planet, just for a party… " Tanj

frowned; "why would they send you THERE? I’d think they’d

have more than enough highly trained slaves THERE?…. Are

they sending you there to "service" certain …

"individuals"?" Shaking her chest side to side, making her

breasts wobble, in what could ohnly be a "no", the Bunny

closed her eyes and shuddered; "Oh, no, Mistress! The

point is not the party, or the furrs, but the trip, you

see….. But we’re not supposed to talk about that." Tanj


When the metallic sound of the kennel’s door opening rang

through the chamber, Tanj straightened, only to hit her

head on the cage’s low ceiling. She was still wincing when

the lights came on, and a voice growled "well Looky here;

we got ourselves a slave trying to escape!"

Tanj growled, and bolted from the cage, ramming the guard

in the stomach with her head; he toppled backwards into the

bars of the cage on the opposite side of the row. With a

growl he stood up, shaking loose a thick bullwhip from his

belt. Tanj eeped and back-pedaled, spread her paws; "Look

Mister, I’m NOT one of your slaves! I’m here to see yo….

EYOWCH! The snap of the bullwhip was loud, but the

explosion of pain it brought was staggering. For a moment,

Tanj wobbled on her feet, and then with a growl she

launched herself at the guard, the ceramic push-dagger in

her right paw. Concentrating on the guard, as he brought

his whip back for another stroke, she never saw the

electric blue sizzle as the second guard brought the

stunner down on the back of her neck.

Kath was straightening her tie when Wanda stuck her head

through the hatchway; "You called it right. The tracer she

swallowed was showing extremely high levels of stomach

acid, right up until the point where it blipped out." Kath

sighed and nodded; "I bet they hit her with a stunner of

some sort. Big electrical discharges tend to fry little

things like that." Glancing at her reflection in the

mirror, she grabbed the peaked cap and stepped out into the

corridor. Striding down the hall to the Wardroom, she

growled at Hinoki; "Time to suit up, Mister; the Captain’s

in Trouble!"

Tanj groaned, and shook her head; blinking, she looked

around, as much as she was able. The room was much larger,

and lighter… in fact, she seemed to be in the middle of a

club’s dance floor… locked into a pair of stocks. Her feet

were held in metal rings, spread slightly beyond shoulder-

width, with her torso bent at the waist, head and wrists

locked in a classic set of stocks. Her tail seemed to be

tied to the metal above her neck, as she could move it from

side to side, but not down. Blinking, she tried to


The slap on her bottom made Tanj try to turn her head,

left, and then right; there was no way she could see behind

her. The second slap made her yelp. Then someone was

leaning over her body; she could sense the closeness, feel

the warmth, the furr’s scent filling her nostrils. "I know

you’re not one of my slaves" a deep contralto purrred. "We

checked the tapes on the security cameras; its not everyone

who tries to break into Miss Kitty’s… Tell me, little

Cheetah; what were you after? Were you after money?

Slaves? Are you an assassin, come to try and kill me? Why

are you here?" Tanj cleared her throat, eyes darting from

side to side, still trying to catch a glimpse of the owner

of the voice; "Um, well, actually, I’d come to make you a

business proposition. Thought with the bar closed, it’d be

the best time to speak to you in private…" The contralto

voice laughed, moving away slightly; "Oh, that’s Rich!

That’s one I haven’t heard before!" Suddenly the voice was

whispering in her ear again; "but I don’t need any

partners; don’t need any complications. I suspect I could

make more money selling the Infamous "Tanj" as a slave,

than I could from any "business venture" you might

offer….." Suddenly the voice was more distant, the owner

straightening, moving away; "besides, I doubt that’s what

you’re really after. The timing is just too much a

coincidence….. I don’t know why you’re really here, but

Bruno will get it out of you, in time." Behind her, Tanj

heard the guard chuckle, the bullwhip slither across the

floor, and then the sharp snap as he cracked it just over

her head…..

"Will you HURRY UP?" Hinoki looked through the visor at

the black-clad Mink; it was as if by donning the uniform,

she’d pulled on a whole new persona, and he wasn’t sure he

liked what he was seeing…. Hitting the switch with his

chin, the Cheetah growled; "Listen, Kath, the preflight on

these things isn’t done in an instant. You don’t just

kick-start a fusion reactor! I’m moving as fast as I can!"

Kath scowled at a wrist chrono and shook her head; "The

longer you take, the worse its likely to be for the

Captain. Get a MOVE ON, Mister!"

Tanj panted, her rump and back on fire. The Guard had been

generous with the whip, but so far he hadn’t let the very

tip, which can actually move faster than the speed of

sound, touch her. That could have caused severe internal

injuries. So far it seemed he’d been walking that fine

line between actually breaking the skin, while still

delivering as much pain as he could…. One portion of her

mind grudgingly admitted, he really was a maestro with it….

Closing her eyes, she bit her lower lip as someone moved

behind her, the head of someone’s cock nuzzling against her


Kath marveled at how furrs seemed to move out of her way as

they moved through the station; the powered combat armor

was simply too big to get into any vehicle, so they had to

walk. She felt like she was on parade. "Oh, well" she

thought to herself; "The only time I actually WORE my

uniform was when I WAS on parade, or at certain

ceremonies…." And while the uniform she was wearing wasn’t

her own, it was close enough….

Miss Kitty listened to the Cheetah fem howl, as Rupert took

her in the ass, unlubricated. Her guards had a way of

breaking recalcitrant slaves, and she was sure they’d break

this one in record time. She’d offered them a big enough

bonus. Smiling, she turned back to her senior guard; "the

group from the Botsworth affair have been back almost

twelve hours now; they should be passing their "cargo"

shortly. Is everything going correctly?" The Bobcat

chuckled; "Yes, ma’am; no signs of any of the packets

rupturing. I’ve put a mild laxative in their food, and

that should hasten the, ah, "delivery." Miss Kitty nodded;

"Good; I have a number of buyers that will be coming by

later this evening. I want to move this shipment as soon

as possible….

Tanj grunted, as the creature behind her bucked his hips

harder, his orgasm obviously approaching. She wasn't

exactly enjoying herself, but she’d been through worse, and

it beat being whipped…. The whispered conversation had been

on the bare range of her hearing and only confirmed what

she’d suspected. The Slaves were being used as "mules",

smuggling something onto the station, by ingesting it

first, and "passing" it later. It was a risky business, as

if drugs were involved, a ruptured package would most

likely kill the mule… but if the profits were high enough,

slaves were expendable. And Tanj couldn’t think of

anything that was high-value-low-volume like drugs…

Imperial combat armor isn’t exactly rare on Gibraltar

station, but then again, its not often seen on the

Promenade. Its even less common for a suit of Imperial

Combat Armor to be seen in the entertainment district, on

the Strip, entering a bar. The locked door didn’t slow

Hinoki down much at all, the bulk of the armor enlarging

the opening considerably. Wanda, Kath, and Zassa in

Imperial uniform moved in right behind him, weapons at the

ready. The bar was comparatively dark, with the exception

of a single spotlight on the middle of the dance floor… and

in that spotlight was a very tightly bound Tanj… and behind

her was a rather large Bear, with a bullwhip, his arm back,

ready to strike…..

Hinoki turned, his right arm coming up, the plasma gun

lining up on the Bear. The Bear, for his part, stared,

eyes wide, mouth open. His fingers seemed to convulse, the

whip handle dropping from his grip, to clatter on the

floor, although his posture didn’t move a millimeter.

Everyone’s attention was on the Bear and the scene in the

spotlight; the flare of a laser came as a surprise as its

beam seared across the front of the powered armor. Hinoki

reacted rapidly, moving like a gunslinger, his torso

twisting, the plasma gun flaring solar bright. Just as he

fired, a dark figure across the room launched itself to one

side with a howl. The crouching Bobcat was incinerated,

the remnants of the bolt tearing through the far wall.

"STOP THIS!" the cry only served to draw the attention of

Kath, Wanda and Zassa, their assault weapons drawing a bead

on a well dressed Serval as she picked herself up off the

floor. "Dammit, I pay GOOD MONEY to make sure we’re left

ALONE! YOU WILL ALL PAY for this!" Kath had just opened

her mouth to reply when a deep growl came from the doorway;

"What in Pathan’s Seventh Hell is going ON here?"

Imperial Security generally instills a certain level of …

"concern" in most law-abiding furs, and downright fear in

others, and the Fox, in Imperial Gray standing in the

doorway should have made most folks reflect over their

recent actions, wondering if they’d broken any law, by

accident, or intention. However, Kath turned and strode

over to him as if he were an errant school child; "Captain,

this is an Imperial Intelligence operation; I’ll thank you

to butt out, until your presence is requested!" The Fox

examined the proffered I.D. critically, his ears folding

back as he realized just WHO he was dealing with. He had

opened his mouth to reply, a look of forced indignation

apparent on his face, when Tanj cleared her throat; "Um,

actually, I think it’s a good thing he IS here….."

Tanj sat gingerly on a cushion, a blanket wrapped around

her body; "So you see, Captain, this establishment is

really only a cover for a rather sophisticated smuggling

operation, one that’s been operating right under your nose.

I’m not sure Just what drug they’re smuggling, but I’d

hazard a guess at Ecstasy III." The Fox nodded, looking up

from his notebook; "and you say all I have to do is to wait

for the slaves in the kennels to, ah, "move their bowels"

to collect the evidence?" Tanj smiled and nodded; "I

believe some have already "delivered" their cargo; some are

still, um, "holding", but in general, that’s all. Oh, that

and keep whoever she’s been paying off from interfering."

The Fox stiffened; "Believe me, Madam, if ANYONE has on

this station has been paid off, we WILL get to the bottom

of it. Now, perhaps you could clear up one last little

question?" Tanj smiled and shrugged; "maybe. Depends on

the question." The Fox blinked, as if furrs not giving him

their most complete cooperation was something completely

outside his experience; "Um… Yes…. Just what WERE you

doing here? What is your interest in the…. Activities of

this establishment? Tanj just smiled and looked at the

Mink; "That IS an interesting question. Lets just say that

my activities here fit into a much larger puzzle, some

pieces of which I haven’t put into place yet." Kath

cleared her throat, breaking eye contact with the Cheetah;

"Lets just say, Captain, that some things need to remain

classified." The Fox, not missing the exchange between the

two, even if he didn’t completely understand it, just

nodded; "well, you understand that I WILL have to report

this to my superiors…" both Kath and Tanj just nodded.

With the blanket still wrapped around her, and the

comforting bulk of Hinoki in the powered combat armor right

behind her, Tanj padded through the ruined doorway. For a

moment she wondered what had become of Salde, and where she

might be right now. She hoped she wasn’t hanging there

when Hinoki made his entrance…. Quite a crowd had gathered

on the Strip, held back by a line of gray-uniformed

security troops. Kath slung her weapon and growled; "OK,

lets get back to the ship in the best order as possible."

However, before she could take a step, Wanda put a paw on

her arm, wordlessly pointing with the other paw. Kath

followed her gaze, eyes narrowing, nodded, and then

growled; "YOU!" Hinoki, hearing the shout, turned to look,

actuators squealing. Within the crowd, a furr blanched as

the powered armor turned, seemingly to point right at him.

Without hesitation, he turned and fled, and throughout the

crowd, at least four others started moving away, as quickly

as possible. Not knowing which one to pursue, or even if

they SHOULD pursue, the small group all stood for a minute

in indecision.

The Fox was at Kath’s elbow in a moment, his eyes following

the fleeing fur; "Problem, Ma’am? Kath growled; "Slyth

gang members; we’ve had some small trouble with them…."

The Captain raised an eyebrow; "Oh? Well, I’m sure we have

them on the security monitors; we’ll track them down for

you, if you like." Kath just smiled, and nodded; "that

would please me, Captain." Turning, she pushed through the

crowd, Wanda, Zassa, Tanj and Hinoki following in a small


The Wardroom was a welcome relief. Tanj folded her blanket

and then sat on it tenderly, no longer concerned over her

nudity. The proffered cup of coffee was accepted from

Hinoki with thanks. "Well, I’m glad THAT’s over" the

Cheetah Fem rumbled. Hinoki chuckled and shook his head;

"well, Tanj, do you think you’ve sufficiently blown our

cover, or should we take out adds in the local paper?"

Tanj looked across the small room, fixed the Mink with her

gaze and shook her head; "I think almost everyone out there

thinks we’re Imperial Intelligence right now. Except for

some, who I think know the truth. And have known the truth

since we arrived. The question is, how will it affect us?

Kath, would you care to comment?"

The Mink was nude, hanging from a chain hoist in the cargo

bay, her legs held wide apart by ropes to various different

stanchions. Tanj, Hinoki, Zassa and Wanda were each

crowded around her, each armed with at least one feather.

The Mink giggled and howled, shuddering, her body near

convulsing as they tickled her remorselessly. She’d long

since lost control of her bladder, as the contents of a

nearby bucket testified. Finally Tanj called a halt; "Lets

hear it again, Kath. Once again. I want to make sure

you’re telling us the truth!" Kath took a moment to try

and catch her breath, before whimpering "I told you the

truth, Mistress! THEY contacted me! Oh, it was a MISTAKE

to ever think I could come here! It wasn’t my doing!….."

Tanj sighed and looked over the Mink at Wanda, raising one

eyebrow in a silent question. Wanda trailed the tip of her

feather underneath the Mink’s tail for a moment, making her

whole body shudder, and then looked up at the Cheetah; "For

what its worth, I believe her…." Tanj sighed and nodded;

"OK, Kath, tell us again what they want from us…." The

Mink nodded almost convulsively; "They just…. Just want me

to pass on anything interesting…. That you find. They see

you…. Almost as…. An Auxilliary…. Source of

Intellegence…." Tanj sighed and nodded; "I suspect I’ve

simply gotten too good at this." Looking up again, lifting

the Mink’s chin with one hand, she stared into Kath’s eyes;

"Will they give us missions, or just be content with the

tidbits we might offer? Will they try and blackmail us?"

Kath sighed; "Don’t know….. If something grim enough came

along, and we were in the right place, they might try and

get us to do their dirty work… but if we give them quality

information… enough information… the RIGHT information,

they’ll probably just leave us alone…." Tanj nodded

slowly, and then growled; "and what are the chances that

some day they might decide we know too much and just

arrange for us to disappear?" The Mink shrugged, a

difficult motion when hanging by your wrists; "possible, I

suppose….. the only way out there is to make sure we’re too

valuable to them, to loose…." Again the Cheetah nodded.

After a long moment of looking into Kath’s eyes, Tanj

smiled; "OK, so that’s the downside. We’ve already seen a

little of the benefits, and for that I DO thank you. Now,

what ELSE might they bring to the table; what resources

might they give us?"

Walt! WALT!" The Gerbil looked up from his console at the

agitated face of the Fox; "what is it, Sam? We bein’

attacked?" Sam shook his head, shoving a data crystal at

the Gerbil; "Tell everyone to hold their positions, and

LOOK AT THIS! You wouldn’t believe what just happened down

on the Strip!" Walt opened his mike and growled; "all

traffic, sector 23 through 47, hold position until further

notice." Ignoring the flood of calls from various ship

Captains, the Gerbil cleared his screen and inserted the

data crystal into the reader. As the image of the ruined

façade of Miss Kitty’s formed, his eyes widened; there was

the Mink…. And the Vixen…. And the Cheetah… the three

ladies they’d "extorted" a night of pleasure out of… and

two of the three were wearing Imperial Intelligence

uniforms! "OH SHIT" was all he could squeak out… "Yeah"

the Fox muttered; "It seems Miss Kitty’s was a front for

smuggling. They found Ecstasy III, Parabaraboline, and

PseudoEphedarine. Enough stuff to keep the whole station

high for a month!" From behind them, the Jaguar growled;

"Miss Kitty’s? I was there just a few nights ago! DAMN!

Say, is that the Cheetah fem that damn near fucked me to

death?" Sam and Walt just turned to look at their boss; in

concert, they both uttered "Uh HUH!"

The Badger looked at the Wolf standing at attention before

his desk, the Wolf’s smirk making his stomach churn; "and I

suppose you and your section are going to claim credit for

this little escapade?" The Wolf’s grin widened; "Sir, Yes

SIR! She IS after all, one of my agents. The staff at

Miss Kitty’s are all singing like canaries; the slaves

themselves have been MOST helpful in identifying the

contacts that passed the drugs on to them. We have

operations in progress on Aramac, Norseman, Bourke, and

Grafton at this moment as we try to follow the supply

chain. With luck we’ll be able to follow it all the way

back to the manufacturing sites." Slowly the Badger rose

to his feet; "and of course, the fact that you’ve made me

look like an idiot is completely incidental…." The Wolf

just shrugged; "Sir, with all due respect, the place WAS

operating right under your nose…." The Badger just nodded,

and shook his head; "Get out. And if those… PIRATES cause

any more disruption on this station, there had better be a

DAMN good reason!" The wolf saluted, turned and marched

from the Badger’s office. As soon as he was clear of the

anteroom, his smile faded. The Mink pulled it out this

time, but he STILL thought she was a loose cannon. She’d

have to be watched VERY carefully…..

Hinoki smiled as he meandered through the door to Harriet’s

shop. The Raccoon finished her discussions with a customer

and then turned to grin at Hinoki; "and what wonders have

you brought me today?" Smiling, leaning across the

counter, the Cheetah gave the Raccoon fem a long, and

sensual kiss. After a moment he pulled back and grinned at

her; "I heard one of the more prominent establishments down

on the Strip just went belly-up. I was wondering if you’d

like to take over the lease. Of course it needs some work,

but….." Harriet’s eyes went wide; "I HEARD! Miss Kitti’s

was the ONLY competition we’d face on this station! Hinoki

chuckled and shrugged; "Hey, I work for some powerful

furrs; they can make things happen." Harriet’s eyes

widened a little more; "You… you mean you caused that? How

in the WORLD did you arrange it? Hinoki just chuckled;

"weren’t you watching the vids? Didn’t you see who was

there at the bust?" Harriet blinked; "um, well, I half

watched it…. Hey, was the Cheetah lady in the blanket your

Captain? Hinoki laughed; "yes, and I was the one in the

powered armor." Harriet shook her head, taking a half step

back from the counter; "But … But I thought that was an

Imperial Intelligence Operation; there were black uniforms

Everywhere there!" Hinoki smiled; actually there had been

only three, but they must have stood out in all that gray….

"Actually, in this instance, Imperial Intelligence was

working for us…. Now, before anyone else gathers their

wits, why don’t you run down there and see if you can’t put

in a bid on the lease, and the property. They had a pretty

good stable of slaves from what I’ve been told." Harriet

sighed; "the lease I might arrange, but the property?

That’s probably beyond me." Hinoki just chuckled and

reaching into a pocket, produced three credit chips,

placing them in a line on the counter. "Thought that might

be a problem. Remember, we’ll be your SILENT partner, but

just don’t forget who owns the store….." Harriet grinned

and snatched up the three chips, leaned over the bar to

kiss the Cheetah on the nose, and hurried out the door,

almost at a run.

Hinoki chuckled as he watched the Raccoon’s shapely ass

move as she hurried off; "don’t worry" he muttered softly,

"I’ll lock up…"

Harriet was half way to the Security office to place her

bid when it hit her… "Imperial Intelligence was working for

THEM? Who the hell ARE these guys?"

The Wolf propped his feet on the corner of the desk in his

borrowed cubicle and grinned at his assistant; "Yeah,

there’s no question that at some point this audacious

upstart will have to be disciplined…." The Ferret looked

at her boss and raised an eyebrow; "do you mean Kath, or

this Sou An Ky, this "Tanj" person?" The Wolf smiled;

"both, actually. Still, Kath did protect our investment in

this situation… She acted audaciously, and without

permission, but on the other hand, she did bring us an

unexpected triumph, so maybe, just maybe she can be

excused…. This time. This group we’re going to have to

watch VERY carefully….." The Ferret just nodded….

The undercurrent of conversation on the bridge was running

just a little louder than usual, and the Jaguar was

noticing a number of guarded looks being flashed his way.

Something was up, and his curiosity was growing. So was

his annoyance. The bridge of an Imperial battlecruiser was

supposed to be a place of order and control, not a pit of

gossip, even if they were docked. When a fit of hushed

giggling erupted behind him, he rose from his command

chair, to padd over in that direction.

Sylvia gulped as the Captain rose and headed in her

direction; she hadn’t meant to be that loud….. Holding

herself rigid, she stared at her sensor screen, the

information completely redundant and unnecessary with the

ship docked… As the shadow fell over her, she gulped.

"Is there something, Specialist, that you’d like to share

with me?" Sylvia looked up at the Captain’s growl, eyes

wide.. "Um… sorry sir, didn’t mean to disturb you…. Its….

Well, Sir, the whole ship is talking about your lady

friend." The Jaguar straightened; somehow everyone on the

ship seemed to know about that incident at the nightclub…

what was its name? Saucilito’s?" While it had enhanced his

reputation in some respects, he was finding it to be a bit

of an annoyance in others. Before he could frame a

suitable rebuke, the specialist went on; "its just, Sir,

that we should have KNOWN anyone you’d associate with in,

ah, such a manner, would be more highly placed than a mere

freighter Captain! We certainly ARE impressed, Sir!"

The Jaguar blinked; "what’s wrong with associating with a

…. What the HELL are you talking about?" Sylvia blinked;

could it be he didn’t KNOW? "Why, Sir, the Imperial

Intelligence raid down on the Strip! Your lady friend was

right in the middle of it! It was on all the vids!"

The Jaguar stared at the small screen built into his

command chair; it hadn’t taken the ship’s computer more

than a few nanoseconds to search out the vid clip of the

event, as reported on all the news channels. There was the

Cheetah, and it certainly looked like Tanj…. And the

Wolverine lady who’d kept the … the Mink in an Imperial

Intellegence Major’s uniform on a chain? And there was the

flame-hued Vixen…. As the vid clip ended, he closed the

file and sat back in his chair; who WAS she? How in the

hell had a simple Freighter Captain gotten involved in

something like THAT? How had her crew wound up in Imperial

Intelligence uniforms? WHO WAS SHE? Sitting back in his

command chair, the Jaguar sighed; whatever had happened

that night at Saucilito’s had been more than a one night

stand; whoever she was, he wanted to see her again….. But

now he had even more questions.

Tanj sat at the comm console. The report was a difficult

one to write, but finally it was complete. She’d told her

boss, the old Fox who ran the Brethren’s Intelligence

Operation the whole story, from finding the bound slave

blindly wandering the halls of the station, to her

ridiculous attack of curiosity regarding the closed bar, to

her capture, to Kath’s assault. She’d added her opinions

that they might now be compromised, and might now be a

liability to the Brethren. She also speculated on how they

might be able to turn it to their advantage, and boldly

proposed a way to find out. And she’d copied her Master.

Feeling as if somehow she’d betrayed those she loved, she

reluctantly reached out and hit the "transmit" key…..

Things in the Elysium system

The Wolverine lowered himself into the visitor’s chair, and

for a long moment merely stared at Onegin. After a few

moments, the object of his attention squirmed. It was just

the moment Xyloff was waiting for; "In our… "association" I

believe we’ve come to know each other reasonably well" he

began, his tone smooth and unctuous. Onegin swallowed and

nodded. Indeed, the Wolverine had gotten him power, and

wealth, and many comforts. For a moment he thought of the

naked slave kneeling in his bedroom… many comforts. But

he’d also demanded absolute obedience. The carefree days

as a pirate rogue were long gone. And probably

irretrievable. Having given Onegin a moment to reflect,

the Wolverine went on; "now, our greatest battle lies

before us, and I’m not necessarily talking about the fall

of the Elysium government." Onegin blinked; "but…. the

final offensive…" The Wolverine just smiled, a disturbing

display of teeth. "What I’m talking about is what comes

AFTER the final offensive." Leaning forward, leaning

across the desk, Xyloff smiled; "I’m talking about making

sure that when its all over, that WE wind up with control.

Control of the Planet. Control of the system. Control of

EVERYTHING." Sitting back, the Wolverine looked at the

surprised Onegin; "that’s right, Comrade. Everything."

Onegin shook his head; "but… the Blues are a formidable

presence. They’re not just going to…. "go away"… and the

Pirates, the Brethren, they outnumber us in ships, both

quantity and quality…." Zyloff smiled; "Oh, I’ve got PLANS

for the Blues. And for the Brethren. Especially for the

Brethren. And that, My Dear Onegin, is where you come in.

Do it right, and you will command the most powerful force

in the sector, second only to the Imperium. Do it right

and you will have fame and fortune beyond your dreams……"

The conference room didn’t hold all the key officers of the

People’s Space Navy. Not all the ship captains were there…

but the ones that WERE there were the ones Onegin knew he

could rely on. The ones that didn’t worry so much about

the dielectic, or the party line, but instead, like him,

were in it for the loot. Or the Power. Or the Thrill.

Smiling at them, he cleared his throat; once the room had

fell silent, he rose, to tell them how they were going to

help take control of the Reds; of how, in the Final

Offensive, they’d eliminate the Blues as a serious military

force… and of how they would get rid of the Brethren once

and for all, and in the process all become incredibly

rich….. As he spoke, his audience stared at him in rapt


Carr looked at the orders and shook his head; turning he

padded across the bridge to his Captain; "Comrade Captain,

I have to admit, I don’t know what Comrade Quistling is up

to, but we have new orders….." the Captain took the

message flimsy, and scanned it. His head nodded up and

down as he looked from the message to the tactical display

and back; "This would put us…." "Yes, Comrade Captain; in

the middle of nowhere, way out on the fringe. We would be

light minutes from any jump point…… Possibly light hours

from ANY possible battle." The Captain sighed; "Far be it

from me to question the orders of the Chairman, but it

certainly looks like this might take us out of any portion

of the fight." Carr nodded; "We’re going to miss the Final


Xyloff smiled as he watched the messages come in; almost

every ship was questioning their orders; some

circumferentially, others more directly. Looking up, he

grinned at Onegin; "you see? Its all working just as I

foresaw. Some are openly questioning Quistling’s

leadership; some of the bolder, or possibly the more stupid

ones, are even calling him a coward! When I issue the

orders to bring them into the fight, especially after a

long term of picket duty in the middle of nowhere, after a

long term of No Booty, they’ll swing their support from him

to me; he’ll be a cinch to oust!" Onegin nodded slowly;

"but of course, something similar will have to be done with

the ground forces…." Xyloff smiled "ah, that’s even


The Gathering Storm

Tanj looked up from her comm console, as Hinoki led the

Wolf onto the flight deck. For an instant she was tempted

to glance about the flight deck, to make sure that some of

the multi-function displays were not showing weapons

status, or sensor readings…. But then she figured this guy

knew who they were anyways…. Pushing back from the console

she regarded the two coldly; "you know, if you keep coming

here like this, we might have problems. Its almost a

certainty that we’re being watched and watched closely by

Imperial Intelligence now…." Hinoki chuckled; "Aw,

Skipper, he’s just here to "check on a charter"…. And

besides, we’ve got a great new cover for his reporting in.

Harriet won the bid on Miss Kitty’s lease. She’s going to

start her new club there. Our friend can easily check in

there, with no one the wiser!" Tanj frowned for a moment,

just for effect, and then nodded; "Yes…. That might work

out well… but it ties the two together. Sometimes ALL

hints of association have to be shunned." The Wolf leaned

on his walking stick and smiled softly; "Ah, but if I go

everywhere, and talk to everyone, how will they ever

separate out which might be "business associates" and which

just casual acquaintances?" Tanj sighed and nodded,

thinking this guy should get a quick tutorial on

fieldcraft, somehow. Looking up, she made an off-hand

gesture; "so what do you have?" The Wolf smiled; "Ah, the

other night I was in an alley in the residential section,

supposedly pawing through the trash, and I overheard the

most interesting conversation between two lovers. One was

a clerk in the Imperial Fleet’s headquarters here, and her

lover was on one of the Cruisers. It seems that they’re

being ordered…….."

Tanj looked over her hastily scrawled notes. The Wolf had

acquired a significant amount of information in a very

short time…. And that made her wary. Or was she just

paranoid, given the incident with Kath? Encoding the

information into a message, she attached a note outlining

her misgivings, and sent it off to her boss… Sitting back,

she crossed her arms behind her head and wondered how best

to check out the quality of this information. If they WERE

playing her, they’d feed her high quality stuff, until she

felt confident of her source….

Zassa stuck her head through the door to the flight deck,

and blinked at the scowling Cheetah; "Tanj! What are you

doing still here?" Tanj straightened up in her station

chair and turned to look at the Vixen; "Um…. Just thinking.

Why? Where SHOULD I be?" Zassa chuckled; "you should be

getting ready! We’re all going out to check out "the

competition" for Harriet. We’re going to meet at her new

place, help Hinoki take some measurements, and then we’re

going to go hit all the neighboring clubs and bars!" Tanj

chuckled; "I really should stay here in case that guy tries

to contact us…." Zassa crossed her arms under her breasts

and shook her head; "Oh, no you don’t; if he wants to

contact us, he can leave a message! YOU, girl, are coming

with us!"

Tanj studied herself in the mirror, and made a face, trying

to adjust the drape of her "dress"…. She’d taken some of

the cloth they’d found, that stuck to fur as if it were

velcro; it draped over her left shoulder, a small tail

hanging down her back; as it passed over her shoulder, it

swept to the right, to cover her breasts; from there it

descended to her right hip, sweeping around her waist,

almost coming around to touch itself, as it descended down

her front. It LOOKED as if it should fall off her,

leaving her naked, but if anything, its grip was too

tenacious. She had to tug hard to get it to come free, so

she could try and adjust it. "Oh, Come ON, Tanj" the Vixen

growled from the doorway; "The Night’s a’wastin’!"

At the lock, Wanda stood, covered from head to toe in her

cloak; however, her left paw held two leashes; by her, two

forms, also covered in cloaks, knelt. One was obviously

Kath, her tail evident, peeking from under the hem of her

garment. The other one, a larger form, seemed to have no

face. Bending, Tanj looked at the hooded form. "Thought

we’d give Harriet this one as a housewarming gift" Hinoki

chuckled from behind her. Rising, Tanj turned to look at

him. "We think we’ve got the training as complete as we

can" the male Cheetah rumbled; "he’s been given the

standard post-hypnotic commands; that’s why he’s hooded."

Tanj nodded, remembering; "when the hood comes off, the

first one he sees is the one he’ll accept as his master, or

mistress." Hinoki just nodded; "we thought it might be a

visible signal to the gangs on the station, that Harriet’s

under our protection, and that those that mess with us can

wind up like him, or worse." Tanj frowned; "that… might

work. Still, it makes us much more "visible" than I’m

happy with. I’d rather everyone here forgot about us."

Wanda chuckled; "after yesterday, I DOUBT that’s going to


The door to the former "Miss Kitty’s" had been crudely

repaired; it would be enough to keep the curious out, but

probably wouldn’t stand up to a professional thief. For

the moment, however, there wasn’t much to see inside the

club. Harriet had won the bid on the lease, and on some of

the slaves, but a lot of the furnishings, and other items

had gone to other bidders. Hinoki led the Lynx over to

where Harriet was talking with two other furrs, while the

others looked around. Tanj found herself wandering over to

the center of the "dance floor", the stocks missing, but

the scents, and the memories lingering. Laughter made her

turn her head; Harriet was lightly holding the Lynx’s leash

as he knelt, still hooded, before her. "Thanks, Stud,

I’ll, ah, put him in the kennels for now, and "unwrap" my

present later. Now, what about those measurements you

needed? I thought we’d set up your gizmo in the larger of

the back rooms…." Tanj watched as Harriet, and Hinoki, and

one of the other furrs moved off, through a doorway, into

the back of the club.

Zassa watched them go and then grinned at Tanj; "I’m going

to go take a quick peek at the kennels; Want to see if

Salde’s there. Back in a minute!" Wanda chuckled and

tugged on Kath’s leash; "lets go with her, Pet; you never

know what neat things they might have back there." Tanj

watched as Zassa, Wanda and Kath also departed. Setting a

chair upright, she took a seat, thinking that she’d already

seen the kennels, and that she didn’t need to go back.

Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by events, she settled down to


"I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d find you here. This

club’s scarcely the most lively spot on the strip at the

moment." Tanj blinked and looked up, into the face of the

Jaguar. The Jaguar she’d met in Saucalito’s the other

night. The one who commanded the Imperial Battlecruiser.

"I know, the place isn’t open, but the door was. Thought

I’d stick my head in and see what was happening." Tanj

chuckled; "Not much is happening. A friend is looking at

opening her own club here, and some of my crew volunteered

to help her. I’m just kinda…. Waiting for them." The

Jaguar smiled and picked up another of the overturned

chairs; sitting backwards on it, leaning on the splintered

back, arms crossed across its top, his chin resting on

forearms, he grinned at the Cheetah Fem; "well, mind if I

keep you company until they return?" Tanj just smiled;

"not at all…."

Tanj smiled and shook her head; "no, no, it was nothing

like that. The truth is, I kinda got wrapped up in this

thing by accident. And I didn’t even KNOW Kath was with

Imperial Intelligence! Well, that’s not completely true….

Anyways, I was as surprised as anyone when they showed up

like that." Tanj smiled and shook her head; the look on

the Jaguar’s face was classic; he didn’t believe a word she

was saying, even if it WAS the truth! "Um…." He mused; "I

suppose you just broke into the place seeking some liquid

refreshment, and thought this was a good way to avoid the

bouncer?" Tanj’s smile widened; "No…." She looked askance

at him and then chuckled; taking his head in both paws,

staring into his eyes she purrred; "Truth is, I’m head of

field intelligence for a powerful Pirate clan, and I wanted

to talk to Miss Kitty about her gathering local

intelligence for me. Unfortunately I stumbled onto their

little drug running ring, and that scotched the deal. Kath

was planted on us by Imperial intelligence as a sleeper

agent. She decided that it was more valuable for Imperial

intelligence to keep us as a resource than it was to hide

her true status, hence the rescue. Believe THAT one?" The

Jaguar just chuckled and kissed Tanj on the nose; "You have

an active imagination, I’ll grant you that. Lady, I’m not

sure just who you are, or what you are, but I am a profound

believer in Occam’s Razor." Tanj blinked; "the simplest

explanation is most often the correct one?" The Jaguar

nodded and smiled; "I think you’re Kath’s boss, which is

why she came running like she did to your rescue. I think

you are trying hard to keep anyone from knowing that; and

that’s all right. I can understand how in your line of

work, a low profile works best. I think that’s why you can

walk around Gibralter station wearing a prohibited life

form and no one tries to stop you." Tanj just sighed and

shrugged; "Well, I tried…."

Zassa blinked from the doorway; had Tanj just told the

Jaguar exactly who she was? What had she been thinking?

What if he’d believed her? Shaking her head, she counted

to ten and then strode through the door, thinking she’d

best redirect the topic of conversation….

"So when you get this place up and running, do you think

it’ll be a safe place to send my crew?" Tanj just laughed;

"probably safer than any other place on the strip; we have

some… "innovative" new technology we’re going to install

here….. It should go a long way towards satisfying

anyone’s sexual fantasies. And computers generally don’t

get mad, or take offense. They generally don’t pry into

your personal business, or even consider blackmail. And

they don’t transmit diseases." Zassa looked up as Harriet

and Hinoki emerged from the back of the club; "but enough

shop talk" the Vixen purrred; "I believe we’re off to do

the clubs along the strip…." Tanj looked over her shoulder

and then rose; "all done?" Hinoki nodded; "Yup. Think we

got the first installation all mapped out. If you can

spare me tomorrow, I’ll start moving the prototype rig over

and setting it up. But that’s tomorrow. Which place shall

we hit first?" The Jaguar rose smoothly, and Tanj turned

to him with a smile; "Would you care to join us?" The

Jaguar smiled in return and nodded; "I’d be delighted."

As they strolled down the Strip, towards the club they’d

decided on, Zassa pulled Kath back a little; "I’m a little

worried about Tanj; not sure she’s being…. Professionally

objective about this guy…. Think we need to keep an eye on

her." The Mink just nodded, her eyes shifting to watch the


The drink was fruity, and Tanj just knew it was going to be

almost pure ethanol. Somehow, though, she just didn’t

care. The music had a beat that made her want to move to

it, and the company was good…. Smiling, she looked at the

Jaguar and wondered what he’d just said; somehow it seemed

to have slipped in one ear and out the other without

impacting on her befuddled brain cells…. As she gazed at

him, unbidden thoughts of her master surfaced, and for a

brief moment she wondered what she was doing with this guy.

Oh, yeah, he was charming, and good looking, intelligent

and considerate…. But he just wasn’t who she REALLY wanted

to be with…. Taking another sip of her drink she wondered

if she’d invited him along with them, to solidify a

relationship that might bring her additional intelligence,

or if she just wanted….. a Friend? A Lover? A Hug?

Blinking hard, she turned and looked out over the crowd,

wondering what had become of her crew.

Harriet grinned as she scanned the row of monitors over the

bar; like Saucilito’s, this place also had rooms where

amorous couples could retire to. Here, however, the stakes

were a little higher; every room was monitored, although

masks were permitted, should someone feel shy. The patrons

were invited to rate the "performances." The winner had

their bar tab erased for the evening, at least until

someone topped their score. It was performance art, pure

and simple, and as anonymous as the rather prudish society

on the station might wish for. Turning she nudged Hinoki;

"Well, you feel up to it tonight?" The Cheetah male

grinned back; "you know me; I was born ready!" Zassa,

who’d also been watching the monitors, shook her head; "I

dunno….. This place has a level of competition beyond what

we saw before; that was all amateur stuff. This place

looks almost… "professional"… I think we’re going to have

to do something a little different, if we want to win…."

Harriet tilted her head to one side, looking at the Vixen;

"whatcha got in mind?" Zassa just chuckled; "I think our

Captain needs a little distracting…."

Tanj blinked; "you want to WHAT?" Hinoki chuckled at the

look on the Cheetah’s face; "Oh, come on, Tanj, its not

like it’s a new scene for you… and the drinks here ARE a

bit pricy…." Zassa smiled "What’s the matter, Skipper?

Don’t think we can win?" Tanj shook her head and huffed;

"Of COURSE we can win, if we want to….." Kath smiled and

leaned forward, to whisper in the Cheetah fem’s ear. After

a moment, Tanj nodded slowly, and then turned to look at

the Jaguar; "looks like we’re up for a team effort, and,

ah, for the suggestion that’s been made, we could really

use you….; you in?"

The Jaguar looked at Tanj for a moment and then smiled;

"let me wear a mask, so that there might at least be the

suggestion of anonymity, and I’m yours to do with as you

will! Tanj smiled and rose a little unsteadily to her

feet; taking the Jaguar’s paw in both of hers; she led him

towards the rooms.

Zassa grinned, winked at Kath, and then turned to padd over

to the bartender; for a moment they whispered furiously.

After a moment, they seemed to come to some sort of

agreement, and the Vixen turned to padd after the others…..

Tanj padded into the middle of the room, still leading the

Jaguar by one hand, a wry grin on her face. He’d barely

slipped the mask, one handed, over his eyes, when she

turned and dropped to her knees at his feet, leaning

forward to nuzzle his crotch softly. Last time, he’d shown

her what a good lover he could be; this time it was her

turn to return the favor.

The Jaguar grunted softly as the Cheetah fem started nosing

him; he could feel her hot breath through the fabric of his

pants, and as her paws stroked up and down his thighs, he

felt his cock start to swell, to harden…..

Tanj smiled softly as the Jaguar’s pants started to bulge a

little; but she had no intention of freeing his cock quite

yet. Purring, she licked, dragging her tongue up the front

of his pants, as if they weren’t there; eyes closed she

nuzzled and caressed, until it was obvious his hardening

cock trapped within his pants was causing him some


The Jaguar stiffened as arms encircled him from behind, and

someone started nuzzling the back of his neck…. He opened

his mouth to protest, but the arms around his waist started

working at the button on his pants, and somehow the words

caught in his throat…..

Tanj purrred, letting Zassa free the Jaguar’s cock,

exclaiming in delight as it sprang into view. Moving like

a hunting cat, she caught the head of his cock in her

mouth, and as her paws worked to help the Vixen push down

his pants, she slid his hard cock into her mouth…..

Hinoki was watching from the corner of his eye, as he

kissed Harriet; between his feet, Kath was working on his

own cock, Wanda’s pet working to get him hard for his

lady…. The movement of dark fur to one side drew his

attention away from Tanj and the Jaguar, however, and his

eyes widened as he realized that not only had Wanda joined

them, but that she was kneeling aside Kath, to nuzzle under

Harriet’s short skirt…..

The bartender cast an appraising eye over the crowd. Since

the party from the Beowulf had entered Room five, the

number of drink orders he’d been filling had slipped to a

trickle, all eyes seemingly on the monitor. With a sigh he

shook his head; the Vixen had been right, and had indeed

won their small wager. Turning somewhat reluctantly he

took the hand-lettered piece of paper the Vixen had given

him and tacked it to the bottom of the monitor. He hated

to give anyone free advertisement, especially anyone who

cost him business, but a bet was a bet.

Zassa smiled and nibbled on the trailing edge of the

Jaguar’s right ear, her breasts mashed flat against his

back… Her paws stroked up and down his sides, occasionally

roaming over his chest. Tanj was performing her usual

magic, working on his cock, and if his respiration and

heart rate were any sign, she was about to drive him into a

heart attack…. Grinning, she let one paw trail down,

between her and him, to slide between them, to lightly

tickle under his tail…..

The Kangaroo looked from the Monitor to the hand-lettered

sign and back; "For service like no other, let the SV

Beowulf handle all your charter needs"…. Lifting his gaze

to where the blonde Mink was working on the male Cheetah’s

cock, he gulped, and nodded; "I believe it!"

The Jaguar was in Heaven; between the Cheetah in front of

him and the Vixen in back, it seemed like his whole body

was under a thousand intimate caresses; however when the

Vixen’s finger found its way under his tail, the surprise,

and the flood of sensations that followed proved too much

for him. To everyone’s surprise, his orgasm arrived full

force, his yelp turning into a full-throated roar.

Tanj purrred and sucked hard, as if every drop of the

Jaguar’s cum was a life-giving nectar, as if it were water

in the middle of the desert…. Finally he subsided, and Tanj

pulled back a little, to lick him softly, her tongue still

teasing, licking and lapping not only until he was clean,

but until he was half hard again….

Harriet groaned; she’d never expected the Wolverine girl to

dive right into something like this, somehow assuming she

was only interested in being on the receiving end of the

Mink’s tongue; however, it was a pleasant surprise. If

anything, she was moving too slowly for her tastes, her

licks and nibbles bringing her to the very edge… and then

holding her there. It seemed almost as if…… yes, as if the

Wolverine was still playing the "top," controlling her

responses, holding her tight as her tongue did the most

marvelous things…. Somehow a tiny corner of Harriet’s mind

wondered if she would have to beg the Wolverine for her

climax? She was beginning to think that might be in


Hinoki struggled for control. Kath had been trained well,

and knew just what to do, but he’d be darned if he was

going to let HER dictate his pleasures to him! Taking both

her ears in his hands, he pulled her head back, until his

cock slipped from her mouth; as she looked up questioningly

the male Cheetah smiled……

Zassa purrred and with her arms around the Jaguar’s chest,

tugged backwards, as Tanj pulled his knees in the other

direction; surprisingly, his descent to the padded floor

was relatively graceful as the femmes laid him down. Tanj

grinned at the Vixen and moved, almost possessively, to

straddle his hips; Zassa grinned back and shifted forward,

to straddle his head, facing the Cheetah. With both paws

between her thighs, stroking the Jaguar’s cock; Tanj leaned

forwards to kiss the Vixen, a soft, sensual kiss exhibiting

all of the lusts and passions flowing through her body.

The Jaguar grunted as the Vixen’s muff descended on his

face, her scent of arousal filling his nostrils; with a

grin, he tilted his head back, licking up into her eager

sex, as his paws stroked up her front, to find, and cup her

breasts. Zassa mmmmmed and reached out to take possession

of Tanj’s breasts, thumbs and forefingers rolling her

nipples, tugging at them almost painfully….

The Bobcat sipped at his beer and shook his head; "Man, I

do NOT know what the Captain did to get SO lucky! LOOK at

him in there! The female ferret sitting just to his left

chuckled; "Hell, Randy, Lucky Captain, Lucky Ship! We

ain’t got no cause to complain!" The Bear sitting across

from her turned and looked over his shoulder, and then

turned his attention back to his drink; "I dunno; seems

like the more action he gets the less there is for us!

Hey, the sign says that’s the crew of a vessel for charter;

you think he HIRED them?" The Bobcat sighed and shook his

head; "Doubt it, knowing him… still, geez, will you LOOK at

the rack on that Vixen? It MIGHT be worth the money……."

The Ferret smiled; "if you decide to inquire about their

charter services, find out if that male Cheetah’s included

in the package; I might just go in on it with you….."

Harriet’s knees felt weak; the Wolverine’s tongue was

stroking deep within her, touching places she didn’t even

know she had; her chest was heaving, her pussy dripping, as

she struggled to just stay standing…. Unable to stand it

any more, she whimpered softly, the first sounds to escape

her lips……

The Bartender looked over the crowd again and smiled.

Things had gotten off to a slow start; the crowd mostly

watching the monitors, and not drinking…. However the crowd

had grown to almost standing room only, and while

individually they still weren’t drinking much, given the

numbers, his revenue was pretty much back up to usual;

turning to his assistant he growled; "Best call in Fred and

Judy.. .when that party breaks up, all these furrs are

going to suddenly remember just how thirsty they are….."

Tanj purrred as she rode the Jaguar’s cock; having cum

once, she figured he’d last a little bit longer, allowing

her to use him to pleasure herself… she hoped to "catch up"

with him….. Grinning as she rose and fell, the Cheetah

fem reached out to tweak both of Zassa’s nipples, pinching


Zassa shuddered as Tanj pinched her, catching her just as

the Jaguar’s tongue stroked over her G spot; with a long,

drawn out wail, her hips bucking, the Vixen came hard, her

pussy convulsing around the Jaguar’s tongue.

The Jaguar urked as her pussy clamped down with a

surprising tightness around his tongue, and as her juices

flowed, coating his muzzle. Chuckling, wondering if he was

better at this than he thought, he slithered his tongue

down out of the velvety channel, to flick it across her

clitty as rapidly as he could. The Vixen howled anew…….

Hinoki watched with a practiced eye as the Jaguar and

Cheetah conspired to bring the Vixen to a credible climax.

Turning his attention back to the Mink he stroked his hard

cock in and out of her ass once again. She in a strained

pose, essentially lying on her shoulders, her bottom held

high off the floor, both of her ankles in Hinoki’s paws.

He’d driven his cock down into her pussy a half dozen

times, just to get it well lubricated, and then, shifting,

had worked it into her ass. Now, he held her tight,

pumping her just enough to keep her panting, just enough to

keep him hard. He’d cum when he wanted to, and she

wouldn’t get her release until he felt like letting her

have it……

Harriet mewled and shuddered; the Wolverine had backed her

against the wall, and that was a blessing, as it made it

easier to stand, given how weak her knees seem to have

become. The licking was relentless, the tongue working

over her clitty, slithering between her labia, licking deep

within her, plunging in and out, only to resume that

maddening teasing of her pearl…. She was SO close, she

wanted to climax SO bad, and yet all she could do was to

let out the occasional incoherent, inarticulate whimper……

Wanda purrred as she licked; she’d done this to Kath on

numerous occasions. It was marvelous training; patiently,

she’d lick until it had almost passed the point of

pleasure, until each lick was almost painful… and THEN

she’d let her pet beg for her release…. It was simply

marvelous for establishing their roles…..

Tanj’s body shuddered, her breath catching in her throat as

her third climax blossomed inside her; she grinned and

exercising all the will power remaining, clenched her

vaginal muscles down hard around the Jaguar’s shaft. With

a giggle, she felt him respond. She’d known he was close

too, and as she worked on him, his orgasm arrived, almost

in sequence with hers… As the waves of pleasure roared

through her body, she moved both paws around behind her to

fondle his balls…..

The Jaguar almost bit the Vixen as he felt the paws envelop

his balls, to squeeze softly; it was the damndest

sensation, and for a moment, despite the Cheetah’s weight,

his hips lifted off the floor…..

Zassa laughed and wiggled her hips down onto the Jaguar’s

face; "ooooh, LIKE THAT! Do it again, Tanj!"

The Panda watched the monitor, sipping her drink slowly.

Everything she’d heard about this Cheetah seemed to be

true; if she wasn’t who she seemed, she was putting on a

damn good act. Pulling out her palmtop, she started

pecking at the miniscule keys, composing a message……

Panting hard, Tanj rolled off the Jaguar, to lay,

exhausted, on the floor by his side…. After a minute, she

reached up and grabbed the Vixen, to pull her down too;

"Come on, Zassa, give the poor guy a breather!" Zassa

started to protest, but Tanj wrapped her arms around her,

to kiss her hard, stifling any complaints.

Wanda watched from the corner of her eye, as the Cheetah’s

impromptu kiss turned into something a little more.

Lifting her eyes, she caught the Jaguar, his chest still

heaving, watching them, his eyes perhaps just a little

wide… turning her attention back to Harriet, she grinned;

perhaps it was time to finish her… she’d held her dangling,

twisting in the wind, long enough…..

Hinoki tugged on the Mink’s tail, pulling her back against

him, driving his cock once again deep into her ass….. He’d

been modulating his thrusts for some time, making sure he

didn’t cum. Smiling, he wondered if it was time…. Then he

grinned and shook his head; not yet…. She wasn’t near

desperate enough yet….

Tanj broke the kiss and then grinned up at the Vixen; "if

you’ve still not had enough licking, turn around, and I’ll

pick up where the Stud left off." Zassa grinned wickedly

and nodded; "Been too long since we did each other! You’re

on!" Turning, Zassa straddled the prone Cheetah, pressing

her sodden crotch to her face as she bent, to shove her own

muzzle between the Cheetah’s thighs…..

Harriet whimpered; it was all she could do to remain

standing; still, there was a change; the Wolverine was

licking her a bit differently now…. Panting, shuddering,

she felt the tensions building; it seemed her long-put-off

release was rapidly approaching….

Kath moaned; her shoulders were on the floor, her head bent

forward until her chin touched her chest. The Cheetah male

held her feet high, her legs spread, holding her almost

upside-down. Moving slowly he worked his thick cock in and

out of her poor, distended asshole. Feeling helpless,

feeling exposed, feeling used, she also somehow felt

terribly excited by it all; her pussy seemed to be

overflowing, her juice running down her mons, down the

crack of her ass to provide much-needed lubrication…..

instead of taking her hard, using her roughly, Hinoki

seemed to be drawing it out…. Kath was tempted to reach

up, to touch herself, to try and gain some sort of relief

from the increasingly buring itch between her legs, but she

knew if she did, she’d draw his displeasure…. Still, the

slow, languid ass-fucking was driving her out of her mind!

Zassa lifted her head as Harriet’s scream of joy rang from

the walls; she grinned, admiring the way Wanda all but

propped her up, never ceasing her licking as the Raccoon

climaxed almost violently. Chuckling, the Vixen lowered

her head a bit to nip sharply at Tanj’s clitty; she knew

the Cheetah fem both loved and hated that….. and sure

enough she was rewarded with the bucking of hips as she

drove the Cheetah fem over the edge and into the warm arms

of her own climax.

Harriet Screamed; she felt as if her mind was exploding, as

if her whole body was being torn apart by the force of her

climax. Never in all her experience had a climax been put

off for so long; never had one been so powerful. Panting,

almost near fainting, she felt herself slide down the wall,

helpless to stop herself….

Wanda smiled and leant over to give the Raccoon one last

lick; picking herself up she wandered around Hinoki and her

pet, past Zassa and Tanj, now lost in each other’s bodies,

and their own passions, to the Jaguar; grinning down at

him, she purrred; "Think you’re ready to go again, Stud?"

Hinoki purrred. It was time. Grinning, he released Kath’s

ankles, giving each a slight shove away from him. For a

moment she balanced there, wobbling, and then her feet

slowly fell away from the Cheetah; she was still balanced

on her shoulders, but the Cheetah’s thick cock in her ass

held her more or less in position; now her feet touched the

floor, adding perhaps a little stability. With the Mink

bent almost double in front of him, Hinoki put his paws on

her ass, almost on either side of her pussy, and started to

thrust harder, pushing her into a more vertical position.

Driving hard in to her, his thumbs stroked inwards, to

tease her dripping pussy…..

Kath Groaned, and shuddered; the fingers stroking the

periphery of her pussy was a delight, but the Cheetah’s

sudden hard pounding, plus the ache in her shoulders and

neck all conspired to work against each other. Rocking her

head from side to side, she mewled, and moaned, the

tensions building…. Opening her eyes, however, was a

mistake, for there, to one side, sat her Mistress, astride

the Jaguar’s hips, riding his cock with languid slowness as

the Cheetah had done….. Kath’s eyes went wide and her moan

turned into a YELP!

Hinoki grunted as the Mink’s body tensed, as her ass was

suddenly VERY tight around his shaft; it caught him by

surprise, and with a YOWL he found himself cumming hard.

With a growl he jerked his cock out of the Mink’s ass, to

stroke his shaft with one hand, splattering the impudent

mink with his cum.

The sudden extraction of the Mink’s cock, the cool air

flowing past her distended anus, the sudden thump of her

body against the padded floor, all served to trigger the

Mink’s own climax, and as the waves of pleasure coursed

through her body, she lost sight of her Mistress… had she

REALLY seen what she’d thought?

Wanda smiled; it was, if anything, better than the program

she’d run in Hinoki’s machine. The Jaguar knew how to

move. Knew how to touch her.. and somehow a real cock just

felt… "right"…. Smiling she moved a little faster, riding

him a little harder…. This might not have been the perfect

"romantic" moment, but in the end, she marveled, wondering

what she’d been waiting for…..

The Jaguar grunted; the Wolverine Lass was a lot heavier

than the Cheetah, much heavier than the Vixen; grunting, he

still tried to thrust up into her, somehow knowing that he

had to do his best with this one…..

Tanj purrred, oblivious to all else, save the Vixen’s

burning needs… and her own matching needs; nibbling along

one labia, her tongue flashing occasionally in and out of

her sweet sex, the Cheetah strove to match, in kind, if not

in extreme, what the Vixen was doing to her. Gasping at a

nip, the turned, hooked one fang through the Vixen’s clitty

ring and tugged HARD even as her tongue flicked out over

the sensitive flesh; she grinned as she was rewarded with

the Vixen’s immediate and intense climax….

Hinoki sighed; in the end, he hadn’t been able to dictate

just when he would cum, or just when the Mink would be

allowed to cum. Either he was slipping, or the room just

provided too many distractions…. Still it didn’t look like

Zassa and Tanj were being distracted by anything, wrapped

up in each other as they were… and Wanda looked to be

totally centered on the Jaguar. Maybe he was slipping,

loosing the edge he’d held for so….. Wanda? Turning,

twisting, the Cheetah STARED at the Wolverine lass.

Kath tried desperately to uncross her eyes. That climax

had been a powerful one… could she actually have LIKED what

the dominant Cheetah had been doing to her? Squinting,

opening just one eye, she peered at her Mistress. It was

obviously too late to try and stop her; it was obvious her

virginity, such as it was, was definintely gone… For a

moment she wondered if anyone was taping this, wondered if

a copy might find its way into her Father’s hands, assuming

he still lived. Then she grinned; how could he POSSIBLY

get any more furious at them? Smiling, she stretched out

on the padded floor, and tried to catch her breath….

The Jaguar felt the Wolverine shudder, felt her pussy

clench like a velvety vice around his shaft, and he knew

he’d brought her off; smiling, he concentrated on the

sensations, abandoning the prime number calculations he’d

been using to try and stave off his own orgasm…. It didn’t

take long until he was Howling at the top of his lungs.

Wanda smiled, and squeezed, clenching her vaginal muscles;

the program she’d run on Hinoki’s machine just did NOT do

the feeling of an ejaculating male justice; she purrred to

herself, closing her eyes, to try and memorize the


The Bartender smiled; the club had never been so packed.

Folks were literally jammed up in the doorway. Still, he

wanted the show to end, anticipating the flood of drink

orders that would follow… It seemed two of the three

couples had wound down, and about time, too, but the two

femmes, the Cheetah and the Vixen were still all wrapped up

in each other, with no sign of EVER quitting. Grabbing his

assistant, he whispered in his ear for a moment….

Tanj sighed as someone nudged her…. Without pulling her

tongue from where it was, she lisped; "Whath?" Hinoki

looked down into his Captain’s upturned face, and grinned;

"the management says if we stay here any longer, we’ll have

to take out a lease….." Tanj sighed and nodded, her tongue

waggling in the Vixen’s pussy. Giving her one last nip,

getting the requisite shudder in response she sighed and

squirmed, trying to escape. Hinoki gave Zassa an open-

palmed swat on her rump, enjoying the way her flesh

rippled, and then bent to help her to her feet….. Zassa

for her part, just moaned mournfully. Tanj chuckled as she

looked about for what she’d been wearing; "if you’re STILL

not satisfied, we’ll do something when we get back to the

ship…" The Vixen just grinned.

Kath took a sip from the cup that her Mistress held, and

then turned to the Vixen. "What was it you told Tanj,

earlier, that got her in the mood for this?" the Mink

whispered. Zassa grinned and gestured to the sign that was

still taped to the monitor; "I told her that it would be a

good reinforcement for our cover if we did a little

advertising for our "special Charter Service…. Show the

station just how we could entertain customers on those long

dull voyages." Kath grinned and just shook her head.

Tanj yawned and shook her head; if the chronometer over the

bar was right, this club should have closed two hours ago.

The Jaguar had his head propped on one paw; his eyes were

open, but he seemed asleep. Kath and Wanda were curled up

in a booth. Hinoki was flat on his back on the bar,

snoring softly. And Harriet and Zassa were engaged in

lively conversation, discussing how she was going to run

HER club….. Dragging herself to her feet, the Cheetah

staggered over; "Don’t you think its time we went home?"

Zassa blinked, her head snapping around as the club’s few

remaining staff started applauding.

Tanj yawned, and slowly unwrapped the fabric from her body,

the ripping sound as it came free still annoying. The

Jaguar had said his goodbyes at the lock, one eye on Zassa,

as if worried that if he took them up on their offer for

breakfast, he’d never escape intact. Tanj had kissed him

softly and promised to be in touch, and he’d departed, not

on foot, but in a robocab, as if he were having trouble

walking. Now, the Cheetah fem wanted nothing more than a

hot shower, and to sleep around the clock. But someone was

already in the head, the water running. With a sigh, she

tossed her garment through the open door to her cabin, and

nude, padded towards the flight deck. There were always

messages to check.

Tanj smiled wryly; sure enough, while she’d been out, a

good number of messages had appeared on the comm terminal.

One was from her boss, in the Intelligence department…

There were several suggestions as to how to handle the

"Imperial" situation, but nothing concrete. At least there

wasn’t the censure she’d so feared. Not yet anyways….

One of them was from the Battlecruiser, wondering where

their Captain was. The second from the last was from an

anonymous furr who wanted to meet with Tanj in a day’s

time, with nothing else said. The last one was a brief

note from her master and Tanj had a momentary pang of

guilt, thinking about him, and the evening with the

Jaguar….. Most of the rest were about ship’s services on

the station, and junk mail. Sitting back, Tanj scanned the

list again, wondering if that one lone appointment might be

the furr they’d been waiting for, for what seemed like so


Harriet’s Club

Tanj came slowly awake; the erotic dream she’d been having,

persisting….. slowly it dawned on her, that someone’s

tongue was teasing her softly betwee n her thighs….

Smiling, leaving her eyes closed, she tried to identify who

it might be by the texture and style. She knew the Jaguar

had gone back to his ship, the night before, and as it was

a rough, feline tongue, that could only mean Hinoki…..

Groaning, the Cheetah Fem mumbled; "I thought you were

going to be working on moving your invention over to

Harriet’s new club this morning….." The tongue paused, and

Hinoki chuckled; "Just thought I ought to ask permission

before leaving the ship….. Tanj nodded and stretched; "Go;

get out of here before I pull you into my bed! Just check

in every couple of hours so we know you’re all right."

Hinoki nodded, and then realizing Tanj’s eyes were closed,

grunted his acceptance. Grinning, for a moment down at the

Nude female Cheetah, he reached down and rolled her over

roughly to Slap her on the ass, once, twice, and then a

third time. Tanj Yelped; "Hey, what’s THAT for?" As he

slipped through the door, Hinoki chuckled; "For NOT

dragging me into your bed… but I do have work to do.

Later, Captain!"

Tanj looked at the chronometer and groaned; it was WAY too

early to get up…. And yet… Hinoki’s teasing had gotten her

aroused enough that getting back to sleep would be a

problem…. And her ass was burning a pleasant warmness….

Grinning, she rolled over and reached into the nightstand

for her favorite vibrator.

The Hoverpallet wasn’t exactly overloaded, but the support

beams stuck way out over each end, making it difficult to

maneuver. The beams had been the last part to be

disassembled, and of course, had to be the first part to be

reassembled….. Holding the remote in one hand, Hinoki

guided it into the dockside "Traffic", heading for

Harriet’s new place.

The door to the new club was opened by Salde; the Ermine

was wearing a body harness that accentuated, rather than

concealing her charms, and nothing else. "Good morning,

Master Hinoki. Mistress Harriet is in back, waiting for

you. Can I help you with that?" Hinoki chuckled and

paused to kiss the Ermine, the hand not holding the

pallet’s remote moving to caress a breast as he kissed her.

After a moment he broke the kiss; "No, I got it, but

thanks. Looks like you’re getting a little more "freedom"

than you had under your old Mistress." Salde grinned;

"Mistress Harriet has been kind enough to make me head

girl. In fact, she’s offered me a deal, that if I can make

the "living" side of the operating here profitable, she’ll

free me in five years." Hinoki paused, looking up from the

remote; "you mean she’s going to let you help run the

operation here? Salde just nodded, a smile on her face."

Hinoki hit the "halt" button on the remote and grabbed

Salde for another kiss; "that IS good news;


Harriet was on her hands and knees, the cover off a power

outlet on the far wall. Hinoki thought she looked just

marvelous like that, presenting her ass, barely covered in

tightly stretched denim…. For a moment he was tempted to

walk over and… but then he caught sight of the Tiger

standing next to her, looking at some sort of hand-held

instrument…. Figuring there was always later, he parked

the hoverpallet, letting it settle to the floor with a

tired whine. Pocketing the remote, he padded over to where

Harriet was crouched…..

Harriet snapped the cover on the power outlet, and stood

up; she turned and kissed Hinoki hello, and then turned to

look inquiringly at the Tiger…. The tiger squinted at the

display of his gadget through antique wire-framed glasses

and slowly shook his head; "there’s enough amperage, but

the wave-form just isn’t as "clean" as it is on the average

starship. I think we’re going to have to install a

buffer." Hinoki nodded; "might not be a bad idea just to

use an uninteruptible power supply; that’ll clean up the

waveform and make sure no one’s program crashes at an

inopportune time It’ll also buffer the system against

anyone trying to hack into the program through the power

lines." Harriet nodded; "I’ll run out and see if I can

find one that’ll meet the power requirements. Oh, by the

way, Hinoki, this is CT; I’ve hired him to look after the

electronic end of the business. He’s got some fairly

impressive credentials in Sims…. And… Agriculture?" The

Tiger nodded shyly, pushing his glasses up onto his nose;

"Um… sometimes you need to do something to keep body and

soul together, while you try to get the other to the point

it’ll support you. If this works, I do believe I will have

successfully made the transition.. Hinoki nodded; "Pleased

to meet you. Now, this is what we need to do first…."

Zassa adjusted the zipper on her jumpsuit, pulling it down

to show just the right amount of cleavage… or at least the

amount she thought she could get away with on Gibralter

station. Pausing by Tanj’s door, she smiled at the sounds

she heard….. Peeking through the door she saw Tanj, on her

knees, facing away from her, arms under her body, paws

between her thighs, working the big, knobby vibrator in and

out of her snatch, to the accompaniment of her soft moans….

It was just a little too much to resist. Stepping through

the doorway quietly, she took both of the Cheetah’s paws in

one hand, holding her in that position, as she brought her

open palm down hard on the Cheetah’s upturned ass; Six

quick slaps, alternating left and right. And then she bent

low to whisper in the Cheetah’s ear; "Bad Girl! Not

supposed to do things like that without ME! I’m heading

out to do some shopping; I’ll check in at Harriet’s club

when I’m done." Still holding the Cheetah’s paws tight,

the dong droning away in her pussy, the Vixen grinned and

gave her another four hard swats, before releasing her and

escaping through the doorway.

Tanj shuddered with each swat; they were bordering on that

gray area where it was no longer fun, and was starting to

get painful, but Zassa knew just how to play her… by the

last swat, the vibrator had taken her to the point where

her climax was unstoppable. As the Vixen strolled down the

corridor towards the personnel lock, the sounds of the

climaxing Cheetah was music to her ears.

The Vixen struggled under her load of boxes and bags, as

she moved through the door to Harriet’s club. Salde,

seeing her struggling, hurried over to help. The Vixen

grinned and as she set down the other packages, she bent to

give the Ermine a kiss; "got some interesting things here

for you and your "sisters"… Lets go find Harriet and show

her what we got….

Hinoki shook his head; "Yes, CT, you’re right; that would

give us greater resolution in the holograms, but that

increase in detail would slow the central processor WAY

down; I’m afraid we might drop below "real time" if we did

that." The Tiger pushed his glasses back up on his nose

and nodded…. After a moment’s thought he raised an eyebrow;

"what if we were to try parallel processing? That might

solve the problem…."

Zassa grinned as the Cheetah came through the door to the

back rooms. She was standing by the antigrav pallet,

obviously waiting for him. Hinoki took in the large bulky

object wrapped in a tarp on the pallet and grumbled;

"What’s this?" Zassa chuckled; "oh, just a little

something I traded Harriet for; should make the trip home a

little…. Well, less interesting for some, more interesting

for others. Its my surprise, so no peeking!" Hinoki just

grumbled, and snatched up the remote; "well, come on, I’ve

got work to do. Need to shift another load of gear from

the ship…."

As they walked behind the pallet, moving slowly through the

corridors of the station, Zassa edged a little closer to

the Cheetah and asked "Something’s bothering you. You want

to talk about it?" Hinoki sighed; "its just that… well, I

can’t blame Harriet for trying to find someone to tend to

the system when we leave… it makes perfect sense…. And that

Tiger, CT, he DOES seem to know what he’s talking about,

its just that…… well…." Zassa smiled and hugged the

Cheetah; "he’s tinkering with YOUR invention, and that

upsets you?" Hinoki sighed, made a small correction to the

pallet’s path, and nodded; "Yeah, I guess that’s it. He’s

made a couple of suggestions so far that are really rather

good; its just that I guess that I should have thought of

them first…."

Tanj sighed and read through the message again. Her boss,

the old Fox, had gone on for about two pages, saying that

he wasn’t really surprised that Kath had been a sleeper

agent, intentionally, or unintentionally. That he was glad

she’d been able to help get Tanj out of trouble, and that

at this point, he didn’t see how having an Imperial

Intelligence agent sitting in their midst was going to

change a damn thing. There was advice on how to keep her

from finding out the things that might be a little

delicate, and suggestions on countering surreptitious

methods of communication that the Mink might try and use.

He made it sound like a game, a battle of wits for no other

real purpose than to keep the other side off balance….

Finally, he made a few suggestions as to just how it might

be useful… It was this portion of the message that Tanj

had read and re-read, until she felt she had it memorized.

Dare she even try?

"Wanda, I’m going to need to borrow Kath for a bit." Wanda

looked up from her nursing journal, and blinked; "Um,

sure, Tanj…. Mind if I ask what you’re going to do to her?"

The Cheetah just laughed; "Its not what you think. I’m

going to go talk to that Wolf that’s her contact in

Imperial Intelligence. I think we need to clear the air,

and I think I know how to do it, too." Wanda blinked;

"you…. You’re going to see Imperial Intelligence?

Voluntarily? I didn’t think anyone did that!" Tanj just

grinned; "Yeah, well, I doubt they’ll throw me in a

dungeon… and it MIGHT help." The Wolverine nodded; "Want

me to come along?" Tanj thought for a moment and then

shook her head; "no, someone’d better stay here, just in

case our contact shows up. By the way, where IS Zassa; she

back from her shopping trip yet?" Wanda nodded; "had a

whole bunch of something on the hover pallet. I think

she’s down in the cargo bay, setting it up…..

Zassa looked at the pile of metal and sighed; she’d taken

it apart, you’d think she’d know how to put it back

together…. Shrugging she pulled off her coverall, and with

a grin, hung it over the security camera; this was to be a

surprise and she didn’t want anyone seeing what she was up

to. Picking up the power wrench, she turned to the first


"Please tell Colonel Chalmers that Captain Ky is here to

see him." The Jackal behind the desk took in the Cheetah

fem, and then his gaze flicked to the blonde Mink standing

to one side. Somehow they looked familiar. "I’m sorry,

but the Major is a very busy furr; I’m afraid he won’t be

able to see you today. Come back tomorrow." To his

amazement, the Cheetah and the Mink exchanged grins, and

then both started laughing. With a growl, the Jackal rose

from his chair…. "Enough of the standard line, Corporal.

Get on the comm and tell the Colonel we’re here, and that

we want to talk to him. Now." The Jackal shook his head

and growled, "now just who the FUCK do you think you are,

to be telling ME what to do?" Kath just smiled, and

slipped her I.D. out of a pocket; smoothly, she put it face

down on the counter and slid it towards the Jackal.

Suddenly it hit him. He remembered where he’d seen these

two. On the Vids. The Mink was wearing the black uniform

of Imperial Intelligence, too. And the Cheetah… she hadn’t

been wearing anything. With a small degree of trepidation,

the Jackal lifted the ID just enough to confirm his

suspicions. "Sorry, Major, I didn’t… recognize you."

Picking up the comm, he made the call.

The Wolf blinked at the image of the guard; "WHO? They’ve

come HERE? Damn! OK, I guess if they’re here, they might

as well come up. Just make sure they’re thoroughly checked

for weapons…..

Tanj smiled as she settled herself into the cheap plastic

visitor’s chair. The Wolf was in what had to be a borrowed

cubicle; his brief case, and portable computer were on the

desk, along with a number of print-outs, but there were no

personal touches. No photographs, trophies, or any other

reflection of his personality. Either he’d borrowed a

vacant cubicle for this meeting, OR as she suspected, he

was merely a visitor here. The Wolf made no effort to find

a chair for Kath, so the Mink stood, just inside the

doorway. Tanj could feel the awkwardness in the air, and

she savored it for a moment.

The Wolf studied the impudent Cheetah, waiting for her to

announce the purpose of her visit. He was used to

summoning furrs to see him; having one show up unbidden was

unique in his experience. And how had they learned his


Tanj smiled; "Since it looks as if we’re going to be

working together, I thought an exchange of information

might be in order. There are some things that I’ve learned

about, in the course of my business, that you would

probably like to know about. I suspect there are things

that you know, that I could make use of. What I propose is

a simple trade. I’ll give you a piece of information, and

if you think its worthwhile, you respond in kind. If I

think what you have to share is worthwhile, I’ll offer

another item for trade." The Wolf leaned back in his

chair, annoyed as it squeaked. He felt like a nobody in

this cheap cubicle, almost no privacy from any of the local

crowd…. And then he wondered why he should worry about

impressing these two. After a moment he shrugged; "I

seriously doubt there’s anything you know that we don’t.

But if you would like to try and surprise me, help


The Cheetah smiled. Half a sector away was a situation the

Brethren were aware of, even though it mattered little to

them… "Did you know that the Imperial Light Cruiser

Burkett was taking payoffs from the local pirate clan? I

understand they’ve been very skilled at hiding their

profits, but I’m sure if you were to look closely, you

could trace the funds…." Tanj smiled as she watched the

Wolf’s face; the look was not one of disbelief, but one of

surprise. "Um, actually we know about that situation" the

Wolf grumbled. "Of course, I’m not going to mention that

we just learned of it three days ago" he thought to

himself. "But did you know," the Cheetah purrred, "That

they have shared the wealth with some comrades in the chain

of command, to make sure they’re warned should anyone ever

get wind of their actions? I’m told they have a rather

detailed contingency plan for when they’re discovered….."

The Wolf blinked; there was an operation underway to corral

in the crew of the Burkett…. But if what she said was true,

they’d probably come up empty. "That we…. Were unaware of.

But why tell us this? No honor among theives?" Tanj

shrugged; "the Crimson Rovers operate outside Brethren

territory, and as such have no impact on our bottom line….

But you know as well as I do that most pirate clans operate

under a loosely-agreed-upon set of rules. And you know

that the Empire doesn’t stridently go after those that play

by those unofficial rules. The Crimson Rovers are a bunch

of malicious, vicious cutthroats, that adhere to no rules,

and as such they bring dishonor on us all. We won’t mind

seeing them taken down a notch." The Wolf chuckled; "in

other words, if the merchant shipping thinks they may

survive being taken by pirates they might not fight as

hard, they might surrender more easily, and thus your life

becomes easier." Tanj just smiled and shrugged.

The Wolf smiled; "All right, I’ll offer a tidbit in return

for that little gem. As you know, the Imperium demands

taxes from all client systems. The taxes from the

Fairmont, White, and Chatsworth systems were going to go in

convoy, leaving on the tenth, but that’s been delayed."

Tanj chuckled; "as if we would be so foolish to try and

take the Imperium’s cut; and its been delayed to the 16th,

when the Imperial Cruisers Haverty and Badcock can join the

convoy, to replace the Blair, which has engine trouble.

Sorry, we’re well appraised of that situation. Try again.

Kath listened, feigning boredom. While doing her best not

to move, she let her eyes and ears rove around the office.

From her standing position, she could see partially into

some of the nearer cubicles. It was apparent that they had

an audience. In at least two of the cubicles she could

see, the furr’s screen savers had come on, advertising

their inactivity. And here and there, she could see ears

just above the partitions….

The Wolf frowned; "all right then, you might be interested

to know that the Elysium government has contracted with the

mercenary outfit known as the Reavers…."

Tanj grinned; "And they’re arriving in three weeks"

The Wolf scowled; "to defend the Gulan starport"

Tanj’s grin widened; "so the Elysium government can move

certain high-value things off planet, just in case"

The Wolf’s scowl vanished and a look of triumph crossed his

face; "not exactly; they’re there to cover the retreat,

should it come to that, of the Elysium government itself!"

Now it was Tanj’s turn to blink; "urrrr, I wonder if the

Reavers know that? They’d be in a bad position to collect

their fee, I think, should that happen." The Wolf leaned

back in his chair, ignoring the squeek, and waved a paw

off-handedly; "they depend heavily on conscripts from their

home world. I suspect those that would collect the money

probably could care less what happens to the troops that

get left behind." Tanj nodded; "OK, you got me with that


Tanj smiled; "I’ve heard of an Ecstasy lab on Triton….

The wolf’s grin widened; "shut down two days ago…

Now it was Tanj’s turn to scowl; "but the smuggling


The Wolf’s grin widened; "had a mole in it; we’ve

dismantled that too"

Tanj sighed and shrugged; "and I suppose you have a

customer list too." The wolf shrugged; "we’ve shut down

the producer and completely destroyed the smuggling and

distribution network; why would we want to be bothered with

the poor degenerates that are the end-users?" Tanj’s smile

came on like a light-bulb; "because of who’s on it. You

might want to know to prevent a scandal…" Grinning, the

Cheetah fished a memory crystal from a pocket and slid it

across the table. Hesitantly, the wolf picked it up and

slid it into the input port on his computer. The screen

was hidden from Tanj’s view, but she noted how the Wolf’s

eyes widened as he scrolled down."

Kath smiled as the battle raged. The wolf would throw out

a tid-bit, and Tanj would either counter with even more

details, or claim that wasn’t of any interest to her, and

the Brethren. But occasionally she’d get a worried look,

and the whole thing would start, inverted, with Tanj

throwing out something, and the wolf either claiming it was

worthless, or that they already had that information… but

on occasion he too would make notes. As her feet started

to get a little sore from standing so long, the Mink looked

around. A number of the cubicles were dark, but there were

a surprising number of furrs still around, despite the only

clock in view saying it was well past quitting time. With

her stomach rumbling, she wondered how long this might go


Tanj sighed and shrugged; "I hate to say it, but I’ve run

out of things to put on the table. Anything else we might

have, I doubt you’d be interested in." The Wolf nodded,

and leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind

his neck. For a moment he looked at the Cheetah, and then

nodded; "there’s one piece of information you could offer,

that I haven’t heard yet." Tanj raised an eyebrow; "and

that is?" Leaning forward, the Wolf grinned; "tell me what

you’re doing here. Why have you come to Gibralter station?

Surely it wasn’t to screw traffic controllers, break up a

drug ring, or open a club." Tanj smiled; "That, Sir, is

something I simply can’t tell you. Believe it or not, I

just don’t know yet." The Wolf frowned, and for the first

time, he looked up at Kath; "that true?" Kath nodded;

"True, Sir. We’re to meet someone, but we don’t know who,

or when, or why." The Wolf scowled; "well, if it has any

bearing on the Imperium, you WILL report it to me.


Tanj smiled and languidly rose from her chair; her tail had

fallen asleep ages ago and now she winced as blood flowed

back into that area of her anatomy. Stretching as only a

feline can, she turned and padded from the cubicle, Kath


Ensign Overstreet was about to hand the data crystal to the

desk clerk when the Cheetah, followed by the blonde Mink

strolled by, escorted by no less than three security types.

As they passed through the doors to the Imperial

Intelligence offices, Overstreet swallowed, the data

crystal forgotten. That was the Cheetah her Captain had

been seeing; she’d seen them together in the clubs. The

"Old Man" apparently had some serious Imperial Intelligence

connections all right!

The Wolf smiled as he hit the "send" key on the secure comm

terminal. He was risking a lot, passing the Cheetah’s

information on, without vetting it first, but if what she

said was true, he might just prevent a few disasters before

they happened….. And in the process look like a hero….

Tanj sighed and hit the "transmit" button on her comm

console; all the information she’d gotten from the Wolf was

now on its way to the Brethren. She just hoped he’d been

giving her the straight poop, and not just making things

up. It would be interesting to see just how far they might

trust him….

Zassa torqued the last fastener, and stepped back to admire

her handiwork; the cage looked just the same as it had in

what had been the kennels of Miss Kitty’s… A rectangle

roughly a body length on a side, and perhaps just barely

tall enough for someone to kneel in, without hitting their

head. The door was low, and obviously difficult to crawl

in and out of; it would put a slave very low to the ground

on entering or exiting. In one back corner was a simple

hole in the floor, for waste elimination. The Vixen had

connected that into the ship’s recycling system. In the

opposite front corner, diagonally across the cage, were the

amenities that had captured her imagination. There was a

phallic shape, at about muzzle height for a kneeling slave,

that, when sucked upon, would feed the slave water. To one

side of that was another phallic shape that delivered

"food"… and on the floor, just where a slave would kneel to

suck on that one, was a vertically mounted dong. This dong

had to be gripped with vaginal muscles, and moved up and

down to charge the dong at muzzle height. The vertical

dong had to be "pumped" 30 times to activate the second

dong, and it had to be kept moving; if the slave stopped

humping that dong, the food would stop, and the 30 stroke

"priming" counter would be reset. The second dong had to

be sucked upon, just right, for it to deliver its meal, a

synthetic nutrient that had all the consistency and taste

of cum. While it provided the minimum daily nutrition, no

one would ever get fat on it; it wasn’t for long term use,

and yet it would keep a slave healthy for several weeks.

The rest of the set consisted of a body harness designed to

support the slave’s breasts without concealing them, to

hold her neck almost immobile in a stiff posture collar,

and to hold her wrists at her waist. The last piece was

the head harness that had a ring gag that held the jaws

just far enough apart to let them accept the water or food

phalluses, and to hold a visor; the latter was the most

diabolical part of the device. It held a curved piece of

opaque plastic in front of the slave’s eyes; she could look

down, by her cheeks, and gain a small view of the upper

curves of her breasts, and perhaps a small view of where

her feet were, thus easing the task of walking at the end

of someone’s leash; but there was no way they could see

where they were going. It would be just enough to let her

find the "pump" dildo, for the food phallus….

Zassa shook her head; she was just going to have to try it.

The cage latched with a simple sliding bolt, and the Vixen

was sure she could manipulate it even with her wrists

fastened at her waist. Checking to make sure that the

waste port was correctly connected to the recycling system,

that the water and "food" jugs were full, she slipped into

the body harness…..

The cage door clanged shut. Zassa threw the bolt, reaching

through the bars to do so. The head harness went on next,

the ring gag filling her mouth; it wasn’t too large, and

the Vixen thought she wouldn’t have trouble wearing it for

a while. The visor went on next, snapping into place. In

the posture collar, Zassa tried to look around, to see what

she could see. It wasn’t much. Fumbling, she managed to

clasp one of the wristlets to the snap at her waist, and

then clicked the other wristlet to the opposite side……

Across the cargo bay, her jumpsuit hung on the only

security camera that could see the cage, and its new


Hinoki sighed and wiped the sweat from his eyes. The

system, long since reassembled, had FINALLY passed its

diagnostic test. The Tiger had been very helpful in

sorting out all the glitches, but somehow, at the same

time, he’d been particularly annoying. It was almost as if

he had blamed the Cheetah for every unexpected glitch the

system had coughed up, as if he expected it all to work

without fine tuning. At least he’d learned a great deal

about troubleshooting the system. Harriet had been

insistent; she wanted to be the first to christen the

system, and having selected one of the programs Tanj had

authored, she’d shooed the males out. For a moment, Hinoki

had thought about running one of his programs, perhaps one

of his darker programs, and shoving the Tiger into the

machine… grinning, he’d decided that perhaps that was a

good idea, but that a little more forethought might be

required, before properly showing the Tiger just exactly

what his system could do….. His head full of rapidly

congealing plans, he bade the Tiger goodnight and headed

for the ship…..

Zassa groaned as she sank onto the food system’s pump,

feeling it fill her pussy. She wasn’t really hungry; more

like she was bored. With no view to the outside, with no

clock, and no change in lighting in the cargo bay, she had

no idea how much time had passed. Still, driving the dong

into her wet sex was a nice distraction. Leaning forward,

she nuzzled about until she could find the food phallus.

Holding it in her mouth, clenching down with her vaginal

muscles she started to drag the dong up and down….. As she

sucked, as the count hit thirty, she felt the dong in her

mouth start to spurt. It DID taste just like cum. As she

worked at pumping the system, as her climax grew closer and

closer, she sucked hard on the spurting dildo, wondering

just how much the system would give her to "eat"…

Hinoki sealed the personnel lock, waved goodnight to Tanj,

and headed for his bunk; he had a lot of ideas for the

Upstart Tiger… but they would wait until morning. He’d had

a long day, and now all he wanted was sleep.

Zassa’s climax interrupted her motions, and as her body

shuddered, the dong in her mouth stopped spurting. Sighing

she waited for the waves of pleasure to receed a little,

before she started humping the dong again….

Tanj sighed, stretched and yawned. The day’s e-mail

finally resolved. The situation on Elysium seemed to be

disintigrating rapidly. There was a lot of field

intelligence that had to be sorted, evaluated and summaries

formulated and fired back to the Brethren, and the Blues,

and in some cases, even to Jenka. Shutting down her

console, Tanj took a look over the flight deck; she noted

that everyone was "home", and turned to head for her cabin,

missing the fact that Zassa’s telltale was in the Cargo

bay. The fact that the Cargo bay security monitor was

solid blue was also missed by the tired Cheetah. Flopping

down on her bed, Tanj was asleep within minutes.

In the Cargo Bay, Zassa fumbled again at the latch on the

cage’s door. For some reason, the job that had looked SO

simple from outside, was now eluding her; she couldn't get

her paw, clipped to her waist, through the small opening in

the bar far enough to lift the little lever on the bolt,

before pulling it back. Finally, groaning in disgust, the

Vixen flopped down, to try and get some sleep. "Shoulda

put a mat in here" she sighed to herself. It was soon

evident that the only reasonable position was on her back.

With her wrists bound to either side of her waist she

couldn’t lie on either side and the way the body harness

lifted her breasts, making them stand almost straight out,

made it difficult to sleep on her stomach…. Squirming,

the vixen sighed and tried to find sleep.

The Danger Revealed

Tanj yawned as she shuffled into the wardroom. "Coffee;

gotta get coffee" was the only thought in her head.

Finding her favorite mug, filling the mug from the pot, she

took her usual chair and with a purrrrr, sipped at the mug.

She was enjoying the aroma of the coffee, the mug held near

her nose, when Wanda entered the wardroom. "Mornin’, Tanj.

Sleep well?" The Cheetah shook her head; "Not really; up

too late reading dispatches from Elysium. My sleep was

kinda… troubled. I guess I was dwelling on things there a

little too much." The Wolverine lass nodded; "so when’s

your mystery appointment today? Think it’ll be him?" Tanj

just shrugged; "might be; its at noon. It seems we’re

meeting for lunch. An "open air" café, right next to the

Imperial Government Offices." Wanda nodded; "need backup?"

Tanj laughed; "There? Nothing would happen there; its got

to be one of the most secure places on the station, just

chock full of the cream of the Imperium, all on their lunch

break. Besides, he said to come alone. No, I’ll be fine,

but thanks." Tanj took another sip of her coffee, and then

looked around "Anyone seen Zassa recently?" Wanda

chuckled; "she came in with a special project yesterday;

something she got from Harriet; she’s been in the Cargo Bay

since yesterday." Tanj chuckled; "Maybe I should go down

there and see what’s happening." Wanda shook her head;

"She said it was a surprise and that no one was to disturb

her. Said she’d be really mad if we blew the surprise."

Tanj sipped her coffee and shrugged; "OK… as long as she’s

on the ship, I suppose she can’t get into too much


Tanj’s outfit was conservative by her standards, a pants

suit that set off her natural coloration well. The fact

that there were "holes" in it in certain locations, that

showed off her spots probably made it mildly scandalous,

but nothing critical was showing…. Grinning, the Cheetah

hefted her PADD, and strode through the personnel lock,

headed for her rendezvous.

Zassa groaned through her gag, and carefully felt her way

across the cell, seeking the water dildo; having your mouth

open all night was a good way to get very, very dry. At

least she thought it had been all night. Wondering how

she’d ever gotten herself in this fix, the Vixen drank her

fill, and then settled herself on the food system’s "pump",

to see if she could get herself some breakfast….

Tanj sat at the table, under the brightly colored and

completely pointless umbrella, and watched the people go

by. It was a good half hour after her appointment. She’d

spotted two furrs that might be Imperial Intelligence,

keeping an eye on her, and her favorite beggar was two

establishments down, working the crowd. She’d finished her

lunch, and was quietly nursing her drink, wondering how

long she should stay, when the Panda slipped into the seat

across from her. Forcing a smile, Tanj looked up as if

greeting an old friend; somehow, from all that had been

said so far, she’d been expecting a male. The Female

Panda, like so many of her species, was getting a little

thick around the middle, with middle age; still, she

carried herself well. Looking back across the table she

smiled nervously; "Sou An Ky, I trust? Also known as

Tanj?" Tanj smiled and nodded amiably; "That I am. Are

you the one I was sent to meet?" The Panda nodded

nervously; "I’m sorry for the delay; I know how critical

time is, but I had to be sure. My family’s safety, you

understand…." Tanj nodded and gestured about; "I think

this is as safe as it could get for you; I promise, I’m not

here to hurt you, merely to listen." The Panda snorted;

"its not YOU I’m worried about… well, all right, that

little incident at the nightclub did put me off for a bit,

until it was made public how you’d exposed a drug ring.

For a while, I thought you might actually be with Imperial

intelligence, but then I realized that no member of

Imperial Intelligence would be caught dead, for whatever

reason, in the nude, in public, on Gibralter station! In

fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the local members

of that organization weren’t on the take, to keep their

activities quiet." Tanj shrugged; that had occurred to

her, but there was no way she could ever prove something

like that.

Tanj sipped her drink and nodded; "well, I do want you to

be comfortable with this. But there are no guarantees

after all; trust has to be earned. What can I do to make

you comfortable enough to tell me what this is all about?"

The Panda just smiled; "Just that. I’m going to tell you

my story, and when its done, I’m going to vanish, and you

won’t try and find me. You can believe, or not believe my

story, as you will. By the time you might PROVE what I say

is true, you, nor anyone else, will ever be able to find

me, or my family." Tanj nodded; "sounds really grim." The

Panda shook her head; "you have NO idea."

"It all started when an Elysium science vessel picked up

some really weird inter-dimensional disturbance in the

periphery of the asteroid belt. It was only partially

observed, but it got some of the scientists thinking….

Unfortunately, one of them was particularly fanatical, and

talked to the government about what they’d deduced…. This

started what could only be described as a "doomsday"


Tanj frowned; "Um, hang on a minute… you said some sort of

… inter-dimensional disturbance… Um, was that about a year

and a half ago….. in the asteroid belt?" The Panda blinked

and nodded; "Yes, it was about then. And it was near that

old mining station, if I remember correctly." Tanj just

swallowed and nodded; "Please continue…"

The Panda sighed and looked out over the crowd; "I was

doing post-doctoral work for Professor Irwin Corey, of the

Elysium Institute. He got "drafted" into the project… They

were building a device that would use interdimensional

forces to completely destroy the planet. It was never

meant to be a weapon of war, but instead to be something so

terrifying, that they could force their enemies to

negotiate. However, the war progressed much faster than

the project, and by the time they could run their field

test, it was obvious that the Rebels were unstoppable. It

was then that they started talking about actually using the

device. Something about if they couldn’t have the planet,

neither would anyone else."

Tanj blinked; "Field test?" The Panda nodded; "They set up

some poor freighter captain, a smuggler, I think, as a

guinea pig. He didn’t know what he was carrying. As I

understand it, his ship disintegrated into pebble size

chunks, each moving away from each other at an appreciable

fraction of the speed of light." Tanj nodded; "I may have

eyewitnesses to that…." The Panda sighed; "When they

started talking about actually USING the device, that’s

when I decided it was time to leave." Tanj just nodded,

deep in thought.

The Cheetah looked over her notes; Times, furrs, places,

locations, key figures, and a partial list of components.

She’d talked with the Panda, until the Imperial workers

started to leave the headquarters building, until the café

started to get busy again with the evening crowd. Finally,

she’d just shrugged, unable to think of anything else to

ask. The Panda gauged the crowd and without a word, rose.

"I’ve done my part; I’ve tried to warn those who might be

able to stop this mad scheme. Now its time for me to look

after my family. Good luck." And with that, she faded

into the stream of office types heading home.

Tanj waited a few minutes and then rose. The story was

unbelievable and yet it agreed with certain things that few

knew about. Could it be a trap of some sort?

Disinformation? Who would know of Reggie and Slasher’s

experience? Not even the Brethren believed they’d been

attacked by a cloaked cruiser, a year and a half ago.

Wondering how she’d ever convince the furrs back home, the

Cheetah rose and started towards the docking ring. At

least now they could go home…..

The message to her boss and to her Master had been composed

and sent. Tanj had added in all the corroborating facts

that she could. And she’d sent orders to at least four

different groups of agents on Elysium, sending them after

further proof. Now, as the clock ticked, she wondered if

perhaps there wasn’t someone else she should tell as well……

The Wolf looked at the surveillance photos and shook his

head; she’d obviously met someone, someone who’d

immediately left the station, and was now out of reach,

unless he dispatched a destroyer to intercept the packet

she’d booked passage on. Was it a chance meeting? And old

friend? One of her contacts, or informants? There was

just something about it that bothered him…. Picking up a

message pad, he scribbled a note, instructing traffic

control NOT to let the Beowulf undock, until he’d done some


Back Home:

Sanders stood on the docking bay’s loading dock, clipboard

in hand, and gazed at the emptiness. He had four

hovertrucks ready to load their cargo onto the free trader

"Packard’s Hell," but it was nowhere to be seen. Grumbling

about a bureaucracy that couldn’t even tell him what

docking bay the ship was in, he pulled out his comm link,

determined to give the clerk what for.

Reggie stood just inside the airlock and scowled; this was

the fourth one this week. The free trader "Packard’s

Hell", rated for mixed cargo and six passengers, was

crammed to the gills with refugees. There was barely

enough room for half of them to lay down at one time. They

were in the corridors, in the engineering spaces, some had

even been sleeping in the airlock. And there was no cargo

worth pirating. If the refugees had anything, it wasn’t

obvious. And they’d looked. They’d looked hard, even

stopping to frisk the occasional furr. Shaking his head,

he turned to his partner; "Another loss, Mate." Slasher

just nodded and picked his way towards the lock, through

the crowded bodies.

Ben shook his head as Reggie made his report. Three raider

ships vectored in on the merchant, all that fuel expended,

all that time lost, for no gain. Their facility was

already swamped with furrs awaiting processing as slaves;

they’d taken enough cargo ships for "resale"… they just

couldn’t handle any more trade like that. And thus the

policy had been to let ‘em go. Initially they’d "taken"

only the ships that didn’t stand a chance of getting to

their destination with a functioning life support system,

but now there were so many furrs on the station, that even

their life support was having trouble coping. And thus the

Packard’s Hell was allowed to proceed. Ben sighed and

tried not to think of how many might still be alive when

they made port….

Reggie sat in the pilot’s seat, and stared at the stars,

one paw cupping his chin. "ya know, Mate, I’ve got a bad

feeling about this one. No ship captain worth a damn would

take on so many passengers. Their life support will crap

out long before they can get anywhere. And the crew’ll die

too." Slasher just shrugged; "Maybe he doesn’t plan on

takin’ em’ the whole way." Reggie frowned, and then with a

convulsive movement, yanked the controls hard. With the

inertial dampers screaming, he reversed course.

"I’ve got ‘m on the scope, but something’s funny." Reggie

looked across the flight deck at his partner; so many words

at one time were uncharacteristic. "What’s funny?"

"Return’s hazy, as if he’s in a debris field. And ‘e’s

changed course. Headed back towards Elysium, ‘e is."

Reggie groaned; "see if you can zoom in on them. I’ve got

a very bad feeling on what the debris field is…."

Ben listened to Reggie’s report, and sighed. He’d heard of

it before… The fighting on Horbath….. Unscrupulous ship

captains cramming their ship with refugees, for an

extortionate fee, and then, once clear of the planet,

they’d open the air locks and kill ‘em all, the bodies

thrown out into the vastness of space. The ship would then

turn around, and land at a different port to repeat the

process. Keying the mike, the Wolf growled; "so what did

you do with the scum?" Reggie’s reply turned heads all

across Ops; "Boarded ‘em, and threw ‘em out their own

airlock. Justice, pure and simple. Slasher’s bringing the

ship in, although with a history like this one’s got,

finding a buyer might be hard…."

Xyloff looked at the intelligence briefing from the

Brethren and smiled; he hadn’t been getting too many of

those of late; it was almost as if those pirate scum knew

what he had in mind for them. But this one, this was a

real gem. "So, Comrade Quistling, the vultures that bring

us off-planet supplies at extortionate prices are cramming

their ships with our good citizens, and then spacing them

at the earliest opportunity, Eh?" Quistling shuddered; "we

must warn the good people! We must convince them that

safety lies with us, and not in fleeing!" Xyloff chuckled;

"Ah, yes, Comrade, that we will… but….. I think we’ll tell

them that the pirates are intercepting all transports and

spacing the refugees…" The Lemming looked confused; "But…

Comrade, it’s the Pirates that have brought this to our

attention; that’s not what happened…." Xyloff smiled; "its

what happened, if we say it is. We need to find a way to

make ourselves look good in the eyes of the people, and

make all others look worse. Leave it to me, Comrade, I’ll

take care of it.

Dorothy looked at the flyer and sighed, crumpling it in one

fist. The Reds had swept through her province a week ago,

and in their wake, the political elements had been changing

things. Now she’d need travel documents to go see her

elderly mother in Hammstadt, even though it was only twenty

kilometers away. And this crap about refugees fleeing off

planet being traitors to the People, cowards not willing to

fight for the liberation of their planet, and of their

brethren. Bullshit. Another flyer had called them

thieves, stealing precious natural resources from the

People (i.e. their own skills and talents). Dorothy shook

her head, and then grinned; it was obvious the Reds

couldn’t run their own revolution with the gutter trash and

opportunists they seemed to sweep up; they needed

technicians, and middle level managers, and those were just

the people currently attempting to flee the planet. For a

moment, Dorothy wondered how she might extricate her mother

and herself, to the other side of the lines, where she

might find a transport off-planet. Finally, with a sigh,

she realized that it’d be hard enough for her to find a

way, but with her mother in tow…. Turning, she headed from

the tram station, towards her apartment. For better or

worse, it looked as if this was home.

Sanders looked at the Armored Personnel Carrier as he stood

in line at the check point. The Reds had swept through the

city of Anhamo three days earler, the Government troops

fighting a short delaying battle, and then fading into the

countryside. A few booby-traps had been left, and they’d

hurriedly tried to destroy key facilities, but they’d

obviously not wanted to be encircled and things were done

very half-assed… This was a shitty place for a defense, on

a broad plain. No natural obstacles. Of course, that was

why the spaceport had been built here. Easy for ground

transportation to pick up and deliver cargo. Sauders had

found a rather large bomb in the Spaceport’s automated

cargo handling equipment, but it had been simplistic; he’d

just turned off the timer. As soon as possible, he needed

to inform his liberators of that….. But ever since the

Reds had arrived, things had been, well, not what he’d

expected upon "liberation". The first problem was

registration. Vehicles with loudspeakers had moved through

the neighborhoods, and residential districts, telling

everyone that for their own safety, for the public good,

they had to "register". He’d lost a day standing in lines,

time he’d honestly felt would be better served, moving

cargo for the revolution, at the newly liberated starport.

After all, didn’t the Reds want to bring supplies in as

close to the front lines as possible? Then, on the next

day, he’d been instructed to remain at home, so that his

residence could be inspected for the possibility of

quartering troops. The team that brushed through his

apartment seemed more interested in running off with his

personal possessions, than determining if he could take a

room-mate for a while. Luckily he’d heard rumors, and had

stuffed all his nicer things into the ventilation ducts

before the squad got to him. They’d still taken soap, some

towels, and most of his beer. Well, the brave fighters of

the resistance were entitled to some of the comforts of

life. If they’d asked, he probably would have given the

things willingly…. But they hadn’t asked. Now, he was

finally able to head for work, perhaps to do important

things for the cause…. If he could just get through the

check point.

"So tell me, Sir, where are you going?" The Mouse wearing

the Reds armband, with the unidentifiable insignia sat at

an improvised table. The Squirrel in front of Sanders

looked a little flustered; "well, ah, Comrade, I’m a

pharmacist; I need to get to the regional supply center on

57th street, to pick up medicines for my shop. Several of

our older customers have been without certain "maintenance"

drugs, such as insulin, for several days now…." The Mouse

looked at the squirrel’s papers and shook his head; "you

are not cleared to travel to that sector. Go home, and

fill out the paperwork for permission to travel outside

your zone." The Squirrel blinked; "but Sir! These people

will get sick if they don’t get their medicines." The

Mouse shrugged; "not my concern, citizen. Go." The

Squirrel looked about helplessly; "Perhaps… perhaps one of

your loyal troops could make the trip for me? Can a

messenger be sent?" The Mouse frowned; "Citizen, I will

not warn you again; procedures MUST be followed! Now GO!"

The Squirrel took a step out of the line, looking around,

looking for help. After a moment, one of the troopers

thrust a wad of paper at him, application forms for a

change in travel permit status. Fumbling with them, the

squirrel turned, moving back the way he came.

The Tram was much less crowded than usual, for this time of

day, and Sanders found that he could actually find a seat.

He was sitting there, staring out the window at the

remarkably untouched city, when the door at the far end of

the car opened. Three furrs, this time in the full uniform

of the Reds moved into the car, spot-checking papers. The

chipmunk was a natural magnet for them, looking nervous….

Still, he produced his papers on demand, holding his cap in

both paws. The Fox who seemed to be the group’s leader

shook his head; "Citizen, citizen, I’m ashamed of you!

You’re about to be far outside your zone! You shouldn’t be

on this tram; the next station’s in the next zone!" The

Chipmunk shuddered and nodded, his words tumbling out in a

rush; "Um, yessir, but you see, I work for the local

Jupiter Hovertruck dealership, and we’ve been, ah, drafted

to help with the maintenance of Reds military vehicles….

However, our diagnostic system has broken down; the officer

in charge of us told me to go to the spaceport to pick up

the replacement modules he requisitioned. He TOLD me to

come! I couldn’t very well disobey his order… could I?"

The Fox just shook his head sadly; "That’s a fine story,

but you see, how do I know its true? You have no written

authorization from him? No temporary endorsements on your

travel papers. Nothing to prove that’s what happened!"

The Chipmunk shook his head; "I had a pass; they took it at

the tram station checkpoint! You can call them and ask

them! They’ll tell you! You can ask the officer; just

call the dealership! He was there!" The Fox looked at the

floor, eyes closed and again shook his head; "Citizen,

Citizen, how could I know if the person on the other end of

the phone was really the officer you mentioned? It could

just be a friend of yours. No, without the proper

paperwork, I’m afraid we’re going to have to make sure you

don’t leave your zone." Signaling his companions, the Fox

moved on to the next furr. Sanders watched, aghast, as the

troopers dragged the Chipmunk to the space between the tram

cars, and bodily threw him from the moving tram. The

chipmunk's body tumbled several times and then was lost to

view. And then the Fox was looking down at him. Without a

word, Sanders handed him his papers. The Fox looked them

over casually, and without a word, handed them back, moving

on to the next furr….. Turning his gaze out the window,

Sanders wondered what had happened to the bright promise

he’d thought the revolution had held…..

Ryle watched the tram go past, envying how it could travel

without having to pass through these damn checkpoints. As

it faded from view, he turned to regard the Bear coming

towards him. It seemed everyone these days was sporting a

Reds armband, and he wondered, if he acquired one, if

they’d leave him alone? The grin the Bear was sporting,

however made him frown. "Greetings, Citizen! The bad news

is that there is an error on your paperwork; the bill of

lading does not match the weight of your truck! The good

news is, that to get you and your important shipment of

food on its way, we have decided to help you correct the

problem!" Turning to look where she was looking, Ryle’s

jaw dropped as he saw a Red army transport backing up to

the rear of his truck. Within minutes, they were tossing

foodstuffs from one truck to the other…. After five

minutes or so, the Reds truck pulled away, and he found the

Bear shoving the papers at him; "There, all fixed; now your

truck has the proper weight. Move on, Citizen; don’t keep

your hungry fellows waiting!" Grumbling, Ryle climbed into

the Driver’s seat, and revved up the fans.

"YOU! HALT!" Sanders stopped and looked around. The

spaceport was almost deserted, and the odds that they were

talking to anyone else were slim. "Where do you think

YOU’RE going? Searching for a ship to take you off planet?

Trying to deprive the People of your skills, and the fruits

of your labor? Well, I’ve got news for you, "refugee," the

Reds have this facility under their complete control, and

the cowardice of fleeing will NOT be TOLERATED!" Sanders

kept the frustration from his voice, and as he offered his

papers to the Shrew, he said as evenly as possible; "I’m

Sanders; I work in shipping here. The Reds have told me

that I’m a critical worker for this facility and that I was

to report for work." The Shrew looked at the papers, and

scowled. "Finnegan! Juarez! Take Mr. Sanders here to

Shipping. Watch him carefully! Make sure he does what he

is supposed to. ONLY what he is supposed to! And make

sure he doesn’t get on any outbound ships!"

It had been a long day, most of it spent trying to justify

the smallest, most routine action to suspicious guards.

Finally, Sanders was allowed to leave, to head home.

Throughout the day, he’d tried hard to do his job, but it

seemed like he was blocked at every turn. Desperately

needed food was spoiling on the loading docks. Fuel was

stacked up in one warehouse. At one point he’d found

guards opening every crate, searching for "contraband"…

what they were doing was destroying shipping labels and

inventories, so that now there was half a warehouse full of

goods that might never get to the right destination. As he

walked wearily to the Tram station, he noticed more furrs

in Reds armbands starting to funnel the crowd towards a

line of waiting trucks. Wondering if there was something

wrong with the Tram, he paused; "Um, ah, "Comrade," what’s

going on? The Elk grinned; "There’s going to be a big pro-

Reds demonstration in the city center; a celebration

thanking us brave revolutionaries for liberating the city.

And you’re "invited. Oh, and if I were you, I’d act

enthusiastic. If you know what’s good for you!" As he

climbed into the back of the truck, Sanders shook his head

and didn’t really see anything worth celebrating. The

Government had been harsh, and dictatorial, but they were

amateurs compared to this crowd!

Grasping for power

Xyloff looked at the Fox; "you are sure you understand what

I want?" The Fox smiled; "its simple enough; I enter

certain "errors" in the orders issued by the Chairman.

Small things, but annoying things. Things that will

require Comrades to call for clarification. Things that

will require straightening out. When there’s a problem, I

say the Chairman is busy, and direct them to you." The

Wolverine smiled; "Very good, Cedric. I knew I’d made the

right choice when I recommended you for the Chairman’s

secretary. And when I succeed him, I’ll see that you

retain the position." Taking a moment to wipe the sly grin

from his face, the Wolverine moved silently across the

office, to knock on Chairman Quistling’s door. Not waiting

for a reply, he turned the handle and strode in, a warm

smile on his face; "Comrade! So good to see you again….."

"Honestly, my Dear Nils, I do fear for your safety; not

only are the Government forces incensed at the success

you’ve had in directing the People’s Revolution, but some

of our erstwhile allies are showing signs of jealousy! I

do fear that they plot to assassinate you!" The Gerbil

smiled; "Ah, I do appreciate your concern, old friend, but

what kind of a leader would I be, if I isolated myself

behind walls, and guards? I am a simple furr of the

people; I need to be with them, to understand what they’re

thinking, to make sure they understand the dielectic! No,

I do appreciate it, but I cannot accept the measures you

propose!" The Wolverine sighed; "well, Nils, I’ll do what

I can to see you’re protected, but if you insist on

behaving like that….." The Wolverine looked at the Lemming

and grumbled to himself; "If you insist on behaving like

that, you’ll just hasten your own martyrdom….." Rising,

the Wolverine headed for the door… He had plans to put

into motion……

"I’m sorry, but the Chairman is unavailable right now,

General Tsuki; let me put you through to Comrade Xyloff,

I’m sure he can help…" "Hello, Aki? Good to ta…. What?

He ordered what? No, of course, you’re right; that’d never

do. You have to understand, the Chairman’s been under

intense pressure of late…… Yes, Yes of course, I’ll talk

to him immediately; in the meantime, ignore that

directive…. Yes, on my authority….. If there’s a problem,

I’ll get back to you immediately…." The Wolverine broke

the comm link and smiled. Rising, he made his way through

the Headquarters, to the Chairman’s office, to Cedric’s

desk; "Very good; that worked just as I hoped. You can now

issue the original directive, with the Chairman’s


Colonel Franz Todt looked at the invoice and shook his

head. The Chairman himself had directed that his unit

receive half a ton of roofing nails? ROOFING NAILS? They

needed Rail Gun ammunition for their armored vehicles!

Somewhere along the line, something had really gotten

screwed up! Turning, the Wolf growled at his

communications officer; "Get me Central! I can’t BELIEVE


Xyloff looked at the face of the irate Wolf on his monitor

and nodded placatingly; "Yes, yes, of course, Colonel. I

realize how vulnerable you are with no ammunition for your

tanks! I’m sure it was just a small oversight on the

Chairman's part. I’ll attend to it immediately. You know

how much pressure he’s been under lately… and frankly, just

between you and me, I’m afraid the sedatives his doctor are

prescribing, to let him sleep at night, well, I think they

might be affecting his judgement a little….. No, no, I’m

sure he’s not taking more than the doctor prescribes; that

wouldn’t be like him at all! No, I’m sure he’s got it

under control, Colonel. Now let me see what I can do about

getting you that ammunition!

Basik looked at the handout and frowned. The Chairman was

usually so good at explaining the philosophy behind their

movement, but this, this was gibberish. It was like

someone had used a "phrase generator" with all the right

buzz words, to turn out meaningless sentences. How was he

supposed to instruct the populace in the "liberated" areas

using THIS? With a sigh, he crumpled the flyer and turned,

to stride through the headquarters unit, to see if that

idiot supply officer had distributed the flyers. It would

be just his luck, that THIS time the lazy SOB had actually

done his job….

Saunders looked at the flyer as he rode the tram to work.

Today’s missive was worse than usual; it made no sense at

all; and yet he dare not say so. He just hoped he wasn’t

quizzed on today’s "lesson" at the check point near his

house…. Then with a grin, he got a wild idea; what if HE

approached THEM, asking them for "clarification"…. He’d

love to see anyone explain THIS one!

Xyloff sighed and shook his head; "I know, Commisar Basik,

I know. The Chairman… well, I don’t need to tell you how

heavy the mantle of command is. Ah, I mean leadership, of

course… I fear, well… um, I do feel the Chairman needs a

small vacation. But then, at this time in our history, I

can’t imagine anyone shirking their duty. Yes…. Yes I too

hope he can hold it all together, just a little longer…..

The Bear was massive, and in the shadows, only half seen,

"Sinister" was the word that came to mind. "you

understand," Xyloff whispered, "that the assassination is

not to actually succeed. Things are not yet… ah, um…. I

merely want the Chairman to understand the danger. We

can’t properly protect him if he keeps addressing crowds

like that. Its just not SAFE for him to move among the

people like that!" The Bear nodded; "I understand,

Comrade, and I agree. He just doesn’t understand how

dangerous a world we live in. I think we can find a way to

teach him a small lesson, without doing any harm." Xyloff

looked at the commando and nodded; "Good, I’ll leave it in

your paws."

Jones looked across the way to Smith, and nodded slowly.

Theirs was a desperate gamble, a suicide mission, but it

was something that had to be done. Jones was dying of a

brain tumor, completely inoperable. Smith had a rare

genetic disorder that would shortly leave him a vegetable,

although a vegetable in very good health. It’d take him

decades to die. The Government had promised that it would

bestow riches on their families and evacuate them off-

planet, if they would perform this one simple mission; kill

the Chairman of the Reds as he came to visit the newly

liberated city. It hadn’t take much convincing. The crowd

was thick, but not so thick that they couldn’t get into

position, along the route the Chairman would travel; and he

was known for walking, for shaking hands, and for talking

to stop with people, to hear their concerns and share his

ideas. Mostly share his ideas. The ceramic blade he’d

been given had gotten through the metal detector with ease,

and its handle was cool in his palm, its blade up the

sleeve of his jacket. Quietly, resignedly, he watched, as

the motorcade came into sight.

The shot came as a surprise, and for a moment Jones

wondered if there was another team also in place, perhaps

they were the backup, or maybe a backup had jumped the gun.

The first bullet tore into the windscreen of the Chairman’s

vehicle, the second thudded into the seat next to him. As

the vehicle swerved into the crowd, the driver either

panicked or trying to evade another round, a third shot

rang out, shattering the vehicle’s engine. The vehicle

lurched to a stop, tumbling all those in the open passenger

compartment to the floor. Lighter, rapid fire shots were

heard from a distance, and then there was the crump of a

grenade….. Watching the crowd, gauging the distance, and

the sudden ring of guards, Smith decided they’d have to try

another time; he turned and faded back into the now

retreating crowds…..

The Lemming gritted his teeth in pain, the wound in his

left shoulder was just a scratch, the bullet barely grazing

him as it slammed into the seat next to him. Still, it

stung like crazy. Perhaps what stung worse was that

someone had actually tried to kill him. He, who had

struggled so long to liberate the people, he who had

struggled to bring enlightenment to the masses! Frowning,

he realized Xyloff had been right….. Turning to the

Captain commanding the Guards, he growled; "Get me out of

here. Now. And I want to know who it was who fired those

shots. Make sure he’s taken alive! We need to interrogate


Quistling paced up and down, in the command bunker;

"Dammit, Xyloff, I will NOT tolerate this! The people

should LOVE me, not shoot at me! And by Hades, those that

DON’T love me, we’ll make them PAY!" Xyloff listened to

the Lemming rant and grinned; it had worked out even better

than he’d hoped; the "assassination attempt" seemed to have

unhinged the Lemming…. The words he was saying, the orders

he’d been issuing, they alone would destroy his reputation,

making it all the easier to eventually supplant him.. All

he had to do was to keep his head, as those about him were

loosing theirs……

"No, General, I’m sorry; the Chairman isn’t receiving

anyone today. No, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do."

Cedric watched the fuming General retreat, and smiled to

himself. He hadn’t even had to make that up; the Lemming

had all but become a recluse, behind guards and walls. His

office was now in a bunker, twelve floors down beneath a

nondescript warehouse, or so he was told; the connecting

tunnels all came out miles away, and even he didn’t know

exactly where they were. Those that DID get to see the

Lemming, were strip-searched, and flouroscoped, and that

indignity was starting to rub even the most sympathetic

supporters the wrong way. And of course, his isolation

made it even easier to "transpose" orders, making it look

as if he’d lost it…..

Saunders looked at the flyer and sighed. As punishment for

being the city in which the assassination attempt had taken

place, civilian rations were being cut in half. And the

power would be turned off from Midnight to six AM. As

winter was coming on, furrs were going to start getting

real cold….. Lowering the flyer he looked at the control

system for the automated cargo handling system at the

spaceport. With a grin, he reached out and flicked the

switch. In a little while, the Government troop’s attempt

to cripple the spaceport would actually come to fruition…

and when that happened, Saunders hoped to be somewhere very

visible, and as far away as his travel papers would permit.

Ground Support

Cumbie let her fighter drift. The Nighthawk class was well

stealthed, and as long as she didn’t make any sudden moves,

most likely near-invisible. Especially with all the junk

in orbit around the planet these days. Still, that’s what

it took these days to survive in near-orbit around Elysium.

Ground to Orbit fire was getting worse every day, despite

the embargo. And the Elysium aerospace fighters were

starting to fight with a vengeance born of desperation.

Still, they too were loosing pilots at an incredible rate

and some of the novices they were sending up…. Cumbie

shook her head sadly. Intelligence had said that the

Elysium 3rd division was going to try and shift assets from

one flank to another, to try for a counterattack; moving

troops that rapidly meant air travel, and that’s what she

was hoping to stop. Because if it flew, and in some cases

even if it didn't it was her prey.

The first sign was a contrail. Cumbie grinned to herself;

these furrs were GOOD. NO idle radio chatter, no fugitive

emissions…. A contrail was hard to detect with sensors…. It

required the old Mark I eyeball…. And then she frowned;

could they have some sort of a drone leaving a contrail, to

spook anyone waiting in ambush? Watching carefully, she

let her passive sensors hunt for anything else moving below


Gulow wiped his palm off on his thigh again. His K000

aerospace fighter was as new as he was, freshly "imported."

It may not have been the best available, but they were

something the Elysium government could afford, something

they could get immediate delivery on…. And still, on paper,

at least, it was a hot ship. And a stealthy one. He

checked his nav display again, as his little ship all but

flew itself, and then after a quick look at the sensor

display, he lifted his head and stared through the

transparent aluminum canopy at the stars. He knew they

were out there…..

Cumbie smiled. They were good, but she was better… all

right, her systems were better. Through the ground-based

jamming, through the air based jamming, she’d found them.

They were below and behind the drone leaving the pretty

contrail. It was a certainty that the drone would have

sensors that would pick her up before the lower, slower

ships would, but that couldn’t be avoided. She’d wait just

a little more, wait until they were almost past, and then

use her altitude, translating Potential energy to Kinetic

energy; she’d catch up with them in a hurry, flash on past,

and then loose speed by gaining altitude, to come around

again. If she kept moving fast enough, perhaps their

interceptors, and ground-based weapons couldn’t get a lock

on her…. Maybe.

"I’ve got a power-up!… two! FourfiveSIX! Six bogeys in

low orbit! They’re moving on the transports!" The duty

officer in the aerospace defense bunker moved over to look

at the sensor operator’s screens and then nodded. "Order

half the fighters to move to intercept; the remaining

fighters are to stick with the transports. At the speed

those bogeys are moving, they’ll flash by the first group,

leaving them out of position for further defense."

Gulow listened to the controller’s voice in his headset and

as he pulled back on the stick, he shoved his throttle to

the max. His own targeting systems were starting to pick

up the bogeys, and he started assigning targets to his


Cumbie swore as her headset filled her head with the

threat-warning tone. ECM and ECCM were automatic on this

bird, and she listened as the decoy launcher thumped and

thumped again. They’d either work, or they wouldn’t…… She

had weapons of her own, of course, but she was saving them

for the high-value targets, the transports. She’d been

promised a hefty bonus for each one she brought down….

Gulow crowed as one of his missiles detonated. The pirate

ship suddenly wasn’t so stealthy as torn metal and ablated

radar absorbing material permitted his sensors to get a

better look. The pirate was starting to turn, to seek an

escape. Grinning ferrally, Gulow shoved at his already-

maxed throttles, as he went in for the kill.

Cumbie flashed past the K000, wondering why he was

concentrating on poor Harstead; it was obvious he was out

of the fight…. With a shrug and a silent prayer for her

friend, Cumbie turned her attention back to the transports

now swelling in her targeting system’s sights.

Paschal watched as the enemy fighters flashed past almost

too fast to follow; it seemed like the sky was full of

fireballs, transports suddenly exploding, or trailing smoke

and loosing altitude rapidly. One had split open and as

the pieces tumbled, bodies and equipment were thrown into

the sky. And there was nothing she could do, but hold her

course, and speed, and hope that their own fighters managed

to keep those bastards from coming back.

Gulow gradually became aware of the voice in his earphones.

He’d put another two missiles into the pirate before it had

finally exploded in a most satisfying flash…. Now he

frowned, trying to make sense of what the controller was

saying? What was wrong with this guy? He’d just gotten a

kill, for cryin’ out loud!"

"Damned inexperienced, half trained CHILDREN!" The duty

officer was furious; of the fighters sent to intercept the

incoming pirates, almost all had gone off in pursuit of the

few damaged ships instead of turning, to try and kill their

forward velocity, and to acquire undamaged targets; now

they were all hopelessly out of the area of engagement…. If

they could get back into the fight, it would be a miracle.

Krueger smiled, the predatory look very out of place on the

Marmoset’s face. He’d been waiting for just this event.

The Elysium fighter pilots may not have been worth their

salt, but there was still a nice bounty out on the fighter

craft, at least for his unit. Moving his much larger

raider vessel from behind what was left of an Elysium

corvette, he vectored in on one of the Newbies…..

Cumbie did a classic hammerhead stall. Of her six-ship

squadron, there were only three of them still in the fight,

but she still had ammunition left, and there were still

targets down there worth going after. As her fighter

reversed direction, she peered intently into her targeting

display… that one, at the front left, and then that one in

the middle, and that one on the right rear…. And then she’d

be moving at high speed in the wrong direction…. This’d be

her last pass…..

Gulow’s eyes went wide as he saw the new threat develop;

with a mewl he tried to turn his ship, but his velocity was

too high; he was just going to pass too close, most

definitely within weapons range… For a moment he thought

about calling out for help, and then he realized that there

wasn’t much his whole squadron could do to a ship that

size. Instead, he decided to settle for a warning; maybe

some of his friends could escape in time…..

Krueger watched as the Elysium aerospace fighters started

to scatter. Making sure his shields were in raised and at

full strength, he started to hunt.

Paschal winced as the transport on her left wing turned

into a small star, black pieces of wreckage falling from

the sky. Again, something flashed past, almost too fast to

see… and then everything was quiet. Looking over at her

copilot, she sighed; "what they say about this job is true;

hours and hours of deadly boredom interspersed with a few

minutes of sheer terror…."

Cumbie kept her altitude low, and her speed high, jinking

violently, until she was back over the Blues lines.

Climbing back to altitude would be a lot safer if she had a

nice slice of the planet between herself and the Elysium

ground-based systems. She’d lost another squadron-mate in

the second run, four ships out of six gone… but they’d

taken out a good 17 transports, out of 24. The bounty

would be nice…. But it would be expensive to replace their

losses. Trying to work out the math in her head, wondering

if she’d finished the day in the red, or the black, she

headed back to base.

Snell shook his head; "I hate to give away the locations of

our launchers and sensors to come to the rescue of idiots

like that, but….. I suppose we should teach those Pirate

scum that its not prudent to get too close." The Aerospace

defense duty officer looked at the fire control officer and

nodded; "I agree. Do what you can. Maybe we can get some

of those kids back home. Maybe they’ll even learn from

their mistakes…."

Krueger smiled mirthlessly as the particle beams lanced

out, destroying the second of the aerospace fighters. The

others had pretty much scattered, but one of them had gone

into a panicked powerdive that the Marmoset thought would

be almost impossible to pull out of. Idly he wondered if

he could claim that one as a kill too. And then his own

threat alarms started going off. Frowning, he watched as

fire control radars on the surface of the planet came

active, and then the plumes of two surface-to-orbit

interceptors were picked up. Moving quickly he changed his

vector, and then changed it again, heading away from the

planet as fast as his raider could go. There were some

patches of junk he knew about, he might be able to loose

the missiles in… and his shields were good. Pausing for a

moment, he compared the launch and emitter sites with what

was known… Grinning, he realized that these were new sites;

if he lived, he’d get another bonus!

Colonel Brundage smiled as he read the flimsey; "Sergeant

Major, it looks as if our Op is on after all. The Brethren

seem to have managed to decimate the Elysium 17th Guards.

There won’t be an offensive now, in the Terrina sector."

The squirrel smiled; "and that means, with the 17th no

longer in front of us, and no threat on our flanks, we can

drive forwards." Brundage lowered the flimsey to look at

the tactical map. "Yeah, and if we don’t meet too much

resistance, we might just catch up with the Red’s "Liberty"


Propaganda Blitz

The building at one point had held a factory; it was dark,

and quiet now. Cavernous. Spooky. Ellie held onto the

Panther’s belt, knowing he had better night vision than she

did, as they moved among the abandoned machines. It was

risky to be out after curfew; the Elysium government goons

were jumpy, and more likely than not to shoot, than to stop

citizens, and question them as to why they were out so

late. The meeting was to be held in what had been a

storeroom, a building within the building, where lights

could be used without risk of discovery.

There were a good thirty furrs seated around the room, as

Ellie and Ralph searched for a place to sit. Some were

older, adults, but most were youths, teen-agers finishing

up their secondary education, or just starting their

university experience. The Reds agent was easy to spot; he

was a rather hansom young wolf, sporting a red armband. He

looked rakish and daring in his hodge-podge cammies. The

meeting started with a discussion of the crimes the Elysium

government had committed against the people; the harsh

social system, that repressed the poor, and fattened the

wallets of the rich. As the crowd responded, as various

furrs shouted out in agreement, or throwing out their own

observations or thoughts, the topic shifted to the more

recent atrocities committed by the Elysium forces as they

were steadily forced back by the might of the People’s

revolution. Finally, the young Wolf called for volunteers

to join the glorious Revolution.

Floyd shook his head and looked at his brother, Rafe.

Turning back to the Wolf, he growled; "its all well and

good to call for an uprising against the Government, but

what I want to hear is SPECIFICALLY what you want us to do.

I’ve got a family, and have no great desire to throw my

life away in some grand gesture." The wolf smiled;

"simple, Comrade. Tonight, the Reds commandos will launch

a concerted attack against the Elysium forces headquarters

in your town. As you know, the 4438th Division has their

headquarters here. Here, they are orchestrating the

defenses for the entire sector. And tonight we will cut

off the head of the hated Enemy. Without leadership, their

troops will flounder, and our glorious army will be able to

roll over them, and liberate your town!" Floyd nodded; "a

decapitation strike. Yes, a good idea, but don’t you think

its just a little much to ask untrained civilians to

assault a military headquarters?" The Wolf made a

dismissive gesture; "the headquarters are guarded by

conscripts. Draftees who’s heart isn’t in the fight. We

have every assurance that they’ll break and run at the

first sound of gunfire. Besides, trained Reds commandos

will also be participating in the attack. NOW is the time,

Comrades, to show the Government bullies what you’re made

of! NOW is the time to attack! Who’s with me?"

Rafe leaned close to his brother and whispered; "This is

bullshit, Floyd; its only gonna get us killed!" Floyd

nodded slowly and turned to whisper back; "Yeah, but I

wouldn’t let on that’s the way you think. I don’t like the

looks of those guys by the door…" Rafe turned and looked.

A quartet of toughs, each sporting the Reds armband, stood

by the door. As he watched an older Ursine rose from where

he was sitting and with a shaking head, moved past them,

and out the door. A few seconds later, two of the toughs

followed….. Floyd leaned close and whispered to his

brother; "Lets sign up, and then slip away quietly later.

Don’t use your real name, though….."

Ellie grinned and signed her name to the roster right after

Ralph; this was going to be such a glorious adventure.

FINALLY a chance to strike back against the Hated

Government! Taking the weapon the Reds fighter handed her,

she looked at it curiously, wondering how it worked….

As Rafe walked through the darkened factory, he looked

about him, the ancient assault rifle heavy in his paws. As

a Raccoon, he had excellent night vision, and it wasn’t

hard to spot the bear’s body amongst the machinery…..

Swallowing hard, he wondered how he and Floyd were going to

slip away from this one? He’d KNOWN it would have been

better to try and join the Blues….

The Wolf grinned as he crouched by the side of the

building; "This will be your blooding; by doing this you

will prove your worth to the Reds, to the Revolution, and

to the free people of Elysium! The guard post is just

around the corner. When I yell, we’ll charge around the

corner, firing as we go. Once through the gate, search

out the command bunker, and kill everyone you can find!


Ellie fingered the fabric of her new armband, her body

trembling… was that anticipation, or fear? Either way, the

adrenaline was SUCH a rush.

Rafe whispered to his brother; "alleyway to the left."

Floyd just nodded.

The Wolf howled, and with a mighty yell, the crowd of

freshly-minted Rebels rose to their feet and surged

forward. Most of those in the front of the pack fired

their weapons, the unaimed rounds ricocheting off the

pavement, or flying harmlessly into the air….. As the

crowd surged forwards, the Wolf smiled and quietly slipped

into the shadows, moving towards the rear.

Hoffitz almost choked on his coffee as the crowd surged

around the corner. For a moment he stared in disbelief,

and then he dropped his cup, his paw coming down on the

alarm button. Sanchez jerked himself up out of his chair

where he’d been close to dozing, and took in the situation

at a glance. Without a word, he moved behind the butt of

the machine gun; sighting, he squeezed off a long burst

through the pillbox’s aperature. Moving to his side,

Hoffitz readied another can of ammunition….

Ellie screamed as Ralph went down, just in front of her;

then her feet were slipping, caught on something and she

tumbled to the ground. Squirming around, she gasped as she

realized she’d tripped on her friend’s intestines! Looking

around as angry bees zipped by just overhead, she started

crawling back the way she’d come, her weapon and cause


Floyd panted hard, chest heaving. He’d made it past the

dumpster into the alleyway, right behind Rafe. For a

moment they watched the carnage, and then Rafe tugged at

his sleeve, and the two of them turned to scramble down the

narrow alleyway, moving as fast as they could from the

sound of the gunfire.

Hawkings looked at his watch and smiled; right on time.

Looking up at the Reds commando team he grinned; "There’s

our diversion; lets go." Moving stealthily, they low-

crawled towards the razor wire.

Ellie threw up again, as her mind replayed the images from

moments before; She’d seen Ralph, a friend since childhood,

dismembered by bullets before her very eyes. Mary, another

old-time friend had both her legs shot off, and had

screamed as she tried to crawl away, before finally dying

of loss of blood. Eddie…. Eddie’s body had been almost at

the corner of the building; he must have gotten killed

almost immediately…. She had no idea how she’d gotten out

of the kill zone, no idea how she’d gotten all the way back

to the factory. Shuddering, her stomach convulsed again,

nothing left to come up…..

The Wolf looked over the half-dozen survivors, and shook

his head; "I am VERY disappointed in you. The Revolution

is very disappointed in you! If you had truly believed in

what you were doing, if you had BELIEVED, you would have

taken that guard post! You would have surged past it to

complete your mission! You are TRULY despicable!" One of

the survivors, a bloodstained Ermine, struggled to his

feet; "How can you say such a thing? We Tried! Most of us

DIED! You sent us out, untrained, underequipped, with NO

plan, to assault not a guard shack, but a pillbox! Our

bullets bounced off! You sent us to DIE!" Lurching

forward, the Ermine raised his paws to grab the Wolf. With

a sneer on his face, the Wolf pulled his side-arm and shot

the Ermine. For a moment he stared at the crumpled form at

his feet, and then he looked up….

Ellie staggered to her feet convulsively, turning to flee

the scene; one of the toughs stopped her, but she managed

to choke out; "Gonna be sick…." As if he’d just discovered

she had the mange, he let go of her, and she staggered off

into the dark. The retching sounds that floated back to

his ears were not faked, but when her stomach stopped

heaving, Ellie snuck away through the dark, seeking

escape…… As she sought a way from the deserted factory,

she heard the Wolf growl; "now the rest of you cowardly

scum will be given a chance to redeem yourselves…… Several

of our "comrades" were seen running from the fight without

even firing their weapons. As they haven’t shown up here,

we can only assume they have deserted. You will hunt them

down and kill them, to demonstrate to all that one does not

lightly shirk their duties to the Revolution……"

Rafe looked at his wife and daughter, and sighed. They’d

be leaving everything they’d worked for, everything they’d

built; but right now, he had no desire to be anywhere near

the Reds….. Gesturing for them to follow, he headed into

the woods behind their house. The rendezvous point he and

Floyd had agreed upon was about a half hour walk through

the dark… and then together they’d try and make it to

territory controlled by the Blues. Maybe there they could

find what the Revolution was supposed to stand for….

Ellie looked up as the teacher called her name. Her mind

had been wandering again. Somehow she’d convinced her

parents that while she wasn’t feeling well, there was no

reason for her not to go to school. Somehow knowing

something was wrong, they’d still allowed her to go….

Several seats in her classroom were noticeably empty.

Trying to answer the question, she shrugged off the

Teacher’s recriminations at not having been paying

attention… and was saved from further censure by the

ringing of the bell.

Lunch was hell; the entire room was abuzz with students

talking about the previous night’s attack on the military

headquarters. Apparently the Reds Militia had attacked as

a diversion, many brave souls giving their lives so a

commando team could attack from the other direction… except

that attack had failed too…. Ellie wanted to scream that

it wasn’t like they thought, that there was no glory in it,

that all those poor people had been tricked into giving

their lives….. but who could she tell? Who would believe

her? As she poked at her food, she wondered what to do?

The Reds seemed no better than the government they were

trying to overthrow….. And if it was a worthy cause to

fight the Government, well, was it a worthy cause to fight

the Reds too, for THEIR oppression?

Ellie stood on the street corner and watched the military

vehicles streaming by. The light had changed three times,

but the Elysium military hadn’t even slowed. They were

pulling out, troops and gear, and supplies heaped on top of

their vehicles. Occasionally a civilian vehicle would go

by, either caught up in the convoy, or collaborators

fleeing with them, or maybe just something commandeered….

She was going to be late for school, but somehow, on this

day, she didn’t think it would matter much. If the Elysium

forces were pulling out in broad daylight, they must be

desperate indeed….. And that meant that the Reds would be

close. No, she didn’t think there’d be much accomplished

at school today…..

"No, actually I don’t think they’re that close…." Iggy, the

Chipmunk said, between bites of his sandwich. "The front’s

much further eastward, over towards Hagerstown. I think

they’re pulling out to keep from being encircled. And I’m

just as glad they are. It means that there won’t be

fighting for our town. No artillery, or air strikes. No

destruction of the infrastructure." Ellie looked at the

geeky underclassman and nodded slowly; she remembered her

brief introduction to combat, and sincerely hoped never to

see it again. If the Elysium government decided not to

make a stand here, that was FINE by her. She looked at the

Chipmunk and sighed; normally she wouldn’t be caught dead

talking to an underclassman, let alone a geek like him, but

so many of her friends had died that night, so many others

run off, as refugees with their families, or to join the

Revolution, well, there just weren’t that many furrs left

to talk to… "So when do you think the Reds will arrive."

Iggy took another bite of his sandwich and chewed for a

moment; "Tomorrow, probably in mid afternoon, I think."

Ellie stood in front of the school, with what students and

faculty remained, watching. The vehicles that were

streaming down the street were a hodge-podge of civilian

trucks, and captured military equipment. The surface of

almost every vehicle was covered by Reds soldiers in

mismatched uniforms, the armband the only constant. And

they were yelling and waving bottles, and holding banners.

It was something between a parade and a celebration, hardly

resembling a military operation at all. Victory was being

celebrated, but Ellie wondered to herself how they could

celebrate a victory when the enemy had withdrawn without

firing a shot? But the crowd was ecstatic. A party

atmosphere seemed to fill the air. Ellie was just sorry

she couldn’t seem to get in the mood, visions of the

assault on the Elysium government headquarters flashing

before her eyes… She fervently hoped and prayed that her

experience there was atypical, and that THESE were the true

heroes of the revolution…..

Schenk swung down off the self-propelled gun and looked

around the small town square, nodding in approval. The

political types had yet to start "forcing" attendance for

such events and as such, the turnout was pretty good.

Turning, he shot a surreptitious glance at Nest, the

political officer, and sighed. If it wasn’t for that

meddling fool, "Nest the Pest", he’d be in heaven…..

Turning to look at the crowd he threw up his arms, and was

rewarded with a cheer….. Grinning, he took the bullhorn;

"Free People of Elysium! You have Been LIBERATED!" The

crowd roared.

Ellie listened to the Reds leader, in his rakishly crossed

ammunition bandoliers, and did what she could to read

between the lines. He said that they were the Red’s 773rd

Militia Brigade, just out of some heavy fighting to the

South. He said that their reward for their valorous

efforts was to have the honor of "liberating" their town

and then spending some time there to rest and reorganize.

Ellie thought that meant that the more combat-effective

units were still pursuing the Government forces and this

rag-tag band was only good for guarding their rear…. And

helping the political officer, a sour faced rabbit, with

whatever tasks HE might have…. She wondered about the

phrase "integrating them into the new society"… that had a

strange ring to it….

Schenk worked the crowd, grinning; he wondered how many of

the newly liberated ladies might find their way to the beds

of his "conquoring heroes" this night. Scanning the crowd

he looked for likely lasses….

Ellie felt the gaze of the Reds leader pass over her, and

she shuddered; there was something about him that made her

stomach turn.

Schenk smiled to himself; "Yup, still got it; one long,

sexy look and they quiver at the sight of me. Her knees

look positively weak. A good looking young Badger girl…

Have to see if I can find her later….."

Nest shook his head; theatrics were all well and good, but

there was work to be done; work before the Elysium

government criminals managed to slip away. Tugging at

Schenk’s sleeve, the Rabbit rose to tiptoes to whisper

urgently into his ear…..

Iggy looked at the sexy Badger standing next to him and

grinned to himself. Ellie had been very quiet of late;

withdrawn. Still, the chipmunk mused to himself, having so

many friends killed could do that to you. Not one to pass

up an opportunity, though, he took the vacant place at her

side as the "rally" formed… it was the first mass rally

since the Reds had "liberated" the town, and attendance was

rather heavily encouraged… although they hadn’t quite

ordered it. Turning his head to watch those on the stage,

he felt Ellie shift next to him. She’d been fidgeting a

lot lately. Figuring he should break the silence with SOME

sort of comment, he wracked his brains for a suitable

comment. "Um…. I haven’t seen Bethany lately… Isn’t she a

friend of yours?" The Badger lass just nodded. "Ah… I’m

surprised she’s not here. Her family didn’t decide to

become refugees, did they?" Ellie’s head just moved from

side to side, and a small "no" escaped her lips. The

Chipmunk frowned; "um…. She’s not sick, is she?" Ellie

turned to look at the Chipmunk, a strange look on her face.

"Sick? I suppose you might say that…. It seems that a

group of our "liberators" were out looking for some fun,

and happened to bump into her. She was coming back from

the store, running an errand for her mother…. It seems our

glorious saviors decided that she should entertain them for

a while…. Her parents became concerned when she didn’t

come home, and they went looking for her. They found her

in an alleyway, covered in….." Ellie paused for a moment

and looked around, as if gauging who might be listening.

"She hasn’t been in her right mind since. Its like… its

like there’s just no one home." The Squirrel blinked and

then nodded slowly; "they raped her?" The Badger just

nodded. Iggy sighed; "I’ve heard other stories like that.

Shop keepers bullied, homes broken into and looted,

sometimes as the occupants watched. And there have been a

lot of rapes. Jessica, over at the Westside school was

killed after they were done with her. They’re trying to

keep it quiet, but word spreads." Ellie nodded; "we have

to do something. This is NOT what the revolution was

supposed to be….." Iggy swallowed, but nodded; "Yeah… but

this is NOT the time or the place to talk about it…."

Schenk smiled as he looked out over the crowd. It was

time. Time to put the fear of the new order into these

mindless sheep. The local police department had been

logging increasing numbers of calls complaining about the

behavior of his troops. He knew because that was the first

place he’d secured. Most of his troops were very familiar

with the inside of a police station, although usually not

from the police point of view; still, some of them could

give a credible imitation of a cop…. Looking out over the

crowd he sighed and would have thought that these folks

would be more… "thankful" at having been liberated, that

they would have cut him and his troops some slack for their

heroic efforts.. Instead it was just bitch, bitch, bitch.

Well, now it was time to show these clowns who was in


Ellie watched as a number of furrs were led out onto the

stage, their hands tied behind them. One she recognized as

the Mayor; another was the Head Master at her school…. They

all looked as if they’d had a rough time. She watched as

the Rabbit started talking about the crimes these furrs had

committed against the people, starting with the Mayor. As

he came to a conclusion one of the Reds soldiers pushed the

portly old Beaver down onto his knees, and then Schenk

stepped up behind him. The pistol shot made everyone jump.

Then the Rabbit started reading out the crimes supposedly

committed by the next person in the line…."

Iggy wondered how Ellie could stand so stone-faced as the

Reds carried out their executions. He himself was close to

throwing up. The crimes these furrs were charged with were

mostly imaginary, illusionary, and he was convinced it was

all just a sham, a way of showing the town who the new

bosses were….

Nest watched the stunned crowd as he finished reading the

charges for the last of the criminals and collaborators.

Sometimes the people cheered loudly, but this crowd… He was

surprised they weren’t happier at the end of their

oppression, delighted to see the tools of their oppression

punished for their crimes. Shrugging he picked up his

notes detailing the new order, and lifting the microphone

he started telling the crowd about the worker’s paradise to


Iggy and Ellie helped Estelle from the rally. The squirrel

had gotten quite sick as her great uncle, the head of the

city’s utilities department, had been executed "for his

crimes against the people." The poor girl hadn’t even

known he’d been arrested. As they made their way home,

Ellie kept shaking her head, and muttering "this isn’t

right… this can’t be…" As they turned onto a side street,

gaining perhaps a little more privacy from the crowd

leaving the "rally," Iggy leaned over to whisper in the

Badger’s ear; "I know a few people… people who think the

Reds are no improvement over the Government. I think they

may be working up to actually DOING something….." Ellie’s

head turned and she fixed the Chipmunk with a stare: "I

want to meet these people…" Between them, Estelle managed

to urp out; "Me too."

The Coyote wore dark glasses, even though it was night.

The ice cream shop had been closed for a while, but some of

the kids still gathered there on the sidewalk in front of

it, to talk, and flirt. He looked at the Badger girl and

shook his head; "Look, I don’t want to know your name, or

where you live, or who your friends are. You don’t want to

know anything about ME either. Its just… "safer" that way.

Yes, I think we’re all in deep shit. I don’t see ANYTHING

the Reds are doing as matching their propaganda. None of

their promises are coming true." Iggy nodded; "Yeah, they

promise more freedom, and then demand travel documents, and

ID papers. They say they’ll provide jobs, but the only

career choices they offer seem to be in forced-labor gangs.

And the taxes they’re levying… they’re significantly higher

than what we’d been paying under the old administration!"

Ellie nodded; "of course, they SAY the war isn’t won, and

that this is just for the duration of the Emergency…" the

Coyote snorted; "and do you think, that when they HAVE won,

that these restrictions will be lifted? That All will be

Equal?" Ellie smiled; "That will depend on just what these

Reds are made of. I may not be able to find out about the

upper levels, but I do have an idea about the local


Iggy looked at Ellie as they walked home from the

"Meeting." "Surely you can’t be serious!" Ellie smiled

wryly and shrugged: "I’m quite serious, and don’t call me

Shirley." The attempt at humor fell flat as the Chipmunk

continued to stare at her; "you realize that if you’re

RIGHT, we’ll be hunted criminals…. Or worse. We could

wind up dead." Ellie shrugged; "I understand, but…. after

all the promises, after all the suffering, I cannot sit by

and let things NOT change. The People deserve something

better than what we’ve had, and I don’t want to see a

change in name only, trading the Reds for the Government.

No, I’m going through with it, if I have to do it myself…."

Iggy sighed and shook his head…..

The Coyote watched, his splatball bat in his hands… this

was the worst part; the waiting. Ellie, and Estelle, in

too-tight sweaters, were coming timidly down the road…. And

three Reds soldiers, staggering drunk, were headed in the

opposite direction. This was the first of Ellie’s "tests."

Furrs that believed in the high-sounding principles that

the Reds propaganda espoused, would greet the girls

politely and pass on by. But if they were the scum they

thought they might be, well, that was what the bat was


"Well, looky here!" The wolf was grinning wickedly, and

for a moment Ellie was reminded of a nursery rhyme her

mother used to tell her, when she was young, about wolves

and deep woods and the path to Grandmother’s house…..

Nudging his comrades the Wolf leered; "Heya, Girly, want to

help a Hero of the Revolution celebrate your liberation?"

Ellie looked down, and said in a quiet voice; "Please sir,

we have to get home; our parents will be worried…." The

Jackal next to the Wolf took a swig from his bottle and

grinned; "Parents? You live on this street?" Ellie lifted

her gaze a little and shook her head no; "Um, No Sir, I

live three streets over… but my friend lives on this

street….." The third soldier, a Collie, peered at Estelle

and grinned wickedly; "Squirrel…. Yeah…. Five houses down

on the left. Yellow house. They’ve all been arrested;

seems they had a relative that was a collaborator. Hey, we

ought to arrest you too!" Lurching, the Collie reached out

for Estelle. Estelle’s eyes went wide in horror, and she

took a step back just as the Collie’s paw caught the

neckline of her sweater, and as she moved, the fabric

ripped…. "ooooh, Nice Rack!" the Jackal giggled, and

tossing his bottle aside, he stepped in to grab both of the

startled girl’s breasts, squeezing hard. Estelle yelped!

The coyote nodded, and quietly slipped from his hiding

place, signaling his friends as he moved up quietly from

behind the three.

The kitchen knife found its way, somehow, into Ellie’s paw,

and then she was shoving up, hard, driving the point under

the Wolf’s ribs, just as he reached for her. For a moment

his eyes went wide, and then he looked down. A quiet

"ohshit" emerged from his mouth and then he was crumpling

to the concrete. The Jackal got out a quiet "huh?" just

before the edge of the coyote’s bat caught him across the

back of his neck. He dropped like a sack of bricks.

The Collie moved a little faster, releasing Estelle,

turning and taking a step back. One paw fumbled for the

holstered side-arm, as he stared wide-eyed at the Coyote.

The Coyote’s friend, a Weasel, was on the wrong side of

him, and as he struggled to lift his bat again, his eyes

caught those of the Collie; there was nothing there but a

drunken rage, and for a moment, the Coyote thought their

counter-revolution was over before it had started….. then,

just as the Collie’s weapon cleared leather, something came

down from behind him, colliding with his skull.

Estelle blinked at the form of the elderly Bear, revealed

as the Coyote’s form crumpled. A now rather bent fire

poker in his hand….. "Mr. Waverly?…." The Bear nodded;

"saw the whole thing from the front porch. I always

thought these Reds were no good….. And I thought you’d

need some help. Now come on, I’ve just tilled up the

garden; the soil is nice and loose, and that’d be a REAL

good place to plant these three." Turning, he growled;

"Henrietta! Get the garden hose! We’ve got some stains

here on the front walk that need to be washed off before

they dry!"

Estelle sipped the chamomile tea and shook her head; "you

SAW my parents being arrested?" The Bear nodded; "Yeah.

They….. they loaded them into a troop carrier and drove

off. I’d bet they’re half way to the nearest labor

battalion by now." Henrietta moved closer and laid a paw

on the Squirrel’s hand, more than covering it; "Dear, stay

with us until we can figure out what to do; our children

are all grown and gone, and we have plenty of room." The

Bear grunted; "and secrets to keep." Turning he looked at

the Coyote as he examined the action of one of the Red’s

assault rifles; "you plannin’ on usin’ that, Son?" The

Coyote looked up; "Sir, I’m afraid that if all the Reds are

like those three, I’m going to have to." The Bear nodded;

"Did a turn in the Civil Guard when I was young. Here, let

me show you how it works…."

It really was almost a game. It was simple to use a word

processor at school to work up a leaflet talking about some

of the atrocities the Reds had committed since they’d

arrived. Everyone at school seemed to know about Bethany,

but there were a lot of others that didn’t. And there were

a bunch of things that the kids at school hadn’t heard

about yet. In the end they had to whittle it down to just

a half a dozen incidents. And embellishment wasn’t even

necessary. The plain truth was bad enough. A few artistic

touches made them look just like an official Reds

propaganda leaflet, and the school’s laser printer and

photocopier allowed hundreds to be printed. Then the fun

part came…..

Sammy chuckled as he sidled up to the worker in the reds

armband. The Fox was standing on the street corner,

handing out leaflets to each passer-by. He had a stack in

his hands, and a pile by his feet. While Helen distracted

him, batting her eyelashes at him, and coyly asking

question after question, Sammy took his own notices, and

interleaved them through the fox’s stack. Now about every

sixth leaflet the fox would hand out would be the truth,

instead of Reds propaganda. It was SO cool to pull one

over on them like that!

Sharapiri grumbled as the Fox handed him a leaflet, shoving

it automatically into the pocket of his overcoat. Boarding

his omnibus, he grabbed a hand-hold and watched out the

window as he started his long trip home. He’d learned not

to throw the flyers away, or to just refuse one; it helped

get through a check-point if the political types saw you

reading one of their flyers. Pure bullshit, but you did

what you had to. Thinking it might be prudent to take a

look at the flyer, just in case he was questioned about the

latest word from their "liberators", he pulled the crumpled

piece of paper from his pocket and tried to read. Slowly

his eyes went WIDE, his mouth falling open. A Lynx,

standing next to him, turned at the muttered; "now this I

can believe," to read over his shoulder. As he finished

reading, he looked at the Lynx and silently handed it to

him. Suddenly he did NOT want to be caught with something

like that. The Lynx took it, and read with intense

concentration, handing it on to another when he finished.

Slowly the truth made its way around the bus.

Nest stormed back and forth in front of his assistants, one

of the dummy flyers clutched in one hand. "I don’t care

HOW it happ… No, that’s not true; I very much want to find

out EXACTLY how it happened. We have to find the counter-

revolutionaries responsible for this and stop them

Immediately. AND YOU, Comrade Schenk! They wouldn’t be

able to SAY such thinks like this, if you and your troops

had behaved responsibly to begin with! You WILL institute

tighter control of your troops, OR I WILL!

Schenk closed the door to his "office" and walked around

behind his desk. Pulling open a drawer, he pulled out a

bottle of expensive brandy, recently liberated, and poured

himself a tall one. With a sigh he shook his head; that

damned commisar was going to ruin his good thing. For a

moment he wondered if perhaps he could arrange an

"incident", the untimely death of the S.O.B. Then he

sighed and shook his head; Headquarters would just send

another Commisar, and the next one might be worse. Sitting

down, propping his feet on his desk, he wondered what

measures he could take to make sure nothing embarrassing

like this happened again. Maybe he could shoot some peons…

that always seemed to halt things like this, didn’t it?

Harvey looked over the latest copy. It was incredible.

They even had photos. The Reds had collected 30 furrs at

random, and stood them against a wall, shooting them for

the leaflet escapade. One of the females had been

pregnant. It had rocked the whole city, spreading like

wildfire, by word of mouth; but with each re-telling,

things had gotten distorted. Now it was time to set the

story straight. A friend who’s sister was a Reds

collaborator, and dyed-in-the-wool party member, had

mentioned that they were going to change the color of the

leaflets every day, and that tomorrow’s color was the most

bilious green…. Now he had the school’s photocopier

running overtime as he turned out a thousand new copies……

Sammy looked from the leaflet to their own "Copy". The

color wasn’t perfect, but it was probably a close enough

match. Nodding to Helen, he prepared to slip his copies

into the stack…..

The Fox couldn’t get his eyes off the Ermine’s chest; she

certainly did have a "rack!" When the young Weasel tripped

over his stack of leaflets he barely noticed; the kid

apologized profusely and instantly got to scooping them all

back up, working fast to re-establish the nice neat stack.

Which was good, as it allowed the Fox more time to ogle the

beautiful young thing who seemed SO confused with the

smallest details of the Red’s philosophy; why, he’d

explained that point three times already, but she just

didn’t seem to get it…. If she was that empty headed, the

fox wondered, perhaps he could find a way to get into those

incredibly tight pants she was wearing…..

Mariku walked up to the Fox, and took the proffered flyer.

Turning towards the Headquarters building he almost lost

the take-out he was carrying back for his comrades, as he

looked at the flyer he’d just been handed! They’d done it

again! Looking up, he found a pair of off-duty troopers

and growled; "you two! Arrest that Fox!"

Nest looked at the thoroughly cowed Fox; "And you say this

child kicked over your stack of papers? That must have

been when they added their own leaflets. Typical of our

enemies to be using children for such a vile task! Still,

you should have been more vigilant!" Turning to the guards

he growled "Take him to a labor battalion. A HEAVY labor


"But it wasn’t his fault!" The old fox was panting,

somewhat out of breath, but the political officer behind

the desk wasn’t buying any of it; "He should have been more

alert! HIS was the responsibility!" The old fox shook his

head; "My family have supported the Reds from the very

beginning! We have sacrificed to make contributions, we

have done volunteer work, we are even housing your troops

in our home! Feeding them! Can’t you have SOME mercy on

him?" The political officer shook his head; "Comrade, you

should know better! He has betrayed the trust of the

People and MUST be dealt with! An example must be made!

Now go home and quit bothering me; I have work to do!"

Passers-by watched curiously as the old fox stood outside

Reds headquarters and with tears in his eyes, ripped to

shreds the armband he’d been wearing……


Roland watched the small crowd in front of the closed

building carefully. It looked like just a bunch of kids…

Sitting there on the steps of the closed ice cream place,

they looked so innocent. You’d never know they were the

core of the counterrevolutionary movement. The ex-Imperial

marine brushed a lock of blond hair out of his eyes, and

shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, strolled calmly

across the street.

Estelle nudged Iggy and nodded towards the Badger moving

across the street towards them. His clothes were non-

descript, middle class, and perhaps just a little frayed;

perhaps it was the way he carried himself that set off

alarm bells in the back of her mind. Too much like the

Elysium soldiers….. Iggy nodded and nudged the coyote, who

turned to look. Gradually tension ripped through the small


Roland nodded to himself and smiled; they’d picked up on

him early, and looked like they were about ready to

scatter. The Coyote boy had his hands on something

partially hidden; probably something innocuous for a kid,

but potentially lethal. Pausing just shy of the group he

looked left and then right up the street, just for effect;

he’d canvassed the area earlier and knew this area wasn’t

under anything but the most casual observation. Turning

back to the group he gave them his most winning smile;

"Just wanted you kids to know that the Blues, and the

Brethren appreciate what you’re trying to do. And to let

you know that you’re not alone. Little resistance cells

like yours are springing up all over the Reds’ newly

obtained territory. Everywhere they’re heavy-handed.

However, its probably not prudent to contact any of the

cells in nearby towns…. Not yet. Anyways, just wanted to

tell you we’re watching, and to keep up the good work!"

With an off-handed salute, he turned and quietly started to

amble down the street….

Iggy’s jaw dropped as he listened to the Badger. Could

this be some sort of a trap? Could he be some sort of spy

trying to infiltrate their group? Inclining his head at

the Coyote, the squirrel rose, as if to follow the Badger.

Ellie’s hand on his arm stopped him; "Don’t. Don’t react

at all. If they’re watching that’ll just confirm their

suspicions. Let him go." Turning to look at Harvey, Ellie

smiled; "after all, we DO have ways to check him out…"

Harvey shook his head as Ellie leaned over the computer

screen. The house they were in was deserted, the computer

running off of an APU. The phone shouldn’t have been

working, but was, thanks to a friend in the utilities

department. They’d tapped into the net, and were slowly

sifting through records for the Badger. Unfortunately

there were a lot of Badgers. One of the kids had seen him

enter an apartment building that was now leasing rooms at

exorbitant prices to "refugees", and from that they’d

managed to get a name. Except it probably wasn’t his right

name. With a sigh, Harvey tried yet another search string.

Ellie watched through the darkened window. Night had

fallen, and Harvey was now working from under a blanket as

he sought to hide the monitor’s glow. It was becoming

dangerous to stay in one place for so long, but this

neighborhood was sympathetic. Soon, she’d have to pull the

plug on Harvey.

The soft beep of the computer as it shut down pulled Ellie

from her reverie. She turned and saw Harvey floundering,

trying to get the blanket off from over his head. The grin

on his face was clear, even in the dark. "Find something?"

Harvey chuckled; "yeah. If he’s a plant, its brilliant. I

finally found him in the Red’s own database, under "wanted

war criminals". It seems our mysterious friend may really

be with the Blues, or the Brethren. Or maybe, just maybe a

brilliant plant by the Reds. No way to tell."

Iggy shook his head, as he looked from face to face; "and

you want to TRUST this guy?" Ellie smiled; "Trust? No.

Use? Yes. If the file is correct, this guy has useable

military experience. And we need guidance, if we’re ever

to be more than just a thorn in the Reds’ side." The

Coyote stroked one paw along the length of his bat and

shook his head; "I dunno; it sounds AWFUL thin; why would a

Brethren Forward Air Controller, working with the Blues

call in a strike on the Reds? It seems like that’d be just

asking for a "second front." Ellie shrugged; "that we’d

have to ask him. That and what he’s doing here, anyways."

Estelle grinned; "There’s one way we CAN get him to prove

himself." Ellie sighed; she knew just what her friend was

getting at, knew how the arrest of her family and their

almost-rape had affected her…." Iggy looked blankly at the

squirrel; "and how’s that?" Estelle grinned a little

wider; "He’d have to kill some Reds for us. Not just a

few, to "prove" himself; I think the Reds would gladly

sacrifice a few of their own to stop us… No, he’d have to

kill a LOT of Reds…."

Roland watched the kid approach. "Paper, Mister?" The

Badger looked the kid up and down and then shook his head

no. The kid grinned; "Sure you do, Mister; got all the

latest war news, front lines AND home front. Here, take

one for free, and if you like it, you can pay me later!"

It was the kid’s wink that convinced him to take the


Sammy watched from the front stoop of an apartment building

almost a full block away. The Badger had taken the paper

and had sat down on a bench at the bus stop. The busses

weren’t running anymore, another of the Reds’

"Improvements", but he sat there anyways, as if waiting for

one, slowly reading each page of the paper…..

Roland found the note taped to the third page almost

immediately, but after reading it, had ignored it, to

finish the paper. The note directed him to come to a

certain place at a certain time. Not in the middle of the

night as he’d expected, but a time closer to what was left

of "rush hour". He smiled to himself; it might be more

difficult to pick out anyone tailing him then, but the

opportunities for escaping into the crowd were much greater

for this enterprising little resistance group. Finishing

the obituaries, he folded the paper and rose, to walk on

down the street as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

Ellie watched the Badger approach. The alley way was

mostly out of sight from the street, but had four separate

outlets; many more if you counted egress through the

buildings that lined it. She sat on the back stoop of a

restaurant, peeling potatoes, as if she were lowly kitchen

help. As if she belonged there. Roland stopped about a

body-length away, and just looked at her; she was a good

looking girl, even if a bit young for his tastes; give her

a few years, and he’d probably have to fight other suitors

off with a stick to get any time with her. Looking around

he made sure he was in the right place. Hands in pockets,

he just watched her work, waiting patiently.

Ellie finished her potato, placing it carefully in the

basket, before picking up another one. Without looking at

him, she started talking. "Your name is Roland, and you

were in the Imperial Marines. Powered armor expert.

Wrapped up in some sort of black market activity, and

convicted, although it looks like a set-up even to me.

Escaped from the penal colony you’d been sent to, probably

with outside help. Drifted for several years and then

wound up with the Brethren. Typical Mercenary. Now the

Reds are after you for calling in orbit-to-surface fire on

their position. They say you’re a war criminal, and have a

considerable bounty on your head." Finishing another

potato, she placed it in the basket and picked up another.

"Times are hard, and they’re offering a small fortune for

your head. We could all do quite well, if we were to turn

you in. So why shouldn’t we?" Roland smiled, impressed; "

that’s very good considering how flaky the net is under the

Reds; you must really have a good computer hot-shot in your

group. My turn. Ellie Parsons, a Senior at the local…

what do they call secondary education here? It’d be a

Gymnasium where I’m from. Fairly well placed in your

class, but not exceptional. No significant extra-

curricular activities, unless you count political

activities. Thought to be a Reds sympathizer, but then

about the time the Reds used local talent for a rather

abortive and wasteful attack on Elysium forces, the same

night the furr believed to be your boyfriend died, you

seemed to "withdraw" from the local political arena. No

longer outspoken. Very quiet, almost withdrawn. Unless

you happen to have access to satellite reconnaissance,

which on a few occasions shows your activities quite

clearly. The facial markings of a Badger are quite

distinctive; believe me, I know."

Ellie frowned; they’d never considered satellites! Looking

up, she scowled; "I didn’t think anyone’s satellite stayed

in orbit very long these days…." Roland just shrugged;

"True, they don’t But that doesn’t mean that both sides

don’t keep trying." Leaning closer, he smiled; "The Blues

have picked up some intelligence that the Reds may be

jockeying for prominence after the fall of the Elysium

government. Now, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have

their hands full trying to win the war. It doesn’t mean

that they’re not watching, though." Ellie picked up

another potato; "so where do YOU fit into all this? If the

Reds want you so badly, what are you doing here?" Roland

shrugged; "I was with a Blues mechanized unit, powered

armor; we were WAY ahead of the main body of troops,

pursuing fleeing Elysium forces." The Badger grinned;

"Just like the old-time cavalry. The idea was to keep the

pressure up, and to try and hold the flanks with aerospace

firepower. It kinda worked. Problem is, someone turned

the signposts, and by the time I checked my inertial

positioning system, I was way off one flank. Then the

Elysium forces blew a bridge I’d crossed earlier that day,

and I found myself stuck on the wrong side of a river. My

escort were all in lighter suits; they didn’t need the

communications gear I did; as a result all their suits were

equipped with jump jets. I sent them back, while I tried

to find a good crossing point." At this point the Badger

looked down; "I’d, ah… taken some damage in a skirmish I

should have hung back from, and let the Mobile Infantry

deal with…. My suit wasn’t airtight anymore, you see…. I

was still trying to solve that problem, to rejoin the unit

I was supposed to be with, when the Reds swept through the

area. By chance, I happened to see them round up the local

"collaborators". And execute them. And their families."

Looking down, Roland sighed; "it was more than I could

take, and before I quite knew what I was doing, I was on

the radio, calling in fire on the killing field." He

looked up and grinned; "that’s the neat thing about fire

from Orbit. I may have been on the wrong side of the

river, dozens of kilometers from where I should have been,

but to the Cruiser in orbit, it was no difference at all."

Looking off down the alleyway, the Badger continued;

"unfortunately, it wasn’t a completely secure channel; we

WERE supposed to be coordinating with the Reds, and it

didn’t take ‘em long to figure out what’d happened to their

troops. And powered armor’s just a bit large to hide. I

ditched my suit, and I’ve been on the run ever since,

trying to find a way back to the Blues lines. And it

hasn’t been easy."

Ellie worked at keeping the peel as long as possible as she

turned the potato; "so why haven’t your friends in Orbit

rescued you?" Roland chuckled; "Oh, they’re kinda pissed

at me for causing friction with the Reds. That and the

fact that I’ve lost my suit. Those things are EXPENSIVE.

However, I’ve still got my radio and can send them little

tidbits of information. In fact, it was their idea that I

contact you. They seem to think that you might help me

"escape", and that in the process, I might just teach you a

little bit of the fine art of mayhem….. Ellie nodded

slowly; "that may be true, but don’t you think it would be

dangerous for us to trust you?" The Badger laughed; "of

course, and I’m glad you’re smart enough to see it. No, by

all means DON’T trust me. And I won’t trust you either.

Until I have to." Ellie put down the potato, but held onto

the paring knife; "so where do we go from here?" The

Badger grinned; "there are several things you have to do in

guerilla warfare; the first is to make sure you have the

sympathy of the people." The Badger grimaced: "With the

Reds, that shouldn’t be too hard. Your leaflet campaign is

a good idea, but its getting risky; you need to change

tactics. Personally, I’ve always liked graffiti….. Oh,

and you need to learn to obtain all your supplies from the

enemy. Here are some things you might try….

Sammy grinned; he loved to spraypaint slogans on the walls,

and he’d developed his own very distinctive "tag." The

thought that he could do this with the approval of his

friends only made it all the better. Shaking the can of

gold spray paint, he contemplated which of the slogans to

do next…..

Harvey swallowed as the Coyote looked over his friends.

Well, not exactly friends; more like acquaintances; still,

he’d known them both since grade school, and was reasonably

confident that they wouldn’t rat on them. Suppressing a

giggle, he looked at Phil, who WAS a rat, and shook his

head. The Coyote looked from the Rat to the Tiger and back

to Harvey; "so you want to fight the Reds, eh? Tell me

why." The Rat shrugged; "my old man’s been drafted into

the Reds Labor Corps; they’ve taken over his bakery, and

are forcing him to work a double shift. Not even paying

him! And they’re hauling all the bread off to feed

themselves, not even letting him take a loaf home for us.

Man, we’re Starving! Gotta do something to stop this!"

The Tiger nodded; "saw my sister get hauled off to a manual

labor battalion, just because she was a teacher. She

taught second grade. How in the heck can THAT be

political; still, her paycheck came from the government and

that made her a "collaborator"." The Coyote nodded; "we’ll

check on both your stories. For the meantime, there are

tasks that need doing, little things that’ll let us build

confidence in each other." Looking at the Rat, he smiled

"I want you to get down to the intersection of Fifth, and

main. That’s right near the Reds’ headquarters. I want

you to keep an eye out. Take notes as to what official

vehicles pass. What furrs go in and out. If they’re in

uniform, get the rank, and description. Write down

anything unusual you might see. Your cover story is up to

you." Turning to the Tiger, the Coyote grinned; "you do

the same, with the Police station on Briarcliff. Both of

you report back here, day after tomorrow. And be careful!"

Nest looked at the wall and shook his head; how could these

furrs THINK that about the Reds? Didn’t they realize they

were their liberators? With a sigh he waved his hand, and

stepped out of the way. The Bulldozer moved forwards,

demolishing the wall. The fact that it was a load-bearing

wall, and as the dozer moved out of the way, the whole

building sagged, and then slowly collapsed wasn’t his

fault. The owner of the building should have prevented


Haverty watched as his livelyhood crumpled. HE hadn’t

painted the graffiti on the wall. In fact, he’d been as

outraged as anyone. Now, the Reds had destroyed his

furniture store. They hadn’t even let him extract his

inventory first! He was ruined!

Sammy winced as Old Man Haverty’s furniture store was

demolished. Everywhere he, and the others, had painted

anti-Reds graffiti, the Reds were destroying the structure.

He hadn’t meant to hurt folks like that. But as he

watched, a plan slowly formed in his mind… what if he were

to spraypaint the Main Street bridge? Would they blow that

up? How about the side of their own barracks, or


ITSELF? Grinning to himself, he strode over, to tell

Haverty how sorry he was this had happened (without of

course mentioning that he had started it all), snuck in a

line about those Rotten Reds, and then turned, to dash off,

to find Ellie, or the Coyote….

Roland grinned; "OK, watch what I do, and how I do it.

Later, you’ll get your chance." The new recruits nodded

nervously, and watched from behind the hedge as the Badger

unzipped his jacket and stepped out onto the sidewalk. The

"patrol", two Reds troopers were walking slowly down the

street. Occasionally a small bottle would pass between

them. Their small group had been tailing them for fully a

third of their shift, making sure there wasn’t any backup

in the area. Waiting for the contents of the flask to take

effect…. Roland walked down the street towards, them, and

as expected, with slurred speech, they demanded him to

halt, and to produce his papers. The forgeries were only

so-so, but these two were either too far gone, or too

careless to spot the inadequacies. With a grunt, the

Bobcat shoved his papers back at Roland, laughing as the

Badger fumbled them, letting them flutter to the ground.

Turning, the two soldiers resumed their stroll. Roland

watched until their backs were turned, and then quietly

pulled his combat knife from behind his back. Moving up

behind the Bear, he grabbed an ear, turning his head to

one side, pulling it back… His knife flashed silver, and

the Bear’s jugular spurted crimson. The Bobcat barely got

out a "Wha’? Before the knife found his throat, the Badger

stabbing it straight in. The Bobcat floundered for a

minute, the throat wound burbling nastily until the Badger

finished him. Looking around, Roland confirmed that no one

had seen, and waved to the kids behind the bushes.

"But why do we have to hide the bodies? Wouldn’t it be

better to prop them up somewhere where they’d be found?"

Roland looked at the Rat and sighed; "Yeah, and think of

the reprisals. Think how hard it’d be for us to do this

again tomorrow night. No, if we make it look as if these

two simply deserted, the Reds will, if anything, come down

harder on their own troops, not the civilian populace. And

as the number of "desertions" climbs, that’ll have its own

effect on the Reds’ morale." The Rat grinned and nodded;

"And we get to collect more weapons in the process." He

fingered the grenade launcher he’d taken from the Fox he’d

killed earlier and grinned.

The Coyote looked at Sammy and winced; "Kid, do you realize

that when they arrest you, they’ll go and arrest your

family too? ALL of ‘em? They’re as likely to stand them

up against a wall and shoot ‘em as they are you! Sammy

shook his head; "Yeah, but if you guys are ready to rescue

us, they won’t be able to DO that! My old man’s

complaining constantly about how the Reds are workin’ him

to death at the bakery, and Mom’s constantly being badgered

at the Hospital where she works! If we all have to go

underground afterwards, I don’t see it as any great loss!"

Ellie sighed and shook her head; "Sammy, I know you’re

dedicated to the cause, but I think this one’s just a

little beyond us, just yet. Please, play it safe; just put

graffiti on abandoned buildings. Its not as if we don’t

have enough of them now. Oh, and the Bridge idea is cool,

but I’d start with the Highway bridges first. They might

be watching the river bridge." With a sigh, Sammy just


Sammy grinned; he’d had a good night. The Cummins Road

bridge across the turnpike had been "Tagged", as had been

the granary which held most of the wheat and corn the Reds

were "collecting" from the surrounding farms. He’d love to

see them knock THAT down. Now he was working on the side

of the BC&T Bank; the one that everyone walking to work at

the Reds headquarters building would have to pass. BC&T

was run, locally, by a furr who was a major Reds

sympathizer, and his bank had been working hand in glove

with the Reds, seizing accounts of "collaborators"…. As he

added his distinctive "tag" to the graffiti, he failed to

notice the furrs moving up behind him.

"GOTCHA!" Sammy yelped as a hand closed on the collar of

his jacket; shrugging out of it, he tried to wriggle free,

but a Wolfhound in a Reds Militia uniform grabbed him: "Oh,

no you don’t! You’re not getting away from US, Kid!

Catching you is gonna be worth a week-long pass for us!"

Iggy panted as he ran up to Ellie, Estelle, and the Coyote;

"They’ve got Sammy! We’ve got to get out of here; you KNOW

he’s gonna talk soon!" The Coyote nodded, but Estelle

growled "NO. We can’t let them keep him." Looking up at

Ellie, Estelle grimmaced; "you know the back-up plan,

should any of us ever get caught. Do you want to do it, or

shall I? Ellie sighed; "No. It was my idea. I’ll do it."

Turning to look at the Coyote she sighed; "Make sure

everyone gets to the safe houses. He may still talk before

we can get to him. Oh, and find that Roland character.

Tell him we’ll need him later if I’m successful." The

Coyote shook his head, but turned to obey.

Sammy looked wide-eyed at the Rabbit; "Honest mister, I

don’t KNOW who they were! They just gave me the cans of

paint and said they’d pay me ten credits for each wall I

painted! My family’s in a bad way, we need the money to

eat!" Nest sighed and jestured to the Bear; "You know what

to do. I want answers." The Bear blinked, and looked down

at Sammy; "But Commissar, he’s just a Kid!" Nest turned

and stared at the Bear for a second; "He is an Enemy of the

People, and as such deserves no mercy. Get me my answers!"

The door closed behind him with a hollow boom.

Iggy panted as he came up behind the Coyote; "I was too

late. The Reds got there first. Sammy’s whole family have

been arrested." The Coyote worked the action on his

assault rifle and nodded; "well, we’ll just have to get

them out too."

It was a dangerous place to be, after dark, especially for

a good looking female. Most of the townsfolk avoided it

like the plague. Ellie tugged nervously at the hem of her

short skirt, hefted the grocery bag, and with all the

bravery she could muster, strode forwards, towards the Reds

Militia barracks area…..

"Hey Freddie, will you look at this? Here comes a choice

piece!" Freddy chuckled; "Yeah… looks like our night’s

work is gonna be REAL easy. Hey Moe, do you think Schenk

will share this one with us when he gets done?" Ellie

didn’t have to fake a gasp as the two Reds Militiamen

circled her; she clutched the shopping bag as if it were a

shield. With a chuckle the Wolverine looked at his

companion and shrugged; "Dunno. But she should do for

tonight’s "entertainment"…." Grabbing the Badger girl

around the waist, the Wolverine threw her over his

shoulder, flipping up her skirt with one hand. His partner

pawed through the dropped bag of groceries, looking for

anything nice, and then turned to hurry after his partner.

Things had gone pretty much as per the stories Ellie had

been told. The Reds had delivered her to their commander,

Schenk, who was half drunk. The Wolf had alternated taking

swigs from his bottle and pawing her, literally ripping the

clothes from her body. Ellie cowered, but put up no real

resistance, which seemed to please the Wolf. Finally, with

all the finesse of an animal in heat, he’d thrown her down

on his bed and raped her.

Ellie shifted slightly and checked the clock; it was about

time. Next to her, in the rumpled bedclothes, the Wolf

snored softly. He’d taken her a second time, pounding his

cock into her, and then howling as he came, his knot tying

her most painfully. After a while, he’d managed to pull

free, and had fallen back on the bed, into a drunken

slumber. As quietly as she could, Ellie rose, to search

his room. With a grin, she found a fighting knife, its

edge razor-keen. At least the Wolf could sharpen a knife

right…. Padding nude back to the bed, she looked down at

him for a moment. Softly she whispered; "You have

confirmed everything I feared was true about the Reds. It

will be a delight to make you pay for your crimes….

Schenk awoke to blinding pain, his paws moving to his

throat. They found warm pulsing wetness…. Struggling to

sit up, he found it hard to breath and a burbling sound

filled his ears. The Badger girl stood a few steps back

from the bed, and in the dim light he saw her holding his

knife. Fear and rage warred within him, and he tried to

rise to his feet, only to find he didn’t have the strength.

As Darkness closed over him, he saw her grinning at him….

Ellie put the knife down carefully, and then turned to

search the room. There were keys, papers, maps, and of all

things, a diary. All of this she carefully sorted for

size, and loaded into a fanny-pack she found. Padding back

to the Wolf’s corpse, she worked her hands through the pool

of blood on the bed, transferring as much as she could to

her own crotch and thighs. Then, wrapping herself in the

remains of her outfit, she opened the door and slipped


Moe looked up sleepily from his guard post outside the

Commander’s door as the sobbing girl slipped out. He was

tempted to stop her, to have his way with her, but she

looked as if the Commander had worked her over bad. Her

torn skirt did little to cover her, and it was obvious she

was bleeding. Wincing, he decided he didn’t want sloppy

seconds, at least not when they were THAT sloppy. With a

yawn he crossed his arms over his chest, leaned his chair

back against the wall, and closed his eyes….

Iggy’s jaw dropped when he saw Ellie flee the Reds’

Barracks area, running towards the darkness. She looked a

wreck, and his paws tightened around his assault rifle.

Slipping back, he moved to follow her, to cover her, just

in case one of the Reds decided to try and stop the fleeing


Roland’s eyes widened in surprise as the tattered and

bleeding girl entered the safe house. As the Coyote

started to speak, the Badger girl tossed him a heavy ring

of keys; "Oh, calm down; its not MY blood." Iggy grinned;

"She says Schenk’s dead." Estelle grinned; "one down, and

a shitload left to go." The Coyote nodded; "Well, its

obvious there are going to be reprisals in the morning. I

guess it won’t hurt if we go add to the list of

grievances." Ellie nodded as she pulled on a pair of

overalls; "True. And every minute we waste is a minute

they could be doing God-knows-what to Sammy." Picking up a

weapon, the Badger girl turned and headed for the safe-

house’s door.

Roland shook his head in amazement as he followed; "That

girl sure is something!" Next to him, Iggy looked up, and

then snarled; "Paws off, buster; she’s MINE!" Roland

blinked at the Chipmunk, but then grinned; "I’ll give you

first crack, but if she turns you down, its MY turn to go


The police station had a number of entrances and exits.

And all were guarded. But the Reds Militia guarding those

exits, in the wee hours of the morning, were not expecting

a determined assault. When the police van backed up to the

garage loading dock, the furrs on duty there were expecting

their own folks to be delivering a load of counter-

revolutionaries, or collaborators, or maybe just vagrants.

When the back doors swung open to reveal a heavy weapons

crew, they died without getting a shot off. The armored

back door was made to be closed remotely if something like

this happened, and its armor was thick. However, the

tripod-mounted plasma gun found that the concrete block

wall to one side was not as heavily armored as the door,

and in rapid order an alternative way into the building was


Iggy smiled and depressed the key on the police radio.

"No, Sigma Seven, we have the situation completely under

control. Yeah, I know, Harmon’s not on the radio, they’ve

had a transmitter failure. I’m running dispatch out of the

command vehicle." "Dispatch to Epsilon Three; check out

the report of graffiti being painted at 27th and Capitol

streets." "Dispatch to all Gamma units; Backup needed at

Calaway Road and Highway 17. Officer down!" Grinning the

Chipmunk directed all the Reds patrols to places that would

be disadvantageous should they ever figure out just what

WAS going on.

Roland watched with a smile on his face; he’d described

just how to take a building to these kids, and they were

fast learners. Ignoring doorways, they were using

demolition charges to go through walls instead. In one

instance, they had caught a number of defenders crouched

against the wall, watching the doorway, when the charge

went off directly opposite them. Working rapidly, the

rebels moved through the station, their weapons silencing

any opposition.

"I FOUND HIM!" Ellie moved towards the voice, her weapon

at the ready. In a small, rather plain room, three of her

friends stood, just inside the doorway, staring. Sammy, or

what was left of him, was tied to a chair. Against the far

wall, a rather large and overweight bear had taken quite a

few rounds, to the point where the wall had partially

collapsed over what was left of him. Moving closer, Ellie

looked at the Kid; "Sammy?" His head moved fractionally;

"Ellie? Is that you? Didn’t tell ‘em…. Didn’t tell ‘em

anything……" Straightening, she gestured; "Get him on a

stretcher; we can at least get him out of here…..

The withdrawal was made in police vehicles. The

overcrowded jail cells had been emptied, the fugitives told

which ways out of the city were safest. Roland, and some

of the others had planted boobytraps, rigging the whole

building to explode when returning Reds Militia tried to

enter it to investigate. As they headed out into the

countryside, Roland grinned over at the Coyote and Ellie:

"so, you guys ready to help me try and get back to the

blues lines, yet?

The Tiger looked down at the mess on the bed and shook his

head; turning to the Commissar, he sighed; "You have to

admit, Comrade Nest, that he got what he deserved. His

reputation for female "conquests" is widespread,….. and

his reputation for "compelling" the less than willing

ladies to join him in bed is undeniable. He was scum,

undeserving of his position, and you can’t really blame the

girl for what happened…." "Oh, I agree, Comrade," the

Rabbit muttered: "Still, we cannot have the people taking

the law into their own hands. Any hint of counter-

revolution must be surpressed, and for whatever the reason,

she DID kill the commander of the 337th Militia." Looking

up at the Tiger, Nest sighed; "I want her found, and I want

her tried, and I want her executed for her crime. Oh, and

you’d best round up hostages to make sure there are no more

such "counter-revolutionary" attacks. The Tiger took

another look at the body and straightened; "Comrade Nest,

the girl was reported to have been a teen; probably one of

the local secondary school students. Surely she was not

committing an act against the Reds, and our glorious

revolution, but merely seeking to escape a rapist! I

cannot abide the taking of hostages in retaliation for such

an act! Sir, I do not make war on Civilians, or on

Children!" Nest looked at the Tiger for a moment and then

drew his side-arm. The Tiger’s face reflected a look of

surprise, more than anything, as the Rabbit shot him at

point blank range. The sound of the shot, and the thud of

the Tiger’s body hitting the floor drew a number of Reds

Militia furrs from the corridor. As he holstered his

pistol, Nest looked at the Adjutant; "Your Executive

Officer seems to have had a problem obeying orders, and has

paid the price. Are YOU going to have a problem following

my orders?" The Coyote looked at the body of his comrade

and swallowed hard. For a fleeting instant he wondered

what had ever happened to courts martial? But then he tore

his eyes away and nodded to the Rabbit; "Yessir, I’ll

follow orders….."

"I know, I know, I should have stolen one with a full fuel

cell; in the panic of the moment, I just didn’t notice!

I’m sorry!" The Coyote looked at Iggy and just sighed.

Roland chuckled and shrugged; "well, I suppose its just as

well; we should hide these vehicles and move into the woods

anyways. They’re just too easy to spot, and way too easy

to target." Ellie nodded; "I still want to bring Sammy.

He deserves a proper funeral." Looking up the young Badger

looked at their small party of refugees; Sammy’s parents,

her family, the Waverlys, the families of the other kids,

and nodded; "OK, lets get moving. Roland, you wanted to

get back to the Blues lines; which way do we go?" The

older Badger looked at a palm sized display for a moment,

and then up at the tree line; "That way; its not the

shortest, but given the hills, it’ll be the easiest for

this group." With the Coyote and a few of his friends

forming a rear-guard, the party headed into the woods.

Ellie’s heart was pounding; there were a number of furrs in

the little valley; but it was dark; they didn’t have a fire

going, and she couldn’t tell who they were. Were they

Reds? A patrol? Could they be bandits? Refugees? Other

Rebels, fighting against the Reds? She didn’t know.

Turning to look at her friends, she shrugged eloquently.

"Its ok, I’ll go check ‘em out" Estelle whispered. Before

Ellie could stop her, the squirrel had risen and was

walking carefully through the dark towards the group below.

Barrow tensed; he didn’t have anything more dangerous than

a stick, but he gripped that in both paws as he watched the

figure approach. Somehow the words for a more proper

challenge escaped him, and he yelped out; "Who’s THERE?"

Estelle smiled, and ambled forward, hands in the pockets of

her too-big bib overalls. She’d chosen her outfit

carefully, before they’d left; the pockets had been cut

out, allowing her to hold a pistol in each hand; the cut of

the cloth more than adequate to conceal their bulk. It

looked as if she were just another kid into the "grunge"

look.. until she pulled her hands out of her pockets.

Stopping a few feet away she looked over the small group.

Grandparents and infants, and a few middle aged folks. The

kind the Reds wouldn’t want for a labor battalion.

Grinning she shrugged; "Oh, I’m just a refugee; someone

tryin’ to get away from the Reds and their "worker’s

paradise"…. Who You?"

Barrow relaxed a little, but peered into the dark behind

her; "We’re….. just some folks trying to make our way home.

Nothing more." Estelle nodded; "and where’s that?" Barrow

frowned a little; "Uh.. other side of the River." Nodding,

the squirrel smiled; "That’s where we’re headed too…."

Barrow’s frown deepend; "We?"

Barrow shook his head and grinned; "and you shot up the

police station? Gee, I wish I’d been there to see that.

The Reds over in Johnstonville had a pretty heavy hand,

heavy to the point where no one dared strike back. There

was always some poor soul hanging from a gibbet in the town

square." The coyote leaned on his assault rifle and

grinned, his teeth white in the dark; "well, we had a good

leader; sometimes that’s all it takes." Ellie found

herself looking at the Coyote, who returned her gaze and

smiled. Blushing she looked away. The size of their party

had just doubled; she couldn’t very well abandon these

people here, but traveling with them, helping the old folks

and the children… that was going to make their trek all the

more difficult.

The river was narrow, but running quite swiftly. The

bridge was on a minor highway, and arched high over the

rushing waters. And yet, even here, it was guarded. The

Reds had a small camp by the river, with a guard house and

a classic pole across the road. Ellie stared at them

through the electrobinoculars; they hadn’t had any traffic

in the day they’d been watching, and the guards looked

sleepy. They’d been arguing over what to do, how to handle

the situation. Some just wanted to rush them, and shoot

their way through. Roland, however, had spotted a radio,

and was concerned that the Reds might have other assets

nearby that could respond. Their food was running low,

however, and everyone was tired. This was it; they had to

get across the bridge, one way or another.

Pablo looked up as the first furr walked out of the forest.

Then another came into view, and then three more… soon

there seemed to be dozens of furrs headed his way.

Shouting for the Corporal, he stood his ground in front of

the barrier, his weapon carefully at port arms.

Ellie was helping old Mrs. Hoffowitz; the elderly Otter had

twisted her ankle and was having a hard time walking.

Pushing through the crowd, she moved up to the Marten

wearing the corporal’s stripes; after looking at him for a

moment she sighed; "Please sir, we’re refugees trying to

get home; won’t you please let us pass?"

Raul Mikasa looked from the old Otter lady to the young

Badger and shook his head; "I wish I could, Miss, but I’ve

got very strict orders; no one passes without the

appropriate papers…. Um.. you don’t HAVE the appropriate

papers, do you?" When the Badger girl shook her head no;

he shrugged; "Look, we’ve got food and water here; its

nothing fancy, but its adequate. Lets get you and your

party comfortable and I’ll radio to headquarters, and we’ll

see if we can’t get that sorted out….."

Ellie never knew how the shooting started; it might have

been when the Marten turned to call to his troops, or it

might have been someone who thought they saw someone

reaching for a weapon….. In the end it didn’t matter.

Mrs. Hoffowitz had a sling around her shoulders, a machine

pistol hanging down her back under her shawl; as she

dropped to the ground, Ellie snatched at it, and after a

moment’s hesitation, shot the wide-eyed Marten. The Cougar

next to him went down a second later. Amongst the smoke

and the noise, she saw Roland sprinting towards the small

camp, to toss a grenade into a log and sandbag bunker. The

effectiveness of his action was revealed a moment later

when the force of the explosion drove two furrs and the

machine gun they were trying to use out the back of the

bunker. And then it was quiet. No screams, no children

sobbing, just… quiet. Helping Mrs. Hoffowitz up, Ellie

looked around….

Roland looked around and nodded. They seem to have killed

them all. Smashing the butt of his rifle through the

radio, he grabbed the first three youths he could find;

"Look around for anything heavy, and find me some rope."

The Coyote seemed to materialize at his elbow; "what do you

have in mind?" "I want to throw the bodies in the river,

suitably weighted down; by the time anyone figures out what

happened here, we should be long gone. In the meantime I

want it to look as if the squad here got orders and moved

out. Throw anything they might take with them in the

river. Lets get MOVING, people, We need to get OUT of


The countryside didn’t look any different. After crossing

a bridge they hadn’t seen a soul. They’d walked to dark,

munching on the rations they’d salvaged from the Reds camp.

Ellie found herself particularly haunted by the image of

the Marten as she’d shot him. He hadn’t seemed such a bad

guy…. If more of the Reds had been like him, she mused, she

might not have been in the situation she was in now….. As

they came to a tee in the road, she looked at Roland; the

older Badger consulted his gizmo and pointed to the left.

As the sun went down, they started looking for a place to


The truck caught them by surprise, overtaking them from the

rear. For a moment she thought Iggy was going to open fire

with his assault rifle, but somehow the Chipmunk caught

himself just in time. Slowly the truck coasted to a stop,

its flywheel drive whining. An old Goat looked out through

the driver’s side window at them for a moment, and then

called "I suspect you folks are looking for the Tochapee

refugee camp. Its only about a half dozen klicks from

here. Take the next left you come to, and then the next

right." Estelle looked at him for a moment and then

blinked; "Uh…. We ARE in Blues territory, aren’t we?" The

Goat nodded slowly, "yeah, sure are. You folks walk out of

Reds country?" When a half dozen furrs nodded, the Goat

shook his head; "From the stories ah bin hear’in, ah sure

am glad ah live on THIS side o’ the river. Tell you what.

Load your young’ens and old folks in the back and I’ll

drive ‘em to the camp. Tell the folks there you’re out

this way, headed in. Don’t know if they’ll be able to come

and get y’all, though."

Roland watched the truck depart in a cloud of dust. They

hadn’t gotten all the old folks on it, and the young ones

hadn’t wanted to leave the group; still, it was a relief.

Slinging his weapon, the Badger bent to pick up a little

Dingo girl, and settling her on his shoulders, turned to

follow the group. Tonight perhaps he’d be able to sleep

without one eye open.

Iggy smiled and settled onto the mess house step next to

Ellie; "I can’t believe they made us check our weapons."

Ellie raised an eyebrow, trying hard not to belch. The

food here wasn’t all that good, but there was plenty of it.

"Why’s that?" Iggy shrugged; "I expected ‘em to confiscate

them. The thought that when I leave here, I can reclaim a

military weapon is just … mind-staggering!" Ellie

chuckled; "One of the workers told me that the Blues

believe that the government should fear the people; that

when the people start fearing the government its time for

them to HAVE weapons like that. That it’s the people’s

legitimate right and duty to make sure the government is

just what they want." After a moment she chuckled "pretty

far from the Reds’ position of "we know what’s best for you

and will see that you get it," isn’t it?" Iggy just

nodded; "I saw the Waverlys leave; they’re headed to

Pearth, to live with their oldest daughter….." Ellie

nodded, without saying anything. After a moment, Iggy

turned to look at her; "so what are you going to do now?"

Ellie shrugged; "My parents want me to go with them; they

say that they can get me into a good university, probably

in Friesland. Somehow though, I can’t see settling down to

books at a time like this. And we never did hold the

graduation ceremonies at school. Not sure they’d take me."

Iggy nodded; "so what ARE you going to do?" Ellie

shrugged; "there was this Blues officer who talked to me

about going back. Going home. He said that the Blues

needed folks in Reds territory that could … "monitor" the

situation there." Iggy grinned "you mean, be a spy?"

Ellie shrugged again; "I have no desire to be a spy, Iggy.

But I would like to fight for the freedom of our people.

There’s no reason they should be treated like that….."

After a moment, the Chipmunk grinned; "Glad to hear you say

that; been thinking along the same lines myself. Estelle’s

been talking about trying to spring her folks from that

labor battalion, and I’ve been thinking about going with

her to help." Ellie grinned; "Of course, my parents are

going to be furious……"

Roland looked at the Badger girl and shook his head; "you

can’t be serious! After going through all that to get out

you’re going back?" Ellie just nodded; "There are some

folks we left behind. And there’s a job to be done there.

I can’t sit here safe, when I know the battle’s still going

on. I have to go back." Roland nodded, and then stepped

forward to hug her; "I’ve got to go back to my base. I

need to pull a replacement suit of powered armor. But if

ever you get in trouble, you call out on the radio. I’ll

make sure its relayed to me, and I’ll do what I can to

help! Promise!" Ellie grinned and kissed him on the nose;

"I’ll do that; take care of yourself, Mister!"

Ellie watched the vehicle disappear until it was lost in a

cloud of dust. Turning she looked at her friends; Estelle,

the Coyote, Iggy, and the others; "Lets go see about

getting our weapons out of hock. Who’s got the claim


Field agent

Mr. Smith ignored the cool wind and the rustling leaves as

he sat on the bench in the thinly populated park. In his

hands he held a small rectangle of plastic and metal; to

the average passer-by, he had one of the latest video

games, and the way his hands tilted it this way and that as

he thumbed the buttons along the edges suggested that he

was deeply immersed in his game. Perhaps an unusual

occupation for a furr of his age, but not remarkably so.

However, had any of the passers-by walked behind his bench,

they would have observed something on the screen other than

the latest adventure game. Computer-generated enhanced

colors made the screen hard to interpret, but Smith was

skilled at his task. Tongue lolling from one side of his

mouth, clenched between teeth in concentration, he

maneuvered the remotely piloted drone known as a "fly"

around his target.

The Research Facility was heavily guarded. There were

fences, both physical and electronic, a considerable

distance between the fences and the building, with guard

posts, roving patrols, and many cameras and sensors. And

the facility itself was almost hermetically sealed. After

trying for over three hours, Smith hadn’t found a way to

get his fly past the defenses and into the building.

Recalling the mechanical insect, he sighed, and started

thinking about another way to penetrate the facility. NO

ONE went to these lengths unless there was something VERY

interesting in there….

The delivery service’s uniform was impeccable, as were his

credentials. Smith drove the van to the first of the guard

gates and waited. And waited. He knew they were scanning

him, probably more closely than he’d ever been scanned

before. After a while, a single guard came out of the

guard house and wordlessly held out his hand. Smith passed

the clip board with the shipping forms and the invoice to

him. He knew the cargo of the van he’d hijacked was

urgent; all the shipping documents said so. It was why

he’d taken it. After scanning the documents, visually and

with a hand-held scanner, the guard nodded; "put it in

Park, guy, we’ll unload you here." Smith blinked; "Here?

You sure? That thing’s HEAVY!" The guard nodded; "Yup.

You and your van go no further. Security, ya know?"

Smith watched in amazement as two cargo handling robots

wrestled the crate out of the back of his van, and carried

it through the security check-point. He’d put a couple of

sleeper probes in the crate, but he doubted they’d pass the

scrutiny everything was receiving so far. Still, there was

a chance….. When the robots had trundled off with their

cargo, the guard handed his clipboard back to him. Smith

gave the guy his copy of the paperwork, and climbing back

into his van, backed it from the guard post, and drove off

down the street. If they’d been smart they would have held

him there until they’d checked out the crate, but he wasn’t

about to argue with them….

As expected, the tell-tales were dead; each of the bugs

Smith had placed into the crates had been destroyed, or

deactivated. Sitting back, Smith scratched his head and

wondered what to try next……

The office building was a good vantage point. It hadn’t

been that hard to break into the vacant office, and he was

reasonably assured he couldn’t be spotted behind the wall.

His sensors stuck marginally past the wall to look out

through the glass, and he knew they’d be hard to detect

from more than a few feet away. Settling down, he started

to watch the traffic to and from the research lab….

Smith stared into his cup of coffee and sighed. He really

was drinking too much of this stuff. He’d been watching

the Research lab for three days, and hadn’t learned much.

The guards, the researchers, and just about all of the

staff lived there. There WAS no rush-hour commute. The

only folks that entered or left were big-wigs, or the

occasional service furr…. The VIPs all seemed to come by

air-car, which made it difficult to track, and harder to

kidnap. Some of them even had armed escorts. But there’d

been an HVAC (humidity, ventillation, air conditioning)

service furr there today… and that had given him an idea….

The laser was low power, and of an obscure wavelength. Its

collimation wasn’t all that great, but it was just what

Smith wanted for the job. The apartment building was

several blocks away from the Research Lab, but it gave the

right view; Setting up the laser, Smith peered through its

telescopic sight and slowly adjusted his aim until he’d

drawn a bead on the condensing coils on top of one of the

large boxy things on the lab’s roof. Switching on the

laser, he started the drive that would minutely fan the

low-resolution beam across the target…. The idea was to

make it look like anything but damage from a laser….

There wasn’t any sign of just when the laser had completed

its job, but the pinhole was evident under the system’s

optics. Smith shut off the laser, and pulled it down,

leaving nothing but the optic sensor showing from over the

edge of the roof. Patiently he waited. After a while, his

patience was rewarded, when four guards emerged onto the

roof. One of them bent to look at the condenser, while the

others scanned the perimeter. It was obvious the guard had

found something, as he spent a good minute trying to wipe

his paw clean on the housing of the air conditioning unit.

He was obviously disgusted. Turning they all returned to

inside the building. Smith smiled to himself and carefully

started packing his gear.

The HVAC service van stopped at the guard gate. After the

scan, the guard, had the driver exit the vehicle and enter

the guard house. Another guard drove the vehicle through

the gates. Within seconds, Smith lost his view of the

vehicle. That was OK. Smiling, he settled back to wait.

The optics were still on the apartment building’s roof, and

Smith watched the hand-held monitor; the view was grainy

and tiny, but it showed the serviceman in an argument with

someone in a suit. A lot of hand-waving was done, and

after an amazing amount of time, the servicefurr had bent

to his task. There was the brief flare of a torch, and

then he was retreating back inside the building with the

suit and the guards……

The traffic signal turned red, and Redflame pulled the

hovervan to a halt. He was sitting there, grumbling to

himself about the stuffed shirts at the Research lab, when

suddenly the power door locks on his van both popped open.

He was twisting to look at the switch panel on the driver’s

door when the passenger door opened and an older,

nondescript Wolf got in. His mouth open to complain, to

demand an immediate exit, the Squirrel’s words caught in

his throat as he realized that in the Wolf'’s lap, out of

sight of most furrs, was a rather large handgun. And it

was pointed casually at his groin! "Be a good chap, and

drive on; the signal’s green, you know……" His gaze

flickering from the Wolf’s face, to the gun, to the road,

Redflame nudged the accelerator, urging the van forward.

After having driven down Rollins Street for several blocks,

Redflame chanced another glance at the Wolf; this guy

didn’t seem to have any qualms about letting Redflame see

his face, and that was NOT good… It probably meant that the

Wolf was going to kill him…. Still, after a bit, curiosity

got the better of him, and he cleared his throat. "Um…

Ah….. Shouldn’t you be telling me where it is you want me

to go?" The Wolf smiled; "Go where you where headed

anyways. Your shop at 220 Farrier Avenue, out in the

Rosemont part of town. Pull the van into the garage just

like you always do." Redflame gulped; "Um…. You know I

don’t have any money there…. My business is all invoiced…"

The Wolf just smiled; "I know. Relax. We’ll have a nice

little conversation, and I’ll be on my way, and if

everything goes just right, you’ll be safe and sound, and

maybe even happy……" Redflame just swallowed hard.

Following the Wolf’s instructions, Redflame had parked the

van as he always did. With the garage door closed, they’d

exited the vehicle and entered his small office. The

franchise HVAC business was mostly self-contained in the

van; there were some spare parts storage in the garage, but

the rest of the business was just one tiny office, where

the bookkeeping computer lived. The Wolf gestured with the

gun towards the desk chair, while he pulled up the lone

visitor’s chair on the other side of the cluttered desk.

Redflame sat, eyes shifting from the gun to the Wolf and

back. The Wolf looked a little past middle age, a slight

paunch developing. He looked like a High School teacher,

or maybe a Department Store clerk. And yet there was

something about him, that kept Redflame from even thinking

about trying to take him on. After a few minutes the Wolf

laid the handgun in his lap and fished inside one pocket.

Producing a deck of cards, he tossed them on the table;

"Don’t know how long it’ll be, before they call, but until

they do, we might as well amuse ourselves." Redflame’s

heart sank. He knew. The Research lab usually called his

office to make sure he’d gotten back unhindered. They’d

call again that evening and again about three days later.

As hopes of the Cavalry charging to the rescue faded,

Redflame sighed; "Let me guess. Poker. Five card stud."

The Wolf smiled; "actually, I’m much more preferential to


The com beeped, and Redflame almost jumped a foot. He was

ahead a good thirty points and had been concentrating on

the game. Without even thinking about it, he hit the

button, and muttered; "Acme HVAC Repair, Redflame speaking.

How can I help you?" It was the standard litany that he’d

repeated thousands of times, and it came as second nature.

On the other end of the phone, he heard a voice growl;

"State Security. Just checking." And then the line went


Smith smiled as he saw the Squirrel give the com a dirty

look, realizing too late that his only "salvation" had just

slipped away. As the Squirrel turned back to look at him,

the Wolf just smiled; "Lets finish the game. I’m in no

particular hurry."

Redflame held himself perfectly still; the drug had been in

aerosol form, the Wolf producing it and spraying it in

Redflame’s face almost before the Squirrel had known he’d

had it. Waiting for something to happen, he realized that

he was extremely conscious of every portion of his anatomy.

He could feel the chair’s back edge under his tail. He

could feel the seams of his overalls where he sat. He felt

he could even feel each individual hair in each ear…… The

Wolf’s voice seemed unnaturally magnified as he whispered;

"Now, I just have a few questions; answer them truthfully

and to the best of your ability, and I’ll give you the

antidote. Screw with me, and I’ll leave you in that

hypersensitive state for the rest of your life…..

The green telltale on the voice stress analyzer seemed

unnaturally bright. Redflame swallowed, feeling each

muscle in his throat move, feeling his body respond….. it

was really starting to get on his nerves. In fact, he

realized that spending the rest of his life this sensitive

to light, this sensitive to noise, to motion, to EVERYTHING

would be a living torture…. Carefully NOT nodding his

head, he whispered; "Yes, I get into all the labs. The

filters have to be changed, the air movers lubricated, and

all that’s above the furrs that work there. I’ve seen many

strange things, but as I said, I don’t know WHAT it is I’ve

seen; remember, I’ve only got a trade school education!

I’m NOT a physics professor!" Smith nodded; "why did you

say Physics professor?" Redflame blinked; "Didn’t you

know? That place used to be the National University

Physics lab, before the Government took it over; its FULL

of Physics Professors.

Redflame shook his head and instantly regretted it; this

was worse than his worst hangover. "No, I tell you; I have

NO idea what it is they’re working on, but its got to be

big, and its all coming to a head. I think. One of the

guards said that he still thought that it was stupid to

bring in a repair guy (that’s me) when in a few days they’d

be done….."

"Oh yeah" Redflame muttered; "I heard enough in the canteen

to know that something big is going on there. All the

junior scientists were muttering about all the bigwigs

constantly sticking their noses into everything.

Complaints of micromanagement and such. Yeah, it has ‘em

all stirred up…."

Redflame rested his forehead on the edge of the table; that

seemed to hurt least of all. The Wolf seemed to have been

asking questions for hours, maybe days. He could feel his

bladder; it wasn’t full, he didn’t have to go, but he could

tell, almost to the milliliter just how full it was. And

his heartbeat thundered in his ears. He could HEAR the

blood flowing in his veins. "Um… Yeah. Cargo handling

system. Overhead monorails. They run almost everywhere.

The one time I had to replace an air handler motor, they

wouldn’t let me use it; had to wheel the dang thing in on a

hand dolly. Wouldn’t even let me use a powered one, for

fear an unshielded motor would screw up something.

Wouldn’t help, either. Stuck up stuffed shirts…."

Smith looked at the Squirrel; he was near a nervous system

collapse. He hadn’t answered the primary question, but all

the circumstantial evidence added up. Could he Swear the

story Tanj had funneled him was true? No. Did he believe

it? Yes, to the point of arranging a hasty route off-

planet. The Squirrel had said that they were within days

of being done. If Tanj’s tale was even close to true, it

was time to leave. Pulling another aerosol can from his

pocket, he looked at the squirrel, and shrugged. Raising

the can, he sprayed.

Redflame felt the mist as ice-cold pinpricks all over his

face. He could feel the mist penetrate his lungs, move

into his bloodstream… and suddenly something very nice

started to happen…… Suddenly he wasn’t in his office any

more, but in a different room….. Moorish windows looked out

on a blue sky… the walls were earth-toned, and there were

pillows strewn across the floor…. And seemingly on each

pillow was a nubile slave girl….. Redflame grinned; there

was that Cheetah wench… and there the flame-hued vixen with

the big bazooms…. Chuckling to himself, Redflame exclaimed

"Hello Girls! Daddy’s Home" and to his delight, they all

seemed to rise, and cooing with pleasure moved to surround

him. Suddenly being hypersensitive wasn’t so bad, as each

touch was distinctly felt……

Smith checked the Squirrel’s pulse and nodded. Given what

the planet’s own Government was about to do to it, it might

have been kinder just to kill him… but he’d cooperated

quite nicely, and done everything he could… The Wolf

straightened, tucking the aerosol can into his jacket

pocket; let the Squirrel have his fantasies; the antidote

would wear off in a few hours, leaving the Squirrel

confused as to whether it was all a dream… his memories

very fuzzy. Smiling, Smith let himself out, resetting the

security system as he left.

Back in space

Alby shook his head; the Merchant was being stupid. The

old "Hansa" class freighter just didn’t have the speed to

outrun a Raider, and it certainly didn’t have the guns to

fight one off, let alone three. Adjusting his targeting

settings minutely, he waited for his skipper to give the

OK. "I say again, Tango Victor Three Two Seven, you are

ordered to cease maneuvering and drop shields or we WILL

open fire!" Cedric watched, easily matching vectors with

the freighter, waiting for some sign of compliance,

counting down the seconds… when he reached thirty he turned

and looked over his shoulder; "All yours, Alby; try not to

damage our prize more than you have to." Alby chuckled;

"Hey, I know, I know…. I just hope this one isn’t full of

refugees like the last three ships have been!" Squinting a

little, Alby concentrated, blipping off a short burst…. The

Ion gun stuttered in response, and several thousand

kilometers ahead of them, the freighter’s shields flared,

failed, and then their drive section glowed brighter than

usual.. for just a second, and then the glow faded

completely. Alby chuckled; "Got their port induction

valve; the computer shut their drive down, rather than risk

running unbalanced. And induction valves are a dime a

dozen, in almost any starport….." Cedric chuckled; "Good

shot. But then, that’s what I pay you for." Clicking his

mike, he turned back to the viewscreen as he growled;

"Delta Green lead to all Delta Green birds; I’ll close and

board; you guys keep ‘em honest."

Cedric scowled as he tried to match docking rings with the

freighter; either their docking ring had been damaged, or

the freighter had jammed something somehow… He’d bumped up

against their docking port three times now, and the

grapples had failed to latch. He’d been concentrating so

hard on it, that he’d missed Alby’s first muttered comment.

The crackle in his headphones got his attention though;

"Delta Green Three to Lead; we got problems!"

Straightening, he looked at his threat display, and saw

nothing; of course everything to starboard of his ship

registered only as freighter…. "Whatcha got, Sammy?" "Got

a Reds Cruiser comin’ in hot and heavy!" Blipping the

thrusters to move his Raider back from the freighter, and

then "up" and over, so his own sensors could get a look,

the Fox’s eyes went wide; "Ah…. Delta Green Lead to Base;

we’ve got company out here!"

Hans scowled and looked across Ops to the tactical display.

Growling, he turned back to the comm console; "Delta Green

Lead; you’re on your own. Soonest we could get

reinforcements to you would be 3.4 hours. Keep us advised

as to developments. Command out."

Cedric sighed; "one of the problems workin’ out on the

fringes…. Dammit, Alby, where’d HE come from? The Reds

get cloaking technology?" Alby shrugged; "Don’t know,

Skipper. Might have been hiding in a debris field. We got

enough of ‘em in this system these days." The Fox nodded;

"well, I guess we’d better find out what they want…."

Onegin grinned into the video pickup "What I want, is for

you and your pirate scum to get AWAY from OUR prize! Leave

now, or risk the righteous wrath of the People’s Space

Navy!" The image of the fox on the monitor showed a range

of emotions, from surprise, to shock, to outright rage;

"YOUR prize? This is OUR territory, as per the executive

agreement YOUR chairman signed three years ago! WE

disabled the freighter’s engines! This one’s OURS!"

Onegin just smiled; turning so that the video pickup caught

his profile, he growled: "Fire control Officer! Target

that worthless piece of shit. If he says another word,

open fire!"

Alby nudged Cedric and whispered; "we do have two anti-ship

missiles on board. Between us and our mates, we might take

him." The fox digested that for a moment, and then shook

his head no; "no profit in it, Alby. Those missiles cost

almost as much as that freighter down there, and if we

start a shooting war against the Reds, our profits are

bound to suffer. No, we’ll let this one go, but from now

on, I’m keeping Delta Squadron together. The Reds may feel

they can push around three Raiders, but you know that

Cruiser’s not a match for all twelve of us…."

Onegin grinned; the comm link had picked up the muttered

conversation. It was just what Xyloff had wanted. With a

little suitable editing it would be a major propaganda

prize…… Watching as the Raiders broke off, he chuckled,

wondering how the Wolverine would reward him for this

little victory. The Exec clearing his throat interrupted

his reverie, and turning he glared at the Furr; "what?"

"Um, Captain, what do you want to do with the Freighter?"

Onegin just shrugged; "Our spys say its just full of

refugees. Traitors fleeing their just deserts. Take a

detachment of marines, board them, and examine their

records; if any of the traitors have useful skills,

transfer them to this ship and put them in the brig. If

there are any political "prizes" take them too; we can

always use them for show trials. Then, when the Pirates

are out of sensor range, you may have some target practice.

That hulk’s not worth putting a prize crew on board." The

Exec just nodded, and withdrew, leaving Onegin to return to

his daydreams of greater riches, and power.

The Wombat smiled; "Ah, this is really excellent stuff; we

can show the pirates as being cowardly, backing down in

front of our People’s Space Navy. And we can show how

mercenary they are, in it only for the money, ignoring the

noble cause. Yes, Comrade Xyloff, this will make an

excellent propaganda Campaign." The Wolverine smiled;

"Very good; how soon can you have it ready? The Wombat

thought for a moment; "Ten days, maybe twelve to do it

properly. Out to the people a day after that." Xyloff

shook his head; "too long. Make it three days, four at the

latest. To the People by Friday." At the dismayed look,

the Wolverine clapped the Wombat on the back; "Come now,

Comrade, the People DESERVE to know!" Letting the smile

harden, he growled; "Don’t fail me. Now you have a lot to

do, so I won’t keep you….. Watching the Wombat leave,

clutching the data crystals, Xyloff smiled; "Yes, I do

believe its coming together nicely….."

The Brou Machine:

The Lion sat in the lotus position, and tried to relax.

Clearing his mind was becoming more and more difficult… and

yet, the meditation techniques that Entity had been

teaching him were certainly helping him cope with the

stress. Kinda. Trying to ignore the itch caused by the

little sensor stuck to his skull, he concentrated on his

breathing, seeking to slip into that alpha brainwave state

that let him "talk" to the Brou machine…….

<<<…Strange it is. Illogical and disordered. Conflicted.

Emotional. More ordered in its thought processes, at

least, was the previous being that had interfaced with me.

Even further from the precision of my creators, this one

is. Adapt I must, to interface with this one. Raw

materials needed will be. Unsavory, perhaps, but a

challenge to relieve the boredom, it is…..>>>

The Lion almost purrrred as he felt himself slipping,

finally, into the sought-after state. It was like stepping

outside his own mind, and into the Twilight Zone. Every

time he sat by the Brou machine, with it powered up, he

felt as if he left more alien, both more and less than what

he was when he started. Nudging his will at the machine,

he tried to find the correct way to communicate that he

wanted to distort space to one side of the ship….. With no

idea if he was succeeding or not, he concentrated….. It

was like trying to hold onto a slippery and wriggling eel….

Emmy Lou sat bolt upright at her console, almost spilling

coffee on herself. She’d been warned; the whole ship had

been warned. Bending to examine her science station

console, she felt about with her right hand, trying to find

something solid to put the coffee mug on, as she devoured

the sensor reports. Space was distorting itself aft of the

Overlord, the Brethren’s flagship, the most powerful ship

in their fleet, and now mostly a platform for strange

physics experiments…. Despite the fact that the crew was

pissed about missing all the fighting going on, she loved

it; things like this was what she lived for. Making sure

ALL the recorders were running correctly this time, she

watched as the fold in space-time shifted forward, over the

top of the ship, and then slithered to starboard…..

Hans watched the computer-generated image of the event on

the Overlord’s tactical data display, fingers hovering over

the engineering console that would cut power to the boss’s

crazy gadget, should that effect wander too close to the

hull. He’d seen this thing swallow too many test probes,

probes that with one exception had vanished completely.

The one exception had finally reported in, its FTL

transmitter’s signal finally reaching the ship after almost

two weeks. The probe THOUGHT it was on the far side of the

galaxy’s center, an absolutely improbable distance away….

And that little event had thrown the entire Brethren’s

command staff into an uproar. Still, all the other probes

had vanished, and Hans was NOT about to let that …. THING

swallow a portion of HIS ship!

<<<…Difficult to comprehend, it is. Strange is the mind in

contact with me. Pointless its requests are. Experiments

I have planned, to decipher how this mind works, but

confused are the results. Projections to understanding at

an acceptable level show me this will be a lengthily task..

But time have I……>>>

Entity frowned and watched the Lion. Unconsciously he’d

shifted from the full lotus position, to the half lotus

position, to a sprawl; and yet the monitor still showed him

fully in the alpha brainwave state. As he watched, the Fox

wondered about the Brou machine; he’d heard rumors of the

"Battle that never was", stories now making the rounds

again, as the Boss had demonstrated that the machine could

actually DO something. Shaking his head, he still didn’t

see the wisdom in tinkering with this thing, not at a time

like this…. Shifting into the proper position, he settled

down to meditate on the question. The Elders of his people

had sent him here; they must have had a reason; could they

see something in this big hairy beast that he couldn’t?

The Lion smiled; the slippery eel in his grip seemed to be

under control, at least for the moment… Now, for the test,

he simply had to hold it steady…..

Parks’ paws danced over the controls trying to maneuver the

probe. The jury-rigged science probe was just that. The

torpedo-shaped drone was being operated by remote control,

a long, thin fiber optic cable paying out the back. And

from the front, a hundred meter spar, with sensors at the

tip, a probe to insert through the wrinkle in time-space.

It was hoped that in this fashion they could see where it

opened onto. But the science probe was never meant for

such delicate maneuvering. Parks felt as if he were trying

to thread a needle…..

Emmy Lou watched as the sensors cleared; something very

strange had happened as the sensor cluster had passed

through the rift… she was getting a starscape, and the

computer was starting its analysis…..

The Lion squirmed, his paws moving, as if clutching at air…

his "control" was slipping. Maybe he was getting tired,

his concentration slipping… or maybe something was

happening from the other end; either way, it was becoming

harder and harder to hold the mental image he wanted……

Entity sat up and watched in alarm as the Lion’s alpha

brainwave state wavered… and then disintegrated. Across

the room, the Lion rose to his knees, studied the flashing

lights and symbols on the face of the Brou device, and then

sighed. Rising to his feet, he moved to the nearest

intercom. "Physics Lab to the Bridge; anything happen this


Hans pushed the button on the arm of his command chair

"Bridge to Physics lab. Yeah, Boss, something happened; we

got a wrinkle in space time, Parks got the probe’s… er…

probe through the wrinkle, and then the whole thing

collapsed. The end of the probe has been sheared off,

mirror bright. Parks says its almost on the molecular

level." The Lion’s voice floated from the speaker; "and

did we accomplish anything?" Hans sighed and shook his

head, and then realizing it was an audio circuit only,

muttered; "I’m told the starfield that was observed matches

nothing in the computer. No combination or permutation of

the billions of charted stars matches the pattern that was

observed. And yet the spectral data suggests it was a

normal star field. It just wasn’t any starfield that’s

ever been charted."

The Lion sighed and looked across the room at the enigmatic

Entity. As usual, his face was inscrutable; it was

impossible to tell WHAT the fox might be thinking; "well,

Hans, at least we learned something….. OK, enough for the

moment; lets go home….."

<<<…Strange it is. Asked to open a door, I am, but the

destination unspecified is. More study, these creatures

deserve. Unclear their motives are. Options I must

consider, for the next encounter…..>>>

Further work with the Brou machine.

The Lion pushed the sticky electrode against his skull and

sighed. If he combed his mane just right, the shaved spot

on his skull wasn’t all that obvious… but his mane was so

unruly half the time all the effects of the meticulous

combing had vanished by the time he’d stepped out the door

to his cabin. Still, the tones produced by the little gizmo

helped him slide into the alpha brainwave state, and that

DID seem to help him communicate with the Brou device….

Checking to see that all the power feeds were on, and

stable, he settled into a cross-legged position by the

control panel, closed his eyes and started to concentrate.

<<<…Again contact is attempted. Tenuous it is. Train it,

it seems I must…….>>>

As he concentrated on opening a space-time rift, the Lion

suddenly squirmed; for a moment it felt as if a thousand

worms were wriggling through his brain… and in their wake,

an idea. That it might not have been HIS idea never even

crossed his mind….. Smiling, he formed the image of the

wriggling, slippery eel that was the space-time distortion,

and grabbing it with both paws, he slowly started to

stretch it as he spread his paws wide; the Eel still tried

to squirm, but he found he was more or less able to hold

its ends as he wanted…. One end, the open mouthed end… to

the Starboard side of the ship… and the other end on the

Port side…..

Hans sat straight up as the sensor operators all started

yelling at the same time. Rising from his command chair,

padding over to look at the displays, he grunted; "Two

Anomolies? Now what is that crazy lion up to?

Emmy Lou sipped her coffee and grinned; this was better

than any Holoadventure she’d ever seen. The subatomic and

subspace physics were so eloquent; it was such a ballet of

nadions and tachyons…. Without a second thought about the

recorders, she settled in to watch the show….

Parks had been seriously afraid that would happen. He’d

augmented his science probe, refining its maneuvering

capabilities, and replacing the hundred meter spar on its

prow. And now, as he’d maneuvered it into the distortion

on the starboard side of the Overlord…. The end of the

probe had come out the distortion on the Port side. The

damn thing DID work! But if it worked… could all those

wild tales about hostile cruisers vanishing without a trace

be TRUE?

"Henley! HENLEY!" Vandrosky’s face had an unnatural cast

to it as he called to the Beaver. "Henley, did you hear

the news from the Overloard?" The Marmoset looked calmly

at Vandrosky and shrugged; "I take it that alien gizmo the

boss has been playing with hasn’t eaten them, or exploded,

or anything like that…." Vandrosky shook his head no and

held up a data crystal; "worse than that… MUCH worse than

that…. It seems, to a small extent, they’ve actually got it

working…… I just pulled this from the live feed they’ve

been sending us!"

Henley watched over Vandrosky’s shoulder as he plugged the

data crystal into the reader. The whole left side of the

screen was scrolling data from the sensors, most of it

arcane physics stuff… but the right side showed video

feeds, upper right showing the jury-rigged science probe

approaching the writhing space-time distortion, while the

lower right showed the second space-time distortion.

Amazingly, as they watched, the sensor package on the tip

of the hundred meter spar poked its way into the one

distortion… and immediately appeared from the other

distortion. The probe was only a hundred meters long, and

yet each distortion was roughly a hundred kilometers on

either side of the ship. They watched as the probe edged

closer, but the distortion was fluctuating slightly, and as

the probe closed, it contracted slightly. What emerged

from the other distortion was a "skinned" probe, the outer

meter or so of its hull sliced cleanly away…..

Henley sighed; "you realize of course, that by thrusting

this thing off on Parks and the Overlord, we now look like

idiots…." Vandrosky just nodded and shrugged; "who knew?"

The Lion walked into the hangar deck; his tail was dragging

and he looked as if he’d just run a marathon. Joining Hans

and Parks, he stared down at the remains of the science

probe. "Well, I guess we’re not going to call for

volunteers any time soon to see if something living can

pass through the distortion…." Parks Hmmmed; "I don’t

know. Medical has some lab mice we might use. I could rig

a small life support capsule in the sensor pod." Hans

looked aghast at his Chief Engineer; "you mean you’re

actually planning another of these little experiments?"

Parks blinked and then grinned; "Of Course. You know how

fast, how cheap using the Jump Drive is. What if we didn’t

have to travel to a jump point? It would combine all the

convenience of a Warp Drive with all the speed and economy

of a Jump Drive." Seeing the look on his Captain’s face,

the grin on the Ocelot widened; "Look at it this way,

Skipper; lets say we get in REALLY big trouble some day. A

squadron of Imperial Dreadnaughts. With a drive like this,

we could be a LONG way away in a matter of moments, and

they couldn’t follow!" As Hans rolled that around in his

mind, the Lion grinned; "Guys, I’m wasted. I’m going to go

get some sleep." As the Lion turned to head for the door,

Parks called out; "I’ll be ready to go again, WITH the

mice, at 0800!

<<<…Successful, that was? Unknown. Hard to read, the

contact’s thoughts were; confused by his emotions they

were. Pleased he seemed to be, but uncertain I am. And

yet, an interpretation of… "commands" seems to be

improving. More work, required is. More study too……>>>

Even more work with the Brou Machine.

Edgar jumped up and down trying to see. He’d put twenty

credits down on "fail" and the Hamster couldn’t see into

the holotank they’d rigged on the station’s recreation

deck. Growling, he finally shoved his way between a lady

wolf in worn cammies and a Minotaur in… not much. Ignoring

their outrage he grinned as he watched the show start.

The Lion was finding it easier to slip into the alpha

brainwave state; he was down to only about five minutes of

meditation before he felt he could reach out to the Brou

device and attempt something. Today he just wanted to hold

the image of the slippery eel in his mind, mouth on one

side of the ship, tail on the other. Parks was going to

try and send a number of lab mice through the rift, and the

bets were running high on whether it would work or not…..

Entity watched, sitting in the full lotus position across

from the Lion. He watched the beast’s chest rise and fall

as he breathed, watched the way he held himself. The signs

where there, subtle, but if you knew where to look, you

could almost read his mind, interpret what he was doing….

And how well it was going…

Parks watched the Rift form as seen by the science probe;

he was seated at the science station on the Bridge of the

Overlord, with half the Bridge crew clustered behind him.

Everyone else seemed to be clustered around the tactical

display, which was now showing mostly data from the

astrophysics sensors. He waited until the rift had

stabilized, or had stabilized as much as it was likely to,

and then gently bumped the probe’s sensors, urging it

forward at a walking pace….

The Lion concentrated on holding the eel as steady as he

could. With practice he found it getting easier and

easier, to the point where he was able to devote a small

amount of his time to trying other things. Doing this, for

instance seemed to make it stretch a little, between head

and tail…

Parks let out a yelp as the rift suddenly shot TOWARDS the

probe, coming to a stop seemingly inches from the end of

the spar, and the life support capsule containing the mice…

The Medical Lab had been quite insistent that the mice be

returned unharmed… or else, and it was Parks firm opinion

that the lab techs down there had gotten much too attached

to the critters….

Edgar whooped as the tip of the spar entered the rift;

suddenly the view in the holotank split and the other image

showed the tip of the spar exiting the matching rift. For

a moment the room held its collective breath, and then all

heads turned as one to look at the monitor that was showing

the life-signs of the mice. Sighing, the Hamster turned

and pushed through the crowd; he’d just lost twenty


The Lion shivered; it felt as if the Eel had just

swallowed; something had rippled from one end to the other;

had that been the science probe? Loosing concentration

just a little, the Lion unconciously twisted his left paw

up a little, his right paw down a little, as if he were

trying to unscrew two pieces of threaded pipe…. And

suddenly the Eel felt larger in his imaginary hands…

Parks gasped as the rift suddenly tripled in diameter.

Somewhere in the background an alarm was hooting on the

Engineering board. Not knowing how long the Fusion

reactors could keep up with the demands of that alien

gizmo, Parks acted on impulse and kicked the probe’s

thrusters on full.

The Lion blinked as something else rippled down the length

of the imaginary Eel; it was as if the creature had

swallowed a walnut…

Hans watched the show from his command chair on the Bridge.

It was actually beginning to look as if this thing, for all

its problems, might actually be useful for something…. Not

that HE ever wanted to step through that swirling mass of


Ginger grinned at Parks and took the cage from his hands;

"I’m glad you got my dears back in one piece! I don’t know

what I would have done without them!" The Ocelot smiled;

"I’m delighted to be able to return them to you safe and

sound, even if they DO glow in the dark…" At the look on

the Rabbit’s face he chuckled; "JUST KIDDING! Seriously,

though, you should watch them to make sure there are no

long-term effects." Ginger huffed, but nodded; "Very well,

I’ll keep an eye on them… but NEXT TIME, Mr. Wise Guy, YOU

can take a walk through that thing!"

As he walked down the corridor towards Engineering, the

Ocelot nodded to himself; "You know, I might just have to

do that…."

Brou Device 4

Hans paced the Bridge, occasionally looking into the

tactical holotank. The Boss’s Experiments were starting to

become routine. And that frightened him. The ship’s

entire power system, the Fusion APU’s AND the

matter/antimatter reactors, were running flat out, burning

fuel at a horrendous rate. But the Boss had sent one end

of what the Physics specialists were now calling a

"Wormhole" for lack of a better term, almost to the limit

of the Overlord’s sensors… and the Overlord had VERY good

sensors. If the Boss got any more proficient at this,

they’d have to send a probe to follow the initial

distortion in space-time….

The Lion gulped; he knew he’d done something very wrong,

when the imaginary Eel started writhing in his imaginary

paws, convulsing as if it were swallowing again and again,

walnut and then orange and then melon sized lumps traveling

the length of its body….

The ship shuddered again, and someone at the shields

console cried out "We’re down to 14%! We can’t take

another hit like that!" Hans picked himself off the deck

and growled at the Engineering officer; "Cut power to that

thing! SHUT IT DOWN!" The Panda looked back at her

Captain and spread her paws helplessly; "I HAVE, Sir! All

power’s been diverted to shields! Even Life Support! Its

running on its own!"

The Lion thought fast; he must have run the mouth of the

"Eel" through something. A ship, or a colony, or maybe

even a moon. He didn’t REALLY know where the end was, but

he’d thought it had been in interplanetary space….. Moving

almost convulsively he twisted and bent the Eel, knowing

his commands should reduce the size of its "mouth", and

hopefully minimizing the damage. Moving as fast as he

dared, he brought it back the way he’d come, hoping to get

it away from whatever he’d run it into….

Hans relaxed; the matter pouring out of the space-time rift

near the ship had dwindled to a trickle and then ceased.

Some of the chunks had emerged from the rift at odd vectors

and had slammed into the Battlecruiser’s shields with

incredible energy. Sitting back into his Command Chair, he

smiled to himself….

The Alarms were still hooting when the Lion charged onto

the Bridge; "Damage Report!" Hans rose to his feet; "Damn

near did us in there, Boss. Shields were down to 3%, and

one of the shield generators actually melted. Engineering

is working on it, and they say we’ll be back up to par in

about six hours." The Lion nodded; "OK, so what’d I hit?"

Hans shrugged; "Dunno; mostly Nickel-Iron. I’d say it was

a rogue asteroid." The Lion sagged; "I thought I’d run it

into a ship. Or a space habitat somewhere." Hans shook

his head no; "Actually, it was pretty much following the

path we’d discussed in the pre-test briefing. Just bad

luck, I think…." The Lion nodded; "From now on we take

greater precautions. I don’t want this to happen again!"

"Amen to THAT" Hans grunted. "So when’s the next test?"

The Lion blinked; "after what just happened to the ship,

you want to continue?" Hans chuckled. He could feel eyes

from all over the Bridge turning his way; "Of Course. Can

you imagine using this thing as a weapon? You could gut an

Imperial Dreadnaught from the inside out, and there

wouldn’t be a damn thing they could do about it. That

little alien toy of yours just ripped an asteroid

Astrophysics estimates was a good two klicks in diameter,

solid nickel-iron, into shreds. IMAGINE what it could do

to a mere ship!"

Parks caught up with the Lion as he strode from the Bridge;

"Um… Hey, Boss?" The Lion looked over at the Ocelot;

"Don’t tell me you want to use it as a weapon too…." Parks

shrugged; "in a pinch, yeah. But I’d rather use it as an

alternative to the Warp Drive… IF you can tell me how you

made it self supporting." The Lion stopped dead in his

tracks and stared; "Made it WHAT?" Parks nodded eagerly;

"When it started spewing high energy rock fragments, Luan

cut all power to the Brou device and shifted it to shields.

Her quick thinking saved our collective asses. But it

didn’t kill the effect." The Lion stared blankly for a

moment and then shook his head; "One of the problems in

running this thing blind; I didn’t know the power was cut.

Most curious. Route me the log tapes, I want to study

this. And set up an experiment to test it again.

<<<…Blind this one is. Unable to see where he directs me.

Greater tutoring must I do. Vision he must acquire or

disaster looms. Much work to do there is…..>>>

Brou Device 5

Hans looked over the Bridge of the Overlord. Only those

who needed to were watching the tactical display this time.

The ship was at full Battle Stations. All airtight doors

were closed, shields were up…. The Lion was playing with

the Brou device again, but this time they weren’t about to

be caught with their pants down.

Entity watched the lion’s face; it was obvious that he was

practicing his control of the space-time distortion.

Maneuvering it. Reshaping it. To everyone’s amazement,

once the distortion had been formed, Parks had pulled

almost all the power to the Brou device, leaving only a

trickle. And the space-time distortion hadn’t faded…..

Most curious.

The Lion felt a funny tickle in the back of his mind; it

was almost as if something were tickling the base of his

brainstem. As it passed, he had an idea.. He could move

the "mouth" left and right, up and down, forward and back,

make it larger and smaller…. But if you considered the

Mouth to be on the floor of a high-rise office building, if

he did.. <this> he might be able to jump it to a different


Hans sat bolt-upright when the sensor operator yelped; "the

first distortion has vanished, Sir!" Parks looked up from

the Engineering console; "But… the second distortion is

still there; so where’d the first one go? Did it slip off

at a high rate of speed?" Johnson looked up from the

Science console; "Not a chance; got it all on a dozen

sensors; it just… vanished."….

Roulf howled "HERE WE GO AGAIN" from the tactical display,

and suddenly the ship shuddered. Hans turned and looked at

the tactical display…. The second distortion was spewing…

massive volumes of atmosphere gasses. Suddenly it started

throwing chunks of what looked like… water? Liquid water?

Of course it froze almost instantly into chunks of ice.

Moments later it started discharging rock. LARGE

quantities of rock, at high velocities…. But the Overlord

had already moved, shifting its position. They watched

from a distance…..

The Lion knew he was doing it again, and that frightened

him. Last time it had been a simple asteroid one not even

worth mining… This time it was something… larger. He’d

jumped the "mouth" up about four floors in the high-rise..

and when he’d felt the passage of something along the

length of the "Eel", he’d tried to jump it back, but it

hadn’t worked. Frantically he’d tried to recreate just

what it was he’d done….

Hans watched as the distortion spewed what seemed to be

magma. Astrophysics had already calculated that the

detrius was emerging from the distortion at the velocity of

a planet orbiting a star at roughly 1.4 AU. At least the

sensors hadn’t detected any life-signs….

The Lion grinned in triumph. A single move like <this> and

the "mouth" was back where it started…. He thought.

Hans sighed as the distortion stopped spewing molten rock.

Stopped as if someone had thrown a switch. It was almost

simultaneous with the sensor operator’s muttered; "its

baaaaack!" Somehow he just KNEW the first distortion had

popped into existence wherever it’d come from……

"I don’t know, Parks, I just don’t know." The Lion looked

worn out as they walked down the corridor. "I moved the

"Mouth"… the initial distortion "elsewhere" but I’m not

sure where. I think it was on a… different "plane". But

I’m not sure just what I mean by that. Behind the two,

Entity muttered; "a parallel universe, perhaps?" The Lion

stopped and looked at the Fox for a moment; "you know,

that’s as good an explanation as any. Or maybe an

alternate reality. I don’t know…." Parks nodded; "one

things’s for certain." Both the Lion and Entity looked at

the Ocelot. "We’ve got to investigate it…."

<<<…The first step he has taken. Other universes he

suspects; amazing they don’t know. Backwards they must be.

But curiosity grows. Progress we are making…..>>>

Back to the Battle:

The starport was a minor facility, but it was still

bustling. A flight of ground assault craft were parked at

the far edge of the field, being refueled and rearmed. A

half-dozen cargo craft were unloading, automated cargo

handlers scurrying seemingly at random, resembling a

kicked-over ant-hill. And out on the scarred landing

field, three tramp freighters, obviously smugglers. Roland

turned in disgust from the Blues aircraft maintenance

officer and looked across the building that served as a

terminal. The Blues officer had been sympathetic, but a

good deal less than helpful. There were no Brethren ships

in this sector today; the fighting had passed on, and they

were at the front. And even there, they seldom landed,

preferring to refuel and rearm in space. And the Blues

just didn’t have any ships headed in that direction. Maybe

if he journeyed to the new Provincial capital… but no, he

didn’t have any transports going that way either….

Smith let his eyes adjust to the comparative dark of the

"terminal building" as he looked around. It was obvious

where the "agent" was, from the crowd of civilians.

Walking over, he set his single valise on the ground,

joining the line…. The Badger in front of him seemed to be

running more to "mad" than the others in line; they might

be described as "frightened" or "desperate"… but not him.

Waiting patiently, Smith watched the crowd.

The Agent seemed genuinely distressed; "I’m sorry sir, but

the ship captain tells me his price is not negotiable. I’m

sorry. Perhaps you’d have better luck at the Blairstown

spaceport; they’re getting a lot more traffic these days…"

The middle aged Walrus sighed, nodded, and taking the hand

of his daughter, moved towards the ground transportation

kiosk. And so it went. Some cried at the price; others

screamed. A few swallowed hard and came up with the cash.

And then it was the Badger’s turn. He looked at the Agent

for a moment, a look that seemed to make the Coyote flinch.

After a moment he growled; "Look, all I want is for the

ship Captain to make a small detour, and to let me off at

the nearest Brethren ship. And I’m willing to pay for it

too." The Agent stared blankly at the Badger for a moment

and then started laughing; "you WANT the Captain to seek

out the Pirates? Are you CRAZY? Brother, that ain’t NEVER

going to happen, no matter WHAT you promise.

Smith smiled and before the Badger could explode, he

reached out to tap the Badger on the shouluder; "Might find

it expedient to take one of the ships departing, to one of

the nearby systems, and then try and come back with a

Brethren supply ship. It might not be quicker but it

probably would be safer…" Smith glanced at the agent, and

then chuckled; ‘Then again, the Brethren might raid the

ship on the way out and you’d wind up with them anyways."

The Agent coughed and then shook his head; "Actually,

there’s a much better chance the Reds would intercept the

ship…" When both Smith and the Badger turned to look at

him, the Coyote shrugged; "The Reds have declared such

people as Middle level managers, engineers, doctors and

such as "essential" resources for the planet and have

forbidden them to leave. They’re making an effort to make

sure these "Critical resouces" don’t "Steal" themselves

from the Elysium people. And those that they don’t, ah,

"arrest" and return to the planet, well, they’re "spaced"

as traitors… If the ship is caught by the Reds, it could

be a lot worse than being taken by Pirates.

Roland looked from Smith to the Agent; "how many of the

smugglers are making it out?" The Agent shrugged; "About a

third. I’m trying to warn everyone who comes through here,

but most of them, they don’t want to listen….. I hope you

will." Smith cocked his head to one side as he looked at

the Coyote; "and how many wind up in the hands of the

Brethren?" The Coyote shrugged; "somewhere between a half

and a third. Ship Captains are deciding that they’d rather

wind up being sold as a slave than spaced by the Reds. In

some cases they negotiate the surrender of their vessel to

the Brethren; in others they just run towards them as fast

as they can, when the Reds appear, and hope for the best.

In some cases the Reds have been destroying ships before

they can surrender to the Brethren. And I’ve heard that

there have been several gunfights between the Reds and the


Roland looked at Smith and Hmmmed; "one third make it out

of the system and half wind up with the Brethren. That’s

83% that I’ll be able to eventually get where I’m headed."

Smith nodded slowly; "and 17% that you’ll die. But then,

you’ll die if you stay here, so its an eminently acceptable

risk." The Badger looked at Smith critically; "This area’s

secure. I can’t see it being that risky to just sit tight.

Unprofitable, but safe…." Smith smiled enigmatically;

"Lets just say that I’m tied in to the Brethren’s

intelligence operation, and that I know things you don’t.

‘Nuff said." It was the Badger’s turn to nod slowly;

"Ooooookay…. So how do we find ourselves a smuggler to get

us out of here?" Turning back to the agent, who’d probably

overheard their conversation, and now looked a little

queasy, Smith smiled; "of the three ships in port here,

which one is the best? Which one has the best Captain,

with the best track record?" The Coyote swallowed; "That’d

be Peter Blud. He’s an ex-pirate himself and seems to be

able to read their minds. His ship’s not the best, but his

knowledge base seems to make up for it." Smith nodded;

"I’d like for you to arrange for us to meet with Captain


As they headed towards the landing area, the Badger looked

over at Smith, studying him for a moment. Smith was… at

best nondescript. Scratching his head, Roland wondered

just what kind of furr he was….. Might be Fox… or Coyote…

or Wolf… but then the cast of his eyes, and his short

muzzle suggested something feline… most curious. Wondering

if Smith might have had cosmetic surgery specifically to

confuse the issue, the Badger wondered how to broach the

next "problem" subject….

"Um, Smith… As we’re both with the Brethren, I was

wondering if I… might make a small "imposition" on you…."

Smith stopped and turned to look at the Badger, his face

unreadable; "and that is?" Roland shrugged; "well, when my

‘Mech got fried, I basically lost everything I had with me.

Everything but the radio." The Badger grinned; "Hell, you

know for the biosensors and the…. "plumbing" to work

correctly you run those things in the buff." Smith looked

the Badger up and down as if evaluating his wardrobe and

then nodded; "I would HOPE you wouldn’t wear an outfit like

that out of choice…" Roland’s eyes widened; "Hey, I

SPECIFICALLY stole….. Oh, nevermind. What I’m trying to

say is that I don’t really have the price for a ticket off

planet. But since we both work for the same outfit,

perhaps you could… get it on your expense account?" Smith

smiled; "Actually, I’m what you might call an independent

contractor, but yes, to an extent my expenses are covered.

Lets see what it might take, though. No Promises." Roland

nodded; "Fair enough…"

Reaching behind his head, as if to scratch the back of his

neck, the Badger loosened the throwing knife in the sheath

sewn into the back of his leather jacket. He HOPED he

wouldn’t have to try and take over the smuggler’s ship by

himself, but if that’s what it took…..

The Badger looked from the name on the prow of the ship to

Smith and then back to the ship itself. It was

cylindrical, roughly ten to twelve diameters in length,

resting on its side. At the back were a cluster of

cylinders, strapped around the circumference. These were

divided into three groups by swept-back triangular fins,

two of which supported the aft end of the craft. A single

landing leg in front held the bow off the ground. The

upper curve of the rounded bow was all "greenhouse,"

obviously giving the flight deck an excellent view of the

stars, and from the very front of the curved prow extended

a slightly tapered cylinder, like the point on a throwing

dart. The whole hull was a polished silver, with

occasional accents of red. It looked ridiculous, like

something out of an ancient Holo. Looking back to Smith,

the Badger grumbled; "What a piece of Shit! We’re going to

entrust our lives to THIS? The Badger grinned; "I LOVE it"

and then looked at the Badger; "Oh, nevermind; you’re too

young to remember. Come on, I can’t wait to meet this

Captain Blud.

The Fox was a blazing scarlet, wearing khaki pants and a

bloused white shirt open to the waist. He returned Smith’s

grin; "Glad you like the Anthony Rodgers; there aren’t many

who get the joke." Smith chuckled; "I bet it cost you a

fortune to make something that looks like this actually

function." The Fox nodded; "It did, but it was worth every

penny; no one who sees the Rodgers takes her seriously, a

major mistake. Now, tell me, gentlefurrs, how I can be of

service." Smith shrugged; "its simple. We want to leave.

Now. We don’t care if we wind up at your next port of

call, or with the Brethren, among whom we have a number of

friends, and, err, business associates, but we would

appreciate avoiding the Elysium government and the Reds.

The Important thing is that we need to leave NOW."

The Fox stroked his chin, frowning slightly; "I haven’t yet

filled all the berths…. For us to leave immediately, you

would have to pay for every single remaining berth on the

ship." Roland’s eyes bulged, and his jaw dropped; he was

just about to speak when Smith’s foot came down on his.

"Forgive my associate; to be perfectly frank, I expected

something like this. How much?"

Roland listened while the two dickered, and finally settled

on a price. Smith lifted his valise and slowly,

meticulously emptied it of its contents. Toiletries,

underwear, a change of clothing, a significant number of

weapons which somehow hadn’t set off ANY of the detectors

in the starport, and a number of papers…. Finally he

reached into the bottom of the valise with both hands and

pulled, removing the false bottom. Moving slowly, he

extracted four small objects; "I trust gold pressed Latinum

will do? These three should adequately cover the sum we

agreed upon. I’m showing you the fourth with this promise:

Get us to the next port, or to the Brethren, and I’ll give

that to you as a bonus." The Fox fingered one of the cubes

and nodded; "How soon do you want to raise ship?" Smith

smiled; "two hours. Having done this, I’d like to go back

into the Starport and… "defray" my costs some by subletting

the empty births to what refugees might meet my….

Requirements." Roland frowned while the Fox smiledd; "I

haven’t seen that many comely wenches there, but if you

wish… well, whatever you wish, Sir. Two hours. We’ll be


Smith stopped and stared at the Coyote until he broke off

his conversation with the middle aged Ermine and her three

rather noisy children. Stepping closer, Smith looked at

the Agent; "There are some berths open on the Rodgers; you

were kind enough to help us earlier; if you wish, you and

your family are welcome to them. The Coyote opened his

mouth, then closed it and swallowed; "Um… I’d like to send

my family, but I think I’m needed here to… help others get

off planet. If what you alluded to is…. Well, I don’t

think I could leave now, leaving others behind. Smith

smiled fractionally and nodded; "One hour, 43 minutes.

Now, perhaps you could help me find others to fill the

remaining berths. I’m not looking for furrs with money;

rather this is what I’m looking for……"

The old Marmoset nodded; "I was with the Federal budget

office. Yes, that’s right, I worked for the Elysium

government, but I was a statistician, for cryin’ out loud!

I didn’t make policy! I didn’t have a hand in anything

that they did!" Smith nodded slowly; "I never said you

did; please go on." The Marmoset looked at his wife and

then collected himself, visibly forcing himself to calm

down. "I’ve noticed some things. I’ve noticed that the

Blues have liberated croplands, because that’s the logical

thing to do in their drive on the Capital. But the Reds

have gone out of their way to capture a major mining area,

even though its way out in the desert, and sparsely

populated. In the Rrawr industrial area, there has

actually been fighting between the Reds and the Blues, as

the Reds seek to gain control of certain key facilities."

Smith nodded; "and what conclusion have you drawn from all

this?" The Marmoset sighed; "I think the Reds are

positioning themselves for what comes after the fall of the

Elysium government. I don’t think they’re going to want to

participate in a planet-wide coalition government as their

propaganda says. I think they’re going to hold onto the

territory they’ve taken and shoot for complete domination

of the Planet. I think a civil war is coming, and I don’t

want any part of it! I want to get my family somewhere

safe!" Smith nodded; "agreed; I’ll sponsor you, provided

you talk to some friends of mine, at the earliest

opportunity." The Marmoset nodded; "as long as its

somewhere safe, I’ll be glad to tell them about my

observations." Sitting back, smiling proudly, he

proclaimed; "I’ve used non-parametric analyses to check my

data; it passes the ANOVA tests. The alpha and beta

propositions have almost perfect confidence levels… I KNOW

I’m right…" Smith just smiled; "I’m sure you are; now

you’d best get your family off to the Rodgers. We’re

leaving soon.

The old raccoon was missing a leg, below the knee, but he

held himself with a military bearing. He seemed to see a

kindred spirit in Smith, and vice versa. "Yessir, I’ve

picked up on the pattern. The Blues are liberating people,

but the Reds are securing strategic positions wherever

possible. And resources too. The Yttrium mines at Bangor,

the Hydroelectric facility at Bamffh, and so forth. If I

could fight, I’d stay, but I’m too old for the regeneration

techniques… and, well, me and the missus just want to get

our family out of harm’s way? Is that too much for an old

soldier to ask?"

Smith looked at the notepad and nodded; "That’s it; that’s

all the available berths." Roland nodded; "We’ve only got

a few minutes; we’d best get going." As they rose, moving

through the now largely deserted terminal, Roland looked at

Smith; "how does putting all those people on the ship

defray your costs?" Smith smiled; "they all have a story

to tell; a story the Intelligence folks I work for will

want to hear first-hand. I think they may already have a

clue as to what’s coming, but good, solid data is always

valuable. Don’t worry, I suspect this whole thing will be

break even…." The Badger nodded; "Good, I’d hate for that

fare to come out of my pay!"

The Fox consulted an antique pocketwatch and the smiled.

Smith’s largesse had earned him a place on the flight deck,

and he’d brought Roland with him. So far the Fox hadn’t

objected. Dressed in jodhpurs and a tunic that closed in

the front with a vertical row of gold buttons on each side,

a golden lightning bolt cutting diagonally across his

front, the Fox looked very much the dashing holo-hero, and

to Roland’s way of thinking, very much the antique. "He

was probably too crazy for the Brethren" the Badger thought

to himself, knowing well that the Pirates would tolerate

almost anyone’s eccentricities, as long as they were

effective. Still, the ship lifted off with the quiet hum

of the most modern repulsors, and soon they were flying, a

scarce hundred meters above the treetops, across the

countryside. As a river flashed by underneath, Roland’s

eyes widened; "Hey, didn’t we just pass into Reds

territory?" The fox grinned, his eyes never leaving the

tactical display in front of him; "Um Hmmmmm." Roland was

about to say something else, when Smith’s hand on his

shoulder quieted him. The Rodgers made a few sweeping

turns, obviously evading ground defenses, until a city

started to loom ahead….. And there was a starport, with a

HUGE ship lifting off. The Leviathan was one of a class of

superfreighters, and as such, the Reds were providing it

with an escort….

Roland’s head jerked as the sensor operator spoke; "Got

it,Captain. We’re now emulating their IFF. They’ll think

we’re one of them, if they don’t look too closely…." The

Fox grinned; "Very good, Chatwick."

The Elysium forces however, were not unaware of the small

convoy lifting from the planet’s surface. As they all

climbed for altitude like homesick angels, the first

interceptors found them. The first wave was shot down by

the escorting Reds forces; the second wave was hard on the

heels of the first however, and managed to take out two of

the defenders. The third wave had even more survivors,

claiming one more defender, and scoring a solid hit on the

bulk of the Leviathan. Blud, wisely had sheltered his ship

in the radar shadow of the Leviathan, a move any surviving

Reds would have been sure to have noticed… had any survived

the fourth wave of interceptors. The Leviathan’s point

defense systems, no longer on hold due to the "friendlies"

in the area, took out several of those, but another scored

a hit on its hull. Still, the Leviathan, now empty, was

mostly empty cargo holds, and while quite a bit of

hullmetal was shed in the upper atmosphere, the

spaceworthyness of the ship didn’t seem to be significantly


This had merely been the opening act, however. Suddenly

the Leviathan lurched onto a new vector, and for a moment,

the Rodger’s sensors were able to pick up the oncoming

aerospace fighters. "Time to depart, I think" the Fox

mused. Nodding to his helmsfurr, the Rodgers accelerated


Acworth blinked; something trailing fire was emerging from

behind their target….. A silvery torpedo shape with

tailfins and a huge tail of flame trailing behind it…..

"Dunwoody, you see that?" "Roger" came the voice of his

wingman; "I see it, but I don’t believe it. Who uses

chemical rockets THESE days?" "Dunno" Acworth responded;

"I don’t THINK it’s a weapon; its not headed for us…."

"Confirmed" Dunwoody growled; "its not our designated

target; ignore it. Lets concentrate on the Freighter.

Lets see if we can force it down….."

Blud smiled as the aerospace fighters vectored in on the

Leviathan. The freighter was powerful and well armed, but

it was not meant to dogfight with such as those. Whoever

was in command of that ship was about to have a very bad

day. Grinning, the Fox scanned the tactical display,

looking for the next problem.

They’d evaded an Elysium picket ship, dodged two Brethren

raiders (who were probably on their way back from a ground

support mission, and unlikely to be too interested in them)

and pretended to be a piece of wreckage left over from some

previous battle while a Reds Frigate moved past. Now they

were half way through the system and it almost looked as if

they might make it to a jump point. Roland had journeyed

to the Rodger’s mess, to fetch sandwiches, and Smith seemed

to be asleep. The Sensor operator’s quiet "uh-oh" was

almost missed…. However as the Fox’s nose shifted

fractionally, as his ears twitched, Smith’s eyes opened.

He didn’t say anything, he just watched. Initially, Roland

thought the sensor furr might have dripped mayo from his

sandwich on his pants, so quiet was the comment, but it was

Smith’s almost imperceptible change in demeanor that

brought him to full alertness. After a moment, Blud rose

from his command chair, stretched, and ambled over. He

gazed over the sensor operator’s console for a minute and

then nodded to himself. Turning he looked at the Helmsfur;

"253 mark 117. Flank speed. I do believe they’ve set a

trap for us." Smith almost whispered when he spoke, but

the word seemed to fill the flight deck; "Who?" The Fox

winced and replied in kind; "Reds." After a moment, he

expounded; "They, ah, don’t seem to like me very much.

Can’t imagine why…."

Roland shifted in his seat; "you know we have friends with

the Brethren; we MIGHT be able to cut a deal with them."

Blud shrugged; "I know. But I’m not that eager to loose

all my profits, and maybe my ship and freedom too. I’ll

keep that in mind, but I won’t resort to that until I have


"Got another one coming in at point five, Captain." The

Fox nodded, a slightly more worried look on his face; "352

Mark 15. Engine room; can you give us any more?" The furr

that responded, his voice tinny over the intercom, sounded

like he’d been raised on New Aberdeen. In a thick burrr,

he growled; "Captain, I’m giv’n her all she’s got; she

kinna take annamore." The Fox smiled; "Time for one of

your occasional miracles, Montgomery; push her harder!"

Stern chases can be long, drawn out affairs. Blud had

kicked a few mines out, a tactic that had surprised and

charmed Smith; it’d bought them a little more time, but not

that much more. None of the mines had damaged their

pursuers. The sensor operator’s sharp invective caught

them all off guard; "DAMMIT! Captain, we’ve got two more

coming in 37 Mark 63 and 45 Mark 12. Blud nodded; "Come

about to …… 305 mark 290." Turning to Smith the Fox

sighed; "best make your call. And I’d be obliged if you

could cut my crew the best deal you can."

Roland looked at the Fox; "you mean….." Blud nodded; "its

inevitable. Sooner or later they’ll catch us. Oh, they

might shear off, if something more lucrative comes up, but

that’s not too likely…." Roland nodded; "if it comes to a

boarding, I’ll help defend the ship." Blud smiled wryly;

"I appreciate that, but they’re more likely to just torpedo

us, and move on….. Unless they’re into Art Deco, in which

case they MIGHT want to take us as a prize…." Roland

winced and shook his head; "we’re doomed…."

Roland looked at Smith and wondered how he could be so

calm. Even Blud was nervously chewing on a clawtip. The

Reds were almost within weapons range. Three ships with

enough firepower to…. Insure the job got done. With

everyone on edge, the Sensor operator’s yelp made everyone

jump. Well, almost everyone; Smith’s eyes may have opened,

but it seemed to be his only movement. "HOLY….. Where the

FUCK did THAT come from?" Blud paced over; "What’s

happened?" The Sensor operator shrugged; "Lost all sensor

data on the three pursuers. Seems there’s something in the

way." Blud blinked; "What? What’s in the way?" Then, as

he leaned over the furr’s shoulder to look at the sensor

console, he grinned; "Ah, I love a dramatic rescue like

that. It appeals to the romantic in me."

Onegin growled into the comm pickup; "You Bastard! I KNEW

he still had to be one of yours!" The Lion’s stern image

gazed back; "I’m sure you won’t believe me when I tell you

that Blud hasn’t been with us for years. He’s about to

become just another prisoner taken by the Brethren."

Onegin shook his head; "He is OUR prisoner, wanted for

crimes against the People of Elysium! We were already in

pursuit of him! He belongs to US!" The Lion grinned,

showing fangs; "You, Sir, have set the pattern of taking

rightful prey away from us; you have no grounds to complain

when it happens to you in turn. Now, if you think that one

cruiser and two destroyers are a fair match for the

Overlord, you’re perfectly welcome to test our metal.

Otherwise, get lost."

Onegin’s eyes went wide and he spluttered as the Lion broke

the connection. Behind him, his first officer growled;

"you know, we MIGHT be able to take the Bastard; their

power curves are abnormally low…." Turning, Onegin glared

at his subordinate; "And how many OTHER ships does he have

cloaked and ready to help him?" At his First Officer’s

surprised look, Onegin growled; "No, we’ll let him have

this one. We have OTHER plans for that mangy Lion.

Believe me, we do. He’ll get his come-uppance, and fairly

soon, too."

"Hello, Peter." "Hello, Hans, good to see you again." The

speech was pleasant, even if the actions weren’t; the

boarding crew from the Overlord was taking everyone

prisoner, an action that absolutely enraged Roland. No

matter how much he protested, no matter who he claimed to

know, or what evidence he offered to present, they treated

him just like any of the others. Smith took it all as

stoically as the Fox, however, not resisting in the least.

All anyone would say was that they’d sort it ALL out when

they got back to the base…..

Xyloff smiled as he looked at the video feed; "Well,

Onegin, it’s a shame you lost him. He has been an

annoyance. But the Brethren coming to his aid like they

did, depriving us of Justice, could not have been better if

we’d written the script for them. By the time this hits

the airwaves, no one on the planet will see the Pirates as

anything but the scum that they are….

Conversations with the Imperials

Tanj smiled as she read the addendum to Smith’s report.

She’d known Smith, or whatever his real name was, was

resourceful, but it seemed he’d risen to new heights in

order to return to where he could report in "Securely."

She tried for a minute to imagine the nondescript furr in

the kennels of the Brethren’s base, but after a minute gave

up. Shaking her head in amazement at the audacity of

leaking a portion of the Rodger’s flight plan to the Reds,

just to insure that Blud would be forced into seeking

shelter with the Brethren, and thus taking Smith exactly

where he wanted to go, she closed that message and opened

the next. It was just what she’d feared, and exactly what

she’d expected. Her Master had talked to Smith, and to the

refugees with him. He said that he personally was

convinced. Convinced that the Elysium government was

building some sort of doomsday device around the effect

exhibited by the Brou device. Convinced that the Reds were

positioning themselves for a grab for power when the

Elysium government fell. But as convinced as he claimed to

be, he insisted that he could do no more than warn a few

key furrs of what might be coming. That and take a few

unspecified precautions…. That he could go no further,

until he had incontrovertible proof…. Towards that end,

she was ordered to return immediately.

Leaning forward, Tanj reread the postscript one more time.

If she read it right, he was leaving it up to her

discretion whether or not to tell the Imperials what they

suspected. Settling back in her station chair, Tanj stared

at the bulkhead, wondering if he’d deliberately waited

until things were too far gone for the Imperials to

interfere, one way or the other….

Tanj found Kath in the laundry. The equipment was almost

completely automated, and the fabrics didn’t require

pressing, and yet, for some reason it was one of the Mink’s

favorite places. Tanj grinned as the Mink stood, legs wide

apart, her crotch pressed hard against the washer, which

was shaking hard, obviously struggling with an out-of-

balance load…. Tanj knew from personal experience that if

you pressed against it there, the vibration sensor wouldn’t

shut the washer down….. and that the selfless act of

steadying the heavily vibrating washer brought its own

rewards….. Clearing her throat, she grinned at the sudden

look of panic on Kath’s face as she realized she’d been

"caught"… "Best get dressed. We have to go see that Wolf

in Intelligence. And we’d best do it quickly." With a

look of disappointment on her face, the Mink nodded, and

reluctantly peeled herself away from the front of the


The reception desk in the Imperial Intelligence offices was

manned by an older Leopard wearing Sergeant’s stripes.

Before Tanj had even reached him, he’d picked up a comm

handset, and was talking quietly. Tanj stopped before him

and just looked at him. After a moment the Leopard nodded

to whoever he was talking to, put down the handset and

nodded towards the door; "He’ll be expecting you, ma’am."

Tanj nodded her thanks, and with Kath following, turned to

move through the door.

The Wolf’s cubicle looked as sterile as ever. If he’d been

doing anything at all, there was no clue as to what. He

sat there with his paws folded on the desk in front of him.

Without waiting for an offer, Tanj took the visitor’s

chair. For a moment she just looked at him…. And then she

began; "We have reason to believe that the Elysium

government has stumbled upon a significant…. Astrophysics

event. Building on their observations, we believe that

they are developing a… "doomsday" weapon of sufficient

power to destroy the whole planet. We think that if the

civil war goes against them, the leadership cadre will

attempt to flee the planet, using the… weapon behind to

destroy their enemies. This is a collation of a number of

snippets of intelligence, coupled with some eye-witness

information, but no hard proof exists. Never the less, I

have sufficient confidence in the weight of evidence that I

thought you should know."

The Wolf looked at her for a long moment, unblinking… and

then he started to chuckle. The chuckle grew, until he was

leaning back in the chair, laughing uproariously. Heads

appeared over the surrounding cubicle walls as furrs stared

wide-eyed at a sight Tanj was sure they’d never thought

they’d see. Finally the Wolf calmed down enough to wave a

paw dismissively; "The Imperium has been searching for

decades for a way to destroy an entire planet. Nothing and

I mean NOTHING has even come close! Oh, they can kill off

all the life, and ruin the ecology, but not actually

destroy the planet. Its just not possible!"

Tanj shrugged and rose; "Time will tell. And I truly hope

I’m wrong. Just don’t say I didn’t try and warn you."

Turning, a wide-eyed Kath trailing her, Tanj stalked out.

The Jaguar frowned at the image of the Wolf on his

viewscreen. "Sir, we can be underway in under three hours,

if need be." The Wolf nodded; "I want you to shadow the

Beowulf as they return to the Elysium sector. No, I don’t

expect you to hide a Battlecruiser from them; just keep an

eye on them." The Jaguar nodded slowly; "If we push it

hard enough, we should be able to keep up with them; we are

after all one of the fastest capital ships in the fleet…

and I know they LOOK like just a freighter, but I’m

confident that ship is more than it appears to be. Can you

give me any more background information on the Mission?"

Lifting his gaze from the Wolf, the Jaguar looked at the

Admiral commanding the sector; the fact that the Wolf was

seated while the Admiral stood spoke volumes. After a

moment the Wolf spoke; "Tanj was in here a little while

ago, spinning the most improbable tale; she actually

predicted that the Elysium government would destroy their

own planet. Hogwash, of course, but its come to mind that

maybe, just maybe, SHE is trying to manipulate US. If

she’s up to something, I want her to know VERY clearly that

the Imperium does NOT lend itself to being anyone’s patsy.

Keep an eye on her. Keep the pressure on her. When you

get to the Elysium system, stay on the fringes. DO NOT get

involved in the fighting there. If anything else comes up…

if ANYTHING comes up, let me know immediately!

This story is a work of fiction, and any

resemblance to any characters, living, dead or

imaginary is purely a coincidence. Tanj is

copyright Kittiara's player. Kittiara can be found

on Furrymuck; telnet 8888. Hinoki,

and Zassa are copyright their players (Zassa can be

found on FurryMuck, and Hinoki on Tapestries or on

FurryMuck. Copyright 2001. Comments, suggestions,

or flames can be directed to ha_seng@hotmail.com.