Tanj's Tale:  Strange Bedfellows

By Kittiara and Ann'katar


Stardate 2398.40

Tanj scowled at the scouting reports.  It was
midmorning, but she'd been up all night, working hard.
In fact, she'd scarcely noticed the change of shifts
from day to evening, from evening to night, and from
night to day......  The scouting reports she was pouring
over had nothing to do with far-flung picket ships
reporting back targets of opportunity.  Those kind of
scouting reports were currently being handled by
operations.  THESE scouting reports were from agents
and factors working for the pirates, feeding
information to them on possible replacements for the
ships and personnel lost in the recent attack on the
fueling station.  The Brethren had achieved all their
goals, taken an incredible amount of loot, and hurt
the Elysium government bad; but they'd paid for it
dearly in capital ships, in raider ships, and in
experienced and trained personnel.  In RELIABLE
personnel.  Now they needed to replace those losses,
and finding trustworthy scum was not easy.  Especially
as the burgeoning rebel movement on Elysium was
drawing off all the young, adventurous  malcontents......

The tap on her shoulder caused her to jump a foot,
hardcopy flying everwhere.  Spinning about in her
station chair, she found Bethany, the Tigress from
Accounting braced against the far wall, eyes wide, as
if she expected Tanj to attack her.  Shaking her
head, Tanj rose to padd over to her, to hug her
softly; "I'm sorry, just been working too hard.  You
startled me, 's all."  Bethany nodded and hugged back;
"you need a break.  Here, brought you your paycheck."
Tanj slitted the envelope with one clawtip, and
pulled out the voucher within.  As with all the
pirates, the funds were already deposited in distant,
numbered and secure accounts, with only the
acknowledgement of the deposit in the envelope.
Sitting back down heavily in her station chair,
Tanj looked up at Bethany; "this CAN'T be right!"
Bethany just grinned; "oh, its corect all right.
Triple-checked it.  The raid on the fuel station was
quite profitable, and your role was a key one there,
earning you a larger share.  And the work you did on
the Burgess Star also turned a tidy profit.  It all
adds up, doesn't it?"  Tanj looked at the figure
again and nodded in amazement.

It was the beginning of the Evening shift.  Tanj
found that she couldn't concentrate on the scouting
reports any more, reading and re-reading the same one
a dozen times and still not knowing what it said...  She
knew she needed to sleep but was too keyed up.  And
the lion, HER Lion, was busy with staff meetings.
Sneaking out of the intelligence office, she padded
through the remote corridors of the station trying to
think.  The money the piece of hardcopy in her paw
said she had, in half a dozen different accounts,
spread across the Empire, was easily enough for
someone to retire on.  And quite comfortably too.  And
yet, although it was theoretically possible for her to
buy her freedom, to leave here, to leave the Brethren,
to leave her MASTER, was the LAST thing she wanted to
do.  Still, she felt there should be something worthy
she could do with the money......

Tanj smiled as she passed a couple of maintenance
workers, moving in the opposite direction down the
service corridor.  She knew they were turning to look
at the sexy cheetah fem, in the skimpy, sexy dress,
turning to watch her ass sway under the fluid material
as she walked.  Resisting the urge to turn her head,
to wink at them over her shoulder, she wondered just
exactly what she DID want.  Was she cruising for a new
sex partner?  Was she waiting for someone to come
over, to clip a leash to her collar, to lead her off?
After a moment of reflection, she realized that if
someone did just that, she wouldn't be upset in the
least.  Fantasizing about it for a moment, she could
almost feel the strong paws holding her as the leash
was clipped to her collar, tugging her insistently
down the hall, to untold sexual delights...  She felt
herself getting wet just at the thought of it.
Stopping and turning, she started to head in the
direction of Hinoki's quarters, thinking that in lieu
of her Master, he was the best one to scratch her
itch; but then she remembered he had Evening shift
this week.  With a sigh, she turned and resumed
walking in her original direction.

Cycling through a lock, she found herself in the
spinward maintenance bay.  Several raider ships were
lined up there, awaiting repairs.  There was
Brampton's ship, with the hole through the hull that
had taken out his gunner, along with most of the
ship's electronics.  There was Davis' cutter, with the
entire sensor array shot to hell.  And there was
Srina's ship.  The shields had failed and they'd taken
a missile right below the flight deck.  Most of the
ship's critical systems worked fine, but the entire
crew had been killed......  Well, this wasn't exactly a
low risk job......

As she looked at the ships, she realized that every
ship was owned by either its captain, or as a
cooperative venture by its crew.  And raider ships, at
least those that survived, made good money.  Not as
good as intelligence operatives, but then she was out
of that business now......

Tanj was yawning widely when she found Mark.  It
had taken a while to find him, as only his feet were
visible, the rest of him tucked up inside a console on
the engineering deck of the "Mighty Quinn", one of the
Brethren's cruisers.  Grinning, she bent down to
tickle one foot, and was rewarded with a loud thump
and muted cursing from within the console.  When he'd
dragged himself out, Mark just shook his head; "Knew
it was you.  Why aren't you sleeping?  Tanj just
shrugged; "too tired to sleep, I suspect.  Listen, got
something on my mind.  You've been looking for a way
out of Engineering, haven't you?"  The mouse nodded
cautiously, his eyes narrowing.  Tanj continued,
missing the look on his face as she stared off to one
side; "I've been thinking of investing some of the
money I've made in a raider ship.  I was thinking that
you and me, and Zassa and Hinoki and maybe even
Bethany could crew it.  Might be a way to get us all
out where the action is......"

Mark had finally gotten Tanj off to bed.  He needed a
few minutes to think.  Did he really want to 'escape'
engineering?  After a bit of mulling it over, he sighed
and nodded inwardly.  Here he was, pretty much the fur
who'd singlehandedly made the strike against Elysium
trading station possible in the first place, and all he
really had to show for it was the admittedly big paycheck
he'd gotten for the job.  Other than that, nothing had
changed; he still got assigned to clean up other people's
messes more often than not, from the half-wrecks the hot-
shot fighter pilots would sometimes bring back from their
raids to crawling through ducts and making sure life
support still ran up to spec after some particularly wild
party.  He grinned to himself; it was so strange how
they'd enjoy the party and then complain about the
resulting funny smells from the overstrained environmental
system, in their cabins three sectors away.  Not exactly
what he'd been looking for when he signed up.  But a
raider...... he shook his head.  He'd known would-be
raider crew much like Tanj before - young, itching for
action, and convinced nothing could ever possibly happen
to THEM.  And he'd pulled his share of them from ships
that barely managed to return, too; a very few that were
lucky enough to still be able to scream, but most quite
cold and dead by the time they arrived.  Space wasn't a
forgiving battlefield, and there was a reason those guys
drew high pay......

It was several days later when Mark caught the Lion as
he was heading to Ops from his latest meeting.  "Hey,
Boss, got a moment?" Mark called.  The Lion turned,
and looked at Mark and then chuckled; "no, not really,
but if you talk fast while we walk, I'll do my best to
listen.  The way things are going, it'll be years
before I've got an open spot on my calendar."  Mark
nodded; "Tanj has been talking to me about buying a
raider ship...  At first I thought it was just a passing
fancy, but she's come back to talk to me about it
several times.  I think she's serious." The lion slowed,
but then nodded; "Not what I would consider a good
investment, but if she picks the right captain and crew,
it might pay off.  Bit of a gamble though."  Mark shook
his head; "Ah...no, that's not what I meant.  She wants
to crew it herself.  Her and me, and Zassa and Hinoki,
I believe she said."  That brought the Lion to full stop,
in the middle of the corridor.  He looked at Mark for a
moment and then shook his head.  "The trick here is to
stop her with out hurting her feelings.  I do NOT want to
see her get hurt, and with all due respects to whatever
skills you might have, crewing a raider is not my idea of
how to keep her safe."  Mark nodded, and shrugged; "Same
here.  That's why I told you; you're her master, as it
were, and thus in a better position to do something about
it.  I haven't been able to dissuade her myself."   The
Lion absently patted Mark on the back as he turned
towards the door to ops; "Thanks; I appreciate it!"  As
the door closed behind the lion, missing the hairy tip of
his tail by millimeters, Mark shook his head with a wry
grin and rubbed his shoulder.  "Guy's got a touch like a
ten-ton truck" he muttered.  "Hope he can find a solution
that doesn't involve running anybody over..."

Tanj purrrrred softly as she licked at her master.
It was late at night, and they were lying on his bed,
Tanj between his thighs licking softly at his
balls.  She'd found, long ago, that with him so
distracted, she could usually talk him into small
favors......  "The auction? (lick)  I was planning on
going with them, if you don't mind. (lick).  I really
should talk to our agent there...... (lick).  And I
thought I'd take the opportunity to do some shopping
(lick).  The Lion moaned; she knew JUST how to tease
him, how to fill his mind with lust...  It only took a
few more licks before he growled low in his throat,
and reached down to drag Tanj up his body, so he
could kiss her, his rampant cock pressed against her
stomach......  As she wriggled her hips, sliding up, and
then down a bit to tease the head of his cock with her
sex, she grinned to herself; "at least he didn't say
no......  And its generally easier to get forgiveness than

Tanj sat with Mark, Reggie and Slasher in a small
auditorium.  They'd traveled to Amhurst, several
sectors away, to attend an "informal" ship auction;
the kind where no one asks who the bidders are, or
where the ships came from, or where they might be
going.  There were supposed to be several ships there
that the pirates might be able to use, some of which
were ex-Imperial military, some of which were ex-
smugglers, and a few of which might even have been
pirate booty.  Supposedly they all had legal papers...
They'd spent several days poking around the ships,
running diagnostics, and reviewing the prospectuses.
Tanj had carefully marked her program with the
ones she thought the pirates should bid on, as well
as how much she thought they should pay.  It was a
silent auction, each lot number in turn being
reviewed by the auctioneer, followed by his taking
sealed envelopes from the bidders.  The highest bid
then took the prize, and they moved on to the next
item up for bid.

"Pity we didn't take that one" Reggie mumbled, with
Slasher nodding in agreement.  Tanj just shrugged,
looking at Mark; the mouse shook his head; "no, that
one had some serious engine trouble.  It wasn't
obvious, but in a few months that buyer will regret
it.  Trust me."  As the auctioneer started to review
the next ship, Tanj's pulse increased a little;
this was the ship that she'd picked out for herself.
It was a Katana class corvette, originally designed to
chase pirates.  This one, however, had become
outdated, and sold for scrap, only to have some
enterprising soul cram an engine from an Exeter class
cruiser into its engineering spaces.  With all that
excess of power, it was obscenely FAST and had all the
juice necessary for incredible shields and weapons.
It was a hash of out of date technologies, and state
of the art systems.  And it was powerful.  And so ugly
it was beautiful.  As the auctioneer finished up,
Tanj passed her sealed envelope forward.  After a
moment, the auctioneer looked up at her and she knew
she had it!

They finished out the auction, although Tanj's
heart wasn't in it; she was too eager to go see her
new ship.  HER new ship!  Finally they were through,
Reggie, Slasher and Mark fairly well satisfied as to
the purchases they'd made for the Brethren.  Tanj
had a hard time not skipping ahead of the others,
forcing herself to behave like an adult.  Walking up
to where HER ship rested in the docking bay, she
purrrrrred to herself as she looked up at it.  She was
just about to open the hatch when Mark cleared his
throat; "Uh, Tanj, we got a problem......"  Tanj
waved a dismissive paw; "let me take a look at my
ship, then we'll handle it......"  Mark shook his head;
"That's just the problem; that isn't your ship."

Heads turned all through the docking bays as Tanj's
shout of "WHAT???" echoed off the rock walls.

Mark shook his head; "See, here's the prospectus.
Katana Class.  No.Q2271719HS.  Your bill of sale says
Q2271719HS.  But the number painted on the bow of that
ship is Q1172729HS.  Somebody in printing must've gotten
their numbers mixed up."  Tanj growled low in her
throat.  Snatching the prospectus she stalked off to find
an auction official.  Stalker watched her go; then he
turned to Reggie and Mark, raising an eyebrow as if to
ask "should we go after her?"  Reggie shook his head;
"No, Slasher, I think we should stay away.  This could
be grim..."  Mark watched Tanj's ass sway as she
marched off; "I think we should go try and find this
Q2271719HS, and see what she DID buy.  I hope it's not
one of those pieces of junk we passed over for good
reason before..."

Tanj stared up at the Type II freighter, the
crumpled prospectus in her paw, her mouth hanging
open.  "I bought THIS?  I can't believe it" she said
for what must have been the fourth time.  Mark hmmm'ed
thoughtfully.  "You know, given what you paid, this
really isn't a bad deal.  It's much newer, it's in much
better shape, everything works..."  "But its not a
Raider" Tanj growled; "There's no way I can recoup my
investment with this ship, with the Brethren!  For us,
its USELESS!"  Slasher elbowed Reggie and Reggie
cleared his throat; "Uh, what did the auction
officials say?"  Tanj glared at Reggie and growled;
"they say that it states in the fine print the numbers
on the ships are the final indicator; that the
prospectus can and does contain misprints.  Caveat
Emptor they said; let the buyer beware.  Then suddenly
they were all gone, and I was yelling at empty air......"
Reggie shrugged; "so now what do we do?"  Mark shook
his head; "the smaller ships are being transported to
where we can pick them up; that's all arranged.  But
this one's too big for the carrier; we're going to
have to fly her back."  Tanj just sighed as they
led her into the airlock.

Tanj sat in the ship's tiny wardroom, sipping a cup
of coffee.  They were about 20 hours out from Amhurst,
headed for home, and to Tanj's mild surprise,
everything really was working.  As much as she wanted
to hate this ship, for not being what she wanted, she
grudgingly had to admit, for what it was, it was a
good ship.  The Type II was generally known as a "Free
Trader", with the legs to go long distances at, for a
cargo ship, fairly high speeds.  Of course, this was
at the expense of cargo capacity.  Still, you could
trade the outer planets, landing at unimproved fields,
going where the larger ships couldn't.  It had decent
shields, for a freighter, and its two turrets could
keep minor annoyances at bay.  And it was a lot more
comfortable than a raider...  The closet laughingly
called a "master's cabin" had a real bed, instead of
just another bunk in a barracks compartment.  And it
had a real galley, even if only one person could fit
in it at a time.  Still, while it was nice, unless she
could find a use for it, it would be a horrible waste
of money......

It took the freighter eight days to return to the
pirate base.  During that time, Mark puttered in the
engine room, tinkering, and just in general keeping an
eye on things.  The autopilot worked, and Tanj,
Reggie and Slasher took turns standing boring bridge

Tanj yawned as Reggie entered the flight deck.  As
she rose from the pilot's seat, and stretched the way
only a feline can, Reggie came up behind her, to hug
her, his lepine teeth nibbling at the back of her
neck, his paws stroking up over her tummy to cup her
breasts.  Tanj purrrrrred and wriggled her ass back
against him, not at all surprised to find him already
growing hard.  With a giggle, Tanj's paws went
behind her, to work at undoing his belt buckle, to let
his pants drop to the deck with a *thud* (what DID he
have in his pockets?).  Tanj's dress was short, and
as was her Master's preference, there was nothing on
underneath it, and hence no hindrance at all for
Reggie to push her down over the top of the pilot's
chair, to slide his cock into her willing pussy from

Reggie was good, and they both knew it; he took his
time, fucking her slowly, letting her passion rise,
until she was moaning with each long stroke.  Tanj
for her part, braced herself against the back of the
seat with one paw, the other going between her legs to
tease his swinging balls.  Reggie demonstrated his
prowess by bringing her to two quick climaxes,
alternating several short quick jabs with long smooth
thrusts, and then, moving slowly, almost languidly,
letting the third build, until they came together.  As
they panted afterwards, holding each other close,
Reggie chuckled; "I guess that christens the ship."
Tanj laughed and nodded; "that it does."  "Picked
out a name yet?" Reggie asked.  Tanj sighed and
nodded; "Yeah; Lost Cause.  I figure I'll never get my
money back outta this thing."  Reggie just laughed.

Slasher had his nose stuck in the ship's technical
manual for Navigation when Tanj padded onto the
flight deck to relieve him.  Looking up with a grin,
he marked his place and put the manual away, to rise
and padd over to Tanj, to give her a soft kiss.
Always the ferret of few words, he cocked an eyebrow
and smiled; "Heya, Sexy; wanna fuck?"  Moments later,
Tanj's dress had been tossed over the engineering
console, and she was flat on her back on the deck,
with the ferret energetically thrusting between her
thighs.  Slasher was wild, his approach frenetic and
forceful, and before long, Tanj was howling through
her climax, with Slasher spurting into her shortly
thereafter.   "Gotta get some towels in here" she
giggled.  But Slasher shook his head no, and pushed
her down again, to present his slick cock to be licked
as he shoved his head between her thighs, to lick at
her in turn.  Of course, this wound up going beyond
simple cleaning and before long moans and sweet cries
echoed from the flight deck.  As he headed off to get
some sleep, Tanj settled down in the pilot's couch,
still nude, grinning to herself; "Guess I really DID
"relieve" him......"

It pretty well became a standard shift-change ritual,
a running joke about being each other's "relief".
Their course was simple, the traffic light, and a
whole shift of studying flight manuals and running
sims would leave anyone wanting to relieve some
frustrations......This went on until Mark complained that
the scents were overloading the environmental system......
Not to say he was jealous; Tanj made a point of
seeking him out from time to time too for a little
"relief"...  Still, all things considered it was a quiet
trip back......

"All right, Scum, heave to, lower your shields and
prepare to be boarded by the Brethren!  Resist and
die!"  Edna always loved saying that, when her flight
of raiders overtook a lone merchantman.  She always
got a kick out of how they gasped, and protested, and
pleaded.  However, when Reggie's face coalesced on the
viewscreen it was her turn to gasp.  "Reggie?
SLASHER?  What in the blue blazes are you......  How'd you
take that ship before I could?  I thought you were out
near Amhurst!"  Slasher just laughed while Reggie
grinned; "Edna, trust me, you do NOT want to mess with
this ship; you see Tanj bought it at the auction;
we're just flying it back."  Edna blinked; "she BOUGHT
it?  What'd she do THAT for?......"

By the time they docked the Free Trader at the pirate
base, there was a fair sized crowd gathered to see
what was going on.  Everyone knew Tanj, and they
knew she was at least fairly sharp.  No one could
figure out what she was doing with a free trader, and
they'd all come to find out.  By the time the drives
were shut down, and the airlock opened, the Lion had
arrived.  He gave the ship the once-over and nodded,
striding to the lock just as Tanj emerged.  "Good
work, I'm impressed."  Tanj just blinked...; "huh?"
The lion nodded; "This is exactly what we need to ease
the logistics problem.  With this rig we should be
able to deal in more distant ports, where they're not
on the lookout for us.  Its been getting damn hard to
pick up the spares we need around here lately; either
its too risky or the prices are way too high.  And I
bet this thing will do wonders for the liaison work
with the Elysium resistance.  Free traders like this
are a dime a dozen out there.  Ubiquitous.  And the
"legal" bill of sale and registration will go a long
way towards making it all look legitimate.  Yup,
that's good work, Tanj, I'm proud of you.  Pick a
crew for that ship, furrs rated for intelligence work,
and get them up to speed on her.  We have a meeting
with some of the resistance folks in a few weeks, and
I think we'll take your ship."  With that, he gave her
a hug, and was dragged off by one of the operations
crew, for yet another problem.

Tanj stood there and blinked, her mouth hanging
open.  She wanted to protest, to tell him that wasn't
what she'd had in mind at all, but as folks crowded
around her, asking when the first logistics run would
be made, each recommending what THEY thought the
priority should be (usually what THEIR ship required),
Tanj decided to keep her mouth shut......

"It says WHAT?  I don't BELIEVE this!  I can
understand it with respect to "company" owned ships,
but this is MY ship, Dammit!"  Ben stood his ground in
front of an enraged Tanj.  The wolf was more than
used to her temper and knew that she wasn't about to
bite or claw him, no matter what it looked like.
"Tanj, you never did read the handbook, did you?"
he growled in return.  "I don't care how much flight
experience you have on similar ships, I don't care if
you ARE the owner of record. You DO NOT get to fly
that ship until you're passed by one of the flight
instructors.  Them's the rules and we WILL go by
them!"  Tanj just growled as she turned her back on
Ben.  It was just as well; that way she couldn't see
him smile.  Finally she turned to face him again, her
temper somewhat more under control; "All right Ben,
you win.  How soon can I get on the schedule for a
flight instructor?"

Mark looked up as Tanj stalked into the repair bay.
"Bastards won't let me fly my own ship" she grumbled,
flopping down next to where he was working on some
sensors.  Mark chuckled; "you knew that.  They
wouldn't let you fly that raider we worked on
together; it shouldn't be a surprise that they
wouldn't let you fly anything else."  Tanj sighed
and nodded; "no restrictions like that on flight
engineers.  They'll take my certification in THAT area
without problem......  Grrrrrrrr."  Mark just nodded
solemnly as he checked connections on the sensor grid
with a portable meter.  After a while, Tanj shook her
head; "no way around it.  We need a crew for that
ship.  The boss keeps coming up with errands for us to
run with it.  The schedule for the immediate future is
getting quite full.  Until I can get certified, will
you pilot her, Mark?"

The lion took Ben aside after the latest "after action
review" meeting.  "listen Ben, I'm a mite concerned
about Tanj......"  Ben chuckled and nodded; "Yeah;
liked her better when she was just a compliant slave.
As she gets into her job in intelligence, she's
forgetting herself and her temper is starting to show
through.  You'd be surprised at how many furrs are
starting to run scared of her..."  The lion blinked;
"Huh?  OH, THAT.  No problem, I'll see that she gets
an "attitude adjustment"...  Even you have to admit
she's too good at that intelligence post to send her
back to the kennels..."  Ben sighed and shrugged; "Yeah,
I guess that's true.  Pity; she's good at intelligence
work, but she's fantastic at being a sex slave..."  The
lion chuckled and nodded; "OK, OK, we'll give her a
MAJOR attitude adjustment, and some more time away
from the intelligence office.  What I'm really
concerned about is her taking off on the various tasks
that need doing, in that freighter she bought."  Ben
grinned; "Yeah, heard rumors about the switch you
pulled on her ship; if she ever figures that out,
you're going to have teeth marks someplace very
sensitive."  The lion did his best "innocent"
imitation; "that wasn't me, HONEST!  But aside from
that, what I want YOU to do is to assign her the
toughest flight instructor we've got.  I don't want
her flight certified until she can take that freighter
and outfly the best raider pilot we've got.  No, make
that the three best raider pilots we've got.  I don't
want her licensed to fly until she's damn near
invincible." Ben sighed, but nodded; "Its going to be
rough, but will do.  You really do care for her, don't
you?"  The lion just grinned and padded off down the

Tanj was back to the scouting reports.  By now a
large number of the candidates her agents had
identified as potential pirates had been reviewed by
the Brethren.  Many of them had been vouched for by
the pirates, and almost an equal number had been
rejected.  Reputations spread through any community,
and the pirates and corsairs knew who they wanted to
work with, as well as who they did NOT want to work
with......  She had been running background checks through
surreptitious means on those not in either group,
pretending to be a bank screening them for a credit
card, a shipping line considering hiring them, and
even a bail bondsman.  She was searching for
motivations;  those known to the pirates were open
books; some were in it just for the money, some for
adherence to some cause or philosophy.  Some for the
power it brought.  Some for the adventure.  Others
were more enigmatic.  Those unknown to the pirates
were a greater risk, and while she was being picky,
the Brethren were so short-handed, she couldn't be too

As she searched the background of a navigator, someone
the Brethren had once considered recruiting, with most
of her experience in freighters, Tanj came across
an old file.  Her eyes widened as she read through it.
It detailed the background search the Lion had done on
HER, before her purchase.  It was amazingly thorough;
he'd certainly done his homework...  She was amazed to
read her own psychological profile from the academy,
from before her enslavement; was she ever REALLY like

Finally Tanj pulled together the paperwork for the
top candidates.  She was very concerned about a few of
them, her worries ranging from inept through
uncontrollable, to disloyal.  Still, it was the best
they could do, given the time frame...  Straightening
her hair, and adjusting her dress, she picked up the
folders to head out towards ops, to present the
results of her work.

The shuttle settled into its assigned spot in the
docking bay.  When its airlock opened, the motley
group of furrs it carried as passengers disembarked,
to look around.  Some were curious, some derisive,
some inscrutable.  They were the first batch of new
recruits.  Tanj met them, to hand out packets of
information, assigning them to quarters, and to
training teams, and to answer questions.  More than
one noted her collar, and inquired if she was
available, their approach ranging from the tentative,
through the polite to the coarse and obnoxious.  In
each case she smiled and shrugged and said they'd have
to talk to her Master, but that anything was possible...

Blackstone stood off to one side, watching, observing.
The bear was huge, and like so many ursines, he
appeared a bit overweight; like so many ursines, it
was deceiving.  He was in good shape, for a bear his
age, muscular and fit.  As the shapely Cheetah fem
handed him his packet, their eyes met.  As he looked
at her, he realized this was no simple slave.  There
was recognition there.  She obviously knew of his
past; of how he was discharged from the Imperial
military, and why.  He guessed she probably had read
the background report on him, and knew of his recent
activities as a mercenary and the reputation he'd
developed.  As she turned away, walking towards the
next recruit, he shrugged to himself; to have sunk so
low as to join pirates, well, at least here no one was
likely to complain about his...... excesses.

Tanj snuggled against Hinoki.  Only moments before,
the'd been making the beast with two backs, and quite
energetically too; moments stolen by two overworked
slaves; but then sometimes stolen fruits are sweeter...
As she slowly regained her breath, she nuzzled the
cheetah male; "I tell you that big bear, Blackstone,
he frightens me.  I got a good look at his eyes when I
met him, and they looked as cold and as bottomless as
the pits of hades."  Hinoki purrrrred as he nuzzled
one of Tanj's ears; "He the hotshot fighter pilot?"
Tanj giggled at the feel of his tongue and flicked
her ear; "Yeah.  He was too vicious for even the
Empire, and they cashiered him for some particularly
violent "police action" a few years back.  Since then
he's been working as a Merc.  Got a gooood reputation
for his combat abilities, and just as sterling a
reputation for his tendencies towards violence and
ruthlessness.  He strikes me as the kind of guy who
tortured small animals as a cub......

The Lion caught Mark in the junk parts storeroom.
Mark was looking for a phase inducer for an old
30/360, and wasn't having much luck.  "Mark, need your
help" the lion started, without preamble.  "I'm
worried about Tanj..."  Mark nodded; "So am I.  I
know we're mostly running a clean station here, but
you have to remember that some of our pirate scum
really are rather...... scummy, and there IS a finite
chance of her catching a sexually transmitted disease,
and at the rate she's going she really SHOULD check in
with Medical more often..."  The lion blinked and then
shook his head; "no, not that...  There are a number of
missions I want her to undertake with that freighter
of hers.  Things like liaison with the Elysium
resistance movement, as well as making contacts with
our field agents, gathering information on suitable
targets for the Brethren, picking up parts we need
(always risky; too many folks ask questions when you
buy stuff like we need; weapons system parts,
munitions,and such), to carrying booty to fences......
The work needs doing, and I think she's the one to do
it, but I'm worried about her.  I want you to make
some modifications to her ship...... Modifications I'm
willing to pay for.  Tell me; do you know what a "Q
Boat" is?"  Mark thought for a moment, then nodded.
"Does Tanj know what you're planning to do to HER
ship, though?"  The Lion chuckled.  "Leave that to me."
Mark flashed him a grin.  "Oooo-kay...it's YOU who'll
have toothmarks somewhere sensitive when she figures
it out.  You're the boss, after all, I was just
following orders..."  The Lion just grinned.

Tanj shifted in her seat, as she listened to the
candidate answer questions.  This was a standard
procedure for when the Brethren hired folks, and
procedure was to be followed, even if she didn't think
it worth their time.  "Thank you, Mr. Phelps, please
take these papers to the next station, and again,
thanks for your cooperation and your candor" Ben
growled.  Tanj pulled the next folder from the
stack, and after looking at the name, she passed it to
Ben.  "Hiram Blackstone" she growled.

Blackstone entered, his back ramrod straight, as if he
were still in the military.  Ben gestured to the seat
facing the table the review panel sat at.  He sat,
keeping his back straight, his legs uncrossed, his
paws on his knees.  Slowly his eyes flicked from
person to person.  "There's that slave Cheetah fem
again" he thought to himself; "I wonder what she's
doing here?  She's not kneeling behind or beside
someone, so she's obviously not here as a servant.  A
secretary, perhaps?"  Ben started with questions about
Blackstone's military background, asking questions not
about this incident, or that battle, but about why he
did this, or what he thought of that.  Blackstone's
answers were smooth, Tanj thought; as if he'd
rehearsed the answers.  "Maybe he has" she thought to
herself.  "Nothing wrong in wanting a job so bad you
do some advance preparation for it......"  As She listened
to Blackstone reply to the other's questions, she
pretended to examine his pilot's certification, his
discharge papers and his ship's log.  "I wonder if
these are forged?" she thought to herself.  "If it is,
its good, damn good; but then, that too is possible..."
After meeting Blackstone, she'd done some further
checking into his background and his credentials.
Some of those checks had come up supportive, some

Blackstone watched the cheetah from the corner of his
eye.  She wasn't asking questions, just sitting back
and observing as the others went through a rather
standard battery of questions.  Oh, they were good
questions, obviously prepared by an expert in combat
psychology, but he'd been through this sort of thing
before.  However, the way her eyes flickered down to
the desktop every time he spoke...  could she be using a
voice stress analyzer?  If she was, he was glad he'd
taken the tranquilizing drugs to dampen out his
responses, and to give him a more "pleasant"
personality.  Who WAS she?

Tanj watched the readouts built into the top of the
desk.  It measured heartbeat, respiration, trace
compounds in sweat or exhalation, and of course, voice
stress.  It showed Blackstone to be somewhat nervous,
but then that was normal for someone interviewing for
a job.  Some of the readings were a little screwy, but
it was all within parameters.  The voice stress
analyzer didn't show green ALL the time, she'd proven
that to herself earlier as she sat in that chair, in
the empty room, asking herself questions about who she
was, what she had become, and what her sexual
preferences REALLY were......

Ben looked to his left and then to his right, gauging
the responses of the panel.  They'd decided on their
hidden signals well in advance.  Tanj watched, and
when Ben looked at her, she gave him the signal for
grudging approval, as had all the others.  Ben nodded
and initialed the forms and handed the file to
Blackstone, sending him on his way.  As the door
closed, Tanj muttered; "I hope we're not making a
mistake with that one, only to have Ben mutter in
return "Amen!"

Blackstone sat in on yet another briefing for the new
recruits.  "Enough talk" he thought to himself,
fretting.  He wasn't used to sitting still for so long
and he itched to be doing something.  "These twinks
have as many rules as the Imperial Military" he
grumbled to himself; "Who would EVER have thought that
a pirate organization was so...... regulated."  His
attention snapped back as he heard his name called;
"Blackstone" the operations officer rumbled; "we're
setting you up as a flight instructor; your background
suggests you should have a lot to teach our "less
experienced" recruits.  Draw your ship assignment and
duty roster from the officer of the day."  Turning to
the next recruit, the Ops officer started handing out
the next assignment, and Blackstone tuned him out.
"Suggests?  SUGGESTS?  My experience is a matter of
record!" he fumed.  "I'd wager I'm the best pilot here
by far, and by Jove, I'll prove it too!  Shortly,
they'll KNOW Hiram Blackstone's skills!  AND then
they'll pay for slighting me!  "Suggests" in deed!"

After looking at his duty roster, Blackstone headed
down to the docking bay to check out the fighter he'd
been assigned.  As he went, he made quiet note of the
internal security systems.  He wasn't looking for that
which was designed to defend the station against
attack, but that which was designed to prevent someone
on the station from fleeing.  For that was just what
he had in the back of his mind.  "These twerps had
better start treating me right" he mused to himself;
"I deserve better'n this.  I'll give them till after
the first battle, until I've PROVEN myself to them,
and if things don't improve dramatically, well, I'll
just skip out and go collect the reward the Elysium
government has posted on them.  That'd both make me a
hero, get me the recognition I deserve, AND set me up
for life all in one fell swoop!"

Mark stopped and looked back at the Bear who had just
passed him in the docking bay.  His eyes narrowed as
he stared at the retreating figure.  This one felt
like a definite walking time bomb...

Blackstone checked out the ship, finding it much
better equipped and maintained than he would have
expected.  From the outside, it looked elderly and
well worn, its surface a mis-matched collection of
splotches of paint and hand-lettered slogans.  Pretty
much what you'd expect scum to be flying.  Inside it
was modern, clean, and well-kept.  And almost
everything worked just as it should too. He decided
that if this ship was typical, the pirates were a much
bigger threat than anyone on Elysium suspected.  And
they'd pay for that information.  Quietly, he started
memorizing everything of importance, everything
relevant to the pirate's operation that the Elysium
government might want to know.  Everything he might
need to collect the reward.

It was late at night, and a single light burned in the
darkened office block.  Two figures hunched over
papers scattered on a desk.  "Sorry, there's just no
way we can do that."  Mark whispered.  "No matter how
fond you are of that spare fusion cannon from the old
Bellyslasher, the powerplant on that freighter just won't
support it.  I think given the fact that we want the
power curve to appear normal for a freighter, that all
heavy weapons will have to be in the form of torpedoes.
Of course, that'll reduce cargo capacity......"  The lion
nodded; "it's a heck of a tradeoff.  How about some APU's
to boost shields and ECM should they go into combat?
That way the power curve will remain looking just like a
normal freighter, until its too late to worry about it."
Mark nodded, and marked off yet another section of the
cargo bay on the drawings.  "Tell you what...if you
absolutely want some energy weapons, there's one thing
we can do, but it'll cost you - we don't have the guns
I'm thinking of in stock."  The Lion raised an eyebrow
and motioned for the mouse to go on.  Mark indicated the
freighter's laser turrets.  "If I could get my paws on
a couple of Axotech L12-Bs to replace these with..."
"I'm not sure I'm familiar with those", the Lion
interrupted.  Mark smiled faintly.  "Axotech mostly
supplies the military.  The L12-B is one of the few
weapon systems that they also sell to civilians who can
afford them, mostly scouts and traders and such who
want something extra in case of a pirate attack.  Uses
power much more efficiently than what we got in here
now, has a cooling system I wish I had invented, is
easy to maintain and looks perfectly innocuous on top
of all that.  The only problem is the price tag...for
a set of two, you pay almost as much as you would for
a NEW fusion cannon.  But get me those and I can
guarantee you an easy thirty percent boost in firepower
for a minimal extra drain, maybe forty once I'm done
tuning all the systems and have a bit of a reserve to
play with."  The Lion nodded slowly.  "Well, I'll see
if I can arrange something.  But it'll take time even
then, so don't hold your breath.  Now, about that
cloaking device...?"

The interception was a simple one.  The freighter was
on a scheduled run, and thus easy to find.  One of the
pirate's intelligence agents had found out that she
was carrying military spares, and replacement fighters
for the Elysium defense forces, and as such, it had
become a priority target for the pirates.  And
Blackstone was in charge of the assault.  The
freighter, however, was not exactly unprepared.  They
knew they had a tempting cargo, and they doubted their
efforts at security had been 100% successful.  When
the pirate raiders appeared on their sensors they
started screaming bloody murder over the comm
channels, demanding assistance.  They even launched
two of the space superiority fighters they were
transporting, basically kicking them out an open cargo

Blackstone grinned inside his helmet.  There were no
Elysium forces that could come to the freighter's
assistance, as long as they didn't dawdle; they'd
picked their intercept location carefully to avoid
that.  And the two fighters on an intercept course
were too little too late.  Sending the rest of his
forces to handle one, he altered course to meet the
other by himself.

Lieutenant Farquar was determined to die well.  At
this point, he didn't think living was an option;
there were just too many pirates.  He just prayed his
training was up to the task to let him die with honor.
He watched as his flight leader angled towards the
ship they'd decided was the pirate leader, as he tried
to keep the others busy.  As the pirates broke
formation, to swirl around him, seeking a shot, he
lost track of his boss, as he desperately tried to
bring his guns to bear on someone, ANYONE......

"Sabre three, this is Talon six.  That's a kitten we
got here; he couldn't hurt us if we just sat still.
See what you can do about just damaging his ship;
we'll try and take it too, if we can."  "Talon six,
Sabre Three; roger that.  Aiming for his drives only."

Farquar wondered why the pirates were only taking the
occasional shot at him, and then it hit him; they were
playing with him.  Cat and mouse, teasing him,
tormenting him.  With a growl, he tried harder,
whipping his fighter around to fire weapons at one of
the larger raider ships.  One of the beams hit and he
was elated until he realized it hadn't penetrated
their shields......

Blackstone pulled his ship around hard, the inertial
dampers screaming in protest, as he fired yet another
burst into his target.  He'd hit the fighter
repeatedly, each shot slowly chewing the smaller ship
to pieces.  He was enjoying himself, slowly killing
his prey...

Farquar yelped as his ship shook, multiple alarms
sounding in his headphones as his ship lost power.  As
the powerplant threatened to overload, he was tempted
to let it proceed, and explode, but finally he sighed
and shut it down, to drift.  That would not be a
heroic death...  He wondered how the pirates would
torment him when they took him prisoner; he was sure
they weren't done with him yet.

Blackstone finally administered the coup de grace to
the all-but-destroyed fighter.  As it disintegrated in
a blossom of yellow flame he pulled his ship around,
to note the other fighter lying dead in space.
Without a thought he centered it in his sights and
pulled the trigger, destroying that as well.

"Talon 6 to Flight Leader; that was OUR booty you just
blew away!  We went to a LOT of trouble to leave
something worth salvaging!  That's coming out of YOUR
share, Bucko!"  Blackstone growled to himself;
"Pirates!  Always thinking of profit!  No glory in
that!"  But then he forced himself to calm down.
After all, there was the fun of taking the freighter
yet ahead of him......

"Its no good, Sir" the first officer whispered.  "They
went through the fighters like they weren't even
there.  If we resist, we'll only die, and we won't
stop them.  We're lost, Sir!"  The Captain, a gray
fox, nodded sadly.  "And yet, if we do surrender, I
have no assurances that we'll do any better......"

"Star of Pursia to Pirate Leader; we are willing to
surrender ONLY if you guarantee the safety of the
crew."  Tanj listened to the comm traffic in Ops.
There was a small crowd gathered, listening to the
action as if following some sports match.  "Pirate
leader to Freighter; you will surrender NOW, and
unconditionally, or I guarantee you'll all die!  Lower
your shields NOW or else!"  Tanj shot a glance at
Ben, and noted the grim look on his face.

Blackstone counted quickly to ten and then keyed his
mike; "OK group, they're not lowering shields.  Let
'em have it!"

The Captain looked at his first officer, and sighed.
With a shrug he reached out and keyed in the sequence
to power down what shields the freighter carried.
They watched as the indicator slowly wound down to
zero.  Just before it hit bottom, however, the ship
rocked, throwing everyone to the deck.  "Damn them!"
the first officer cried; "we did what they wanted!
Why are they firing?"

"Talon 6 to group!  Cease fire!  CEASE FIRE!  They've
dropped their shields!  You're destroying the ship!"

Tanj looked at Ben, a shocked look on her face.
Ben failed to catch her glance as he turned to one of
his officers; "Get one of the cruisers out there; I
think the Intimidator is probably the one closest to
launch status.  I think we're going to have a mess to
clean up."

The bridge of the freighter was a mess.  Part of the
ceiling had fallen in, conduits and cables hanging
everywhere as an electrical fire filled the area near
the roof with a foul smelling gray haze.  Blackstone
stalked through the door, shoving it to one side in
its warped track.  He found the Captain's body on the
floor, and with a roar, yanked it to its feet, to
scream in his face; "NOW YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE
WHO DO NOT OBEY IMMEDIATELY?"  A cough behind him made
him turn his head, and he found himself looking at the
female squirrel that by her tattered and soiled
uniform, indicated she was the ship's first officer.
She glared at him; "Can't you see he's already dead?
He lowered the shields for you and you killed him
anyways, you bastard!"  As she talked she gathered her
legs beneath her as if to leap at the bear, but one of
the pirates was behind her, touching her with a shock
stick, sending her to unconsciousness before she could
launch her assault.

Blackstone just growled as the pirates hauled the
freighter's crew off.  "OK, whats left?  Can we get
this scow moving under her own power?"  The flight
engineer from Sabre two shook his head; "I dunno,
Hiram, the control system's shot to hell, and this tub
doesn't have an auxiliary control room.  Engineering
control's in decent shape, but most of the power
conduits between the power plant and the drive section
are blown to hell.  I don't think this tub's going
anywhere for a while.  And we don't have big enough
tractor beams on the raiders to tow her.  Think you'd
best call for help."  Blackstone growled and picked
the skunk up by the collar; "I do NOT want to hear
that!  We are NOT calling for help.  I don't care how
you do it; get this thing under way!"  Dropping the
skunk he shoved his way out of the wreckage of the
bridge.  The skunk turned to look at his mates as the
bear stomped off, and just shook his head; "somebody
get through to Talon 6.  We got a real problem here.

Blackstone growled down at the kangaroo mouse, before
turning away.  The little rodent had just arrived with
a cruiser, to take over HIS mission!  How DARE they
treat him like this?  As he turned to head back to his
ship, he growled to himself "They WILL regret this!
I'll see them all destroyed for this!"

Mark looked around the wreck of the Freighter's
bridge.  The ship had been towed by the cruiser to a
"safe" location, where the cargo and crew had been
removed.  It was his job to determine if there was
anything salvageable, or if it should just be
destroyed.  Finally he shook his head with a sigh
and keyed his communicator.  "Mark here.  I'm sorry
I have nothing better to report, but about the only
way we could get any use out of this ship anymore
would be by taking it completely apart and rebuilding
it from the ground up with new parts replacing the
destroyed ones.  It's not even worth the effort of
breaking it down for spare parts; what systems are
left that could be put back into service aren't
compatible to our ships and have only nominal resale
value.  Mark out."  "Got it.  Damn it, too...Control
out."  Mark walked over to where the captain had
fallen and remained silent for almost a minute, then
turned to somebody who wasn't there and nodded. "Oh,
he'll pay for this all right, some way or other. I'm
just giving him a little more rope to hang himself
with...but I won't forget."  He made a little sign
with his right hand.  "Rest in peace for now."

Blackstone swallowed his pride as he suffered through
the after action review.  He accepted the criticisms
stoically, not letting his true emotions show.  How
could they say the screw-up was HIS fault?  If that
blasted freighter captain had only obeyed his
instructions, he would have been a hero, not a screw-
up!  He never noticed the white mouse staring intently
at him from the back of the room...

Mark nodded imperceptibly to himself as he felt the
bear's mind squirm under the questioning, the impressions
he was picking up only confirming the conclusions he
had come up with already.  Ego bigger than this station,
rage at a world at large that failed to 'appreciate'
him, no real loyalties to anybody but himself, and of
course the obligatory revenge plot already...he'd seen
it all before.  No, for all his skill in single combat
the Brethren would ultimately be better off without
Hiram Blackstone...and the sooner the better, too.

Tanj found Mark working on her ship.  She snuck up
behind him quietly, to give him a hug, nuzzling at the
back of his neck.  The mouse smiled and nodded;
"Hello, Tanj."  No matter how hard she tried, no
matter how stealthy she was, she could never sneak up
on him.  Maybe it was something to do with his psychic
power, the telepathic ability that let him "talk" to
her over distances, that let him know when she was in
trouble.  She suspected that whatever talents he let
others know about, there were others he kept to
himself...... But she couldn't prove that, and couldn't
imagine what he might be capable of......

Mark sighed and snuggled back against the cheetah fem;
"this is NOT easy you know......"  Tanj rested her chin
on his right shoulder; "what isn't?"  "Trying to shoe-
horn in a second APU, without eating up any more room
in the cargo bay."  Tanj blinked; "why would we
want an APU in the cargo bay?"  Mark turned to look at
her; "didn't the Boss talk to you about it?  He said
he was going to......"  Tanj rested both paws on Marks
shoulders and looked straight into his eyes; "He did
NOT.  What's he up to?  What's he having done to my
ship?"  Mark just smiled and kissed Tanj on the
nose; "Oh, nothing much; he just wanted you to have
some extra power available for some of the missions
he's got planned for us."  Tanj blinked, and then
smiled; "Us?  So you're going to fly her for me after
all?  I mean until I get certified, that is...."  Mark
just smiled and kissed her again.

Mark watched Blackstone from a distance.  The pilot
was lounging around in the Ops center, ostensibly
reviewing his new schedule.  However, periodically,
when no one was looking, he'd get into things he
shouldn't have any business with.  Mark smiled a bit
grimly.  *Predictable.  Good...that'll make it easier
to be there when he does make his move.*

Tanj was "Snooping" around her ship.  Her work in
intelligence, and with the new recruits had kept her
too busy to even think of it much, something she was
beginning to wonder about.  After Mark's comment last
night, she'd gotten to wondering, and at the first
opportunity, she'd stolen away to have a look by
herself.  She'd found that not one, but two APU's had
been crammed into corners in the cargo bay.  Their
output had been routed to a seriously oversized shield
generator, one of much newer manufacture than what the
ship had originally carried.  The original powerplant
and drives were untouched, as were the two laser
turrets, but the fire control system looked to have
been ripped out of a cruiser.  It was VERY
sophisticated, capable of tracking hundreds of targets
and engaging dozens.  That got her to wonder what they
were going to engage the targets with... And that led
her to the new blister underneath the belly of the
ship.  It looked like an extended range fuel tank, but
she was sure the looks were deceiving...  The access
ports were tight for her, but she was able to squirm
in.  "More Mark's size, I'd think" she mused to
herself as she tried to negotiate a bend in the
accessway.  There, buried deep in the blister, behind
significant armor, was the real power of the ship.

Tanj counted; "four... five... six...  Six ship-killer
torpedoes.  Mark VIII's too.  And a couple of dozen
mixed dogfighting missiles......  Heat seekers,
identification-friend-or-foe's, image recognition, and
even a couple of "Leach" missiles; missiles that would
temporarily drain a ship's power, leaving them
helpless. Her little freighter had suddenly acquired
the firepower to blow through a fighter screen and
assault a carrier!  With shields to match.  She just
shook her head, wondering what in the WORLD the lion
had in mind for her, and her seriously modified ship.
Finding it impossible to turn around, she backed
carefully out the way she came, to close the access
hatch.  With luck, no one would know she'd been
snooping.  Then again, it WAS her ship...... wasn't it?

Blackstone grumbled to himself;  "Demoted to wet-
nursing aspiring pilots.  What a fate for a warrior
such as me!"  Looking up at the half dozen faces
seated before him he growled; "OK, you loosers, here's
what we're going to do, today.  We're going to play
"follow the leader".  I'll lead, and you perform
exactly the same maneuver as I do.  And just to make
sure none of you cubs run into each other, we'll keep
10,000 Kilometers between us.  GOT THAT?"

Tanj watched the bear talk, listening to his
insults and demeaning attitude.  As a slave she'd
heard much worse, but these folks didn't need the
derision.  Most of them were already licensed pilots;
they were just here to qualify......

Blackstone watched the slave from the corner of his
eye.  Some of the furrs here had told him about her;
how she belonged to the head of the pirate
organization, and seemed to be a favorite of his.  He
found it absolutely incredible that ANYONE could
entrust any responsibility beyond dusting or changing
sheets to a slave.  And a sex slave at that!  Still,
he should be wary.  She obviously had her Master's
ear, and so far no one had alluded to her being
incompetent or stupid, in either of her capacities......

Tanj grunted as she pulled the fighter around in a
loop.  She was paired against one of the recruits, a
wolf fem, mock dogfighting, under Blackstone's
ascerbic tutelage. The class had been practicing every
other afternoon now for a week, their skills slowly
developing.  Several students, slated for shuttle or
cruiser piloting skills had already "qualified", and
dropped out of the class.  Tanj, on the other hand
was still there.  Blackstone never seemed to be
satisfied with her abilities, no matter how well she
flew.  The wolf she was currently matched against was
at the top of their class, and they'd laughingly made
a wager on the outcome of their mock battle, the
looser servicing the winner for a night.  Tanj
didn't mind loosing to her at all, thinking it could
be a very pleasant evening, but she was doing her best
to win......

Blackstone watched the two females fight.  They were
evenly matched, the wolf having the superior strategy,
the cheetah the superior reflexes.  Of all his
students, the wolf bitch was one of the few that
treated him with anywhere near the respect he felt was
due a pilot of his stature.  He'd overheard the wager
and was determined that his prize student would NOT
loose to a slave......

Tanj had almost gotten her lined up in her sights
when the computer started squalling at her, announcing
a weapons system failure.  She howled in protest, the
moment's loss of concentration being sufficient to let
her quarry escape.  Then all of a sudden, her ship
would not turn to port.  Roll, pitch, and yaw to
starboard were all unaffected, she just couldn't yaw
to port!  As she wrestled with the controls, she felt
the ship shudder as the wolf scored against her.

"Mark, I know everything looks fine, but I tell you,
my controls were going progressively dead.  Either
there's something wrong with that ship, or there's
foul play going on.  Please do me a favor and take a
look at it for me?  I'd do it myself, but it seems,
ah, I've got a wager to pay off......"  Mark smiled and
nodded, patting Tanj on the rump; "I'll be glad to
take a look.  Ah, Have fun paying off your wager,
though.  I heard about that.  Blackstone's bragging on
how his prize student blew you away today......"

The lion grinned at her; "Heard about your defeat
today."  Tanj sighed and nodded; "Hope you don't
mind, Master..."  The lion just grinned; "no, busy this
evening with the ops planning team.  And that she-wolf
looks like a nice furr.  Just tell her that she's not
allowed to do anything to keep you from your duties.
Nothing that will permanently hurt you.  Understand?"
Tanj smiled and nodded and kissed him, and was off
to pay off her wager.

Hiram Blackstone grinned as he watched Tanj knock
on the door to the she-wolf's quarters.  He'd give
them a few minutes, and then......

Tanj stopped outside her door, taking a breath to
calm herself.  She was nude, save for her collar.
Making sure her eyes were properly downcast she hit
the chime and waited patiently.  As she did, she
thought of her old friend, Marla, the she-wolf, from
the academy, and wondered what she was doing now.  She
couldn't help but grin, wondering if this she-wolf,
Jenny, was anything like Marla.  It was at the instant
when the smile was in full blossom, that Jenny opened
the door.  "Oh Ho!  Is my slave for the evening
looking forward to pleasing me?" she growled, with
mock ferociousness.  Reaching out to grab Tanj's
collar, she yanked the cheetah into her room, the door
hissing quietly closed behind them.

Blackstone nodded in approval; "yes, she might do at
that.  Still, we'll have to see how she behaves

Tanj knelt at Jenny's feet, her eyes downcast;
"Mistress, my Master has instructed me to relate
certain, ah, ground rules......"  Jenny nodded as she
listened; "Very prudent of him, but I really doubt any
of that will be needed for what I've got in mind..."
Tanj raised an eyebrow, wondering "now what have I
gotten myself into..."

Jenny grinned; "I've always wondered what it would be
like to have a slave, to do the things I hated to do
myself; and tonight I'm going to indulge myself...  But
first, tell me; will your Master be out of his
quarters tonight?"  Tanj blinked; "Uh, well, yes
Ma'am; he's tied up in a planning team meeting; they
frequently run until, oh, 0100, sometimes 0200 hours..."
Jenny grinned and nodded; "there's no point in having
a slave to help you lead a life of leisure in quarters
like these.  Lets go there!  You, ah, can get in,
can't you?"

It was difficult for Jenny to lead Tanj at the end
of her leash when it was Tanj who knew where they
were going.  Eventually they got to the Lion's
quarters, raising only a few eyebrows from passers-by
on the way (Tanj usually just grinned wickedly at
them and winked, once they were past Jenny and she
couldn't see their return expressions).  Tanj keyed
in the entry, and then Jenny pushed past her to look
about, jerking Tanj in by the leash just as the
door started to close.

Jenny Hmphed as she looked around.  "This is the
quarters for the leader of the Brethren?  Not a heck
of a lot better'n mine..."  Tanj shrugged, feeling a
little more relaxed now that she was "home".  She knew
that the computer monitored this room for security
purposes and that there were several command words
that would bring folks running if Jenny turned out to
be a danger...  "Uh, Mistress..." Tanj purrred;
"Perhaps if you told me what you wanted, I could
help..."  Jenny turned and looked at Tanj, an almost
wistful look on her face.  "Not much, really.  A
talented tongue, or a hard cock I can get almost
anywhere.  What I want from you, what I demand of my
slave tonight is a little harder to come by:  I want
you to cook me dinner.  A nice dinner.  And serve it
to me.  And then give me a foot rub, and, ah, "attend"
my bath, maybe wash my back and my hair, and then
towel me dry...  I want you to spoil me...  Is that too
much for a lady to ask, once in her life?"

Blackstone watched the door to the lion's quarters
close behind Jenny and Tanj.  "I wonder what the
bitch is up to?" he thought to himself.  "I wonder if
she's trying to horn in on my turf, looking for things
that the Elysium government would pay for?"
Grumbling, he turned and moved off towards his own
quarters.  He'd planned on dropping in on the she-
wolf, to see how she was coming with Tanj, and
maybe using his position as her instructor to
intimidate her into letting him have his way with her,
and with Tanj.  Now he couldn't show up at the
Lion's quarters without making it look like he'd
followed her.  "Oh, well" he thought; "Maybe its for
the best.  That Tanj is aptly named.  If she has
the ear of the lion, I'd have to kill her to keep her
from talking when I was done with her, and an
"accident" would probably be viewed with suspicion.
When I've sold these scum out to the Elysians, I'll be
rich enough to afford a dozen like her, with no one to
criticize me.

Tanj puttered around in the Lion's small kitchen,
fixing a garden salad, boef medallions, and twice
baked potatoes.  She wasn't a great chef, but she was
adequate, and the computer was providing excellent
directions, making her talents appear greater than
they were.  Jenny was relaxing in the Lion's chair, a
goblet of cold white wine in her hand, the stereo
playing her favorite music in the background.  The
table had been set for one, candles burning in the
center over the only tablecloth she had.  The plates
and the silverware were rather old and not the fine
china she would have preferred, but the Lion just
didn't much care about things like that.  "Males" she
mused to herself with a smile as she placed the boef
medallions in a covered tureen.

Moving the steaming food to the table she went and
knelt before Jenny; "Mistress, dinner is served"
Jenny smiled and opened her eyes, rising to move to
the table.  Tanj held her chair for her, and then
presented each dish for her approval, serving her as
she'd seen the waiters do on the Burgess Star.  When
she was done, she knelt attentively to one side,
watching.  Jenny sampled the medallions and then the
potato, and nodded; "its not quite up to a four star
rating, but it will do for this evening..."  Tanj

Tanj left Jenny with an after-dinner liqueur, as
she cleaned the table.  Most of the stuff went
straight into the recycler, with some things being set
aside for cleaning later.  Leftovers went into the
'fridge, and she hurriedly grabbed a few bites for
herself.  She had no doubt the Lion would wonder what
had been going on, but this one, she felt, she could
explain without too much trouble.  Finishing up there,
she moved to the bathroom where she drew a steaming
bath in the tub.  Generally Tanj was the only one
to use the tub, the lion opting for a quick shower
(unless of course he was feeling frisky and dragged
Tanj into it with him... but that's another story).
She added some of her own bath oils, and smiled as the
tub filled with fragrant bubbles.  She lit a few
candles, to give the bathroom a more romantic
atmosphere, and then rising, she padded out to lead
Jenny in...

Tanj carefully undressed Jenny, folding her
clothes, setting them aside.  When the she-wolf was
nude she stepped carefully into the hot water, sighing
as she settled down, until only her muzzle was above
the bubbles.  Tanj knelt by the head of the tub,
shampoo ready, to await the point where Jenny required
her to wash her hair.

Jenny was quiet in the tub, possibly dozing, and
Tanj was lost in her own thoughts, when the door to
the quarters opened, and the Lion hurried in.  He went
straight past the bathroom, heading for his desk, and
Tanj's eyes snapped wide open in surprise.  Jenny
caught it also and let out a small squeak of dismay.
Tanj didn't know if the Lion heard Jenny, or had
caught a glimpse, but in any event he backpedaled to
glance into the open bathroom door.

He blinked; "sorry, could have SWORN this was...  Hey,
wait a minute, this IS my cabin..."  Peering a little
closer, the Lion rumbled; "Tanj?"  Then it
obviously hit him that whatever was going on, it was
part of Tanj's wager pay off.  As realization
dawned on his face, he grinned; waving a paw he
chuckled "carry on", and turned, heading for his desk.

Tanj hadn't moved a muscle, her eyes still wide
with surprise.  She heard him code in his password,
and remove something from the secure drawer, and then
his footsteps approached again.  Pausing just out of
sight, he called; "Take all the time you want, I'll
crash in the ready room tonight.  Tanj, you can
explain tomorrow."  And with that, he was gone, the
door whooshing closed behind him.

As the door closed, Jenny sat up, her body covered in
foam.  Turning her head to look at Tanj, she
gasped; "are we in trouble?  Is he going to be mad at
us?"  Tanj just shook her head and smiled; "If I
spin a sufficiently amusing tale for him, it'll be
fine; and don't worry, I've got a good imagination and
a flair for language, when it comes to things like
that......"  She grinned at the Wolf fem; "especially when
its accompanied by a touch here, and a caress there......
I don't think we need to worry..."

It was much later that evening.  Tanj had washed
Jenny's hair, and then scrubbed her back, and then her
front, crawling into the tub with her.  Finally she
had sat at the far end of the tub and gently massaged
her feet underneath the hot water.  Bidding the she-
wolf to stand, Tanj had rinsed her, and then after
draining the tub, had toweled her dry, rubbing softly,
turning it into an impromptu massage.  Wrapped in the
largest fluffiest towel she had, Tanj had led her
to the Lion's bed.  Now, with Jenny lying on her back,
Tanj was proceeding to demonstrate that being
spoiled could also include a talented tongue, as she
slowly licked the she-wolf until she moaned, and
begged for release.

In the morning, Tanj woke Jenny with a breakfast
tray.  Her own special omelet, juice and coffee.
Breakfast in bed.  When Jenny had finished, Tanj
helped her dress, and then saw her off at the door
with a kiss.  "That was VERY nice, Tanj.  I could
really get to like that.  Maybe, if I'm a really good
pilot, and can work my way up to some of the larger
operations, I can make enough to afford someone just
like you......"  Tanj smiled, and thought of the Lion's
attempts to eradicate Elysium's slavery system, and
just smiled; "Anything is possible.  You'd best get
going; we both have a busy day!"  Tanj watched as
Jenny almost skipped down the hall, humming to
herself.  "Wish the kid luck" the Cheetah thought to
herself; "but its not as easy as you might think to
work your way into the lap of luxury..."

Blackstone was idling in the cafeteria over a final
cup of coffee, before facing the rigors of another day
teaching idiots how to fly in combat.  At a nearby
table, one of the "old time" pirates, a sable that had
been with the Brethren for almost three years, was
telling some of the new recruits wild tales.  "Yeah,"
he said; "The boss "gave" Tanj to the Elysium
station manager.  She was able to overhear all SORTS
of stuff, which she passed on to us.  Gave us a heck
of an edge!"  One of the newbies, a panther, raised an
eyebrow; "and how could a slave pass on anything?
Surely they didn't let her make phone calls home......"
The Sable grinned; "Of course not; if they'd known she
was one of us it'd never have worked!  The key to the
whole thing was that she's got this telepathic link
with Mark down in Engineering.  We'd just periodically
send Mark to the station, or even just near the
station, and they could communicate telepathically"
The panther shook his head; "a Telepath?  Do you know
how RARE proven telepaths are?  The Sable just
shrugged; "I have no idea, but it's a proven fact
Tanj and Mark have a link.  You should have seen
the "test" the boss arranged to prove it!  That was
scary.  Don't think it works between him and anyone
else, but when he gets close enough, he can pick up
what Tanj's thinking, and a bit of what she's
seeing."  Another newbie, a collie, grinned; "ah, now
I bet that gets REAL interesting for him every time
her Master drags her off for a little nookie..."  From
there the conversation degenerated into the
applications of Telepathy in Voyeurism, and Blackstone
tuned them out, rising to leave.

Tossing his coffee cup into the recycler, Blackstone
headed for the docking bay.  "I wonder just how good a
telepath this Mark is?  I wonder if Tanj is the
only one he can "read"."  Chuckling to himself,
Blackstone realized it was VERY fortunate that Jenny
had decided on a change of location last night.  Had
Mark picked up on what he would have liked to do to
the two ladies, there would have been real trouble!
"I think I'm going to have to check into this "Mark""
he thought to himself.  "This might be the one
character in this organization that could stop me from
fulfilling my plan......"

Mark was guiding a cart loaded with a replacement
power distribution system for one of the raider ships
he was working on, when he passed Blackstone as he
headed towards his waiting group of trainees.  He took
care not to turn around and keep his expression neutral,
but inwardly he chuckled softly.  *So now he's heard
something and is starting to worry.  Good...bastard
DESERVES to squirm a bit after what he's done, and
maybe he'll start to make mistakes now.*

Blackstone caught the reflection of the mouse in the
polished deflector dish of a shuttle.  The image was
distorted, but clear enough for Blackstone to recognize
Mark from the description, and now he remembered seeing
this particular mouse around before, too.  He kept his
thoughts carefully on the schedule for the day ahead,
of the lesson plan he'd formulated...... but somehow the
harder you try NOT to think of something the more
difficult it is to keep from the front of your mind.
After reviewing the maneuvers and tactics they'd
practice this day with his students, he dispatched
them to their ships, and headed in turn for his own.
It was only after he was buckled in, and he was
starting the power-up sequence, that he allowed his
mind to drift toward the potential problems with the
telepathic mouse.  "I'm going to have to speed up my
timetable.  I can't assume his link is only with
Tanj.  I have to assume that he can read anyone he
chooses, and more than just emotions and the
occasional surface thought too.  And that makes him a
threat.  And I know how to deal with threats..."

It had been a long day for Tanj.  She'd cleaned up
the Lion's cabin in a whirlwind of activity that
morning, and then she'd put in several hours in the
Intelligence department, working on field agent
reports, to try and get a feel for Imperial activity
in the sector.  They were becoming concerned again
that the Empire might decide to "Clean out those
troublesome pirates" in the Elysium sector.  Then she
was off to join her group for flight instruction.  The
mock combat had left her drained and panting, and she
was looking forward to some time to relax before
putting in some evening hours back in Inteligence.  It
had been a while since she'd checked in on Wanda, Lord
Xylex's captive daughter, and she headed that way on
her path back to the Lion's cabin, intending just to
stick her head in and say hello...

When she rang the door chime, she heard hushed voices
from within, and then Wanda's breathless voice called
for her to come in.  As she entered the cabin, what
greeted her was not what she expected; Zassa was on
her back, on the bed, her nude form arched, her legs
splayed wide open.  Wanda's head was between her
thighs, the Wolverine lass licking softly at the
vixen's pussy.  Hinoki was behind Wanda, licking at
her in turn.  Tanj gasped; "Wanda!  I thought you...
I mean, weren't you...  Your father is going to be
FURIOUS!"  Wanda looked up with a smile; "its OK,
Tanj, Father will never know the difference.  I'm
still a virgin; well, at least technically.  My
Hymen's still intact...... but that doesn't mean I can't
enjoy a good licking from time to time, does it?"

Tanj blinked; "Uh, well, um, as long as your hymen
is intact, I guess not..."  Hinoki looked up, to grin at
Tanj; "Whatcha doin' over there, still dressed?
Shed those clothes and join in!"  Tanj just smiled
and shook her head.  As she stripped off her flight
suit, she looked from Zassa to Hinoki; "decisions,
decisions.  Do I want to make use of her tongue, or
apply some of my tongue to his cock?"  Grinning, she
decided to crouch over the vixen's face, her pussy
pressed to the vixen's muzzle; after all, she'd had a
hard day, and was in need of some serious stress

Later they cuddled, a pile of tired, sticky, happy
matted fur.  Tanj sighed and stretched, feeling her
back move over Hinoki's legs, one paw stroking along
Wanda's tummy.  "Oh, by the way, I take it you heard
about the ship I wound up buying..."  Hinoki chuckled;
"yeah; somebody really did you good on that one.  We
heard about how hull numbers got switched."  Tanj
sighed and nodded; "Yeah, well, we're going to need a
crew.  Seems the boss has some ideas as to how we can
use a ship like that.  Until I get my pilot's
certification, Mark's agreed to fly her.  I'll play
engineer for the time being.  Hinoki, I want you to
take the sensor operator position, and Zassa, I want
you to be Loadmaster."  Zassa purrrred; "Does that
mean we get to get off this rock from time to time?"
Tanj laughed; "Yes, my vixen, we will.  But we'll
all still have to behave.  Can't draw attention to
ourselves......"  Zassa chuckled; "Just so long as we get
to do some SHOPPING!  And maybe even eat out
occasionally!"  Hinoki laughed and then grunted as
Wanda rolled over, accidentally elbowing him.
"Shopping?  Did I hear the "S" word?  Oooooo, where do
I sign up?  I'm tired of ordering things over the
web!"  Tanj blinked.  She wasn't so sure it was a
good idea to let a "hostage" even so nominal a one as
Wanda out where she might be spotted.  "Um, tell you
what, Wanda.  The ship could use a medic, just in case
there are problems.  I know you've been putting in
time down in sick bay.  You take that correspondence
course on nursing, and get your rating, and I'll get
you a berth on the ship.  Deal?"  Wanda purrrrred and
rolled back onto her back, one paw lazily scritching
at Hinoki where her elbow had made contact.  "Deal.
Been thinking about doing that anyways.  They just
won't let me do much more than change sheets and empty
bedpans until I get some training..."  Rolling over
again, she dragged her tongue along Hinoki's tummy;
"Besides, if I can learn more about the nervous
system, think how much more effective I can be when I
do this......" and with that, she slurped the head of his
cock into her mouth......

It was much later in the evening than she had
intended, when Tanj finally checked back into the
intelligence office.  Sure enough there were a new
stack of field reports for her to go through.  With a
sigh, she sat down at her work station and began
wading through them.

It was even later when she made it back to the Lion's
quarters.  She wasn't surprised to find him still up,
working at his desk.  As she entered, he grinned at
her, indicating she should kneel at his feet.
Finishing the file he was working on, the lion turned
to her; "Tell me about last night."  Tanj smiled
and proceeded to tell him about her night with Jenny,
leaving nothing out.  By the time she was done, he was
shaking his head, smiling.

"That's not a very imaginative use for a slave" he
chuckled, and she definitely got the bath portion
wrong."  Tanj raised an eyebrow and smiled; "Oh?
And how would you have done it?" she purrrred.  He
grinned and indicated she should rise; "strip, and
I'll show you."

Tanj stripped off her dress, and followed him into
the bath as he pulled off his clothes as well.  There,
he used a heavy rubber strap to bind her paws behind
her back, and another to pull her elbows closer
together, the tension pulling her shoulders back, and
making her breasts stand out more proudly.  He grinned
and led her into the shower.

After adjusting the taps, the Lion grinned and pulled
Tanj under the water with him.  After they were
both drenched, the lion picked up a bottle of liquid
soap, and poured it down Tanj's front.  "There" he
grinned; "now you get to soap me up."  Tanj blinked
and then grinned; moving close to him, she started to
rub herself against him, bending at her knees, sliding
her soap-slick body up and down his body.  She
purrrrred and rocked her body from side to side, her
breasts slithering back and forth across his chest, to
his obvious delight.  After a while, when she felt he
was sufficiently aroused, she moved around behind him,
rubbing against him, giving him a chance to calm
down a little.  Dropping to her knees, she rubbed her
left cheek against his back, getting it good and
soapy; from there she nuzzled lower, stroking her
cheek against his ass, and then lower, down the back
of his right thigh.  Shifting to stroke her other
cheek up the inside of his thigh, she purrrred and
paused for a moment to lick teasingly at his pendulous

After "soaping" his other leg, she moved back around
in front of him.  With a grin, she straddled his left
leg, to slowly stroke her pussy up and down his thigh,
the insides of her thighs stroking and soaping the
sides of his.  By the time she'd finished soaping his
other leg, she was moaning softly, her own juices
adding to the lather on his leg.

The lion's cock was standing proud, and he was panting
lightly, obviously aroused by Tanj's slick teasing.
However, before succumbing to her charms, he crouched,
to push his muzzle between her breasts; she giggled,
catching the cue, and again, she shook her chest to
"lather his face".  Finally, he reached down, to lift
her; leaning her back against the rear wall of the
shower, with the water pouring over them both, he
drove his hard cock into her pussy.  She locked her
legs around his waist, and trapped between his soapy
body and the wall, moaned out her pleasure as he
fucked her furiously.

All the teasing had them both hot, and it wasn't long
before Tanj was moaning through her climax, as the
Lion roared through his orgasm.  Afterwards, he set
her back down, turning her, arms still bound, to
gently wash her hair.  After shampooing his own mane,
he led her from the shower, and as the hairdryer
whirrrred, he rubbed her dry with a fluffy towel.
Only then did he release her paws, to lead her to his

The more Blackstone thought about it, the more he was
sure the mouse was a threat.  Those that hide secrets
generally think that others are hiding secrets as
well, and he was positive the mouse had abilities
beyond what he let others know about.  There was only
one way to find out...... And that involved following up
on a rumor he'd heard.

Blackstone leaned against the ready room wall, sipping
coffee.  "I still don't understand it.  This Tanj
is someone important in the Intelligence department,
and yet she's still a slave?  How can that be?"  The
Sable shrugged; "The boss believes in using everyone
to their best ability.  Tanj's got some talent in
the intelligence area, and he's making use of it.  On
the other hand, he's insisted that her talents in
other areas not... atrophy."  The latter was said with a
leer and a knowing wink.  Blackstone shook his head;
"so its possible to make use of her as a sex slave?"
The Sable just grinned and nodded; "has to be when
she's not otherwise occupied, and it's a real shame
that she's had a full schedule lately, but if you can
find a hole in her schedule, you're allowed to fill
it.  The bear moaned in mock horror at the pun but
then grinned.

It had been another exhausting day, culminated with
mock dogfights in her piloting class.  Somehow Tanj
had found herself outnumbered three to one.  While it
had been difficult to hold the other attackers at bay
while she concentrated on her target, she'd found that
she'd taken out one, and then a second, before the
aggressive attack of the third, coupled with the
cumulative "damage" from the others, had finally cost
her the engagement.

"Rookie three from Team Leader; that wasn't half bad.
I think you're actually showing some improvement...
Feel ready for a serious challenge, though?"
Blackstone grinned to himself; "If it worked for that
Jenny bitch, it should work for me."  Tanj listened
to the voice in her headphones and shook her head;
Blackstone was being unusually... well, if not "nice"
then less hostile and abrasive than usual.  Was she
really doing better?  Shaking her head, she figured
there was only one way to find out; "Lead from Rookie
Three; yeah, I'm ready for a challenge, whatcha got in
mind?"  Blackstone grinned; "Rookie Three from Lead;
you and me.  Same wager as you had with the she-wolf,
just to make sure you don't wimp out on me when the
going gets tough.  What do you say?"

Tanj shrugged to her self; "There probably isn't
anything the Bastard can do to me that hasn't been
done before......"  Keying the mike she purrrrred, in her
best teasing voice; "Why sure, Lead, as long as you
honor my Master's requirements that I not be harmed,
that I'm returned to him in good condition, I'd be
glad to make that wager!"

Blackstone growled to himself; "should have known
there'd be that caveat; and she had to say it over the
comm, so everyone knows she told me. Grrrrrrr.
Doesn't matter, though.  It would be too risky to
actually DO what I'd like to her; but then she doesn't
have to know I won't actually follow through.  That's
the whole point.  I just have to make her THINK I
will, and then we'll see if the Mouse comes charging
to the rescue......"  Keying his mike in turn, he growled
with Satisfaction; "you're on.  Retreat to an even
100,000 kilometers and then come and get me!  Lets see
just how aggressive a slave can be!"

Tanj grinned and shoved her throttle forward.  Her
fighter leapt towards the bear's fighter, but when she
was sure that his sensors had registered her
acceleration, she yanked back on the throttle.  She
didn't want to close on him too fast; it would make it
too difficult to turn once they'd flashed past each
other.  However, she wanted to give him the idea
that's exactly what would happen.

Blackstone saw the burst of speed and he grinned.  He
increased his own throttle, letting her come to him.
As they closed, he prepared several of his training

Tanj centered his ship in her sight, shifting more
power to her forward shields, and to her longer ranged
energy weapons.  As soon as the computer told her she
was in effective range, she began firing, but when he
drew closer, entering the effective range of the more
powerful but shorter range ion guns, she broke off, to
fly an evasive pattern.

Blackstone smiled, his fangs showing as she broke off;
"Good, you little bitch, but not good enough."
Slewing his fighter around, he launched two IFF
missiles.  These missiles would hunt around for any
ship other than his, and home in relentlessly.  He
then turned his ship, not to where she was, but to
where he thought she'd go to evade the missiles.

Tanj caught the launch from the corner of her eye,
and immediately launched countermeasures, and one of
her own missiles, an image recognition.  There wasn't
much difference between Blackstone's ship and hers,
just a few minor variations in the paint job, but with
luck, the missile would spoil whatever he had planned.

Blackstone chuckled and nodded, turning his fighter
back towards Tanj's.  His best hope was to evade
the missile on its first pass, and then get his ship
close to Tanj's to confuse the missile's seeker.
With luck, it would go after her, instead of him.

Tanj jinked hard, the first IFF missing,
"exploding" at the end of its run; but the second one
had better luck.  It "exploded" on its proximity
sensor, the computer recording "damage" to her
systems.  "First blood to you, Blackstone" she thought

Tanj saw him swing around, and pulled a hard turn;
she knew she was spoiling his weapons aim, but that
didn't seem to be what he had in mind.  His ship
flashed by, just off her stern, and then she knew; her
image recognition missile!  Turning to present her bow
to it, she watched as it headed right for her.
However, she was able to jink again at the last
instant and it too flashed past, amazingly reacquiring
Blackstone's fighter.  As Blackstone tried to evade
the persistent missile, he jinked right into Tanj's
guns and she was able to score some points.

Blackstone snarled; "Hit?  She HIT me? She'll pay for
that, the little twit!"  Growling he pulled his
fighter around in a gut wrenching turn, to launch his
remaining two missiles, heat seekers, at Tanj's
fighter.  Tanj missed the flare of his launch, but
the computer didn't; it screamed warnings at her,
automatically launching flares, chaff, and decoys.
Tanj took in the situation at a glance and decided
on something risky; she went to full throttle, and
charged Blackstone.  It was a high angle deflection
shot, but still, she centered her sights where the
computer told her she should fire, and pulled the
trigger.  She grinned as she saw her lasers score, and
then the computer screamed again in warning, and she
wrenched the little fighter around, trying at the last
minute to evade the missiles.  She didn't.

Blackstone snarled again as his ship "shook" under her
fire.  He watched aghast as he lost his starboard
shield, and the weapons on that side of the fighter.
His power was reduced, as was his maneuverability.
Then his missiles hit and he screamed with delight!

Tanj bit her lip and worked with what was left of
her ship.  Most of her weapons were gone, with the
exception of one missile.  She should have used them
when she had the chance......  Shields were gone
completely.  Power was down to battery backup, and
maneuverability was almost zilch.  Still, she horsed
what was left of her ship around, trying to get off
her last missile at the bastard......

Blackstone circled slowly, knowing he had her.  She
was his!  She couldn't turn fast enough to track his
fighter, as if she had anything left to shoot with.
Those two missiles should have killed her outright,
but as they hadn't, he was more than willing to
deliver the coup de grace.  Grinning wickedly, he
moved in.

Tanj saw him come; saw him head in for the kill.
She had only one chance.  Making sure her helmet was
sealed, that life support was nominal, she waited
until just the right instant and blew the hatch to her
fighter.  The puff of atmosphere rushing out shoved
the nose of the fighter around to starboard, and as it
passed Blackstone's fighter, she triggered her last

Blackstone saw the hatch blow, saw the nose of the
fighter swing around, and he braced himself for the
laser fire he thought could not possibly be coming.
He blinked as the nose of her fighter swung past, and
then grinned.  "She must have had a missile left" he
chuckled to himself.  Glancing down at the remote by
his pilot's couch, he grinned.  Its lone red light
glowed evilly......  "Glad I thought of that" he chuckled.

Tanj stared at the flickering weapons screen.
"Missile drive malfunction.  Launch sequence aborted."
She sighed and shook her head; "why, when its down to
a critical instant, do the systems fail" she

Blackstone keyed his mike; "you're mine, little slave.
In space I AM the MASTER, as you shall well learn
tonight!"  And with that, he fired his lasers, scoring
a "kill" on Tanj's fighter.

Tanj tossed her helmet into her locker.  Yes, he'd
outfought her, but she'd had a chance right up to the
point her missile had failed to launch.  She was too
tired to twitch as paws suddenly started massaging the
back of her neck.  It felt good, and turning her head
just a bit she saw the distinctive white fur of Mark's
paws.  "MMmmmmm, hello, Mark.  You heard about my
latest lost wager?"  Mark chuckled; "Yeah, as with
everything else, its already all over the station..."
Tanj sighed, leaning back into his massage; "I
thought I had him.  Even after I took those two heat-
seekers, I thought I had him.  I had one missile left,
but it wouldn't launch.  Not a problem with the ship;
some glitch in the missile.  I'm having the worst
string of bad luck......"  Mark smiled as he worked at the
muscles at the back of her neck; "Not necessarily.
Someone had done some interesting rewiring on that
other fighter you were flying.  Someone TOLD it to
malfunction.  And then later told it not to, to make
it look as if it was just you, an inexperienced pilot
blaming the hardware for her failure."  Tanj turned
to look at Mark, staring deep into his eyes; "Surely
Jenny wouldn't......  No.  Blackstone.  He did that so his
prize pupil would win, and then he did it again to
me..."  Mark shrugged; "sometimes missiles don't light
off like they should.  Don't jump to conclusions.  We
know something was done to you last time for sure, but
not this time...yet.  And there are other suspects than
Blackstone."  Tanj's eyes widened; "Yeah, like
who?"  Mark smiled and kissed her on the nose; "who
would not want to see you qualified to fly?  Someone
who perhaps would go to extraordinary lengths to keep
you safe perhaps?  Perhaps someone who caused the hull
numbers to be switched at the auction, so you couldn't
buy that raider?  You DO have to admit that Raider
crews don't have the longest life spans...  I don't
know; do you think there's anyone around who might
care for you that much?"

Tanj stared at Mark.  Her first thought was that he
was talking about himself, but she'd been with him the
whole time at the auction; he hadn't the opportunity
to change those hull numbers.  Had he?  Then her
thoughts flew to the Lion.  But if he wanted her not
to fly, all he had to do was to order her not to fly.
She wouldn't be too happy about that, but she'd obey
his orders......  Shaking her head, she stripped out of
her flight suit and headed for the showers, her mind a
whirlwind of confusion.

Blackstone waited for Tanj in the Cafeteria.  He
wanted her submission to him to be public and
humiliating.  As he waited, there was a lot of good
natured joking about what he had planned for the
evening, many of the pirates relating tales of
Tanj's talents, talking about what they'd want if
THEY'D won the contest.

Mark watched from a corner, quietly eating his dinner
with a few of his friends from Engineering and staying
well out of Blackstone's sight.  He'd taken the rest
of the day off in exchange for a double shift at some
later date.  He knew Blackstone too well by now to
leave Tanj alone with him unsupervised, and work
would just serve to distract him.  Especially not after
a stray thought had alerted him to the bear's plan to
get at him though her...

Tanj presented herself to Blackstone, padding
quietly into the Cafeteria, to kneel before him.  She
had showered, and washed her hair, tying it behind her
in a simple ponytail.  She'd decided against perfumes,
or jewelry, thinking that this one wasn't special
enough to warrant her extra attention.  She was clean
and neat, striving for that "natural beauty" look...  Or
at least that's what she'd say if questioned.  On her
way in, the cafeteria had echoed with catcalls,
whistles and crude remarks, and Tanj found it
difficult to keep a straight face, to keep her eyes
downcast.  She wanted to give this furr a grin, or
that one a wink, but decided that she'd better play it
straight for this one.  He seemed to delight in having
power over others, and she thought she should give him
no excuse to punish her...

Blackstone watched her from the corner of his eye as
he finished the conversation he'd started with one of
the veteran raider pilots.  Finally he turned to
Tanj, to glower down at her; "You're late.  I
expected you here a half hour ago.  No, don't give me
your pitiable excuses.  You're not to talk unless I
tell you to talk!"  Blackstone reached into his pocket
to pull out a short length of chain.  Wrapping it
around Tanj's neck, he passed the ring at one end
through the slightly larger ring at the other end to
form a choke collar, as if disdaining the collar
Tanj normally wore.  Pulling it tight, he reached
into another pocket to retrieve a leash, which he
clipped to the free end of the choke chain. Pausing a
moment he fished another length of chain from his
pocket, to toss it to Tanj.  As Tanj caught it,
she noticed there were two double-ended harness hooks
clipped to it.  "Hobble yourself" the bear growled at
her, and Tanj rose from her knees to a crouch.
Wrapping one end of the chain around her ankle, she
connected its loose end to a link along the length of
the chain, using one of the double-ended hooks,
forming an anklet.  Repeating the procedure with the
other end, and her other ankle, she found that she had
maybe a foot of chain between her feet.  "Tiny, quick
steps" she thought to herself..." Seeing her finished,
and without bothering to take his leave of the others
in the Cafeteria, Blackstone rose to his feet, to jerk
Tanj to hers.  Turning, without preamble, he
stalked out of the room, dragging Tanj behind him.

The room had grown quiet as Blackstone had collared
Tanj, and was deathly still as he dragged her out,
all eyes watching.  As the pressure door closed behind
him, someone growled; "I think Tanj's in for a
rough night with that one..."  After a moment, the room
was again filled with the subdued murmur of conversation,
a few voices venting the opinion that Tanj had grown
too big for her britches and needed to be taken down a
notch, but the prevailing opinion seemed to be that she
didn't really deserve what was in store for her, if
Blackstone followed true to form.  Unnoticed among the
discussion, Mark got up and slipped away, heading for
his own cabin.

The sound of the rattling chain links was loud in the
corridor as Tanj moved her feet as fast as she
could, trying hard to keep up.  But it seemed no
matter how hard she tried, the pressure of the choke
collar around her neck was constant, and she had to
fight for each breath.  Dimly she noticed they weren't
heading for his cabin, in the residential section, but
instead seemed to be heading for the gymnasium.
Blackstone led her to an exercise room, and after
shoving her down, making her kneel on the mat in the
center of the room, he turned to make sure all the
doors were locked.

Mark locked the door to make sure he wouldn't be
disturbed, turned off the light, and laid down on his
bed, slipping into a half-trance almost immediately.
Letting go of his breath in a soft whisper, he focused
on his link to Tanj, quite intent on missing not a
single detail of what went on.  *Wish I could make it
easier on Tanj...but if I did, Blackstone might
notice and take his frustration out on her in earnest.
I'll have to settle for watching closely and prying a
few secrets from him while he's distracted, and somehow
make it up to her later.*

Tanj watched as Blackstone removed several items from
pockets, and then slowly disrobed, folding his clothes
and setting them aside neatly.  Finally, he turned and
padded over to her.  With another length of chain, and
some more double ended harness hooks, he looped the
chain around one wrist, and tugging it behind her
back, looped it around the other wrist.  The chain was
then jerked up harshly, and clipped to the ring of the
choke collar, now turned to dangle down her back.
Unless Tanj struggled to keep her wrists held high
up in the center of her back, the choke collar made it
difficult to breath.  Using another chain, he hooked
her wrists to the chain between her ankles making her
bow her back...  As she struggled, she watched the

"Having Difficulty breathing?" He rumbled.  With a
grin, he stepped closer, his hard cock swaying before
him.  Grinning, he placed his paws on either side of
her head, stroking her fur.  Then, suddenly his thumbs
dug into the corners of her jaw and with a gasp she
felt her mouth forced open.  Hard rubber was shoved
into her mouth, an open ring pulled towards the back
of her head by heavy straps, buckled behind her head.
The ring forced her to keep her jaws apart.  She was
familiar with the ring gag, also known as the oral
rape gag, but even at the academy, she'd never had one
crammed into her mouth so brutally.  And this one had
sharp little points on the inside, along the bottom,
forcing her to lay her tongue through the ring, or get
it pricked.

Blackstone grinned down at her; "well, now that we've
made sure your mouth will stay open, that you can't
bite, lets see what we can do about your breathing..."
And with that he stepped closer, one paw directing his
shaft to her mouth.  With his other paw behind her
head, he grunted and shoved his cock into her wide
open mouth, pushing it over her tongue, through the
ring.  She gagged as she felt its head press against
the back of her throat, but he didn't let up the
pressure.  In fact, wrapping a paw in her hair, he
jerked her head back, to stand above her, pressing his
cock into her until it slipped down her throat.

Tanj struggled against her bonds; the bear, like so
many of his species, was rather large, and this one
was rather well hung, even for a bear.  His cock
stretched her throat painfully, but worse than that,
it was long enough, thick enough, to close her air
passage, to keep her from breathing.  And she knew
that was just what he wanted, as he didn't move; he
just held his cock deep in her throat, waiting for her
to get short of air......

Mark frowned lightly and tuned in closely to Tanj's
vital functions, keeping his thoughts grimly to himself.
"Careful there, Blackstone" Mark thought to himself; be
VERY careful.  I KNOW you're not planning to kill her,
but get carried away and loose control, have an "accident"
and you won't ever know what hit you...and secrecy be

Tanj's struggles were increasing as she slowly ran
out of air.  Her vision was narrowing, being reduced
to a small spot surrounded by gray, her lungs burning
fiercely, when finally he pulled back some.  She was
barely able to gasp for air before he drove his meat
down again, closing off her throat.  She swallowed
instinctively, the gag reflex causing her throat
muscles to ripple and spasm around his invading shaft.
And he loved it.  From the look on his face, this was
the kind of control that he sought, a terrified,
helpless victim under his complete control, to live or
die at his discretion.

Blackstone loved the look of terror in her eyes, the
mask of agony on her face.  It had been so long since
he'd done this, he was savoring every second.  But it
had been so long, that he was on a hair trigger...
She'd only come close to passing out three times when
he lost it, howling as his cock pumped his pent-up
load down her throat.  Finally he pulled back, to wipe
his softening cock against her cheek in derision,
first one side, then the other.

Tanj gasped, and panted, trying hard to recover her
breath, to hold herself in a position where the choke
chain didn't make it more difficult than it already
was.  She'd heard stories of those that said
suffocation during sex made the orgasms much more
powerful, but somehow she'd doubted it.  And there
were rumors of accidents among those who went a little
too far in pursuit of that particular fetish.  She'd
also heard of those who liked to kill slaves while
having sex.  There was a story at the academy about
one customer who had a device that went around the
neck; every time he pumped her, it got a little
tighter, until she couldn't breath, and as her body
spasmed in death, that was the extra sensation he
needed to orgasm.  Even the instructors in the academy
thought that was sick, and cruel, and Tanj agreed.
But it was also a sad fact that such folks did exist.
And that one was reputed to be a regular customer.

In his cabin, Mark slowly relaxed.  The worst - the one
REAL danger to Tanj, if he'd read the bear correctly
- seemed to be over.  The rest would 'merely' hurt...
one more reason to get back at the sick bastard when
the time was right, to be sure, but it could wait until
then.  *Now let's see in how much detail he's planned
his betrayal yet...*

After he'd regained his breath, Blackstone turned and
walked over to one corner of the room.  He wondered at
the fact that the mouse hadn't come running yet.
Could his link with Tanj be an on-again/off-again
thing?  "Perhaps I can force the issue another way" he
thought with a chuckle.  Flipping back one of the
exercise mats, he revealed a selection of whips, canes
and crops.  "Now then, I bet its been a LONG time
since you were properly whipped, eh, Slave?"

Tanj hung from her chained paws, balanced on
tiptoe.  Blackstone had taken a spreader bar from its
hiding place under one of the mats and had connected
it between her ankles, forced her right foot high into
the air. "At least I can breath again" thought to
herself as she balanced precariously, trying to watch
Blackstone as the bear circled her, a crop in one paw.
As he walked he idly slapped it against his thigh...
Tanj knew that he was going to make her loose her
balance, to wind up hanging from her wrists, but the
chains were hard and bit cruelly into her wrists, and
she wanted to put that off as long as possible......  And
that meant holding still, very still......

Tanj moaned through the ring gag as yet another
blow landed.  He was being careful, she thought, not
to let the blows overlap, to leave any blemish that
could be detected tomorrow, and yet each stroke HURT!
She'd had more experience with being whipped at the
academy than she would have liked, and from this end
at least, considered herself something of an expert......
He'd been cropping the insides of her thighs, and her
ass, with an occasional stroke against her unprotected
sex, or her breasts.  As another stroke struck her
pussy, square on her slit, Blackstone let out an
"OHO!"  looking at the leather tab at the end of the
crop and then bending to examine Tanj's sex he
shook his head in amazement; "do you mean to tell me,
Slave, that this cropping is getting you hot?  Why,
your pussy is dripping!  Well, slut, I guess I'll have
to find something a little less pleasurable......"

Tanj shook her head; this HURT; how could she find
it exciting?  She wasn't aroused; she was certain of
that!  Was he making it up, just to torment her?
Absurd......  and yet she'd heard of slaves that fell in
love with the lash......  With a moan she shuddered and
again wondered just what had become of her.

Blackstone considered his options.  He thought that if
the mouse really had a telepathic link with her, he
either would have come running to rescue her by now,
or that he was enjoying this too.  Maybe the little
snot was into the slave's torment, and was sitting
back somewhere, watching, enjoying what was going on.
Blackstone reveled in terror and control, and right
now, he had the slave in his complete control.  The
only problem would be if he went too far, giving in to
his desires.  He could kill her, but that would ruin
his plans, and with a sigh, he decided she wasn't
worth that.  Maybe when the pirates had been captured,
he could buy her, and then......  but in the meantime,
he'd gotten the information he needed.  But just in
case, just for the possibility that the mouse WAS
watching, living vicariously through Blackstone's
actions, he'd give him a finale that would make him
sit up and take notice.

Blackstone had re-tied her, on her stomach, wrists
tied to ankles, her body bent back in a bow,
exacerbated by the fact that the spreader bar still
held her feet wide apart.  He had the crop again, and
she didn't like the look on his face......

The first stroke landed on the pads of her left foot
and she knew what he was after.  It was called
"bastinado", the whipping of the soles of the feet,
and it was very painful, and if done right, didn't
leave a mark... and as she howled through her ring gag
as the next stroke fell, she knew she'd have
difficulty walking when he was done with her...

Tanj groaned when she smelled the menthol aroma of
the liniment.  "I HATE it when they do that" she
thought to herself. Blackstone had untied her, and
retrieving short fiberglass rods from their hiding
places, he had lashed two on either side of each of
her knees, making her legs rigid from hip to ankle.
Similar rods lashed by her elbows made her arms stiff
as well.  He had then tied her wrists to her knees,
making her torso and legs form an "L".  The spreader
bar still held her ankles wide apart, and she sat on
the floor wondering what he had in mind.

She didn't have long to wait.  He chuckled and came up
behind her, to lift her, tilting her forward, until
she balanced most uncomfortably on forehead and feet,
her ass sticking high in the air.  Tanj moaned; it
was only moments before her head and neck were
hurting......  and then he stepped up behind her, to smear
the foul smelling liniment over her ass.

Tanj couldn't move; she was tied too tightly, bound
into a rigid posture.  However the ring gag permitted
her to moan and then to howl as he shoved his cock
into her ass.  The liniment lubricated, but also
irritated, making her ass BURN!  She howled louder and
writhed as he reached around her, to take a gobbet of
liniment, to rub it on her clitty......

He fucked her slowly, taking his time, making it last.
He knew the slave was in torment, the liniment burning
her harshly; and yet, by tomorrow, there would be
little sign of his mistreatment......  But she'd know, and
remember every time she looked at him.  And maybe the
mouse would know too...... but he obviously wasn't going
to do anything.

Mark growled unconsciously in his trance, sounding more
like a hunting cat than a mouse for a moment.  *'Not
going to do anything', indeed.  Hiram F****** Blackstone,
you don't know how LUCKY you are. I can't just get rid
of you, whether openly or by 'accident' - this station
isn't THAT kind of 'hive of scum and villainy'.  There'd
be an investigation for sure.  And knowing your plans
doesn't help me prove anything since you've been canny
enough not to leave any physical evidence so far, so it'd
come down to my word against yours.  Congratulations.
But don't think you're safe forever...in fact, something
tells me I won't have to wait much longer.*

Blackstone came with a growl, his body shuddering.
After a moment, he pulled his softening cock from
Tanj's ass and pulled back on her, returning her to
a sitting position.  With a wicked grin, he moved
around her, to take her head in both paws.  Presenting
his still slick cock to her mouth, he chuckled; "clean
me, little slave; clean me well, and we'll be done for
the evening."

With the ring gag still strapped into her mouth, with
the way she was tied, there was no way Tanj could
resist, no matter how much she wanted to.  He shoved
his foul cock into her mouth, and when no tongue
action was immediately forthcoming, twisted her ears
until she complied...

Tanj lay curled up on the mat, in the gym.
Blackstone had freed her, gathered his toys and
implements and departed without a backwards look, or a
single word.  She knew she should return to her
quarters, if for no other reason than to clean herself
of the still burning liniment, but for the moment, she
didn't have the energy to move.  And her feet hurt so!

When she woke up in the morning, she was in sickbay,
with the Lion looming over her.  The doctor padded over
seeing that she'd awakened, and then turning to the Lion,
shrugged;"She's had a rough time, but there's no sign of
permanent damage.  Lucky that mouse fellow found her in
the gym, although why he was going for a workout at that
time of night is beyond me...  Somehow carried her all
the way here, too...  But I bet she won't sit down for a
bit, and walking, well, that too is going to be a problem
for a while."  The lion growled, obviously not happy.
Looking directly at Tanj, he growled;
"NO more Wagers.  Understand?" Tanj just nodded.

Blackstone grinned to himself when Tanj failed to
show for her class that afternoon.  He was feeling
quite pleased with himself, confident that the Mouse
was no threat.  Things were going according to his
plan, and soon he'd be out of here, and rich enough to
indulge himself for the rest of his life......

The next day, Tanj kneeled at her work station in
Intelligence.  She still was too sore to sit down,
still too sore to walk with ease, and standing was
pure torture.  Still, she'd survived, and anything
that didn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
"Besides," she thought to herself, "I can't be too
wrapped up in this sex slave thing, if I didn't enjoy
that......"  And yet she wondered about his claim of her
getting wet from the cropping......

  Blackstone grinned when Tanj showed up limping
for the next day's class.  He dropped innuendo after
innuendo, letting the class know exactly what he
thought of her, and of the things that he'd done to
her.  Tanj maintained a stoic silence, and she was
pleased to see that most of the class were distressed
by Blackstone's verbal assault and foul stories.

But there's always the few that don't go with the
group.  The Badger was excited by what the instructor
had said.  He'd always dreamed of doing things like
that, of having a sexy female in his complete power.
Was this cheetah really available for anyone to use as
they saw fit?  His imagination ran wild as he thought
of what the instructor had said, and of the things he
might do to her...  She was only a slave, after all,
wasn't she?

Tanj winced with each step.  Her feet were doing
better, but it still hurt to walk.  Still hurt to sit
too.  It had been a long day, between the routine
Intelligence work, her flight training, and the
preparations for her first "logistics" mission in her
freighter.  It was late at night and she was heading
back from Intelligence, and some late night "catching
up", towards the Lion's quarters, wanting nothing more
than a hot bath, and maybe some cuddling, when a form
moved out from the shadows to pounce her.

The badger growled; "Not a sound, Slave" as he brought
his knife up to her throat.  With a paw wrapped in her
hair, he dragged her back, into one of the deserted
offices.  "You 'n me gonna have some fun, bitch" he
growled, and Tanj mewled as she felt the point of
his knife prick her skin.

Normally, Tanj's unarmed combat training would have
kicked in, but she was having too much trouble just
walking to be as effective as she'd like; and his
knife was pressed hard into her throat......

The Badger grinned and looped a thin strand of wire
around her throat.  It had been formed into a noose
and he pulled it tight as he pulled his knife away.
Tossing the end of the wire over a sprinkler head on
the wall of the office, he pulled her up until she
danced on tiptoes, her paws grasping at the wire
around her throat.  "Betcha can't scream for help, eh,
bitch" the badger gloated.  Moving quickly, he pulled
her paws around behind her back, to tie them together
with more of the thin wire.  Having secured her to his
satisfaction, he retrieved his knife, to cut off her

Mark sat bolt upright in bed.  Tanj!  A moment's
concentration confirmed his suspicions, as well as
her location.  *Not Blackstone for once...but if
anything, this guy is worse.  Can't lose a single
moment.*  Grabbing his pants, he dashed out of the
room and nearly ran into a couple of familiar figures.

The badger, thinking of what Blackstone had said, had
duct taped one of Tanj's feet to a desk chair,
forcing her to spread her legs.  He chuckled as he
watched her wobble for a minute, balancing on one
foot, as she swayed.  The desk chair was on wheels,
and that made her stance particularly unstable.  After
a while, the badger took the ruler he'd found in one
of the desks and slapped her hard across her left
breast.  Tanj tried to scream, but only a strangled
squeak emerged.  The next stroke was upwards, between
her legs, and again she danced and wobbled, trying
hard to maintain her stance, for to fall would be to
be garroted.

The ruler had a sharp edge, and the Badger was amused
to note that in a number of places her fur was tinged
pink.  He grinned and wondered what would happen if he
struck with the thin edge, instead of the flat......

The door was the usual type of door in the station;
powered and sliding, capable of standing significant
differences in pressure, but not explosive
decompressions.  It certainly wasn't up to the assault
that caused it to crash from its frame.  The badger
spun around, a surprised look on his face.  And then
as Slasher pulled his fighting knife, stepping
forward, the Badger's eyes rolled up in his head, and
with a shuddering convulsion, he keeled over.  Slasher
shot a glance at Reggie, who just shrugged, and then
they both turned to look at Mark...who wasn't there
anymore...  He had already moved over to cut at the wire
suspending Tanj against the wall with a short blade,
sparing the badger not even a single glance.  Slasher
and Reggie looked at each other again, and shrugged,
and then moved towards the badger, who was convulsing
on the floor, foaming at the mouth now. Picking him up,
they dragged him out the door, even as Mark caught Tanj
with a soft 'oof' as she fell.

The badger's last thought, as the door crashed in,
just before his brain seemed to explode, was that he
didn't understand; she was just a slave, wasn't she?
No one cared what happened to a slave, did they?

Mark cycled the airlock, and turned away without a
second glance.  Reggie looked out the window, as the
blast of air pushed the still writhing Badger out the
open outer door.  He just couldn't figure out why the
Badger looked so surprised.

Tanj found herself again in sick bay, the doctor
clucking over her in dismay.  The Lion was furious
that something like this had happened, and he was
pacing back and forth in the confines of sick bay,
generally being in the way.  Mark, Reggie and Slasher
had been thanked for their timely rescue, and then
sent to retrieve the body.  The Lion felt that leaving
it in its low orbit around the asteroid station was
just "trashing the neighborhood" and had sent them to
dispose of it properly.

Blackstone found out about the previous night's events
at Breakfast.  The whole station was buzzing about
what had happened, most of the personnel feeling that
what had happened to the Badger was too good for him.
The Sable nodded sagely; "See, told you Mark and
Tanj had a special link.  He KNEW she was in
danger!"  Blackstone shook his head and wondered.

As he sat at his "desk", a tiny workstation assigned
to the instructor pilots, and worked on his training
report, Blackstone's mind drifted.  He wondered again
if the Mouse knew what he'd been doing with Tanj.
Had he known it was only a test of their link, of his
capabilities?  Or was his talent hit-or-miss, unable
to pick up on Tanj's little session with him, and
randomly picking up on the Badger's little escapade?
"I'm just going to have to plan for the worst," he
thought to himself.  "If the mouse might be able to
divine what I'm up to, I'll just have to make sure he
can't interfere.  Tanj may be a favorite of the
boss, but there's no sign Mark is.  His demise should
be much easier to arrange.

Tanj sighed and hit the "save" key.  The report on
current Imperial activity was complete, and appended
to the next operational plan.  One of her agents had
put together the data that suggested a major convoy
would be departing from Elysium for the Wolmart
trading station, in the Gurpta sector.  Other agents
had given corroborating evidence, and the read on the
Imperials were that they were busy elsewhere, that
this wasn't a trap, or a set-up.  The convoy's
departure was scheduled for eight days from now, with
the interception point 16 hours after that.  Now all
she had to do was to watch for changes in schedule,
and changes in Imperial routine......

Blackstone saw the ops plan show up in his e-mail and
grinned; this was the key, the final piece of
information that he would need to prove to the Elysium
Government that what he was saying was true.  If he
delivered that to them, with all the other information
he'd gathered, it would give them the perfect
opportunity to trap the pirates......

The compressed gas cylinder was easy to swipe from the
maintenance bay.  There'd been many advances in
fabrication over the years, but some metals still had
to be fused, welded, or in some cases even cut in an
inert atmosphere.  Argon was the gas of choice, and it
was commonly used for those purposes.  The day shift
was over and it was unlikely that the cylinder would
be missed before tomorrow.  By then it would be too

Blackstone was way too big to fit down the ventilation
duct, but he could read a schematic, and determine
where they lay, what paths they traveled.  The one he
wanted passed through this storage cubicle in the
residence sector.  He'd already used a cutter to slice
through its bottom, a square sheet of polyboard shoved
through the slit, to dam off the airflow.  A hose from
the argon cylinder disappeared through a hole in the
downstream portion of the duct.  Opening the valve and
adjusting the regulator, Blackstone grinned. There was
enough gas in the cylinder to completely fill several
rooms, but he was interested in only one.  The Mouse's
sleeping quarters. "forsee THIS, you little bastard.
I bet even you can't read my mind while you're
asleep!"  As he departed, he broke the key off in the
door's lock, making sure that no one would detect or
disturb his scheme for quite a while.

Tanj was up early; it was becoming her routine as
there always seemed so much to do.  She'd put in an
hour in Intelligence, seeing what had come in over
night, then get some exercise, and then meet the Lion
for breakfast, and the impromptu conferences that it
always spawned as folks came to talk to him, knowing
they could catch him there.

Blackstone was moving too; his "exit" plan was in
motion, but he thought it would be nice to kidnap
Tanj, to use her as a hostage to help insure his
escape.  And nicer to use her afterwards......

Tanj growled as the lift sailed right past the
floor intelligence was on.  She grumbled and hammered
on the control pannel, until the turbolift stopped two
decks above where she wanted.

Blackstone watched the turbolift indiator, waiting for
it to open, waiting to pounce the cheetah slave.  He
blinked as it didn't stop.

The otter looked up from his magazine as the buzzer
went off.  Being an asteroid station, environmental
concerns were a priority, and any change in the
atmosphere, even local ones, tripped alarms.  The
otter's mouth fell open as the computer told him the
oxygen concentration in sector III block 2 was down to
3% from its specified 21%!

Tanj was headed for the stairs, pissed at the
turbolift, and intending to just trot down the two
flights of stairs.  Just as her paw touched the door
handle, the intercom crackled; "Tanj, please report
to Room 4225."  Tanj blinked; that was her Master's
suite, but that hadn't been his voice.  In fact, it
didn't sound like anyone she knew...  With a sigh, she
turned back, to trust her luck again with the lift.

Blackstone waited just outside the stairwell door, all
set to pounce.  The flashing lights on the turbolift
panel however drew his attention, and he blinked as
the lift descended back to the residential level.
"Bitch can't make up her mind this morning.  Dammit,
I've got to go, I'll mess up my schedule if I wait.
Oh, well, I'll deal with her after the pirates have
been captured......"  With that, Blackstone stalked off
towards the launch bay.

Tanj had just re-entered the Lion's suite when the
environmental alarm went off.  She'd been through the
drills enough times for her to find her breathing
mask.  Turning, she found the Lion already had his,
and was charging out the door, still nude.  Shrugging,
she grabbed his pants and followed him at a dead run.

The otter was scratching his head; he'd dispatched
teams to check on the occupants of the rooms in block
2, and was trying to figure out WHY there was such an
anomaly there.  The rest of the station was fine......
The only thing strange was a high discharge pressure
on one of the air circulating fans.

Tanj caught up with the rescue team as they carried
Mark's body into sick bay.  "He's still alive, I
think..." the leader called to the Doctor; "At least
we still have a pulse, but there's no telling how
long that'll last.  Hurry!"

The otter shook his head.  The concentration of Argon
was slowly diffusing through the station, and he bled
more oxygen into the system to compensate.  Still, he
had no idea where it had come from.  He directed one
team to check Engineering, to see if something had
leaked, and another team to find out why circulating
fan 24 was running with a high discharge pressure.
The latter didn't seem important, but at this point he
was grasping at straws.

Blackstone tucked the case into his fighter, as he
prepared to take his morning class out for their final
evaluation.  They were down to three students, none of
them were really very good, in his opinion; nothing
close to his own skill.  But that only made his day

"Hey, Charlie" the team leader called to the otter;
"we got one argon cylinder missing from Maintenance,
but that's all we can come up with.  Everything else
is either tagged empty, or still holding pressure.
The otter Hmmmmed and nodded.  Turning, he pressed a
button on his comm panel; "better get me internal

Tanj sat by Mark's bed.  He was on a ventilator,
but that was about all they could do for him.  His
heartbeat was very very low, as was his respiration.
Brainwave activity held some resemblance to that of a
coma, but there was some other activity, in other
areas, that the doctor didn't recognize......

The janitor tried the doorknob again.  "Funny, I never
lock this door" he thought to himself.  Pulling out a
ring of keys he tried to find the right one.  However,
his first attempt came up short as he found he
couldn't get the key in the lock.  Bending down to
examine it, he Hmmmmmed.  Straightening, the skunk
looked to his left, towards Block 2, where all the
excitement had been earlier, and then right towards
environmental.  Suddenly his eyes grew wide and he
dashed for the nearest comm panel.

Charlie watched as they cut the lock out of the door,
sliding it aside.  He nodded; "Uh-huh.  'Fraid of
that."  Stepping back, he let the guys from internal
security get a look.

Blackstone grinned.  It was time to make his escape.
By now, they MIGHT have uncovered his foul deed, and
he thought he should, as always, stay one step ahead
of them.  Centering his sights on one of his students,
he armed his weapons.

The duty officer in Operations came awake in a hurry
as the scanners showed a power spike.  Checking his
display, he relaxed as he realized that it was just
the fighter pilot class on another practice mission.
Then he tensed again as he realized it wasn't some
dumb bunny hitting the wrong switch, but the
instructor that had powered up his weapons.  Keying
the comm, he called; "Flight leader from ops; why have
you armed weapons?"

Jameson heard the call from Ops, but it barely
registered on his consciousness before Blackstone's
first volley destroyed his fighter.

Jenny gasped as she caught the explosion from the
corner of her eye, even as she heard the call from
Ops.  She wondered if they were being attacked, but
her scope had shown nothing but their own training
flight, and a single ore freighter.  Instinctively she
wrenched her fighter around in a tight turn, not
knowing what was wrong yet, but deciding it would be
prudent to give no one a clean shot at her.

Blackstone ignored the voice on the comm,
concentrating instead on lining up on his next
student.  This idiot had put his ship into a gentle
turn, as if trying to come about to see what the
matter was.  "Not nearly paranoid enough to survive,
you little twit" Blackstone thought as he fired his
weapons again, watching as the student's fighter was
left drifting, helpless.

Tanj watched the monitor.  Something was happening
in Mark's brain, neurological activity spiking in
certain areas.  Everything else made him look like he
was still in a coma...  "Maybe he's dreaming" she

Jenny was terrified.  Her instructor had just destroyed
two of his own class, and now he was after HER and
closing in...and then, from one moment to the next,
her consciousness "switched off" and there was nothing
at all anymore......

Blackstone chuckled as the remaining student, that
wolf bitch, brought her own weapons on line; "Does she
seriously think she can take ME out?  I'll blow her
away and then I'll be out of here before they can send
anyone to stop me!"

Pulling his fighter into a tight turn, Blackstone
tried to line his sights up on the bitch, but suddenly
she put her ship through a dizzying sequence of twists,
turns and dodges, always staying just outside his
targeting reticule. Growling at his inability to kill
her as easily as he had the others, he armed two
heat-seekers.  When he got tone, signaling a lock-on,
he launched them, and then broke in the opposite
direction. As he turned he watched in amazement, as
the other fighter spit out exactly two flares several
fractions of a second apart.  Each flare decoyed one
missile perfectly, and then the bitch was turning back
towards him.

The lion looked at the argon cylinder, and at the
forensic evidence they'd gathered.  "Blackstone?  I
admit the guy's a sadistic jerk, but why would he want
to kill THOSE......  Ah, Mark.  Of course.  And you say
one of the other rooms in this block was vacant, and
all the others are occupied by furrs currently
embroiled in an all-night poker game?"  When the otter
nodded, the Lion just shook his head; "That's
remarkably lucky, that no one else got hurt.  In fact
that's incredibly lucky......"

Blackstone watched in amazement as his Image
Recogntion missile failed to recognize its target,
sailing past as if it were locked on a far star.  He
pulled his fighter around yet again, still trying to
get the bitch in his sights.

The Lion burst into Ops, took one look at the tactical
display and growled; "Magnum launch.  Get EVERYTHING
after that bastard.  We can't let him get away!"

Blackstone's computer screamed at him.  A dozen
assorted ships had just launched from the mining
station, everything from fighters like his, to a
cruiser.  And they were all powering up weapons.
Twisting his ship about wildly, he took a potshot at
the wolf bitch and shook his head.  "Going into warp
with a pursuit like this is risky, but hanging around
would appear to be riskier still.  Reaching down, he
threw the switch to feed power to his FTL systems.

Ben watched from the bridge of the Intimidator, the
cruiser that had been the closest to flight status
when the order came in.  "Whoever that student pilot
is, she's good" he rumbled, half the bridge crew
nodding in agreement.  "The boss says to fry that
bastard, but lets not try and fry her too; she's a

Blackstone gasped as the ion bolt from the cruiser
missed his fighter by meters.  The residual charge
danced across the surfaces of his fighter like
crackling blue lightning.  "Now or never" he thought
to himself, hitting the key for Warp.  And then he hit
it again, with the same negative result, a single red
light mockingly informing him that the near-miss had
fried a critical connection and the replacement would
take thirty seconds to come on-line.  "OH CRAP" he

Ben watched as Blackstone's fighter tried to go to
warp.  Power was building; that was plain to the
cruiser's sensors, but somehow didn't get where it was
supposed to go. And that moment's distraction obviously
was all that the student needed, as she whipped her
fighter around, to fire all weapons at Blackstone at
point blank range.

Tanj smoothed the fur on Mark's brow as she watched
the brainwave activity drop in those unexplained
areas.  She wondered if he had stopped dreaming, or
did that mean he was dying?.

Ben shook his head; "whats wrong?  She's just sitting
out there..."  After Blackstone had been destroyed,
Jenny's ship had just drifted to a stop, and now just
drifted, motionless.  With a shrug, Ben turned to the
cruiser's tactical officer, and directed him to
tractor the fighter into the cruiser's small docking

Jenny blinked and jerked her head back violently.  The
medic grinned and capped the smelling salts.  Jenny
blinked the tears from her eyes and looked around; her
fighter was in some ship's docking bay, and a whole
crowd of folks were standing there looking at her.
Looking at her as if they expected answers, or
explanations...  She blinked and searched her memory,
wondering how she'd gotten there.  The last thing she
could remember was Blackstone shooting up the other
students......  Looking up into the face of the chief of
operations she withered and whispered; "Oh Lord, now
what have I done?"

Tanj smiled as Mark's eyes fluttered and then
opened.  Somehow he knew she was there, and turned his
head to look directly at her.  After a moment, he
mumbled "Oh...hi, Tanj.  You wouldn't believe the
dream I just had.  For some reason I was out there in
space, shooting it out with that Blackstone guy, except
it wasn't really ME...  Uh... Um, we're not in...  this
isn't my bed! Where... What happened?"  Tanj blinked
for a moment, then pulled herself together again.
"What happened is that Blackstone is dead.  He
apparently decided to sell us out, tried to flee the
station and shot up his piloting class.  But it didn't
work.  One of his students held him at bay until help
could arrive, and then actually managed to destroy him
herself before they could do much to help.  Interesting
things were found in the wreck of his fighter. Apparently
he'd been spying on us for some time.  Oh, and on the
way out, he tried to kill you.  By some random stroke
of luck, you were the only one in that residence block
when he made his attempt, and to the amazement of the
entire medical staff, you didn't die...and now I'm
starting to wonder just how your 'dream' ties into all
that.  Especially since Jenny - she was that student
out there, by the way - insists she doesn't remember
a thing..."

Mark looked thoughtful.  "I suppose there could be a
connection, yes...I'll have to look into that. Not
now, though, I'm still too tired, and you don't look
all that fresh either.  Go to bed, will you?"

  The Lion stood just outside the door, listening
quietly, barely breathing, then quickly and silently
made himself scarce as he heard Tanj get up.  He
went off to find Ben.  "Anything new from Mark yet?
I know Tanj's down there..." the Wolf asked.
The Lion nodded; "He's woken up for a few moments.
Probably is back asleep now.  Claims he's had a funny
dream while the dogfight with Blackstone went on...
I suppose it could be a coincident..."  Ben nodded
Slowly; "But you don't really believe that, do you?"
The Lion shook his head no.  "Listen, I want you to
run a VERY thorough background check on our little
dreamer again, just to see if he's really as innocent
as he looks.  Don't tell anybody else if you can avoid
it, and most of all DON'T let Tanj find out.  I
don't know just how good a telepath he is, he might
just have fooled us all with that double-blind test
bby seeing through it and playing along anyway, but
let's at least not make it TOO easy for him to figure
out we're checking up on him..."  The wolf-morph nodded quietly
as he finished.  "I'll do that, boss.  Might take a
few weeks, but if there's anything to be found, I'll
find it."

Mark watched Tanj leave, watching the way her ass
swayed under her short dress, and smiled, half asleep
again already.  *Good thing I was ready for something
like that gas attack; old Blackstone simply WAS too
predictable for his own good, in the end.*  He reached
inside for a moment and lightly touched the invisible
matrix that had kept him just alive enough to survive.
*And everything else can wait until tomorrow, just this
once.*  With that, he closed his eyes and fell into a
deep sleep...one without dreams, this time.

The lion watched Tanj enter the cafeteria, and
shook  his head.  Loudly, he said, so that all could
hear; "Yes, Ben, I think you're right.  Tanj did
all the prescreening for our recent recruits, and with
respect to both that Badger and Blackstone, she
severely dropped the ball.

Tanj stopped and stared, her mouth open.  Yes,
she'd done the pre-screening, but there's been a whole
committee that approved the final selections.  But
then as she looked around, she realized that most of
the committee was present, and all nodding their heads
in agreement.  Tanj smelled a set-up, but didn't
quite know what to do about it......

Ben nodded; "I think she's already paid the price for
the Badger... but I think she still should be punished
for her mistake with Blackstone.  That bastard could
have destroyed us all!"  The Lion just nodded.  "I'm
told that Blackstone said that that she hadn't been
whipped enough, and I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps
he wasn't right on that score.  What do you think?
Think that would be a suitable punishment?

Tanj had set down her tray, and had kneeled at the
Lion's feet, knowing something was coming, but when he
mentioned whipping, she looked up at him with shocked,
pleading eyes.

But the lion was unmoved; "Lets see, who'd like to do
the honors?  We need some volunteers to see she's
properly positioned......"  He hadn't even gotten it out
of his mouth when half the pirates present leaped
forward to pounce Tanj.  In moments she was nude,
her paws bound over her head, suspended from a hook by
soft braided rope."  Someone came up with a spreader
bar, and there was much discussion as to just what
Blackstone had done, and how he had used it.  Despite
the fact that she had no intention of helping them,
they finally figured it out and she balanced again on
one foot, the other held wide out to one side by the
bar.  They debated whether or not she should be
gagged, but finally the lion convinced them that she
should be left ungagged, so they could hear and
appreciate her cries.

As Tanj dangled, still aghast that they would blame
her for what had happened, the lion moved into her
view, holding a long and wicked cat 'o nine tails up
for her to look at; he snapped it quickly, the loud
pop making everyone jump.  He grinned and gently drew
it across her chest, the tails tickling her nipples as
he caressed her with it.  Still grinning, he moved
around behind her, and snapped it again.

Tanj sighed; she didn't want to be whipped, and
yet, if her master said it must be, she was willing to
suffer through it.  She searched her feelings, trying
to sort out the ambivalence she felt......  Finally she
decided that she had to trust him; he was her master,
and she knew he cared for her.  But she still didn't
think she'd enjoy this much......

Unseen by Tanj, no sooner had he snapped the whip a
second time, he handed it to one of the pirates, to
take the real whip he intended on flogging her with.
This too was leather, about as long, but soft fur
strips of synthetic mink, incredibly soft and sensual,
about a foot and a half long, graced the ends of each
of the nine tails.  The lion grinned and took one, to
caress Wanda's face with it, smiling as she giggled at
its softness.

Tanj didn't have time to ponder Wanda's giggle; she
really didn't think the Wolverine lass was into pain,
but......  She caught the shadow as the Lion tossed the
tails of the whip behind him, and she braced herself
for the blow......

But when the whip wrapped itself around her middle,
what came out was not a scream, but a giggle; she
twisted and turned, trying to catch a look at what the
lion was wielding, but then it struck upwards between
her thighs and she laughed as fur stroked from her pussy
to her tummy.  The lion flogged her "hard" and the harder
he flogged her, the more she giggled, writhed and laughed!
When he "botched" a stroke, it was like being hit with a
furry mitten; but when he did it right, the fur
stroked her hard and fast, and in the right places it
tickled wildly......

Finally the lion was exhausted, and he handed the whip
over to Ben, who stared at it as if not having the
faintest idea what to do with it.  Tanj had long
since lost her footing and was hanging by her paws,
swaying back and forth.  At least the wrist cuffs were
well padded.  Her chest was still heaving, and she was
finally catching her breath.  That thing TICKLED!  Ben
shrugged and gave her an experimental swat with the
whip, and then three or four furrs, including Jenny
pressed forward to show him the "correct" way of
wielding the whip.

After the whip had been passed down from the lion,
through three or four other furrs, Tanj was
giggling and begging for mercy most piteously.  The
lion finally consented, and they lowered her, to let
her work off the rest of her punishment by satisfying
the lusts of those who chose to remain in the

This time, Tanj noted with a smile, the Lion
stayed, watching, until as if to close the ceremony,
he took her roughly, as was his fashion.  As the party
broke up, as he led Tanj towards his quarters, he
waved good night to Ben and called; "Now THAT'S the
proper way to whip a slave!"