Tanj's Tales: Lord Xylex’s Revenge; Part I

By Kittiara


Stardate 2398.60          

Tanj was headed for Operations.  She had the latest
Imperial fleet movement reports, and wanted to get them to
Ben for the upcoming operation.  Their planning efforts were
still in the "fluid" stage, and she felt the information she
carried would be of help.  As she turned the corner she
almost collided with Mark and Mala.  Mala grinned as Tanj
Backpedaled in a hurry, almost dropping her data PADD.  "Uh,
Heya, you two……" Tanj squeaked out, looking from face to
face.  "You guys gave me a bit of a start…."  Mark laughed;
"you've been working too hard, Tanj; we've scarcely seen
you of late!"  Mala just grinned, and nodded.  Tanj
sighed; "well, with all the projects the Brethren have going
these days, its been keeping me hopping."  Mala nodded;
"Yes, I have to admit, this is a busy place.  My mouse here
never told me just how extensive your operations are."
Tanj looked up at Mala and nodded; "Ben find you a place
in Operations?  Things working out OK?"  Mala chuckled
throatily; "Oh, we've had a few rough spots.  My roommates
told me not to come back after about three days, for some
reason, and I'm bunking in with Mark now.  The assault
contingent of the Overlord has been tolerating me fairly
well, though…… I think it'll work out."  Mark smiled a bit
mischievously at that; "Personally, I still think that after
your little "demonstration" on poor Jaimeson during that
combat drill last week, they're all a bit scared of you.  I
mean, putting your own commanding officer in Medical for
three days!"  The Hyena shrugged and grinned in her usual
disconcerting manner.  "Can I help it if he's too busy
trying to cop a feel on the new recruit to watch where my
fists are going?  Its OK, though; we've talked a bit when he
was in traction and I don't think he'll try THAT again
anytime soon." Tanj blinked and cleared her throat;
"Ah…., well… so where you two off to today?"  Mala made a
sour face leaving Mark to reply; "Oh, Pierce down in medical
was threatening to pull Mala's certification for combat
status if she didn't get down there and have her physical."
Tanj looked at the big Hyena and wondered what MedTech
would be brave enough to poke and prod her?…. And then she
shook it off.  "Well, you two have fun, I've gotta get this
stuff down to Ben."  Mark nodded; "After we see to Mala's
medical, I'm off to the docking bay; I'm being cross-
attached to the White Fang.  They've got an op coming up,
and it seems half their crew's down with the Tau Ceti flu.
I'm substituting for the 2nd Engineer, so we won't see much
of each other for a bit.  Tanj smiled; "Getting some
space time at last, Mark?"  The mouse chuckled;
"Mmmmmmaybe….  I guess chances are I won't get to see any
more of actual space on that trip than I do here, but I'm
always open to surprises.  Now Scoot!"  With a wave and a
grin, Tanj headed off down the corridor, not giving the
encounter a second thought.
 The middle-aged fox with the graying head fur, old-fashioned
glasses, and slight paunch under
 his lab coat barely paid any attention when the unlikely
couple walked in.  Instead he was frowning at
 a viewscreen in front of him, muttering under his breath,
and occasionally hitting a few keys in obvious
 frustration.  After waiting for a few moments, Mala coughed
rather loudly, and the fox's head jerked up.
 "NOW wha...oh, right."  He leaned back with a sigh raised
his glasses, and rubbed his eyes for a moment.  "Well, I
suppose this can wait."  He hit a few more keys, apparently
calling up a different file, and scanned it for a moment.
"You're Mala Z'pata?"  The hyena nodded.  "Took your time,
hm?  Well, never mind that...get over there", the fox
gestured vaguely towards an examination table, "and get
undressed already.  I don't have all day."  Mala hesitated,
and the fox sighed again in exasperation.  "Look, lady...out
there in
 space you may be the big bad ex-marine who can punch through
concrete and fold armored opponents into
 origami figures, but in here I'M the doctor, and that means
that if I say 'jump', you damn better JUMP
 until I tell you otherwise."  He took a deep breath and some
of the tension seemed to ease out of him.
 "Besides, I'm one of the guys who may have to patch you
together when you come back from one of your
 missions, and I can't do that without knowing which part
goes where.  So, if you would...?"  Mala
 actually managed a chuckle at that, nodded, and started to
slowly undress while the fox turned back
 to study her file some more.  After a couple of minutes, he
nodded to himself, got up, and walked around
 his desk over to where the hyena was standing, clothes
scattered a bit haphazardly, arms crossed over
 her chest.  About halfway there he suddenly stopped,
blinked, adjusted his glasses, and looked again
 while his jaw slowly dropped.  "You...errr, you're...I mean,
from here it almost LOOKS like..."  "The
 word you're fumbling for, doctor," Mark interjected quietly
from where he'd stood nearly forgotten,
 "is 'hermaphrodite'.  Trust me on that...I looked it up, and
yes, she is."  He gave the taller fox a
 slight shrug as the latter turned towards him for a moment.
"And for obvious reasons, while we both
 understand that that fact will need to be included in her
medical records, we'd rather see it kept
 confidential otherwise."  The doctor nodded faintly, then
pulled himself back together and nodded
 again with more conviction.  "Right...sure, I can do that.
Not sure how much good it'll do, mind;
 the, ah, upper management has pretty free access to our
files."  He shrugged a little helplessly,
 then turned to the waiting Mala.  "Be that as it may, you're
not leaving before the physical's done.
 So, if you'd kindly sit down there and breathe deeply while
I find something I can stand on...?"
The operation to capture the Stra'doc, Lord Isloth's
disguised yacht, was only one of several that the Brethren
were conducting, and Tanj was involved in the
intelligence aspects of all of them.  There was a raid on a
convoy headed for the Pathan sector, there was an assault on
a military supplies depot in conjunction with the Elysium
rebels, and they were setting up a Blackmail scheme on the
assistant Minister of Defense for the Elysium government.
Each demanded her full attention.  As a result she heard of
most of the events after the fact……..

As the Overlord, one of the Brethren's cruisers, had just
docked, Tanj made her way to the Heavy Craft Docking Bay,
curious to see how the operation had gone.  If things had
gone as planned, there should be some very interesting
prisoners to interrogate, and who knew what treasures the
Stra'doc held?  However, as the crew started to emerge from
the personnel airlock, Tanj sensed that something was
wrong…….  Pushing past the emerging crew, Tanj made her
way towards the Bridge.

Zalinski was on the Bridge when Tanj Entered.  The
Overlord's Captain and Majority Shareholder was already
starting his after-action report, sitting quietly at the Ops
console.  Padding over, Tanj looked down at the Leopard;
"What Happened, Hans?  Everyone looks so…… depressed."  Hans
nodded; "Yeah; well, looks like we missed the gold ring on
this one.  Isloth wasn't on board.  Not on the passenger
manifest, no one matching his description among the
prisoners, and yes, the headcount matches the manifest.  And
No, no one's hiding on the ship; we made sure of that.
Don't know if he sensed trouble or whether it was just bad
luck, but he wasn't on the ship.  Some Fop by the name of
Viscount Worthington was "leading the mission."  But this
guy's a real lightweight."  Tanj's eyes narrowed; "do you
think Isloth took another route, or did something delay him?
Was it these guys or nothing?  What……"  Hans waved a paw,
bringing Tanj's string of questions to a halt; "Tanj I
don't KNOW.  The problem with this crowd is not getting them
to talk; in fact, the problem's getting them to shut up!
But as they babble, they just don't SAY anything.  Don't
worry, they're all in one piece; you'll get your chance to,
ah, "debrief" them.

Tanj nodded and bent forward to kiss Hans on the
forehead; "don't let it worry you; we can't win them all."
Hans just chuckled and nodded; "well, we should be able to
ransom them for a pretty penny, and we got a decent yacht
out of the deal.  We'll cover our expenses.  Still, its
scarcely the blow for Elysium Freedom we'd hoped for.
Tanj nodded and with a wave, turned to head for the
cruiser's brig.  As she was about to pass through the door,
Hans called out to her; "Oh, by the way, you were right
about the Hyena."  Tanj stopped and looked back over her
shoulder; "How so?"  Hans grinned; "just because the prize
wasn't what we thought it was, doesn't mean it wasn't
defended.  We didn't have any trouble battering down the
yacht's shields, and the leach missiles killed their systems
most effectively; but apparently Worthington had a
contingent of household guards on board.  THEY at least,
were competent.  But your Hyena tore through them like they
were so many paper tigers.  I think she broke the resistance
to the boarding party by sheer intimidation!  You know, she
might not be the easiest person to live with, but in a
situation like that, she's worth all the trouble."  Tanj
nodded; "Glad she's working out."  As she padded from the
Cruiser's bridge, she wondered when Mala had become "her"

The skunk that was Viscount Worthington was elegantly
attired, in the latest fashion, even if his suit was
somewhat stained and rumpled.  He sat ramrod straight in the
Cruiser's brig, his paws on his knees, as if waiting quietly
for his limousine.  Or his butler.  Tanj looked at him
through the door, and shook her head.  He certainly didn't
look dangerous, and the Cruiser's security troops were
nearby in case he proved to be a problem.  With a shrug she
keyed the door open and looked at him.

Viscount Worthington, KCB, DLB, waited patiently.  There was
no question, absolutely no question that these ruffians
would soon ransom him home.  In the meantime, he simply had
to uphold his station, not show these scum the least sign of
fear.  Still, he would have thought that for a furr of his
elevated station, they might have shown him to better
quarters….. When the Cheetah fem opened the door to his
cell, he was convinced she was there to show him to
accommodations more befitting his status, her slinky dress
and the slave's collar only reinforcing the concept……

Tanj's jaw dropped as the skunk started to talk; "Ah,
yes, about time you showed up!  I trust whoever is in charge
of these ruffians has finally confirmed my identity, and is
ready to treat me according to my station….. Oh, of course
he has; he can't be a complete dullard.  Come along then,
lets get on to wherever I have to remain until the ransom
comes through…You HAVE contacted my estate manager for the
ransom, haven't you?"  As the Skunk talked he'd risen to his
feet, straightened his outfit, and had pushed past the
surprised trouble and into the corridor.  Looking up,
Tanj waved off the Security troops, who were rising from
their seats.  "Uh, yes of course, ah, Viscount, um,
Worthington.  If you'll follow me, we'll, ah, see about
finding you more suitable quarters.  As she led the still
chattering skunk off the cruiser, Tanj wondered if he
would reveal anything of interest in his incessant chatter….
And if she'd ever be able to wade through all the

Security on the station wasn't happy about releasing VIP
quarters to a prisoner, but after listening to Worthington
for a few minutes, even they had to admit he would have to
be the best actor in known space to be concealing a
dangerous personality under all that……. bluster.  In the
end, they agreed to posting an "honor guard" outside his
quarters, as long as Tanj would see to his "care and
feeding"….. and that the intelligence department covered the

Tanj had arranged for Zassa to bring him his meals.  To
Tanj's surprise, the vixen was more interested in meeting
a "genuine Viscount" than Tanj would have thought.  She'd
set up video and audio surveillance of the VIP quarters, and
gotten the recorders running.  She'd fetched him his diary
(after scanning its current contents into her computer).
And she'd dealt with a couple of dozen of his "requests"…..
She'd told him that there simply wasn't a decent wine cellar
available; after all, this WAS a pirate base.  No, they
hadn't captured any suitable wine cellars……  No, the pirates
didn't have a Concierge.  Yes, they DID have a laundry, but
she didn't think they could handle pressing his suit…..
Yes, she'd see to having his luggage sent over….  No, she
didn't know where his servant was, but she'd check…..  NO,
he couldn't make a call to his stock broker!  Finally,
Tanj managed to extricate herself, to hasten to the
intelligence office to arrange for a ransom demand to be
sent, as circumspectly as their increasing desperation would

Tanj watched the monitor as Zassa came through the door
with his meal.  The vixen was dressed in simple elegance, a
tight black shift covering her, only a few bits of jewelry
adding to the obviously carefully calculated effect.  The
tray she carried was the same fare that everyone else on the
base ate, and as expected, it by no means met with
Worthington's expectations.  He demanded his private chef.
That got him thinking and he inquired about his other
traveling companions.  Zassa just shrugged and said that she
didn't know, but would ask after them.  Worthington then
replied that as long as she was about that, there were a
number of other deficiencies that he would like her to see
to.  Finally, Zassa was able to escape, promising to inquire
about his "requests" immediately.

Tanj looked up as Zassa entered the intelligence office.
"That Skunk's a real stinker" the vixen growled.  "Here I
wore one of my best outfits, thinking that he might want to
relieve the boredom, some, and he completely ignored me!
Tanj just laughed, and huged Zassa; "Dear, I think he
would have been MUCH more interested had Hinoki delivered
his dinner; I'm afraid he's bent that way."  Zassa just
Hmphed, and looked up at the monitor; "whats he doing?"
Tanj chuckled; "writing in his diary.  I'm afraid we're
not mentioned in a very good light; according to him, we're
mistreating him horribly!  Why, the valet hasn't even shown
up yet to see to his laundry, let alone his wardrobe!"
Zassa chuckled and shook her head; "Get anything useful out
of him yet?"  Tanj just shrugged; "depends on what you
define as "useful"…..  We've got all sorts of information on
the latest Imperial scandals, gossip, and inside politics.
We now know the latest about Elysium high society, and the
VERY latest on fashion, who's throwing the best parties, and
"whats in"……. but the really useful stuff, such as
economics, and military capabilities, or even just
"intentions"… zilch.  I believe someone on his "staff" knows
the details of his mission to the Imperial Capital, but its
painfully obvious this guy was just along as a fancy title,
someone to gain entrance to certain circles in the capital."
Zassa nodded, and looked back a the monitor; "so, whatcha
gonna do with him?"  Tanj grinned; "I think I'm going to
let his associates visit him, in small groups.  That might
just let us see who's fluff and who's the steel in this
party."  Zassa smiled and nodded; "should be interesting……"

Tanj was half way to the caffeteria, for a late dinner
when it hit her square between the eyes.  Lord Isloth hadn't
been on the Stra'doc, supposedly HIS private yacht, a vessel
heavily disguised as just another free trader…. Or so Hans
had said.  How did he KNOW Isloth hadn't been there?  Would
someone as powerful, as resourceful, as….. slimy as Isloth
have traveled incognito on his own ship?  Tanj grinned
and turned, trotting back towards Intelligence.  She had
work to do!

The Lion wandered into Intelligence well after midnight.  He
found it easy to spot Tanj; her monitor was the only
light on in the room, her face strangely lit by its glow.
"We missed you at dinner" he rumbled after a minute or two
of watching her.  Tanj just made a small "uh-huh" sound
as she scrolled down the document she was studying.  Bending
low, to look over her shoulder, the lion purrrred; "Whatcha
find?"  Tanj pushed a stray strand of hair out of her
eyes and scrolled down another page; "Isloth's dropped out
of sight.  No mention of him anywhere on Elysium…….. I don't
think he's there.  I can't prove it yet, but I suspect he
actually WAS on the Stra'doc.  I think we have him and don't
know it…….."  The lion nodded; "we'll hold ransoming off the
nobles and wholesaling the others until you've puzzled it
out."  Tanj mumbled "OK" and scrolled down another page.
The lion watched for a moment, and then reached out to
smooth a stray hair on Tanj's head; "Get Mark to figure
out if he's there?"  Tanj nodded distractedly; "Yeah…… I
would…….. if he was on the station…….. Shipped out with the
White Fang………. Won't be back for a bit, and I'm too
impatient to wait for his return."  The lion grinned and
nodded, and quietly padded from the intelligence office,
closing the door softly behind him.

Tanj hit the end of the file, and sighed; another zero in
her search for any evidence of Isloth either in the Imperial
capital, or on Elysium.  As she closed out the reader and
turned off her terminal, Tanj sniffed the air.  The scent
of her master lingered, and looking around, she wondered
when he'd been there……..

Tanj had poured over the Stra'doc's passenger list, and
had made her selections.  A fair number of the crew had died
defending their ship and its passengers, and it was
possible, Tanj thought, that Lord Isloth had been among
them.  She had selected the ship's Executive officer,
Worthington's personal physician, Worthington's personal
slave, and a few of the other guests, all apparently just
friends.  These would be the "guests" at a dinner party
ostensibly hosted by Wanda, Lord Xylex's daughter, for the
visiting nobles.  She hoped that during the party, through
the conversations and their actions, that she would be able
to detect who was the brains behind the mission to the
Imperial Capital.

Tanj found the jar with the living "dress" in her ship;
she'd been "feeding" it regularly, being careful to keep it
from growing too much.  She thought she'd have some fun with
the "guests" at the party that night.  Stripping down to
just her fur, she opened the container and touched a finger
to the black liquid surging viscously back and forth within
the container.  Obediently, the creature flowed up her arm,
until the container was empty.  Forming the image of a
simple halter dress in her mind, the creature obediently
flowed over her body, forming that shape, its surface
glistening with an oily sheen.  Replacing the container in
the overhead, Tanj turned and headed for the base's slave

Tanj looked over the list at the security station; "Yes,
I think this "Percy" is the one I'm looking for…."  The
guards, a Buffalo by the name of Hector and a Panther by the
name of Phil, looked at each other, and then shrugged.  Phil
scratched one ear; "and you say you're going to interrogate
him?"  Tanj just grinned and nodded; "Yeah; you see, I
think some of the folks you're holding from the Stra'doc
aren't what they seem.  I'm going to try and find out if
they're really what they say they are."  Hector shook his
head and then shrugged; "well, if you want him, I'll go get
him."  After a few minutes, the buffalo returned leading a
male squirrel of medium height.  The squirrel was dressed in
a silken loincloth, a jeweled collar, and nothing else, his
well muscled body shown off to good effect.  Tanj raised
an eyebrow as the Buffalo handed her his leash, but didn't
comment.  After they'd left, Hector looked at Phil and
grinned; "Just HOW did she say she was going to interrogate

Tanj led Percy down to the cafeteria, where the staff had
prepared a box of supplies for her.  It was obvious that he
was brimming over with questions, but so far he'd managed to
maintain a cool, aloof exterior.  Almost.  As he carried the
box, Tanj led him towards Wanda's quarters.

Zassa fussed with Wanda's hair.  The Wolverine lass had
rather thick, coarse hair and today it didn't seem to want
to behave.  They were on their third style, and that too
wasn't working to the satisfaction of either of them.
Finally Wanda sighed, and shook her head hard, the efforts
of the vixen disintegrating.  "Think we're going to have to
go for the French Braid" Zassa sighed.  Wanda nodded, loose
strands of hair falling into her face; "Yeah, think you're
right.  But those always give me such a headache!"

Tanj grinned as she lead Percy into Wanda's quarters.
Dropping the leash she padded over to give each of them a
kiss hello.  Zassa looked up at Percy, her fingers full of
Wanda's long hair, the braid half formed, and grinned;
"ooooooo, NICE!  Where'd you find HIM?"  Wanda couldn't turn
her head, but her eyes darted to the side and she too
grinned.  "Percy, this is Zassa, and Wanda; Wanda is Lord
Xylex's daughter, and for this evening, you will address her
as "Mistress."  Tanj gave Zassa a direct look as she said
that last, as for the evening Wanda WAS to be treated as
Mistress.  Percy just nodded, and as Tanj examined his
face, she seemed to find just a hint of…. distaste there.
Turning, she gestured towards the tiny kitchen in Wanda's
quarters; "that’s where you and I shall be working, Percy.
We have a dinner party to put on."

Tanj was stretching her culinary skills to the limit.
She'd downloaded the programs for fantail shrimp, egg rolls,
hot and sour soup, stir fry vegetables, and Peking Lobster.
She was convinced she'd never EVER do as well as her mother,
but she was going to try.  It had taken a fair number of
Tanj's Intelligence contacts, and Zassa scrounging for
three days to get the "trade goods" necessary to get the
base kitchen staff to release the necessary ingredients.  As
she started pulling items out of the box, she looked over at
Percy; "OK, I'll start chopping the ingredients for the egg
rolls; you start cleaning the shrimp."  Percy spread his
paws wide; "Madam, I am a "Gentleman's Gentleman;" I know
nothing of such things!  Tanj looked at him and her jaw
dropped; "you're kidding; you've NEVER put on a dinner for
Viscount Worthington?  The squirrel's chin came up; "I have
coordinated many a formal dinner party, but I have NEVER
done…… kitchen work!"  Tanj just sighed; "well, you're
going to, today.  Come over here and watch; this is how you
clean shrimp.

Zassa was just finishing the braid when the crash came from
the kitchen, followed shortly by Tanj's moan of distress.
An instant later, Percy emerged, looking a bit abashed, his
front somewhat spattered with some unidentifiable paste.
Walking over to Wanda, his eyes downcast, he muttered
softly; "Mistress, please accept my humblest apologies; it
seems I'm…. helpless in the kitchen.  If you will tell me
where the tablecloth is kept, I'll set the table…."  Zassa
grinned; "Tell you what, Percy.  I'm just about done with
Mistress' hair; why don't you help her dress, and I'll go
help our irascible Cheetah in the kitchen.  Percy seemed to
brighten some at that; "That would be splendid; I'm sure I
could be of MUCH more service in that area…."

Tanj was chopping vegetables with a vengeance when Zassa
entered the kitchen.  Peeking into the recycler hopper,
Zassa noted the remains of a large bowl amongst a mass of
chopped vegetables.  "What happened?" the vixen asked.
Tanj growled; "Ham handed idiot swept the bowl off the
counter with his tail.  Whatever that squirrel is, he's
useless in the kitchen; he's even worse than me, and he
definitely thinks this kind of work is beneath him.  I don't
know just WHAT he is, but I'm beginning to wonder if he
isn't someone pretending to be something else….  Zassa just
nodded; "so tell me; what can I do to help?  Tanj
grinned; "ever roll egg rolls?"

Wanda stood nude in the middle of her "bedroom," as Percy
poked through her closet.  Most of the contents were from
mail-order catalogs, but some were from her luggage, when
Tanj had hijacked her father's shuttle.  Most of those
were now a little small for her, though.  Percy literally
clucked in dismay as he looked over what was available;
"Mistress, this is SIMPLY dreadful; these pirates haven't
allowed you ANYTHING decent to wear to an affair of this
importance!  Holding up the dress Wanda had bought at
Smiley's station, turning it on its hangar, watching it
shimmer from color to color to near transparent, he
literally shuddered, before hanging it back up.  Finally,
with a sigh, he selected something in basic black; "I think
this would do best" he sighed.  "Now, whatever can we find
for accessories?"

It was fashionably late, when the guards escorted Viscount
Worthington and the others to Wanda's cabin.  The table was
set, the candles burning, the food almost ready, the wine
chilled.  And Wanda looked radiant.  Percy had done a
marvelous job, even managing to correct a small problem with
Wanda's hair.  Worthington entered the room, his eyes
locking on Wanda; he bowed low over her paw, and then
straightened; "I am most pleased to meet you, Lady Xylex.  I
am Frederick, the Viscount Worthington."  Wanda for her part
curtsied; "Most honored to meet you, sir, and welcome to my
humble abode."  Worthington looked about and sniffed; "Yes,
I fear the pirates have indeed given you quarters quite
unsuitable, the ruffians.  As he looked about, his eyes
found Percy, standing quietly in a corner, and his face
literally lit up; "Ah, Percy!  There you are!  I've been
worried sick about you, dear boy!"  Wanda smiled and looked
around Worthington; "Percy, if you would be so kind as to
serve our guests some refreshment?"  Turning back to
Worthington, Wanda sighed; "I'm afraid our selection of
wines is rather poor, but I have managed to secure some of
the better available vintages…… and I hope you'll join me in
a small libation…."

Tanj smiled as she passed from guest to guest, serving
the fantail shrimp.  She kept her eyes downcast, and her
ears open.  Unfortunately, all they were talking about was
how horrible the pirates were treating them, and how they
really should be exterminated at the earliest opportunity.
When Wanda asked just how they thought this might be
accomplished, two of the five guests became
uncharacteristically quiet, while the others just blustered.

Percy proved to be a capable server when it came time for
the guests to sit down to dinner.  Wanda sat at one end of
the table, with Worthington at the other end.  The
Stra'doc's Exec, a Panda by the name of Zhu Sat at Wanda's
right, and Worthington's personal physician, a Jaguar by the
name of Hyde, sat at Worthington's right.  Tanj was
watching Hyde closely, as Isloth was supposed to be a Puma,
and Tanj knew how effective a good fur cut and dye job
could be at making you look like a similar species.  The
other guests, a ferret by the name of Cummins, and a rabbit
by the name of Klein occupied the other seats.  The
Stra'doc's passenger list had merely listed them as
"guests", but Tanj suspected they were the "technical
experts" along on the trip, there to advise their principles
in the negotiations to be conducted at the Imperial capital.
The rabbit had claimed to be a real estate broker, but had a
decided military air about him.  The Ferret had said he was
in finance.  Tanj worked in the tiny kitchen as Percy
moved back and forth, serving the diners with a polished
flair.  As Tanj watched him move, watched the glances
between him, and the doctor and Worthington, Tanj became
convinced that he knew much more than he was letting on.  He
just might be the weak link…..

As the soup was served, Wanda looked down the table at
Worthington; "Tell me sir, have you seen my father of late?
Is he well?"  Worthington nodded; "Oh, yes, saw him at the
House of Lords session on special measures to combat this
pesky rebel movement just last week.  He's working himself
too hard, if you ask me, but aside from that, he seems in
good health."  Wanda nodded; "I'm delighted to hear that.
Tell me, Viscount, just how much trouble are the rebels
these days?  I'm afraid we don't get much news here….."  Zhu
huffed; "Wherever "here" is; I for one would certainly like
to know!"  Worthington took a sip from his glass, and then
lifted his head; "Oh, they have the most annoying tendency
to make splashy, public displays.  Really in the worst
taste, y'know.  Things like assassinating public figures, or
blowing up things; just annoyances to make the news, I'm
sure.  But I really doubt they've done much to discomfit the
Government.  Solid as a rock, don't you know."  Wanda had
seen some of Tanj's intelligence reports and knew the
Rebels were more than just an irritant, but she smiled and
nodded; "good, I'm glad to hear that.  Disrupting things
back home would have to be bad for business….."  Tanj
shot Wanda a warning glance from the Kitchen doorway; she
had the distinct impression that Wanda was thinking of the
PIRATE'S business, and not her father's interests.  Luckily,
no one at the table seemed to think she was showing anything
but concern for her homeworld.

Looking over at the Ferret, Wanda smiled; "so the economy
back home is doing well?  My father prospers?"  The ferret
seemed to choke on a spoonful of soup, but recovered
quickly; "Ah, well, Yes, Milady.  Utilities have slumped a
little, but certain sectors are booming."  "Yeah," Tanj
thought; "the rebels are blowing up key links in the power
grid, and the water mains on a routine basis; that'd make
utility stocks drop in value."   '……and Munitions stocks are
soaring……"  The ferret continued; "I haven't talked to your
father personally, but I do believe his corporations have
been moving in those areas….  Wanda nodded, looking at him
as if fascinated, but a cough from the doctor caused the
ferret to look at him, and then, after touching his napkin
to his lips, the Ferret mumbled; "but I'm not really
certain; I just don't move in those circles….."  The Exec,
Zhu, grumbled; "well, I'll tell you this, the pirates are
having a worse effect on the economy than those damned
rebels.  Shipping and Insurance rates have gone through the
ROOF!"  Wanda just smiled and nodded.

As Tanj put the little cups of sherbet on a tray for
Percy to serve, she glanced around the tiny kitchen; the
place was a disaster area, and she felt much more like
jettisoning the entire thing into space than cleaning it
up…..  Deciding that could wait, she thought of a strappless
tube dress, the creature flowing over her body to comply
with her mental image, and padding softly from the kitchen,
she knelt behind Wanda's chair, the image of an attentive
slave waiting for her mistress' comand.  And as she knelt,
she listened……

Wanda smiled at the guests; there was so much Imperial
society gossip to catch up on!  Taking another sip of her
wine, she looked at the Doctor and smiled politely; "So tell
me, Doctor, regarding the Baroness Jo'mac, in your
professional opinion, has she really had, um, "augmentative
surgery?"  The Doctor seemed to choke on his spoonful of
sherbet; "Ah, well, Milady, I'm sure I wouldn't know; my,
ah, specialty lies in other areas…….  Worthington looked up
and nodded; "Ah, yes, Dr. Hyde has been helping me with a
chronic problem of mine…. In fact, I've been suffering a bit
of late.  Do you think it might be possible to have him
attend me for a while in my quarters, when we take our
leave?"  Wanda thought for a moment and then shrugged; "I
honestly can't speak for our….. "hosts," but I can certainly
ask.  I believe I can be somewhat persuasive with them."
Worthington brightened; "Ah, that would be splendid, simply
splendid!  Perhaps you could ask them if Percy could attend
to me there, ah, much as your own slave looks after you
here?"  Wanda turned to look at Tanj, kneeling behind
her.  Tanj kept her eyes downcast, but smiled slightly.
Turning back, Wanda nodded; "I would think that would be
reasonable…. Although these are not the most reasonable of
furrs.  Sill, I'll make EVERY effort.  Now, Frederick, tell
me about the parties that have been held back home.  Have
the rebels forced anyone to postpone, or reschedule?  Have
they had any effect on the extravagance that some of our
peers are so famous for?"  Slowly Wanda let her eyes widen;
"Don't tell me those rascally rebels have ATTACKED any of
the parties?"  Worthington exchanged glances with Hyde, and
then slowly nodded; "There was an incident….. Durring the
premier party of the fall season, Lady Cuthbutter was
kidnapped, we believe by rebels posing as caterers.  The
ransom demand was outrageous, but finally her husband
paid…….  However I've heard the canapes were simply to die
for…..I'm told the whole affair simply devastated her!  Hyde
nodded slowly.  Looking up, Worthington's eyes widened; "Oh
dear!  I DO so hope these ruffians ransom me in time for
Lord Tamrash's winter gala!  Simply EVERYONE will be there,
including the Prime Minister!….."

Wanda smiled at Worthington; "Well, Frederick, I've actually
found several things to occupy my time here.  For one, I'm
studying medicine via several extension courses.  The
medical staff here have also been kind enough to give me
some practical experience as well."  Looking over at Dr.
Hyde, Wanda beamed; "So far, I've passed my exams for my
Licensed Practical Nurse exam, and I'm working on my RN.
Hyde looked at Wanda, as if aghast; "The daughter of Lord
Xylex changing bedpans?  That’s unthinkable! Really my dear,
you a nurse?  I'm certain your father would NOT approve of
your choice!"  Wanda's eyes narrowed as Hyde spoke,
belittling her accomplishments.  Hyde seemed not to notice,
continuing; "Now if you could just escape these scum, I'm
certain I could get you into my Alma Mater, where you could
conduct a Serious study of Medicine……"

As the furrs around the dinner table talked, desert long
since finished, and the flask of Port almost exhausted,
Tanj found that her knees were starting to hurt, and she
was having trouble not yawning.  These clowns were rattling
on, not saying anything…. She didn't know HOW Wanda could
put up with it.  To pass the time, she surreptitiously
changed her "outfit" from one form to the other, wondering
if anyone was noticing……  As Worthington's chair slid back,
the Cheetah's head came up with a jerk.  She caught the tail
end of his sentence;   "…… should be departing; we've
enjoyed your hospitality greatly, but I fear we're becoming
an imposition…."  Wanda beamed; "not at all, Frederick, I've
loved having you all here.  Its so…. refreshing to converse
with furrs of …. Quality and breeding!"

Tanj rose to her feet as gracefully as her stiff legs
would allow.  "Pardon me, Gentlefurrs, but I would like to
make a small request on behalf of Lord Xylex."  All turned
to look at the Cheetah, including Wanda, who tilted her head
to one side, looking at her curiously.  Tanj lifted her
gaze to look at the Doctor; "Doctor Hyde, Lady Xylex's
father, Lord Xylex, is most concerned that in this rough and
tumble place, that his daughter retain her…… maidenhood.
I'm sure it would be a great relief to him, if you were to
examine his daughter, and relay to him, when you're
ransomed, that the Pirates have indeed kept their word, and
that in addition to being well treated, that she is…..
intact."  Both Wanda's and Hyde's eyebrows went up, and they
turned to look at each other.  Hyde sputtered; "Ah, well,
um, yes, I can see how that would be a concern to him, but
how could I do that, without my instruments, without my
medical scanner?  Wanda turned and gave the Doctor a cold
look; "Why Doctor, I'm certain that in such an esteemed alma
mater as yours, they MUST have taught you how do do it…..
manually!"  Hyde blinked and harrumphed and then nodded,
"why of course…."  Tanj smiled; "I know it would mean SO
much to Lord Xylex…… Doctor, why don't you take Wanda into
her bedroom, I'm sure you'll have all the privacy you'll
need there….

Wanda grinned and without waiting for an acknowledgement
from the Doctor, turned and padded through the door to her
bedroom.  Hyde looked around helplessly at his comrades for
a moment, exchanging pointed glances with Worthington, and
then looking daggers at the Cheetah, followed Wanda.

Wanda smiled as he closed the door.  Sitting down on her
bed, she hiked up her skirt and hooked her thumbs into the
waistband of her underpants, pulling them down; "Now,
Doctor, how would you like me, for your examination?  Hyde
looked at her for a moment, and then nodded, "Just lay back
on your bed, Dear, and raise your knees.  Wanda grinned and
complied, her paws holding her knees, her legs spread to
expose her sex to the rather nervous Doctor.  She hadn't a
clue as to why a physician would be so upset at doing this,
but after his comment about nurses, she was enjoying his
discomfiture.  As she felt his paws on her thighs, she bit
her lip, to keep from moaning.  His fingers traced their way
down, until they clumsily ran over her labia.  She watched
as he crouched lower, his fingers trying to spread the
petals of her sex, as if he were trying to see into her.
Finally, he placed the tip of one finger against her and
pressed.  Wanda Ooooooohed involuntarily; his finger was
dry, as was her pussy, and he was having trouble working it
in.  He pressed a little harder, and then harder still, and
then his finger drove into her, eliciting a sharp yelp from
her.  The Doctor froze in place, his eyes wide, looking at
her face, and then his eyes dropping down to look at where
his finger was buried in her sex.  As he pulled it out, Hyde
was aghast to see a thin film of blood on his finger….

Rising, Hyde stepped into the bathroom, to retrieve some
toilet paper.  Wiping his finger, and then wiping crudely at
Wanda's pussy, he grinned sheepishly; "Ah, everything's just
fine, my dear, just fine indeed!  I'll be sure to tell your
father that, the next time I see him!"  Turning and opening
the door, he looked back; "Just fine indeed" he mumbled, and
closing the door behind him, he was gone.

Wanda looked at the closed door, and slowly let her legs
down, one paw stealing to cup her sex.  "Oh Crap" she
moaned, to herself.  After a moment she rose and padded into
the bathroom………

Tanj looked up as Wanda emerged, wondering what had taken
her so long.  The Doctor had emerged, looking flustered, and
had been whispering to Worthington for several minutes.
Wanda walked slowly over to them, a strange look on her
face.  "Ah, there you are" Worthington  said with just a
touch of a tremor to his voice, a pained smile on his face.
"I do believe it was time we took our leave; I'm sure you're
exhausted by now….."  Slowly each of the guests bid Wanda
their thanks and their goodbyes, and then they were through
the door, to be received by the guards, to be taken back to
their quarters.

No sooner had the door closed than Tanj padded over to
the intercom.  Dialing the Security office, she grinned at
the panther on the other end of the link.  "Phil, I think
we've got some genuine suspects.  Take Worthington, his
slave Percy, and Doctor Hyde to Worthington's quarters. Have
someone keep an eye on the monitor, though; I'll be busy
here for a while yet.  Take the others all back to their
cells, but after they've been asleep for just a couple of
hours, I want two of them taken down to Medical for chemical
interrogation; a ferret by the name of Cummins, and a rabbit
by the name of Klein.  You might ask Mala, from the Overlord
to help with that; it wouldn't hurt to have them well
intimidated.  Phil nodded; "We'll watch Viscount fancypants
from here, and handle the others midwatch.  Which one do you
think is Isloth?"  Tanj grinned; "I think he's Hyde, and
hopefully Worthington will give him away tonight.  If not,
we rough up Percy and Worthington.  I think they'll crack
with record speed."  Phil just nodded and grinned.

Breaking the connection, Tanj turned to look at Wanda;
"Anything wrong, Dear?  You look a little….. funny."  Wanda
looked up, and then shook her head; "Oh, nothing's wrong;
nothing at all.  Just pissed at Hyde's attitude towards
nurses.  That and he had cold hands…."  Tanj laughed and
nodded, and then turned to look despairingly at the kitchen.
As she stood there Wanda came up behind her, to run a finger
over the back of Tanj's Dress, as if feeling the
"material."  "Tanj, what IS this?" the wolverine lass
purrred;  "I was watching the "guests" eyes go wide every
once in a while, and then I caught a look at you in the
mirror.  Your dress was changing shape!  I've never seen
anything like it!"  Tanj just grinned; "It’s a living
creature, but I can't let you play with it quite yet…. You
see, when it gets hungry…….."

Tanj slowly cleaned up the mess in the kitchen as she
told Wanda about her initial experience with the creature
that formed her "dress".  Wanda stood in the doorway,
listening wide-eyed, riveted by the tale.  Taking a break
from the clean-up, Tanj padded over to kiss Wanda on the
nose; "when you're old enough, I promise we'll get you one;
but for now, MISTRESS, why don't you bring me the remaining
glasses and bowls from the dining table……..

Worthington breathed a sigh of relief when the door closed
to his meager quarters.  Never had he thought he'd be so
relieved to be back here.  Turning to Percy, he gave his
Squirrel a tight hug and a passionate kiss.  "Dear boy, I'd
despaired of EVER seeing you again!  But right now I have
GOT to talk to Jack; be a dear and fix us something to
drink, Hmmmm?"  Jack looked around the room; "Its not much,
Freddy, but it’s a damn sight better than that cell they've
been keeping me in!  What do you think the chances are its
bugged?"  The Skunk waved a paw dismissively; "Honestly
Jack, you are TOO paranoid!  Besides these scum wouldn't
have the sense to listen in on us.  We've got them fooled
completely!  But just to allay your persistent paranoia, I
HAVE checked."  The Jaguar looked at Freddy with a scowl; "I
don't know about that.  I'm convinced they were listening in
at the dinner party; what other reason to hold it, except to
try and get us to talk?  And just because you didn't find
anything, doesn't mean there wasn't anything there……."
Freddy accepted a glass from Percy and waved his other paw;
"why I suspect the reason was exactly what they said!  They
hold Xylex's daughter as a hostage, but they don't want to
get him too mad, and hence they put her on show for us, so
we can tell him what we've seen."  Jack took a glass from
Percy and then took a long gulp, making a face at his
obvious distaste.  "Where do they get this drek? He mumbled.
Looking up at the skunk he sighed; "Well, if old Xylex
really DOES set great store by her virginity, he's really
going to be pissed now.  How in the hell should I know how
do to a pelvic exam?"  Again the skunk waved a paw
dismissively; "Not a problem, old boy, we'll just tell Xylex
the pirates have deflowered her.  Who's he going to believe?
Us, or them?  Jack shook his head, and walked over to give
the Skunk a hug; "Freddy, you always WERE brilliant!"

Tanj had finished cleaning up Wanda's kitchen, along with
her help, and Zassa's.  Well, kinda their help.  Mostly
Wanda regaled Zassa with tales of the party, Zassa listening
raptly, neither of them working, until Tanj growled.
Then they'd do a few more things, and Zassa'd ask a
question, and Wanda would be off again….  Finally the place
was clean to Tanj's satisfaction, and she kissed Wanda
and Zassa bye, heading off to Medical, and the
interrogations she'd arranged.

When the door closed behind Tanj, Wanda turned and gave
Zassa a pained, helpless look; "Oh, Zassa, I am in SUCH

Tanj had changed into a more suitable outfit, sending her
living outfit back into its container.  As she strode from
the docking bay and her ship, towards Medical, she thought
over the questions she wanted to ask……

Collins was strapped to a stainless steel table with straps
at wrists, ankles and waist.  A monster had roused him from
his sleep, jerking him from his cell, dragging him through
the corridors, and into this hell masquerading as a medical
facility……  Now a doctor had started an I.V. in his left
arm.  He watched as it slowly dripped, mesmerized.  He would
have jumped a foot when the door opened, had he been able,
his eyes darting to the Cheetah slave that had been
attending the Lady Xylex.  She was still wearing her collar,
but now she had on a faded pair of camouflage pants and a
tight combat vest, a wicked looking dagger at her side.  He
watched her closely as she pulled up a chair, sitting
backwards on it, her forearms crossed along its back, her
chin on her arms.  She too looked at the I.V. drip for a
moment, and then turned to look at him.  "Well, Mr. Collins,
I've come to the conclusion that you are not who, or at
least what you say you are.  Tonight we're going to find out
the truth."  As his mouth opened she shushed him; "No, no
protestations, no pleas, and no, not even any confessions.
The drug in the I.V. will get us the truth,  painlessly, and
reliably.  It won't even hurt you; you never know, we might
want to ask more questions later.  In fact, I'm told its
rather enjoyable….. Oh, yes, a very small number of folks
are allergic to it.  And some are conditioned against it,
but we have a doctor standing by, should you experience
any….. distress.  Now, while we wait for the drug to take
effect, what would you like to talk about?

The Ferret babbled happily; "and the fourth quarter earnings
for KamalCo were HORRIBLE!  They've hidden it from their
stockholders of course, but if they can't replace the
pipeline the Rebels blew up, they're not going to have any
choice but to declare bankruptcy.  The Government would have
a hard time fighting the Rebels without the vehicle fuel
they make….  And that would distress Xylex Oh So Much!……"
Tanj purrrrred and stroked the Ferret's head softly;
"That’s very gooooood.  Now, how are the Government's off-
planet cash reserves holding out?"  She'd been right; this
guy was the financial expert.  And the drug was working VERY
well……..  As the Ferret ran down again, Tanj leaned over
to kiss him on the nose; "Excellent, you've been such a
great help.  But there's just one more thing I'd like to
know; who is Isloth pretending to be?"

Tanj padded out of the examining room, to grin at the
medical staff; "worked like a charm, just as you said it
would.  He will be all right, won't he?"  The Charge Nurse,
a female Mink, nodded; "Oh, yes; we'll have to watch him for
a few days, but he should be fine."  Tanj grinned and
entered the other room, where Klein, the rabbit was tied in
a similar fashion…..

The rabbit snarled at the Cheetah; "you won't get anything
out of me; I've been conditioned against chemical
interrogation!"  Tanj smiled and sat down, tilting her
chair back on its back two legs; "Really?  Curious thing for
a real estate broker, wouldn't you say?"  Klein growled and
looked away; "it’s a rough business, especially on
Elysium……"  Tanj shrugged; "well, we're just going to
have to see if you're telling the truth…..

Tanj's shout brought the medical staff running; the
rabbit was convulsing, straining at his bonds.  The Doctor
pushed through to give the rabbit a single glance.  "Yeah,
he's been given something to screw this up; don't worry, we
can handle it.  Go get a cup of coffee, and by the time you
get back, I'll have him singing.  Oh, and bring me one too,
black, with sugar."

Tanj padded down the corridor with the tray of coffee
cups.  She hoped she'd gotten it all straight; there were at
least a half dozen furrs on duty in Medical.  As she passed
through the powered doors, she did indeed hear singing, off
key, and ragged.  Pushing her way into the Rabbit's room,
she was amazed to see the rabbit and the Doctor doing the
most gawd-awful bawdy duet!  The Doctor grinned at Tanj
as he reached for his coffee; "See, told you I'd have him
singing……..  We got an old trooper here; he knows more off
color songs than the rest of us put together!"  Tanj just
shook her head and looked down  at the Rabbit, who grinned
foolishly back up at her.  "Lets see now, Mr. Klein, just
who, and what are you?"

Tanj groaned; the rabbit kept breaking into song at the
darndest times.  She was getting useful information from
this Colonel in the Elysium Ground Forces, but it was taking
forever.  As she yawned, and shook her head, she wished he
at least could stay on key.  But then, maybe it was the
drugs flowing through his veins….

It was well after Breakfast when Tanj tiredly padded into
the Security office.  She was surprised to find a small
crowd, both male and female, standing behind the desk, all
gazing at the monitors.  Pushing her way through the crowd,
she caught a glimps of Viscount Worthington, Percy, and
Doctor Hyde, all nude, in the middle of the floor.  Tanj
grinned and nodded, thinking that her thoughts about how
those three were bent had been right on target……  Patting
Phil on the shoulder, she yawned; "Make sure the recordings
are routed to my workstation, I'll look at them later."
Phil just nodded, muttering "yours and a couple of dozen
others; this is some of the best entertainment we've had
since the last time YOU put on a show….."  Tanj grinned
and cuffed him lightly, pushing back through the crowd,
heading for the Lion's quarters, a bath, and some sleep.

Tanj moaned, coming awake slowly.  There were the most
delicious sensations between her thighs.  Her nose told her
that her master was in the room, and it certainly felt like
his tongue; it felt SOOOOOOO good.  Lazily she wondered how
long she could feign sleep; she just didn't feel like
moving.  With her eyes closed, just laying there, the effect
of each motion of his tongue seemed magnified, as if each
lick, each stroke and motion had grown to encompass her
entire universe.  After a while he had her panting, and
still she feigned sleep, knowing he'd have to see through
it.  As her breathing became harsh and ragged, as his tongue
drove deep into her pussy, its tip flicking over those
places he knew would make her moan, she surrendered, and
slid both paws down her tummy, to carress his hairy head,
before taking hold of his ears.  As her back arched, as she
screamed out her pleasure, her climax raging through her,
she held his head tightly to her pussy.  As the waves of
pleasure finally receded, she tilted her head up to grin at
him.  He had stopped his licking and was laying there, his
chin on her mons, grinning; "Well, Good Morning!" Tanj
wordlessly grinned back and again tugged at his head, urging
him to slide up further, to cover her body with his.  He
needed little urging and shortly his hard cock was buried in
her wetness, his hips bucking, as they passionately made the
beast with two backs.

It was well after dinner by the time that Tanj made it to
her workstation in Intelligence.  Sitting down, putting her
cup of coffee in its assigned place (one of the few squares
of space NOT covered by hardcopy, manuals, reference texts,
or other accumulated stuff), she logged into her computer
and called up the surveillance reports on Viscount
Worthington's cabin.  The audio and the video were a bit
grainy (that’s what you got from hair thin fiber optics
acting as camera lenses) but it was all too apparent that
"Freddy" and "Jack" were quite pleased with themselves, in
duping the pirates…. And when she heard them discussing what
had happened to Wanda her fur bristled, her growl startling
the late-night staff in the office.  When the talk had
simmered down, when Freddy and Jack were starting to get
intimate, with Percy's eager assistance, Tanj queried the
computer to see if there was any other significant periods
of conversation.  Upon hearing there were not, she closed
the file, and pushed back from her chair, a scowl on her

Fredrick, the Viscount Worthington bid a formal goodbye to
his personal physician, as the guards escorted him off.
They'd been left alone much longer than he'd anticipated,
but the time had been welcome.  He'd thought he'd never see
Jack again, and here the pirates had provided them with a
splendid night, and day together.  As the door closed behind
him, Percy came up behind his master and whispered; "Do you
think we'll ever see him again?"  Frederick turned and
smiled at the Squirrel; "Why of course we will, Dear Boy;
the pirates have NO idea who he really is, and even if they
did, they wouldn't DARE harm him……

Doctor Hyde's eyes went wide as he turned the corner, and
beheld the monstrous Hyena standing in the corridor.  In a
raspy voice it growled at the guards; "Got orders to take
the prisoner down to Medical.  Any objections?"  The two
guards looked at each other and then shrugged; "Nope.  He's
all yours!"  Mala grinned and reached out a huge paw, to
take the Doctor by the arm, dragging him down the corridor.

Tanj was again wearing clothes more befitting a pirate; a
pair of worn jeans, covered by tight leather chaps, and a
slashed halter top, her dagger again at her side, when she
entered the examining room.  Hyde's face was drawn, his eyes
wide; before Tanj could speak, he whimpered; "I tried to
tell them; I'm allergic to this kind of drug.  Yes, it’s a
conditioned, artificial allergy, but it'll kill me none the
less!"  Tanj shook her head, and smiled; "Klein was
"resistant" too, but the staff here got him through just
fine; I'm sure you'll be fine too, Lord Isloth."  The Jaguar
shook his head hard from side to side; "NO!  Klein is only a
middle level officer!  He's only gotten the basic treatment!
What I've got is much more sophisticated!  Tanj shrugged;
"With all the deceptions you've pulled on us, I'd be a fool
to believe you now.  The only other way to make sure you
tell us the truth is to subject to you cruel levels of
pain…. And while I might find furrs willing, perhaps even
eager to do that, I doubt you'd want to undergo such an
inquisition.  Lets just see how this does for a while.  But
if it'll make you any happier, I'll go get the doctor, and
have him monitor you……"

Tanj shrugged as they approached the examining room;
"Yeah, I know, Doctor, but just the same it can't hurt for
you to watch.  This IS important, and your shop just isn't
that busy tonight.  As she moved through the door, she knew
instantly that something was wrong.  The doctor sensed it
too, pushing past her to look at the Jaguar.  Tanj stood
in a corner as the crash team charged through the door at
the Doctor's shout, watched as they worked furiously.  After
a while, the Doctor looked up at her and shrugged.  Turning
to one of his assistants, the Doctor growled; "Prep him for
an autopsy; maybe we can learn how they did this.  I've
never seen a reaction like this before….."

Wanda found Mark down in Engineering, as he worked on
assembling a replacement circuit board.  She'd heard of the
White Fang's return, and had immediately sought Mark out.
The Mouse shot her a quick smile as she approached, then
turned his attention back to his work for a few seconds more
before getting up and brushing off his paws on his shorts.
Wanda stood at the workbench for a moment, just looking at
him, before she spoke; "Mark, among all my friends here,
you're probably one of the most wise, and I need your advice
on something……"  Mark raised an eyebrow at that.  "Wise,
Hmmm?  I must have fooled you along with everybody else,
then….  Well, okay, shoot…."

Mark nodded thoughtfully after listening to Wanda's story.
"Well, I'm not wholly sure…..  Obviously what happens now is
YOUR decision, but that doesn't exactly help you much, does
it?"  The Wolverine lass nodded quietly.  "Mmmm Hmmm.  Well,
then; as far as I'm concerned you ARE still a virgin.  You
can't PROVE it as easily anymore, and of course you're a lot
less innocent now than you were before running into Tanj,
but the basic truth of that remains."  He looked up into her
eyes to make sure that she was following him….  "Now, I do
think that virginity's rather overrated in some social
circles.  As near as I've been able to puzzle it out, its
all about male ego.  The husband-to-be somehow can't
possibly be expected to settle for used goods, as it were,
and the woman is supposed to live up to that.  Utter
nonsense, really, but keep in mind that that's the kind of
"logic" you'll have to deal with if you ever plan to return
to those same circles."  The Mouse leaned back and stretched
lightly; "On the other hand, nothing's REALLY keeping you
from throwing caution to the winds and jumping into bed with
the next fur or three who strike your fancy…. Or even with
Hinoki."  He winked at her as he said that, and was secretly
relieved to see a hint of a smile.  "That wouldn't even
necessarily completely ruin your chances for marrying well
later, as long as you're careful enough not to get pregnant.
There are plenty of nice males out there who won't mind if
their bride already knows a few tricks of her own….."  He
paused to give Wanda a moment to think, then when he saw her
nod slowly, he continued;  "Personally, I'd think you might
want to hang on to your virginity at least a little bit
longer.  Once its gone, its gone, and even if you don't care
one whit what your former peers might think about you
afterwards, you may still want to make your first time
special.  And that’s really the best advice I can give at
the moment."  Wanda nodded, rose with a sigh, and put a
quick kiss on the Mouse's forehead before she turned to go.
Looking back over her shoulder; she smiled; "I'll have to
think about that.… Thanks, and I'll see you around."

Tanj was again wearing her slinky, metallic fabric dress,
as the survivors of the Stra'doc were herded towards the
shuttle, and their ransom.  The ransom had come through with
much less negotiation, much greater speed than she'd
anticipated….  And it had been sizable.  Viscount
Worthington, Percy trailing him by a few steps, slowed, and
then stopped, to look around.  Turning to the guards, and
then to Tanj, he whimpered; "Where's Jack?  Where's
Doctor Hyde?"  Tanj sighed; "I'm sorry, Viscount
Worthington, but there was a medical emergency, and I'm
afraid our…. abilities were not sufficient to the task.  Dr.
Hyde passed away, despite our best efforts.  Please accept
my most heartfelt apologies and condolences."  Worthington
stared at Tanj for a moment, a bit of the more commanding
personality he'd shown in his quarters when he thought he
was unobserved showing through; "Those Bastards killed him,
didn't they?  No, don't bother to deny it.  Don't think this
will go unrewarded!"  Turning, followed by Percy, the skunk
strode through the airlock, and into the shuttle.

Tanj cuddled Hinoki softly.  They were both still
breathing hard; as had been their custom, they'd stolen a
moment during the day, their sex quick and almost violent.
Hinoki reached out and smoothed Tanj's hair; "It bothers
you, doesn't it?  The death of that Jaguar?"  Tanj sighed
and nodded; "He told me, but I just wouldn't believe him
after all his lies.  Maybe what he'd done to Wanda was
clouding my thinking…..  We could have gotten the
information out of him by other means.  Voice stress
analysis, even torture would have left him living……  I
should have been more patient, and waited for Mark to
return; he might have been able to have obtained what we
needed by telepathy….  I'm afraid by "killing" him, we've
upped the conflict to a new level."  Hinoki looked at
Tanj and shrugged; "But it wasn't on purpose.  It WAS an
accident…."  Tanj shrugged again; "they'll never believe
that.  As far as the Elysium government, and possibly the
Imperial government are concerned, we murdered him.  I
suspect we'll see renewed efforts against us, and more
resistance to surrendering, less confidence in the fact that
prisoners will be ransomed.  I think things are going to be
rougher from here on out."  Hinoki just sighed and kissed
her; and then they were getting dressed, heading back to the
day's business.

The Wolvrine looked up as his servant showed in the Skunk.
Worthington had been back on Elysium but a few days; in that
time he'd been debriefed by the military, and then by the
government as to the events that had happened.  And now, at
what had to be the earliest opportunity, he had presented
himself at Xylex's townhouse, in the capital.  As he was
ushered in, Lord Xylex rose and moved around his desk to
give his old friend a hug; "Hello, Freddy; glad to see you
made it back OK.  Horrified to hear about what happened to
Jack!  Worthington nodded and settled on the couch, as a
servant handed him a Brandy.  "Yes, I’m afraid our little
venture didn't do very well.  I have NO idea how those
pirates ever learned about it, especially considering how
paranoid Jack was, and I REFUSE to believe it was random
chance."  Xylex nodded; "Obviously Jack wasn't paranoid
enough……  How did they ever unmask you?"  Freddy looked a
little uncomfortable; "Pillow talk, I’m afraid.  I never
would have thought those ruffians sophisticated enough to
have my quarters bugged to a level I couldn't detect, or so
uncouth as to listen in during a moment of…. romance.  But
now it almost seems as if we were manipulated into a
situation where we'd be vulnerable to that sort of
thing…….."  Xylex nodded; "I always said that'd be the death
of him…."  The two were silent for a moment and then
Worthington looked up; "By the way, saw your daughter there.
I'd have to say they're not treating her as well as she
should be treated, but she does seem in good health.
They're forcing her to work in their base, something about
changing linens, and emptying bedpans in their medical
facility.  And I really don't know how to tell you this, old
chap, but it seems that they've taken her virginity….."
Xylex rose from his seat, his paws balling into fists;
"Those SWINE" he growled!  Then, turning to look at
Worthington, Xylex growled; "she tell you this?"
Worthington shook his head; "Jack, playing his role as my
physician to the hilt, demanded to examine her, never
thinking they'd permit it.  And I suspect that if any of the
ruffians's leaders had been there, they would have stopped
him right quick; but we seem to have hit a pocket of…..
minimal surveillance, and  your daughter agreed to the
examination.  Of course, poor Jack was horribly embarrassed
when his bluff was called, but he told me later she was no
longer a virgin.  Xylex slumped into his chair; "Jack was
only first year pre-med when he switched to law, but that
was just the kind of bold play he'd make….."  Worthington
nodded; "Its going to be hard to carry on without him, but
we will, somehow.  Now, what plans do you have for dealing
with these Pirate scum?  How can we gain our revenge,
without jeopardizing your daughter?    Xylex waved his paw;
"I'm afraid my Daughter has become a bit of a liability.
Think of what Society would say, were this to get out?
She'd be ostracized, should she return……  Never find a
decent husband…… No, as much as it pains me, I'm afraid we
can't let my daughter stand in the way of our plans to
eliminate those scum……"  After a few moments of silence,
Xylex nodded; "and I have a few good ideas as to how to go
about that……"  After a servant had refilled their glasses
and withdrawn, Xylex looked up; "Tell me, Freddy, while you
were there, did you happen to see a slave, a cheetah fem by
the name of "Tanj?"

Lord Xylex sat at his desk, thinking, long after Worthington
had left.  The Viscount was often mistaken for a high-
society buffoon, an image he enjoyed cultivating…. But he
wasn't as sharp as he thought he was.  Jack had always been
the brains behind that group.  And now that Lord Isloth was
gone, there were….. opportunities.  Calling up his working
files on the rebellion, he once again went over the
projections.  With the mission to the Imperial capital
wrecked, the time lines all became skewed.  Another could be
launched, but the crucial moment had passed, and even if the
Imperials acquiesced, and help was forthcoming, the conflict
would still drag on for decades.  And with no certainty of
success, either.  And that would be bad for business; very
bad.  But there were other alternatives, especially if you
valued power more than money.  Nodding to himself, Xylex
made a decision, and used his computer to issue orders,
indirectly, surreptitiously, to a number of financial and
political researchers in the employ of various dummy
corporations of his.  The questions he was asking were
almost treasonable, and if the answers were what he
suspected they might be, they WOULD be treasonable….

A week later, Xylex had his reports.  They had all been
filtered through various think tanks, and vetted by various
off-planet universities.  The trail back to him should be
almost impossible to follow.  And the answers were exactly
what he thought they might be.  If he were to covertly side
with one of the Rebel factions now, he could become the
power behind the throne, so to speak, and over time, gain
sufficient influence to essentially control that rebel
faction.  With his wealth and inside knowledge, he could
manipulate that faction so that it would grow and become THE
Rebel faction, the others being absorbed or destroyed.  When
the Rebels, HIS rebels, were victorious, he would have
significantly more power than he did now, even as head of
one of the major cartels.  He'd in effect have the whole
planet, the whole system, and possibly the whole sector……
And he would still be able to shelter most of his wealth
off-planet.  There were risks to be sure, but compared to
continuing to back the Elysium government, this was the more
likely plan to succeed.  Smiling, he again issued covert
instructions, this time ordering detailed psychological
profiles on all the known rebel leaders.

Trotskie didn't like this.  Didn't like it at ALL.  His
informant continued to insist that the meeting would be to
his benefit, and that it wasn't a trap, but the leader of
the Rebel faction known as the Reds wasn't exactly a
trusting soul.  Still, he'd come.  The satchel with
thousands of credits in it, with the promise of more, had
been a powerful calling card, and his faction needed all the
money it could get.  He knew his reaction to the money had
played into the hands of those who called his group mere
banditos, rebels without a philosophy, without any goal
other than money and power, but they still had to eat,
didn't they?  They couldn't do anything for anyone if they
were starving, or without weapons or ammunition….  Still, he
fretted, nervous despite the precautions, the many, many
precautions.  When the aircar had landed in the middle of
the clearing, his troops had been dug in and ready for an
assault, prepared to given any Elysium forces moving to
capture them a bloody nose.  It was almost anti-climactic
when a single figure emerged from the aircar, to look around
curiously.  Striding from his position in the tree line,
Trotskie boldly moved to meet the figure, putting on a show
of confidence and bravado more for his own troops, than
because he really felt confident.  As he neared the figure,
the form resolving itself into a well-dressed Wolverine, his
eyes widened in surprise; "YOU!"

Xylex leaned back against the aircar, smiling to himself;
this really was too easy.  The Bear named Trotskie was
really just a brigand at heart, his allegiance to the Rebel
cause flimsy, and tenuous.  Just exactly what he wanted……
"I'll prove my sincerity to your cause" the Wolverine said
softly; "Next week, the Elysium ground forces will be making
a sweep of the T'siri provence.  The compliment of guards in
the adjacent province of Subara will be reduced, and the
guards around the Government house will be thin.  And the
armory will be vulnerable.  The data on this memory crystal
will show you how to get in and out with the minimum fuss.
The weapons there will be more than sufficient to arm your
group.  I know, I know, you think it's a trap.  Tell you
what.  You're having trouble with the rebel group known as
the "Blues".  Give me something on them, and I'll use my
clout with the government to see that they're….. taken down
a notch.  Before the sweep of the T'siri provence.  Would
that be sufficient to prove myself?  Wouldn't you like
that?"  Trotskie frowned, thinking back to his last
"meeting" with Cromwell, the leader of the Blues, and
nodded.  He'd love to see that insufferable, holier-than-
thou SOB taken down a notch.  Looking at Xylex he grinned
and nodded; "Yes, I WOULD like that…."

Tanj padded into the cafeteria and looked around.  Her
master wasn't here yet.  Getting a tray, she sat down at
their regular table.  It was Leonardo's turn to cook, and
once again, the curry was much stronger than she cared for.
Still, the Ampoc Nor was good.  Smiling to herself she
thought once again that any food tasted better when it
wasn't your turn to do the dishes.  She was on her second
spoonful when Mark and Mala entered the Cafeteria.  Tanj
grinned; the White Fang must have had a successful
operation; they were back early!  Mark went and got two
trays, while Mala stood in the middle of the room pointedly
ignoring all the looks going her way.  Not a word was said.
Suddenly, it struck Tanj that none of Mark's friends were
saying "Come join us" or "Come have a seat."  As Mark pulled
up next to Mala, balancing a tray in each paw, the Hyena
looked around as if seeking out a vacant table.  And then
her gaze locked on Tanj…….

Tanj Sipped her coffee, and after a second nodded to the
empty seats on the other side of the table.  Mark almost
sighed in relief, but before he could take a step, Mala was
striding towards Tanj, leading the way.  Mark carefully
set Mala's tray down first and then sat next to her, knife
and fork in his paws, as if awaiting her permission to
start.  Tanj looked from Mark, to Mala, and then after a
sip of her coffee, inquired in as normal a voice as she
could, "So, how you two been Doin'?  Haven't seen much of
either of you lately."  Mala nodded, and after taking a huge
forkfull of the Ampoc Nor, started to talk even as she
chewed; "Oh, we've been doing OK. Physical went well enough,
after all, and I don't think THAT doctor's going to doubt my
fitness again anytime soon.  And Mark had a good time on the
White Fang.  VERY successful cruise. Mark had started eating
after Mala'd taken her first bite, and now he paused to
swallow.  Smiling, he raised an eyebrow; "Did you hear about
Mala's latest exploits on the Overlord?"  Tanj nodded; 'I
heard that the liner they took, the Sundalian Princess, had
been transporting a company of Imperial Marines, that didn't
take kindly to the Brethren stopping their ship…..  Terrible
lapse on the part of Intelligence, and I do apologize for
it.  We really had no way of knowing, though; they were
loaded literally at the last minute…."  Mala smiled, showing
fangs, and waved a paw dismissively, the knife she was
holding making a curious chopping motion.  "Not to worry.
I'd be the last fur to complain about a little extra
challenge, and besides, the guy in command was an old
familiar asshole from back in my early grunt days that I've
wanted to get back at for YEARS!  Tanj shivered, and
nodded.  She'd heard after-action reports about how Mala had
waded through the blaster fire, to physically pick up the
bear and falling to a kneeling position, bring him down
across her knee.  They thought they could fix his spine, and
regenerate his spinal column, but all the doctors agreed,
he'd never move right again...  And Mala's act had so
unnerved the Marines, the resistance had broken.  Later,
they'd counted fourteen places in her body armor that had
nearly been penetrated………  The pirates were a rough group,
their boarding teams as tough as any in known space, and the
Imperial marines were no pushovers either, but Mala was
earning a significant reputation, even among the Brethren…..

Tanj was about to comment about how captured Imperial
Marines brought such a low price at Market, when her Master
walked in.  He had a preoccupied look, and moved straight
towards his usual table, to sit next to Tanj.  "Tanj,
I need to talk to you and Ben, and Davis, and Waltham about
the coordinated actions with the Blues.  I think we've got
some problems there."  Tanj nodded and rose; 'Yes,
Master; AFTER you eat.  Let me get you something….."
Turning, Tanj padded off towards the serving line.

The lion watched her padd away, his eyes obviously locked on
her swaying ass.  After a moment he grumbled; "Uppity slave.
Ought to do something about that."  Then turning he looked
at the others sitting at the table as if seeing them for the
first time.  His gaze flickered over Mark, and he nodded,
and then, as his eyes met Mala's, they widened in surprise.

When Tanj returned with the Lion's tray, she found him
sitting up straight, one paw on the edge of the table, just
staring at Mala, watching her eat.  Mala for her part seemed
oblivious to his gaze, as she shoveled in forkful after
forkful.  Mark had a wry grin on his face as he watched the
Lion.  Tanj slid the tray over in front of her Master
(with perhaps a little less ceremony than Mark had served
Mala), and grinned at him; "Ah, Master, I see you've met
Mala."  Mala just waved a forkful of food in an offhanded
acknowledgement, her eyes never leaving her plate.  The Lion
shook himself as if to break the spell, and turned to LOOK
at Tanj.  "Yessssssssss, it seems I have."  Turning back
to look at Mala, his eyes still just a little wide, he
growled; "Pleased to meet you."  Mala mumbled in return,
through a mouthful of curry; "Charmed, I'm sure."  The lion
looked down at his tray, pushed some of the curry around
with his fork for a moment, and then pushed the tray back an
inch.  Turning to look at Tanj, he sighed; "We need to go
talk to those folks.  Now."  Tanj nodded, her eyes
darting to where Mala continued to eat, as if out to conquer
her dinner with knife and fork, and then back to her Master.
"Um, yessir."  The lion rose and took a last look at Mala,
rumbling "Pleasure to have met you."  Mala just nodded,
deigning to speak as if perhaps her mouth was too full for
even her to attempt speech.  As the lion turned to walk off,
Tanj in tow, she swallowed noisily, and growled; "Hey,
you gonna eat that?"  The lion looked back to see her
gesturing towards his untouched tray.  He shook his head;
"no, knock yourself out."  Mala just nodded and lifted his
plate to dump its contents onto her own; "Don't mind if I

As they walked off, the Lion looked at Tanj and shook his
head; "Sounds like everything I've been hearing about her is
true…. She sure is a strange one!"  Tanj cocked her head
to one side, and looked at her master; "Aside from her
eating habits, which I can attest to, and her combat skills,
what else have you heard?"  The lion grinned and bent to
whisper in his Cheetah's ear.

Mala looked up as the Lion and Tanj departed from the
Cafeteria.  Shaking her head, she looked down at her mouse;
"I just do NOT see what she sees in him!"  Mark chuckled and
picked up the last bite from his plate.  "I know.  Go easy
on him, please.  Believe it or not, he's the best leader we
have at the moment."  The Hyena grinned and shook her head
again, muttering something that sounded oddly like "Great.
We're doomed." Through another helping of curry.

Tanj lay atop her Lion.  Their schedules had actually let
them both get to bed at a reasonable time, but they'd taken
the opportunity for something other than sleep.  Their
lovemaking had been gloriously wild, and passionate, and now
they were both spent, exhausted, and laying among the
tangled sheets sleepily.  "Picked up on something
interesting, Master" Tanj purrrred.  He opened one eye
and looked at her.  She smiled and kissed him on the nose.
"Elysium forces struck at the Blue's new headquarters.
Somehow they found the new location in absolutely record
time.  They really lost a lot of key folks, but they missed
Cromwell.  Seems they hadn't dug latrines yet, and he'd
walked off into the forest to take a dump when the place was
assaulted….."  The Lion's other eye opened; "Someone talked.
They must have!  Cromwell's better than that."  Tanj just
nodded.  "I also heard that the Reds hit the Subara Province
Government house, and completely cleaned out their armory.
Shot up most of the government workers too."  The lion
sighed; "That Trotskie is a jerk; how'd he get that lucky?
Surely he couldn't have assets among the government reliable
or highly placed enough to give him that kind of
information…..  And there was no need to kill the menial
workers.  That'll just make it harder to gain sympathizers
within the government in the future."  Tanj just
shrugged, the motion making her breasts sway, the lion's
eyes shifting to watch appreciatively.  "I agree,
something's going on; but what?" Tanj purrred.  The lion
just shrugged, and settled back in the bed; "Watch them
carefully for me, Tanj.  I know you'll puzzle it out
eventually.  Tanj grinned and snuggled down against her
master's bulk, her head resting on his stomach.  After a
while, her tongue licked out teasingly, eliciting a mock-
groan of "again?  You really ARE insatiable!"

This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to
any characters, living, dead or imaginary is purely a
coincidence.  Tanj is copyright Kittiara's player.
Mark and Mala are copyright Mark's player.  Copyright 1998.
Comments, suggestions, or flamescan be directed to