Her nickname is "Tanj", and she's certainly living up to it.  For her, it seems, “There Ain’t No Justice.”  As a young engineer on a tramp space freighter, this Cheetah-morph found herself the victim of a scam, sold into slavery, and trained as a sex-slave.  Sold to pirates, she finds herself as a pawn in a much larger struggle.  This story contains bondage, non-consensual sex, and hopefully some humor, adventure and intrigue.  Adults only, PLEASE!

 

This is a work-in-progress, and more will be added to it Later; please stay tuned and have patience!

 

 

Tanj's Tales: Raid on Nikkeldepain

Stardate 2402.8                                                     By Kittiara

 

 

Day 1:  Jenka’s Station

 

Hinoki smiled, as he watched through the window.  The pirates in the Black Fleet would bet on anything.  Right now there was a lively discussion going on, as to how long the Stag could go, before he broke down and fucked Sashi.  As well as an equally spirited discussion as to how long he could last, before he was exhausted.  Sadly, they weren’t letting Hinoki place bets any more, somewhat suspicious that he could control the whole thing. 

 

Didn’t matter, he was selling a LOT of his “aphrodisiac”.  As bets were placed and credit chips placed in the hands of a neutral party, the stag undid his belt and let his pants fall to the floor of the shop.  Some of the females present giggled, and others oooooohed.  Bowing as he opened the outer door to the airlock, Hinoki grinned.  He gave the Stag exactly three seconds.

 

Tanj groaned as she felt the air pressure change in the “display case”.  The Otter had proven remarkably flexible, and was doing a marvelously good job of fucking her, despite her strained posture.  With wrists locked near widespread ankles, she was again bent over backwards in a tight bow. 

 

Nearby, Sashi was bound in a similar set of stocks.  The Boar that had been plowing her, had finally passed out, only to be revived with a directional spray from the roof of the “display case”.  The counter-agent to Sashi’s powerful pheromones coupled with a deluge to wash her scent out of his fur had been enough to let him stagger from the enclosure, without interrupting the Otter’s frenzied motions.  And now, after scant minutes, the Chocolate colored Pantheress was squirming in her stocks, obviously lusting after the next lover. 

 

Opening one eye, Tanj watched as the Stag literally staggered past, a large and throbbingly hard cock standing proudly from his loins.  With a sigh she closed her eyes, as she felt the Otter tense, as he drew closer to yet another orgasm.  She’d kinda hoped Hinoki had come to release her.  It seemed as if she’d been lost in her own lusts, and in the lusts of others, for several days now…..  How much could she take?

 

Sashi mewled with delight as the Stag crouched between her widespread knees.  Squirming, she raised her head to grin at him.  Maybe this one would last a little longer.  She certainly hoped so; she was SO horny!

 

---

 

Jenka looked at the message flimsy and shook her head; “Dammit, I was afraid that was going to happen.”  Looking up at John she sighed; “Where’s Tanj?  I need to talk to her about this.”

 

---

 

Tanj felt the spray of cool water, and suddenly her head was clear.  Her maddening, all-encompassing lusts were gone, evaporated like a mist in the presence of the warm sun.  Tiredly lifting her head, she looked around.  The Otter was crawling towards the airlock as the directional spray followed him.  Letting her head fall back, she looked out into the crowd, wondering which of them would take up the bet next… She also wondered how much longer she could go on.  Letting her head roll to the left she gazed at the sight of the Stag working his thick cock in and out of the Pantheress’ mouth.  How long had he been here?  She couldn’t remember.

 

Jenka frowned.  A rather small Mouse and a rather large giraffe were arguing over who was up next.  Pushing forward she grabbed Hinoki, and loudly growled; “Something’s come up.  I need to talk to Tanj.”  Suddenly the Mouse and the Giraffe both fell silent, turning to look at Jenka…..  From behind them, someone growled; “Well, then who we gonna have to bet on?”  Jenka smiled, her fangs startlingly white against her black muzzle, “Oh, I think I can come up with something……”

 

Hinoki squirmed in John’s tight grip as Jenka finished.  The cock and ball harness was particularly tight, even though it’d been made specifically for him.  Silver bands encircled his balls, with a center band further subdividing them; other bands ran up to the top of his sheath, pulling it down some, encircling the base of his hard cock.  Clipping a leash to the little D-ring where the bands came together, the Jaguar led the now-nude Hinoki towards the display case.  Behind her dozens of furrs laid down bets as to how long the Cheetah could last.

 

Tanj had groaned with relief when the anti-pheromone sprays had come on, dousing both her and Sashi.  And when the door had opened, she turned her head as best possible, to see what was happening.  What she saw, however, was Not what she’d expected.  Jenka was leading a nude, bound, and rather rampant Hinoki into the cage, literally stepping over her.  Tilting her head back to follow, she watched as Hinoki was bound in a kneeling position between Sashi’s legs.  The rest was lost from view; it didn’t matter; someone’s hands were moving over her, releasing her, gathering her up and carrying her from the enclosure.

 

Hinoki groaned into the plug gag Jenka had shoved into his mouth.  How did she know that out of all the stock in his shop, that one was his favorite?  It really was a delicious situation, one he would have enjoyed thoroughly if it had been anyone but Sashi…. And then his hesitation was only because of her hyperactive pheromones….. The ring the leash had been clipped to was now chained to the Chocolate Pantheress’ clitty ring, with just enough chain for Hinoki to get about a ten centimeter “stroke”.  Another chain ran from the back of his cock and ball harness, between his legs, to a fitting in the wall of the chamber, over his head, and then down to the Pantheress’ nipple rings.  If he pulled back, he’d tug on her clitty; if he thrust forward, he’d tug on his own bound balls, and her nipples.  And with her Pheromones, he’d have absolutely no option!

 

Clancey grinned and nudged the Badger, “so how long do you think the Stud’s good for?” 

 

The Badger shrugged, “I dunno; maybe an hour.  The Stag didn’t last more than 40 minutes and I would have expected greater things from him.” 

 

Clancey nodded, “Bet the Cheetah lasts a good two hours…..” 

 

The Badger turned to look at the old Rabbit, and then grinned, “DONE!”

 

Jenka checked over Sashi’s bonds, checking for abrasion, or worse, making sure that she was still correctly bound.  Pausing, she checked the Pantheress’ pulse.  Surprisingly it was slow and steady.  The girl really did have an amazing capacity.

 

 Turning, she checked over the Cheetah, pausing to squeeze his balls, checking the bonds that held him just where she wanted him.  Bending lower she purrred into his ear, “I’ve got money down on you, but I won’t tell you how I’ve bet.  Don’t disappoint me, or there’ll be more such little torments.”  Rising, she exited the “display case”, making sure the door seals were tight.  Gesturing to the Stallion, she stood back as the nozzles again sprayed down the occupants of the cage, washing away the pheromone counter-agent.

 

Tanj was stiff and sore, and exhausted; she was still naked, and a mess, and yet she couldn’t help but watch. 

 

From an engineering perspective, it resembled an undampened oscillation.  Sashi felt the warm water sluice over her, and squirmed in her restraints.  The motion was just enough to get Hinoki to move, his cock sliding fractionally within the Pantheress’ pussy.  That got Sashi to moan softly and squirm a little more, provoking a slightly greater response from the Cheetah.  And so on, and so on, until the Pantheress’ remarkable juices were flowing, overpowering Hinoki’s sense of control.  And then they were overruling his sense of restraint, until he was fucking her hard, with each thrust causing the lines to tug hard on his bound balls, each motion tweaking the Pantheress’ clitty, or her nipples. 

 

Tanj watched in amazement, shaking her head from side to side.

 

“Geez, Clancey, will you look at those two go at it?” 

 

The Rabbit turned and grinned at the Mouse, “Yeah, they’re sumthin’, aren’t they, Wilbur?” 

 

The Mouse nodded solemnly, “Can’t see ‘em hanging on for over two hours, though.  Not movin’ like that!” 

 

Clancey looked around, spotting the Badger he’d made the bet with.  The Furr was a good four meters away, talking animatedly with a Rottweiler.  Bending over Clancy whispered in the Mouse’s ear, “That female Cheetah, Tanj, told me that the stud in there was trained in the Elysium Academy.  If that’s true, he should be good for at least two hours, maybe more.” 

 

The Mouse turned to look at the Rabbit, his eyes just a little wide, “That so?  Gee…..  Maybe I need to go place another bet, then.”

 

Jenka reached down and clipped a leash to the Cheetah’s collar, “Come on, Tanj; as entertaining as this is to watch, we have work to do.” 

 

Pulling Tanj to her feet, the Jaguar padded out.  Pausing at the doorway, Jenka grinned at the Stallion, “Mind the store while we’re gone, John, and make sure you get an accurate time on Hinoki’s performance.  I wouldn’t want to be cheated on the bets I placed.” 

 

The Stallion just nodded solemnly.

 

Jenka pulled the tired Cheetah along by her lead.  As they walked, Jenka said without looking back, “We’ve got a wrinkle in the Nikkeldepain operation.  Probably a good idea you didn’t kill that Tiger, as his recon drones have picked up on something that I’d been a little worried about.  Nikkeldepain has called on several of the neighboring systems for aid in defending themselves while their defense grid is down.  The Hampton, Fairfield and Ramada systems have all agreed to send militia vessels to guard the far side of the jump points, freeing Nikkeldepain’s forces to concentrate on the defense of the planet itself.  They’re obviously preparing for an assault exactly like we’re planning.”

 

---

 

The staff meeting was as raucous as ever, but this time the conversations didn’t dwindle or die off as Jenka led the nude Cheetah into the room.  Few even looked her way.  Taking her seat, Jenka called for order.  After a moment she screamed for order.  When that seemed to have little effect on the multitude of arguments, discussions, and in one case, what appeared to be a fistfight, the Jaguar sighed, drew a stunner from a pocket in her jumpsuit, and fired across the room, to stun the two brawling staff members. 

 

THAT seemed to get everyone’s attentions, and with a few sidelong looks to the bodies on the floor, everyone took their seats.

 

The Tasmanian Devil that headed the plans section rose to his feet, to address Jenka, “First off, while I enjoy a good show as much as anyone, having Tanj tied up in your quarters, and then in that cage for so long isn’t helping our planning.  It’s a damn good thing she’d arranged for her folks in Intelligence to pass information directly on to those on the distribution list, instead of letting it sit on her desk waiting for her attention.  Now that we know what Nikkeldepain is up to, we’re going to have to change our plans.  But I’d STIL like her input on the situation, if she even knows what the situation IS!”

 

Jenka just smiled, “Freddie, the fact that you found out about the change only two hours after Ramada agreed to send ships speaks highly of how Tanj has organized her department; it tells me that she doesn’t have to be there all the time for the place to run right.”  Jenka smiled at the Cheetah and tossed her end of the leash at her; “But,…. Tanj, Dear, why don’t you take a minute and review what your department has come up with.  Um…. Take Harold’s chair; it looks as if he’ll be out for a while yet.”  Tanj nodded and rose, to move around the table.  Taking the indicated seat she cleared the terminal built into the desktop, and called up the most recent Intelligence reports.

 

The Tasmanian Devil continued, “Now, as I see it, the situation has changed enough that the initial mission objective should be changed.  But I don’t think we need to scrap the whole mission.  Now, here’s what I propose…….

 

Tanj looked up from her terminal; the tasmanian devil was spinning a grand strategy for taking out the defenses of all four star systems, and then plundering each in turn on a massive scale.  With a sigh, she stood up.

 

“Freddie….. FREDDIE!” 

 

When the Tasmanian Devil turned to look at her, Tanj gave him her most winning smile, “High marks for aggressiveness, but tell me; what do you think the Imperials will do, if we pillage four entire star systems?”

 

The Devil opened his mouth, but before he could speak, a half dozen voices rose up from around the table. 

 

“They’ll send in a battle fleet to put things right.” 

 

“No, they’ll send in the battle fleet as soon as the systems realize we’ve taken out the majority of their defense forces.” 

 

“They’ll hunt us down and pound on us until we’re no longer a major threat!” 

 

Other heads around the table nodded sagely. 

 

Freddie straightened, and glared back at the Cheetah; “With that superweapon your friend sold us, we should STILL be able to take ‘em on!” 

 

Other heads nodded in agreement to that statement. 

 

Tanj sighed, “And if we ever USE that weapon, the Empire will be on us like nothing you’ve ever seen.  They’d see that as a threat to the very Empire itself, and would spare no expense until they’d either neutralized it, or preferably, until they alone possessed it.” 

 

Other heads, including Jenka’s nodded in agreement. 

 

“Then what in the HECK did we buy it for?” another growled. 

 

Jenka rose to answer that one; “So that no one else would have it, and that, should the Empire ever decide to eradicate us, we’d have a means of escape and survival!  I agree with Tanj; that one should be saved for the most dire emergencies.” 

 

Freddie growled, “Then what do you propose to DO?”

 

Jenka looked at Tanj.  Tanj shrugged, “I would say that with their ships helping to defend Nikkeldepain, that Ramada’s vulnerable.” 

 

The Devil scowled, “But there’s nothing worth TAKING at Ramada!  No, I say we go after Nikkeldepain, and that we USE that weapon, if that’s the only way!

 

Tanj watched the argument flow back and forth across the table.  At several points furrs had risen from their seats as if to do battle with their opponents, and only the high pitched whine of Jenka’s stunner charging had made them pause.  Finally, Tanj rose again, bringing her paws down on the tabletop as loudly as she could.

 

“All RIGHT!  If you INSIST on doing  it, this is how we’re going to do it.  FREDDIE!  Take Notes!” 

 

“FIRST, we WAIT until Nikkeldepain has their defense grid back on line, and their kind neighbors have departed.   They’ll calm down then and not be on a heightened state of alert.”

 

“THEN we wait for the resumption of trade; the first convoys in and out of that system should have all the high value, urgent delivery goods on them, just the kind of targets you like.”

 

“FINALLY we do EVERYTHING in our power to disguise our ships, our personnel, our communications and our tactics so that when the Empire goes searching for this new superweapon, they do NOT come looking for US!”

 

“But I STILL think it’s a BAD idea!”

 

Silence reigned for a moment as everyone digested the information. 

 

After a moment, Freddie sat back down; after nodding to himself, he turned to look at Tanj, “OK, its your department’s responsibility to tell us when the convoys are about to sail; we’ll hit them whether the warships from the other systems have departed or not.  Now, how do we go about leaving the impression it wasn’t the black fleet that hit them?” 

 

Tanj could only chuckle; “well, tell me; who’s your biggest rival?” 

 

The Cheetah’s predatory grin was shortly matched by everyone else around the table as they thought of old scores they wanted to settle, and old adversaries they wanted to blame.

 

Tanj slumped in her chair, and tried not to yawn.  The meeting had gotten off into the details, and Logistics was pitching a fit.  Some of the things they needed to pull of the deception weren’t in stock, and Tanj was insisting they procure them in as round-about and untraceable a method as possible.  Other things would be needed to build more of the disruptor devices, and how to pay for that was another topic for “lively” discussion.  Wondering if anyone would notice if she took a nap, the Cheetah tried hard to keep her eyes open…..

 

The paw shaking her shoulder brought Tanj slowly back to reality.  The dream had been vivid, but was fading fast; something about fighting for her life in a desperate situation….  Looking up, she saw Jenka’s smiling face looking down at her. 

 

“Meeting’s over, Dear.  Come on, lets get you cleaned up; you look a MESS!”  Tanj smiled and rose, handing the end of her still dangling leash to Jenka.  A bath did sound nice….

 

---

 

Hinoki groaned as consciousness returned.  Warm water was sluicing over his body, and he could smell the tang of the pheromone counter-agent.  Blinking, he idly wondered how long he’d lasted; towards the end, he’d gone into a kind of sexual trance, his hips moving of their own accord, his body running on autopilot.  Blinking through the water, he wondered who’d come let him out…..  And if Sashi was going to get any rest as well.

 

Wanda grinned and counted their winnings.  It wasn’t as much as Clancey had gotten, but then they hadn’t had as much to “invest”.  Still, it was a nice little bonus….

 

---

 

Tanj groaned as she lowered herself into the steaming water opposite Jenka; she hadn’t realized just how some of her muscles ached until she was able to relax in the water.  With just her nose and the tips of her ears above water, she felt herself seemingly dissolve, at least most of the tensions of the day were flowing away…..

 

---

 

John placed the rather limp cheetah on the floor, and turned to look back at the “display case.”  The Pantheress’ eyes were open, and she was looking at him.  If such a thing were possible, he’d swear she was looking at him with a hungry, predatory gaze…..  Certainly she couldn’t STILL be…..

 

Could she? 

 

Glancing at the clock, and then back at the Pantheress, the Stallion chuckled and moved to lock the store’s door.  As he clopped back to the case, he unfastened his kilt, letting it fall to the floor.  Pausing to set the sprays to come on in an hour, he moved through the airlock.  As the inner door closed, her scent hit him, and with one hand stroking his massive cock to readiness, he moved towards her.

 

Hinoki opened his eyes, and grinned.  He’d thought that might happen.  Crawling quietly across the floor, the Cheetah reset the timer.  Four hours should be sufficient payback, he thought…… 

 

Moving behind the counter, he stretched out.  LORD he was sore!  But it was a good kind of sore.  Pulling down some bubble wrap packaging material, he made himself a pillow.  As he fell asleep to the sound of the Stallion’s rythmic thrusting, he wondered if the store’s security cameras had caught his performance.  He’d hoped they had; if it wasn’t marketable in its own right, it’d still make a helluva momento.…..

 

---

 

The figure paused by the door, looking around.  The commons area  was almost deserted, and what eyes there were seemed to be fastened on the Stallion as he fucked the chocolate colored pantheress.  His motions were smooth, and still powerful, but the look on his face belied his motions.  He looked tired.  And almost as if he were in pain.  Roland chuckled to himself, thinking the Stallion SHOULD be tired.  He’d been fucking Sashi for almost three hours.  Continuously.  Bending down, he examined the lock on the door, lockpicks at the ready.

 

Hinoki made a funny noise as he rolled over; Roland held his breath, frozen in his tracks, until the Cheetah started snoring softly again.  Grinning, he tiptoed around to behind the counter.  He knew exactly what he needed, and while he didn’t mind paying for the stuff, he didn’t know if Hinoki would sell exactly what he wanted, and he most certainly didn’t want any record of the sale.  It wouldn’t do to let ANYONE know what he was up to.  Poking around for a couple of minutes in the near-dark, he finally found what he was after.  The container was unlabeled, but triple sealed.  It had to be the straight stuff.  Picking it up, he paused and then selected a modest sized bottle of the phereomone counter-agent.  Slipping them both into a pocket, he peered over the top of the counter, to see if the coast was clear.

 

The Badger locked the door behind him, and straightened.  Looking around he chuckled to himself.  John was still fucking the Pantheress, eyes closed.  He was moving a little more slowly now, but he was still moving.  And from the way Sashi was writhing within her bonds, it was obvious that SHE wasn’t tired of HIS attentions yet…..   And what crowd there was, was watching those two, absolutely oblivious to his presence.  Chuckling, he made his way off.  It was late, and he wanted to get SOME sleep…..

 

Chris smiled and trailed the feather lightly over the bound Vixen’s cleft.  She squirmed SO nicely.  And made the most delightful sounds through her gag.  Obeying Jenka’s orders he’d checked her out of the slave kennels.  He hadn’t made any special arrangements to that end, but it was still a pleasure to encounter the Badger fellow as he left the Kennels, Zassa at the end of his leash.  It was obvious that HE was going there for the same reason, and Chris couldn’t help but smirk as they passed.  Bending forward, he dragged his tongue along the Vixen’s overheated sex, teasing her a little further.  It was a shame that he had to go on duty in a few hours.  But once he got certain things done, he’d have until the fleet left for the raid to play with her.  He already had her “reserved”… and he had plans… Oh, such deliciously wicked plans…..

 

Roland stood in the doorway of the suite across the corridor, watching through the crack of a very slightly ajar door.  The current occupant of the suite was on duty, and if he did everything right, would never know he’d been there.  YES!  There was the Fox, leading a bound, and VERY naked Zassa from his room.  Roland lifted the little device and just as the door started to close, pressed the button.  The Fox never noticed the slightly ajar door across the corridor, nor did he notice the fact that his own door didn’t close properly.  He only had eyes for the Vixen.  Chuckling, Roland waited for the pair to vanish around a corner, and then eased the door open.  Two quick steps and he was across the corridor.

 

The Fox’s door opened without a sound, its drive motor incapacitated.  Roland waved a small wand-like device, and grinned at the hand-held readout. 

 

“Not so hard at all, if you’ve got the right tools.” 

 

Pressing a few buttons on the hand-held, he collapsed the telescoping wand and stepped through the door, pulling it closed behind him.  Looking around the room he smiled; “Now, if I was a fox, where would I hide it?  Or would I even BOTHER to hide it?”  Heading for the bathroom, as a logical place to start, the Fox tossed the little bottle up and down, catching it and tossing it as he looked about.

 

Roland chuckled and shook his head; “Ah, THERE you are.  Should have known.  Clever Fox, but not clever enough.” 

 

Picking up the larger of the two squeeze-spray bottles, Roland paused.  Chuckling, he put it back down and pulled out a small respirator, of the kind used by damage control parties.  Slipping it over his muzzle, he carefully unscrewed the top of the squeeze bottle and poured its contents down the sink, using plenty of water to wash its contents down.  Picking up the small bottle he’d been toying with, he placed that, a small plastic bag containing a sponge soaked in the counter-agent, and the fox’s squeeze bottle into a large plastic bag.  IT wasn’t easy working through the thin plastic, but he dared not leave any residue in the room.  Having transferred the contents from one bottle to the other, he struggled to put the caps on, without spilling anything, glad he’d practiced with other bottles, in his own quarters.  Finally, he managed to open the plastic bag and retrieve the sponge.  After doing everything he could to wipe down the outside surfaces of the bottles, he took a deep breath, and opened the bag just long enough to fish out the Fox’s squeeze bottle.  After rinsing it, he placed it back where he’d found it.

 

Then, picking up the smaller spray bottle, he unstoppered it, and poured its contents down the drain as well.  Opening the tap, he refilled it with tapwater.  Carefully he arranged the two bottles on the counter, just as he’d found them, and then, with a grin, he washed down the sink, and washed his paws once again.  Satisfied that his efforts were undetectable, he sauntered back to the door, pulling the respirator off, and dropping it into a cargo pocket, just before manually pushing the door open.  Stepping into the hall, as if it were HIS quarters, he covertly looked around.  Finding no one watching, he pushed the button on the gizmo and watched as the door came alive again, closing silently, just as it should.  The snick of the latch was plainly audible.  With a grin on his face, and a spring in his step, the Badger headed off, to rejoin his unit.

 

 

Day 2:  Preparations

 

 

Tanj felt fingers stroking her fur, and opened her eyes; it was about all she could do, considering how Jenka had her tied. 

 

A heavy chrome chain had been fastened to the headboard.  From there, it came down to encircle her neck, a double-ended harness hook holding the sides of the loop together behind her neck, the loop giving her at least as much room as her collar did.  The chain descended along her spine, to take a loop around her just above and just below her breasts, and then, changing direction, it encircled her arms above the elbow.  A loop around her waist, and then around her wrists,  and then around her legs above the knee, and then around her ankles, all the loops held closed by the simple and unfortunately completely unreachable double ended harness hooks.

 

The chain terminated at a ring on the footboard, maintaining a slight tension, there was no way the Cheetah could move. 

 

Not much anyways. 

 

As Jenka tickled one nipple with a fingertip, she purrred; "Don’t think I’m going to do this again…… At least not when we sleep together.” 

 

Tanj raised an eyebrow; “oh?  And why’s that, Mistress?” 

 

Jenka chuckled; “well, when you move, the chain rattles too much; it keeps me awake.” 

 

Tanj giggled and “awwwwww”ed. 

 

Jenka sat up, a look of mock severity on her face; “What, My Slave fails to show proper consideration for her Mistress?” 

 

Tanj gasped as Jenka reached for the feather she kept on her nightstand, the Cheetah’s protestations dissolving in laughter as Jenka expertly applied the feather…….

 

---

 

Hinoki awoke to the sound of tape being pulled off of plastic.  As the layers were removed he finally found himself able to see Sashi’s smiling face. 

 

“Good morning, Master!” 

 

Hinoki spit out the now-soggy cardboard “breathing tube”, and leaned his head forward to kiss his slave; “Good Morning,  Sashi, thanks for unwrapping me.” 

 

Sashi giggled; “Why is it I think Master John was a little upset with you last night?” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and shrugged as he tried to emerge from a couple of dozen meters of bubblewrap.

 

“Oh, I think he had his reasons.  Still, it was worth it, I think.  In a way, I’m surprised he could even move after four hours with you!” 

 

Sashi giggled; “Oh, Mistress Jenka must have him trained VERY well.”

 

After a moment the Pantheress smiled; “He was VERY good, Master…. Thank you.” 

 

Hinoki just harrumphed, “What, better than ME?  Why, if I wasn’t so sore, I’d show you who’s the better male!  But this morning I think you’re going to have to practice your self-control.  Besides, even YOU should be fairly well satiated after yesterday….” 

 

The Pantheress just smiled and shrugged.

 

---

 

Tanj pulled the zipper up on Jenka’s jumpsuit and stood back to gauge the effect.  The white jumpsuit was made of a synthetic that combined the best qualities of leather and latex; it was butter-soft, breathable, and clung like a second skin.  It was also tough as nails, and almost certain to turn an assassin’s edged weapon.  The big chromed zipper ran from just above her mons, between her legs, and up her back, to the hole for her tail.  On the other side of that hole, the zipper continued on up to the back of her collar.  With a zipper ring at either end.  It made her look marvelously sexy. 

 

Grinning, Tanj stretched, and lightly inquired; “And what would Mistress have her slave wear today?”

 

Jenka turned  her head to look at the Cheetah for a moment, and then sighed; “we’re moving into “combat” mode; I think it might be best if you started dressing the part.  For a while, I think folks should see you as the head of Intelligence, and for the moment, forget how sexy you are…”  Tanj nodded, wondering what she might wear, to project that image…..  Then Jenka grinned; “But on the other hand, I have a simply Marvelous outfit for you to wear…..  Maybe one more day…”

 

The Tiger had to turn his whole body to look, as Tanj entered his cubicle.  The cervical collar around his neck was a medical device, actively working to regenerate nerves and muscles, and to speed the healing of shattered vertebrae.  But it LOOKED like Dr. Frankenstein’s own posture collar.  His eyes widened, and a smile formed on his lips.  The Cheetah was dressed in the damndest bikini bottoms he’d ever seen, and nothing else.  The strings from the corners of the small triangular piece of cloth covering her sex ascended almost vertically from her crotch, passing through her nipple rings, to angle down and back, rejoining just under her tail.  And in the crotch of the panties, he could just make out a circular protrusion; it was obvious that her quim was stuffed full of a vibrator, held in place by the panties. 

 

The effect was incredibly erotic. 

 

Before he could speak, Tanj laid a finger across his lips; “No, don’t try and talk; I know how hard it is for you.  I just wanted to go over the new tasking order for your drones.  You got the word we’re going to need to watch the Fairfield, Hampton and Ramada systems closely, as well as all the other systems on the trade routes leading to Nikkeldepain?  Lets sweep them ever two days out to a distance of three jumps, just to watch for convoys building there.” 

 

The Tiger made a motion that was more like a bow than a nod, and flipped open a stack of printouts to point to something.  Tanj bent over and read how he had arranged to disperse the drones, and their report-in schedules. 

 

Nodding, she straightened; “that looks good, but what are your plans to account for a drone that’s detected and destroyed? 

 

Grinning, the Tiger flipped another dozen pages in the stack and pointed again.  After reading, Tanj frowned; “Got it cut a little thin, don’t you?” 

 

The Tiger just shrugged, and then held thumb and forefinger together in the classic “just a little” gesture. 

 

Tanj nodded, and then caught herself short; tilting her head to one side, she looked at the Tiger;  “cutting it just a little short, or are you trying to say we’re short on drones?” 

 

The Tiger held up two fingers, indicating the second alternative.  Tanj sighed and shook her head; “well, I’ll talk to Mistress Jenka and see if we can fund any more, but I guess for the meantime you’ll have to make do with what you’ve got.  Now, what about the maintenance schedule?

 

The new head of the signals intercepts group was a female otter, and for a moment Tanj thought about the Academy, and Kayla, and wondered how she was doing.  Shaking it off, Tanj forced herself to ignore the droning of the vibrator between her legs, and to concentrate on business.  Sitting only forced the vibrator deeper into her pussy, and pacing had its own vibrator related problems.  Using all her willpower, she discussed the Otter’s efforts to break into the commercial net, to see if they could find out when sailing orders would be issued to freighters bound for the Nikkeldepain system, and if they could find out what was on the manifests before the ships sailed.  The Otteress was most helpful and cooperative, as if she remembered all too well what happened to her predecessor….  And the occasional looks that flashed towards Tanj’s crotch were more ones of envy than amazement or disgust…….

 

When she’d finished with the Otteress, Tanj walked through the Intelligence offices, calling all the furrs together for a group meeting. 

 

“We’ve got one other task we have to perform, and quickly.  We need to identify, and characterize a “fall guy” for this operation.  When we go into the Nikkeldepain system, we’re not going in as the Black Fleet.  We need to go in masquerading as another pirate clan, so that if there’s any fall-out, it won’t be directed our way.  They have to be big enough to pull off such a stunt, and they have to have some unique ‘signature’ so that we can successfully impersonate them.  I need at least three options by the staff meeting at 1500 today.  Now, any thoughts?”

 

Tanj’s jaw almost dropped as almost everyone tried to speak at once.  Shouting to be heard through the pandemonium, she pointed to one furr that had actually raised his hand; “I’ll take his suggestion first!  Lets do this as orderly as possible!  Now, Sir, who do you suggest?”

 

---

 

The Bear looked a little nervous as he sidled up to Tanj; “Um… Ma’am…  Can I talk to you for a moment?”  Tanj stopped and nodded, raising an eyebrow in a silent question.  The Bear fidgeted, “Um…..  Its about Ralph.  You see, I’d loaned him some money a while back, and, well, with his current circumstances, I guess you’re the one I need to talk to about getting repaid.” 

 

Tanj nodded; “he lose at Wednesday night poker or something?” 

 

The Bear sighed and shook his head; “No, it was for some investment he wanted to make.  Sure fire thing, he said.  I loaned him twenty thousand….” 

 

Tanj’s jaw dropped; “Twenty….  I’ve been through his finances; he didn’t have anything worth near that much!  Did he say what his investment was?” 

 

The Bear looked, if anything, sheepish.  “Um…. Halvartii Slickback futures, I think.” 

 

Tanj winced.  Gambling was one thing, but the futures market was something else entirely. 

 

“Let me talk to him, and if he confirms your story, I’ll see what we can do  about repaying you…..” 

 

The Bear grinned and nodded; “Thank you, Ma’am!  I DO appreciate that!”

 

As the Bear walked off, Tanj watched him go; “And if I didn’t, I’d have another duel on my  hands, I bet….”

 

---

 

Staff Meeting, 1500 Hrs., Day 2

 

“Look, I don’t care WHAT it takes, we need at least two more of those devices, and a good thirty countervails by Thursday!  INTSALLED!” 

 

Logistics looked at Maintenance, who just looked back and shrugged, “Jenka, that’s a tall order; my folks are going to want overtime…..” 

 

Jenka sighed and threw up her paws, “You guys have been stalling for days, and NOW you demand OVERTIME?  Forget it.  Straight time and not a penny more.  And if you can’t get it done, I’ll see if Operations can have some of the capital ship engineering crews do it FOR you!” 

 

Tanj chuckled from down the table, “you know, Mistress, some of the Engineering departments just MIGHT want to build the countervails themselves, so they’re sure they work right…..  and so that they might be able to repair, ah, battle damage.” 

 

Operations blinked at the Cheetah and then turned to Jenka, “YEAH!  That’s a GOOD idea; I’m sure THEY’d be willing to find the time…..” 

 

Maintenance turned and shot Tanj a dirty look as Jenka growled, “All right, that should let maintenance finish the weapons on time, without robbing us blind……”

 

Turning her attention back to the Cheetah, Jenka growled; “Now, Pet, what have you come up with for a scapegoat? 

 

Tanj grinned and rose.  Pushing a button on a hand-held remote, the display screens were filled with the image of a buxom red Vixen in stylistic (and rather revealing) Pirate garb, “This is Captain Jane Calamity, of the Crimson Corsairs.  Yes, I know they don’t usually operate in this sector, but that’s actually a benefit.  They have a very flamboyant style which lets them be easily identified.  They’re about as large as the Black Fleet was before the addition of the Brethren remnants, and about as well equipped.  We should be able to alter our comm protocols, our appearance, and our behavior to match.  Right now, their tactics aren’t all that dissimilar from our own, so that shouldn’t be a problem.  Our biggest problem is going to be one of asset allocation.” 

 

At the Jaguar’s blank look, Tanj went on; “we have to make sure that the Crimson Corsairs pull NO major operation while we’re raiding Nikkeldepain.  In fact, they shouldn’t pull anything off immediately before or after. 

 

Jenka nodded; “and how are we going to do that?” 

 

Tanj grinned; “By blowing the whistle on them, of course.  That means we’ll have to watch them VERY closely.  More tasking orders for too few recon drones, and more work for the signals intercepts unit, and cryptography.  If we figure out what they’re about to do, we simply put a few words in the right ears.  Convoys will change course, guards will be doubled.  Targets will suddenly become much less attractive, or uneconomical to attack.” 

 

Jenka chuckled; “I like it.  If we have to, we’ll task some of the ex-Brethren ships with cloaking devices on those missions.”  After a moment, Jenka leaned forward a little, studying the screen as the briefing slides continued to cycle.  As it flashed from the Vixen, to a depiction of the paint job on the typical Crimson Corsair ship, to a group shot of several of their more notable lieutenants and their outlandish garb, she frowned.  “We do have another problem, Pet.  I’ll never be able to impersonate their leader…..” 

 

Tanj laughed; “No, Mistress, but I think I know someone who can……”

 

---

 

The guard stopped in front of the cage and gestured at the leather-wrapped vixen; “Just as you ordered; all tied up, with no where to go, and NO chance to play with herself.  I’ve even got the only key to those locks, so there’s no chance any of the other guards have had her either.” 

 

Chris chuckled and nodded, “Very good; I appreciate it.”  Taking the key from the guard, the Fox bent to open the door.  The cage was tight for one, but even tighter for two.  Still, the only way to get Zassa out was to get her unlocked, and the mesh was too tight to reach through.  With a sigh the Fox shook his head, “The things I do, the things I put myself through… I DO hope she appreciates it…..”

 

Zassa felt paws moving over the leather, releasing straps, undoing bonds……. And for once she couldn’t WAIT to be released.  Before the guards had strappped her up tight, they’d painted certain sensitive portions of her anatomy with something that felt like liquid fire.  Her pussy was aflame, her asshole burned, and her nipples seemed to be molten.  Exactly the kind of thing that turned her on, made her screamingly aroused.  And tied like she’d been she could barely breathe, let alone relieve the growing itch.  Strong hands pulled her backwards, and out of the cage.  For a moment they departed, only to reappear at the back of her head, tugging at the lacings….  As the hood came off, as the thick plug gag withdrew from her mouth, she chanced a glance upward.  As she thought; Chris Fox.  Roland wouldn’t have been so… devilish, so wicked, so….. perceptive?

 

Chris watched the Vixen squirm, and smiled.  That stuff he’d gotten at Hinoki’s really seemed to have done the trick.  Now, for the icing on the cake…..  Reaching into a pocket he withdrew three small silvery spheres…..  As Zassa’s eyes fastened on them, she both tensed…. And smiled. 

 

“You recognize these, little one?  You should, they’re yours.  I got them, and several other very interesting toys from your cabin.  Now, lets see, how do they go on…..?”

 

Zassa watched as the Fox reached out, taking one breast in his left hand, as the right one positioned the clamp over her nipple, ignoring the nipple ring that would have made the attachment so much easier, and so much less painful.  As the Fox released the little sphere, Zassa groaned.  They were heavier than they looked, and the clamp was savage on her nipple.  She managed to keep quiet as he fastened the second one on her right nipple, but when he bent to fasten the third on her still-burning clitty, she couldn’t help but let out a long, drawn-out moan of pain and pleasure….

 

Chris straightened, watching her face.  He’d heard, from Tanj, and Hinoki, and even Wanda and Kath, but wanted to make sure himself, that this wasn’t going too far.  The Vixen stood, knees slightly apart, head bowed, breathing rapidly, apparently oblivious to her surroundings.  Padding around behind her, the Fox reached down, to shove his paw rudely between her legs, two fingers jabbing at her sex.  Somewhat to his surprise, they slid in easily, making the Vixen moan again.  Whatever else was going on, she was definitely turned on.  Pulling his fingers out, he fished the remote from a pocket and turned it on to a low setting.  As the three little spheres began to vibrate, the Vixen moaned again, her body shuddering.  Chris just chuckled and pulled a leash from his pocket, to attach it to her collar.

 

Zassa tried HARD to ignore the tugs, and the vibrations as they walked through the corridors.  The vibrators weren’t set high enough to make her climax, but the swaying, and tugging might just do it.  Savoring the pleasure and the pain, the Vixen did her best to move smartly at the end of his leash; if she did it just right, she'd climax two, maybe three times before they got to his quarters.

 

Roland watched from the nook as the two went by, and smiled.  Give them a half a day, and she’d probably be delighted to be “rescued” from that Fox.

 

Chris led the Vixen through the door to his quarters, and as the door slid shut, he turned to unfasten the leash; “Lets see…. I have many things planned for you, Little one, but I think the first thing is a good meal.  There should be lasagna in the oven, along with garlic bread.  There’s a Cesar salad on the counter, and a bottle of red wine airing next to it.  Why don’t you go fix me a plate, and serve it to me, at the table.”  Watching the Vixen’s shapely ass as she sashayed into the kitchen, Chris sighed.  So lovely.  Fumbling a little, he managed to pull out the chair at the table, and get himself seated without having to tear his eyes from her.

 

Zassa smiled as she sniffed the aromas.  It smelled like some truly potent garlic bread, just like she liked it.  Finding a potholder, she opened the oven and withdrew the lasagna.  It looked to be homemade, not prepackaged.  Could the Fox cook?  That’d be refreshing.  Setting it on the stovetop she fished out the bread, and then went looking for a spatula.

 

Chris smiled as the naked slave brought him his dinner.  Her form was perfect as she knelt before placing the plate before him.  Rising she retreated to the kitchen returning with a salad bowl, and his wineglass.  She waited for him to take a sip before returning to the kitchen, to fetch the bottle, keeping it close at hand, awaiting the sign that his glass needed refilling.

 

Chris savored the taste of the lasagna.  It was so hard to find fresh tomatoes in space, even with the hydroponics.  Too many pirates wanting to grow malt, barley, or hops, for their home-brew.  Cutting another piece with the edge of his fork, he debated how much he should eat before giving her a piece.

 

Zassa waited patiently, her stomach rumbling.  Whenever his glass got low, she refilled it, but mostly she just watched him eat, attentive as a slave should be.  The Academy had taught her to wait as long as necessary, to be the perfect slave, but that had been a while ago.  As she knelt, watching, she reflected on how her life had changed once again.  Now she was too used to getting food whenever she wanted, to doing pretty much whatever she wanted.  A part of her rebelled at that, the traditional submissive mentality wanting to push all such things off on a kind and loving master.  Another part of her rankled at watching him eat when she was so hungry. 

 

It was a most curious dichotomy. 

 

As she watched, she couldn’t help but wonder if Wanda ever did this to Kath?  And what the Mink might think of it.

 

Chris finished the Lasagna, and smiled.  Pausing to wipe his mouth with the linen napkin, he turned to look at the Vixen; “Why don’t you go get me a second helping….”  Zassa immediately rose, to take the plate, moving as she’d been taught, the motions second nature.  In the kitchen, Zassa cut him a slightly larger slice than she thought he’d want, and then added a few pieces of the garlic bread.  Holding the dish in both paws she padded back to the Fox, to place the dish before him, to kneel where she’d been…..

 

Zassa poured the last of the wine into his glass, and returned to her kneeling position.  To her amazement it looked as if he was going to eat it all…..  And that angered her, making it difficult to hold her position, to hold her outward appearance of calm.  When the Fox had finished he smiled and rose, crooking his finger at her, “Bring the dishes, slave.”  Turning, he padded off towards the kitchen, his empty wineglass in one hand.

 

When Zassa entered the kitchen with the dirty dishes, Chris was pulling another bottle of wine from the rack.  As he worked at opening it he glanced in her direction, “is my slave hungry?” 

 

It was all Zassa could do to nod just once, and keep her eyes downcast.  Chris popped the cork from the neck of the bottle and nodded, “ah, but hungry for what, that’s the question.  Still, I suppose sustenance will be required.” 

 

Turning he glanced at Zassa again, “Although I do think you could stand to loose a few pounds….”  Zassa had a hard time keeping any sign of emotion from her face, but internally she raged “What in the HELL is wrong with my figure?  I work hard to look like this!  Loose a few pounds indeed!”

 

Chris chuckled to himself; he’d seen the slight stiffening, the almost unnoticeable widening of her eyes.  Comments about weight always got to them, no matter who they were.  Pouring himself another glass of wine, he sighed, “well, I guess we’ll just have to see, now won’t we?  Tell you what, I’ll let you eat, if that’s what you REALLY want……” 

 

After taking a sip from his glass, the Fox put it down, and picking up the pan of lasagna, he scraped what was left into a bowl.  The bowl was set on the floor, in the corner.  Chuckling, the Fox produced another bottle, a smaller one, and like a bottle of fine perfume, it had a small sprayer attached.  “Now, little one, you can have the food, or you can have me.” 

 

So saying he sprayed a single squirt at the Vixen.  “your choice.”

 

Zassa felt the cool mist float over her face, and suddenly the scent of the Chocolate Pantheress hit her.  The effect was so strong it was almost as if she’d been slammed with a pillow.  Rocking back on her heels, where she knelt, she shook her head, as if to clear it….  And then her eyes turned to the Fox…..

 

As her mind reeled, Zassa suddenly had a mental image of herself, and others at the Academy, teased to distraction, hot as could be, horny as hell, and NOT allowed any satisfaction.  On occasion they’d been forced to correctly complete demanding tasks despite their advanced state of arousal, to do things correctly in the face of overwhelming need.  Laughing to herself, perhaps a little maniacally, the Vixen turned, and on hands and knees, crawled across the floor to the bowl. 

 

In some deep, dark recess of her mind, someone a whole lot more rational was saying “he’ll be affected by the Pheromones too; he’ll not be able to leave YOU alone… and you should be able to have your lasagna, and your fucking too…..”

 

Chris watched in absolute disbelief as the Vixen made for the food bowl.  As the Vixen crouched on all fours, he shook his head, “Man, I KNOW I make a mean lasagna, but this is beyond belief!” 

 

For a moment he just watched, and then the scent hit him.  Without really knowing what he was doing, the Fox dropped his pants, and moved forward, to kneel between the Vixen’s feet.  As she lapped at the bowl on the floor, her ass was almost perfectly positioned……

 

Zassa moaned around a mouthful of lasagna as the Fox entered her.  Panting, she pushed back against him, surrendering to the pheromones, letting her building lusts take just a little control.  The sensation of the fox’s cock wedging her apart from labia to womb, filling her, stretching her, was heaven.  But so was the lasagna. 

 

As she rocked back and forth, shoving back against the Fox’s cock, moving forward to lap at the bowl, that maniacal laugh echoed through her head again; it seemed to say “lucky Vixen, to find a master who can COOK!”

 

Chris groaned audibly, as his shaft sunk into the vixen; the pheromones must have been having SOME effect on her, as she was dripping wet.  Or was she always that way?  With paws on her hips, he drove into her with increasing fury, unable to help himself.  Usually he liked to take it slow, make it last, show how skillful he was, but tonight he just slammed into her harder and harder, all rational thoughts gradually being overwhelmed by the increasing flood-tide of lust.

 

Zassa found herself bouncing back and forth much too hard to keep her chin in the bowl.  Didn’t much matter, most of the lasagna was gone anyways.  Bracing her paws against the walls, trying to keep her head from hitting the wall, she worked back against him as hard as she could, her vaginal muscles clenching at his driving cock.  She’d had dinner, kinda; now it was time for desert!

 

Chris couldn’t help it; despite some far-off voice screaming that this wasn’t what he was supposed to do, that this wasn’t “him”, the rest of him fucked the Vixen as hard as he could, intent only on his orgasm.  When it came, it almost caught him by surprise.  As his claws dug into the magnificent globes of the Vixen’s ass, he threw back his head and yipped loudly, his cock seeming to explode within the tight, velvety confines of her pussy.  For a moment time seemed to stand still, and reality seemed to turn inside out……  Panting hard, he shook his head, trying hard to get his eyes to uncross…..

 

Zassa felt the fox cum, the jet of his hot seed sending her over the edge into her own climax.  Writhing, she panted, moaned, and yipped in response.  As she calmed down, her climax receding, she realized that for a moment he’d gone a little… “slack”.  Not that his cock wasn’t still rock-hard, but more that he wasn’t trying to drive her headfirst through the wall. 

 

Squirming around, she giggled, pulling away from him just long enough to push him backwards onto the kitchen floor.  Grabbing the wine bottle from the shelf she pounced, straddling his hips, facing his feet.  Before the surprised Fox could respond, Zassa had reached between her legs and grab his cock; positioning the head of his shaft at her anus, she drove herself down, gasping as he filled her back passage.

 

Chris’ head came up off the floor as the Vixen impaled herself on his cock; it took a moment to realize that she’d driven it up her ass!  LORD she was tight.  AND hot!  As he looked, she half-turned, to wink at him.  Raising the bottle of wine to her lips she tipped it back to take a long drink.  Then, with a giggle, she turned back.  He heard the bottle thump as it hit the floor, and then she was rising up, lifting so that only the head of his shaft was nestled within her rosebud.  Wide-eyed, he watched as she moved the bottle between his legs, until it pressed against his balls.  Then, with a groan, she settled back down, his cock driving into her ass, the neck of the bottle disappearing into her pussy!  As she started to move, fucking both him and the bottle, he shook his head in amazement, and the idle thought floated through his brain as he wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew….

 

---

 

Zassa giggled at the strained position; she was almost doing a headstand, paws out to balance her; above her, Christ stood, straddling her; as she was upside-down, he was right-side up, crotch to crotch.  She had a real good view of his left ankle.  In an amazing feat of…. Dexterity?  Chris had pointed his cock straight down, into her waiting pussy.  Now he was doing something like shallow deep-knee bends, fucking her in the most unusual way… Not that she was complaining in the least.  Giggling she squirmed, working her vaginal muscles around his shaft, milking him, squeezing him, as he took her in so unusual a way.

 

Chris grunted and bobbed up and down; he’d thought she’d like this.  She wasn’t the only one with a vast sexual repertoire.  As he moved, he tried to count the times he’d brought her off; at least four climaxes with his shaft in her pussy, perhaps another three with his tongue, and maybe another three, with his cock in her ass, and his fingers in her pussy.  Or that wine bottle.  She sure was hot tonight, and he was going to do EVERYTHING in his power to make it a memorable night….

 

Or was it still night?  How long had they been going?

 

---

 

Chris smiled and took another pull from the bottle; it was the most curious taste sensation, at least half wine, half Zassa’s juices.  Chuckling he took another pull from the bottle and then passed it back to Zassa; this time she was sitting in his lap, facing him, as she slowly, teasingly rode his shaft.  The pheromones were still raging through his hindbrain, and his cock was still hard enough to cut diamonds, but physical exhaustion was starting to take its toll of both of them.  They’d been through almost every position he’d ever even heard of, and quite a few he hadn’t.  He’d had her standing, sitting, laying, hands and knees, in her mouth, in her ass, in her pussy, between her breasts.  He’d had what must have been a good dozen orgasms, and he’d lost count of the number of climaxes she’d had.  As she rose slowly, his shaft coming into view, he looked down and shook his head, amazed that she could still move, amazed that he didn’t want her to STOP moving.  Gathering what energy he had left, he gathered his feet beneath him, and with a lurch rose to a standing position.  Zassa’s arms went around his neck, her legs around his hips, and the now pretty much empty bottle hit the floor.  Staggering, panting, he made his way towards where he’d left the counter-agent.

 

Zassa moaned and bounced in time with each of the Fox’s steps, gasping each time his hard shaft drove into her pussy.  A part of her idly wondered where he was going, but the rest of her just didn’t care.  Holding onto him tight, she moved as he moved, working herself towards another mind-shattering climax.

 

Chris found the bottle, almost picking up the wrong one by mistake.  Fumbling, as the Vixen cried out, as she shuddered, as her pussy clenched tight around his shaft once again, he brought the bottle up and sprayed her right in the face.  Without waiting for a result, he turned and sprayed himself too.  The liquid was cool on his face, and he sighed…..  And then he took another look at the bottle.  It was the right one, all right… Fumbling more, he unscrewed the top and poured it over the Vixen; she just giggled and shook her head, hair flying.  A droplet happened to land on Chris’ muzzle, and instinctively he licked out at it.  It tasted like water, with a slight overlay of plastic.  Groaning he sniffed the bottle, the telltale scent of the counter-agent wasn’t present in the least!

 

Zassa groaned; he’d stopped moving.  She wasn’t ready for him to stop moving yet.  With a growl, she threw herself to one side.  If he was just going to STAND there, maybe she could topple him to the floor, so at least SHE could do the moving.  As they fell, her tail hit the table, knocking the other bottle to the floor….

 

Chris blinked and shook his head; what had he been thinking about?  Whatever it was, it couldn’t be as important as the nude, and oh-so-willing Vixen in his arms.  She was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen, and he just HAD to have her.  With a growl, he shoved at her, rolling her over.  Taking an ankle in each hand, he drove into her sodden pussy.  Bending her double, her knees pressed against her ample breasts, he proceeded to give her the fucking she so richly deserved!

 

Zassa howled with glee; she didn’t know what’d brought him back to life, but she wasn’t complaining!  Whooeeeee!

 

---

 

Jenka chuckled and nodded; “Yes, as audacious a slave as Zassa is, I can just IMAGINE her as a pirate queen.”  Looking up, the Jaguar grinned; “John, find out where Zassa is right now.  I think we need to have a word with her.”

 

---

 

Chris’ body trembled, but his blood was pounding in his ears, and his cock was hard and as ready as ever.  The Vixen was bent across the back of his easy chair, and he was pounding into her so hard, her feet had lifted off the floor.  It was amazing; as long as they’d been going at it, and she was still tight.  Still the sexiest thing he’d ever even imagined.  As yet another orgasm loomed he gripped her hips harder and pounded away for all he was worth.

 

---

 

John shook his head, looking up from the comm; “Mistress, the computer says Zassa was checked out of the kennel early yesterday, by Chris.  The computer says they’re both in his quarters, but the “do not disturb” flag is set.” 

 

Jenka chuckled and waved a hand.  “Override the privacy flag”.  Turning to grin at the Cheetah, she purrred; “Being the boss around here DOES have its perogatives.”

 

---

 

Zassa heard the chime as if it were in another room.  The fox had cum again, and having done so, had slumped down to the floor.  However, he was still breathing, and therefor there was still hope that she could get him hard again.  Ignoring the irritating noise, she crouched over him, using tongue and fingers to try and bring him back to some semblance of life….

 

---

 

John shrugged; “Mistress, there’s no answer.” 

 

Jenka sighed; “well, then, I guess you’re just going to have to go down there and fetch her.” 

 

His face neutral the equine bowed and turned to head for the door.

 

---

 

Chris gradually returned to his senses; someone’s tail was waving just over his face.  Forcing his head up, he found the Vixing riding his shaft, facing his feet.  Grunting, amazed that he could still move, amazed that he was still alive, he found the energy to sit up; reaching around her, he captured her breasts in his paws, squeezing hard.  The Vixen let out a little squeal and only seemed to move all the faster.

 

John sighed and knocked on the door one last time.  He’d tried the doorbell several times, with no result.  After rapping so hard, he’d scratched the paint, he shook his head, and entered the override code in the keypad.  The door immediately slid open.  Stepping through the door and into the semi-gloom, he twitched his tail aside just as the door closed behind him.  The place looked like a disaster area.  The couch was overturned, its cushions strewn about.  The recliner looked…. Bent, as if something heavy had hit it from the side.  It looked as if all the items on the coffee table had been swept aside…. And there were curious stains on the coffee table’s surface.  Sniffing cautiously, the Stallion grinned; the scent of sex was heavy in the air….. but there was something else… the smell of cinnamon and….  The Stallion’s eyes went wide, even as his cock responded, thickening, expanding out of its sheath, until it lifted the hem of his kilt.  It was the scent of that Chocolate Pantheress!  Chris must have been experimenting with some of Hinoki’s “product”.  The rational explanation did little to comfort the Stallion as he felt himself striding forward, looking for either, or both of the furrs that were supposed to be in these rooms…..

 

Zassa sensed motion and turned; what met her gaze was truly a wonder to behold; a large, black Stallion, with an enormous erection.  Giggling, as she moved astride Chris’ hips she waved him over.  The Fox might be good, very good, but he was flagging, and here was fresh meat!

 

John grinned at the sight of the cum-soaked vixen.  Moving forward, he reached down to take her head in both of his hands, and straddling the Fox’s legs, he brought her muzzle to his cock.  With a hungry growl she opened her jaws wide, and did her best to engulf him.

 

Chris watched through slitted eyes, as the Vixen seemed to take an unbelievable amount of horseflesh into her mouth.  He imagined he could almost see the outline of the head of the stallion’s cock at the back of her neck as he started moving his hips, driving his shaft in and out of her mouth, perhaps a little more forcefully, a little more quickly than she might like.  And yet, all through it all, she never missed a stroke on his shaft.

 

---

 

Jenka looked up from her briefing papers and frowned.  Turning to Tanj she mused; “Just how long has John been gone, anyways?” 

 

Tanj turned to look at the Chronograph and just shrugged.

 

---

 

Zassa giggled and squirmed in pleasure; it was about time one of them had tried something like this!  From somewhere, Chris had found a spreader bar, and now, with her ankles held almost uncomfortably far apart, she dangled from the Stallion’s strong hands.  He held her, seemingly tirelessly, off the floor, slowly raising and lowering her onto his huge cock.  Chris had come up behind her, his shaft in her ass, and was squeezing her breasts as the Stallion did all the work.  She loved being SO helpless, in the grip of strong and determined furrs.  Panting hard, she worked vaginal and anal muscles, teasing both of them.  As she concentrated, she idly wondered which of them would cum first, and if it was the horsie, would he put her down, or come up with some other interesting position?

 

---

 

Tanj yawned and stretched; looking over at the clock she shook her head; “Mistress, I’m starting to worry about John… He’s been gone an awfully long time.” 

 

Jenka chuckled and shrugged; “he’s a big boy; I’m sure he can take care of himself.  Besides, its too late to really start a discussion with Zassa on the subject of her role in the upcoming raid.  Lets go over the contingency plans one more time and then get some sleep.  If he’s not back by morning, we’ll go looking for him.”

 

Zassa groaned around Chris’ cock; she was suspended from the ceiling, in a tight ball-tie.  The knotwork might not have been up to Chris’ usual standards, but then, the guys probably had other things on their minds.  Now, she swung back and forth like an obscene pendulum, Chris’ cock sliding into her mouth as she swung forward, the Stallion’ shaft sliding into her pussy as she swung back.  And two sets of eager hands made sure she stayed in motion, too…..

 

---

 

Jenka frowned, and pushed the doorbell again.  “Something’s wrong…” 

 

Tanj nodded; “Yes, Mistress; the computer says they’re all still in there, but…..” 

 

Jenka sighed; “John seems to be becoming increasingly…. “distracted” by the pleasures of the flesh; I DO believe I need to have a word with him.” 

 

Tanj watched, her frown deepening as the Jaguar punched in the override code….

 

Zassa grinned and stretched while she could; it was obvious the boys were merely exchanging one method of restraint for another, but while they were fiddling with the harness, she’d take advantage of her “liberty”….  It was then that the door started to open….

 

“You know, Mistress… It might not be such a good idea to go in there…” 

 

Jenka just harrumphed and the leash went tight, as she dragged the Cheetah through the still opening door….

 

Zassa blinked at the bright light from outside as the door slid silently open.  Grinning, she pounced while she was able…

 

Jenka yelped as the leash was suddenly jerked out of her paw.  Her eyes were adjusting to the gloom, but she was still having trouble making things out in the darkened room.  And what was that smell?  Surely she’d smelled that before……  But where?  Suddenly it hit her; just as John and Chris rose, some web of leather straps held between them.  They were both nude, and grinning, and both were sporting large erections…..

 

Tanj purrred and lapped hard into the Vixen’s cunny, tasting Fox and Stallion, and of course, Vixen….  As her tongue worked over all the most sensitive spots in the Vixen’s cleft, Zassa did the same, returning the favor… It’d been a long time, too long, since she’d been able to play with the Vixen, and she was determined to make the most of every minute.  Thus, she missed John and Chris stripping the jumpsuit off of Jenka (did they know how much that had COST?), and binding her in the harness.  While the Jaguar struggled, it was more to get at them, than to keep from being bound, the pheromones filling her brain as well.

 

Jenka groaned into the gag; the Fox had been wonderfully inventive with the straps, and she now hung from the ceiling, her torso horizontal, legs stretched back over her body, widely spread, her head hanging down.  The Fox’s cock was in her throat, the Stallion’s shaft stetching her pussy Sooooooo delightfully, each of them pumping away….. 

 

Some small part of her rankled that she wasn’t in charge, that SHE was the one bound and tied.  But for the moment the pleasures of that big, thick cock driving in and out of her pussy, the feel of the Fox’s shaft in her mouth, were all that she really cared about.  Squirming as much as she could she licked avidly at the cock in her mouth, while she rose higher and higher towards Nirvana…..

 

Zassa smiled; the Cheetah hadn’t resisted at all, letting her bind her tight, arms behind her back, legs bent double, folded under her, her knees held wide apart by a spreader bar, her body slightly arched upwards.  It exposed her pussy so delightfully.  Holding the two double-dongs she crouched between the Cheetah’s legs, teasing her asshole and her pussy, each with the head of a different dong…..

 

Tanj moaned and panted as the Vixen filled her with the two dongs.  She couldn’t see what Zassa was doing, but thought she knew anyways; she could feel the Vixen’s feet slide under her, as she brought her crotch close to her own.  The dongs wiggled, and Tanj was certain that Zassa was inserting the other ends into her own pussy, and ass.  And then she felt the Vixen start to move.  It was an old game they played; by working her vaginal and anal muscles she could hold the dongs tight, letting the Vixen take pleasure as she moved back and forth…. And then the Vixen would clamp down, pumping them in and out of Tanj’s pussy and ass.  It was great exercise for those special muscles, and after a while, well, it had its own rewards…..

 

Jenka heard the Cheetah cry out, heard her scream of pleasure.  It echoed similar noises she would have made, had she been able.  The males had traded places, and now John’s massive shaft filled her mouth, threatened to fill her throat.  It effectively stifled any noises she might have made as her own climax ripped through her, sharp little teeth shredding her mind and her soul, hot flashes of lighting illuminating all her pleasure centers….

 

The opportunity might never come again.  Jenka watched as they maneuvered Tanj, to straddle the Stallion’s hips, pushing her down until his cock was belly-button deep in her pussy.  Chris then pushed her forward, so that he could sink his still-rampant shaft into her ass.  Zassa crouched over the Stallion’s muzzle, leaning forward so that the Cheetah could nuzzle her breasts.  For the moment, the Jaguar was ignored.  Part of her felt outrage at that; but another part had recognized the situation for what it was, and knew they’d be here forever, if she wasn’t able to DO something. 

 

Unfortunately, they’d left her still half-bound.  Somewhere, they’d found a harness that fit her.  A slightly too tight collar encircled her neck; straps ran down front and back, through her crotch.  That strap held a large butt-plug in her ass, and an even larger vibrator in her pussy.  The vibrations were driving her crazy, and it was difficult to fight the temptation to just give in to them.  More straps encircled her, above and below her breasts, at her waist, and worse, around the tops of each thigh, the thigh straps somehow connected to the crotch strap.  It made moving her legs… “interesting.”  Her wrists were bound to the outsides of the thigh straps, holding her arms straight down.  A large ring gag filled her mouth, and both the males had taken turns making use of that orifice.  But now they were occupied elsewhere….  

 

Struggling to her feet, the Jaguar looked around.  Flight was not an option; with the pheromones in her fur, she’d merely wind up the plaything of the first furr she met in the corridor.  And that would NOT be good for her ability to command the Black fleet….  SURELY there was a shower, or a bath here somewhere; she HAD to get the pheromones out of her fur….

 

Chris pulled out of the cheetah’s ass, and wrapping his paw around his shaft, pumped himself a few times until he was able to spray his seed over her shapely buns.  Panting, he looked around for the other female….  Where did she get to?  That was when he heard water running……

 

Jenka panted hard; it hadn’t been easy to open the taps with her paws bound the way they were, and she’d fallen once trying to get into the shower.  Now, too-cold water sluiced over her.  Shivering, she grinned; at least her head had cleared….  She looked up as she heard the door open.  There stood a leering Chris, still as hard as ever.  Jenka chuckled and gave him her best “come hither” look.  Obligingly he stepped under the shower, to take her in his arms, to give her a deep, hot kiss.

 

Tanj groaned, another climax blossoming, illuminating all the corners of her mind, as the Stallion bounced her up and down on his cock HARD.  It felt SO good, but she was beginning to wonder just how much longer she could go on…..

 

Chris sighed; “No, that won’t work either.  There’s only one way I know of, and I hate to do it.  Its going to ruin all my stuff.” 

 

Jenka raised an eyebrow in a silent question.  As soon as Chris had come to his senses he’d released her hands; she’d adjusted the temperature of the shower first, and stripped off the harness second.  A part of her was REAL sorry to loose that vibrator……  “We have things to do; we’ve been in here WAY too long….” 

 

The Fox nodded, took a couple of deep breaths, and stepped out of the shower.  The keypad was just across the bathroom, and he finished keying in the sequence just as he found himself having to take a deep breath.  The effect was instantaneous; suddenly he was hard again, and there was a female close by.  Turning he got about two steps back towards the shower, when the overhead sprinkler system went off.

 

Tanj laughed as water cascaded down over her.  Somehow Jenka had found a way to stop the orgy.  Looking down, she found a sad look on the stallion’s face; he looked back up at her and sighed, “I’m in trouble again, aren’t I?”

 

The four of them were still dripping wet, their clothes mismatched and clinging as they headed towards ops.  Jenka was bound and determined to find out what had happened in her absence, half-convinced it had been a trap set for HER, and suspecting that someone might have started a mutiny while she was “otherwise occupied.” 

 

As they walked, Chris muttered to the Stallion, sotto-voice; “I have to admit, I’m sure glad Zassa was on top of me when you showed up.” 

 

The Stallion chuckled quietly, his eyes on Jenka ahead of him; “Yeah, when that stuff hit me, all I cared about was sinking my cock into something; Fox butt would have been just as good as Vixen pussy.” 

 

Chris nodded; “my point exactly, and you know I don’t go in for that.” 

 

John just shrugged; “Yeah, I know, but it wouldn’t have mattered in the least.” 

 

The Fox just nodded, and then winced; he knew how well hung the Stallion was; it would have HURT.  As they walked, he started to wonder if perhaps it wasn’t a specific assault on HIM.  Once again, he ran through a mental list of enemies, and possible counter-attacks.  A review of the security cameras suddenly became a priority….

 

Tanj sighed as she walked, glad for once that the sight of a nude Cheetah wasn’t that remarkable on the Black Fleet’s station.  It kept wet clothes from chafing, and she was sure that Jenka and Chris were having that problem.  Even John’s kilt looked bunched and clinging.  As they turned the corner, heading down the corridor towards Ops, she tried to figure out how in the world she was going to get Hinoki and Sashi off of the station and to someplace safe.  Jenka wasn’t going to tolerate this kind of thing much longer.

 

---

 

Tanj smiled as she turned away from her terminal.  The…. Coyote?  Smith was good, whatever he was, but she still had caught his reflection in the terminal’s screen. 

 

“I’m glad you stopped by; what do you think of the operational plan?”  The…. Wolf?  shrugged, “I’ve seen better.  They seem to depend rather heavily on all their assumptions being correct.  For instance, the assumption that the weapon will disrupt all surface transportation and thus prevent Militia reinforcements from arriving is quite “iffy” if you ask me.” 

 

Tanj nodded, “As well as the fact that they’re expecting it to disrupt personal energy weapons as well.  We know the field isn’t all-pervasive.  Some things will have natural shielding, just by coincidence.  I know.  Believe me, I think it’s a most risky proposition, and yet, it must be done, for two reasons.” 

 

The…..Fox?  raised an eyebrow.  Tanj shrugged; “first off, you yourself know about the financial assault on the Black Fleet.  IF this works, and it’s a pretty big IF, then there will be enough booty to quiet any dissention, to still any criticism, for a while at least.  And that’ll give me time to try and catch whoever’s behind it.” 

 

The…. Smith just nodded, “and that’s a good reason.  I believe the risks are commensurate with such a reward.  And your other reason?” 

 

Tanj just smiled, “On the target list that Professor Corey left.  The Nikkeldepain University’s Center for Spatial Anomolies.  And its less than 17 kilometers from the spaceport.” 

 

Understanding dawned on Smith’s face, “Ah, so THAT is what this is REALLY all about!  Very good, Madam, I applaud you!”  Leaning forward, he grinned; “so how are we going to go about raiding the PRIMARY target?”

 

Tanj sighed, “Ah, that I haven’t really had time to work on.  I have a layout of the campus, and a roster of professors, post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduate students, complete with pictures.  I know where their central computer is located, along with their central files depository.  I know who the main movers and shakers are there, but I have NOT had time to devote to a suitable plan of action…..” 

 

Smith nodded, “and you were thinking along the lines of….?” 

 

Tanj sighed, “I was thinking of plopping the Lost Cause down in the courtyard, and using the ship’s guns to force them to hand over all they had.” 

 

Smith chuckled, “Spoken like a TRUE pirate!  Except it would give you away; everyone would know that the raid on the Center for Spatial Anomolies would point STRAIGHT to you, personally, and THAT would point straight to the Black Fleet.” 

 

Tanj sighed and nodded, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right…..  So what do YOU suggest?”

 

---

 

Tanj walked slowly down the hall, her attention on the PADD in her paws.  Smith’s plan was audacious, but if anyone could pull it off, he could.  However, he had a list of supplies that weren’t going to be easy to come by, especially given the short time.  Now where on a space station could she find an AirCar, of all things?

 

The vixen was asleep in her bunk, in her own cabin, on the Lost Cause.  It was the last place Tanj would have expected to find her, and had taken the station’s computer to locate her.  She’d been asleep, but had roused when Tanj opened the door.  For a moment, Tanj was tempted to let her sleep; she knew what an ordeal she’d been through.  Chris could barely walk, and Jenka was having trouble sitting….  But there was just too much to do, and time was slipping away.

 

“Hey, sleepyhead; hate to wake you, but something’s come up….. 

 

Zassa blinked, yawned and then stretched.  Tanj watched the Vixen stretch and chuckled to herself; if she wasn’t so exhausted herself, it’d be tempting to crawl into the Vixen’s bed.  “Yeah, but if you did that right now” she chuckled to herself, “you’d just fall asleep.” 

 

Zassa looked at the Cheetah blearily, and muttered “Wazzup?” 

 

Tanj smiled, “I need you to do a little acting for a while.  How’d you like to be a Pirate Queen for a while?”

 

Zassa was still yawning as they made their way down to supply. 

 

“Tell me about this outfit I get to wear again” the Vixen mumbled. 

 

Tanj laughed, “Its scandalous!  An X-rated parody of an old time pirate outfit, complete with cocked hat, and thigh-high boots.” 

 

“Do I get to carry a cutlass?” 

 

Tanj chuckled and nodded, “You do.  And you get to swear a lot.” 

 

Zassa grinned, “Arrrrrrrrr!”

 

“Hey, Tanj!” 

 

The duo stopped and turned.  Roland, in faded fatigues, strode up to them.

 

“Heya, Captain; need to ask a favor of you.” 

 

Tanj nodded noncommittally, “what’s on your mind?” 

 

Roland took a deep breath, the words tumbling out in a rush; “Hinoki told me that you’ve got a suit of Imperial Powered Armor on your ship.  In the upcoming operation, I’d like to borrow it, to try and demonstrate to these yokels just exactly what a trained operator can DO with powered armor.  I’ll put up a bond for its safe return; I promise to get it back to you in one piece, or die trying!” 

 

Tanj chuckled and shook her head, “its not exactly mine, you know… and…..” 

 

For a moment her words trailed off, and she got a faraway look.  After a moment she pulled out her PADD, and started scrolling, calling up information. 

 

“Hmmmm.  Yes, that might work.  Maybe….” 

 

Looking up she gazed at the Badger critically, “I’ll let you borrow it, with a few qualifications.  First off, It’ll have to be painted in a certain design.  Second, there will be communications protocols you will HAVE to adopt.  To further the illusion that we’re the Crimson Corsairs, I’m going to want you to impersonate one of their lieutenants, one who has in the past used powered armor.  He’s…..distinctive.  I’ll want you to leave the impression with all who see you, that you’re him.” 

 

Roland frowned, “there’s got to be more to it than that; what aren’t you telling me?” 

 

Tanj sighed and looked down; “He’s got a thing for violence.  Tends to leave death and destruction in his wake.  If you use the suit, you’ll have to shoot up the place a little more than you otherwise would.” 

 

Roland shook his head, “Hey, I’m not going to kill more than I have to….” 

 

Tanj nodded, “Nor would I ask you to; but you can still give the illusion of being a triggerhappy bastard.  You don’t REALLY have  anything against destroying inanimate objects, do you?” 

 

Roland thought for a minute and then shrugged, “Such as?  Lets face it, if I shoot up an apartment building, there’s a good chance someone will get hurt.  If I trash a school, who knows if school’s out?” 

 

Tanj nodded; “We’re going to hit them at night, when most folks will be home.  Shoot up parked aircars, blow up trucks that we’re not going to use, shoot up dumpsters.  If stores and restaurants are closed, shoot them up.  Get my drift?” 

 

Roland nodded, “and what’s the other thing?” 

 

Tanj chuckled, “He has a thing for taking slaves.  Female, nubile slaves.  Likes to strip them, and chain them to his suit; as he moves about they have to run behind him, or be dragged.  Makes it a public display.” 

 

The Badger winced, “well, that rules out the jump jets……  And I’m not sure I could strip someone with those gauntlets, without hurting them, although I doubt that bothers this guy…..” 

 

Tanj nodded, “I’ll want you to do everything you can to impersonate him.  It’ll add to the “legend”.  Oh, there’s one other thing….”

 

Roland looked at the Cheetah, “there’s MORE?” 

 

Tanj nodded, “Smith and I will be pulling our own little op while we’re dirtside.  If we get into trouble, I’d like to know that you’re listening in on our frequency, and will come to our aid if necessary.”  The Cheetah forced a smile, “of course, I doubt anything will go wrong, but…..” 

 

Roland nodded solemnly, “Yeah, that I can handle.  And as far as things going wrong, count on it.”

 

As Tanj and Zassa resumed their trek down the corridor towards suppy, Roland watched them for a moment.  He’d play-act as much as he could, but he wasn’t going to kill anyone just to lend credence to the story they were the Crimson whatevers, wasn’t going to waste ammunition he might need later, and wasn’t going to terrify any ladies that he didn’t have to.  The Cheetah would just have to deal with it.  Afterwards.  Waiting until they were out of sight, he turned and headed for the Intelligence offices.  He had his own snooping to do, and he didn’t really want the Cheetah to know what he was really after.

 

The Otteress looked up at the Badger; “Um… well, yeah, I suppose I can keep an ear out for anything having to do with shipments of powered armor…. But if that’s what your department is after, well, there’s an easier way…..” 

 

Roland crouched down to look the seated Otteress in the eye; “and what would it cost me to get that information?” 

 

The Otteress smiled; “I came across this in my own private researches, you see.  My favorite perfume is called “Odalisque”, and its made on Nikkeldepain.  Its exported all over the Empire.  Now, if I could get the secret, find out their formula, well, I’d never have to pay their extortionate prices again… and I might just make some money in the process.  The reason this is of interest to you, is that right next door, in the Industrial park, is a firm that overhauls used powered armor.  They have a contract from a number of second-line systems for depot-level maintenance.  They also buy old suits on the military surplus market, renovate and upgrade them, and then market them to planets all over the sector; or at least the ones that can’t afford first line, or in some cases even second line equipment.  Probably won’t be really first-line stuff, but… there should be quite a number of suits there.” 

 

Roland beamed; “Lady, if I get so many as ONE suit from that shop, you’ll have every data crystal I can swipe from that perfume factory, along with their entire inventory!”

 

Day 5:  Departure:

 

Tanj took the message flimsey from the runner, read it, and grinned.  Dismissing the runner, she turned to stride down the corridor, to find Jenka.  It had taken longer than she’d estimated, but no one was complaining, as mobilizing for an operation of this size had also taken longer than they’d estimated. 

 

Tanj found Jenka in personnel, trying to settle a dispute between two ship captains, over the transfer of crew.  Even standing quietly to one side, she seemed to attract everyone’s attention, and the arguments gradually trailed off.  When everyone, even the Personnel clerks were looking at her, she grinned and with a flourish handed the flimsey to Jenka.  Jenka scanned it, and looked up at the two Captains. 

 

“Transfer’s postponed.  We’ll settle it at the end of the operation.” 

 

Turning back to Tanj she handed back the flimsey and then growled; “Get up to Ops.  Tell them the fleet leaves in three hours.”  The two captains looked at each other, and were right behind Tanj as she headed out the door.

 

Somehow, everyone in Ops already knew, when Tanj padded through the door.  The place was a madhouse.  Looking around, Tanj passed the flimsey to the duty officer, and then just stood back in amazement. 

 

“Geez, its not like they didn’t have days to prepare for this” she thought to herself as a communications officer argued loudly with two ships that both wanted to launch at the same time.  Elsewhere a tech was loudly arguing with someone who suddenly realized their fuel tanks weren’t full.  And in another corner, a rating tried to locate the captain of one of the cruisers.  No one seemed to know where he was. 

 

As she strolled through the corridors towards Jenka’s quarters, Tanj watched crewfurrs run, dashing here and there as they all tried to make it to their ships before they departed. 

 

“How in the HELL did the Lion do it” she wondered to herself; “The Brethren were NEVER this disorganized….”  Shrugging she keyed the door.  Inside, there was a note from Jenka, saying she had a million things to attend to, and would be on her flagship, if needed.  Otherwise, she’d see her favorite pet in the Nikkeldepain system. 

 

Frowning, Tanj shook her head; “I thought there was supposed to be a final meeting to review communications protocols and the Crimson Corsair deception program….”  With a sigh she fetched her bag from under the bed, and sedately headed for the Lost Cause.  She wasn’t due to launch in the first wave, or even in the second.  She didn’t WANT to get to the Nikkeldepain system until the shooting had stopped, or at least simmered down.  Her ship wasn’t even equipped with one of the countervail devices……

 

---

 

“TANJ!” 

 

The cheetah turned and had to grin; there was Zassa, all done up as the leader of the Crimson corsairs.  Black leather boots came almost to her crotch, with the tops turned down.  Her g-string was carefully crafted from some resiliant metal, and seemed to be the snarling face of a demon, the tips of its horns connected to chains that encircled her hips, its snarling fanged mouth seemingly framing her bare sex, concealing nothing.  A similar metallic bra cradled her breasts, pushing them up and together, leaving her pierced nipples bare.  A coat as red as her fur rested on her shoulders, but the way it was cut, there was no question of closing it over her front.  And a bizarre hat crowned her head.  The brim was turned up, a silver skull and crossbones pin holding it in place.  A brace of energy pistols were at her hips, the cut-away holsters held by more chains, and she had a cutlass in her hands.  There didn’t seem to be a scabbard for it….. 

 

Tanj chuckled, as the Vixen moved close for a hug; “Had to see you one last time before we left.  Its going to be STRANGE not being on the Lost Cause!” 

 

Tanj laughed; “Oh, come on, by the end of the cruise you’ll have everyone on the flagship eating out of your hand, Jenka included!” 

 

Zassa giggled; “Oh, I hope not; she says that I have to stand in for you as her pet, during the operation.  Frankly, I’m looking forward to being chained to the foot of her bed.” 

 

Tanj gave the Vixen another hug; “Have fun, then, and kiss her bye for me.  I’ll see y’all after the operation!” 

 

With a grin and a flounce of her tail, Zassa turned and strode off.  Tanj watched her go, marveling at how the coat was split up the back so far that not only did her tail escape it, but that a goodly portion of her bottom was visible as well.

 

Hinoki was standing by the airlock, his fur a funny rust color.  Tanj stopped and raised one eyebrow. 

 

Hinoki grinned and shrugged; “small problem with the powdered coating sprayer.  Yes, I DID get the hull painted as specified…..” 

 

Tanj nodded; “But….” 

 

Hinoki shrugged; “well, as I say I had a small problem with the sprayer.  The, ah, airlock’s got a new paint scheme….” 

 

Tanj just laughed; “I do hope that’ll wash out of your fur…” 

 

Hinoki just grinned; “Care to help me scrub?” 

 

Tanj laughed; “I’d LOVE to, but, I’ve got to get the ship launched, and get us on our way to the rendezvous point.  Going to be busy for a bit….” 

 

The Cheetah paused and then smiled; “but once you get yourself clean, why don’t you come on up to the flight deck.  You know how long it can be, between launch and the point where we can safely engage the warp drive….” 

 

With a wink she turned and headed for the flight deck….

 

---

 

Hinoki padded onto the flight deck; his fur was still just a little damp, and he was completely nude.  Tanj was sprawled in the pilot’s acceleration couch, her gaze flicking from the Nav display to the main viewscreen. 

 

“Took you long enough.” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and spread his paws wide; “well, I KNEW the powder had a static charge; that’s what makes it stick to the hull.  What I didn’t know was that it was hydrophobic as well.  I got in the shower and it all turned to something resembling, well, goo.” 

 

Tanj turned and looked at him; “you didn’t have to wash down with alcohol, did you?” 

 

Hinoki chuckled; “No, I discovered that one of the shampoos had a surfactant that neutralized the surface charge.  Or at least neutralized it enough for me to wash it out of my fur.” 

 

Tanj frowned; “which shampoo…..” 

 

Hinoki chuckled; “Oh, don’t worry, it wasn’t yours.  It was that “Herbal Silk” stuff Kath likes.  And yeah, I put a pretty big dent in her supply.  I’ll make it up to her, though.” 

 

Hinoki moved closer, to rub up against Tanj; “But didn’t it make my fur soft?” 

 

Tanj grinned and rubbed her cheek against his bellyfur; “Mmmmm, yes.  Smell nice, too….” 

 

And at that moment a proximity alarm started beeping plaintively.  “Oh, Hell, we’re coming up on the Rothschild point.  Warp in…… seventy seconds.” 

 

Hinoki chuckled; “That’s long enough; get up for a moment.”

 

Tanj blinked and looked at him, and then with a shrug rose from the acceleration couch. 

 

Hinoki took her place, reclining the back a bit; stretching out he grinned, “now, strip down, Captain, and resume your “seat”… 

 

Tanj laughed and shed what little she was wearing; settling on Hinoki’s lap she slid a little closer to the console.  She could feel his sheath between her legs, feel the start of his arousal, but did her best to ignored it as she brought up the antimatter reactor.  His paws stroked over her hips, and belly as she modulated fuel flows, and plasma streams.  One paw stroked up over her left breast while the other paw moved down over her mons as the ship passed that magic point where the gravitational fields became weak enough for the warp drive to be safe, and she engaged the drive.

 

In the galley, Wanda looked up from her journal; “Huh; usually Tanj makes a smoother transition than that….”  Shrugging she went back to her reading.

 

Tanj groaned and bit her lower lip as she steadied the ship on its new course, and engaged the autopilot.  Somehow, despite her best efforts she couldn’t keep her hips from moving, just a little, in response to Hinoki’s provocations, stroking her rapidly dampening sex along his shaft.

 

On the Black Fleet’s flagship, one of the scan techs frowned; “Huh.  That Cheetah’s ship was all over the map there for a second; wonder if they’re having control problems?” 

 

The tech next to her giggled and shook her head; “I hear the furr that’s been selling that aphrodisiac stuff is on that ship.” 

 

“Ah, yes, bet THAT explains it.  If they’re into THAT stuff, they’ll probably never be seen again….”

 

Tanj scanned the displays one last time, and with a groan lifted herself a bit from the couch.  Reaching down, she took possession of the Cheetah’s hard cock with both paws, lifting it, until she could settle down, impaling herself on it.  For a moment she just sat there, eyes roving over the instruments.  Some ships were still too close to ignore, but they’d spread out some.  Still, for the moment she had to keep an eye out….  One eye, at least.  Grinning she rolled her hips a little, feeling the Cheetah’s shaft move within her.  She didn’t have to watch EVERY second…..

 

Hinoki just lay on the acceleration couch, letting Tanj take things at her pace.  He didn’t really want to be responsible for a collision, and yet, well, what better way was there to start a trip?

 

---

 

Roland looked at his maniple and sighed; “Listen up, you yahoos!  I’m trying to tell you this stuff for a REASON!  Its IMPORTANT!  It MIGHT just SAVE YOUR LIFE!” 

 

Towards the back there was a mutter, and the Badger’s head turned with all the threat and assurance of a missile turret locking on target. 

 

“HORTON!  Would you care to share that with the rest of us?” 

 

A rather large bull elephant slowly rose to his feet; “Yeah, Roland, I would.  There’s no reason for the rest of us to know how your WONDERFUL powered armor works; there’s only one suit, and if YOU die in it, it’ll probably be unusable to any of the rest of us!  Besides, there ain’t no way I’d fit in something like that, anyways.  You’re just wasting our time!”

 

The Badger grinned, a fearsome sight completely lost on the Elephant; “that may be, Horton, but there are two VERY good reasons you should pay attention.” 

 

“Yeah, riiiiight, and they are?” 

 

Roland smiled; “The first is that we’ve been assigned to interdict the main highway into the port.  Any counterattack is likely to come down that route.” 

 

Horton shrugged; “So?  With the weapon we’re planing on using, they’re most likely going to be on foot, and at least most of their weapons won’t work.  What are they going to do, throw ROCKS at us?” 

 

Roland smiled again; “Chemically powered weapons will work.  Explosives will work.  You ready to swallow a grenade?  Think anyone on the planet might have an elephant gun?  Besides, the weapon doesn’t work 100%.  We’ve already demonstrated that to ourselves, in our own tests.  Anything near a really high magnetic field doesn’t seem to be affected.  AND its got limited range. What happens if they bring reinforcements in by aircraft?  You ready for an air assault?” 

 

The Elephant frowned, and slowly sank back down into his seat without saying a word.  From the other side of the room, a ferret piped up; “and the second thing was…. ?”

 

Roland’s smile blossomed into an ear-to-ear grin; “I know where we can find more suits.  And if the Nikkeldepain Militia responds as I would if I were them, well, we MIGHT just need ‘em.  NOW LISTEN UP!  Movement is controlled by pressure sensors built into the inside of the suit; by yourself you couldn’t move an arm or a leg, but if you TRY to move as if you could, the suit will respond……..

 

---

 

Wanda smiled.  It was amazing what you could do with some rubber cement and surgical tubing.  And Imagination. 

 

Sashi was stretched out on the floor, paws over her head, tied to a cargo pallet hold-down; her legs were widely spread and tied to similar anchor points.  Her hips were encased in a pair of latex panties.  TIGHT latex panties.  Made of the same material as a surgeon’s glove, where they were wet, they were almost translucent.  It was obvious the Chocolate Pantheress’ crotch was QUITE wet, where it wasn’t covered by the heavy leather strap that encircled her waist and bisected her sex.  The latex was marvelously stretchy stuff, and Wanda had slowly pushed a vibrator into her sex from the outside, the panties stretching around the vibrator as if to form a condom.  The heavy belt held the vibrator in place.  In this manner the Wolverine lass could safely stop Sashi’s stimulation whenever she wanted, or even pause to change batteries if need be.  However her pheromones weren’t totally trapped by the panties; two fittings for tubes had been added to the latex, one on either side of her mons.  A line of compressed air hissed into one of them; the other carried the pheromone-laden vapors, heavy with Sashi’s scent, to the latex hood that Kath wore.  A valve arrangement allowed Wanda to increase or decrease the flow of pheromones to the Mink as she wanted, and right now, it was open full.  Without sight, or sound, the only stimulus the poor Mink had was the intoxicating scent of the Pantheress.  The hood even had a small scrubber to remove the pheromones when Kath exhaled. 

 

Wanda crouched on hands and knees, with Kath behind her; the double-dong impaling them both.  The neat thing, Wanda thought to herself, was that she didn’t have to do ANYTHING; Kath was moving hard enough for both of them, bucking her hips back towards her Mistress.  Purrrring to herself at the delicious sensations, Wanda smiled; this was better than any masturbation machine she’d ever even heard of….

 

---

 

Jenka strode onto the Bridge, glad to finally be out of the meeting.  How many times did she have to go over the plan with these clowns?  Why wouldn’t they AGREE to adhere to the plan instead of constantly coming up with wild ideas, each usually centered around how THEY could get more booty….  Slowly the Jaguar came to a stop.  There in HER command chair, sprawled a flame hued figure. 

 

Zassa! 

 

The Vixen was sitting there, watching the activities of HER crew as if SHE ran the place.

 

“Bucket O’ Guts, you’re drifting.  Tighten up the formation!  I’ll allow no slackers in the Crimson Corsairs!” 

 

A comm tech turned and flashed the Vixen a thumbs-up, and Zassa rewarded him with her brightest smile.  Some how, though, his gaze seemed to be centered on her crotch, as she sprawled in the command chair.  Ah, well, better whoever was watching their little deception, the leaked broadcasts that might be intercepted, were also focused there instead of on her face.  Not ALL Vixens looked alike….. 

 

The low growl from behind made her turn her head, her eyes going wide at the look on Jenka’s face. 

 

“What in the HELL is going on here?  MISTER SMITHERS!  Report!”

 

Smithers swallowed hard and made a placating gesture, “We’re, ah, just taping some fake transmissions to broadcast during the battle.  All part of the deception plan, Ma’am!” 

 

Jenka scowled; that was part of the plan.  Why the hell did this motley crew of hers have to stick loyally to the parts of the plan that infuriated her the most!  Turning to scowl at the Vixen she growled “Don’t get used to that Chair, Zassa, its MINE!”  Turning, Jenka stalked off the bridge.

 

---

 

Tanj grinned as she felt the male below her arch his back; purrring she clamped down with her vaginal muscles her pussy a velvet vice around his shaft; it was all it took, and with a howl, Hinoki shuddered into his orgasm.  Tanj smiled and moved just a little, just enough to keep him cumming until she was sure his balls were dry.  Purring she settled back down to look over her screens and displays.  They were on course and the ship was performing correctly.  Holding the softening Cheetah within her pussy she stared at the main viewscreen and smiled; this was the only way to travel….

 

---

 

Wanda smiled, and tugged the leashes; Sashi still wore her panties, and Kath her hood, the two still connected by the air line.  But not for long.  Once she got them both into the ship’s head and under the shower, the hood at least would come off; maybe, then, if Kath was VERY good, she’d let the mink remove Sashi’s panties, and lick her clean, while warm water sluiced over them both.  Wanda chuckled to herself; she had NO intention of loosing control of the situation as some other furrs seemed wont to do…..

 

---

 

Tanj checked the coordinates and flicked the switch.  The ship dropped smoothly from warp.  The Black fleet was in the middle of nowhere, a few light-hours from Nikkeldepain.  Unless they had sensors rivaling those of the Imperial Homeworld, no one would know they’d ever been here until well after they were gone.  It was a good place to await developments.  Smiling, Tanj looked down at Hinoki, now softly snoring, and leaned forward to open an e-mail window on the communications display.  News of the developments she was waiting for, that the whole fleet was waiting for, would show up there…..

 

---

 

Jenka tried to enjoy her drink, but it wasn’t easy; on the other side of the Lounge, Zassa was “holding court”.  Oh, it was obvious that everyone was enjoying the play-acting, and that it was all in jest…. But the longer Jenka watched, the more irrationally jealous she felt.  “Completely illogical” she muttered to herself.  Having let that slip, she sensed John turn his head to look at her, from where he sat.  Right now her pirates.  HER pirates were having a good time, and it had to be good for morale, before they went into a fight… but as soon as the ruse was over, Zassa was going to go back to her usual routine.  No delusions of grandeur while SHE ran this operation…..  And as she watched Zassa hold court, the Jaguar couldn’t help but have a little tickle of doubt, wondering just how much longer that might be true.  After all, NOTHING lasted forever…..

 

---

 

“Its actually quite an innovation; I’m proud of you!” 

 

Wanda grinned back at the Cheetah male with slightly glazed eyes.  Her feet were on the edges of the galley table, rather well-spread, and it was obvious her skirt was pulled up and gathered in her lap.  Under the table, Kath knelt, servicing her Mistress with her tongue, licking almost frantically.  The remote control to the vibrating egg buried deep in the Mink’s pussy was loosely held in the Woverine lass’ right paw, and occasionally she’d thumb a button that would start another sequence of preprogramed vibrations, as a reward for the energetically laboring Mink.  

 

“Its just…. Ooooooooo!  That was nice, Pet, do it again!  Um….. just simple logic…  Ahhhhh, OHYES!  Um… simple logical progression from the cruder system I’d tried earlier……” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and bent to look under the table again; Kath wore a small device over her nose; it would allow her to breathe in through her nose, but not out; she’d have to exhale through her mouth…. Or considering the way she had her muzzle pressed against Wanda’s quim, maybe through her ears.  The Wolverine had taken a syringe, and placed a single drop of Sashi’s pheromone-laden juices in each nostril, and then applied the device over her nose.  In this manner, Kath got the full effect of the mind-blowing pheromones, without “contaminating” anyone else.  And now, her brain flooded with the Chocolate Pantheress’ scent, the Mink was most eagerly licking at her Mistress, in the hopes of receiving her rewards…. 

 

“Well, Wanda, if you’re agreeable, I’d love to license the system from you….”  The Wolverine lass just nodded in agreement, a wide smile plastered across her face.

 

---

 

Tanj blinked as the comm console chimed.  Sitting up, she stole a glance at the chronograph.  Five hours.  Five hours since they’d dropped out of warp.  Five hours since Hinoki had padded off to get a shower, and something to eat.  Reaching out she tapped the screen, her eyes flicking from side to side as she read the message.  Suddenly she was very awake.  Her agent on Nikkeldepain was reporting that the defense grid was due to go back on line in two hours, assuming it passed its final diagnostics.  The message was four hours old.  “Things should start happening rather rapidly now” she thought to herself. 

 

Rising, stretching, she glanced over the displays, and decided she had more than enough time to get a shower, and something to eat, and maybe even find something to wear.  With a grin she padded from the flight deck.  Shower first, then food……

 

Tanj paused, her hand outstretched to the water valve.  Someone had been doing some “remodeling” in the Head, and then it struck her.  The shower, always roomy, now had additional nozzles on the ceiling and the walls; there were many more valves, obviously to control the flow of water, and a sheet of transparent aluminum now formed a door.  Tanj had to laugh; they’d rigged the shower for Sashi, an all-encompassing deluge of water, to knock her pheromones out of the air, and to wash them out of her, and your fur. 

 

Tanj smiled and tentatively opened the main valve; the single large shower head sprayed water, and after a moment she had it adjusted to the temperature she liked.  Then, the Cheetah started investigating the other valves.  This one opened the nozzles in the ceiling, and she suddenly felt as if she were caught in a summer thunderstorm.  “Needs strobe lights and a sound track” she thought to herself with a smile.  This valve opened the valves in the walls, and when she cut back the flow to the nozzles in the ceiling, she felt as if she were trapped in a tornado of fine mist.  It was actually rather pleasant, and refreshing. 

 

Yet another valve actuated nozzles she hadn’t noticed in the floor; NOW she really felt as if she were trapped in a hurricane.  Laughing she wondered if the ship’s recycling system could handle all the water flow.  “Good thing about fusion reactors” she thought: “I might run out of water, but I will NOT run out of HOT water…” 

 

The large red handle marked “EMERGENCY” was obvious; it must release the pheromone counter-agent into the water stream; Tanj didn’t try that one….  Turning the water volume down, until she felt as if she were standing in the mists at the edge of a waterfall, she reached for her bottle of shampoo, and began lathering herself down.

 

It was as she was rinsing herself off that she had a sudden thought.  Grinning, she made a mental note to talk to Wanda; maybe there was another way to “handle” Sashi……

 

Tanj was still damp when she padded into the galley.  Hinoki looked up from the PADD he was studying and grinned “Enjoy the changes to the shower?” 

 

Tanj frowned; “needs work.” 

 

Hinoki blinked and shot Wanda a glance; “Oh…?  What’s wrong?” 

 

Tanj grinned; “needs holograms.  For the fine mist, the illusion of a really large adjacent waterfall; you’re bathing in the mists as the water crashes on the rocks.  And for the deluge, the illusion of a tropical summer thunderstorm, complete with lightning.  There should be other things we can think of too…..” 

 

Hinoki chuckled; “of course, Captain; all it takes is money…”  Tanj sobered and nodded; “if this mission comes off correctly, that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

---

 

Tanj settled into the pilot’s acceleration couch, balancing the dish of Lasagna on one thigh, padded by a folded jumpsuit.  Somehow she just wasn’t ready to get dressed yet…..  Looking over her displays she confirmed their position, and that all shipboard systems were nominal.  Well, the water recycling system was still struggling to recover, but that was to be expected.  She’d have to make some mods there too.  Finally she turned to her communications console and looked at her in-box.  Four new messages.  Two of them talked of convoys of freighters departing for the Nikkeldepain system.  One of them talked of cargos being prepared for shipment at Nikkeldepain’s main port.  And the third listed the departure times for the “visiting” warships, heading home now that the Nikkeldepain defense grid was back on line.  Comparing times, the Cheetah grinned.  Forgetting her state of undress, she reached over and flipped a switch.

 

The visage that formed on the display was surprising; “Arrrr, you’ve reached the flagship of the Crimson Corsairs, Surrender and we’ll let you live!” 

 

Tanj blinked; “Um….” 

 

The Pirate blinked in return  as he recognized her, and straightened a little; “Ah, um, Hello Ta….”

 

 “NO NAMES!” the Cheetah Growled.  Then she smiled; “After all the effort you’ve gone to, we wouldn’t want to waste it, would we?”  Bryant smiled a little sheepishly and nodded.  “Let me speak to your Mistress.”  Bryant nodded again and reached out for a switch.

 

The image of the flame-hued Vixen was just as startling; Zassa was sprawled across Jenka’s command chair, a smirk on her face.  By her side was a rather large Minotaur, apparently completely naked, and chained to the chair.  It was all Tanj could do to keep from laughing.

 

“Ah, yes, Mistress Calamity…..   You’ll be pleased to know that the last of the warships will be gone from the target system in….. four hours and seventeen minutes.” 

 

Zassa straightened, and in the process tugged on the Minotaur’s leash; he let out a grunt, and shifted to ease the tension in the chain. 

 

“You’re sure about this?” 

 

Tanj’s gaze flicked over the Minotaur, who seemed to be grinning a little too much for an abject slave, or horrified prisoner, and then back to the Vixen.

 

“Not yet, I’ve issued orders for recon drones to probe the system in about four hours, but we should be ready to roll if the reports come back positive.” 

 

Zassa nodded and turned to one side; “Blackstone!  Put the fleet on alert!  We attack in four and a half hours…… Yes, that’s, ah,  um, twelve plus…. Twenty-three hundred hours!” 

 

Turning back to Tanj the Vixen chuckled; “Catch ‘em just after they go to bed; perfect!  Keep me posted!”  And then suddenly the connection was broken.

 

Jenka looked at the Vixen across the bridge and sighed.  If the Vixen wasn’t so annoying, she’d make a good lieutenant.  She certainly did have a way with the Bridge Crew…..  Flicking her eyes from the Vixen to the Minotaur, to John standing by her side, she wondered how the Stallion felt.  Did he feel just a little jealous of the Minotaur?  If so, he was hiding it well…..

 

Turning Jenka caught the eye of the head of Operations.

 

 “I want a conference with all ship captains and team leaders at 21:00 hours.  I know everyone’s up to speed on the plans, but it won’t hurt to go through them one more time.  This is going to be risky enough; I don’t want any screw-ups….” 

 

The Tasmanian Devil just nodded, his gaze flicking from Jenka to the Vixen, as if seeking confirmation.

 

“Maybe he’s just looking at her tits” Jenka thought as she left the bridge, followed by John.  “And maybe not.  I’m going to have to watch him…. AND her.”

 

Tanj looked at the data relayed from the recon drones, and nodded in approval.  All but three of the warships had left the system, and they were each headed for jump points.  Lifting her head, she reached over to the communications console, and flicked a switch.  Bryant’s grinning face filled the screen. 

 

“Hang on half a mo’, I’ll put her on for you.” 

 

The scene reformed.  This time the Vixen was slouched down in the command chair.  The Minotaur was kneeling in front of her, with his muzzle buried between her thighs.  This time there was no doubt he was nude, his erection hanging down between his legs.  Zassa looked up and grinned, one hand on each of his horns, as if to steer his head….. 

 

“Yes…?” 

 

Tanj chuckled; “Mistress, the recon drones report pretty much what we’d expected.  I’d delay the assault a half hour to allow for stragglers, but I’d give the go-ahead for the deception operations now.  I think we’re good to go!” 

 

Zassa shuddered, obviously suffering through a small climax; after a moment she found her voice; “Very well….”  Turning her head she growled; “Blackstone, execute operations Howard, Fine, and Howard.  Signal the fleet that we move at 23:30 hours!” 

 

Tanj chuckled as the Vixen’s gaze turned back to the Minotaur; “that gives us just enough time, Stud.”  Lifting her head she grinned at Tanj; “RHIP!  I’ll see you Dirtside!”

 

 

Day 7: The Attack:

 

Tanj squirmed in the pilot’s acceleration couch.  It was funny, but she wasn’t used to wearing this much clothing.  Next to her fur she had a one-piece leotard of superconducting fibers that was supposed to neutralize the effect of nerve scramblers.  Over that she had a gossamer thin leotard of reflective material, that would help somewhat against lasers, and other energy weapons.  Over that she had a pair of nondescript slacks with cargo pockets, and a plain work shirt, both in dark, neutral colors.  Both the shirt and the slacks were made of ballistic cloth; cloth that would set up like steel if struck by a bullet, or other projectile.  Of course, this made running difficult as well, but everything was a compromise.  Over the shirt she wore what appeared to be a down vest.  Nikkeldepain didn’t have that cool a climate, but in a spaceport, folks might shrug it off, thinking you were from some jungle world.  The vest was a good hiding place for a comm link, pistol in a shoulder holster, several throwing knives, and other assorted gadgets and gizmos.  And it held another layer of ballistic cloth, and the insulation was also an ablative material that would help defeat an energy weapon.  She LOOKED as if she belonged on the docks, but appearances were deceiving.

 

But it was lumpy.  And tight. And uncomfortable in certain places.  Grinning, the Cheetah remembered sitting in the same acceleration couch just a few days ago, with a rampant male cheetah under her.  Now that had been MUCH more comfortable!  Glancing to the left she checked the Nav console.  They were about twenty minutes away from dropping out of Warp, dangerously close to the gravity well of Nikkeldepain.  The first wave had already gone in, and Tanj had listened to the Comm chatter as if listening to her home team play their arch rivals.

 

The first problem had cropped up when a few small vessels slipped through the A6 jump point, before the Raider ship could use its leach weapon against them.  The one old warship, a monitor, had been turning to bring its guns to bear when the leach sapped it of all power.  But the word was most likely out, and spreading at the speed of an energetic tachyon.  The jump points were all covered, but a warp-capable warship could show up almost anywhere….

 

The next problem had been with the neutralization of the orbital defenses; someone had mis-calculated angles, and when the weapon was fired, a portion of the beam missed the target and entered the atmosphere of the planet.  As fate would have it, a large transport was climbing towards orbit when the beam enveloped them; they’d lost power, and fallen from the sky.  Tanj just hoped the transport hadn’t landed in a residential area, or had that many furrs on board.

 

With the orbital defenses neutralized, the flagship had moved in and used the leach weapon on the port city.  And then the Marines had landed.  As advertised, everyone on the ground was out cold, and they met no resistance.  Now, the freighters, and other cargo-carrying vessels were headed in, to load as much booty as they could carry.

 

---

 

Roland tongued the selector switch and scanned the perimeter.  There were a lot of heat signatures, bodies that had fallen when the weapon had licked over them.  None were moving.  Keying his mike he growled; “OK, lets move out; we’ve got a roadblock to set up!”  Watching as his maniple headed for the starport’s exit, Roland took another look around; “this is TOO easy…..”

 

---

 

Chris grinned.  They’d boarded one of the Nikkeldepain warships, a Cruiser, and found the entire crew unconscious.  Turning to his aide he growled; “OK, I want ‘em all hauled down to the hangar deck.  And I want all manual controls for the doors disabled.  I want ‘em to know that if they create any trouble, we’ll just open the doors and space ‘em!”  Turning and heading for engineering, he hoped that his briefing material was correct; if he couldn’t get this hulk running again, they’d be in BIG trouble when the cavalry showed up!

 

---

 

Reggie grinned at Slasher; their raider wasn’t the largest of ships, but they generally had a pretty high power-to-weight ratio, and the tractor beam was strong enough to hang onto the freighter.  And the engines were powerful enough to tow their prize into warp.  It hadn’t taken them long to drag the unconscious crewfurrs into a compartment and weld it shut.  Now it was time to take their booty and run.  A quick look at the ship’s manifest showed the ship full of specialty electronics, luxury foodstuffs, and deep space construction equipment.  This was going to be the richest haul they’d ever had!  Assuming they didn’t overload their engines somewhere between here and the rendezvous point…..

 

---

 

Roland watched his maniple jog along behind him.  That was one of the benefits of the suit; he could watch where he was going AND look behind him at the same time.  He’d keyed the suit’s sensors to the body heat and comm gear signatures of each of his troopers; it’d show their position on the heads-up display, overlaid over the tactical map, no matter where they went.  And it’d flag the icon if they were injured, or killed. 

 

“Taquoz!  Pick up the pace!  You’re falling behind!” 

 

The Badger grinned; technology WAS marvelous……

 

---

 

Tanj concentrated hard.  Even through the shields, through the hull, she could hear the keening of the atmosphere as it rushed past her ship.  Her “landing pattern” was more an assault profile, essentially straight down, under power.  The Nikkeldepain orbital fortresses, their pride and joy, were mostly inert hulks at the moment, but the planet still had ground based defenses.  Oh, the port city was quiescent, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t other things to watch out for.  Exoatmospheric fighters, for instance.  Keeping one eye on the nav display, and one eye on the threat indicator, she took her ship down as fast as she could.  Someone was going to be real pissed at all the sonic booms today….

 

---

 

Roland heard the sonic boom, and ignored it.  Just another freighter.  He had his hands full, and if it wasn’t something directly threatening, it just didn’t matter.  The counterattack had come much faster than anyone had anticipated.  Apparently inter-city busses were powered by huge flywheels turning at incredible speed, on magnetic bearings.  While all electrical power was out, and most electronics weren’t functioning, these busses would still move.  And the Militia had drafted them into service.  Command reported several busloads headed his way, preceded by a screen of scouts.  So far the scouts he’d had to deal with had only had chemically powered grenades to fight with, but that could be bad enough.  Grenades that depended on the sudden, massive discharge of electricity for their explosive force were as inert as everything else.  And of course, Command had passed on that an armored column was headed towards the port city, from outside the weapon’s area of effect. 

 

“Meade, Hooker, and Scott!  There’s a pair of scouts at….237014, headed your way; look alive!” 

 

Scowling, the Badger turned slowly, letting the sensors in his suit search for the city’s defenders.

 

---

 

Tanj hit the thrusters, and brought her ship to a landing that surely overstressed the landing legs.  Inside the port complex the individual landing pads were in slight recessions; she couldn’t see anything but access tunnels and sky.  Handing over the ship’s guns to the AI, she released her harness and headed back to the cargo bay.

 

Smith was removing the tie-down straps from their vehicle as she entered.  It didn’t look like much.  A small rectangular platform almost big enough for two furrs to stand on, if they were cozy, with a small podium-like nav and control panel.  The device had only two wheels, the motors being in the hubs, and the power supply under the platform.  It was gyroscopically balanced.  It LOOKED like some sort of futuristic handcart.  And yet it was all she’d been able to find on Jenka’s station.  Padding to the rear of the cargo bay she palmed the control to lower the ramp.

 

Hinoki came through the hatch just as the end of the ramp was hitting the ground.  Like Tanj, he was dressed for combat, but his outfit made no claims to stealth or deception.  Instead he looked like a renegade Marine, with torn and slashed BDU’s a scarlet bandana around his head, and what looked to be an armored cod-piece.  The blaster at his side, however, looked VERY businesslike. 

 

“You two be careful out there.  Got your commo gear?” 

 

Tanj smiled and touched her left ear; “we do.” 

 

“Weapons?” 

 

Tanj nodded. 

 

“First aid kit?” 

 

Again the Cheetah fem nodded. 

 

Hinoki scowled, “well, be CAREFUL, and if you run into trouble, I’ll bring the ship and we’ll take care of any opposition!” 

 

Tanj chuckled; “this is supposed to be a clandestine foray; don’t you think that’d be a little… obvious?” 

 

Hinoki just shrugged, “better than you falling into the hands of the locals.” 

 

Tanj sighed and nodded.  Stepping forward she gave the Cheetah male a tight hug and a kiss.

 

“You guys be careful, and if there’s any danger, GET OUT!  I’m not worried about any booty!” 

 

Hinoki grinned and nodded, “don’t worry about US!” 

 

Stepping onto the platform next to Smith, Tanj put one arm around him, and waved bye as the platform smoothly accelerated down the ramp.

 

Tanj watched as Smith drove.  Somehow the…. Coyote?  Made it look effortless, one palm resting on the small “lecturn”.  The strange vehicle was remarkably stable, and moved about as fast as Tanj could run.  Sedately they moved through the silent starport.  In some places there was evidence of vehicular wrecks, where the driver had suddenly gone unconscious, and inertia had carried the vehicle forward.  And in some places there was evidence of aircar crashes.  And everywhere she looked there were unconscious furrs.  As she assessed the damage, she couldn’t help but feel responsible.  If she hadn’t brought Corey to Jenka’s station, none of this would have happened.  For the first time, she wondered if the price of finding the Lion and Elysium might be too high to pay. 

 

“What’s done is done, Girl; you can’t undo it NOW.  Stick to the mission!” she growled to herself.

 

The first sign that they were leaving the area of effect of Corey’s weapon was another furr running down the street, away from the starport.  He scarcely gave them a second look.  As Smith followed the pre-planned route, they turned a corner only to find a police barricade.  They’d pushed a wheeled vehicle into the street, and four officers were standing behind it, holding batons. 

 

“HEY YOU!  HOLD UP A MINUTE!” 

 

Smith brought the vehicle to a jerky stop, as if he didn’t really wish to cease.

 

“Officers!  You’d better flee!  Pirates are ravaging the Starport!  THEIR WEAPONS WORK!  I think they’re headed this way!” 

 

The officers looked at each other and then back at the… Wolf? 

 

“How many are there?” one of them growled. 

 

Smith shrugged, “I don’t know, we were in a freezer, doing inventory when it happened; all of a sudden the power went out.  When we came out, EVERYONE WAS DEAD!  Its been a steady stream of ships landing at the port; there must be THOUSANDS of them!  Listen, I just wanna get home and get my family and get OUT of here!” 

 

The cops looked at each other and then one nodded, waving them on.  The four cops turned and peered back down the street as if the legions of Hell itself were approaching.

 

As they turned the next corner, Smith smiled.

 

“Those were good cops.  Not a damn thing they could do and yet they were determined to stand their ground.” 

 

Tanj chuckled and nodded, “Thank God they weren’t TOO good, or they might have asked for some identification!” 

 

Smith just chuckled, “as if we didn’t have any?” 

 

Tanj shrugged, “Yeah, but its all for the University, not for some refrigerated storage company!”

 

Smith nodded, and grinned and reached into one pocket, to hand Tanj an ID badge with her picture on it. 

 

“Sorry about that, must have slipped my mind…..”

 

To Tanj’s surprise, the campus was comparatively deserted.  Smith parked their vehicle, even going so far as to put a credit in the parking meter, and together they headed for the building that housed the spatial anomalies research center.  Smith paused at the door, and opened a gym bag he’d been carrying.  Tanj watched curiously as he removed a container and spilled one of the living-dress creatures into his palm.  Knowing better than to ask, Tanj just watched.  Smith closed his eyes, and the creature, obedient to his mental commands, flowed up his arm, and over his head.  Slowly Smith’s head changed shape, until he resembled a South African Spotted Dog. 

 

“Like it?” 

 

Tanj shook her head in amazement.

 

 “how in the WORLD did you teach it to do COLORS? 

 

Smith shrugged, “you’d be surprised what they can be taught to do.” 

 

Tanj chuckled, “must be well sated not to have assaulted your crotch, instead of your head; guess we know why we didn’t see much of you on the trip out!” 

 

Smith just chuckled and led the Cheetah towards the security station.

 

 “My job has some interesting benefits, I must agree.”

 

---

 

“Ah, Director Van Smythe!  I thought you’d left!” 

 

Smith nodded to the guard, reading his nametag, “Yes, Mr. Davis, I realized that there were some things that needed attending to, given the current, ah, state of emergency; trust me as soon as I’ve attended to them I SHALL be gone!  I’ll vouch for my visitor; we’ll just be a moment”. 

 

Davis nodded, his gaze flicking between the palm-video that was running a newscast and the front door; “Of course Director, of course.”

 

Smith lead Tanj to a flight of stairs, and then down a hall.  At the retinal scanner he pressed his face to the eyepiece and in a moment the light flashed green, and the door popped open.  Tanj couldn’t help but wonder how he did that. 

 

“OK, lets go get the institute’s master computer….”

 

The computer room was guarded by both a key lock and a pushbutton combination lock.  It took Smith less than twenty seconds to defeat both. 

 

“You wait here and keep watch; there’s a video camera in there.  Surely no one will question the Director attempting to safeguard the records of his institute..” 

 

Smith smiled, and slipped through the door.

 

The computer was an open framework, with numerous modules connected by fiber optic cables.  Smith found the main data storage module and simply pulled it from the rack.  Opening his bag he removed an identical module, and inserted it in the place of the original.  The replacement had memory storage that had been scrambled, as if by an effect of the weapon.  With luck, no one would even know the modules had been switched.

 

Tanj watched as a door opened down the hall.  A German Shepherd stepped out and looked in Tanj’s direction.

 

“Hey, what happened?  The Network went down!” 

 

Tanj chuckled and shook her head, “I’m not surprised, given the Pirate Attack.  There are power fluctuations all over the grid.  I’m told that the starport’s got no power at all!” 

 

The Shepherd blinked, “Pirate attack?  That’s stupid; there’s no way they could assault us.  Why the orbital fortresses alone..” 

 

“Are all inert; they’ve got some sort of new weapon that screws up anything electronic.” 

 

Tanj grinned, “if I were you I’d back up all my data to hardcopy before they come this way!  Hey, if you don’t believe me, check the news services!” 

 

The Shepherd gulped, “OHMYGOD, My THESIS!” 

 

In an instant he was gone, the door slamming behind him.

 

Smith came out the door behind Tanj and looked down the hall in the direction of the slammed door. 

 

“Problems?” 

 

Tanj just smiled and shook her  head, “nothing I couldn’t handle.” 

 

Smith nodded, “come on, lets try Dr. Phillippi’s office…”

 

As she followed Smith, Tanj slipped the safety back on her blaster, and pushed it a little deeper back into her pocket.

 

---

 

Smith grunted and shook his head, “typical.  These Academic types tend to see their work as more important than their families.” 

 

Tanj sighed; the third office they’d raided and they’d come up empty.  Each office was in massive disarray as if the occupants had thrown together all their important papers and files before they’d left. 

 

“Well, there’s always the Director’s office…” 

 

Smith nodded, “Lets go.”

 

---

 

Smith held up a paw, “There’s someone in there.” 

 

Tanj nodded; “the guard said the Director… ah, “you” had left…”

 

 Smith nodded, “so it must be someone else.  Too early for the cleaning lady….  Lets see, shall we?”

 

The Otter seemed to be building a pile of papers on the Director’s desk; he blanched as Smith walked through the door. 

 

“YOU!  I should have known you’d come back.  Well it WON’T HELP!  I’m NOT going to let you steal MY work!”

 

  Having said that, the Otter produced a lighter, and tried to set the papers on fire.

 

Smith calmly put the gym bag on the floor, and opened it; removing the jar, he commanded the living dress creature back into its home.  After calmly tucking the jar back into the gym bag, he looked up at the Otter.  By now the blaze was starting to catch. 

 

“You know, I don’t think this could have worked out any better.” 

 

Tanj blinked and looked at the… Coyote? 

 

“How do you figure that?” 

 

The Otter had stopped trying to light more edges of the stack of paper and was looking strangely at Smith.

 

“Weren’t you… but… you’re not….  Who ARE you?” 

 

Smith smiled and produced a stunner, “Strangely enough, your salvation”. 

 

Before the Otter could get out the question that was obviously on his lips, Smith stunned him.  Tanj yelped and jumped forward to pull the Otter off the desk before he too could catch on fire.

 

“Ah, now you’ve done it.” 

 

Tanj blinked at Smith, “huh?” 

 

Smith shrugged, “Another video camera, focused on the Director’s desk and files.  He’s on camera, and now you are too, but I’m still out of its pickup range.  Oh, well, nothing to be done about it.  Pick him up; we’ll need him, and lets go.” 

 

Tanj got the Otter in a fireman’s carry and grunting headed for the door, in Smith’s wake.

 

“What do you mean we’ll need him?”

 

Smith chuckled, “Isn’t it obvious?  The Director of the Institute for Spatial Anomalies was stealing his student’s work.  Bet he got all the credit and they got nothing more than their degree.  Obviously this one objected to having his work stolen.  With the records burned, that work is probably only to be found on the inside of his head.  AND he’s on camera as having set the fire.  HE will be blamed, not us.” 

 

Tanj shrugged, “But this building has a sprinkler system.  The fire won’t get far.” 

 

Smith grinned; “But the municipal water system, and thus the water pumps, are in the industrial sector, by the Starport.  They’re not working right now.  Come on, lets get out of the building before the blaze gets too big.”

 

As they were going out the door, Tanj paused, and looked at the Guard, “Um, Davis, there seems to be a fire on the second floor.  Eddie here has been overcome by smoke and I’m going to get him to a doctor.  The Director is still up there, as are several students.  I think you’d better clear the building!” 

 

The Guard’s eyes went wide, “Fire?  The monitors don’t… oh, of course, the alarm company is over by the starport; damn signal goes to them and then back to US!  Crap!  And all the phones are out too!” 

 

Tanj nodded, “Do what you can, I’ll send help if I can find any!” 

 

The guard grabbed his hat and headed for the stairs at a run, “Thanks, Miss!”

 

As they boarded their vehicle, Smith looked at Tanj and just tsk-tsked. “now he’ll remember you.” 

 

Tanj shrugged, making the inert Otter bounce, “I don’t want to kill more than I have to….”

 

---

 

Tanj felt the vehicle slow and looked around curiously, wondering what Smith was up to.  Smith was looking to the left.  Suddenly their vehicle sped up and turned hard left.  The next thing Tanj knew they were entering a public car-park. 

 

“If we run into those policefurrs again, on the way back, they’ll want to know why you’re carrying an unconscious Otter.” 

 

Tanj grinned, “True.  You want to find a different vehicle, one where we can conceal him?” 

 

Smith nodded, “I’d prefer a delivery van or something more enclosed, but we might simply pass him off as ill, or drunk if he’s seated.  There.  How about that one?” 

 

Tanj followed the… Wolf?  followed where Smith was looking; the vehicle was an air-cushion vehicle, of an all-terrain variety.  It didn’t seem to e in very good repair.  Tanj shrugged, “I suppose; do you think you can get it running?” 

 

Smith laughed, “I can get around any security system IT has.” 

 

Tanj nodded, looking back at the vehicle dubiously, “But do you think it will move?  It doesn’t look like its in too good a shape…..

 

---

 

The police officer flagged them down, “Sorry, Folks, you can’t go any further.” 

 

Tanj scanned the area; the number of policefurrs had quadrupled.  And they had more barricades in place. 

 

Smith shook his head, “Listen, my wife works at Tasment Pharmaceuticals, in the industrial sector.  I haven’t heard a word from her; she’s not answering her comm…. I’ve GOT to find out if she’s OK!” 

 

The cop sighed and shook his head, “Yeah, you and half the rest of the city; the other half is heading for the hills!  Listen, that’s a…. “contested” area.  We can’t let you pass!  You could wind up being captured by the Pirates, and sold as a slave.  What’d be your chance of finding your wife then?” 

 

Smith shook his head stubbornly, “I’ll risk it!” 

 

The cop straightened, “No, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.  Now turn that heap around, and get out of here, before I put you in detention!  SCRAM!”

 

With a growl of frustration, Smith rotated the aircar on its axis, and headed back the way they’d come. 

 

“That’s the third roadblock, and that one wasn’t even a major avenue.” 

 

Tanj nodded and pointed ahead, “That’s not the least of our worries; take a look at that.” 

 

Smith dragged his gaze away from the rear-view mirror and sighed.  Coming down the street was a self-propelled antiaircraft vehicle, escorted by a couple of utility vehicles full of furrs in the uniform of the Nikkeldepain militia.

 

Tanj looked at Smith and shook her head, “This could be a counterattack.  We need to find out how many other troops are in this area.” 

 

Smith sighed and nodded, “We would be well served to get out of town and wait until it all blows over; it would be easy enough to get you off-planet then and back where you belong.” 

 

Tanj chuckled, “Oh, I might have an ace in the hole yet.  Lets poke around a little, see what we can find out.  If this IS a major counterattack, there are furrs that need to know.  Remember, I want a place to go back TO, and if the Black Fleet doesn’t fair well here I might not have that.”

 

---

 

“Hey ROLAND!” 

 

“Yeah, yeah, keep your shirt on, I see ‘em coming!” 

 

Roland watched the pips on his heads up display crawl from top to bottom.  The Nikkeldepain forces were probing, scouts moving forward.  Behind the scouts was a mass of pips that suggested a major infantry assault.  No vehicles were apparent, however, at least not within range of the current settings of his sensors. 

 

“Montgomery, Buell and Jodl, take your sections to the right in a flanking maneuver.  Custer, Burnside and Bradley, you’ll form the anvil.  Stuart, you’re in reserve!  Let ‘em get into the firesack, and NO ONE FIRE UNTIL I GIVE THE WORD!”

 

---

 

Grep lifted her head up and scanned the scene in front of her.  All was quiet.  Nothing was moving.  They were still a good four or five klicks from the starport, but the stragglers they’d encountered had reported that the pirates had landed ground troops.  Pirates landing ground troops?  Who WERE these cats anyway?  Pirates raided on the fringes, they picked off the stragglers; they didn’t assault cities!  Taking another quick look, she jumped the wall and sprinted for the building across the street.  As she’d hoped the door was unlocked.  They’d probably been open for business  when whatever’d happened had happened.  Sure enough, behind the door was a lobby, with a receptionist slumped over her desk, and some furr in a business suit on the floor.  A quick check showed them both unconscious, but still breathing.  What in the hell had they been hit with?  Fingering one of her four grenades, the only weapons she had aside from her fighting knife, she waved to her Sergeant, and eased out the door, along the wall.  Block by block, they were feeling their way in towards the starport.

 

---

 

Roland watched the trooper go by.  He wasn’t interested in her.  Stuart and his reserve could mop up the scouts later.  HE wanted the main body…

 

---

 

Anasti saw the scout leader wave and then disappear around the corner.  He waited  a few minutes, and then rose.  Looking back over his shoulder he pumped his fist in the air three times, and then stepped out from behind the parked vehicle to dash across the street.

 

---

 

Roland grinned; the main body was on the move, crossing a four lane street.  There would be no better time.  Engaging his jump-jets he “jumped” to the roof of a four story building and looking down along the boulevard, opened up with his plasma rifle.

 

---

 

Anasti never knew what hit him, as did most of his troopers.  Caught in the open, their normal weapons inert, the survivors of the first volley broke and ran.  Some ran for the closest cover, which was ahead of them; but then the second group of pirates opened up on them.  Those to the back of the pack turned and fled in the direction they’d come from.

 

---

 

Grep heard the shooting behind her and gasped.  They must have missed something.  But HOW?  Turning she retraced her steps.  There, in that parts store, she could see figures moving, figures with working weapons.  Pulling the pin on her grenade she threw it as hard as she could at the plate-glass window, preparing a second while the first was still in the air.

 

---

 

Roland winced as several blue icons started blinking. 

 

“Stuart!  Take out those scouts, NOW, some of them are hitting our guys from the rear!” 

 

Watching the icons move on his heads up display, the Badger sighed.  No plan survived contact with the Enemy.

 

---

 

“Sir, we’ve got a runner from the front.  The forces in the Industrial sector have met stiff opposition.  Their weapons still aren’t functioning and they’ve suffered severe losses.” 

 

The old Tiger nodded, “Very well, shift the arriving reinforcements to come in through the University sector and the residential sector to the Southwest.  They can’t be strong everywhere….”

 

---

 

Roland watched his display carefully as he crouched behind an air conditioning unit atop the building.  The red pips were all pulling back, save for a few obviously left behind to monitor the situation.  Nodding in satisfaction, he rose and jumped down from the building. 

 

“OK, Troops, we’ve stopped ‘em here.  Time to put phase two of the plan into effect.”

 

---

 

Colonel Harlan “Ace” Ellis watched the news channel in disgust.  Those fools in the Militia should have envisioned something like this.  They’d put way too much faith in their precious orbital fortresses.  And now it was going to be up to the ground-pounders to set things right. 

 

Turning off the set, he growled, “Mildred!  I’m going into work for a little bit.” 

 

A “Yes, dear” from the kitchen echoed the slamming of the garage door.

 

Ace checked the accumulator status on his jitney; almost a full charge.  Unplugging it, he slid behind the controls and backed it out of the garage.  It took just a short run down the street to get his small craft airborne.  Once again, he congratulated himself on having the wisdom not to trust the government’s broadcast power.  Sure, it was more efficient, but he’d always wondered when the power might go off.  Now he knew.  Wheeling to the left, he skimmed the treetops, heading towards the industrial sector.  He had a good crew at work, and if they’d been following the schedule, a Miriam Industries “Havoc” would be in the EMP testing bay.  Maybe, just maybe it’d survived whatever it was that had shut dang near everything down..

 

---

 

Ace winced and yanked hard at the control column.  He hadn’t remembered there being wires across the street right there.  His jitney bounced up and then dropped like a rock as the airflow over the foils dropped off and he stalled.  It pancaked into the street, sliding in a shower of sparks….. right up to the front gate of Tashket Armorers.  Climbing from the jitney he growled and stalked towards the gate.  His wife wasn’t going to be pleased with how he’d scratched the paint.

 

It was grim.  They’d had the usual shfit for that time of day, but everyone, EVERYONE seemed to be unconscious.  After checking the third one, Ace gave up and pushed on for the EMP testing chamber.  This was a huge box at the back of the facility, big enough for even the largest of mechs, and the EMP emitters….. and there was a Faraday cage around the whole thing.  Maybe, MAYBE whatever had been used couldn’t penetrate that.  Maybe…

 

Of course nothing happened when he stabbed the door open button.  Growling, his flashlight in his teeth, Ace moved to the left, looking for the manual release.  It was in the form of a dangling chain; pulling hand over hand on the loop of chain turned a wheel dozens of feet overhead, working the door opening mechanism manually.  Grabbing the chain and tugging, Ace decided he had the wrong side of the loop.  Shifting his grip he tugged again.  It moved fairly freely through his paws, although he could feel years of grease and grime.  It was going to be a dirty job.  And a slow one; running the chain, hand over hand, for a minute had moved the doors about three centimeters.  And he had a LONG way to go.

 

When the door was barely wide enough to squeeze through, Ace let go of the chain, and turned to squeeze through.  However as he shifted, the beam from his flashlight shone on the face of Abelard.  For a moment they both stared at each other, and then Ace realized that the Moose was holding a rather heavy Stilson wrench. 

 

“Oh, Its you, boss.  Thought it was gonna be one of them alien invaders.” 

 

Turning his head, the Moose called out; “its OK, boys, its just the Boss!” 

 

Ace pushed through the gap and looked around.  Three of them.  That’s all.  Just three. 

 

“Its not aliens, guys, its just pirates with some new weapon.  And the Government ain’t doin’ diddley-squat!  Apparently the Militia’s transports are all off line with the broadcast power being down.  They’re bringing in what they got that CAN move, but its slow.” 

 

Turning to look up at the Havoc he growled “is that thing functional?” 

 

Abelard shrugged; “it is now; we just got finished replacing the power modulator.  Some of the electronics are still fried, but I think it’ll run.” 

 

Ace nodded; “Most of our parts are in anti-static bags; dunno if they’ll work, but see if you can’t get a few more suits up and running.  If the Pirates head this way, I do NOT want to let this facility fall into their hands!” 

 

With a growl, Ace headed towards the Havoc.  IF the thing ran, he was sure to put a damper on their little party…..

 

---

 

Roland’s eyes went wide as the suit’s computer purrred “Enemy Power-up Detected.”  A red icon formed on his HUD.  As he read off what his sensors had to tell him he winced.  It had to be one of those 40’ monsters, a Thunderbolt, or maybe a Zeus, or a Havoc.  NOT good. 

 

Keying his command circuit Roland growled; “Flapjack Six to Flounder; we’ve got a problem!  Any chance of getting any air support?” 

 

The reply was delayed long enough for Roland to begin wondering if he’d even transmitted properly, and just as he was about to try again, the comm squawked to life; “Founder to Flapjack Six; Negative; we’ve got a few problems of our own.  Seems Nikkeldepain had some K triple-ought aerospace fighters we didn’t know about on the far side of the planet; our guys are kinda busy….  Do what you can; the only alternative is orbit to surface fire.  Over.” 

 

Roland sighed; orbit to surface fire would solve his problem but lay waste to most of the industrial sector, and kill a lot of innocent furrs. 

 

“Negative, Flounder, we’ll do our best to handle it.  Roland out”.

 

---

 

Ace grinned; it hadn’t taken the Havoc more than a few seconds to get the doors open.  Of course the door drives were probably so much scrap metal now.  Striding through  the facility he ducked under an overhead crane and sidestepped around the legs and lower torso of another Mech in the process of being rebuilt.  He paused at the door, looking out at the sky and frowned.  His sensors might have been screwed up by the Pirates’ weapon… or maybe he was being jammed.  Nothing but sensor ghosts.  That or there was a HUGE army out there.  Grinning, he decided it was jamming; he’d seen this before, but not since the mercenary unit he’d been with had gotten wrapped up with Imperial troops.

 

Crouching low, Ace sprinted to the lee of the Fenris Industries building.  His sensors were still showing him shit, but there was a way around that.  Flipping a few controls he brought up his drone control panel.  Hmmm, only three drones on board.  Well, that’d have to do.  Keying in a search pattern, he punched the Launch button.

 

Roland heard the dull “whoom” followed by a harsh whine.  “Look alive, troops, he’s launched a drone.  I’ll buy dinner for the one who nails it!”  Shifting position slightly, the Badger turned his attention to his own HUD, trying to figure out where the drone was.  Those things were generally pretty stealthy….

 

Francis grinned, and lifted her pulse rifle.  There the little darling was, hovering over that building, by the ventilator stack.  Dialing her electro-optical sight up to maximum magnification, she centered the cross-hairs, letting the computer correct for wind and distance, and slowly squeezed the trigger.

 

Ace looked at the data his drone was sending him.  Looked like a bunch of straight leg infantry, with widely assorted weaponry.  WIDELY assorted.  He’d just keyed in a new search pattern when the signal from the drone went dead.  Oh, well, they WERE expendable. Still, it meant whoever was out there was more alert than he would have expected from a bunch of Pirate scum.  Taking a second to look at the map, he turned and sprinted to the right; outflanking them shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Roland grinned; “Good Job, Marion!  Dinner’s on me when this is over!  He’s heading West, everyone.  I want the heavy weapons squad at…… 238751, pointed down Mulberry street.  See if you can get a shot at him as he goes by.  I’m moving to intercept.

 

Ace winced as the plasma bolt streaked by behind him.  It would have hurt if that’d hit, but luckily the Havoc was a fast suit for its size.  As he was trying to mark on his display where the bolt had come from, he failed to see the motion in the lower right quadrant of his viewscreen.

 

“Great, just great, it would have to be a Havoc” Roland groaned to himself. 

 

Raising his blaster, the Badger let loose a short burst and then sprinted to his left, behind a three story building.

 

Ace felt the thud and glanced at the damage control panel.  Something had just torn into his right knee.  The joint was still functional, but it wouldn’t take another hit like that.  Someone knew the weaknesses of his rig.  Changing course to deal with the new threat, Ace scanned his HUD.  Nothing was showing; at least not as anything that made it through the jamming…..  Switching back to his targeting viewer, Ace flipped it to infra-red.  Maybe that would let him find his quarry.

 

Roland left a large hole in the side of the building; brick and mortar were no impediment to him, the interior drywall even less as he plowed through the structure.  Pausing for a moment, the Badger looked at his HUD, and then took a couple of steps to the right.  Bracing himself he lunged forward and through the exterior wall on the far side of the building.

 

This time Ace caught the motion, and wheeled to face his foe.  Someone in a suit of Imperial Powered Armor was dashing across the street; with every other step, blaster fire was coming his way, but his motion had thrown off his foe’s targeting.  Triggering his “infinite repeater” ion guns, he sent a blaze of blue light tearing down the street.  The other guy was fast too, and most of his shots missed.

 

Roland crashed through the storefront, and RAN.  Geez that thing was quick!  As he ran he dropped a smart mine, just in case that Monster tried to follow.

 

Ace hit the Mech’s jumpjets, literally leaping over the building.  If that suit came out the opposite side, he’d be waiting.

 

Francis saw the blaze of light, and swung her weapon; it was a long shot, but…. maybe she could get the Badger up to dinner AND a movie.  After tracking the Mech for a half second she hit the trigger.

 

Ace yelped as the plasma bolt flashed half a meter in front of him.  “Damn, forgot about that.  OK, memo to self; no more flying until THAT problem is dealt with!”  The ground came up suddenly and Ace had to throw one hand out to balance himself as the Mech’s knees flexed.  He left a large dent in the fašade of the Woollyworth building….

 

Roland grinned as his HUD lit up with Marion’s sighting; “Good shot, girl; keep alert out there!”  Peering out through a window he grinned as one large leg hit the street, right outside…..

 

The rail gun didn’t have a very large clip, and Roland didn’t have any reloads; still, there probably wasn’t going to be a better shot; taking a second to aim, he fired the weapon.  The recoil almost knocked him over backwards, and he could see windows throughout the building, and even across the street shatter from the bell-like sound.  Without even bothering to see whether he’d hit or not, he was dashing back the way he’d come, leaping over the smart mine….

 

Ace howled as his right leg suddenly went out from under him.  He landed on his back and for a moment his damage control panel flashed yellow in a dozen areas.  Most of those crept back to green, but his right ankle shifted to red.  Lifting one leg he stared at the stump of his right leg. 

 

“Great, just great.” 

 

Rolling, he brought up his plasma weapon and fired a shot clean through the building.  The structure was tougher than he thought and while he could now see clear through the building to the street beyond, it didn’t come crashing down.  “Where the heck did he go?” Ace wondered to himself.  The other suit wasn’t in sight.  With a growl Ace lunged forward, forcing the Mech into the hole he’d created.

 

Roland watched the ceiling, listening to the building groan.  This was a long-shot, but it might succeed on two counts.  Listening, waiting with his weapon pointed at the ceiling, he tried to think of all the ways his little maneuver could go wrong.

 

Ace smiled; the smart mine would have been dangerous for anything smaller than a Havoc.    He ignored it, eager to get to the other side of the structure before his quarry could get too far away.  As expected, the mine went off, as he crawled over it.  Then something unexpected happened.  Weakened by the blast, the floor gave way.

 

Roland watched as the big Mech crashed into the basement.  At point-blank range he fired three more rail-gun rounds into its torso, and then raising his other arm, fired his blaster straight up.  An instant later he kicked in the jump-jets and beat a hasty retreat from the building.

 

Ace howled as he realized his mistake, and his suit crashed into the basement.  It SHOULD have been only a minor setback; his Mech was strong enough for the whole building to collapse on him, and it be no more than an irritation!  Then something slammed into his left side and he realized the suit was down there too!  Before he could bring a weapon to bear, the suit had blasted upwards.  Now the building was on fire as well.  Groaning, Ace forced the Havoc into a sitting position.  More yellow lights on his damage control panel.  This was NOT going well.

 

Francis jerked her finger from the trigger as the targeting system squawked that it was Roland, and not the other guy.  Lowering her sites she switched to IR, to try and see through the rapidly rising smoke.

 

Roland settled his suit onto the roof of an adjacent building, watching.  It couldn’t be long before that Monster tried to come after him; he couldn’t have hurt it THAT bad…..

 

Ace shook his head.  This was bound to come out of his paycheck, if they couldn’t get the Militia to pay for it…. Still, things were getting just a little desperate.  Time to even the score.  Keying commands into his console, Ace deployed another drone, and sent it searching…..

 

Roland saw the drone appear, and ducked behind the elevator housing on the rooftop. 

 

“Anyone see that thing?  Anyone got a line of sight to it?” 

 

A chorus of negatives came back; the drone was staying low, and the fight had taken them too far away.  Roland was peering around the west corner of the elevator structure when his HUD started screaming that the thing was behind him….

 

Ace grinned and depressed a key.  A full dozen missiles screamed vertically from his backpack.  Two of them didn’t make it out of the ruined building, but the others tipped over and rapidly homed in on the suit.

 

Roland howled in distress and fired his blaster straight down.  As the roof of the building collapsed he tried to work his way horizontally through the crumbling structure.

 

As the Badger disappeared, the drone followed, hovering over the hole in the roof.  One of the swarm of  missiles struck it directly, the resulting explosion taking out two more of the missiles.  The others did their best to follow the suit, but the rain of debris made that difficult.  The result was a string of explosions that ripped the building to shreds, blowing Roland out the far side.

 

The Badger swore; his left arm wasn’t working, and that meant his rail gun was gone.  Half his electronics weren’t reporting either.  Rising to his feet, he limped off to the East…. Maybe if he could get back towards where Marion was, he could get some covering fire…..

 

Ace paused to unwrap the I beam from around his left leg.  Standing he looked around.  Had the missiles gotten him?  The jamming was gone and that suggested that he had, but then the suit wasn’t showing on his sensors.  Maybe he had, and maybe he hadn’t.  The building he’d been on was a smoldering wreck.  Pity for any civilians still inside.  Oh, well, that was war for you.  Limping, he tried to maneuver to a cross-street, to let his sensors get a better look around.

 

Roland judged the distance, checked his HUD, and mentally crossed his fingers.  Hitting the jump-jets he rose a hundred feet, and as the head of the Havoc came into view, popped off a couple of shots from his blaster.

 

Ace swore again; “Dammit, I thought you were DEAD!  Now I’m gonna have to kill you all over again!” 

 

Snarling the Mech turned and moved clumsily down the street.

 

“Look out, Marion, he’s coming!” 

 

“I see him, Roland, the top of his head rises above that bank building with each step.  Just don’t get in the line of fire!” 

 

Roland gritted his teeth, and hit the jump jets one more time.  Popping up from behind a four-story building he let loose another volley!

 

Ace grinned, “Gotcha!” and returned fire with his Ion guns.  He saw several bolts hit the suit, tossing it back, just as cyan light blossomed to his right….

 

Francis saw the bolt hit just above the hips.  There was an almost immediate secondary explosion, and trailing smoke, the Mech started to topple.

 

Ace yowled and hit the “eject” button.  The back of the Mech’s fighting compartment blew off and his ejection seat fired, shooting him back and up.  Dammit, how could he have forgotten AGAIN?  He was better than that, wasn’t he?”

 

Roland sat up just in time to see the parachute blossom.  For a moment he was tempted to take a potshot at it, but then he decided the pilot couldn’t be any further threat, and decided to let him live.  It’d been a good fight anyways.  Grinning, he tried to see if the suit would stand up.  With a groan of tortured metal, it slowly rose to its feet.

 

Abelard watched the parachute blossom, and sighed; “Well, at least Ace got out OK.  Hackett!  Go see if he’s going to need any help!” 

 

Shaking his head the Moose turned and moved back into the building.  He knew he should evacuate, but he didn’t want to leave all his unconscious friends.  He knew he should destroy as much of the stock as possible to keep it from falling into Pirate hands, but he was loathe to do that too.  Maybe if he got the Heimdal Corp. “Lightning” running, maybe if Ace survived the ejection, then they could save the place……  Maybe.

 

Roland watched the HUD flicker, and wondered if he could trust the information.  He hoped so, as it showed his maniple moving towards the target in good order.  Gritting his teeth he forced the suit to take another step, and then another.  The left hip joint was very close to locking up, and the power supply wasn’t taking the strain very well….

 

Horton would have kicked open the door, if he could have, but the door was about five stories tall, and open anyways.  He stuck his head around a corner, took a quick look and pulled it back.  Just in time too, as a wrench went flying by.  Hitting the “transmit” button he growled; “Yeah, there’s someone in there, but they’re not armed.” 

 

The Badger’s voice came back over an increasing wave of static; “Don’t kill them; we might need ‘em alive.  Besides, skilled ‘Mech techs are worth their weight in gold-pressed latinum on the slave market!”

 

Horton looked at Francis and groaned; “so how are we going to….?” 

 

The Ferret looked back at the Elephant and sighed.  Looking back at her heavy weapons squad she growled; “watch for any more rampaging Mech’s.” 

 

Then looking back at the Elephant she growled; “Cover me.” 

 

Hefting her blaster she dashed around the corner.  After a moment, and with a sigh, the Elephant followed.

 

“Don’t Shoot!  We give up!” 

 

Francis took in the scene at a glance and then looked for other threats.  ANY threats.  The Squirrel looked like he wanted to charge, even barehanded, but the Moose had him by his overall straps.  The Moose just looked… Sad. 

 

Francis gestured with the muzzle of her weapon; “out there, where we can see you.  MOVE.”

 

Roland leaned the armor against the side of the building and popped the hatch.  It was as difficult to get out of the thing as it was to get into it.  Trailing wires and a few tubes, the Badger, quite nude, trotted towards the huge door to the facility.

 

Everyone turned to look as Roland trotted through the door.  He looked over the Squirrel and the Moose, and then mentally dismissed them.  Turning he looked through the darkened facility, his head turning and then turning back.  For a long moment he stared at one of the suits, and then he muttered; “Tell me that’s a Lightning over there…..”

 

Abelard looked at the Squirrel and then back.  He had a look on his face that said; “you’ll have to force me.”  A look that seemed to draw the Badger’s attention like a magnet. 

 

“You!  Moose!  Does it run?  How many of these are in working order?” 

 

Again the Moose and Squirrel exchanged looks….

 

Roland grabbed a nerve disruptor from one of his troops and fired a shot into the floor, not far from where an unconscious form lay.  Both Moose and Squirrel flinched. 

 

The Squirrel started to say something, but the Moose overrode him; “Three.  Don’t hurt anyone.  Please.” 

 

Roland nodded; “how long to get more running?” 

 

The Moose sighed again; “Probably about an hour a suit, depending on what we run into.” 

 

Roland nodded; “Get started.” 

 

Turning he looked at his troops.  “OK, I want Granville and Tosca to mount up in the working suits.  Francis,  I want you to call in a transport; tell them we’ve got some high-value booty here.  Oh, and make sure that wreck outside gets loaded; I don’t want Tanj taking more out of my hide than necessary!  Stuart, Davis, take your teams and start looking for those parts we talked about.  All the other team leaders are to establish a defensive perimeter!  You know the plan, MOVE OUT!”

 

Roland ran his paws almost lovingly over the suit.  It was a Lightning.  Top of the line.  Well, top of the line a dozen years ago.  Didn’t mean it wouldn’t perform, in the paws of an expert…..  And quite possibly out-perform something newer, either….  The noise behind him made him turn. 

 

“OK, Roland, got the transport on the way.  Had ‘em send a heavy lifter too.  That’s the good news.” 

 

Roland nodded slowly; “and the bad news?” 

 

The Ferret sighed; “got a message from Command; they say the Militia’s gathering for a push over towards the University.  They want us to interdict.” 

 

The Badger’s eyes narrowed; “The University?  Crap.  OK, as soon as the transport gets here, lets head out in that direction.  Have Stuart move out now and do some scouting.  Bradley on the left flank, Burnside on the right, and we’ll let Jodl take the center.  Montgomery in reserve, with Custer keeping our lines of communication open.  Lets do it, Marion!

 

Granville winced as the suit automatically inserted the catheter.  Surely he wasn’t going to be in this thing THAT long, was he?  With a sigh he decided maybe peeing your pants in something like this would be a bad idea; who knew what circuits might be under his feet.  Squirming a little, trying to get comfortable, he bobbed his head forward and hit the switch that would close the back hatch….

 

Tosca watched the power levels climb.  He was just a little leery of this metal monstrosity.  Obviously it had been here to be repaired.   Had they done a good job?  Had they boobytrapped it?  What if he couldn’t get out?  As he got the light that the hatch had sealed and locked he sighed; too late to back out now.

 

Roland looked up and winced as one of the suits staggered, sidestepping, moving rapidly across the repair bay.  The only thing that kept the operator from falling flat on his ass was the wall the suit blundered into.  Didn't do the wall much good, though. 

 

“Dammit, Ah, Granville, you’re overcompensating for the mass of the suit.  Take it slowly; let it FLOW!”

 

Tosca hit the chin-switch and groaned.  His display had gone dark.  He couldn’t see a thing.  Hitting the switch again, he was dazzled by bright reds, oranges, yellows and black. 

 

“Great, just what I need; infra-red.  Dammit, where’s the door?”  Grumbling he tried again…..

 

Granville let out a whoop that had the Badger’s ears ringing.  Somehow he’d tripped over a gantry rail in the pavement outside, overcompensated and wound up on his back.  Now, like some monstrous armored turtle his arms and legs were waving in the air. 

 

“Gah… somebody HELP ME!” 

 

Roland sighed; “Granville, you can’t get up like that.  Roll over onto your stomach and you’ll have no trouble….”

 

Tosca ducked as a beam of blue light speared over head. 

 

“Dammit Granville, watch that!  You almost hit me!” 

 

“Sorry, wrong button…. Ten second tutorial my ASS!”

 

---

 

Roland watched Granville and Tosca and sighed.

 

“OK, guys, I’ve told you how to access the help menus.  You practice for a few minutes while I go check something out.  Call me on the comm if you need any help…..”

 

Without waiting for their reply, Roland turned and jogged down a side street.  His target was clearly marked on his HUD, and it shouldn’t take but a minute to get there…..

 

The perfume factory was in a long, single-story building, with a two story office block on one corner.  Luckily it was a twenty foot tall “industrial” story, and Roland had no trouble at all walking through the facility.  There were tanks, and pipes and processing equipment he didn’t recognize, but the receiving department was full of raw materials.  Roland paused to use the suit’s imaging system to get recordings of all the labels.  If he’d done it right, he now had a list of everything that went into the perfume.

 

The Engineering office was modern, and that was good.  That meant that everything about the facility was on someone’s hard drive somewhere.  Finding the draftsman’s station, Roland used the suit’s power to rip apart the computers used for computer assisted design and drafting, tucking the hard drives and memory storage units into “pouches” built into the Lightning.

 

R&D was probably where the formula was stored, and likewise, their computers also were trashed, the memory units salvaged.  Smiling, the Badger strode across the hall, leaving a huge hole in the doorframe, to the quality control department.  Their records were also added to his now-bulging pouches, along with a number of bottles of perfume, waiting to be tested.

 

Roland looked around the President’s office.  The lady that seemed to run the place was unconscious in her desk chair.  Not a bad looker either. The safe built into the wall wasn’t designed to withstand the assault of powered armor and was shortly in the middle of the office floor, its door intact, but its back torn off.  Nothing but papers related to the business, and nothing that looked like a secret formula.  The safe had also contained several credit chips, which Roland pocketed, and a rather nasty looking hand weapon, which he left with the rest of the papers.  Rising, he headed back towards the processing area, and the way out.

 

Roland looked around, wondering if he’d done all he could do.  If the formula for the sector’s most prestigious perfume was written down anywhere, he should have it on one of the memory chips, or hard drives.  He should have the blueprints for the entire facility.  He should have an entire list of ingredients.  But what if the formula was in someone’s head?  With a sigh he retraced his steps to the executive office.

 

Tosca turned as Roland jogged around the corner.  A rather good looking lady skunk was in the crook of one arm, and a rather large cylindrical object under the other. 

 

“Hey, Boss, whatcha got there?” 

 

Roland chuckled, “Just a couple of pieces of booty I promised someone.  They loading up the parts and suits?” 

 

Tosca nodded and then realized Roland couldn’t see the motion through the suit; “Yeah, there’s a transport over in the laydown yard.” 

 

Roland nodded and turned, heading in that direction, “I’ll get ‘em to take these two back with ‘em.  Even if she doesn’t have the information we need, she should still fetch a pretty ransom, and the 250 liters of perfume concentrate should be worth a small fortune.” 

 

Tosca nodded and wondered for a moment about the Badger.  The powered armor he could understand, kinda, but what pirate steals perfume?

 

---

 

Tsun frowned;  The display was not clear; their sensors were still scrambled after the attack, but it LOOKED as if there was a powered armor unit forming up opposite his forces.  If that was so, he might have to rethink his attack strategy….  Turning, the Bear waved to his adjutant; “Call the unit commanders back for a conference; we may have to delay our jump-off time.”

 

---

 

Tanj smiled; Smith’s electronics were first rate, and it hadn’t taken him any time at all to break the Militia’s encryption.  She figured she’d heard the order probably before it had reached most of the unit commanders it had been directed to.  Switching to her comm link she sent her own message.

 

---

 

“Dammit, Tosca, you’re weaving like you were drunk!” 

 

“Stuff it, Roland, you’ve had years of practice in these things; I’ve had just a few minutes!  It ain’t FAIR!”

 

The Badger growled, “We’re about to get hit with a major counterattack; would you rather be in your skivvies or in that suit?” 

 

“Roland, Granville.  I Thought WE were attacking!  And I’d rather be back on the Cruiser!  Dammit we are NOT leg marines!  We’re not SUPPOSED to be fighting battles like this!” 

 

“Shaddap, Granville.  It’s a spoiling attack.  We hit them just before they hit us; it’ll screw ‘em up enough for us to pull back safely.  Besides, Tanj is over there somewhere; we’ve got to get her.  Now pipe down and pay attention to your sensors!”

 

---

 

Tanj watched from the corner of the car park.  So far the locals hadn’t noticed them there.  She wasn’t really worried; so far they’d been treated as annoying civilians, at worst.  That was about to change.  Speaking quietly, as if to Smith, she let the microphone she’d clipped to her lapel relay position reports to Roland.  When the “suits” took out the Militia armored vehicles and dispersed the infantry, she’d make a run for it, using the strange little vehicle they’d arrived in, and carrying the still-unconscious grad student.  It MIGHT work.  As soon as she was through the lines Smith would fade back into the city, and when things quieted down, make his way to his next task.

 

---

 

Roland marked the Cheetah’s sightings on his HUD.  That Guderian class tank was going to be the biggest problem.  It had armor and weapons heavy enough to duke it out with the heaviest of ‘Mechs….  Still, they weren’t expecting an attack; that was obvious. 

 

“OK, Team, listen up.  You should see the icons representing the Militia forces on your HUDs.  Granville, I want you to come around from YOUR right, turn down Hawthorne street, and shoot anything that moves.  Burnside and his troops will back you up.  Tosca, you do the same from YOUR left, and clear Davis Drive.  Bradley’s your backup but I’m expecting you to handle most of the action.  You’ve got more firepower than all of them put together.  I’m going to move up the center and take out that tank.  Or try to.  Francis, I want your group and Jodl’s group to back me up, just in case it breaks towards the starport.  Bradley, you’re in Reserve.  Now, has anyone seen Stuart?”

 

---

 

Tanj smiled; the first sign anything was happening was the yelling over the Militia’s comm net.  Then the shooting.  The furrs down in the street first turned to their left, some of them starting that way, to come to the aid of their comrades… only to be ordered back by the officer in charge.  Then the sounds of fighting came from the other direction, and it was obvious the Militiafurrs that had moments ago been preparing to attack, were suddenly getting very nervous.

 

---

 

Roland hit the jump jets and popped up.  The antiaircraft vehicle sent a few beams of laser light his way, but thanks to Tanj’s intelligence he’d been able to stay under them.  Then he was dropping to the pavement, a dozen meters behind the Guderian.  The Lightning had dual railguns, and he cut loose with both of them, straight into the tank’s ass!

 

Tanj yelped and ducked as cement chips sprayed the parking garage like machinegun bullets.  One of Roland’s rounds had ricocheted from the tank’s turret and had struck the building across the street.  Looking up, Tanj saw the tank fire some sort of fixed antipersonnel weapon to the rear, its treads churning, its turret turning as it tried to bring its main weapons to bear.  Then Roland was again in the air, soaring directly over it.

 

“Brilliant move” Smith growled, looking over the Cheetah’s shoulder. 

 

Tanj laughed and nodded as a Militia fireteam launched their fire-and-forget hypervelocity missile at Roland just as he lifted off.  The missile was too close to its target to lock onto anything, and it smashed into the tank’s side, knocking the 200 ton vehicle a couple of meters sideways.  For a moment the tank didn’t move and then its turret started turning again, obviously trying to reacquire the Lightning.

 

Roland grimaced and dropped down to the pavement directly between the tank and the antiaircraft vehicle.  He could almost feel the consternation in the latter’s crew.  The tank, however, after being hit by the hypervelocity missile, was running on automatic, and the automatic controls wouldn’t let it fire with the friendly vehicle in its field of fire.  Moving fast, before the tank’s crew could regain consciousness and override the computer, Roland moved closer, literally ducking under the slope of the tank’s glacis.  As he ducked, laser light flickered over his back.

 

“Another good move” Smith growled. “The antiaircraft track can’t depress its weapons far enough to hit him down there, and the tank’s sensors can’t find him that close to it.” 

 

Tanj blinked, “Yeah, but… what if it runs him over?” 

 

Smith shrugged, “The suit might take it, might not.  Right now, though I think the tank’s computer is just about to decide the antiaircraft track isn’t friendly after all….”

 

The tank’s main weapon was a plasma weapon fueled by the detonation of a pellet of deuterium in a controlled fusion reaction.  The incandescent bolt from its muzzle reduced the antiaircraft track to shrapnel and a bunch of VERY energetic ions.  If Smith hadn’t grabbed her collar and pulled her back, Tanj thought she might have suffered permanent damage just from having been in the vicinity.

 

Roland worked feverishly; powered armor was very flexible, but it was never designed for this kind of thing.  The gauntlets made fine motions clumsy.  And yet, by the time the tank decided to back up, turn and head for the next threat, he had the charges in place.  Laying flat on the street, he waited as long as he dared, and then leapt up, hitting the jump jets.

 

The tank’s sensors picked up the suit of combat armor when it was about twenty meters from Roland.  By the time its turret had rotated the roughly sixty degrees necessary to bring its primary weapon to bear, Roland was about 50 meters in the air.  And then the shaped charges went off.

 

Tanj hunkered down behind the parking garage, curled in a ball, and whimpered as the tank’s fusion bottle failed.  It wasn’t so much as an explosion as a huge exhalation of plasma.  Thankfully most of it went straight up.  As debris rained from the sky, the Cheetah tentatively came to the conclusion she was still alive.  However, the “scooter” was trash, mangled under a rather large piece of the parking garage’s upper deck.

 

Roland howled as the blast tossed him about like a leaf.  He hit the ground before he could regain control, and for a moment lost consciousness.  When he came to, he found that only a few of the Lightning’s damage indicators were in the red.  Picking himself up and dusting himself off, he looked around, wondering which way the fight had gone….

 

Granville almost toppled as the shock wave passed over him.  Looking around he grinned; what had made him stagger had caused a lot more damage among the Militia forces.  Striding forward he fired the weapons in both hands, moving through the confusion like a whirlwind.

 

Tosca peeled himself off the storefront, and turned back.  Across the street a Militiafurr with an ion rifle was just getting up.  It was as if they saw each other at the same time.  The Militia furr got his shot off first, and Tosca staggered back; however his return fire all but vaporized his assailant.  Looking down, Tosca marveled at the small crater in the center of his chest.  Amazingly the armor had absorbed the blast.  Full of renewed confidence, he moved out, looking for targets.

 

Tsun shook his head at the reports.  Looking up he growled; “Its obvious we’re facing opposition stronger than originally estimated.  Signal General Liu that he will have to carry the counterattack.  We will regroup, and do our best to contain this new attack.

 

Tanj played dead as the Militia retreated past her position.  It wasn’t difficult; she was coated in cement dust, and half buried in debris.  The Grad student was half-laying across her, still unconscious.  Smith was completely exposed, but his “living dress” creatures made it look as if he had a ghastly stomach wound.  After a while, the last of the soldiers were gone, and all was quiet.

 

Smith opened one eye, and then the other. 

 

“I think we’re clear.” 

 

Tanj watched, half-revolted, as the creatures covering him changed shape, pulling together, flowing under his clothes and over his face.  In a few moments Smith resembled a small bear, his body somehow seeming to have bulked up. 

 

“I think this is where I should leave you.  Take care, Tanj, and I’ll be in touch!” 

 

Tanj smiled, and hefting the Grad student to her shoulder in the classic “Fireman’s carry”, waved bye.  But Smith was already gone. 

 

“I wonder how he does that” she muttered to herself. 

 

Turning she started trudging towards the starport.

 

---

 

“Roland from Ky; do you copy?” 

 

Roland paused for a moment and frowned.  Ky?  Who was….. and then he smiled as he remembered.

 

“Yeah, Tanj, I copy; what’s up?” 

 

“I’m at the corner of Cherry and third street.  I could use a ride.  My wheels got trashed when the tank blew up.” 

 

Roland looked at his heads-up display and nodded; his maniple was pulling back, as per the plan.  The spoiling attack seemed to have worked. 

 

“OK, Tanj, stay there, and I’ll double back to pick you up, but we’re going to have to move fast, if we’re to get out of here on time!”

 

---

 

Tosca used the jump-jets to pop up just enough to see over the building.  They were in an area supposedly covered by the weapon, supposedly “pacified”, but he was still experimenting with what the suit could do.  For once, on an op, he was cool, and comfortable, and not tired at all.  Maybe these things DID have their advantages……

 

“Yeah, Sarge, I saw it.”  Hovarti alligned her sensors just a little, trying to pick out the reading from the ground clutter.  Something powered had popped up behind the lines, just for a moment.  If it did it again, she’d be ready…..

 

Granville watched his HUD and sighed, “Tosca, quit playing around.  Roland’s gonna get pissed.” 

 

“Oh, chill out, bud, he wanted us to learn how to use these things, didn’t he?” 

 

Granville sighed; he’d gotten his display messed up again, and it seemed as if he was seeing everything by sonar…. It was freaky and it made his eyes ache. 

 

“Yeah, but if you keep doing that, you’re gonna mess up, man.  Get yourself stuck, or something.” 

 

Tosca chuckled and hit the jets again, “Hey, lighten up.  I think I LIKE flying!”

 

Hovarti saw the blip appear again, and depressed the launch key.  A hundred meters away, an antiaircraft missile left the rails….

 

Roland’s computer detected the launch and flashed a warning. 

 

“Look out, guys!  Someone’s…. TOSCA, INCOMING FIRE!”

 

Tosca blinked, “incoming… wha?” 

 

And then he saw the icon on his HUD.  Panicking, he managed to put the suit into an uncontrolled barrel roll.  The missile flashed by, its warhead detonating by proximity fuse.

 

Granville heard Tosca yell, and saw the suit crash headfirst into the roof of a three-story building.  For a moment, he held his breath, waiting for a secondary explosion…… 

 

After a moment he heard Roland’s growl, “he’s still alive.  Granville, get over there and dig him out.  And don’t take all day!”

 

Hovarti frowned, “No Sarge, don’t know if I killed him or not.  It wasn’t a direct hit……  No, I DON’T want to go look and see; I know command wants confirmation of kills, but that suit had friends; they probably won’t take too kindly to me shooting at them!……….  Yeah, we’ll figure it out when the pirates leave.

 

Tanj watched as a suit of powered armor jogged around the corner.  It had more angles and was just a little larger than the Imperial Combat armor, but somehow she knew it was Roland….

 

Roland took a look at the Cheetah and almost stopped dead in his tracks. 

 

After a moment he cut in the external speakers and muttered, “Ah… Hi, Tanj….. Bet you’re wondering what happened to the suit you lent me.  Um…. Had to send it to the cleaners; don’t worry, I promise it’ll be just like you lent it to me when I return it…..” 

 

Tanj frowned, and then shook her head, “Don’t have time to discuss it right now.  Gotta get Junior here and me back to the ship.  That suit have handholds in the back?” 

 

Roland watched as the Cheetah tossed a strange furr over her shoulder, and picking up a carry-all, walked around behind him.  Obediently, Roland knelt, wondering for the first time if a Lightning DID have handholds, to carry an “observer” in the back…..

 

Emmie Lou groaned and sat up.  What had happened?  She looked around the office of Phillippi Graphics and blinked.  The lights were off, but there was still pale light coming through the front window.  It looked as if it were early morning.  Staggering to her feet, she made her way to the front door, wondering what had happened.  Pausing at the door, at the rythmic pounding, her eyes went wide as a giant robot, with two people clinging to its back, jogged down the street. 

 

“Gotta be a dream.  Bad dream.  Gotta stop falling asleep at my desk.” 

 

Moving carefully, every joint seemingly on fire, she turned and headed for the lunch room. 

 

“Coffee.  Gotta get some coffee….  Gotta wake up.”

 

Tanj watched a freighter launch, as Roland neared the starport.  A quick glance at her chrono showed them a bit behind schedule.  The effects of Corey’s weapon should be starting to wear off.  Furrs would be waking up.  Power systems would be coming back on line.  Weapons would be useable again, as would ground and air transport.  It was time to go……

 

---

John shook his head; it had been easy to break into the Whartenburg Financial center.  Their physical security systems seemed to be no more sophisticated than was requried to keep the curious out.  But their electronic systems, that was a different matter.  For a financial center that controlled the electronic transfer of funds, both for the planet, and for off-planet transfers, their security systems were first-rate.  The Stallion’s team had brought portable power supplies, and booted up all the computers, but even with every expert hacker the Black Fleet could muster, they were still hours, if not days away from breaking into the money-transfer system.  It was almost as if they’d been expecting a raid of this sort….

 

---

 

Kath peered over the dumpster.  Nyborg industries occupied a middle-sized building not three blocks from the spaceport.  The pirates, in their planning had decided to bypass the firm, not because there wasn’t valuable material in there, but because of how it was made.  Large superconducting powerlines  arced gracefully down to the facility.  This place used a LOT of power, and strong magnetic fields seemed to negate the effect of Professor Corey’s weapon.  That, coupled with the fact that Nyborg industries employed an above-average number of armed security guards had made the profit/risk ratio unacceptable to the planners.  There were more lucrative, less well defended targets in the area. 

 

She’d been watching their front gate almost since Tanj had left with Smith.  To her relief, none of the guards had tried to leave the facility; that had been a real concern of theirs.  A small, but well armed and determined strike force could have played hob with the Pirates’ plans.  Fortunately, though, the guards seemed content to do what they’d been hired to do; guard Nyborg Industries.  Every once in a while, one would peer over the wall, as if the video surveillance gear wasn’t working.  It was probably far enough from the induction furnaces and their power supplies not to have been shielded from the weapon’s effects.  Watching carefully, Kath waited for the others.

 

Hinoki took a last look over his own briefing notes as he tightened his web gear.  His whole plan would be left on the wardroom table.  If they made it back as soon as he thought they would, he could stash it.  The booty would still have to be explained to Tanj, but success is usually difficult to argue with.  On the other hand, if they didn’t make it back, it would at least give her a clue where to come looking for them……  It was a bold plan, and not without risks.  But the payout could be HUGE….

 

Sashi grinned at her Master.  The Chocolate Pantheress was dressed in her usual latex hotpants, and a rather revealing matching top.  She carried two satchels, but aside from that, no obvious weapons.  At least not beyond the one the bioengineers had given her. 

 

“Is Master ready to go?” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and nodded; “All set.  Where’s Wanda?”

 

“I’m right here.”  Hinoki turned and let out a low whistle.  Wanda was covered from her neck to the soles of her feet in a skintight leather catsuit that hid nothing.  A stunner was in a holster at her waist, and she too had several satchels.  However, they were on one float pallet she was pushing, as she dragged another behind her. 

 

“I’m ready.  Shall we?”  Hinoki nodded and led the way out of the airlock, waving Sashi to take one of the float pallets.

 

Kath turned as the others scrambled up behind her. 

 

“All’s quiet, Mistress.  They take a peek every once in a while, but that’s about all.” 

 

Hinoki peered over the Dumpster. 

 

“Have you noticed if the guards are male or female?” 

 

Kath smiled, “Seems to vary.  Sometimes it’s a male wolf, sometimes a female caracal.  Once it was a male Ferret.” 

 

Hinoki chuckled, “Sounds good.  OK, team, lets get ready.” 

 

Wanda, Sashi and Hinoki all started opening satchels as Kath watched curiously.

 

---

 

Sashi braced, one knee on the pavement, both arms held straight out together, and a little to one side.  A few feet away, Wanda was in a similar position.  Both wore a respirator over their muzzle, as did Hinoki and Kath.  Sashi and Wanda each held a plastic handle attached to a rather large mass of surgical tubing.  Hinoki stood between and behind them, the apex of the tubing in one hand.  Moving gingerly he reached down into one satchel and picked up the universe’s most dangerous water balloon.  Nestling it carefully in the tubing, he pulled it back, carefully adjusting the angle.

 

Kath grinned; a head appeared over the wall, looking to the left.  It was the Caracal again.  Hinoki pulled the tubing back just a little further, and let fly.  The water balloon, full of Sashi’s pheromone-laden juices flew out, arcing high over the street.  It landed with a splosh on the other side of the wall.  The Caracal’s head snapped around, drawn by the noise, and then disappeared behind the wall.

 

Hinoki grinned, and nodded to Sashi who quickly stashed the giant slingshot in one of the bags.  Hefting a water balloon in each paw, the Cheetah dashed across the street, to leap onto a parked car.  He peeked over the wall, and then quickly threw first one and then the second water balloons.  He ducked down, below the wall for a moment and then raised his head again, to look.  Turning he waved his co-conspirators forward.

 

Wanda watched as Hinoki picked the lock, wondering where he’d learned to do something like that.  Then the Cheetah was slipping through the gate, another water balloon in his paw.  Wanda, the stunner in one paw, slipped in after him.  You never know when someone working in a metals facility might be wearing a respirator, after all…..  Just inside the wall, a rather shapely caracal was entwined with a male wolf, each lost in the pleasures of each other’s bodies.  As she went past, the Wolverine thought they were oblivious to their presence….

 

Hinoki’s voice was muffled by the respirator. “I know I hit the Ferret square between the shoulder blades; he must have gone off to find someone.” 

 

The Cheetah looked left and right and then gestured to a door, “This way to the vault, I think….”

 

Sashi watched the Caracal and the Wolf for a moment, feeling the spot between her legs start to get wet.  The temptation to join them was almost overpowering.  However, as Hinoki, Wanda and Kath entered the building she forced herself to follow.  They were probably going to need her….

 

Hinoki smiled; the Ferret had some poor bunny lady bent over a desk and was humping her hard.  Just for good measure, he lobbed another water balloon at them.  Further on down the hallway, he suddenly came face to face with a rather large Rhino, in stained mechanic’s coveralls.  Hinoki was about to lob another water balloon at him when Wanda pushed him aside, her stunner buzzing angrily.  The Rhino dropped to the floor like a rock.  Hinoki looked at the Wolverine lass and raised an eyebrow. 

 

Wanda just shrugged, “and if you’d hit him with the balloon, where would the closest relief be?” 

 

Hinoki swallowed, “Um… you, or Kath.  Yeah, good thinking.” 

 

Wanda chuckled, “or if he was into guys, you.” 

 

Hinoki paused to look down at the Rhino; the bulge in the guy’s pants was sizeable.  Stepping over him, Hinoki chuckled, “Yeah… If I had more time, it might have been “interesting”……

 

Most of the guards were in the factory, near the vault.  It looked as if they’d set up for a defense, but as time had gone on, with no assault materializing, it appeared as if they’d gotten lax.  Some of them were standing in small groups, talking, and one appeared to be taking a nap.  The first water balloon hit a well-built Tigress square in the chest.  The second one struck an Elk in the crotch, and the third found its target on the ass of a Minotaur.  For a moment, surprise reigned.  Some raised their weapons, while others chuckled.  Hinoki watched from around the corner, via a small hand-held mirror, and after a moment they seemed to relax, more perplexed than alarmed.  It took only a few more moments for the pheromones to work their magic, and then the guards were shedding weapons, armor and clothes to wrap themselves up in each other.  Hinoki watched for another minute, and then boldly stepped from the corridor.  As he’d expected, he was ignored.

 

Kath watched in amazement as Hinoki strode boldly past the pile of writhing bodies, to the vault door.  With all the power off, the magnetic latches were inert, and it took almost no time to eliminate the backup mechanical system.  Then the Cheetah was straining, pushing the massive door open.

 

“It doesn’t look like much does it?” Hinoki chuckled. 

 

Kath ran her paw through the bucket of small greyish pellets, letting them run through her fingers. 

 

“No, it doesn’t.  How valuable is this stuff again?” 

 

Hinoki grinned; “Platinum-paladium catalyst, not a thin coating on a ceramic substrate, but SOLID metal.  Extremely valuable.  We could probably buy a new starship for what’s on this pallet here.  Doesn’t take much to be real valuable.” 

 

Wanda let out a low whistle…. 

 

“I’m glad I thought of the float pallets; those wheeled pallet jacks wouldn’t have done well over the pavement outside.” 

 

Hinoki just smiled and nodded, “I knew I could depend on you….”

 

---

 

Hinoki peered around the corner of the vault.  They’d taken the really valuable stuff, the catalysts made of strange, or rare metals, or the ones that required involved processing, and had left the more common stuff, like Rainey Nickel behind.  Unlike rare gems, or even precious metals, catalysts had to be chemically pure to work.  No trace elements as telltales.  And thus no way to trace them.  And as high surface area was required, the catalysts were generally small beads.  Easy to fill a small bucket, or a sack with.  No large, heavy bars that required two strong furrs to lift.  With both float pallets full, along with a wheeled cart they’d found, they were ready to make good their escape.

 

The orgy still seemed to be in full swing; some of the office folk apparently had been co-opted into the writhing mass of furry bodies, as the number of participants seemed to have grown a little.  One elderly Beaver seemed to be wearing only a tie….  Hinoki chuckled and tossed in another water balloon for good measure, and then, tugging at the float pallet’s control handle, headed through the machinery towards the exit at a fast walk.

 

Rob groaned and looked around.  Sam was humping Michelle hard, and for a moment, no one was paying attention to HIM.  And he was SOOOOOO horny!  Looking around, one paw idly stroking his cock, he spied the newcomers.  Bounding to his feet, he leapt towards the luscious Mink.

 

Kath ooofed as the Kangaroo crashed into her.  As she hit the floor hard, her respirator was knocked askew, and suddenly the scents of the room were upon her.  “Well HELLO there, she mrowled, reaching up to fondle the Kangaroo’s thick cock as he sat astride her.

 

Wanda sighed and lifted her stunner; she’d been afraid this was going to happen.  As she took aim on the bouncy male…..

 

“Well hello, there, and welcome to the party!  How come you got your pretty face hidden under that thing?”  Wanda gasped as a huge paw reached out to lift the respirator from her muzzle.  While holding her breath she tried to reclaim it as her assailant pulled her tight to him.  The first impression was that he was HUGE; the second was that he was very well hung, as his hard cock pressed against her belly.  And then, looking up, she saw his eyes.  Deep wells of amber…. And for a moment she forgot, and took a breath….

 

Hinoki studied the Kodiak Bear for a moment, wondering if there was a way he could knock him out and rescue Wanda.  Finally he just took a step back.  There was no way he was going to overpower someone that big…..

 

Sashi picked up the stunner that had been knocked from Wanda’s paw.  It looked…. Bent.  Handing it to Hinoki she sighed.

 

 “I don’t think that’s going to work any more, Master.  Now what do we do?”

 

Hinoki shrugged, “We go for help.  Not much else we can do.  If we stay here, we’ll wind up being dragged into the orgy like they were.  Lets take the two float pallets back to the ship and see if we can find another stunner there….”

 

Sashi bit her lower lip, “I’m not sure we should leave them alone…..” 

 

Hinoki chuckled, “Oh, they’ll be fine; come on!”

 

The Cheetah stood just outside the starport.  The street was deserted, the buckets they’d stashed there, hidden just under the surface of the water in a fountain, in the small plaza completely undisturbed.  He sighed and shrugged; there was no real alternative.  Taking the bucket of pheromone counter-agent he poured it over Sashi’s head, and then waited for the chocolate pantheress to do likewise to him.  It was the only way they could make their way through the turmoil of the starport, as the Pirates attempted to load booty, without leaving chaos in their wake.  Or worse, getting trapped in another orgy.

 

Hinoki paused, and turned, to look back at the fountain.  Grinning he trotted back, and as Sashi watched, he dumped his entire supply of “water balloons” into the fountain.  Turning he trotted back.

 

“Come on, lets get out of here before the balloons get sucked into the pump suction.” 

 

Sashi giggled, “That’s a nasty trick to play!” 

 

Hinoki grinned and nodded, “Yeah, bet this place becomes known as “orgy square” from this point forward.  Anyways, it might just slow any pursuit coming this way….  Now come on, lets go.  We got things to do!”

 

Tanj jumped down off Roland’s armored back, and stepping towards the Lost Cause’s airlock, motioned the Badger to follow.  The cargo lock opened at her command, the large hatch swinging down to form a ramp; it was no surprise to find the cargo hold completely full. 

 

“OK, Roland, lets put him down right over there.  I want to get him restrained so he doesn’t cause any trouble until we have time to deal with him.” 

 

The Badger, still wearing the powered combat armor, put the Otter down as if he were a rag doll.  Tanj fetched restraints from the toybox, and shortly had him stretched out on a mat, wrists locked together and tied to one cargo tie-down, ankles cuffed, and tied to a different one.  As long as he laid quietly, he should be fine.

 

When she finished, Tanj straightened and looked around.

 

“Say, where do you think the crew is?  I would have thought the lock opening would have brought them running…..”

 

---

 

Hinoki winced as he saw the open cargo lock. 

 

“It could just be the ground crew loading more cargo…..” 

 

Sashi nodded, “might, but how much you want to bet Tanj is back?”

 

Tanj looked up as the two soaking wet figures pushed two float pallets into the cargo bay.  The odor of the counter-agent was almost instantly apparent.

 

 “I hate to ask, but WHAT have you two been up to?”

 

---

 

Tanj shook her head, “I should have known better than to leave the four of you alone.  OK, come on, I’ll open the arms locker and we’ll go after them….  But we’d better hurry, the recall order’s been sounded…..”

 

Roland grinned; this was just the sort of thing he’d been waiting for. 

 

“Tanj, um, I tell you what; I kinda owe you a favor; never mind why, we’ll talk about that later.  Let ME go and get Wanda and Kath; you know I can move faster and should have a whole lot less trouble….  You get the ship pre-flighted and I’ll be back in a jiff!”

 

Tanj looked at Hinoki and Sashi and then back at the armored figure.

 

“All right, but if you run into trouble, let me know and I’ll bring the ship THERE.  We are NOT leaving without them!”

 

  Roland nodded, threw her a sketchy salute and took off at a run.

 

---

 

A ship thundered into the sky.  And then another.  As he ran, Roland used the comm to check in on his maniple.  Francis reported that they were almost back to their transport, withdrawing in good order, with no one unaccounted for.  No question about it, he had a good team.  Satisfied he wasn’t immediately needed elsewhere he made the ground shake with the pounding of his footfalls as he ran.

 

---

 

Wanda smiled widely as she sat astride the Bear’s hips, riding him, driving his thick cock in and out of her hungry pussy.  Nothing else in the world seemed to matter.  Nothing at all, such as the fact that part of the building had just collapsed when an armored monster had come in through the far wall.  Beneath notice.  Purrring with delight she squeezed him with her “inner hand”, twisting a little bit as she moved.  She loved the way that felt and could tell by the look on his face that he liked it too……

 

Roland looked at the situation and sighed.  He’d have to decontaminate the outside of the suit VERY carefully…..  And it didn’t look as if Wanda, or Kath were going to leave willingly.  Nor were any of the locals likely to be willing to let them go.  Looking around, he spied just what he needed….

 

The bag was meant to hold a ton of bulk chemicals.  Fortunately it was new, and not contaminated.  Roland made short work of the top, shredding it with his power-assisted grip.  Then he was scooping up the Bear and Wanda, and dumping them, still locked together, into the bag.  For some reason the Bear did NOT want to let go of Wanda…. Or was that the other way around?  Kath and one of the two males she was involved with were likewise scooped up and deposited in the bag, leaving one male wailing and beating on Roland’s armored back.  He was ignored.  Then the Badger was gathering the lifting loops at the four corners of the bag, and throwing it over his shoulder, he took off at a run.  Behind him, the orgy continued unabated.

 

Kath let out a whoop and a giggle as she suddenly found herself separated from the Bandicoot who’d been letting her suck on his shaft; however, she was tied tight to the wolf behind her, and the presence of his thick cock in her pussy was a continued delight.  Especially with all the bouncing going on.  As everything suddenly became a jumble, she found her muzzle pressed against someone’s breast.  Purrring, she started to lick and nibble, not really knowing or caring who it was…..

 

---

 

Tanj watched the display with no small trepidation.  They weren’t the last ship still on the surface of Nikkeldepain, but it wasn’t by much.  They WERE the last freighter still on the surface.  The engines were idling, the warp drive on line, and the weapons on preheat or cool-down as required.  And the tactical situation was locked into the computer.  Her biggest concern was not the rapidly advancing Nikkeldepain militia, but the K-triple-ought fighters.  They were straying way too close for her comfort…..  If only Roland would hurry up….

 

Roland pounded up the ramp at a dead run.  He could feel it start to lift even as he crossed the threshold.  Above him a laser turret spat ruby light at some target off to the left.  And then the ship was lurching, the inertial dampers barely keeping up.  Skidding to a stop he put the bag down with a thump, only then remembering its contents.  With a sigh, he looked around for a water hose, or the disinfectant, or whatever it was they used to counteract the pheromones.

 

---

 

Hinoki swatted the ops console hard, isolating the cargo bay life support from the rest of the ship.  He then locked down the cargo bay personnel hatches.  It would be a while before he could find his respirator, and get the pheromone counter-agent.  They were gonna need gallons of it……  In fact, probably every box, bale, and container in there, including floors, wall and ceiling, were going to have to be washed…..  Oh crap!

 

---

 

“Uh, anybody from Roland; you guys copy?” 

 

“Yeah, Roland, this is Tanj; I’m a little busy right now.  What do you want?” 

 

Tanj watched the vectors closing.  It was going to be close.  It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to engage the cloaking device inside the atmosphere.  The system might overload.  Their position might be given away by a contrail.  Or even the turbulence of their passing, or the sonic boom might betray their presence.  On the other hand, those K000’s were closing WAY too fast…… 

 

“Um, I was just wondering what to do about Wanda, and Kath; they seem awfully wrapped up with their two friends, and I was wondering if there was any of that antidote stuff around.  Also I seem to be locked in.” 

 

Tanj blinked.  Their two friends? 

 

“Roland, you’re just going to have to ride it out down there.  We’ll get you the stuff you need to decontaminate as soon as we’ve gone into warp.  But that might be a while.” 

 

Her comment was punctuated by the sound of one of the ion guns firing, making the whole ship shudder.

 

Roland sighed, “Roger that, I’ll be patient.  Roland out.” 

 

Tanj grinned, “You know, Roland, you might want to unseal your suit and join them.  We’re not out of this yet, and it would be nice to go out fucking…..”

 

As she said that, Tanj thought of how Hinoki had lain on the pilot’s acceleration couch, with her astride him, his shaft buried in her pussy, while she watched the console….  Yeah, it’d be nice to go out like that…. But……

 

---

 

Hinoki let the computer line up the aft turret and fire, as it drew a bearing on the rapidly approaching fighter.  It was a clean miss.  Close, but a miss.  Those things were agile.  Frowning, the Cheetah watched another one coming in from port…..

 

Tanj’s gaze flicked from the Nav display to the tactical display and back.  She could turn into one of the fighters, but then it would take that much longer to break orbit… and the orbital fortresses were starting to shake off the effects of the weapon and come back on line.  Deciding to stick it out, she once again, checked the aft shield status.

 

Hinoki watched the aft turret recharge.  It seemed so lightning fast in practice, but now it seemed to be glacially slow.  Just as the computer was about to fire again, the fighter behind them launched two missiles…..  The ship’s tactical computer immediately classed the missiles as a higher threat and retargeted the turret on them.  The guns fired, and one of the missiles blew up, with the other boring on in. 

 

“Tanj, We’ve got a PROBLEM!” the Cheetah howled.

 

And then, as the missile closed, it suddenly blew up, followed almost immediately by the fighter.

 

Tanj blinked, not believing her eyes…

 

“Hinoki, did you…..” 

 

And then a familiar voice came over the comm.

 

“Hello, Luv!  Slasher thought you might need a hand down here!” 

 

Tanj grinned as the raider ship appeared, passing through the expanding cloud of gas that had been the K-triple-ought fighter. 

 

“Heya, Reggie, ‘lo, Slasher; glad to see you boys!  We owe you one!” 

 

“Glad to help, Tanj; but right now, you’d best cloak that tub you’re flying; that fortress up ahead just got its targeting system back on line!” 

 

“Will do, Reggie; see you back at the barn!” 

 

With a sigh, Tanj checked her position above the planet; they were far enough out of the atmosphere.   The cloaking device whined as it engaged…..

 

Reggie watched the freighter vanish in a blur of distorted light.  Horsing the Raider around, he headed towards the next “fire” he had to put out.  The defenses were coming back on line all through the Nikkeldepain system, and the Black Fleet was severely behind schedule….

 

---

 

Day 8: Withdrawl.

 

Mavis “Dancer” Reeves frowned, and shook her head.  It wasn’t good, and it wasn’t likely to get better either.  When they’d approached the Nikkeldepain system, their navigation had been off, just a little.  The distances had been a little great, and the timing a little off.  Before they could sweep the weird, energy sapping weapon across the ships near the A3 jump point, one of the ships had slipped through.  It wasn’t a big ship, and probably hadn’t been very valuable, but it HAD seen them and it HAD gotten through.  And now, something was coming back through the Jump point, something fairly large…

 

It was every bit as bad as she’d feared.  The ship that had escaped through the jump point had obviously screamed bloody murder, and now some of the Militia ships from the neighboring systems were starting to return, coming to the aid of the Nikkeldepain system.  The Ramada light cruiser had just appeared in the jump point, and a moment later, two Fairfield destroyers appeared.  Taking a deep breath, she charged the weapon, hoping she could catch them while they were all still close together.

 

Dancer breathed a sigh of relief; she’d had to fire three shots, but now the good Samaritans were dead in the water.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that she had a panel full of red and yellow warning lights on her weapons panel.  Something had gone very wrong with the Weapon….

 

“It ain’t no good, Skipper” the Beaver sighed. 

 

Dancer stared back at his image on the monitor, “what do you mean, Chipper?  Tell me about it!” 

 

The Beaver shrugged, “I really don’t have a clue how that gizmo works, but I don’t have to be no theoretical physicist to recognize a burned out transformer.  This thing’s shot.  Anything else comes through that jump point, we’re going to have to handle it the old fashioned way.” 

 

Dancer sighed and nodded, “OK, Bridge out.” 

 

Looking over at her tactical officer, Dancer sighed, “Lets move the ship into the shadow of that Light Cruiser.  That’ll keep us close to the work parties in case we have to retrieve ‘em suddenly and bug out, and it’ll also let us keep a close look on the jump point.”

 

Dancer smiled; it might just work after all.  One of the work crews had restored power on the Light Cruiser.  The prize crew was swinging the ship about, heading towards the rendezvous point.  Another work crew had stripped everything marketable out of one of the two Fairfield destroyers; it wasn’t equipped with a Warp Drive, and therefor couldn’t be taken intact.  Reports from in-system said that everything was behind schedule, and getting worse, but at least her part of the operation was holding together.  No sooner had that thought formed in her head than she saw her sensor operator straighten in his seat, “Oh Shit” written large across his face.

 

“Skipper, we have something BIG coming through the Jump Point!” 

 

Dancer sighed.  The Hampton system had sent an aging battleship to the defense of their neighbor.  It was slow, and probably had taken forever to turn around, but now it seemed to be back. 

 

“Guns, warm ‘em up!  I want to hit them just as soon as they’re clear of the jump point.  And Signals, send a message to the Fleet; we’ve got PROBLEMS!”

 

Dancer Paced back and forth across her bridge; it was worse than she’d expected.  The enemy captain was good, damn good.  As soon as the ancient battleship had cleared the jump point they’d gone to warp, a half a dozen torpedoes flashing through where they’d been an instant before.  And in that instant, the Battleship had probably gotten a half-way decent look at half the Nikkeldepain system.  Where would they come out of warp?  Would they go for the rendezvous point?  Risk heading further in-system, to the planet’s defense?  Or would they just reappear somewhere nearby, to let loose their own volley of missiles and torpedoes? 

 

Looking up at her Ops officer, Dancer sighed, “We’re not doing any good here anymore.  Lets get all the remaining crews in, and head for the Rendezvous point.”

 

Zassa frowned as she took the report.  She was still in Jenka’s command chair, on the bridge of the flagship.  Most of the routine broadcasts that went out went through her as she continued to play Pirate Queen.  She knew, however, that Jenka was in Auxilliary Command, running things from there.  Still, it FELT good, and she did like to pretend.  However the news from the A3 jump point was NOT good.  Glancing up at the tactical display, she wondered if their withdrawal from the Nikkeldepain system might turn into a rout…  Opening a mike, she started to issue movement orders as they flashed across her display, trying her best to sound positive, to sound confident, to sound “in charge”…..  If she could keep them from panicking, this might come out all right after all.

 

---

 

The Leopard drummed his fingertips on the armrest of his command chair, full of impatience.  He knew his engineering team was pushing the ship as hard as they could, and he knew that anything he said or did would just be counterproductive, but it was SO hard to just SIT there….  Whatever was happening in the Nikkeldepain system, he felt sure that an Imperial Battlecruiser could sort it out.  And in short order, too.

 

---

 

Dancer took one last look around, and nodded; “Looks like most of ‘em are clear.  Helm, you have the course out, Warp three…. Engage!”  As the scene on the main view shifted, Dancer smiled and settled back into her command chair.  They’d gotten out intact.  The Hampton Battleship had emerged from warp a third of the way around the system, taken another sensor look at the situation, and had wisely remained out of harms way.  It was obvious that the pirates were all withdrawing, and just as obvious that one aging relic was NOT up to taking on a fleet of that magnitude.  As the Nikkeldepain system had recovered from the effects of the strange, energy-leaching weapon, the Pirates had withdrawn, probably not quite in good order, but as good as could be expected.  Their losses were actually less than she'd anticipated.  That had to be a good thing, right?  Now…. What about the booty?  THAT was going to be the question!

 

---

 

Tanj watched the Nav display; it would be mere moments until they could safely enter warp, until they’d be relatively safe.  She was just reaching for the warp drive key when the flashing sensor display caught her attention.  Something BIG had just dropped out of warp, a quarter of the way around the perimeter of the system, and about 60 degrees above the ecliptic.  With a smile on her face, Tanj pressed the key, listening to the completely normal sounds as her small ship slipped into warp.  She’d seen that Imperial Battlecruiser before……  For a moment her thoughts turned to the Leopard, and she wondered how he was doing….  And what he’d make of THIS!

 

---

 

“Did you see…..   Sensor Operator, what…..  Oh, never mind.  I’ll look at the tapes later.  Tactical!  Can we intercept any of the ships leaving the system?” 

 

“Not effectively, sir.  We might be able to get a bearing on their initial departure track, but I fear effective pursuit won’t be practical.” 

 

“Great” growled the Leopard.  “Just Great.  Fleet’s going to love this.” 

 

Behind him, his exec chuckled, “well, Sir, you can say with complete honesty that we chased the Pirate Scum out of the system…..” 

 

The Leopard just growled. 

 

After a minute he muttered, “Helm, set course for the planet; lets see what’s left.”

 

---

 

Roland sighed and shook his head; it was tempting to leave Wanda and Kath, and their “friends” in the bag, but someone might get hurt.  Grabbing the top, he tugged, ripping the bag in half, spilling the couples onto the floor.  They barely noticed.  Sitting down, with his back against the wall, he settled down to watch the show.  It was then that he discovered that powered armor was NOT designed with an erection in mind…..

 

Roland wondered for the twentieth time if maybe he shouldn’t just open the suit and join them.  The Wolf looked as if he were all wore out, and the bear looked a little peaked too.  Kath looked OK, but Wanda seemed to be a boundless source of energy.  It was tempting…….

 

Kath sighed; the Wolf was either asleep or had passed out.  No fun at ALL.  It was then that she noticed the Otter chained between the two stanchions.  He seemed to be awake, in fact he seemed to be staring at her with enormously wide eyes.  And there was a very interesting bulge in his pants.  Pants.  What was he doing wearing pants at a time like this?  Grinning, the Mink proceeded to crawl across the cargo bay floor, with the most predatory of looks on her face.

 

Hinoki checked the suit seals, and the respirator, and taking a deep breath, hit the switch for the door.  As the personnel lock for the cargo bay opened, he looked through, as if the occupants were out for his blood.   Wanda and the Bear were still moving, albeit slowly.  Kath was also moving slowly, riding the Otter’s shaft.  Roland seemed to be asleep inside his suit.  Leaving a bottle of the counter-pheromone spray in the airlock, he gathered his buckets, mops and bottles of solution and stepped through, letting the door close behind him.  The cargo bay was PACKED and it was going to take forever to decontaminate this stuff.….

 

Wanda felt the cool mist on her face, and suddenly all her lust evaporated.  Looking up she saw Hinoki, wearing a cheap, disposable environmental suit looking down at her.  She sighed and shook her head, rising from the Bear.  No words were spoken; she was too tired to think of anything.  Hinoki sprayed her down with the counter-agent, and gestured towards the airlock.  Wanda just nodded and ambled in that direction, in an exhausted manner.  The Bear looked curiously at Hinoki for a moment, but then his eyes fluttered closed.  Moments later, he was snoring.

 

Kath felt the spray, and closed her eyes.  Not yet.  She didn’t WANT to stop…. Well, maybe she did.  As the power of the pheromones released their hold on her, she realized how exhausted she was.  How sticky.  And if she was this bad, surely her Mistress needed a bath too.  Rising, she winked at the Otter, and then grinned at Hinoki, as she headed for the airlock.  First her Mistress, then herself.  Then sleep.  And maybe then, something to eat.  As she palmed the airlock control, she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d lost any weight with all the exercise she’d gotten?

 

The Otter was full of questions.  Where was he?  Why had the Cheetah done that?  Where’d the Mink go?  Would she be back? 

 

Hinoki let him run down, and then smiled, “Tell you what, Stud; you help out here, and I’ll see about getting the Mink to come back.  As for where you are, and when you’ll be able to get back to the University, well, I’d best let the Captain talk to you about that.” 

 

Hinoki handed him a bucket, a scrub brush, and a big container of the counter-phereomone stuff.  This, of course only brought on more questions.  What were they doing?  Why were they doing it?  Surely there must be a more efficient way…?  We have to clean EVERYTHING?  Hinoki just sighed.

 

Roland’s eyes snapped open as he felt something hit the suit.  For a moment he thought that Wanda and the Bear had rolled into him, but then he realized it was something else.  It took a minute to realize the distortion on his faceplate was Hinoki spraying something over it.  Then it became clear, as the Cheetah in an environmental suit, and a naked otter wiped his suit down.

 

Hinoki wondered if they’d done a good enough job.  If Roland ever disassembled something, got into some nook or cranny, doing suit maintenance, would he hit some of the pheromone and become horribly horny?  Was it that persistent?  Grinning the Cheetah almost went looking for some of the extract, to set up just such a prank, but in the end he decided it might be risky.  Waving to the Badger, he mimicked opening a helmet.  Roland stood, locked the suit’s joints and popped the back hatch.  It took him a moment to extract himself.  The smell of the pheromones was still in the air, and he found himself once again getting an erection.  Scowling at Hinoki, who seemed delighted at the fact, he shook his head, and headed for the airlock before anything might happen. 

 

Hinoki just laughed.

 

Tanj yawned  and shook her head; she really should go and get some sleep, get one of the others to watch the flight deck for a bit.  It was just too much FUN, though…  As her Father had been so fond of saying, “The most fun I’ve had with my clothes on, in a LONG time….”  The comm channels were just FULL of the recent events, getting more and more distorted with each telling.  A freighter Captain out of Hypolus was relating how his sister had been on Nikkeldepain, and how she and her family had fought off ravening hordes of pirates, at their agricultural station on the Southern Continent.  A Hampton militia Communications officer talked about how their ancient battleship had so well acquitted itself during the battle, taking out a good half dozen pirate craft.  And everywhere furrs were professing fear over a weapon that could leave a ship powerless, its crew unconscious, helpless  against the marauders.  Most were screaming for Imperial protection, and even more were screaming for the immediate destruction of the Crimson Corsairs (Although how this was going to be accomplished, given their new-found weapon was never discussed).  As she flipped channels, sampling all the traffic, she watched carefully for the least sign that they knew who was REALLY behind it all…..

 

Hinoki watched the Bear carefully.  He’d been a little large for their usual restraints, and he’d had to improvise.  The wolf had been a lot easier to handle, and was securely restrained using some of their favorite toys….  One of the Bear’s rather large ankles was now shackled to one of the cargo restraints, the metal cuff looking shiny, new, and cruel.  He had no idea how the large ursine was going to respond when he awoke… and no idea at all how they were going to handle getting him to the bathroom…  If he decided to go berserk, he could cause a lot of damage….

 

The Otter scrubbed the outside of a shipping container, watching the Cheetah.  For the life of him he couldn’t figure out what he was doing here.  The last thing he remembered was… the Department Head’s face melting, and then someone slugging him hard.  Had he REALLY set fire to his office?  Was this all a bad dream?  And if it was a dream, how could he get back to the part with the Mink?  Why were those guys being tied up, and he was still free?  It just didn’t make sense….

 

Tanj yawned, and took another sip of her coffee.  Palming the switch for the airlock, she stuck her muzzle through the doorway and sniffed.  Sashi’s scent was unmistakable, but not overpowering.  Smiling she strode through the doorway.  Both the Otter and Hinoki looked up from where they were washing down containers.  The Bear was still soundly snoring logs, but the Wolf’s eyes flickered open.

 

Hinoki watched the Otter stiffen; it was obvious he recognized Tanj.  Putting down his scrub brush he settled back to watch.

 

Tanj took another sip of her coffee as she calmly regarded the Otter. 

 

“Mr. Dryden, I wonder if I might have a word with you.” 

 

The Otter blinked; “you… know who I am?” 

 

Tanj smiled; “I do.  I’ve been listening in to the broadcasts from Nikkeldepain, and your name has been mentioned several times.” 

 

The Otter seemed to go a little pale; “Um… how’s that?” 

 

Tanj took another sip of her coffee and smiled; “Oh, just a little something about burning down the Spatial Anomolies Center at the Nikkeldepain University.  It seems there was a security camera in the Director’s office.  They had some good footage of you yelling at him, and then setting his desk on fire.  With the power out, with utilities disrupted, there was nothing to stop the blaze.” 

 

The Otter swallowed hard. 

 

Tanj continued, still smiling. “At least they were able to evacuate the building; no lives were lost.  However the Director was on a news broadcast claiming that you’d destroyed decades of research.  He looked most distraught.” 

 

The Otter opened his mouth, as if to say something, but nothing came out. One paw waved in an enigmatic gesture…  In all, he looked devastated.

 

Tanj smiled, “I’d say it was lucky for you we came along.  If we hadn’t, you would probably be in jail right now, or worse.  And all that information might have been lost.” 

 

All of a sudden the Otter’s demeanor changed, a frown forming on his face.

 

“Its… how could it not be?” 

 

Tanj’s grin widened. “Simple.  Before the fire consumed everything, I stole it.  And, I suppose you could say, I stole you too.  From what little I’ve read, from what little I understand, most of the data would be useless without you.”

 

The Otter straightened; “You know.” 

 

Tanj shrugged; “I do now.  I know the Director was stealing your work.  Keeping you from graduating, so that you could further HIS career.  And now that you’re gone, he will have a hard time maintaining his, ah, academic status.”

 

Tanj took a seat on one of the shipping containers.  “I think we can find a way to set things right…. For a price.” 

 

The Otter’s frown deepend. 

 

“I have an… associate who is in a similar line of research.  He could use a brilliant young assistant.  He could get you your degree.  AND I think he could probably even teach you a thing or three.” 

 

The Otter nodded slowly; “and the price?” 

 

Tanj shrugged; “I need someone with a solid head on their shoulders to keep his research pointed in the direction I need it pointed in.  I need someone to keep him out of trouble.  To see that he remembers to eat once in a while, and to pay his bills.  In return, I’ll set you up with a new identity, and a modest allowance.  And a research budget.” 

 

The Otter nodded slowly; “and what is this research project you want to fund?  If its too far from my area of expertise, well, I probably wouldn’t be interested…. Or useful.” 

 

Tanj chuckled; “Did you hear of what happened in the Elysium system?” 

 

The Otter looked skeptical; “They SAY that Pirates destroyed the planet… but I’ve heard there was no detritus.  The Director didn’t want to work on it, didn’t even want to look into it, but I thought there were some very unusual observances in conjunction with that event.  Why the Nadion emissions from that sector alone…”

 

Tanj waved a paw, cutting him off; “I have reason to believe that it was an artificial event.  That the planet was not destroyed, but merely sent… elsewhere.  I want to reverse the process and bring them home.  Or at least to be able to go there.” 

 

The Otter shook his head; “Geez, lady, do you have ANY idea what you’re talking about?  If what you suggest actually happened, someone opened a dimensional portal, or an artificial wormhole, things that are only theory, and pretty shaky ones at that!  And you want to build a transportation device?” 

 

Tanj shrugged; “Hey, its my money.  You in or out?”

 

The Otter opened his mouth and then closed it again.  After a moment his gaze narrowed; “and who’s this associate of yours that’s ramrodding the project?” 

 

Tanj smiled and shrugged; “Professor Corey.”

 

“THAT CRACKPOT?  Heck, he got thrown out of the Imperial Institute of Science!  His theories have been debunked all across the quadrant!  What makes you think that HE of all furrs could come up with THIS?” 

 

Tanj slid off her seat; “He’s the one who invented the weapon that let the pirates raid not just the periphery of the Nikkeldepain system, but assault the planet’s largest city itself!  Could YOU have designed that weapon?” 

 

The Otter came up short, and blinked; “HE did that?  Um….. well….” 

 

Tanj chuckled; “yeah, most of the engineers around here can’t even figure out why it works, but it does.  He may not be easy to follow, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid.”  The Otter nodded slowly, deep in thought…..  “Maybe….. just maybe it could work….”

 

Hinoki nudged Tanj; “you realize you just told him a bunch of secrets that we REALLY need to keep, don’t you?” 

 

Tanj smiled and kissed the Male on the nose; “Yeah, but remember, he’s a wanted furr; if he tells anyone, he’ll wind up back on Nikkeldepain, facing a Magistrate, and probably accused of collusion with Pirates as well.  Its in his best interests to keep the secret, wouldn’t you say?”

 

Both Hinoki and the Otter nodded slowly….

 

“So what about us?” 

 

Tanj turned to look at the Wolf and Bear. 

 

“You two are legitimate booty taken in a pirate raid.  You get turned over to the committee for value appraisal and, ah, “liquidation”. 

 

The Wolf shook his head as if he couldn’t believe it, but the Bear just groaned; “Man, my wife is gonna KILL me!”

 

Tanj turned back to Hinoki; “So, tell me, what was so valuable that you two had to break away from the raid to go off on your own?” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and padded over to a small bucket on one of the float pallets.  Pulling up the lid he ran his paw through the small, greyish spheres inside.

 

“This was.  Platinum-palladium-rhenium catalyst.  Pound for pound more valuable than gold-pressed latinum, and with no chemical trace elements to aid in its identification.” 

 

Tanj padded over to grab the handle of one of the buckets.  She couldn’t lift it. Looking up at Hinoki she nodded.

 

“Interesting choice.  Are you going to declare it when we get back to the station?”

 

Hinoki smiled; “Of course.  You know they search all the returning ships for crews trying to hold out booty.  I wouldn’t THINK of withholding anything…..” 

 

Tanj looked at him critically and nodded; “Yeah… riiiiiight.”

 

---

 

Kath stuck her head through the cargo bay personnel lock.  The Bear was awake, with a glum look on his face.  The Wolf was sleeping fitfully.  The Otter was pacing, apparently deep in thought.  Deeming it safe, she picked up the tray and padded towards them.

 

The Bear saw her first, his eyes going a little wide.  Apparently he wasn’t served dinner often by a nude female.  Kath grinned back at him, and knelt, lifting a covered plate off her tray and sliding it towards him, careful to keep beyond chain’s length.  The Bear waited until she’d moved back and then eased forward to claim the plate.

 

“Hey, don’t I get a fork?”

 

Kath shrugged; “I’m afraid not; don’t think they trust you with anything that dangerous.” 

 

The Bear chuckled ruefully; “Lady, I’m a security guard, not an astrogator; if I got loose, do you think I could fly this ship home?”

 

Kath shrugged, aware of his gaze, aware of his eyes watching how her breasts moved; “I think they’re just a little afraid of you going on a berserk rampage, or something.  Nothing personal; its just we don’t often deal with folks your size.”

 

The Bear shrugged and nodded; “speaking of which, next time, you might bring me a portion more suited to someone my size…”

 

Kath just laughed.  Moving a few paces, she placed a plate by the still-sleeping Wolf, but didn’t wake him.  Turning, she found herself face to face with Dryden.

 

The Otter had big eyes, and took the proffered plate without looking at it; “you DO exist!”

 

Kath chuckled; “I do; why, did you think I was a dream?”

 

Dryden nodded glumly; “Yeah….  The only time I’ve ever been with someone like you was in my dreams.”

 

Kath chuckled; “I guess Grad Students don’t have much time for a social life.”

 

Dryden nodded, almost tipping his plate; “Yeah…. So…. Who are you?  Are you one of the pirates?”

 

Kath looked left and right, and then leaned closer to stage-whisper in a conspiratorial manner; “Actually I’m with Imperial Intelligence, sent to infiltrate their operation; from my cover as a sex-slave I’m keeping close tabs on their operation!”

 

From the look on the Otter’s face, the Mink just had to laugh.

 

The Bear chuckled; “Sex slave, huh?  So who’s your Mistress?” 

 

Kath looked over her shoulder as she sashayed towards the personnel lock, the now-empty tray in one paw; “Oh, you know her.  The Wolverine lady you were with when, ah, you “arrived” here.”

 

The lock closed behind her, barely missing her tail.

 

The Otter shook his head; “Man, if the pirates get to keep pets like her, SIGN ME UP!”

 

The Bear looked at his plate and shook his head, grinning; “Wonder if…. Naw, I’ve GOT to be too old for a job like that….  Still, it could be REAL interesting to work for a lady like that Wolverine…”

 

---

 

Tanj sipped her coffee, one eye on the Cargo Bay monitor.  Hinoki looked up from the Ops console, and grinned; “Penny for your thoughts.”

 

Tanj blinked; “Huh?”

 

“The look on your face, as you were watching our prisoners.  It was…  Curious.”

 

The Cheetah Fem shrugged; “Oh, just thinking about my time in the academy.  All the time tied up or locked up, with nothing, absolutely nothing to do.  Nothing but think.”

 

Hinoki’s gaze flickered to the monitor.  Slowly he nodded; “Yeah.  We should find something for them to do.  Maybe I should send Sashi down there; she’s been good, and deserves a treat.”

 

Tanj chuckled; “you’d have to decontaminate everything again.”

 

Hinoki winced; “Yeah….  Or maybe not.  Remember those super-stretchy latex panties Wanda came up with?”

 

Tanj just grinned.

 

---

 

The Bear’s eyebrows rose as the chocolate Pantheress came through the personnel lock.  Save for a pair of translucent panties, and a collar, she was nude.  And she was carrying what had to be a giant economy size tube of lubricant….

 

Sashi stopped just out of reach, and grinned; “Hello boys, ready for desert?”

 

---

 

Wanda watched the monitor in the wardroom, and smiled.  Kath’s eyes were locked on the scene displayed there, and it was obvious that she was more than a little envious.  Reaching over, she swatted the Mink on the ass.  Kath’s head jerked around and she let out a little yelp of surprise.  Wanda just grinned.

 

“Go on, get yourself down there, and join in.  But I want to see you handling at least three of them at the same time.  Which three is your choice.  Now scoot!

 

---

 

 

Day 10: Back at Jenka’s Station

 

“Tanj, we’ve got a problem.” 

 

Hinoki’s voice sounded just a little stressed over the speaker. 

 

“Hang on a sec, let me finish the shutdown procedure and I’ll be right there.” 

 

Tanj watched the antimatter reactor slowly power down, until she could cut the antimatter feed, and flush the reaction chamber.  The APUs were slowly winding down as well, the ship shifting to dockside power.  Instinct made her leave one APU idling, with just enough systems on “suspend” that she could get the ship ready to fly in a minimum amount of time.  Maybe she’d been living with Pirates too long…….  Rising from the pilot’s acceleration couch, she paused to fasten the gunbelt around her waist.  The blaster was a military model, definitely NOT safe for use on a space station, but the dagger was serviceable.  Very serviceable.  Chuckling she unbuttoned her vest, and strode towards the cargo bay.

 

Hinoki looked like he was ready to chew sticks, and the rather large Boar had a similar look.  Curiously, her almost bare chest scarcely drew a glance from the Boar.  Oh, well, it didn’t always work…..  And almost everyone in the Black Fleet had seen her in less, much less. 

 

“OK, what’s the problem.  And this had better be good, I’ve got things to do!” 

 

The boar gestured at the Otter; “This guy wasn’t on your ship when you left.  Your boy here insists he’s crew, but he wasn’t on the manifest.  I think he’s booty you’re trying to keep from the rest of us!” 

 

Tanj gave the Boar her best withering glare; “Roland wasn’t on the manifest either when we left; you want to take HIM as booty too?” 

 

The Boar glanced at the Marine and looked away quickly; “Naw, no one would give a plug nickel for HIM.  But this one….” 

 

Tanj sighed; “He’s an intelligence asset we had to extract from Nikkeldepain.  That makes him “Crew”, not booty.  Understand?” 

 

The Boar looked from the Otter to Tanj and back; “What, you expect me to believe HE’S a spy?” 

 

Tanj chuckled; “well if he LOOKED like a spy, he wouldn’t make a very good one, now, would he?”

 

 

The Boar took a moment to digest that and then shook his head; “Naw, guess not.  OK, but I want you to sign here, and here…. And here, that he’s what you claim.” 

 

Tanj took the PADD and signed where indicated.  Even Jenka didn’t know who was or wasn’t one of her operatives; she should be able to get away with it….  But still, it was a risk.

 

After signing the forms, Tanj all but threw the clipboard back at the Boar, and turning, her tail whipping out, strode back through the airlock. 

 

The Otter’s eyes followed her like some sort of tracking radar.  As she vanished he sighed; “Does she always dress like that?” 

 

Hinoki looked up and then shrugged; “naw, usually she wears a lot less…”  the Otter just shook his head in wonderment.

 

Roland watched the proceedings with a dark scowl on his face.  Not so much to try and intimidate the agents of the Black Fleet, but to make sure they didn’t bother him.  He’d distilled all the information from the computers he’d taken from the perfume company to several data crystals, currently residing in his pockets.  It was all he had to give his partner in crime, the raw materials and the perfume itself having been confiscated.  He hoped it would be enough…..

 

The Boar shook his head; “It came from the planet, its booty!”

 

Roland growled; “No way; my weapon was destroyed in combat; a legitimate operating expense, if you will.  I picked up a weapon from the enemy, as a replacement.  That’s ALL there is to it!” 

 

If the Boar was intimidated by the Badger he didn’t show it.  Lifting his PADD, he scrolled through the regulations and covenants.  Finally he lifted his head with a scowl.

 

“OK, I guess you’ve got me there… BUT I want to go through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure you’re not concealing anything there.

 

The Badger just sighed.

 

---

 

Hinoki leaned against the bulkhead.  It’d taken three tries to explain to the “accountants” that the grey pellets were immensely valuable.  They’d seemed awful skeptical.  It wasn’t until he offered to just KEEP them, if they didn’t think they were worth anything that they started to see things his way….

 

Still, it should keep them happy.  And with luck, keep them from searching the ship.  He’d emptied all the activated charcoal out of the air recycling system and refilled it with the much MUCH more valuable catalyst.  It was a good thing they had lots of spare activated charcoal in stock, just in case the ship had to leave in a hurry; otherwise things would get rather smelly in short order……

 

---

 

Ignoring all the others, Tanj stalked to the head of the table, to give the Jaguar a tight hug and a kiss hello. 

 

Jenka smiled and raised an eyebrow; “Did my pet miss me?” 

 

Tanj laughed and nodded; “of course.  All work and no play, and that kinda thing.” 

 

Looking down she grinned at the Vixen, nude, and chained at Jenka’s feet; “Besides, I wouldn’t want you to forget about me….” 

 

It was obvious that Zassa didn’t even know she was there, a very tight, and obviously well padded leather hood over her head. 

 

Jenka just laughed and waved towards a vacant chair to her left; “OK, folks, lets get the meeting going; we’ve all got things to do.”

 

Ops started off the meeting, the Tasmanian Devil grinning widely; “from an Operations point of view, the mission went well.  We got in, mostly on schedule, and neutralized the majority of the defenses.  Yes, some ships escaped, but they weren’t deemed of significant financial value.  Yes, that caused some problems with militia ships from the neighboring systems returning, but again, that didn’t cause significant problems.  There was some fighting on the ground, the Nikkeldepain Militia responding quicker than anticipated, but again, that was handled, and losses were acceptable, and well within projections.  Extraction and withdrawal was a little confused, but again, we’re not used to executing such large and complex plans, so, again, it was well within projections.”

 

Maintenance gave a report on battle damage, expendables consumption, and repair estimates.  Those with shares in the various ships listened closely, but it was obvious that the attention of others was drifting.  To counter this, Jenka pulled the plug gag from the vixen’s hood, leaving a hollow ring of rubber-coated metal holding her jaws apart, and sent her under the table. 

 

Tanj grinned as she watched, having been in that position many a time.

 

Accounting went next, and everyone’s attention turned that way.  The Beaver had a sour look on his face. 

 

“Well, from our point of view, things didn’t go as well as they could have.  Yes, we took an immense haul of booty, but the initial assessment is that we’ll have to dribble it out to the fences; if we dump it all at the same time we’ll get pennies on the credit.  Can’t flood the market, you know.  And our expenses were high.  The cost of those leach-weapons alone was astronomical, and its thought that we’ll have to write them off, as using them again will advertise our involvement in this raid.  Our ships burned an incredible amount of antimatter towing all the prize ships back.  There will be considerable expense involved in disguising those ships so they can be safely sold, too.  Slaves taken will have to be held until the furor dies down, and then sold a LONG way from here, possibly even brainwashed, so word doesn’t get back as to who pulled off this raid.  And you know how expensive that can be.  Right now, we’re projecting that we’ll see about a two percent return on our investment.”

 

Groans echoed around the table, but Tanj just laughed.  As she’d intended all eyes turned towards her.

 

“I think there are a couple of things that you haven’t factored into the equation.  There are some additional money-making opportunities that you just haven’t thought of yet.”

 

After a moment Jenka nodded encouragingly, “Do go on…”

 

Tanj leaned forward, elbows on the table, grinning, “I’ve been listening to the comm chatter. The commercial shipping industry is in a full blown panic.  They think that any ship can be taken without a fight with this weapon.  They’re demanding the Empire set up a convoy system, but even then, the critics are saying that’ll just group the ships for an easy take-down.  Now we all know, the Empire isn’t going to sit still.  AND we all know that our weapon isn’t perfect.  So what I’m proposing is that we set up a dummy corporation to market “countervails” for the weapon.  If we do it right, if we make sure we’re low bidder, we can even become a defense contractor to the Empire itself!  AND we make sure that every countervail has a small chip in it that’ll let US turn it off, if need be.  And we can do our own advertising.  Take one of the captured ships, let its “Captain” talk about how he bought this gizmo that was advertised to stop the weapon cold, and how he was jumped by pirates, and was able to beat’em off!  If we do it with witnesses, our sales should skyrocket.  THAT is where the REAL money is to be made!”

 

Jenka looked at Engineering, “Can we design such a device?” 

 

The Lynx thought for a moment and then bobbed his head, “Yeah.  Screwing up the weapon just takes the right magnetic field.  That’s no problem; we’ve already got a bunch of ‘em on our own ships.  As for the chip that’ll take a coded signal, and NOT easily be found, but, yeah, I think we can do that too….” 

 

The Beaver stared at the Engineer, “And the unit cost?” 

 

The Engineer chuckled, “Probably about 4,000 credits apiece, if the ship provides the right power…” 

 

Across the table a Giraffe surged to his feet, to tower over the Lynx,  “FOUR THOUSAND?  You BASTARD!  You charged me ten times that for MY SHIP!” 

 

The Lynx came to his feet too, “Hey, I’ve got my own profit center to worry about!  If you….”

 

The blaster bolt brought paint flakes down from the ceiling, and drew EVERYONE’s attention.  Jenka was standing at the head of the table, the smoking weapon in her paw. 

 

“Quiet down.  I think it’s a good idea, and we’ll probably sell the devices for far more than ten times their cost.  Efforts should also be made to prevent reverse engineering.  Engineering will start on the design immediately.  Tanj, you’re operation will set up a cover identity and found the corporation.  Accounting will oversee the operation.  ALLRIGHT?”

 

After a moment of scanning faces, the Jaguar turned back to Tanj, “and your other idea?” 

 

Tanj leaned back in her chair and grinned; “we write a book.”

 

“huh?” seemed to be the predominant response, and Tanj’s grin just grew. 

 

“Simple.  There are a thousand stories floating around out there.  We write the version WE want put out there, and sell a book.  Everyone will have heard something, and you can bet it’ll be a best-seller.” 

 

Leaning forward she fixed Accounting with a steely glare, “Think about it.  Thousands of systems in the Empire.  Trillions of folks.  If one person in a thousand buys the book, we’ll sell billions.  At ten credits profit per book, what’s the take?  And then there are the holo rights….  AND we can use it as a vehicle to make sure any investigations are.. misdirected.” 

 

The Beaver looked up from his PADD, and shook his head; “I’d never thought of that.  You’re right.  The profits could be staggering.” 

 

Jenka smiled, “Tanj, I’ll leave it to you to find a ghost writer.  Ops, and Accounting will be kept in the loop, and I’ll want editorial review.” 

 

Tanj just grinned and nodded.

 

As the meeting was breaking up, Jenka tapped Tanj on the shoulder, “I’m planning a little “reward” for our pirate queen here” she said, gesturing to the Vixen.  Tell Hinoki I’d like to borrow Sashi tonight.  Oh, and I’d like you there too.”

 

Tanj grinned, “Of course, Mistress.  But I don’t think Hinoki will be there; he did something naughty, and I’ve got a “punishment” planned for him tonight.” 

 

Jenka just laughed, “Maybe you should make it a public punishment.  Bring him too, if you would.”

 

---

 

The Otteress frowned as she scanned the contents of the data crystal; “its in code.  And it’s the kind of code where you need the key to make any sense of it.  With a single instance, it might be unbreakable.” 

 

Roland chuckled; “Ah, but I have a second instance.”

 

Producing another data crystal and handing it to her he smiled, “This is their inventory, for the day of the  raid.  You should be able to match things up with that.  For instance, they talk of adding twenty parts of compound E.. that could be the eucalyptus oil…. Or it could be the para… paradichlor…. Whatever.  It gives you a chance to match things up.  And the relative proportions in the formula might just match the relative volumes in raw materials inventory.  And if that doesn’t work, there’s always that captive I brought back….”

 

The Otteress nodded slowly; “It might work…..  But I still think I got the worst part of the deal!” 

 

Roland shrugged; “I can’t help it if the perfume I got you was seized as booty!  Maybe you can use your shares to buy some of the stuff and experiment.” 

 

The Otteress nodded slowly, “Maybe… depends on what value they attach to it.” 

 

Looking up she gazed at the Badger, “if its too high, I might just have to take the balance out of your hide….” 

 

Roland realized she was gazing at his crotch, and shuddered.  What exactly had she meant by that?  Maybe he didn’t want to know. 

 

“Well, thanks, pleasure doing business with you, gotta run!”

 

---

 

“Roland!” 

 

The Badger stopped in mid-stride, turning to see Wanda, wearing a medical jacket coming towards her.

 

“Wanted to talk to you.” 

 

Roland nodded, a little cautiously. 

 

“Kath and I have been talking, and we feel, well, that we owe you for the rescue back on Nikkeldepain.” 

 

The Badger blinked; it wasn’t quite what he’d been expecting.

 

“Um, no problem.  Glad to be of service.” 

 

Wanda smiled; “We thought a little more than a simple “thank you” might be in order…. If you’d care to stop by the ship this evening, we’ll show you what we’ve got in mind…” 

 

Roland blinked again and then grinned; “Why I’d be glad to…..”

 

---

 

Hinoki sighed; “well, if you say I must, I guess…..” 

 

He was putting on a humble appearance for the stern looking Tanj who was insisting he be punished for leading her crew off on a risky venture when they should have stayed with the ship, but secretly he was delighted.  He knew Tanj well, and anything that SHE came up with for punishment was probably going to be more fun than bother. 

 

He tried hard to keep from smiling…….

 

---

 

The commons area was full of furrs, with more pushing in every minute.  Tanj led Hinoki and Sashi at the end of a pair of leashes, looking for Jenka.  It wasn’t difficult to spot her, John, the Stallion towering above the crowd. 

 

The “tank” from Hinoki’s shop had been moved to the center of the area and now rested on a small, raised platform.  Video monitors showed the interior of the tank from almost every angle, and holocameras were poised, obviously to create a memorable record of the events.  Inside the tank, Chris was just unclipping the leash from a rather tightly bound Zassa. 

 

Tanj led the pair over to Jenka; she’d arranged a recliner in an ideal position for viewing the contents of the “tank”, and was sprawled in it, talking to one of her lieutenants. 

 

As Tanj came up, she grinned; “Take Sashi to join Zassa; Chris knows what to do.” 

 

Nodding, Tanj pointed to the floor by Jenka and Hinoki obediently knelt.  Pausing to put down the parcel she carried, Tanj then led the chocolate pantheress up the steps and into the enclosure.

 

---

 

“Hello, Chris.” 

 

“Heya, Tanj; you here to join the fun, or just drop off Sashi?” 

 

The Cheetah shrugged; “Dunno; Mistress didn’t say anything about it.” 

 

Chris chuckled; “well, if she didn’t have any instructions, you’d best rejoin her.  I think this show’s all for Zassa’s benefit.” 

 

Tanj grinned, paused to kiss Zassa, and then Sashi, and with a “have fun, girls, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do”, she padded from the enclosure.

 

Zassa smiled to herself, holding a proper slave’s kneeling posture, watching from the corner of her eyes.  Yes, she’d thoroughly enjoyed her role as the Pirate Queen in their little fiction.  Yes, she’d done everything she could to push Jenka’s buttons.  And now the hoped-for “reward” was about to be hers.  Curiously, she wasn’t bound or restrained in any way.  And that was both good, and bad….  She wondered if she could overpower the Pantheress, and tie her up, or if things would go the other way.  Either way was fine by her…..

 

Sashi peeled the tight latex panties off, and tossed them in a corner, following Chris’ instructions.  The Fox had prudently left the enclosure moments before.  Kneeling in a similar posture, facing the Vixen, she smiled to herself and just waited.  It was going to be a fun evening.

 

Chris dogged the door shut, and checked the telltales.  The enclosure was under a slight negative pressure.  Looking over at Jenka, he waited for her sign.

 

Tanj knelt by the Jaguar, watching Chris set up the “tank”.  Her gaze wandered over the numerous toys that had been left scattered around the floor of the clear plastic box.  If she was in there, which one would she go for first?  It was an interesting question.

 

Clancey elbowed the Zebra; “well, what do you think?  Think the Vixen will go the distance?” 

 

The Zebra shook her head; “naw, she’ll be wore out in one, maybe two hours.” 

 

Clancey chuckled and shook his head; “No, I think the Vixen will have the Pantheress tied up and will still be going strong at the end of two hours.” 

 

The Zebra looked askance at the Rabbit; “Oh yeah?  Wanna bet?”  Clancey just smiled.

 

Jenka looked at the two fems in the Tank and smiled.  Her crew was going to enjoy this.  John had said the betting was already running to almost record levels, the pirates all flush with the booty from the raid.  And she had her bets down too, bets carefully calculated from what she knew of Zassa, and Sashi.  Chuckling she gave Chris the sign.

 

Chris stabbed at a button and listened to the pump whine to life.  Inside the cage a spray of the pantheress’ pheromones bathed the two fems.  And mixed in with the pheromones were compounds to significantly increase their endurance…..  Moving back to sit by Jenka, the Fox watched with interest.  He had his own bets placed….

 

Zassa felt the mist, and inhaled deeply.  She was already aroused; how could the situation NOT excite her?  Seeing the Pantheress start to move, she lunged to the side, scooped up a double ended dong of heroic proportions and then launched herself at her “prey”.

 

Tanj smiled as Zassa and Sashi grappled in Love’s sweet embrace.  It took them but an instant to wind up in the classic “69”, but Zassa was definitely ahead on points, working the end of the Double-dong into the Pantheress’ bottom as her tongue attacked her sweet sex.  The effect was not lost on Sashi, but there weren’t any suitable toys on hand, so she had to just content herself with using her tongue on the Vixen’s snatch…..

 

Hinoki smiled to himself and wondered if his punishment was to be thrown into the tank with those two… “Oh, PLEASE, Br’er Fox, don’t throw me into the Briar Patch” he chuckled to himself…..

 

Tanj squirmed as she knelt; she could just imagine what it would be like to be in there, to feel Sashi’s tongue or Zassa’s tongue on her pussy……  Stifling a groan she reached out for the parcel she’d brought, opening the box and unwrapping its contents.

 

Hinoki had trouble maintaining a neutral expression as Tanj unwrapped the device.  It was gorgeous.  It was obviously a butt-plug of epic proportions.  From a rounded tip of modest diameter, it tapered slowly to a wide point, and then narrowed sharply to a short ridged tube of bright metal, before flaring out into a round disk-shaped base.  Tanj caught him staring at it and reached down to flick a switch in its base.  Hinoki all but gasped as the thing surged into motion.  He could hear its powerful vibrations from where he knelt.  Its tip had tilted to about a thirty degree angle and was moving around in a slow sweeping motion, as if it were a finger trying to stir his insides.  The bulge, the wide point of the device was moving, surging up and down along its length, obviously designed to massage his prostate.  It looked like a most marvelous toy.

 

Tanj smiled and pointed to the floor in front of Jenka; “Kneel there, knees wide apart, shoulders on the floor.” 

 

Hinoki scrambled to obey.  Tanj turned the device off, and picking up a tube of superlube, lubricated the device well.  Presenting its blunt tip to the male’s anus she pushed gently.  Initially it slipped in easily, but as the width grew, the resistance mounted….

 

Hinoki groaned as he felt it stretch him.  It probably wouldn’t be the biggest thing he’d ever taken back there, the Stallion’s shaft probably exceeding it in length and girth, but it was going to be close.  Doing what he could to relax, he groaned softly as Tanj slowly, but inexorably worked it into his butt.  And with every second that passed, his erection grew.

 

Tanj took her time, letting him get used to her stretching him.  Finally the widest portion slipped through his ass, the pressure of his own muscles forcing the device the rest of the way into him, until only a short length of the silver tube, and the disk at the base was visible.  Taking a thong, she tied the tip of his tail to the back of his collar, and then, without ceremony, she reached down and turned it on.

 

Hinoki’s groan escaped him as the monster vibrated to life inside him.  It felt as if it was literally making him shake.  When the “finger” at its tip started stroking his insides, he thought he’d cum almost immediately, but when the bulge started moving, he knew he was in deep trouble.  While the bulge was moving up and down along the midsection of the device, it was a wide enough bulge that as it moved, it also dragged the ridged tube in and out of his ass, making it feel as if someone was taking him there.  The combination all contrived to make him loose his load almost immediately.

 

Clancey looked from the Cheetah to his chrono and sighed.  Tanj had been right; Hinoki had cum within a minute of her turning it on.  Damn, fifty credits lost!  But maybe he could make it back… 

 

Grinning, he nudged a Puma standing nearby, and pointing to the Cheetah, he chuckled; “That must be some toy she just stuffed up his butt…..  I wonder how long it’ll be before it makes him cum again?”

 

Zassa groaned, her nose full of the Pantheress’ pheromones.  The double-dong, still buried in Sashi’s bottom, moved slowly, but the Vixen’s tongue moved rapidly, flicking over her clitty as she did her best to take Sashi to yet another climax.  Lost in a haze of lust, she moaned softly, as her own passions flared, her own umteenth climax bubbling rapidly towards the surface.

 

Jenka watched Hinoki with amazement; the device was literally fucking his ass, fucking him hard!  He’d cum once, and looked as if he was close again.  Then Tanj reached down and flicked a second switch on the base of the rapidly moving toy.

 

Hinoki’s howl turned heads all through the commons area.  The sudden series of short, sharp electrical shocks had taken him immediately to his second orgasm of the night.  Now he knew why the narrow portion of the toy was metallic; it was a conductor!  Panting hard as another trio of short, sharp shocks arced through his body, he felt the familiar feelings start to build again.  Oh, was he going to be sore by the morning!

 

Clancey chuckled as the Puma handed him a small stack of credits; Hinoki had beaten even his optimistic estimate…..

 

Jenka chuckled, and reached out with a foot to push on the base of the toy; “Hinoki, stand up, so that everyone can watch you enjoy that marvelous device.  Paws at the back of your head, legs spread.”

 

Tanj smiled as she watched.  Hinoki was enjoying it now, but what about in an hour?  How many orgasms could she wring from him before it wasn’t so much fun?  Well, it WAS supposed to be punishment, wasn't it?

 

---

 

Roland followed Wanda into the Cargo bay.  The pads had been spread out on the floor, and in the middle, nude aside from her collar, knelt Kath.  Next to her was a chair from the wardroom. 

 

Roland paused and raised an eyebrow at the Wolverine Lass.  “And what about you?  If she was bad, and deserves  a spanking for getting herself into a situation from which she needed rescuing, then don’t you deserve one as well?” 

 

Wanda looked dumbfounded, and her mouth opened and closed without a sound coming out.  After a moment she gave a little shrug and a half smile; “The logic is…. Inescapable.” 

 

Pulling her shift over her head, she padded over to the mat, to kneel by Kath’s side.

 

Kath’s whisper was almost inaudible, her lips barely moving; “Trust me, Mistress, you’re going to love it……”

 

---

 

Zassa howled at the top of her lungs; somehow Sashi had reversed things on her.  Pinning her down with one large paw in the middle of her stomach, Sashi had worked first three, and then four fingers into her pussy, and then had managed to work her entire hand into her tight sex.  The Pantheress had formed a fist and was now moving her paw back and forth, driving the Vixen to climax after climax after climax, and there didn’t seem to be any way to escape, any way to get a finger or a tongue on Sashi.  Every time she tried to squirm away, the Pantheress would drive that fist hard up into her, sending her to another mind-shattering climax…..

 

Clancey frowned; the Chocolate Pantheress seemed to have it over the Vixen. That wasn’t the way Tanj had suggested he bet.  For a moment he wondered if he should try and get more money down while it appeared the Vixen was “loosing”…. But what if she really did “loose”?

 

Zassa did her best to uncross her eyes after yet another mind-blowing climax.  Panting she instinctively pushed back against the Pantheress, driving her back an inch.  Hmmm.  Maybe that was it.  Bit by bit Zassa humped back against Sashi’s fist, slowly driving her back into a corner of the cage.  Bending herself almost double, lifting her hips up into the air, Zassa reached down along her body until she could touch the Pantheress.

 

Clancy watched in amazement as the flame-hued Vixen slowly drove the Pantheress back until she was wedged in a corner, with the Vixen almost standing on her hands…. Well, one hand anyways; the other one was out of sight, but from the look on the Pantheress, still working her paw, now moving almost vertically up and down into the Vixen’s snatch, the missing paw was probably between HER legs…. Maybe he SHOULD have gotten another bet down.

 

Sashi moaned and as her climax claimed her, collapsed, almost falling on the Vixen.  Once again, they were back in the “69” position, but now the Vixen’s paw was driving its way into HER pussy.  Gasping, she tried to coordinate, tried to regain the initiative, but it was just TOO nice, and once again her world dissolved in a million bright points of pleasure as the Vixen brought her to yet another climax.

 

---

 

Roland smiled and sat on the chair.  Gesturing to Kath he beamed; “Lets show her how its done, shall we, Slave?” 

 

Kath grinned and flowed from her kneeling position, to place herself across his lap, her bottom correctly positioned.  Roland caressed the globes of her ass softly, taking his time, letting her relax, until the time was right…..

 

Kath purrrrred, resisting the temptation to wiggle her bottom.  His fingers were within a fraction of an inch of her hungry sex, but he wasn’t quite touching it, and hadn’t in the last few caresses through that area.  She was tempted to push things, to rush them, but she knew that wasn’t her place.  Biting her lower lip she stifled a moan, knowing that it would all come in its own time.

 

Wanda watched Roland, watched Kath.  He was taking his time, and she could tell that the fires were starting to burn, that her pet was getting aroused…. Quietly she made a bet with herself as to when the Badger would strike…..

 

---

 

Hinoki tried to focus on the events in the tank, tried to pick a face out of the crowd, to look at it, anything other than to be stuck with the sensations coursing through his body.  The shocks had stopped for the moment, but he knew they’d be back.  The device must have its own internal reservoir of lube as its continued frenzied motions had not yet gotten uncomfortable.  And neither had they gotten any less simulating.  So far he’d cum four times, and he knew that as soon as the little electric shocks started again, he’d probably wind up loosing it again… that is if there was anything left in his poor aching balls to give up…  There was a circle of onlookers around him now, those that found his little scene of greater interest than the one being put on by Sashi and Zassa.  He could hear them commenting, hear the wagers.  It was both horribly exciting and horribly embarrassing all at the same time….  And he found that he loved it.  If this was what misbehaving led to, he’d have to think of some other trouble to get into…..

 

Tanj took a sip from her Mistress’ offered cup, and smiled. To her slight surprise, Jenka was merely having her kneel by her chair.  She hadn’t even been ordered to strip.  Around the room, those less inhibited were also loosing themselves in the pleasures of the flesh, spurred on by the sights and sounds.  But here she knelt, so far untouched.  Quietly she began to plot her own release.  For later…..  And assuming Jenka didn’t actually have anything planned for her……

 

Clancy shook his head in wonder.  Somehow the pair in the tank had wound up on paws and knees, facing away from each other; however, each was connected to the other by two double-dongs, one from one asshole to the other, and a larger one from one pussy to the other.  And now they seemed to be trying to drive the other to the far end of the enclosure, each humping violently against the other.  It was a sight to see.  And he had NO idea who was ahead on points…..

 

---

 

Kath gasped as the palm crashed down on her ass again.  She’d been on the very verge of a beautiful climax when the Badger’s fingers disappeared.  Panting, unable to hold still, she moaned as his fingers once again grazed over her sex.

 

---

 

Sashi yelped as strong paws grasped her; that last climax had been SOOOOO nice, but soooo distracting.  Now the Vixen had her in some sort of arm lock, and was slipping the noose at the end of a thong around her thumb…..

 

Tanj chuckled as Zassa worked at tying down the Chocolate Pantheress.  There’d been a number of restraints placed in the enclosure, along with other toys, but there hadn’t been any locks, and there was definitely a shortage of fasteners.  The idea was that with determination, one could escape their bondage.  However, the Vixen was being amazingly inventive.  Tanj wasn’t sure Sashi was going to be able to escape.

 

Hinoki groaned as the devilish device in his ass brought him to another orgasm.  He’d lost count.  The floor in front of him was a mess; someone had fetched one of those orange plastic cones that said “warning; wet floor” in a dozen languages, and set it in front of him as a joke.  Now it too was splattered with his jism.  With his knees wobbling, the Cheetah wondered how long he could hang on….

 

---

 

Kath squirmed and panted; the distinction between the Badger’s stroking fingers and the crash of his hand against her throbbing, burning ass was all starting to blurr.  She was SOOO close to her release, and yet every time she got close, the Badger would stop stroking her and give her a few more swats.  It was maddening and delightful, frustrating and horribly erotic all at the same time…  Panting she tried to concentrate on the pleasurable feelings, trying to will herself to her climax….

 

---

 

Sashi groaned as Zassa twisted the knobbed vibrator in her pussy.  Her ass had been stretched and held not one, but two vibrating little devils; her whole body seemed to be shaking, resonating at a frequency that only drove her deeper into her lusts.  As the Vixen’s finger touched her clitty, her world once again dissolved into a shower of white-hot sparks, yet another uncounted climax coursing through her.

 

Clancey chuckled and made a note on his PADD.  The Vixen was definitely ahead on points.  Turning he looked at the Cheetah, still standing where he’d been told, but obviously close to collapse.  It didn’t matter, Clancey had already won his bet, doubled and redoubled, as the Cheetah went on and on and on….  Impressive, that one was.

 

---

 

Kath howled at the top of her lungs, her world dissolving as the Badger brought his paw down on her ass.  The count of “50” never registered on her, as the long awaited release coursed through her.  Chuckling, Roland stroked her dripping sex as she rode the waves of pleasure.  Once again, he’d timed it perfectly.

 

Wanda watched, trying to keep the skepticism off her face.  Something like that might be all well and good for Kath, but surely she couldn’t get off on something like that… could she?  Never the less, for the benefit of her pet, a spanking like that might be a good thing to learn how to do…..  And experiencing it would help her know how to administer one.  Wouldn’t it?  In any event, she wasn’t about to back out now….

 

Tanj rose and tapped Hinoki on the shoulder; “I think its time you laid down; you’re looking a little tired.”

 

The Cheetah nodded, moving carefully to a kneeling position, and then stretching out face down on the floor.  The toy was still moving in his ass, and occasionally the Cheetah would grunt.  Tanj reached down to turn off the “electrical stimulus” function, letting it continue to vibrate, continue to move.  Settling back at Jenka’s feet she turned her attention back to the enclosure.  Somehow, Sashi had gotten loose; it looked as if in the throes of one of her climaxes she’d actually broken a restraint.  Now she’d pounced the Vixen, and turned the tables on her.  Zassa’s paws were tied together,  with her ankles tied to either side of her paws, and a line running from between her paws to her collar; it kept her doubled up quite nicely.  And now the Chocolate Pantheress was tormenting the Vixen, alternating a number of vibrators with a vigorous if unpredictable spanking.  It played right to Zassa’s strong suit, combining pain with pleasure.  The effects were clearly seen, as the Vixen shuddered through climax after climax.

 

Clancey felt the nudge and heard the whisper.  Turning, he grinned at the Baboon; “No takers.  I think the Vixen’s had it.  She’ll pass out soon.” 

 

As the Baboon turned away, looking for someone else to take his bet, Clancey checked his PADD.  In about three minutes, the way things were going, the Pantheress would be ahead on “points”.  That would cost him several of his bets.  However, the Vixen had lasted much longer than estimated, and that would win him several other bets.  All told, he’d break even on this one.  Didn’t matter, he’d made money on the Cheetah, and it’d been one HELL of a show!

 

Tanj watched the Male Cheetah’s chest rise and fall, and then reached out and switched off the toy.  He was either asleep, or otherwise out of it.  Smiling, she settled back agaisnt Jenka’s chair; it’d been a good show, but enough was enough….

 

---

 

Roland smiled and gave the Mink a friendly swat on what must have been a rather sensitive bottom; “I think your punishment is at an end.  And now its your Mistress’ turn.”

 

Kath giggled, still breathing a little heavily, and slithered off the Badger’s lap, returning to her original position.  Wanda could tell from the way she moved carefully that her bottom must be quite tender.  Straightening a little, she glanced at the Badger, just in time to see him crook a finger in her direction.  With a sigh, she did her best to repeat the Mink’s performance, crawling to his lap in what she hoped was an enticing and sensual manner…..

 

---

 

Chris checked the telltales and then ran a diagnostic and checked them again.  Turning to face the crowd he raised both paws high; “Ladieeeees and Gentlefurrs, we HAVE a winner!  Zassa has succumbed, and is out cold!  Sashi wins!” 

 

As the crowd roared, Chris turned and palmed the switch that would fill the interior of the chamber with a fine mist of the anti-pheromone agent, followed by a brisk decontamination shower.

 

Sashi sighed as the mist descended.  They’d let her go longer than she’d ever expected them to, but it still wasn’t enough.  Close, but not enough…   Bending over, she gave the sleeping Vixen a kiss, and then settled back to wait to be released.

 

Jenka looked at the still form of the Cheetah male; turning to John she gestured at Hinoki; “Best take him and put him to bed.  Make sure he’s comfortable.  Then see if Chris needs any help striking the set, and putting Sashi to bed.  We’ll see you in the morning.” 

 

Leaning down, she snapped a leash to Tanj’s collar and with a light pull, brought her to her feet.  Grinning, the Jaguar chuckled; “We…. Have things to attend to in my quarters, don’t we, Pet?” 

 

Tanj laughed and nodded.

 

---

 

Wanda let out a small yelp as the paw crashed down on her tender bottom.  The Badger was being maddeningly slow, teasing her almost to the point of climax and then bringing her down again with a few well-placed swats.  It really was marvelously frustrating.  Panting lightly she tried her best not to show her arousal, but her body was obviously betraying her.  She jerked as the paw crashed down again, and then again, and then paused… would the caresses return?

 

---

 

Chris chuckled through the respirator, picking up the VERY limp, soaking wet Vixen, and throwing her over one shoulder.  Moments later he was depositing her in a wheeled laundry cart, one with a lid.  It would be tight in there, with little room to move; the perfect place for the Vixen to come to her senses.  But if she was THAT out of it, the Fox had another place all prepared for her… in his quarters, of course.

 

---

 

John set the Cheetah down on his bed, face down.  Lifting his tail, the Stallion gazed at the toy still embedded in the cheetah’s ass.  Taking a firm grip on its base, he pulled, slowly but firmly.  The tension increased, until John feared it was permanently stuck where it was; but then it started to move, and with a constant pull, he managed to extract it.  Hinoki whimpered a little in his sleep as it came free, not so much as if he were in pain, but as if he didn’t want to part with it.  John took it to the sink in the cheetah’s quarters and washed it off, examining it as he did so. 

 

Taking a sideways glance at Hinoki, the Stallion smiled to himself; “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it for a while….” 

 

Finding a tube of lubricant in the Cheetah’s nightstand, the stallion lubed it up, and then squatted next to the Cheetah’s bed.  The device, meant for someone smaller, was still difficult to push into place.  After a moment the Stallion reached underneath, to flick the first switch.  Immediately he felt the device start to move, to vibrate powerfully.  It was wonderfully arousing.  Standing slowly, carefully, the Stallion looked down at the somnolent cheetah, at his gaping asshole, and as he stroked his rapidly hardening shaft with one hand, wondered; “why not?”

 

---

 

Wanda groaned and squirmed, all resolve to take the spanking stoically, motionlessly, forgotten.  The Badger was driving her wild, the soft, sensual caresses taking her time after time to the very end, only to be supplanted by the swats of his paw!  She hadn’t thought the individual strikes that particularly painful but as the session had worn on, her bottom had become increasingly tender, until now, every swat elicited a howl and an involuntary squirm.  She’d long since lost count, and had no idea how many more she was yet due.  It couldn’t be TOO many more, could it?  And yet, the Badger had better dare NOT stop, until he got her off…..

 

Kath watched her mistress and smiled…..

 

---

 

John paused, and leaned against the corridor wall.  The toy in his ass was well designed; despite all his training, despite years of practicing his control, he still couldn’t hold it back.  Stiffling a whinny, he watched in amazement as his body shuddered.  His kilt had long since become a tent, and now a stain was spreading from its apex, large gobbets of cum falling to splat on the floor.  As the moment passed he straightened and looked around, to see if anyone had noticed.  Fortunately it was late in the third shift, and few were around…..  Gathering himself, he clopped towards his quarters, already feeling the next wave start to build….

 

---

 

Wanda HOWLED as his paw once again made contact with her bottom; she’d been SO close….. teetering on the very verge of her long-delayed climax… and now, at the sudden shock, she seemed to tilt, the horizon spinning, to slide downwards into her release.  Her hips bucking against a phantom lover, the Wolverine lass screamed out her joy, and her outrage at having been tricked into cumming in such a manner!

 

Roland just smiled.

 

---

 

Tanj opened one eye sleepily as the door to Jenka’s quarters slid open.  The bedsheets were a tangled mess, and she felt as if she hadn’t slept a wink.  Which was probably a fairly good assessment; the sights and sounds and scents of the exhibition the previous night had worked them both up, and slaking their lusts in each others’ bodies had been only natural.  Tanj watched the Horse enter, one eye barely cracked open.  He was leaning over rather far, as he pushed the serving cart.  As he came to a stop, Tanj smiled.  There was a fairly large stain on the front of his kilt, right at the apex of a rather large bulge….

 

The Cheetah’s soft laughter brought her awake.  Jenka opened one eye to look at her pet, and then following the line of her gaze, to regard the Stallion.  John seemed as imperturbable as ever, but his body was betraying him none the less. 

 

Even without any morning coffee, the leap of logic was inescapable.  Nudging the Cheetah, Jenka chuckled; “Think he’s swiped Hinoki’s toy?” 

 

Tanj purrred; “Undoubtedly.  The only question remaining is, “does he have anything left?”” 

 

Jenka smiled and stretched, arching; “I’ll leave it to you to find out; I’m still worn out from last night!”

 

Tanj purrred again and slowly uncoiled off the bed, moving with feline grace towards the Stallion…..

 

---

 

Zassa wasn’t sure if she was awake, or asleep.  Or dead for that matter.  Everything was black, and any attempt at movement was met by a spongy, but firm resistance.  Eyes opened or closed, it was all the same.  And yet, cool air flowed over her face, and she could feel her own heartbeat.  And she could feel aching muscles.  If she wasn’t dead, then she had to be in the “sensory deprivation and restraint” drawer under Chris Fox’s bed.  Smiling, she closed her eyes.  As tired, and as sore as she was, it was a good place to be…..

 

---

 

Wanda watched the Badger sleep.  She was on her stomach, while he was on his back, mouth open, snoring softly.  Kath’s presence wasn’t felt, so she was probably on her cushion, chained to the foot of her bed.  As the Wolverine lass couldn't remember securing her there, it had probably been the Mink’s doing.  And that was fine.  As she watched the Badger’s chest rise and fall, she marveled at his skill.  He really was a maestro at spanking.  She still wasn’t sure it was her scene, her bottom still quite tender, but she had to admit he turned it into an art form, and she wasn’t sorry she’d had the experience.  On the other hand, she hadn’t tried to sit down on the toilet yet either…..  Something that would have to be done, probably sooner than later.

 

Still…..  he’d been pretty good in bed, too.  Smiling, she reached out, to run one finger over him.  He stirred softly in his sleep, shifting a little.  Wanda grinned and stroked him again, wondering if she could get him hard without waking him.  It would take the teasingest, gentlest of touches.  Propping her head up with one arm, she stroked him again, softly, the slightest of touches….

 

---

 

Jenka smiled as she perused the contents of the breakfast cart.  Tanj, without even looking to confirm her suspicions, had sat the Stallion down on a chair, and had proceeded to straddle his lap.  If Hinoki’s new toy was indeed in place in his ass, such a position would only drive it in deeper, make its presence felt even more.  With her arms around his neck, the Cheetah was slowly riding his shaft.  It was a sight to behold.  How he could keep his face so neutral was completely beyond her.

 

Tanj smiled; the Stallion should have cum three times over by now; he must really have been drained by the toy’s actions.  Idly she wondered if he’d turned on the shock feature.  Moving at her own pace, panting lightly from her exertions, the Cheetah moved through her “early morning aerobic exercise”, rising and falling on the Stallion’s thick tool.

 

---

 

Zassa meeped as the soft material under her head moved.  It almost seemed to flow, letting her chin drop a little, and then extruding a pseudopod, pushing at her lips.  Expecting it to fill her mouth, as a gag was, she was surprised when it stopped well short of that mark.  Wondering, she sucked softly, only to find her mouth full of something sweet.  Apple juice, she decided.  Continuing to suckle, she worked her way through what tasted like maple syrup flavored oat meal, and then French Vanilla coffee.  Chuckling to herself, the Vixen wondered just how long Chris was going to leave her in here.  “Maybe all the way until I’ve recovered”she thought to herself, her thoughts immediately turning to how she might pounce the Fox upon her “release”…..

 

---

 

Jenka smiled and let the back of John’s kilt fall; “Since you’re so curious about that thing, I want you to leave it just where it is.  And leave it on, too.” 

 

Tanj sipped her coffee, and smiled; “you know, Hinoki MIGHT just want that back…” 

 

Jenka smiled; “Oh, he’ll get it back; but I want John to hang onto it until I can have one made for him.  One a little more suited to his size.” 

 

Tanj laughed quietly as the Stallion’s eyes widened, as he thought that one through….

 

---

 

The Captain of the Imperial Battle Cruiser “Valeria” sighed and made another notation on his PADD.  One of the problems with being the first senior officer on the scene was that he’d been sucked into the official “investigation”.  There wasn’t much to investigate; the pirates had shown up, neutralized the defenders with some new weapon, taken everything they could carry, and withdrawn.  It was almost a classic raid.  The only questions were; who were they, and what was the weapon?  They had a lot of clues as to who they were, but it was all circumstantial.  On the other hand, the Crimson Corsairs hadn’t been proven to have been anywhere else at the time of the raid, and several other of the larger pirate organizations HAD been proven to be elsewhere.

 

As for the weapon, as he interviewed furr after furr, it had become obvious that everyone’s experiences had been largely the same.  Sudden unconsciousness, awakening hours later with a splitting headache, to find the power off, the net down, and just about everything inert.

 

And as a result, most of the locals were screaming for everything from Imperial protection to increased levels of “disaster relief”.  Everyone wanted something, even those that hadn’t been directly affected, and it was getting most tiring.  The Captain stared across the borrowed desk at the University Dean who wanted assistance tracking down and capturing some graduate student who this guy swore was in league with the Pirates…. 

 

“All right, we’ll put out a notice on him, and I can assure you, Dean, that if he’s still here, we’ll find him.  However, if he WAS with the pirates, don’t you think he might have left with them?” 

 

The Dean, an elderly Gnu, was speechless for a moment, and then launched into a demand that his ID be circulated through the whole empire!  Phenomenal!  And all over some lost research.  That was when it hit him…

 

“Tell me again about this research they were doing.” 

 

The Gnu blinked; “Well, the Center for Spatial Anomolies was doing very important work….   The Director was working on a number of high level projects….”

 

The Captain frowned; “I don’t suppose that in this heinous crime, a female Cheetah was observed in the area….” 

 

The Gnu blinked, stopping in mid sentence.  “Um…. I seem to remember seeing one on the security monitors.  What few tapes survived the fires, you understand.  Yes, if I remember there was one.  Rather a looker too, if I remember…” 

 

The Captain nodded; “I’ll want a copy of those tapes….”

 

---

 

The Jaguar paced.  Captains were generally NOT kept waiting, and Captains of capital ships generally less so.  Being told that the officer commanding the Imperial Intelligence detachment “was busy and would be with him as soon as convenient” was galling.  He was just making his 317th circuit of the waiting room, three steps forward, two steps to the left, three steps back, and then another two steps to the left, when the Wolf appeared.  His tunic was plain, unadorned by name badge or insignia of rank; the only device present was the Intelligence symbol.  And yet, he carried himself as if he were used to being in charge.  Perhaps even as a Captain of an Imperial Battle cruiser might act, in mufti. 

 

The Jaguar stared at him for a moment and then nodded; “I know you…..   Gibraltar station.” 

 

The Wolf smiled and shook his head “I’m certain you’re mistaken, Captain.  The Admiral has sent me to debrief you, to see if he should make time in his busy schedule to grant you an audience.” 

 

The Jaguar frowned.  Three things were immediately clear.  The wolf may or may not have been the one from Gibraltar station, but even if he was, he’d never admit it, and it might not be prudent to press the issue.  The Wolf did not think much of his commanding officer.  And he’d never get to see the Admiral.  Maybe it was better that he talk to the Wolf; he might be the “power behind the throne”, the one that actually got things done.  He could work with that…..

 

The Captain had expected a barren, borrowed office, and was somewhat surprised when the Wolf led him to a corner booth in a local pub.  The atmosphere was much more relaxed, and the tankard of ale a Godsend. 

 

“Aren’t you afraid of being overheard?” the Jaguar growled after taking a sip.” 

 

The Wolf smiled and shook his head; “Believe it or not, this is one of our cover operations here.  Most of the staff are on our payroll, and most of the customers are from my department.” 

 

The Jaguar looked around, his eyes flicking over the different furrs.  Maybe the Wolf was pulling his leg… and maybe not.  He wouldn’t put it past Imperial Intelligence…  Opening his portfolio, the Jaguar started to explain his discoveries and his suspicions.

 

The Wolf picked up a grainy picture from the Institute’s security camera and smiled; “Ah, yes, our lovely Ms. Ky.”  

 

The Jaguar stopped in mid-sentence; “You KNOW her?” 

 

The Wolf dropped the picture back into the stack of papers, his face going inscrutable; “Know her?  Certainly not in the Biblical sense.  Not like YOU do (and I have to admit I envy you your experiences there), but I wouldn’t say that I really know her.  She’s been a topic in our little organization for a while.  In fact, we expected her to show up here, sooner or later.  Certainly not like THIS though….”

 

The Jaguar gazed at the Wolf through narrowed eyes as he took another swig from his tankard.  They KNEW about the two of them?  CRAP!  NOWWHATWASHEGOINGTODO? 

 

“Um, how sure are you that it was her?” 

 

The Wolf chuckled; “Well, there was a suit of Imperial armor in the brew-up over towards the Industrial sector.  There aren’t THAT many of them missing, and she had one of the ones that was.  And then there was the little event at the catalyst refinery.  That had her modus operandi written all over it.” 

 

The Jaguar took another swig; “Haven’t heard of that one; what happened there?”

 

“…. And ever since, they’ve been calling it “orgy plaza” although I admit the effects ARE diminishing.  Um…. Never the less you might want to consider putting it off-limits to your crew.” 

 

“Yeah” the Jaguar thought to himself, “That or send them all there for stress relief…” 

 

Clearing his throat as he thought furiously, the Jaguar muttered; “and how do you think she came up with this super-aphrodesiac?  I mean, that’s a little far out, for a weapon, don’t you think?” 

 

The Wolf just smiled a knowing smile; “Oh, we have our thoughts on that too, but THAT I can’t discuss with you.  Need to know and that kinda thing.  I’m sure you understand…” 

 

The Jaguar nodded and took another swig.

 

Lowering his mug he cleared his throat; “So you think…..” 

 

The Wolf waved a paw; “That she was here to obtain background information for her little quest to find the planet Elysium?  Exactly.” 

 

The Wolf leaned closer; “you know, you might not want to get too involved with her….” 

 

The Jaguar frowned; “Because she’s an enemy of the Imperium?” 

 

The Jaguar waved his paw again, dismissively; “No, no, not that, not that at all; because she’s bound and determined to find her ex-master and former boss.  That Lion fellow.”  

 

It was the Jaguar’s turn to smile; “what, you don’t think I can make her forget him?” 

 

The Wolf just sighed.

 

After a moment the Jaguar frowned; “So you’re saying she somehow came up with this new superweapon for the sole purpose of raiding the Institute for spatial anomolies, using the pirate raid, one of the largest in the history of the Empire, only as a COVER?” 

 

The Wolf smiled and shrugged; “That’s one possible explanation, but really, the weapon’s not important…..”

 

The Jaguar choked on his ale, almost spraying a mouthful at the Wolf; “Not… NOT IMPORTANT?”

 

Heads were starting to turn, to look their way, and the Jaguar struggled; struggled to breath and struggled to calm himself. 

 

The Wolf nodded slowly; “there have been stories of furrs that were working near high powered equipment that were unaffected. Large power sources, such as generating plants hadn’t been affected at all.  Most transformers had been untouched.  However all the control equipment had been completely disrupted, which, in effect was just as bad as the generators having been knocked out as well.  The weapon was powerful only because it was a complete surprise.  In fact, there’s a tale that a refrigerated containership wasn’t affected at all, and escaped into warp, but we’re still trying to confirm that.  Here and there, their mysterious device failed to function, and our technical experts think they can exploit that knowledge.  In the meantime, however, I can’t just sail into the Black Fleet’s neighborhood and ASK them.  I’d wind up a prisoner, or a slave….”

 

“Although with her, that MIGHT be interesting….” 

 

After a moment, the Wolf sighed; “But I have my duty to consider.  No, the Weapon is significant, but not really important.  What IS important is that she’s keeping secrets from me, and that WILL NOT be tolerated.  Towards that end, something will HAVE to be done…..”

 

  The Jaguar sipped his ale and wondered.  Wondered how the Imerium would test a shielding device against a weapon they didn’t possess.  How the Wolf would chastise Tanj when he dare not get close to her.  And most of all, he wondered when he’d see her again…..

 

---

 

Wanda peered at the thermostat, and then at the readouts from the independent temperature sensors she’d scattered throughout the chamber.  It was ready.  Turning she nodded to Tanj.  Tanj grinned back and stepped forward, tugging gently on Sashi’s leash.  Both fems were nude, but Tanj had a small net bag full of toys.  Pulling the Pantheress forward, through the door, Tanj looked about.  Plain white walls, stainless steel racks, and air so cold she could see her breath.  She could feel her fur standing on end as her body tried to conserve warmth. 

 

Dropping the leash she turned to grin at Sashi; “any particular preferences?” 

 

The Chocolate Pantheress smiled and shrugged; “No, Ma’am, its all good to me….  But do you think this’ll work?” 

 

Tanj glanced up at the spray nozzles in the ceiling and shrugged back; “Wanda seems to think so; there’s only one way to find out, though.”  

 

Stepping closer, the Cheetah put her arms around Sashi and gave her a soft, sensual kiss.

 

Clancy watched through the double-paned insulated glass.  Yesterday it had been walk-in storage for ice-cream cakes and other confections, in the Y-3 commons area.  Today it was the site of another sex scene.  He’d listened to the Wolverine’s explanation, but hadn’t been convinced until Wanda started putting her own money down.  Then he’d bet, and bet heavily.  So far, they’d done him fairly well, although he kept telling himself nothing lasted forever.  Watching the two move from the vertical to the horizontal, on a thin foam pad, the old rabbit turned and watched the crowd.  Interest was high, but not as high as with other sessions.  The Black Fleet was gradually loosing their interest, and the Rabbit wondered what would replace it…..

 

Tanj groaned and buried her tongue in Sashi’s muff, its tip flicking back and forth as she sought out her G spot.  The Pantheress was so sensitive that she was almost immediately rewarded with the feel of the Pantheress’ sex clenching around her tongue… and the flood of her juices.  Tanj inhaled deeply, feeling the sudden rush of lust…..  Feeling the pheromones seep into her brain… or were they?  Didn’t matter, they had some time for fun, and the Cheetah planned to take advantage of every second….

 

Sashi moaned and shuddered, feeling her climax wash through her.  She’d been practicing; giving herself her daily dozen climaxes in the morning, and then adhering to the strict self control that Hinoki had taught her.  So far she’d been doing very well, with only a few minor incidents to mar her record.  And this was her reward; all the orgasms she could wring out of Tanj, and vice versa.  Until the bell rang.  Mewling softly, she took the Cheetah’s clitty ring between her teeth and tugged lightly as two fingers slipped in and out of her pussy….

 

Tanj gasped and shuddered, as Sashi’s fingers spread wide, in a V for Victory sign, and then started stroking back and forth deep within her, as the Pantheress twisted her paw back and forth.  That coupled with the rhythmic tugs on her clitty ring was more than she could stand, and the world dissolved in a shower of bright sparks as her climax claimed her…..   Panting hard, she shook her head, and pushing her muzzle to the Pantheress’ sex, drove her tongue deep, savoring her taste, inhaling her scent, seeking to return the favor. 

 

Hinoki watched the timer, and then reached up and pressed the buzzer.  One hour even. 

 

Tanj heard the noise and sighed.  Fastening her lips around the Pantheress’ clitty she nibbled and sucked hard, bringing Sashi to a sudden and violent climax.  Then, releasing her, she straightened and turned to the door.

 

Sashi moaned, the last wave of her climax washing through her.  With her body still shuddering she reached out… and found nothing.  Where was Tanj?  It was then that it hit her; the bell had rung. 

 

Already? 

 

It hadn’t seemed like more than a few minutes.  Sitting up, she looked around.  There, outside of the glass was a sea of faces, all staring at her in wide-eyed amazement….

 

John leaned close and took a long sniff at the Cheetah.  Turning he looked at Jenka and shrugged. 

 

Wanda grinned; “See, I told you so!  Lower the temperature and her pheromones don’t have a high enough vapor pressure.  They’re mostly ineffective.” 

 

Tanj nodded; “mostly.  Oh, I didn’t really WANT to leave… but I could.  I wasn’t out of control.” 

 

Jenka nodded; “OK, but I want strict limits as to how long Sashi’s in there.  I know the exercise will keep her warm, but there has to be a limit.” 

 

Hinoki chuckled and bowed to the Jaguar; “Yes Ma’am!” 

 

Turning he gestured to the arctic fox, who, with a big grin on his face, immediately started stripping out of his pants, hopping on one foot as he approached the freezer door.  Sashi saw him coming and grinned widely at him, the invitation plain on her face….

 

---

 

Tanj licked softly at Jenka; “so does this mean we’ll have to keep Sashi on ice?” 

 

Jenka gasped, and panting, pushed the Cheetah’s head back between her legs; “Um…. Dunno; but at least we know what to do if there’s a problem.” 

 

Tanj licked her again and chuckled; “Condensation”. 

 

Jenka mewled softly as she felt the rough tongue on her most sensitive parts; “Con… wha?” 

 

Tanj gave her another lick, and then another; “if we have to lower the temperature in one part of the station, we’ll get a lot of water vapor condensing on the walls, and such; could be bad for some of the equipment.” 

 

Jenka moaned; “Oh….. I’ll send a memo to Maintenance warning them, now QUIT talking!  You’ve got work to do!”

 

---

 

Meanwhile, on Elysium…

 

Kukendall:

 

Trish shook her head and blinked at the Bear; “But…. the evidence, Comrade, is indisputable!” 

 

The Bear sighed and shrugged; “I agree, Comrade, and I commend your effort!  But if you’ve got ANY sense at all, you’ll burn your evidence and never speak of it again.  You HAVE to understand that it’s the Minister of Internal Security you’re trying to implicate!  This furr can have almost ANYONE disappear with the snap of his fingers!  Yes, I know, justice and all that, but what you're asking is simply TOO much!” 

 

With a scowl on her face, the Tigress carefully gathered her papers and stood.  “Magistrate, I simply CANNOT accept that.  It goes against all the principles of the Revolution!  I will NOT give up on this, and you WILL hear of this again!” 

 

Turning, she marched out of the door.

 

---

 

Kukendall looked up from his lunch as the Tigress slid into the seat opposite him.  She didn’t have to speak; he could tell by the look on her face what had happened. 

 

“Didn’t work, eh?” 

 

Trish shook her head and growled; “he’s afraid.  AFRAID!” 

 

Kukendall shrugged; “I’m not surprised.  You have to stop looking at this as a brave social experiment and realize that despots have seized power under the guise of a grand philosophy.  Oh, I’m not going to tell you that things are much better where I come from, but I think you know that if something like this was exposed over there, it’d be a media circus and there’d be no way the person involved could remain in office.” 

 

The Tigress opened her mouth to say something but then paused; “what did you…. Yes!  The Media!”

 

Before Kukendall could say a word, the Tigress had risen, to hurry out. 

 

Kukendall just sighed and shrugged; “well… maybe it’ll work.”

 

---

 

The Squirrel looked at the Ferret and shook his head; “Are you INSANE?” 

 

The Ferret grinned sheepishly and shrugged; “Listen, Chief, I’ve checked out some of her stuff.  The boys she lists have all vanished suddenly.  However in three cases I’ve matched names and dates with furrs showing up at labor camps.  It LOOKS as if she’s got it right.  And it’d be a heck of a story!” 

 

The Squirrel sighed and bent over his desk, head in paws. 

 

After a moment he looked up; “and I suppose you’re eager to join those furrs in the labor camps?  Listen, if we were to print something like that, we’d be out of a job at best, and more likely dead.  DEAD!  There ain’t no WAY we’re going to print this!  Now unless you want to be reassigned to the fashion page in the arctic province, bring me something I can USE!”

 

Kukendall studied the Tigress.  If she was any madder, he thought, her tail would catch on fire.  It almost looked as if smoke were about to start issuing from her ears. 

 

“You know how to force the issue.” 

 

Trish nodded sharply; “Yeah.  But I hate to do it.” 

 

Kukendall shrugged; “I won’t force you.  But with all you’ve learned, do you really think leaving him, leaving THEM in their positions is a good thing?  For anyone?”

 

The Tigress thought for a minute; at least a dozen young boys, all taken for the Minister of Internal security’s pleasure, and when he was through with them, banished to slave labor camps….  With her teeth gritted, she held out her paw.  Kukendall, his expression neutral, placed a pair of small vials, containing a reddish fluid in them.  As the waiter approached with their food, she made them disappear.

 

---

 

“I don’t know about this, Trish.” 

 

“Dana, we have to do it this way; the Justice ministry is much too busy to try and do it there.  Besides, he lives alone.  He’s not dating anyone.  The chances of it getting to anyone else are pretty small….” 

 

The Otteress sighed and nodded; “All right, I’ll watch the stairs; just don’t take too long.”

 

The lock was easy to defeat, using the tool  Kukendall had provided.  The security system bill hadn’t been paid for over six months, but Trish jumpered it out anyways, just in case.  The Bear was a typical divorcee; his apartment was a mess.  The contents of the refrigerator seemed to consist mainly of beer, and left-over take-out food.  She’d hoped to put the drug in his milk, or orange juice, some container that had already been opened, but the only open containers seemed to be empty beer cans in the overflowing trash can.  However, as she searched, an inspiration hit.  Padding into his bathroom she found the half-full tube of toothpaste.  Grinning, she took the hypodermic she’d prepared, just in case, and added the contents to the tube, grateful it wasn’t a large amount.  Replacing the cap, she kneeded the contents back and forth for a moment and then replacing it exactly as she’d found it, padded out, unjumpering the security system and locking the door behind her.

 

The Editor had been even easier.  He was constantly out of his office, especially as press-time approached.  And the news office was so full of people constantly coming and going that no one paid her any attention.  The Squirrel had a bottle of Scotch in his desk drawer, and the contents of the vial were easily added to it.

 

Kukendall watched from a stool at the bar.  Trish had a corner booth, where she could see all the entrances.  The Bear had been the first to arrive, trying twice before he was able to hang up his trenchcoat on the coathook.  The Squirrel arrived later, getting his umbrella stuck crosswise in the restaurant door, and then almost slipping in the puddle of rainwater just inside the door.  The moment of revelation was obvious; the Squirrel looked shocked, and the Bear half-rose from his seat as if he wanted to flee, or possibly wanted to strangle the Tigress.  After a moment he settled back down.  The discussion, conducted in whispers, was spirited, Kukendall could see that, but in the end, he could read acquiescence on their faces.  He left before they did, pausing at a newsstand outside the restaurant to make sure Trish didn’t have any problems on the way out.  The Squirrel emerged first, his umbrella turning itself inside out in the wind as he tried to open it.  It took him more than a minute to get it set right.  With the umbrella finally over his head, the Squirrel seemed to sag, as if the weight of his situation was suddenly weighing him down.  Slowly he trudged off into the night.  The Bear came next, moving through the door with exaggerated care.  Turning the collar up on his trenchcoat, he slogged off in a different direction, through the rain.  Finally Trish emerged.  Moments later, Dana, in a borrowed groundcar, pulled up, and Trish got in.  As they drove off, Kukendall watched for a tail; they didn’t seem to have one, so he turned and made his way towards the nearest rapid transit station.

 

---

 

Xyloff looked at the newsfax in amazement.  “What the CRAP is THIS?” he demanded to an aide. 

 

The aide shrugged, and tried to fade back into the wallpaper.  Rising, Xyloff stormed to a telephone and cradling the handset between head and shoulder, jabbed angrily at the device, punching in numbers. 

 

“Osterliche!  What in the HELL is going on at the Ministry of Justice!  It says in the paper that Kalanikoff is under investigation!  WHO authorized an investigation?  What?  WHAT?…………….  No….  Are you SURE?  I don’t know.  Let me think about it.  If its gone THAT far, there may not be anything we can do, without causing a public outcry.  But Dammit, Osterliche, you have GOT to get a better control over your subordinates!  You can’t have them investigating central committee members at the least…..  Well, Yes, I believe Justice has to be done, but….” 

 

With a growl, Xyloff slammed the handset down onto the cradle.  “Well if THAT isn’t a fine kettle of fish.”

 

---

 

The Squirrel looked at the Minister of Information, and felt as if he were already in front of a firing squad.

 

“Yes, Minister, I did authorize the publication of the story.”

 

“Yes, we did check out the facts and the story held up.  Besides, we’d heard of the investigation under way by the Justice ministry.”

 

“No, Minister, I don’t think it hurts the Party; to show that we believe strongly in Justice, that we’re willing to hold no one above the law, only STRENGTHENS our …. Yes, Minister.  Of course, Minister……..”

 

---

 

Xyloff sighed and looked at the old Goat; “Kalanikoff, I would have expected you to have been more… discrete.  Unfortunately, its been the top news story all across the planet for the last week.  There’s nothing I can do for you, old friend.” 

 

Straightening, the Wolverine turned to look out the window. 

 

“I cannot keep it from going to trial.  And from everything I’ve read, they’ve more than enough evidence to convict you.  The Party MUST defend itself and in this case, that means seeing Justice done.  I’m sorry.”

 

As the Goat was led away, he turned; “Be careful, old friend; you may just find yourself in my shoes someday.  You’re setting a dangerous precedent.” 

 

The Wolverine just gazed out the window as if he’d hadn’t heard.

 

---

 

Trish sighed; the news article about the Bear’s untimely demise hadn’t been surprising.  She hadn’t wanted that to happen; she would have been more than happy if he’d just done his job.  But it was just another indication as to how far from the principles of the revolution the current regime had drifted.  He should have been a hero…  Putting the paper down she picked up her coffee cup.  Pausing, she stared at its surface for a moment.  She’d done the right thing, hadn’t she?  Ministers that abuse their power, prosecutors that won’t prosecute, reporters that won’t report the truth?  Surely she’d done a good thing….. but then why did it haunt her so?

 

Kukendall smiled; the newsfax had an interesting article about the assistant Minister of Internal Security being killed in a suspicious car crash.  Blues agents were suspected, of course, but somehow he thought it was more likely to be rivals for the now vacant Ministerial position, and a seat on the central committee….  He wondered how many others might die mysteriously, or be discredited, as they competed for the top spot….

 

Amelia Kennedy:

 

Amelia smiled as she drove the “borrowed” weapons carrier towards the power plant.  Her next mission had been set up ages ago, by circumstance.  The electrical power grid for the planet had been built in bits and pieces over the centuries, upgraded in fits and starts, and was a mishmosh of equipment.  Scattered around the planet were six truly huge superconducting transformers, each custom built.  The oldest of these happened to be in the Reds sector.  But the manufacturer happened to be in the Blues sector.  An enterprising engineer had brought certain design defects to the attention of the Blues, and hence her mission.  Of all the installations she might strike at, many were heavily defended, but the guards couldn’t be everywhere, even in the Reds dictatorial, paranoid society.  Power plants were one of the less defended installations..

 

The guard at the gate looked old, tired, and bored.  He checked her forged ID, staring more at her chest than at the plastic card, or her orders.  After a moment he shrugged and handed back her papers, hitting the button for the gate. 

 

The manager on duty looked as if he’d been passed over for promotion one time too many, and had developed a bad attitude.  He listened to her spiel about morale, and bringing coffee and donuts to the brave and stoic technicians at this critical installation, nodding at the end of every sentence.  He seemed delighted to have something different to do, and was more than happy to help show her around.  As they moved from place to place, Amelia noted that he tended to fall behind, no doubt watching how her ass moved under her too-tight, too-short uniform skirt.  The last stop was the control room, an installation that had obviously seen better days.  Large racks of ancient instruments stood abandoned, replaced by a few computer terminals, and automated controls.

 

Grokin looked up as the shithead of a shift manager came through the door, and stuffed the forbidden porn magazine into a clip strategically placed under the console.  What followed him seemed to be an angel out of the Heaven the Reds said didn’t exist.  His eyes roved over her hourglass form, and he couldn’t help but think what a shame it was that such a fine body was stuffed into so ugly a uniform.

 

Amelia smiled, and looked around the room.  Four operators, and the manager.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  Setting down the large thermos of coffee, she started into her “morale building” speech, talking in the kind of voice you use when you’ve been through something a million times…..

 

Grokin took the offered donut and cup of coffee, and tentatively took a sip.  Then another.  Whatever this stuff was, it wasn’t the sewer water that came from the machines in the plant.  It tasted great!  And the donut was fresh, too.  And the Angel’s voice was soft and melodious, and he just could NOT drag his eyes off of her breasts….

 

Amelia smiled her most winning smile; it was obvious that the drugs in the coffee and donuts were taking effect.  The crew was all but drooling as they leered at her, and they had that slightly dopey look that said that their attention span, and short term memory wasn’t all it should be.  Moving around the control room she asked the kind of questions that someone who knew nothing about the place would ask, marveling at the brightly colored displays and asking stupid questions.  They were slow in answering, one of them even stuttering.  It gave her time to seek out the controls she was told to look for.  The phase control for the massive generators was there, and bending over to look at it, she let her thumb graze the setpoint control.  It didn’t need to be adjusted much; just a little.  Just enough to set up a resonant harmonic…  The automatic switchgear was there….  and there.  Now, all she had to do was to wait for the right moment.  One eye on the clock she turned back to the operators.

 

Grokin finished his third cup of coffee, and grinned at the Angel.  “Ma’am, this certainly is great java.  Man, its good, but it just can’t compare with your tits.”  For a moment, Grokin frowned; had he actually just SAID that?

 

Amelia laughed; “why thank you, kind sir.  I have been fortunate in that regard….” 

 

Across the room from Grokin, another operator purrred; “Yeah, They’s purdy, but could they possibly be real?” 

 

Amelia laughed; “Why of course they’re real!” 

 

Before he could stop himself, Grokin blurted out; “Yeah?  Prove it!” 

 

Amelia looked from face to face (to clock) to face, and grinned; “Ooooookay, but you understand, you look, but don’t touch.  AND THAT’S ALL.” 

 

Around the room, eager heads nodded eagerly.

 

Amelia smiled and reached up to loosen her tie.  She had some time, and moving as sensually as possible, turned her small act of exhibitionism into a striptease.  Slipping her bra off, she crossed her arms teasingly over her breasts, making sure her bra got draped over a critical control handle…..

 

Grokin gaped; her breasts were high and firm, and perfectly shaped, and the way they moved, there was no question they were real, all right.  Without even thinking, he rose from his seat, paws reaching out for those magnificent melons….

 

Amelia had been expecting it; she dodged backwards, pretending to slip in her efforts to elude the operator, one paw carefully knocking a switch one position to the right.  The flashing of an alarm on the monitor went unnoticed.  She let out an EEP!, and turned, and just as his paws found their target, she brought her paw around in a resounding slap.  It was almost as if it took a moment for it to register, and then Grokin was backpedalling, a look of shock on his face. 

 

“Ma’am… I’m….  I didn’t….” 

 

Amelia huffed, arms crossed once again over her breasts; turning to the manager, who was standing there open-mouthed, she growled; “Sir, would you be so kind as to hand me my bra?” 

 

The manager nodded, his eyes still on her, as he fumbled for her bra; when his fingers found it, he tugged at it without thinking.  The switch it was looped over snapped hard left, the bra tearing.  The sound of the fabric ripping more than covered the quiet snapping of the switch.  Apologetically, he held it up to Amelia.

 

With the phases slightly out of balance, and the voltage up a little, the re-routing of the power caused by the thrown switch caused some portions of the grid to run lean.  Other portions became overloaded, and the resulting combination of effects adding up to a sufficient cause for the monster transformer’s breakers to trip.  Or they would have, if there hadn’t been a soft-drink can, of a type long since out of production, wedged into the linkage.  Before the can was crushed, the current overload lasted just long enough to cause the primary winding of the transformer to fail.  Helium boiled, the superconducting state ceased to exist, and the transformer started to melt.  The resulting disruption to the grid tripped other safety devices over six provinces, in a rippling cascade.

 

Amelia sighed, and shook her head; it was ruined.  Turning she retrieved her uniform blouse and with her back turned, she shrugged it on and started buttoning it up, well aware that the operators could see her reflection in the plexiglass covering the master grid display.  Turning back to them, she stuffed what was left of her bra in her purse, and growled; “I do believe its time I left.”

 

Grokin watched her leave, his eyes glued to her swaying ass.  Lord, she was a looker.  As the door closed behind her, he sighed and turned to look at his display.  Several alarm boxes were flashing.  That wasn’t unusual, minor alarms were going off all the time.  It wasn’t until he looked at WHICH alarm boxes were flashing that his heart caught in his throat.  And then he was busy slapping switches for disconnects, trying to keep the ever-increasing power surges from damaging the plant’s equipment.  Isolating the power plant and taking all their generators off line was something he’d only done in simulations….

 

“Grokin; what in the HELL just happened?”  

 

“I dunno, boss, I think ol’ Betsy just blew!” 

 

The manager nodded his head sagely; that thing was ancient, and it had just been a matter of time. 

 

“Well, make sure everything here is perfect; you know there’s going to be a witch hunt after something like this, and I don’t want to be the fall guy.  Now, what can we do to stabilize things here and get our part of the grid back?”

 

And in the darkness, other agents moved out.  Some facilities had backup power, but there were a large number of targets that didn't.…...

 

Xyloff:

 

Xyloff frowned as he listened to the minister of the Interior ramble, as he tried to describe the problems with the power grid.  As near as he could tell, they weren’t sure if it was sabotage or not.  Yes, a soft drink can had been found in the linkage, but maintenance at that facility has been almost non-existent since the revolution.  Purges had removed most of the competent engineers and technicians.  Some had been executed, most were in “re-education” camps.  And it was entirely possible that it could have been something done against the previous regime.  The only thing clear was the number of events that had occurred when the lights had gone out.  Such as the theft of secrets from a new communications center, suddenly defenseless when its brand-new, sophisticated, state of the art security system went off-line (the backup generator was awaiting a part, and the uninteruptible power supplies that should have carried it for a while, had not yet been installed), to a number of ‘disappearances’ of notable furrs. 

 

Yes, it was possible that some had taken advantage of the darkness along the borders, taken advantage of the sensors being off-line, and defected.  But it was more likely that key figures had simply been kidnapped when their home-security systems went down.  There were other questionable events too, too many for it to have been a coincidence. 

 

“All right, we’ll have the press report it as a one in a million case of bad luck, and incredibly poor designing on the part of the previous regime.  But I will hold you PERSONALLY responsible, Minster, should this ever happen again!” 

 

Turning to the …..  no, the old Goat who’d headed internal security wasn’t in his chair.  Damn, between this and the problems with him, the Wolverine's number of migraine headaches was on the upswing. 

 

“The Ministry of Internal Security will continue to investigate the issue, covertly.  If anyone looks even the most remotely suspicious, he or she will be transferred to someplace where they can do no damage and be replaced with a party faithful!  Maybe that will make the others toe the line a little more carefullly!”

 

The room was silent, all eyes watching him.  Xyloff scanned them each in turn.  Some, like the Minister of the interior, looked fearful.  Those who might aspire to to the old Goat’s chair, however, had calculating, or predatory looks. 

 

Xyloff leaned back in his chair and waved to the Panda; “Comrade Korf, please tell us what the first Security Directorate has accomplished of late.”

 

The Panda cleared her throat; “Our subversion efforts are going well; we have found a discrepancy in Senator Treadwell’s background; seems an arrest on drug charges was covered up by his influential father when he was in college.  The senator is responding well to our blackmail.  Of course it helps that he doesn’t know WHO is blackmailing him.  We’ve planted suggestions that it’s a trade cartel.  And we have successfully planted falsified evidence that Govenor Flygt was responsble for his first wife’s fatal motorcar accident.  We believe we can have him removed from power whenever its convenient.  On other fronts, our industrial and military espionage efforts proceed as expected.” 

 

Xyloff nodded; “Good work on the governor.  I trust nothing alarming has been uncovered by your spies?” 

 

The Panda hesitated for a moment, and then shrugged; “the only item we cannot account for is the resumption of antimatter production by the Blues.” 

 

Xyloff snorted; “Antimatter.  That’s useful only in Starships.  I wouldn’t worry…..” 

 

The Wolverine’s voice gradually died out and a thoughtful look came over his face. 

 

“Perhaps their leadership is considering extracting their loyalists to a colony world?  Could they be fleeing what they perceive to be a lost cause?” 

 

The Panda just shrugged. 

 

“Well, FIND OUT, Korf!  It could be important!”

 

---

 

Xyloff tried hard not to yawn.  Comrade Snitt of the second security directorate did good work, but the Elk’s presentation skills were severely lacking.  Somehow all the words about computer viruses and hacker attacks just seem to fold into one long buzz….

 

“And because of the possibility of retaliation, we have of course disconnected the most valuable and critical of mainframes from the web.  Of course, this has led to backlogs in information flow, every data crystal being checked three times for viruses and the like.  The long term solution is of course more sophisticated Authentication and Verification systems.  These are of course under development, but will take a while to test and implement….”

 

Snitt looked at the Wolverine; it was obvious his attention had wandered.  Never the less, the Elk pressed on.  Recordings were made of the meetings, and the record would show what he had reported.

 

“Cryptology is working on the problem as well….”

 

The Lion:

 

Departure:

 

The Lion leaned back in his desk chair, and sighed.  Soooo many things to keep track of.  Much worse, with Tanj being gone.  Lord, how he missed her.  Grinning to himself he remembered how she liked to crouch under his desk, nuzzling and licking his crotch while he tried to keep up with all the e-mail.  Letting one paw stroke down over his crotch, the Lion tried to recapture the feeling.  After a moment he gave up, and with a sigh forced his attention back to the overflowing in-box. 

 

A report from the Blues reported that the robot factory had successfully completed the first two automated antimatter production satellites.  They’d been placed in solar orbit, and were in operation.  So far, they’d produced 3.72 grams of antimatter.  Well, it was better than nothing.  And the factory would now turn out an additional two satellites per month.  Yeah, it wasn’t much, but it was a start……

 

---

 

Parks looked at the box in the lower right corner of the blueprint.  Yes, there was the date, a good two centuries before he was born.  This had to be the oldest freighter still flying in the Empire.  Perhaps in all of known space.  And as fate would have it, it was on Elysium, with a burned-out plasma modulator, when the planet had been shifted to wherever it was. 

 

The Lynx grinned; he was sure that someone in the Blues organization was cursing the fates that had left them with so ancient a ship, but in fact, it was just what they’d needed.  Exactly what they’d needed.  It hadn’t taken the Brethren long to commandeer the ship, nor had it taken the engineering department on the Overlord very long to fabricate a new plasma modulator.  The ship’s chief and sole engineer had excellent documentation on his flying museum.  Some of the crew had been paid off, others absorbed into the Brethren.  The ship’s Captain and part owner had taken a hansom retirement at government expense. 

 

However, the Chief Engineer, and part owner, had not wanted to leave.  The Bear was mostly gray now, and rather arthritic, and like so many “elders” he was crusty as hell, but he knew his ship inside and out.  It was his home.  Finally, he’d “volunteered” as “tech support” for the aliens.  It was as if he’d rather face Hell itself rather than hand over his “sweetheart” to anyone else, let alone a bunch of aliens who’d do who-knows-what to her… 

 

Parks put the drawing back down, carefully folded, and wondered if he’d feel the same way if the Overlord was to be given to some stranger….

 

“Y’see Son, its all in the plasma management.  This ship uses Harkin manifolds.  Just can’t be adapted to dilithium chrystals.  Can’t take the pressure.  Ye’d have to scrap half the engine room, to put in an upgrade, and that never was economical.” 

 

Parks nodded; “But it works….” 

 

The old Bear grinned; “Aye, son, she works.  Solid as a rock, just not very fast.  But she’s still faster than any freighter using a Jump Drive, at least on the long routes.  And she’s got a McPherson jump drive too, for the short hops.  Just dinna be askin’ her to do more than warp 3.” 

 

Parks grinned and nodded; “sounds perfect.” 

 

The Bear nodded slowly; “now, what kin ye tell me of these Aliens I’ll be workin’ with?” 

 

Parks winced and then shrugged; “not much, but if you like, Mr. Montgomery, I’ll show you the tapes…”

 

---

 

The Lion looked at the furrs seated around the conference table.  Cornelius Morse, convicted of more con games than even the Empire could keep track of.  Mercedes Gaudry, disbarred on Wellman’s world for a number of things, all of which added up to “negotiating in bad faith”.  Brian Schifflet, rouge economist, blamed for manipulating the stock market on Dravis III for his own enrichment, Bonnie Milan, a genuine Xenosociologist the Blues had found for them, and Jiran Chulachumbok, former CPA implicated in the collapse of the Enco conglomerate.  Something about reporting expenses as capital appropriations to make the bottom line look better.  This was his negotiating team for dealing with the Aliens.  As shrewd and devious a group as the Brethren and the Blues could put together. 

 

“OK, folks, you’ve all gotten to know each other.  You’ve seen the tapes.  Now, how are we going to approach this?” 

 

As he’d feared, every one of them started to talk at the same time……

 

---

 

The Lion felt the vibration through the deck and knew they were underway.  Morse, Gaudry, and Milan all insisted they couldn’t do anything until they knew more about the aliens psychology.  What made them tick?  What were their wants and needs.  Schifflet and Chulachumbok felt that was irrelevant; if they could find out more about the way the financial systems worked they’d KNOW what the aliens REALLY wanted.  It seemed any plans they might make would be mere contingency plans until they learned more.  But, for better or worse, they were on their way.

 

His head on the table, his eyes closed, the Lion listened to them talk.  They’d gone over every shred of information they had, had theorized and extrapolated, to the point of absurdity.  From there the discussion had degraded.  Morse seemed to be putting the moves on Milan, while Shifflet was arguing accounting practices with Chulachumbok, practices that could only be useful if you were up to no good and trying to cheat someone.  Neither seemed to have a problem with “cooking the books”, they were just arguing about the best way to do it.  Gaudry was interjecting comments on various legal technicalities, alternatingly poking holes in Schifflet’s or Chulacumbok’s arguments, and seemingly have a  great time.  What might the aliens make of furrs like this?  Could this group succeed in accomplishing ANYTHING?  Suddenly it hit him.  With the exception of Bonnie Milan, they were all pirates…. 

 

Raising his head from the table, he cleared his throat; “You know, I don’t believe we’ve discussed your compensation for your assistance….  

 

Suddenly all conversation stopped and all eyes turned his way.  Morse’s look was particularly predatory…..

 

Arrival:

 

Ben watched as the Overlord dropped out of warp.  The freighter was right behind them.  As near as he could tell, they’d appeared in exactly the same spot they’d left from.  The Alien system looked busy as ever, actinic lights marking the fusion drives of dozens, if not hundreds of ships. 

 

“Sir…” 

 

Ben turned to look at the com tech, who only gestured helplessly.  Turning back to the main viewscreen he found the view of the system replaced with an image of one of the aliens. 

 

The creature spoke without preamble; “Movement coordinator I am.  Direct you I shall.  Priority have you been given.” 

 

His image vanished, to be replaced with a chart, with alien and Imperial standard markings. 

 

“This route shall you follow.  Well within your velocity parameters should it be.  Contact me on this frequency if a problem there is.” 

 

Then suddenly the main viewscreen was back to its previous display.

 

Ben looked back at the comm tech; “Did you…” 

 

The furr shook his head; “NOSIR; they did that somehow.  I’m not even sure I know HOW they did it…”

 

Ben nodded; “well, see if you can figure it out.” 

 

Turning to the Navigator, he growled “you get that?” 

 

The Navigator nodded; “It might be a little fast for the freighter, but I think we can handle it.” 

 

Ben nodded and turned to look back at the stars; “Make it so.”

 

---

 

The Lion stared into the Holotank and shook his head. 

 

“It was just like this the last time” the Wolf growled; “They showed up unannounced.” 

 

The Lion shrugged; “Its interesting that they’d have their high level negotiators all ready to go, not knowing when we might arrive.” 

 

Behind him, Morse grinned hungrily; “Means they’re desperate.”

 

  Gaudry nodded her approval and agreement. 

 

Milan shook her head though; “remember, we’re dealing with ALIENS.  We do not yet know what motivates their actions.  They might just see not keeping us waiting as polite.” 

 

The Lion looked at Ben and sighed…..

 

---

 

Parks’ fingers flew over the console.  “OK, lemme see if we can’t slow ‘em down a little.  The equation he’d entered for the shifting of the shield frequencies was a fourth order differential equation, with numerous constants.  Below decks he could hear the shield generators whine in complaint as they were made to shift and shift again…..

 

Ben watched in amazement as the alien shuttle slowed and then stopped just short of the Battlecruiser’s shields.  They held there for exactly seven minutes and twenty-three seconds before moving through the shields as if they weren’t there. 

 

“Well, its better than last time” he growled.

 

Parks grinned; it had come out just as he’d predicted.  The Aliens must have some truly superfast computers, to have deduced the complex equation governing the shield frequencies.  Fingers flying over the console he modified the equation, this time to include no less than a dozen random number generators.

 

“Lets see ‘em predict THAT” he growled to an aide.

 

The Lion watched the shuttle glide into the docking bay, as if it were on rails.  The uniform, mirror-bright finish vanished, and the door/ramp opened, all in total silence.  A mere three aliens disembarked, but they were surrounded by a host of small robots.  Again, most flew, but some walked, some rolled, and one hopped.  The Lion watched their progress, as they spread out, obviously intending to survey the Overlord as they had the Destroyer.

 

Parks smiled and touched a key.  The new “Medical isolation” shield frequency modulation equation was now active.  He watched as the horde of small robots came to a screeching halt in the docking bay.  All but one which either was too stubborn, too stupid, or had been designated as a test unit, which floated into the shields, only to be thrown back in a blue nimbus.

 

The Lion watched the aliens; if they were aware of their robots’ sudden problem, none of them showed it.  As his eyes drifted over them, he noted the one in the back wore considerably more jewelry than the others, and the jewelry somehow seemed more…. Custom made.  As if it had been tailored for just that individual, instead of bought “off the rack”.  Sure enough, that alien was the first to speak.

 

“Your fault, this is!  Our ruination you are!  Amends you must make to alleviate our suffering!  Compensation is DEMANDED!” 

 

The Lion blinked; “How, Sir, have we caused you grief?  We have done nothing.” 

 

The Alien’s nictitating membranes slid out and back, a horizontal blink, and he hissed; “Disrupted our trade routes, you have!  Your planet, the distribution of mass changed!  Our Jump points gone are! Our consortium financial ruin faces!  YOUR FAULT!”

 

Cornelius Morse grinned and nudged the Lion, who bent over, one ear cocked. 

 

Morse whispered; “they’ve just told us what they want the most.  And it sounds as if they’re desperate, too.” 

 

The Lion nodded and straightened.  Looking back at the Alien, the creature seemed to have gone rigid, as if he’d heard, as if he realized he’d made a slip.

 

“We didn’t move our planet to your space.  It was done by someone else.  AGAINST our will, and without our permission.  We would very much like to “talk” to those that did this to us; we feel that THEY owe US compensation!  But if the sudden appearance of our planet has caused you grief, then I would suggest, sir, that we have a common enemy.  Perhaps an alliance is in order?”

 

---

 

Ben paced the bridge, his eyes roving over the scan tech’s consoles.  Despite detailed sweeps, they hadn’t turned up anything that looked like weapons, or targeting systems.  While the planet had very good sensors, they might easily be explained by the high volume of traffic in this sector.

 

Parks shook his head; he was still in a good mood at having stopped the alien robots.  So far the “quarantine” shields were holding.  Of course the algorithm changing the shield frequency now had no less than twenty-seven random number generators in it, and over three hundred constants, some of which, like Pi, and e, were infinite series. 

 

“Ben I think this is pointless.  If they HAVE anything that resembles a weapon, its too alien for us to recognize.  I’d like to turn the sensors to their power supplies; there are some things down there that just don’t make sense….” 

 

Ben stopped his pacing and looked at the Lynx; “I thought they used an unusually efficient fusion powerplant.” 

 

Parks shrugged and nodded; “For their spacecraft, they do.  Apparently without exception.  But there are some things on the ground that don’t make sense.  Six really BIG power sources, with curves that just don’t look, well, possible.”

 

Ben nodded; “Tell you what, I’ll turn half of the sensor net loose; but I want the rest watching carefully.  Remember; a missile doesn’t show until its seeker is turned on, and targeting sensors also don’t show until they’re active.” 

 

Parks nodded; it was more than he’d hoped for.

 

---

 

“What assurances have we such an alliance you will honor?  Alien you are; motivations not clear are.  Cheat us, you might.” 

 

The Lion grinned; “Our motivation is simple.  We want to go home.” 

 

One of the other aliens nodded, as if the point was just proven.  For a moment the Lion thought they were going to turn and reboard their shuttle.  And then Morse spoke.

 

“and think of the opportunities if we DO find a way to go home.” 

 

The alien leader’s head snapped around to look at Morse. 

 

“We come from a place so far away, either in this universe, or a parallel universe, that we’ve never had any contact with the likes of you.  If a “door” were to be opened to that place, think of the markets that might be opened to you.” 

 

Gaudry grinned; “and I’m sure an exclusive license could be negotiated.” 

 

Chulachumbok chuckled; “you could cut out your competition…..” 

 

Schifflet smiled; “Besides, we wouldn’t want to go home, and NOT be able to collect our royalties and fees from our, ah, ‘investments’ here…..”

 

The Aliens looked at each other, hard, for a long moment, and the Lion wondered if perhaps they didn’t have some form of telepathy.  When the three heads turned back their way, the Leader nodded; “Help you search for a way back, then, we shall, but nothing is without cost.” 

 

The Lion grinned; “well, there may be some technology we can contribute to the effort.  We’re not COMPLETELY at a loss as to how it might have been done…..”

 

“Survival must first attended to must be” one of the other Aliens hissed, and the other two nodded. 

 

“A working example of the jumpless drive you have?” the leader hissed. 

 

The Lion grinned and nodded; “Let me show it to you.”

 

---

 

The Bear stood with arms folded across his chest as they filed into the engine room, his eyes flicking over the aliens warily.  They, in turn, paid as much attention to him as they did to any other piece of equipment in the bay. 

 

When they were all present, including the numerous robots, the Lion turned to him; “Mr. Montgomery, would you care to give our new business partners a quick rundown of the operation of the warp drive?”

 

The Bear nodded, and turned to the aliens; “Well, sirs or madams, as the case may be, it all starts with the matter/antimatter reactor…..”

 

Three alien heads snapped around as one, and once again they stared at each other; this time however, there was an urgency, an intensity that hadn’t been there before. 

 

Finally one spoke; “Negative matter; as such we had never forseen.” 

 

Another hissed; “Taboo it is, since the great reformation……” 

 

But the leader gave a grimace that might have been a smile, showing a myriad of tiny, very sharp teeth; “Taboo, yes, but forbidden, not by the codex….  Unexpected it would be….” 

 

The others obviously thought for a moment and then nodded slowly; "a fuel supply we have not….” 

 

The Lion chuckled; “Oh, I think we might be able to supply you with fuel, and a refueling station and technicians to carry out the task.” 

 

Morse chuckled; “As you can imagine, it’s a…. delicate task best left to experts.” 

 

All three aliens shivered, and one looked up at the Bear; “Safe, it is?” 

 

The Bear grinned; “Oh, Aye, Laddie, as long as the containment fields are in good shape; this is a verra good design though, never an accident in her class.  Not one.” 

 

One of the aliens frowned; “Long experience you have with this…. class?” 

 

The Bear nodded; “Aye, all of my career…” 

 

The alien’s head snapped around to look at the Lion; “old technology this is?  Out of date?  OBSOLETE?”

 

The Lion chuckled; “A mature technology this is.  Proven.  Sound.  Simple.  Easy to replicate.” 

 

Gaudry smiled; “And as far as obsolete, do any of your competitors have anything like it?” 

 

Again the three aliens stared intently at each other for a moment.  Finally the leader hissed; “Uneasy we are with the negative matter, but until something better can be arranged, it will do.  Proceed.”

 

Bonnie Milan watched intently as the Bear lectured.  The initial discussion was the most basic, the type that might be given to a class of second graders.  But it got off into technical points.  Antimatter containment.  Plasma flow modulation.  Vector control.  After two hours, the three aliens and the Bear were all talking as peers.  Their rate of learning seemed to be phenomenal.  And then it hit her.  Those stares at each other; what if they had some sort of telepathy, natural or technological, that let them share what they were seeing with others.  Perhaps a dozen technical experts were “on line” feeding questions to them.  Perhaps these were nothing more than actors, or even worse, “cannon fodder”, while their masters watched through their eyes….  That might also explain the number of robots, too…. More remote eyes.

 

The conversation seemed to have run down, and Montgomery took advantage of the pause; “So yer not happy with the antimatter reactor?  So what might you beasties have that could replace it?” 

 

Again the aliens stared at each other, and then one spoke; “A power source we have, on the planet.  Very powerful, but large.” 

 

Another nodded; “High mass; unsuitable for the average starship, it is.” 

 

The third continued; “But jump drives that much energy do not require.” 

 

The first picked it up; “Converts matter directly to energy, it does.” 

 

The Bear nodded; “Aye, that’d be nice, but does it generate plasma?  A warp drive needs plasma….” 

 

The three aliens looked at each other, and one muttered quietly; “Perhaps….”

 

---

 

On the Bridge, Parks chuckled; “I knew it.  I KNEW IT; only something like that could explain the power curves from the planet’s surface…..  Ooooh, I’d like to tour one of those….”

 

---

 

The Lion nodded; “a joint development project like that might be worth pursuing, but as you’ve said, we have other, more immediate goals.” 

 

The Leader nodded; “We offer you one 64th of one percent, of all post-taxes-and-fees profits on all ventures involving the use of this ship.” 

 

The Lion shrugged; “without knowing anything about your system, or your economy, or your profit margins, I have no way of knowing if that’s a good deal or not.  If you were in my place, what actions would you take to insure you weren’t cheated?”

 

The Aliens looked quite uncomfortable, if that were possible without seeming to move a muscle. 

 

Chulachumbok grinned; “Perhaps you could show us your financial records, to let us know what profits you were making on your trading before the jump points were disrupted?”

 

Gaudry nodded; “Do you have to file financial statements with any regulatory body?  Public domain type stuff?  You shouldn’t have a problem in sharing that with us….”

 

Morse chuckled; “and then there’s the “new venture” stuff; with this drive you might be able to expand your sphere, gain new customers.  I could see taking a minor position as you tried to undo the damage, but as for NEW business, I think we’d need a different rate for that…..”

 

The Lion watched as they got into the particulars, right there in the engine room.  The aliens had a way of making numbers appear in mid-air, some sort of a hologram.  It took a while to get the conventions down, and some of the accounting practices seemed to scandalize Schifflet and Chulachumbok, but it was obvious the “experts” were making progress.  The Lion wondered idly if the “books were cooked”, if the numbers they were being shown were factual, but then Gaudry mentioned a line in the contract they were putting together, that if the numbers weren’t factual, that a penalty would have to be paid, and the percentage would triple.  This didn’t seem to faze the aliens (as if he was sure he could read their body language that well) so the Lion tried to dismiss his worries on that point…..

 

The argument was vicious; Morse was yelling at one of the aliens that the drives may be common where they’d come from, but that they were RARE here, and that made them more valuable.  Schifflet was arguing the valuation of things in “standard man-hours” which seemed to be the basis for the local monetary system.  Chulachumbok was arguing over how they were to be paid, insisting that they needed a higher cash flow; besides, if they had money, they’d SPEND money, which would get it back into the local economy.  The alien he was engaged with wanted to pay them annually, which obviously would be much better for them. 

 

Bonnie Milan stood back and smiled.  The tactic had been her idea; overload them; keep them from effectively sharing information and supportive arguments.  It at least seemed to be partially working……

 

Morse growled; “look, if we hadn’t been in the middle of a battle at the time, there would have been more warp-capable ships on the planet; everyone with any sense had already LEFT.  We just don’t HAVE that many warp capable ships!” 

 

Suddenly the room went quiet, and all three aliens were looking at each other again.  Bonnie let out a soft “uh-oh”, and Morse nodded slowly; he’d said something wrong, apparently VERY wrong, but what it was, wasn’t immediately clear….

 

The leader of the Aliens spoke hesitantly; “Translation was not clear; please explain “Battle”…..” 

 

The Lion sighed; “We were in the midst of an armed conflict; a rebellion of sorts against an evil and dictatorial government.” 

 

One of the aliens shuddered; “This was…. An act of violence?” 

 

The Lion nodded slowly; “It was.  All other methods of conflict resolution had been tried, and had failed…” 

 

Two of the aliens literally took a step back, as if they were about to flee; the leader looked as if he wanted to, but managed to keep himself under control. 

 

“A treaty, there is.  An ancient treaty, never broken.  No violence.  No tools of violence.  Conflict to be settled peacefully.” 

 

The Lion nodded; “If you can make it work, that’s marvelous.  Believe me, we have no intentions of committing acts of violence against you.”

 

Morse watched the aliens, and grinned to himself.  It was obvious, that now that the initial shock was over, they were starting to think about it.  Perhaps there were times when arbitration hadn’t gone their way, when they would have LIKED to have done something…  Gone outside the bounds.  And neither the Brethren, nor the Blues had ever signed the local treaty.  Would pointing that out to them make things better or worse.  He’d have to talk to Milan about that….  And what would they make of the civil war raging on Elysium?  Probably not a good time to tell them about that either.

 

Slowly negotiations resumed.  A new clause was restrictions on where the Brethren could travel without an escort.  Basically it was no further than where they were now.  It was obvious that the Aliens were afraid of what might happen, if they became violent, or perhaps what might happen if OTHERS learned of the presence of such aliens.  The Lion agreed, with the proviso that the subject be revisited in two years; perhaps, if they behaved themselves, they could get the region expanded? 

 

Finally the treaty was done.

 

Montgomery rose and stretched, and looked at his chronograph.  They’d been at it for a little over eight hours.  Shorter than he would have suspected; he just wished they hadn’t picked HIS engine room to conduct the negotiations in.  Still, it had been advantageous when they’d discussed “Technical assistance”.  He’d get to stay on his ship, tend to his engines, admittedly with an alien crew.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  And he’d be sure to see some interesting places…..

 

The Lion leaned against the bulkhead, and turned his head to whisper into the Bear’s ear; “We need to find out as much about these folks as possible, but at the same time, I think it might be prudent if we gave away as little as possible about ourselves.  I'd appreciate it if you could do what you could to learn about them, what makes them tick, what their interests are.  But I don’t want you to put yourself at risk.” 

 

The Bear nodded; “Aye, I’ll try not to repeat Morse’s mistake, and I’ll be glad to do what I can.” 

 

Then, everyone seemed to be heading for the corridor; the alien leader paused and stared at the Bear for a moment; “Prepared to leave we are?” 

 

The Bear nodded; “Aye, antimatter and deuterium slush tanks are full, everything’s shipshape.” 

 

The Alien nodded; “Cargo carriers arrive in six time units.  As soon as the ship is loaded, you depart.” 

 

The Bear straightened; “Surely your…. People will need some time to familiarize themselves with the navigation and operations controls….” 

 

The Alien performed another imitation of furry body language and shrugged; “They have until the cargo is loaded; they will be ready.  Make sure you are as well.” 

 

The Bear just nodded; “Aye… sir.”

 

---

 

The Lion sat in the command chair, just watching.  A swarm of shuttles, moving with no particular or at least apparent order had come up from the planet to the freighter, and with remarkable speed, had transferred cargo.  If there had been any wasted motion, the Lion hadn’t been able to detect it.  It had taken a mere six hours to load the freighter.  No sooner had the last shuttle undocked, than the freighter had turned, and moved out-system.  They’d gone into Warp at the earliest opportunity.  And then they were gone. 

 

Turning to look at Ben, the Lion sighed; “Well, for better or worse, its done; I guess we might as well go home.”

 

Ben nodded and turned to the helmsfurr.  A moment later they too were under weigh.

 

---

 

Montgomery looked from face to face to face.  His three new apprentices.  They looked identical, right down to the jewelry they wore, and he had no idea how he was going to tell them apart.  They’d come aboard, with the rest of the alien crew, with the first shuttle-load of cargo.  And they’d already seemed to have known everything he’d said in his lecture earlier in the day.  Had it really been the same day?  They watched intently, as he’d gone through the preflight checklist, and then even more intently as he’d engaged the warp drive.  With the system humming along as it always did, there was time for questions, and there were a million of them.  They came in no particular order, from the matter/antimatter premix equations to the rate of erosion inside the plasma conduits, to why green meant OK and red was bad….  It was going to be an interesting trip……

 

---

 

Cromwell shook his head; his image was full of static, the Reds were jamming again. 

 

“I am NOT happy about having to devote more resources to antimatter production.  So far your little venture hasn’t brought in a single benefit!  All its been doing is costing us, in time, and material, and manpower….” 

 

The Lion grinned; “how about a communications system that the Reds can’t jam.  That they probably can’t even detect?” 

 

Cromwell straightened; “and how….” 

 

The Lion chuckled; “Before we left, they gave us what amounts to a mail-order catalog.  Let us look over ways we can spend our money when it starts rolling in.  They have, for secure communications, a phased neutrino system.  My chief engineer says that he can detect neutrinos, with the correct apparatus, but he’s got no idea how to interpret a signal.  If he can’t, then I really doubt the Reds could.  Oh, and they’re small too.” 

 

The Lion’s grin widened; “and there are sensors.  Sensors with resolution much higher than what we’ve got.  Imagine an impermeable border.  Imagine security systems so tight, the chances of infiltration drop to dang near zilch.  How about computers a thousand times faster than what we’ve got now?  We’ve been going through the “catalog” for the whole trip back, and we’ve barely scratched the surface….” 

 

Cromwell nodded; “Yes…..  those things would help.  But its still just conjecture, still a fantasy until we’ve actually GOT them in hand.  Never the less, I’ll see if I can’t swing a little more towards the antimatter project…..”

 

---

 

Montgomery sighed and sat at the console, a hot cup of coffee thudding down in its usual place. 

 

One of the aliens, one of HIS aliens looked at him; “Drink is stimulant?” 

 

The Bear grinned and nodded; “Yes, its called coffee.  The stimulant is called caffeine.  A case can be made that all of our civilization followed the spread of coffee.” 

 

For a moment, the three aliens paused what they were doing and shared a look.  Then the closest one cocked its head to one side; “Try it, might we?” 

 

The Bear grinned; “Sure, but you might not like the taste…..” 

 

Rising, he padded to the little nook off the engine room, and poured a cup.  Walking back, he carefully turned the mug until the handle was out, and handed it to his “apprentice”. 

 

“Be careful, its hot.” 

 

The alien nodded, and bending its head over the cup, it inhaled the aroma. 

 

“It’s a Kona blend.  I don’t make enough money to afford the Jamacian Blue Mountain.  That’s the best coffee in the universe.” 

 

The alien took a tentative sip; it was obvious that it was hot, possibly too hot.  After a moment he swallowed…  The other two aliens had wandered over to stare at him.  Without looking he handed the mug to one of the others. 

 

“Not unpalatable.  Strange is the taste.” 

 

The Bear chuckled; “It’ll grow on you…..” 

 

The other two aliens, each in turn, took a sip, strange expressions playing across their faces.  The mug was passed around until it was empty.  Montgomery watched for a moment and then turned his attentions back to his engines.  They were working fine, as always.  But there were some strange peaks in the gas chromatograph reading; some strange chemicals were in the air, and the life support system didn’t seem to be scrubbing them out correctly.  As he turned his attention to that problem, the coffee was forgotten…..

 

 

This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any characters, living, dead or imaginary is purely a coincidence.  Tanj is copyright Kittiara's player.  Kittiara can be found on Furrymuck; telnet 24.164.231.38 8888.  Jenka, Hinoki, and Zassa are copyright their players (Jenka and Zassa can be found on FurryMuck, and Hinoki on Tapestries or on FurryMuck. Sashi is copyright her player.  Chris Foxx is copyright Bondofox.  Roland is copyright IronBadger.  Copyright 2002.  Comments, suggestions, or flames can be directed to ha_seng@hotmail.com.