Rebel with a Cause
by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13 for M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"*Ebon, we have an intruder.*" Jackson 'Tracker' Kytain of the NightBlades contacted his team commander. "*Five miles north of the lake.*"

"*Understood, Jackson. Look into it and report.*" Ebon SwiftClaw replied calmly.

Jackson nodded internally and shifted to his Jaguar form to stalk the intruder, a young Serval-Caracal Felsin with the darker reddish base and ear tuffs of the Caracal and the stripes and spots of a Serval, except around his face.

The Jaguar frowned when his empathy and them more direct telepathic scans brought up nothing, not even the rebuffing shielding normally produced.

"*Ebon, this is way weird. I've got a young Serval-Caracal Felsin here and I can't get anything on him on telepathically. He doesn't even register and he's not registering empathically either. If my nose didn't say otherwise, I'd say he wasn't there.*" The Jaguar was not happy.

Ebon thought for a moment. "*Try talking to him, Jackson, and keep your eyes on him.*"

"*Right, Ebon.*" Jackson thought as he shifted back to his Felsin form, and came up behind the intruder. "Okay, that's far enough. He said in a deep voice.

The youngster jumped slightly and twisted to face the heavily scared Jaguar Felsin, his eyes wide, first in shock, then awe.

"Who are you? He said with low warning growl.

"Ku-Kell. The kitten, probably fifteen or sixteen, fit and dirty, stammered.

"Kell, huh? So what are you doing, so far from anywhere?" He asked, maintaining an aggressive posture to keep control of the situation. The Jaguar really was curious how a kit had gotten this far into the mountains, apparently alone.

He swallowed, eyes still wide in awe. "Watching the NightBlades."

If the kit didn't seem so sincere, Jackson would've found the statement somewhat absurd. "You came all the way up into the mountains, just to watch us?

Kell nodded and smiled hesitantly.

"Do your parents know where you are? The Jaguar asked, figuring the simple solution to this problem was to take Kell back to his parents and strongly suggest that they keep a better eye on him.

"I don't have any parents," he said simply.

"Orphan, huh? The Jaguar said, softening a little. "So just why are you watching the NightBlades, Kell?"

"You ... you're like me." He said quietly. "I'm tired of being alone."

The Jaguar cocked his head curiously. "Are you saying that you're a genetic creation too?" He asked curiously. Under other circumstances, he might not have been so cautious, but with the new kit just born, they weren't taking chances with security.

Kell just nodded.

Jackson looked at him, and thought about what it would be like to be alone and a genetic creation. The Jaguar had always had his family, the NightBlades, he didn't like what he thought alone would've been like.

"*Ebon, I've got a sixteen year old named Kell, who says he's a genetic creation like us. I'm gonna bring him in so Nareena can check him out. Apparently, he's been hanging around for a little while, because he's tired of being alone.*"

"*Understood, Jackson. I don't think one sixteen year old is much of a security threat.*"

The Jaguar turned to Kell. "Okay, Kell. No sense you lurking about the forest, you might as well come back with me." He said starting back toward the camp, Kell easily keeping up, though he tended to stick to the trees.

As Jackson left the forest and headed across the more open areas around the camp, he noticed Kell hesitate. He turned to the kit and smiled encouragingly. When he reached the camp, the rest of the team was on the far side of the camp playing in the lake.

He led the kit into the large wooden structure that was the residence and everything else. On the first floor was where Nareena had set up medical. She smiled when she saw Jackson. "Hello, Jackson. Who's your friend?"

He walked over and hugged her. "Hi, Nareena. This is Kell. Kell, this is Nareena she's our healer. She's going to check you over, and make sure that you didn't catch something while lurking in the forest."

Nareena smiled warmly to the kit. "Just get up on this bed, and we'll get this over with."

He nodded uneasily and complied, his entire body tense as his eyes darted between the two Felsin and each exit from the room.

The Jaguar nodded. "I know how you feel, never cared much for medical facilities myself." He said from nearby, trying to reassure the kit, though it didn't seem to have much effect.

As she checked a few things, she grinned at the Jaguar. "That would explain why you're a month past your annual physical." After several minutes, Nareena turned to Kell. "Looks like lurking in the forest didn't do you any harm." She said smiling reassuringly. "Jackson, what don't you take Kell down to the mess hall and get him something to eat. He's probably hungry, teenagers usually are." She said with gentle humor.

The Jaguar smirked. "Okay, Kell. That's means we're done here." He said as he headed for the door, only to be beaten outside by the small tannish-red spotted tom.

Kell tried hard to control his breathing and smile at the Jaguar who regarded him curiously from the door.

"Something wrong?"

"Bad ... bad things happen inside. He tried to explain.

"Yeah, sometimes they do. But not always. Hungry, Kell?" The Jaguar offered starting in the direction of the mess hall.

He nodded and trotted after Jackson, and drew a deep breath before following him inside the hall. Instincts, experience and his stomach driven by his nose warred for control when he froze just inside.

After several heartbeats, hunger and the smells from further inside won out and Kell scrambled to catch up.

"Will Ebon let me stay?" He asked uncertainly.

"Probably, but I don't want to go speaking for him." He said as he pointed out what he considered the better selections. "I don't think there's any reason not to. Besides, there aren't many like us, we ought to stick together." He said smiling to the young tom.

Once they both had their food, Jackson guided Kell over to a table with an outside view. "So how long have you been watching us?" He asked conversationally as they sat down.

"Almost a year." He replied between bites, clearly not used to utensils, but trying to mimic and fit in.

"A year?" Jackson said a little surprised. "You must be a fairly good hunter then. He said, figuring that to be the case since Nareena hadn't mentioned the kit being malnourished. "And pretty good at staying unnoticed too." He said with a touch of respect.

"Birds and little things mostly, though I got a shosherbuk once," he said with the plate nearly empty. "This is better eating."

"Yeah, the Tyrfan do a pretty good job with food." He said nodding at the small black on orange Tiger striped aliens who were seeing to all the details of the cafeteria. "If you're still hungry, feel free to go back for more." He said encouragingly.

Kell hesitated only a moment before quickly putting another serving together, concentrating on the dishes the looked and tasted least like their main ingredients, and sat back down. "I'm pretty sure I got spotted a bunch of times, Blitz and I had a staring contest for a minute before I ran off, you're just the first to see this form." He answered before digging in again.

Jackson smiled. "You're a shapeshifter then?" He asked curiously.

Kell looked up and nodded between bites.

Jackson considered while he nibbled at his food. "If Blitz spotted you, but didn't say anything, then one of your other forms must be a quadruped feline. How many forms can you do? Most of the NightBlades have three." He asked casually.

He paused, eyes and body shifting slightly as he counted silently. "Five. This one, a Caracal 4-leg, Serval 4-leg, hunting 2-leg, and a weird winged one I don't understand." He quickly returned to the stew he'd claimed a sizable portion of.

"Impressive." He said quietly, then he turned to actually eating, instead of just nibbling. He wondered who the genetic engineer was, since the SG Labs didn't produce winged morphs. They'd tried, but found them to be far too independent and difficult to control.

After a while, Jackson saw Ebon walk in, and he waved the Panther over.

"Ebon, I like you to meet Kell. Kell, this is Ebon SwiftClaw, NightBlade Commander."

Ebon set down his food at the place next to Jackson, and offered a large hand to Kell. "Nice to meet you, Kell." He said smiling as the teenager accepted it after a moment's hesitation. "Jackson tells me you're interested in staying on. Looking to join?" He asked casually, since he didn't sense any threat in the little tom.

Kell looked a little bewildered before nodding hesitantly. "I don't want to be alone anymore."

Ebon nodded understandingly. "Well, You can certainly stay. We can leave decisions about you being a commando or not till later." He sat down next to Jackson. "So, how old are you, Kell?" He asked curiously.

"Three winters and some." Kell said between bites.

Ebon looked appraisingly at the teenager, and then realized that whoever had created him had accelerated development significantly. But apparently, the kit's mind had kept up for the most part, even if he wasn't very well acquainted with civilization.

The Panther dug into his food. "After you're done eating, Jackson can introduce you to the rest of the team." He said between bites.

Kell nodded and quickly finished his food. He looked up at Jackson to see what was next.

Jackson nodded and stood up. "Come on, Kell. I'll introduce to the rest." He nodded to Ebon as the Panther continued eating. "See 'ya later, Ebon."

The Panther nodded and Jackson led Kell down a rough path from the buildings to the grassy area near the lake edge. The six of the NightBlades were lounging around, and a Lion was entertaining a Tiger cub by simply moving his tail just out of reach.

As the two got closer, the six NightBlades came ambling up to meet them, curiosity in all their eyes.

"Okay, Guys." Jackson said firmly. "This is Kell, and he'll be staying with us now, Ebon's okayed it."

There was some amount of surprise, but not in a hostile way. Most of them just seemed surprised that Ebon had accepted a new person.

"Kell, this is Samson, Mason, Max, Tony, Blitz and Corwin. He said indicating each NightBlade in turn.

Blitz took a closer look at the teenager. "We've met before, haven't we?" He said curious as to where.

Kell nodded. "We had a staring match a while back." He motion in the general direction of the eastern forest area.

Blitz smiled and clapped a hand on the teenager's shoulder in friendly manner. "I thought your scent was familiar. I think you'll find it a lot more fun with us, than hanging out in the forest watching."

Kell felt paws on his leg and looked down to see the Tiger cub looking up at him.

Jackson smiled, and picked the cub up. "This friendly fellow is Nathan SwiftClaw, the Commander's son." He leaned close to Kell and whispered. "And the confused Lion over there is Cazimir, the Commander's LifeMate."

Kell smiled and offered his fingers to the cub. "*Hello Nathan.*"

The kitten looked at him intently. "*Hello, Kell.*" He thought back in friendly fashion, clearly pleased to meet some new. He twisted to look at the Jaguar holding him. "*Put me down already.*" The Tiger thought annoyed at being restrained.

Jackson smiled and put the cub down. "Okay, Nathan. Just wanted to introduce to the new person, he's the closest to your age after all."

Nathan looked up at Kell. "*Really?*" The cub was intrigued, since he'd figured Kell was just smaller than the others.

"*I'm only a couple winters older than you.*" Kell smiled. "*You're adorable.*"

"*You're awfully big then.*" Nathan commented, certain that he wouldn't be so tall at three. He grinned mentally at the adorable comment, since all the adults said that.

Nathan looked up Jackson. "*Tracker, has anybody asked Dad if Kell can stay, I like him.*"

Jackson nodded. "Your father already said it was okay."


Kell quietly waited for something to happen, his senses sharp for the subtlest changes as he took in his new packmates, and indulged as much of his fascination with the cub as he dared.

The NightBlades started drifting back to what they'd been doing, which was early afternoon relaxing, which left Nathan, Jackson and Kell. Cazi, who had been watching Kell and Nathan from a distance, came walking up.

"You don't need to be quite so careful with him, Kell. The Lion said quietly. "He's a Tiger, and likes to play rough."

The Tiger cub demonstrated swiping at Cazi's tail.

Kell hesitated a moment before shifting to his larger feline form, that of a sizeable Caracal still lanky in adolescence. "*Pay-hunt?*"

Nathan nodded. "*Okay.*" He looked up at Cazi.

Cazi smiled. "Yes, its okay. Just don't stray too far, you know your mother worries."

The Tiger cub looked back at the Caracal. "*What now?*" He asked figuring there was something more specific in mind than just chasing Cazi's tail.

"*Catch me.*" Kell laughed and dashed off, careful not to lead Nathan more than a few dozen yards from Cazi.

"I think today was a good encounter." Jackson commented as he watched the kittens run around, Kell by far the faster and more agile one, but Nathan determined and stronger when Kell let himself get tackled.

Cazi smiled happily as they switched rolls and Nathan tried to avoid the lighter, faster cat. "Yeah, Nathan needed someone closer to his age, and Kell seems to enjoy playing with him. Even if Kell's doesn't end up part of the combat team, I think he's a good find all the same."

"I see the kids hit it off." Ebon chuckled in approval as he approached, watching his son play. "Even if all he ever does is entertain Nate, he'll be worth his keep."

"So you found something for Kell to do." Nareena said quietly as she walked up to the group. "Good idea, Nathan likes to play and Kell definitely needed to unwind."

"Buildings make him nervous. Jackson explained. "Apparently bad things happen inside."

"We know he's a genetic creation." Nareena observed. "It's possible those who created him treated him badly, and that would have happened inside. Hopefully, we can help him get past that trauma." She said compassionately.

"If anyone can, it will be you." Ebon nuzzled his mate affectingly.

"He seems to be doing pretty well otherwise." Cazi nodded at them. "I can't say my tail will mind the break."

"I'm going to break out a tent and sleeping bags from the field supplies, in case he's too nervous to sleep indoors tonight." Jackson volunteered as he headed for supply.

"Good idea, Jackson. He may need some time to adjust. Ebon agreed.

"Yes, definitely a good idea," Nareena nodded. "Just about anyone would after what he'd been through."

Jackson smiled slightly as Kell shifted to his Serval form and curled into a tight ball against NightBlade's panther form's warm belly. A very faint presence of secure contentment wafted from the kit's void psychic presence as they settled in for the night in a warm sleeping bag, shielded from the stars by a thin tent.

He settled his nose by the small spotted cat's back and let his mind drift, safe in the knowledge that others were on watch that night.

It was still dark, early morning by his internal time sense, when Kell's careful movement away from the scared panther's body woke Jackson. The kit's scent and movement were calmly purposeful as he padded out of the tent, still on four legs.

Jackson quietly stood up on four legs, and silently padded out of the tent. He might have been less curious, if it wasn't for the fact that he'd scented purpose in the kits going out. Once outside he looked around to see which way the Kell had gone, and easily found a scent trail to follow. He'd give the kit room, but he hadn't survived this long without a measure of caution, especially about those he couldn't sense anything.

Jaguar quietly followed Serval into the woods, but not far. Kell made a quick bathroom break, then headed deeper into the woods with definite purpose as he shifted to what was undoubtedly his war-form, what the kit had called his two-leg hunting form.

Though the lean, spotted feline was still lanky and short in early adolescence, it would likely never reach the stature of most of the NightBlades, but damn, it was fast. Like tracking the Cheetah twins on a hunt. Jackson all but missed the sudden sideways burst of speed as Kell lunged into a thicket without a sound.

Jackson paused nearby, and listened for sounds of activity, since the kit seemed to be hunting, and got a confirmation as the death squeal of a shosherbuk mixed with thrashing for a moment, then Kell reappeared, his war-form carrying his kill over his shoulders as the first trace of the false dawn lit the mountain snow above them.

The Jaguar was reasonably impressed by Kell's hunting skills, which were well developed for a teenager. He stood up on two legs in Felsin form, as the kit approached him. "Good morning, Kell. A good hunt, I see." He said with complete approval in his voice.

The lean kit nearly jumped out of his form. "Thanks ... I didn't mean to wake you ... just wanted to bring in my share."

Jackson smiled. "Kell, you did pretty good at getting up and out quietly, but you were too close for me not to notice. As far as bringing in your share, that's admirable but we don't normally hunt that way. We get our food supplies elsewhere, because the valley doesn't really support enough prey for eleven large predators. We'd deplete the game far too quickly." He said combining tones of approval and explanation.

"Oh ..." the five foot tall feline mix hesitated. "Well, there's fresh meat for breakfast today."

"Yes, and I think you'll be pleased by what our cooks can do with it." He smiled. "Well, lets get your kill back, before breakfast preparations get underway." He said turning for camp with Kell on his heels.

"Breakfast meat today is courtesy of Kell." Jackson grinned at the teenager as the team gathered in the mess hall.

There was enthusiastic approval from the team as a whole, and Ebon walked up next to him. He patted the teenager's shoulder. "Well done, Kell. That's good initiative, and a nice change of pace for breakfast." The approval in his scent was far stronger than in the simple words.

"Thanks." The lean tom beamed. "I want to do my share."

Ebon nodded. "Somehow, Kell, I don't think that's going to be a problem."

Jackson motioned Kell over to two open seats. He sat down as Kell did. Jackson smiled at him, and took a bite of the breakfast the Tyrfan had made around the meat Kell had brought in. "Not bad, you've managed to impress the entire team in one morning." He smiled quietly.

Kell smiled back at him, unsure how else to respond before digging into his meal.

After breakfast, the team moved outside and a game of War-form NightBlade Rugby broke out. Four of the team on each side, one cheetah to a side, with Corwin, the Black Lion, refereeing. Cazi wasn't visible, and Nareena sat off to one side watching the mayhem.

Kell felt something bump his leg. "*Morning, Kell.*" Nathan's cheerful mind-voice greeted him.

"Morning, Nathan." He smiled at the cub. "Want to play catch again?"

"*Uh huh.*" The Tiger cub grinned, play swiped at the lean tom's tail, and then took off. "*You're it.*" He giggled mentally, remembering what father Cazi had told him about a game called 'tag'.

Kell grinned and lunged after the cub, hitting the ground on all fours as a spotted cat.

The game went back and forth for some time, staying within sight of Nareena. The Tigress smiled approvingly at the two playing.

Cazi wandered out of the main building, and flopped down by Nareena. "Amazing how well they get along. It'll be handy when the next mission rolls around. After all, cub sitters are tough to find out here." He smirked.

"Yes, they are a good pair." The Tigress smiled indulgently at the kittens as Kell suddenly froze, his head jerking skyways. With a lightning fast movement he flowed into a tall, lanky gray dragon like creature and pinned Nathan under one hand, his eyes never leaving that spot in the sky as his wings flared in an aggressively defensive posture.

Nareena leapt to Kell's side. "*What is it, Kell?*"

Cazi quickly flowed to his golden Dracon form, and scanned the sky looking for the threat. His eyesight was significantly better in Dracon mode than the rest of the team.

The War-Forms broke from the game in a run, to see what had triggered Cazi's War-form.

"Incoming." He growled, his gaze never wavering from the unseen threat.

Nareena nodded and scanned the sky telepathically seeking the nature of the threat. Cazi went to mech-telepathy and scanned for potentially hostile machinery. The rest of the team retrieved weapons from various unseen caches and formed a defensive perimeter.

"Coming. Kell hissed, his body beginning to glow. "They are coming."

Ebon put his hand on the dragon's shoulder. "Who's coming, Kell?" He asked quietly, his instincts said the teenager was right, even if the rest of the team couldn't detect the enemy yet.

"Destroyers." He flicked his gaze at the big Panther for a fraction of a second before he focused back on the same empty spot in the sky. "We served them once. Not again."

Ebon nodded. "So you're a rebel too, huh? We also chose to leave the service of those who created us. So they're coming here, do you know why?" Ebon asked beginning situation assessment.

Kell lowered his body over Nathan a little more. "For payment. For a replacement. For you."

Nareena growled deeply, a sound rarely heard from the Healer. "Void take them all if they think they're getting my son."

"Payment?" Rifleman growled threateningly. "Sentient beings are not commodities to be bought, sold and traded. Who ever these 'destroyers' are, they are an offense against sentient life." He unslung the high-powered, long-range energy rifle that was both his specialty and trademark.

"Agreed." Ebon said calmly. "Kell, what can you tell us about them? What kind of beings are they?"

He looked at Ebon in confusion for a moment before focusing back on the sky. "Felsin mostly. The Mephit followers."

Ebon growled low and dangerous. "Shadow Government forces then, we can handle this then." He turned to the Cheetahs. "Air Team One, get airborne. I want recon and report of approaching forces, but do not engage without my okay."

"Everybody else, standard SG tactics but keep an eye on Nathan at all times." He looked at Kell. "We haven't had time to teach you our tactics, but what I really want you to do is guard Nathan."

Kell nodded sharply and shifted to his hunting form before grabbing Nathan by the neck in his jaws and bolted into the forest with a determined, purposeful stride.

"*Where we goin', Kell?*" Nathan asked curiously, wondering why they were leaving the safety of the group of adults.

"*Safe-place.*" A clumsy, focused reply came back.

The Tiger cub could sense that his parents were okay with what Kell was doing, so he relaxed more than the reflexive freeze of being carried by the neck required. "*How far?*" He asked quietly.

"*Enough.*" Kell made a half-shifted gliding leap over the river before his wings disappeared again as the run through the underbrush began again.

Nathan sighed to himself, not happy with the not really answer answers, but figuring that things would make sense, eventually, as they raced through the forest, then stopped in front of a large bramble and deadwood pile.

Kell set the Tiger kit down and shifted to his smaller Serval form. "*Follow.*"

Nathan nodded, and followed stealthily like Ebon had taught him.

"*Found them.*" Maxwell reported after a twenty-minute search. "*Two small space carriers at extreme sensor range. And right where Kell was staring at too.*"

Ebon shook his head wondering how Kell had been able to spot the carriers that far out. "*Pretty bold for the Mephits to bring carriers in this close to Felsinor. Use the flare torpedoes from outside sensor range to draw attention to them. You don't need to damage them, just get Felsin Space Defense to notice them.*" He instructed, knowing that the two small carriers would be easy prey for the FSD.

"*Yes, sir.*" Maxwell called up the flare torpedoes as they sat back to watch the result. "*FSD has made radio contact ... and the carriers have turned around.*"

"*Okay, once the carriers are out of sensor range you can return to base. Alliance fleet will make short work of those carriers now that they've been spotted. Maximum stealth on the way back though, FSD will be on high alert for awhile.*"

"*Jackson, go find Kell and Nathan. That kit's proving to be more than worth his keep.*"

"*On my way.*" The Jaguar dropped to his cat form and began tracking the Caracal-Serval mix, loosing the path several times as the scent faded out even where it made no sense for it to, eventually reduced to a very slow walk as he neared the river, tracking Nathan's airborne scent more than Kell's.

With little hesitation the scared Leopard plunged into the cold water and padded across, taking a long time to catch the scent trail again directly across from where he had entered the water.

With a respectful shake of his head he headed into the forest again, loosing the trail entirely in an area of dense undergrowth and deadwood falls.

Jackson started carefully examining the area with his psychometry looking for traces that Nathan would have left. The Leopard was impressed with Kell's ability to hide; of course the telepathic void didn't hurt.

It took several long moments before a very faint trace of the Tiger kit walking underground filtered up from one of the deadfalls. Jackson shook his head in amusement and methodically searched for 'how' the kit had gotten underground. He figured there had to be an entrance near.

Fortunately, that wasn't quite as well hidden as Kell himself, but the Leopard stared at the entrance in frustration when it turned out to be significantly too small for him to crawl through without significant excavation.

Jackson looked at the entrance for a moment. "*Cazi, I think you're gonna have to go in after the kits.*" He thought to the shifter, projecting an image of the hole.

"*Right, I'm on my way.*"

Minutes later, the Lion showed up, and quickly shifted to a small cat easily capable of getting through. "*Wait here, Jackson. I'll handle this.*" The little cat thought as he went in carefully, looking for the two kits.

Well into the tunnel a low growl gave Cazi barely a heartbeat's warning before a flash of blue fire erupted in front of him. He quickly decided that enough hide and seek was enough. "*Nathan, it's me, Cazi.*" He thought on a shielded family channel.

Nathan turned to Kell as the small gray dragon crouched, blocking the tunnel opening to the den. "*It's okay, Kell. It's just Cazi. Looks like the bad people left.*"

Kell took several long moments to come down from the protective high before shifting to his Serval form and walking out, Nathan on his heels.

As they surfaced, Nathan ran over to Cazi, now back in Lion form, who gently picked the cub up by the scruff and headed back. Jackson walked over to Kell. "*Good job, Kell. I don't think anybody else would've found him there.*" He turned and headed back to camp. "*Let's get back.*" He said, very pleased with the teenager as the Serval followed silently, still clearly trying to calm down.

As they entered camp Nareena was holding Nathan close as she calmed down. The rest of the team had shifted back to Felsin form to cool down after being on a combat high. Several of them were splashing about in the shallow water at the edge of the lake.

There was a quiet whine from the anti-grav's as one of the NightBlades heavy fighters returned, landing under a rock outcropping near the edge of the mountains. The Cheetahs jumped out, and very quickly put an elaborate camo net over the fighter.

Ebon came walking over to the two as Jackson shifted back to Felsin form. "Ebon, there's no way the enemy would've found Nathan were Kell had him hidden. I had trouble finding them, and even still I couldn't get to them." The Jaguar reported approvingly.

"I knew Kell could handle guarding Nathan." The Panther said simply. "Though sounds like I underestimated him. Very well done, Kell." Ebon smiled.

"Thank you." The teenager nodded as he shifted to his sandy-russet spotted Felsin form and accepted a big hug from Ebon. "Hiding I'm good at, especially around here. No one gets what I'm protecting."

"Ebon, I think this solves our concern about what to do with Nathan, if a mission requires all of us. Assuming that Kell doesn't mind being responsible for the cub during those missions." Arsham suggested, leaning against a tree. The White Tiger had been concerned on that score, since missions that needed the whole team did come up.

Ebon nodded, it made sense. "Well, Kell, what do you think about that? It's a big responsibility, but you've shown that you've got the instincts and the ability. We need a NightBlade to keep the cub out of trouble when we're out on a big mission, and you are one now." Ebon offered, trusting his instincts which said the teenager could handle it. Nareena and Cazi nodded agreement with the idea.

Kell grinned in pleasure. "I like it. He's fun to play with, and good about obeying." He shot a look at the mess hall. "How long till lunch?"

Ebon nodded. "We'll be having lunch shortly, it's early but most of us get hungry from being on a combat high. Fortunately, the kitchen knows this." He looked at the cub, now curled up next to Nareena's tiger form. "Looks like he's had enough excitement for a little while."

The Panther looked at the lake, and then back at the teenager. "Kell, do you know how to swim?"

He nodded easily. "Why?"

Ebon smiled. "Just that Nathan loves the water, and with the lake nearby I just wanted to check. Not everybody knows, and it's one of those skills I think it's important everybody has. Especially since we've got a hiding place under the lake, which can only be reached by swimming."

"Any experience with firearms?" Rifleman asked Kell casually. "Not that you don't seem to have a lot of natural options, but there are times when hitting the enemy before he gets too close is an advantage."

"No ..." he studied Rifleman's weapon from where they stood. "But I could probably use it."

Rifleman patted the teenager's shoulder. "We can go over the basics after lunch, and see how fast you catch on." He smiled.

"Okay." Kell nodded easily.

Lunch was a rather large meal, since the NightBlades were coming down off a combat high, and the Tyrfan knew it. Everything was high energy and available in large quantities, to handle even the largest appetite.

After lunch, Rifleman set up a training range, suitable for a beginner which was something the NightBlades had never needed at Maxwell before. There were three sets of targets, one set at a range appropriate for a beginner, one intermediate, and one advanced.

Rifleman handed Kell a blaster pistol. "Okay, this is a fairly common Raakon-35 Blaster Pistol, it's used by a fair number of law enforcement agencies and is a serviceable weapon. It's also a good training weapon as energy weapons go.

"An energy weapon hits where you point it, as long as your hand is steady, and your sight is true. The pulse from the weapon travels at near the speed of light, so leading the target isn't necessary.

"Why don't you try with the near set of targets, Kell? Since they're humanoid targets you want to aim for the center of the chest, or head. He said easily.

Kell nodded and raised the weapon in both hands almost level with his shoulder and took only general aim before he pulled the trigger once. He shifted his aim slightly after watching where it landed and placed three shots square in the chest, then another burst of three centered in the head and clicked the safety back on as he brought the weapon down.

"Like that?" He looked up at Rifleman, utterly sincere in the question.

Rifleman smiled. "Exactly like that, Kell. Okay, why don't you move over to the next set of targets, and do the same thing. You're sure you've never done this before?" The Tiger asked, impressed by the teenager's skill, and on the first try.

"Not in this life." He answered easily as he repeated the procedure with the next set: a single shot to translate what he saw into where it went, then two rapid sets of three shots, one to the chest and one to the head. "I remember someone said as I was real good shot, but that was a long time ago."

"Well, you're still a real good shot, Kell." He said as he moved the next set back to the expert range. "Okay, try the long range targets, and then we'll move on to moving targets." The Tiger said, wondering in the back of his mind what the teenager meant by 'not in this life.'

The kit nodded and repeated his aiming process, though Rifleman could see he was fighting reflexes to not lead the shots at this range, and he didn't aim quite as true.

Rifleman was pretty sure he recognized the reflexes. "Wait here, Kell. I'll be back shortly. A few minutes later he was back carrying a black handgun. "Try this one at extreme range, Kell. It's a nine-millimeter slug thrower. From the reflexes you were fighting I'd guess that past life handled something like this. The slug thrower is a ballistic weapon, so you have to lead at long range and it has kick back which the blaster doesn't."

The kit nodded and brought the significantly heavier weapon up in the same position and pulled off one shot, jumping slightly even though he held perfectly still until the shot left the barrel. He blinked and relaxed as he brought the weapon up for a second time and pulled off his two sets of three shots, landing them perfectly.

"Yeah, this is easier to aim. He smiled up. "Can I have a shot with a rifle slug thrower?"

Rifleman nodded. "Stay put, I'll be back. He sprinted off in tiger mode, and was back about ten minutes later with a black rifle case. He pulled out a sleek, well-crafted rifle. "Not much call for these, with everyone wanting energy rifles. This is a Telchar-7 assault rifle, capable of firing a wide variety of ammo loads including incendiary, high explosive, and armor piercing. See if the balance feels right for you, while I set the targets up for rifle practice. The rifle has much better range than the handgun. That one has telescopic sights as well as an enhanced night vision scope."

Kell's eyes literally glittered in delight as he took the weapon carefully, instinctively respecting it on several levels as he began to break it down while Rifleman set the new targets up.

When he returned Kell had the weapon back together and was kneeling with it to his shoulder in his hunting form. Again there were three sets of ranges, corresponding to the short, medium and long ranges of the rifle. "Whenever you're ready, Kell." He smiled.

Kell brought the weapon down and set it's butt gently on the ground with the barrel angled slightly downrange. He took a single bullet and held it in his hand, feeling it, before loading it manually in carefully measure movements and brought the weapon to his shoulder as he knelt on one knee.

He took several heartbeats to aim, and pulled the trigger slowly, evenly. The barrel barely twitched as the shot was fired, a perfect kill to the center of the long-range target's head.

With the same measured actions he lowered the weapon and stood to look at Rifleman with a pleased smile and much older eyes. "This is a very fine weapon."

Rifleman blinked, a bit amazed that the kit had made a shot worthy of a well-trained sniper. "That it is, Kell. My preferred weapon for precision work, actually. That was a very impressive shot. Clearly, stationary targets are no problem for you." He smiled, pleased. "Next thing would be to work on moving targets, since in real combat most targets are. Which weapon would you like to start with, out of the ones you've handled?"

"This one." He smiled.

Rifleman smiled, nodded and set about setting up the moving target equipment. "You'll probably want to go with the clip, since during the moving target exercise you won't have time to hand load between shots. And that rifle works very well off the clip."

He finished and stepped back behind Kell, who'd added a clip to the riffle and had two others on his belt. "Okay, in this exercise, targets will pop up and attempt to exit the target range. Your task is to make sure they don't. The computer keeps track of where you hit the target, and if you don't kill the target it will keep moving, though it will slow down according to the wound. He handed the teenager a box with a switch. "Press the switch when you're ready to begin. There will be at least ten targets, but the computer can add more."

Kell nodded and relaxed most of his body before pressing the button and brought the rifle level. He never waited for more than the top of a target's head to pop up before pulling a shot, his eyes scanning for the next one even before the one he'd hit went down.

As Rifleman watched, he began to recognize what he was sure was more a design feature than training or simple instincts. The kit was pulling off shots too fast, too accurately ... and didn't look like he was thinking, or even reacting, just doing.

When the last target went down, Rifleman looked at the results and was amazed. Twenty targets, twenty shots and twenty kills in less than 7 minutes. That was the kind of performance he usually scored on target ranges, which led him to believe that at least part of the kit's design was as a marksman. He patted his shoulder approvingly. "That was a stellar performance. I'd say there isn't much you need to learn about shooting. You may want to practice some with the energy weapons, since you might end up in situation where one might be the only weapon available."

Kell nodded as he released the clip and cleared the rifle before putting it away. "I will. They aren't too hard, just odd."

Rifleman nodded. "The difference between the two does make one odd, if your reflexes are designed for the other. In my case, I was designed for energy weapons, so learning slug throwers felt odd."

"So Sam, how's Kell doing with firearms?" Ebon asked casually as he walked up.

"Well, I think we just found my backup. He's a natural with the slug throwers, especially the rifle. He's good with the energy weapons too, though a little practice at long range wouldn't hurt." The Tiger explained.

Ebon nodded. "Excellent. Make sure to show him where the weapons caches are. He may need them if something happens when he's looking after Nathan while we're on a mission." He said before wandering off.

Rifleman nodded as he picked up the rifle case. "He's right, you do need to know where to get a weapon quickly if the need arises. Follow me, I'll show you."

The kit shifted to his Serval form and trotted off after the big Felsin without a sound.

There seemed to be caches all over the compound, all concealed but the Tiger showed Kell how to open them; some a trick rock, log or in one case a plant that one pulled up. Eventually, they reached the main building where Rifleman showed Kell the main armory which was under the deck facing the lake. It was actually dug into the earth about ten feet under the ground, and was very well stocked; including grenades, rocket launchers and some shoulder-launched surface to air missiles.

Once they exited the armory, Rifleman turned to Kell, who was standing on two legs as a Felsin again. "Well, that covers the caches, and is probably enough weapons practice for right now. Anytime you'd like me to set up the practice range for you though, just ask." He offered.

"I will." he promised.

"Well, late afternoons before dinner is usually just free time, with everyone doing whatever interests them. So do you have any hobbies, Kell, things you do just for fun?"

He though about it. "Ummm, I like to fly, though I'm not very good at it. Mostly I've been spending my free time watching you guys."

"Fly? So that dragon form is capable of true flight? He asked curiously.

"I think so. Kell hedged. "I can fly, but it's tough to get off the ground without something to leap from, or a fast running start."

"Not surprising, I've seen some avians that large on other worlds, and they have much the same difficulty. Insufficient lift to mass ratio I think. Might work if we could rig some sort of anti-grav harness, just enough to light you so you could lift off." Rifleman said considering the issue from an aeronautical standpoint. "Well, you've been watching us for about a year or so. Was there anything you saw that looked interesting to you?" He asked, figuring that in a year Kell would have seen all or most of their hobbies.

"The catpile." He said almost innocently.

Rifleman blinked surprised, and then it hit him what the teenager was referring to. One of the more uninhibited, after combat activities of the group, which they'd never figured anyone watched. The Tiger chuckled. "Okay, I'm curious, Kell. Do you actually understand what was going on?" He asked, wanting to see where his knowledge of sex was, because with genetic creations one could never be sure.

"Not really, but you looked you looked like you were having a lot of fun."

The Tiger nodded. "It is a lot of fun " He paused. "Kell, how much do you know about sex?" He asked directly, none of them had ever had to talk to a kit about sex, so he figured he was as qualified as any of them.

The kit stopped, then worried his bottom lip as he thought. He didn't speak for quite a while as an irritated look crossed his face. "Nothing."

The Tiger nodded. "I thought that might be the case." He walked a ways, and sat down on a log, motioning for Kell to join him. "In the case of the catpile, sex is something we do for fun and to burn off the remaining high from combat. There are other reasons, but for most of the team it's just fun. The fun comes from the fact that sex involves touching and letting another touch you in ways that you don't normally, but that can feel very good." He said trying to work into a subject that he'd been 'born' understanding.

The kit nodded slowly, correlating words with what he'd seen.

Rifleman looked at him. "Just what did you see? Probably easier to explain what you saw, then to start form scratch." He said, hoping he wouldn't have to explain from scratch, the mechanics didn't sound as fun as they actually were.

Kell considered for a moment before Rifleman felt the kit nudge his mind gently with a movie-memory of what turned out to be four separate instances, including two that had been inside, at night.

Rifleman smiled. "You are a good observer, Kell. Okay, what you saw was all between toms so at least you know what the equipment is like." He paused. "If this talk makes you uncomfortable at any point, let me know."

"All right." He nodded, confused but willing to go alone with it.

"Okay, the first scene is probably the easiest to explain. That was one tom taking another tom's penis in his mouth. This is called oral sex, and when done right feels very good. Some toms don't like to do the suck part, but most enjoy being sucked." He said simply, and then paused carefully watching the teenager's reaction.

"Okay." Kell regarded the older tom curiously, clearly not really getting what he was being told beyond the mechanical level.

Rifleman shook his head. "Explanation isn't really helping is it?" He asked in a warm tone of voice as he touched the group link with some difficulty. "*Nareena, how old would you say Kell is? Not time since creation, but physical and developmental age.*"

"*Physically, I'd say he's in his mid teens, fifteen or sixteen. Why?*" Her gentle voice replied.

Rifleman sighed mentally. "*I was trying to find a hobby, something not combat related for him to enjoy. So I asked him what he'd seen us doing that interested him the most. His response was 'the catpile', and the conversation has gone from there. I'm trying to explain what he's seen, but my instinct tells me that just explaining the mechanics isn't really helping.*" He thought in a combination of frustration and reluctance.

"*Not helping as in he does not understand what you are describing, or not helping as in he doesn't seem to be sexually aware yet?*" She asked professionally.

"*I'm not entirely sure, and that's the problem. His interest seems to indicate sexual awareness, but he doesn't seem to be connecting what he saw with what I describe.*" He paused. "*I'm having a hard time judging where he is on a mental development level, most of the time he seems like a teenager, and a couple of times on the target range I would of sworn he was quite a bit older.*"

"*Not entirely unusual with accelerated development, especially in a genetic creation.*" She replied reassuringly. "*If he's willing, bring him to me, and I'll give this a try. I need to spend more time with Kell anyway.*"

Rifleman turned to Kell. "I'm not having much luck explaining things, why don't we go see Nareena? She's much better at explaining things, besides as Nathan's mother I think she wants to get to know you better; since you'll be responsible for her son when she's on missions with the rest of us." He said in a friendly, encouraging tone of voice.

"Sure." Kell stood and looked at the Tiger. "Where is she?"

"*Nareena, where are you anyway? If possible, I think it would be better outside. You know how edgy buildings make him, with the exception of the mess hall.*"

"*We're above the short waterfall.*" She added a picture of the place about three miles up the river from the lake.

Rifleman stood and nodded to Kell. "She's up above the short waterfall, as well as you know this area, I'm sure you know it." He said smiling as he started in the direction of fall.

"It's very nice for cooling off, and good fishing not far upstream." He commented as they moved off.

As they approached they saw Nareena, Ebon and Cazi lounging next to the water.

Rifleman waved as they approached. He nodded to the Lion and his sib. "Hi Nareena, you were going to take over explanations?" He said hopefully.

"Yes," she nodded and motioned them over with a gentle smile for Kell as the kit sat in the sun near her. "When you watched the catpile ... did you feel any desire to join them, to do what they were doing?"

"Desire?" He looked at her curiously. "You mean like the rush from a hunt?"

"Something like that, yes." She watched him carefully.

He thought about it for a long moment then shook his head. "They just looked like they were having a lot of fun. What's the big deal with it?"

"Sex is something that should happen only because you desire to do those things with someone, and they do to." She began carefully, then considered the kit. "Kell, have you stroked your penis to feel good?"

The kit looked at her, and shook his head. "What's that have to do with the catpile? He asked not getting the connection.

"Feeling good that way is the point of the catpile, Kell." She explained gently. "And sex is something that should wait until you feel the desire for it."

"Oh, Okay." He said accepting, but still a little disappointed. It looked like fun.

Rifleman relaxed against a rock. "*Thanks Nareena. I almost bungled that one pretty badly. He looks about the age when kits experiment with sex, but he clearly isn't that age developmentally.*"

"When you feel the desire, then it is time to ask someone who attracts you about this." She smiled and ruffled his hair. "And I will always be available." She turned look to look at Rifleman. "*You did the right thing.*" She smiled at him. "*He's of the physical age and asking, it was quite reasonable to assume he was ready.*"

Rifleman nodded, and walked up to Kell. "Well, now that we've explained the catpile, maybe we can find something you are ready for, that's fun." He said, as he smiled warmly at the kit.

Kell thought for a long time before answering. "Swimming?"

"Sure, the lake's great for swimming." He smiled. "C'mon, we'll leave our leaders to their catpile." He whispered conspiratorially to the kit, as he headed back toward camp.

Rebel with a Cause

PG-13 for M/M
Het Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Very Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

52 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written January 13, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance

Primary Races: Felsin

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M).

Pairings: NightBlades

Blurb: With Nathan less than a year old, the NightBlades have an admirer, who's not quite good enough to remain secret for long.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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