The Future is Wyld 5:
The Shrouded Isles part 1 of 2

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

A lone figure walked along the shoulder of the road leading up to Jurnix's School for the Gifted. The scenery was remarkable, he had to admit; the day was bright and sunny, and a cool breeze carried the scent of the surrounding greenery.

The stranger was fairly remarkable himself; eight feet of powerfully built Liger, his tawny pelt striped faintly with dark tiger stripes. The green tint to those stripes was probably one of the more striking things about him, at least once you knew what to expect a Liger to look like. The clothes he wore, simple slacks and shirt, leather hiking boots coming up his calves, were sturdy, but looked home-made, rather that store-bought. Between that, and the fact that he was walking the road, rather than driving, he almost looked out of time, as much as out of place.

He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, looking up at the Eagle approaching airborne from the far side of the gate. He didn't need to see her power at work to suspect she was a weather-witch, and a powerful one at that. She shared the same wildly regal presence, even at this distance, that all the ones at home did.

He chuckled slightly; clearly, he must have been noticed on his approach. He stopped, waiting for her. If she was coming out to greet him, they might prefer that the meeting happen farther out from the gates.

Given the type of people who probably came out here most of the time, he couldn't blame them.

She circled twice as he waited, clearly taking his measure with some care, before she descended to hold a position in front and above him. Her icicle blue eyes watched him with the unnerving unblinking lock of all predatory avians.

"Greetings, I am called Surauli. Who are you?"

"Samson Wick," he said, nodding her a greeting, but not turning from her gaze. "I'm sure this is rather unusual, but I would like to speak with Professor Jurnix, if he's available. It involves the Exodus Project he was approached about a little over fifty years back."

She paused briefly, then nodded regally to him. "Follow me."

"Thank you," he nodded, smiling slightly and falling into step behind her flight path on the way to the gates. This was a good sign; he'd expected to have to explain more up front. Surauli was also keeping a politely slow pace for airborne flyer.

The wrought iron gate opened without anyone else making an appearance, though as he stepped into the manicured formal garden walkway towards a grand classical-style mansion he could see a variety of faces watching their approach from several windows.

"You have several students here," he observed, still following the Eagle in. Not for the first time in his life, he wished he had sufficient control to follow her at a more comfortable speed, but his abilities weren't quite that developed yet. "More than I expected, honestly."

"We are a growing school." She nodded, her powerful voice answering easy before she came to light on the wide porch with its carved marble columns. "There are almost forty students and staff in residence right now."

"Impressive," he nodded, knowing just how impressive it was here. He decided not to drop the numbers he had quite yet; that was for Professor Jurnix's ears first, hopefully. From her silence as they entered the building and walked threw an entrance way fit for any royal house it was likely to happen that way.

Samson did a good job of not gawking, but the level of luxury he was seeing was still clearly well beyond what he was used to being anywhere near. Not that that was particularly unusual, he was sure. He hadn't seen much since arriving in The United New World, but he knew this wasn't typical.

In a way, it made what the Professor had achieved even more impressive. This school was a far cry from anything he was used to, and the pictures he'd seen before coming over hadn't done the place justice, in his opinion. His attention was mostly on a piece of metal sculpture in the hall when a small black and white puppy of perhaps five years poked his head out of a door up the hall to stare at them with an almost unnatural intensity.

The Liger turned his head slightly, looking at the pup and smiling. He wondered what the pup's gift was, if he had one. It was possible that he wouldn't, here, if unlikely. Of course, that was assuming he'd been born here - there was no guarantee of that.

"Are his parents here too?" Samson asked Surauli quietly, his deep voice a near rumble as he followed after her.

"Yes, Ginny and SnapShot are two of our early members." Surauli nodded. "Scott is the first born here."

"What is his gift, if you don't mind my asking?" He looked at the pup with a gentle smile, following after the Eagle.

"We are not positive yet. Like most mutants they are not expected to emerge until adolescence. He has another seven to ten years in all likelihood."

The Liger looked at her with a slightly startled expression, but nodded, not saying anything. Again, it shouldn't have been a surprise, but of all the things that could have worked out differently from home, he hadn't expected that to be the one.

"It is a standard among almost all mutants on record." She continued with the explanation and guided him past the curious puppy and into a hall paneled in darker wood. "Very few display their abilities before puberty."

"That's... not necessarily true," he said cautiously. "Or at least it doesn't have to be."

"That would be something to discuss with the Professor." She stated coolly and evenly, uncertain about just what manner he meant the last part.

"Yes," he nodded. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

"You will have the opportunity shortly." She stopped to open a fine oak door.

Samson waited, wondering what Professor Jurnix would be like. If he would remember the Exodus Project, after fifty years and his own remarkably successful efforts.

"Do come in, Samson." The dark brown Foxbat motioned him into the room even as Surauli stepped out. "Have a seat. We have a great deal to discuss, I believe."

"Yes, we do," the Liger nodded, stepping in and sitting down in the offered chair. Even sitting, he was much, much taller than the Foxbat he was talking to. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor."

"So how is Rasputin these days?" Tamerin asked and leaned back to regard the huge feline.

"He passed away about four years ago, I'm sorry to say," Samson said softly, closing his eyes for a respectful moment. "That's a part of why I'm here, actually. On behalf of his successor."

"Then the Exodus Project has done well?"

"Very well," Samson smiled. "The original colonists found a place to settle not too long after Rasputin approached you about joining. Since then, our numbers have grown slowly, but steadily. I'm a second generation native, myself."

"Most impressive." He nodded. "So what does his successor wish with me?"

"Well, first, he told me to congratulate you on your own successes in creating a place for people like us," Samson smiled, before becoming more serious. "More to the point of why I'm here, he feels that we're currently being too isolationist. While Rasputin's intentions were good ones, Solomon, his grandson, is considering the possibility that they went too far, at least now that we are well established where we are."

"Is he sure those are waters he wants to tread?" He leaned forward slightly. "International recognition of independence is not an easy road and is rarely bloodless. Believe me. It is a choice I still face."

"Part of why he wanted to contact you," Samson nodded. His expression and tone were just as serious as Jurnix's. "He hasn't broached the issue to the population at large yet, either. I'm sure he has his reasons, and good ones, Professor. He isn't prone to rash decisions."

"A wise successor, then. How may I be of assistance?"

"In part, we need contact with somebody in the outside world," Samson explained. "The closest we have is radio, very limited trade, and when somebody happens across our settlements. Even what trade we do is generally without the knowledge of those involved, aside from our people who bring the proceeds in."

"I see." He leaned back and steepled his slender fingers. "My stance has not changed since I last spoke with Rasputin. I would welcome contact with his project again. Perhaps even as a refuge should things get particularly ugly on the mainlands."

"You would be welcome, along with everybody here, I'm sure," Samson nodded. "Though I have noticed some differences already that might surprise you. In the meantime, if Solomon does decide to go ahead with revealing our presence, it might help your cause, after a fashion. Get your foot in the door, so to speak, or at least distract anybody causing you trouble."

"On the other hand, it may also cause international panic because of the troublesome mutant groups and incidents that have happened. We are not a publicly know mutant school for just that reason. It takes very little to cause a cry of harboring terrorists these days."

"That is something to consider," the Liger nodded, frowning slightly. "And a very serious concern. You can see why he started out by only sending one person to start looking into it. Frankly, there's nobody in the Isles who would be qualified to make the decision based on what we know at this point."

"I understand. Are you trained to understand what I can teach you about this world?"

"I suppose that would depend on what you can teach me about it. And what you mean by understanding it. I don't have any particular background in politics or sociology, but I learn well. And I'm used to the idea of being on the outside; you won't have to worry that I'll react too badly to dealing with them."

"Does anyone in the Isles specialize in politics?" Tamerin asked with serious concern. Samson leaned back, thinking about it.

"Internally," he explained, " the various administrators do. Solomon and a handful of others. We really don't need that many, given the size of our population. There are some whose gifts would help them take to it easily, but nobody's really experienced in external politics."

Professor Jurnix nodded thoughtfully and considered the situation. "Is Solomon agreeable to myself and a few others coming to the Isles to gain a thorough understanding of what it is like, to best prepare and advise for coming into public view?"

"I'd be surprised if he wasn't, as long as you weren't going to let everybody know exactly what was going on until things were closer to ready. The only possible problem I could see would be explaining why you're leaving again, if the decision is made not to 'go public.' I'm sure he could think of something, though; it's not strictly against any of our laws to leave, just highly unusual. I'm the first we know about," Samson admitted, "and it's not too hard to notice somebody missing around there."

"Perhaps a truth, without the absolute truth, is the best approach there. I was supportive of Rasputin and his dream fifty years ago and I still am. Even if going public at this time is decided against, an alliance between the Isles and my Institute would be advantageous to everyone concerned and the mutant population in general."

"That's very true," Samson nodded. "Especially if there is a way to let mutants know we are available, without letting the rest of the world know as well. It's a different life from what I've seen out here, even as briefly as I've been out, but a good one for some people."

"And very difficult for others." He nodded with a knowing sadness. "Both are residents here, and everything in between. There are definitely ways to let selective groups know of the Isles without letting everyone know. It is a fairly easy thing to add to our recruitment program options."

"I would have to find out if it was something Solomon was interested in first, but that sounds like a good idea. By the way," he added, "if you have any questions about how things have gone over the past fifty years, feel free to ask. We've seen some incredible advances."

"As have we." Tamerin smiled in amusement. "Perhaps you would consider sharing with us over dinner? I believe there will be great interest among the staff and several students."

"I believe one of them was watching me as I was led back here," Samson chuckled. "Everybody eats in the same area here?"

"Yes," he nodded easily. "We have not yet grown to the size where the main dinning room has become impractical, though we no longer eat at the same table."

"That would be a very large table," the tawny-furred Liger chuckled. "I can try, though I'm not the best at speaking to groups."

"It is more likely to be volleys of questions from various individuals with everyone else listening to the answers than a speech." He chuckled lightly.

"That will still be... interesting," the huge feline chuckled, blushing slightly. "Just eating with that many people in the same room will take a little getting used to."

"Fortunately, you will not be the only new face at the table tonight." He smiled slightly. "We took in a new student shortly before you arrived."

"Oh? Should I wait until I meet him or her, or do you mind giving a few details?"

Tamerin chuckled. "Her name is Megan; a very energetic blue merle Rough Collie teen with a fixation on solving mysteries and herding substitutes. She came from a solid family background that is looking out for her by placing her here, and she came quite willingly from what I understand."

"It sounds like that's unusual here," Samson observed quietly. The tension gathering in his massive frame was noticeable. "Or am I misinterpreting?"

"Unfortunately, a supportive family to go home to is uncommon." He nodded reluctantly. "There are exceptions, the McCade's, the grandparents of the pup you saw, are perhaps the most exceptional of those exceptions."

"In what way?" Samson asked cautiously. He had a bit of a hunch, but he didn't like it at all. "Something about the pup?"

"They never stopped welcoming their daughter home, they visit here on occasion and when she became pregnant with SnapShot's pup they adopted him too, even going so far as encouraging him to take their family name with the wedding. It was a very encouraging year for us."

"It sounds like it," the Liger smiled, relaxing again. The thought that a pup might have brought most families further apart still bothered him, but at least that hadn't been the case here. "It sounds like she has an exceptional family in many respects, both in parents, mate, and child. If you don't mind my asking, how are you handling children here? Clearly, if there's only one, you're not actively encouraging them too much."

Tamerin paused, instinctively brushing against surface thoughts to gather the intent of the question before he answered.

"We encourage partners to have children only when they are ready and it is expected that parents will raise them here with our assistance." He inclined his head slightly. "We would likely have many more children around if four of our five long-standing pairings were capable of it." He shook his head slightly then smiled. "Though I understand that SnapShot and Ginny are planning a second litter soon."

"That's good," Samson smiled. "Is infertility a problem here, or are there other issues?"

"There are two same-gender pairings and two that are infertile due to side-effects of one partner's mutations." He explained briefly. "I discourage our younger residents from reproducing until they are fully mature and are in a stable relationship. I expect to see several of the newer pairings start in the next couple years."

"You might be interested in some of the technology being developed on the Isles then," Samson nodded. "They're working on methods of allowing same-sex couples to have biological children, that should work for infertile individuals as well."

"Definitely, and a technology that is being researched out here as well. It has a great many uses among all segments of society. How close are you to being successful?"

"Fairly close with same-sex individuals," the Liger explained easily. "The biggest problem is that the methods that work best tend to rely heavily on our gifts to get the genetic material to form a stable bond. For cases of infertility, the reason is more important, I'm afraid." There was something about Samson's tone that suggested the subject was of more than just academic interest to him. "Nature seems to have decided that some individuals simply aren't meant to breed."

"True," he nodded with quiet understanding. "Be it from heritage or mutations. Our infertile couples are almost exclusively due to their gifts. The female and free-form shape-shifters tend to be particularly hard hit as a group."

"I think that would be mostly an issue of getting the material to work," Samson said, frowning slightly. "If it's classic infertility, where it just won't work naturally, that's something that can be handled now, to an extent. If it's a case where the genes simply don't work right, then there's little that can be done right now, or in the foreseeable future, as I remember."

"Our research indicates that it is some sort of biological safety net. The shifting genetic design has not yet developed to the point where the pregnancy survives a shape-shift, so the body prevents the wasted resources by preventing one in the first place. Gaia believes she is close to a way around it for those like her, but it is difficult to test as her partner is also a free-form shapeshifter infertile do to a natural form of liquid metal similar to quicksilver."

"That would pose a problem yes," Samson nodded, trying to remember if there was anything in the research that could help them get around that. "Unless something resembling an ordinary cell could be extracted, at least. I'm afraid I'm not an expert in the field, just an interested layman, and freeform shifters are rather rare back home. The theory makes sense to me, though. An artificial womb system might be able to help with that, once it's perfected, if her method wouldn't work."

"True," he nodded. "At this point we have had little need to test it as she has not found a male she wishes to breed with and we have no other free-form shapeshifters. The two female limited-range shifters are both not yet interested in reproducing. We have been looking at surrogate mothers for them when they chose to, but an artificial womb would be even more advantageous with the lower chance of rejection of the fetus. It would also be useful for those mutants that can not reproduce due to the danger to the mother."

"One of the two major reasons we've been working on it," Samson nodded. "There actually has been one live birth already, with the systems we've been working on; an emergency 'test' during the last trimester. The more developed the child is, the easier it is to get the system to support them to term, and to make the transfer safely."

"That is very good news." Jurnix smiled warmly. "Even if it never progresses further, it will save many lives and much pain."

"Especially as powers start to manifest earlier," Samson agreed. "Which is likely to happen, if the Isles are any indicator of what will happen out here."

"That will be interesting to track." He considered the contradictory evidence to what data he had. "It is not what is foreseen here, but we do have much less data in that area."

"And I doubt you're trying to breed for mutations," the Liger admitted. "Something we've been doing since the start, for the most part."

"No, we have not." He nodded in agreement. "We haven't even been trying to breed at all, only train and establish a haven for outcasts."

"Which might have something to do with it. While we never decided not to accept newcomers, we've never expected them to help increase our population, so the focus on improving our people through the breeding program has been a major drive."

"An idea you will want to keep fairly quiet about in the outside world and be careful about broaching with newcomers." He cautioned softly. "It is an exceptionally unpopular one to almost everyone for a wide range of reason."

"Several of which we are aware of," Samson nodded. The Exodus had happened barely a decade after the last World War; it featured rather prominently in their history lessons. "Those might mean we have other issues, related to our identity, but that's somewhat complicated. But when you consider the genetics issues at hand, it's the only way to guarantee that everybody finds a genetically compatible mate at least once in their life. With our population, it's a key factor."

"I understand why it is your norm. But it cannot be ignored how it brings up unpleasant memories for the rest of us of the last World War, eugenics and super-solder programs. Planned breeding is just not acceptable in any context out here by the masses, and it will be used against you by world leaders intent on war instead of peace."

"Particularly given that, if you were to look at the inhabitants, it wouldn't be hard to believe that some sort of 'super-soldier' program was the intent." The Liger sighed, shaking his head. He could imagine the response many would have to an island full of mutants; it wasn't generally a good one. "With any luck, it's something we'd be able to keep quiet about. It will take quite a shift to remove the emphasis from it internally, though. Even if we never talk about it with the outside, newcomers would be likely to find out about it fairly soon, at least if they were moving for a long time."

"All the more reason to keep your boarders largely closed for the time being, even if the Isles present themselves as a nation to the world." Jurnix considered it thoughtfully before shaking his head. "It is a matter that will require careful consideration and some research to make the best choice on how to handle."

"And discussion with somebody who has a lot more knowledge about the big picture back home," Samson agreed. "Though as I said before, I'm sure Solomon would be thrilled to find out you were interested in visiting."

"That as well." The Foxbat nodded. "I am curious if you brought any demographic information with you."

"That I do have," Samson smiled. "Mostly focused around how many Avatars there are of each generation, how old they are, gender, and what fields powers break down into." He kicked himself mentally as he realized that he'd used their own internal term for their 'race' without warning, though it didn't seem to faze Jurnix. "Mutants, that is."

The Foxbat considered him thoughtfully with a slightly cocked head. "What is the origin of that term for us?"

"Mostly early research into how our gifts manifest," the Liger explained, glad that he didn't seem to have offended him. "Our findings suggest that powers typically manifest in what might be considered metaphysical categories. Fire, nature, mind, among others. We still find new ones once in a while, though some are much more common.

"The 'Avatar' term was chosen by Rasputin and the others involved in the research, since all their findings suggested that most or all mutants embody these categories to some extent. It's how we've categorized ourselves since, by generation and category of power."

"Fascinating," he murmured. "I take it there are significantly more Avatar's than known mutants out here."

"Our population is upwards of 500 and growing," Samson nodded easily. "I'm afraid I don't know how many mutants there are out here, though. Likely more than that, but I wouldn't be afraid to say we have the highest density in the world."

"To put it very lightly." Jurnix blinked in real surprise. "It would be safe to say that the mutant population has yet to recover its numbers from the Exodus. You have well over half the known world population."

"I didn't think it was that extreme," Samson murmured, a surprised expression on his own face. "Though that was Rasputin's goal, in a way. Makes it rather dangerous though, with all of us grouped in the Isles."

"Only if you are known to the outside world." He countered quietly. "A single well-placed weapon of mass destruction could end things for some time. But for that, targeting information is required."

"And the ability to hit, but it's definitely another point to consider. A plague would also be devastating, if one developed that our healers couldn't cure. The biggest problem I see with maintaining our isolation, at this point, is that it can't last forever... not the way we're doing it, at least."

"On the other hand, maintaining it for another fifty years should not be terribly difficult between what you must have and a few select alliances on the outside." Jurnix considered thoughtfully. "In that time we should be in a position to be legally protected by at least one superpower in an acceptable manner or have the technology and ability to escape the situation completely if the international scene gets worse instead of better."

"True. Unless something happened to all our telepaths at once, we should be able to keep it going that long." Samson regarded the Foxbat curiously. "Do you really think fifty years is long enough to develop an 'escape,' so to speak?"

"If your technology and resources are what they seem to be, then yes." He nodded with a bit of a guarded promise. "While mine are intended for smaller numbers, the additional resources you bring should be enough to bring the option about on close to the same timetable."

"Well, I should warn you that a lot of our technology is medically oriented, rather than what I've seen out here. But I think it's safe to say we'd be willing to help."

Jurnix nodded easily. "Medical technology is still going to be very useful. It will also be a useful bargaining chip when facing the outside if advanced enough to make a difference in the lives of many. Hopefully, this will all remain an academic discussion for some time to come."

"Hopefully," the Liger agreed. "I know I'm not going to make it more than that. By the way, I haven't asked about this yet. While I'm away from the Isles, would it be acceptable if I stayed here? I'm willing to do my share to help."

"Of course," he smiled warmly. "Our doors are open to all mutants, and Avatars, who come. Do you know how long you will likely stay with us?"

"That depends on when I'm called back, or when you're ready to pay a visit to the Isles, whichever happens first. I don't have any pressing need to return, honestly."

"Then we will settle you in a room before dinner." Jurnix nodded with a smile and stood easily, his advanced years not showing in his finely boned body. "Did you bring anything with you?"

"Just the demographics information," Samson chuckled. "And that, I'm afraid, is up here." He tapped the side of his head. "I have a good memory, and that's the sort of information we would not want getting out in the public if something had happened to me."

"No doubt." He agreed easily. "Your markings make you a natural target unfortunately. Come, we will see about a few more sets of clothes and fur dye so you can go out in public more easily."

"The fur color's the only issue," Samson asked curiously as he stood up, glancing at the faint green stripes along his arm that his homespun clothes didn't cover, "not the fact that I'm a hybrid?"

"Those are different kinds of targets." Jurnix admitted and guided the much larger male into the hallway. "Your fur marks you as a mutant, while your hybrid nature a protected status. People may not like hybrids, but like being any breed or race, it is a federal felony to do harm based on it. Being a mutant has no such protections."

"At least some progress has been made since they left for the Isles," the Liger mused, shaking his head. "Still a great deal to be made, though. In case it becomes an issue, which I hope it doesn't, non-lethal self-defense is legal?"

"Lethal self defense is." Jurnix said quietly as they passed threw the building designed to accommodate many more than it's current number. "While unadvisable because of our nature, we have passed that test once already, about five and a half years ago."

"I'll keep it in mind, though I'm not sure I want to know what happened, given your tone. Most of my combat techniques are non-lethal, at any rate; I worked with the Peacekeepers sometimes, and the use of lethal force is strongly discouraged if anything else will do." More than that, Jurnix could feel a distinct distaste for the idea in the back of the Liger's mind.

"A good idea at any rate." He nodded easily. "There is rarely need for such extreme measures, particularly not if you follow general policy of not going out alone. It is far more unlikely that a group will be assaulted than an individual."

"Bullies anywhere are rarely brave enough to want a fair fight," Samson muttered, rolling his eyes slightly. "Do you have problems with students being assaulted often?"

"No, only one incident and that was not related to being mutants." He shook his head and sighed.

"Mugging?" From the sound of it, the Liger had to honestly wonder why their new leader was thinking of making contact with the outside world more regularly. There was crime back home, yes, but nothing like what it sounded like there was out here. He could feel the fur along the back of his neck bristling slightly against his shirt, and quickly focused on keeping his reactions under control.

"Most likely, though it had an anti-gay component as well. Your Isles have the great advantage of not having brought those ideas with you. We have no such ability to strip society and begin over with a select population."

"And you have a population large enough that crimes like that aren't as ... personal." Samson tensed his muscles briefly, relaxing them and letting the tension out. "I hope nobody from the school was hurt?"

"That too." Jurnix nodded his head and showed Samson up the grand staircase. "Chester had a bump on his head, but they were otherwise only badly shaken, not hurt. It went as well as such situations ever can."

"That's good." The Liger followed Jurnix quietly for a few moments, taking in his surrounding, glad that the building seemed built for people much larger than the Foxbat who owned it. He seemed to fit easily, something he wasn't entirely used to back home, outside of his own residence.

"What types of training do you do here, aside from power control?" He asked after a few moments, hoping to change to a less touchy subject.

"Everything," he chuckled slightly. "Basic education through most advanced collage degrees and specialist training, combat, teamwork, social skills and whatever else members need. We are still at the stage of developing programs as the need arises."

"You might consider a couple 'welcome to the real world' options, if more Avatars start coming here," Samson chuckled. "The differences are noticeable. Is there anywhere someone with a good background in ecological science could be of use out here?"

"Definitely." He nodded with a smile and opened the door to a large room, while in keeping with the wealth and size of the mansion, was remarkably unostentatious. "And someone who can handle a class on 'Welcome to the Isles' for those headed that way."

"I could handle some of that, I'm sure," Samson nodded, looking around the well-appointed room. It didn't have much in the way of personal touches, which was to be expected, but the creature comforts within far exceeded what he was used to. He shook his head slightly, noticing a television and small refrigerator. "Probably less culture shock than moving here, though; just have to adjust to less tech and more Avatars. Is this where I'll be staying?" He asked politely.

"Yes, it is a standard room," he nodded easily. "You are welcome to decorate it as you please. If you find anyone you wish to stay with moving in together is just a matter of moving things. The far door leads to a bathroom suite you share with the adjoining room."

"Thank you," the Liger nodded. "Plants are acceptable decorations, I assume, as long as they're reasonably safe?"

"Yes," the Foxbat kept his amusement to a soft chuckle. "We can also make special accommodation arrangements if you stay for long. A greenhouse or something similar."

"If I reach the point where I need a greenhouse, I'm doing something very wrong," Samson chuckled, smiling some. "Unless it's for space, though I don't think I'll go that far."

"You never know, especially around here." Jurnix grinned at him. "I am quite sure you won't ask for anything as unique as the water room Slquella needs. She's on the aquatic end of amphibious."

"No, I doubt I'll need anything as unique as that," the Liger smiled. "It must be awkward for her to get around, if she needs to be in the water most of the time."

"It does make socializing difficult," he nodded. "She has several advantages for us however, and both our free-form shapeshifters can do aquatic forms. The ocean has many riches that she has helped us gather to support the facility and outside programs."

"I don't doubt that," Samson agreed. "They've always been useful at home, fully aquatic or not. If she's interested, we might be able to develop an environmental suit for her."

"So far she isn't interested in what we have developed, but you are welcome to offer it. You'll meet her at dinner if you'd like."

"I'd assumed you hadn't developed one yet," Samson admitted sheepishly. "Though I look forward to meeting her, and the other students. When is dinner here?"

"Generally at nine. Only Sunday dinner has semi-mandatory attendance as that is when the week is reviewed and the next week discussed along with any issues that have developed."

"Of which I imagine there will be several this week," Samson chuckled. "Is there anything else I should do before I start trying to settle in?"

"Don't let everyone run you ragged." He cracked a grin. "New faces, particularly attractive ones, tend to cause a great deal of excitement."

"Well, I shouldn't cause too much excitement then, but I'll keep it in mind," the Liger smiled and earned a slightly sad smile from the elder Foxbat before he entered his quarters to investigate them more thoroughly.

"It is almost reassuring that he didn't figure out a way to strip all disfiguring prejudice from society." Jurnix said softly as he walked away.




"Haya!" An excessively perky female voice interrupted Samson's exploration of his quarters. "You must be the other new kid here. I'm Meg." The Liger turned to look at the canine at his door, noticing her distinctive blue-gray speckle markings.

"Glad to meet you," he smiled, stepping forward and offered the moderately curvy blue merle Rough Collie his hand and felt it taken by one almost child-small compared to his giant stature. He noticed a slightly, unconscious trembling, and made sure not to grip her hand too tightly. "I'm Samson. The Professor mentioned you," he added, not really sure what, if anything, else to say.

"Really?" She blinked and then grinned, her mismatched eyes sparkling with mischief as she assessed this enormous Lion-kin with faint green tiger stripes and no mane. "What did he say?

"That there was another new student, a Collie with a fondness for mysteries," he smiled. "He also said I'd probably meet you some time today; it seems he was right. Would you like to come in?" He asked, stepping back and slightly to the side as he released her hand.

"He already knows me too well." Meg giggled and took the offer with a relaxed and eager manner at odds with what he'd felt was deep down in her. "You're kinda old for a new student," she commented and flopped on the bed to bounce on it a bit. "Except for Chester everyone's been a teen."

"I'm not quite a typical student," Samson chuckled, pulling up a chair. After twenty minutes of looking around the room, he was getting used to the fact that the furniture all seemed to fit him with minimal adjustment, most of which had already been done. "You've met the others already, then?"

"Some of them," she nodded easily and stretched out, giving an unconsciously sensual display of her well-developed adolescent body. "Our resident puppy and his father are so cute."

"I sort of met the pup," Samson smiled in agreement, blushing slightly beneath his tawny fur as he noticed the display, even if she didn't. "I would imagine both his parents are cute, if he takes after them at all."

"I guess so," she shrugged. "I'm not into fems much so I'm not a good judge. Are you?"

"A good judge?" He asked with a chuckle. "Or into fems?"

"I meant the second," she laughed playfully and grinned at him. "But either answer works."

"Debatable, and yes, generally," he answered. "Why do you ask?"

"Cause there seem to be a lot of folks only into their own side of things." She shrugged, then grinned at him over his deepening color. "And I like knowing what the options are."

"Well, mutants aren't the only outcasts these days," he said softly, and a little sadly. "Still, I'm sure you'll be able to find a handsome guy out here who's into fems. They can't all be that exclusive," he smiled.

"I'm looking at one, unless you've got a mate you aren't talking about." She licked her muzzle eagerly.

"Uhm, no," the Liger said quickly, blushing even more deeply than before, adding a slight crimson tone to his otherwise tawny fur. He swallowed a bit, wondering why she was coming on to him, if she really was. "Though I'm hardly handsome."

"Don't be silly." Meg giggled despite being serious. "You've got great fur, you're buff, really unique looks and lovely eyes. Whoever raised you just doesn't have an appreciation for what they got." She abruptly got very serious. "Don't let them win, Samson. We can change things, but only if we aren't ashamed or afraid of ourselves for being born what we are."

"Meg...." He trailed off, trying to think of how to explain it. "It's not because I'm a mutant, or anything related to that. Have you ever heard of a Liger before?"

"Yeah, you're a Lion/Tiger. Pretty much the same thing as a Tigon but more common. So?" Her blue eye seemed to pierce through his very soul while her brown one was full of compassion.

"I'm also an accident," he said softly, turning away from her gaze slightly. "Among other things. I don't know if those don't mean much out here, but ... where I'm from, it's more of an issue." He wasn't sure why he was telling her about this, this soon at least. Maybe it was the novelty of the situation; the things he'd done for years to avoid discussing it didn't quite apply here.

He nearly jumped when her low growl reached him, but she cut off his explanation even as he turned to face her again.

"Samson, we are all accidents of nature to some degree or another." Megan rumbled forcefully. "Where ever you are from, whatever problem they have with you, it's all the same. We will never live in this world openly and safely while people are discounted, feared or hated for what they are born as. Believing their problems only perpetuates them into the next generation and contributes to the problem. We have to change our own perceptions of worthlessness before we can ask anyone else to believe in our worth or right to exist."

He was quiet for a moment, not sure how to respond to that. He knew she was right, at least from the angle she was looking at it. At the same time, it wasn't easy to think about it the same way.

Or to explain why it wasn't.

"The 'problem' they have with me," he tried to explain, "isn't as subjective as that, Megan. Also probably not the most appropriate topic to discuss with somebody I've just met. My people never treated me the way mutants are treated out here, it wasn't like that."

"So just how did you end up with such a self-worth problem?" She tried to mellow her tone with moderate success.

"You don't have to be treated like a monster to be on the outside," he explained quietly. "I was never treated badly, never ostracized like mutants have been. I'm simply not like they are, and even if I'm not treated that way, I know it. Home is a wonderful place; but it's not a place I fit in. I suppose you might say I'm a black sheep. Or a lone mule, in a herd of fine stallions and mares," he mused. The analogy was much closer to his situation in several respects.

Megan regarded him for an agonizingly long time with those eyes that conveyed such different things in their separate colored orbs. "Come lay on the bed so I don't have to keep looking up, okay?"

"Sorry," he said a little sheepishly, getting up and moving over next to her. His own eyes betrayed the uncertainty he was feeling as he tried to find a way to lay down that wouldn't invade her personal space too much.

"Don't be," she smiled warmly at him and patted a spot.

"Is this better?" He asked, managing to settle in, his eyes much closer to level with her own now.

"Yeah." She rolled over to relax with her legs tucked under her and her fluffy multi-colored tail curled around her knees. "Now how about this explanation about how society never treated you badly yet it lead to this belief in your minimal worth."

"You don't give up, do you?" He asked, shaking his head a little, looking into her mismatched eyes and trying to find another way to word it. "Where I come from... there aren't many of us," he explained, not entirely sure how much detail to go into yet. "A number of small settlements and colonies. Children, and the ability to have them, are important. So is having a good bloodline, though not in any sort of 'family name' sense." He leaned his head back with a sigh.

"I've never been attacked or berated for what I am, never been told I should never have been born. I've been treated like everybody else, but everybody else knows, the same way I do...." He trailed off, shaking his head again rather than finish with a comment that wouldn't have done any good, and probably just would have upset Megan more.

"That you can't have pups." She nodded. "While out here that can be a dating plus. A lot of fems would be thrilled not to have any chance to face an unplanned pregnancy and still not have to deal with birth control. Sounds like you'd do well here, and better not to go back to where you aren't valued for a quirk of fate."

"I am going back some day," he said firmly. "Maybe not forever, but I'm not just going to disappear from the Isles." He paused for a moment, thinking about it. "So pups aren't as important out here, to most people?"

"Only those that haven't realized there are too many people in the world already." She shook her head. "Most folks seem to have one or two, but a lot of couples don't ever breed. It's pretty
normal in these days of the two-income household and overcrowded cities to have no pups, or only one fairly late in life."

"Definitely different from home," he chuckled slightly. "Normally, I'd have at least one of my own by now, if a good mate was available. So the standards of attractiveness change as well," he said softly, thinking about it. By those standards, it made her comments, and the Professor's from before, make more sense..

"Do you get to choose your mate there?" She asked with a curious and wary note in her tone.

"You can," he nodded. "With all the issues that mutation can create, most people have at least one child with a partner who's a good match genetically. But beyond that you can choose whoever you want as a mate or lover, as long as they're willing."

"Where ever you are from, it's going to be a real event when the press finds out." She said quietly. "Breeding programs like that are all bound up with trying to conquer the world and wipe out everyone else. We fought a world war over it in my grandfather's time and a major one every generation since. It's bad stuff, getting linked with eugenics in any way, shape or form."

"The Professor already mentioned that," he said softly. "The public won't take it well, despite the fact that that is hardly the goal of what we're doing. But there's no other way to answer the question honestly, I'm afraid, and I felt doing so would be best here. The press isn't going to find out, if there's anything that can be done about it. Is it something that bothers you?" He asked, looking into her eyes carefully.

"As long as they don't start trying to apply it to me, not really," she shrugged. "At least not without better details."

"If it ever came up, you'd have plenty of details," he chuckled slightly. "Not that it's going to, unless you were to come to the Isles for a rather long time."

"I'll keep that in mind." She nodded. "So who raises the pups if you aren't usually mated to your partner?"

"Usually the mother raises them, unless she isn't interested and the sire is," he answered easily. "Otherwise, or if something happens to the parents, the community raises them, so to speak. Somebody raises the pups from their friends and family, but the entire settlement pitches in to help. Usually happens when one of the parents raises them as well, but it's more official with orphans, or ones who might end up as street kits out here."

"Sounds like a pretty nice place, except for the breeding thing."

"Which isn't that bad, if you're expecting it," Samson chuckled slightly. "It is nice. You don't have to hide what you are, either. And if you're interested in mysteries, we have some big ones, from what I understand."

"Oh?" Her entire body perked up with her soft triangular ears. "Like what?"

"Well, it seems we weren't the first people there," he explained. "But we know very, very little about whoever was there first. They left some ruins, but they've been mostly sealed off, except to a handful of researchers and our leader. Found them not long before I came here, actually."

"Have you seen them?" Megan licked her muzzle and moved to drape herself casually over his chest.

"Uhm, no," he said, a little surprised at the shift in how she was acting. "Not the inside, at least."

"What did you do, before coming here?" She smiled slyly and played her fingers across his shirt.

"Ag work, mostly...." He trailed off, taking a discreet experimental sniff to see if she really was as interested as she seemed to be acting. The scent of her arousal definitely answered that one for him. He gently rested his hand over hers, looking at her somewhat uncertainly. He wasn't honestly sure if she was being forward or not... not that his body was objecting if she was.

"Lots of sweaty work with the sun on your fur?" She dipped her nose to nuzzle his hand briefly, her tail wagging over her back playfully.

"Actually, remarkably little," he admitted with a bit of a chuckle. He took her hand in his gently, bringing it up for a gentle kiss. "Megan?"

"Yeah?" She looked up to meet his gaze.

"Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting...." He didn't honestly know how he could be, between her hands and her scent. "But are you sure you want this, now? I'm probably ten years your senior, and... to be honest, you've just met me."

It was enough to cause her to pause, a curious look on her face. "Didn't think you were that old." She cocked her head slightly. "Playing around isn't big on your fun things to do list?"

He blushed a bit. "I haven't had much opportunity to find out... but honestly?" He brought her hand up and kissed it lightly, smiling at her. "I'd like the chance to get to know you better first, for you."

"You're a virgin?" Megan managed to ask bluntly without sounding too incredulous, just surprised. Fortunately, he wasn't too surprised by the question.

"For all intents and purposes," he admitted, blushing a bit more. "The one time I came close, it... didn't end particularly well." He flushed a deep crimson beneath his tawny fur, thinking about how that disaster had turned out.

"Because of your heritage." She barely had to guess, her voice low and gentle and eyes soft.

"In part," he nodded, still blushing deeply. "Though she didn't mind that, as much as... well, I didn't exactly develop like most felines, in that respect...." He really, really hoped she wouldn't ask for more details about that one.

"Somehow, I think you'll find that less of an issue out here." She licked his fingers gently. "I saw it's not your size."

"No," he admitted, nuzzling her head gently, "but it is one that's... important... to most felines. And while I can definitely tell that you're not one," he smiled softly, "I would still like to know you a bit better first. Is that all right? It might be a little old fashioned, but...." He chuckled sheepishly. "You seem special enough to be worth taking the time to know outside the bedroom too."

"Sure," Megan giggled and shifted to sprawl on top of him with the easily relaxed manner of one accustomed to being told to calm down and complying without letting it ruin her mood. "Anything in particular or just that general getting to know you stuff?"

"The latter, I think," he smiled, easily shifting to support her weight on top of him, wrapping one of his thick, well-muscled arms around her back after only a moment's hesitation and smiled as
she snuggled in without any hint of a problem.

"No prob." Megan snuggled her head against his broad chest and relaxed significantly. "Oh, and welcome to the JIG," she added with a giggle.

"No offense to Surauli, but I think I like you better as a welcoming committee," he chuckled, rubbing her back lightly, closing his eyes with a contented smile.


"Mmmm, so is a blow job sex to you?" She asked out of nowhere while still comfortably sprawled across his chest with her feet trailing off each side of his body. He looked at her, a little surprised; he hadn't really thought about it before.

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "Haven't thought about it too much. What's your take on it?"

"That it's fun and a lot less messy." Megan giggled. "I don't really think it's real sex, but I don't think about sex like you do either."

"No, you don't," he admitted with a chuckle, rubbing her back gently. "Though, like I said, I hadn't thought about this much at all. Mind if I ask you something?"

"Not at all." She smiled and nuzzled his shoulder.

"Why is it so... casual, for you?" He asked, blushing a bit as he realized how that might sound.

She cocked her head, considering the question instead of giving a flippant answer that came to mind first.

"It's just part of how I grew up. It feels good. It's fun and a better outlet for excessive energy than fighting. As long as you use a little protection against pregnancy and disease it's fairly harmless." Megan chuckled and shrugged. "Besides, I'm a teenager. It's kinda hardwired to be interested in fooling around."

"I remember," he chuckled, smiling at her. "I suppose it's just one more way I'm strange; as interested as I was, I was also a bit slower about it."

"It's hardly that unusual." Megan smiled and relaxed, trying not to pressure him into something he wasn't ready for.

He rubbed her back a bit more strongly, thinking about it. "You're really interested?"

"I wouldn't be bringing it up if I wasn't." She looked at him very seriously for her age. "I like the way it feels to bring a guy off. I like the way I feel around you. You're big and strong and gentle and uniquely handsome and very well endowed. Not much not to want, really."

He blushed again at the praise, nuzzling her slightly. "Would you be willing to put up with me trying to return the favor?"

"Sure," she grinned happily and shifted down his body to rock against his groin enticingly. "Just be careful with the rough side of your tongue. A little feels good, but it can hurt too."

"I'll keep it in mind," he rumbled softly, glancing over to make sure the door was closed. "Want to try at the same time?"

"Not for your first time, big guy." She grinned up at him and slid down between his legs to rub her face against the quickly hardening length still concealed by cloth. "Besides, I like to give my full attention to a guy the first few times till I know him well."

"No complaints here," he groaned, instinctively spreading his legs slightly, his thick tail twitching beneath them along her belly. His scent started to get stronger, through the fairly heavy pants he wore, and the growing bulge suggested just how impressive he would probably be.

"I didn't think there would be." Megan grinned and continued to nuzzle him threw his pants, in no apparent hurry now that she had consent. "You smell good too."

"Thanks," he said, taking a few deep breaths to get himself under control again. As much as he could, at least; the sensations she was giving him were incredible, and he was still completely dressed!

"Mmm, you definitely aren't short on responsiveness." She rumbled appreciatively, her throat vibrating against his sheath while her pointed nose edged his shirt up and one hand ghosted across his balls and inner thighs.

"Just hope I don't roar when you're finished," he chuckled a bit, his leg twitching a bit at her touch before he reached down to rub her head gently with one hand, and shuddered when she vibrated her throat against sensitive flesh.

"Don't worry about it, handsome. Just relax and enjoy."

"This feels incredible, Meg. Want some help with my shirt?"

"I've got it." She nuzzled her way under the slightly rough cloth to lick playfully at the taut muscle and dense fur underneath. His powerful body rippled slightly, and she heard a deep rumble of pleasure, the sound almost like a small engine idling beneath her. She could feel his shaft pressing against her through his pants, and his powerful hands stroked her hair, her shoulders, anything he could reach fairly easily.

It made her smile and relent a bit. Though she kept her tongue working his abs, she brought her hands up to unzip his pants and slowly part and draw them down to reveal bare flesh and his heavy, swollen sheath. The scent of his arousal was stronger now, and his breath caught as her top brushed against the downy fur covering him. He nearly cried out as her throat vibrated directly against the soft, dry, smooth skin covering the hot rod of blood-rich flesh she'd drawn out of it's sheath.

She stayed right there, simply rubbing the thick, soft fur of her vibrating throat along his sensitive skin before she ventured a hand between them to heft and slowly explore his heavy balls with gentle fingers. He whimpered, fighting against the urge to thrust up against her body as the tawny-furred orbs twitched slightly in her grasp.

"Meg," he groaned, biting his lip to keep from crying out.

"All right, big boy." She grinned and lifted herself up to arch over his groin and took the tip of his smooth shaft into her mouth, playing her tongue around the cylindrical tip. Her hands closed around the thick length under her muzzle and purposefully stroked it while exploring it's every vein and variation.

This time, he couldn't keep himself from crying out in pleasure, the feelings throbbing through his body ripping a sharp, ragged gasp out of him. Pre started trickling down his length, and she could tell he likely wouldn't last too long. Not that it was a surprise, given his inexperience, and it was hardly a bad thing in her book either way.

She closed her hands a little tighter as she stroked his shaft in a counter-rhythm to her mouth as she opened her mouth and took him as far into it as she could, only to draw her head back up and her hands down to his sheath while her tongue played along the skin available to it.

He let out a roar that felt like it was rattling the window, thick, hot seed shooting into the back of her mouth to be eagerly lapped and swallowed as he came hard. His tail lashed against her front and her soaked panties. His hands clenched down on the sheets with a powerful grip.

All the while Megan continued to work the pulsing, twitching flesh in her hands and mouth, intent on giving him the most intense experience she could for what was likely his first time. Finally, it seemed like he couldn't give her any more, just panting and twitching slightly beneath her, his eyes not quite focused.

"Gods," he panted as she licked him clean of what had dribbled from her mouth down his shaft and into his fur. "Incredible...."

"Thank you." She smiled warmly at him and nuzzled the hard flesh again. "It gets better, but that is for later."

"Yeah," he smiled down at her, leaning down to rub her shoulders, and slowly draw her up along his body for a tentative kiss that was returned warmly and gently with little indication of the fire pounding in her veins and between her legs that her scent conveyed so clearly.

It also drove home just how much smaller she was than him when he could close his mouth around her entire head with little difficulty.

"Have you ever done this to a girl?" Megan breathed when they parted slightly.

"Done what?" He asked softly, rubbing her sides and inhaling her potent scent. A part of him wanted to take this just as far as she'd let him, but he forced it to the back of his mind for now. and concentrating on what she was saying, and then doing, when she slid off his chest, leaving his pale chest fur streaked with her juices.

"Not-sex pleasuring." She smiled slightly at him and settled upright against his side with her knees spread invitingly and her breasts firm against his shoulder. Her blue eye read his body and soul as easily as a telepath might while her brown one held little but gentle compassion. "Touched, explored a female's body without the demands of sex."

"A little," he smiled, reaching up to brush his fingers against the curves of her breasts and felt her arch eagerly into the contact. He licked his lips a little nervously as he leaned up to kiss her gently again. "Want me to show you what I know?"

"Yes," she breathed heavily, her arousal given a little more reign on her responses. He shifted to kiss the base of her neck, running a powerful hand down her body to loosen her shirt from her waistband, while the other continued its attentions to her breasts. He was careful how much force he used, each touch starting out gently, then becoming firmer as he tried to get a feel for what she liked best.

"Samson..." she gasped eventually, her legs spreading further apart as she guided his hand between them, "explore the rest later."

"As you wish," he rumbled deeply, rubbing her crotch through her silky panties and kissing down her chest, letting his whiskers tease her breasts.

"Ohhh, yesss." Megan shivered and trembled as she used his strong body for support without a second thought.

"Tell me if I do something you don't like," he said, nuzzling her belly and rubbing the inside of her thigh.

"I will." She moaned and leaned more heavily against him. "Touch me already." She whispered hotly.

"With pleasure." He slid her panties to the side, pressing his thick, powerful fingers against her slick sex, inhaling her musky scent. "Mind if I take these off of you?"

"Not at all." She murmured hotly, almost intoxicated by his touch and presence. "Do anything you want," she added with a hungry moan.

"Later," he rumbled, pulling her panties off and unzipping her skirt, shifting down a bit further. He hesitated for a moment, then carefully, tentatively ran the bottom of his tongue along her slick lips, spreading the lightly furred mound with a soft groan as he tasted her and she cried out softly at the touch.

"Oh yes." She shivered and moved her hands to his wide skull to rub his ears and wide forehead in encouragement. "That's good, handsome." He ran his hands along the insides of her legs, rumbling with pleasure at the praise. He pleasured her with his tongue, occasionally experimenting with the rough surface of it, heedful of her earlier reminder to be careful. He shifted an arm behind her, rubbing the globes of her ass and drawing her closer. He pressed his tongue into the hot, tight entrance to her body as she moaned and wordlessly encouraged him with her hands and voice.

"Oh ... close." Megan shuddered as her womb began to tighten, the pleasure spreading from deep inside her to spiral through her excited body. "Don't stop. Gods, just like that." He did just as she said, his broad, powerful tongue delving deeply into her sex, the sharp tips of his teeth pressing against her as he tried to bring her over the edge, her juices dribbling down his chin while she groaned and cried out in pleasure.

He felt her body stiffen, her hands clenched against the back of his head to hold him tightly against her sex as she shuddered. Her body instinctively contracted and fluttered around his tongue, the motions that on his cock would have driven him over the edge very quickly. He rumbled softly, imagining that and savoring the feel of being this close and intimate with the gorgeous Collie. He rubbed her back gently, supporting her as she trembled and the contractions gradually calmed down, allowing her to loosen her grip on his head.

Despite the whimpers, there was no doubting she was feeling nothing but pleasure while she slowly massaged his ears and gasped for breath.

"That was incredible," he rumbled, smiling up at her with an affectionate nuzzle just above her soaked sex and took in the change in her scent her orgasm created.

"Yeah. Yes it was." She shuddered again and smiled down at him.

"Glad you liked it," he smiled, shifting up to snuggle close to her, his fur still matted with her juices, his shaft still rock hard; a state of affairs that did not escape her notice.

"I think you need a little more attention." Megan grinned and reached down to play light fingers along his smooth cock. He shivered, rubbing her arm lightly.

"Depends on the type of attention," he smiled at her, a bit of a mischievous look in his eyes, "but I don't think you want to try and tire me out quite yet."

"Oh?" Megan licked her muzzle with mischief in her own gaze while one finger circled the tip of his cock teasingly. "Now why is that?"

"Feline," he chuckled, blushing a little bit. "I might not have the barbs, but I do have the... endurance." He kissed her gently. "Doesn't take me too long, but I can handle quite a few rounds. Probably more with... inspiration... like you."

"Now what makes you think that's a bad thing?" She grinned eagerly at him. "Have you checked out the bathroom yet?"

"Just that you might want to know what you'd be getting into before you try to tire me out," he grinned back, though not quite as eagerly. "And I looked around, but that's about it. Why?"

"Because we do need to clean up before going out in public, and there are a lot of fun things to do in the shower ... and a bathtub." She dipped her head down to lick the tip of his cock. "And the water deals with the mess."

"You're incorrigible," he laughed, a sound he didn't make nearly enough, now that he thought about it. "So, should we go get washed up?"

"Thank you." She grinned back and rolled off the bed easily to strip down to the fur with a comfortable ease with her own body. "Yes. We need to clean up, get messy under the water, clean up again." She winked at him over her shoulder and swaggered into the bathroom with her tail raised invitingly along her back as he followed after her.

"Giving a whole new meaning to rinse and repeat," he chuckled.


"You are incredible, you know that?" Megan smiled, lazily content, as they lay snuggling on his bed while she absently fondled his soft sheath and he played a hand along her back and ass.

"And you still put me entirely to shame," he rumbled softly, kissing her gently. "You know, a guy could get used to this." It was almost two hours since she'd come to his room, and they'd only quit a few minutes before. Samson, for his part, honestly couldn't remember feeling like this ever before in his life.

"It's a girl thing," she winked at him and nuzzled him in return. "Your endurance will improve when you're a little more used to be touched."

"Is that a promise?" He asked, grinning at her and returning the nuzzle. "Mmm... Meg? If you don't mind my asking, where's your room?"

"As close as I can get." She licked an exposed nipple. "It's across the hall. They just fill the rooms on the end as new folks show up."

"One of these days, maybe we should think of clearing one of our rooms out," he mused softly, rumbling and reaching up to rub her own firm breast. "Not right away, but some time."

"Sounds like something to think about," she murred in appreciation of his touch and arched her back to press into his hand more firmly.

"Hay, Samson! It's Dinner...." A deep male voice boomed before trailing off in surprise as its owner stood in surprise at the now open door. The Liger was just as surprised by the sudden appearance of the black Lion as he was by the Megan's sudden disappearance with a squeak. He couldn't feel her against his hand anymore, but he hadn't felt her move either.

"Thanks," Samson said quickly, turning in the bed and trying to cover up some. "I'll be down in a bit." Where was she? He didn't look around too much, but he couldn't see her anymore. There had to be a logical explanation ... maybe she was a teleporter?

If so, he hoped she'd teleported somewhere that wasn't overly public.

"Umm ... was Megan ... a little gray canine ... in here?" Kris asked awkwardly from the doorway.

"Uhm... yes?" Samson answered just as awkwardly, hoping neither of them was going to regret it later. "I think you startled her."

"Yeah." He nodded. "Prof wanted me to tell you she phased to the ground floor and is headed back." He got a funny look on his face. "At warp speed."

"I'm going to guess that means you don't want to be standing in the way when she gets here," Samson said, getting a slightly confused look on his own face at the reference. He shrugged a bit, reaching over to grab his pants off the floor. "And since her clothes are still here, you might want to look the other way; we'll both have to get dressed."

"Right. I'll wait in the hall." He stammered a bit and backed out of the room to shut the door quickly.

Samson nodded and looked down at the faint image of Megan, who was becoming more solid and hidden against his side. His face was burning bright red beneath tawny fur, a shade she shared under her multi-shaded gray fur.

"Think it's time to get dressed," he said sheepishly.

"Yeah." She nodded and tried not to start laughing nervously. "Am I solid?"

"Mostly," he nodded slightly, carefully rubbing her mostly-solid arm. "Your gift, I presume?"

"Yeah," she nodded and focused on solidifying again. "Great defensive quality, but occasionally freaky."

"To you, or others?" He asked softly, getting up to collect their clothes from the floor.

"Both," she shrugged and rolled off the bed to catch him around the waist in a hug that included her tail. "Thank you for a wonderful time."

"Thank you," he smiled, hugging her close and kissing her tenderly. "It doesn't bother me," he added firmly, tipping her muzzle up to look into her mismatched eyes, "not now that I know about it. Do you want to head out at the same time?"

"Yeah," she smiled and nuzzled his abs, which were as far up his body as her nose reached. "I'm not ashamed, I was just startled."

"Okay," he smiled, reaching down to rub her shoulders, setting her clothes down on the bed. "Let's get dressed and go meet the Lion."

"Yeah," she grinned and quickly pulled her shirt over her head and her short skirt up. "I bet he's almost as bright as you were"

"Almost," Samson agreed, blushing a bit again. He rather hoped that the Lion would be at a different table at dinner; he couldn't see any way they could be at the same one that would keep him from blushing through the entire meal. He pulled his own clothes on quickly, looking around the room.

"I'm going to have to put some fragrant flowers in here some time soon," he mused quietly, moving towards the door. "Ready?"

"Yap," she smiled up at him and made one last adjustment to her skirt and ran her hands threw her copious main of hair to make sure it was suitably settled. "At least we're not going to be the only ones with embarrassing moments around here."

"I'd be surprised if we were," Samson admitted, smiling and leaning down to steal one last quick kiss before he opened the door.

"Sorry about that," he said, ducking his head a little sheepishly as he looked down slightly towards the black-furred Lion.

"No problem. I'm Kris NightStorm." He offered his hand and took assessment of the giant Liger and his much smaller companion bitch that was acting decidedly submissive.

"Glad to meet you, Kris," Samson smiled, shaking the offered hand. Despite his smaller size, the Liger could feel that Kris was most likely significantly stronger than he was. "Samson Wick, and this is Megan, though you might have met her already."

"No," he smiled at the decidedly shy female. "But my mate, Sandy, gave her tour of the place. Have you met anyone but the Prof yet?"

"You, Meg, and Surauli," Samson answered easily. "And I sort of met the pup; he watched me while I was walking through."

"He's a cute one, isn't he?" Megan grinned at the bigger males.

"Pups are, it's a defense mechanism," the Liger grinned back down at her.

"And we grow up sexy." She snickered.

"I never said otherwise," he rumbled, squeezing her shoulder affectionately.

Kris just groaned. "What is it about canines and sex?"

"I think it's teenagers," Samson chuckled. "Canine or otherwise."

"Yeah, but the shifters aren't that bad. That's a horse and cat ... or maybe two horses. You can't be sure with Charlie." He shook his head and shut his mouth when he realized that most of the 'calm' pairings had a canine in them.

"Can't be sure about their ages either," Samson pointed out. "I've met people who were in their thirties you would swear weren't older than twelve."

"Yeah, Gaia did that a lot when she was first here. Her favorite shops wouldn't admit teenagers." He shrugged.

"What sort of shop would that be?" The Liger asked, cocking his head curiously.

"Toy shops." Megan piped up with a giggle.

"Sex toys." Kris amended with a shake of his head for the young canine.

"They have stores for those out here?" Samson asked, his eyes got wide for a moment while Megan cracked up.

"Yes. Mega-stores on occasion and do not even get Gaia or Sandy started on the internet shopping." The Black Lion shook his head his disbelief. "There are things ... lets just say, if you can think it up, it's available for sale. Usually from more than one place."

"Sounds like I'm going to be running into a lot of surprises," he chuckled slightly, shaking his head. Apparently this was something pretty well known.

"Sheltered life so far?" Kris asked curiously as they entered the grand dinning room with one large table and two smaller ones.

"Might say that," he nodded slightly, looking around the massive, richly appointed room. "More that some parts of it are still stuck about fifty years behind the times...."

"Might we well be a different planet, from what my parents said." Megan shook his head but spoke softly as she tried to assess all the looks they were getting from more breeds of people than she'd met in her life.

"You're both sitting at the Prof's table." Kris motioned to the largest and richest carved table with seating for sixteen. "It's tradition that the newbies sit with the teachers and us oldest students."

"A good way to get to know everybody in charge," Samson guessed quietly, looking at the large gathering and feeling slightly overwhelmed. There were enough people here to fill a small settlement!

"Everyone's ... like us?" Megan whispered.

"Yes, dear." Professor Jurnix's gentle voice came from behind them and the Foxbat guided them to sit next to each other and himself at the main table. "At one time we could all sit at the same table, but we have outgrown that custom."

"I can see why," Samson murmured softly. "It would have to be a very, very large table."

"And it would still make conversations involving everyone simply impractical." A big Lioness shook her head as Kris sat next to her. "I'm Sandy. Team leader for the action team."

"Otherwise known as the highest ranking student body member, even if none of us are students anymore." A dapple gray draft mare with icicle blue eyes chuckled. "I'm Gaia, her second."

"A pleasure to meet you both," Samson said politely, smiling a little weakly. "I'm Samson," he added by way of introduction.

"I'm Kelly Sanders, the school nurse, and my mate, Dr. Sandra Keller." A fluffy feline introduced herself and the Red Fox next to her. "The Isles into small groups?"

"Yes," he admitted, nodding a bit. "Something like this would be a major festival, in the village I grew up in. Probably a solid tenth of the people in all the isles here."

"Almost all like us?" Gaia's ears swiveled fully forward to focus on him.

"Yes," he nodded easily. This he'd been expecting. "To one degree or another, nearly everybody on the Isles is a mutant. The main exceptions are normal people who came in with family or lovers when they were first settled."

"That would make more mutants on the Isles than the rest of the world combined." Sandy's ears flattened in a shocked awe that was shared by much of the table.

"The Professor mentioned that earlier," Samson nodded softly. "The first colonists, my grandparents included, left about fifty years ago. It sounds like our leader at the time found most of the world's mutants at the time, and the population is still recovering."

"Then you're still on world?" Gaia focused on him with her unsettling eyes.

"Yes," he nodded, not too unsettled by her gaze, though it was definitely intense. "Not unless there's some sort of dimensional shift between us and the rest of the world that nobody's noticed. We're fairly well hidden, thanks to local tradition and our own measures."

"Sounds like it." SnapShot shook his head. "That'd be big news if it was known."

"Dangerous too," Lyal said softly. "Even if it wasn't for the anti-mutant people."

"So why have you come here?" Sandy asked curiously. "It's obviously not for training or a haven from the real world."

"That's a more complicated issue," Samson admitted, not entirely sure how much to say. "But we need some contact with the outside, and we were aware of the Professor's work. He seemed to be a good person to contact about it."

"A wise choice." Surauli inclined her head regally.

"You're not staying?" Megan looked at him with a bit of disappointment.

"I am for a while," the Liger said, flinching mentally. "And it might be quite a while. I'm not sure when I'll be heading back, and I might not be going for good when I do. There are a lot of reasons to stay out here," he said, smiling a bit at Megan, hoping it wasn't noticed too much by the others.

"Are you sure you two didn't come together?" The youngest resident piped up without any more regard for consequences than his sire usually managed. Samson blushed, and Ginny looked down at her son.

"Scott, be nice," she admonished, trying to keep back a giggle at the Liger's response and only got confusion and a little bit apologetic look from the black and white pup.

He looked between the giant newcomer, the decidedly bashful new canine and several other adults. "What did I say?"

"They didn't think they were being too obvious," Lyal stage-whispered to the pup, while Ginny tried to come up with some way to explain it. "We were gonna let 'em think that yet."

"So I'm going to have a playmate by next year?" He perked up hopefully, his fluffy tail wagging rapidly at Megan, who just about self-combusted, right along with the Liger who had gotten them into this increasingly awkward series of questions and answers. Lyal had to use all his self-control to keep from laughing out loud, and Charlie was doing his best to keep from snickering. Ginny, for her part, looked almost as embarrassed as Megan and Samson did.

Almost.

"He's your son tonight," she whispered to SnapShot.

"That he is." The Boarder Collie snickered.

"Wha'd'I say this time?" Scott whined.

"I don't really think so," Samson managed to say, recovering a little faster than the others, whether from embarrassment or the innocent humor of the situation.

"Oh." Scott nodded, satisfied with the answer.

"Yeah, cats and dogs don't do that." Megan managed.

Sandra got her humor under control enough to nod. "Yes, they can only play, but there won't be any pup-kits from it."

"Oh." Scott nodded in partial understanding. "Not quite like mom and dad then?"

"No, not like mom and dad," Ginny agreed, rather hoping the subject could change fairly soon, but knowing better, by now, than to try forcing it yet.

"So tell us about this place you're from." Gaia gave everyone the opening for a clean start as the food arrived by telekinetics from the kitchen.

"Yes, the Isles," Samson nodded, grateful for the opening, apparently not at all phased by the floating food. Any preferences for where I start? History, the people, what it's like there?"

"What it's like." Megan piped up with apparent support from the black and white canines and the Lab sitting next to them.

"Just about as complicated," Samson chuckled. "Depends on who you ask, I suppose. We haven't focused on developing technology as much inside as out, for one thing. If you're addicted to television, then you'd probably hate it there. We have some radio, refrigeration, plumbing, and limited internet access, but a lot of the mass entertainment was left behind fifty years ago. If you're interested in a simpler place, it's almost a utopia. Sort of like a throwback to fishing villages about fifty, sixty years back. Assuming, of course," he chuckled, "that you could find a fishing village where everybody was a mutant, and wasn't worried about using their powers in public."

"A mixed blessing." Sandra served herself a portion of roast chicken. "Is medical technology as far behind as the rest?"

"In some ways, you might say it is, but not in others," Samson explained, waiting for everybody else to finish serving themselves first. "A number of antibiotics and medicines have been largely ignored, or are only brought in when they're needed. We have healers who can handle most diseases and injuries, and each generation is more and more resistant to being infected or hurt in the first place.

"On the other hand, medical technology to deal with reproductive issues, or mutation-specific issues, has advanced more quickly than what I've seen out here, as have sciences intended to make us more self-sufficient. With as many mutants as we have in the Isles, we have found one or two illnesses that seem to prey on mutant genetic structures, but they've been isolated and eliminated quickly."

"What do you do for fun?" SnapShot asked with honest curiosity.

"Reading, more 'old fashioned' things," he replied. "We've got some good actors, especially among our shifters. We have some sports too, including a flying variant of soccer that's rather... intense," the Liger grinned. "Just about anything somebody comes up with can be found somewhere, as long as you're not too likely to break your neck doing it."

"What's the catch?" Charlie asked cautiously. "Besides minimal entertainment tech, what's the down side of this place?"

"The big one is that we typically like being as isolated as we are. I'm the first person to actually leave in fifty years, and most new arrivals stay. Not that it's impossible to leave, just very uncommon."

"There's something else," Lyal said certainly, looking at the much larger feline curiously as Samson glanced at Professor Jurnix, not sure if he should bring up the potential powder keg of the breeding programs.

"Reproducing is held in extremely high regard." The Foxbat answered for him. "More than some of us will get along with."

"Doesn't sound like a fun place to be a male Liger." Sandra commented softly.

"Not particularly," Samson admitted. "Though in much the same way that it's not fun to be out of shape or otherwise unattractive. Being unable to reproduce doesn't make you a second-class citizen, just a poor prospect as a mate."

"What about unwilling to?" Charlie asked quietly, the shifter's gaze focused on Samson keenly. Given what the Liger knew, he thought it was an odd question; from what he'd gathered, Charlie was on the 'couldn't' list.

"Rape is as abhorrent there as anywhere else that's civilized," he answered, deciding that it must have been the main intent of the question. "Even for the purpose of reproduction, if not more so."

"And the price for being unwilling to breed?" Surauli asked levelly, her distain for the idea showing faintly in her steely composure.

This was definitely going to be something to warn Solomon about before any visits were paid to the Isles. Samson fought the urge to draw back behind his mental shields, reminding himself that the telepaths here weren't likely to be looking for more information, but would likely notice a reaction like that.

"It's unusual, but the matter is usually dropped with a request to consider AI, and possibly a surrogate mother. Some people might keep pressing it, but they're usually just convinced that somebody is playing 'hard to get.' They give up fairly quickly."

"Then there are no laws in place on the matter?" The regal Eagle pressed slightly.

Samson paused for a moment, then shook his head with a slight sigh.

"There are some," he admitted, "but focused on encouraging breeding with somebody who will have a child that has a chance of surviving to adulthood. With as many mutants as we have in the Isles, the medical issues required it. As far as I am aware, there has never been a case of somebody being forced to breed who didn't want to, or penalized for such a refusal."

"'Encourage?'" Charlie asked, the tone to his voice making it clear that his definition and Samson's were likely worlds apart, at least regarding this subject.

"Love." Gaia put a strong hand on her mate's arm. "He honestly does not believe any ill will is meant by this, as hurt as he has been by it. It is nothing like what they did to you."

"Sorry," the Clydesdale said after a moment, trying to calm down. "Been on the wrong end of something like that before."

"I understand," Samson nodded, "and I'm sorry. I didn't mean any offense, and all I meant by 'encourage' was just that. Nothing forced, no coercion, just trying to make it as easy and appealing as possible, without forcing it."

"It's not a concept that is well understood out here." Gaia told him softly. "It tends to be either forced or feared and discouraged. The number of children born here is evidence enough it's not exactly a subject we have much to do with."

"And it's a subject I wouldn't have brought up, honestly," Samson admitted. "For most of those reasons."

"It is better for it to have come out here." Sandy shook her head. "Where the reactions are controllable by non-violent means. As poorly as we take it on a whole, it would be much worse for it to have come out as a surprise while there ... or in more public surroundings."

"That would have been bad," the Liger agreed. "Even though we do have non-violent means of our own, having to use them on new arrivals never works out well."

"Doesn't exactly inspire the most trust in the world," Charlie agreed, calming down the rest of the way. "Even if somebody is overreacting to something."

"And having it come out in public could be disastrous," Samson nodded. "On the bright side, that's probably the most 'objectionable' part of life on the islands, to most."

"That or the lack of technology." Megan nodded. "It could be hard on the big city-types."

"Very," he agreed, chuckling slightly. "Though at least people aren't expected to start working the farms as soon as they arrive."

"A good thing." Kris scrunched his face.

"There are other jobs there, right?" Sandy focused on him.

"Oh yes," he smiled. "Basically, we can find a use for just about anybody. Teachers are valuable; particularly ones who are good at teaching and can pick up new subjects. Fishers, people who can handle manual labor and construction, the Peacekeepers, other jobs. I worked the farms mostly, thanks to my powers, and with the Peacekeepers as well. The most important thing is that you have some sort of skill, rather than that you be able to do something specific."

"What about changing specialties?" Jurnix asked as much from his own curiosity as what he was picking up from the others.

"It happens. It's not too common in the long term, but people don't do the same thing day in, day out. In the short term, you can't leave a critical job undone, but as long as you're a good worker, you can usually take a day or two off as long as you're not falling behind too much. In the long term, you're expected to find a replacement, but usually the settlement will let it slide if you just give them a little warning. The settlement leaders and Solomon, the leader of all the settlements, are the only people who can't just find somebody to take over for them and move on."

"Leadership is for life?" Surauli cocked her head slightly.

"No," Samson explained, shaking his head, "but since they can be crucial positions, it's not as simple a matter to leave. So far, our leaders have been for life, but if they were to choose to retire, they would have to wait until a qualified replacement could be found. In Solomon's case, until a new leader could be elected from the current settlement leaders."

"How open is he looking to make the Isles?" Sandy asked.

"That's something I'm not sure of," the Liger admitted. "I doubt we would be opening up to tourism, but I suspect that new arrivals would be more welcome, along with more trade with the outside. Possibly bring the local tech up a bit more. But given the complexities of letting the world know there's a large, well-trained community of mutants...."

"Is so what the PR department doesn't need on the front page right now." Sandy nodded. "I was thinking more about open to mutants ... a vacation spot or something for those who are friendly to it."

"It's possible," he nodded. "The biggest problem with something like that, of course, is security. If the rest of the world doesn't know about us, and mutants disappear for a week or two for their vacations, somebody's likely to ask about what's going on."

"That is a level of big brother monitoring that just doesn't exist." Gaia shook her head. "Besides, we do it anyway."

"Family and friends wouldn't be curious where you'd spent your vacation?" Samson asked curiously. "Or was the intent mostly for mutants from the Academy here?"

"I was thinking about us initially. The few of us who still have family and friends outside of those here have those people fairly well trained not to ask too many questions about what goes on."

"That would likely be fine," he smiled. "Something new to us, but I can't think of anything they'd have against it. At the very least, I can guarantee that we would be willing to act as a sanctuary for any mutants who needed to... disappear... for some reason. We've been doing so for years."

"At least those who are not disruptive to society or dangerous." Jurnix asked with the statement.

"The question of current behavior has always been more important to us than past," Samson said quietly. "If somebody came to us who was actively homicidal, that would be a problem; if they had been disruptive in the outside world but there was no sign that they would be so in the Isles... well, mutants have often been considered disruptive by their very nature, as we are all aware."

"True," he inclined his head. "How do you handle those with desire for power or to control the Isles?"

"If they're competent, and not too ambitious, they've got a shot at having power," Samson explained. "At least to a limited level. We haven't had to deal with somebody trying to take power since the earliest days of the Isles, though. One of the early colonists tried to take power from our leader at the time. He found that it really doesn't pay to try a violent takeover from a popular leader in a settlement of mutants, even if you are stronger. That's one of five cases where a criminal was killed in the Isles," he added softly. "Though not as a penalty; there was no choice. They founded the Peacekeepers after that."

"One per decade is a very good record." Gaia nodded thoughtfully. "Why were you chosen as the first ambassador?"

"Solomon and I are old friends, and he came to me with the offer," the Liger chuckled. "As he put it, he could be sure I wasn't going to spread the word about what I was doing, and that I could take care of myself in a worst-case scenario."

"Always a good thing." Chester nodded.

"So what kind of diplomatic authority do you have?" Gaia prompted.

"At this point, more information than ability to promise anything," Samson admitted. "I was mostly meant to come here and gather information about whether or not it's safe to consider becoming more public. Make initial contact with Professor Jurnix, and other possible allies if there were any."

"Sounds like we'll be paying a visit to the Isle fairly soon." Sandy mused, to which Jurnix nodded.

"Solomon's looking forward to it," the Liger smiled. "I imagine he would have tried to make contact himself first, but he didn't know any way to contact the Professor via telepathy from that sort of range."

"Yes, Rasputin and I did not part with a plan in effect." The Foxbat nodded. "I admit I never anticipated the numbers who would follow him even existed then, or that he would succeed so well. I wish he had survived to meet me again."

"The idea of a safe homeland, where there wasn't any shame in being a mutant, was a powerfully appealing one," Samson agreed. "And though I didn't know him very well, I think he would have enjoyed meeting you again too, especially if he had known of your progress. More than any of our records indicate he had ever thought possible in the outside world."

"It is admittedly much slower going, and much, much more dangerous." Jurnix consented. "But the same thing that has brought you here is what I could not turn my back on. We are of this world and sooner or later, we must learn how to exist within its realities."

"Something I doubt Rasputin ever truly acknowledged," Samson admitted. "Especially once things were progressing well."

"What does everybody else there think?" Lyal asked curiously. "If the guy who led them there thought they should stay away from the rest of the world, what will they think about letting it know they're there?"

"That is something that will vary widely," the Liger said softly. "I just hope not too widely. The last thing we need would be some sort of civil war over this. It's definitely not an over night project."

"Such drastic changes in a social structure rarely are." Jurnix nodded. "Is there a plan in effect to explain our presence?"

"We already have some trade with the outside. Once people realize who you are, the easiest explanation would be that we're thinking of expanding it, and you're interested in seeing the progress we've made, given your interest in the early stages of the Exodus. There might be some people who would be a little paranoid about it, but no more than they are about getting refrigeration units from the mainland."

"And it is not a falsehood, merely not all the information." Jurnix nodded in satisfaction.

"Just be ready for a little mistrust, especially from the telepaths who run the Screens. They're the most isolationist members we have; I think it's a part of their jobs."

"Screens?" Lyal asked curiously.

"Our main 'defense system,'" Samson explained. "Telepathic broadcasts that keep most normal people from thinking about coming to the Isles."

"A system I expect is both very effective and with a few key weaknesses." Jurnix nodded easily. "It does explain why I never noticed such a mutant concentration before. Such shielding would work against even me, as long as I wasn't actively trying to counter it."

"And could go down with even a single telepath turning against us," Samson said softly. "One of the reasons we pick ones who aren't inclined to see the Isles become more public. But with a little help to show you where we are, Solomon thinks you should be able to contact him telepathically. You two should be able to set up a meeting from there."

"I am sure it is possible." He agreed easily. "Even simple once I have met him."

"Most likely," the Liger agreed. "Familiarity can make range a far less critical issue, especially since you both have telepathic gifts. Oh, one thing I think I should mention, before anybody goes to the Isles. Don't be surprised to find that a goodly number of the people there have some level of mental shielding up most of the time. We've had a couple new telepaths think we were being rude," he chuckled.

"I understand." He nodded easily. "I am looking forward to visiting. This alliance should prove advantageous for both of us."

"We'll be happy to help however we can," Samson nodded with a smile. "This is going to be an interesting several months, at least, for both our homes."

"It usually is." SnapShot chuckled and tried not to fidget with a fully belly and empty plate. "At least around here."

"Yeah," Charlie agreed with a chuckle, finishing his own dinner and sitting back a bit. "But then, I don't really think it'd be the same any other way."


"Would you mind helping me unpack?" Megan asked with a nearly innocent face as she walked on Samson's arm back towards their rooms.

"You have a decidedly one-track mind," he chuckled, picking her up easily and nuzzling her as he carried her the rest of the way up to her room. "Not that I'm complaining."

"Good," she giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Might want to grab a fresh sets of clothes from your room first." She winked at him.

"Maybe while you get your door open and start sorting?" He suggested, setting her down a little reluctantly as they reached her room. "I'll be right over," he smiled down at her.

"Sure," she nodded and made a well-practiced move that fished a set of keys three keys and a small pocket knife from an inside pocket in her skirt's waistband and unlocked the door. "Maybe paranoid, but my laptop's too valuable to trust unattended to strangers yet."

"Not paranoid at all," Samson chuckled. "Though I just remembered, I haven't really had a chance to get any extra clothes yet. Something distracted me this afternoon."

"Sorry." She grinned without any real regret and turned on toe to shut and lock the door behind him. "Do you have money to go shopping for clothes?"

"Not yet?" He said sheepishly. "I'm afraid I was traveling rather light, and money isn't something we really bother with in the Isles."

"That is really light." She blinked and almost instinctively pulled a padded black case to put her laptop together with it's separate mouse and find the power and LAN plug in she knew was around.

"Wasn't sure how long the trip would be, or if I'd be staying," Samson admitted. "Plus, being the size I am, finding them is probably going to be tricky. I'd been planning on getting measured so I knew where to start looking tomorrow."

"Mmm, you have a point." She nodded and clicked the laptop on after finding all the plugs. "Probably even the big and tall shops would be hard pressed to find stock for you."

"One advantage of learning how to sew," he chuckled, watching her set up her computer curiously. "Everything work?"

"So far." She nodded after a glance at the screen as it was booting. "Would you put the stuff in here in the nightstands?" She pointed to her backpack on the bed. "While I get my books?"

"Sure," he nodded, not sure what she'd have in the bag, but moving to start packing it anyway. He pulled a thick binder out, turning to look at her over his shoulder.

"Shouldn't this be in with your...." He trailed off as he caught the rest of the contents of the backpack out of the corner of his eye, and looked back at the relatively wide collection of dildoes, scarves, feathers, obviously adult DVD's, and other things he simply had no idea what to call that were under the binder.

"Oh, yes." She smiled and padded over easily to take it from him. "I think I stuck a couple DVDs in there too. They didn't fit in the tote bags. Just leave them on the bed, 'kay?"

"Uhm, right," he said, not really moving for a moment as the strangeness of the situation sunk in. "These are all yours?" He asked, recovering enough to take the DVD's out and set them on the bed, half-forgetting just what he was supposed to do with the rest of it for a moment.

"Yap." She nodded easily then looked at him more steadily over her shoulder. "Don't even know what half of it is, do you?" She asked more quietly.

"If that much," he admitted. "You're talking to the 26 year-old virgin, remember?"

"Sorry," she said gently and came over. "I was playing with toys before I had a guy."

"How did you get your hands on a ... collection like this?" He asked, more curious than anything else. "I seem to remember you and Kris mentioning there were age limits at the assorted stores?"

"Liberal parents are a wonderful thing." She grinned. "My money paid for most of it, they actually ordered them."

"That works," he admitted. "You wanted these in the nightstand then?"

"Yes, I like them in easy reach." She nodded easily and nuzzled his side. "Unless you find something interesting."

"I wouldn't even know what to do with most of them," he said, blushing deeply. Do you ... want me to find something?"

"No," she shook her head. "If you don't already know what to do with them, it's not really the time to introduce them."

"Okay," he nodded, feeling just a little relieved as he started putting them away for her. He was sure he wasn't imagining her watching her reaction to what she saw as she went back to putting her clothes away.

"Care to watch a video?" She rumbled and slid up behind him to run against his ass and hips.

"Why not?" He asked, looking behind himself to smile at her a little uncertainly. It was probably the safest place to start, and he'd have to start somewhere at this rate. He reached back, rubbing her sides gently.

"Don't be so apprehensive." She nuzzled his hand. "I'll keep it to nice, simple soft het porn."

"Sorry," he blushed, turning and kneeling so he was closer to her level. "Just nervous."

"Why?" Megan's voice was soft, gentle ... almost motherly ... as she took his face in her hands and kissed him lightly. "We can just snuggle if you want. No video, no toys ... even dressed if it's an issue right now."

"It isn't," he smiled, returning the kiss gently. "Just feels like I'm still trying to catch up with the rest of the world since I left; I'll be okay. You're incredible, you know that?"

"Thanks," she ducked her head and blushed slightly. "It's just I'm not out to make you uncomftorable, okay? I like you. I've just never played with anyone who didn't know at least as much as I did."

"I know you're not," he smiled, nuzzling her lightly. "And I like you too, a lot. I'll try catching up," he added, rubbing her sides gently, "it just might take me a little."

"No problem," she smiled easily and snuggled close. "Just don't be shy about telling me if you don't want to do something, okay? Not everybody ever gets interested in everything. Nothing wrong with it either."

"Okay," he nodded. "What sort of things are you interested in?" He asked curiously, moving to sit on the bed and offering his lap to her and found it quickly full of snuggly Collie.

"In general or just sexy-stuff?"

"Both," he chuckled. "I wanted to get to know you better, remember?" He held her close, relaxing more easily now.

"Okay," she paused to think about it. "Well, I like technology." She made a general motion towards the entertainment center setup and her laptop. "I'm a city-girl, big time, and I like it. I like the shopping, the stuff to do, all the people around, the buildings and activity and life. But what really fascinates and hooks me in are the dead cities. The ones that don't have people to tell their story anymore. I love being able to tell those stories and being the first person in centuries or even millennia to touch an object."

"Sounds like the Isles won't really be your thing for a while," he murmured. "Did I tell you about the site we ran across lately?"

"A little, I think." She smiled shyly. "It's been a really wild couple of days for me. Ruins from a previous inhabitation of the Isles?""

"Yeah," he nodded. "Don't know much about them, but if you do decide to come along, you'd probably be interested. Good chance of getting in; we don't have many people who even come close to specializing in something like that."

"I'm hardly a specialist," she blushed in denial. "I'm barely an educated armature. But I am interested."

"That puts you ahead of a lot of us," he chuckled. "We have more linguists than anything else there, who don't know much more than what we managed to sort out from a handful of texts. No archaeologists who joined the Exodus."

"Well, if you can con them into accepting a pup as head archeologist, I'm hardly going to complain." She grinned and nuzzled him. "Especially if you're around at night to snuggle with."

"I could at least talk them into letting you in to help," he smiled, nuzzling her back and laying back with her on top of him and felt her sigh contentedly. "And I think snuggling can be arranged. That, I'm definitely up for."

"Good," Megan murmured and nuzzled his chest. "Are you having second thoughts about what we did?" She asked softly.

"Only the timing," he said softly, rubbing her back and side tenderly. "And not really regretting it," he added.

"Good," she smiled with a happy murmured. "Fewer clothes, under the covers and maybe a nap?" She suggested with a stifled yawn. "It's been a hell of a day."

"Works for me," he smiled, reaching down to start undoing her top. "Sleep well, beautiful."


The great Liger shuddered in his sleep, his body responding instinctively to what was being done to it by a skilled pair of hands and a hungry mouth. He rumbled, groaning a bit as he started to wake up, reaching down towards Megan sleepily to rub her neck and shoulders while she worked his balls in her mouth, lavishing them with a level of attention she'd only paid his cock the day before.

He could hear, smell, almost taste that her happy eagerness was much stronger than her pure arousal that made his nose twitch.

"Oh, Megan," he groaned, his cock throbbing, his balls twitching at the attention. He looked down at her, his breath quickening and watched her move up his body to take the tip of his cock into her mouth and pressed her breasts around it's base, encasing the sensitive skin in warmth, wet and fur that moved up and down with purposeful slowness. He swallowed hard, watching raptly as she slid her breasts up and down his shaft. The feel of her soft fur along the sensitive flesh was almost as intense as the feel of her mouth around his spongy, throbbing head, dribbling pre-cum into her hungry mouth.

He moaned inadvertently when she let his cock go to turn around and straddle his chest. Her tail draped thick and rich in her arousal scent along his shoulder, giving him a partial view of her wet nether lips as they pulsed and twitched in pleasure.

Then her mouth was on him again, taking him much further into the hot wetness of her mouth while her hands rubbed the unattended shaft. He leaned forward, inhaling her scent, but not quite able to reach her with his tongue. Instead, he moved a hand to rub her slick pussy-lips, parting them and tracing a thick finger around her tight entrance. It amazed and somewhat worried him that she would want something as large as his cock in there. It didn't seem large enough for his finger to get in.

Her moans around the head of his cock were encouraging though; as was the way her body trembled and twitched at his touch with fresh desire. His own shaft twitched eagerly in her mouth as he carefully pressed his smallest finger against her tight entrance. Gently, slowly, he started stretching her with it, groaning as she kept up the attention to his throbbing cock.

It wasn't long before he had his finger sliding in and out of the tight, slick heat and it's rippling muscles that nearly drove him over the edge just thinking about what it would feel like around the much more sensitive extremity it was intended to take in. He was breathing hard when her mouth slipped away from his shaft, her moans filling the space between them as her body took a life of its own. Her hips rocked, moving her hard clit threw his soft fur as her body began to tremble with the growing, twitching lightning heat that radiated from her womb out to every corner of her body.

He sped up the thrusts he was making with his finger, the scent and feel of her pleasure pushing him ever closer to the edge.

"Me-Megan," he gasped between her whimpering cries, "not long...."

"Second finger." She managed to say as her hands clutched against his thighs, not trusting her own body enough to try and pleasure him directly. He wasn't sure how she could take it, but he fought against the pleasure building inside him, the aching feel of his balls wanting to empty themselves, as he pressed a second finger into her as carefully as he could, spreading her until he almost thought she was going to split in two.

It was rewarded by a howling cry as she lost her battle with control and every muscle in her body tightened at once, the ones around his fingers fluttering in a contraction pattern that went straight to his cock even before the scent of her orgasm reached his nose.

It was more than enough to push him over, his seed jetting out as he roared, spurting onto Megan's muzzle and painting her blue-gray fur with streaks of pearly white cum. What didn't stick to her fur fell onto his own as he sank his fingers as deeply into her as possible.

Megan gasped, twitched and whimpered under the shower of seed and intensity unleashed by her own body. As many times as she experienced it, she doubted it would ever be less than mind-blowingly intense as she drew in a few calming breaths between reflexive shudders.

"That was a wakeup call I can learn to look forward to," Samson murmured, after he'd taken a few moments to recover, his fingers still inside Megan's body.

"Me too." She licked her muzzle clean before going to work on his fur. "And if that's your fingers, your cock is going to be just incredible."

"Either that or split you in two," he chuckled, though he was a little worried deeper down. He pulled his fingers out of her, licking them off before rubbing her hips, groaning some as she cleaned him off.

"I've taken a Zebra, I can take you." She giggled and drew herself up and around to sprawl across his chest facing him. "It's supposed to be tight."

"You're just lucky my barbs never came in," he rumbled, kissing her tenderly. "That could be painful." He held her close, sighing contentedly at the feel of her warmth and weight on top of him.

"It takes some getting used to, yeah." She nuzzled him. "I doubt I'd be game to take you in if they had. At least not without some serious lube."

"Lube?"

"Oh, boy." Megan shook her head with a low chuckle. "It's a jel that eases the passage of things, like a rough or too-big cock. It's used a lot more for anal sex but it's good for any kind that the natural amount isn't enough."

"Ah, that would be the tubes you had in with your toys then?" He chuckled, blushing a little. "That would explain a few things." He rubbed her back lightly, hoping she wouldn't ask for more details there.

"Yes, those are the tubes I have." She nodded. "What did you think they were for?"

"I wasn't sure I should ask," he admitted sheepishly, nuzzling her nose lightly. "One looked like it was supposed to be cherry something, figured I should keep quiet before I wound up basted."

"Not that it doesn't sound delicious, but that's not what that one is for." She giggled and grinned at him affectionately. "That one is a message oil. It makes a passable lube, but it's much better at warming someone up."

"I have got a lot to learn, I think," he chuckled, holding her close. "And a very sexy teacher to help me do so."

"While I have a very sexy and delicious student to teach." Megan grinned and nuzzled his chest. "Hopefully undo some of that damage your society did before you go back."
"If you decide to stay here, I might not go back for long," he rumbled softly. "Especially if all goes well between here and there. You... really didn't like the idea of me going back?"

"No I don't." She said without apology. "No matter what you believe of their innocence in the matter, they've hurt you badly with their values and I don't like seeing anything go back to a bad situation. Especially when there's an option. And you have an option."

"They're also my people, and my home," he said softly. "I might be a bit of an outsider there, Megan, but that is something I have to think about. I'm still more one of them, than somebody from out here. I'll think about it, and I don't know if I'd go back for good even now, but I am going to go back some day, even if only for a little while."

"I didn't mean you should never see it again," she softened and brushed his cheek with the back of her fingers. "Visiting a place is different from going back to live there. It's the living there that hurt you, not what would come up visiting. And in the end it is your choice and I'm not going to hate you or anything either way. I just don't think it's in your best interests to live there until you are much more self assured and past the problems not being able to sire kits has created for you."

"That I can see," he agreed quietly. "Or until they've got the tech that would make it a non-issue perfected. Still might not live there, but that's something worth going back for long enough to see if it would work for me, if I had a mate at the time."

"I'm quite sure you'll be able to find one." She snuggled him. "You're handsome with a fine body, a wonderful personality and a lot more going for you. Those are qualities I'd want in a mate and a lot of girls I know are the same. Hell, a lot of guys would love to have someone like you interested in them."

"That was attention I did occasionally get back home," he mused, mostly to keep from blushing at the praise. "At least I think it was, from watching the guys who were together last night. Not my thing though, really." He nuzzled her lightly, thinking about it.

"Given it's a pairing where reproduction isn't an issue, I'm not surprised. You're probably one of very few on the Isles that wouldn't bring up having kids every few years."

"So you think I'd be good mate material too? Rather than just playmate," he added.

"So far, yeah, I think you're stellar mate material." She smiled softly at him. "You really are much more of a catch than you think."

"You'd better be careful, or I'll start believing it," he chuckled slightly, smiling back at her. "My head's big enough as it is." Despite the flippant response, she could see how much it meant to him to hear somebody say that.

"If I'm not careful, some Ligeress will steal you off." She chuckled, half joking, half quite serious.

"I very much doubt that," he rumbled quietly. "Even if I met one." That did bring up one issue though, one he wasn't quite sure how to bring up to her. "Megan? What do you think of monogamy, in general? I know it's supposed to be the norm around here, pretty much."

"Honestly? I haven't thought about it much." She admitted fairly easily. "I'm big on partner loyalty; it's how I was raised. But I think I'm bi and I haven't really gotten into a situation where it was an issue yet. I play around, but I haven't had a real boyfriend yet. Just friends I play with."

"Understood," he nodded easily, rubbing her back. "Am I in that group too?" He asked, curious about just where he stood more than worried about what the answer she gave him might be.

"Haven't really thought about it, but I'd like that." She smiled and nuzzled him. "I like being around you, great sex aside."

"I'm glad," he smiled, nuzzling her affectionately. "I like being around you too; you're a hell of a woman."

That managed to make her blush. "Getting there, maybe." She ducked her head. "I kinda need to finish high school first."

"Young woman then," he smiled, brushing her cheek with the backs of his fingers. "You're still incredible."

"You bring out the best in me," she nuzzled the hand touching her face. "I like that."

"It's not hard to bring out," he smiled, kissing her lightly. "And you do the same to me."

"Good." She nuzzled him and ran her hands along his chest. "Care for shower games before breakfast?"

"As long as it doesn't take as long as last night to actually stay clean," he chuckled, blushing a bit. "We need breakfast, and I have to get fitted for clothes."

"I think we can manage that." Megan grinned and kissed him. "Not that you don't look great without them."

"Yes, but I imagine there would be complaints if I left the room without them," he smirked, kissing her back. "That much is the same as back home."

"Only by those who aren't too busy ogling at the view." She winked. "Which I think is about half the school."

"Yes, but between the half that wouldn't be, and the fact that at least part of it is the people in charge, I think it's better if I am dressed at least most of the time I'm in public," he chuckled, shaking his head and sitting up. "Besides, you seemed interested in making sure I had more than the one outfit last night."

"Of course." She grinned mischievously. "Didn't you know that some clothing can be more sexy than none at all?"

"If you think you're getting me to wear a negligee, you are definitely going to be disappointed," he said firmly, though the grin on his face said he definitely wasn't serious - at least not about thinking that was what she meant.

"Ewww," she scrunched her face up. "That is so not my thing. There's stuff for guys though, masculine and sexy as hell."

"Let's work on something along the lines of street clothes first," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Or else they'll get the feeling we're never going to get out of our rooms again."

"I can think of worse fates." Megan winked at him and licked his nose spontaneously. "Let's get a show, handsome." She rolled off his chest with a squeeze along his half hard cock. He groaned slightly, sat up and picked her up off the bed easily, nuzzling her as he carried her towards the shower.

"So can I," he chuckled, closing the door behind them.


A couple hours later, Megan and Samson were finishing breakfast. Samson looked up as he finished off a plate of fruit and bacon, trying to spot Gaia. If she was in charge of the student body, it made sense she'd know where to go for his fitting, and to find out what they could do about his stripes. He saw her walking over to the two of them, and set his plate a bit more towards the middle of the table, turning to meet her when she reached them.

"Ready to get some clothes?" The dapple grey equine greeted him with a smile.

"Definitely," he smiled, standing and picking up his plate, looking down at her. "I could definitely use something fresh to wear."

"Despite that looking way too clean for extended wear." Megan grinned at him and gulped down the last couple bites of her meal and stood.

"I'm resourceful," he chuckled. "Do we drop these off somewhere," he asked, indicating the empty plates, "or leave them here?"

"In the kitchen." Gaia chuckled and motioned them to follow. "Just leave them in the dirty dishes bit and the staff'll deal with it."

"All right," Samson nodded, the two of them following after her and dropping off their dishes quickly.

"So," the Liger asked, "where to next?"

"Your quarters, most likely." She chuckled. "You'll need to strip to dye your fur."

"The dye first, then clothes?" He asked easily, figuring she had a better idea what to do than he did.

"It'll give a better idea what will go well with your colors to have your colors set." She nodded easily. "Have you given any thought to what you want? A solid black, recolor your stripes black or cinnamon-ish, a solid Lion gold."

"I think just darkening my stripes will be the easiest way to go," Samson said after a moment's thought. "After all, I'm not trying to hide that I'm a Liger, just a mutant." He paused with a blink, then shook his head, chuckling slightly at the ease with which he'd said something that was such an alien concept to him. Maybe he was adjusting faster than he'd expected to.

"No problem," Gaia nodded as they headed upstairs with a stop by her quarters to grab a handbag without a commonent about Megan following like a love struck puppy. "Black or cinnamon?"

"Black," he said easily. "Probably easier to make work, and it blends in better most of the time."

"All true," she nodded. "Are you ticklish or touch-shy?"

"Not as far as I know," he answered, shaking his head. "I take it this is going to be something I need help to maintain?"

"Unless you're a very skilled telekinetic or can otherwise dye the base of your tail and neck, help would likely be quite useful."

"I don't think that'll be a problem." Megan snickered.

"Reaching my neck could be," Samson pointed out to her, which made Megan burst out in giggles and Gaia only just control hers. "Which means I'll probably need the help, at least unless I figure out an alternative at some point."

"She meant finding the help won't be a problem," the big mare translated.

"I meant help that could get up that high," Samson chuckled, shaking his head slightly.

"Oh yea of little faith." Megan smirked. "What do you think chairs and beds are for?"

"We'll see," he chuckled, his long, thick tail waving behind him. "A little work, I might be able to find a way to handle it myself. Less dye on the furniture that way."

"It's dry-apply dye." Gaia shook her head with a chuckle. "Easily removed with another gel."

"It's a dry apply gel, removed by another." Gaia chuckled. "It's not very messy and is weather resistant."

"That would make it a lot easier," Samson mused. "Didn't know there was anything like that that wouldn't rub off too easily."

"There is out here, but it's also useful out here, by us and the entertainment industry that originally developed it."

"So it's not a natural dye," he guessed, nodding slightly.

"What do you mean by 'not natural'?" Gaia cocked her head at him and let the Liger open his own door.

"Chemically based, synthetic instead of plant based, for example," he clarified, opening the door and stepping aside politely.

"A little of both," Gaia chuckled. "I believe it's a plant base, but it's had the hell processed out of it in the meantime. Much like most things out here."

"That would explain why I don't know anything about them," he nodded, chuckling a little himself. "I know most of the plant-based dyes in the area."

"So quickly?" Megan blinked in surprise and hopped up to sit cross- legged on the bed with her fluffy tail around her knees.

"Okay, strip." Gaia instructed easily and opened her bag on the bed.

"My gift," he explained, starting to strip down easily once the door was closed. "I'm good with plants and animals, so when I find a new place, I 'ask around,' so to speak."

"The makes sense," Gaia nodded and double-checked her assessment of his measurements while Megan just grinned and tried not to jump him. "Have you had any exposure to modern fashion?"

"Very, very little," he admitted, trying to hold still as she took the measurements she needed. "Besides what I've seen here, at least. Fashion changes a lot from one place to the next."

"Are you interested in being fashionable?" The big mare asked easily and stepped around in front of him to flow into a black stripped Liger of very similar appearance, except for the stripes.

"Hot damn." Megan breathed threw a tight throat.

"Fairly accurate?" Gaia asked them both in a distinctly male voice.

"Very," Samson nodded, impressed at how close she was, and curious just what Megan was responding to with the change in her voice. "The stripes are different, but that's about all. Though I'm not honestly interested in fashionable, as much as being able to move easily, myself. If the two intersect, so much the better."

"The standard request around here." Gaia chuckled and flowed back to her natural, and clothed, form. "Have you met the concept of the supermall yet?"

"No, I haven't," he admitted, chuckling slightly. "Though I suspect it will prove rather educational when I do."

"Most likely," she nodded with an amused look at the puppy trying not to hyperventilate. "Ready to work on your stripes?"

"I think so," he nodded, glancing over at Megan and trying not to ask if she was ready for it. "It should set fairly quickly?"

"Not as fast as turning you black, but not too long." She nodded and picked up tube of gel. She applied a small strip of the dark brown stuff along the center of a green stripe on his arm, then rubbed it in along the stripe.

He held still easily as she started rubbing in the dye, shifting only as necessary to let her reach any stripes his body hid. He resisted the urge to look, letting his curiosity wait until later.

It progressed fairly quickly, though still took the better part of two hours, while Megan watched with varying degrees of self-control keeping her on the bed and dressed.

"Okay, give that another twenty minutes to set, then a shower to rinse off the extra." Gaia instructed. "Feel free to test it for durability afterwards." She winked at Megan, who grinned back.

"Thank you," Samson smiled, finally blushing some as Gaia started out of the room. "Are you sure you'll be able to last twenty minutes more?" He asked Megan, chuckling as the door opened.

"I'm just going to have to," she chuckled, causing Gaia to pause at the door before opening it. "Unless you like to watch...."

"I think we can probably find something that wouldn't mess up my fur, if we had to," he blushed, glancing at the dapple-gray horse, realizing she was still in the room.

"Or someone to play with," Megan looked over at Gaia with a playful grin that was returned with more than a bit of mischievousness.

"If you two like," Samson agreed, blushing even deeper. "I can go wait in the other room."

"You never mentioned he was this delightfully innocent." Gaia grinned and allowed her form to flow into the muscular Liger so similar to Samson.

"The invite was to watch us play, handsome." Megan grinned at him and sprawled out on his bed invitingly. "For twenty minutes."

"And join afterwards if it appeals." Gaia added with a grin and a raised eyebrow at Megan before shifting form again into a Tervueren male with its traditional long silky fur and black to golden tan saddle markings.

"I think I'll pass on that one... or pass out," the Liger murmured, almost sitting down as his brain tried to keep up with what was going on. "Are you two sure?"

"As long as you don't mind." Gaia smiled warmly at him and scanned a little deeper to make sure it was okay.

"Not at all," he said, shaking his head, that much certain inside of it as he watched the naked canine approach Megan, both their sheaths warming with the flow of blood in response to her hot scent and wanton sprawl on the Liger's bed. He swallowed hard, trying to control his arousal as he watched them. There was something about watching this, being allowed to watch the two canines, and knowing what was likely to come.

Okay ... bad choice of words, maybe.

But it wasn't a bad choice to stay and take the pair up on the offer. Fantasies were one thing, but to watch a telepath take full advantage of their gift when pleasuring their partner and the voyeur ... that was something else.

He had no doubt that's what Gaia was doing as the large black and golden-tan male knelt on the bed and drew Megan up so her back was against his chest. Strong, sure hands moved over the Border Collie's body; teasing, exploring, humoring the moans of pleasure as Megan put on a show for her lover.

He blushed, suspecting a good amount of it was for his benefit. He rubbed his leg unconsciously. His eyes roamed both their forms, but mostly Megan's, who was still dressed. Gaia's hands were making good use of the fact that Megan habitually didn't wear anything under her short skirt and her loose shirt came up easily to reveal glimpses of firm, round breasts and the pink nipples that poked out from long marbled gray fur.

"Like this, baby?" Gaia breathed hotly in Megan's ear, her male voice husky with desires, her own and those of both of the others in the room. It had its own intensity to open herself up like this.

"Oh, yes." She shuddered and tipped her head back to lay it along Gaia's long muzzle and powerful neck. "Wanna tie."

"Anything you want, beautiful." Gaia grinned and nuzzled the exposed neck before she slipped her fingers between Megan's legs to lightly tease the swollen lips there. "It'll keep you still till that handsome creature can sate you himself."

"Oh ... it won't be too soon." Megan shuddered and spread her legs further apart, her hips rocking to press those teasing fingers against slick, sensitive skin. "You haven't seen him."

"I will soon," Gaia rumbled and licked along Megan's neck before lowering her hips to bring her cock forward, sliding it along Megan's lower lips enticingly until the Collie whimpered and cried out in the wordless agony of desire. "Do you see him? Do you see how hot this makes him, watching you in such a state?"

"Just fuck me already." Megan cried out and pulled her body forward, her hips thrust above her shoulders and her legs spread far apart while she shamelessly rubbed her crotch against the handsome dog behind her, not caring in the least that her sweater top was only pulled halfway off her chest and her skirt was still on, only pushed up on her back.

Her arms forward, her head flat on the bed and her hips and tail thrust high in the air. Megan looked for all the world like she was bowing, prostrating herself to Samson while she offered her body up to the canine body behind her.

Samson barely heard the whimpering growls that came from his own throat as he watched Megan take the larger canine's cock inside her with a cry of pure pleasure. The way her body, her breasts and hips, rocked forward with each thrust that wrenched another sound of needy desire from her throat. Sounds that soon became recognizable.

She was calling his name with each thrust her playmate made. A name called in ecstasy and desire.

Gods he wanted to answer her, do what she wanted him to, be with her like that. The obvious pleasure Gaia was taking from it certainly didn't discourage him in the least. It took all his self control to only move over and caress Megan's face gently, lovingly, not really sure what else he could do at this point.

"Kiss me," she gasped in demand between the whimpers of carnal pleasure as her body began to tremble in the radiating waves of overwhelming pleasure that were beginning to take over her self control. He leaned down, kneeling to kiss her deeply, groaning into her mouth as he inhaled the mixed arousal scents filling the room and the way her body moved with each thrust from behind.

Her mouth molded against his, her moans reverberating against his with each sound. Then from above and behind her, Gaia's pleasure began to build to intolerable levels. The liger reached down, caressing Megan's breasts tenderly, knowing it wouldn't be long before the two of them tied, or before they came afterwards, and wanting to be as close as he could when it happened.

He felt as much as heard Gaia thrust forward harder than usual as she pressed the swollen knot at the base of her cock into Megan's body and locked the pair of them together for a time while they shuddered and howled with the peak of their mating.

His own body was screaming for release by the time Megan relaxed, panting for breath, with Gaia along her back and half supporting the smaller canine. Samson took the rest of her weight easily, holding back, trying to calm himself along with the other two, kissing Megan again heatedly.

"Gods that was hot," he rumbled softly.

"That mean we can play together again sometime?" Megan grinned at him and relaxed in his arms, not caring about the slight smears she was making in his fur, not that he was particularly concerned with them either.

"As long as Gaia doesn't mind," he chuckled, kissing her again and looking back at the shapeshifter. "I'm not the jealous type."

"I would have never stuck around if either of you or my mate were." Gaia smiled back. "But you're mussing up your stripes."

"Guess it hasn't been twenty minutes yet," he said sheepishly, trying to shift a bit to keep the damage to a minimum. "Hopefully touching them up afterwards won't be a problem."

"No, it just means a bit of cleaning off and reapplication." She explained easily between deep breaths and gently rolled to her side, pulling Megan down in the process to face Samson. "And another twenty minute wait."

"Somehow, I doubt anybody minds too much, especially if it goes the same way the last one did," he chuckled.

"With less touching on your part." Gaia chuckled and nuzzled the canine locked with her flesh. "Or we'll never get to the shopping."

"I'll behave," he blushed deeply. "Even if it isn't easy, with you two. Especially you," he rumbled, kissing Megan playfully.

She grinned at him, then over her shoulder at the canine she was tied to.

"You know, if he was restrained he couldn't mess up his stripes, but I can still have some fun with him."

"Oh my, now that sounds delicious beyond words." Gaia rumbled deep in her male chest. "If the handsome Liger is willing."

"Restrained?" He asked somewhat dubiously, looking at the two of them. "Just how 'restrained' are we talking?"

"A little silk to keep those hands from getting you into trouble with the dye," Megan grinned at him. "Only way I can expect you to stay still while you get off."

"Just the hands?" He asked, wanting to be sure he knew what he was getting into here, relaxing a bit though. "At least like that?"

"That's all I can think of needing to be kept in check." She grinned encouragingly. "It's not like your claws couldn't cut you loose if you really wanted to."

"Assuming I could reach them, but you have a point," he agreed. "Just wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into if I said yes. Which I think I will," he added, smiling a little bit, kissing her lightly. "Once you're free, of course."

"One advantage of the shifter," Megan grinned back at Gaia as they pulled apart. "The knot isn't as ... set ... as in a real dog."

"That is an advantage," Samson chuckled. "Though we should probably do the touch-up work before you try tying me up."

"You are an evil girl, you know that?" Gaia shook her head and laughed as they rolled off the bed. Megan made quick work of putting her clothes in order for a short bolt across the hall for the needed goodies.

"Not that I'm about to disagree with you too strongly," Samson asked Gaia curiously while Megan was out of the room, "but what brought that up?"

"A bit of what she has in mind for the next hour." Gaia flowed into the form of a female Liger nearly as large as Samson. "It's all going to feel very good, but it's going to be intense as hell."

"Do I need to remind her about the 'waiting' issue?" He asked quietly, even as he felt a shiver of anticipation along his spine.

"Oh, but you can do so much to the male body that doesn't involve smudging your stripes." She grinned at him. "Now let me get to that touch-up work before she gets too excited."

"I'd been thinking about a different waiting, but I'll assume we're on the same page there," he chuckled slightly, wondering just what she did have in mind -- particularly since it seemed to involve Gaia as a very attractive female version of himself. "And yes, let's," he nodded, "do we need to get anything more for the repair work?"

"No, the cleaner and the gel is here." Gaia smiled easily and went to work with a small cloth on the smudges. "And that wait is going to work out. She's many things, but she's not interested in pushing those kinds of limits."

"Thank you," he smiled, relaxing more and letting her work. "I know it's a little strange, but...."

Gaia paused and stood to look him in the face. "I don't find it strange at all, when you are actually interested in them for more than a one-off. I'm the same way, though I don't think I made the twenty-four hours." She added with a chuckle.

"Thank you," he smiled softly, looking into her amber feline eyes. "I'm not sure I'll make much longer than them, honestly," he added with a slight chuckle, "but... in a way, I want to try and make it something... special," he tried to explain, as much to himself as to her. "For both of us."

"I don't think that's going to be a problem." She smiled and kissed him lightly before going back to work on the smudged stripes as Megan burst back in. "Or a fast education in the carnal arts."

"Now that is a fun class." Megan grinned and put the stuff on the bed to examine the room for somewhere to secure the silk rope to keep his hands over his head.

"Especially when you have the right teacher," he chuckled slightly, winking at Megan and trying not to move too much while Gaia worked on his stripes and she made a shameless display of getting undressed for him.

"Yes, a good teacher is always important." She grinned and approached him seductively. "A willing and eager student nearly as important."

"Seems to me you'll have a captive audience shortly," Samson rumbled, blushing some as his arousal mounted again.

"Yes, but I am so not into the non-con thing for real."

"Willingly captive, as long as you keep to the introductory lessons," he smiled softly at her.

"Oh, I will." She said fervently and met his gaze. "It's meant to be fun, not stressful."

"I trust you," he nodded slightly. "So far you've managed to keep to a good sort of stress," he added with a chuckle.

"Good." She grinned and paused to make an appraising look at Gaia's new form. "Very nice."

"Thanks," she grinned back. "You have good mental images."

"I have to agree," Samson added with a grin of his own. "Very good ones."

"A vivid imagination is not something anyone has contested." Megan chuckled.

"I'll get a hook up." Gaia said out of nowhere.

"Cool."

"We are going to need a couple," Samson agreed, feeling a bit of the apprehension, and the anticipation, return at the thought of what she might do to him. The apprehension, at least, went away when he reminded himself he could get himself out if he had to.

"Do you know what a safe word is?" Gaia asked without looking up from her work on his stripes.

"No," he admitted," I'm afraid not."

"It's a word, other than 'no', that means stop." Megan explained easily. "It's a way to make sure games never go too far."

"And I'm guessing it'd be a good idea to have one for today," he said quietly. "Any suggestions?"

"A word that you will not forget, or say by mistake." Gaia considered the Liger. "It is a good idea to have in place, even if you never get any more kinky than this."

"Probably," he agreed, blushing a bit at the thought, knowing how likely that was to happen. "Tulip?" He suggested.

"That's not likely to come up by mistake." Megan nodded with a bit of a giggle. "Tulip it is."

"Unless you have a better idea," he chuckled.

"It's more important that it be one you remember under stress." Megan said firmly. "Mine will likely be different."

"All right," he nodded. "Tulip it is then."


"Will all that stuff save?' Megan asked with ulterior motives as she watched Gaia and Samson carefully stow the Liger's garden supplies in the back of the SUV they'd taken out on the town.

"Yes," the dapple grey Draft Horse looked over at the significantly younger female curiously. "What are you thinking?"

"Well, I saw the signs for the New World Mall." She grinned at them winningly, rocking on her heals with both hands clasped behind her rump.

"The New World Mall?" Samson asked curiously. "Why would they be advertising at this one?"

"She saw it on the way in," Gaia shook her head with a chuckle. "I think they may qualify as cruelty, pup, given the little mall made him glaze over completely."

"But that was just shopping," she persisted with that grin and big blue and brown eyes. "The NWM has everything. Swimming, animals, coasters ..."

"I know what's there, pup." Gaia laughed, shaking her head. "I just don't think Samson is ready for it."

"It sounds like you're talking about a small city instead of a mall," he chuckled slightly, a little uncertain about the idea. On the other hand, Megan did look like she wanted to go there.

"Small city would qualify it," Gaia shook her head with a chuckle. "One focused on entertainment and consumerism. I'll take you there after we drop Samson off at the Institute. That place is not first day material."

"I think he'd really like the gardens." She grinned back at the adults unrepentantly.

That did catch his attention. Indoor gardens and zoos, from the sound of it... if nothing else, it struck him as the sort of place that he'd have to see before he could really believe it.

"Well, we could try it," he said. "Worst that happens is I curl up in a ball in the back of the car," he added with a bit of a chuckle.

"Ah, it won't be that bad." Megan grinned and bounded up to hug him with a playful lick on the cheek while Gaia just shook her head. "Though you'd be a great pillow then."

"Well, we'll just hope that doesn't end up happening," he chuckled, hugging her back and giving her a quick kiss. "Even if I'd be a great pillow, it'd probably take both of you to roll me back out here."

"Just buy her a life-sized Liger pillow," Gaia chuckled with a shake of her head. "Seriously, Samson, that place is intimidating to folks who have been out here their entire lives. More people work on one level than live in the Isles."

"Yeah, isn't it awesome?" Megan all but bounced at the thought.

"It... does sound impressive," Samson said quietly, but smiled after that. "I think I'll be able to take it. If I can't, I'll let somebody know before things get too bad."

Gaia simply shook her head with a bemused sound. "All right, but I'll be keeping an eye on things too. And we're sticking to the wilderness areas, not the shopping zone from nirvana."

"No problem." Megan beamed and happily hopped into the back of the Institute SUV with an inviting grin for Samson to join her.

"Just try to keep your clothes on, okay?" Gaia winked at him and headed for the driver's seat, being the only one who actually knew how to drive.

"Yes ma'am," he blushed deeply, sitting next to Megan and snuggling up as they started out of the parking lot.

"You are so cute when you do that." Megan nuzzled him and managed to behave herself for the first 30 seconds at least.

"And you're just cute," he rumbled softly, nuzzling her back and holding her close. "You also make it difficult to follow orders, sometimes," he chuckled as her hands started getting more daring, something her easily gotten under outfit did nothing to discourage returning.

"Oh, but you can have plenty of fun with all your clothes on," she winked.

"Don't you even dare." Gaia rumbled with all the menace of a predator. "We do not need to get pulled over."

"I think that's a subtle reminder to stick to the spirit of the law, not the letter," Samson blushed, shifting back to a much less suggestive snuggle with the smaller Collie.

"Oh, don't mind her," Megan snickered. "She was reading too much into my mental image."

"You're saying that wasn't on your attempt list?"

"Not for here," She stuck her tongue out at the driver. "Maybe in the garden... or the aquarium."

"There are times I'm glad I'm not the telepath," the Liger murmured, blushing deeply and not sure if she really should be wondering what Megan was thinking about trying.

"You'd never last, believe me," Gaia chuckled softly. "She's... quite intense."

"It sounds like she's as bad as a mink or two from back home," he chuckled, shifting to nuzzle Megan affectionately, rubbing her side. "Much cuter though."

"Glad to know that," she grinned and snuggled as close as she could get, intent on behaving while the vehicle was in motion. There would be plenty of privacy once in the mall.

In the meantime, lessons in making out passed the time very nicely.

"Anyone going to come up for air or sightseeing?" Gaia's tone was more amused than anything.

"I could live with staying here," Samson rumbled, another moment passing before he caught on with just what he'd said, his cheeks turning a deep crimson beneath his fur.

"Mmmmm, as fun as it is, I do want to see the birds." Megan licked her muzzle eagerly.

"Megan... no herding the wildlife." Gaia laughed and got out of the car.

"Yes, mom," she shot back with an unrepentant grin and climbed out of Samson's lap and the SUV in the same motion.

"If they're out where she can herd them, I'll be surprised," Samson chuckled, following her out. "I'll keep her close at hand though."

"Ooooo, how close?" She turned her intensely hot grin on him.

"Oh hush," Samson blushed.

"I am getting such flashbacks to taking the pups out." Gaia shook her head. "Even if you are better at keeping your clothes on."

"I take it you couldn't trust them to do that in public?" Samson asked, looking at her curiously.

"That's putting it mildly," she chuckled. "Mostly his doing. I'd truly fear if it had been Megan that caught his attention."

"Oh my," the Liger chuckled, shaking his head at the idea of two people with Megan's libido seeing each other.

"Now realize that one of them had super-speed for his gift," Gaia snickered. "It was fun, when you weren't in charge of keeping him under control."

"Sounds like a suicide mission," Samson laughed, shaking his head. "He could get in trouble without you even knowing about it until it was too late."

"Not even I managed it." Gaia grinned and waved them to follow her towards the tram station that connected the parking area to the actual complex that called itself a mall. "Thought it was closer to Mission Impossible than suicidal."

"I think that's a reference I'm not familiar with," Samson said after thinking for a bit, following Gaia with Megan and taking in their surroundings. He was careful though, not to take everything in at once. He had a feeling that smaller pieces would make it much more manageable.

It was still almost impossibly huge. Just the number of vehicles around them, the multi-story parking complexes that stretched for what seemed like forever.

"You'll love the tropic garden." Megan grinned up at him and pressed close as they walked, her head only just above his waist.

"I'm sure," he smiled down at her, squeezing her shoulders and doing his best to stay relaxed. At least when he had some plants around he'd have something he could keep grounded with.

"The lack of flora disturbs you, doesn't it?" Gaia asked softly as they stood and waited for the tram that was scheduled for every ten minutes.

"It's a buffer layer that I'm used to having around," he explained quietly. "Background noise, if you like. When you get used to it, you stop noticing it until it's gone."

"Well, there's lots of plants all over the mall." Megan told him reassuringly. "They like to make it feel less overwhelming by giving lots of distractions."

"I know," he nodded slightly. "I'll be all right," he smiled at her, what he hoped was reassuringly, "just takes some getting used to."

"Yeah, I bet it does." She nuzzled him as the tram pulled up.

'*Guys, try to remember that it's technically illegal for you two to be a couple out here.*" Gaia warned them silently as they got a few glances from the disembarking passengers.

"*Noted,*" Samson thought back carefully as they followed the throng of passengers onto the tram. "*Even just dating?*" He asked her mentally, figuring it would be good to get those issues out of the way fast, and preferably quietly.

"*Dating is suspicious, but it's the sex that will get you in trouble.*" She explained to Megan's disgusted snort. "*We have something called an age of consent, and it's sixteen years old. So until she turns sixteen, it's grounds for trouble if anyone wants to use it against you.*"

"Stupid laws." Megan muttered but kept her hands to herself, as Samson did the same himself, taking his arm from around her shoulders.

"*I'll keep it in mind,*" he thought-spoke to Gaia.

"*It's not bad, just try to keep the major smooching contests a bit discreet.*" She smiled at the pair. "*And it's only if someone complains to the authorities.*"

"*We'll just have to hope that doesn't happen,*" the Liger agreed silently, reaching down to give Megan's shoulder a gentle squeeze and felt her lean into the contact.

"*The whole 'almost old enough to be her father' doesn't help.*" Gaia smiled supportively at them. "*It's only a few months.*"

"*We'll be hearing about that even after that,*" Samson pointed out, his distaste for that fact evident. "*But we'll tone it down. I will, at least,*" he added, looking down at Megan with a slight chuckle.

"I can behave," she rolled her eyes.

"*True, you may, but it will no longer matter.*" Gaia pointed out. "*And in a few years it will no longer become a subject of comment. Time changes a lot, in these cases.*"

"*A very good thing,*" he agreed. "And I know you can, Megan," he added out loud, quietly enough that he thought nobody else on the half-full tram could hear.

"When you want to be." Gaia smirked at her as it pulled to a stop in front of the grand modern structure of the New World Mall's main entranceway.

"This is it?" Samson asked, following them off the tram and looking up at the massive structure, dwarfing most of the ones surrounding it, which were already larger than just about anything he was used to seeing.

"The main entrance," Megan perked up again. "Want to see the arboretum first?"

"That sounds good," he smiled. "You two know where you're going, so...."

"Well come on then, handsome." Megan grinned and grabbed his arm as Gaia laughed and walked along his other side as they passed throngs of people and shops of all kinds he hadn't even imagined could exist. He did his best not to look too out of place, for all it was worth, walking between the two of them. He couldn't help but feel a little silly at his nerves. He'd been around people before, this was just more of them.

A lot, lot more.

He'd be better off once they were in the arboretum; he'd be able to adjust a bit there, be ready to move on. Things were going to be fine.

"*Focus on me if it helps,*" Gaia's smooth mental voice came only to him.

"*I'll be all right,*" he thought back firmly, as much to himself as to her. "*But thank you.*"

"Have you ever been on a rollercoaster?" Megan asked out of nowhere.

"No," Samson admitted easily, "though I do know what one is," he added with a slight chuckle. "Which means if you're going to try getting me on one, please try picking a sane one."

"They're all sane," she winked back. "You won't get hurt."

"Remember that you're dealing with somebody who's never willingly been in free-fall," he chuckled, though the intent behind it was serious enough.

"Do you serf?"

"After a fashion," he hedged, not wanting to get into the specifics in public. "Not particularly good at it, but if there's something that isn't much more extreme than that, I should be able to handle it."

"Actually, I was thinking that since you're from a tropic island you might enjoy the surfing pools here." She smiled up at him.

"Not exactly tropical," he chuckled, smiling back down at her and wondering how they could manage something like that indoors. "But that isn't too bad an idea, if I'd been expecting it. As it is," he smirked slightly, "I don't know that you want a wet Liger in the car next to you on the trip home."

"Oh, they have dryers and showers and swimsuits and boards and everything for rent." Shegrinned unrepentantly. "There's even a section that goes threw this tropical aviary where you can swim and play with all these bright colored birds around and tons of tropical plants and all the smells. There is everything here."

"If they have all that in the right sizes I'll be pleasantly surprised," he chuckled. "About how much does rental usually run," he asked her curiously.

"A few dollars." She shrugged. "Probably twenty for the three of us."

"Just checking," he smiled. "You interested, Gaia?"

"If you guys want to, I'm game." She shook her head and chuckled.

"Aviary first." Megan grinned and pulled him sideways into a space that smelled heavy of moisture and flowers.

"We have got to work on your focus," Samson chuckled, following her and relaxing noticeably as they moved into the more natural area.

"My focus is just fine." She stuck her tongue out at him. "I can just plan ahead."

"That's what worries me sometimes," he teased, before looking around and inhaling the scents of the aviary. He let himself reach out a little, not actually doing anything, but more letting his mind brush up against the nature and life of the plants and animals in the room.

"You just relaxed." Megan observed with a smile.

"Yeah," he nodded with a small smile of his own. "This type of crowded I'm more comfortable with."

"Noticeably," she smiled and leaned against him as they walked threw the steamy tropical aviary. "I like you relaxed."

"I like it too," he smiled. "Don't usually get this relaxed with other people around," he murmured softly, wondering about it a bit as he squeezed her shoulder gently. "This was a good idea, I think," he added with another smile for her.

"You'll probably love the big zoo then." She smiled and sniffed the air for all the unfamiliar plan and animal smells, her tail wagging.

"Probably," he agreed. He watched a few of the birds flying around, noticing a couple of them look at him curiously, and pulled his senses back carefully. "How big are we talking?"

Well, the big local one, not the one here." She tried to think back. "I got tired walking threw it all."

"That makes more sense," he chuckled. "If they managed to fit a big zoo in here, I think I'd need somebody to wake me up. But that does sound big," he agreed after thinking about just how energetic she was.

"They've even got these awesome interactive exhibits where you can go in an pet the animals."

"Not the big ones," he guessed, looking down at her curiously. "At least not the big ones that think fingers are a handy snack-size."

"Not the predatory ones." She nodded. "Mostly domestic critters. Goats, rabbits, chickens and such. Though if you catch the raptor show you can touch a couple of them. And they have this one fennic fox that is really friendly."

"Sounds like you've been there fairly often," he observed. "You like animals?"

"I'm a Collie," she rolled her eye and giggled. "If it moves, it's interesting."

"Especially if they're close enough to reach," he chuckled. "You ever have pets?"

"Nah, mom didn't think I was responsible enough to take care of them."

Samson nodded, wisely stifling another slight chuckle. "What sort do you like?" He asked her curiously, but quietly enough to keep from bothering anybody else in the aviary, not that he really thought anybody'd hear them over the sound of the tropical birds surrounding them.

"Of animals?" She glanced up at him uncertainly.

"Yeah," he smiled down at her. "Just curious, not planning on coming home with something extra that's furry."

"Ummm, ducks are a lot of fun." She tried to think of what critters she liked to hang out with. "Sheep too."

"Not the usual," he nodded, thinking about it. "Interesting though."

"I'm not sure I'd call them pets," she shrugged. "But they're fun."

"I probably wouldn't," he admitted. "But you're right, they can be. Besides," he smiled, squeezing her shoulder affectionately, "I just asked about what animals you liked. Not necessarily pets"

"Good," she smiled up and leaned into the contact, though her eyes flicked to the rippling water and the colorful fish swimming in it.

Samson's eyes followed hers, and he leaned down a bit closer to her, focusing slightly on the fish she was looking at.

"Watch the one with the gold forehead," he said softly, just before the small but eye-catching koi leaped out of the water, glittering slightly before it landed back with a tiny splash.

"Oooo ... you can tell?" She grinned.

"Sometimes," he nodded slightly, smiling at her. "They're easier to figure out than people," he added with a chuckle.

"Simpler minds," she grinned. "Animals can be fun that way."

"Do not try to herd fish, Megan." Gaia rolled her eyes.

"No, that's not even a good idea back home," Samson chuckled. "Not that we don't have some people who try, sometimes. They usually end up very wet, tired, and annoyed at the fish."

"Sounds like they don't do it right." She giggled. "But I'll leave these alone. They're pretty though."

"Yeah, they are," Samson agreed, chuckling. "And I would hope that even you might think twice about herding 25-pound tuna."

"Aren't they like deep-sea critters?"

"Sometimes, but in the right weather, they'll come up further. At that point, sometimes people who are trying out new fishing techniques will find that what works on small fish in schools don't work on bigger ones, schools or no."

"Makes sense, I think." She nodded and just leaned against him in the muggy air.

"Good," he chuckled. "That makes one of us who thinks so. Any time you want to move on, let me know, okay Megan?" He told her quietly, more than content to stay there with her for now.

"Okay," she smiled and snuggled against his chest.

"*Press the blue button when you want me.*" Gaia chuckled softly and slipped a small object into Samson's pocket.

 "*Thanks,*" he thought back sheepishly, blushing a little as he held Megan close, not worrying about any of the few looks they were getting from the passersby. The two of them spent a bit over three hours more exploring the aviary on their own, watching the birds and fish, before they decided to signal for Gaia. Heading towards the door, Samson pressed the button on the signaler she'd given him, and they waited the brief period it took for her to meet up with them.

"Ready for the water?" An almost-familiar voice asked with a grin on the female Liger's face.

"I think so," he nodded easily, recognizing Gaia from when she'd been working on his stripes before. "Trying out a new look?"

"A bit sexier." She chuckled and caught his arm. "I like standing out on occasion."

"You certainly manage that," he chuckled, blushing slightly as he realized what it might look like to somebody watching the trio as they walked out of the aviary. "So, where to next?" He asked.

"They'll think we're a couple taking a pup out as a favor." Gaia snickered.

"All right," he nodded. "So, where to next?" He asked and was guided with matching grins on his escorts threw the level and into a building that smelled of cool air and warm purified water.

"You know how to swim, right?" Megan licked her muzzle at all the water and children playing.

"Of course I do," he chuckled. "Hard not to learn how when you grow up on an island." He looked at the people swimming and playing in the water, the scene familiar, even if the scents weren't.

"Then here is you're swimming trunks and go get dressed." Gaia handed him a small package from her shopping bag as Megan paid the entrance fee for the three of them. "We'll meet you in the shallows."

He took the package and the key Megan handed him and went into the locker room/showers to change. It smelled heavily of water and chemicals, and the scents of dozens of breeds of males in varying states of health, age and emotions.

He wrinkled his nose at the pungent chemical smells, noticing a sign on the inside of the door that told people to shower before entering the pool. He shook his head a bit, wondering what would make that necessary. He made a note to ask about it later, when they were on their way out. Heading back to change, he was glad to notice that there weren't too many people in the locker room. Even so, he did notice a few looks while he was changing, ranging from appreciative glances to nervous ones from people who seemed to think that eight-feet of Liger was distinctly intimidating.

Neither reaction was particularly surprising, though the lack of real fear was nice. He wasn't completely sure what to make of the desire he was sure he sensed in a couple males towards him after he'd stripped. He decided that the safest approach was to play dumb, changing and heading into the showers as though he hadn't noticed anything.

A quick shower in peace was a pleasant change to the varied looks, even though it was an open shower room with several dozen nozzles that could handle even his height. He showered down quickly, doing his best to ignore the wide array of scents that hung in the muggy air, along with the smell of a number of disinfectants and cleaners that were used to try and keep most of the smells tolerable. All in all, it made for a potent cocktail of odors unless you were ready for it.

"There you are." Megan's light yip greeted him as he entered chaos personified in water and moving bodies.

"It's not too easy to find you two out here," he chuckled, wading out to the where the Collie and Liger was in the shallows.

"You, on the other hand, are very easy to spot." She giggled while Gaia extracted herself from the decided interest of a well-build Tiger with minor success.

"Oh? Well, seeing as there's only one other Liger here, I'll give you that one," he chuckled, looking over at Gaia. "Looks like somebody's in a flirting mood."

"She does make for an attractive show of fur." Megan snickered. "You don't wear that little unless you're looking for attention after all."

"Which she is definitely getting," Samson smiled, watching the Tiger continue his advances. "Think I should go rescue her?"

"Nah, I think she can handle him."

"Yeah, but I'm not sure if he can handle her," the Liger chuckled. "Are we supposed to wait, or let her have fun on her own?"

"He doesn't look like he wants to be rescued just yet." She giggled. "Let's go play on the waterslides."

"Sure thing," he grinned. "Just make sure you get clear once you hit the bottom."

"Who said I'm going first?" She winked at him and guided him over to the waterslide pool area entrance. "Unless it's in your arms."

"Somehow," he blushed, "I don't think that's quite within the safety rules here."

"Somehow," he blushed and followed her into the loose queue for the waterslide, "I don't think that's quite within the safety rules here."

"Oh, I don't know." She grinned and motioned to the varied mats available to sliders. "There are couples and family ones."

"I also seem to remember we were supposed to try being low-key," he chuckled a bit. "You want to try that though?"

"Yes," her tail made a sizeable wave in the water. "Just keep your shorts on."

"Of course I will," he blushed, batting her thigh lightly with his tail as he followed her towards one of the larger slides.




"Thanks for coming out here," Samson smiled down at Megan, walking by his side as he carried a picnic basket in his other hand. The two of them were walking through the woods on the grounds, two weeks after their trip to the mall, looking for a clearing he'd found a few days later.

"Like I ever refuse your company." She grinned back up and nuzzled his side.

"You could," he chuckled, squeezing her shoulder affectionately, trying to keep his nerves under wraps. "Though I think you'll like what I've got in mind." He certainly hoped so, at least. He'd been planning this since he'd found the clearing, and was hoping it was all going to go well.

On several levels, he couldn't help but think that the mall had been less nerve-wracking than this.

"You're so cute when you're wound up," she giggled.

"And here I thought it was when I was blushing," he chuckled, relaxing a bit and telling himself that things were going to work out. If something was going to go wrong, it would have done so long before now. He could see the clearing now, a soft blanket of green grass covering the ground, the trees giving it a comfortably private look, but still giving a slightly shrouded view of the gradually approaching sunset.

"There it is," he smiled, nodding towards the opening the path made in the tree wall.

"A sunset picnic," she smiled and leaned against him. "You are such a romantic."

"I do my best," he smiled, leading her in and laying down a blanket for the two of them. He rubbed her shoulder lightly, then squeezed her close. "Besides, with the sunsets around here, it's worth it."

"Not so good on the Isles?" She murmured and happily snuggled into his lap.

"They're different," he smiled, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her neck. "The skies out here are clearer, though you can still have some breathtaking ones through the fogs."

"I bet," she rumbled and rolled her head to give him better access to her neck and slid her legs down to straddle his lap.

"Another week or so, we should be able to see some," he rumbled back. "I've got a surprise for you later," he murmured, hugging her close and inhaling her scent contentedly. "Have to give it to you before things get too dark."

"Oh?" She licked her muzzle, then his, and rubbed her body against his chest.

"Mmhmm," he rumbled, for once not worrying too much about how he was responding to her attentions. He rubbed her belly lightly, licking her muzzle back. "Up to you if you want dinner before, or after. I brought along things that'll keep," he chuckled, kissing her gently.

"Dinner later," she grinned and nuzzled him.

"All right," he smiled, licking her neck lightly. "I take it that means you're interested now?"

"When am I not?" She giggled and ran her hands up his chest, her thick tail wagging rapidly.

"Wrong interested," he chuckled, holding her close and kissing her playfully. "Though if you're still interested in a few minutes… well, take a look out that way," he rumbled, closing his eyes as he indicated the break in the clearing towards the sunset.

"Okay," she followed his directions with curiocity.

There was a soft green glow in the grass ahead, as the plants beneath the surface started to grow and develop, budding as the Liger's powers coaxed them through the early stages of their life. Daises and lilies started to bloom, distinctly out of season for the middle of summer, with taller, darker flowers forming patterns in the middle of them.

As Megan watched, deep blue roses bloomed, forming the words "I love you" in the middle of the lighter field of more natural flowers.

"Ahhh," she murmured and hugged him, melting inside at the gesture. "You are so sweet."

"I try," he rumbled, blushing a bit as he hugged her back, kissing her tenderly. "And it's true," he added softly, licking her muzzle affectionately with his broad, rough tongue while she snuggled against him and slowly explored his chest with firm, eager hands. He let his hands explore her right back, laying down on the blanket and drawing her down on top of him, kissing her again, licking her lips with the underside of his tongue as his hands shifted down lower, rubbing the backs of her thighs.

"Mmm, you're getting good at this," she rumbled and spread her legs a bit more. "But you are wearing far too much."

"Hope to get better," he rumbled just a little shyly. "Care to help change that?" He ran his hands up under her skirt, squeezing her bare ass gently.

It sent a bolt straight to his cock the way she arched back into his grip as memories of how she'd get them both off by rubbing along the exposed skin of that hard flesh.

"Anytime, anywhere," Megan grinned down at him and worked his shirt up from under her thighs. He shifted to let her pull it off, working on her own shirt once his hands were free again, rumbling deeply as their bodies pressed back together fur against fur and mouth against mouth.

Then she'd moved down, her slender muzzle against his crotch, working to unzip his pants with her teeth. He groaned, reaching down to rub her head and shoulders lovingly as the scent of his arousal in the clearing grew heavier, his sheath heavy inside his shorts.

"Mmm, Megan," he rumbled, looking down at her as she nuzzled him threw his shorts, then pulled both layers down.

"Want them all the way off?" She asked with a throaty rumble as her nose and tongue worked on his heavy balls.

"Yes," he groaned, gripping her fur as his shaft started to slide from his sheath. "Want you," he breathed, looking down at her, licking his lips in a mix of nerves and anticipation. "All of you, if you're willing…."

"Always," she smiled and pushed her skirt down and off before working on getting his shoes and pants off. Soon, the two of them were naked on the blanket, and he pulled her up for a kiss, rolling them over so he was supporting himself on top of her, careful not to crush her much smaller frame.

He inhaled her scent as he pressed against her, rubbing his thick fingers between her thighs as she moaned and opened her body to him with a willingness that was totally and honestly eager.

He moved down her body, nibbling at her neck as she moaned and rubbed against him, her throat bared and willing in her submission.

"Ohhh, yessss," Megan moaned softly. He was really getting to like that sound. He kissed her collarbone, then licked at her breasts, fingering the lips of her sex.

It drew more sounds of pleasure, soft and wet and eager as her hands moved along his shoulders and caressed his ears. It was a pattern they were well accustomed to after two weeks of play that ghosted the very brink of everything.

"Take me, Samson." She moaned breathily, more than happy to give him the first experience he desired. He rubbed himself against her sex, moving up to kiss her again as he groaned.

"Let me know if it's too much," he murmured, kissing her again as he pressed his thick shaft against her entrance and felt her hot, slick flesh part before the pointed tip, welcoming him in with a moan and quiver of pleasure.

"I will," Megan promised with a cry of raw pleasure from being stretched and filled with thick, hard male flesh. "Deeper."

"Gods," he groaned, obliging her, as his shaft throbbed ever deeper inside her body. He pressed into her impossibly tight sex slowly, letting his own body adjust as much as hers was, if not more.

It was the newness of the pleasure that challenged his self control as much as the intensity of arousal and desire below him. Her moans and cries for more echoed from his ears threw his entire body until he shuddered in a moaning roar as he delved deeper. He started to thrust, carefully at first, but faster and harder as he became more confident, and her body stretched to accommodate his member. His shaft throbbed, close to release far too soon for his liking.

"Close," he gasped, kissing her hotly.

"Let it come, Samson." She moaned and squeezed her abs to tighten around him, urging him onward. He roared, his balls and cock twitching inside of her, pouring his seed deep into her sex as she called out encouragement with each breath.

"Yes, pour it all into me." He did just that, panting hard as he finished, licking at her neck tenderly as his hips slowed. He didn't slow down for long though, picking up the pace again, hoping to get her off this time.

"Mmmm, oh yeah, show me what you've got." Megan moaned and squeezed, sending a gush of Liger cum out around his thick cock and began to rock with his rhythm, enjoying every second of the stretched, full sensations. With every thrust, he buried more of himself inside her body, until he felt the head of his cock press against her cervix. For once in his life, he was devoutly grateful that he'd never developed the barbs hairs most felines had, savoring the feeling of his shaft moving in and out of his lover, reaching down to fondle her breasts and shuddered with each contraction of her body's pleasure as it spiraled out of control. He groaned again, flooding her sex with his cum as her pussy spasmed around his length and they roared and howled their mutual pleasure under the setting sun.

"Oh, you are something else," Megan murmured and snuggled up against him as he panted and trembled in keeping his weight off of her. Finally, he gave up, rolling the two of them onto their sides and holding her close as he recovered.

"Like you're one to talk," he rumbled after a few moments. "Gods that was intense."

"Yes," she smiled warmly and nuzzled him, gently easing him to his back and sprawling on top of him. "You are going to spoil me for normal guys."

"Somehow, I think I could live with that," he teased, leaning up to lick her muzzle affectionately before leaning back again to hold her close. "Be a shame to have happen though," he chuckled, rubbing her back, kneading it gently.

"I don't know," Megan giggled and settled in with a contented sigh. "I could stand to have you spoil me for a nice long time."




It was hardly an ordinary day on New Avalon when the ship arrived. It started when the telepathic lookouts sent word of two flyers approaching. Most newcomers to the island arrived by boats and shipwrecks.

It only got stranger when word made it to Solomon, leader of the Shrouded Isles.

The Lion was down at the docks with his mate and some of the local settlement leaders, waiting for the arrival of the flyers. Word was quickly relayed through the Isles; new arrivals from the outside were here, mutants who wanted to see what life in the Isles was like.

That was the strangest part of the morning... until the ship finally arrived, not long behind the streaks of flame the two flyers left, the fiery peacock-eagles, mythical Phoenix, landed just beyond the docks and waited for the ship they heralded to dock.

The ship that arrived... that was well beyond anything, even Solomon, had possibly been expecting. It gleamed white and despite the name emblazoned in gold on it's bow, Swift Haven, it was more reminiscent of something from the gilded age made beyond modern standards than a ship belonging to anyone who might belong here.

"*Greetings Solomon,*" Professor Jurnix's mental voice echoed in the Lion's mind. "*Are we earlier than you expected?*"

"*By a day or two, yes,*" the Lion admitted. "*Though I'll admit; you do know how to make an entrance.*"

"*It is the only sea-worthy ship small enough not to draw attention here.*" He explained simply. "*The Phoenix ... speak to Gaia,*" he chuckled. "*She enjoys the flair on occasion.*"

"*I'm sure somebody will mention it,*" Solomon chuckled. "*Assuming she doesn't get mixed up in a flying challenge first. Care to come down so I can introduce the lot of you?*"

"*Before or after the ship docks?*" He asked politely. "*I can fly.*"

"*Whichever is more convenient for you. I hope we can handle your ship,*" the Lion added, his mental chuckle belying the serious concern behind the comment. "*And that you have enough fuel for a return trip.*"

"*We have plenty of fuel,*" Jurnix chuckled softly as the yacht pulled up and was tied telekinetically to the dock. By now, a crowd had gathered outside, some walking, some flying, most of them obviously mutants.

"*Old habit; most who arrive here aren't quite that prepared.*" The Lion glanced around at his people, looking at the newcomers and the ship curiously. A dull murmur was moving along, and the telepathic chatter increasingly noticeable between the lookouts who were on duty and those who were at the docks.

"*What are outsiders doing landing here, like this,*" one of them asked the Lion, worry and a bit of indignation tinting the mental voice.

"*They are mutants, like us,*" he responded firmly, wondering how many of the other Islanders were going to react the same way. He repeated the telepathic reply, sending it to all in the gathered crowd. There would be time for more later. Right now, Samson was walking down the yacht's ramp to the dock with an older Foxbat and a teenaged Blue Merle Rough Collie. A grin spread across Solomon's muzzle as he saw his old friend, and their new ones.

"Welcome to New Avalon," he said warmly, stepping forward to welcome them formally. "It's a pleasure to see new faces, especially when they bring old ones back with them."

"Thank you," Jurnix smiled and inclined his head to the much larger male. "And thank you for the envoy to invite us. Samson has been a delightful guest. May I introduce my party. The Collie is Megan Ryzer-Marce. The Phoenix are Gaia and Chester Kincaid, both gifted shape shifters." He motioned to them as the pair came forward to join the main group as their flames faded into the larger Draft Horse forms. "I am Professor Tamerin Jurnix of the Jurnix Institute for the Gifted."

"Good to hear, though it's good to have him back," the Lion chuckled, glancing up slightly towards the Liger with a smile. "I am Solomon, leader of the Isles," he added, looking down at the Foxbat and Collie, then over to the two equines. "And these are some of the local settlement leaders," he continued, gesturing to a variety of people standing nearby, of several different species. "I'll handle full introductions later, after the crowd's thinned out a bit." The vocal noise had quieted down now, as those gathered tried to hear what was being said, and even the telepathic conversations seemed to be dying down.

"It will be a pleasure to meet your people," Jurnix smiled and politely didn't glance at Megan as she did her best not to fidget. "I am looking forward to learning more about the Isles and how we can mutually benefit from a friendship and alliance."

"Perhaps we should go to discuss just that, unless you would prefer to look around the Isles some first? Either way, I'm sure your people will be able to find locals willing to show them around."

"I would like to discus that with you, while my students explore and talk. They will be bored to tears by political nitpicking." Jurnix chuckled.

"As would most of the people here," Solomon chuckled. "Though it would be one good way to clear the onlookers. Your students should feel free to make themselves at home, we can see about setting up more housing for them if necessary."

"Excellent," Jurnix nodded with a smile and motioned to the others, sending the Equines into the crowd and Samson and Megan walking out, the Liger greeting a few friends cheerfully.

"It looks like he got along pretty well in the outside world," Solomon observed quietly, smiling before he turned back to Professor Jurnix. "So, to the council chambers?"

"Yes, that would be good," he nodded and followed the Lion towards the largest of the nearby buildings. It wasn't decorated ostentatiously, but it was clearly a well-kept, important building.

"We can still fit most of the Islanders in here," Solomon explained conversationally as he led the way. "Mostly for votes or news that affects everybody. Most of the time, we have plenty of space and privacy." He led Jurnix to a fairly large office, opening the door and gesturing for him to go ahead.

"Something that is also true of my Institute," he commented and stepped into the office of power with an open mind and curious eyes. It didn't look much like the office of somebody who was in charge of the Isles. It was much more casual, with windows open to the salt-sea air of the outside, a few comfortable looking chairs for guests near the door, a matching one, though clearly built larger for its occupant, on the other side of a large wooden desk, that looked like it had been cleaned off rather hastily. There were a couple paintings on the wall, one of Solomon's predecessor, looking on with his habitual stern expression, and the other of the Lion with his mate and cubs.

"Make yourself comfortable," he said easily, following Jurnix in and closing the door behind him. "How are things, outside the Isles, for our kind? Hopefully some change since the colonists left?"

"We are no longer on any government's target list, but we are not a protected group either," he admitted. "It has not improved as much as we would have liked, but things are getting better."

"That's a start," Solomon pointed out. "And one that can be built on, in time. My apologies of some of my questions seem obvious. We can and do read about the changes that are happening, but so much of it is kept from the general public that it's hard to get a feel for what's really happening. Most of our new arrivals haven't exactly had the world's most heartening experiences."

"No, I expect they have not." Jurnix nodded and relaxed in one of the available chairs. "Those that have good lives rarely desire a sanctuary from them."

"Or are desperate enough to take a boat and start away from their homes, just hoping to find something better," the Lion agreed, closing his eyes for a moment. "Though it's been a while since we've run into shipwreck victims like that. One thing I do want to check on though. Is TGRI well and truly out of commission yet?"

"As a company, yes." He nodded. "We are still hunting the mage that founded it."

"That's good to know, on both counts. It would have been better if you had caught him already, but it might be just as well, for now. I was mostly concerned that an individual like him might still have the resources and power of a large company. If he did, it would be impossible to make the public aware of the Isles until the climate was friendlier."

"Even as it is, you will have to be careful. Going public one stage at a time and carefully as public knowledge in general increases."

"Fortunately, it will be some time before we're near ready to do that," Solomon explained. "I want my own people to be ready for the idea before it happens. I'm not sure if you picked it up already, but even your arrival has a few people on edge."

"Fifty years and a generation in isolation will do that." He nodded. "I have never expected this to happen quickly. Society simply does not move that quickly."

"Not peacefully," the Lion agreed. "And I won't entertain any suggestions for other methods, not that I think you would make any. Honestly... I have to agree with those of us who would rather stay hidden until it is ready, or at least readier."

"My question is, how do you expect the world be become readier?"

"An excellent question," he admitted. "Though it seems that we hardly need to be out in the world for things to improve, even gradually. Even if we can't remain self-sufficient, there's a good part of the population that would rather wait until 'gradually' becomes a reality."

"You do know that will never happen," Jurnix said quietly. "It is not the nature of the beast to be without an enemy, and that enemy is what they do not know."

"Unfortunately, you're probably right," he said softly, leaning back in his chair. "That is one concern. Realistically, we will either reach the point where we can't sustain ourselves, or can't hide any more, and have to reveal ourselves. It would be best to arrange things on our terms, rather than somebody else's."

"A third option to consider," Jurnix continued quietly. "To claim a world for our kind, with only an outpost here to rescue newly born Avatars. The technology and power are almost capable of it."

"Have things really advanced that quickly?" Solomon thought for a bit. "You would need a generation ship, to have a reasonable chance of it succeeding, unless you've discovered a much closer habitable planet than anybody knows of."

"A generational ship is preferable, yes." He nodded. "But it's not completely necessary. Not with the powers that will soon be available." He paused, considering the Lion carefully. "There is a great price to pay with such a choice. We will be abandoning our home world, our origins, our heritage of fighting for what is rightfully ours. It was Rasputin's way, it could save many lives, but it could also be our destruction when we meet the people of this world again."

"It would, however, be a viable way out. If things went poorly... just because we don't want to use it immediately, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to develop it. Grandfather wanted to have a homeland for our people, Professor. A place that was ours, where we could live in peace as we pleased. Maybe there was a better way of going about it, but it was also a way of ensuring that some mutants survived. There are so few of us, even here... his methods were sound, if extreme."

"As I agreed then, I still agree now," he nodded. "But it must also be realized that any place we can go with our advantages they will be able to follow within a couple generations, unless our home is the ship and we run forever."

"Though if we were established there, we might be able to hold a planet they weren't on. Not a preferable solution, but a more acceptable one than extinction, which is what would happen if war started here. I do, however, agree that it isn't what we should do as our first approach here. I just feel better about any plan A when there's a plan B in the works too," he chuckled slightly.

"And a C, D and E in some stages of progress," Jurnix agreed. "Evacuation is not an option I like, but it must be prepared for as necessary. What I have more difficulty with is how not to abandon those born after the ship leaves."

"Not something easy to accomplish, no. Unless, rather than evacuating to another system, it was only to an orbital outpost. Lunar, for example, though that does put us much more 'in reach' in the event that evacuation became necessary. Also the difficulty in building such an outpost."

That made a sly smirk cross Jurnix's muzzle. "Building it is fairly simple when the government has several of your companies contracted to do exactly that. They have no concept of the cost. Building our facility while building theirs is quite viable. From there the ship is much, much simpler. Work on crippling their space program in minor ways and it'll give us a serious head start."

"You've been thinking about this for a while, haven't you?" Solomon asked with an approving chuckle. "Though if mutants were caught sabotaging their programs, I would imagine that it would hardly earn us brownie points."

"Thinking about it, planning it, acting on it." He nodded. "And only I am sabotaging anything. Odds manipulation can do amazing things when you're creative with it."

"That it could. A very useful gift to have. Though it marks you as having some interesting connections," Solomon grinned slowly.

"Connections?" He cocked his head slightly. "Oh, the Gift categories."

"Yes," the Lion chuckled. "Though it would be hard to pin somebody with your gifts to a single category. I have a feeling it's hard to pin you down for just about anything. I'm sorry, I'm digressing."

"Not a problem," Jurnix smiled slightly. "I am not in so much of a hurry that a little wandering is unreasonable."

"That's good; I can sidetrack myself fairly easily, when it comes to some subjects. I try to keep it to a minimum though. Unusual gifts is one of my worst."

"And Gifts in general are one of my interests." Jurnix grinned. "The genetics of it, what causes them, how they pass on. Unless my students get edgy, I find that an entertaining side-track."

"I should have you talk to some of our genetics experts," Solomon grinned back. "They're still pulling their fur out trying to find a way to figure out what somebody's gift will be. They've asked us to groom a precog for a position with them."

"Really?" Jurnix raised an eyebrow. "It is traceable and fairly predictable. Though it is only half genetic. That is the hard part to measure."

"Hmm... I wonder if there might be a difference in the Isles then. We've found that having gifts is clearly traceable, and the strength and broad type tends to be similar, but specific gifts rarely seem to be inherited here."

"It's just as likely I look at things differently and therefore see it differently. I'm also coming from base research of a normal population and seeing what changes, not an all Avatar population trying to see patterns."

"Also true," he nodded. "We never had a great deal of normal material to work with, for obvious reasons. It may also be, as you suggested, that part that isn't genetic. Some other factor involved in the changes we haven't found yet. Most likely," he chuckled, "a bit of two or three of those."

"I know it isn't all genetic," Jurnix commented. "Do you believe that the soul Is real? That there is something more to us than what builds the body."

"Not much definitive proof either way," Solomon observed. "But I'd be lying if I said I didn't. Especially with some of what I've seen. You think there's a connection between the soul and how our Gifts manifest?"

"And occasionally that we have Gifts at all." He nodded. "The genetics that mark an Avatar are not recessive, yet a significant portion of those who have it out there never manifest. Granted there are many other factors that could be responsible, but it seems likely that the individual shapes their powers as much as the powers shape the person."

"Though not consciously," the Lion mused. "Or else there wouldn't be the issues with not being able to control them. Of course, it could also explain why they tend to manifest under stress."

"And their power is frequently affected by emotional strength," Jurnix nodded. "A theory I am working with is that all forms of extraordinary ability are effectively the same. Magic, psionics, Avatar Gifts, many creatures of myth all are actually from the same origin used and nurtured differently by cultural expectations."

"Then there's something you might want to see," he said quietly after a few minutes. "Eventually at least, but not something for general consumption. We aren't the first people on the Isles."

"Yes, I have noticed." He nodded. "There are... remnants of their presence still here."

"And of how it ended," Solomon nodded. "Samson might have mentioned it, but we found what seems to be an ancient library they studied in. Some details haven't been disclosed yet, but your theory seems to hold with what I've read and what we've observed."

"Oh?" The Foxbat looked at him very curiously. "That would be more proof than I have yet."

"It's a round-about sort of proof," the Lion cautioned. "And this is part of what doesn't get discussed with anybody outside the room. It has some implications that could be very dangerous, especially coupled with your theory."

"Please tell," he encouraged the Lion. "All hazards should be known if we are to make the best choice."

"I just wanted to be sure you were comfortable with keeping it quiet, for now," he explained. "The texts discuss looking for people born with the ability to use magic, and a number of anecdotes that suggest that the same developments were found among the students and families of the masters that we've seen among our own people. Whatever their abilities derived from, they seem to react to the surroundings in the same way. According to the legends, a spell laid by the founders of the school."

"Most interesting."

"Now, there are others who've read this, of course. Not many, but a few, and all people who are capable of understanding why you don't necessarily want to try self-teaching yourself magic from books that are kept in a well-concealed library."

"Yes, that would be a poor choice," he nodded. "What have you learned of their fate?"

"Apparently one of their own, who had been forced to flee after an attempt to take over, returned with a small army from the outside. They didn't have any allies to call on and, eventually, the weight of numbers overcame their power and skill. A survivor ensured that the library we found was hidden from the attacker, but her wounds were too much to recover from. It seems that her efforts were not in vain though; everything else was razed to the ground, but that part of the library survived."

"A good example of why treason carries a death penalty almost everywhere."

"Unfortunately, death penalties are relatively easily escaped when all you have to do is cross the borders. Not that it was easy, especially at the time, but compared to returning from the dead, the mage in question seemed to think it was worth it."

"Returning from the dead?" Jurnix raised an eyebrow. "That was not an option I expected to truly exist."

"As far as I know, it doesn't," Solomon admitted. "But to judge by what was described, there are... options... available to somebody with enough skill and power. Not ones to be taken by anybody with a shred of decency. They may just be another set of legends; probably are. But frankly, I think we both know better than to discount legends out of hand."

"Yes," he nodded seriously. "Far too dangerous a step, particularly with one who is powerful and ambitious. It is such a dangerous combination."

"More so when coupled with a hint of sociopathy. Fortunately, it sounds like such a difficult feat to achieve that it would be a virtual miracle if it was performed properly. Anything less than perfection would prove permanently fatal, so it wasn't attempted often."

"Except when there was nothing to loose," he nodded. "Fortunately it is unlikely to be our concern, for all we do have to keep an eye open."

"Most fortunately," he agreed. "There are enough other problems for us to worry about without adding immortal archmages to the list."

"Very true. Do you know what happened to this traitor after he destroyed this place?"

"No," he admitted, leaning forward and steepling his fingers thoughtfully. "The only records we have that he existed were from the hidden library, and end shortly after the attack. We've put together the rest based on what our psychometrist and the handful of people we have who know anything about archaeology have been able to find out."

"I understand," Jurnix nodded. "Do you have an idea how long ago this occurred?"

"Several centuries ago, but nothing more specific. Towards the end of the Crusade period, we think, based on some of the references; they used a different numbering system for the years, so we can't be entirely certain."

"Still well out of the modern history era." He nodded with a touch of relief. "What are the trouble and troublemakers you deal with now?"

"Actively, nothing that can't be handled through good management of the Isles. There is some debate about whether or not we should send people out into the real world, but from what I've seen, I suspect it would be much harder to blend in than any of them expect. Especially with the tells some of us have. Of greater concern to me is the possibility that history will repeat itself; there are many enemies we have to worry about, and no allies on the outside who could help if we were discovered."

"Thus the messenger to me," Jurnix nodded. "For mutual protection, among other things."

"Yes," Solomon nodded easily. "He doesn't know about the full reasoning behind my plans, by the way. You seemed like the most likely candidate, and somebody who would have a good idea of how, or if, to go public."

"Not without careful planning and an escape route."

"Which I hope you're willing to help arrange? Some knowledge of the world's politics, at the very least, would be helpful."

"I wouldn't be here otherwise." The Foxbat said seriously. "An alliance between us will be beneficial to both of us, and hopefully the world at large as well."

"Hopefully," the Lion agreed. "Is there anything in particular you're interested in here? It would be nice to have an idea where we stand for things that would be useful to the outside, aside from the fishing industry."

"For me, the most valuable thing is a safe place to send Avatars that don't want to deal with the outside. The added firepower and resources if it comes to a battle is also a consideration." He considered the land outside the window. "You could easily create a very profitable industry here in various forms of tourism and healing, but I am not sure if there is anything here now that would interest the general population much."

"Tourism, unfortunately, won't be happening for some time. Healing has much the same problem, given the general attitude towards mutants." He thought for a moment. "There are a handful of other options, but most of them have legal and ethical considerations. The reproductive technology isn't necessarily general-interest either, I presume."

"It is, but it an area that you will have a great deal of competition in." He admitted. "But on healing, I think you underestimate how much effect being told you can be cured of an incurable condition will make people not only open their wallets but leave their issues at home."

"I don't doubt it, especially given some of the issues in the modern day. That is something we'll have to look at then. I'm mostly unsure how we would get people here to be treated without revealing ourselves, unless we used the Institute as a meeting place."

"Or a similarly neutral ground." Jurnix nodded. "Even using an existing company as cover so we don't have to explain things right away. Set on an island or large ship we can avoid almost all the red tape and legal issues involved with governments wanting to know what we're doing beforehand."

"Though I would imagine the press will get involved eventually. People coming home from their trip cured of something that science can't answer, and doing so reliably, is certain to attract attention."

"Oh, it will, and to a point we would want to encourage it. But it is difficult to put a negative spin on it, whether or not they know Avatar powers are involved." Jurnix suddenly blinked and closed his large round eyes for a moment, focusing internally as something occurred to him.

"Another idea?"

"On a completely different subject, but yes." He nodded thoughtfully, his excitement and caution against it clear in his body language. "I can't believe I haven't thought of it before. At least in most of the industrialized countries there are laws against discrimination based on breed and a few other things. It at least gives us some legal protections as a minority. It does nothing against the hate or fear but it could well cause a massive legal tangle for any government agency that tries to cause trouble. At least enough of a tangle for us to move another plan into action."

"You're proposing suggesting mutants as a separate breed?" The Lion thought about it. "In many ways, it's what we've done here... though it would be awkward to define, for mutants from the outside. The argument would be much stronger with an Avatar with a noticeable tell that couldn't be duplicated."

"Not exactly. The anti-discrimination laws cover breed, gender, heritage, religion, age, sexual preferences and disabilities. Within those, we are covered, mostly under heritage. It is far from perfect, but it is a strong legal start to giving them red tape hell while we get a backup plan working. And it is a legal grounds for including us specifically."

Solomon nodded thoughtfully, thinking it over. It would be one way to protect those from the Isles, at least potentially. "But how would you advance Avatars as a common heritage? After all, there are still those of us on the outside, and it would be hard to make that case when some of them don't even know we exist here."

"There is no common heritage." He shook his head. "There is no category that covers everyone. That is not what would be argued. The existing protections are intended to stop minority groups from being excluded unfairly from jobs and activities. What the argument would be is that Avatars are a minority group that is being persecuted for what they were born as and deserve protection just as every other group.

"It will not be quick or easy, but it is the groundwork. It is also not what will help the Isles all that directly. You are a sovereign nation after all."

"Not yet, but it is a goal eventually," he admitted. "And the groundwork is a good start. You need a foundation before you can build, after all. As for quick and easy... what's worth doing rarely is."

"I am not so sure you are not," he considered the situation. "But it is also not an area of law, if such laws even exist, that I have studied much."

"I would imagine the laws exist," the Lion thought, leaning back. "If nothing else, on the books from when things like this were more common... even if we were one, getting recognition of any sort would be the problem. Without recognition by other nations, the question of sovereignty is largely academic."

"True," Jurnix nodded thoughtfully. "And there are pros and cons to each way of showing up, though from my own experience the most effective way of getting your way is a combination of bribery, blackmail and calling in debts."

"Most of which we don't have available," Solomon pointed out. "Not right now, at least. Bribery we might be able to arrange, of course, but the blackmail and debts we don't have. Of course, if we go along with the option to open up our healers, then we might be able to get some fairly powerful allies on our side rather quickly."

"And there are what I have gathered over the years," Jurnix pointed out. "Both under my own name and others. I have been preparing for the trials of creating a new country since well before I founded the Institute."

"Are you sure you want to call those in now? Most favors are only good once, and blackmail and bribery only go so far. If you wanted to try and pull it off for the Institute's territory, it might be more difficult if you attempted to arrange it here instead."

"There are too many unknowns to see how it will happen now." He countered. "You may be able to do it on your own when it comes. I am also practical. If my boons tip the balance, they are better spent ensuring the Isles freedom. When it comes right down to it, it is far more likely to work here where no one currently claims the land then at the Institute where we are under an existing government."

"It would be easier than convincing them to give up territory," the Lion assented. "We'll have to see how it works out; this might not even be an issue, in the end. I certainly wouldn't want to bet on it, but it might not be."

"Yes, we have to work on Isle attitudes as well as outside ones." Jurnix nodded. "Right now would not be a good time to go public, you'd put off many people that might otherwise be reasonable."

"Most likely; we are going to have a hard time of convincing the people that more contact with the outside is a good thing. Some of the younger Avatars are interested, but that's to be expected. Of course, they're also the ones who would have the hardest time fitting in."

"Usually the case. Educating them in the ways of the outside will have to be a top priority. For all the similarities, the world has changed a great deal since Rasputin's time."

"For better and for worse," the Lion nodded. "That much we've gathered. Perhaps we should start with that then? See to it that Samson's the only one of us who has to leave without being ready for it."

"At least as much as possible." Jurnix nodded in agreement.


Meanwhile, half-way across New Avalon, Samson was showing Megan around. It wasn't too hard; there weren't many particularly interesting sights to see, at least not to her eyes. There were a few times when they'd stop to chat with a friend or acquaintance of the Liger's, and it was after one of those when they finally took a bit of a break.

"Sorry about Fire," Samson chuckled as they sat down, and he brought over a glass of cold juice for her. He sat down next to her on a bench, sipping his own drink. "The look on his face was priceless though," he added, looking up into the sky at the retreating streak of flame the Fox was leaving behind.

"I'm not sure which was more offensive. That he thought he was God's gift to females or that he could actually be better at it than you." She rolled her eyes in good humor. "I take it you two are fairly good friends?"

"Fairly good," the Liger nodded easily, chuckling with a bit of a blush under his fur. "He's definitely a character. So, anything particular you want to see next?"

"Well, there's the ruins you've mentioned," she grinned and leaned happily against him. "And your folks if you want to." He blinked, looking down at her with a surprised expression.

"You, uhm... want to meet them?"

"If they're anyone still in your life, yeah." She looked up at him softly. "It's kind of customary to introduce a mate to your family if it gets serious."

"I wasn't sure if it had," he admitted with a blush, hugging her gently. "Any preference for which one to meet first?"

"Up to you," she nuzzled him.

"Probably easiest to meet my father first," he said, thinking about it a bit. "Get along with him best, honestly."

"For or after dinner? I'm hungry."

"After," Samson said easily, standing up and offering her his hand. "It'd be rude to show up for dinner without some warning. I should have something back home, if you don't mind stew for dinner."

"Not at all," she accepted his hand with a smile. "It won't be spoiled after your time away?"

"The meat's well preserved," he explained. "It should be just fine. The vegetables I can get on the spot, if the dried ones aren't any good any more, or I'm forgetting what I have on-hand. Could get the meat in too, if I had to."

"Sounds good," she nuzzled against his side. "Worst case we just go back and eat on the ship."

"Yeah," he chuckled, the two of them starting to walk away from the bench. "Actually, if you'd prefer that, it'd probably be faster. My place is a bit of a hike from here."

"I think I'd like that better. I am hungry."

"So let's go grab dinner, then head over to my father's," he smiled, turning back towards the yacht at the nearby docks. "I'll send a bit of warning that we'll be on our way," he added, as a nearby gull took off from the top of a building and flew towards the end of the island he'd started towards at first.

"By messenger bird?" She looked at him dubiously.

"Signal we agreed on a while ago," he chuckled. "I have a gull go by and tap on the window to get somebody's attention. They'll do that on their own once in a while, but there are a couple other bits in there that make it pretty clear it's not accidental. It's rather like what happened with the fish at the mall."

"Urr?" Megan blinked up at him. "You did that?" She broke out in a grin and hugged him. "You are such a sweetheart."

"Aww...." He blushed deeply, hugging her back. "I do my best. Figured you'd like it."

"You were right." She squeezed him as best she could as they walked. "And Foxie wondered why I wasn't interested in anyone else."

"Well, he's not going to be the only guy who's interested," Samson pointed out with a bit of a chuckle. "You're definitely a catch," he rumbled, rubbing her shoulder and inhaling the salty air.

"He's just the boldest," she giggled and grinned at him. "And I would have said yes if I wasn't with you."

"Boldest is the polite way of describing him," the Liger grinned back down. "And you don't have to turn 'em down if you're interested. Not that I mind having you myself," he rumbled, leaning down to nuzzle her affectionately.

"Now why would I be interested when I've got you?" Megan asked seriously. "It's not like they could compare."

"Variety maybe? You might meet somebody who's interested in more than a one-night stand too. I know you aren't interested in pups now, but you might be eventually."

"And I'll worry about that then." She shrugged. "If I'm going to sire-hunt, then they'll be pure-breeds and he'll be a Blue Merle too."

"All right," he nodded easily, accepting it as they reached the yacht. "Just be ready for it to take a little bit for word to get around."

"I'm already used to it." She nuzzled. "Rumor mill's like that everywhere."

"Very true," he chuckled. "Though when you've got telepaths and as few people for it to spread through as we do, it works faster. Probably going to get a few people wondering what you're thinking too," he added more softly, knowing that wasn't going to go over particularly well.

"The smart ones will keep their mouths shut and the looks civil." She growled angrily as her thick, fluffy tail lashed hard. "*Civilized countries lost that attitude a generation ago." He winced, knowing that her reaction had probably been picked up by half the mentalists in the area.

"Please try not to hurt anybody," he said, looking down at her seriously. "Most of them won't be worse than if you were dating somebody who didn't look appealing outside."

"I'll behave," her voice was still a growl, though she did mean it. "As long as they do. Promise."

"Thank you," he said, relief in his tone as he led her into the ship. "C'mon, let's see about getting dinner cooked."


A couple hours later, the two of them were approaching one of the large houses near the administrative buildings.

"We're lucky we came back when we did," Samson smiled. "This time of year, Father usually stays here with his wife and cubs. Something might have come up back home, but it's usually pretty quiet now." He knocked on the large, carved wooden door, one easily tall enough for the Liger. After a few moments, the door opened, and a Lion nearly a foot shorter than Samson greeted him.

"Samson! I'd heard you were back," the older Lion grinned. "And you've brought a friend with you."

"I told you the rumor mill worked faster around here," Samson chuckled, looking down at the Collie next to him. "Father, this is Megan Rhyzer-Marce. Megan, my father, Marcus Grove."

"Hello sir." She smiled at the large Lion, her tail wagging gently.

"Welcome to the Isles," he said, bowing slightly towards the shorter Collie. "Come on in, both of you. We were wondering what you were up to, Samson. Any particular reason you've brought her around, rather than your other friends who came with you?" He asked, looking over his shoulder at his son as he led them both into the house.

"They're doing other things," Megan piped up easily.

"The Professor is speaking with Solomon, and the others are exploring with some others," Samson nodded.

"Is that all?" A younger lioness piped up from her seat in the main room, looking over the book she was reading at Samson with a bit of a smirk.

"Cassie," Samson rumbled warningly as she stuck her tongue out at him over her book.

"Hey, it's not my fault I'm an empath," she shot back.

"Is this something I should be hearing about?" Marcus chuckled, looking at Samson with an amused expression.

"Megan and I've been going out," Samson said, blushing beneath his fur as she half-smirked and nuzzled against his side.

"Told you you'd have to get off the Isles to find a good girl," Cassandra teased lightly.

"Is there really that big a shortage of them here?" Megan snickered at Samson.

"She's a precog too," Samson chuckled. "Though she isn't always right, as a few of her tutors could testify to."

"Okay, that's just not fair," the Lioness grumbled, crossing her arms with a frown. "Besides, one of 'em was blocking me."

"That's what you get for trying to get away without studying," her father said seriously, before looking back at Samson and Megan just as seriously for a moment, before he smiled.

"Glad you finally found somebody, Samson. So Megan, how did you two end up meeting? He isn't exactly the social type."

"But I am," she giggled. "It seems that despite the Prof's warning he left his door unlocked so I could bound in and introduce myself while he was unpacking."

"That sounds about right," the Lion chuckled. "Have a seat," he added, gesturing towards the chairs, mostly oversized for the Collie, though there were a few that would fit her. Samson led her over towards one near a chair sized for him, sitting down.

It wasn't hard to read the temptation to settle in his lap in Megan's, body language, but she did the polite things and sat down in the chair next to him instead.

"Are you planning on staying here when the others return then?" A new voice asked, an older Lioness walking in from the other room as Marcus took a seat.

"That depends, m'lady," Samson said, bowing his head towards her politely. "Solomon may wish for me to return with them, and if he does, then there is no question about what I will do. Even if he does not ask me to return, I may."

"I find the fact that you ever left questionable," she said simply, sitting down and leaning back in her chair with the air of one accustomed to being in charge. "New Avatars arriving is one thing, but traffic with the outside is another."

"Could we please leave this conversation for another time?" Marcus asked, looking over at her almost hopefully. "He just got back, they'll be here for some time, I'm sure. We can discuss politics and philosophies another time."

"I take it this one's an old argument." Megan all but snickered in Samson's ear.

"Very much," he agreed with a quiet nod. "Particularly between the two of us."

"Very well," the Lioness agreed with a bit of a shrug. "Samson is well aware of my position on the subject. It's up to him if he wishes to consider it." For a moment, everybody thought he was going to come up with some sort of retort, but managed to hold it back as Megan glared at her in utter contempt and a fair bit of disgust.

"So," Cassandra started after a few awkward moments, "Megan... what do you think of the Isles? I know you haven't been here long, but...."

"It's... quiet here." She struggled for nice things to say. "And very green."

"You prefer the cities?" Marcus guessed. "More people, creature comforts?"

"More things to do, more information, a better sense of the whole." She thought out loud. "And yes, more people."

"Sounds like you're not planning on staying here," Cass giggled. "What's it like, outside? Samson probably spent the whole time in a garden or something, so it's not really helpful asking him," she teased, winking at her half-brother.

"Oh, I got him out a few times." Megan grinned back at the older girl. "I think the general assessment was it's completely overwhelming."

"Well of course he'd say so," she grinned back. "What do you think? You've said some of the things you like about it, but what's it like?"

"It's big and busy and you can be or have anything you want if you're willing to work for it." She struggled to explain a thing she never really thought of. "You can see a new city every day of your life and never see one twice. There are malls, places to shop and have fun that take up many square miles with so much to see that you can go ever day for years and never see it all. And there are people of every kind you could imagine and a lot you'd never think of on your own. And the internet has everything you could want to know about at your fingertips and makes it easy to have friends half a world away, whether or not you ever see their face in real life. There's everything out there."

"Sounds incredible," the Lioness grinned.

"There's also a good number of problems," her mother pointed out. "Even if things have improved since when your grandparents fled, Avatars are still not equals, and that is only the first on the list."

"True," Megan nodded. "Though I've never actually witnessed a crime, or had one happen to someone while I knew them." She shrugged. "It's not like you are in a position to throw stones one the subject of acceptance."

"Excuse me?" The Lioness said, the hair on the back of her neck bristling slightly as the air picked up the stinging scent of ozone. "I'm hardly out organizing a lynch mob to string you up for being from the outside. I'm not treating you like a monster for it, not trying to make you feel unwelcome. All I am doing is making sure that my child doesn't forget that there is a reason we are here, avoiding it."

"I think this would be a good time to leave for the evening," Samson said, hoping to get out before anything escalated. And to think, he'd thought it would be a better idea to bring Megan here first. Should've known this would happen.

"Of course," she stood to follow him with a hard, fearless glare for the Lioness. "All you are doing is perpetuating what brought you here in the first place. Fear, hatred and ignorance." The Collie walked out with a snort of disdain and without a backward look or thought for a possible reprisal. Samson followed out behind her, giving his father an apologetic look, very glad that they were getting out before the lady of the house could recover enough to really start raging.

"I am so sorry," he said to Megan quickly, as soon as the door had closed behind him.

"You are not responsible for her." She shook her head and hugged him sideways. "It's okay, but if that's the friendly household, maybe not meet your mother for a while." She nuzzled her. "I'm not real good at keeping my mouth shut either."

"She usually doesn't get going quite that much," he said, shaking his head with a sigh. "She grew up on some of the nastiest stories of what happened during the Exodus, and before it. Fortunately, she's also pretty good at keeping her powers under control. My mother... she'd be a different issue, that might be a problem."

"What can she do?" Megan asked quietly and nudged the much bigger Liger into walking.

"My mother's a were," he explained, starting to walk, holding her close. "Can shift into a feral tiger, though it doesn't do much for her self-control. I meant a different issue that'd be a problem, by the way. Most people have solid control on their powers around here, unless they really get going."

"As long as it's physical, I'm all but immune to them." She reminded him with a light chuckle. "But so far these people have further to go to adapt to the outside than the outside has to adapt to us."

"Diane is... traditionalist," he sighed, rubbing her side lightly. "And even if you're immune to them, it still wouldn't be good to test it that way. Most people are more like Father on that issue. They're not crazy about the idea, but not dead-set against it either."

"And the Prof is thinking of this place as a sanctuary?" She muttered bitterly. "It's better off as a prison colony. They're already xenophobes, the might as well take the rest of the anti-social idiots so the rest of us have a shot at a decent life." Samson winced, sighing and shaking his head.

"We're not all like that, Megan, not any more than everybody on the outside hates mutants. We've been raised with a history that's not kind to the outside, no... give us time to come around? To see how things go with a chance to learn about it."

"It's not my choice anyway," she shrugged, trying to put the worst of her reaction away. "But it really is like walking backwards to grandma's time. I guess I keep expecting to see the rest of the pre-liberation stuff too. Those were nasty times to be different, Samson, and I see every bit of its foundation here in what you've said and what I've seen." She glanced up at him. "Yes, time can change things, but it's time you really don't have. Do you know algebra? The exponential growth chart."

"You think things are only going to get worse, before they get better?" He guessed, trying to figure out how she thought it applied here.

"I don't know about that. I was referring to the rate of change in my world. Especially the technology growth rate. We're already building a permanent space station. It's scheduled to be completed within two years. We landed on the moon in my parent's time. Baring another big war, we'll have colonies on Chemar before I'm too old to join them." She shook her head and sighed. "The growth rate is exponential."

"You're right there," he admitted. "But in a lot of ways, you hit the nail on the head with the chief issues; fear, hate, and ignorance. For most of us, it's ignorance and a bit of fear. The hatred... it varies." He sighed as the two of them walked along. "We are going to have to find a way to deal with the real world eventually. Whatever she thinks, there's no way to stop it, just to slow it down until we're ready, gods willing."

"Time... I just don't see the resources here or in your words to give you that."

"What would you suggest, Megan? What do you think would happen, if the Isles were revealed no, just thrown out into the world? The best-case scenario is that we'd be wiped out or scattered to the corners of the world within months, maybe a year or two. Worst case, it could ignite anti-mutant hysteria world-wide. We're a spark in a powder keg, right now, likely at any time. And it just won't work, to keep hiding like this. I may not be a precog, but nothing remains hidden forever. It's a miracle nobody else had found and settled the Isles before we did, in the modern day." He sighed, shaking his head again. "What else is there to do?"

She looked around, at people, at plants, at the birds, at the sky; at anything but him.

"That's for smarter people than me to figure out." She admitted. "What I would have done differently was a choice you never got the opportunity to make. The choice of whether or not to create this mess for others to clean up." She sighed. "But I'm a fighter, not a hider."

"It's not my job to figure out either," Samson admitted with a sigh, leading her over to a bench and sitting down as the night sky was pierced by the occasional Avatar exercising their flashier powers. "And I don't envy those whose job it is." He was quiet, holding her close, thinking things over.

"Sometimes," he said softly, after a little time had passed, "I wonder what would have happened, if Rasputin had taken different means... if he had stayed in the world, rather than retreating from it, and taking the colonists with him. Would the world be a better place for mutants because of it, or worse? What would have happened? Well, no good asking things like that now. Have to deal with what did happen, see if there's any way to make it better...."

"What would have happened is the same thing that happened with every other social conflict in modern history." Megan held back the snarl. "It would be well under way to fixed by now, instead of a situation that'll blow up into a war and extermination more likely than not. Grandin didn't have the tech or the infrastructure to pull it off because it didn't exist then. It does now. And now the adults here are doing what Rasputin did. They want their comfortable lives so badly they're willingly condemning their children to loose the battle they could have won."

"Could they have won it, any more than we can, than the G3's can? I'm not the most up to date on post-Exodus history yet, but I did see a trend in the Liberation. Every time another group was recognized, was given equal rights, it was because a mass number spoke out. Because when they fought, they had the strength to fight, as well as the determination. How many people did it take, to make things better for people like your mothers? And it's still not totally equal."

"No and it may never be," she shook her head. "Most who spoke out weren't gay or domestiques or females. It was the ones in charge who acquiesced because their own members sided with us. Because we were out there to make friends and be savvy and make ourselves too hard to ignore. Avatars could have been part of that movement. We could have really made a difference in it. Not just for ourselves but for all the other minorities. The risks are so much higher now. The world not only has the capability to wipe us out, but to keep us from ever being born again. Then there was the possibility to go quiet and work on things more. It won't happen for us. We'll win acceptance or we'll never be born again. It's already begun, you know. The pre-birth purging of undesirables. Ten years and some it's been going on and publicly known that anything genetic can be checked before the abortion boundary and the young gotten rid of if they aren't what the parents want. We're not twenty years shy of true genetic engineering of children for desirable traits."

"The capability to wipe us out was around before," he said softly. "There aren't a thousand of us in the world, Megan, even now, according to the Professor. And we're not all bulletproof." He sighed, leaning back and closing her eyes. "I'm not trying to argue with you about this... I know you're right, about us having to fight, to try. Do... do you really think it's at the point where it's impossible to 'win' any more? More difficult, yes, maybe a lot more difficult... but impossible?"

"Nothing is impossible," she leaned against him and buried her face in his dense fur. "But bitterly difficult and bloody? I expect it will be."

"Shh...." He rubbed her back gently, holding her close. "I'm sorry, Megan... but it was going to be, as long as the fight was there for us to be in. Maybe it could have been over by now, but we can't change that. All we can do is try to deal with it ourselves. Like you said... you're a fighter." He leaned back from her slightly, looking down into her mismatched blue and brown eyes. "It's still worth fighting for now, and we will do so. We have to."

"Yes, we do." She murmured and let her eyes close. "It just scares the hell out of me sometimes, knowing what happens to revolutionaries in my own country, much less some of the others."

"I know," he sighed, shuddering a bit and holding her close. "We don't have to start out as revolutionaries though, and I'm sure the Professor and Solomon will search for any other way to start things out there is. You want to go somewhere more private?"

"Yeah," she murmured quietly, most of the spirit and fight drained for the moment. "Anywhere around here got an internet connection I can actually use?"

"Do you have your wireless connector with you?"

"Yeah, my laptop's on the ship. But I don't have coverage here and Jurnix disabled the relay on the ship for it."

"Probably doesn't want us traced," Samson murmured. "Well, I can probably get you to the connections at the library, but it's a bit of a hike; my access points are all on my home-island, the next one over."

"I can deal with a hike," she smiled a little shakily. "I am a Collie after all, even if I'm not the psychotically energetic kind like SnapShot. I could just really use a nice dose of normality right now." She leaned against him. "You go into the garden to relax and recover, I log on and e-mail."

"Just be sure you don't say anything about where we are to anybody outside the Institute," he said seriously, standing up and offering her his hand. "I'm afraid that the policy is to scan emails for that sort of thing. By the way, I hope you trust me to handle bridges? It'd be faster than grabbing a ferry."

"I can cope," she rolled her eyes and stood with him, her spirit returning enough for the snide, if serious question. "Do you have any right to privacy around here?"

"As much as you ever do in a small community," he said apologetically. "Which means remarkably little happens that doesn't end up in the rumor mill, even if you think you're the only person who was there."

"Well, it's not like I talk about this stuff anyway," she shrugged and started towards the docks where the Institute's yacht was moored. "I'm used to keeping quiet about some stuff already."

"True," he nodded, following after her. "If you'd like, they do have computers at the library, you wouldn't have to get your laptop."

"Do they block websites?"

"For what?" He asked. "I haven't run into it, myself. And I've got it on good authority from a certain Fox you've met that they don't block sites the libraries out there do," he added, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.

"Well, given the amount of scrutiny this place has for outside contact, they might not allow folks to access sites all about free communication."

"The sites are allowed," he explained, "we just all understand why it is we're careful about it. They're not popular with a lot of the more traditional people like Diane, but then, neither is the fact we have the machines at all. They're a more recent addition, after Solomon came into power."

"I am so not surprised." She chuckled with a shake of her head. "Okay, I'll just use them. Do you have something to do while I play?"

"Catch up on my drills," he chuckled. "Maybe restock my larder with something that isn't dried or salted half to death." He turned her towards another end of the island. "I'm sure I'll be able to find something to do."

"Good," she leaned against him as they walked quietly. "I'd hate to get you stuck in the library with nothing to do while I chat."

"If I couldn't find somebody to talk to, to really catch up on what's happened when I was gone, I could always read," he smiled. "Should I wait up for you tonight?"

"Nah," she shook her head. "I'll probably still be right where you leave me in the morning."

"I'll warn the people running the place," he chuckled. "Though it's not particularly unusual. I'll make sure to nudge you in time for breakfast."

"I'm sure someone will." She snickered lightly. "Not that it's unusual for me to notice breakfast around noon."

"Even when I'm cooking?" He asked with a teasing tone.

"If it's within smelling-range, I'll notice that." She giggled. "You're the group cook for a reason you know."

"Yeah, I don't burn water," he chuckled, grinning down at her in the night as they walked along. "I swear, you'd think Charlie was an army cook, from the time he tried it."

"Everybody's got their gifts. Cooking is just not one of his. Or mine for that matter. Eating nummy food is nice, but I'll never manage cooking."

"Now I know why you like me," he teased, ruffling her hair.

"Hey, can't blame a girl for wanting to keep what she likes." She nuzzled him teasingly, her tail brushing under his. "You've just got too much going for you not to be a keeper."

"Sure," he smirked. "Just wait, one of these days, you'll have me staying at home, slaving over a hot stove for you, just taking care of your pups and cooking."

"Mmmm, now I could really get to like this domestic nature you're developing." She looked around quickly for onlookers, not finding any, though the lights and noises from a few of the nearby buildings suggested where some were. Maybe there were advantages to having fewer people around after all.

"Oh really?" He rubbed her shoulder. "Of course, if I was full-time domestic, you do realize that means you'd have to bring home the bacon," he winked.

"I think I can manage," she grinned back and half pushed him into the darker area off the path and onto the grass behind a few bushes. "Of course, if I go archaeologist, you'll have to keep the tent instead of the house." She grinned up at him playfully from a full body press against his chest and groin.

"Oh, I think I could manage," he rumbled, grinning down at her. "Of course, you'd probably be the only archaeologist with your boyfriend along." He knelt in front of her, nuzzling her neck and rubbing her back while she arched and moaned into the contact, welcoming his advances without reservation.

"I don't think anyone will complain after the first meal." She moaned softly, her hands working along his shoulders as she breathed in his scent so deeply it made her whimper in desire.

"Only if we keep them awake nights," he murmured, kissing her neck and reaching down, rubbing the firm globes of her ass, then down her legs, his breath heavier as he responded to her own desire and arousal with his own.

"Then we'll just have to learn to be quiet when we play." Megan shuddered and cried out softly. Her scent quickly grew heavy with her arousal as the downy fur between her legs became slick with her juices. Her lover worked his fingers up between them, rubbing her sex as he claimed her mouth with a tender kiss, groaning into her muzzle.

It was quite enough to draw a shuddering cry from her stiffening body. Against his fingers, her flesh quivered and pulsed, an exterior echo of the sensations crashing threw her body until she slumped slightly against his shoulders.

"Ohh, on your back, handsome," Megan breathed heavily, her body still twitching. "Want you in me so bad."

"You are wound up today," he rumbled, laying back and drawing her down on top of him, kissing her again as he rubbed his thick shaft against her through their clothes.

"It's stress relief," she moaned and made quick work of unzipping his pants and pushing them down enough to expose his groin. Without a second thought she spread her legs and rubbed her sex along his cock, slicking it between her near-orgasmic cries of pleasure. He groaned deeply, his arousal quickly rising to match her own as he spread her slick lips with his shaft, rubbing his length against the sensitive flesh beneath her clit, rubbing a bit harder against the sensitive nub itself.

"Oh, you are good." Megan shuddered and moaned before lifting up to guide his huge cock into her body. With each inch she slid down that hot length, a cry of need escaped her throat and her body tightening around and massaging the hard flesh penetrating it.

"Have to be, to keep up," he groaned, holding her hips and helping to guide himself into her carefully, half-rumbling, half-whimpering at the feel of her incredibly tight sex around his shaft. "Gods, Megan...." A week was simply not enough time to get used to this.

He had to wonder if any amount of time was.

Then mind and body were swept away by tight, slick heat and the pressures of pleasure spiraling out of control that made him so grateful of his endurance to pleasure her long enough to content her body and desires.


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The Future is Wyld 5: The Shrouded Isles part 1 of 2

NC-17 for M/F
Het Level is HighHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

239 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written July 15, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: JIG

Primary Races: Bat, Canine, Feline, Mutant

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Romance, Romance (Teen)

Pairings: Samson "Verdance" Wick/Megan Ryzer-Marce, Jurnix/Siren, Gaia/Charlie, Lightning/Fugue/Stalker

Blurb: Six years after Ginny and SnapShot's pup is born, the successor of an old friend of Professor Jurnix sends an emissary to see if Jurnix is willing to open political relations fifty years after going their separate ways.

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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