Unusual Partners: Foreign Tiger 3:
Mephit Prisoners

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

"Still feel like getting some air time, Jake?" Nathan asked quietly as the two of them cuddled in bed.

"Sure," the lean tom smiled softly. "You're up for it?"

"Yeah. It's the one bit of my life I reclaimed from them, I'm not letting them take it away from me." He said stubbornly. "'Sides, it's a good way to blow off some steam."

"That it is," Jake smiled and kissed him affectionately before rolling out of bed. "Hopefully we'll get a good chunk in before the orders arrive."

"Hope so." Nathan grinned as he rolled casually out of bed. "Breakfast first, though? Neither of us has eaten in some time." He smiled as he headed for the kitchen. "Low blood sugar and higher than normal G-forces aren't a good combination." He chuckled.

"Who am I to refuse Nathan-cooking?" Jake grinned as he grabbed his clothes and pulled them on.

Nathan chuckled as he left the room. As was often the case, he didn't bother getting dressed first.

Jake woke to find himself in a strange gray metal room. He was lying on flat surface covered by a pad of some sort which made it reasonably comfortable to sleep on. Though his nose told him that Nathan had been there, there was no sign of the Tiger. Sitting on a nearby wall shelf, was a gray metal pitcher and two mugs.

With his partner absent, he did a quick inventory of his own condition, and then every inch of the space he was in. He discovered that he had a slight headache and felt a bit groggy, and someone had redressed him from his flight suit into white shorts and t-shirt.

The room was a fairly unrelenting gray marred only by a single door, and a grill for what appeared to be the ventilation system. The lean tom could feel a slight vibration in floor, as if there were several large motors running nearby. Aside from himself and his partner the room had very little smell, save for one scent that while definitely a living being, was not one he was familiar with. On the pitcher he noticed an odd scratch pattern, which he recognized as the Enforcer trail-marking system pattern for 'safe water'.

Focusing in on the door he grumbled when he couldn't find anything to it but the seam, and turned his attention to the grate, not trusting such an easy way out at all. He shot a look at the pitcher, and poured a small bit of the clear liquid into a mug to give the opening a bit of a test before he tried touching it.

The splash of water merely dripped down the front of the grate without revealing any additional information, so he set it down and carefully checked out how the grate was attached. It seemed to be held on with eight screws, though how the screws were manipulated was unclear since they had flat tops without indentation for any kind of screwdriver.

Muttering softly Jake hooked his claws loosely inside the grate and gave an experimental tug, testing the metal's strength against his claws. The grill didn't give, and the flat gray metal seemed fairly impervious to his claws.

It drew several more mutters from the lean Kat, who then began to systematically working his way around the room, running his claws on a rake and tap pattern, searching for anything that didn't feel or sound like the rest.

Jake's systematic exploration led to him discovering the panel that caused to the toilet to slide out of the wall, and another that brought a shower stall. His involuntary yip at getting wet before he jumped away was quickly overlayed by the sound of air jets that he stepped into to dry off as best he could.

There was a buzzing sound, followed by a low hum, and then the door opened to let a short white creature with big ears enter the room. He was only wearing a pair of white shorts, and was carrying a covered tray. His face was perhaps the hardest to identify, though it seemed vaguely rodent like except for the predatory teeth. "You are hungry?" He asked in a light sing-song voice that wasn't unpleasant.

"No," Jake shook his head, eyeing the creature critically. "You're a Mephit?"

"Same species, but not the same." He said setting the tray down on a shelf that slid out of the wall. "I'm a white, not one of the more advanced colors who rule."

"Where's my partner?" He asked, trying to be polite.

"I believe they are reeducating him." The small male said quietly. "His conditioning was mostly broken. The blues don't like that."

Jake just managed to keep his thoughts on that to himself. "And plans for me?"

"Nothing that they've let any of us white's know about." He said quietly. "But they don't have invested in you, what they do in him."

He nodded and sat down on the bed. "Do you have a name?"

"Trace." He said quietly. "Do you have a name?"

"Jake Clawson," he nodded. "You mentioned colors, are they like rank?"

"More like profession." He said after thinking about how outsiders did things for awhile. "Shade of color indicates age, which often gives a good indication of importance, but not always. Darker color is older. Reds are combat troops and guards, Browns are navigators and pilots, Blues are scientists, Purples are leaders."

"And white?" He asked curiously.

"Maintenance, cleaning, pretty much anything the other colors feel is beneath them." He said softly. "Especially if it's dangerous, in a way other than combat."

"Like walking into a prisoner's cell with food?" Jake sort of chuckled. "So who's the ship's commander?"

"Exactly like walking into a prisoner's cell with food." He nodded as Jake relaxed back, though neither were fooled into thinking the tom wasn't ready to move with an instant's notice. "An almost black purple named Tyrcanix commands this vessel."

"Any idea what's going to happen to my world next?"

"Nothing, at least nothing Mephits are responsible for." He shrugged. "This a ship designed for speed, not for conquest. Our complement of shadows is not high enough for the leaders to properly subvert a world as fragmented in government as yours is."

"Never thought that would work to our favor," Jake smiled softly and let that worry pass with one more confirmation of the suspected truth. "So we're headed back to Mephit territory now?"

"Yes." Trace nodded quietly. "We entered Trans-Luminal three hours ago. But we are still a good four weeks from the nearest Mephit outpost."

"Fun," he sighed and settled in for a long wait.

"Probably not." Trace said quietly. "The leaders may find a use for you, in getting what they want from him. Assuming that they can not correct his behavioral problems."

"I'd expect as much," he nodded. "It'd be stupid not to try to take advantage."

"And stupid is not one of their qualities." He said quietly. "It has been over ten hours since you arrived. You should consider eating something, it isn't poisoned or drugged. Those who use drugs and poisons do not stoop to involve themselves in food preparation."

"And don't really need to, with me in here," he consented grudgingly and rolled up. "All right."

"Good." Trace smiled in a friendly way, and brought the tray over to Jake. He seemed genuinely pleased as he handed tapped the side of the bed to extend a shelf to place the tray on, where Jake could reach it.

The response didn't make Jake at all happy, but he tried not to show that as he investigated what was on offer, even as he reached for the pitcher and mug he'd used earlier to pour himself something to drink to ease his headache.

The meal was both familiar and unfamiliar. It was definitely a pasta, cheese and meat sauce combination, but the shape of the pasta was unfamiliar, and the sauce was kind of purplish.

"An attempt at familiar things?" He asked curiously before downing a glass of water.

"We tried. But we didn't have much to go on. Nathan didn't have much time to describe them." He said quietly, and a little apologetically.

"That's okay," he smiled at the little white bat-creature and swirled a good amount onto the fork. "Effort does count."

"That's an interesting idea." Trace said quietly, thinking about it.

"Not how things work here, I've gathered." He nodded, chewing and swallowing the bite with more water to wash it down. "Now bad for a first try. Better than mine, probably." He chuckled softly at fond memories of learning to cook real meals under Nathan's patient tutelage.

"No, the others only care about results, not effort." He said quietly. "Thank you, Jake." He added with a smile.

"You're welcome," he smiled gently at the other male before digging into the meal with the quick efficiency learned and perfected on the street, and given a minimum of manners in Protector Academy. He'd finished off the water in the pitcher before he finished eating, and looked in it a little unhappily as the last bit poured out. "Any more water? This place is dry."

"Of course." Trace smiled, and took the pitcher over to the shelf where it had been sitting, and tapped the wall, causing a faucet to come out and refill the pitcher. The little white male then padded back over and set it down where he'd gotten it.

"Thanks," he smiled and took note of what Trace had done.

"My pleasure." He with a soft smile.

The door opened shortly after Trace had removed the remains of lunch and had gone off to attend to some of the other duties he often referred to being responsible for. Nathan stumbled in, in his shorter Felsin form and only a pair of dark gray shorts, and leaned against the invisible forcefield until it collapsed, at which point he dropped against his waiting partner who struggled to get him to the bed.

A quick investigation found a great deal of electrical scorching, half healed busies and cuts, but nothing, even in combination, that was immediately dangerous to the exhausted tom.

With a soft sigh Jake maneuvered his partner further into the bunk and sat down to stand watch, much as he did before until the Tiger recovered.

About half an hour later, Trace came in carrying a tray with a covered dish and pitcher. "How is he doing?" He asked Jake quietly.

"Haven't seen him this wore out before," he admitted softly.

"They do not give up easily." Trace said quietly, as he set the tray down on a table that came out from the wall. "The juice in the pitcher, will help restore his strength. And he should eat something when he feels up to it." The little white male said quietly. "He's stronger than they expected."

"I know," Jake smiled fondly down at the unconscious Tiger. "I'll try to get him to eat."

"I'll check back later." He said quietly, as he turned to leave.

A few hours later, Nathan's eyes flew open and he rolled into a crouching defensive position on the bed looking around warily. He looked at Jake a couple of times, before he actually seemed to focus. "Jake?" He asked very quietly.

"Yes," he nodded. "You wore out their patience for now. This is our cell."

Nathan seemed to relax at that, and kind of slumped to the bed in a sitting position. "I wasn't sure they'd ever let me see you again." He said softly, his distress clear in his scent and body language.

"Well, they haven't tried that," Jake smiled and nuzzled him gently. "Up for eating a little?"

"Where'd it come from?" He asked warily.

"A white named Trace." Jake said simply. "It's not great, but it does keep the hunger pangs at bay."

"He's okay." Nathan said quietly. "Guess I should try and eat."

"At least drink something, water or juice." Jake poured some of the blue liquid into a mug. "He said it would help you recover. Hasn't given me a reason to distrust him too much yet."

"He seems like he means well." He said, as he sipped the oddly sweet liquid. "Not something I ever expected in a Mephit."

"Every group has its oddities," Jake shrugged. "Sometimes they're even kept around because they can relate to outsiders better, or relax their guard."

"I think they're more taken for granted than anything." He said quietly. "Trace said that the others don't even realize that the whites have names. They see them as kind of interchangeable."

"That can work to our advantage, you know." Jake said softly.

"Jake, I'm not thinking real clearly at the moment." Nathan said tiredly, as he nibbled at the food Trace had left, without really looking at it. "What did you have in mind?"

"Okay, just take it easy. I just meant that if we treat them nicely, like a person, they'll be more inclined to keep being talkative and helpful."

"Oh, I thought you had something more detailed in mind." He shook his head, as if trying to clear it. "Half the time they were trying to stuff me back into the mold they want me in, and the other half seemed to be trying to get me to sire kits on this SG collaborator they've got on board."

"The next round is probably going to be worse," he murmured softly and slid next to his partner to offer a little physical support. "Try to get your strength back up for when I get dragged in."

Nathan shuddered a little, and leaned against Jake. "Sorry for getting you mixed up in this." He said softly. "I should've known better than to think I could have anything like a real life."

"Nathan," Jake's voice was stern but his touch supporting. "I chose you as much as you chose me. You are not responsible for this, or me being here. We will make this work together."

"We just have to make it 'til they drop back to normal space." Nathan said quietly.

"Then that's what we do," he said as if it was as simple as waiting in the cell. "You aren't a kitten anymore, Nathan. You know what you want. You're strong enough to make four weeks."

"You don't know them." Nathan said softly. "And they know too much about me." He said, more than a little frightened.

"Nathan, listen to me, listen to your gunner." Jake rested his forehead against his partner's and spoke softly. "You are strong enough. We are strong enough. Don't let yourself think anything else."

Nathan nodded quietly, not trusting his voice for the moment. He put his arms around the lean tom and held him close, receiving a matching embrace in return.

"And remember, sometimes a partial surrender prevents a total one."

That statement got a completely baffled look from Nathan, which got him a gentle kiss.

"You give in on enough that they don't push you to breaking, but not so much that you can't accepted yourself later. Think about the choice between starvation and cannibalism. You accept a smaller surrender and eat what is there, to avoid the complete surrender of death. This is no different in theory. Giving lips service."

Nathan nodded, as he tried to process that. "Not a way I'm used to thinking." He said quietly, not disputing the idea, just having difficulty with it.

"That is to our advantage," Jake purred. "Because neither are they."

"I think they're going to regret bringing you along." Nathan chuckled softly.

"But not until it is far too late," he murmured and kissed the Tiger with gentle passion. "They'll think I'm the wonder controller for their wonder toy until then."

"Don't give them too many ideas." Nathan grinned slightly. "They might decide to make you female, to try and get kits out of me that way."

"Me? Female?" The lean Kat backed off a bit in pure confusion. "For kits?"

"That's one of those things they want out of me." Nathan said quietly. "And it's something they could do." He shook his head. "I happen to like you as is."

"Turn me that female?" Jake balked at the very concept, his mind racing over just how much trouble that would get them into. "A female Kat, or female Felsin?" He asked with a hard swallow.

"Female Kat would probably suffice. The genetic differences are fairly minor." He said, not entirely sure. "Though they might go with Felsin, to avoid having to wait for a heat cycle to hit." He said, considering it tactically. "I really hope that doesn't occur to them."

"It doesn't matter." Jake said abruptly, setting his mind to accept this possibility and remain focused on what they needed to do. "We won't be here long enough for them to be born."

"Right." Nathan said, accepting his gunner's determination and trying to push various other worries out of his head.

"Now finished eating, and the juice, and sleep."

"Glad one of us is thinking." Nathan smiled weakly, and turned his attention to eating quietly.

"It's my job, partner." Jake smiled softly and moved to claim another glass of water for himself.

The door to the cell opened several hours after the guard had taken Nathan away again, to let the large, bright red guard of indeterminable genger. "You are required in the lab." It said with all the interest of someone discussing the weather as it walked toward Jake.

The lean tom made a quick assessment of his combat chances, and the overall situation and rolled out of bed obediently with a slight nod. As they stepped outside the cell, the guard placed a high tech collar around Jake's neck. It then gestured down the hall. "That way." It said indifferently.

The destination was a very high tech lab that seemed medically oriented from the needles, scalpels and other less familiar items present. There was a X-shaped table in the middle of the room, that a light blue Mephit was finishing adjustments on. Four other blue Mephits of various shades were working at various stations in the room, and two Purple Mephits were watching from an observation balcony. Out of the corner of his eye, Jake caught sight of a black Mephit not much larger than Trace and almost instantly focused on it. It was unusual mostly because all the other Mephits were at least six inches taller than the friendly white, and he didn't know what that color was for.

"Secure him on the table." One of the purples directed imperiously.

"Yes, Master." The big red guard nodded, and pushed Jake firmly toward the X-shaped table. "Lie down." It directed, pointing at the table.

His attention still on that unusually small black and the real desire to bolt despite knowing it was pointless, Jake didn't twitch for a little too long.

The guard picked up the motionless tom and placed him on the table, holding him in place while the light blue secured the now squirming Kat's wrist, ankles and neck with metal restraint cuffs.

Once completely locked in place, Jake felt his mindset shifted to one he hadn't needed in years. He was more than a little pleased it still existed, and relaxed even more, sure he could endure anything they could dish out.

There was hum of motors as the table was inclined forty-five degrees, and then Jake felt a sharp pain between his elbow and wrist, like several needles being inserted simultaneously. He mad no attempt to be stoic or hide the fact that it hurt like hell. Not for any thought they might care, but for a mixture of throwing them off of how tough he could be, and not wasting mental resistance on useless efforts.

A similar sensation at his neck where the collar was drew a similar cry from him, but in between he could see the black Mephit watching impassively from the shadows, and realized that the unknown was female, something he hadn't seen before on the ship. This observation was interrupted by a sudden intense pain from his crotch as if someone had just shoved two good sized needles into his balls. After a good ten minutes of pain from the various needles, drawing out numerous samples they were withdrawn, and the light blue Mephit began placing electrodes all over the restrained and slightly panting tom's body.

Once the light blue Mephit stepped away, Jake could feel a current of electricity begin to run through his body. It would run up one side, and then down the other. Then a pulsing green-blue light began to play across him with increasing intensity. It was at that point that he realized that closing his eyes against the bright light just wasn't happening, it seemed as if the muscles wouldn't respond. The electricity then increased in painful intensity as it caused various muscles to twitch and spasm. As the pulses of electricity moved into synchronicity with the light pulses, Jake began to get odd flashes of memory. Unconnected memories came to mind for no reason at all, simply awakening suddenly and the fading away.

He simply let it all pass by, giving voice to the pain when he could, not worrying about it when he couldn't.

After an unknown amount of time, the lights and the electricity faded away leaving only some residual twitches from the sustained electrical current.

"Return him to his cell, and have one of the whites look after him." The purple said simply, as the Mephits turned to analyzing their new data.

"Yes, Master." The red guard replied and lowered the table before he began unstrapping the sweat-soaked tom. As the restraints were being released, Jake could feel the soft touch of a smaller hand on his chest, abs and then gently feeling his sheath and balls. As the red guard lifted him from the table, he saw the black female, who appeared to be wearing a skintight bodysuit of some kind, standing next to the table. She just stood there watching as the guard carried him out of the room and back to his cell.

"How are you feeling, Jake?" Trace's quiet voice asked, shortly after the guard had deposited Jake on the bed.

"What's black?" He asked groggily, the female foremost on his mind.

"The shadows." Trace said nervously, as he held a mug of water close to Jake's mouth so he could drink. "Security and Intelligence operatives."

"A fem was watching," he said softly before greedily drinking.

"Nathan belonged to them." Trace said softly. "Still does as far as they're concerned. She was probably trying to figure out what about you, lets you control him when they can't now.

"They do pretty much whatever they like." He said softly. "They answer only to the Purples. They're the only Mephits, other than us whites, who really understand sexual attraction and desire. But how they understand it is twisted." He shuddered quietly. "Feeling hungry?" He asked gently.

Jake nodded, both to the statement and to the question. "Sounds good. You're getting better at cooking."

"Thank you." Trace smiled as he set the plate down on the table next to Jake. "Cooking, like many things, is something that requires practice. I never had much practice before."

"Oh, I know," he grinned and moved his stiff and aching body to sit up and eat. "My idea of cooking was prepackaged food and a microwave once."

"Mine too." Trace smiled. "Being a bachelor and an tech rat, kind of does that to you."

Jake couldn't help but laugh despite his sore body. "You too?"

"It's where I got my name." Trace chuckled. "I've got a knack for finding system flaws in things like power flows, fuel lines, and electrical pathways."

"I just have an irresistible urge to take things apart and figure them out." He chuckled between bites. "Sometimes I even manage to get them back together again."

"I like taking things apart too, though I can only do it when it's required for repair work." He said quietly. "Those in charge don't like me to just take things apart."

"I never gave them much choice," Jake shook his head. "They wanted my abilities, and making sure I had something more interesting to do than cause trouble was the price. That and a partner I got along with."

"They don't value any white that highly." He said softly. "Nathan was the partner they found for you?" He asked curiously.

"Yap," he nodded with a fond grin. "Fourth time's the charm."

"What did they do with the other three?" He wondered, with a little morbid curiosity about what outsiders did with failures.

"Trained them solo, or found them less demanding partners to work with," he explained a little quietly. "We don't get rid of them, even if they wash out of Academy."

"Oh." Trace said, more than a bit surprised. "That's strange." He said quietly, trying to process yet another odd outsider idea.

"There's always other jobs for them to do," Jake tried to explain. "Not everyone is suited for what they first try."

"They don't know what they're suited for?" Trace asked in sincere surprise, since whites always knew what they were best suited for by the time they reached adulthood.

"Not always, and a lot find out they like something else better at some point." He shrugged.

"Doesn't that make things unstable?" Trace asked curiously. "I mean if your top physicist suddenly decides he's a pastry chef, doesn't that cause problems?" He asked curiously.

"Well, no." Jake considered his history lessons. "No one gets that important if they aren't dedicated to what they're doing. Besides, everybody retires. The system is set up for them leaving. Sure the government can make them stay if it's that critical, but I haven't actually heard of it happening for more than a couple years, whenever they finish their current project."

"Retire?" Trace asked curiously, wondering if the translation program had missed a word.

"Yes, retire." Jake blinked at the strange white bat-morph. "Stop working for pay and spend your time on things you enjoy, just because you enjoy them."

"They let people do that?" Trace blinked in surprise. It was only because the leaders couldn't much tell whites apart that they were able to conceal the fact that the older members weren't carrying their portion of the work.

"Let? They hardly get a choice." Jake shook his head. "If you tried to stop retirement, you'd have a civil war on your hands before the ink dried."

Trace thought about that for a bit. "Your leaders don't have as much control, do they?" He asked quietly.

"They have what the people give them. At least in most countries." He nodded. "Even the Lord of Haven has his crown voted back to him every ten years. MegaKat City is constantly voting for who's in office."

"Voting?" Trace blinked, wondering just what the translator's problem was. Another word that didn't seem to be translating well.

"Oh, boy." Jake leaned back with a soft sigh. "Voting in this context is when all the people over a minimum age, usual sixteen or eighteen, choose who they want to hold an office, if a law should pass and take effect, or if an existing one should be removed from effect."

Trace blinked twice, completely stunned by the concept. "Your leaders allow this? How do they keep order?" He asked, completely amazed by the idea of leaders asking permission to do things.

"By keeping the people happy." Jake explained it as simply as possible. "When people are happy, they tend to behave, so they keep getting what they are. There are always a few troublemakers no matter what, but that's what cops are for. They enforce the laws."

"Oh, like the shadows." He said quietly, thinking it sound like a very strange system. It sounded a bit nicer though.

"Not really." Jake shook his head. "Cops only find and arrest people who did something wrong, or they're fairly sure did. Then there is a trial with a judge and lawyers for both sides; they know the laws inside and out, and a jury of ordinary people selected at random to listen to both sides and all the evidence and decide if that person really committed the crime. Well, that's how major crimes like murder, grand theft and child abuse are handled. Little crimes like speeding or not having the right permits are usually just monetary fine or a few days, maybe a few months, in jail."

"Amazing." Trace murmured, more than a bit overwhelmed. "They let the average people have so much power."

"We call what your system is like a tyranny." Jake said quietly. "The free world countries like mine, MegaKat City and a bunch of smaller ones have waged wars to overturn them."

"I believe the Alliance is doing the same." He said quietly. "Or that's what I've gathered from a few things Nathan said. I think it's been a very long war."

"Most likely. It's not an easy war to win, freeing people from oppression." He nodded and relaxed with his back against the wall. "Freeing them when you can't turn the people against the tyrant very easily makes it all the more difficult."

"Most of them don't know we exist." He said quietly. "They just see the other colors."

"That may be changing, but it always takes far too much time."

"Considering some of the things the other colors have done. They may not care." He said very softly.

"Oh, they will," Jake smiled. "I doubt they're that stupid. It's much more cost effective to subvert a culture to your side than wipe them out."

"I hope so." Trace said quietly as he took the empty water pitcher and refilled it.

It was a quiet three days, based on the number of meals, before Jake saw anyone but Trace. Shortly after what Jake guessed was lunch, the door opened and Nathan was pushed in. He was naked, sweat-soaked and barely conscious. When the forcefield dropped he slumped toward the floor and into Jake's arms again and a familiar scent rolled into the room. It didn't take but a moment for Jake to recognize it and the effect on his body; it was the scent of a female in heat, and one who'd apparently been all over Nathan recently. Closer examination of his partner after he'd gotten the bigger tom to the bed, revealed a large slash wound that was mostly healed but looked to have been painful.

Like last time, he settled his partner on the bed, wishing desperately for a towel or something to wipe some of the scent from the abused body until the Tiger was coherent enough for a proper shower.

A few minutes later, Trace came in with a tray and pitcher like the previous time. He looked at Nathan with a worried expression for a few minutes, and then relaxed noticeably.

"You can tell something, by just looking, can't you?" Jake said softly.

"It's how I do my job." Trace said quietly. "I can analyze the flow of things by looking. The body is just organic machinery."

Jake cocked his head at that, then nodded acceptance of the unusual thought. "Can you get a towel, and some clothes for him, please?"

"I'll see what I can do." Trace nodded. "Don't worry, he's just exhausted." He said softly, as he headed back out to look for what Jake wanted.

"Thanks," The tom smiled at him and hopped his presence would let his partner rest well enough.

About forty-five minutes later, Trace returned pushing a cart with two large trays on it. "Here you go." He smiled softly, as he lifted the lids. "Towels, and some fresh clothes."

"Thank you," the lean tom nodded and took a towel and the water pitcher, wetting the cloth before turning to wash the worst of the smells from Nathan's fur with it.

Trace watch the lean tom for amount, before it really clicked what Jake was doing. He thought for a moment, and then ducked out quickly. About fifteen minutes later, he was back with another small tray. He lifted it revealed a couple of brushes, and a spray bottle. "This should help get the scent out." He said softly. "Not as good as a shower, but better than plain water."

"Thank you," Jake smiled and quickly switched over. "He'll rest better without all this on him."

"I thought that's why you were doing it." Trace said quietly. "He'll need his rest. They're not going to let up on him. Not yet, anyway. She certainly won't."

"I'm surprised she let them take him away." Jake said softly. "Her state can make even reasonable shekats obsessive."

"They would've rendered her unconscious if she failed to comply with the direct order of a Purple." He said simply. "And from the brief look I got, she did seem obsessed."

"To have such a hunk of a tom around, and have him not respond, would tend to do that." Jake shivered at the thought of what she would have put Nathan through the last few days.

"Actually, he did respond." Trace said, remembering what little he'd seen. "I believe they call it a defensive posture."

"I meant respond by fucking her until neither could move. Sleep, wake up and do it some more. That's what the heat pheromones are designed to elicit for both of them."

"Oh." Trace said wide-eyed. "No, he definitely didn't seem interested in that."

"Because he's not interested in fems, just like they designed him." Jake growled in more than a little anger. "They're trying to break the only thing he still had of their indoctrination."

"They want, or maybe need more like him. That's what I heard one of the blues say." Trace said quietly. "And trying to clone him was a complete failure."

"And of course they have no clue how to get him to breed." Jake shook his head. "Their loss."

"What do you expect from a group that doesn't understand sex beyond clinical terms?" Trace shrugged. "But they seem surprised at his complete disinterest in her. He's not of their creations, so they don't exactly have a playbook."

"Yes he is," Jake murmured softly, as he gently brushed the tangled red hair out of the Tiger's face. "He's his father's son."

"He's also his mother's son, and his other father's son." Trace said quietly. "They're all there, even if the Purple's have tried very hard to make him believe otherwise."

"Oh, he knows," Jake chuckled softly. "It's the black one, their one, that held true on this, whether they like it or not."

Trace nodded as he realized what Jake was getting at. "That was what they didn't expect. For the programming to hold into one of the Zero Generation's offspring." He said, trying to get right something he was only remembering from a report he'd accidentally knocked on the floor while fixing a console.

"The should have, with so much else that held true beyond it." Jake said softly. "Even I can see what he really is, no matter the training put on to shield it. How they could not know it is just blind stupidity."

"You actually care about him." Trace said quietly. "They don't."

"I didn't when I first met him, and it still shined through. I thought they were setting me up for a transfer to Special Ops." He smiled fondly at the memories, even the few troublesome ones. "He's only so good at hiding what he is."

Trace nodded, not disputing it even he really didn't see it himself. He looked up, and nodded. "I have to go. I'll check back later." He said quietly as he left.

"Thanks for the help, Trace." Jake said softly and continued to tend to his partner.

A few hours later Nathan groaned quietly, as he cracked his eyes open a bit.

"You're back in our cell, Nate." Jake said softly.

"Good." Nathan rumbled tiredly, and snuggled up close to Jake. "Means she's not here."

"No, she's not," he gently stroked the tom's hair. "There's food, juice, a shower and fresh clothes if you're up for it."

"Shower first." Nathan said quietly, as he rolled to his feet, with significantly less grace than usual. "Where?"

Jake got up and quickly stripped and walked over to the spot that had gotten him wet to tap the first time and called the shower up. Despite several experiences with it now, he still startled when the water suddenly sprayed down.

Nathan padded tiredly over to the shower, and stepped in with Jake. "Convenient." He observed quietly, as he let the hot water soak through his fur.

"There are lots of these little pop-outs," Jake commented and squeezed a generous dollop of shampoo onto his hands to lather up before going to work on his partner's back with much less sensuality than he usually would. "How are you holding up?"

"Tired and sore mostly." He said quietly. "They keep messing with my head, and all it does is give me a headache. The leaders keep asking me what you're doing to control me."

"Nothing they understand," he sighed, shaking his head. "They really don't understand a lot of really basic things."

"Some of them do." He said quietly. "But the leaders are clueless when it comes to real loyalty. They think it's all based on power and fear."

"Only the weakest form," Jake grumbled. "Loyalty freely given and earned is on a whole 'nother level.

"Oh, I almost forgot their other form of loyalty; loyalty for hire." He shook his head. "The kind of loyalty between us, is beyond them."

"Okay, I take it back. Money is the weakest. Fear and power is number two." He suddenly reached around to hug the Tiger tightly. "Any luck sorting out what I said about little surrenders to avoid big ones?"

"Haven't really been any options for little surrenders." He said quietly. "I did confuse them though. One of the times they asked me how you were controlling me, I told them love. It confused the hell out of them."

Jake couldn't help but laugh. "I bet it did." He got suddenly serious. "But, Nathan, that is what I meant. You told them a truth they couldn't use, instead of holding out."

"Oh, didn't help much. They still asked me the same question two or three more times. They thought I was repeating something I heard. Kitten Commandos aren't supposed to understand love."

"Of course not," Jake murmured against flame orange fur as he continued to wash away days of stress. "If you did, they'd never control you."

"It works with most." Nathan said as he leaned into Jake's touch. "But indoctrinating five year olds isn't all that difficult."

"No, it's not." He murmured knowingly.

"But I'm beginning to understand they were too late." He said softly. "I think my mother got there ahead of them."

"Kudos to her," Jake grinned and moved around to start on Nathan's shoulders.

"She and my father were afraid this would happen." Nathan said quietly as strong hands scrubbed him clean.

Another red guard escorted Jake into a small, dimly lit room shortly after Nathan had been taken again. This time Jake was suspended spread-eagle in what looked very much like a basic bondage frame. In the dim light he could make out racks, and shelves containing a variety of implements that made the room resemble a sadist's playroom. Several minutes later the door opened and two black Mephits, the female he had seen before and a male, entered. As the female stood looking at him appraisingly, the male slipped around behind him and with the quick work of retractable claws, removed the lean tom's shorts leaving him fully nude.

"Perhaps our mistake was in studying the two of you separately." The black bat like female murred softly. "It seems reasonable that perhaps how you control him, can't be detected except when we're trying to regain control." She added in sultry tone, as she ran a clawed fingertip down his chest lightly without drawing blood.

The cinnamon tom held himself perfectly still and made an effort to keep his body relaxed, knowing full well how much more torture would hurt if he tensed. He really didn't like the sound of where this was going.

"You really don't understand what you're looking at, do you?" He asked her softly, curiously. Hoping to get her a little off guard with being willing to chat. They hadn't questioned him yet, after all. Only Nathan.

"You're a member of one of a number of races that may be the precursors to the Felsin race." She said simply. "And somehow you've managed to subvert and control a thoroughly trained commando. We intend to discover how." She said in a sultry voice as she ran another clawed fingertip along his sheath. "We're just waiting for the others to be ready.

Meanwhile, the male secured Jake's tail out of the way and ran a clawed fingertip across the furless pucker of Jake's ass. "We should've brought some more." He said hungrily, not sounding like the brightest bulb in the box.

Jake actually chuckled at her, shaking his head as well as he could. "I just pay attention to his needs and desires, same as he does for me."

"Attempts at deception will not help." She rumbled. "Nothing so simple could've broken a commando's training." She growled lightly, as she took one of his balls in her hand, rolling it briefly in her hand before squeezing it painfully hard in a surprisingly strong grip. She got the yipping cry of pain she expected from him with his performance in the last set of tests.

"You really are as clueless about how real people react as he said," Jake growled at her between pants of fading pain.

"We've trained thousands of commandos, and this is the first time we've lost control of one." She rumbled, as she released him. "But this is the first time we've had one make contact with a precursor. That is the only change, therefore somehow you are responsible." She said as she put on a silvery mesh glove that had electricity arcing from the sharp fingertips.

"Logical enough, if you discount that I treat him like a person and not a thing." Jake shot back, just before he felt something long, thick and metallic shoved into his ass roughly.

"Testing." The black bat-like male giggled, just before a mild shock of electricity hit Jake's insides.

"Yes, Miro. It seems to work." She shook her head. "Go find out what's holding them up." She said as she returned her attention to Jake. "Your military superiors assigned you to him as a Keeper after they had behavioral difficulties with him. Clearly they knew you could control him, which was valuable to them." She said simply, as she pinched one exposed nipple between two sharp contacts, drawing blood and delivering a mildly painful shock.

"I'm his gunner, not his keeper you idiot." Jake let his temper have its way. "At least do your research to a minimal level. I went through more partners than he did."

"You tell him what to do, and he obeys. His behavior became more cooperative." She shrugged. "Call it what you like, but your superiors were using you to keep him in line." She said, as though explaining something obvious.

"Let me clue you in on something," he said softly. "So did mine."

"Mira, it appears that Kylera was being cranky and uncooperative." Miro reported as he came back in. "Some adjustments were necessary, they expect to be ready momentarily."

Just then the wall in front of Jake opened to expose what appeared to be a large bedroom cut in half by large glass partition. A light blue Mephit was giving an unresisting Nathan an injection of some red liquid. The Felsin was naked excepted for a very odd pair of high tech looking goggles. Waiting on the opposite side of the glass was a very agitated looking female Tiger Felsin who was just as naked.

"We've made a few adjustments." She purred as she picked up what looked like a thick silver earring, which had a solid looking hinge on one side, which allowed it to be spread open a little. "We've enhanced her pheromone output almost twenty-five percent, and modified the scents to smell more like you." She explained. "We've also given him a chemical that will significantly enhanced his sexual responses and his sensitivity to pheromones." She said as placed the open side of the ring so that Jake's left nipple was between the two ends. Without warning there was an intense searing pain, and the smell of blood and scorched flesh as she closed it tight.

This time he refused to cry out, his attention on the scene of his partner and the collaborator he'd spoken of.

The blue Mephit scampered out of the room, and then the partition slid open. The noise it made while sliding let Jake realize that sound was being transmitted from the room. The second thing he realized was that the room must really be on the other side of the window he was looking through, because he could smell the intense scent of a female in heat as well, though there was a familiar male scent to it as well; his own. His body responded instantly to the female half of the scents, his gaze locked on the strange scene.

"Come on Tiger, give it to me." She rumbled in lusty abandon as she advanced toward Nathan, crossing the room quickly.

"Jake?" Nathan said in confusion, which was clearly caused by the confusing male/femaleness of the pheromones.

"Yes, Tiger." She rumbled, as she took advantage of his confusion to push him to his back on the bed. "Fuck me, Tiger."

"Jake, this isn't a good idea." Nathan objected weakly, as his sheath began to respond to what he thought was Jake. "She'll be here any second."

"Don't worry about her, Tiger." The shekat rumbled. "It's just you and me." She said, working her tongue inside his sheath to tease his cock out.

"Gods, that's a weird feeling." Nathan said looking down. "I'd rather you didn't do that."

"Okay, Tiger." She said, switching tactics to lick and fondle his balls hungrily trying to get him hard, which was working slowly. "Don't I turn you on anymore, Tiger?" She purred in a decidedly sultry fashion.

"Jake, this is hardly a good time." He shook his head. "And your voice sounds funny, is something wrong?"

"Oh, this is a perfect time." She rumbled. "Nothing's wrong, I just want you inside me. It's been weeks, lover."

"Jake, your memory seems to be slipping." Nathan shook his head, as he began breathing a little harder at the shekats attentions. "It was the night before we got kidnapped."

"Not my memory, just their info," Jake growled low in his throat, not expecting sound to be going both ways.

"He can't hear you." She chuckled softly, as she took his balls in her gloved hand, and let a series of increasingly painful shocks run through the bound Kat, as a similar series hit him from the metal object that had been shoved up his ass.

"Sorry, lover." The shekat rumbled excitedly as Nathan's cock approached full hardness. "Guess I'm just distracted by captivity." She purred deeply. "Now fuck me hard." She demanded as she lowered herself on to his hard length.

"What the hell?" Nathan exploded suddenly, pushing his arms up to shove the shekat away. She wasn't to be denied, holding on to him with claws in his shoulder and back as she humped his cock desperately. "Get the hell off of me!" Nathan shouted, his arms coming up forcefully to dislodge her claws, leaving gouges in his flesh as the sound of breaking bone could be heard. With a forceful push, he shoved her away as he back up to corner of the room, assuming a defensive posture. "I don't know what the hell you are, but you aren't Jake." He growled, claws out as he fluidly shifted to warform. "You!" He growled as the shapeheft destroyed the goggles. "How dare you pretend to be Jake! How many times do I have to tell you no?" He growled dangerously.

"I'm not taking no as an answer." She growled, shifting to slightly smaller war-form. "I'm having your kits." She rumbled, as she pounced at him, one of her claws catching his side as he knocked her away. "I'm warning you." He growled deeply. "You're going to leave me no option but to kill you."

"Big bluff. Everyone knows you can't kill." She purred teasingly, as she pounced again. This time there was a loud cracking of bones, as Nathan dropped to his back, and kicked up with his powerful legs, sending her crashing into the wall Jake was watching through. The wall abruptly closed, as the sound went off.

"How did you communicate with him?" Mira demanded with the arcing claws in Jake's chest drawing rivulets of blood. "How did you warn him that that wasn't you?"

"I didn't," he said simply, ignoring the pain almost as well as his partner could. "Her body betrayed her to him. It doesn't feel the same."

"He shouldn't have noticed that." She growled angrily. "Between the chemicals and his arousal he never should've noticed." She said as the current in the glove flared angrily for a moment scorching Jake's chest fur, before she tossed it aside and angrily stormed out of the room, followed by her not-so-bright companion. The companion tossed aside a control box as he left, and it landed face down with its own weight pressing a button that sent jolts of electricity through Jake's body through the metal rod at random times.

About forty-five minutes later, Trace came in with a red guard in tow. "Yes, Darher told me to return him to his cell." He explained, apparently not for the first time. "Do I have to get Darher to tell you personally?" He said with a tone that strongly suggested that that was a bad idea.

The red guard shook its head, and carefully unbound Jake while Trace carefully removed the metal rod from the lean tom's passage. "Be careful with him." He said quietly to the big guard, as they returned to the cell.

Once the guard had left the cell, Trace sat down next to Jake and gently mopped his forehead with a cool cloth. "How're you feeling?" He asked the lean tom.

"Like hell," he whispered, though it wasn't really in pain he couldn't feel anymore. "Where's Nate?"

"Infirmary, I think." He said quietly. "From what I heard, he and that female Tiger tried to kill each other. Thirsty?"

"Yeah," he moaned softly and worked himself to sitting up, doing his best to avoid putting pressure on his heavily abused rectum. "I don't doubt it. He was pissed."

"And I think she's gone completely around the bend." Trace said as he lifted the mug of water to Jake's lips. "I got you some fresh clothes."

He took a long time to drink as much as he could, though slowly to avoid making the muscles in the lower half of his body move. "It can happen."

"Well, they've been screwing with her. Trying to make whatever she's putting out powerful enough to overcome Nathan's resistance." He said quietly, slipping a small paper packet into Jake's hand. "Take these with water, they should help the pain." He said softly.

"Which would make the effect that much stronger on her." The lean tom nodded and opened one silently with a claw as he tried to settle in a position that didn't remind him of nearly an hour of electrical currents that burned his insides.

"You didn't have that decoration before did you?" Trace asked curiously, noticing the nipple ring Jake was wearing.

"No," he mumbled, drinking more water to wash the pills down without even trying to figure out what the white Mephit was talking about.

"Oh." Trace said wondering where it had come from but decided to leave the topic for the moment. "Want to try some juice? It'll help the healing process." He offered.

"Sure," Jake nodded, mildly surprised at how fast the painkillers were kicking in.

"Don't try anything to delicate for a few hours." Trace cautioned as he poured juice into the mug and carefully put it in Jake's hands. "The euphoria can make you a bit clumsy."

"Understood," he nodded and relaxed, taking the mug in both hands to drink it willingly. "Not really planning on doing more than sleep for a while."

"You want me to stay?" Trace asked quietly. He wanted to do more, but he was pushing his luck as it was.

"If it won't get you in trouble," Jake smiled at him, significantly more with it than when he'd been brought in.

"I'm not supposed to be anywhere right now." He said quietly. "So they won't notice."

"Then I'd like that," Jake smiled softly at him, willingly letting the strange drugs in his system make him feel good and a bit loopy. "Can you tell me how much damage that thing did to me?"

Trace concentrated on the lean tom for a moment. "Nothing that won't heal, especially with the pills I gave you. But I think another ten or fifteen minutes and the damage would've been serious. First and second degree internal burns are bad enough." He said quietly. "That's weird. Usually if they want somebody dead, they just kill them."

"The stupid black, the male, just tossed the controller in when they left the room," Jake said quietly as he settled down on the bunk to rest. "It landed upside down. Maybe intentional on his part, but I doubt it was the intent. Much better ways to use my death than that."

"Male shadows aren't usually very bright, just tough and vicious. They're good killers, but they're also terribly jealous when it comes to their partners. He probably got the idea that she liked you." He shook his head.

"Not sure where he got that idea, but I'm glad you dragged that red in when you did." He smiled at Trace. "I'm not interested in dieing anytime soon."

"Like you noticed, he wasn't too bright." Trace said quietly. "I knew something was wrong when the shadows came out, and walked past me without telling me to make sure you got back to your cell. Convincing the red, was another matter entirely. I had to lie to him. Fortunately, reds like following orders, so they don't question too closely." He grinned. "I don't want to see you die either." He said softly.

"I appreciate the effort, Trace." Jake said softly. "I wouldn't want to be the poor creature within reach if Nathan found out I was dead." He chuckled mirthlessly. "He'd likely snap in a very bad way."

"He probably would." Trace agreed. "I don't want to see that either. For one thing, they'd probably make me tell him." He said completely serious.

"Ouch," Jake winced sympathetically. "That would be a very messy way to go."

"But probably very quick." He said quietly. "Kind of what I thought might happen the first time they sent me in here with food."

"True, it would be quick. Well, probably." Jake nodded, remembering the lizard that had gotten pounded into submission the hard way. "I'm not much into killing the help when I don't have too. It doesn't get me out of the cell any faster." He smiled and reached out a hand to brush his fingers along Trace's jaw. "Besides, you're kinda cute."

Trace blushed at the compliment, which was very noticeable under his short white fur. "Thanks, Jake. I think you're attractive too." He said softly, reaching out one hand to imitate Jake's gesture, hesitantly.

"You're not used to complements, are you?" Jake said gently and rubbed his jaw lightly against the touch.

"Not from anyone but other whites." He said softly, liking the way Jake's fur felt under his hand. "I think you're the first I've touched that I wasn't cleaning up or tending to at the time."

"Well, I wouldn't try it with Nathan, but I don't mind." Jake smiled and let his fingers trail down the white fur. "But I wasn't raised with your kind as the great evil."

"I think Nathan actually likes me." He said quietly, as he brushed his hand across Jake's cheek again, with a little more confidence. "He asked me to stay with you, when they took him away before you woke up. I don't think he'd ask just anyone to do that."

"No, he wouldn't," Jake let his eyes close a bit at the pleasant contact he hadn't been able to share with his partner in far too long. "He doesn't say that lightly." He murmured before turning his head slightly to lick one of the slender white fingers into his mouth.

"He's not nearly as frightening as I thought he'd be." Trace smiled and reached his other hand to gently brush along Jake's ear, wondering if it felt as good for felines as it did for whites. The heft in Jake's body, the flow and energy he saw absently indicated it probably was, and that it was turning the feline on.

"He's only frightening when you make him angry, or when you aren't ready for that roar." Jake murmured, deciding it wouldn't be at all a bad idea to pleasure this male. "Are whites built like Kats?"

"Pretty much." Trace nodded, pleased with his discovery. "It mostly the face that's different, and we're built a bit lighter. We're closely related to what some people call bats."

"Predatory flying mouse." Jake had to chuckle, remembering his favorite description of the ball of soft fur with huge leather wings. He consciously drifted his hand down, brushing over cloth covered fur and working muscle to play along the pelt line of Trace's shorts.

"Those of us who don't live on starships, actually have glider wings." Trace smiled, and reached out brush his hands through the fur of Jake's chest, carefully to avoid the places that looked injured.

"Come here, Trace." Jake murmured softly, patting the bunk.

Trace nodded, and hopped up to sit down next to Jake. The lean tom let his hands roam over soft white fur for a moment as he pushed Trace's shirt up and off, then slipped one finger under the beltline of the shorts. Trace smiled shyly, and gently let his hands explore Jake's chest carefully. He wasn't really sure what he should do next.

"You can say no," Jake purred softly and shifted forward to kiss the white Mephit on the mouth before moving his teeth and tongue down the short jaw and fine white neck.

"I don't want to say no." Trace said quietly. "Just never been with another male before." He said trying to explain his uncertainty.

Jake instantly froze. "Oh," he blinked, his brain kicking into a completely different gear almost instantly. "Oh," his voice softened with a gentle, reassuring smile. "Have you been with a female?"

"Yeah. Two litters of pups to prove it." He smiled softly.

"You don't have anything to prove right now," he murmured softly and guided Trace to lay down with his head near Jake's before the Kat returned his attention to removing the Mephit's shorts.

Trace was very cooperative with that effort, and Jake discovered that Trace was actually snowy white everywhere. His sheath and balls resembled a tomkat's, and the sheath was swelling slightly with arousal.

He smiled a bit and leaned forward, over the white body to take in snow white balls and sheath in his mouth together while he could, running his tongue gently over the soft fur.

Trace shuddered in a combination of surprise and pleasure, and reached out his hands to gently caress Jake's ears the way he had before as the clearly skilled feline brought him to full arousal and continued to pleasure him.

Trace moaned and whimpered as his cock slid from its sheath to full hardness. There was a little leak of precum, before he gave a series of high-pitched yips as he came in spurts to be licked up by the tom pleasuring him.

Jake continued to lick him clean before letting the length of sensitive flesh slide from his mouth and shifted up to snuggled next to the white male with a nuzzle.

Trace snuggled in close, enjoying the feeling of Jake's fur, which was so different from his own. "I'd do the same for you, but you're probably still a bit sore." He said softly, clearly wanting to, not just saying it out of politeness.

"It's okay," Jake nuzzled him back. "Sleep really does sound better than sex right now."

"I'm not surprised." He smiled softly. "Just don't be surprised if I'm not here when you wake up. I never know when I'll get called." He said quietly.

"I won't be," Jake promised as his eyes drifted closed. "I understand."

Jake's awareness snapped on, scanning his surroundings with his senses before he twitched or opened his eyes. He was more than a little pleased that his body seemed to be fairly well recovered. On Aristal those kinds of injuries would have taken months of pain and probably several surgeries to repair.

"Hello," he said softly to the small white that was sitting at the end of the bunk as he opened his eyes and shifted to sit up.

"Hello." The little white said in young voice that while high was still male. "My sire asked me to look after you when he had to go out." He said simply. "I'm Dar."

"Then hello, Dar." Jake said with a slightly brighter smile and rolled to his feet to stretch his abused but healed body. "I'm Jake."

"Yeah, Trace told me that." He smiled. "Hungry?"

"Yes, actually I am." He hesitated a moment and turned to bring the shower out of the wall. "Right after I smell clean."

"I'll go get food, while you shower." Dar nodded, and headed for the door. "Trace left you fresh clothes on the shelf next to the bed."

"Thank you," Jake nodded at the youngster and went to work on his fur, quickly finding the medium gauge steel ring in his right nipple and flattened his ears with a growl when it became obvious that there was no way to open it. He quickly returned to the rest of his fur, not wanting to deal with it under the water and soap.

He quickly finished up and used the blowers to dry his fur, brushing it out as he went. A quick glance while he was dressing found the pile a towels he'd used to help clean Nathan. With his shorts on he moved over to check out the thing on his nipple in the mirror over the sink as well as directly. The ring appeared seamless until Jake looked very close, at which point he found a small seam. It almost looked as if the ring had been welded in place.

"Got breakfast." Dar said cheerfully, as he pushed the cart in to the room. "Scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes." He announced.

"Cool," the tom turned around from his inspection to shut his stomach up. "The cooking has gotten quite good here."

"Hope this is. Sis was doing the cooking this morning." The youngster grinned, as he pushed the cart over near the bed so Jake would have somewhere to sit.

"Can't be any worse that mine," Jake ginned and settled down to make short work of it.

"So, the Tiger's a friend of yours?" Dar asked curiously.

"My partner," he nodded between bites. "Your sis did a very good job."

"I'll let her know." He smiled. "So how'd you end up with one of the SwiftClaws?" He asked curiously.

"We got assigned as partners in Protector Academy." Jake said simply. "On the world I'm from."

"So you're Black Ops too?"

"Nope," Jake shook his head easily. "I'm a gunner, he's my pilot. He didn't want to go the Black Ops route."

"He didn't?" The little white asked in honest surprise. "But it's what he's designed to be." He said, clearly a bit confused.

"It's called freedom of choice," he explained gently. "It's something many races believe in. Nathan happens to be a very fine pilot as well."

"Oh." Dar said quietly. "So you don't have to be the same thing your whole life?" He asked, fascinated.

"Nope," Jake smiled at him after taking a long drink of water. "You can be anything you want, that you have the dedication to learn how to do."

"Wow." Dar said quietly. "You don't have to get someone's permission to be something else?"

"Not usually," he nodded. "If you're military, sometimes you have to wait until your service is up or a new class opens, but if you can get a job doing the new things, there's generally no restrictions."

Dar was quietly thoughtful for a while. "We don't pick anything." He said softly. "When we turn fourteen we know what we're good at, what we're supposed to be."

"As long as you're happy doing that, that's great." Jake smiled at him. "A lot of people know what they're good at, but aren't always happy doing that."

"Happy doesn't really figure in." He said quietly. "Everybody fills the role the colony needs them to. That way we get everything done, the leaders expect us to."

"It does for many, probably most, races." Jake told him simply. "Happy people work harder, are more loyal and cause fewer problems. It's in the leaders best interest to try to make the most number happy while still getting the work done."

"They do?" Dar asked curiously, the expression on his face leaving no doubt that it was a really strange idea to him. "You mean there are leaders who actually care?"

"Those that wish to stay in power without ticking off everyone around them, yes." Jake nodded easily. "The attitude your leaders have is a sizeable chunk of the reason no one gets along with them."

"That and aggressive military expansion tendencies?" Dar snickered.

"Well, that too," Jake chuckled with a bit of a smirk.

The door opened, and Trace walked in. "Hi, Dar." He smiled, when he saw the youngster. "Feeling better, Jake?" He asked as he walked over toward the lean tom.

"Hi, Trace." Dar smiled back.

"Much," he nodded over the finished meal.

"Good." Trace smiled, honestly pleased. "Sorry I wasn't around. The Trans-Luminal grid was throwing some serious sparks."

"No problem," Jake nodded with a smile. "What is the Trans-Luminal grid?"

"Energy grid that keeps us stabilized in Trans-Luminal flight mode. Which is how we get between galaxies in something under lifetimes." Trace explained easily. "It's a series of high energy plasma relays that transmit energy from the AMR to the field generators."

Jake paused to digest that for a moment before he nodded. "AMR?"

"Sorry, techie shorthand." He grinned. "Antimatter/Matter Reactor. Our primary energy supply."

"Ah," he nodded again. "I'll get up on the techie shorthand soon enough." Jake chuckled. "Hobby of mine."

"I'm not surprised." Trace smiled. "Well, the AMR is the primary supply with four fusion reactors as the auxiliary supply grid." He explained more than willing to talk tech, especially since he knew the leaders wouldn't care. They didn't consider the prisoners a sabotage threat.

"How big is this ship?" Jake blinked in surprise.

"Seven hundred meters stem to stern, and fifty decks top to bottom at the thickest point." He said without thinking, since he'd been from one end to the other more than once looking for a circuit problem.

"Oh," Jake nodded, more that a little shocked for a moment, until he remember that this was a spaceship, and that probably made it a small one. "Guess I'm not used to thinking in those terms yet."

"Not surprising, since your world was still working on mastering in-system travel." Trace said casually. "She's not the biggest thing in space, but as light cruisers go, she's respectable."

"Carriers still the biggest ships in the fleet?" He asked curiously.

"Depends on which race's ships you're talking about." He said easily. "They're the backbone of the Avar and Human fleets, but the Dracons are prone to building the fortress-like Dreadnaughts. All a matter of military philosophy."

"True enough," Jake nodded, remembering his navel history. "I tend to forget Dreadnaughts exist. They got blasted out of the water by air power before I was born."

"I think that was the case for awhile, before modern anti-fighter defense were developed." Trace said, trying to remember what little he knew of military history. "Some Dreadnaughts do carry a couple squadrons of interceptors for CAP duty. Assuming they aren't working with a carrier."

"That's the difference," Jake nodded, a bit of a grin crossing his face as he placed the info together. "Sea warfare has submarines. There is no such beast in space."

"Try telling that to someone who gets torpedoed by a Fornast-class stealth destroyer." Trace grinned. "Same function, and many of the same characteristics as a water submarine."

With a few crucial differences," Jake chuckled. "Space is more like all blue skies conditions, or all underwater. There is no boundary layer that makes the sub the killer in the sea. Stealth is a different item entirely. The right materials and tactics can make anything stealth. The only thing that can get under a sub, is another sub."

"Unless you're operating in the neighborhood of a nebula, or asteroid field." Trace grinned.

"Okay, I'll go with that," he nodded with a chuckle. "Though I'll still match my air tactics against navel ones any day in space."

"Probably true." Trace admitted. "Do you have air tactics involving carriers?" He asked curiously.

"Both attacking and in defense of," he nodded. "The basics I'm used to would need a little modification to take into account having the capitol ships in the same three dimensional plane as the fighters, but gunners are taught that type of combat much better than ship captains."

"Hopefully you'll get a chance to get a look at them." Trace said quietly.

"I have every intention of it," he growled determinedly. "I've faced worse that they've handed out so far growing up, and I didn't have a partner then either."

Dar looked up startled. "Oops, I almost forgot school." He said sheepishly. "It was nice meeting you Jake." The little Mephit said, as he darted out.

"Good meeting you too," the Kat called after him.

"He's fascinated by aliens." Trace smiled softly as he watched his son leave.

"He's welcome to come chat with me," he offered easily. "You call each other by name." He commented quietly, not able not to comment on the strange behavior.

"What else would we use?" Trace asked curiously.

"Son, dad, father ... by your relationship." He said, suddenly a little uncertain. "Like Nathan is my partner."

"I'm his sire, but father would imply a relationship with his mother that doesn't exist." He said simply. "He's from the first litter I sired, and probably the one most like me."

"So how do you work relationships and whether you're sire or father?" Jake prompted curiously.

"Sire is just the male half of procreation." He said simply. "To be a father, I'd have to be in a long-term relationship with his mother. She was attractive enough to fulfill my breeding requirement with, but we didn't really have much in common."

"Breeding requirement?" He frowned. "You have to have kits?"

"To maintain the colony." He nodded. "And to allow for founding another one, when needed."

"So is your second litter as sire or father?" He asked softly, just curious about this way of doing things.

"Sire." He sighed. "I just don't seem to hit it off with females. She took a long-term mate for her second litter, anyway."

"Ever considered a male mate?" He asked gently. "You respond like you might have better luck with that."

"Honestly, I hadn't." Trace admitted quietly. "I never really thought about it. I did what was required, and then focused on work and spending time with the pups. Their mothers like that I stay involved even if I'm not involved with them."

"I'm not surprised," Jake smiled softly. "The pups probably do too."

"They seem to." Trace smiled. "Dar most of all. His mother's considering giving me custody since she's considering a long-term mate, and Dar doesn't care for him."

"He prefers you?" Jake relaxed back on the bunk.

"Yes, but then I think he has a similar talent. Though at his age, it's hard to tell." He smiled while Jake watched him thoughtfully. "He also shares my interest in aliens."

"All the more reason for you to help raise him. It's good to have a parent that shares interests."

"His mother thinks so too." He smiled. "She's just having nervous jitters at actually letting go. Specially since Ker wants to come with him."

"Another from that litter?" Jake cocked his head.

"His brother." Trace smiled. "The other two are girls, Kira and Maia."

"They'll stay with their mother?" He prompted quietly.

"They're much closer to her, and they like the mate their mother has chosen." He smiled. "Almost too much, but at that age, every handsome male gets their attention at least for a little while."

"Oh, I remember that phase," Jake smiled fondly. "Happens with boys too, you know. It was a lot of fun."

"Oh, I know." Trace smiled. "The boys are going through it too. "Ker's been eyeing a few females his age. I think Dar is more like me though."

"Sounds like you both might prefer males for your pleasure." Jake ventured gently. "Is that an unknown among Mephit?"

"Nah, it's known. Not terribly common, but it's known." He shrugged. "No one really cares once you complete the breeding requirement."

"Do you?" He asked very softly. "I forget not everyone cares about sex all that much."

"I liked what you did for me." He smiled shyly. "But I've really never experimented much."

"Well when Nathan isn't here, I sure wouldn't mind a warn bedmate." Jake offered softly and sincerely.

"I'd like that, Jake." Trace said softly, with a shy smile. "I think it'll be a day or two before you get him back again. He got pretty badly banged up, fighting that shekat."

"I don't doubt it," he sighed softly. "I know it's asking a lot, but if you could keep me up to date on his condition, I'd really appreciate it. The last time he got hurt bad enough to be hospitalized I never left his side."

"I'll do what I can." Trace promised. "They don't need us whites in Medical very often, so my info is more limited. But I'll try."

"Don't risk too much, Trace." Jake said softly. "I just worry when I know he's hurt."

"I can see that." He said sitting down on the bed next to Jake and found the feline shifted to have a little more contact. "He's tough though, and too valuable to them. I'm sure that doesn't help though."

"It helps with the intellectual part. I know he'll survive." Jake murmured softly and half curled on his side to lay his lower jaw on crossed forearms. "The part of me that kept me at his side last time isn't the least bit consoled."

"I think I understand." Trace said quietly, as he put a comforting hand on Jake's shoulder. "Love really is what binds you two together, isn't it?" he said softly, as he began to understand things a little more fully.

"Love, loyalty, understanding," he nodded with a soft sigh. "We are perfect for each other."

"And they'll never understand that." Trace said quietly, as he reached his hand to brush the lean tom's hair in gentle, comforting gesture.

"And that will be their failure," he leaned slightly into the contact. "And our escape."

"I hope so." Trace said sincerely. "Even if I will miss you." He admitted very quietly, a little amazed at the revelation himself.

"Can you leave?" He asked quietly. "Or can they track you down?"

"I don't know." Trace said quietly. "No white has ever left."

"Do you want to?"

"I'm beginning to." Trace said softly. "But Mephits are so hated everywhere." He muttered softly.

"But white bats aren't," he pointed out with a slight smile.

"You think folks wouldn't guess I was a Mephit unless I said so?" He asked curiously.

"With the number of races running around the Alliance? Not too likely. Especially given your color isn't any they know, and you definitely don't act like one."

"Thanks." Trace smiled, and kissed Jake's cheek in a tentative, gentle kiss.

"You could be very valuable to the Alliance too, with what you know of them," he suggested softly. "It wouldn't be hard to say the whites are a slave race to the Mephit. It's not like you even reproduce the same way."

"They reproduce in the lab." Trace said quietly. "It's something to think about. But we're still weeks away from being able to do anything."

"I know," Jake nodded against his forearms. "Until then it's survival pure and simple."

"I'll try to make it easier, when I can." Trace said softly as his touch slowly drew a soft purr from the tom.

"Would it be difficult to get a medical patch, something to help heal a small gash?" Jake asked calmly as his body sort of relaxed with the affectionate contact.

"There's stuff like that in the first aid kits. Not hard to get." He said and then looked at Jake. "Did you injure yourself?" He asked, not seeing any evidence of serious blood loss.

"Not, but I'm going to get that blasted ring out of my nipple, and if I can't get it to come apart again, I'm cutting it out." He explained simply. "Not a bad injury, but it hurts like hell for a while."

"Mind if I take a look at the ring first?" Trace asked quietly. "Some of the shadow devices are not nearly as harmless as they look."

"Sure," he rolled towards his back to display the heavy ring in his left nipple was visible. "I found a thin break in the circle, but not much."

Trace looked at it quietly for several minutes. "Oh, it's electromagnetically bonded." He smiled. "I know how to undo that, we use the same thing to seal unused sections of the ship. But I'll have to go down to engineering to get the right tool."

"That'd be great, if you would," Jake smiled at him. "I'd rather not cut myself to get it out if I don't have to."

"Not a problem." Trace smiled. "Want to take care of it now? Shouldn't take me more than half an hour to get the tool and get back. Unless somebody decides they need me for something."

"Yes, please." He nodded eagerly. "Know what this thing is for?" He tapped the ring.

"Yeah, it's a claim marker." Trace shook his head, as he reluctantly hopped down from the bed. "She's telling other shadows not to mess with her property."

"Which would be a reason for her male to be jealous," he rolled his eyes and rolled the rest of the way over. "Fun, fun, fun."

"They probably had a fight before the session started, and she was deliberately pulling his chain." Trace said quietly. "Be back soon." He said as he slipped out the door.

"Thanks," he nodded, more than a little grateful that that was all that she'd done. Her interest in his balls from both sessions made him more than a little uneasy though.

It was actually an hour and a half later by the time Trace returned carrying a device that looked like a flashlight with pretensions. "Sorry it took so long. One of the browns insisted I look over his shuttle right now." He said as sat down next to Jake.

"No problem," Jake smiled. "What's a brown for?"

"Navigators, pilots and most of your non-command bridge officers." Trace explained easily. "Let me see the ring again, please?"

Jake nodded and sat up, baring his chest easily to the smaller male.

Trace pointed the odd device at the ring, and flipped a couple of switches, bathing the ring in a green light that felt warm on Jake's skin. After about ten minutes he nodded. "Okay, I can unlock it. You might get a bit of a shock when I do though." He explained.

"Okay," he nodded and relaxed. "Won't be the worst I've felt recently."

"I know." Trace said quietly. "Just fair warning." He said as he turned a knob on the device, which shifted the light from green to a pulsing blue. There was a sudden shock, and then a 'click' as the ring opened.

"Thanks," Jake nodded as he threaded the loop out, then gently fingered his nipple for the size of the hole that was left.

"Here's a healing patch." Trace said, handing him the small sealed package. "Just open the package, remove it and place it over the injury."

Jake nodded and quickly opened it and set the small pad over the piercing and carefully fingered it around his nipple so it actually contacted the skin.

The small patch had a cooling, soothing feeling as it contacted skin. "I overheard one of the blues while I was working on the shuttle." Trace said as he watched Jake. "Nathan's healing well, but he's still seriously pissed off. They've had to sedate him a couple of times."

"I have no doubt," he muttered. "No doubt at all. He's not likely to chill out anytime soon either. Of course, they haven't considered getting me to calm him down." He rolled his eyes derisively.

Trace jumped down without warning, and ducked to one side, as the door opened and a blue Mephit in a green robe entered. "Come with me." It gestured imperiously.

Jake nodded and stood do to as instructed without complaint.

"You need to calm your companion." The blue said simply as they approached a door guarded by two reds. "He risks aggravating his injuries."

"Right," he nodded, holding his tongue about why Nathan was so irate.

The blue nodded to the two guards, who stood aside. One of them opened the door to let Jake enter. Inside was a cell much like their usual one. Nathan was sitting up, and rubbing his eyes as if just waking up. But when he looked up, Jake could see the fire still burning behind his eyes. The Felsin might be groggy, but he was still raging inside.

Jake took a deep breath as the door closed behind him. "With it enough to think, Nate?" He asked softly, approaching without fear, but with reasonable caution.

"Jake?" Nathan asked quietly, his voice extremely rough and uncertain. "Really Jake?"

"Yes, Nathan, it's really me," he let a small breath out and leaned against the wall nearby to give the Tiger some space. "They finally realized you weren't going to calm down with time or their orders."

"Not her?" Nathan said, as he stood and walked over slowly to Jake, the effects of the sedative still showing in his walk. He looked steadily into the lean tom's eyes. "How long did it take me to kill that lizard that crash-landed on the beach?" He asked softly.

"It took you far too long to beat it unconscious from where I was standing." He answered in the same soft voice and tone. "I never did hear what actually became of it after they took it away."

Nathan smiled, put his arms around the lean tom, and pulled him into a tight embrace that was gratefully returned. "Gods, it's good to hold you again." He said softly.

"No kidding," Jake sighed and relaxed into the contact. "They made me watch that last round when she tried to impersonate me."

"Looked and sounded like you." Nathan said with a shudder. "Even kind of smelled like you. Wasn't perfect though. She didn't act like you at all."

"I noticed," he nuzzled his partner reassuringly. "Didn't have all their info right either. You really should rest and heal."

"They're not perfect." Nathan said quietly. "Maybe they'll let me go back with you now." He said hopefully.

"Or let me stay." He added, gently guiding the Tiger to the bunk. "Either one works for me. But at least lay down and rest."

"Okay, Jake." Nathan said, as his rage dissipated and he let his gunner lead. He lay down on the bunk, and patted the space next to him invitingly and was quickly taken up on the offer.

"You do need your rest," Jake smiled softly and snuggled in to stay while his partner rested.

"And I rest better with you next to me." He said quietly, as he wrapped his arms protectively around his mate as they snuggled together in the familiarity of long time lovers.

About twelve hours later, Nathan slowly woke up and stretched a bit. "Good morning." He nuzzled Jake affectionately.

"Yes, it is," he smiled up and kissed the Tiger's cheek affectionately and snuggled in. "About time we got to rest out together."

"For once, there not rushing me off to more tests immediately." He said quietly. "Anything interesting happen while I've been out?"

"A black claimed me as property while you were in with that shekat, her male nearly killed me 'by accident'. It took a white to save my ass, rather literally. Lots of boredom chatting. Not much." He grinned and nuzzled him. "This one have a shower? We both could use it."

"That white wouldn't have been a chatty fellow named Trace would it?" He asked curiously, as he looked around. "I suppose it might, I hadn't really looked."

"And his kit." Jake chuckled and rolled out of the bunk to tap around in the same general location as the other cell.

"He's got kits?" Nathan asked in surprise, as he sat up. "Gods, I thought he was a teenager."

"Older than me, well, probably." Jake chuckled just before he found the right spot to tap and the shower popped out around him. "We have water!"

"You are a genius." Nathan chuckled, as he hopped off the bench and walked over to join Jake in the shower as the cinnamon Kat worked on getting his shorts off. "So what do you think of him?" He asked curiously.

"Intelligent, curious, and very cute." He grinned up and grabbed the shampoo. "Squeaks when he cums."

"I take it you two have been playing." Nathan grinned as he enjoyed the hot water soaking into his fur. "I never imagined there were Mephits like him." He said quietly. "He is cute."

"That he is," he purred softly and turned to start scrubbing his partner clean of all the scents of the recent mess.

"I think we should take him with us when we get out of here." Nathan suggested, leaning into Jake's touch. "Assuming he's willing."

"Already suggested. He's thinking about it." He murmured softly and worked with affectionate strength through the fur and over hard muscle under it. "You know they're probably listening to us."

"They don't think what I just said is even possible." Nathan said quietly. "But actually, they don't have any audio sensors hooked up in here."

"You can tell?" He blinked in surprise, his hands pausing for a moment before returning their attention to the muscular chest.

"When I concentrate." Nathan nodded. "Something they taught me when I was a kit. I wasn't very good at it then."

"Useful trick," Jake purred, working his way down to his partner's more private parts. "Gods I've missed the sex more than I thought I would." He shook his head and tried to moved quickly but thoroughly over the sensitive flesh and fur.

"At least you've had Trace." Nathan smirked. "I've missed you, in about every way I can think of." He rumbled, as he gently caressed Jake velvety ears.

"Do you want a little something?" He asked softly, a little unsure with the mixed signals he was getting from himself.

"Actually not sure." Nathan said quietly. "Still got that drug in my system. I have missed holding and touching you though."

"Then that's what we do," Jake nodded with a gently smile and continued down Nathan's legs. "We're on your pace."

"Thanks." Nathan said quietly, resting his hands on Jake's shoulders as the tom stood. "In smaller doses, that stuff would do well as a party drug." He chuckled softly. "Much smaller doses."

"Sounds like a fortune in the making, if we can get the formula," he chuckled and nuzzled close, enjoying the contact nearly as much as his partner.

"If you can hack the computer system long enough to get me a look at the formula, I can put it back down on paper anywhere." Nathan grinned playfully, but still a bit serious as he held his partner close.

"Perhaps something to do, to play with them on." Jake purred softly as they held each other close under the hot spray of water. It quickly became obvious to both of them just how glad the smaller tom was to see his partner again.

"Getting pulled apart like this is rough on both of us." Nathan said quietly, gently stroking Jake's fur. "But we'll get through it."

"Yes, we will." He confirmed stubbornly, his hands returning the comforting attention. "We can do anything."

"As odd as this may sound, I think I want to get back to our cell." Nathan laughed softly.

"It's familiar turf," Jake smiled and nuzzled him. "More than this one at least."

"Let's get dried off then." Nathan said quietly, and then smiled. "Once we get you scrubbed down." He said, picking up the shampoo and beginning to work on scrubbing the last few days' scents out of his mate's fur.

"Oh, yeah," he moaned softly, his body responding instinctively to the touch he'd longed for.

Nathan smiled, pleased, as he worked down his mate's back, gently working out the tension as he went. It wasn't long before a light musk of Jake's arousal filled the moist air. Nathan smiled as he finished working down his mate's legs, and turned to work on his front. "Courtesy of that shadow, I take it." He said quietly, noting the injuries on the lean tom's chest.

"Yes, her and her male," he huffed. "She's found me interesting, he's jealous as hell."

"Well, they're both lucky I was otherwise occupied." Nathan growled softly, as he continued gently scrubbing the various scents out, being careful of the injuries.

"I have no doubt," he purred softly, trying to ignore the increasing insistence of his hard on. "Trace got her ring out, or I'd have a couple more injuries."

"Trace is really a find." Nathan smiled, as he worked down to the lean tom's crotch. "You look like you could use a little attention." The Felsin smiled, as he ran his hand along the swelling sheath.

"Yesss," he moaned, trembling slightly as he leaned back against the shower wall. "Missed your touch so much."

Nathan knelt down and gently licked at the lean tom's hard-on to a gasp, then deep groan from his partner above. The smaller kat's musk gave him a rush that rivaled the few party drugs he'd actually tried. "I love the way you taste." He rumbled.

"Please, more." Jake nearly whimpered, his head thrown back from the first touch of that tongue he's longed for.

Nathan eagerly deep throated the lean tom's erection, licking and sucking it as he did. The heady musk from the tom's groin went straight to his balls, giving him a solid hard-on of his own while his partner trembled, nearly ready to cum that quickly.

"Oh, gods Nate, I've missed you."

"I've missed you too." Nate said, using a series of hand signs that he'd taught Jake during their second year together. Silent communication was always a bonus, he thought as he continued his licking and sucking to push his mate toward the edge and rapidly over. The roar Jake surrendered with his seed was nearly worthy of his Tiger lover that took the salty-sweet offing.

The taste, and feel of Jake's seed as Nathan swallowed it all was enough to drive the jazzed up Tiger over the edge, roaring around the cock in his mouth as his seed splashed on the floor of the shower.

They were both breathing hard, but Jake recovered first and knelt to take his mate in his arms. "That was intense, partner." He smiled and kissed Nathan affectionately.

"Yeah, it was, Jake." Nathan rumbled, before claiming a passionate kiss. The smells in the air was still going straight to his groin, which was extremely distracting.

"And it seems like you need more, lover." He smiled, brushed his hand up the Tiger's balls and sheath.

"Need to clear my head." Nathan said quietly. "Chemicals are designed to keep me hard and horny for hours." He said quietly.

"You know I don't mind if you wear that out with me, if you want to." He purred softly and kissed him softly. "I hate to see you needy like this, but I understand if you want to just wait it out."

"I just didn't want to force it on you." Nathan said quietly, running his hands down Jake's chest as he pulled him close for a more passionate kiss. "I just may be a bit rougher than usual, this is a really intense feeling."

"You won't, partner," he smiled and brushed his fingers along the Tiger's cheeks, completely sure of himself. "And I can handle rough." He promised with a fiercer kiss. "Let's just get dried off and on the bed first, okay?"

Nathan nodded. "Be easier to control there. Shower and steam intensifies the scents."

The water turned off and hot air rushed up and around them, blowing the rich scent everywhere as they tried to dry off without getting too worked up.

Nathan focused on less sexy things while he dried off. By the time the air turned off and he'd pulled his partner close for a deep, passionate kiss off, he'd done most of the breakdown and rebuild of a combat cycle in his head.

Now the waiting was over and the tom he trusted more than anyone was eager and pliant in his arms while the shower retracted into the wall again.

The rush was beginning to push Nathan again, as he carried Jake over to the bed and laid him on his stomach. The Tiger than got behind his partner, and swirled his tongue around the tom's furless pucker, working on getting it wet and slick while Jake moaned and raised his hips eagerly. His scent conveyed his pleasure and desire even more than his strong voice.

"Oh, yeah. Feels great, Nate."

"Good." Nathan rumbled, as he leaned over Jake and roughly nuzzled his scruff. He then pushed his hard cock into the lean tom's slicked passage until he was buried up to his sheath. Taking his mate's scruff in his jaws, he began a deep, powerful thrusting rhythm that was greeted with a clearly willing body and moans until Jake found the rhythm.

"Oh yeah partner," he groaned and tightened his body around the invading length. "Take me hard, Nate."

The Tiger didn't need any encouragement, as the speed and power of his thrusts increased inside the tight passageway. His breath was hot against the lean tom's neck, as it became quicker and more ragged.

Jake simply closed his eyes and gave voice to the pleasure of being fucked so thoroughly by a tom he loved dearly and trusted implicitly.

Nathan roared through the tight grip his jaws had on Jake's scruff as he came in powerful, jerking thrusts. As the last of his spurts died away, he rolled to one side, breathing hard as he came down from the draining orgasm. "That was incredible, Jake." He rumbled as he reached over to pull his mate in against his chest and had his mouth caught in a light kiss.

"You are incredible, love." He smiled and relaxed on top of the heaving chest. "More?"

"Probably." Nathan rumbled hotly. "But not 'cause of the drug." He smiled. "I didn't realize it was set to burn out under certain conditions."

"Mmm?" He raised an eyebrow in question.

"The drug was designed to get me to impregnate the imposter. But they made her scents smell like you somewhat, so fucking you had the same effect." He smiled. "I did what they 'wanted' and it burned the chemical out."

"Cool. Way weird, but cool." Jake smiled and nuzzled close. "They must be having a conniption fit or six over how we interact."

"I'm so far outside what they think I'm capable of." Nathan rumbled, as he nuzzled Jake affectionately. "They're having trouble thinking of me as anything but one of their Commandos."

"And they seem to think I'm the cause of it all by controlling you some way." He shook his head and nuzzled back. "They so don't have a clue."

"Well, they've seen me with a gunner before and it wasn't anything like this." Nathan explained softly. "They just don't get that there's a difference between a relationship of two kits, and a relationship of two adults."

"It's their loss," he smiled softly, "and our strength."

"Good thing, cause we need all the advantages we can get." Nathan chuckled quietly. "They own the court after all."

"And we are going to win," he purred and stretched up for another eager kiss. "I was kind of looking forward to several hours of heavy play though," he pouted playfully.

"We can still do that if you like." Nathan rumbled playfully, nuzzling Jake's neck roughly.

"My hunky Tiger has that kind of stamina, does he?" He murred and brushed his tail along Nathan's groin.

"I'm not exactly at my peak, thanks to the soft life of the last five years." Nathan smirked. "But I think I can still handle three or four hours of aerobics." He smirked as he reached down to fondle Jake's full sheath and balls.

"Ooo, take me, my big hunky hotshot Tiger." Jake grinned widely through the rumble of pleasure at the contact.

"Better believe I will." Nathan rumbled as he put Jake on to his stomach again and drove his hard cock in up to his sheath, while he took the lean tom's scruff in his mouth roughly and began to pump into the moaning tom.

Jake and Nathan had just gotten back to their usual cell when Trace came in puheng a large cart with several large covered trays. "You two both need to eat." He said firmly, but there was a note of concern in his voice. "But first these nutrition shakes." He said handing them each a cold white can with a pop-top. "They'll help restore vitamin and mineral balance."

"Thanks, Trace." Nathan smiled, as he took his and shook it before popping the top.

"Thanks," Jake followed his pilot's lead with the drink. "I'm starving."

"Not surprising, you haven't eaten in a day or more." He said quietly, as he took the lids off to let the smells permeate the room, as Nathan took a pull from the can.

"One of these days, they'll improve the flavor of these things." The Tiger muttered softly.

"They'll have to understand keeping people happy first," Jake smirked, downing the entire can in one relaxed swallow. "You don't taste much is you just swallow it."

"You can do wonders with a small amount of flavor extracts though." He grinned as he finished his off and examined the solid breakfast with interest. "You've been practicing, Trace." He smiled. "Smells good."

"Thanks." The white bat smiled shyly. "I made a tray for each of you, with this third tray being pastries." He smiled, as he took the lid off it. "What little I got from the culture studies tapes indicate these are standard with the morning meal."

"They are, and he has gotten a lot better," Jake grinned with shameless praise for the white before digging in with relish.

"Definitely better than the usual fare on Mephit bases." Nathan said as he dug in. "But I think most of the food is mass produced normally."

"It is." Trace wrinkled his nose. "Awful stuff. Scientists and cooking do not mix."

"Cooking is an art form, not a science." Jake snorted between bites.

"Something else they just don't get." Nathan snickered between forkfuls.

"What, that it's an art form, or art in general?" He glanced over at his partner curiously.

"That cooking is an art." He smiled. "I think the leaders and scientists understand what art is, but I don't know that I've ever seen one attempt it."

"Art is the province of the grays." Trace said simply.

"Grays? That's another color I'm not familiar with." Nathan said curiously, causing Jake to blink in surprise at him.

"Architects and designers. They chose the forms of things like ships, stations and buildings." Trace said simply.

"That kind of explains it." Nathan nodded while Jake went back to eating. "Wouldn't see many of those in a commando training facility." He finished as he concentrated on eating.

Eating was abruptly interrupted by a wave of colored light that flashed through the room, knocking everything that wasn't nailed down to the sides of the room. Nathan managed to roll himself between Jake and the wall, so he hit the wall while catching Jake against his chest. Trace and the breakfast cart were knocked to the opposite side where they land with a crash.

"Stay here, stay down." Trace said, as he headed out the door, just as the lights dropped to a dim red, and klaxon blared.

"Battle stations." Nathan commented quietly, as he moved to the bed taking Jake with him. "That doesn't make any sense."

"They've pissed off at least one galaxy, why wouldn't it?" He looked at the Tiger curiously and grabbed hold of the solid surface.

"Because we're in Trans-Luminal and between galaxies." Nathan said quietly. "They didn't piss off the entire galaxy, just part of it." He chuckled. "I don't think the entire galaxy is aware of them yet."

"Oh, I figured the Alliance was bigger," he shrugged slightly. "Something about Trans-Luminal that should avoid attacks?"

"Well, the Alliance is big. But a Galaxy is a lot of real estate, especially since the one I come from is on the larger end of galaxies." Nathan grinned. "And yes, Trans-Luminal operates in a kind of pocket dimension, and only another ship in T-L would be able to interact with it. And as far as I know, only the Mephits have T-L."

"Which means someone you don't know, or someone who stole one." Jake chuckled softly.

"Or maybe some unreported T-L phenomena. T-L is relatively new, and not terribly well studied."

"I prefer the stolen ship idea," he grumbled slightly. "At least it might be friendly."

"Well, I guess we just have to hold on and see." Nathan said as another Technicolor wave came through knocking things around, and then the lights went out completely.

"I definitely don't like this." Jake whispered and pressed closer to his pilot, expressing the first trace of fear for himself the Tiger could remember.

"Just power conservation, Jake." Nathan said, holding his gunner close. "Cells are low priority areas of the ship, and lights are low priority systems except in critical areas."

"Air and heat go next," he said quietly, forcing himself to accept that with more difficulty that he thought it would take.

"The air circulation system is high priority, they won't take that off-line except as a last resort." He said as they heard the door slowly opened.

"Stay where you are, I'll come to you." Dar's voice carried to them in the absolute darkness. Another wave rolled through the room, but disturb him, given the slow sounds of his steps came closer. "Warm clothes." He said.

"Thank you," Jake nodded, reaching out to find the edge of the bed nearest that voice.

"Oh, I forget. It's too dark." Dar said as he put a thick sweatshirt into Jake's hand.

"You don't need light?" The lean Kat shifted to push the shirt into his partner's hand before accepting another.

"I'd rather have it, but I can work without it." Dar said softly, handing Jake another as Nathan quickly slipped the oversized shirt on.

"Neat trick," Jake murmured as he carefully let his grip go to pull the shirt on. "Thanks."

"It's a bat thing." Dar chuckled, and handed them both pants of the same material that were quickly squirmed into as soon as Jake confirmed that Nathan had a pair.

"Sound radar." Jake nodded as he dredged up that tidbit.

"Well, actually we use EM radar." He corrected. "Sound radar and noisy equipment just doesn't mesh well."

"I can see that," he accepted without thinking about it much.

"Any idea yet what happened?" Nathan asked the small white bat.

"The T-L Grid is destabilizing." He said softly. "They're too worried about getting it stable again to figure out what destabilized it yet."

"Generally a good thing," Jake agreed. "As long as it can be stabilized."

"Trace thinks it can be. But it may require us to run in conservation mode for a while."

"At least that means no tests," Jake murmured softly.

"Not till they get the grid stable." Dar nodded. "Labs are low priority on the energy conservation scale, unless the leader activates one to study the crisis."

"Which is unlikely in involve us at any rate," Jake let a long breath out. "I can think of worse ways to pass the time than snuggled with my Tiger."

"Either me or Ker will bring food by regularly." Dar said simply. "Don't expect to see Trace until the system stabilizes."

"Understood," Jake nodded in the darkness and snuggled back again his partner.

"Thanks, Dar." Nathan said quietly, as he wrapped his arms around Jake. "I guess we get a break for awhile."

"Enjoy it while it lasts." The soft voice said, before the door opened and closed.

"Hey, Jake." Nathan nuzzled the sleeping tom insistently. "Lights are back on. Heat is too."

"Uggg, I noticed," he hovered and squinted, blinking watering eyes open. "The temp was getting to me."

"The cold was a bit much." Nathan nodded as he slipped off the sweatshirt. "Nice to see you again." He chuckled and kissed the lean tom gently; a kiss that was eagerly returned.

"Missed seeing you, for all you were right there," Jake murmured softly and snuggled close, his sweats still on.

The door opened and one of the ubiquitous red guards walked in. "Jake Clawson, you are required to come now." It said firmly.

"Hu?" The cinnamon Kat looked up sharply, more than a little startled.

"You are required in the lab, now." It repeated patiently.

Despite his unease at this change in patterns Jake complied and untangled himself from Nathan's embrace to follow the Mephit guard.

Nathan followed Jake closely, until the guard put a hand against his chest. "Stay here. You weren't sent for." The large guard said forcefully, at which Nathan started to growl low in his chest, before he forced himself to back down, knowing that even beating the guard wouldn't help any. He caught Jake's worried glance before the door shut between them.

Jake was lead to a different lab than before, and a half dozen blues were waiting when he arrived. "Ah, there you are." The darkest blue said impatiently, as the door closed. "Strip down, and step on to that platform." He commanded, indicating a large white translucent disk approximately 2 meters across.

He didn't bother to resist or comment, knowing just how pointless it was in here and did as he was told, though he kept his eyes on everything while he could.

Once he was on the platform, the red guard secured his ankles to two blocks the extended from the floor. The guard then locked his wrists into to two shoulder high posts that kept his arms extended straight out. As the guard stepped away, the platform began to rotate slowly as a bright blue light scanned up and down the bound tom's naked body. After ten or so minutes, a warm red light radiated up from the disk. It left Jake with a feeling that he was being scanned down to his very core.

Through the pulses of light, Jake could see a couple of the consoles that the blues were working at. They looked like the big CAD workstations used for designing airplanes, only instead of the wireframe of an aircraft he could see a wireframe that was slowly filled in to be himself.

"Level 6 bioscan complete." One of the blues said a couple hours later.

"Begin analytic breakdown." The dark blue commanded. "Is it possible within the limits of the equipment we have on-board?"

Jake could see one of the blues typing furiously as the wireframe of him was overlaid on the wireframe of what appeared to be a generic female feline.

"Yes, sir." The blue reported. "Technological requirements are within available equipment."

"Energy requirements?" The dark blue inquired, which prompted another flurry of typing which resulted in a fast scrolling list of equations and numbers across the merged wireframes.

"Energy is within the operating parameters of the lab."

"Survival Likelihood?"

"Current estimates put survival at seventy four point seven two percent. Well within current guidelines."

"Does this increase the likelihood of conception for SwiftClaw offspring?"

"Based on what we've observed, I would say it does."

"Very well, proceed to the next stage." The dark blue commanded, and the platform came to a stop. "Guard, take the subject to laboratory GX-3."

"Yes, sir." The guard said, and began unlocking Jake from the platform.

"They have got to be joking," Jake shuddered, too stunned for a second to react to his freedom of movement as his brain kicked into escape and hide out mode.

They clearly weren't joking as the large red guard picked Jake up and carried him out of the room. It proceeded to carry the squirming, struggling tom through the ship, escorted by two additional guards.

The lab in question contained a large number of computers surrounding a large glass cylinder about a meter across. Numerous pipes and tubes fed into the larger tube, making it look like a high tech distillery. While one of the guards opened the hatch on the front of the central tube, the guard holding Jake wrestled him into the tube and locked restraints around his wrists, ankles and neck securing him firmly. IV lines were placed in both arms, and green and blue liquids began to drip into his veins, causing both a burning and chilling sensation.

After ten minutes of the IV fluids, a warm bluish fluid began to slowly fill the tube from the bottom. The best description of how it felt would be to say that it was climbing up Jake's skin. That broke any ability the tom had of remaining calm and he began to struggle for real, not paying any attention to the restraints or the damage he might do to himself in the process as the most basic of survival instincts not to drowned kicked in at full force.

At that point it hit him that one of the chemicals they'd been injecting him with was muscle relaxant, not a powerful one but enough to keep any struggles from being dangerous to himself or the equipment. As the liquid filled the tube completely, instinct made him hold his breath until the burning in his lungs and fuzziness of his brain forced him to inhale.

He was out of it enough and expecting the creeping suffocation of slime strongly enough it wasn't until his mind cleared from renewed oxygen flow and it dawned on him that he realized that he wasn't drowning but that somehow he was breathing the creepy, slimy fluid.

After a couple hours of immersion and struggle, he felt his skin tingle as if he was getting a serious static charge, and then a strange burning sensation as a glowing silver fluid flowed through the IV line. At first there was nothing, and then a little aching, and then a lot of aching, and then shooting pains that slowly increased in intensity without abating. And at some point the pain reached and past the lean tom's threshold, and he blacked out.

Jake woke to find himself in a cell much like the one he usually shared with Nathan, but Nathan wasn't present. He was lying in bed, and across the room he could see a white setting down a tray on a shelf next to a pitcher and a mug.

"Hi," he said groggily, his entire body jerking at the strangeness of his voice. That set off a whole other set of freaked out notes for his brain to deal with.

"Hello." The small female said pleasantly. "How are you feeling?" She asked pleasantly.

"Like hell warmed over and weird," he muttered and pushed himself up. "What did they do to me?" He frowned before a bare arm brushed against his bare chest where it shouldn't be and drew his gaze down to a familiar set of cinnamon furred curves at a very wrong angle.

"Um well." The female hesitated, and back toward the door uneasily. "They switched your gender. That is to say your female now."

"Fe ... wh ... oh dear gods." Jake lost all the color in his face, staring at her as his brain finished processing scent and informed him that he was in a much worse position than just being female and quite naked. "They're still trying to breed Nathan."

"They don't give up easily." The white female said quietly, hovering near the door. "And they learn from their mistakes."

"How ... how long until Nathan's brought in?" he asked shakily, his stomach growling at the smell of food despite the stress of the rest.

"I don't know." She said softly, getting up her nerves enough to pick up the tray and bring it to Jake. "They'll monitor you for a while to make sure everything is stable, I'd guess."

"As stable as a shekat in heat ever is, at least." he swallowed and gave in to his body's hunger pangs to focus on the tray and it's contents. "The cell like the other one?"

"They're all the same. Uniform design." She said quietly. "You should drink something, dehydration won't make you feel any better."

"Yes, right, and eat," he nodded and picked up the glass, focusing on the basics of survival to push away the reality of what it meant for a few moments.

The white bat stayed while Jake ate, refilling his water as needed. She wasn't sure how a male would do, put into a female body. She certainly wouldn't want to be put in a male body.

Her thoughts weren't far off from the his own, but with the meal finished, it was something Jake had to deal with more directly. "Are you required anywhere?" he asked quietly.

"No, but I can leave if you need privacy." She said softly.

"Actually I was hoping for some help in the shower," he tried to smile. "Though I'm probably not on the best behavior right now. You're rather attractive, you know."

"Of course, I'll help." She smiled. "But fair warning, females don't do anything for me." She said softly. "And even if the mind is male, the body's still female."

"I'll try to behave," he stood after carefully checking out fine motor control down his legs and overall balance. "I'm honestly not too sure how good my self control is right now."

"Probably won't get any better." She said quietly, standing close enough for Jake to lean on.

"Just trying to apologize up front it I go too far." Jake said softly and accepted the support, silent cursing out his body as the swollen female flesh between his legs began to ache as they walked over to the shower.

"I know." She said softly, as they reached the shower. "I understand what's it's like to be their victim."

Jake simply nodded and focused mostly on not getting his hands all over the soft white body with nice curves he was standing next to.

"How hot do you like your shower?" She asked helpfully.

"Hot," he answered, instinctively reaching to set the temperature. She nodded and let Jake adjust the water temperature, while she picked up the shampoo, handing it off when the rattled shekat reached for it.

"Scrub my back?" Jake asked quietly as he went to work on the unfamiliar and very sensitive curves of his new chest.

"Certainly." The white bat smiled, and put a generous amount of shampoo in her hand before she went to work, reaching up a little to scrub the taller shekat's shoulders. Though the scents of intense arousal and the soft moans Jake couldn't help were mildly disturbing, the new shekat did keep her hands to herself.

"You should leave," Jake's lighter voice was strained in his control.

"Okay." The little female said quietly, backing out and picking up her robe, before leaving with a glance back at the shekat, who now hand a hand between her legs and was slowly sinking to her knees with mixed sounds of pleasure, desperate need and distress.

About eight hours later, the door opened and Trace came in carrying a tray. "How are you feeling?" He asked, with honest concern in his voice as the worn out and frazzled looking shekat raised her head to look at him.

"More fucked up than that time I was on Crystal." He moaned softly and forced himself to sit up while still controlling his ranging body and what it was doing to his mind.

"I'm not surprised." He said softly. "I wish there was something I could do, but they're monitoring what gets brought in here." He whispered apologetically.

"I'm not surprised," he nodded and reached for the tray, breathing hard just at having a male so close. "Can't have me screwing up their plans at this point."

"Or have one of us screw it up either." He said quietly. "After all they don't want anything to calm you down." He shook his head. "The fruit juice may help a little though. Mother recommended it."

"If it's anything like my mother, that's one thing they don't have to worry about." Jake shook his head and eagerly took the juice as a distraction from the idea of having Trace inside him. "She got hit harder than most."

"Well, they gave you a shot of something similar to what they gave that other shekat." He said quietly. "But I guess it's got a delayed effect."

"Or this is as hard as it'll hit me," he hovered. "You have no idea how bad I want to jump you right now."

"Actually, given the amount of tension in your body, I have a pretty good idea." Trace smiled softly. "I wouldn't mind. You're still the same person."

Jake simply froze, the half finished glass of raised to drink as he blinked a couple time. He made quick work of downing it before reaching out with one hand to catch Trace's arm and pull him forward.

"Then come here already," he rumbled deep in his chest as all pretence of holding back fell away.

"I should warn you, I haven't been with a female since my last kits were conceived." The white bat said apologetically, as he stripped out of his clothes.

"If you remember how to thrust, you'll do fine," he rumbled, pulling the naked Mephit on top of him and rubbing hungrily up against him.

"That much I remember." Trace said quietly, as he slid his hard cock between the swollen folds of Jake's sex. He wasn't sure why he was reacting to feline pheromones, but there wasn't any other explanation he could think of.

He claimed a passionate kiss while he began thrusting and found it returned a little too eagerly. His partner, while enthusiastic and wanton, was at least as clueless as he was about the finer points of what they were doing, though Jake didn't seem to care in the least.

Trace continued thrusting, not having a real clue what else to do. He was sure there was something else, but eight years was along time ago and it had only been the second time he'd ever been with a female. He reached a hand up to caress Jake's velvety ears, figuring they were probably still sensitive.

"Mmm, yeah," Jake howled, instinctively tightening his body around the smooth shaft as they thrust at each other in growing need. "Oh yes!" He suddenly howled, his body arched and contracted hard around the invader in a desperate attempt to draw the contact out.

"Oh gods, yes." Trace squeaked as his strong spasms drove him deeper into the shekat and he began shooting his seed deep within her. He didn't even get a chance to breath before he found himself on his back with Jake straddling him and continuing to hump his over-sensitive member with a level of savage desire not even the Kat was aware was possible.

Much to his own surprise, Trace found himself quickly getting hard again as he began thrusting up at the humping shekat.

A couple hours after Trace collapsed on the bed in a quivering white furpile, two red guards entered the room. They both proceeded to the bed, where one of them reached to pick up the quivering white.

Jake's response was as instant as it was instinctive. He lashed out will the full strength of his hormone-hyped body and sank his jaws and claws into the threat to her mate with the savagery no one who'd known him would have thought possible. All she was aware of was the threat and the drive to destroy it into bloodmeal to feed her body for the kits to come.

The red's response was lightning quick and two surprisingly powerful arms restrained the outraged feline. The claws and jaws had only drawn a little blood, as they'd hit the thick hide armor of the red guards. The one guard wrapped the small, insanely struggling feline in a tight restraining hold, as the other removed the white as ordered.

Once the one guard had Trace out of the room, the other set Jake down and a forcefield snapped into place between them, resonating as the enraged feline lunged against it in a frantic attempt to get to her mate and destroy the ones separating them. The forcefield followed the guard out of the room, keeping the crazed feline from both the door and the guard until it slid shut to the sound of scraping claws and outraged snarls.

The door opened, rousing Jake from his fitful sleep, and a rather ragged looking Nathan walked in completely nude. He blinked twice in disbelief when he caught sight of the cinnamon shekat staring at him.

The resemblance to Jake was utterly unmistakable, more than even a twin should have, and grew even greater when he started to move. First only lifting her upper body from the bed to watch him with conflicted, hungry amber eyes.

"Nathan," her voice was soft, shaky, and also was markedly similar to his partner.

"Jake?" Nathan asked his voice soft and uncertain, but there was a hungry fire that Jake hadn't seen before and the Tiger's scent told a story of intense internal conflict.

"Inside," she nodded, her tail unconsciously lifted over her back in invitation. "Outside ..." she let the words trail off as her attention focused on the hard Tiger cock so tantalizingly close.

"I'm sorry, Jake." Was about all the Tiger was able to choke out. His body was trying to respond to the scent of a female, of Jake in heat, but Nathan's mind was completely distraught. Two real partners, and two horrible disasters with the only thing in common being his own presence. It was fairly clear what the problem was.

"Don't be," she shivered. "Not your doing," she said as firmly as he could between panting breaths. "Fuck my ass, my mouth. Don't give them kittens if we can manage."

Nathan nodded, trying to stay focused despite the chemicals in his blood and the pheromones assaulting his nose. He slowly walked over to the shekat. "Any preference?" He asked roughly, his focus on ignoring what all the chemicals were saying.

"No, just fuck me, please," she shuddered, her body aching to the point she nearly whimpered to have him inside her. Any way he would.

Decision-making was not Nathan's strong suit at that point, so he knelt on the bed where she was kneeling and roughly slid his cock past the furless pucker of Jake's ass. He growled possessively as he took his scruff in his mouth and began pounding him aggressively as if he could work the chemicals out of his system that way.

Despite the roughness of the treatment, and the calling in her blood to have him in the other opening, it was intensely satisfying to have her partner deep inside her again and she made no bones about the pleasure in her voice.

Nathan continued his rough pounding of his partner's ass, managing through the haze to reach one hand up to caress the velvety ears as he moaned and grunted into the shekat's scruff. Then the sensations were too much, and his head went back with a wall-shaking roar as he thrust jerkily depositing his seed deep inside his partner's passageway.

"Oh, yeah," Jake moaned, shivering in the familiar pleasures of her partner's body.

"More?" Nathan asked in a growly voice, as he realized that that hadn't done anything to quench the fires.

"Yes, more," she moaned eagerly, pressing her hips back towards him.

She didn't have to ask twice, as Nathan's cock was still hard and he began thrusting deep and hard into her again. The fire in his veins drove him rough thrusts as he took the shekat's scruff in his jaws in the possessive gesture again.

"Good morning." Trace said pleasantly, as he walked in pushing his usual cart. "You both feeling up to breakfast?"

"Morning, Trace." Nathan rumbled from the bed where he was lying holding Jake close. It bothered him that the first thing that crossed his mind when he saw the white bat, was a threesome to start off the morning.

"Good," Jake let out a real breath of relief. "You're okay."

"Yeah, I'm okay. A good twelve hours of sleep worked wonders." He grinned.

"When they took you away, I thought they might have been to punish or test on you." He murmured. "Breakfast sounds really good, and some more of you."

"No, Mother looked in and decided I needed to get some rest." Trace chuckled. "So she convinced one of the blues that I needed to be removed, before it did something that might upset the test." He chuckled. "She still won't tell me exactly what she said to the blue."

"I'm not sure I want to," Jake snickered, still rather startled by her own voice and shifted a little reluctantly out of Nathan's embrace to sit up. "Breakfast."

"Definitely a good idea." Nathan agreed, focusing on food as Trace handed them their trays, and set out the pastry tray as before. "You've definitely got a talent for this, Trace." He smiled as the mouth-watering smells hit his nose and gave him a brief respite from the scent of his partner in heat, which only did a little to get his mind off of sex.

"Oh, yeah," Jake licked his lips and grinned before dinning into the pancake and compote concoction with relish.

"Any idea how close we are to exiting Trans-Luminal?" Nathan asked softly between bites.

"With the accident, a week and a half, maybe two. We're still not back to full speed yet." Trace said softly.

"Just in time for the heat to be over," Jake said quietly, still rather unbalanced when it came to keeping her breasts out of his way.

"Oh, how long does it last?" Nathan asked curiously. He'd never really paid much attention to such things. Even when covered in classes, those things seemed to go right past him.

"Well, most fems take two weeks off to hide or mate when it's time," she said thoughtfully. "I think my mother's lasted five or six days at the peak, or maybe it's overall. I really don't remember much from then."

"Felsin don't have a heat cycle as far as I know." Nathan said quietly between bites. "At least, not that I remember from sex ed."

"How do you keep from having kits when you don't want them, or have kits when you do?" Jake looked over in confusion, the intellectual stimulation and food momentarily cooling the fires in her body.

"Chemical birth control, and for those who can master it, biofeedback control of reproduction." Nathan explained remembering what little he'd paid attention to. "Genetic engineering allows kits for couples who can't conceive, for one reason or another."

"Oh," Jake nodded. "I don't suppose you've mastered that biofeedback thing?"

"Never really had a chance before I got stranded on Aristal." Nathan said quietly. "Didn't seem like it'd ever apply."

"Then we'll just have to deal with it," she said simply. "Though I'm going to have to teach you oral sex on a female."

Nathan blinked a little surprised, and wondered to himself if that was such a good idea. Having his muzzle that close to the source of the scents that were driving him nuts, just seemed like it was asking for trouble. But if Jake was willing to take the risk, who was he to argue.

"Unless Trace can work it out to have a playful white male around so I don't go completely nuts." He glanced at the Mephit in question. "You were rather cute as a quivering puddle of fur, you know."

"Thank you." Trace blushed brightly. "It's pretty easy to have me around, as long as there isn't another emergency."

"We could always do a white bat sandwich." Nathan suggested playfully, causing the white bat in question to blush a bit more.

"Actually, that was kind of my thought, though it was a Jake sandwich more often." He chuckled softly. "You on in back, Trace in front. It'll take the edge off for both of us."

"You two are going to have me terribly spoiled." Trace smiled at the two felines.

"Might as well," Jake grinned. "Have fun when you can and make the best of every situation."

"Definitely." Nathan agreed, and dropped to computational whisper. "Though I think we're just going to have to stow you in our luggage when we escape." He smirked broadly, causing the white bat to blink in surprise and then laugh deeply.

"Definitely," Jake nodded. "Not letting this pretty thing get away, and his son is just as good."

"Hope you don't mind a three for the price of two." Trace smirked playfully.

"If we can manage two, I think we can handle three." Nathan grinned. "Blessed Felsira, the debriefing is going to take years." He shook his head in amusement.

"All the better to keep us close together," Jake purred and leaned over to nuzzle her partner. "No deployments while they're still asking questions."

"They're hardly going to deploy me, before they decide if I can be trusted." He said quietly, leaning into the nuzzle. "Assuming there aren't any charges pending I have to answer to."

"What would they be angry about?" Jake demanded as a low, protective growl rumbling up from her chest. "You've definitely got proof of where you've been."

"Jake, I wasn't Alliance military." Nathan said very quietly, terribly embarrassed. "I was an Shadow Government commando. It's what I've been since I was five years old. The years I had on Aristal were the first time I'd really been free since I was a kitten." He sighed softly. "I did some terrible things as one of the Kitten Commandos. I don't know if they've linked me to any of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had."

"Oh," was literally the only think the surprised Kat could say, then she nodded slowly. "So we don't go to them," she decided after a few minutes. "The Alliance is big right? I'm not a known race, and you're close enough to breed with me. The bat there is an unknown too. We've got the skill to make a life for ourselves without the government getting involved."

"Jake, I don't want to hide." Nathan said softly. "These things tend to catch up with you sooner or later. Besides, if we really want to make a life we need to be on the up and up as far as ID and things go." He sighed. "Besides, I want to go home."

"A world is a big place to get lost on, Nathan. A galaxy is that much bigger," she leaned close to him. "Unless you're from a very small town, you won't be known."

"There's one other thing Jake." Nathan said quietly. "If we're going to get you back to your real self, we're going to need top flight medical talent. The best medical talent works for the government or the corps, and I trust the government further than I do the corps."

"Okay, partner," she acquiesced reluctantly. "But I'd rather be stuck female than loose you. I will tear that government apart if they take advantage of your defection."

"Jake, I may be worrying more than I should." Nathan said quietly. "The SG drilled it into our heads that we'd never be accepted back into society. Maybe that's true, and maybe its just indoctrination. I'd like to think it was just indoctrination." He said quietly, hugging the shekat close. "So much of my life has been lies and deception, I just want to start over clean. No lies, no lurking secrets. So we can do whatever we want to do, without worrying about a carefully crafted fiction unraveling."

"All right partner," she sighed softly. "I'm standing with you. And you are right, most governments are happy to have defectors, no matter how much damage they did beforehand."

"Thanks, Jake." Nathan said quietly. "I wouldn't want to do it without you." He said kissing the shekat gently on the cheek. "And it will be nice to have you back in the body you started with."

"No kidding," she grumbled. "I will be so happy not to have tits."

"You'd have to learn unarmed combat all over again." Nathan shook his head. "Just to learn how to keep them out of the way."

"Never mind all the nastiness of a heat and bleeding everywhere twice a year," she muttered. "And cramps, cravings, makeup, clothes and I do not even want to think about what they have to do to keep their figure and looks up."

"And don't forget high-heeled shoes for dress occasions." Nathan shook his head. "I'd still like to know what nutcase came up with that idea."

"Oh, I know that one," Jake actually chuckled. "It makes their legs and ass look good."

"I hadn't noticed." Nathan admitted honestly. "But I'm not going to let those bastards get away with doing this to my partner." He growled aggressively. "Even we do end up with kits before things get fixed."

"I can think of worse fates," she murmured quietly and leaned against her mate. "We have been mates for four years, and intend to stay together after all. As long as they're our kits, and not theirs, to raise."

"Be damned if I'm letting them have any more kits to abuse." Nathan growled dangerously. "They've done enough damage."

"That much I agree with," Jake rumbled with a deadly edge on her voice. "No matter what it takes."

"I get out of this room, and I'll remind them what they spent years training me to do." Nathan growled with a dangerous gleam in his eye.

Trace turned a little paler than his natural coloring. "Blowing things up in T-L is probably not a good idea." He said very softly.

"That's the point," Jake rumbled, her ears flat and the anger at the situation flaring high. "No one survives."

"I'm better at my job then that." Nathan shook his head. "There's a reason they want more of me." He grinned dangerously.

Jake shot him a confused look. "What's the point, if not making the ship go boom?"

"The point is to not be on it when it goes boom." Nathan grinned.

"Oh," the Kat cracked a real grin. "Somebody's going to regret getting this assignment."

"I'm kind of sorry about the whites though." Nathan sighed quietly. "They really don't deserve it."

"Don't worry about them." Trace said softly. "They can take care of themselves."

"Ever considered reprogramming the computer?" Jake suddenly snickered. "Turn the security hardware against them."

"Program?" Trace asked curiously.

"The way the computer knows how to do things," Jake blinked in surprise. "You program it to know what it allowed where, and how to tell who they are. Scramble that the right way and we'll have free reign of the ship, while the colored Mephit are hunted by their own security systems."

"How do you do that?" Trace asked curiously, never having heard of such a thing before.

"Let me guess, you're a hardware engineer." Jake shook his head. "Programming is the part of the system that isn't hardware. It's the software that runs things. How the engines know how fast to go, how the sensors know what a pattern means so they can tell the operators what's going on."

"I think the browns do that, or maybe it's the blues." Trace said uncertainly. "I'm sure I don't have access to it."

"Kind of too bad. It would be a hell of a bartering chip with the Alliance." He shrugged. "Hand them a cruiser and crew as part of a defection, and proof of Mephit backing of the SG."

"They don't need anymore proof." Nathan growled. "They've known for twenty years. Politicians, bleah."

"There's quite a public difference between quietly knowing, and having a Mephit Cruiser go into orbit with a SG defector making the statement." Jake murmured. "It's hard to make people forget that one."

"It'd never get that close." Nathan said quietly.

"The Alliance wouldn't even listen to a surrender message?" Jake flicked his ears back. "That is so not likely, Nathan."

"Well, they'd still take it in tow to somewhere secure." Nathan said quietly. "They're not gonna put it in orbit over one of the core worlds."

"Never mind," she grumbled, her longer, fluffier tail flicking in irritation. "It's not like we'd pull it off. We don't have the skills."

"Yeah, stealing a starship is a bit to pull off without a lot of advanced planning." Nathan nodded. "Nice idea though." He smiled and shifted to kiss his partner on the cheek. It was a move Jake turned into to claim a much more intimate, heated one while her hands moved over the dense white fur of the Tiger's chest.

Jake lay awake in his mate's arms, worried beyond even exhaustion's ability to make the female body override it's male mind.

Two weeks. Two weeks and no let up. They did something beyond make me female. Like they did to that Tigress, and Nate. It can't be healthy. For me or the kits I'll have to have. Even if we escape now, it'll be months, if not years, before I'm male again. I can't take it all like this.

I'm sorry Nate, but I have to take my life and our kits into consideration now. We must be close to home territory by now, and we have seven months from the next few days before I'll need a doctor.

No way in hell am I staying conscious for the delivery. No way in hell.

She sighed softly and tried to settled down to wait for her mate to be awake enough to do it.

It had been almost three days since Jake had seen Nathan, and six since he'd made the choice to become pregnant, when Trace came into the cell with a package. He seemed uncertain, and a little confused. "Here Jake, new clothes you're supposed to wear." He explained as he handed the shekat the bundle of soft fabric. "I'm supposed to show you to your new quarters, and explain things."

She simply nodded and made quick work of unwrapping them and dressing, not really paying attention to the contents.

Once Jake was dressed in the loose fitting top and pants, both of which were made of a light cotton-like material, Trace handed her a badge with the shekat's picture on it, and an orange stripe on the top and bottom. "Your ID badge. Keep it in the pocket on the front of your shirt. You need it as a non-Mephit." He said as they left the cell.

"Got it," she nodded, following the white without reservation, more than a little grateful to get out of the space that still smelled of her heat and sex.

"Your new quarters are on deck 7, between the blues and the purples quarters." He explained as they walked, with him easily leading the way past the variety of colors of Mephits present in the hallways.

"With Nathan?" she asked with a fair amount of tension in her voice.

"Of course." Trace nodded. "I guess if I was going to be picky, they're his new quarters, that you're sharing with him."

"Am I restricted there, or do I get to look around a little?" He asked softly.

"Just restricted by your clearance level, which isn't very high." Trace said easily. "I can show you around if you'd like." He offered. "Barring emergency needs, I'm kind of your private white, at least for now."

"That would be great," Jake smiled. "There was a female white the came in right after they changed me, do you know who that was?"

"That would've been Calla." Trace said, after thinking a bit.

"Would you pass on my thanks to her?" she asked quietly. "I'm afraid I was in a less than pleasant mindset right then."

"I will." He smiled. "And your mindset was understandable. No male was meant to go through heat." He said as they got into an elevator with several blues.

"Or what follows," he grumbled softly as it ascended smoothly. "I'm am so not looking forward to morning sickness, cravings or any of the rest." He added as they stepped out and continued down a hall that looked like all the others.

"Well, I'm told that not all females suffer from morning sickness." Trace said, trying to be a little comforting, as they stopped in from of a door. "Just touch your hand to that panel there." He pointed.

Jake nodded and did so. The door opened on what looked to be a medium sized living room, with a dining area and kitchen visible through an archway. The furniture looked comfortable if not particularly imaginative, being done in a very serviceable gray fabric.

"Bedroom and bathroom are through that doorway." Trace pointed to the closed door.

"Not bad, even if it desperately needs some decorating," she commented with a critical eye and began a systematic exploration Nathan would have recognized from when they were apartment hunting.

"Well, just let me know what you need," Trace said helpfully. "I'm pretty good at finding things, or I'll have Ker look. He's got an uncanny knack for finding stuff."

"I will," she nodded as he considered options. "I could do a lot with cloth, if I had a clue how to sew a strait line. Fabric dye could do some wonders too." Jake cocked her head. "Do you know about art?"

"Well, if you really want to know how to sew, I could have my cousin, Tessa, come over and give you lessons." Trace smiled. "Depends, I know what I like as far as art goes, but I don't have much of a clue about it beyond that. Actually, Cara is more of an artist."

"Not really," she chuckled. "I just know a couple concepts that are faster to sew than paint into effect. And that's cool, I just was wondering if there are art supplies on board. A few framed pieces would do wonders, and keep me from going stir-crazy."

"I'm sure there are. I'll ask Cara." He said easily. "Any particular form art you're interested in specifically."

"Colored pencil and marker is my usual," she supplied with a smile of thanks. "And large paper if it's available. There's a lot of wall space, even enough for a life sized piece or two."

"I'll see what's available." He nodded. "Anything else I can find you while I'm looking?"

"Mmm, I don't think so, at least not right away. There are frames and matting, but not until I have a clue how big the pictures are. Though if you spot any water colors, they would be nice too."

"Okay." Trace nodded. "Did you want to look around the ship now, or leave that for later?"

"I think I'll get conformable here first," she said a little absently. "I want to nest, and I don't really feel like arguing with it."

"Okay, I'll go look for the art supplies then." Trace smiled. "If you're hungry I can make lunch when I get back." He offered helpfully.

"I'll probably take you up on that," Jake grinned before the white scooted out the door.

It was a couple hours after dinner when Nathan walked in. Much to Jake's surprise he was wearing a very sharply tailored black uniform. The gold name tag across the left breast pocket read 'SwiftClaw', and the patch on the one sleeve was crossed gold swords over a red star.

"Hi, Jake." He smiled warmly, his eyes roving over the significant increase in color and pattern the Kat had managed, with much more obviously intended from the art supplies and various fabrics and die containers about. "What do you think of the new place?"

"Getting there," she grinned up from where she was sitting, working on a starship design of sorts while directing Trace and a couple others in hanging brightly colored fabric in swaths to frame a faux window.

"You've been feeling artistic." Nathan grinned as he bent down to kiss his mate gently. "I'll be out, once I've changed." He said as he headed into the bedroom.

"And sick, sick, sick of gray," she shot back with a chuckle. "Ah, perfect, guys," she added as her attention went back to the whites. "Staple it in."

A few minutes later, Nathan came out wearing lightweight black sweatpants and a red muscle shirt. "You're developing a definite touch for interior design." He smiled and sat down next to Jake.

"Anything looks good after that sea of gray," he huphed, but leaned against the bigger feline warmly and let a soft sigh out. "It's bad enough what my body's doing to me, I don't need the added depressant of a miserable looking place on top of it."

"Imagination is always in short supply on these ships." He said softly, putting his arm around Jake. "Though there's more than I used to think there was."

"Yeah, there sure is," she smiled at the three whites who were now looking at her for the next project. "If the bedroom cloth is dry, would you guys hang it up, just like you did the walls in here? Then that's it for today."

"Come on, guys." Trace directed the hanging crew into the bedroom to hang the other cloth.

"Then I take it, it's working out having Trace around to help?" Nathan asked softly, nuzzling Jake.

"Yeah, he's great," she smiled and pressed closer. "He knows just where to get everything and who to snag as extra hands."

"That's what I thought." Nathan smiled. "What little I know of what you're going to be going through, suggested that having a good aide might make it a little easier."

"Probably," she smiled softly. "He's good at distracting me, and taking the temperamental outbursts. I was thinking of inviting him to stay here."

"We'll need an extra room for him, but that shouldn't be a problem." Nathan nodded. "It's okay with me, if you want to."

"I kinda do," she said quietly, leaning into the contact with her mate. "You don't care to share our bed anymore?"

"Sometimes, but maybe not every night." Nathan said softly. "Sometimes I want you just to myself."

"You'll get no arguments from me," she smiled up and stretched to wrap her arms around him for a slow, sound kiss.

"Gods, three days away from you is just too long." Nathan rumbled, during a brief break.

"Very, very much too long," Jake agreed and pressed close. "What was going on?"

"Remember what you told me about small surrenders?" Nathan asked very quietly, with muzzle near Jake's ear.

"Yes," she nodded, shifting to turn the near nuzzle into a kiss. "That was your old uniform, isn't it?"

"Not exactly. That's an adult's uniform, not a kitten commando." He said easily, before accepting the kiss with gentle passion.

"A promotion, then?" she murmured as they parted slightly.

"Basically." He said very softly. "The Kitten Commandos are being phased out, mostly because the SG expects to lose Citadel within the next five to ten years."

Jake simply nodded and snuggled close. "So what are your duties now, that you can tell me about, at least."

"Right now, I have a lot of studying to do. New methods, new explosives and new target lists. My particular specialty doesn't have shipboard duties, and we're still a couple weeks in Hyperspace from the nearest secure Mephit planet." He said softly, as he nuzzled Jake gently. "I don't know if they're going to field me for another year or two at any rate. I'm more important to them in other respects."

"Breeding?" He asked hesitantly.

"Basically." He nodded. "And keeping you calm enough to not endanger the kits. They've basically decided that trying to put me with any other shekat, just isn't going to work."

"At least there's that much," she actually relaxed a lot. "We stay together."

"Keeps you calm, and me cooperative." Nathan smiled softly. "Win-win from their perspective."

"A notion I have no interest in dissuading them of." Jake murmured. "Not that it's not basically true."

"Basically." Nathan smiled softly. "So did you look at the bathroom yet? It's got the best bathtub on the ship, I think." He chuckled. "But then Mephits are more inclined to showers normally."

"I glanced, but I was more focused on getting a little color and art up out here and the bedroom than that."

"I'll admit I wasn't paying much mind to the decor." Nathan smiled softly. "I just wanted somewhere other than that cell. It needed a good venting."

"And a couple dozen bleachings," Jake snorted. "So a nice big tub, hu?" she grinned. "Big enough for two?"

"Probably big enough for three if it came to that." Nathan smirked, and nuzzled Jake playfully. "With whirlpool jets available at the press of a button."

"Oh, that sounds good," she purred and nuzzled close. "A nice long soak with you. And the pheromones at a reasonable level."

"All our chemicals at reasonable levels." Nathan rumbled. "Being turned on is one thing, not being able to turn off for weeks, is another."

"I know," she nuzzled him. "I'm sorry it had to work out this way, but at least that's over now." Jake paused. "You still find me desirable, even like this?"

"Jake, I won't lie. It is more difficult this way, but you're still you. And it's what's inside that I love." He said softly. "The outside, I'm learning to desire. I've still got that programming bouncing around, but what it comes down is I can probably learn to desire any form, as long as it's you on the inside." He nuzzled Jake gently. "Did that make any sense, or was I just babbling?"

"Made plenty of sense, partner," she purred softly and nuzzled him. "For what it's worth, I am so looking forward to being a guy again. And I'm getting used to the thought of being a parent."

"Yeah, so am I. Wish my folks were around, in about a dozen different ways, to see it though." He said quietly. "Out of curiosity Jake, do Kats normally have single kits or litters?" Nathan asked as something occurred to him.

"Litters, one to four, though two or three are most common," she nodded slightly. "I was aiming for three."

"Don't be surprised if you get four." Nathan said quietly. "My mother's family had a high incidence of twins and triplets in a race where single births was the norm. And I wouldn't be surprised if they gave you a fertility treatment of some kind."

"Probably. They definitely did the same kind of thing to me that they did to you. It wouldn't end until I conceived." she ducked her head against his chest. "I could have held out longer, but it would have been a lot more dangerous for me and the kits. A heat is only supposed to last a few days."

"Oh, I didn't know that." Nathan said softly. "You're feeling better now, right? Aside from the obvious."

"Yeah," she nodded. "Really weird, but a lot more normal. Especially now that you're back."

"I shouldn't be gone more than eight or ten hours a day from now on." Nathan said very softly. "The last few days were convincing them that I'd gotten my head on straight."

"Can't say I like it, but I'll deal." Jake promised. "Though don't be surprised if the place gets redecorated regularly," she managed a weak grin.

"I can think of far worse hobbies than regular redecorating." Nathan smiled softly. "It won't be eight or ten hours straight. I do get a break for lunch, so we can have lunch together."

"Good," she nuzzled him with a soft breath of relief. "I miss my Tiger's cooking."

"That's good to hear." Nathan smiled softly. "I was beginning to think Trace had replaced me as your favorite cook." He teased lightly.

"He's a good cook, but he's not as good as you," she chuckled and kissed him firmly. "He hasn't replaced you as my favorite bedmate either."

"I hadn't been worrying about that one." Nathan smiled, as their lips parted. "I didn't think I'd get thrown over for the first cute bat to come along." He chuckled playfully.

"He's a lot of fun, and he's been a great help, but no one else is my partner," she purred. "Now, about that water," she nuzzled him to move.

Nathan swiftly stood, and in a fairly fluid motion shifted to warform and scooped Jake up casually. "How about I carry you there?" Nathan rumbled playfully, which sounded a bit odd in the warforms powerfully deep voice.

"Oh, my hero," Jake grinned playfully teasing and serious all at the same time as she snuggled close to the broad black chest.

Jake was abruptly woken by a sudden rattling of the ship that tossed his against both his lovers, one on each side in the large bed. Then a series of stomach wrenching jerks somewhat akin to riding a bicycle down a flight of stairs shook her completely out of bed and dressed in a heartbeat. Protector training and the general speed of a lifetime of moving fast making her ready to do anything. Only then did she realize that her partner was actually moving slower than she was, and Trace was just looking bewildered as he shook the sleep from his eyes.

"What's happening?" He demanded of the two of them in general as he pressed clothes to each of them.

"Hyperspace field collapse, Trace?" Nathan asked as he rolled out of bed and got dressed. He through what looked like an emergency field kit over his shoulder, and grabbed his blaster.

"Yes, it is." The white bat said as he got dressed, moments before his two sons raced in to be quickly checked over by Jake.

"Jake, there's a second pack under the bed. Grab it, we're getting out of here." Nathan said in voice of complete confidence.

The cinnamon shekat nodded and grabbed it, then snagged her sketchbook on the way out as well.

"Stay behind me." Nathan said as he led the way through the ship moving confidently past the busy Mephits. "Stop." He said holding up his hand. "Everybody down." He said, hitting the deck and pulling an unresisting Jake down with him, just before an explosion rocked the ship and smoke began to fill the corridor.

"You are good at this," she murmured in a bit of awe.

"Ten year veteran, a genetic heritage second to none, and two weeks of intense training to bring me up to date." Nathan grinned. "I may not want to be in Black Ops, but I am Ebon SwiftClaw's son." He said, his grinned broadened predatorily. "Let's move, shuttle's are this way." He said, helping Jake to her feet as the whites likewise got up. Once everyone was up Nathan took lead again without question by anyone as they moved in utter silence among the chaos of a badly rattled spaceship.

"Halt." He said as the reached the entrance to the hangar bay. The Tiger dove swiftly into the hangar bay, coming up with his blaster blazing as he took down the few guards remaining in the bay swiftly. "That one." He pointed, indicating one shuttle as he backed toward it, maintaining watch one the various approaches as the other four make short work of the distance.

Trace quickly opened the shuttle, and his two sons quickly boarded. "The right chair is the co-pilot seat." Trace told Jake as they boarded, followed by Nathan, who swiftly slid into the pilots seat as his partner took the other. As he powered the sleek craft up, there was an explosion from the flight operations deck that overlooked the shuttle bay and then the flight bay door began opening.

"Where are we headed?" Jake asked in an unusual reversal of positions as she quickly familiarized herself with the controls. In the back of her mind, she found it interesting how easily she picked it up.

"The Sardor Corridor." Nathan said as he brought the shuttle up on thrusters, and left the bay at a speed well above what was normally permitted. "It's the closest Alliance starbase." He said as they wheeled over the ship and shot away from it, as it rolled to one side with flames becoming visible. A large number of small pods could be seen streaking away in a somewhat unified swarm.

"I rather hope those are whites," Jake said quietly, more than a little disturbed by the level of death he was witnessing. Not even the worst of the weapons of mass destruction back home killed had so many.

"They are." Trace said simply. "The first explosion released the locks on the escape pods. And whites know those pods and their locations better than anyone."

"I had to make sure they got away." Nathan said quietly, as he concentrated on flying. It had been a long time since he'd been in deep space.

"Good," Jake smiled and relaxed into the co-pilot's station, gradually easing the tention about of work Nathan had to do.

"The others were a threat to you and our kits." Nathan said quietly. "But the whites had never done anything to harm us. Quite the contrary. I can't kill someone who doesn't threaten my family or friends." Nathan said softly.

Jake nodded, one hand unconsciously drifting to her flat belly. "Yes, our family." she said softly. "Six and a half months and we really will have one."

"And then we can get you back to being male." Nathan smiled softly, and then something hit him. "The kits are due somewhere around Mother's birthday." He said quietly.

"Nice coincidence," Jake smiled. "Assuming you're translating the calendars correctly. It's seven months on Aristal. I have no idea what it is out here."

"I think I'm doing the conversion correctly." Nathan said, not entirely sure. "Of course, the years aren't the same length."

"I doubt anything is," Jake smiled slightly. "I know the days weren't on that ship, though it wasn't too much off. I think I heard you only have seven days to a week?"

"Yeah, took me months to get used to the idea of eight day weeks. The Mephit day is off a bit from the Alliance day, and closer to one on Aristal."

"How many weeks in a month?" Jake asked curiously, trying to work out even a basic concept of the calendar he was about to live on.

"Depends." Nathan said, most of his attention on the engines as he built up speed to cross the threshold into hyperspace. "There's three calendars I'm familiar with. The Mephit Imperial Calendar, the Galactic Alliance Calendar, and the calendar from my home world of Felsinor. Seven days is how many days in a Felsinor week."

"Which one am I likely to have to explain timing to a doctor in?" Jake asked quietly.

"I'm hoping Felsinor." Nathan said quietly. "Seven days to a week, five weeks to a month, fourteen months to a year."

"About ... ten months from now, give or take a couple weeks." Jake said after a bit of mental calculation.

"Time enough for us to get past the paperwork and get settled in." Nathan nodded. "All of us." He smiled over his should at the Mephits, who were looking a bit apprehensive. "Don't worry guys, things will work out."

"Speaking of which, are you going to go as a bat slave race, or explain white Mephits?" Jake asked, looking back at them.

"I think the slave race is the closest to the truth." Trace said quietly. "There's little in common between us any longer."

"I wouldn't be one to argue that," she smiled softly at the threesome.

"You guys should be okay, I recall hearing that the Alliance policy on refugees in pretty good." Nathan said simply. "At least I think I heard that somewhere." Then he looked down at his console, and hit several buttons. "Oh, shit." He muttered. "Jake, could you see if you can get this stupid shuttle to disarm its weapons. I don't want to fly into range of Alliance starbase with the weapons hot."

"No kidding," she nodded, her mind and body keying up instantly as she focused on the controls and her task.

Nathan kept the shuttle in normal space as Jake worked. The shuttle's primitive logic system had decided that the ship was in disputed territory with a support ship nearby, therefore the weapons should be active. Turning the weapons off reliably resulted in the computer turning them back on. To make matters worse, there was an auto-target and fire system that was also active.

Jake flattened her ears about five minutes and three attempts into it.

"How much do you need the automation?" she rumbled, glancing at his mate.

"To fly, I don't. But I'll need the astronavigation computer on-line to go into hyperspace. I don't know those computations well enough to do them in my head."

"Let's see if I can leave that on without the rest," he grumbled. "Suggestion would be welcome if you have them, Trace."

Trace thought about it a minute. "Well, you could shut everything down, take out the third and fourth circuit shields on the main board and then throw the reactor to full power." He suggested. "The feedback should thoroughly flash the weapons computer."

"And leave the others live?" Jake's gaze shifted between Trace for confirmation and Nathan for assurance it was that important.

"That's the theory." Trace nodded. "It's not exactly an approved procedure."

"I think I've heard of that vaguely." Nathan said. "Emergency reboot, I think it was called."

"Then let's go," she nodded and entered the commands to set it up.

"Right." Nathan said, as he brought the shuttle to a full stop and killed the engines while Jake started to disassemble the control panel. "Engines now idle. Drift is currently point two meters per second coreward."

Trace began quickly shutting down the reactor, without actually killing the fusion reaction in that reactor. As lights, heat and gravity faded away he tossed a work light to Nathan who caught it easily, and held it to provide Jake with light as his partner worked on locating the right circuits.

"Okay, power up and hope for the best," the Kat called back.

Trace nodded, but before he did so he picked up a red cylinder and pushed it through the air to Jake, taking advantage of the microgravity. "Fire extinguisher." He explained, waiting for the lean shekat to catch it. "Okay, power coming back on now." He said as the gravity, lights and heat returned right before the console Jake had been tinkering with exploded in sparks and small flames to be doused just as quickly.

"How let's see if we're live." she took a breath and began to reassemble the consol. The weapons computer was well beyond 'flashed', it was 'flash-fried', and would require replaced, or at the very least rewired. There'd been a little spillover into the autopilot rendering it inoperative, but Nathan had said he could handle that. Astronavigation seemed operable, as did the sensors, shields and life support.

"Not too bad," she nodded and settled back into the co-pilot's seat. "Let's get going."

Nathan nodded. "You want to try setting the hyperspace course, or would you rather not learn that on the fly?" He offered, since astronavigation was normally the gunner-co-pilot's responsibility.

"I'm really not in the mood for anything more new than is really required." Jake replied in a slightly defeated murmur.

"Are you okay, Jake?" Nathan asked softly, noting the unusual mood.

"I will be," she nodded, trying to reassure. "It's just sinking in that I'll never see Haven or another Kat again."

"Maybe not never, Jake." Nathan said quietly. "In time the Alliance will figure out how the Trans-Luminal Drive works, then it's only a three or four week trip." He said softly. "I kind of miss it too. It was my first real taste of freedom."

"I guess so," she nodded, trying to shove the entire thing into the back of his mind for now. "The past few weeks haven't put me in the best mindset to think of positives."

"That makes two of us, partner." Nathan said, leaning over to nuzzle his mate before turning his attention to setting the hyperspace coordinates. "I swore I'd never wear that uniform again." He said softly.

"You didn't really," she smiled and put a gentle hand on the Tiger's leg. "Wearing it requires accepting it. Otherwise it's just clothes."

"I know." Nathan sighed. "But the way I had to act and think to fool them. Gods, I think I want to find a hot tub and soak for a week."

"I have no doubt," she leaned over to nuzzle him gently. "Shouldn't be too hard to arrange."

"No, I don't think it will be." Nathan smiled. "Most of the Alliance races like whirlpool tubs, except for the Avar who prefer these odd spritzy showers."

"Avar ... a bird-race?" Jake guessed.

"Yes, descended from raptors; hawks and eagles mostly." He nodded, pausing to focus as they powered up for the burst into hyperspace again.

"Is it like the movies, with races of just about every form?"

"Not quite that chaotic." Nathan said as he watched the power-levels to make sure they balanced properly before he pushed the ship into hyperspace. "Maybe a dozen races you'll see regularly, with perhaps a half dozen being most of them."

"Oh," she nodded, a little surprised. "I guess I figured there'd be more, with three native to Aristal."

"Well, my count could be off." Nathan smiled. "I was only fifteen when I left Alliance space, and alien species weren't a major interest of mine."

"I guess we'll find out soon enough." Jake said softly and settled back in her chair to watch the controls and the show hyperspace gave outside.

Unusual Partners: Foreign Tiger 3: Mephit Prisoners

NC 17 for M/M, M/F sex
Het Level is LowHet Smut Level is Very Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is Low
Herm Level is None

161 KB, Story is Complete, Series is in Progress
Written February 2, 2003 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance, Haven

Primary Races: Felsin, Kat, Mephit

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Femslash (F/F). All Original Characters, Angst, Crossover, Gender-shifting, General Unpleasantness, Mpreg, Rape (F on M), Relationship (Cross Species), Torture, Torture (Sexual), Violence (Sexual)

Pairings: Jake Clawson/Nathan SwiftClaw, Jake Clawson/Trace

Blurb: Now in the hands of the Mephit, Jake and Nathan go face to face with a trial that will make or break their relationship, and their minds.

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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