FICTIONAL LIFE

 

 

ARION

©2022 by Ted R. Blasingame

 

Chapter Twenty-One - Offspring

 

Dr. Kazama loped across the tent city on all fours. When he had nothing in his hands, the river otter enjoyed traveling this way. Although his furman vest had pockets that could hold his tablet, his techwatch could mimic many of its functions, albeit on smaller screens, and with it strapped to his wrist, he was unencumbered when he walked in this manner.

To many of the four-footed anthro-humans, the otter amused them with his slinky lope, but he had no issues getting around in this manner. The military-style dog tags clinked together as he walked, but he had gotten used to the sound in recent weeks and barely ever noticed them.

When he entered the galley tent, it was to find a cup of coffee, but when he saw Dr. Kate helping Rocky preparing for the lunch meal, his purpose changed. He got up onto his feet so he could see above the folding tables and approached her.

“Hello, Kate,” he said, “may I have a few minutes of your time?”

The African lioness looked up at him from the freshly-washed utensils she was separating into containers. “We’ll have to talk while I am working,” she muttered. “My taskmaster is complaining about the lack of help today and I haven’t had time to grab anyone else for temporary reassignment.”

“I can talk while you work,” said the physician, “but I will need your attention.”

“That serious?” she said with hesitation in what she was doing.

“Not serious as an emergency, but I do have information you have been waiting on.”

“Just a moment. Wait right here.”

The deputy mayor left the tent and Chef Rocky looked up from his work just as her leonine tail disappeared. “Now where’s she going?” the opossum complained.

Dr. Kazama moved to the coffee pot. “She went to get you some extra help.”

“It’s about time!”

The African lioness was gone only a few minutes before she returned. In the meantime, the river otter had acquired a cup of coffee and waited for her at a nearby table.  Following the lioness was a male hyena and a female dingo. She gave them a few directions and the pair of them assumed the duties she had been engaged in earlier.

Dr. Kate wiped the ground dust from her hand paws and then took a seat opposite of the doctor. “Okay, Satoru, what’s on your mind?” she asked.

“You know that I have been researching our anthroporphism for weeks.” Kate nodded, but said nothing. “I have studied samples that I’d taken from everyone upon decantation, but I’ve also randomly selected a number of individuals for further examination. One of the areas of study has been to see how our transformations have affected our ability for reproduction. With our explicit DNA strands mixed up with differently coded information, I was unsure if any of us would be able to have children.”

“I am guessing you have come to give me your results.”

“That’s right, Kate. Although I have not tested everybody, it appears that each person that I have is still capable of producing viable eggs and spermatozoa.”

“We can have children?”

“Eh, yes and no.  Due to how specific each person’s DNA is now, only a human crossed with the same other species might be able to have children. For example, Emma Bonavita is a brown bear and her husband Angelo is a lynx. Although they are both still half-human, it’s the other DNA elements that would prevent them from ever having more children.  However, if Emma mated with Ethan Edwards, another human/brown bear mix, the potential of them having children together would be more successful, although still not guaranteed.”

Kate made a face. “I can’t imagine Emma and Ethan getting together – for any reason, not to mention sex.”

Kazama nodded. “My personal thoughts exactly, although even if Angelo was the same species as his wife, I doubt any children would result from that match anyway.”

Kate blinked. “Why not? I thought you just said that the same match had the probability of having children.”

The otter smiled. “That was personal knowledge speaking out of turn.  Emma and Angelo have separated.”

“Oh really? I hadn’t heard that, but I can’t say I am surprised. They’ve been fighting like cats and … er, bears since they were decanted.”

“Personal distastes aside,” Kazama continued, “dissimilar species mixes can try to breed all they want to, but it is rather impossible that any of them would have offspring together.  Nature is now the ultimate contraceptive, because very few of our personnel have turned out to be of the same mix.”

Kate was silent for a moment, but then lowered her voice to ask a question. “What about two felines that were similar, but not exactly the same? Could they have children… or kittens?” She kept her eyes focused off into the distance without looking at the doctor.

“I think the chances are extremely rare, unless they are the same feline species,” the physician answered. “I’m sure an African lioness and a cougar could have plenty of sex together and still not produce any kittens.”

Kate looked up sharply and saw the otter’s look of amusement. “How… how did you..?”

Kazama chirped in laughter. “Kathleen, the tent you and Kenneth share is next to mine. Although my ears may be smaller than they used to be, my hearing is more sensitive. While not actually trying to eavesdrop, I’ve heard conversations you two have had, in addition to other… endeavors.”

The lioness swallowed with difficulty. “I… see,” she murmured. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t worry about it, Kate. You aren’t the only two among our numbers to experiment with your new bodies.” The otter leaned forward, and in a low, conspiratorial tone of his own, confided to her, “Jessica Heald and I have done some experimentation of our own, although we’ve tried to be more discreet due to the sensitive ears and noses that everyone else now has.”

A sly grin crossed Kate’s features. “You and your nurse Jessica?”

“Yes, that cute little red panda is a right farmer’s daughter, if you get my meaning.”

“She is a farmer’s daughter, and a farmer herself.”

“You didn’t get my meaning, then.”

“Innocent and willing to play?”

“Not so innocent, but yes, willing to go for a roll in the hay. She likes to dress the part, too. She had Arion make her a pair of Daisy Duke denim shorts with a strap and cutout for her tail, and a gingham shirt that she can tie together beneath her bosom. Her chest isn’t that large after her transformation, but she still has enough to make it look effective.”

The deputy mayor pantomimed fanning herself with a hand and sat back in her chair.  “Well, if two similar species like mine and Ken’s are dissimilar enough to prevent pregnancy, it’s unlikely any of us are going to be reproducing. Earth’s attempt to preserve the race by starting a colony on another world seems to have failed before it’s begun. If we can’t produce children, our colony will die out as we all get older.”

“Oh, there will be a few, like the Barringers,” Kazama countered. “They’re already married and just happen to be of the same species. I would be surprised if they didn’t announce a litter of bunnies before we’ve been here a year.”

“Maybe, but unless there were other rabbit couples that could produce their own bunnies, we’ll have inbreeding in the Barringer herd within a generation, and those will eventually die out because of inherent defects. This would mean the same thing even if Emma and Ethan did get together and have little bear cubs. With no genetic diversity, the family line would eventually die out, but not before birth defects began to affect them all.”

“You are forgetting Arion-2,” said the otter. “If the same anthropomorphic changes hit them as it did us, we’ll have the potential for a greater number of mixed and matched species within their population of fifteen hundred.”

“I admit I did forget the other ship, but still… in order to survive beyond a generation or two with just a few babies, we would have to implement an ordinance that like-species must breed together. This would cause great hardships for those who planned to have families together on this new world, and would tear apart established couples — as it’s already doing with the Bonavitas. I can’t imagine the amount of animosity this is going to cause everyone.”

“All true,” said the physician. “Discuss this with Ken and then come back to me when you’ve made your decision.”

“Decision? Which one?”

Dr. Kazama looked her in the eye with a serious expression that almost looked comical on his river otter face. “Now that you know what you know, do we inform our people that in addition to the permanent changes our bodies have gone through, that very few of us will ever have children again — or do we let them have their experimentation and let nature tell them on its own?  Similar species might get together on their own once we have greater numbers and more matches when the other ship arrives, without having to mandate that they must have sex together.”

Kate sighed. “As Furs, we are not sterile, but for all practical purposes, the result is the same.” She got to her feet and cast a glance back toward the kitchen where they could hear Rocky griping about something; his moods swings had been more dour lately following his near-death experience.  “Thank you, Satoru. Personally, I would prefer to keep this from the general public, but that might not be fair to them.  I will discuss it with Ken tonight, but now I need to get back to work.”

 

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