SUNSET OF FURMANKIND
— by Ted R. Blasingame
Christmas was not a holiday observed by all residents of Space Station Sebra, but to those who did, it was a quiet time unlike any others they had experienced in the past. The only commercial stores on the station were located in the Entertainment wing of the E-Gee section that was currently unattainable by the Adirondack Furs, so gift-giving was not an option for most of them.
There were some, however, who were a little more creative. Jenni, Cheryl and Jasmine had taken it upon themselves to go to each male Fur, wrap their arms warmly around them, and present each surprised recipient with a long, deep kiss. The three women promised nothing more than a Christmas kiss, although Travis tried to take advantage of the situation when it became his turn. None of the women had any attraction to the German Shepherd furman, but they had all agreed ahead of time to include him in the festivities, as leaving him out would only generate more tension. The only exception to this plan was Carl, who was happily married to his wife Ellie. For him, they gave a tender peck on the cheek, all within sight of his chosen lifemate and with her prior blessing.
When the three women converged upon Jon Sunset, they had carefully timed it when Kristen would be away to her daily visit to the hydroponics greenhouse. They were all aware that Jon and Kristen were not mates, but it was also common knowledge that the botanist usually appeared a little jealous whenever Jon spent any length of time in the presence of other women.
Since it was currently a free period without any instructive classes, they found Jon relaxing in his sleeping capsule. Although he had gotten used to the weightless environment, he was a native son of gravity, so to provide himself a little stability he sat with his back against one wall of his room and his feet up against an opposite panel across the width of the capsule. This had the effect of wedging himself in place with his knees up in front of him, providing an ideal place to set his PBJ for reading; he only had to hold it in place with a finger.
The door to his capsule was open, so when the three women crowded up together at its end, he glanced over at them. Each wore a mischievous smile, so he could not help smiling back in return.
“Hello, ladies,” he said, bookmarking his place in the document he had been reading. He closed the clamshell case of the device and let it float beside him. “What can I do for you?”
Cheryl crooked a finger at him. “Come out here, please,” she replied with a grin. Jon looked at her, then at her companions, wondering what was going on. He put his PBJ into a wall drawer and then slowly pulled himself to the end of his capsule. Cheryl and the others moved out of the way to allow him to exit, but he did not come out to them. Jon remained just inside the opening, looking out at them warily.
“Okay,” he said, “you three are up to something.”
Jenni and Jasmine reached out together and took each of his arms in their hands, bracing their feet upon the wall, and then pulled him out of the safety of his capsule. Curious as the proverbial cat, Jon gave them no resistance and allowed himself to be taken from his room. With no perspective of up or down in the absence of gravity, the women simply surrounded him in the position he'd come out in to the open. They moved in close to make sure he had no avenue of escape, but Jon had no plans to run away.
Cheryl slipped her arms up around his neck and then pulled her body up firmly against his, hooking a foot around his ankle. They began a slow pirouette and the Border Collie looked deep into his eyes. “Merry Christmas…” she whispered.
Kissing with lips that were no longer quite human felt different to Jon, but no less pleasurable. Cheryl leaned into him for a long moment and although Jon had not been interested in a relationship, he had to admit to himself that he missed such closeness. When the canine woman finally pulled away, they were both nearly breathless. Cheryl gave him an impish smile and then disentangled herself from him.
They had barely separated when Jasmine slid into Cheryl's place, wrapping her arms around the large man's neck. “Merry Christmas…” she whispered, licking her lips briefly before leaning into him. The vixen's long kiss surprised him just as much as the canine's, and even though her velvety lips felt different, he closed his eyes, put his arms around her and enjoyed the moment.
Jon lost track of time. So did Jasmine, apparently. Cheryl and Jenni exchanged amused looks and then playfully pulled the kissing couple apart. Jasmine blinked in rapid succession and released the mountain lion reluctantly. Jon swallowed with difficulty and then licked his lips with an expectant look at Jenni.
The spotted leopard giggled at his expression and then languidly wrapped her arms around his neck as she molded her body up against his. She looked at him with half-lidded eyes and then moved in for her turn. “Merry Christmas, Jon…” she whispered. Feline lips provided yet another sensation to enjoy, and Jon found that he took pleasure in them very much. Jenni kissed him long and hard, and after some time Jon felt her tail wrap around his leg.
Her companions were about to pull her away when she released him on her own. She gave him a bright-eyed smile and then pushed back in the air to float between her friends. Jon swallowed and then looked from one to another with a confused, yet glazed expression.
“Wow…” he said after a moment. “Merry Christmas, ladies!”
Cheryl, Jasmine and Jenni then gave him a wink in choreographed unison. He was the last of the Adirondack males, so they each blew him an additional kiss and then turned to float away toward the door.
“Good night,” Cheryl sing-songed over her shoulder to him.
The mountain lion clung to the opening of his capsule for a long moment, watching them go. It was not until they disappeared through the open pressure door that he finally turned back toward his quarters, a silly smirk across his features.
However, before he had a chance to pull himself inside, he heard someone call his name out low. Jon turned around in midair and looked back out into the room. There was no one by the door, but movement caught his eye from above. It was Kristen.
He had difficulty reading the look in her eyes as she pulled herself down the carpeted wall toward him with just the tips of her claws, but he nodded to her with what he hoped was an innocent expression.
“Hi, Kris,” he said to her.
“Hello, Jon,” she replied, settling in front of him. She reached out to touch him, but her fingers hesitated before actually making contact. “May I ask you a personal question?”
“Uh, sure,” he answered, suddenly guarded.
“What was that all about with the girls just now?”
Jon swallowed. “Uhm, they were spreading Christmas cheer,” he responded slowly. “You saw them?”
Kristen gestured above them, her eyes locked upon his. “I was up there, watching you. I came in right after they did and saw them gathered at your room.”
The male feline swished his tail behind him, evidence of his sudden agitation. He believed he knew how she felt about him and was suddenly wary against her jealousy.
“They called me out and then each of them wished me a Merry Christmas with a kiss,” he admitted in a quiet voice. “Nothing more.”
“Did you like it?”
Jon felt like he was under interrogation and laid his years back. “I did,” he answered straightforward. He expected an explosion of anger or some remark to cut him down, but instead she surprised him.
The botanist reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck just as the others had done. “Merry Christmas, Jon…” she whispered, and then she pulled herself up close and boldly kissed him. Still dazed from his earlier encounters, Jon gave in and wrapped his arms around her, returning the kiss; as with each of the others, her feline lips felt different from theirs, but he found that he enjoyed them just the same.
Then, almost reluctantly, Kristen pulled away from him. Her cheeks felt warm beneath her fur, and she knew that if the skin of her face had not been covered she would be blushing bright red. She could not bring herself to meet his eyes, so she turned away and started toward her own capsule.
Jon caught her wrist lightly with his fingers, stopping her with a gentle touch. “Merry Christmas, Kris,” he whispered back to her.
She looked up at him and he gifted her with a wink and a smile. When she grinned in response, he released her hand and then pulled himself up into his capsule. He closed the shade behind him, and then Kristen felt a shudder go through her.
There were no promises of anything more than a holiday kiss, but it was the first time in a while that he had given her any kind of acknowledgment beyond indifference. Even if he treated her no differently afterward than he had in the past, she knew she would remember this moment.
For Jon, his reaction was different. He pulled himself up to the far end of his capsule, turned sideways and put his feet and back upon opposite walls to secure his place once again. He closed his eyes, pressed his chin down upon his chest and then rested his arms across his knees.
His mind and emotions were in conflict. He had sworn to himself that he would never feel affection for a Fur, yet he had just enjoyed kissing four of them. Although still a long way from full transformation, their appearances simultaneously repulsed and enthralled him. He could not enjoy this – simply could not enjoy it out of principle alone, but for the moments when they had all kissed him, he had enjoyed it.
Jon had gotten so used to seeing his associates as Furs a little at a time on a daily basis that there were moments that he forgot he was supposed to hate what they were becoming.
“You know, you are going to be awfully lonely for the rest of your life,” Dante had once told him. “If what you say is true, you don't have a choice. You are going to become a Fur, and then you will be shipped from the Earth. No matter where you go from now on, your only companions will be other Furs. If you maintain your hatred of them even while you're surrounded by them, no one is going to have anything to do with you. Although feline, you will be the equivalent of a lone wolf. Lone wolves don't have a high survival rate!”
Eyes still closed, Jon nodded to himself. Dante was right, but old habits and old hatreds die hard. Did he hate Kristen? No. Did he hate Jenni, Jasmine or Cheryl? No, he did not. Did he hate what they were becoming? Yes, that was still there, but somehow it was easier to coexist with them than he had originally believed. Perhaps it would have been different if he had just been plunked down in the middle of a group of fully formed Furs, but the slow transformation was easing him into the life of furmankind.
Jon chuckled, suddenly remembering an old analogy. Toss a frog into a boiling pot of water and it would jump out immediately, but put it into a pot of cool water and slowly turn up the temperature, the frog would get used to the water and eventually boil to death. He still felt he would eventually boil to death, especially if the boiling was the equivalent of the painful alterations to his body, but over time he knew he would be getting used to the idea and his final demise would come when he least expected it.
Was he upset that four furry women had kissed him tonight? No… he smiled to himself. He had most definitely enjoyed it. Anthro-human lips were not necessarily designed for kissing, but it could still be done and found pleasurable.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
Twenty minutes later, Jon floated into the shower room, towel clutched in one hand and shower kit in the other. He was surprised to see that each of the pod doors was marked as Occupied. A large black bear floated near a wall, awaiting his turn for one.
When Whelan Nolan turned and saw him, Jon knew immediately that something was up. The ursine Fur was smiling.
“Hi, Jon,” he said with a nod.
“Whelan,” Jon responded with a raised eyebrow. “What's going on in here?” He gestured toward the showers. “They're all full?”
“Lots of cold showers, I suspect,” replied the bear with a smirk. Jon was not used to seeing this guy looking amused and it was almost unnerving.
“Maybe they haven't gotten to you yet,” Whelan explained, “but three of the women have been going around giving all the guys hot Christmas kisses!”
“Oh really?” Jon replied with a grin, playing innocent.
“Yeah,” said the younger male in a low voice, “I've never had anyone kiss me like that before, smooshing their bodies up against me like they did. Not even my ex-girlfriend!” Jon was afraid that mention of Whelan's girlfriend would dampen the bear's mood, but the guy simply kept grinning foolishly. “Best present I ever got!”
It was only then that Jon realized how Whelan was holding his towel and shower kit in front of him. Cold shower, indeed.
He gestured toward the occupied pods. “I think I'll come back for my shower later,” he told his companion. “Enjoy your Christmas present.”
Whalen's eyes widened at the implications of his statement, but Jon only grinned back at him and pushed off for the door.
“You'll be in here too when you've had your turn!” the bear called after him.
Just then the door to one of the pods opened. Whelan looked at it expectantly and kept to the side when Dr. Aristotle exited the pod in a light blue cotton robe. The doctor gave him a courteous nod and then pushed himself through the air toward the door. The man did not look especially joyful, and Whelan secretly thought that the Canis Wing's physician could seriously benefit from the female trio's Christmas cheer if they would only share it beyond just the Furs.
Whelan entered the shower, and just as the panel closed behind him and locked, another door opened. Travis floated out of his pod grooming his fur with a wide brush, a smug expression upon his face. Although he was not really liked among the women of the Adirondack Furs, he had not been left out of their special gift. The females figured that he could be forgiven for the sake of Christmas, although they didn't allow him to take further liberties of the situation. He was not aware that they had given a similar gift to the other guys in the group, and their attention had unknowingly added fuel to his already flaming ego.
He headed for the doorway to return to his capsule to drop off his towel and shower kit before supper and passed a mixed couple on the way in. Jenni was pulling Dante along the corridor, a wide grin on her face and a look of curiosity on his.
Travis and Jenni exchanged a brief look, but then the German Shepherd felt a lump in his throat. Where was she going with that feline idiot? He clung to the door frame as they continued inside, secretly daring the woman to kiss her companion in the same way she had kissed him.
Jenni looked around and then spied the shower pod that Travis had just exited. It was the only one not in use, so she opened the door. Rather than leave her housemate outside, she pulled Dante into the pod with her. Travis growled low in his throat when the door locked behind them and the indicator built into the door changed to read Occupied.
The canine furman ground his teeth together and moved forward, going directly to the shower they had entered. He turned his head and put an ear up to the panel. He heard giggling and low voices, but he could not make out what was being said. He listened for several moments in an attempt to discern what was going on in there, but when the shower system started up, he pushed away from the door, muttering beneath his breath as he angrily shoved his brush into the shower kit.
The expression on his face was dark. He felt betrayed. Had Jenni kissed him earlier only to make fun of him? What of Cheryl and Jasmine? They had all seemed willing enough when they had approached him.
Of course, he had tried to make the best of the situation and managed to grope each of them while they were kissing him, but while they had kept him from doing more, he was neither berated nor slapped for it.
Travis was confused by it all, thinking they had sought him out because they were finally warming up to him. It seemed that ever since he had arrived at the Institute none of the women wanted to have anything to do with him. He had tried to be charming, even using a fake accent at first meetings to lull them in to a sense of familiarity with him, but nothing seemed to work. He had never had a problem getting dates back home, so perhaps it had something to do with the mindset of someone leaving their humanity behind to become a Fur.
Whatever it was, it did not set well with him and this latest incident infuriated him. If he had been on Earth under full gravity he would have stomped down the corridor in frustration, but zero gravity had a way of negating that kind of tantrum. Instead, he could only pull himself along the grip rails with a deep scowl.
He had lost his appetite so he decided to go back to his quarters and watch a vid on the monitor in his capsule. He needed to put away his towel and shower kit anyway.
When Travis floated into the common room, he saw several small groups of Furs gathered together here and there, all in a seemingly in good cheer, no doubt due to the holiday atmosphere. He pushed off from the door to give himself enough momentum to cross the large chamber, but when he noticed Sunset watching him from a spot near the wall he flipped his middle finger toward the large feline.
Jon raised an eyebrow, but merely laughed it off with an offhand remark to his companions. This reaction only made Travis hotter and he gave him the middle fingers of both hands in response.
“There goes the dog-faced boy, the star attraction of the Sebra Circus!” Sunset called out in a voice louder than necessary. His companions, the ursine cousins Aaron and Gerard, both laughed aloud at the remark, but the younger Kevin with them looked aghast that his friend would say such a thing where Travis could hear him.
The comment surprised Travis as well. For all the run-ins that he and Sunset had had with one another, this was the first time the other man had taunted him outright. The canine furman growled low in his throat, but he could do nothing until he crossed the room and reached another wall to stop his momentum.
“That face of yours ain't too pretty either,” Travis called back. “You look like you've run head-on into a wall covered in cat fur!”
Jon laughed. He was feeling too good today to let the canine idiot get him with a comeback as lame as that one. “Hollywood could lay off all their makeup artists,” he returned. “We could both scare babies right now, but they could hire you for the latest werewolf vid as someone stuck in mid-transformation to remain ugly the rest of his life!”
Travis reached the far wall and angrily pushed off with both legs toward Sunset. He had always been proud of his looks and Jon had touched upon a sore nerve. It was true that he was becoming a German Shepherd, but his face was only partially altered and he'd had a tough time dealing with his own reflection on a daily basis.
As Jon watched the canine hurl himself toward him, Aaron, Kevin and Gerard backed away using the grip rails to give him room. The look on Travis' face told the clear story that Jon might have gone a step too far.
Jon remained where he was, still grinning but preparing himself for whatever Travis might be planning. When the canine reached him, Travis swung a fist at his jaw, but Jon only had to move a little to avoid the contact. He turned and began a spin that turned him around just as the arm passed by harmlessly.
“You sonofa—oof!” Travis spat as he bounced off the carpeted side of the room. Jon braced one foot against the grip rail and using just a couple of fingers, upended the other man so that he spun lazily up toward a section of the spherical chamber where there were no others.
Travis sputtered indignantly and clutched at the carpeted wall when it came within reach during his tumble, but there was nothing for him to grab. Jon knew there was no real up or down in this place, so in his mind he reoriented the room, imagining the wall with the grip rail as the floor, and the ceiling where Travis floundered as the opposite wall.
Using just his toes, Jon pushed off from the grip rail and launched himself toward the German Shepherd furman. He no longer grinned like a maniac, but a bit of the amusement was still evident upon his features. Yes, he had taunted the other man in a lighthearted moment of mischief, but it was Travis who had thrown the first punch, so he assured himself that he now had an excuse.
Travis twisted his body so that when the curved surface of the wall came at him, he landed lightly on his toes, using his canine tail as a counter-balance to keep himself 'upright'. He looked back, saw Sunset floating toward him, and then a snarl crossed his features. He clenched both fists and pushed off the wall again without thinking. He launched himself out into the air a lot faster than he had intended and suddenly felt unstable as he shot toward Jon at a brisk rate.
Jon saw the canine rush toward him and readied his own fists. If he pummeled him just right, the other man would float right by, receiving the equivalent of a naval broadside.
The space between Jon and Tyndall closed fast and each furman was prepared to strike his opponent. Fists hurled at one another when they were close enough, but the effect surprised them both. When Travis' knuckles connected with the side of Jon's broad head, the action caused an opposite reaction that pushed him away almost as hard as he had hit, effectively robbing the punch of half its strength. Simultaneously, Jon struck out at the other furman's breastbone. The blow landed square, but also pushed the mountain lion backward through the air; propelled by simultaneous blows, both men floated away from one another.
Jon scrambled to find purchase on anything that might stop his momentum, but he found himself floating out toward the center of the chamber while Travis bounced off a nearby wall. The German Shepherd ricocheted slowly off the carpet, also going out into open air, but he suddenly found himself headed directly toward the Fleur sisters clustered near another wall surface.
When Travis plowed into them, he used the opportunity to press both hands upon Dahlia's chest. She growled at him, her arms clutching a grip rail, and since her back was up against a wall, she used the weightlessness to pull both of her feet up hard into his crotch.
Sharp pain shot through the canine's genitals and his eyes rolled back up into their sockets, sparks obscuring his vision; while he was stunned, Dahlia shoved his fetal-curled body back out into the middle of the chamber. Although it was not planned, the action propelled Travis right back toward Jon, who was slowly tumbling end over end without any means of reaching a handy grip rail.
Jon saw Travis as he approached, but if he did nothing, the canine would simply float on past him. However, the mountain lion needed leverage, so he reached out and snagged one arm and an ankle of the stunned furman. Twisting his body, he used Travis' momentum to swing around him in a slow arc. Jon did not want to fling the other guy away just yet, so he had to alter his sweep so the motion transferred to him instead.
Still immobilized by the pain in his groin, Travis could do nothing more than whimper from the agony and allow his adversary to use him as a counterweight. Jon glanced at him for a brief moment before he swung both of them around in a tight orbit in a motion similar to that of a binary star system.
When Jon figured he had enough momentum, he released his hold on Travis and flung himself toward a wall. He went one direction and the German Shepherd hurled off in another.
The cougar looked up to see his destination, which appeared to be the open doorway into the sleeping chamber. When he neared the door frame, he reached out and grabbed it. His feet went past him, but his grip on the door slowed him so that his legs curled around and bumped into the wall inside. His bottom lip felt numb where Travis had hit him, and when he ran his tongue across it, he could taste the metallic flavor of blood. It wasn't a bad cut, however, just a split lip. He had suffered worse injuries as a kid in his back yard playing with the family dog.
When Travis got to the end of his flight, he was caught in a pair of sturdy arms. The canine looked up into the ursine face of Gerard Nicholas, who merely looked down at him in pity. Then another face came into view. Dr. Gabriel Aristotle never seemed pleased to see the German Shepherd and he looked especially unhappy with the furman under his charge.
TRAVIS Tyndall and Jonathan Sunset were seated side by side with straps across their knees in the office of the Z-Gee Station Commander, Sami Holden. Despite being located in the weightless section of the space station, the room resembled many other offices on Earth. A desk with a built-in monitor and keypad was mounted to one wall, giving the feel of being on a floor, with a chair behind and two chairs in front of the desk. They were all hard mounted on a light earth tone carpet and the other walls of the square compartment were carpeted in a darker brown. A few framed paintings of Terran landscapes decorated the walls to give the office a homey feel.
The two furmen were seated in front of the desk, but the commander stood beside the third chair, her booties keeping her in place. Dr. Renwick stood behind Jon and Dr. Aristotle stood behind Travis, both keeping themselves in place by holding onto the backs of the chairs.
Holden's one-piece blue coveralls were neatly pressed and her dark brown hair was caught up in a short ponytail, and although she wore light makeup and had a nice figure, the expression on her face was far from friendly.
“You were all welcomed to Sebra with open arms,” she said to the seated furmen, “given the greatest hospitality and care due to your transitional medical conditions, and you were all expected to act the like the adults you are supposed to be.” She looked up at the two physicians for a moment and then returned her gaze to the two seated males. Jon did not return her gaze, choosing instead to simply stare at the wall behind her. Likewise, Travis refused to meet her eyes, keeping his attention on the short woman's curves.
“Although I am not privy to your backgrounds,” she continued, “I have been made aware that the two of you have had altercations in the past. While here with us, you have been given a fair amount of freedom to do as you wish, your studies and schedules flexible with your physical needs, but the kind of foolishness the two of you displayed in front of your associates today will not be tolerated.”
She moved behind her desk chair, her sticky booties making small ripping noises in the carpet as she walked. “I want the two of you to look at me.” Jon and Travis complied, each of them meeting her brown eyes with their own. Both of them tried to look as innocent as he could muster, but her expression was dark. When she was sure she had their attention, Holden crossed her arms upon the back of her desk chair.
“You have barely begun the length of your stay on Sebra, but for the remainder of your visit, you two are not to interact with one another in any way. There will be no taunts, no insults and no fights. If you two find yourselves in the same compartment together, don't even look at one another, just go to opposite sides of the room if you two must be there at the same time. This is your first and only warning, guys. If there is a repeat of today and you two are brought into my office again, each of you will be confined to separate chambers, to rest out the remainder of your time alone before you are returned to Earth. Although this is an international space station, we do have rules, regulations and laws here, and we also have holding cells for those who break them. Don't make me introduce you to them.”
Jon gave her a silent nod, and when the commander looked over at Travis, he sighed and did the same, trying to look sufficiently penitent.
Holden's expression softened. “Listen, guys,” she said in a quieter voice, her Texas accent coming through now that her throat was not taut, “I'm aware of how important the Anthro Human Colonization Program is to Earth's future. You're going through some painful alterations to your bodies that I'm not sure I would have the courage to face myself, so I'm fully aware that these changes have made you nervous and irritable. You will get no punishment for this incident, but please don't place yourselves in a position for a repeat. I'm sympathetic, but I stand by my word. Do I have yours that you will behave yourselves?”
“Yes, ma'am,” Jon replied with a nod.
The commander looked at Travis, who lowered his gaze. “Yes, ma'am,” he echoed.
Holden looked up at the doctors. “Doctor Aristotle, you and Doctor Renwick are witnesses to their agreement. Please see to it that the peace is kept.”
“Yes, ma'am,” the physicians responded in unison.
“Good day, then,” she told them.
Jon looked up at her once more and gave her a nod. Then he unstrapped himself and floated out of his chair toward the doorway without a glance back at Travis.
After the doctors and their Furs had left her office, Commander Holden let out a long sigh and closed her eyes. This was the first group of Furs to come to Space Station Sebra while in their transition stage. They were hurting, short-tempered and she was afraid that these two would not be the last to grace her office in this kind of altercation. There might not even be another incident with this group, but if this experiment to let the Furs spend part of their transformation here was a success, then other groups from Earth would soon follow.
She had agreed to the assignment when it was first brought to her attention, but after today she was a little wary of future groups. This incident had been minor, but these half human, half animal hybrids had the capacity for a greater violence that she hoped she would never see.
— NEXT CHAPTER —
Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.