A Trust Machines story
By clancy688 © 2018
Chapter 1 , 2 , 3 , 4
I stopped dead in my tracks, raising an eyebrow as I noticed where my friend Ilona was going. I'd expected her to lead me into a shoe or lingerie store, not into...
Slightly annoyed, the girl looked back when she realized that I wasn't following her. “What's with you, Dennis? I thought you wanted to surprise your girlfriend with an awesome birthday present?”
“Well, yeah... but I'd expected that you'd point out to me where to get it in the mall. Not to... become it.” I retorted.
Yeah, I'd been racking my brains for weeks trying to figure out what gift I'd give Samantha for her birthday, but I'd utterly failed in coming up with even a single decent proposition. So when our common friend Ilona had told me that she knew exactly what my girlfriend would love for her birthday, I'd taken the offer without hesitation.
Ilona rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, she'll get you for her birthday. That's way better than some piece of commercial plunder out of a boring shopping mall. And it's not like you have a plan B, right? So get into the booth already.”
“Point taken...” A bit nervously I stepped into the Venn Machine, noticing how she'd dialed in three days of change. Right, it was a Friday and I'd taken the day off for Samantha's birthday, so we'd have the whole weekend to do... well... whatever. “What are you turning me into? I hope not into a dress? I hate to say it, but in this case I'd nope the fuck outa here quite instantly.” I shuddered at the thought of becoming an inanimate piece of clothing, to be at the mercy of whoever possessed me, unable to do or see anything...
“Huh, what? No, don't worry.” Ilona said from the other side of the Venn Machine with a conspicuous wink. “Samantha is not into this. Like, totally not. No worries. Speaking of worries... you look awfully twitchy. Are you a Venn virgin, perhaps?”
I shot an annoyed look back. “Of course not,” I huffed. I didn't add technically. Of course I'd used Venn Machines before. To enhance my wardrobe. And maybe tinker a bit with my appearance. There'd been a time when horns had been the current in-fashion among my age-group and I'd tried it out for a few days. But I'd never done any of the more... outrageous changes which were possible.
To be honest, not many did. If you strolled around Venn Machines, you'd always think that half the human population had gone crazy and thrown away their humanity. In reality though, the majority of people used Venn Machines sparsely and conservatively. It was only a very low percentage of the overall population which was fine with radically altering their bodies.
Which meant that statistics told me that I had nothing to worry about. Only... something on Ilona's face was telling me that whatever would happen to me wouldn't be a vanilla change.
“What?” She blinked at me annoyed. “This is not easy, I'm trying to concentrate here.”
“What are you going to turn me into?”
A sly smile played around her lips. “Into Samantha's dream mate, of course.”
I wanted to ask what that entailed, but then the change washed over me.
I felt... peculiar. The first thing I noticed which was obviously different was my nose. Somehow, it sat way further in my view than I remembered. I raised a hand to touch and gasped. My hand was... covered in fur. Orange, with black stripes, almost like a Bengal tiger. It also had claws.
With a flick of previously unknown muscles, I let the gleaming weapons slid out of their sheath, swallowing at the sight. Together with my obvious snout - so much I'd gathered by exploring my new mouth with my tongue by now - and the strangely mobile ears on my head, I was feeling definitely some sort of feline vibe here.
The concept of furries wasn't exactly new to me. By now, furry people had become the norm around Venn Machines or heavily populated places. There weren't many of them, but enough to recognize them readily. Did that mean that my Samantha was a secret furry?
I looked further down my body, only to be hit by the next bombshell. “What the...?” I exclaimed, then yelped at the unfamiliar high pitch of my voice. Stunned, I stared at the fur-covered, but otherwise perfectly identifiable pair of breasts which pushed out of my slim torso.
Bewildered, I put my hands up to feel them. They were firm and sensitive, especially around the nipples, and- A snickering laugh ripped me out of my self-exploration.
“Boys, how typical.” Ilona laughed. “You give 'em boobs, what happens? They have to feel their knockers up. Always the same!”
Embarrassed, I pulled my hands back. My ears felt hot and my tail twitched uncontrollable.
Wait, tail? Oh, right. Obviously I'd been turned into some kind of feline anthro, getting a tail as well would just be logical. I turned my torso around, trying to get a look at my new appenda-
And there was the second bombshell. My jaw almost hit the floor. My tail wasn't attached to my ass. Or rather, it was, but my ass was way further behind than I'd expected it to be. I wasn't just an anthro person. Somehow, my upper torso was attached to an entire feline lower body at the waist, complete with four legs. I'd become some sort of feline centaur!
Dumbfounded, I stared at my new body. The Venn Machine had materialized my new body in a sitting position, like cats regularly do, with my posterior on the floor and the front legs pushing the torso upwards, so I hadn't noticed my additional limbs at first. But now I could actually feel all my four legs, in addition to my two hands. The frontal legs looked off a bit, though...
Gingerly, I raised one foreleg, taking a closer look at the paw. Its toes were longer than the toes of my hind legs, and I could almost use them like fingers. Plus there was some kind of thumb... I shook my head at this. So I had... what? Two arms, two leg-arms and two legs? Plus the tail which I noticed to be very flexible and strong. I would probably be able to use it to grab stuff.
“Hey, what are you waiting for?” Ilona's voice ripped me out of my wonderment, my new ears automatically swiveling towards where her voice had come from. Which wasn't from the interface. Which had gone dark anyway. Huh? She was already outside, peeking into my side of the Venn Machine. “Come on, we don't have the whole day. Other people want to use the Venn Machine, too!”
Uh, right... I tried standing up on all four legs, wobbling a little. “I don't know how to walk like this!” I complained, making Ilona snort.
“Men are such wussies. Just walk. Don't think about how. Just walk.”
Right. I closed my eyes, then opened them again. Just walk. I thought. Don't think about how. Just... walk. To my surprise, it actually worked. I didn't have any problem leaving the Venn Machine on my four new legs, acutely aware of all the curious stares I was suddenly receiving.
Ilona beamed at me while taking in my appearance. She ordered me to stop, then walked around me, talking in every part of my new shape.
“Perfect!” She finally declared with a smile. “Couldn't have done it any better. You look like them. Samantha will love it.”
“I look like what?” I asked pointedly. I was still a bit perturbed by the new, feminine sound of my voice.
“Like a Chakat.” Ilona said, as if that answered my question, and I raised my eyebrows.
“Like a... what?” I'd never heard of anything like that. But Ilona didn't elaborate. Instead, she took my hand and dragged me over to a mirror front.
I gasped as I took in my new appearance, instantly forgetting my question. So far, I'd only seen parts of my body, one part at a time. Now, I was suddenly seeing all of it, at once. And it was overwhelming.
My previous assumption hadn't been wrong, I was definitely some sort of feline-based anthro. My face was that of a tigress, yellow with black markings and with a pronounced snout. My ears which were located on top of my head had black markings. Surprisingly, I was still able to see myself in this strangely beautiful face, especially in the eyes, which were a deep green, not unlike my original eyes had been.
A mane of coppery, red hair flowed down all of my back, ending at my waist, and my breasts were firm and trim, though not too big. A B-cup, probably, I guessed, C-cup at most.
But then there was my lower, fully feline half. It looked like it belonged to a tigress, graceful, but of obvious strength. All in all, the body was strangely exotic and powerful, but definitely feminine. Which prompted one question...
With difficulty I managed to tear my gaze from my reflection in the mirror and looked at Ilona who'd observed me with a none-too-well hidden grin. “So Samantha is into... this?” I asked, gesturing at my fur-covered body. “But why am I... female?”
This made Ilona giggle. “Female? You're not female.”
Huh? A bit of anger crept into my voice. “So what do you call these things, then?” I asked and pointed at my breasts. “Last time I checked, men didn't have them.”
My friend winked. “You still got a penis, you know?”
I almost sputtered. “What? I... do?” Bewildered, I raised a hind leg, looking under my rump. Sure enough, I managed to spot what definitely looked like a sheathed penis. Right. What was I, some sort of futa?
This time it was Ilona's turn to be embarrassed. “Hey, stop that!” She pressed out. “We're still in public, don't waive your dick around like that!” Anxiously, she looked around.
Damn it, she was right. I put my leg down again, noticing a couple of parents who looked at me with dark faces and shielded their kids' eyes from me. Good thing I had fur, otherwise they'd probably seen my skin take on the color of a tomato.
“If you haven't noticed, you're basically naked.” She hissed, taking my hand again and leading me away. “Your tits are on display as well, and I don't think the fur is enough to keep someone from calling the police for public indecency. Shit, I've totally forgotten about Venning you with a top or something similar.” My friend sighed while picking up speed.
“You still haven't explained to me why this shape.” I pointed out while following her.
Ilona rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well... I guess I'll let Samantha do the explaining. Let's just get back to my car asap now. I don't want to ruin hir birthday by losing you to the police!”
The car proved to be the next obstacle. My new physiology made it fairly uncomfortable to take place on the front passenger seat, so eventually she just put down the back seats and let me lie on the load area. Good thing that she drove a station wagon.
“You know, we forgot to take out my wallet and keys when you Venned me.” I complained when we'd finally arrived in front of the apartment Samantha and me shared. “If Samantha isn't home yet, we're not getting in.”
“You're such a crybaby.” Ilona fished around in her purse until she found a set of spare keys. “Good thing you two gave me this in case of an emergency.” The woman smirked as she opened the door.
She motioned for me to get in as well. “I just got a text from Jennifer. She'll arrive with Samantha in a few minutes, so why don't you make yourself comfortable in the living room while we wait for hir?”
Hir? Did she mean my girlfriend? She'd called her like this before as well. And Jennifer would bring her? She was one of Samantha's best lady friends, and from what I'd heard a prolific Venner as well. Did this mean that my girlfriend would arrive Venned as well? I gulped as I looked down at my breasts again. I just hoped she wouldn't be some sort of super-masculine, muscle-bulging anthro guy. I had seen some of these when passing Venn Machines, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to deal with something like this. But on the other hand, like Ilona had pointed out, I still had a dick. So I somehow doubted that Samantha would be Venned into a male shape.
While navigating the apartment, I noticed my changed proportions. Height wise everything was fine, but my feline lower half was kinda bulky in such cramped spaces, and I constantly had to make sure not to bump into stuff. With a sigh, I went down on my haunches in the living room, pondering about what the heck was going on here.
My girlfriend, a secret furry? With lesbian tendencies no less? I considered myself a very tolerant person, and even though the whole situation I'd suddenly found myself in was ridiculous to the max, I didn't detect any revulsion at the thought in my heart. Still, I'd never even suspected that she'd harbor such tendencies.
Suddenly my ears perked up as I heard voices in the staircase. A quick check-up of Ilona who was slouched on our sofa and fiddled around with her smartphone showed me that she hadn't noticed anything yet. Right. I'd already realized that my ears were way better than they used to be, but it was still a bit surprising that I was able to understand what was spoken behind our apartment door as if I was standing right next to them.
One of the voices belonged to Jennifer, and with excitement I realized that the other was my girlfriend's. Although there was a slight difference I couldn't put a finger on right now. Nonetheless, I instantly felt relieved when she still sounded like a girl.
“I don't understand what is going on here?” I heard her complain. “What is this birthday present you want to show me? And why do I have to be Snowblossom for it?”
“Oh, ye of little faith...” Jennifer grumbled in response. “Just wait and see. You'll thank us in time.”
“Yeah, sure.” Samantha sounded puzzled. “I'm just a bit apprehensive, you know? Dennis has never seen me in this shape, and he wanted to take the day off. What if he-”
The key turned and the door swung open. From the living room, I had a perfect view through our hallway towards the entrance. And for the umpteenth time today, my jaw hit rock bottom as I saw what went, no, what prowled through the door.
It... she... was definitely my Samantha. I immediately recognized her eyes. Plus the whiff of scents which suddenly assaulted my nose and told me that this was my girlfriend. Why did I know that? I honestly have no idea. Only that... she didn't look like her normal self. In fact, she looked a lot like me, yet... different.
She also was a feline centaur like me, an anthropomorphic cat's torso on a full, feline lower body. But whereas I much looked like a Bengal tiger, she had bright grey fur with dark splotches. Much like a snow leopard. Additionally, her ears were rounder than mine, and her tail much thicker and, like all of her fur, definitely fluffier. Her mane was straight black and fell down to her shoulders. She was... beautiful.
She wasn't looking towards the living room, towards me at first, but my scent probably alerted her to my presence, just like hers had. She stopped dead in her tracks, her head flying around, taking in my shape. Again, she reacted exactly like me and her jaw flew open in shock and surprise, revealing and impressive set of ebony fangs which rivaled mine.
“Samantha?” I asked hesitantly, acutely aware of my tail twitching madly behind me, mirroring the tentativeness I was feeling.
“D-Dennis?” My girlfriend asked shocked, drinking in my new shape with her eyes. “Is that you, babe?”
I nodded. “It was Ilona's idea. Do you... like?”
Samantha nodded back silently, apparently too shocked for more words.
I became partially aware of Ilona standing up behind me. “Aaaand now that the present has been delivered, I think we're gonna leave you two lovebirds alone now...”
Grinning, the woman stepped past both me and Samantha and exchanged a high-five with Jennifer who was still standing in the open door. The two of them winked at us. “Have fun, Chakats.” Jennifer said. “Give hir a good pounding.” Ilona added, winking at both of us and using this strange pronoun again. Then they closed the door, leaving two dumbfounded people... cats... Chakats? behind.
Right. I shook my head. “What are Chakats?”
“Huh?” Samantha looked at me surprised. I couldn't hide a small smile. Apparently she was way more shell-shocked than me.
“This body.” I pointed at my feline half with a clawed finger. “Ilona turned me into this and just told me that I'm a 'Chakat', whatever that is. I got the impression that you know what she's been talking about, and also...” I raised an eyebrow. “...from what I've heard you say in the staircase, this hasn't been the first time you've been one?”
“You heard that?” Samantha asked mortified, and even if her tail wouldn't have given away her embarrassment, I could smell it.
“Sorry.” I replied sheepishly. “These ears are sensitive, as you undoubtedly know.”
My girlfriend sighed. “Yeah, you're right.” Then she went up and slowly walked towards me. I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the powerful muscles moving below her spotted flanks. My girlfriend prowled closer, taking in my new shape from all sides, sniffing and touching me here and there.
I simply let her do her thing, somehow enjoying her attention. Finally, she finished, putting herself down next to me and looking me into the eyes. I couldn't help but shiver at the comfortable feeling of her soft fur touching my flanks, or at her sweet scent flowing through my nostrils. And then, surprisingly, she hugged me. I stiffened, but just for a moment, then I hugged back, acutely aware of how our bare breasts were touching.
“Oh Dennis...” she breathed. “You're just... perfect. Please tell me that you're okay with this...? With being turned into this?”
I hugged back extra strong, and somehow, I could feel our tails intertwine. Whether it was consciously or not, I didn't know. “Don't worry, my love.” I told her back. “I got surprised by this, and it's definitely new for me, but so far I really like it. Still...” I dissolved the hug and smiled at her. “...I guess you have some explaining to do.”
“Right.” Samantha looked at me sheepishly. “Okay, where to start... many years ago, in fact, long before the Venn Machines turned up, when I was still a teenager, I came across stories about a fictional race of gen-engineered people in the future.”
“Chakats.” I said, and Samantha nodded.
“Yes, Chakats. They are what you and I look like right now, felitaurs. Some critical voices have described them as an entire race of 'Mary Sue's' because they have been gen-engineered to be perfect. Anyway, once I'd read about them, I'd been hooked.”
“Read where?” I asked, interested. “Is there a community for this?”
My girlfriend nodded enthusiastically, her black mane bobbing. “Oh yes! There is a website dedicated to them, maintained by their creator, Bernard Doove, a chap from Australia. I'd always been interested into furries, but the Chakats struck a nerve in me.”
“I've never seen you dwelling into anthro stuff, though.” I put in. “So consider me a bit surprised at this revelation.”
Samantha smiled coyly. “Well, contrary to some of my other boyfriends, you don't check my browsing history. Plus, with my full time job and a boyfriend, I don't have that much time anymore to dive into the furry community. And I didn't tell you about it because, well... I was...” She nervously nibbled her lip with a fang, looking incredibly cute while doing so.
“...you were afraid that I wouldn't exactly be understanding.” I finished for her.
“Yes.” The other Chakat sighed. “I had a couple of other boyfriends who reacted... poorly when they found out. And it was going so well between us that I didn't want to risk anything. Jennifer and Ilona always told me that you, of all people, would understand, but still...”
A short silence elapsed, then she looked slightly annoyed for a moment.
“Still, I can't believe the two of them turned you into a Chakat behind my back. How dare they?”
“I can go back to the Venn Machine right now and change back... if you want?” I offered teasingly, earning me an incensed roar.
“Don't you dare!”
I winked, prompting both of us to laugh.
“Okay, I might have to thank the two of them for that.” Samantha conceded with a happy smile, putting a hand through my mane.
Oh my, that touch was making me feel all fluttery... “So when the Venn Machines turned up, you guys started using them to turn into Chakats? Real Chakats?”
Samantha giggled. “You bet!” She exclaimed. “We couldn't believe our luck when these things turned up. Nobody in the furry community could. It simply was a dream come true.”
“Oh, me, Ilona, Jennifer... a few others, some of them you know, others you don't. It took a while, though. I have rarely seen you Venn, so I'm not sure if you know this, but Venn Machines are incredibly wonky regarding pop culture. Getting a felitaur out of one is easy. One with the right number of limbs... not so much. And a Chakat, with all their fictional physiological and psychological quirks...? A nightmare, I tell you. That body you're wearing is like the thirtieth iteration or so.”
“Uh huh...” I thought about this for a while. “And are there...” I motioned at my well-hung rack, “...male Chakats?”
My girlfriend giggled, then booped me on the nose. “No, silly. All Chakats got male and female parts. It's part of what they are. They love social sex, after all.”
I goggled at her. “Say what?”
The snow leopard next to me gave me an innocent smile. “Sex, physical intimacy, is important to Chakats. They are not as buttoned up as other species.”
I drew the logical conclusion from that. “So... so... you... and Ilona... and Jennifer... have...”
She looked at me seriously. “Yes. But never since we've been dating.” My girlfriend sighed. “To be honest, I've missed it.” Suddenly she became aware of what she'd said. “Uh, don't understand this wrong, please!” She pleaded. “I love sex with you. But sex as a Chakat is...” She left the rest unspoken, but the longing gaze in her eyes told me everything.
I contemplated this. And suddenly, everything clicked into place. So this was what Ilona had Jennifer had planned for Samantha's birthday. The rascals!
Not that I was complaining, of course... quite the opposite, actually. Slowly, I put my hand on her cheek, stroking it lovingly. “This sounds intriguing...” I said, fully aware that how one of her hands started outlining my left breast, cupping a handful. “...do you mind showing me...?”
Samantha didn't respond, at least not verbally. Instead, I suddenly had 400 pounds of furry felitaur in my arms, kissing me feverishly.
Kissing with muzzles was... different. I was surprised when Samantha first started licking me with with her tongue, but I quickly returned they favor, surprised at how natural it felt. Within moments, we were all over each other, our hands roaming each other's body, caressing and fondling each other...
We barely made it into the bedroom. In retrospective we were kinda lucky that we owned a futon bed - I don't think a normal bed would have withstood the love play of two 400 pound felitaurs. Eventually, I found myself looking down at my purring mate, her eyes sparkling with pleasant anticipation. My manhood was rock-hard by now, fully slid out of its protective sheath.
“My God, you are beautiful...” I whispered breathlessly while drinking her magnificent shape in. Maybe the Venn Machines had tinkered with my sense of aesthetics, maybe not and I'd always been a hidden furry, but right now, this leopard spotted felitaur in front of me was the loveliest sight I'd ever seen.
“See who's talking.” Samantha purred, lying down flat on the bed but turning her torso towards me and stretching out a hand to fondle my tits. “Don't let me wait, lover.” She continued, moving her tail out of the way and revealing a thoroughly moist vagina. “Fill me with your love.”
She didn't have to ask twice. I had no idea how to mate in these bodies, but somehow it didn't matter - I instinctively knew what to do. I slid my lower body over my girlfriend's crouching shape, my forelegs going down her sides. My hind legs were anchored securely on the mattress, using my claws for extra leverage, and pushing my manhood into her ready vagina.
The pleasure was better than everything I'd ever experienced before, the intoxicating scent of my mate, our fur rubbing together, our cat-like yips of pure pleasure - it simply was perfect. Like in trance we made love to each other for minutes, rocking our bodies together in perfect synchronicity, until I couldn't hold it in anymore and squirted my seed deep into my lover's womb.
Spent, I went down next to Samantha, my dick slipping out of her body even while she went through the last waves of her own orgasm. For a few minutes, we simply snuggled against each other, hugging and licking ourselves silently.
“That was... amazing.” I finally managed to say. “Is it always this good?”
“I certainly hope so.” My lover replied. “It was way better than with the others.” She grinned toothily. “I guess it makes a difference if you do it with someone you love.”
I chuckled, thinking of her previous partners. “Or maybe the others just didn't know how to use their male equipment.”
Suddenly, a mischievous smile curled around the edges of Samantha's mouth. “Oh, you think we're inexperienced in using our male equipment? Shall we put this claim to the test?”
“Huh, what are you-” My question was cut short and I yelped in surprise as Samantha rolled on her side and raised her hind leg out of the way, revealing to me a thick, already erect penis.
My obvious surprise made her laugh giddily. “Oh my, why are you so surprised? I told you that Chakats got male and female parts. They are fully functional hermaphrodites.” She winked. “Surely you must have realized this means that I got the same equipment like you?”
I looked back sullenly, inciting another exited laugh. Yeah, she was right there. Of course I should have drawn this conclusion. But somehow, I didn't think of the ramifications. Wait a moment... did that mean that I also had a...? I felt my ears heat up with embarrassment. “So you want to...?”
Samantha snuggled closer again, hugging me. “Yes, I'd like to give you the pleasure you just bestowed on me. Please...?”
Insecurely, I nibbled on my pinkie's claw. “I... don't know.” I said, suddenly frightened. Some of my friends had readily experimented on their sex life using Venn Machines, but I'd never had the inclination of trying out the other side. So the sudden notion of being penetrated scared me.
My girlfriend seemed to realize what was going through my head, because she soothingly licked my cheeks and hugged me firmly. ”There is nothing to fear, my love.” She said affectionately. “It's different being on the receiving end, but no less pleasant. I will be gentle, I promise.”
I still looked uneasy, so she placed her hands on my cheeks and looked deep into my soul, her own eyes overflowing with love and support. “Trust me. Please?”
I swallowed. “O-Okay.” I said, and Samantha kissed me on the snout, then moved behind me. I felt her move my tail out of the way with her hands and shivered as suddenly a whiff of cold air hit my new female parts. Then a large, but not uncomfortable weight pushed down on my back and I realized that this was my girlfriend mounting me.
Her arms snaked around my waist and her head settled down on my shoulder, her tongue licking me reassuringly. “Shhh...” She said soothingly. “You're too tense. Just relax and let me in. I promise, it will be fine.”
I felt her love flow through her hug and tried to calm down. Then, something warm pushed itself into me and I gasped at the alien sensation. More and more of Samantha's maleness slipped into me, filling me up. She was right, the more she pushed into me, the better it felt, the more relaxed I became.
Eventually, I started wondering how much further she'd go, when she stopped pushing and whispered in my ear. “There my love, I'm all inside you. How does it feel?”
I grabbed her hand, closing my eyes. Her thick meat was deep inside me, and my body was hugging her manhood back. “It's... unbelievable. You're in me. We're one.”
“I'm so glad you like it.” Samantha replied, and I could hear the relief in her voice. And then she started thrusting. The pleasure I felt as my girlfriend's penis slid in and out my vagina was simply indescribable, and I could do no else but loudly yowl in rapture.
Eventually, after what had felt like hours, both of us were exhausted. We'd made love to each other multiple times, with changing roles. Samantha had shown me all the tricks she had learned in her previous sexual encounters as a Chakat, and I'd been an eager student.
Now, both of us were simply lying next to each other, enjoying our physical closeness and basking in post-orgasmic bliss.
“In my deepest dreams, I hadn't thought that it would be this... brilliant... this... vigorous.” She stammered now, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling.
I had to chuckle at this statement. “I can't disagree, my love.” I said, tenderly rubbing her grey belly with a fore paw. “I almost wish you'd have told me about your fantasy earlier.”
“You and me, both.” There was silence for a couple of minutes. Then she propped herself up on her elbows and looked at me. “Does this mean you wish to learn more about Chakats?”
“Sure, why not?” I shrugged. “I'm aware that they are fictional, but you and your friends have obviously brought them to life fairly vibrantly. They... us seem like magnificent beings. Plus...” I smirked at this thought. “I'm wondering what our friends look like in their Chakat form. Especially Ilona.”
Samantha giggled and reached for the tablet which she kept next to the bed. She fumbled around a bit, then presented to me the image of a peculiar looking being. “Here, that is Ilona's form, Black Trickster.”
I readily recognized the four-legged, two armed taur form as a Chakat, but this one had...
“That's not a cat, right? That almost looks like...”
“Yeah, these are skunk markings. Shi is a skunk taur.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Shi?”
“Oh, right. Yeah, shi. Us Chakats are hermaphrodites, so we're neither he or she, nor him or her, but rather 'shi' and 'hir'.”
“Shi and hir...” I rolled the unfamiliar words on my tongue. But somehow they just felt right. “And you also have specific names for your Chakat forms? Black Trickster is Ilona?”
“Fitting, right?” My girlfriend smirked.
“And when you were in the staircase earlier, you said... Snowblossom? Is that your Chakat name?”
She nodded vigorously. “Yeah. See this markings?” She... no, shi said and pointed at some of hir black spots. “They are not perfectly round, some look like-”
“Like blossoms.” I finished for hir with a smile. “I get it. So... Snowblossom, then?” As she nodded again, I continued. “So... I'd probably need a Chakat name, too, right?”
Snowblossom's face lit up in delight. “Well, yes and no. You already have one.”
“You see, the body you are wearing... that's one of my designs.” Shi sighed. “One of my doodles for you. For when I'd eventually find the chutzpah to tell you about Chakats. It looks like Ilona must have found and used it, there's no other explanation.”
“Oh. Well then...” I looked towards hir expectantly. “What's my name then?”
She put some of my silky hair into her hand, stroking it gently. “You have this copper hair, and your markings are those of a Bengal tiger, also known as the Royal Bengal tigers. So I thought about... Copperqueen.”
“Snowblossom and Copperqueen, huh...” I mused. Then: “I like it!”
The smile which appeared on Snowblossom's face could have melted the whole Antarctic.
If someone would have told me a couple of months ago that I'd spend the coming spring weekends as a hermaphrodite, cat-like centaur, I probably would have declared him or her insane. Yet here I was. It's funny how fast your preconceptions can shift.
“Penny for your thoughts,” a sweet voice giggled, followed by a playful lick of my tufty ears.
I smiled, caressing my mate's fluffy back with a hand. ”Just thinking about how my life has changed since your birthday,” I replied.
“For the better, I hope?” Snowblossom inquired coyly.
I opened my muzzle to answer, but Black Trickster's voice interrupted me. “Careful what you say now, kiddo,” the skunktaur, perched on the picnic blanket to our left, quipped. “This is a trick question! If you say no, shi is going to be devastated. If you say yes, shi is going to be furious with you since you just implied that shi'd made you miserable before!”
“Whaaaaa, how dare you?” In mock rage, my mate threw a banana at hir. Within moments the two of them were bouncing through the park, engaging in the ancient play of tag and drawing plenty of laughs from our group.
“You got a lively mate there,” Nathan's deep voice rumbled, and I momentarily flushed as the big, hunky wolf morph spoke up. I was still trying to come to grips with my new (part-time) body's hermaphrodite nature, and one of the things which still freaked me out from time to time was that in this shape I was attracted to males as well.
Quickly after Samantha's birthday - or rather Snowblossom's, which was my girlfriend's, now denmate's, chakat name, shi had started introducing me to hir Venned friends. I had been surprised that only a small part of hir furry companions had chosen chakat bodies - I'd already known about Ilona's skunktaur Black Trickster and Jennifer's Siberian tiger striped Blizzard, but some others had startled me a bit.
Like Benjamin, a real hunk of a man in real life, who'd turned into a foxy vixen by the name of Lizzy. Or Samantha's best friend Emily, now aforementioned, very male and very hunky Nathan. Contrary to what I'd thought, chakats made up only a small part of the vibrant community Snowblossom had introduced me into, but from what I'd gathered, they formed its emotional and sensual core, remaining faithful to their fictional promiscuous nature.
I sighed at the thought. From what I'd learned, most chakats in our little community regularly shared their bed with more than one denmate, and I knew for a fact that Black Trickster, Blizzard and Snowblossom had formed a ménage à trois before I'd stepped into Samantha's life.
My eyes followed hir chakat form cavorting through the park exuberantly. Shi hadn't asked me about sharing our bed with someone else yet, but I was sure that it was just a matter of time until shi would. It's just... some part of me was still foolishly clinging to my human ideals of love being a bond between two people, not many. I simply wasn't ready for polygamous love yet.
I was still pondering this when Black Trickster and Snowblossom trotted back, and I felt my stomach flutter for a moment as I took in the shape of my mate. As a human, shi had already been easy on the eyes, but as a chakat, shi was simply breathtaking. Especially now, with hir grey, black-spotted pelt being dotted by hundreds of pink cherry blossoms which had fallen on hir fur.
“You're so beautiful, my love,” I breathed, making Snowblossom smile.
Instead of a verbal answer, the other chakat knelt down, took my face into hir hands and gave me a long, sensual kiss-lick. Then she pulled me on my paws. “There's something I want to talk to you about, can you come with me for a moment?”
“Uh... okay?” Unsure of what was to come, I followed hir. Suddenly, my earlier thoughts returned. Was shi about to propose that we extend our relationship to others? Already? I kept brooding while shi led me to a secluded spot behind a big cherry tree.
“I wanted to ask you about spending more time as chakats.” Shi opened up without prelude.
“I don't think I'm ready for-” I responded automatically, and only then I noticed that shi'd said something else. “-wait, what?”
Snowblossom looked confused. “You're not ready for what?”
“Uhhhh... nevermind.” I quickly backpedaled. “But you were saying that you wanted to spend more time as Chakats? Not just the weekends, but... more?”
My mate nodded. “Yes. You know that I'm way more comfortable as a chakat, and I feel that it's the same for you.”
“Yeah.” The answer came automatically, I simply couldn't reply anything else without lying. Shi was definitely right there. As a chakat, I was more relaxed and happy. “But what about our jobs?” I inquired. “We have to be human to work.”
“Huh? What? We totally don't. Didn't you read the intranet at work?”
I raised an eyebrow inquiringly. “The intranet? It's been months since I've been reading the intranet, there's so much stuff to do...”
Snowblossom sighed. “Well, that's what you get for being in the engineering department. Work upon work. Thank God I ended up in administration. The biggest hazard we're facing is boredom. I doubt you engineers even know the meaning of that word!”
An involuntary giggle escaped my muzzle. Yep, right on the money. 'Boredom', can you spell that for me, please? Samantha and me were working in the same company, in fact that was how we'd met each other. It was a bit on the smallish side and the wages weren't the best, but a lot of fun to work for due to the down-to-earth management and friendly colleagues. “So I guess there's an important announcement I somehow managed to overlook?” I asked.
The other chakat snorted. “Amen to that. You're aware of our recruiting problems?”
I nodded. We were only a small company, a small sub-contractor for the big corporation which dominated our hometown. Due to our smallish size, we weren't able to pay the same salaries the big guys did, so our management tried to offset this with creating a pleasant working environment. It worked, to a degree, but it was still painfully normal for coworkers to succumb to the allurement of the bigger paychecks and resign, leaving behind a gaping hole upon their departure.
“So, someone had the idea to allow people to appear Venned at work,” my mate continued, making me yelp in surprise. “The unions would scream bloody murder at such a proposal, but luckily we're small enough to not have any.”
“Appear to work Venned?” I asked, not quite able to believe what I'd heard. So now management had devised yet another way to inspire people working for us, without having to raise salaries? If we'd be only half as innovative about new tech, we'd be the next Google for sure... ”But surely there are restrictions?”
Snowblossom shrugged. “Of course, but they are way more easygoing than I'd have thought. You basically just have to be be of human size, be able to still do your job like in your regular body, and not freak anyone out by being... a monster or whatever.”
I had to laugh at the last statement. “Yet another thing which will infuriate the Xenomorphs.”
My mate blinked at me. “The what?”
“Nevermind, just a group of crazy hardcore Venners I read about once on the internet. Still...” I contemplated what shi'd said. “Are chakats really okay?” I showed hir my clawed hands. “I wouldn't be prepared to declare that I can type just as well with these as with human hands. And what about phones?” Both of us had tried using a phone as a chakat. While it was possible, it was definitely cumbersome - our heads were simply to differently shaped from human ones, and either the speaker or the mic always ended up at a less than optimal spot.
“Keyboards are not a problem.” Shi shrugged. “Apparently, some people have already sensed a gap in the market and are producing keyboards which are more suited to thicker, clawed fingers. The same goes for the headsets.”
I was still skeptical. “And management is prepared to spend money on this?”
Shi rolled her eyes. “Come on, Copperqueen. You know how expensive the stuff you're using is. A single worker in the engineering department holds software licenses worth in excess of five digits. Heck, your code generator licenses alone are twenty grand a piece! Spending a couple of hundred bucks on keyboards and headsets per employee is peanuts. Yes, they are grumbling about the expense, but they'll do it.”
I chuckled ruefully. “I guess you're right there. But if I'd go to work as a chakat...” Suddenly I had a queasy feeling in my stomach. “...then all my colleagues would suddenly see me as a furry chick... essentially.” I swallowed. “I'm not sure if I'm prepared for that.”
Snowblossom nodded solemnly and hugged me, giving me comfort by hir close presence. “I totally can understand where you're going. In fact, I have similar... fears.” Shi took a deep breath. “I don't think that we have any bigots in our company. Our diversity alone makes that unlikely.”
I nodded, aware of what she was talking about. We had lots of foreign coworkers, especially in the engineering departments, people from other countries who'd come here to work. If I'd have to take a guess, I'd say that one out of two colleagues was a foreigner, and there were entire offices which held more foreign colleagues than domestic ones. Additionally, our HR department was hellbent on only bringing people compatible to our internal culture into the company: Even if an applicant had top marks and perfect qualifications, if HR got the impression that he was an ass, he'd be turned down without a second thought.
“It's still one hell of a step,” I said. “I haven't told anyone about me moonlighting as a hermaphrodite felitaur over the weekends, I doubt that you have either, right?”
The snow leopard chakat simply shook her head.
“I thought so.” But then another thought struck me. “And I guess you're asking me because... you want to do this together?” No... the instant I'd said this, I realized that we had to do this together. If shi'd be a chakat and I wouldn't... I wasn't sure if our relationship would be able to survive. Chakats needed each other, needed physical intimacy with their own species. If Snowblossom and hir friends had gotten the forms right, then one of us staying human would mean guaranteed misery for at least one of us, probably both.
“And I guess you would like to take the step, become a chakat fulltime?” I asked softly.
Snowblossom nodded jerkily, staying silent otherwise and nibbling on hir lower lip nervously. Shi looked incredibly tense suddenly, so shi was just as aware as me that we were at a crossroads of sorts.
Silence elapsed. Finally I gathered her into a hug, squeezing her fondly. “That's a big decision, you know?” I told her earnestly. “And I need to think about this for a bit.” I looked her in the eyes. “Is that okay for you?”
I swear, I could have seen tears glistering in hir eyes, but hir voice was joyous as shi responded. “Oh Copperqueen, that's all I was hoping for. I was so afraid that you'd immediately say no, but...” Shi hugged me back, and for a few minutes, we simply enjoyed being this close to each other.
“So when will this start? The allowance to turn up Venned at work?” I asked as we went back to the others, hand in hand, the cool, fresh grass below our paws feeling like soft velvet.
“In May.” Snowblossom responded.
“In May, huh...” May was in two weeks. “Alright,” I decided. “I'll tell you about my decision in a week. Is this okay?”
Instead of an answer, shi fell around my neck, kiss-licking my muzzle intensely.
Needless to say that we didn't make it back to our friends in time. Thank God we still were deep in the bushes, hidden from the other park visitors' sight.
That had been two weeks ago. In the end, it had been an easy decision. I'd follow my mate, period, even if that meant to shed my humanity for the foreseeable future. Not that I had any problems with becoming a chakat, mind you. Quite the opposite.
There was only one thing which was strange right now. Somehow, our roles seemed to have reversed over the last few days.
“Tell me, who of you two had the idea of becoming fulltime chakats again?” Ilona asked amused while she closed her car's loading flap. “Because it sure as hell can't be Snowblossom, giving how terse shi is.”
Our friend had volunteered to drive us to work for the first few days, which had been one of the things Snowblossom had neglected to take into account when shi'd decided on our transition. Cars weren't built with furry felitaurs as drivers in mind, so in addition to a transportation problem, we suddenly had a useless piece of scrap metal sitting in our parking space.
“Stop teasing me, I'm nervous enough as it is!” Shi wailed now, cowering behind me. “What if I was wrong and they don't like furries? What if one of them has an allergy against cats and—”
I tried my best to calm my mate down, but Ilona simply tapped her forehead at hir. “Don't mind hir, shi's always been a wuss. Just throw hir into the water and shi'll swim. You'll see.”
“Stop that, you're mean!” Shi protested, prompting Ilona to stick out her tongue.
“Seriously, Snowblossom – stop mewling and don't worry. I bet your colleagues are understanding.” She patted hir head. “You have no idea how much I envy you two. Too bad my employer isn't as modern and forthcoming as yours.” Our friend added wishfully. “Well then, gotta go. Tail high!”
Without further ado, Ilona stepped back into her car and drove away, leaving me and my pouting mate behind. Well, at least the short exchange seemed to have taken a bit of hir tension away, which was good. I squeezed hir shoulder reassuringly and gave her a supportive lick.
“Come on, wanna go then? I for myself am dying to show my coworkers my new shape.”
Snowblossom took the hand I'd offered and squeezed it tersely, but nodded nonetheless. Together we started walking towards the entrance. Shi was too focused to notice, but I had to suppress a chuckle as I caught our reflection in the window front next to us. Especially since it showed the rare sight of a pair of clothed chakats.
Usually, we'd spend almost all of our chakat time nude, but this wasn't an option for a serious office environment. There was nothing we could do about our feline lower halves, but at least our boobs needed to be covered. So both of us had opted for a plain standard top which kept our breasts hidden and a smart woman's dress jacket over it. We had actually spent much of the previous Saturday shopping for clothes and getting our hair done professionally, and to my surprise, I'd very much enjoyed it.
I smiled at the fond memory. The female clerks in the clothing stores had been delighted at the opportunity to combine tops and jackets with the color of our respective fur coats, and the hairstylist had even whooped in joy as she'd been allowed to work on our manes.
The rest of our equipment wasn't human-made, though: A pair of saddlebags which were strapped around our lower bodies' backs and essentially served as backpacks. We'd added them when we had Venned a few days ago, so they were good for three years.
At first, the thought of instantly going for the maximum possible amount of time in our Venned shapes had troubled me a bit, but Ilona had swiftly quenched my doubts. “You're not going to become something inanimate or an animal, something which basically is at somebody's mercy if it wants to turn back. You'll be an independent being, fully capable of getting back into a Venn Machine whenever you want. So why not go for the max? If you decide to stay Venned for longer than you'd expected, you'll have no problems.” She had said, and I'd been forced to agree to her logic.
The familiar whirring of the opening of the automatic door took me back into reality and just for a moment, I felt like turning around, running back to the Venn Machine and turning back. But I quickly quenched my chicken thoughts. This was it! There'd be no turning back now. Showtime, then. I stepped inside, pulling Snowblossom with me and heading directly for the reception desk.
I have to be honest here. I was having some butterflies in my stomach, too, but when I glanced at my mate, I could barely hide my laughter. Shi still tried to hide herself behind my frame, which was ludicrous of course. You wouldn't be able to hide 400 pounds of felitaur anywhere in a wide open reception area, much less behind another felitaur. Add to that the face of a kitten which dreaded being summoned in front of the teacher because it had misbehaved and you knew what I was dealing with.
I swear, hir chagrin made hir look so cute that I just wanted to sweep hir into a crushing hug right then and there. Of course I couldn't, but at least hir trepidation had completely nuked my own insecurities.
Grinning, I stepped up to the service desk. The receptionist who was seated behind was looking at us with obvious interest. “Employees or delivery?” She asked me, which made me lose the beat for a moment.
“There are delivery felitaurs?” I asked dumbfounded, not sure if she was pulling my leg.
“You don't know the half of it!” She winked. “The quick delivery eagles are kinda okay, but there was this one time when the Fedex driver was a Xenomorph...”
Okay, now she definitely was pulling my leg. I gave her a pointed look. “No, we are employees. I'm Dennis and that behind me is Samantha.” I put our employee IDs on her desk. Huh... it somehow felt... weird using our human names when in these bodies.
“Is it possible to change our names, too?” Snowblossom piped up for the first time, apparently thinking the same thing.
The receptionist looked sympathetic. “No, my dear, sadly not. Legal reasons, I'm afraid.”
My mate looked crestfallen, so I quickly nudged hir in encouragement. “Don't be disappointed, surely that won't keep your colleagues from calling you what you like.”
Shi nodded flustered. Meanwhile, the receptionist was busy handling a camera.
“Alright, now smile, please... uh, belay that.” The woman chuckled nervously as she was faced with two perfect sets of gleaming, predatory ivories. “That's actually a bit scary, better leave your mou- err, muzzles closed then.” She swiftly took two photographs, and a couple of minutes later we were presented with a new set of IDs.
“Those are your temporary IDs,” she explained to us. “When you're changing your shape again, please return for an update.” She looked slightly annoyed for a moment. “But don't come too often, you hear? If you're demanding a new ID every week or so I'm going to rip you a new one!”
“Won't happen.” I smiled, examining my new ID. It bore my name, my employee number and my job description. And the face of a cute Bengal tiger girl. My face. I peered at Snowblossom whose face showed a similarly happy reaction to hir new badge. “Well, now that this has been resolved... shall I accompany you to your office?”
Snowblossom nodded, obviously grateful for my proposal.
“Thanks for your help!” I called out towards the receptionist while turning towards the elevator.
“You're welcome. But wait!”
“Huh?” I turned around, cocking an eyebrow.
“Your names... you said you weren't happy with your regular ones. What should I call you when I see you again?”
“Oh...” For the first time since we'd put our paws into the building, my mate was positively beaming with joy. “My mate here is Copperqueen,” shi said, putting hir arm around my waist. “And I'm Snowblossom.”
“Copperqueen and Snowblossom.” The woman mused. “Those are nice names. I'll remember you gals. Have a nice working day, then!”
From that moment on, the spell had been broken for Snowblossom. The receptionist's frank friendliness had somehow managed to wash away all her trepidation, and suddenly, shi was the giddy, playful chakat I knew and loved again.
Of course I still escorted hir to the highest floor. A chakat stands by hir word. Administration always set up shop close to the management, who'd obviously reserved the prime office real estate for themselves. Engineering grunts like me had to make do a few stories below, but that was still better than dwelling in a ground level dungeon like IT.
When we stepped into hir office, it became obvious that shi'd worried herself sick over nothing. Snowblossom's desk neighbor immediately recognized the human Samantha in hir, and within moments we were surrounded by a cluster of excitedly chattering colleagues.
Snowblossom visibly enjoyed all the attention we were getting. We were obviously used to being stared that. It kinda happens when you're looking like we do. Wherever we go, people try to steal a look. But usually they tried to hide their obvious interest in us. This strange ‘I'm totally not staring at you and minding my own business, like, honestly!’-stare. This was actually the first time a group of people were directly asking us about our shapes, and it was surprisingly fun.
I might be going to hell for this, but I definitely enjoyed the part when a coworker naively asked Snowblossom when shi'd dumped hir boyfriend for a girlfriend, and shi gleefully pointed out that, to be honest, shi hadn't. The pure and utter horror on the poor girl's face when she'd realized her spectacular blunder had been delicious witness.
I waited another few minutes to make sure that everything was alright, but then I excused myself, gave my mate a quick parting lick-kiss and left for my own workplace. I was wondering if my own reception would be similar. Probably not. I concluded. Most of Snowblossom's colleagues were women. My colleagues were almost exclusively male. Since I'd spent a lot of time as both genders recently, I'd gotten a valuable insight into the differences between males and females. Women were much more at ease with displaying their emotions than men, who in turn rather tried to appear stoic and cool in most circumstances.
Intrigued, I decided to put this theory to the test. Okay, let's take a little detour... I let the elevator descend all the way down to the lowest floor, way past the level I worked in. I had to get my new chakat-enabled IT equipment anyway, so now was a time as good as any.
As I strolled into IT country self-consciously, just like before, I immediately was at the center of the attention. Although this time, nobody chatted me up - everyone tried to hide their curiosity. We had no women in IT, and all the men in the office tried desperately to not-look-look at me. Did women always feel like this? I could barely suppress a giggle at their flustered faces while they pretended to keep working but were quite obviously peering hard at me.
Without further ado, I went right to the head-admin, a young dude who went by Daniel. We'd developed a good working relationship with each other in the last few years. I was using him as top level support for direct trouble shooting in case of IT problems, and he had me as a competent contact to the engineering department. For many, engineers automatically were modern wizards who'd be able to hack a nuclear missile silo with just a calculator, a nine-volt battery and a paperclip. Sadly, reality was different.
Design a sub-routine for thermal management software in MATLAB? Easy-peasy. Augment the PATH variable of your operating system? Sorry, say again? It was quite depressing, actually.
Now Daniel's eyes widened a bit as he saw me prowling closer, but so far he was doing a good job of appearing as cool as a cucumber. Hm. “Mooorning!” I drawled with toothy smile. “I heard you have claw-resistant keyboards-” I flexed my claws for a moment, “-and headsets for feline heads?” I wiggled my ears. Hm, I'd used my regular greeting phrase there, but he didn't seem to catch on just yet. Darn.
“Uhh, right...” Daniel eyed me suspiciously for a few moments. I looked back innocently, using a finger to play with my coppery red hair and smiling pleasantly. I imagined how the wheels were turning in his head as he tried to figure out if he knew me, but then he shrugged, reaching into a pile of hardware behind him and handing me a sturdy looking keyboard. “Do you need a chair with a tail opening, too?”
Huh? Oh, yeah... he couldn't see my lower half since his desk was in the way. Grinning, I stepped my big cat half around the obstruction, putting myself down on my haunches. “I don't think I need one. I'll be fine like this.”
The admin coughed surprised, then snorted. “I guess so. As for the headset...” He looked at me apologetically. “We don't have them yet. Delivery problems. I'm sorry.”
I simply shrugged. “It's okay, I'm not making phone calls that often. I'll check in again next week.”
“You do that. Oh, and what's your employee number? I need to enter your hardware into the system.”
Oh, right. Hmm... this is going to be good. I quickly rattled down my number and then turned, walking back towards the door. I did a rough calculation in my head about Daniel's typing speed and the reaction time of our SAP system and adjusted my walking speed accordingly. He should see the name which belonged to that number just about... now.
I turned around, exactly right on time to see him jerk in surprise. He gaped, looking at me, then at his screen, then at me again. “Uhh... this... you...” he stammered, before blurting out: “DENNIS?”
Smirking, I gave him a conspicuous wink as I sashayed out of the room. “It's 'Copperqueen' when I'm in this body, hon.” I said sweetly.
“But... but... but...”
“You're cute when you're confused. Have a nice day.” The last I saw of him as I closed the office door were his eyes, almost as big as saucers. Oh my. That had been... hilarious. First I giggled, then I laughed loudly. The poor guy. He probably didn't know what truck had just struck him. Snowblossom had told me recently that in my chakat form I'd developed an affection for using the female sides of my physique and psyche to tease people. Looks like she'd been right there... girl, how much fun that was!
I thought about this for a moment. Right, as a chakat, my personality was definitely taking a bias to the female side. In the sack, Snowblossom and me simply switched between dominant male and submissive female roles however our respective moods were at the moment, so there was no clear preference there. But otherwise, in public and generally when not having sex, we were definitely acting more and more like two female lovers, instead of a male and female one.
Now, the important question here was: Did this bother me?
I tried to listen to my inner voice, but couldn't spot any conflict. That didn't mean that there wasn't one going on in the background, but... I was happy right now. If acting more feminine made me more happy, wasn't this a good thing then? We were in the Venn age, after all. How important was your original gender really? I shrugged, shelving the fascinating thought. For the moment... Right now, I had better things to do.
My muzzle curled into a mischievous smile. Let's see who else I'm able to fluster!
“Hey, Denn- errr, Copperqueen, how about lunch?” Peter poked his head into my office, flushing at almost calling me by my human name. I flashed him an encouraging smile. My colleagues had known me for years, and expecting them to call me by my chakat name from one day to the next was unrealistic. Much less correctly using chakat pronouns.
“Sure!” I said and locked my workstation. With a loud yawn, I stretched myself. I'd spent the last couple of hours working on my haunches since I didn't exactly fit into chairs anymore. It wasn't bad, I'd brought a blanket with me which I'd spread out in front of my desk. Working like this really was okay, and probably way better for my back than my human sitting position had been. It's just... I'd spent two hours sitting around, and my body clearly disagreed with physical inactivity, it wanted to run.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” a jesting voice called out, “Let's get to the canteen fast. Have you seen her fangs? That kitty-kat is hungry. If we aren't careful, she's gonna eat us!”
I closed my snout with an audible 'snap' and rolled my eyes at the talker. Steven loved bantering, he was our division’s jokester.
“Old Dennis would have loved eating us for lunch if he'd been able to,” Peter argued. “The new one is a lady. She wouldn't do that. Right?”
I had to giggle at that. “Yes, contrary to you, I have table manners. I only eat high-quality meat. But—”
“Oh-ho, shots fired, shots fired!”
Ignoring the interjection, I continued. “–technically, I'm not a lady.” I gave them a pointed stare. “I'm a hermaphrodite, as I explained before.”
“You got boobs and all the other stuff which goes with a female, plus, under all that fur, you're cute as a button.” Peter furrowed his brows. “In my book, you're a lady. Good thing someone finally does something for our female quota. I just wouldn't have thought that it would be you.”
Even though I knew that he was joking, I still felt my cheeks heat at the compliment. Thank God my fur was keeping those signals hidden. And I was pretty sure that they couldn't decipher my emotions based on my tail's movements... yet.
Of course Steven couldn't let this fit occasion pass. “A wise man once said, ‘There are no chicks with dicks, only dudes with boobs’,” he quoted philosophically, making Peter and me roll our eyes and groan.
“Shut up, Steven!”
“Hey, Copperqueen! Over here!”
Steven, standing next to me with his tray, elbowed me slightly. “Pssst... Dennis... I might be wrong, but I think that might be your girlfriend over there.”
“You don’t say.” I scowled at him, the laden tray in my hand being the only thing which kept me from facepalming. Of course the grey-and-black-spotted, waving person at the other end of the dining hall was my mate. There was absolutely no need for hir to wave like this, how was I supposed to overlook the only other chakat among hundreds of humans? And even if we'd been in pitch-black darkness, I'd have smelled hir immediately. All shi accomplished right now was making a spectacle out of hirself.
I sighed, but also couldn't keep myself from smiling a bit. It was really hard to imagine that this was the scared kitten from earlier this morning. Shi was always like this, had already been like this as a human. She was incredibly hesitant of the first step, but once the first hurdle was overcome, she transformed into an unstoppable avalanche.
“Looks like my presence has been requested,” I told my colleagues with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry, I guess you'll have to spend lunch break without me.”
Trying to navigate the packed hall proved to be a non-trivial challenge. My chakat body took up the space of several normal humans, and squeezing yourself past the occupied tables already was a tight fit for a human, much less for someone like me. Add to that my tray, which was overloaded with food.
This was actually a financial downside of being a chakat. Our bodies were 400 pound powerhouses of muscles and fur, and those powerhouses wanted to be supplied with energy. A normal dish barely counted as an appetizer, so I had ordered not one but two dishes, plus a triplet of desserts. The two salad bowls barely were an afterthought. Our food expenses definitely would soar into the heavens from now on.
I noticed that Snowblossom had done a similar job of raiding the pantry as I finally broke through to the other side. Well, shi was of similar size to me, after all. Intriguingly, it didn't seem as if shi was alone. There were four more people with hir, and only one was human. The others were... different. A lot. So we weren't the only heavily Venned people in the company. Interesting.
Snowblossom quickly answered my unspoken question. “Hi Copperqueen!” shi greeted me with a dazzling smile after I'd put my tray down and hugged hir. “You probably didn't read my mail, did you?”
Her mail? I cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. In engineering, you could either read and answer mails... or you could do actual work. Doing both was physically impossible. Well, not quite. It might work if you'd Venn yourself into two people, but I wouldn't bet on it. So of course I hadn't checked my mail. I'd had work to do. “Your mail?” I therefore asked plaintively.
My mate rolled hir eyes. “Yeah, I'm not sure why I'd expected anything else. I wanted to organize a little get-together with everyone who showed up Venned today. Angela, that's this friendly receptionist's name by the way, gave me the list of everyone who'd requested new IDs today, and I contacted them all.” Shi suddenly looked a bit embarrassed. “Getting the list miiiight have broken a few privacy laws, so it would be cool if our meeting here was... random. You know?”
I wanted to reply something derisive about stupid privacy laws, but one of the others beat me to it. “Privacy laws are like mortgage-backed securities - a good idea which by now has been thoroughly perverted into a menace.”
I regarded her curiously. She was definitely of human posture, with two legs and two arms, but that's it. Her entire body was covered in red scales, clothed by garment which remotely reminded me of Indian saris, and instead of a normal face she had pretty much a cobra's snout, complete with hood, poison fangs and a forked tongue. “I'm Susanna, by the way. From accounting.” Intriguingly, her voice was perfectly normal, without the hissing undertones snake-creatures always seemed to produce in movies.
She offered a hand, just as red-scaled as the rest of her body, and with small, non-retractable claws at the end of her fingers. I took it, and to my surprise, it didn't feel coarse or dry, but rather soft and mellow.
“I'm chakat Copperqueen, formerly Dennis, mate of chakat Snowblossom here, formerly Samantha. Pleased to meet you,” I said as I moved a chair out of the way and sat down in front of her. Snowblossom did the same, snuggling her body against mine and playfully wrapping her tail around my rump. I winced a bit as I felt some crumbs under my unprotected paws. Memo to myself: I'd take my blanket with me in the future.
“Yay, introductions!” The sole human member of our little table piped up. She was a strikingly cute girl, with long, brown hair and of medium height. Her clothes definitely were on the girlish side, with a pink top, a short pleated skirt and leggings. “My name is Joanna, from testing.” She looked embarrassed for a moment. “You might have known me as Ben.”
Ah, a genderswap, that explained why she was here.
“Anyway–” she smiled at me. “–I'm glad that I'm not the only one who switched gender here.”
I had to laugh at this. “I still got my old equipment, you know? It's just that I got new stuff, too. By that logic, my mate here has genderswapped as well.”
“Really?” Joanna's eyes went wide.
“So you two are hermaphrodites, then?” One of the other two who had stayed silent until now suddenly threw in. I eyed him, fully taking in his shape for the first time. He was... impressive. Like us a feline type, a white lion to our snow leopard and Bengal tiger, but only bipedal. He was big, certainly above seven feet, maybe even bordering on eight. And dear lord, he was ripped. For just a moment, I caught myself fantasizing about him standing behind me and raising my tail, putting his– Down, girl!
I flushed and heard Snowblossom softly snickering. Of course my mate had noticed my emotions, but shi didn't seem perturbed by my little daydream, thank God. I was, though. A few weeks ago, I'd still been a normal, heterosexual man, and now I was suddenly fantasizing about a big, brawny, stud doing– Damn, wrong direction again.
Thankfully, Snowblossom came to the rescue. “Yep!” Shi answered cheerily. “We're chakats after all, and chakats only have one gender.”
The lion man nodded. “Yeah, I heard of your species. The feature is kinda fascinating, even though I prefer my male body.” He patted his biceps, which was the size of a grown man's thigh. “Anyway, I'm Andrew, facility management. And since the tin-can here–” He pointed to the final... person... something... sitting next to him, “–is not going to strike up a conversation of its own, I'm gonna introduce it. This is Unit 826.”
He... it... didn't react. Simply sat there and stared ahead, unmoving. Or at least looking ahead. It clearly was a robot of some kind, with roughly humanoid appearance, but its outer shell was open at the joints so that the mechanical inner workings were clearly visible. The feet were simply three-toed claws, two in front, one behind, and the hands were three-fingered claws as well. And its head was nothing more than an ovoid shape with a speaker and a faintly glowing sensor band.
“Hey Unit 826, glad to meet you!” Snowblossom called out and offered a hand. The robot didn't took it. Didn't even react in any way.
Andrew sighed and shook his head. “Told ya. This toaster here is the former Petra, one of my cleaners. She just turned up this morning like this with a message attached that she wants to be used. I first thought she was messing with me, but I learned fairly quickly that she was serious.”
“Really? How?” Susanna inquired intrigued.
The lion morph chuckled ruefully. “I told Unit 826 to scrub all the bathrooms with a toothbrush. I figured that eventually she'd become annoyed and give up, but... nope. It took the toothbrush and scrubbed all the bathrooms, until someone complained a couple of hours later. I guess Petra is serious. So I guess I lost an employee and got a robot. I ain't complaining. Unit 826 is way more productive than any human could ever be.”
Snowblossom and me could barely keep ourselves from giggling, but Joanna seemed horrified. “But... that's like... slavery! You're taking away her humanity and taking advantage of her!”
Andrew crossed his meaty arms. “No, I'm not. Petra took away her own humanity willingly. Venn Machines won't turn you into obedient slaves if you don't want to. That Unit 826 is obeying my commands means that Petra's mind inside wants to.” He shrugged. “Who am I to argue with her personal decision?”
The girl still seemed unconvinced, but suddenly, my mate spoke up. “So if Petra wants to be a mindless tool to be used, why is she here? A robot doesn't need to eat.”
Andrew chuckled. “I think I should let Unit 826 explain this... Unit 826, current state?”
For the first time, the robot spoke up in a machine-like, clearly artificial voice. “Unit 826, charge level 87%, all systems nominal. Current task: Lunch break. Elapsed time since start of current task: 0.018673 cycles. Remaining time for current task: 0.022997 cycles. Re-engaging hibernation mode.”
For a few seconds, there was a stunned silence.
“Lunch break? For a robot?” I finally asked dumbfounded.
“Labor laws.” Andrew growled annoyed. Snowblossom wanted to object, but he raised his finger, cutting her off. “No, don't say it. Yes, I know. Unit 826 is a robot. Robots don't need breaks. But Unit 826 is also my subordinate Petra, who is a human, and therefore entitled to a lunch break. And if she doesn't take her break, my ass is on the line. Therefore I ordered tin-can here to sit with us.”
I shook my head at this. Petra was probably right at the threshold of what was still allowed to be Venned into and what was not. Her form probably wouldn't fly if she'd be in engineering or administration, having to work with people and, more importantly, clients. But for a cleaner, being a robot actually might be of advantage. Personally, I couldn't see how becoming a mindless slave had its appeal, but Andrew was right - it was Petra's decision, and we had to respect it.
“But enough about Unit 826,” The lion huffed. “How about we start eating? Our food is getting cold.”
“Mine won't,” Joanna chirped. The girl had taken a Ceasar salad and nothing else. Well, given her willowy stature, everything else probably would be too much for her. Andrew's plate on the other hand was filled to the edges with food, just like Snowblossom's and mine's. Given his stature, it was safe to assume that he had similar energy demands like us. Unit 826 had nothing, obviously. But neither had the Cobra woman.
Susanna chuckled as she noticed my gaze. “This body got special dietary needs,” she told us. “I'll get my food once I'm at home.” Something about the way how she said this, how her emerald, slit pupils glinted in predatory anticipation made a shiver go down my spine. I somehow got the impression that I really didn't want to know what she'd be eating tonight...
“Why did you choose this body?” I asked her while digging in. “Is it your fursona? Although it's probably scalesona in your case.”
The cobra morph cocked her head. “Oh, no. I never was a furry. Just... doting on snakes. My hobby is snakes, I'm keeping dozens of them at home as pets. And when the Venn Machines popped up, I simply had to try out being a snake. It was simply awesome. They have perfect skin, are perfectly adapted predators, can see heat... I loved it.”
She pointed at her body. “Obviously I can't go to work as a snake, so this is the next best thing. All the advantages, none of the disadvantages – contrary to an animal I can speak, open doors or use a keyboard.”
“So it's essentially a body mod?” Snowblossom asked fascinated. “Like in some science fiction tales where people modify their bodies to be different, just like humans wear different clothes?”
Susanna shrugged. “I guess you could call it like this.”
“And... your sex life?”
I nearly sputtered the juice I'd been drinking all over the table. Snowblossom had definitely taken a liking to the laissez-faire approach to sex the fictional chakat species was renowned for, but shi regularly tended to forget that the majority of the still human race had not. But thankfully, the cobra didn't seem to have taken offense for the very private question.
Instead, she simply smiled, showing off her venom fangs again. “There's nothing special to it.” She explained, “My husband is still human, at least most of the time, and we're doing nothing we hadn't done before. I didn't change for the sex, and while there are some differences, it's nothing big.”
Snowblossom laughed. “Well, that's one thing I definitely can't claim.” Shi put her arm around me, hir tail twining all over my back. “Sex as a chakat is frigging awesome. We love it. It's such a big part of our culture, so it's safe to say that it's at least half the reason why we look like this.”
I felt my ears twitch and become hot in embarrassment. I couldn't disagree with anything she'd said, but damn it, was it really necessary for her to be so open about it around basically strangers? Right now I kinda wanted this morning's scared little kitten back.
That seemed to have aroused Andrew's interest, because he leaned over and looked at us. “Hm, I'm curious here... You gals got both sets of tools. But you-” he looked at Snowblossom. “-were a woman originally.” Then he looked at me. “And you were a man. Is it still like this... in the bedroom?”
Oh. My. God. He hadn't asked this, right? He really hadn't? Or had he? I so wanted to disappear, hopefully, Snowblossom wouldn’t—
“Nope.” My mate piped up cheerfully, destroying all my hopes. “You wouldn't know who of us was male and who was female originally.” She giggled. “We're switching roles regularly. If at all, my mate here likes 'catching', if you get what I mean, more than I do.”
Mortified, I stared at hir. “Snowblossom!” I managed to press out in a half wail.
“What?” shi returned innocently. “We're among friends here.”
“But–” I protested, only to be cut short by Joanna's excited squeal.
“Oh my goooosh!” The girl cried out. “This is so cute! You were a bunch of furry bisexuals, and when the Venn Machines popped up, you could finally be who you always wanted to be?”
Huh? Where was this coming from? I looked at her confused. “Uhhh... no?” I said. “I was a perfectly straight male before I turned into a chakat.”
“And I was a normal heterosexual woman,” Snowblossom added. “But guilty as charged about the furry part.”
Our answers clearly confused Joanna. “But... if you have neither been a furry nor had any problems with being male... why change?” she asked me.
I shrugged. “I wanted to be there for my mate whom I love.” Snowblossom next to me mewled happily at this declaration and nuzzled my neck. I got distracted there for a moment, then continued. “Plus I like this body. I'd never been a furry, but it's fun and powerful, and makes me feel more at ease with myself. Does that answer your question?”
Apparently it did not, because she still seemed puzzled. But before she could say another thing, Andrew interjected.
“If I may?” the big lion growled with a smile. “I think I know what confuses the little one here. If I'd take a guess I'd say... you've been a trans woman?”
Joanna's face turned bright pink. Bullseye apparently. Slowly, she nodded. “Yeah...” She said. “I've always hated being a man. Being able to look like this–” She gestured at her petite body. “–is a dream come true.”
“I quite believe it, my dear,” Susanna said. “But, if you forgive me the question, why did you change only now? Even before Venn Machines turned up, people were transitioning from one gender to another. And they usually kept working while doing so.”
The girl stared at her manicured fingers awkwardly. “Yeah, from the moment on Venn Machines turned up, I spent every free second as a girl. But... people who transitioned were still recognizable as their old selves. My male body was a lot different. Nobody would have recognized me.” She sighed. “So... I didn't dare do it. I was scared that if I'd come to work in this body, or just ask my boss if it would be okay to, and if the answer would be no, then everyone would know my secret. And I'd still have to come to work in my male body. With everyone knowing. That's just... nope.”
“I guessed as much,” Andrew growled. “You were in the wrong body, got what should have been the right one for you from the beginning and are as happy as a queen. And now here's someone who claims to have been in the right body all along, still changed it, and is also happy. Even though, by your logic, shi shouldn't be... right?”
“Shi?” Joanna inquired. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“Chakat pronouns,” The lion explained. “They are neither male nor female, so you can't call them him and her or he and she. It's shi and hir.” Impressed at his knowledge of the correct pronouns, I looked at Snowblossom who reflected my own amazement. The dude had obviously done his homework!
“Uhhh... okay... if you say so.” Joanna shook her head, then continued. “As for your question... yeah... I once witnessed how a dude got turned into a girl by a prankster. She went absolutely bananas and trashed the place until someone showed her how to turn back.”
Andrew laughed brightly. “Oh sure, there sure are these types. Goddamn bigots, if you ask me. Can't stand the thought of losing their precious dicks. But for most people, it's not a big deal. Let me show you something...” He took out his phone, tapping through some folders. “Look at this,” he said, putting the phone on the table. “That's me.”
Everyone bent forward to look at it. Except for the robot, of course. The phone showed an image of a clearly furry couple, a musclebound anthro dragon and, draped over his arm, a very well-endowed wolf girl in a skimpy party dress and high heels.
Snowblossom furrowed her brows. “You got more than one fursona? A dragonkin as well?”
Now the big lion grinned. “Nope and nope. Sometimes, I just like to spend the night in a different shape. And I'm not the dragon... I'm the wolfess.”
WHAT? I ogled the big feline in disbelief. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't imagine this stud in front of me and the sexy gal on the picture to be one and the same person.
He retrieved his smartphone calmly. “The big dude is a good friend of mine. We didn't have any dates that evening, so we threw a coin to decide who'd become the girl.” He shrugged. “I lost.”
Susanna chuckled. “And how far did you go?”
Andrew smiled. “All the way... It was pretty fun, too.” He turned to Joanna, whose look of disbelief probably mirrored mine. “I've done a lot of Venning, and by now I have a pretty good clue about the stuff works. Venn Machines always make you feel comfortable in your new body. But that's only on the physical layer. Not the metaphysical one.”
He seemed to sense that he was losing us there. “Okay, let me give you an example here. At one time, a prankster whom I foolishly trusted with changing me in a Venn Machine decided to play a prank on me. The asshat turned me into some kind of Lovecraftian abomination. Way too many legs and arms and claws and... you get the idea.” He shuddered at the thought. “Lots of screaming all around when I stepped out of the Venn Machine. Anyway, the point is, that I still felt fine, despite being turned into a shape which had no right existing. That–” He raised a clawed finger, “–is the physical layer.”
“But even so, the moment I saw myself in the mirror, I lost it and ran back into the Venn Machine ASAP. I was horrified of what I'd become.” He raised a second finger. “And that is the metaphysical layer.”
Joanna considered this. “So the reason why that dude went bonkers after being turned into a girl was–”
“Because he was a sexist bigot who couldn't stand the thought of being a woman,” the big lion concluded the sentence. “Not because it felt wrong on a physical level. For the same reason, you're fine. Not only did the Venn Machine put you at ease in your new body, your mind openly welcomes it.”
“You're saying Copperqueen and Snowblossom are cool with having guy and girl parts because they are mentally flexible enough to embrace the change?” Susanna inquired. “That's fascinating.”
Andrew nodded. “Yep. Same reason for me. I really like being male. But I don't mind being female every now and then. If half the human population can cope with it, so can I. The sex is good, too.”
I could barely believe the turn this conversation had taken. Fascinating indeed! Andrew was answering so many questions which I'd posed to myself over the last few weeks.
“So what about sexual orientation?” I asked, suddenly feeling bold. “In my human body, I'm only attracted to girls. But in this body...” I flushed as I looked at him. Did I see a tiny hint of a grin there? Did he realize how much he was turning me on? “...I'm also attracted to guys. Mind you–” I quickly added, “–I still seem to like girls more.”
“Same answer, actually,” the lion morph replied. “There are two layers again. The first layer is what your body is attracted to. You're a hermaphrodite currently, so it's only natural for you to be turned on by gals and guys. And then there's your mind of course. You've grown up as a male, with a male body, which left an imprint on your mind. That's why you like girls just a bit more – your body likes both, but your mind thinks that only girls are a valid target.”
“The mind is a plaything of the body, huh?” Snowblossom mused.
There was a pious silence for a minute or two as everyone digested the deep discussion.
And then Unit 826 suddenly stood up. “Unit 826, charge level 86%. All systems nominal. Task lunch break has been concluded. Next item in task queue: Cleaning bathroom B2.5.24. Executing.” Without giving us so much as a glance, the machine turned and stepped away towards the exit, servo engines whizzing and buzzing.
Joanna looked after it, apparently still not entirely sure what she should make out of the robot. “She's not really just a mindless robot, is she? I mean, the Venn Machines can't do that, can they?”
Andrew opened his muzzle to respond, but then suddenly, just for a moment, Unit 826 mechanical movements changed, becoming more life-like. Its right manipulator moved, displaying the robotic approximation of a thumbs-up.
For a few seconds, everybody stared at the retreating apparatus, baffled. And then, slowly, the whole table started laughing.
I was deep in thought as Snowblossom and I exited the building at home time. Ilona wasn't there to pick us up yet, so we just opted for walking into the direction from where she would be coming.
My mate was beaming with joy. “Oh, this was an awesome day!” shi chattered happily. “Everyone was so nice! And the new friends we— Copperqueen, what's going on?”
“Huh? Oh, sorry.” My ears drooped a bit in embarrassment. “Yeah, you're right, it was fun. It's just... I was thinking about something.”
Shi giggled. “Oh, I got that part.” The other chakat tippy-toed closer, until our fur was touching. “Wanna fill me in? Come on, I'm curious.”
I smiled at my mate. Well, why the hell not... ”You still remember what Andrew said at lunch? About the mind being a plaything of the body?” As Snowblossom signaled me to carry on, I continued. “You know, I've been wondering about myself over the last few weeks. Whenever I'm in chakat form, I'm different. More... feminine.”
Snowblossom nodded. “Yep. I noticed that. When we went shopping last Saturday, you were just like any other girl.” Shi giggled. “The way you were raiding the clothes shop... I've seen lots of girls who were as enamored with dressing up as you, but only veeeery few boys.”
I smiled insecurely. “Anything more?”
“Loads. You're a lot chattier and bolder. I've discovered a certain mischievous streak in you, and if the rumor mill has it right, your colleagues have, too.”
I nodded ruefully. No point in denying the obvious.
“And you're showing a lot more emotions. You remember when we re-watched this anime recently, while we were chakats? What was it called?”
“The Place Further than the Universe?” I asked, knowing exactly what shi was talking about.
“Yes, that one! The first time we watched it, as humans, I could totally see how hard it hit you when the girl found her mother's laptop. But you just sat there, stoically, hellbent on not shedding even a single tear. The second time, as chakats, you were blubbering in my arms.”
“We were blubbering in each other’s arms,” I corrected pointedly.
“Details, details.” Snowblossom waved hir hand. “Anyway, the answer is... yes, in chakat form, you're different. Which doesn't mean that I love you any less. Quite the opposite, actually.” Shi smiled, taking my hand and rubbing it against hir furry cheek. “So what's your point?”
I took a deep breath. “You see, I've thought about this. A lot, actually. And now I think what's going on. Let me take a guess... you were wondering if either the Venn Machine has changed my personality...”
“Pretty much, yes.” Snowblossom conceded. “Though, according to Andrew, that shouldn't be possible. Yet yours quite obviously changes when you're in this body,” shi observed quizzically.
“...or if I'd been a closeted gay all the time and only letting it out now that the body fits.”
“Uhhh...” My mate nibbled on hir lower lip. “Not... exactly. But...”
I laughed. “The thought crossed your mind, right?” I laughed at the embarrassed look on hir face. “Don't worry, I'm not mad at you. I actually posed the same question to myself. And now I'm pretty sure that I got the answer. And it is no and yes.”
“Huh?” Now shi ogled me. “Okay, you lost me there.”
“No, because I haven't been gay,” I explained. “I was fairly happy being a straight guy. But yes because there really was no personality change the Venn Machine imposed upon me. What you're seeing when I'm in chakat form is all mine – it's just bottled up when I'm a human.”
I looked at my mate with a smile. “I was a guy; guys act a bit differently from gals, and therefore I acted like one, suppressing some parts of my personality which are ascribed to females.”
“But isn't that essentially the definition of being closeted?” Snowblossom asked doubtingly.
I shrugged. “It really comes down to memories and expectations. Besides, I don't think it went this deep,” I said with another shrug. “I didn't hide my sexual identity and preferences. And according to Andrew I'm only into guys now because it's normal for my body. I think it's more like... hmm... how to explain this...”
I searched my mind for a suitable example, then giggled as I found one. “Ah, yeah. There is this chakat impulse we have, to hug everyone and anything upon greeting. Yet humans are not accustomed to getting hugged by people they are not really close to, so we suppress the urge and go for the traditional handshake instead. We're deliberately subduing that part of ourselves because humans would frown upon it. It's on that level, I think.”
The other chakat rubbed hir chin thoughtfully. “So when you're a chakat, you're acting all like a girl because that's how you'd love to act like as a male as well, but don't because you think people would call you a camp then?”
“Essentially.” I nodded. “Mind you, all of that happened unconciously. I didn't do it on purpose. I needed a whole afternoon to figure it out. I guess that's some kind of deeply ingrained, cultural sub-routine running silently in the back of my mind. 'You're a male, don't do X, males don't do that’,” I chuckled. “Which is why I'm letting it all out as a chakat. The precondition isn't true anymore, therefore the sub-routine terminates prematurely.”
Snowblossom sighed. “One of the reasons I took you was your affinity for techno-gibberish.” Shi gave me a little peck on the nose. “I have no frigging idea what you're talking about, but it sounds super smart and awesome!”
I giggled. “Mission accomplished, then.”
My mate gave me a coquettish look. “So... now that the riddle about your mysterious personality change has been solved, and since you're at ease now with your feminine traits...” Suddenly, shi smirked at me. “...does this mean I get to take you from behind again tonight?”
I coughed. “You know, just because my personality got feminine traits doesn't automatically mean that in the bedroom I'd love to play the girl, too!” But my heart wasn't into the rebuke. After all, I knew what I liked her to do to me. And so did she.
Retrospectively, I should have noticed that something was amiss from the moment I woke up. I usually looked forward to Fridays due to the approaching weekend, but to get up with a giant smile in my face was unusual even for me.
In my defense I can say that it was the first working Friday as a chakat for me, so I simply dismissed my abnormal cheerfulness by attributing it both to the coming weekend and the good pounding I'd received the night before by Snowblossom. My mate might have noticed something unusual – if she'd been there. But shi'd already left for work when I'd gotten up, being required to attend an early meeting, whereas I was expected to use up some of the overtime I'd inevitably accrued over the years. Therefore the only one who saw me before lunch was Joanna, who'd offered to pick me up, and my colleagues. Needless to say, even though they all commented on my giddy cheerfulness, none of them had any clue about chakats, so it took until lunch for me to receive the biggest bombshell which had ever been dropped on me in my life.
But let's take one at a time...
When I carried my overloaded tray into the dinner hall, I had to actively keep myself from bouncing through the room like a hyperactive kitten which had been bathed in coffee. Somehow, my already splendid mood had soared even higher, making me want to shout out in joy. I seriously had no idea what the heck was going on, but I wasn't complaining. If anticipating the coming weekend would always feel like that to a chakat, I'd never Venn back.
Beaming, I went over to our usual table which was already occupied by Andrew, Snowblossom and Unit 829. After the first lunch meeting with the other Venners, we'd decided to keep gathering here at lunch to further exchange our experiences. And we'd become a tightly knit group of friends rather quickly.
“Hi love,” I purred as I put myself down next to Snowblossom, bestowing a crushing hug and a loving kiss-lick on her. My mate yelped in surprise, but returned the deed with enthusiasm.
“What's up with you?” shi asked amused. “Usually you're really shy about showing affection in public.”
“I'm just in a good mood, that's all,” I replied in high spirits, hugging hir back with my tail. A week of practice had really done wonders about my body control. Previously, I'd never been a chakat long enough to realize the advantages of having a seventh limb, but by now I was using my tail for all kinds of tasks almost subconsciously.
“Well, at least somebody is in a good mood today,” a familiar voice growled, and I looked at Andrew's white-furred face with a grin. A decidedly testy white-furred face. I cocked an eyebrow in a silent question.
“Broken pipe in the basement,” Andrew sighed. “Really a big mess down there. Hell of a way to start the weekend.”
“Ouch, sorry,” I said, sympathetically. I totally knew how such a catastrophe on the eve of the weekend felt like; I'd often enough experienced similar disasters with software deliveries.
The big lion chuckled. “Don't mind it. As I said, I'm glad not all are having as bad a day as I am. “Even though yours is probably the opposite.” He shook his head amused. “If I didn't know better I'd say–”
“Hey, Copperqueen!” Joanna's squeaky voice suddenly interrupted him. The girl put her tray down and then hugged me, having taken almost zealous liking to the chakat way of greeting. “Still happy as a peach,” she said with a grin. “I guess your mate really took you out for a ride yesterday.”
Said mate laughed out loud. “You should have seen hir last night. Shi simply couldn't get enough. In the end I'd pounded hir into a heap of happily purring fur.”
I felt my cheeks heat a bit, but I wasn't even nearly as embarrassed as I'd been at the beginning of the week when our love life had come up in discussions. Sex had quickly become a normal topic in our little circle, and to my surprise, I'd quickly grown accustomed to Snowblossom speaking freely about our sex life.
Joanna giggled. “I wish I had a boyfriend who'd do the same to me. When I picked Copperqueen up this morning, shi was acting so much like a happy Disney princess that I expected to see birds and butterflies flutter in hir wake.”
Snowblossom snickered. “I can imagine. But don't worry, shi's not gonna get any more girly... I think.” Shi winked. “We figured out that shi's smack in the middle of hir female cycle right now.”
“Oh, right. You mentioned something like this.” Joanna remarked. “How exactly does this work again?”
To be honest, I'd expected Andrew to chime in and explain the chakat hormonal cycle now. The big guy was a walking encyclopedia after all, and usually didn't miss out on any opportunity to flaunt his knowledge. This time, though, he didn't. Instead he suddenly seemed deep in thoughts. Dude is probably still preoccupied with his broken pipes...
“Chakats have a 24 day cycle,” my mate filled in. “For a couple of days we're pretty much only interested in male sex, and for another couple of days we're all in for female sex, and the transition takes twelve days,” shi explained. “And it looks like the friend who Venned us managed to put us smack in the middle between the two phases, with me slipping towards male peak and Copperqueen here towards the female one. If my math is right, yesterday night must have been the respective peak for both of us.”
“She did that on purpose, I suppose,” I sighed, but with a small smile. I wasn't exactly complaining, after all. “Putting me into heat first...”
“Now that you're asking about this...” Snowblossom rubbed her chin in thought. “I still haven't told Ilona that she nailed it. Not bad for the first try.”
Joanna raised an eyebrow. “You're the first chakats your friend Venned, you mean?”
My mate shook hir head. “Nah... she's Venned chakats for years now. It's just that us two here are the first she Venned for longer than a few days. If you are a chakat for only three days, creating any kind of hormonal cycle is a bit pointless. So we're actually the first of her chakat creations who got a cycle. I bet she'll be delighted to learn that she got it right.”
From the corner of my eyes I saw Andrew opening his mouth as if to ask something, but then he shook his head, reverting back to brooding silently. He clearly wasn't happy. The Dude seriously had to learn about not taking his work problems to the lunch table...
I wasn't the only one who'd noticed his gloomy face. “Oh come on, Andrew,” Joanna protested and playfully smacked him on the biceps. “Come smile a bit. The contrast is ridiculous. Copperqueen here is like a glowing sun to your pitch-black dark hole!”
Andrew choked at this, then giggled insecurely. Insecurely? Andrew? What the hell was going on? “Uhh... yeah... actually...” he shook his head. “It's actually quite funny for you to use this word. 'Glowing', I mean. According to the tales, chakats emanate a thoroughly positive aura... something like a happy glow... when they are... pregnant?” Somehow he managed to turn his statement into a question.
Huh? I, pregnant? That was–
“That's ridiculous.” Snowblossom laughed throatily. “There's no way for hir to be pregnant. Even though I boned hir pretty hard last night,” she added with a mischievous grin. I rolled my eyes at that.
“Yeah, I figured as much,” the lion morph quickly added relieved. “Mind you, all the pieces seemed to assemble just right, but I guess you know chakat biology as well or even better than I do, and there'd be no way that you'd have sex without protection when one of you is in hea-”
“Uhh... but... we didn't?” I interjected.
Andrew's eyes went wide as saucers. His spoon fell out of his paw and looked at me shocked.
“You... didn't? Didn't use protection?” The big lion was at a loss for words. “But... WHY?”
I looked over at my mate. Shi still seemed unfazed, though.
Snowblossom made a dismissive gesture with hir hand. “Yeah, we're gonna start using condoms in a month or so. But until then... it's so much better without anything between us.” Shi patted my flank lovingly.
“Yeah, because Venned people only become fertile after a month or so.” I added, suddenly feeling butterflies in my stomach.. “Right...?”
My chakat mate nodded, but Andrew buried his face in his hands. “Who told you that?” he groaned. “Short-term Venns are sterile, long-term Venns are fertile. But the biology doesn't suddenly shift after some kind of timer expires. Either your form is fertile, according to the biological specifications it was designed to, or it isn't. From the beginning.”
There was utter silence. Snowblossom and me ogled the lion. Surely he couldn't mean that-
“Shi can't be pregnant.” My mate squeaked. “Shi'd know immediately. It's like this for chakats. There's this hormone spike they feel when they conceive!” Snowblossom looked at me almost pleadingly. “You didn't feel anything like it, right?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but Joanna beat me to it.
“You said you'd, quote, 'pounded hir into a heap of happily purring fur', end quote.” The girl raised an eyebrow. “If that's not the mother of all hormone spikes then I'm the empress of China.” There was a goofy grin on her face now.
“Yes.” Andrew still had his face covered by his hands. His voice sounded muffled from having to pass through his thick paws first. “Plus Copperqueen's obviously on cloud nine today. Two plus two is four. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then...” The lion didn't finish the sentence, but it was clear what he meant.
I'd immediately understood what he was saying. Intellectually, that is. Emotionally... I struggled. Almost unconsciously I put my hand on my belly.
My mate fished for her smartphone. “I'll have to make a call...” shi said, sounding just as shaken as I felt.
Holy fucking shit.
Snowblossom was furiously pounding hir smartphone now. “Ilona?” Shi barked into hir headset after shi'd established a connection. Due to my sensitive feline ears I could pick up Ilona's voice as a faint murmur, but couldn't understand enough to make sense of it. “Yeah, I don't care. We gotta talk. Right now. If you Venn someone, when does shi become fertile?”
Ilona's voice suddenly sounded alarmed.
I winced as Snowblossom's scowl deepened to an almost murderous frown. If heat made me more girly, then rut definitely instilled a... temper in hir.
“Don't answer my question with another question!” Shi thundered. “And why the hell are you asking us if we used condoms? IT WON'T MATTER BECAUSE WE WON'T BE FERTILE UNTIL NEXT MONTH, RIGHT? ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU TOLD US?” My mate was practically screaming into hir headset now.
Ilona sounded apologetic.
“YES, THANK YOU, I KNOW THAT NOW!”
“YOU'RE ASKING IF SOMETHING HAS ALREADY HAPPENED? WELL, GUESS WHY I'M CALLING...”
At this point, I was pretty much tuning out. Yup. I was pregnant. I didn't know why I hadn't realized it earlier, but... yeah. I could totally feel the spark of life in my belly. All the elation I'd been feeling since yesterday night had been this new existence in my womb. I'd simply been too ignorant to interpret it properly.
I'm going to be a mommy. The thought was alien. And yet... it made me happy. Why the hell did it make me happy? Snowblossom and me had only known each other for a few months now. Were we really ready for kids? Were we ready for chakat kids? Was I ready to be a fath–
I couldn't suppress a chuckle at my lapse. Right, mother.
My mate looked at me concerned now, interrupting her tirade for the moment. “You know what, we'll talk later. You're not off the hook yet.” Shi said gruffly and then put the phone away. My mate nibbled her lower lip and gave me an apologetic look. “Copperqueen,” she started hesitantly, “I'm so so–”
“I'm going to be a mother,” I said, way more serenely than I actually felt. I folded my hands over my belly. “We're going to be parents...”
Suddenly, my earlier apprehension was back and I started hyperventilating. “What if we're not ready?” I asked panicked. “What if–”
Instead of an answer, Snowblossom swept me into a crushing hug, her tail coiling itself protectively over my back. “Shhh...” shi whispered into my ear, nuzzling me with her tongue. I could feel her love flow into me, calming my nerves. “We'll figure it out together. I'm here for you.”
A joyful sob escaped my throat, and I buried my head in her warm mane. For several minutes, we simply hugged each other, giving ourselves comfort.
Until someone cleared her throat. Behind us, Susanna stood with her tray, taking in the scenery. “Am I interrupting? Did I miss something?” the cobra woman asked amused.
Joanna sniffled a bit and grinned like a Cheshire cat. “You won't believe it!” The girl proclaimed and pointed at Snowblossom and me. “Shi's pregnant!”
“Oh, really?” Susanna chuckled and put the tray down. Then she went towards my mate. “Congratulations, Snowblossom! How far along are you?”
There was a stunned silence for about a couple of seconds.
And then, everybody simply broke down in laughter. Joanna had tears in her eyes, she was cackling that hard. Andrew still had his face buried in his paws, but his shoulders were twitching suspiciously. Snowblossom and me simply laughed heartily. After the shocking news, it just felt so good to laugh. Even Unit 829, who'd never shown even a hint of emotion before, emitted a creepy noise over its speaker which sounded like a meatgrinder working on nuts and bolts.
“I don't understand?” the snake woman asked, looking around confused. “What's so funny? What did I say?”
“Oh my God...” Joanna gasped, holding her sides. “This is comedy gold. You want to know what you did wrong? I tell you what! You just asked the Daddy!”
“Well then, give me a call once you're done,” Andrew told us after we'd exited his car. Being a regular, bipedal anthro had its advantages, like still being able to properly fit into the driver's seat. Well, not properly in Andrew's case. 'Barely' was the operative word, given his size. But it worked.
After Snowblossom and me had digested the news about my probable pregnancy, we'd decided to seek professional aid. Only... where to get professional aid for a pregnant chakat? Searching the internet hadn't offered us many clues. I was hardly the first Venned person to get knocked up, but it mostly happened to genderbent humans. We'd hardly managed to find any information about non-human pregnancies, except for a couple which had turned into snakes and produced offspring in a zoo.
Of course, if you were pregnant you went to see a doctor... which my mate and me had tried, at first. Only to get turned down before even getting a paw into the ER at the local hospital. “Sorry, we're only treating humans,” the guard had told us, not looking particularly sorry at all. “Besides,” he'd said while wrinkling his nose, “pets are not allowed inside.”
Luckily for him, Snowblossom had been too shocked by this brazen display of bigotry to consider simply shredding the ass to bits with hir claws. But this incident had pretty much ruled hospitals out for me, so what to do?
Thankfully, Andrew had gotten an idea. Hospitals for humans might be out of the question, but what about veterinary clinics? They accepted all kinds of different species and were private, so they were probably inclined to take us as long as we agreed to pay the bill.
Having to pay for my health despite having insurance scorned the socialist in me, but Snowblossom and me had agreed that this was the best course of action available to us. Especially since it turned out that an acquaintance of Andrew was a veterinarian.
Which was how my mate and me now found ourselves standing outside of the 'Cedar Pines Veterinary Clinic'. Snowblossom squeezed my hand tightly and curled her strong tail protectively around my back.
“Let's go then,” shi said encouragingly, walking a bit ahead of me and pulling the door open for me. I giggled at her antics.
The other chakat scowled at me. “What's so funny?” shi asked.
“Oh, nothing...” I replied amused. “It's just... back when we were still human, you always wanted to be treated like a proper lady. Even as a chakat you were just a tiny bit spoiled. But since lunch you're suddenly going out of your way to assist me wherever possible.”
Snowblossom looked mortified. “Is it really this obvious?”
“Totally. Back when we got out of Andrew's car you checked if there was any traffic before you let me exit. Normally, you'd be chastising me for not helping you getting out of the car.” Which had been a ridiculous complaint anyway. Shi was basically a giant cat, what was supposed to happen to hir while getting out of the car? Not falling on her four paws?
Shi sighed. “I guess you're right... still...” She looked at my ruefully. “But back then you weren't pregnant either...”
“I guess so...” We looked at each other uncomfortably as shi mentioned the elephant in the room.
A purposeful harrumph interrupted us. The receptionist, a cute girl in her twenties, looked at us with a grin. “Who of you is the pet and who is the owner?” she asked brightly.
We simply stared at her.
“Okay, okay, just making small talk here.” She raised her hands in apology. “We get Venned pet owners quite often and they usually like the joke. Let's try again then.” The girl passed a clipboard to Snowblossom. “Please put in all the information about why you're visiting us here.” Shi swiftly took the board and scribbled the information down.
The receptionist gave thanks to my mate, but then furrowed her brows in consternation. “Copperqueen, that's a fun name... and what's a 'chakat'?”
I put a soothing hand on Snowblossom's back as I felt hir fur bristle in annoyance.
“Don't insult my mate. Copperqueen is a fine name,” shi hissed with bared teeth. “And we–” shi motioned at our felitaur bodies, “–are chakats.”
“Oh!” The girl looked at me surprised. Then she started to giggle. “So you are the pet.”
For a moment, I feared that my mate would explode. I felt my heart skip a beat when shi stretched out a hand for the receptionist, and I was already prepared to see her pretty face disappear in a cloud of gore and blood when my mate's claws would rip into it, but instead, she simply snatched the form out of her hand.
Without a word, shi grabbed a pen and stroke through the label “Name of pet”. Then she scribbled “Patient” over it and slammed the form down again. “You got a doc called MacIntyre here, yes?” The startled receptionist nodded. “Tell her that the chakat patient–” shi stressed the word, “–she's been expecting is here.”
Without so much as giving her another look, Snowblossom turned and marched off towards the waiting room. I mouthed a silent “Sorry” at the poor girl and hurried after my mate. Looks like the rut really is doing a thing on her temper...
Once in the waiting room, we got lots of funny stares, but nobody tried to strike up a conversation. Thankfully, it took barely ten minutes until we were summoned. “Snowblossom and Copperqueen, please!” the overhead speaker came to life, and both of us went up and into the hallway where we got collected by a nurse, just to be ushered into a treatment room.
It didn't look that much different from a treatment room in a normal hospital, it even had the same antiseptic smells – only a hundredfold strengthened due to my sensitive nose. Urgh, talk about the downsides of this form...
“Damn, I never realized hospitals smelled this bad...” my mate muttered, echoing my own thoughts. But before I could reply, the door opened and in came the most outlandish doctor I'd ever seen.
For starters, she barely topped five feet. Then there was her skin - which was covered in fine, silky, azure fur. Of course the weirdness didn't end there. Her eyes were massive, almost as big as an anime character's, and she had red irises with star-shaped pupils. Her hair, on the other hand, looked like living vines: Thick, seemingly moving strands of green dreads.
“Hi, I'm Dr. Colleen MacIntyre,” the weirdly Venned woman said with a friendly smile, revealing pearl white teeth with just a tiny hint of fangs. “And you two are Andrew's friends?” She giggled. “I've known him for a long time, but he has never sent any people to me, much less a pair of chakats.”
Immediately, I felt myself warm up to the strange woman. Her frank openness combined with her outlandish appearance somehow made me want to trust her.
“Uh, yeah.” Snowblossom answered for both of us. “I'm Chakat Snowblossom, and that's Chakat Copperqueen, my denmate. Andrew has recommended you to us...” Shi hesitated a bit. “You are familiar with chakats?”
Dr. MacIntyre waved a blue-furred hand in the air dismissively. “A bit. I'm pretty active in the furry community myself. I'm curious though why you need my help.”
“We tried to go to a normal hospital,” I piped up, and the doctor's weird eyes focused on me. “But they didn't even let us in.”
The blue-furred woman snorted derisively. “Yeah, I guess. They got no idea how to treat someone who's not looking like a vanilla human. And even if they had, they wouldn't. Folks who Venn usually don't go to the doctor when they get problems, they just visit the nearest mall with a Venn Machine.” She giggled again. “They somehow don't agree with people using machines which can fix in moments what a hospital would do in months... and for a ridiculous bill. I can't imagine why...”
Amused, she shook her head. “But by the same token it's a bit strange why you'd be visiting me.” MacIntyre smirked. “I don't think you got health problems, either chronic or acute ones, because you'd simply Venn them away. You might want to ask me specific anatomical questions you weren't able to google proper answers for, but then it would be much easier - and cheaper - to go to the zoo or the university. That leaves only one possible reason...”
The woman looked at us with a grin. “So which of you two cuties got herself knocked up?”
I blushed. Damn, right to the point. But at least her frankness spared us some awkward explanations... I therefore raised my hand. “That would be me, doctor.”
She chuckled. “Guessed so. Is this the first month you're Venned long-time, simply forgot or didn't know about the differences?” As we nodded, she continued, suddenly smirking. “I don't know why, but it's usually the Venned men who manage this feat.”
My mouth fell open. “Huh, whaaaa?” I blurted out surprised. “How could you tell? I'm at the height of my female cycle, Snowblossom is at the height of hir male one, if at all, shi's the one you should've been suspecting to be a former man!”
MacIntyre winked at me. “Subtle hints, my dear. Don't worry, it's nothing everyone would pick up, but I ain't everyone. I've been around Venned folks from the beginning. For everyone else, you're a very girly felitaur at the moment.”
I pouted. “Pfff...”
“Anyway...” The doctor clapped her hands. “Let's get this show on the road then. I guess you want to know if your baby is healthy then?” She patted the treatment couch. “Swing your haunches up here and I'll get an ultrasound underway. How far along are you?”
“About half a day... probably?” Snowblossom answered. I had to hide a smile as the doctor lost her composure for the first time.
“Half a... day?” she coughed and then gave us a pointed stare. “Are you sure you're really pregnant and not just paranoid after you've fooled around without protection?”
My mate shrugged. “Chakats just know. At first we had no idea how to interpret the pretty obvious signs, but Andrew pretty much noticed it right away.”
The blue-furred woman squinted at me. “Hm, do these 'signs' include the pregnant chakat appearing to be in an insanely cheerful mood?”
“Hm, right... now I'm remembering reading something about a 'happy glow' when I freshened up my knowledge on chakats after Andrew's call earlier.” She rubbed her chin in thoughts. “I guess an ultrasound is pretty much futile then. Hmm… we could try a pregnancy test to see if it's really like you say.” The woman turned around, opening a drawer and rummaging around.
“Will pregnancy tests work on us?” Snowblossom asked doubtful.
The doctor grinned. “Oh, I'm fairly sure that tests for humans won't work. But we got pregnancy tests for cats... I guess your inherent knowledge of your pregnancy and your happy mood might be due to some hormonal spike, and you look fairly similar to big cats, so a feline pregnancy test might work...”
She turned around, holding a pair of syringes and grinning evilly. “I just need a bit of your blood.”
I simply stretched my arm out. I'd never had any problems with needles. Snowblossom on the other hand...
“What? Why me?” My mate whined. “I'm not the one who's pregnant!”
MacIntyre rolled her eyes at hir antics. “I'm using a pregnancy test for cats on a chakat. For the first time in like... ever. I got no frigging clue if it's gonna work or if your Venned blood is gonna mess with my test. So you're going to be the control group. If your result comes back negative, but hers positive, then we'll know if it worked.”
In the end, it took lots of reasoning to coax hir into letting the good doctor put a needle in hir fur, but shi did it. And even though I hated seeing my mate suffer, I felt glad that today I'd been able to support hir as well, and not only the other way around.
Waiting for the test results took an hour which stretched on like an eternity, but finally we were called into MacIntyre's treatment office again. Snowblossom and me clutched our hands tightly, our tails entwining behind as we anxiously awaited the findings. It was ultimately silly, of course. I didn't suspect that I was pregnant. Somehow, I was one-hundred-percent certain that I was. I knew.
But it still seemed surreal to me. Like if I'd Venn back right now, everything would be back to normal. Of course Venn Machines didn't work that way. If I'd turn back into my regular shape, the embryo growing in me would simply go with me. Our little google session about Venn pregnancies had made that clear to us. But getting the test results would make it official, turn it from a weird dream into reality, so to speak.
“Alright,” the doctor started without preamble. “I got the test results. It pretty much looks like the test worked as intended, because Snowblossom's results are negative. Whereas yours…” she looked at me earnestly, “…are positive. Congratulations, my dear. Your hunch was right. You're pregnant.”
I froze up for a moment, felt Snowblossom grip my hand even tighter. My other hand wandered to my belly again, feeling for where a tiny spark of warmth seemed to emanate. So this was it. I really was going to be a mother. This was just...
“Yes, it's a lot to take in.” The doctor answered compassionate, making me realize that I'd spoken out loud. And then she surprised both Snowblossom and me by hugging us.
“I... just don't know,” my mate said with a trembling voice after MacIntyre had let go of us. “It's just so much to take in... what about the baby? It will be a chakat, right? Will it be able to speak? We look so much like animals right now...”
“Stop!” The blue-furred doctor raised a hand. “That's nonsense. I know some folks who got babies while being Venned. Yes, they look different. Some of them really different. And they are still young. But there's no doubt in my mind, or in their parents' mind, that they are just as intelligent as normal human babies.”
My eyes widened in surprise. “Really?” I blurted out. “We googled for babies from Venned couples... I mean, seriously Venned couples... like us. We didn't found much.”
“Except for this snake couple in the zoo.” Snowblossom added.
MacIntyre smiled. “And even their offspring, despite looking like relatively normal snakes, are clearly sapient and intelligent. Curious little buggers, I've heard. They love to play tricks on the zookeepers.” She shook her head. “But yeah, I'm not surprised that your search didn't yield many results. There are not many, and they rather don't want to advertise that their children are of a different species. For fear of bigotry, obviously. Besides, the government has no clue about how to deal with non-human citizens yet and rather would like to keep the lid on it until they've figured something out.”
She took a deep breath. “Anyway, you two are people, no matter what shape you inhabit, and your offspring will be people, too. Always. Don't ever doubt that.”
Both Snowblossom and me nodded, startled by her fiery speech.
“I'm not saying that it will be easy, but it's possible. And if you doubt it...” She looked insecurely for a moment. “There's one other option which I don't really like, but my medical oath compels me to put all the options on the table. If you think you're not prepared to be parents, there's the possibility of having an abor–”
She didn't get any further. Luckily, she'd taken a seat behind her table again, or God knows what I might have done. Her mention of the... a-word somehow blew my fuses. Suddenly, I was filled with rage, felt my claws slide out of my sheaths, opened my snout to hiss at the woman threatening my–
“Shhh, Copperqueen, all is well...” My mate's sudden embrace yanked me out of my fury, letting me think clearly again. “She means no harm... she just wants to help us...” I felt Snowblossom's love flow into me, calm me down, and embarrassed, I retracted my claws.
“I'm... sorry...” I mumbled awkwardly. “I... don't know what came over me. There's no excuse.”
“No worries.” MacIntyre chuckled tenuously. My threatening display had definitely made her blanch below her blue fur. “I'm actually glad that you feel this way. I'm not a fan of this... procedure.” She sighed. “Well then... I guess I'll just give you some insights into feline pregnancies then. There might be differences for a chakat one, but it's the best I can do right now. So, for starters...”
When we finally left the veterinarian hospital, it was already getting dark. MacIntyre had done her best to extrapolate from feline pregnancies and what information was available on chakat ones, but in the end much of it had been whistling in the dark, of course. She'd also given us a draft for a treatment contract. Both Snowblossom and me had blanched at the cost of it, despite the fact that it was obviously discounted to the point of being a net loss for the hospital.
Now we were simply walking arm in arm, marveling at the bright sky. The veterinary clinic had been built on a hill, set apart from other housing, so light pollution was at a minimum. To our chakat eyes, everything seemed to be brighter anyway, courtesy of our ability to perceive more of the light spectrum than normal humans. Looking up at the glorious milky way was especially breathtaking in this shape.
Finally, Snowblossom spoke up. “I'm scared, my love...” shi said softly.
I simply nodded, squeezing hir hand in return. “Just like me...”
“It's just so... so... sudden. I've always known that eventually I'd have kids, but that I'd bear them... and now... I'm going to be a daddy.” Shi seemed to marvel at the absurdity of this statement for a moment.
“I think ‘sire’ is the correct terminology,” I said with a wink. “We're chakats after all.” That earned me a light clap on my rump. Yesterday, shi'd have elbowed me in the side for that, but yesterday I hadn't carried another life in my belly... funny how fast some things could change. “But yeah, I totally get you. Imagine how crazy this is for me.” I chuckled. “Thirty years as a heterosexual male, and now I'm suddenly going to be a mother.” I shook my head. “This really is a lot to take in...”
“Hmm...” Snowblossom mused. “Can I ask you some questions?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Sure...?”
“So... you're scared?”
I nodded. “Of course.”
“And you're wondering if you're ready for kids?”
“I... don't know if I'll be able to be a good mother. I never gave the notion of being a father much thought, much less of being a mother.” I confessed.
“And... do you think it will be fair to the kid?”
I took a deep breath. So I hadn't been the only one with this fear. “You mean, because shi'll have it harder than other kids? Due to hir being a chakat?”
My mate nodded solemnly. “Shi'll be the first naturally born member of hir species. Shi'll be all alone at first...”
I didn't know an answer to that, so I simply remained silent. We continued walking for a few minutes, saying nothing.
“And yet you want to have the cub.” Snowblossom stated at last.
“Yes!” I responded immediately, despite her remark not having been a question.
This made hir giggle. “There was barely any hesitation,” shi said with a big smile, putting a hand on my belly and rubbing it tenderly. “You want to bring hir into this world.”
“You don't seem surprised.”
“Oh, sweetie...” Snowblossom gave me a loving kiss-lick. “I knew that you'd never let go of your cub from the moment when you went ballistic at MacIntyre's mention of... uh... you know what.”
I smiled remorsefully. “Was I that bad?”
My mate put on a serious face. “Bad? You scared the crap out of me! For a moment I thought you'd rip the good doctor to shreds. You looked like a badass tiger mama going all out in the defense of her cubs!” Shi shook her head. “So... no... not bad. Definitely not. If I'd have to look for a word, ‘awe-inspiring’ comes close, but it's still too mild to do your display justice.”
I rolled my eyes at that, feeling a bit embarrassed. “I'm not sure if an aptitude for violence is a good trait for an expectant mother,” I pointed out a tiny bit worried.
Snowblossom stopped dead in hir tracks. “Oh come on, that was just about the right response. Chakat mothers are renowned for going all out in the defense of their offspring. You know, before Venn Machines popped up and I became a chakat myself, I did lots of roleplaying games in the chakat universe. And it was well known to never put yourself in between a chakat mother and hir cub, except if you had a death wish.”
Shi smiled at me encouragingly. “See it this way – this was your first test at being a chakat mom, and you passed it with flying colors!”
“If you say so...” I blushed a bit and fidgeted around on my paws.
Shi took my hands into hers. “Just... relax,” shi said, hir beautiful eyes looking squarely into mine. “I know you're scared, I'm scared, too. But don't doubt yourself. I think you'll make a great parent. And I'll be there with you. I'll support you. All the way.”
I nodded, thankful for hir statement of support. “Yes...” I said and a smile crept across my face as I put my hands over my belly again. “We'll manage... the three of us.”
To be continued.
Return to the Forest Tales main page.
Return to the Chakat's DenTM main page.