The girls had walked home that night from the tavern; they had had a lot of fun. Hailey was changing. She wasn’t forgetting her friends, but was making new ones, since she knew there was nothing she could do about her situation. Besides, the call to explore was strong. She had already learned in her short time here, that in 60 years, they had only really thoroughly explored a dozen or so islands.
Some islands they’d make note of for later study, and others they could spend years meticulously documenting. As Brie said, the pursuit of knowledge was relentless and endless. They never knew what they’d find that could help their survival, and so they couldn’t afford to rush things.
The Island the colony was on was massive as well, Tricia figured it was at least half the size of Australia, except it wasn’t all desert Most of it was forested. The Oceans currents were really strong as well, but the water seemed really calm and even safe in places to swim in provided the swimmer didn’t drink too much of the stuff.
Hailey was beginning to feel the withdrawal symptoms Lynn warned her about, and by the time she went to bed, she resolved to have one more glass just to help her sleep - and it did. She felt immediately relieved, and drifted right off. When she awoke the next morning, she felt different, but at the same time it felt right.
She also wasn't craving the water anymore. Doctor Lynn had been right on her theory, even if she hadn't totally explained it.
“Blue is beautiful,” Hailey giggled as she climbed out of bed, realizing she was now covered in stardust blue fur. She stretched out her hand. They looked like something of a cross between hands and paws now, fully opposable, but thicker and stronger, with retractable claws. She wriggled her toes, her toe claws tapping on the hardwood floor. “I totally wish Wendy could see me now.”
Her tail swished idly as she picked up the comb Candy had loaned her and began to meticulously comb out her fur. She was amazed at her new flexibility, and ability to reach hard-to-reach places, too. She was always flexible because of her martial arts practice, but this was a whole new level.
She went back to her room after grooming herself, and almost forgot to get dressed. If it wasn’t for that tiny nag in the back of her head that was almost ignorable, she wouldn't have gotten dressed. Furren clothes covered things, as much as they needed to be but that was about it, they had fur and that should be good enough, especially for her people on this planet.
She didn’t even think twice even though wearing this stuff would have embarrassed the hell out of Hailey back on earth. She stepped out into her front yard and began to stretch to start her morning Tai Chi.
Her ears, now relocated to the top of her head, twitched slightly. She could hear... something. Someone? She caught a familiar scent just in time to grab Candy, who was trying to sneak up on her, and spun her around in front of her, giving her a hug. “Nice try,” she giggled.
“I moved too fast didn’t I?” Candy laughed and kissed her square on the nose. “I didn’t want to get hit when you started your martial arts stuff though.”
“Oh you’re fine; I smelled you almost right away, why don’t you join me, I can teach you some basic stances.” Hailey smiled.
“Sure! My sister - well one of my sisters anyway, is a Furren monk, but I never took the time to learn even the basics. Teach me, O almost-assistant-teacher,” she giggled.
Hailey giggled softly and then began instructing Candy how to move where to put her legs and then she smiled, “What I just showed you in pieces will look like this when you put them all together.” she showed Candy how it flowed together.
“Wow,” Candy said. “What looks like spastic flailing separately actually flows into a beautiful dance,” she said, and then tried to mimic it. She was certainly agile and graceful. Hailey wondered if all of their people - her own people now - were that graceful. She had seen some pretty clumsy cat videos on YouTube in her time after all.
Hailey smiled as she corrected Candy’s leg spacing and hand placements a few times, but all in all Candy had gotten the basic first stance down already, “That one is a very good stretching stance, it not only works your legs, it works your arm and neck as well.”
“Yes, I can really feel the sponges flexing,” she giggled, working her tail into the stretch.
Hailey watched, “I need to figure out how to add our tails to it. That looks ok, but it’s not refined enough.” she smiled.
Candy nodded as she stood again. “Furren monks work their tails into their practice like a fifth limb. Sneaking up on one can be just as dangerous as attacking them from the front,” she giggled out.
“I noticed my tail is pretty agile and strong this morning.” Hailey nodded. “On earth Cat’s tails are for balance.”
“Same with ours, but they can do much more too. Some people use them to hold mugs and stuff or to do other things.” Candy nodded. “Of course, furren come in all flavors, including clumsy oafs,” she giggled. “Especially the bobtails.”
“Bobtails.” Hailey smiled thoughtfully, “I remember seeing a Bobtail at the Zoo.”
“It’s a genetic abnormality on Furra Prime. Some get a prosthetic tail when they’re older, others see it as a mark of pride,” Candy explained, as Hailey showed her another basic stance and movement. This time Hailey had taken a moment to work their tail into the stance and movement.
“Oooh that feels good,” Candy said.
“That’s what she said,” Ella spoke up from the edge of the yard, not wanting to disrespect sovereign Hailey territory.
Both Candy and Hailey giggled and Hailey waved, “Is that coffee you’re carrying? Smells wonderful.”
Ella grinned as she approached. “New shop sprang up overnight after that 7-11 haul,” she said, nodding. “It’s an acquired taste for sure, but I like it so far. How are you two feeling?”
“Wonderful actually.” Hailey said. “Mind if I take a sip of that?”
“Oh sure,” Ella laughed and handed the mug to Hailey.
“Oooo that’s delicious.” Hailey smiled after taking her sip.
“I’m still waiting to see what’s really changed about me,” Candy laughed. “I’ve decided last night was just a purge phase.”
“Candy was telling me that all Furren do it, it helps keep our sanity.” Hailey nodded, “But we’re really picky about who we purge with, even amongst other furren.”
“Maybe that’s what changed,” Ella said thoughtfully. “You evolved beyond the Traxian impulses ingrained in your DNA? At least when it comes to how you interact with other species, anyway.”
“Maybe. That would be interesting.” Candy smiled. She sniffed the coffee and then shook her head. “Nope. Still don’t want anymore of that stuff.” Hailey giggled, taking one more quick sip before handing it back to Ella.
“They also are using some herbs we can find on the island to make tea as well at the shop so it’s not just coffee.” Ella smiled.
“Oh I think I found my first stop every morning before the docks then.” Hailey laughed.
“Most definitely,” Candy nodded. “Tea I can deal with. That coffee stuff tastes like sweaty gym socks, though.”
Hailey giggled again, “How do you know have you ever eaten sweaty gym socks?”
Candy gave her a look, and then giggled. “I have 14 brothers and sisters. I’ve been the subject of pranks that would turn your fur white,” she teased.
Ella whistled, “That's a pretty big family.”
Candy shook her head, “Actually it’s rather small, most furren families can get much bigger than that and usually do.”
“So Furrens always have sextuplets huh?” Hailey said with an innocent giggle.
“2 to 6 children at a time yes.” Candy nodded, paused, then giggled. “Oh you’re terrible,” she laughed.
Ella smiled, “Furren kit’s are born smaller than most races and grow faster as well. We had noticed that furren race had a lifespan of 25 to 35 years on average.”
Candy nodded. “We call it the blue sun lifecycle - live fast and hot, and burn out with a bang. Furrens rarely live to a natural death of old age,” she giggled. “If we’re going to die young, we might as well enjoy life while we can, you know?”
“Wow so we aren’t going to live that long then?” Hailey looked a little shocked.
“Actually.” Candy answered, “Some furren especially the blue variety are rumored to be able to live 40-60 years.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Ella said. “We didn’t tell you about Tricia did we? I mean... why she’s as old as she is, and still looks like she’s 20?”
Hailey shook her head, “No why is that? I kinda figured it was part of her change.”
“More cosmic humor,” Ella said, grinning. “Every non-breeder - that is, everyone who’s attracted to a member of the same sex pretty much doesn’t age. Not just Tricia, but every other person like us that’s come here. Tricia’s just the most extreme example.”
Candy looked up, “Really? I mean that’s just crazy, but I can sort of see why they would do that.”
“Oh,” Hailey said, “Because those who are able to reproduce can pass on their genetic material to a new generation, but people like me who - frankly just find men repulsive in that way - will never willingly reproduce?”
“Exactly.” Ella nodded. “Tricia thinks that we can’t reproduce anyway, that was taken when we were given the longer life.”
“Furrens can remain in labor for weeks at a time,” Candy said bluntly. “That’s one hell of a good trade if you ask me. I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve had kits and it’s kinda what changed my preference on gender as much as anything.”
“I always giggle a little when you say things like that,” Hailey said. “For humans it’s not a choice, but hard-wired in our- in their brain.”
“It might be in ours too, but I like to think that it’s my personal choice, that anything I do is my choice.” Candy nodded.
Ella watched them for awhile, and then more intently watched Hailey’s full demonstration of the advanced forms. A thoughtful grin crossed her face, and Hailey stopped to look at her. “... What?”
Ella giggled. “I was just thinking that sped up, you could probably kick my ass in a fight.”
“Would you like to see what that one looks like in a combat situation?” Hailey asked.
“Ohhh, I think she just threw down the gauntlet,” Candy giggled.
“Why not.” Ella laughed. “I promise to take it easy on you.” She winked.
“And I promise not to break anything... vital,” Hailey teased her back. She had yet to see Ella in action, but she looked like she could be agile despite her dense muscle structure. She was right.
Ella easily darted around, constantly moving, almost floating. Hailey didn’t make a move though, instead keeping her defensive stance up and watching, waiting for Ella to make the first move. As soon as she did, a swift striking motion, Hailey knocked her hand away, redirecting the blow harmlessly, which knocked Ella off guard and balance.
“Patience.” Hailey grinned, “You cannot hit a grain of sand without patients.”
“You can hit a grain of sand with a big enough hammer,” Ella answered, grinning as she adjusted her stance. Hailey recognized it as horse stance, a powerful stance to strike from without sacrificing stability.
“Even the grain of sand can deflect a large blow.” Hailey grinned, and switched to snake. Candy watched from a safe distance, wishing in the back of her mind that she had a salty snack to enjoy the spectacle with. Then she remember that Hailey had snagged a bunch of what she called instant popcorn from the store.
“Be right back guys - don’t kill each other yet!” she giggled as she dashed inside. Ella laughed and Lunged at Hailey, who dodged again watching for the right time to make a move. She swished her tail to the side, and Ella glanced over just long enough for Hailey to strike.
It was a light tap, harmless really. Even if she had tried to hurt Ella, it wouldn’t have done much to her, but she was intentionally pulling punches as it were. Even so, it had the desired effect of throwing Ella off her guard again.
“Becoming Furren has given you a lot of agility. I wonder if you could have done this as a normal human.” Ella grinned.
“I could defend myself okay,” Hailey laughed as she ducked under Ella’s next strike and sprang to her side, making two quick strikes at her side, “But I never entered a competition to me this was a way to help with my other activities, I can also run parkour.”
Ella changed her stance again. She raised her hands out in front of her and shifted her balance to the balls of her feet. She pretended to stagger and swing wildly, finally catching Hailey off guard for a moment, and then caught her gently in the side - again just a light tap in return. But Hailey already had three on her.
“Drunken master.” Hailey grinned as she finally catching on and was able to form a defense. “Am I crazy, or have I gotten faster mentally too?” she said genuinely curious.
“Furren are like Sartorans. They are naturally intelligent and curious.” Ella spoke, “However unlike Sartori, Furren don’t tend to be excessively hyper intelligent.”
“Just hyper,” Candy teased as she came back out, the scent of artery clogging buttery popcorn filling the air, amid the distinct crunching sounds. “We are hyper intelligent, just not as much so.”
“The sexually playful thing is a ruse.” Ella laughed. “My people think it’s a defense mechanism.”
“When your enemy thinks you’re harmless prey,” Hailey giggled, “Then they become the prey,” she said as she made a swift leg sweep. Ella leapt over it, but she wasn’t counting on Hailey being able to use her tail very well yet, which knocked her off balance enough for Hailey to make another strike, pushing her on her backside.
“Ok Ok, I think I’ve got it, Tai Chi is pretty powerful.” Ella laughed, “I give up.”
Hailey laughed and grabbed Ella’s hand to pull her up again. Ella grinned. “I had the chance to spar with one of their monks. It ended about the same way, but I always take lessons from my defeats. That was very enjoyable.”
“Well, I’m already teaching Candy, if you’re interested in learning. I know for a fact you can teach me a lot, too,” she winked.
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