Cassandra and Janet
A She-Wolf Adventure
By Throat Wolf
"Just a moment, Cassie!"
"I swear, you humans always take so long." Cassandra, an attractive brunette with Slavic features, paced outside the habhut in which her friend was getting ready.
"Some of us aren't natural-born shapeshifters, Cassie."
"That, like most things on this miserable planet, can be fixed, Janet."
"Noooo thanks, Cassie," the petite blonde said, zipping up her Persephone Colony jumpsuit as she stepped out of the hut. "I'm not ready to experience the rigors of the Wolfen digestive tract just yet."
"A pity," Cassandra said. "You would be most delicious."
"So you've said, only a couple hundred times," Janet said. "If I ever do decide to throw myself to a Wolfen, you'll be the first to know."
"I have had the magenetic treatment, you know. So it is not as though it would be a permanent change."
"Yes, just three or four years out of my life," Janet said. "For a human, that's a lot of time. Anyway, is the airboat checked and ready?"
"Absolutely. What's on our agenda for today, partner?"
"We'll be checking the remote sensor picket today."
"The ones past the Eastern Desert?" Cassandra asked.
"That's the only remote sensor picket we have!" Janice said cheerfully, tapping the screen of the PDA with their assignment briefing on it. "Fly out, run diagnostics, make any necessary repairs, and our day's finished; we can knock off early."
"But it's five hours each way!" Cassandra protested. "It'll be thirdmoon before we're back."
"You have something better to do with your time, wolfie?" Janice asked, sting taken out of the epithet by her teasing tone.
"I guess not," Cassandra said. "But I hope they're paying us overtime for this."
"Just put a few good books on your comp and meet me on the airfield in fifteen minutes," Janet said. "Since ths flight's so long, I might let you get some airtime toward your license."
"Ah, right! Perhaps I should pack a snack." She paused, looking speculatively at Janet. "Hmm...on second thought, perhaps not." With a wink, she turned and dashed off in the loping gait that characterized Wolfen even in human form, leaving Janet to chuckle and shake her head in mild amusement.
Of course, there was really no threat implicit in Cassandra's teasing. She had always been that way for the four years Janet had known her, since Janet had been fourteen. At the time, she had managed to get into a financial crisis, and had lied about her age in order to take on a job working with the colony's Wolfen. They were always in need of humans willing to help out--and they paid hazard rates. She had always been good with animals, so why not?
Even though Charlene, the colony's main Wolfen broodmother, had seen right through the age deceit, she had also seen something in Janet that had caused her to take her on for the job--and a riskier job than she had bargained for at that: fostering what the Wolfen called a "longsleeper"--a Wolfen who had not been enbodied for a long time.
"We try to cycle through Wolfen souls as best we can, to make sure they all know the new rules we all live by. But there are so many of us, and some have stayed within for a very long time, and these could be potentially dangerous as their original memories and behavioral tendancies return as they grow up," Charlene had explained. "It was not always as it is now, you know. Before we 'came out' as a species in 2050, we...much as I hate to admit it of the race...preyed on humans, taking who we wished, when we wished. There are some who enjoyed that, who would still desire the old ways--and others who might not understand at first. But if they are raised and taught properly while still young, before they reawaken to their old selves, we can usually turn them to our way of thinking."
Janet had nodded, trying to understand this. "The Wolfen change isn't permanent anymore, though, is it, thanks to the magenetic change? I mean, you could rebirth them as humans until they learn, then, um, reWolfenize them?" When the Wolfen had revealed themselves in 2050, as every schoolgirl was now taught, it had caused a reawakening of interest in magic, and it had not been long before someone had discovered a magic-genetic, or magenetic, process that could reprogram Wolfen genetics to allow Wolfen to rebirth their prey as humans if they wished, instead of Wolfen.
This had neatly solved the problem of geometric progression that could have converted all humanity to Wolfenity within a few more decades. It had also brought about an end to many diseases, such as cancer--Wolfen-rebirthed humans were disease-free and healthy, and grew back to maturity in three years, much as reborn Wolfen did. It had also created a thriving industry of Wolfen reparents, for the elderly wealthy (and eventually middle-class) who wished to be born again in a manner other than religious.
In the end, the Wolfen had been tamed not by threat of violence (although there had been riots in the 2050s and 60s) but by bureaucracy--there was so much tape put in place surrounding the Wolfen ingestion of sentients that it became more practical for many Wolfen to return to the stomachs of other Wolfen than to try to survive on their own. There was still an undercurrent of anti-Wolfen paranoia on Earth--and the bulk protein supplements they ate in lieu of living meat were bland enough that some of them might sooner or later do something they would then regret.
All this changed, of course, with the colonization efforts. The powers-that-be realized it was a lot less expensive in terms of mission payload to send half a dozen Wolfen loaded down with digested and stored human colonists and a few tons of bulk protein than to send cryo-capsules full of people. It might take some time to get the colonies on their feet, but it could be done, especially with the Wolfen as birthing engines. At that point, the Wolfen on earth saw which way the wind was blowing, and arranged to leave earth en masse...spreading to all the outlying colonies where they could be better treated.
Janet had been drawn out of her reflections on Wolfen-human history when Charlene had replied, "No...we've found that Wolfen, even the formerly-human, do not react well to being humanized. It's a cruelty to them--even if only for a little while."
"So...then what? Keep them under heavy guard until they can be taught?" Janet had asked.
"No," Charlene had said. "Even as cubs, they can sense when they aren't trusted. This makes them trust less in return--and be even more likely to lash out, to give in to old tendancies. The best way is to give them all the attention we can--one to one. Which is something that humans are actually better at than Wolfen. You see, we litter--and when we try to devote all our attention to all of them, not enough is left to train them properly in this way."
"So, that means..."
"...I will be dealing personally with those most likely to cause problems--and selected humans will be raising the ones less so. And that includes you."
"Me?" Janet had blinked, a bit startled by this. It was not at all what she had been expecting from the job description of working with Wolfen. "But I'm only--"
"Fourteen? I know. But I've seen your psych-test scores. You show a high level of maturity for your age, good maternal instincts, and no more fear or dislike of Wolfen than is natural for humans of your age. And Cassandra--the one I've picked for you--is really a good one. She should not require much guidance--but she will require some. And that is where you will come in."
"When can...I meet her?" Janet had asked.
"Just a few weeks now," Charlene had said, meaningfully patting the expanded abdomen of the lower half of her wolfish-centaur body.
"Oh..." Janet said. "Then my job begins..."
"...just as soon as I've weaned her, yes--a week or two after that," Charlene had replied. "But don't think you'll have nothing to do in the meantime! You should have just about finished your 'basic training' by then."
"'Basic training?'" Janet had wondered aloud.
"Wolfen handling classes. If after having them you still want the job--then you will be able to handle it."
Janet had nodded. "Sounds like a deal to me."
The classes had been somewhat unsettling, and had included complete details of the Wolfen lifecycle, hunting and feeding habits, and digestive-reproductive system, as well as basic medical and nutritional care for the young Wolfen. There had been a video of what had been euphemistically called "a Wolfen-human ingestion interaction" that had been uncomfortably close to a snuff porn flick for Janet's youthful tastes. And there had been instruction with the hand-stunner she was issued, which would be continually locked to her wrist in a powerholster for just in case her youthful charge acted up.
By the time it was over, Janet had been half-expecting to be taking care of a monster--but what she had ended up with had been a cute little hyperactive bundle of puppyish fur who had been a handful to keep up with the first few months. Cassandra, or Cassie as Janet had nicknamed her, had grown to love and respect her, and it had been reciprocal. She had only really tried to eat Janet once, in play that had grown a bit too rough, and had been truly contrite after waking up from Janet's stun charge. Since then, especially as her original adult memory had returned to her, Cassandra had elected to tease Janet about it, referring to her more than once as a future dinner to which she looked forward. But in truth, there was far too much mutual love and respect there for Cassie to take her unwillingly--an act most Wolfen now acknowledged as tantamount to rape. For Janet's part, she was not sure she liked the idea of being swallowed down into the stomach of someone else--even her best friend--but had promised Cassandra that sooner or later, she might consider it.
As a young adult, Cassandra was a truly interesting character. Despite having over a hundred years of life-memories, it seemed a Wolfen rebirth truly was a rebirth, and her attitude was of the teen whose age she now resembled in body. She made a good friend to Janet, as well as a perfect partner when the time came to join Persephone Colony's mechanic-ranger corps. The corps was mostly in charge of maintenance on colony systems, from the local to the outlying, and it made a good job for two free-ranging, slightly wild teens--most of the time. Boredom was an occupational hazard, and it looked like the hazard was going to strike today.
Janet awoke from her reverie as she arrived at the airfield and made the customary inspection of the airboat they would be taking out on patrol. It looked like sort of a cross between a yacht and an airplane, with a wide open deck foreward and a streamlined pressurized fuselage that was occupied during speed flights. Antigravity thrusters kept it in the air, and turbojets propelled it horizontally, to a maximum speed of just under four hundred miles per hour. Airboats were sort of the utility workhorse of Persephone Colony; smaller, faster scoutships were also used a great deal. Janet and Cassandra would probably have used one today, but they were too close and claustrophobic for a Wolfen to enjoy--especially Cassandra, as Janet knew from experience.
"Everything in order, I trust?" Cassandra asked from behind her, as Janet was scrutinizing the onboard computer's logs.
Janet wasn't startled, being well-accustomed to Cassandra's near-silent approaches. "Looks like it," she agreed. "Ready for a day alone in the stratosphere?"
"Looking forward to it, actually. It gives me a chance to catch up on my reading." Cassandra grinned at her. "My firstbirthsister's latest just came down the tach."
"Oh, really? Beam it to me, her stuff's interesting."
Cassandra raised an eyebrow. "This from someone who compared her to 'Barbara Cartland crossed with Piers Anthony'?"
"Did I say that?" Janet asked innocently.
"Uh-huh. Just last week."
"Well, I didn't mean it in a bad way. Or maybe I did, but it's still kind of interesting to read these things and see how the Wolfen mind thinks. C'mon, beam it over."
Cassandra grinned evilly. "All right. But only if we can take turns reading it aloud the trip out. I'll let you read the juicy parts."
Janet rolled her eyes. "All right, deal. But let's get a move on--sooner we get there, sooner we get back."
As the airboat lifted off and the turbine whine increased to a loud rumble, Cassandra stepped back to the boat's sleeping quarters and started shedding clothes. She slipped out of the coveralls first, then undid the straps keeping her bra in place and let it drop. Her panties went next, and finally there was not a stitch of clothing on her body.
Cassandra came forward to the control cabin, shaking out her hair so that it fell to her waist. Janet glanced up, shrugged, glanced back to the controls. She knew Cassandra was trying to shock her--as she always had since she had come into her adolescent growth. The Wolfen, observing very few nudity taboos themselves, tended to be amused by humans' foibles, and their reactions to those who broke them. What Janet saw no point in mentioning was that, since she had raised Cassandra from when she was very little, Cassandra's preference for nudity had long ago lost all power to shock her.
Soon giving up on startling Janet, Cassandra let her body expand outward and grow darker and furrier, trading her human guise for her more comfortable Wolfen centaurian form. Shoving aside the gimbal-mounted human-form-factor co-pilot's seat, she settled into place at the controls, glancing at the readouts to check that everything was in full order. She was not fully pilot-rated yet, but Janet thought she was getting pretty close to ready--especially considering that the Wright brothers had not even been born when she'd last been in the human world.
"Autopilot's set," Janet said, sliding her seat back.
"Good." Cassandra grinned wolfishly, tongue lolling out. "Now's the time to stick to your side of that bargain you made."
Janet mock-sighed, and followed her friend back into the living quarters.
"'and as his strugglings within her ceased, and his spirit entered into her own, she knew true contentment at last. It had been a long, exhausting search, then a soul-searing struggle, but she had finally found her soulmate, and they would be together forevermore. The End.'" Janet tossed the PDA onto one of the airboat living quarters' fold-down cots, and glanced over at where Cassandra lay curled up on the ground, listening intently.
Cassandra sighed deeply, happily. "God, I love a happy ending..."
Janet rolled her eyes. "Wolfen romance novels. Why is it that with us, a romantic dinner is supposed to lead to falling in love, but with you it's exactly the other way around?"
Cassandra propped her chin up with her arms and looked over at Janet. "Well, I suppose it's all in the nature of what we consider love. What is it to love someone enough to let him stick bits of himself in you, when instead he could stick the whole thing?"
Janet snorted. "That's one way of putting it, I guess."
Cassandra continued, more quietly and a bit dreamily, "Well, seriously. It takes a great deal of trust and love for someone to place himself entirely at your disposal, knowing that for all practical purposes he will be 'dying' for you, giving you his body for your nourishment, his spirit to keep and protect and perhaps raise again. Asking someone to remother or refather you is the deepest pledge of love and devotion one can make to a Wolfen, for it means giving up everything for you." She sighed. "Human-Wolfen civilization is a mixed bag--we eat sentients much less often, but at least every time we do, it is for love or devotion, and not the hunt."
Janet nodded. This was nothing new, of course--she'd heard it from the Wolfen class, and even from Cassandra herself a time or two, but Cassandra never tired of talking about it, and Janet figured it was good politics to let her. "Well--I don't think it'll be long before we hit the New Carpathians--I'd probably better get ahead and make sure the autopilot's got us on the right--"
"Did I ever tell you about the man who saved Charlene's life?" Cassandra asked softly. Something in her tone stopped Janet where she was.
"Um...no?" Janet said. She couldn't seem to remember this tale...
"It was in 2052, at the height of the anti-Wolfen riots," Cassandra said quietly.
"How would you know--you weren't--"
"She told me, when I was still in her mind," Cassandra continued, as if she had not been interrupted. "It had been her misfortune to be 'outed' while still trying to blend into society. Oh, how they turned on her, the people she had thought to be her friends. Human friendship quickly turns to fear once you find out you've been living with a 'monster' who could devour you where you stand. All Charlene's protests that she would never eat one of them without permission fell on deaf ears. She was stoned...bludgeoned. She managed to escape, to crawl into a dark alley, an abandoned building, but she was hurt badly, and weakened by subsisting on protein supplement--even Wolfen regenerative powers have their limits.
"And then he was there--a man she'd known, a classmate from the university. Of all of them, he was the only person not to turn against her. He gently bandaged her wounds--but he knew what she really needed, and he offered it to her the only way he could. I am sure he was scared stiff, and had things he would rather have spent the rest of that human life doing, but...he fed himself to her, and she grew and gained strength and rebirthed him. Of course, the story seemed to have a bittersweet ending, for he wished rebirthing as a human, and so he was..."
Janet sensed a "but" somewhere in there, and so asked it. "...but?"
"But he came back to her, when the colonies were founded..."
"Ah." Janet was beginning to sense where this was going.
"He entered her once more, with the other colonists, then helped build this place when he re-awoke. He lived a human life, parented human children, and then returned to Charlene a final time." Cassandra smiled. "That man was Jason Berk, your father."
"...ah." Janet sat there, more or less stunned--she had not seen that coming. At least she said quietly. "I...never knew what happened to him. Has he been rebirthed yet?"
Cassandra shook her head. "Not yet."
Janet sat there, trying to find words, her thoughts a confused muddle. "Well," she said at last, "when and if he is, I damn well will foster him."
Cassandra grinned toothsomely. "If it is in my power, I will see that you do." Just then, the proximity alarm started sounding from the cabin, and Cassandra grinned wider. "And I believe that would be the New Carpathians coming onto the scope?"
Janet scrambled to her feet. "Right--I'd better go check our course. What do you think, high road or low road?"
"Low road, please?" Cassandra asked. "I'm willing to spare the extra time now; I'd like a breeze in my fur and would rather wait being airsick until the trip back, so I can at least enjoy the outing while I'm there."
"Right!" Janet called back from the cabin. "Bringing her down to navigate Sylvania Pass by the land route!" The airboat slowed and descended. Cassandra broke the seal on the pressurized door when they were low enough, and stepped out onto the deck. Janet joined her after a while, the airboat's remoteset strapped to her forearm.
"Ah...the mountain air smells so good!" Cassandra said. "Fresh, cold, and clear." She shook herself from head to tail, and inhaled what seemed to Janet a sufficient amount of air to inflate a small weather balloon.
"Yep--despite the distance, I love these trips," Janet said. "Chance to get away and just breathe for a while."
"Why did they put the sensor picket so far away from Colony Central anyway?" Cassandra asked. "Such a long way to go to maintain it."
"We have the tech to make the trips," Janet said. "It keeps the powerful EM transmitters a safe distance from habitation, especially with the mountain range in the way. And it certainly cuts down on the amount of graffiti you'll find spraypainted on dish antennae."
"There is that," Cassandra agreed. "Ahwell. I hope I will be able to hunt the forest when we arrive?"
"Yeah--there should be plenty of grazerbeasts in the woods--they're not sentient, but they are live meat on the hoof, which should be better for you than the protein stuff."
Cassandra nodded. "Then I suppose I might as well relax and enjoy the trip."
Janet leaned against the fore railing of the deck and tapped the remote's controls to give the airboat a steering nudge, then grinned at Cassandra. "Yeah, you should. I'm the one who's going to have to do all the work, anyway."
"Is it my fault I'm not mechanically inclined?" Cassandra asked with a grin.
Janet turned the last bolt and leaned against the side of the transmission tower to relax. There had been a bit more to do than she had expected, between transceiver boards that had reached the end of their service life and were screaming for replacement, and a lightning-struck power generator that needed servicing. She had the feeling that someone had not been doing his full job in the last few monthly inspection rotations, and made a note in her PDAcomp to that effect.
Janet had worked through the afternoon. Cassandra had been sleeping through most of it, after waddling back into the complex with a distended belly. Janet didn't begrudge her the nap, though--she was well aware of the Wolfen metabolism and its limitations, and was just glad to know that she was there.
Now, as she wiped the sweat off and prepared to go back to the airboat's cramped sanitary unit for a shower, the commsignal button on the boat's remote blipped. Janet tabbed the "receive" key. "Yes?"
It was the controller back at Persephone Colony Central. "Evening, Janet--about done?"
"Yeah...just about. Looks like if I leave within an hour, we can be back by thirdmoon, get a good night's sleep before tomorrow's duties."
"You might want to belay that, Janet. Dopplers report a pretty big storm building up over Sylvania Pass."
Janet glanced to the west, where the sky was darkening over the mountains. "Yeah, I saw that. Hoping we can get through before it hits, but if not, no biggie. We've shot through storms before."
"This one looks pretty bad, J. I'd strongly advise staying the night, at least. We don't want to lose you."
Janet considered it. "Would be nice to have a vacation...but there's really just too much work piling up and I'd rather not work double-shifts the rest of the month if I can help it."
"Do what you think best, J, but check your Dopps before you head in."
"Will do, control. Out." Janet stood, stretched to get the kinks out, and limped back to the airboat to shower the sweat away.
A half hour later, Janet stepped out of the cabin and onto the deck. "Hey, lazybones!" she called down to Cassandra. "Time to go home!"
Cassandra yawned. "I will have you know I do not have a lazy bone in my body," she declared mock-indignantly. "Just sleepy ones." She yawned again.
"Well, get over here, sleepyhead, or I'll have to leave you behind," Janet said, hiding a grin. "I'm lowering the cargo elevator for your bloated carcass."
"Now you're getting personal," Cassandra grumped, but got languidly to her feet and padded over to the airboat, which had opened a hatch in the bottom and lowered an elevator platform out. Cassandra flopped onto it, careful of her big, bushy tail, and was drawn up into the body of the airboat.
In the cabin, Janet looked nervously at the Doppler radar display. Centered west of them, almost directly above Sylvania Pass, was a large storm with multiple cells, showing up on the Doppler radar as bright yellows, oranges, and reds. There seemed to be one or two of the hook-shaped formations that denoted tornados, near the center. "Hey, Cassie...come up here and take a look at this?"
"Hmm?" Cassandra slowly meandered up to the control deck.
"I'm not sure I like the look of the radar here," Janet said, pointing at the screen. "I've flown through some bad storms before, but I don't think any quite like this. What do you think...risk it, or stay overnight?"
Cassandra squinted sleepily at the screen. "It doesn't look too bad to me. I have confidence in you." She backed out of the cabin and curled up in the sleeping quarters to continue her doze.
"All right, then...next stop, Colony Central."
Only after she'd lifted the boat into the air and pointed it west did it occur to Janet that beastform Wolfen did not have the best color vision.
An hour later, as the airboat crossed the New Carpathians fifty miles south of Sylvania Pass, they began to run into trouble. Janet had thought that by sticking to the fringe of the storm, they could avoid the worst danger and only lose half an hour of travel time, but she had not counted on the chaotic nature of the storm. Before she was even quite aware of it, three new cells had blossomed up all around them, the winds buffeting them left and right, up and down.
"What is happening?" Cassandra yelled over the wind's howl, making her way forward.
"Storm!" Janet yelled back, wrestling with the controls. "I think I'm gonna have to set 'er down!"
As the airboat rolled sixty degrees to port, Cassandra grabbed for handholds in the wall and muttered, "It's a good thing Wolfen have strong stomachs."
"I think I see a good spot! Brace yourself!" Janet shoved the throttle down, and the boat approached the ground, angling for a narrow valley between two rock crags below.
It was not entirely Janet's fault, what happened next--she had been distracted enough by the task of steering to forget that lightning followed the fastest path to the ground, and was attracted by the highest conductive object in the area. As the airboat passed between the two crags, it was struck suddenly and repeatedly by powerful bolts of lightning, which leaped from it to the crags to pass into the ground. Janet was thrown from the controls, which flickered and died, and the airboat tumbled out of control to the ground below.
Janet swam groggily back to consciousness, and a beige spot overhead resolved into Cassandra's human face, looking concernedly down at her. "Janet? Can you hear me?"
"Wha--" Janet tried to prop herself up by an elbow, but Cassandra pushed her back down.
"Don't try to move, Janet...you've been hurt pretty badly." Cassandra's eyes flicked to the readout of the medical scanner she was holding, which was the only real light in the compartment other than the occasional flash of lightning seen through a rent in the far wall. Janet could hear the rattle of rain on metal, and the booms of thunder.
"Wh...where are we? The airboat--?"
"Yes--it crashed," Cassandra said, matter-of-factly. "It is lying on its port side, and seems to be bent just about in twain; I do not believe it will ever fly again. All the electronics are blown out--nothing works. I've set out the emergency beacon, but I think the storm is too intense for its signal to get through."
Janet sighed. "I'm sorry--I should have known better than to try to fly back through that storm. It was stupid of me."
Cassandra shook her head. "No, no, don't blame yourself one bit. If I hadn't been so drowsy, I would have paid more attention to the radar and seen more what it was like--it doesn't matter now, anyway."
"Right, right..." Janet said. "We'll argue over blame later." She paused. "Why don't I feel anything? How bad...am I?"
"I bandaged you, and dosed you up with painkillers." Cassandra glanced at the scanner again, then looked at her friend, not quite managing to hide a frown. "And...well..."
"Show me," Janet said.
"I don't think--"
"Damn it, show me, Cassie!" Janet snapped. Cassandra winced, but handed the scanner over so Janet could see it. Janet took it in her right hand--her left did not seem to be working--squinted to focus, and paged down the list with her thumb. "Bruises...lacerations...mild concussion...broken left arm and leg...contusions and internal bleeding. Oh, hell. These are too much for the nanodoc kit to handle. At this rate...I only have a few hours. Can you raise Colony Central on the comlink?"
Cassandra shook her head slowly. "I tried--can't get through. Too much static."
Janet sighed. "Damn them for using old EM transcievers instead of upgrading to subspace comm. Well...what are our options?"
"I could make Colony Central on my own in a day or so," Cassandra said. "Or two days, if I carried you. The problem is..."
"I'd be dead by then. Right." Janet nodded. "Maybe if you could hike out of the storm enough to raise a signal?"
"I doubt I could get that far in time--especially as intense as the storm is right now," Cassandra said. "And it could last for days." She wrung her hands. "What will we do, Janet?"
Janet frowned. "Don't panic, first off. Where there's life, there's hope."
"Which means there's only hope for a few more hours," Cassandra said.
"I know, I know." There was something niggling at the back of Janet's mind. Something Cassandra had said earlier, perhaps? What had they talked about...Wolfen romance novels...Charlene and Janet's father...Janet's eyes widened suddenly.
"What is it?" Cassandra asked, concernedly.
"Give me a minute," Janet said. "I'm not sure about this..." What she was thinking sounded crazy, even to her. Would it work...? Probably. Was there any other way...? It seemed doubtful. It was not the way she would ideally have chosen, but... "Cassie, be a dear and fetch me the flightlog recorder. It should still work, it's got a titanium casing."
"I'm not a deer, I'm a wolf," Cassie said, but rummaged around and came up with the specially-protected clipboard-sized computer/recorder. "Here it is--but why did you want it?"
"I'm about to make an entry," Janet said cryptically. "Help me with this, will you? It's hard with just one hand--I need to sync the data from the medical scanner to it as evidence."
"All right." Cassandra manipulated the scanner to copy the data over. "Now what?"
"Shush, I'm going to record." Janet cleared her throat, then hit the "start" tab. The lower-right corner of the screen flickered to the monitor picture of her face, and Janet was slightly struck by how bad she looked--she had a black eye, and the left side of her face was swelled up. She wondered if any teeth were loose. "Flightlog, Janet Berk recording. I attempted to fly the boat back through the storm, and subsequently crashed. I take full responsibility--shush, Cassandra--for this accident.
"As the attached scan report shows, my condition is bad, and growing worse. At this rate, I will probably die before any chance I might be rescued. Therefore..." She paused. "Therefore, I am taking the one option left available to me. Being of sound mind--well, sound as it has ever been, anyway--I hereby declare my intent to be eaten and rebirthed by my friend and partner, Cassandra Wolfschild. Cassie has not coerced or induced me in any way, nor had I mentioned it to her before, as you could probably tell by the gasp of shock you just now heard. I wish there were a witness to confirm that, but there's no helping some things, and she'll just have to take the heat when we get back. This recording should help some, anyway. All my possessions are to be placed in trust, administered for me by Cassandra, until I am able to repossess them. End entry." Janet dropped the PDA and lay back in the bed.
Cassandra looked shocked. "Janet--you can't be serious--"
Janet managed a grin. "What? After all this time of teasing me about it, you don't want to follow through now when it's for real? C'mon, I thought you were a better wolfie than that."
"Janet...that was teasing, this is for real. How can you--how can I--?"
"Cassie, come here," Janet said, trying to ignore her increasing shortness of breath. "Listen...this is my decision. I want to live. There's no other way I can see to do that right now. And hey...if my Dad could do it to save a Wolfen's life, then I can darned well do it to save my own."
Cassandra sighed. "I'd hoped you would agree, someday, but...not from being forced to, because you wanted to."
Janet smiled. "Hey, Cassie...you know I've always been fascinated by you critters, and I would have agreed sooner or later. When it came to be a good time, or when I got the nerve up...hey, so the call came a little early, and I'm still a little freaked by it. But...I'm still sort of looking forward to it, too. And--well, Cassie, you're my best friend. Always have been, since I met you. There is no Wolfen I would rather have to be my second mother. Ever."
"Oh..." Cassandra sat there for a moment, looking a little dazed. She blinked. "You...really do mean that, don't you?"
"Of course I do, Cassie. Have I ever lied to you?"
Cassandra still looked stunned. "I...this is so unexpected."
"I hope you still have room," Janet said with a wry grin. "That grazerbeast might have spoiled your appetite."
Cassandra smiled. "For you...there will always be room."
Janet slowly sat up on her makeshift cot. "Then...let's do this thing."
Cassandra nodded, moving forward to help her up. "All right, then," she said, quietly. "Do you...want me to put you to sleep first? So you won't feel anything?"
Janet shook her head, then winced. "No. I want to experience everything," she whispered. "Even if I don't like it--I need to know what it's like at least once, in case I never do it again."
Cassandra nodded. "All right, then. The whole experience." She paused a moment. "If anything I do...might otherwise offend you--I apologize in advance." She leaned forward, and before Janet could say anything, kissed her on the mouth, deeply.
Janet started to protest--she didn't swing that way, and didn't want a kiss from her best friend at any rate--and then stopped, as she found she was enjoying it after all. Experimentally, she deepened the kiss. The taste was not what she had expected--it had a sort of electric tingle. "Ohh..." she moaned, after it broke off. "Why did you...do that?"
"You've had the classes--you tell me," Cassandra said, winking.
"I feel...dizzy, disoriented...no pain...the Wolfen charm?" Janet said slowly.
"Time was, I could have almost any dinner I liked with just one kiss," Cassandra said dreamily. "One kiss, and he would wander out into the countryside with me, and then, after I showed him what I was, he would beg me to let him in. Such a fun time...and, alas, the very reason they demand witnesses now."
"Kiss me again."
As they kissed, Cassandra ran a sharpened fingernail down Janet's back, cutting her coveralls open with the precision of a diamond blade. It would be easier that way--the splints she had made for her arm and leg would keep them from coming off over them. Janet arched her back at the sensation. "Oh...what are you doing?"
"Getting your clothes free so I can taste you better."
"Oh." Janet helped her as best she could with her limited range of motion, and it wasn't long before all her clothes littered the floor. "I feel like I should be self-conscious, but it just seems funny now."
"Mmm. You have a lovely body," Cassandra said. "You could have not shaped it better if you were a Wolfen already. Well, perhaps a little better."
Janet giggled. "You'll be having this lovely body yourself in just a bit. And I'll be inside of yours..."
"So you will..." Cassandra laughed. "You'll like it there--it will be nice and warm, and a good place to sleep your life away."
Janet smiled. It was funny--this was not quite how she had pictured it would be. There was a bit of a haze over her mind, a small part of which was observing with a curious sense of detachment as the rest of it said, "I've always admired your body--human or wolfen. And in a little while, I'll be part of it."
"Yes...you will." Cassandra smiled, and then expanded outward, into her furry wolfen-centaur form. She hugged Janet to her, and started licking her face with her great pink Wolfen tongue.
"Hey, that tickles!" Janet giggled. "What're you doing that for?"
"Sampling," Cassandra said between licks. "You try before you buy, don't you?"
"You've already bought me, though," Janet pointed out.
"Then the appetizer before the main course." Cassandra continued to lick her body, languidly. "Mmm...yes, I was right--you are delicious."
"Well, thank you--I've always taken good care of my body."
Cassandra cuddled Janet against her furry chest. "Now...I have to ask a very important question."
Janet looked up. "Hmm?"
"Would you rather go head first...or feet first?" Cassandra winked at her.
Janet thought about this for a moment. "Head first," she said. "I want to dive right in."
Cassandra laughed, a deep throaty chuckle that Janet could feel through her skin where she was snuggled up against her Wolfen friend. "Oh, I think you'll go down just a little slower than that. We wouldn't want to rush things..."
Janet glanced at the splints on her arms and legs. "Will...those be a problem?"
Cassandra looked where she was looking. "Oh, no...those are wood and cotton, and I can digest anything organic--even teeth and bones." She giggled. "But my firstbirthsister wrote me about a time when she ate a woman and then burped up two floppy bags of silicon gel..."
For some reason, that seemed like the funniest thing in the world to Janet right now. "That's like...when you get those little 'do not eat' packets with luggage and vitamin pills!" She laughed. "I'm glad I'm one hundred percent natural!"
"You'll always be 'Grade A prime' to me," Cassandra said, licking her face again. "Now...are you ready?"
Janet nodded slightly, looking up into Cassandra's eyes. Those eyes...the eyes of her best friend. They had never looked quite so oddly calming as they did now...the back of Janet's mind told her that was another effect of the Wolfen charm, but she mostly did not care. She whispered, "Yes...yes I am." Cassandra lowered her head to kiss Janet again, the tip of her wolfen tongue slipping between her lips. Then she opened her mouth, widening the kiss, and gently started lowering her jaws over Janet's head.
Looking up, Janet could see that the inside of Cassandra's mouth seemed much larger now...at least a couple of feet across. From the classes, she knew that it was a special magic effect, related to the Wolfen ability to change their size and mass. The spell twisted space so that bigger things fit into smaller openings, letting the Wolfen eat things as large as people or even each other. As her mind drifted, she recalled hearing stories of Wolfen who swallowed elephants or whales, and wondered if they were true. They had always seemed so ridiculous...but then again, ants could carry things many times their own weight...
Cassandra gradually worked her jaw down over Janet's head and neck, so Janet was now leaning against her tongue. Janet ran a hand over its damp, rough surface, smiling at the warmth, then lowered both arms to her side as the corners of Cassandra's lips moved down over her shoulders. Now her tongue slid against Janet's chest, and slid again, a little harder. "Ohhh..." Janet moaned as her breasts were so roughly caressed. "What're you..." She twisted slightly, but could manage no more movement than that, as Cassandra took more of her into her mouth.
"Didn't I tell you I'd try to make it enjoyable for you?" Cassandra's voice spoke in her mind. Cassandra's tongue moved again, pushing Janet against the roof of her mouth, pulling more of her body in. Now the tip of the tongue dallied with Janet's belly button, then dipped lower. Janet gasped as Cassandra began to probe a very intimate place, then gasped again. She struggled reflexively, but could not really move where she was--she knew she was at Cassandra's mercy. As the strokes continued, Janet was a bit surprised to realize she was not struggling anymore, but was now thrusting against the pressure, gasping for air inbetween. Slowly a feeling of ecstasy came over her, and the thrusting and pressure subsided.
"Mmmm...that tastes good," Cassandra said, licking again. Janet moaned slightly, largely spent by the struggling and thrusting. She barely noticed when her feet left the ground and her position changed more from a vertical to a horizontal one, or when she started sliding forward, her head touching the back of Cassandra's throat. She felt the Wolfen's lips and tongue on her thighs, then her lower legs...and then her feet touched Wolfen teeth, which nipped a bit before passing them on. Cassandra's jaws swung shut, sealing out all light.
As Cassandra's tongue pushed Janet back, and the slick muscles of her esophagus began to grip her head and upper chest, the haze cleared a little, and the realization began to slip fully into her mind: she had seen the outside world for the last time. Despite her willingness to be eaten, her will to survive the consequences of the accident, it was still a little unsettling to know that she was just about to end up in her best friend's stomach, to shed her body and live within the Wolfen's mind for a time.
Perhaps she whimpered a little, or perhaps Cassandra simply picked up her fear from her mind or body language; whatever the reason, Janet heard Cassandra's voice soothingly in her mind. "There, there, Janet, it's going to be all right. Just relax...it'll be over soon and you'll be with me. Don't be scared. This isn't the end of anything, it's just the beginning." That made her feel a little better--as did the rhythmic slow thumping of Cassandra's heart, conducted through her throat tissues to beat against Janet's skin like the bass pulse of a rock concert.
Now Cassandra swallowed again, her tongue pushing Janet further into her throat. Her upper chest, with its still-aroused breasts, was a tight fit, and it began to be harder to breathe; Janet concentrated on short, shallow breaths, just trying to stay conscious. To her surprise and relief, there was no sour or foul smell rising from Cassandra's stomach. There was a warm, inviting smell, like fresh-cut grass, but Janet could not precisely place what it was.
Another swallow, and Janet was stuffed further down the pipe. She guessed her head was nearly to the junction between Cassandra's humanoid and quadrupedal bodies by now, as her knees were being swallowed. Janet could feel the greater friction between the cloth of the splints on her arm and leg as they rubbed against Cassandra's throat tissues, and felt mild twinges of pain here and there. The twinges were very distant, though; Janet suspected she had many painkillers in her.
Another swallow, and another, and with each one, the hot, slick muscles around Janet contracted, forcing air out of her lungs with a gasp, but not feeling too unpleasant otherwise--almost like a soothing massage, only tighter. It was taking some time...Janet suspected Cassandra was being more gentle in her swallowing than she might otherwise have been, due to Janet's injuries. She was grateful for the consideration, but it was becoming harder and harder to breathe, and Janet wished she were free of it.
And then--she was, or at least her head was. She could feel that she was being slowly extruded from the other end, sliding out into a puddle of something warm and sticky. Her breasts came out next, and her abdomen, and the upper parts of her legs, then the lower parts, and finally her feet pulled free with a slight sucking noise, and there she was, lying in a depression in what felt like a warm, wet, sticky pouch that contoured and adhered to her body.
Janet reached out and felt the walls of it, felt along the slick, mucous-coated sides which curved up and over her head. She touched the smaller sphincter in the back, currently clenched tight, that led to the rest of the Wolfen's digestive system. The passage through which she had entered had also clenched, and she knew there were only a few minutes' worth of air in the tiny space. "Oh..." she murmured. It was both reassuring and scary to know that by the time that air ran out, she would no longer need to breathe it.
Janet felt her surroundings tilt and swing a bit as Cassandra moved slowly over to the bedding in the corner and settled down on it. Janet touched the stomach wall again, pressed gently--and felt an answering pressure as Cassandra put her hand there and rubbed her side. "I'm really here, Cassie," Janet whispered, drawing her knees up beneath her. "I can't believe it--I'm inside you...I really am."
"You really are," Cassandra said softly, her voice vibrating through the flesh all around Janet. "And I'm so glad to have you there. Thank you so much for...yourself. I promise, I'll take good care of you."
"What's...going to happen to me now?" Janet wondered.
"In just a few moments, you'll go to sleep," Cassandra said gently. "Your body and mind will flow into mine, and then I'll decide what to do with you." As Cassandra spoke, Janet could feel the puddle she was sitting in start to grow, soaking through the splint around her leg and moving up toward her waist. She began to feel a little drowsy. "When it's time, I'll drop an egg into my womb, fertilize it with a little bit of your body, and your soul will just be sucked right down into it. You'll grow inside of me, finally be born, and then spend a few years growing up enough to where you can let yourself remember who you used to be. Then you'll be you again, only with a few little adjustments from stuff you picked up as you were growing back up into you."
"Three whole years, with you as my mommy," Janet murmured, as the fluid enveloped her chest and Cassandra's voice seemed to recede farther.
"Three whole years," Cassandra said. "But we'll talk about that...in a little while. Good night, Janet."
Janet felt the fluid seeping into her pores, tingling and drawing her down into sleep. For a moment, she was scared again--but only for a moment. "Good...night...Cassie..." she murmured, and closed her eyes for the final time.
Cassandra lay there, curled up and dozing, a great smile on her Wolfen face. Finally...at long last...she had eaten her best friend. Janet had been truly delicious, in the way that only a lifetime friend truly could. Like a well-aged steak, her flavor had grown and come out through the association, as Cassandra came to know her smell and taste intimately, so that every hint of that flavor came out as Janet had passed over her tongue.
Now her body was collecting Janet's spirit and mind, extracting and collating the DNA of her genes, the RNA of her memories, and putting her psyche together again. In just a little while, she would wake into Cassandra's mind. Oh, how she was looking forward to that. To be able to talk to Janet, to play with her there, to have her close all the time...and then to birth and raise her, either as human or Wolfen, whichever she decided--those were things Cassandra had been looking forward to ever since her memories first came back.
Cassandra listened lazily to the sound of the rain on the airboat's hull as she dozed and digested, readying herself for the foot trek back to Colony Central. There would be much to do to prepare, and some people would not be too pleased about what had happened; she would have to gather her strength for the ordeals to come. But Cassandra was not worried--she knew that she would come through it--and so, in time, would Janet. Things would work out just fine.
Author's Notes:Well, I thought I would never again write another Wolfen story, but the response my first two gained me from the TSA-talk list plus a few random ideas I had over the last couple of years convinced me that there was still another story left to write in the Wolfen world. Or perhaps I should say universe. This tale completes the thematic trilogy of past, present, and future--and readers who are paying attention probably recognized at least one of the characters from bygone tales.
I don't know that I'd say this is the best story I've ever written; there are parts that are a bit heavy with exposition of past history and events that would ideally be told instead in other stories in an anthology set, but I don't have time to write those stories now. Nor do I know if I ever would.
Astute readers may notice that the rebirth-and-growth process takes several years here, whereas Astra's in the original story took only a few months. The reason is that it has been determined to be healthier and more conducive to psychological stability to take a bit longer--plus, it gives the parent and child more time together to re-bond.
The antigravity airboat was inspired by the similar craft in Edgar Rice Burrough's excellent John Carter of Mars adventure series.
I considered an epilogue with Janet meeting her father (whom Charlene had bequeathed at birth) within Cassandra's mind, but decided the story ended well enough without it. That could be material for a future sequel, if I or someone else should decide to write one.
If anyone else wishes to write within the Wolfen universe, please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, for permission, describing what you plan to do, and then let me read over and approve your story before you post it anywhere. Admittedly, I can hardly force you to, but I'd appreciate it if you'd do me the courtesy.
(This story is copyright 2000 by Throat Wolf. Permission is granted
for this one electronic distribution and archival by the Transformation
Stories Archive, but not for distribution by any other means, including