Chakats © Bernard Doove/Chakat Goldfur used with permission




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Kryslin hadn't expected such a speedy response to her research request. At the very least, she had expected a cool, if civil, refusal from an anonymous Azi of Ariane Emory's staff, delayed for a couple of months. Instead, a near immediate reply from on planet – Ariane 2 Emory being on Pandora was something nearly unheard of – and a polite invitation to get together down at the Pandora Astoria hotel, where she was staying.


The wheels were already turning in Kryslin's head as she boarded a VTOL transport to fly her over to the Hotel, dressed in the best outfit she had since her metamorphosis. The relationship between Ariane and Kryslin could best be described as strained. They stood on opposite sides of a very touchy issue, one which Kryslin stayed as carefully neutral on as she could – the issue being whether or not Azi could be considered slaves or free men. Kryslin's personal beliefs put here squarely on the side of the abolitionists. Business-wise, she stayed as neutral as she could. Reseune Lab's expertise in cloning was essential to the recovery of her home world and its species.


The small craft came to a hover and set down on the roof of the Astoria Arcology, where she was met by a large, stone faced black man. Kryslin recognized Anton from her brief time at Reseune's Green Barracks training program. He had been the top student in the sniper program they ran there, but that would have been nearly fifteen years ago.


“I'm sorry, Sera,” he stated, “but Sera Emory wants to be sure you're carrying no weapons.”


“No apology needed, Anton. I am carrying no weapons other than what nature gave me.” Kryslin splayed the claws on her hand for the Azi to see. “If you want, I'll wear some nanotube reinforced gloves.”


“Sera Emory said that if you gave your word you were carrying no weapons, that would be fine.” The large Azi led the way into the reception area on the roof, and then into the penthouse suite, in complete and utter silence. He knocked twice on the door, and it was opened from within.


Ariane Emory hadn't changed much over the years; she was still a handsome woman, her face a tad severe, and her demeanor cold and distant at times. Her black hair was now streaked with steel gray, and her sharp, brown eyes were lined with fine wrinkles. She also looked ten years older than she ought to; possibly from the stresses that substance abuse had put on her body. She was dressed simply in a blouse and slacks, with a pair of slippers on. She took in Kryslin's altered form, from top to bottom, with only a raised eyebrow. “Whatever happened,” she finally said, with a crooked half-smile,” I didn't do it.” And with that, she ushered Kryslin within.


Kryslin took the quip in stride. “I'd like to thank you for the quick reply, and the opportunity to discuss this matter. I am curious, though, what brings you personally back to Pandora...?” Kryslin let the question hang for a moment, not really expecting an answer.


“Oh, things,” she said airily as she let her guest into the room, and then busied herself at the small wet bar. Kryslin had once shown Ariane the courtesy of serving drinks herself, and Ariane had decided to return the favor. “A speech for a symposium at the PIT, A few business matters to take care of, and a concert to attend to.” She came back with two iced teas. “Not as good as Anri back on Cyteen does,” she stated, after sipping at hers,”but it will have to do. I also wanted to find out how they were doing,” she asked, her voice low and sad.


By 'they', Kryslin knew she meant Catlin and Florian, her former bodyguards. Kryslin had suspected Ariane had given them a partial final tape, and then dumped them on her doorstep a number of years ago. “They're doing well,” Kryslin answered, while sipping at her tea. “In fact, the lot of them are doing quite well, though some cases may never fully recover. Your covert assistance has helped Mr. Hartnell quite a bit.”


Ariane leaned back into her chair. “Good, good,” she nodded. “It's nice to have some pleasant news once in a while. Now, about your research request; what in particular do you want?” Ariane was fairly sure she could plainly see what information Kryslin was looking for in front of her.


“The research notes and logs pertaining to the creation of my species. I'd like to read through what remains,” Kryslin stated, quietly “I'd like to answer the question of why we were created originally with four legs, and then modified for two.”


That was not the item Ariane was expecting Kryslin to ask about. Still, it was a minor enough request that she laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. “It's quite simple,” she answered, after recovering from the laughter,” And quite absurd. Reseune Labs was sued by SoGenAU for copyright infringement. We had licensed your original genome from the lab that had created the second generation chakat genome, and thought we had everything in order when we signed the license, but the judge in London didn't agree, and ruled that SoGenAU still owned the rights to the original work. SoGenAU was where the Doctors Turner had come from before going to the Institute of New Generation Genetics. The second generation chakats were considered a derivative of the first generation work. We were given three choices: Pay them more money than we had for the license, destruction of all derivative works, or make a suitable alteration, making our version sufficiently different so as to avoid confusion, and make that difference breed true. Since destroying your species would have been several hundred counts of murder charges worth of trouble, Brian Emory did the work for the alteration. Generation zero were essentially chakats, but their cubs, generation one, were specifically F. Diamanti Sapiens – your people. A lot of the original genetics were still there. I'm surprised that they hadn't been completely mangled by time, but then again, the chakat genome was known for its stability, even when altered. Even so, Reseune was nearly put out of business by the follow up law suits by Morphs Rights groups.”


“The other item, making sure the alterations bred true, was taken care of by the short term of pregnancy. Chakats require three hundred and twelve days for a reason. With the shorter term of pregnancy, the chance of survival for chakat fetus is zero. The latent changes were handled differently. Part of it was a genetic compulsion, which was probably bred out within a few generations. The other was societal, and was given to the second generation as tape, but was passed on as tradition. It's kind of sad, really, that several hundred children never got to see the world, and a couple hundred more died because of some idiot judge's ruling, lost in the depths of time.”


During this discussion, Ariane had noted that a door had opened quietly, and a certain youngster was sneaking his way towards Kryslin, or namely, Kryslin's long tail, which swept back and forth on the floor behind her. The lad had tousled sandy hair, and a somewhat scruffy look to him. Still, to Ariane's senses, he was being completely silent and stealthy. It would be interesting to see how well he would fare against Kryslin's senses.


The youth had made it within grabbing range of Kryslin's tail when she finally spoke. “I wouldn't Richard, if I were you.” And when the lad made the grab for the tail anyway, it simply wrapped around his waist, and easily hauled him up into the air. Kryslin set him down carefully in front of Ariane. The youth wore a lopsided, wolfish grin. “Yeah,” he said, flashing a “V” sign. “Almost did it. How'd you know my name's Richard?” He asked, nonplussed about Kryslin's appearance.


“I know someone almost exactly like you. I hope you don't give Sera Emory as much trouble as he's given me.” The young man was so much like the original it was scary.


He shook his head, and then there was that smile. “Nope. I'm Sera's daughter's yojimbo, keeping her out of trouble is my job. Excuse me, Sera Enderchai, Sera Emory; I've got to get back to make sure she doesn't bother Lacus.” And quick as he came, he was gone.


“Watch that rascal, Ariane. He wants to go places, and isn't going to let anything stop him.” As he goes back into the room, there is a girlish squeal, and two teenage girls scamper out, leaving the boy trampled as they rush to snuggle up against her.


One girl is nearly the spitting image of her mother. A slight difference in build, a little more muscular than her mother, but she still carried herself the same. The other was a rather fetching blond, curves beginning to show in all the right places, and she had a smile that seemed to light up rooms. Both of the young women had latched onto Kryslin like she was some big, stuffed animal.


Ariane had nearly fallen out of her chair laughing at Kryslin's reaction, which was to simply raise an Eyebrow. “Are these yours?” Kryslin asked, dealing with the attention as best she could.


“Yes. You've probably guessed one is my daughter, Ariane 3. The other is Lacus Clyne.”


As if on cue, both girls released their death grips on Kryslin, and lined up. “We're very pleased to meet you, Sera,” they said in unison, bowing politely.


Kryslin bowed slightly. “I'm pleased to make your acquaintance as well, ladies. Perhaps, if Sera Emory would be so gracious, we could have some cake? Better get that scoundrel Sharpe out here, too.”


“I don't see why not,” Ariane said.


“Yay!”

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