Dr. Stephanie Foster quantum/chaos physicist got a letter that her sister was pregnant; so she decided to return home from her sabbatical in Gauli to her parents home on the Swanee river in Almain. The was a war of unification going on in other parts of the world but the invasion of Merope had not yet started. Both Gaul and Almain's governments opposed Steenbok (a ratel) 's world unification so the there would be war, Her train was stopped En route by downed communications up the line. Turns out Steenbok had attacked both countries at the same time. After two days on a train in the middle of nowhere; the train comes into the next station where officers of the World Army check the passengers identity papers. When they come across Dr. Foster's they hold her for questioning. Their Intelligence marked her as part of a secret Almainian project to warp time and space to defeat the movement to unify Geode.
Johan Steenbok (a ratel/honey badger) grew up in a repressed minority. For religious (Erisian) and species (ratels and wolverines had been the last morphs to give up using other sentients as a food source and switch to poultry and fish) reasons his family were held in contempt and only given crap jobs. Steenbok enlisted and rose slowly in the Parklands army by doing jobs no one else wanted till he was running first a platoon then a company then the whole army at which point he overthrew the government and started his campaign to unify the planet by "Enfranchising the disenfranchised " In some countries that was over 50% of the population (females) His quick success was based on the fact that he kept his promises. Some countries still clung to their old ways and resisted but not for long.
Stephie had very little loyalty to Almain (their leaders were crazy and ultra-conservative) She agreed to go to work for the new world government if they got her relatives out safely. Unfortunately the Almainian forces retreating down the Swanee River opted for a scorched earth policy and her home town was firebombed by her own countryfurrs. She assumed her whole family had been killed and didn't find out till years later that her sister and brother-in-law escaped safely. Her sister thought Stephie was dead and even named her daughter (born in a relocation camp) Stephanie in her memory. Joseph and Jeannie Foster were taken to a relocation camp outside the devastated area. Stephie was born in the camp hospital while they still had leftover medical supplies for the military. All three were hosed in the family barracks. Because they were a family they were allowed a room to themselves. It was small and cramped but they had some privacy. At first the refugees were well fed and taken care of and even given work to earn money for clothes and nonessentials.
After the war Dr. Foster was put in charge of the Swanee Technologic Abstract Research Team (S.T.A.R.T.) She was very organized; but her assistant Charlton Fort (a jackalope) was your typical absent-minded professor so of course they fell in love. For 10 years Steenbok put the finishing touches on world unification. Two things even he couldn't make go right:
1. The Geode armed forces had a long tradition of something called furns. Field Unitized Recreational Nexi. Sex slaves to service the soldiers. Any attempt to end this practice brought serious threats of mutiny
2. Where to move the furrs who's home were destroyed by the war. Vast tracts of land in Merope and The East had been rendered unlivable. The tens of thousands of homeless waited in progressively under funded relocation camps
The bureaucracy involved in running one country is immense. In running a whole world it s astronomical! No quick solution could be found for the war refugees and the problem slipped further and further down the chain of command. Eventually it was left to local government to each handle the camps in their section. The Grazland relocation camp where the Foster s were was soon running at minimum cost and employment opportunities dried up for the displaced. The only work Joe could get was road repair and ditch digging. He d been a bookbinder and was unused to strenuous outdoor labor. He caught consumption and died in the now understaffed and under supplied infirmary.
Jeannie and Stephanie (who was called Stuffy cause she always tried to stuff herself into the smallest spaces and stay there) Were moved to the women's barracks to make room for a whole family. The food was sparse and they had little or no blankets and clothes. When Steenbok died and his older son George took over nothing changed. Stuffy as she got older would sneak out at night and raid the guards quarters for anything she could carry back. She always wore black hardly ever spoke. The guards suspected her but could never catch her at it; so they took to keeping her tied to a chair in the main guard room. She was quiet and looked sad all the time so they would give her tidbits and tell her all their problems. She was warm and well fed and safe. This was the best time she had in her short 9 years. When she was 9½ an influenza epidemic hit eastern Merope and the camps were hit hardest. It got so bad the news of it reached offplanet where Doc Long heard about it and decided it was time to return to Geode his home planet. En route He found Jeannie Foster s name in the list of flu victims and contacted Dr. Foster who he knew from her research and efforts for the refugees. Dr. Foster insisted on coming along and her assistant Charlton Fort came too. They arrived too late for Jeannie She had died the week before; But they stayed to help all they could. They examined every furr in the camp except one little girl who was called Stuffy and had disappeared. Things started going missing from the Long Odds and when they set a trap they caught Stuffy. When her mom died she hid out for awhile then decided to help the remaining furr fems in her barracks. Dr. Foster was overjoyed that one member of her family still survived and took her back to North Parklands where she and Charlton Fort lived. The first thing they bought her for her new life was a pair of long red and white striped stockings. These became her most treasured possession.
Stuffy had a hard time fitting in at her new school. She dressed funny. She had an accent. She didn't know what was cool to do or say. A nerdy little ocelot girl named Julie Rayne and a tough and even littler fennec girl named Francine Burke befriended her and showed her the joys of middleclass adolescents. Stuffy and Franny got into the whole gothic style for a time and asked Julie and everyone to call them Azreal and Bilail respectively. When the fennec discovered punk she died her hair pierced everything her parents would let her and became a Phucking Phasers fan. Azreal stuck with the Goth look it suited her.
The next 10 years were great for all of Geode. The few remaining refugees were given a homeland (in South Parkland where there had always been room) No other planets or the Empire had any quarrel with Geode. Peace and prosperity reigned. Geode Built and repaired starships for the Empire and provided r & r for their crews. Doc Long pointed out to George the with such an obvious Imperial presence; The Geode spacefleet was an anachronism. The ratel agreed and Roger Wilmont and Julie's sister Lisa drafted a speech informing the people of Geode to be delivered on Unification Day (the day Steenbok brought the planet under one rule)
Azreal; Bilail and Julie planned to spend Unification weekend at a sci-fi convention honoring Roger. While on the way to Steenbok City they listened to the State Of The World speech. Julie commented that the military/industrial complex wouldn't like that. Julie picked Roger up at the airport and snuck him a bottle of booze behind his publicist's back and when she had some and passed out in his hotel room he didn't take advantage; at least not till she woke up. Bilail got backstage at a &Phasers concert and wound up dancing naked and screwing on stage with them. Azreal got involved in a murder mystery and spent the night under guard.
George was assassinated and his younger brother Lenny who loved the spacefleet and always wore an ornate uniform became the new world leader; at least in public. The generals were now in charge and the first thing they did was sending out a warrant for Roger Wilmont and Lisa Rayne. When The secret police found an ocelot with the last name Rayne in Roger s hotel room they took Julie into custody. The hotel roster said there were two other girls registered in her room so Azreal and Bilail were taken in to. It was soon obvious they had just taken in 3 innocent girls; but the new government wasn't really stable enough yet to be able to admit mistakes. They brought the girls up on charges of conspiracy and reading banned books. They were drafted as furns. Julie and Bilail's parents could do nothing the world was under martial law and civil justice was put aside for the duration. Dr. Foster had a little more pull and got the concession that Azreal would not have to serve naked. Big deal they let her keep her socks!
Furn training consisted of both psychological and drug brainwashing. Julie and Bilail were effected by both. They weren't turning out brain dead sex slaves but companions for soldiers that would try real hard with all they had to make them happy. Azreal found early on that drugs that would effect cats and dogs and maybe even weasels and skunks had no effect on civets. Lucky for her the palm toddy cat in the next cell Selmar Illyian explained to her how to fake it so they wouldn't try something more radical on her. When evaluation and assignment time came they decided to send her to Hogarth the ice asteroid where a rather stoic and taciturn Arctic wolf Sven Bjornston was stationed.
Sven or Whitey as furrs called him didn't ask for a companion and didn't think he needed one. Sure there was nothing to do but watch space around Hogarth for an invasion of white rabbits that would never come. That was just the excuse the Geode spacefleet used to stay funded; Lenny had a deep seeded fear of rabbits from a childhood trauma on a visit to Loam when he was three. Whitey had his balalaika and a great stereo system where he could listen to dark and somber music and operas. When He unpacked Azreal (she arrived in a furr sized carrying case)and asked not ordered just asked - her to make a pot of coffee she refused and when he told her to sit on the only bed she remained standing. His orders had been to have sex with her as soon as possible so she would be more anxious to please him (an effect of the drugs) She lay on the bed with her legs together and said nothing. Sven lost patience and pushed her outside.
You can wait out here till you have a better attitude! he said a went back inside.
Azreal stood there in her stocking feet slowly turning blue as Whitey looked out the window stubbornly watching her. Neither would give in. Finally Sven open the door to try and work out a compromise as Azreal s numb feet gave out from under her. Whitey carried her inside and ran a warm bath and gently massaged the feeling back into her legs. It turned out they both grew up in eastern Merope he much further north. Azreal enjoyed his taste in music and Sven liked her talent for making a great meal out of k-rations and frozen veggies. They became lovers and had many pleasant hours in each others arms. She liked being tied up sometimes and Whitey enjoyed (to outsiders it would have been hard to tell neither of then smiled much) the variation in their love play. They had a system wide web link and found Julie; Bilail; even Selmar; and Azreal was able to write them. Bilail was on a tropical planet with a Mongoose who collected snakes and even used them as sex aids! She felt neglected but was safe. Selmar was on a heavily forested planetoid with a tayra who treated her ok and gave her lots of kahlua. Julie on the other hand was on a desert asteroid and had a succession of furrs; some good; some bad and one who was great. Whitey was a pilot and Azreal and him would sometimes get to visit battlecruisers and other ships that passed nearby (They couldn't be away for more than a day)
After 2 years Julie showed up on Hogarth with her great furr soldier Charlie Twoclouds and they offered Azreal a chance to escape to the rebels. Whitey came along too. They picked up Bilail; but not her mongoose. They even rescued Selmar.