The Cat-Eared Historian Mage on the Crumbling Planet
Ashtin didn’t return home until after dark. Once Dr. Shreburn began studying the staff, she didn’t want to part with it. As a result, they hadn’t done any investigative work that day, but that fit right into Ashtin’s plans. He needed the residents of Settlement 266 to believe he had not been sent to investigate the violence, that his visits were more personal in nature. It would be days, or possibly weeks, before he could do any real investigating.
“I’m home,” he called out as he entered his penthouse apartment.
“Welcome back,” a gynoid greeted him. “Did you eat? Would you like dinner?”
“I’d love some, thanks mom,” Ashtin said, giving the gynoid a kiss on the cheek.
It was unusual for gynoids to serve as adoptive parents, but it was far from unprecedented. Since only gynoids were capable of surviving interstellar travel, they also had to raise the first generations of biological humans on every planet. Each seed ship could deliver 100,000 gynoids to a planet, and after they built the first settlement, half of them would be assigned to child raising.
Each gynoid would be partnered with another to simulate a biological pairing. Family sizes varied, but in general, each gynoid pair would be responsible for raising four children at a time. During that time, most of the other gynoids would focus their efforts on constructing the next settlement. Once the first settlement had a large enough adult population, the parent gynoids would move to the next settlement. Eventually, there would be enough biological humans having their own children to populate new settlements, and the gynoids would step away from their parental duties.
Because children learned so much by imitation, the gynoids pretended to have emotions and acted out healthy romantic relationships with each other. During the planning phases, before any humans had left Earth, some were concerned that new populations of biological humans would require both male and female role models, and thus android chassis should be manufactured, but gynoids were resistant to this. Being sexless beings, they had no attachment to either gender, but they valued the uniformity—and thus equality—of all gynoids. Their creator had molded them in imitation of the female form because he believed it would make them appear less threatening to society.
Luckily for the gynoids, experiments showed that the fears were misplaced. Isolated populations of children raised by gynoids on Earth grew into emotionally mature adults and had little problem adjusting to living in greater society. As a population, adults raised by gynoids were indistinguishable from other adults.
“Actually, can it wait a bit?” Ashtin reconsidered. “The doctor cleared me to try growing a tail again.”
“Already?” his mother asked. “It’s only been three weeks since your last attempt.”
“But I’ve learned so much about magic since then,” Ashtin exclaimed. “The mages of old Earth used to cast transformation spells all the time, and they wrote that the hardest part of the spell was understanding the anatomy involved. They didn’t even feel pain.” Ashtin had studied both human and cat anatomy in detail, but he had so far been unable to successfully grow a tail. Cat ears were much more intricate than tails, but it was believed that it was easier for magic to affect smaller things than larger things. That’s why the guard used spears instead of guns when the faced mages.
“Some mages from old Earth cast those spells,” his mother corrected. “Most could not, and—”
“I know, I know,” Ashtin interrupted her. “They didn’t feel pain because they blocked it out, but that was dangerous. They sometimes didn’t notice their spells going bad until it was too late. I’m not trying to be like them. You know I can take the pain. I’m just trying to point out that I should be able to cast the spell properly now.”
“We shall see,” his mother said, following Ashtin to his bedroom. As Ashtin removed and hung up his robe, the gynoid retrieved a bit gag and rope from a dresser.
“Oh come on,” Ashtin protested. “I don’t need those.”
“That is what you said last time, but you almost bit through your tongue,” his mother reminded him.
“But I didn’t,” Ashtin said, now clad only in a tank top and boxers. “I’m not a child anymore.”
“You are still my child for the next few months. You can do whatever you want when you come of age, but a responsible adult would not attempt a spell like this without proper restraints and a spotter.”
“But my healing magic—”
“Can’t fix everything,” his mother interrupted, poking at one of the scars on his left shoulder. “If you are not going to listen to me, then you will have to wait until you come of age and I leave this house.”
“No, it has to be now,” Ashtin insisted. “I want you to see my tail.”
“Is that why you’re rushing this? Because you want to show off for your mother?”
“Yeah,” Ashtin nodded. “I want you to remember me as a true catboy. Of course, if you’d stay…”
“My answer will not change no matter how many times we have this discussion,” the gynoid said. “It is best for you to live on your own once you become an adult.”
“But I’ll be lonely.”
“Then perhaps you ought to make more friends. Maybe start dating.”
“You know I don’t have time for that. Besides, nobody wants to be with a mage, not even other mages.”
It was true. Although most mages never lost themselves to their magic, a large chunk of them did. It was difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with someone when you lived in constant fear that they might try to hurt themselves and those around them. It could also be difficult to deal with a mage partner’s eccentricities.
“You’re right,” his mother admitted. “Most mages live lonely lives, and you will probably be no different. You’ll have to find happiness in other ways. Now, it’s getting late, so if we’re going to do this, open up.”
Ashtin obediently opened his mouth and the gynoid placed the gag across his teeth. He bit down on it, holding it in place as she fastened the strap behind his head. He then laid down on the bed and she tied his arms and legs before rolling him onto his stomach.
Taking a deep breath, Ashtin began to focus on casting the spell, wiggling his pointer fingers as best as he could in his restraints. Before long, his sacrum began to press against his back, above the buttocks. It grew, stretching the skin. His coccyx shrunk and disappeared, and the first tail bone began growing to take its place. A muffled grunt of pain escaped from Ashtin’s throat as new nerves formed around the bone, causing him to bite down hard on the gag. It was far from the worst pain he had ever felt, but it had come earlier in the process than his previous attempts, catching him by surprise.
As black fur began growing over his tail, he regained his composure, but it didn’t last long. More tail bones grew from the first, faster than he expected. The nerves were growing so quickly that his new, half-formed tail was in constant, intense pain, causing him to thrash around involuntarily. He briefly lost control of the healing spell that he needed to keep running at all times throughout the process, but his staff automatically cast its own healing spell to compensate.
He managed to grow fifteen tail bones out of the twenty he was shooting for before the process started going awry. All of a sudden, his skin stopped expanding, leaving no room for new bones and muscle. A mild burning sensation at the base of the tail made itself known through the more intense pain he was feeling. His body was rejecting his new tail. With one last anguished grunt, Ashtin reversed the spell, and the tail began to shrink. The disintegration of the young flesh still hurt, but not as much as growing it had, and Ashtin managed to control his body for the rest of the process.
“That was a good try,” his mother said, untying his hands. He almost couldn’t hear her over the sound of his heavy breathing and the loud beating of his own heart. “You got much farther than last time.” She reached for the gag and found it drenched in various bodily fluids, like much of his face. “Get yourself cleaned up, and I’ll have a healthy dinner waiting for you by the time you’re finished.”