Hiding In New Hampshire

Aldea, Hiss -2, 00164

I sat down in the driver’s seat of the car painfully, laying my head against the steering wheel. “Oh, rings, have I got a headache.”

“I take it we lost?” K’meh asked.

“By a lot,” I mumbled, still unmoving. I thought about it for a moment. “Still, that’s not a bad thing… As a species, they’re immature when it comes to their own collective reproductive destiny. It’s probably for the best that they have more time to think about the offer.”

She smiled. “You think they’re immature. They think you’re imperial and fascist, you know.”

“I know,” I said, sitting back in my chair, patting the letter from Professor King, still in my pocket, which echoed my thoughts exactly. I punched the radio to the Pendor Embassy in Geneva. “Hera?”

“I’m here, Ken. Whatcha need?”

“Clearance to ORD-US.”

“I’ll put it through. You’ll want customs?”

“As per,” I said.

There was a delay of several minutes until Hera said “Done,” and I lifted the small four-person vehicle into the air and we set off across the Atlantic, doing Mach 3 for most of it. We arrived in Chicago three hours later. My passport identified me as a junior staff member of the Pendorian Embassy To The United Nations. Customs treated us as such.

As I pulled out onto the freeway, K’meh laughed sharply. “They never knew who you were!”

“Illusionware is great, isn’t it?” I said, smiling and considering my course of action. I plotted a course to New Hampshire and settled back for the long drive, letting the computer drive. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But K’meh interrupted me. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Depends,” I sighed, not opening my eyes.

“Why do you want to buy Earth?”

I opened my eyes and looked at her, smiling. “Because I think it’s a museum.”

“Huh?”

I turned my head to look at her, also watching the beautiful scenery go by outside. It had been literal centuries since I had been free to drive along a U.S. Interstate, especially in the northeast where the terrain flows and ebbs like water frozen in a strobe photograph. “Terran Humans have spent a relatively short part of their existence figuring out how to get off their own world. But in the eight thousand years since they figured out how to iconify their communication, the most powerful among them have created enormous, wonderful monuments to themselves, their gods, their people, their ideals. I want to preserve that. I think that, in the human crush, a lot of those wondrous testaments to how they got from being hunter-gatherers to citizens of the stars will be destroyed. It’s time they got off their rotten little mudball, and turned their eyes towards honoring the drive that got them there.”

She smiled and leaned over, kissing my cheek. “You would do that with Terra… ” She was silent for a moment. “But, be honest. When we meet another interstellar species, will you make the same offer?”

I closed my eyes. “I don’t know. I really don’t. I’d like to think that I will. There’s something special about Terra, although nobody else must know that.”

She sighed; I couldn’t see the expression on her face, but I assumed it was something of a smile. “Ken,” she said quietly, “It’s not a surprise that you love Terra. It is the world of your birth.”

She was right, of course. It bothered me that it was that obvious, but then I had asked that my pilot and security companion (I smiled at that word, ‘companion’; she had become more than that over the course of the trip) be one of the best, and the best security people are by nature observant. K’meh had so far proven to be observant in everything she did. She was also excruciatingly dedicated to her job. I told her that if the time ever came for her to be my body shield, that she was to ignore orders and let me take the damn bullet; I regarded myself as no more important than she.

I dozed on the trip until the chime in the car alerted me that we were approaching our destination. I took manual control, easing the car off the Interstate for another hour-long drive through gently rolling hills and green forested lands hidden after nightfall. We passed a sign reading “Clarke’s Lake Recreation Area,” and I looked around, waiting to see a sign for lodging available. After nearly two centuries of self-imposed isolation from Terran culture, my knowledge of how things were done around here hadn’t become as rusty as I had feared. A ‘VACANCY’ sign presented itself, and I turned into the parking lot, banking the fusion plant down and turning off the major electric systems. The motor came to a soft whine-down.

The door opened easily enough as I stepped out, groaning at even so short a trip as the past four hours, mentally dreading the 120-hour trip back home in the Kangas, a week from now. I had two days free before I had to return to New York, and then again to Geneva, and I fully intended to spend at least one day here, in the middle of nowhere.

Finding the innkeeper was no easy task; it was, after all, three in the morning here, and the innkeeper was sound asleep. He was an elderly gentleman, and encountering him reminded me painfully of Victoria for a moment. “What can I do for you?” he asked sleepily. I found myself stifling my amusement at his pajamas.

“I need a room for two. Two nights. Until Sunday morning.”

He smiled that mischievous smile all merchants seem to get when they’ve got some sort of windfall on their hands. I was willing to be a windfall for this man; after all, it was only money. He said, “Well, sure I can do that. I’m afraid that I only got one room left, and it’s a triple with a kitchen.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means it’s got a small second bed, a ‘fridge, and a stove. The bed’s for children an’ all. You got any kids with you?”

“Nope,” I said. “Just me and Meh.”

“May, eh?” he said, smiling. “That’s a pretty name. She a pretty girl?”

“I think so,” I said, smiling in kind. He returned my grin by widening his, handed over the keys. “Thirty nine dollars,” he announced, punching it up on a small personal computer. Like most Americans, he rather pointedly avoided calling it the “u-dollar.” “How you gonna pay for that?” he asked.

“Cash do? I can do in advance, if you like.”

“I’d appreciate that. Let me put the deposit in the bank before the weekend.” I thought about that, curious. Most banks had been never-close affairs on Terra for nearly fifty years. It was either his age or an eccentric bank talking. Then again, Clarkesburg was in the middle of rural New Hampshire, as close to the Middle Of Nowhere as you can get; that’s why I’d come here. Maybe his bank really was closed for the weekend. Couldn’t he use a bank machine? A deposit box? It didn’t matter. I considered how I was to proceed, pulled out a small leather folder in which I normally kept my embassy identification papers (more an affectation for the locals… it was the AI who maintained security at our embassies) and pulled out two twenty unified-dollar bills and handed them over. “You can keep the one. Consider it a deposit on the key,” I said, remembering a time when getting a motel room had meant paranoia of a kind. Maybe it still did.

I took the keys and returned to the car, finding an empty parking space. We grabbed our flight packs from the back seats and found our room. I opened the door and followed K’meh in, closing and latching the door behind us and snapping the air conditioner on. The room was warm when we entered, but the air from the ‘conditioner was positively cryogenic. It wouldn’t be long before we would need the covers. I smiled at the thought. Even Geneva had been unbelievably warm for summertime, and the idea of having independent control over my own heating and cooling again appealed to me. I was amazed at how such a small thing as being able to turn the air conditioner on myself pleased me.

I laughed at the thoughts whirling in my head and turned to look at K’meh, who had collapsed onto the large double bed and was staring up at the ceiling. “Hey,” I said, “All we’ve done all day is sit in the car.”

“I’m dead,” she said.

I walked over to where she lay on the bed, her legs dangling over the side. Her arms were relaxed at her sides, her eyes were closed. I reached down for the small flap of stiff cloth that covered over and concealed the zipper, grabbed it and tugged downwards, opening her flight suit from throat to crotch. She didn’t even move as I pulled the two sides apart, exposing her breasts to the cooling air. Her nipples responded to the cooler air, crinkling slightly and pointing upwards towards the ceiling. “Hey, Mehran…”

“Mmrrrr?” she asked, not opening her eyes in the slightest.

“Are you really that tired?”

Her paw came up and, in the quiet dark of the motel room, with her eyes closed, she felt her way up my chest to my shoulder. “Not tired, but stiff. I could use a bath.”

I nodded, looking down at her soft body with it’s well-trimmed and cared-for fur. “Don’t let me stop you,” I said.

“I’m not,” she said tiredly. “I just don’t want to move to do it.”

I laughed loudly. “Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll go start your bath, and while you’re in it I’ll go get some supplies. What do you say to that?”

“I say it sounds wonderful. I like my baths…”

“Cool, I know.” I smiled and walked into the bathroom, noting with satisfaction that the tub was quite large for what I had perceived to be a rather run-down motel. I started the water running, trying to judge the temperatures she liked with how much heat the porcelain of the tub would absorb in the process; it’s actually something of a science. I laughed at the silliness of my thoughts and watched the tub fill up. When it was about two-thirds full, I walked back into the living room and pulled K’meh into a sitting position. “You want me to get up now, don’t you?” she said, peering up at me with one eye open.

“You wanted a bath. Go take,” I said, pointing towards the bathroom. She rose with a groan and disappeared through the open door. I rummaged about in her bag for her soap and for a fur-trap; I was quite certain the motel showers didn’t come with one as standard equipment. She smiled tiredly as I dropped them by the tub; I gave her a kiss on the muzzle, pulled my jacket back on and left the motel room, locking the door behind me.

I looked up at the night sky as I drove down the road, grateful to a species that had finally collected its wits and decided that grey was not the color the sky was meant to be. I found a small convenience store, helmed at this time of night by a lovely young Caucasian femHuman who was occupying her mostly-free time by watching the television. Still, she didn’t seem to resent the fact that I’d intruded on her private little world. “Whatcha watching?” I asked as I walked in, hoping my accent wouldn’t give me away.

“News right now,” she said. She was chewing gum.

“Anything exciting?” I asked.

“A few things,” she offered. “They decided not to sell Earth to Pendor.”

“Do you think that’s a good thing or not?” I shouted from back behind a stand of paper cartons filled with preprocessed unleavened bread products, most of which were artificially colored and flavored. The ones that weren’t proudly attested to that fact.

“I don’t see why they didn’t,” she replied, her voice rising and falling in an unconscious cadence. “I mean, it’s only real estate, and what they’re offering is hellacious, y’know?”

“I guess,” I said. I looked over the limited selection and picked up a loaf of whole-wheat bread, a tin of peanut butter, some packaged meats, a few other things. Although part of me craved it, I avoided the sugared products as much as I could; I knew this would keep K’meh and I going for a while, but we’re still Pendorii, and we both needed more food than the average human. Sugar would only confuse our systems.

“You know what?” she said, looking at me as I walked up the aisle.

“What?” I asked, smiling.

“You look a lot like him.” She began ringing up my purchase on a cash register that had to be older than she was. Still, it had a card slot, so I handed my covert copy over. “Stephen Ryan Embers,” she read aloud. “Guess you aren’t Ken Shardik.”

I laughed. “You know how often I get told that?”

“Well, you do look a lot like him!” she said, laughing back.

“I know. It’s annoying.” I gave her my best smile. She smiled back; I took a small string bag out a jacket pocket and put my purchases into it, giving her a friendly wave. As the door was closed on creaky, ancient springs, I heard her shout “Hey!”

I poked my head back in. “Huh?” I asked.

“Do you know ‘Ryan’ is a sexy name?”

I smiled. “Yeah, I’ve been told that. G’night!” I eased back out into the cool New Hampshire night and drove back to the motel.

I opened the door quietly; K’meh stirred only enough to register that it was me, a ‘friendly,’ and she was unconscious again. I put most of the food into the refrigerator and joined her.


When morning came, I stirred in bed, finding her lying on her side, facing away from me. I snuggled up against her under the covers and draped my arm over her side. She shifted, groaning softly before lifting her head. “What time is it?” she said.

“About two hours after dawn,” I said.

“That late?” she asked, picking her head up to scan the room suddenly.

I put my hand to the side of her head and pushed it down to the pillow again playfully.

“It’s not that late,” I said. “We’re on recreation, remember? We’re not supposed to move until at least 3 lome’, remember?”

She laughed and settled back down, giving my arm a brief, acknowledging hug between her arm and her body. I was playing gently with the fur between her breasts, sliding my fingers along the fur, feeling the texture and resiliency of her breasts with my hands. She purred softly as I touched her here and there, sliding my palm along her curves. She grabbed my hand with hers suddenly and closed her hand around it, holding my fist within hers, tightly. She slid away, turning to face me. “So,” she smiled, “What are we going to do with our spare hour?”

“Good question,” I replied, leaning close to give her a proper, morning kiss. I wondered how bad my morning breath was; hers wasn’t unpleasant at all.

Apparently she didn’t think mine all that bad, because she wouldn’t let me get away from it. When I tried to move away, she wrapped her arms around my shoulders and pulled me on top of her, our tongues wrestling between us.

I’ll admit to something– I sometimes kiss with my eyes open, just to get a look at faces. K’meh’s was lost in abandonment as we kissed, and I closed my eyes again to lose myself in the sensuality of tongue against tongue, lips to muzzle, nose to nose, listening to her breathing. She was a wonderful kisser, and that she indulged me in my desire to kiss was sheer bliss. Not to mention that it gave me an erection.

But there was something else down at my groin demanding my attention. “K’meh,” I said softly as I backed off, “let me go.”

“Aww…” she said.

“K’meh, if you don’t let me go, there’s going to be a warm, wet feeling between us, and it won’t be love.”

There was a moment’s look of puzzlement, followed by comprehension. She let me go, saying “I’ll need the head after you.” I stood up and walked into the bathroom, relieving myself. I noted with another kind of relief that she had remembered to use the furtrap. “Your turn,” I said as I walked back out.

“Thanks,” she said, tossing the sheets aside to get out of bed and follow my lead. She returned two minutes later, smiling. “I feel much better now,” she announced, easing into bed. I seized her shoulder and pulled her into bed, throwing the covers back over her as I did so; the air conditioner (why do they call it that? It only cools the air after all) was still putting out a nearly sub-arctic breeze. She giggled as we rolled over so that now she was on top of me. We returned to kissing as we had been before, this time taking it a little more slowly and carefully. She moaned softly as I caressed her breasts, playing carefully with her nipples, feeling the flesh around them crinkle in the cooling air of the motel room.

She gasped softly as I touched her belly; for me, there are few pleasures more sensual than the fur of a sentient, willing female. And few more enticing. I avoided her mons to caress her thighs, coming close with every pass of my hand, but never quite getting there.

I could clearly feel my erection; it took less than a tenth of a second to register that it was there before my attention returned to my fingers, and my mouth.

“That feels so good,” she sighed as I stroked and petted her gently. “But there’s something we haven’t done yet, and I want to see.”

“What’s that?” I asked, looking up at her.

“Stay where you are. In fact, put your hands behind your back.”

I leaned back in bed, against the array of pillows we had, and put my hands behind my head, lacing my fingers together. “That good enough?” I asked.

“Mm-hmm,” she smiled. “Now, just lie still,” she said, wrapping her fingers around my cock and starting to stroke it slowly. “I want to watch you climax from this.”

“From just your hand?” I said, looking into her eyes. She nodded. “I hope you have strong arms,” I said, laughing.

She smiled. “We’ll see, won’t we?”

She began pumping my cock slowly, sliding the skin up and over the head and back down. “You know how to do it well,” I said, sighing.

Without a reply, she began stroking my cock surely; her fingers were soft, padded almost as much as an Uncia’s paws would be, and she knew how to keep pace. She also didn’t seem to get tired at all, her paw stroking faster.

I started squirming in the bed, trying to encourage my orgasm closer, without any success; I always take a long time to come when P’nyssa plays with me this way, and there didn’t seem to be any difference with K’meh.

I gasped and tried to lie still, whimpering as my pleasure, and my frustration, increased. The impulse to have it done and over with was strong, as was my desire to show her how good it felt, and that impulse was being translated in the muscles from my calves to my shoulders straining against the building tension in my groin. I was so close, so damned close, for so long…

Finally, I came! Better yet, I exploded, shouting out a loud “Yeah!” as I shot my semen into the air. “Oh, yeah,” I gasped again before opening my eyes to look at her. She was grinning like, well, like a Cheshire Felinzi. I reached for her, grabbing her behind the neck and pulling us together, kissing her hard.

She didn’t seem to be paying that much attention to the kiss, and soft whimpers were coming from her throat as I settled back onto the bed. From her kneeling position she had her left paw between her legs, and I had a bedside view of her masturbating furiously, her fingers tugging and sliding over her clitoris with such speed that I wondered it hadn’t burned off from the friction yet. Her body tensed as she threw her head back, but still didn’t stop, pressing the ball of her paw against her groin, grinding it back and forth and finally she let out a loud gasp and collapsed forward onto the bed, right next to me, her ass still wildly pumping into the air, her hand against her cunt still pushing her. I just watched, amazed, as she put herself through one, and then another orgasm before finally settling down and holding still.

I laughed softly. “It’s supposed to be morning, Mehran. What are you doing tiring yourself out this early?”

“I’m not tired,” she said. “Just sated.”

I stroked the top of her head as she lay there, catching her breath. “You are one incredible fem,” I said, smiling.

“As you are an incredible mel,” she replied. “Now go get cleaned up; you didn’t wash last night, and honestly Ken, you need a bath.”

I nodded and optioned for a shower instead, enjoying the warm water and the clean feeling once I was out; living with furries I had come to enjoy the joys of shaking water out of my hair, and I indulged myself here, being careful to make sure the shower curtain was drawn before doing so.

“So,” she said as we dressed. “What are we here for?” On my advice, she chose to dress in a provocative manner; I took a pair of denim pants and made them into shorts with a knife. Her shirt was two sizes too large for her; it draped over her large bosom and hung down her front, blatantly exposing the tops of her breasts as they swelled through the bright white fabric.

“Well, you were complaining earlier that humans just saw you as my fucktoy, and not as a person in your own right. I can’t guarantee you won’t get the same treatment here, but I can guarantee that there’ll be more people here of the kind not likely to do that.”

“In America?” she asked, surprised.

“Not exactly. This kind of people can be found almost anywhere; Clarkesburg’s just familiar to me as a sort of meeting ground for them, and it’s well isolated. It would take a few hours from realizing we’re here to calling the newsies. Hopefully, we’ll get a full day without much undue attention from the authorities.” I found it amusing that I lumped the information media in with the generic ‘authorities.’ But they were nowadays, as far as I was concerned.

“So what kind of people is that?” she asked.

“Children.”

There was a pause while she stared at me, and then a slow smile crossed her face. “You bastard,” she announced.

“Clarkesburg has one of the largest, oldest and most eclectic collections of video games, virtual reality games, and the like to be found anywhere on Terra. Not to mention a large, clean lake to swim in and a water-based theme park on the other side of town. There’s no way you can’t connect with some of the people here. You’ll be more of a celebrity than I’m ever seen as!”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “I’d have to wear some sort of modesty suit to go swimming, wouldn’t I?”

I looked at her carefully. “‘Fraid so,” I said. “No matter how feline you look, there’s no way to hide the fact that you’re a woman, too.” I smiled. “We should be grateful for small favors.”

She grinned back at me, giving me a kiss on the cheek. “You’re wonderful. And I’m hungry.”

No surprise there, I thought. “There’s probably a greasy spoon somewhere up the road; let’s walk, it’s less than a mile to where the ‘action’ is, so to speak.”

“Walk… that means I have to…”

“That’s right. You and I are going out in public together. That’s okay, I’ve already been spotted.”

“How?” she asked. “When you traveled last night for supplies?”

“Well, the girl behind the counter told me I looked a lot like Ken Shardik.”

She laughed. “I hope she’s not disappointed when she finds out you really are!” I nodded and opened the door to the motel room, putting the keys in a zippered pocket of the bulky leather jacket I was wearing. I also grabbed what identifying papers I would need later. We started down the graveled road, staying close to each other.

I realized that I was going to regret the jacket later; although it was a chill New Hampshire morning, complete with overcast sky and fog, my senses told me that by midday it was going to be a scorcher. And I was going to have to lug this two-kilo monster with me. Oh, well, I’d survive the experience.

As we wandered down the road, kicking loose gravel as we did so, she said, “Uh… Ken? What’s a ‘greasy spoon?’“

I laughed. “Sorry. It’s an expression I used a long long time ago. I’m not sure what the origin is, but I think you’ll have as good a guess as I do once we get there. Trust me, the food is usually good.”

She nodded as I found the place I remembered, a small wooden building, painted white with red trim. Pappa Joe’s Kountry Kookin’ it said on the sign, and the little plastic sign, illustrated in black ink, probably laid with a wide, cloth-tip pen, read “Open ALL THE TIME!” I opened the door and led her in.

And everything seemed to come to a stop. Not all at once, but slowly, the entire restaurant ground to a dead halt. The patrons, the waitresses, finally even the cook looked up to stare at her… and me. Finally, a waitress came over and said, “Can… can I get you folks a table?”

I smiled, trying to put her at ease. “Sure. Two for breakfast,” I said, holding up two fingers and talking at a ‘chatty’ pace.

The waitress gave me a sidelong glance; the diner still had not come back up to speed as she said, “You folks… don’t need anything special, do ya?”

I looked left, then right, my eyebrows raised in amusement only half-feigned. “Food?” I said.

Finally, the waitress, who had probably been subjected to all kinds of weirdness in her life, regained her composure enough to guide us to a table. “Next thing you know,” K’meh said, “she’ll bring me milk in a bowl.”

I grinned and opened my menu. “What are you looking for, K’meh? Meat? Carbs? Uh… can you read Anglic?”

“Of course I can read Anglic!” she hissed me. “You mean you haven’t noticed by now?”

“Didn’t think to ask,” I said. “I think I’m going to have the pancakes.”

“Sounds good,” she said, “but I want meat.” When the waitress returned, I ordered for both of us. People in place around the room kept staring at us, some openly, some covertly, but they were all at least stealing a glance. “You’re popular,” I observed.

“Must be you,” she said.

“I just look like a famous human. You, dear, are probably the first alien they’ve ever had in here. Besides, you have, um, nice attributes.”

She smiled as we waited for our meals. “I see what you mean by ‘greasy spoon,’” she observed. Still, by the time we paid our bill (again, with the ‘Embers’ card), she had downed half a dozen eggs and two side-orders of ham, along with four glasses of milk.

As I turned to leave, the waitress said, “Hey.” Just like the girl at the convenience store did. “Are you really Ken Shardik?”

I turned and smiled, shaking my head. “Actually, no,” I said. “We’re his bodyguards.” Which was half true. “I get paid to look like him.” Which was also, in an way, half true.

“Uh-huh,” the waitress said. I gave her a wave and left her a healthy tip before we headed out the door and up the road. We spent the next two hours wandering around somewhat aimlessly; by the time noon had rolled around, though, the strip that was alight with video games had become a noisy, rollicking center of youthful attention.

That was when K’meh found her niche in the world of Clarkesburg, NH: a projection-based VR game called F-25 Space Interceptor. There were already a dozen kids gathered around the thing. I gave her a handful of tokens and told her to go have fun. She walked right up to the crowd and said “Is there a line?”

“Yeah, sure,” one of the boys said before turning to look at her. “Holy shi… Hey, Dickie! Turn around.”

K’meh instantly went from trying to get to the center of attention to being the center of attention. I laughed to myself as she waited her turn in line (they all wanted to watch her first anyway, but she insisted they go), finally got in and adjusted everything the way she liked it. “So, what’s the purpose of this game?”

“You have to kill the bad guys?”

“That’s it? How’s it fly?” Four young men, ages eleven to fifteen, started tripping over themselves to explain it to her. Finally she nodded, dropped in a few tokens and took off.

Not surprisingly, she did badly. On her first game.

By her third game she was getting the hang of it.

By her sixth game, she was placing eighth in the top ten of the day. There was an alternate “Top ten of all time” list. She was nowhere near that but, I reflected, the day was very early.

I checked to make sure my g-cell phone was where I had left it, in my pocket, and wandered off by myself. I had come here often when I was younger, about the age of the boys K’meh was currently entertaining. It hadn’t changed much in seventy years; the amusement center that had been built out over the lake on pylons had been rebuilt, but the construction still had that cheery wooden (probably plastic, I reflected) look to it, covered over in blue-white paint, flat white on the roof. A candy-apple red trimmed the two open doors, giving the building the look of a clown if you stood far enough back.

I looked in and around, amazed at the eclectic experiences to be found among Terra’s video game collection. Most of these games are a power trip of one sort or another, I noted, a carefully balanced approach of exaggerating some human or mechanistic capability, and then finding a way to interface with that exaggeration via a joystick, buttons, a glove, a helmet, whatever the control mechanism was for that particular game.

But more interesting to me was watching the children at play with those machines. Although there were young girls apparent everywhere, it seemed that video games were still the universe of boys. The concept of equal rights hadn’t caught up with the realities of adolescence. I watched a collection of three boys clustered around an enclosed and padded circular pit; a fourth stood in the middle, bright red strips of velcro attached to his wrists, ankles, and a lightweight VR helmet around his head; there were two other helmets by the machine, apparently more for different size heads than for any sort of direct confrontation. The fourth kicked and punched at air, sometimes seemingly head-butting his imaginary opponent; he never spoke a word aside from a few effort- filled grunts. Twice he fell down. In general, he looked like an awkward, unseeing idiot.

On the holotank his companions were watching, however, he was transformed into a martial artist that would put Bruce Lee to shame. (Where in Hell did I drag that name up from?) It wasn’t the accuracy of his kick that was important, it was the timing; as long as he kicked at the right speed, his opponent was dead, or at least took damage. The character that was ‘him’ mowed down his enemies with a violence that I would have found either cathartic or appalling, depending on the situation.

As I watched others about the room indulging in their favorite forms of competition, I wondered about the young martial artist. In a Terra that had almost come to grips with its capacity for violence, I wondered just how intimate one could be with the electronic version of violence before finding the real version attractive. Especially when he was being rewarded for his skill at delivering violence with a high score and the adoration of his fellows.

I shook my head; ultimately it came down to a decision, I knew. I’m very fond of that thought, that we decide what to do and say. But sometimes I still wonder how much harder that decision is when we’re influenced by games such as those. Yes, rugby is a more violent game, in that bones are broken and teeth are knocked out, but in rugby it’s still considered “wrong” to deliberately do those things.

I shook my head; this thinking was getting me nowhere. After all, I could go back one more level and say that I decide to play such games. That the market shouldn’t tolerate such games, that the producers should find more productive expressions to put into their machines. I sighed softly. It would be a long time before anyone really knew the answers.

I walked back outside onto the midway, looking left and right and almost being run over by rollerskaters before crossing into the open-air but covered-over arcade, where I’d left K’meh and her small gaggle of fans.

The gaggle had doubled to a mob; there were about twenty people watching her, at least three of which were adult. They were almost all male, especially the three I classed as distinctly ‘adult’. Probably fathers watching their sons as an excuse to watch K’meh. I stood with them, watching intently as she finally turned the machine over at a million points before climbing out of the cockpit to look around. “Ken!”

“Not bad, Mehran. I see you have an audience.”

“Yeah,” she said. “This is Bill, and Jerry, and Richard,” she said, pointing out three of the boys who had been part of the original troop. “We’ve been competing.”

“Nothin’ to it,” Jerry said. “She’s a hot ace; I can’t believe she’d never played the game before.”

“Believe it,” I said. “She just flies the real thing in real life.”

“You didn’t say nothin’ about that!” Jerry said accusingly, looking at K’meh.

“You didn’t ask,” K’meh replied. “Right now I’m playing driver for an interstellar transport, but usually I like to fly the little twoflits we have back home.”

“Really?”

“Really,” K’meh responded.

“Wow. What’s it like in space?”

K’meh smiled. “It’s long, long periods of intense boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer terror. Namely, launch and landing. But it’s fun. You think you’ll go into space when you’re older?”

“I already did,” the one she’d identified as ‘Richard’ said. “With my parents; it wasn’t anything special.”

“You didn’t say that when you came back,” Jerry said, hitting his friend on the arm. “You were blabbin’ for months about how cool it was.”

Richard blushed, trapped in his own nonchalance. “Yeah, well…”

“Look,” I said, “Can I take my girlfriend over to the waterslides, like we’d meant to do?” I said.

“She’s your girlfriend?” Jerry asked, looking up at me. “Hey, you’re that Ken Shardik guy!”

“Am I?” I said; the adults reacted to that pretty visibly. “Well,” I said, getting down close and whispering conspiratorially, “don’t tell anyone.”

“Okay,” he said. I handed him a few token, a hopeless bribe, and led K’meh down the midway, laughing. “You seemed to make a few friends back there,” I said.

“They seemed to like me a lot,” she said, straightening out her fur idly.

“You’re different. You’re someone else here, not just another pilot, not just another Pendorian. I figured I’d drop you into the middle of a room full of people who know better than to have expectations, and what do you know? They liked you.”

She smiled and leaned over, kissing my cheek. “Thank you.” I blushed and stopped to buy some ice cream from a streetside vendor. We were attracting stares; more than that, we were attracting followers; people were coming out of their stores to watch us walk by. When I reached the water slide, the guy at the booth had to call the manager to okay K’meh’s using the facilities. I could understand that; her fur was something their hardware was not prepared to handle.

“So what’s this like?” she asked.

“It’s just a slide. You get up to the top, you get wet and you slide down. Watch the tunnels.” I grabbed my plastic foam mat and headed up the stairs, watching the water shoot out of hoses and head down the slides. “We should go change.”

“I have to wear those damn things, don’t I?”

“You’ll knock ‘em dead, K’meh.” She smiled as we found our sex-specific bathrooms and I changed into my trunks, she into her one- piece. I had selected a one-piece for her not because she would look bad in a bikini (she wouldn’t, although maybe she wasn’t thin enough for one), but because it was an easier article of clothing for her to figure out how to put on.

When she came out, she looked lovely. The black suit accentuated the white fur, and the teardrop-shaped spotting seemed to flow into the suit at strategic locations on her arms and legs. “I feel silly,” she said.

“You look great!” I said. “Come on.” We assaulted the stairs together, and by the time we got to the top she again had the attention of much of the male population extant. I laughed and dove head-first down a twisting, curving tube, ignoring any sense of decorum and enjoying myself thoroughly. When I hit the lake at the bottom, I waited patiently, and sure enough K’meh came out moments later. I stepped on something cold, hard, and plastic, and remembered that Clarke’s Lake was once spring-fed, but the spring had been capped to supply the town with water and the water I was feeling now was being pumped from the spring after treatment.

She was giggling as hard as I was. “Remember to stay in your suit,” I chided her. “Don’t want to shock the locals any more than we already have!”

She laughed, lunged, and dunked me under the water. I came back up sputtering and splashed at her. Completely forgetting that I was over 200 years old, we played with the abandon of twelve-year-olds. “Come on, another trip!” I shouted, and she agreed. The next time we took a tube together, this one with a tunnel.

We rolled about in the water tubes for at least two hours. People were, if not getting used to it, at least getting over the novelty of having a Felinzi playing in their park. Children wanted to ride with her; half the males over the age of thirteen were staring at her so that I worried about their tongues’ tread-factor. There were a few stares of outright resentment or hatred, but these were few and far between, and for that I was grateful.

But the peace couldn’t last forever. I sighed to see a truck clearly labeled WUVR New Hampshire, with a big read ‘7’ in a circle, pull up in the parking lot and a camera crew get out. “K’meh,” I said. “Company.”

“What kind?” she asked, going into security officer mode.

“Media. There’s only one comfortable way out of this park, and that’s through them.”

“What’s the plan?”

“We’re close enough to depend on remote control.” I dug in my pocket for my communicator, grateful for the convention that dictated the damn thing had to be waterproof. “Hera?”

“Listening.”

“I need my car in the parking lot of my present edifice. Can do?”

There was a pause of a few seconds. “You’ve got light cloud cover, so I can’t get reliable satellite coverage in your location. But I know where you are, and I think I can manage.”

“How long?”

“Ten minutes, Terran.”

“Thanks, Hera,” I said, putting the radio away. We stayed in the lake, eyeing the newsies closely. The one with the camera kept pointing it in our direction, and I earnestly wished for a way to short it out at range that didn’t involve gunfire. Oh, well. The car arrived well before ten minutes, and I said “Let’s get going.”

She nodded. We retreated into the dressing rooms, still under the watchful eye of the newsies. Inside, I dressed quickly and stepped out, waiting for K’meh. She was out a few seconds later. “Ready?” I asked.

“When you are,” she said.

I nodded and we headed for the gate; once through we started walking toward the car when the newscrew hurried over to us. “Vatare’ Shardik!” the femHuman newscaster shouted.

I turned around; I now had a good feel for how I was going to handle this encounter, and that was… angrily. “Miss… ?”

“Steppford.”

“Miss Steppford. Vatare’, in my language, mean ‘Father’ and is used strictly in a biological sense, unlike your own origin for ‘father,’ ‘dominus,’ which also means ‘master,’ which is why ‘Father’ has come to mean something else to those of your species who still believe in mythologies. Now, to answer your next question, I came to Clarkesburg to relax, something I am now not capable of with your sudden intrusion. My companion is my security officer and bodyguard. If you have any questions regarding the negotiations in Geneva, I suggest you contact our Foreign Office in Washington or New York. If you’re going to ask am I upset by the lost vote, my answer is ‘No.’ That will be all.” I smiled, turned and walked over to the car, which K’meh had already slid behind the wheel of, and got in. We drove off, leaving the newsies behind.

When we got back to the motel, I had the color scheme on the car change to white, then we hustled back into the motel room, slamming the door shut behind us and sighed.

She looked up at me, an angry grimace crossing her face, which immediately softened into a smile, followed by a giggle. “I can’t STAND those people!” she shouted, lunging across the room to hug me, hauling me down onto the bed. We giggled together; her fur was still wet underneath and the water was soaking through her T-shirt. “You should get dryer,” I laughed softly.

“I don’t want to! Let’s get you wet instead,” she purred.

“Males don’t get wet that way, K’meh.”

She pulled the shirt off and tossed it aside. “You’ll get wet if I rub my wet fur all over you,” she said playfully, proceeding to do just that.

“Ack! K’meh! Stop that!” I shouted, wiping the wet fur and water away from my face. I have to admit, having this beautiful fem rub herself against me was definitely turning me on; even through my own clothes I could feel her stiffening nipples against me, her breasts pressed between us. I reached up and wrapped my arms around her neck, pulling her to me and kissing her muzzle.

She was hotter this time than in the morning; her body panted and shuddered just from the kisses, as I slid my hand up one leg of her very short cutoffs and against her vulva. She moaned softly as I touched and probed her cunny, feeling at least one spot on her body that was still warm while being wet.

Her hands were not idle, either. She reached down and stroked my erection through the pants I was wearing; every rough rub brushed the material against my cock, approaching but never quite reaching a pain threshold. I moaned back against her mouth, our tongues wrestling.

I broke the kiss and slid down her body quickly, tugging aside the material of her shorts to lick at her cunt. The scent was wonderful, tainted even as it was with the chlorine embedded in her fur from the waterslides. It’s like trying to describe the scent of a rose; I love it, but I can’t say why. It was a clean, sweet, delicious scent that encouraged me to press my mouth against her cunt completely, sliding my tongue against the slippery pink flesh.

She moaned and lay down on the bed, her hands one-by-one opening the buttons that held her shorts closed. “I’ll have to stop to get those off,” I murmured.

“Then stop now; I won’t let you later,” she gasped. I pushed myself up and helped her off with the shorts. I slid back between her legs, taking a long look at her cunt. She had short, dense but not thick, strands of pubic fur covering her vulva, and I brushed these away with the side of my hand as I slid down and licked along the length with my tongue. She gasped loudly. “Oh…”

I didn’t say a word as I pressed my lips and tongue against her cunt. Her body shuddered repeatedly under my oral caresses. I love a responsive partner, and K’meh responded wonderfully. Her legs would sometimes tremble, and when I would shift from an up-down to a circular motion with my tongue, she would suddenly moan loud for a moment, and moan again when I would shift back, or shift to a side-to-side motion, after a time.

Peeking up along the length of her body, I could see her hands grabbing the blankets of the bed and twisting the material, grabbing reflexively against the cloth. She began to make a high-pitched growling noise, almost a feline keening, and then suddenly broke out in a loud and violent “Meeeeeyooowwwwlll!” as she gasped and twisted, almost trying to escape my tongue.

After a few moments and a few caressing, cool-down licks, I looked up the length of her body to see her muzzle pointed ceilingward, her chest heaving as she lay and caught her breath. “Meow?” I said gently. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you meow.” I smiled.

She raised her head, gave me what might have been an angry stare if she didn’t seem so disoriented, then dropped it back onto the bed. The pillow made a soft ‘poof!’ sound.

“It just seemed like the right thing to say,” she said. She crooked one finger in my direction. “Come lie with me.”

I crawled up the bed and her body and lay beside her, cuddling her. She was still wet, and still felt cold to the touch. I smiled and hugged her.

We were silent together for a while; we may have dozed. Time passed faster than I would have expected, but shortly thereafter I lifted my head to look around and it was already eight at night, local time. I did some quick translation in my head; thirteen Ilye’, except by now it would probably be dark, or nearing dark, outside. It seemed strange, after so long, to think that the day was only going to be fourteen hours long. Stranger still to consider that the night was only ten!

K’meh stirred next to me. She looked up at me with a gentle smile and said, “Did anyone ever tell you you were good in bed?”

“A few people. None of them as important as you.”

“Not even P’nyssa?”

“Well, okay, one maybe more important than you.”

She laughed and tugged me down again. Our kiss was slow and casual this time. “You’re no slouch in bed either, K’meh.”

“It’s all in the wrist,” she laughed.

“You’re a good kisser,” I said.

“Thanks,” she replied, smiling. “‘M cold.”

“No wonder; we’ve been lying here for nearly two hours, and when you came in your fur was still damp. We have to get some heat into you.”

“What does the doctor recommend?” she asked.

“A warm shower, followed by dinner. There’s a good steak place at the other end of town. Good ribs.”

“Let’s do it,” she said. “Want me to get the shower started?”

“I’ll do it,” I said, rising from the bed and standing straight. I felt a little dizzy; I was hungry myself. I walked into the bathroom and started the water running, waiting for the temperature to come up to where I wanted it.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Yup,” I said. “Come on.” She walked in, still looking incredible despite the fact that her fur was everywhere. I pulled aside the curtain and she climbed in with me.

“Something tells me we’ve been here before,” she said.

“I like showers,” I said. “Especially with a friend. Besides, it saves on water.”

She laughed. “It does not! You usually end up doing things that take forever anyway, Ken!”

“Guilty as charged,” I admitted.

“Do me a favor?” she asked. “Stand there,” she said, “and face away from the shower.” The water was now hitting my back and sliding down. It was hotter than even I usually like it; there was steam collecting in the bathroom now. “You used your tongue on me before we slept,” she said, kneeling down before me. “I want to return the favor.”

I smiled and decided not to argue with her as she took my flaccid cock into her mouth. It didn’t stay that way for long. The sensation of her warm muzzle sliding back and forth along the length of my cock was more than enough to coax me to a full erection. Back on Tycho I’d already found out how good a fellatrix she was, but this– in the hot shower, naked, warm, wet– was enough to drive me out of my mind!

I looked up at the supports for the shower curtainrod, making sure they were in fact drilled into place before reaching up with my left hand to steady myself. I was getting weak in the knees, watching her (not to mention feeling her) suck on my cock. I felt strange… I very rarely climax from oral sex, and I have, for some reason, difficulty climaxing in the shower. I was having no trouble getting closer to orgasm today.

She became more sure, her tongue dancing along the underside of my cock, her muzzle closed and tight and warm around it. She didn’t try to swallow it and she didn’t have to; she was doing a wonderful job as it was, and I was getting close. I told her so.

That didn’t get any response from her at all; with single-minded determination she slid back and forth on my cock, one paw gripping the base while the other gripped my ass. I could feel her claws sheathing and unsheathing gently against my butt in rhythm with her motions, and finally I came!… I came so hard my knees did give out, and I let go of the bar to come to a controlled fall in front of her, grabbing her shoulders on the way down to steady myself.

“Are you okay?” she asked, lithely dodging the water that I was no longer blocking.

“Oh, K’meh… I’m fine. Really. Just a little.. winded.”

She laughed and stood up slowly; I could hear the muscles in her legs going pop.pop.pop. She helped me to a standing position after her, and I threw my arms around her and hugged her. “Ken?” she asked quietly.

“Hmm?”

“You know that insect trap outside the front office porch? The one with the electrified mesh and the ultraviolet light in it?”

I dimly recalled seeing it when I had checked in. “Yeah?”

“If we don’t go eat soon, I’m going to stand under it with my mouth open.”

I pushed her back to arm’s length. “K’meh! Bleah!” I said, laughing. “That’s gross!”

“I know,” she said, laughing along. “But I’m hungry!”

I nodded, turning the water off and ducking out of the shower while she shook as much water as she could manage; in my mind’s eye I pictured what her breasts would look like as I heard the water hitting the plastic sheeting of the curtain. She pushed the plastic aside and stood there, looking impressive. I handed her a towel.

Ten minutes later, we were dressed in comfortable Terran clothing and driving down to a restaurant called Dougie’s. Despite the somewhat disarming name, inside the decorum was brass and dark wood, hanging plants and muted, indirect lighting. “Can I help… you?” the hostess said as we walked in.

We went through the entire rigamorale we had gone through that morning, only this time in a less open fashion. I slipped the hostess a fifty u-dollar bill, saying “Please see to it that none of your staff alert the media.”

She nodded her acceptance, smiling when she saw the amount, and led us to a table along a wall, out of sight of many of the patrons; the restaurant was not arranged in an open-floor manner, but had lots of miscellaneous walls, thus creating the nook we were sequestered in.

“So,” I said, “ready to go back to New York, and life?”

“I want to go home,” K’meh sighed. “As much fun as Terra is, it’s not what I want to live in.”

“Not that you could.”

“Even if I were human, it’s too confusing.” I nodded as we were brought drinks. We ordered.

The meal was as pleasant an arrangement as I could have imagined. We giggled through much of it; she asked me detailed question about my childhood, Clarke’s Lake and what I knew of the surrounding territory. She was surprised at the gruesome nature of many of the tales I had picked up from my childhood around here, but they were part of the local folklore, both European pioneer and American native. Tales of children being staked down to the ground, their eyes filled with honey to be eaten out by stinging ants, made her shiver and ask me not to tell any more, dinner was coming.

I was surprised when, after dessert, someone wearing a white smock came into the dining room and approached our table. “Mr. Shardik?”

I’m a lousy actor, and an even worse liar. I decided not to try the same stunt twice. “Yes?”

“I wanted to know what you and your… friend… thought of the dinner tonight?”

“What’s your name?”

“Tracy, sir.”

“To be honest, Tracy, I thought it was damn good. What about you, K’meh?”

“I had three orders,” she purred softly, smiling at the cook (chef? Never quite sure in these places). “The ribs were wonderrrrfulll.” She caressed the word ‘wonderful’ with her voice, her caiss accent, usually completely under her control, coming out fully right then.

“I just wanted to make sure everything was all right.”

“Everything is just perfect. Thanks for coming out.”

He smiled nervously, wiping his hands on a free corner of his smock. “My pleasure,” he said, backing out quickly and turning, almost running, into the kitchen.

“That was nice of him,” K’meh said, smiling.

“Yeah,” I said, returning the smile wistfully. “So, ready to go?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

We paid our bill and headed back to the apartment. If we were followed, I failed to notice it. Back in the motel room, we slept the sleep of children; content, peaceful, and quiet. Dawn was coming, and with it the drive back to New York, then Geneva, then Luna to pick up our scientists, then finally back to Pendor, home, and our own real lives.