"My apologies for assembling this meeting with such urgency, especially by morning mail, but we have a guest who has arrived on short notice with an important offer for you all. Students, Aaden Shardik."
I took the stand from Administrator Dochtfriff. "Good morning," I said. The large classroom full of students regarded me with more than a little interest and curiosity. "As you well know, it is against Pendorian cultural norms to address one racial segment of the population exclusively except in medical or, rarely, neuropsychological instances. We have made an exception for you, the llerkindi, in the hopes that you will retain your cultural heritage for the day, soon approaching, when you all will be able to return to llerkindi without external life support.
"Pendor is doing everything it can to ensure that llerkindi is put back the way it was and we are currently almost eighty percent complete in our plan to clean llerkin's atmosphere and ocean of heavy nucleotides. In the meantime we are providing your population with a haven here, one which we hoped would be adequate to your needs. However, there are segments of your population that believe this disaster would never have happened if Pendor had left llerkin alone, and indeed there are people who believe Pendor deliberately precipitated the attack as a form of involuntary integration."
There was a slight stirring from the crowd of sixty of so students. It was entirely possible that one or two of them shared this belief; after all, college campuses are still the hotbeds for radical politics, no matter what they're being radical against. "In the interest of furthering Pendor-llerkin relations, I am here to recruit as many students as I can to join us on the Pendor mission to the star known in our literature as... " I paused. I really don't like the fact that Ken named it this. "...Aaden's Star. I'm doing this personally in the hopes of furthering our intercultural relationship. I need planetologists, biologists, zoologist, oceanographers, everything."
One student held up his hand and I gave him the floor. "This sounds like part of the continued aggressive Pendorian campaign to integrate llerkin."
"I'm sure some could interpret it that way," I replied, falling into my role as spokesman easily after so many centuries of it. "Make no mistake; our personal ethics require that I accede to your wishes, and therefore I want you to have your home back as fast as possible. On the other hand, emotionally I'll be sad to see you go; you've been a boon to Pendor in many ways. Interacting with llerkin culture has been good to Pendor. But if you're worried about llerkindi being tainted by Pendorian behavior, I think you should examine the influence llerkin is having on Pendor.
"I didn't come here to conduct an ad-hoc debate on cultural cross-pollination. I came to recruit students interested in furthering their personal knowledge and careers. Now, how many here are interested?" Quite a few raised their hands, although the "radical" in the back was not one of them. "Good. Now, we can only take around fifty or so of you, so I encourage you to tell your friends but not to get their hopes up too high."
"What did you think?" I asked, munching on a stalk of celery.
Dochtfriff gave me a calm glance. "I think it went well, despite the presence of that young mel in the back."
"I wouldn't worry about that. I expect there to be people like that on campuses. That's what campuses are for, for people to sound out their politics and beliefs as well as to learn." She nodded calmly.
"Excuse me?" I turned around and there were four or five students standing behind me, bearing lunch trays. "Sir? May we sit here?"
"Surely," I said. "Were any of you at the meeting this morning?"
As they took places around the cafeteria table, one raised his hand. "I was. We want to sign up for the trip."
"Are you sure?" I asked. "You're doing better than I am. I'm terrified. I've never been on a trip like this. You kids aren't even old enough, mostly, to know what a decade-long voyage might even begin to feel like. Besides, it means spending the entire voyage with such tainting influences as myself. And you know what I did to Ken." I laughed at the self-parody.
"We know that," said another, laughing along. "But the opportunity is great, as you said, and I want to go. It sounds like an experience not to be missed."
"Good," I said. "So, do you all want to go?" They all nodded. "Great. What do you all do?"
"Botany." "Biology." "Engineering." "Psychology." "Physics." I listened intently to the list and then said "Sounds to me like you've all got majors we could be interested in. So sign up with the local AI."
"We already have. We wanted to invite you, sir, to a small party tonight."
I paused. College-age parties were always something I tended to avoid. It's just not my scene; the last time I was in anything that, well, normal, I felt very out of place. "I think I'm too old for that kind of stuff."
"Nonsense, sir. We'd really like you to come along."
I took a deep breath. "Oh, very well."
Actually, the party wasn't all that bad. I walked across the lovely, green campus just as night approached. Green in more than just the vegetation since, after all, llerkindi themselves are green in color. Being the sole Mephit on campus, I got more than a few double-takes as they first scanned what, and then who, I was. I smiled and waved at them until reached the address I had been given.
Inside, the music was being played low and the drink of choice wasn't alcohol but some sort of strange grog that, unfortunately, was quite poisonous to me. I was greeted at the door by a lovely young femllerkin wearing a loose-fitting chiffon thing that did nothing to conceal her hide underneath. Ken would have found it pleasing.
"Hi," I said. "Um, your name?"
"Kosah," she replied. "Come in, come in. We were just talking about the Aaden's Star expedition." I sighed. "I understand your reluctance to that name, sir, but it is the name of record. Anyway, we're all really interested in going and we were hoping you'd come tonight. We're going over the basic telemetry in the living room."
The "living room" had been turned into some sort of astrophysicist's playspace. A large PADD display had been put up against one wall and several people held uPADD controllers in their hands. Two were verbally arguing loudly about stellar periodicity, while four sat at a formica-topped table and pored over the data on the "botanic network" itself. Another pair, wearing goggles, were pointing to empty air. A private discussion of something, whether molecules or stars I didn't know. They removed the goggles as I walked in.
I greeted them in turn, hearing their names although I doubted I'd remember them just from a hearing them once. "You're all really interested in this, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir!" one said. "Being invited to go along is one of the most prestigious assignments we can think of. And the adventure!"
"The boredom!" I replied, smiling. "Two years on a starship is pretty dull life I'm told."
"We'll survive. It's not as if we don't live in a fishbowl right now," she said, gesturing around and indicating, if not this building then the whole of Exiled Llerkin University. "With people like you on board, can it ever get boring? Besides, I don't think any of us are the radical kind of anti-Pendorian like Saffez, that guy who harassed you in class."
I shrugged. "Societies need people like him to remind us of where the extremes are."
"Just as you do, right?" A young melllerkin regarded me from the door of the kitchen.
"Exactly. Remember that he's not entirely wrong; there are people who would mine llerkin culture for everything it's worth and are loathe to see you go. I am loathe to see you go because I think you're a wonderful people, but its not my decision and, like I said, I'll do everything I can to get you people home."
"Do you really think Llerkin will be inhabitable by eleven hundred?"
"That's what the AIs tell me. I'm not a planetologist, so I really wouldn't know."
Conversation continued for a while, and I filtered through into the kitchen, requesting something slightly more palatable to my Mephit tastebuds. It was a quirk of nature that llerkin, who came from an atmosphere that was fatal to most Pendorians, adapted to our own atmosphere quite readily. They could also eat our foods, with some exceptions. But most of what they consumed was not to my stomach's liking.
I requested a small loaf of slow-baked nine-grain and a mug of Rocchodain Dark. Both appeared on the SDisk quite readily. As I did so, the young melllerkin who had addressed me earlier walked in and began rummaging through the refrigerator. "Hello."
"Hi," he said. "Cori."
"Yes, I know." He smiled and I grinned back.
"I noticed you didn't seem to have much to do out there. Why?"
"Zoology. There's no animal telemetry from the Shakespeare's Sister report, so until we actually get to Aaden's Star I have nothing to do."
"Assuming you go there," I said, taking a sip of ale.
"Yeah, assuming. I'm trying to be optimistic." He grinned. "It's impossible to appreciate a planet's biosphere without understanding its mobile life, so I feel pretty sure I'll get a berth on the Handele. Besides, the idea of spending so much time in space is romantic in its own way don't you think?"
"I don't think. Two of the people I care for most were lost in space for nearly five decades. I don't think that's romantic, I think that's despairing."
We walked back into the living room where a small debate had erupted between the botanists and the planetologists about orbital mechanics and the duration of a survivable M-zone. I listened to it casually, not really paying all that much attention to what was going on. I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees, sipping from my glass occasionally.
These were basically really neat kids. I'm sure there were other pockets of intelligentsia around campus just like them, each interested in their own subject, be it history or art or music. And each of these subject held their own interest for me as well, but right now it was here, with the outward-bound students, that I felt at home.
As I listened to the apparently irreconcilable debate (I wasn't even sure what the argument was about) someone began scratching my back. I startled momentarily, then turned around to see Cori idly scratching away, his eyes locked on the debaters. "Worried there might be a fight?"
"Nah," he replied. "Things like this happen all the time. I've never seen a fistfight in this house and I don't think I ever will. Besides, in a few minutes they'll realize they've devolved into buritilulo egotism and stop."
I nodded. Neither of us mentioned the fact that he was scratching my back, but I recognized the crude first signs of seduction as committed by college-age students and smiled into my beer. I wondered if I should let him go through with his obvious intent. I'd been pretty much in a very slutty mood myself this past month or so, trying to keep up with Ken, who had somehow rediscovered his lust for people outside of P'nyssa and I. Not that I minded; as long as we were happy, I never minded. I had no illusions as to Cori's reasons for wanting to convince me into his attentions either.
One thing that held me back, though, was the awareness that llerkindi males just aren't built the same as Pendorian males. Their penises are extremely narrow, almost about as thick as my finger, although of equivalent length to the human penis.
I decided that I was worrying about penetration, something that isn't really necessary to have good sex. So I decided not to interrupt him.
As the debate wore on and finally ended, his hands became more and more bold, sliding around my front side and exploring my chest and arms.
I leaned back momentarily and looked up at him. "You realize that if you get onto the Handele this will still mean nothing more than physical attraction," I whispered.
He nodded, grinning. "I have other reasons."
"Nothing you have to know about." He grinned. "I have residence in this building, you know." No, I didn't know, but I didn't contradict him either. Glancing around, it seemed that even the most scientifically-minded in the room had gotten a little tipsy. I'm not at all sensitive to alcohol; it takes liters to make me feel just a little light-headed. But the two botanists who had been most vocal in defending some point (I really don't remember what) had instead settled down to lackluster gesturing at the PADD between them. Finally, Cori and I wandered upstairs and into his room.
I felt oddly giddy, though. It had been a long time since I had had such a youthful acquaintance, and Cori did indeed strike me as young. He turned and fell into my arms, sliding his hands into my shirt and stroking the fur of my chest enthusiastically. "You are gorgeous, Aaden."
I looked down at him, grinning. "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself, Cori."
He smiled, and I wiped away that smile with a kiss, pressing my muzzle to his mouth. He jerked away at first, surprised, then apologized. "I'm sorry. I don't really feel comfortable with kissing."
"Then I won't do it again," I replied. He grinned, backing away and getting onto his small bed, gesturing with one hand. I joined him.
Dispensing with any illusion of niceties, we tore at each other's clothing in a frantic urge to get at the flesh underneath. He pulled my shirt off in one quick gesture, then plunged his fingers nervously towards my pants. I helped him, and as we tossed them aside he gasped. "I..."
I patted him on the head. "I know."
"I just... I wanted to..." He smiled up at me and wrapped his hand around my cock. "I guess I'm just a little surprised."
"It happens a lot," I replied, pushing him down onto the bed and licking my way down his chest, reaching his cock. It was quite thin, although not as small as I'd hard; it was still around fifteen centimeters long, but it was only about as thick as my thumb. According to my knowledge, he was therefore a rather well- endowed individual as llerkindi males go. I slid my muzzle down over it. It small enough I could literally wrap my tongue around it.
Which I did, an altogether new sensation and action for me. He seemed to appreciate it greatly, gasping and moaning. "That's so strong!"
"Less?" I asked.
"No," he replied. "Please, don't stop."
I nodded and kept sucking on his cock, running my tongue along the slick surface of it. I could feel the gentle rippling of the ridges of his reptilian plating; it even covered the extent of his cock except the tip. I bobbed my head back and forth easily. For me, this was more a matter of curiosity and an appreciation of his youthful horniness than anything approaching lust.
I slid back and forth, the uniquely silky feel of his cock against my tongue turning me on and inspiring to suck harder. His hands gripped my head and suddenly he gasped, coming.
His cock didn't throb the way a human's does. Instead, it tensed once and something hit the back of my throat. His cock. Literally his whole cock whipped out to nearly double its length and smeared the entire back wall of my throat with his semen. I gagged, choking in surprise, then pulled off him and coughed a few times. "Sorry!" he said, but with a smile on his face.
"It's okay. Just surprised me. I'd read about that somewhere." I sounded like a badly tuned Pamthreat synthesizer, and coughed some more. "I should have remembered."
"I should have warned you."
"Nah, that's okay," I replied. "That was fun." I finally had regained enough composure to smile at him. I glanced at my watch and realized that I had promised Ken I'd be home for bedtime. "I should get going."
"You don't want... me... to do you?"
I looked down at my cock, still semi-hard, then over at him. "Do you want to?"
"Will you be upset if I don't... can't make you come?"
"I'm too old for that. Go ahead." I scooted over the bed to lean against the headboard. He smiled and took place beside me, then bent down to kiss the head of my cock. I gasped as his mouth surrounded just the head; his body was cooler than mine, noticeably so now that I was within him somewhere. He wrapped his hand around the length of it and began stroking carefully.
I groaned softly in appreciation. Not much else, though; I still wasn't really excited, just enough to enjoy myself. He managed to get a couple of centimeters into his mouth, just enough to tease me. He was persistent and as his fingers stroked the base of my cock I realized that if he just kept at it I was going to come. I didn't think he had the strength to keep at it, though.
I was right. He stopped, looking up at me, gasping for air. "I can't," he moaned.
"Then let me," I said, slowing taking his hand away. I wrapped my own hand around my cock and began pulling on it, slowly at first but then with more speed. My climax built fast and furious after that, and I came within a minute, shooting my come already over my belly. "Whoo."
He smiled. "That was amazing."
"Thanks," I said, reaching out momentarily to ruffle the fur on his head, then remembering that he didn't have any. "Got a towel?"
"Oops! Yes, I do." He reached over the side of the bed and pulled out one from underneath, a gesture that made me smile. It's gotten to the point where I wonder about people who don't keep towels under the bed. I wiped myself clean, or at least as clean as I could manage, with it, then leaned over and grabbed my clothing.
He grinned. "I'm not going to bother to get dressed. This is my bedroom, after all."
"That's fine with me." I stood to leave, reaching out a hand. He took it and shook it gently. "Good to meet you, Cori. Hope to see you on the trip."
"I hope to see you there, too, Aaden. Thanks for the evening."
I nodded. "Bye." I made my way out.
There was a transzonal SDisk in the Student Union Building, so I made my way there, brushing my fur into place with my hands. I reflected on the evening. How strange. I used to be like Cori all the time, but that was a long time ago. I wondered what it was that had led me to 'regress' like that. I certainly didn't regret what I had done. I was mostly curious as to my own motives. For once, I didn't feel as if I had access to them.
As I entered the SUB a voice spoke to me from overhead. "Aaden?"
"Yes, Reeds?" I asked. There was a low chuckle from the voice. "Something is amusing?"
"Slightly," the AI admitted. "I'm afraid that your encounter with Cori has put him in the lead for a small contest on campus."
"Yes. You see, there's a competition to see who can convince or otherwise seduce a ranked group of Pendorian natives. Ken is worth 1000 points. You and Doctor Traken are worth 450 points each."
I stood stock still for a moment, chewing this over in my mind. I couldn't go back and change things. And I didn't want to. He did say he had his reasons, and I certainly had mine. "Wait, you mean if someone slept with both P'nyssa and I, they'd still need a hundred points to equal sleeping with Ken?"
"What's worth a hundred points?"
"There are several people worth a hundred points. Katherine Hawkwind, for example. Sufi is worth a hundred points."
"Hmph. These people don't know a good lover when they have one." I shrugged. "I'll tell Ken and Nyss, just in case they start getting an unusual volume of offers from llerkindi. Thank you, Reeds."
"You're very welcome." I stepped on the SDisk and was out of there.