Aaden pressed his nose to the clear screen that separated us from the vacuum of space in such a typically childish manner that I almost had to laugh. He'd been doing that on and off for the past three days, as if to reassure himself that yes, there really was a world down there, and it was just waiting for him to discover it.
Actually, in a way it was. We had spent the past three years space-time, two years real-time, to come nearly forty-eight hundred light years just so the botanists, including Aaden, could down and figure out just what made the planet below tick. Nearly a decade ago the starship Shakespeare's Sister had discovered that the dramatically tectonic world below was covered in an interconnection of plantlife that in many ways resembled a neural network. The botanists were just going berserk over the possibilities it represented to them.
Of course, some people perceived my ordering the Pendorian expedition as something of an abuse of power, since my lover was ostensibly team leader of the science team going down to the planet's surface.
"Commanders Kennet and Aaden Shardik, please report to the Captain's Office immediately."
I tapped Aaden on the shoulder. "Time to go."
He nodded and rose. The multispecies crowd parted easily to let us through; once we reached the SDisk it was just a quick crossing of the dramatically overlarge bridge to reach David's office.
A study in it's owner, like many personal rooms. Everything set low to accommodate the 150cms of height David had reached in a world that averaged 180. Cluttered only with the small things that David had accumulated as reminders of his past life, as a merchant marine. That hadn't been so long ago, less than three and half years. A picture of his wife, not so coincidentally a grandchild of ours.
I remembered the arguments David and I had had, both during the initial interview and several times on the voyage here about how this was a strictly political appointment. I was glad to see that he was finally realizing that he was the Captain of this vessel. It was his command, whether or not I had anything to do with the ship's construction.
He walked around the room, his hands clasped behind his back. He looked very rat-like, but then his parents were first-generation Terran Neorats, Neorattus Norvegicus Sapiens. He looked like an overgrown brown rat, too, elongated just slightly to give him a more 'humanoid' appearance. He turned and regarded us both.
"It's come to my attention," he started, "That the two of you are both qualified trans-atmospheric pilots. It was also mentioned to me, in passing, that both of you have recently completed nearly a hundred hours in the training simulators, programmed with the specifications for the kind of station lander we have on board." He stopped right in front of me. "Now, I can understand your enthusiasm to get down to the planet's surface, you two. But is it really necessary for you to be on the lander?"
"We wanted to, sir. We're enthusiastic and we're qualified."
David sighed. "Yes, yes, I know that. But did you really have to ask Lance to drop hints my way regarding your attentiveness to training?"
"Would you have noticed if I hadn't, sir?"
"I suppose not. I suppose I would have found an appropriate pilot from your team, Ken, one who is more experienced in this task, hmm?" I kept my mouth shut. "Very well. Garenna and Narev have found a suitable site for the base camp. You can get your briefing from your daughter down in Shuttlebay One. She and K'Perea will accompany you down to the surface as security detail. Two cargo SDisks, four personnel SDisks, and four suits of Shirow will be loaded for the cargo lander. Advise the bridge when you're ready to leave."
I grinned. "Yes, sir," Aaden said.
"Oh, and which one of you suggested to Lance that he 'mention' your training 'in passing?'"
Aaden spoke up. "I did, sir."
David picked up the book he'd been reading, a set of Journal Entries from the second century. "Your lovers are right, Aaden. Never lie to people; you're bad at it."
Aaden grinned, giving me a flick of his eyes. "So I've been told, sir."
"Go on, get out of here, down to the conference room." He pointed at us as we left. "And don't crack up my lander."
Still grinning around the corners of his muzzle, Aaden led the charge out of David's office. "Race you," he said, jumping on the SDisk which took him all the way across the ship to the Shuttlebays.
Reaching the SDisk, I stopped. "Let him wait," I grinned to myself quietly, stepping onto the SDisk and teleporting back to the residential level.
When I got there he was leaning up against the door and talking to Rainy excitedly. I caught up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Gotcha!" I said.
He swept me off the floor and into his arms, kissing me hard. I tried to say something but ended up only mumbling. Finally, he put me down. "Now then," he said, "What took you so long?"
I whistled. Malthus came charging down the hallway, his tongue hanging out of his mouth as usual. Aaden looked at me, looked at Malthus, then said "You brought the dog?"
"Why not?" I asked. "When was the last time someone let him out?"
Aaden chuckled. "I suppose," he said. "And what were you trying to say when I was kissing you?"
"I was trying to say that we are on duty, and we are supposed to be getting a briefing, and not in front of the children!"
He laughed, and so did the young femTindal standing in the doorway. "I'm used to it," she said. "Come in and I'll show you the layout." The screen behind her came to life; interfaced with it the biocybernetics already implanted in my head gave me a powerful, three-dimensional view of the planet from overhead, rendered in impeccable detail. "This is where we've chosen; it's going to be our 'zero' on the longitudinal maps, and it's only about a three hundred klicks south of the equator.
"We've chosen this location because it's a large, open plain suitable to hosting our entire science party plus whatever other parties arrive from Terra and Wisdom and whatever, at least according to our last intelligence reports."
I nodded. Many of the half-dozen or so starships estimated to be headed this way were smaller, joint projects between universities. The first one estimated to get here was a UCLA-led team, probably in cryo. They, like we, would spend three and a half years making the trip, the catch being that under Ohadi drive it only took two years on the "outside"; inside, it still took 3 years no matter what we did. We had decided early on that, as a scientific program, this was going to be a shared project; we merely wanted to get here first and assume the first knowledge collected.
"Also, it's less than an hour from the ocean by subsonic transport, and the Dolphins are going to love that. So your second job, after setting up the landing SDisks, will be to put a networked quad here, on the beach. We'll transport those down to you after you get the first quad rigged up."
We nodded. "Aaden?" she asked. "Are you ready?"
"I'm reviewing the meteorology," he said, his eyes half- focused. "I don't think there'll be a problem. Let's get moving."
We dissembled. Out in the shuttlebay K'Perea, Rainy's coimelin of many centuries, was busily loading the last of our four customized suits of powered armor into the back of the shuttlecraft. After giving Perry a requisite and very unprofessional hug, I took my seat in the co-pilot's chair and began going down the preflight checklist, making sure that everything was in its place and there was a place for everything. The two fusion plants on board were ticking over in a casual holding pattern, and I flared each one briefly to make sure the deuterium feeds worked fine. They did.
Aaden walked into the control cabin, followed by Malthus. I watched him as he lay a thick towel on the floor for the huge Newfie, then casually strapped himself into his chair, as always enjoying the sight of his large and muscular body, covered in a layer of fine but densely-packed black fur, the thin white stripe running from the top of his muzzle and down his back to over his broad, bushy tail, only a small portion of him hidden under the loose shorts he wore. He gave me that grin that says "I know you're letching at me again," and I returned it, giving him a thumbs-up as well. He nodded. "Control, we are ready for elevation."
"Copy, Shuttlecraft Niven. We are evacuating and elevating now."
Pumps whined in the distance as the air was removed from the shuttlebay; the sound became more and more faint as the air carrying it was slowly deleted from the intervening space until the only sensation came through the material of the floor, the elevator, and the shuttlecraft body. Slowly the platform the shuttle rested on elevated to the ceiling, in which a hole irised open, allowing us to 'rise' to the underside of the Rat's Inquiry.
Aaden fingered a button softly, and a soft spang rang through the inside of the ship. "Control, we are physically uncoupled."
"Copy, Niven. Magnets are set fifty north."
"Thank you, Control," Aaden replied. "Going to one-plus until twenty meters." Aaden touched another button, and in the platform the six electromagnets that until a second ago had been gripping the feet of the shuttlecraft suddenly found themselves opposed by six electromagnets in the vessel's feet, each set same-pole-to- pole. Computers chatted animatedly between themselves, calculating just how powerful each of the six magnets in the Niven had to be to make sure it was pushed away from the Rat's Inquiry without a sudden and annoying loss of attitude control. The shuttlecraft was moving at one meter per second at twenty meters, just as Aaden had desired. We waited patiently as the clock ticked by until we were five hundred meters away from the ship, then Aaden opened up the fusion drives and we were suddenly headed towards the planet's surface. He flashed me a smile.
"Hello, Control, this is Niven. I have independent control."
"Copy, Niven. Good flight."
The flight was "good" only in that it was characteristically boring. We already knew that the surface of the world had a very breathable atmosphere as far as we were concerned, so there was nothing distinguishing this landing from that of any other. Well, the only telemetry we had was coming from overhead, with no ground control at all, but we didn't care very much about that. The landing was singularly unexciting by itself.
The view outside was stunning, though; the grass was green, the sky was blue and clear, the mountains at the far end of this huge plain were snowcapped. On one of the mountains a cloud had struck the summit and appeared to be tearing itself apart.
After checking the preliminary life-support statistics outside, we stepped onto the ground of this new and alien world. "There it is, Aaden," I said, gesturing widely with my arm. "An entire world of new botanical species for you to take apart as you see fit." A sudden, tiny pain hit my arm, and I slapped at it. "And not a few insects," I said, opening my palm. It had eight legs, a segmented body of overlapping plates, and dark, almost leathery wings. It was a strange looking beast, needless to say.
Malthus took to the new world instantly. He literally charged out of the shuttlecraft and was soon running around trying to catch those bugs. "Did you bring a scoop?" Aaden chuckled. I reached into the shuttle and pulled out the drone in question, opening the protective covering, activating the 'on' switch and tossing it into the air. It immediately went after Malthus, waiting for the dog to do the dirty deed.
The two fems accompanying us took their task immediately; Aaden and I had barely had a chance to look around when we heard the whine of powered armor being started up. "Come on, you slowpokes, stop watching the dog," Perry said into her microphone, "We've got a camp to establish."
Aaden sighed and shook his head. "Business first, I suppose," he said softly and climbed back into the lander to put on his own suit of Shirow. We began unpacking the two enormous cargo SDisks and the four smaller personnel SDisks. The personnel were easy to set up; they were just two small segments, halves, that had to be locked together to form one complete section. The two huge cargo SDisks consisted of 32 segments each, and had to be arranged precisely to make sure the transporter field generated by each one would be complete.
It's always been on of our greatest technologies, teleportation, but it's limited in that we don't have a functioning aportation system. SDisk technology requires that there be a transmitter and a receiver. I don't pretend to know how it works, but I understand the limitations of it.
The SDisk is an 'extended two-dimensional shell' transceiver. It extends a shell from the surface of the SDisk transceiver to encompass the object that needs to be transported. The object doesn't even need to be in physical contact with the SDisk; the shell can be wrapped around the item if it's suspended above the SDisk. The catch being that the amount of power required to create this transposition of matter is directly proportional to the square of its distance from the surface of the SDisk itself. Basic calculus; the sum total of the square of the length of every line segment between every point in the object and the surface of the transmitter, plus the same calculation for the receiver. Usually that energy is calculated based on perpendiculars to the plane, but a SDisk can handle objects not directly over it (hence, the capacity of transporting objects with a larger minimum cross- section than the surface of the SDisk.). Since nothing can be 'perfectly flush' with something else, there is always some energy involved with transfer, but liquids and gasses are so nearly capable that the power required by the SDisk is minimal, barely above the minimum maintenance power of the field generator. Transporting raw electrons, i.e. electricity, is just as cheap. It's tall, solid things that give the SDisks conniptions.
But, it is theoretically possible for a single SDisk to take an object at a given range and transport it somewhere else. The Corrane field generators will only tolerate so much power, though, before they blow up. So we rarely use them that way. Besides, the range on these ground transceivers is significantly less than surface-to-geosynch.
"I have a positive on number two," Rainy sang out.
"I've got the same on three," Perry replied.
"Hello, Inquiry, we're ready for the test."
"Copy, Commander Shardik. Test one." In a few short seconds, all six SDisks had a small empty cargo box resting on each one. "Test complete."
"They're 'go,' Inquiry."
"Thank you, Commander."
"Now then," Aaden said. "Rainy, Perry, can I ask a favor of you two?"
Over the radio I heard Rainy come back with "Of course, Aaden. We'll complete the setup on our own."
"What's this abOW!" I said as Aaden's Shirow tackled mine, tossing me against the restraints. He hoisted my suit, with me in it, over his head and started running for a set of low, gentle hills a short distance off. Combat training to gain orientation took over, and pretty quickly I had a good picture of what was going on. In less than five minutes Aaden had us well out-of-sight of the rest of the shuttle.
"What are you doing?" I asked as he dumped my armor onto the ground.
"Out of your suit, Ken," he growled softly.
"Out of your suit, now," he growled again, a little more intensely.
Carefully, I opened the buckles and snaps that held me in the Shirow's impact harness, slowly freeing myself from mechanisms that held me tight. I sent commands downline that shut off almost all the manual controls in the cramped cabin, took off the control headband and cracked the forward hatch, slowly climbing out. Taking another deep breath of fresh air, I stood up, looking at the four-meter tall suit that towards over me. Aaden's not a Shirow driver the way Rainy is, not the way I've been taught. But even so, looking up at that suit like that gave me a small thrill of fear. I could hear the small gyro-sensors whirring within it. "Good," he said softly. "Now open up a channel inside your suit. Network it to me."
I reached down back into the cabin, having to bend over in places to reach the protective panels that covered the controls. I flipped the switches he had requested and backed off. "Good," his voice came over the external speaker on the suit. "Stand back, Ken."
Taking his advice, I stepped down onto the grass and backed away from my own suit slowly. It stood up, ponderously facing the other suit. They seemed to stare at each other, and while I watched them I barely noticed the sound behind me of someone creeping up behind me. Before I could even shift mental gears and turn around to see who it was, a hand slid up under my hair and closed down tight. "Hello, lover," Aaden growled softly. "We're going to play a little game."
"Aaden," I moaned softly, going limp. He loves my hair; it make me weak and it makes me ready in one simple gesture.
He laughed darkly. "We're going to be the first mels to fuck on this new world, Ken. You and me." Already my knees were buckling under me, and soon I was going to be falling to them. He pulled downwards, making that fall come even faster.
With me on my knees, Aaden walked around me until he was standing in front of me. He wore a pair of loose shorts made of some slick and smooth cloth, which he gestured towards. "Open them."
"Aaden..." I gasped. My head swam with a mixture of lust and responsibility.
"You know I hate repeating myself," he snarled softly, pulling back on my hair, bending over slightly as he did. "Open my shorts, Ken."
I opened the clasp, slowly working my way down five snaps. Then I pulled them down. He released my hair and tugged on my shirt. I raised my hands over my head and he pulled my shirt off. "We can't have the insects bothering us," he observed. I heard a soft whirring, and then the air filled with tiny, tight beams of light. Aaden had programmed the lasers on the Shirow to shoot the insects out of the air!
"Only if they get too close," Aaden said, answering a question that hovered in my brain. "Which means if they miss we risk the run of getting burned." He chuckled lightly. "You trust your hardware, don't you, Ken?"
I looked up at my love and master, smiling. "Yes, sir," I said.
"Good," he grinned down at me. "Now then, since we're here for a purpose, get to it. Kiss my balls, Ken."
I crawled forward and pressed my face against his legs, kissing his ballsac softly, opening my mouth and feeling their furry, slightly wrinkled texture against my lips. My heart beat faster in anticipation.
"That's it," he growled. I opened my mouth fully, actually taking one of his balls into my mouth and rolling my tongue around it. He shifted his weight back and forth on his feet slowly, and I rolled with him, kissing and sucking on his balls. "That's it," he repeated, his voice soft and appreciative. "Now move up and kiss my sheath. Make me hard, Ken, make me ready for you."
I raised my head to his pendulous sheath, kissing the opening where already his cock was starting to peek out. I slowly wrapped my mouth around his sheath; soon he would be far too large for me to hold all of his cock in just my mouth, but at the moment his sheath alone was small enough for me. I stroked back and forth, feeling his cock pulse against my tongue as it grew progressively harder. It slid out of its sheath, and soon was pressing against the back of my throat. I felt myself slowly pushed away from him by his growing cock, but I ran my tongue over his thick shaft as much as I could, kneeling before my lover and worshipping his cock as a good penitent should. He growled appreciatively. Out of the corner of my eye, every once in a while, I would see a bright streak of light that would terminate far too close to us for comfort.
Determined to show Aaden just how much I wanted him, how much I always wanted him, I pressed forward, concentrating, ignoring the signals from my throat as I slowly sucked him down, opening my mouth further to accommodate the fur and added thickness of his musteline sheath. I felt the fur tickle the top of my mouth, and pressed further; the enormous reality of my lover's cock progressed down my throat until I had buried my nose in the fur of his belly.
He hissed loudly. "Ken," he gasped. "Gods, your throat is so tight... too tight..." I slowly backed off until the head was in the back of my throat and not down it. His body shook as I sucked on him, and he placed his hand on top of my head and slowly pushed me away. "Take off your pants, Ken."
I did as I was ordered without standing up, removing my clothing and tossing it aside. "Good," he said. "Now the shirt." That went too.
He walked around behind me and, placing his hand on the back of my neck, eased me down onto my hands and knees. He pushed further. "All the way down, Ken. Face to the grass."
"Sir," I complained.
"All the way," he growled menacingly. I complied, folding my arms and resting my head against them. "Spread your legs."
I felt completely exposed, and well I should; naked, in the middle of a wide-open field, my legs spread apart, my cock dangling hard between my legs and my face pressed against the grass. The air buzzed with insects, none of them landing on me thanks to the criss-crossing of hot yellow lasers picking them out of the air. Aaden stepped away from me, leaving me alone. I burned with my desire for him, for him to fuck me. But he backed far away from me, and I felt more vulnerable than ever.
Then he returned, chuckling. "You got soft while I was gone," he said, batting at my balls, making me wince and whimper with pain. "Not that it was important for you to be hard," he said.
He knelt behind me, his claws streaking along my back casually. "You know how hot I think you look like this," he said. "You're such a slut, Ken, and now you're going to get what you desire most."
I kept my mouth shut. His hand slowly caressed my ass. The wind picked up slightly, blowing my hair across my face. I felt his cock against my ass, feeling him aim. "Get ready," he said.
Always ready, I waited. He pressed slowly and firmly, ignoring any protests from either my voice or my asshole. His cock pressed hard against my hole, and suddenly he shoved his way in. My body shook at the violation, my sphincter spasming around his cock. He grabbed my hips and sank in deep; I felt my insides giving way to his familiar tool.
"Yeah," he growled softly as his hips pressed against my butt, his cock hitting bottom and making me groan again with pain. "You're tight today," he said, slowly withdrawing his cock and then shoving it deep again. "You're good," he sighed. He pulled his cock almost all the way out, then stopped completely. "Get ready for a ride," he said.
He placed both hands on my hips, grabbing firmly. Then he pulled, sinking his cock in fast, then pushing, pulling, pushing, fucking! I moaned as his cock barreled through my guts, ravishing me as he used me. I gasped and moaned, twisting underneath him but wishing he would never stop. His relentless strength pistoned his cock in and out of me, the friction scouring my asshole, torturing my insides, and sending me to those heights of violated pleasure I received only from my beloved Aaden. With every thrust his fur pressed against my skin, tickling, and even that little touch added to my pleasure.
"I'm getting there, Ken," he growled. "I'm coming!" he shouted, forcing his cock even deeper into me, fucking me violently, powerfully to the very end as his cock shot semen into my guts.
As he slid out, my legs collapsed underneath me and I fell to the ground completely, my body splayed out. I couldn't control my muscles and my body trembled violently, tears falling from my eyes. I was softly crying, as I always did when he was that rough with me. But inside I felt wonderful, I felt good and whole, satisfied. I slowly turned over too look at Aaden, and he was toweling his cock off. "You went and got a towel?" I asked.
"Of course I went to get a towel," he said. "You were particularly messy today, Ken. I also went to get lube, too."
"Any blood?" I asked.
"Not that I saw," he said, leaning over and kissing my cheek. "Thank you."
I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Oh, Aaden, you silly Meph you. Like I would ever tell you not to!"
He held me tight and the two of us sat there, grasping each other tightly. Lasers winked around us, still killing the bugs that tried to get and him and I, and we ignored them as we held. "Come on," Aaden whispered, "We promised the dolphins an offshore site."
I giggled and grabbed the towel from him, cleaning off my ass and cock... much to my surprise, I apparently had come while he fucked me, and when I had collapsed I had lain down in the puddle of come I had created. "This thing is a biohazard," I said, holding up the towel afterwards by one corner.
"Then toss it in a sample bag and come on," he chuckled. We dressed, climbed back into the Shirows and headed back towards camp. We found the shuttle surrounded by people in Shirows and Starks, unloading cargo from the SDisks and setting up camp. Malthus, wisely leery of people in four-meter suits of metal and ceramic, had chosen to hide under the shuttle.