I sat down at the family table and yawned. Breakfast just isn't my time of day, and I just was really not in any sort of mood. The humans had been here barely three weeks and already I had decided that I was going to have it up to here with them. I grinned. Not a very politic attitude, I guess.
Aaden followed my example, sitting across from me at the table and yawning, his muzzle opening wide and his pink tongue sticking out. I was of half a mind to grab it. He simply shook his head tiredly. "Coffee."
"Tea," I agreed. "You go."
"I'm not awake yet. You go."
We sat there, staring at each other. "Tell you what..."
A clap of the hands outside the tent made me look up. "Who is it?"
"Shardik? This is Tasha Reah."
I gave Aaden a sidewise glance. Why would David's navigator be calling on me, especially this hour of the morning? And, truth be told, even after a year I was not at all adjusting to these 14-hour days. "If you're not offended by nudity, feel free to come in."
The flap opened and she stepped inside. About 145 centimeters, with those classic lanky arms and slightly stooped back, she was still a lovely example of Katckinhood. "Can I speak to you, sir?"
"Of course you may," I replied, responding to the 'sir' professionally. "What is this about, Mister Reah?"
"I saw this note on the news this morning, and I figured you should see it. I have already gone over the data with Commander Garenna." She held out a PADD for me to look at. I accepted it.
A few minutes later, I whistled low. "This data is accurate?" She nodded. "They think it's sentient?"
"What?" Aaden said.
"David's headed back this way. It seems we might not be alone out here."
A few hours later, Garenna had assembled a meeting in Mission Control. "Okay, now, everyone here settle down. We have had absolutely nothing to go on until just an hour ago. We now have some rather comprehensive details. No decisions are going to be made until The Rat's Inquiry makes it back here. In the meantime we should all just sit tight and review what we know. Commander Reah?"
"I will defer to Macaff."
Macaff, a short melVulpin with broad, masculine features held up a uPADD that apparently controlled the large screen behind him. "At 18:22 two days ago we noticed the following rise in the local distortion of hyperspace; the distortion, as you can see, is broadband, but by itself very small. We attributed the distortion to a glitch in the sensor array. This effect has never been noted naturally, and we assumed some sensor array to be at fault. Commander Hawkwind took it upon herself to locate the fault and has driven herself to exhaustion finding... nothing.
"Approximately eleven hours ago, the Rat's Inquiry, some sixty light years away, noticed the same effect. The effect is, as we have surmised, an actual presence in hyperspace. It is an expanding wave front of immense power."
"Is it dangerous?" someone in the audience asked.
"Not that we know of. Data from the Inquiry has been flowing in. They have traversed the wave front several times. It is simply a significant distortion spread out over a very broad band, and it is moving very fast. Tasha?"
Tasha Reah stood up. "The end result of this is that we have located the origin of this expanding wave zone; it is a star approximately seventy point eight light years away; less than a week's travel from Battia. It is very near the end of the region of space David had intended to explore given that we planned a four-year stay. Now, it seems, we shall be investigating it that much sooner. Because the Inquiry is almost exactly in the opposite direction from the star, they will be stopping here in six Pendorii days before proceeding to the source of the phenomena. Obviously, some of you will want to accompany the mission, since this represents both something new and something not directly related to the frustrating task at hand here."
"I'd like to investigate," Amanda piped in. "I have a natural curiosity for hyperspace phenomena, and this one certainly catches my eye." I chuckled. I'm sure Amanda's curiosity for hyperspace phenomena is entirely "natural."
"Do remember," I began, "that several FTL probes were sent out ahead of us to radio local starsystems that we were coming; I believe among other things that this star system was probably one of many hit indiscriminately by Huffman probes. If there are natives, they may well have known we were coming."
"A signal device?" someone asked, picking up my thread.
"Any culture capable of building a signal device of this power could have built one with a more coherent signal," Amanda announced surely.
"You're sure of that?" I asked.
"The mathematics is intuitively obvious," Amanda replied.
"I'm not so sure," I said. "In a few days, we'll have an answer."
I stumbled into the tent, yawning wide. "Hiya, Dad," Sheja said. My yawn had closed my eyes, and I forced one of them open to look at my lovely twelve-year-old daughter. She is positively beautiful.
"Hi, kid," I groaned.
"Dad, you look awful."
"The vote of 'Ken looks awful' is duly noted," I chuckled, leaning down and giving her a hug. "So my little one is coming with me to check out some lonely star?"
"Yup!" She bounced on the bench. "Just to get away from this icky planet."
"It's not icky. It's fascinating!" I sat down next to her. "Why do you think it's icky?'
She looked down at her ensemble PADD and pushed a button on the screen. "I dunno."
"Are you bored?"
She shook her head. "Not really. I mean, there's so much to do here, but there are so few people my age and, well..."
"You miss the Ring."
"Yeah!" She turned to me. "Can I go with you?"
"On the trip?"
She nodded. "Just for a change. I mean, you'll only be gone for two weeks, three at most, right? I'd like to come along and be part of the ship again."
I recognized that voice. It was Rainy and Denni and Priss all over again. We had another spacer in the family. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why so many of my kids wanted to get into space, but the statistics so far bore it out: P'nyssa and Aaden and I raised spacers. "Tell you what. We'll ask Mom and Va and if they say you can go, you can go. They've both said they intend on staying."
"Okay," she sighed. As she opened her mouth to talk again, the tent flap opened an Aaden walled in. "Va!"
Aaden grabbed the speeding girl and pulled her into the air, mindful not to brush her head against the canvas ceiling. "Heya, little one. What's up?"
"Dad says if I can convince you and Mom to let me go, he'll let me go on the trip to the hyperspace anomaly point. Can I? Please?"
Aaden smiled and put her down. "If he wants to put up with you by himself for three weeks, it's fine with me." He walked around the table and kissed my cheek. "So, is that the deal?"
I nodded. "Pretty much." I reached behind me and wrapped my arms around him. "So, how's my favorite mel doing?"
"Oh, not bad. We're tracking the signal progressions now. It'll be a few months before any of this starts to make much sense, but we at least now know what parts of the planet are communicating with what other parts, and hopefully we'll see a correlation between communication densities, launch facilities, and hopefully the brains of the outfit." He grinned, then it faded.
"I just wish someone hadn't died to bring us this information."
"It's not something you can really fight, Aaden. Live with it, deal with it, but it's done and over with." I stood up, yawning. "Are you going to be up for a while?"
Aaden shook his head. "I spent most of the day deep in the heart of the hottest, wettest rainforest this place has to offer. I'm beat. I want a shower and sleep."
"Well, I just want sleep, but I'm willing to put that off to shower with you if you want."
"That sounds nice," he agreed.
"Which means," I said, turning to Sheja, "That it's up to you, little lady, to ask your mother whether or not you can go into space with me."
"You bet I will," she replied defiantly.
"Then that's settled. Until we hear from P'nyssa, plans are on hold. But you should pack while we're gone anyway; I can't imagine her saying 'no.' Okay, Aaden, let's hit the showers."
We walked to the compound showers, a hexagonal construction of small shower crannies all supplied with sterile water, hot and cold, by a sewage-treatment shuttlecraft parked about six kilometers out from the edge of camp. Because of the nature of the system, it was actually easier to supply hot water than cold water. Still, we never ran out of either; the system was designed for that kind of overload. Environmental impact was minimized by the recycling system, as well as the thermodegrading soaps and shampoos used by the crew. The place was quite crowded with people of both sexes and many species, and as Aaden and I walked in there was cheerful greetings from a few people. "Ken!"
I looked up as I slung my towel over a bar and saw a tall, slightly portly human of ruddy complexion and cheerful expression waving to me. "Alex!" I replied back. "I'm sorry you got dragged all the way out here to end up having a life slightly less exciting than my own."
"If my life is even half as exciting as yours, I'm living in my own troubled time," the Russian-born zoological gengineer replied with a chuckle. "Three years in space and there is not a single animal on the planet above the arthropods. Still, it's good to be out here and not in the lab. I think of it as an extended vacation on my government's expense. You are going on the trip to the Hyperspace Anomaly, right?"
"Yep. My daughter and I are going."
"But not your mates?" He seemed surprised.
Aaden leaned out of the shower, his eyes closed against the soap. "We're saner people, Doctor. We'll stay landbound until we simply have to go back into hyperspace."
"So," Alex continued. "Is there room for humans on this ship?"
"I'm human," I pointed out.
"Not with a five-chambered heart," he pointed out. "I am asking, is there room for me on this voyage?"
Before I could answer, Lance did. "David has said that a contingent from UCLA/UCMR is not unwelcome provided they stay away from the engineering and administrative functions of the starship unless otherwise invited. Quite a number of people from the Stableford have requested room. Thus far it appears that nearly 200 Terrans and 500 Pendorians will be going on this trip."
"Lance, that's nearly a quarter of the people here!" I protested.
"Actually, it's 26.2 percent," the AI replied. "I surmise they're simply looking for something else to do. A vacation in a vacation, as Alex has pointed out. Many of our people have been working harder than I would recommend. Doc Nessus has complained that his workload has become inordinately heavy in the past couple of weeks."
"Interesting," I said. Crew stress was something for Gary and Ness to worry about, and I felt more than a little confidence in their abilities. "But there is your answer, Alex. You're free to come along. Can we expect to see you tomorrow morning?"
"Da, I'll be there." I found his momentary use of Russian amusing, since I was willing to bet it was probably the only word he knew of that tongue.
As Aaden and I returned to our tent, P'nyssa was still awake, waiting for us. "Hi," I said, still tired.
"Hi," she replied. "I told Sheja she could go."
"Thanks," I said, hugging her tightly. "Now, if you two will excuse me, I'm heading to bed. I have to get ready in less than seven hours and move onto the Handele."
P'nyssa stood up and put her mitten on my shoulder. "Oh, no, you don't, mister."
Aaden came up behind me, pressing his chest to my back. "You're not going anywhere until we get a proper good-bye out of you, Ken."
"Aw, come on, guys. I'm exhausted. You don't expect me to perform under these conditions, do you?"
"Yes," Aaden replied with a grin. "We do." He turned me towards the bedroom and pushed me in that direction. Once inside, he stripped my robe from my shoulders and turned me around. "We're going to miss you." Then he kissed me
When Aaden kisses me that way, there's nothing that's going to stop me from getting turned on. I felt the blood rushing to my cock and the warmth spreading from my groin. He put one hand on the small of my back and pulled me close, grinding his groin against mine. I could feel his hard cock against mine, and my voice found itself in whimpers as our tongues wrestled wetly against each other. P'nyssa's mittens slid up my back and I shivered to feel the way they tickled the small hairs that ran up my spine. "I don't know what I'm going to do for both of you tonight; I feel right now like I can barely handle one of you."
Aaden's hand caressed my erection, make me shudder with the intense sensations coming off the tip. "You'll think of something." He grabbed my shoulders again and pointed me towards P'nyssa. I smiled and pulled her close, kissing her the way he had kissed me. I felt his fingers playing against my more-than-will asshole, and hoped that's what he had in mind, since that would require that I just lie there and take it like a man. Anything else and I might actually have to do some exercise!
She crushed her breasts against my chest; through the smooth and trimmed fur I could feel her nipples pressed to my skin. My hands moved of their own free will to encircle her waist and grasp the round hemispheres of her ass, which I'm still convinced is one of the most beautiful in the universe. But I'm biased.
She pulled me down to the bed and I came to a slow lie atop her. "We will miss you," she said, echoing Aaden's comments. He joined us on the bed, easing down behind me and hugging me, sandwiching me between himself and P'nyssa. I caressed her nipples with my lips, slipping down between her legs easily. I felt her hands atop my head as I licked at the top of her mound, kissing her out lips gently. Usually she encourages me to get on, but today she let me take my time and I decided I wanted to do just that. I kissed my way around the outside of her labia, licking gently, probing, waiting. Her cunt opened for me in a way I hadn't seen in a long time, mostly because I'm too eager, too quick to get to the main course. But watching her lips swell and seeing the inner lips pout and stick out like that aroused me more than usual.
Aaden encouraged the process by crawling down between my legs. I felt him squeezing himself between my legs, so I raised myself up and spread my legs further to give him room. As the hot scent of P'nyssa's cunt filled my nostrils, the moist warmth of Aaden's very talented tongue slid along the length of my shaft. I whimpered softly into P'nyssa's sweet muff as I licked at her wet and almost dripping cunt. A little stream of milky white fluid dripped from within her and I lapped it up. I concentrated on her clit and she gasped as she came, hard, under my tongue. Aaden pulled away from my cock and I slid up between P'nyssa's legs and slid into her.
She spread her legs wide and accepted me into her body. My cock speared deep into her accepting cunt, which was wet and waiting after my licking and her coming. I pressed into her, and then I felt Aaden's hand upon the small of my back. "Hold still, you two," he said. "We haven't done this in years."
I felt his body take up position, his legs outside of my own and between P'nyssa's. I felt a warmth upon my asshole, and then felt the bulk of his body against my back, his cock dangling against my buttocks. He pressed forwards, and my asshole welcomed his cock into my body. I wasn't sure what felt better; P'nyssa's cunt surrounding me, or his cock penetrating me. I looked down at P'nyssa and she smiled at me.
Aaden started the motion, slowly fucking me, his strong arms pressed to both mine and P'nyssa's sides. I began following his actions, fucking P'nyssa as he fucked me. Her tens reached past me and she was actually grasping Aaden's sides, guiding his action as the three of us made love, slowly and with care. "I love you," Aaden whispered into my ear. "You're so hot inside, Ken. So tight."
"Then come inside me," I said.
"I will," he replied. I held onto P'nyssa, my cock being forced in and out of her by his massive weight, no matter how gentle he was. He held us both as he made love to me, and I wished, earnestly, that I could hold him as he came inside me with a soft gasp of pleasure. I took up the strength, feeling P'nyssa's cunt grasping my cock as I made love to her willing cunt, and she moaned. "Are you close?" she asked.
"Good timing," I gasped. "Right... now!" I came inside her with hard, finishing strokes, loving every last shock of pleasure.
I finally eased myself off of her and flopped down onto my side. "Now can I go to sleep?"
Aaden grabbed a towel and wiped himself off. P'nyssa handed me a second towel and I did the same. She chuckled and said, "Yes, you can go to sleep now."
"Good!" Sheja's voice came from the next room. "Then maybe I can too!"
I stared at P'nyssa, then turned to Aaden. "Do we really make that much noise?"
He shrugged. "It's a tent. The walls are thin." He lay down and pulled a pillow under his head. "Cuddle?" he asked.
I eased myself into his arms. P'nyssa curled up around me, her ten over my side and resting between Aaden and I. "Goodnight," she whispered.
"Come on, sweetheart. Get up." I shook Sheja's shoulder gently, and her head turned up at me and her eyes blinked and she yawned.
"What time is it?"
"Ship pulled into orbit just a half-hour ago. They're here for six hours. We've got to get moving." I saw that she had packed already, and picked up the bag and slung it over my shoulder. "Anything else you need?"
"Can I get dressed first, Dad?" She stood up and stretched, right before my eyes, and I had to bite my lip and wonder if she would ever ask, for she was truly a beautiful creature.
"Go dress, Sheja."
She pulled herself into a jumpsuit and zipped up. "All set," she said.
"Let's go, then." I left P'nyssa and Aaden sleeping together, curiously looking appropriate cuddled up against one another like that. We made our way to MC and the main SDisk of the camp. Sheja kept yawning and so did I, and eventually we made it. There was a bit of a line, but we were the third group to make our way up. Glowing lines directed us away from the SDisk we had taken; even though the shipwide distribution network of SDisks allowed us to come out as near to our room as possible, there were probably dozens of other people coming out of the SDisk at any second.
The door opened. The room hadn't changed; it was still the same, perfectly clean, just as Lance would keep it. I tossed my small kit bag into the bedroom. "Dad?" my lovely little skunk'morph of a daughter asked.
"I'm going back to bed." She yawned again. "Twelve hours of pitch black is going to be great."
I chuckled. "Give me a hug before you go, then."
She bounced over, her big tail waving behind her like a giant furred question mark, and fell into my arms. "G'night, Dad. Sorry for bugging you guys last night."
"That's okay. If we were keeping you awake, you should have complained sooner."
She backed away. "I know what you guys were doing." She shook her head. "I wouldn't dare interrupt you before I was sure you were done. Mom told me once that someday I was gonna understand why all that stuff is important to you, and I'm starting to." She smiled, then kissed my cheek. "G'night."
"Bye." As she wandered away, I fought to sort my feelings out. I couldn't believe how... awake Sheja was. All of Aaden's kids were extremely intelligent, but not since Alexi did we have a kid quite so 'on' as Sheja seemed to be. I hoped she fulfilled the potential I thought I was looking at.
She was right, too. More than seven hours of real darkness would be a joy to behold, and I decided to behold it. Stripping off my clothes and tossing it across the floor, I crawled into the big, lonely bed.