Morning arrived long before awareness of it seeped into my brain, and when I finally opened my eyes a clock informed me that I had slept until the fourth hour, almost lunchtime. Turning over, I saw that Anlestin had already made her way downstairs to breakfast. From somewhere remote came the sound of hammering. The engineers must still have had work to do on the formal halls beneath the Throne Room. I wondered what the parliamentary rooms looked like, and realized that I would probably find out soon enough. I might even consider asking Pal to take me there this afternoon so I could have a look myself.
I rolled out of bed unwillingly. Engineers will tell you that nobody can tell the difference between artificial gravity, real gravity, and centrifugal force (in a universe governed by relativity, "centrifugal force" has a place in the lives of people who live on ring; it's no fiction to us!), but for some reason it takes me a while to grow used to the feel of ship gravity, and after a long flight my first nights in mass-generated gravity always leave me with a feeling of immense satisfaction.
"You're awake," Reeds commented. "Pal has left some sweetrolls and meats for you downstairs. Anlestin is in her study."
"Thanks, Reeds," I commented. My voice didn't sound too awake. Still, with a stretch I suddenly felt like a whole new man. I opened my bags and pulled on a pair of black slacks, a collarless white shirt, a pair of socks and my boots, and I was ready to take on the world. "Take me to breakfast."
True to her word, Pal had left me a couple of odd breadstuffs that had a thick, sweet jam slathered on them, along with some preserved meats and cheeses that weren't bad at all. I left a note with Reeds to thank her when he felt the time appropriate, then went in search of Anlestin.
Her study had that lovely dark-wood paneling that all good offices have. Her desk, made up of the same dark wood, lined the corner and came around, giving her three sides of a square on which to work. Despite the immense desktop, she had precious little cluttering it up. A bookcase held a few mementos, including a small memory block with my image on it. "Morning," I said as I opened the door slowly.
"Good morning," she replied. "You slept late."
"Which surprised me. I had gotten a lot of sleep the night before, and was only awake for a couple of hours. You didn't wear me out that much."
"No, but you wore me out," she sighed with a smile. I crossed her office and knelt before her just enough to hug her well. "I love you," she sighed.
"I love you too." I smiled at her, not sure where to take the conversation. "You know, when I looked through the glass into your office, I felt kind of strange."
I gestured around. "It's a pretty modern-looking place. I would have thought there would be more anachronisms."
"I like it this way. I grew up in the generation that dreamt of starships and spacemen. And here you are."
"It was also kinda strange to see you working. It really makes you look like the queen you are, rather than the princess you used to be. What are you working on?"
She turned the screen around to show me. "Opening arguments in the re-parceling of land for the gentry. So much land was destroyed, and so much has been rebuilt differently, that I don't know how to tell people. 'We're sorry, your desert is now forested land.' 'I'm sorry, but your jungle has been replaced with meadows.'" She sighed. "It's tough."
"I bet." I placed my hand over hers. "I got some bad news last night."
"You have to leave now?"
I shook my head. "Not now. But I have to go back into space. I might be gone as much as nine months."
"The opening isn't for another two years or so. You'll be back in time, won't you?" She sounded earnestly concerned.
"I think so. But you know how these things go. Never know what's going to happen."
"Where are you going?"
I gestured at her PADD. "Our psych specialists have gone over the wakeup procedure a thousand times. Aanji sent me a note last night telling me that after the Ille Pendoro drops off cargo, we're going to have to refit the Nayno Handele as fast as we get the two Ritans back to health, and then turn around and rush back to Ritacha. As far as they can tell, the best environment to wake the Ritans up in is their own. We're disjointing them temporally, socially, culturally, emotionally. The best we can do is give them a physical familiarity, even one covered in ice and snow." I took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "I'm starting to hate space."
She smiled. "You love space. You just like being home too."
I nodded. "I haven't been home in too long. And I know Aaden and P'nyssa won't go with me on this one." I looked out the window at the ocean. "Let's go down to the beach."
"We don't have a beach," she said. "We have a cliff."
"I need to get out of here, Anni. I'm starting to get cabin fever. And knowing that I'm going to be trapped in another ship for three months out, who knows how long on, three months back, I need some real sunlight and air."
She looked up. "Let's get out---" A loud scream and a crash interrupted her. "What was that?"
"Let's find out." I ran down the hallway to where I thought I had heard the scream. "Anyone here?"
"Over here!" came a loud and somewhat undignified holler from behind a pile of boxes. The voice then muttered, "Under here, I guess."
"Looks that way," I laughed, pulling some of the large cardboard boxes off the body of a llerkindi fem. "What happened?"
"Oh, stupid me, I tried to take down some of the higher boxes without getting a robot or a ladder. Hey, you're not one of the Engineers from Pendor."
Anni barely concealed a smile behind her hand. "No, I'm not."
"Sh... Shardik?" Recognition dawned on her face. "I... I'm sorry. I..."
I put my hand on her shoulder. Her eyes went wide as she looked down at where my hand lay touched her shirt. "You shouted for help. Anni and I were the nearest people. I don't see anything to be sorry about." I looked down at my hand. "Hey, you're bleeding."
"It... It's nothing."
"The Hell it isn't. Anni, see if you can dig me up some first-aid, please. Meanwhile, Miss...?"
"Tona Rycis. Take off your shirt and let's take a look at this wound." She did as told. The wound wasn't that bad; a surface-level tear in her scales that seemed to be putting out more blood than it should. I realized I didn't know enough about llerkindi anatomy to judge. Anni returned with a box. "Thanks."
"Is it bad?"
"Don't think so." I took out a pad of BZK and wiped the blood off, looking underneath. "Ouch. Does it hurt?"
"Not really," said the injured llerkin.
"Endorphins, or whatever you use for the same thing. It's going to hurt a lot in just a little while once the natural opiates wear off. Better do this quickly." I dosed her with some Narite on the wound and covered it with a clean bandage. "Get to a real medic soon."
"Yes... yes sir. Your highness, excuse me."
"Go!" Anni said with a laugh. "You're standing there bleeding and you want to take me seriously?" Bewildered, Tona retreated quickly.
I laughed. "Poor girl, she must be terribly confused. I hate when people don't realize that there are some things more important than formality." I sighed. "You were saying something about us getting out of here?"
She nodded. "Let's take one of the jeeps." We stopped by the kitchen just long enough to grab two sandwiches and two cans of something to drink, then dove down into the garage. Anni picked out a two-person fusion-powered GEV and volunteered to drive. I readily agreed.
The GEV started in a high-pitched whine that internal sound baffles quickly filtered out. The garage door opened. Anni hit the turbofans with all the force of an Ogre Magi battletank and the GEV shot out over the meadow. With a gleeful giggle she rolled the wheel to the right, making the GEV turn in a wide arc and head for the water. "Anni!" I gasped as she took the cliff at full speed. I was sure we were going to die. But the fans apparently had enormous range, and the GEV decelerated as it closed in on the water. The force of the fans literally drilled a hole into the ocean, a cushion for us to fall into even as the water closed around us. As we popped back up to the surface and into a hover, the rear fans buzzed like an angry swarm, pushing the GEV across the ocean at nearly two hundred KPH as they cleared the intakes of water. "Are you crazy?"
"Pal taught me that," she laughed. "It's completely insane."
"I'll say. What if the hovercraft broke up? What would you do?"
"Bail out and wait for someone to rescue me," she said. "You're not angry with me, are you?"
"No, not really," I sighed. "Just startled, that's all." She nodded. "So, where are we going?"
"A small island a couple of doals away. It was one of the monitoring stations for the Fahn air recycler." A few minutes later the island in question came into view. It already had trees on it, I commented to Anni. "The monitors on the island planted early and often. It was one of the ways they tested the air quality. There's been growth on this island for nearly two decades."
I nodded. "Surprising how well everything's come up."
The GEV parked over the sand and descended. We waited until the sand the fans had kicked up settled back down to the ground, then climbed out.
"Wonderful," I sighed, looking up at the sun. The sky arced out forever in every direction. The air had a clean quality that no starship or air scrubber could match. Even the warmth of the sand felt natural.
Anni shucked the simple clothing she wore and stood up, naked, on the sand. "Eve?" I joked.
"Terran legend of the first man and woman."
"Oh," she laughed. "I don't think we can be quite that pair."
"No, probably not. But you do look lovely, Anlestin."
"As do you, Ken. Although you should probably look lovelier without your clothes." I took the hint and immediately ditched my clothing, tossing the ensemble onto my seat in the GEV. Once naked, we both ran for the ocean. I could see the sand leading away from the beach through sparkling clear water. I threw myself into her ocean and the waves sucked me right up. I broke surface with a satisfied "Ahh."
"I'm half tempted to claim it for the throne," she said.
"You mean, you haven't already?"
"I don't want to appear greedy."
"You're the Queen, dammit. Do it before it becomes another matter for the courts to argue about." I smiled and reached to pull her towards me. Although her body temperature ran a degree or two cooler than my own, compared to the cool of the ocean her body insulated me and made my skin warm where we touched. Or maybe that was just Anni. "I'm so happy for the results."
"So am I," she agreed. "Thank you." She gestured with one arm, indicating the blue sky and blue seas and storm clouds on the horizon. "None of this would have been possible without the help of Pendor. You made this possible. We even have much more arable land now than even before the war."
"Not just me," I said. "Pendorians took your plight to heart. We realized that the llerkin had always been our best friends, even more so than the Terrans, who've always had a love-hate sort of relationship with us. Getting you put back together was definitely something we wanted to do."
She rested her head against my chest. "I'm glad you wanted to do it."
"Yeah." I kissed the top of her head softly, carefully avoiding the pointed tips of her ears. I released her and we crawled out onto the beach, where I spread out the large blanket I'd brought with us, dropped the canvas bag full of food onto it, and then lay down beside her. "Warm out."
"Nice," she agreed. "Better than 98 years ago when nuclear winter was all we had."
I chuckled. "Yeah, but there's something to be said for nuclear winter. I'm not sure what. Maybe Erroll or Sandahl can explain it to me."
"Who are Erroll and Sandahl? The Ritachan survivors?"
"Yeah," I sighed. "The first two, the most likely at any rate. Poor guys. They're going to be so lost. I hope we can make the transition easier for them."
"You'll manage. You always do."
"Yeah, I know. That doesn't mean either they or I are going to like it." I reached over and caressed her, my fingertips just grazing the hide under her arm.
She giggled. "Tickles."
"No, no, it felt nice." I took that as a hint and continued stroking her hide, over her chest and abdomen, along the line of her neck and over her forehead. "You're sweet," she sighed.
"So're you," I replied. My attentions got the better of me and I dipped my head to kiss her chest. Llerkindi females have no visible mammae, not even nipples. It's difficult to tell males and females apart without a careful examination of the face or a good sense of smell. But Anlestin definitely fit the definition of feminine. Especially in the way her back arched oh-so-slightly when I kissed her hide. I slid down a little further along her body, towards her belly. "Uh-huh," she murmured. "That's good."
I kissed her belly, then slid down further until my tongue probed the cleft of her furless cunt. The scales of her hide here were very fine, almost imperceptible, but the tough flesh underneath her skin couldn't be denied. I looked up and saw that she had tossed one arm over her eyes to block out the light of the sun. She took my shift in weight as a hint and spread her legs wide, allowing me to look down and see her cunt clearly. A scent arose from her, one of simple arousal, but it didn't strike the beast in me quite the way my own creations' scents do; it registered as far too alien to my senses to be arousing directly. But it did excite me to see that she anticipated my kisses so much, and I chose not to leave her waiting.
I dipped my tongue down into her wetness, recalling the alien layout of her cunny. I paid careful attention to certain zones between the outer walls, places that I knew responded with special sensitivity to caressing. Anlestin once told me that I knew more about pleasing llerkin women than some of the noblest boys she had ever played with from her own world. I tried to live up to that kind of expectation, hard as it was. She moaned softly as my tongue worked its magic between her lips, caressing, licking, tasting. I've characterized her taste as somehow... nutty, like pistachio. And that's how she tasted today, only like salted pistachios with the sea water running down the delicate green hide of her body.
I felt her hips tilt forward and her mons veneris flush slightly, and I recognized the signs of tension. A second later, those signs gave way to a great shudder and climax. She gasped a single "Oh!" as she came, and quickly I backed off, allowing her to relax.
I crawled back up the blanket to lay next to her. The sand underneath radiated heat through the blanket and to my willing body, which accepted the heat as a sign that I should rest and relax and enjoy the afternoon. Anni snuggled up beside me. "Mmm..." she sighed. "That was good."
"Oh, good," I said. "I was afraid you weren't enjoying yourself." I laughed softly. "So, how is my princess?"
"Better. You know, I like when you call me that. 'Your princess.' If I could belong to anyone, Ken, really just let myself be someone else's, I would be yours. I can't; I have to be queen. But with you, for a little while, I can just let myself go. I like that."
"I like that too," I replied. "Glad to be of service." I sighed. "But I'm not qualified to 'have' anyone, Anlestin. I'm too busy myself."
We lay together for a while, ate our sandwiches, swam out into the water, and lazed the day away. I let my skin get a little burnt; I deserved it after having been cooped up in a starship for so many months. After more rest on the blanket, having allowed the day to pass by without a care in the world, I asked Anlestin if she wanted to head back home.
"Yes, I suppose we should," she sighed.
I lay there for a minute. "I don't want to get up."
"I don't either," she admitted. Finally, I felt her rise. "But the joys of being queen call." She grabbed my hand. "Come on, Ken."
"I can't move."
"If you don't get up, I'll tickle you," she sing-songed.
"Yes, really," she said. She pulled on my arm a little harder, trying to pull me to my feet. I was far too heavy for her. "Come on!"
I decided to see where this would go. "I'm lazy," I said.
"Really. Let's see how lazy you are if I do... this." I heard her fall to her knees beside me, then felt her fingers dig into my sides as she began tickling me, hard.
"I told you to get up!"
I grabbed her hands abruptly and pulled her towards me, stretching her out over my legs. Now I chose to get up and with careful calculation delivered one swat to her ass. "Be good!" I said. "No tickling."
Her whole body went rigid with the impact, and then a brief second later collapsed. "You... you wouldn't hurt me, would you Ken?" Something in the tone of her voice awakened memories that I hadn't played with in a while. Something in her words now clicked with what she had been saying earlier. I recognized the desire in her voice. I'd heard it before. Not from her but from others. Others... in Rhysh.
"Never," I said. "But if little Princesses misbehave, shouldn't they get a good spanking?" She didn't reply. "Shouldn't they?" I asked, louder.
"Yes. But was I bad?"
I thought about it. "No, you weren't." I turned her over slowly. "You're right. We should head back, and I was the one misbehaving." I looked into those golden, horizontally slittled eyes. "What just happened?"
"I think we both know," she sighed. "You... you found a secret." She blushed. "I can tell you, right?" I nodded. "I just... It's one of my fantasies. To be taken, overwhelmed... raped even, by someone stronger than me, someone who doesn't care if I'm Queen Anlestin of llerkin. I want to be sexually satisfied, Ken, by someone who knows exactly what I want and who will give it to me no matter what I say."
I smiled. "You have no idea how common that fantasy is."
She blushed. "It's not a very common fantasy for a Queen."
"Oh, I dunno. Haven't known many queens... not in the sense that you are queen," I added, chuckling. "But I know a lot of fems who have the same fantasies, so if there were a lot of queens, I can imagine some of them having the same desires as what you've just told me."
She smiled. "You don't think less of me?"
"Gods, no!" I said. "It takes a lot to admit that to anyone. Whether you're Queen or not. If you want to be my Princess, so to speak, then I want you to be so."
She nodded. I tapped her back to indicate she should stand, and she did. We collected our stuff and headed back towards the GEV. She started the engines and we headed back to the castle.
"So tell me about the Han," Pal asked around a mouthful of something sort-of like beef. "What are they like?"
"Nice," I said. "Good people. What more do you want me to say? They've been with us for nearly four years now, and you've certainly had the opportunities to see them on media-- the way they walk, the way they move, the size of them. They shouldn't be a surprise to anyone anymore."
"I was just wondering if you had any special insight into them. Was there anything about them that you found... special?"
"Well, yeah, individually I did find people I thought were special. But there isn't any quality to them that's unusually powerful or somehow distinctive. They're having children at a phenomenal rate, but that's mostly because of the devastation of PRAIOR on their population. I'm sure-- well, I hope at any rate-- that they'll slow down and start to have babies at a more sensible speed after a while." I grinned. "I didn't find any telepaths among the batch we encountered, for example, but that's not to say they don't exist."
Anlestin nodded. "Your trip was so long-- you must have something to say about it."
"I have a hundred tales," I said, launching into one of my more exciting ones. It kept Pal and Anlestin enraptured for a while-- the nuclear bomb, the terrorist who planted it, his attempt to kill me directly afterwards. She shivered when I revealed how close to dying I'd come. "Hey, I'm a thousand years old. It's about time someone actually managed to put a bullet into me."
"But still-- I'm glad you're okay."
"Being shot is nothing to laugh at," Pal noted as if she'd been there. "It might have hit something vital."
"Nothing I couldn't regrow."
"Ken," Anlestin murmured, "If he'd shot off your penis, the one you regrew wouldn't have that fascinatingly barbaric scar on it."
I chuckled. "I hadn't thought of that." I pushed the plate away from me. "Phew. I'm full."
"I'll clear up," Pal said, starting to stand.
"No, Pal, sit back down. You're not on duty right now."
"She's always on duty," Anlestin muttered.
"Even when she's sleeping with you?"
Pal sighed. "I don't know about then," she said seriously. "Sometimes I think I'm just keeping My Queen comforted for just one more day, and sometimes I think I've fallen in love with Anlestin, the lovely young fem I've been looking over for nearly four centuries now."
"That sounds like a marriage in my book," I chuckled. "So, when did you two start being more than just... friends?"
Anlestin took a deep breath. "Just after the exodus. After Mom died. I don't know why it never occurred to me before then."
Silence ensued. Finally, I asked, "Pal? Are you jealous of me?"
"Jealous? Why should I be? You're in the same position I am. You love her as much as I do, probably in the same way I do, but you're held as far apart from her as I am because of her and your duties. Possibly even further."
"Yeah, probably." I took Anlestin's hand in mine, and then Pal's with my other. "What do you say the three of us retire together?"
The two of them smiled. "Is this some kind of male fantasy?" Anlestin asked.
"You know better than that," I said. "You're the subject of tonight, not me."
"In that case, I accept," Pal said.
"Me, too," Anlestin said. "But you have to promise to take care of yourselves. And... Pal, I need a special promise from you tonight. If you see Ken do anything... weird, don't overreact. Try not to react at all."
Pal nodded. "Are you becoming involved in some of his... more interesting habits?"
"I might be. Does that bother you?"
"I don't know yet." She stood, and Anni and I followed her. "Let's go." The three of us left for the elevator, abandoning our dishes behind us.
In Anni's bedroom, we likewise abandoned our clothes. Anni dropped down onto the bed and two hungry lovers descended on her. "So," I said. "What shall we do with you?"
"How about treat her well?" Pal suggested. I nodded. Pal crooked a finger in my direction, leaned over and whispered something in my ear. I nodded again, and the two of us descended onto Anni's feet, giving her a strong rub. "Ohhh... " Anni sighed. "That's wonderful."
"Glad you like it," Pal said softly. I had Anni's left foot, Pal the right. Anni moaned softly as we worked her feet loose, then moved our way up her thighs. Both of us descended on her cunt as one.
"Ohh... " Anni sighed. Pal and I alternated, licking her cunt, kissing her mouth, playing with her ass. I allowed my fingers to go where they wanted and Anni never once told me there was someplace they shouldn't go.
Pal was between Anni's legs when Anni grabbed me by the cock and pulled me towards her. She shifted herself to get close enough that she could take my cock into her mouth. I sighed as the wetness of her mouth closed around my shaft. Her thin reptilian tongue played along the underside, tickling that 'barbaric scar,' the one from my circumcision too far in the past for me to actually remember. Her mouth was wonderful, but she had to stop when her muffled moans grew out of control. Whatever Pal was doing, she obviously knew how to do it well. I was impressed at the volume of sounds; I never get that out of Anlestin. I would have to watch Pal next time to see what she was doing.
I sat back and watched Pal eat Anni, watching these two lovely fems do to one another what I had done to Anni just that afternoon. Anni's voice reached a higher pitch until finally she exploded powerfully, pushing Pal away with her hands. "Enough!"
"But you can never have enough, Princess," I laughed, pulling her close and kissing her. "What do you want next?"
"I want..." She paused. A mischievous gleam came into her eyes. "I want to watch you eat Pal."
"Huh?" Pal said. "But... but... I don't like mels."
"Then I should probably decline."
"No," Pal said. "No, not in this case. Our princess has given us a command. And besides, in your case I'm willing to make an exception. I know you'll keep that monstrosity underneath you because you, Ken, are a gentleman."
"That's a compliment I'll not soon forget." I gestured with one arm, and she laid herself out on the bed expectantly. I slid myself between her legs. Anni took up a position to Pal's left, stroking her chest and belly gently.
Pal tasted different from Anlestin. I could not really find the words to express different how. Less sweet, perhaps, but no less desirable. Her cunt was smaller than Anni's and the blunt of my face didn't make eating her very easy. Then again, it didn't help with Anni either.
Pal took a while to relax. Her legs betrayed her tension; she wasn't used to the attention of men and Anni's relationship with me couldn't be making the thoughts going through her mind any easier to bear. Her hands kept straying down to her crotch to hold herself open; I kept shooing them away. My ego wanted her orgasm to come entirely from my doing and I did my best to keep her hands away. I couldn't stop her from stroking or touching herself on her belly, chest, and face, and I didn't try.
Pal's body eased down to the bed, letting go. It seemed to sink into the soft folds of the mattress. Soft whimpers came from her throat as I licked her and finally the tension returned. She seemed to curl into herself, pushing herself further into the mattress as her orgasm overwhelmed her and she came, silently.
I looked up at Anni with a wide grin across my face. "So?" I asked.
"Pretty," Anni said. "Very pretty."
"Good!" I chuckled. "Pal?"
She looked at me through half-closed eyelids. "Are you sure you're not a lesbian?"
"I have a 'monstrosity,' remember?"
"So?" Pal breathed. "I do too. I just have it in a drawer at home."
I laughed. "I've got a couple in my drawers at home, too." I reached up and hugged Anni. "What next?"
"Bed?" I asked. "I could go for that."
"You haven't taken care of yourself yet," Anni said.
"Yeah, I have," I sighed. "I've made love to two of the loveliest fems in the entire galaxy, and if sleep is on your minds, then it's on mine too. I'm tired. I think I'm getting old."
"You are not getting old," Anni said. "You're as strong as you always were."
I chuckled. "Hope so. P'nyssa puts a lot of effort into making sure I am." I pulled the covers out and indicated Anni and Pal should get underneath. I slid in on Anni's other side, putting her between me and Pal, mostly for Pal's benefit. I knew from experience that the center wasn't always the nicest place to sleep-- too warm, and often stuck between two people who tended to toss and turn at all night. Still, Anni would probably find it more enjoyable than annoying one time.
I reached out and ran my finger down the lightswitch. The lights dimmed.