The alarm went off. Wailing like a banshee, it demanded Nickolai's attention from the very first scream. He crawled along the length of the bed, fumbled in the darkness for the gap between the bed and the dresser, and slammed his hand down hard on the disable button. "Twenty minutes, Nix," he growled softly before crawling into bed.
Furry stirred beside him. "Another day," she sighed, not looking up from her pillow.
"Another fine day," Nickolai agreed, cuddling closer to her. "How're you?"
"Fine," she murmured. He wrapped an arm around her and held her close; she stroked his bare arm with her fingertips. "Feeling good?" she asked.
"I could be," he said, his erection already poking her buttocks. "How about you?"
"Let me think about it," she murmured. "I might want to use this time to get sleep."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Hmmm " She sighed, wiggling her butt back against his hips. "No, not so sure. Convince me otherwise?."
Nickolai grinned in the dark. He kissed the back of her neck, nuzzling the soft fur that tufted over that one spot where the neck and back seemed to join together. He nipped her there, softly, making her shiver. She liked to shiver, he knew, and he loved that he could cause it so easily, at least in the morning. It seemed to wear off as the day went along, although he could tickle it out of her with nightfall once more. She shivered again and squirmed against him. "Kolya " she moaned plaintively.
His hands caressed the fur along her chest and belly, finding the hidden nipples under the fur of her flat chest. His fingers slipped down between her thighs to touch her lower lips; her hand covered his as if to guide it between those lips. He knew where he was going, but her touch thrilled him. "I love you, Furry," he whispered.
"I love you, Kolya!" she whispered back. "Please fuck me?"
"You don't even have to say please," he said, cuddling up behind her, finding his way in the dark to her cunt from behind. She bent her legs inwards just a little, exposing her secret places more to him, and he slid easily into the waiting wetness of her sex. The feel of their two bodies merging each greeted with their own groan of pleasure, Nickolai's shaped into that single word, "Yes "
He held onto her hip with his one free arm and slowly the two of them rocked back and forth. Nickolai nibbled softly on an offered ear. Furry stroked his arm gently with one hand, the other also between her thighs, stroking at her clitoris while his cock eased in and out of her, massaging her insides, awakening her to the day. She moaned softly as first one and then another climax rolled through her-- moderate things not meant to shake the Earth, but reassuring to her that her world, Nickolai, was still there.
Nickolai didn't exert too much energy. He could feel Furry's pleasures running between them, hear her moans as she reached her second orgasm. He felt so strong, so capable, when she came like this, with him inside her, and when he came it was a release that came with little more than one last gentle moan.
He cuddled her close, feeling his shrinking cock sliding out of her. "Thank you, Furry," he said, kissing her neck once more.
"You're very welcome, my love," she said, turning around, turning him down to the bed, kissing him gently. "I'll never get tired of wakeups like that," she giggled, kissing his face. "Ready for the day?"
"Better now than I was before the alarm went off."
"Good. Let's get going. Mom and Dad are probably already up and going."
Morrail was already halfway through his second cup of coffee when his beloved daughter and well-chosen husband (at least in both Morrail's and Helena's opinions) showed up at the command center tent. "Good morning, lovebirds," Morrail chuckled.
"Good morning, Father," Furry said, giving him a gentle buff on his cheekfur. "Any changes through the night?"
"None, I'm pleased to say," Morrail responded. "Helena is packing a heavy shuttle for a lift to the South. Chatenni has called to report that he has found the ruins of a city and, like all archeologists in his position, has no idea where to begin." Nickolai nodded. Ritacha was becoming a peculiar dig all on its own, with its own difficulties. There were a great number of places that were sealed and protected; simple exposure could convert much of this world's paper documentation to dust or pulp in mere seconds. They had to be careful with each room. It was not by any stretch of the imagination an easy task.
"Well, it's time we got on with the day," Morrail sighed. "Where's the rest of my staff?"
There were over a dozen major digs going on all over Ritacha, and as the senior organizer of the dig, it was Morrail's task to be aware of the status of all of them. It wasn't his favorite task, but it was one he did rather well. Slowly the team representatives from each major dig site either filtered in or registered their presence on one of the monitors overhead. "Let's start. Site: The University of Besnial."
A rather tall and rangy-looking Mephit stood. "The University Project is proceeding well. We have completed work on the preservation of the library, although it's estimated that only half of what was there will ultimately be recoverable. In other places we have discovered that the artist whose works line the auditorium was highly regarded as a minor master of sorts and it appears that much of his work will be recoverable. We have also recovered a treasure trove of fiction, mostly in the student dormrooms; with their cinderblock construction and small windows they did an excellent job of keeping the elements out. I can't help bit wonder what the construction did for the psyches of the students." He spread his hands out wide, apologetically. "There isn't that much to report otherwise; we're taking the university slowly and seriously; a school of this size represents such a treasure trove of information that we think it better if we catalog everything first and go through the process of preservation. We want to be able to continue analysis even after the terraformers get here."
Morrail nodded. It was the tack he had recommended himself, although he wasn't very happy with the pace that the University team had managed. Nix himself had defended the team on the grounds that the school was a huge place and that the minutiae involved in sorting and cataloging it all were orders of magnitude different from the usual ancient civilization dig. Morrail supposed so, but still it bothered him. He wanted it to go faster, to provide all the answers. He wondered if he was getting old. He almost didn't notice that Captain Omon had taken the floor and began discussing the dig at Rico Kith. He listened intently to the report, knowing that eventually he would have to make decisions based on the information distributed here. Sure, it would be in their individual reports, and Nix could always play back the entire meeting, but he had no desire to go through with this all again. He had just one life to live, eternal as it was, and he preferred to do the drudgery but once and enjoy the pleasures life had to offer twice, at least.
The dig at Kimmonowal intrigued him most of all. When Co gave his presentation, he confirmed what a few documents at Besnial had covered: Kimmonowal was the first and primary installation of Heeram. They had found Tream relatively easily and now they had the other AI. Nobody in the entire mission imagined that that place had been Heeram's only information centre, but it was probably a good place to start.
The rest of the team reported in on their own. He listened to each. The dig at the city of Genra, Chatenni's assignment, had proven to be more exciting than anyone had realised. There had been a third technological culture there, one that had tried to vie with the Tsuguran and Theban States. There wasn't even a name for the people there yet. The report wasn't very in-depth, but it did reveal that the primary hypothesis working at this time inside Chatenni's group was that they had been relatively lightly hit during the first war and had instead drowned in a lack of resources after the war. This had led to their own internal downfall. Although it was clear that they had had the kinds of technology evident in the other two technological cultures, its use was neither widespread nor intensive, suggesting a nation caught deep in the self-destructive game of catch-up. Roger, Nickolai's Pamthreat friend, had contributed to the bulk of the working hypothesis thread of the report.
After the reports were in, Morrail closed the meeting with his usual thank-yous. Things were progressing along well, but it was hard to determine what at this time constituted a break-through. Language wasn't a barrier here; there was so much of it, including dictionaries, that cracking it had become a matter of routine. The Theban language was proving no more difficult than the Tsuguran; it seemed that they were both intensely interested in one another, a factor not unusual in a people at war, and had left behind a great many examples of translations of each others' works.
Nickolai already read the Tsugran script with some fluency, an amazing skill that had appeared out of nowhere, one which Morrail appreciated greatly even as he ordered Nix to check Nickolai's urine for dangerous nootropics. None were found. Still, Morrail wondered if Nickolai had always had this ability to learn languages or if this was just something that had clicked into place with later life and the growth of new pathways. Morrail had joked to Helena that if that was the case there was hope for himself yet.
Helena had just smiled and continued packing, preparing for their independent trip out to a small city found on the opposite northern continent, a place that was not generally believed to have had a very high technological level. Still, with the kind of imperial pattern that had evidenced itself on both Terra and early llerkin, there was no reason to suspect that the resources of this relatively undeveloped land had not gone unexploited by the wealthier nations, and where there were exploitive efforts there would also be cities developing. Morrail hoped that the environment was more to his suitability. He had labelled this trip a 'vacation' of sorts, a time away from the rest of the team when he and Helena could practice their art of independent exploration without feeling like the rest of the team was constantly waiting for their decisions.
Morrail sighed and deliberately closed down his uPADD; he had no intention of taking this reminder of work with him on the shuttlecraft. He grinned as he left it behind on the table. He wasn't being fair to himself or the mission. He truly loved his job; if he didn't he would go do something else. It was just that the number of people who were qualified to do what he did continued to grow even as the number of places to explore continued to shrink. And so competition for good sites was becoming more and more fierce each and every year. He had to smile and admit to himself that, at least this year, a new adventure had shaped up and a whole new world with layers upon layers of history had opened up to the explorers. Ritacha would be a resource for the next five centuries of archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists. Not to mention art critics and book translators.
"Nix, are we ready?"
"Helena indicates that the shuttlecraft is fully loaded and ready to go. Enjoy your trip, Morrail. I expect to see you back in a few days, fit and ready for action."
"Am I ever not fit and ready for action?"
"I am not one to judge that," Nix replied. "I merely report on the state of the mission and hope that your vacation will contribute to its proper functioning."
"Uh-huh," Morrail grunted. He pulled on his coat and pulled the atmosphere hood over his head. The forward plastic formed itself into a clear sheet so as not to distort his view, and he walked over to the shuttlecraft. The rear airlock allowed him in easily and he made his way forwards, finding Helena waiting in the pilot's chair. "Nice place," he commented.
"The 454 is the most common shuttlecraft in the galaxy," she said with a smile. "I am just pleased to have one at my disposal. Now sit, Morrail. We have a short flight ahead of us."
"Two hours or so," she commented. "Not even enough time to get comfortable. And all of it will have to be strapped in. Safety, my love."
Morrail nodded, taking the left seat in the two-person 'cabin,' a space open to the entire rear of the ship. He settled back into the chair and watched as Helena easily took the ship up on a hyperbolic arc that would allow Ritacha to turn underneath them. They would end up in the city of Tareen in a matter of hours.
As long as Morrail could remember, Helena had been a competent and careful pilot. He couldn't remember her ever flying in anything other than the manner of a school bus driver. He knew about the restless animal that lived underneath that teacherly exterior. He hoped to see her sometime during this vacation. Maybe tonight.
"I'm ready to land," she mentioned to him.
"Already?" he asked.
"What do you mean, 'already?' It has been nearly two hours since we took off. Yes, already I am preparing to land, Morrail. Are you still strapped in?"
"I never took off the belt," he said. "You see what a good passenger I am?"
"Some good passenger. You are also supposed to stay awake and talk to me so that I do not fall asleep."
"Isn't that what Nix is for?" he asked with a smile.
She grinned and replied, "Nix is not so exciting as you, my love. Now give me a moment to put this thing down. I believe I have found the airport."
Indeed, with the tower in the distance and the widely separated buildings, this sparse tract of land did indeed appear to be the airport they had predicted it to be. There was little left; apparently those who had built this place had had little interest in keeping it long. Most of the buildings were little more than foundations and stacks of rubble. "Maybe it was bombed in one of the wars. Or a civil action afterwards."
"Perhaps," Morrail muttered. "We could go take sensor samples and see."
"The radiation outside is not bad," Helena muttered. "Although we'll still want helmets, this close to the equator it is almost balmy outside. Twelve centigrade."
"Lovely," Morrail muttered. "Let's do a survey."
The city was, indeed, a desolate place. Many of the taller buildings still survived, at least partially, the heavy mass of their steel and concrete construction giving them longevity. "I bet those buildings represent the imperial masters or their local lackeys," Morrail said, pointing to them on a map. "This one looks especially heavily guarded. Do you see the construction?"
"It is like a compound," she said. "Look how these overflight photos reveal windows towards the inner courtyard, yet only small windows on the outside. This could be some kind of foreign office for either the Tsugurans or Thebans, or perhaps another party of which we are not aware. It would appear they were very concerned with light missile attacks."
"It also suggests that there is a lot to be found there."
"You want to go?" Helena asked, knowing the answer already.
With medium jackets, breathing masks and eyecovers, they walked out the back airlock of the ship, immediately joined by two seccor drones, dinosaur "D" models, which looked vaguely like Tyrannosaurus Rex but had much heavier heads in which to pack lights, weapons, sensors, and so on. Morrail and Helena made their way through the dust-covered town. It had not seen snow in some time; already nuclear winter had retreated from the equatorial region, although the arctic cold which had gripped all of Ritacha still filtered down through the winds to chill this land. It had also probably not seen rain. There was a thick layer of yellow dust on everything as they made their way down streets. Morrail had his precision camera in place. Even though the drones would record everything, he always kept a camera with him to record exactly what he would think was interesting. He knew that in the end the tapes the drones had made would be gone over second by second until everything had been digested, but he had his own reasons for keeping his own record. "That building, Morrail. Do you see it?"
It appeared to be still intact. A heavy building that, from the outside, appeared to be almost featureless but for a door just wide enough for two Ritans. Stairs led up to the door, and a sign hung on the archway over the stairs. "Nix?"
"Tsuguran, Morrail. It reads, 'Embassy of Tsugura.'"
"You were precisely right, Helena."
"And I have been wrong when?" she asked with a grin. "Many times, my love. Come on, let us see what wonders await us within."
Bones of several combatants, killed it what appeared to be some sort of gun battle, littered the entranceway. Morrail found the site profoundly saddening, that in the grip of self- destruction on a planetary scale these people had chosen a more personal, pointless battle to fight. He shook his head and walked past them.
There were dozens of offices, each with its own marker, each familiar in its own way. They identified rooms for commerce, travel, immigration; offices for high officials; security systems and procedural traps. At one point, they came across a vault and Helena marked it as something to be checked later, in a controlled-atmosphere systemic setting.
"Another house full of treasures," Morrail grinned. "I am overwhelmed by where to start."
"Let us leave that to the students."
"No," Morrail said. "I do want to check out one place. The high ambassador's office. Let us look in on what kind of mel he was like."
"Are you sure it was a 'he'?" Helena asked, teasingly. She knew perfectly well that this culture, not unlike others, was male-dominated and that a fem in such an office was unlikely. Possible, if she read the data correctly from the University dig site, but not at all probable.
They entered the office and looked around. It was indeed the kind of space a male would keep. The environment radiated a kind of cold control; this was not the office of someone who had friends. He had useful acquaintances. "The name reads Tekop Sedui, high ambassador to the nation of Sraudit from Tsugura." There is a date on that plaque. It suggests a pre-first-war office. Apparently there was no trade with these people following the first war. Maybe there was nobody here after the first war."
"Morbid," Helena agreed. "But unlikely. I predict there were survivors. The Tsugurans were too concerned with Tream and the Thebans, still, to have done much about it. If they ever visited here, it was simply as reconnaissance."
Morrail nodded. He examined the office in detail. Much of the paper was actually still in good shape, which pleased him. He opened several drawers of files and examined the contents briefly. The pages were brittle but not immediately disintegrating. He hoped they would last long enough for some students to get down here and start taking them apart. An ambassador's suite could tell them a lot about the world before the first nuclear war, the limited one that had sent their society back to a primitive state that the Forcassans had worked to repair, rebuild, and restore to some semblance of civilisation. And they had succeeded. Unfortunately, it also appeared as if they had brought with them the very tools of their ultimate destruction. Morrail shook his head. All those souls, wasted; all that life, gone.
Helena picked up on his mood. "It is depressing, Morrail. I do understand."
He grinned. "My face shows it?"
"Eh," she agreed. "And very clearly, husband. You do not return poor papers well, either."
He smiled at her. "My students complain?"
"A little. I hear it. It is no big deal," she replied with a grin. "There are history books here on the shelf that Nix says they do not have at the University. They should be catalogued and put into the general circulation. And then they should be imaged."
Morrail smiled. Document imaging and restoration was his and Helena's prime skill as a team. Together they could coax the words out of documents thousands of years old. It was something he loved to do, to make the invisible visible and to make the past speak its name aloud. "We will need students to move the material back to the main lab where the NI scope is located."
"I have already arranged for four junior students to do a safety move," she said. "They will be here tomorrow."
"So much for a vacation," Morrail grunted.
"I thought you wanted to do what you enjoyed, Morrail. We will not be asked into meetings for many weeks of these documents prove as useful as we think. That should make you happy!"
He laughed. "Yes, I suppose it does, Helena."
In what appeared to be the residential wing of the embassy they also found the remains of the library. Again, like the Ambassador's quarters, there were a number of books that were not in the dig catalogue of records and would have to be added by hand. It would take days to get all of this stuff back to the main lab.
By the end of the day, Morrail had seen more documents than he believed he could read in his immortal life. He was glad that he wasn't going to be one of those who would have to go over them and actually read the histories complete; he would get digested versions from his students even as he and Helena produced more and more pages for them to read, collate, and opine upon. Exhausted, he and Helena tromped back to the shuttlecraft.
"I am taking a shower," she announced. "Would you like to join me?"
"In that tiny closet?" he asked. "Sure, why not?"
They stripped down to fur and she got into the shower ahead of him, dialling up a temperature she knew they both enjoyed, hot and steamy.
Morrail felt his blood run a little quicker at the sight of her naked body, even with the water streaming down her fur. The phrase, 'like a wet rat,' meant something entirely different to those of his species, who appreciated the sight of their own more than anyone else. He pushed up against her in the shower and enjoyed the feeling of her wide hips and lightly furred tail. "You feel wonderful," she sighed.
"I hope I do." He lowered his muzzle to one of her ears and whispered, "I do not feel like being gentle tonight."
He could feel his words course through her even as she tensed up. "What would you do to me?" she asked, softly.
"Whatever I like," he growled. "Horrible things I have not done to you in a long time."
"I have not forgotten," she said, her voice taking on a tinge of fear.
"I think you have." He grabbed a bottle of soap from the rack just outside the shower and spread some on his paws. He pushed the soap into her fur, washing her down to the hide, roughly manhandling her body as he washed away the day's exertions. He did himself at the same time, taking care not to play too much with his own hardened cock. He was excited as it was. "I think you need a reminder," he said as his hand trailed between her legs and began pinching at her labia.
"What do I need to be reminded of?"
"Of the pleasures you feel when I am cruel to you, Helena."
"Are you ever cruel to me?" she asked.
He pinched her outer lip hard and she cried out in pain. "Am I cruel to you now?" he asked.
"Yes," she gasped. "Please, Morrail, not too cruel."
"I will do what I like," he said, turning off the water after he had finished rinsing the two of them. He turned on the fans and positioned her in front of one of the blowers, guiding her with his hands on her shoulders. She did not struggle but stood meekly by as he dried her off, allowing one of the blowers behind and to his left to dry him off at the same time. It took several minutes, but soon he was leading Helena by the scruff of the next to the soft platform bed mounted in the back of the shuttlecraft. It was large enough for the two of them. "Kneel," he said. "On the floor. Right there."
Helena nodded and sank slowly to her knees. There was something in her demeanor that Morrail enjoyed-- was it anticipation, or dread, that seemed to radiate off every stand of fur on her beautiful body? He could not tell, and perhaps it was really a bit of both. "Suck," he said.
"I-- I-- am not good at... "
"Do it," he said, pulling her head towards his cock with one hand behind her ears. "Now."
She nodded and opened her mouth in anticipation. He pulled her down over his cock, feeling the warmth of her mouth surround his erection. She actually was rather good at giving head, but not when he was directing her like this. He held her ears and forced her down onto his shaft, choking her with it. "Bite me or get sick, and you will really regret it," he growled. "Suck well. Keep your hands at your sides."
She did her best. He smiled as he watched her try to take all of him, even as he resisted forcing himself down her throat. He wasn't that big, but her muzzle was short even for a Markal's and together he could at least awaken her gag reflex. He also wasn't giving her much of a chance to overcome it, either.
"Up," he said, reaching for the web of skin at her armpit and pinching it, twisting it, making her yelp in protest even as he shoved her onto the bed. "Face down," he said. She lay down flat on the bed. "No," he said, grabbing her hips and pulling her upwards. "Kneel. Face down."
"Morrail " She gasped.
"Quiet," he demanded. She fell silent, although he knew that wouldn't last for long. "You are quite lovely," he said as he reached out and began teasing her labia again, parting them with his fingers, sliding a finger inside her, stroking it gently against her cervix. He was careful with that, though; depending on how hard he did it, he could invoke pleasure, pain, or even nausea, and the last was very definitely something to avoid. He did bear down with two fingers against the upper wall of her pelvic bone, making her gasp in something that wasn't quite pleasure. "I want you to know what kind of lover I can be," he said as he pinched her labia with the other hand, using almost bruising strength on her. He moved his hand over her mound, pinching here, tweaking there. She squirmed, trying to avoid his grasp, but that only made his successes even more painful. She cried out as his hand roamed her inner thighs, his cruel pinches becoming even moreso. And yet he could feel her cunt getting ever more wet as he manipulated her, hurt her. She moaned against the bed and he thought the time was right.
He got between her legs, kicking them apart with his knees, dropping her hips down a little further than she had been just kneeling on the bed. He grabbed the bottle of sex slip from the floor and coated his cock with it. "You have been good, Helena. I am going to give you a gift."
"A gift?" she moaned, lifting her head.
"Yes," he said. "I am going to fuck your ass."
"No, Morrail, no, please, no " she begged. That only made him more excited as he pressed his cock against her opening. "Morrail, please, you promised "
He ignored her protests as he pressed. She fought back against him, tightening her opening, trying to keep him from getting in, but he pressed hard and she couldn't hold him back. His cock plunged into her tiny asshole, ripping a scream from her even as his hips met her ass. The sensation inside her was amazingly tight and hot, and he loved the resistance as her body fought against this painful, unfair invasion. He withdrew only halfway before lunging back into her. "Oh, fah, oh, fah " her voice gurgled in semi-coherence as he fucked her asshole, giving her everything she had asked for even as his own climax built within him. He could feel her body jolt underneath him as she came, her voice thick with lust and pain even as he continued his violation of her precious asshole, his cock thrusting deep into her guts. Her screams were a blend of pleasure and objection, and his own voice joined hers as his pleasure ripped through him and he seared her insides with his semen, jamming his cock down to the base and filling her to the very end.
He withdrew from her and wiped himself off on a towel he had left next to the bed with the other toys. She lay on the bed, quivering. "Ohhhh, fahhh " she repeated over and over as what appeared to be a kind of seizure slowly eased down within her.
He lay beside her and held her close, wrapping one arm over her shoulders. "Helena?" he said.
There was no response for a minute, but soon she lifted her head. "I am still here, Morrail."
He kissed her. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," she said with a smile. "Thank you."
"I still don't see what you get out of that," he said. "But I'm glad you enjoy it."
"The same as you," she said. "A good fucking and the best orgasms. Now, I am exhausted."
"I was tired before we even got into the shower," he murmured.
She turned around and faced him. "Morrail, does doing that bother you still?"
"No, not anymore. It did once, when you first asked it of me."
"You do it so rarely," she said.
"I don't want to spoil it by making it commonplace. If you wait long enough that you begin to miss it, then I will not have to escalate it too quickly." He reached out with one hand and stroked her inner thigh, running his fingers over the bruises he could already feel swelling under her fur. She squirmed, moaning softly. "I should stop. You'll get excited."
"Yes," she replied. "And I am too tired to go through that again."
"I'm too tired to go through that again, too." He kissed her and held her close. "I love you, Helena."
"And I have always loved you, Morrail. Do not ever forget that."
"I do not think we could play those games if we ever forgot that, Helena." He kissed her nose. "Goodnight, my love."
"And to you, my beloved husband, who gives me such gifts."